• Published 17th Jun 2012
  • 29,794 Views, 2,286 Comments

Justice Itself - Autocharth



Tyrael destroyed the Worldstone, saving mankind and blasting himself unintentionally across reality.

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Act I - Ch. 2 Paladin v Ponyville

Here it is, the first new chapter. So, the second chapter. It’s here.

Don’t expect another update so soon after this one. My motivation is two parts Diablo 3, one part random inspiration and two parts sheer joy over the number of faves, thumbs up and comments. I have to admit, that was shocking. A great reception, so many comments and faves after only like the first two days!

I should have a blog post up with a few notes about things like when I swap between ‘Paladin’ and ‘Tyrael’ and a few other minor things, if anyone is interested. Not that I expect many to be, or any, but hey might as well say it.

Enjoy the story, please leave a comment. Every comment provides more fuel to the fire and I would appreciate an mistakes being pointed out.

Unless its to do with my use of 's' instead of 'z' or a 'u' you don't think goes there. I'm Australian, not American.
-

Chapter 2 Paladin v Ponyville

***

“Ding dong!”

Tyrael, patiently waiting in the main room while Twilight spent ‘just a minute, I promise!’ finding a book, turned to look at the door. Unless he was mistaken, someone had just shouted ‘ding dong’ from the other side.

“Dong ding!” the same voice called out cheerfully.

He watched the door for another moment. His hostess had said the library technically doesn’t open for another hour or two. Tyrael trotted over to the door and spoke through it.

“I believe the library is not yet open to the public.” His voice was easily loud enough to be heard by whoever was outside without actually shouting. “Return later.”

“But I wanna give you your invite no~ooow~!” a voice that could only be described as ‘perky’ whined from behind him. The same voice that had been outside just seconds ago.

Tyrael whirled, muscles tensing. Behind him a pink pony he recognised from his arrival the day before bounced up and down, a pout on her face. Despite this she still seemed cheerful and Tyrael had a moment of doubt in his ability to understand mortals. She looked displeased but her voice was still happy. The dissonance was resolved when her expression went back to its default setting of ‘determinedly cheerful’ when she realised she had his attention.

She stopped bouncing and gave him a grin. “Hi Paladin, I’m Pinkie Pie! Here’s your invitation!” if it was possible for a smile to have an exclamation mark hers would have one. Maybe even two. She reached up and pulled a rectangle of paper from her mane with her hoof.

“Invitation?” He frowned slightly in incomprehension. The oddity of Pinkie taking the stiff paper invitation from her mane when it could not possibly have fit was lost on Tyrael. He had, after all, been there less than a day and spent most of that with two powerful magic-users.

“Yepple doodle dandy!” Pinkie grinned at him.

They stood in silence, one frowning and one smiling, both seemingly waiting for something. Finally, the Archangel spoke.

“To what?”

“Oh, you silly! Your party of course!” She began to bounce again.

He lifted an eyebrow in question. “I...am not having a party.” Tyrael pointed out.

“Pfft!” Pinkie was suddenly at his side, flinging an arm – foreleg, really – over his shoulders. Tyrael fought against an instinctive violent reaction at the unexpected contact. “Yes you are! Everypony gets one Free Pinkie Party!” she frowned, rubbing a hoof on her chin thoughtfully.

“...is something wrong?” He was forced to ask after a few more moments of silence on the part of the excitable pony. He wasn’t sure, but Tyrael thought what he was feeling right now was ‘awkwardness’.

Pinkie’s attention came back to him from the swirling madness that was her internal monologue. “Oh, making sure I’m alright even though we just met! I knew you were a nice pony. But I just realised if everypony only gets one free Pinkie Party, does that mean I have to pay them for more?!” her eyes were now disturbingly close to his, worry etched into them. “How will I afford to make more parties if I have to pay ponies to give them parties? Soon I’ll run out of bits and then nopony will have any parties and then it’ll all be sad and I’ll have to move out and then who will throw Pound and Pumpkin the best birthday parties ever? Who? WHO?!”

Tyrael had withstood the assault of a legion of demons alone. He had stood before the Diamond Gate and thrown back the burning hordes with none to aid him.

He had no idea how to react to a hysterical pink party pony crying on his shoulder. Her hair had gone limp and his fur – he had fur, how strange – was wet.

“Uh...” He noted absently he had not said ‘uh’ in his countless years of existence yet a minute in this pony’s presence had coxed it out of him. “You can...give everyone as many free parties as you want?” He struck out for sanity. Yes, he was definitely feeling awkward.

“Ohhh.” Pinkie’s hair poofed back to normal and she let go of him. “That’s a great idea! Thanks so much Pally!” With that she had her hooves around his neck again, for a hug this time.

“It was nothing.” he answered, lifting his head away awkwardly. “You need not-” Tyrael tried to discreetly back away but only succeeded in dragging Pinkie a few steps with him. He had to admit, she had an iron grip despite her lack of muscle. “Really.”

“Am I interrupting something?” Twilight’s amused voice floated down to them, the purple unicorn watching with a slight smile from the top of the stairs.

Pinkie turned her head to look around to Twilight, a wide grin on her face. “Hi Twi!” she giggled. “Hey that rhymed. Did you hear me rhyming, Pally? Didja?”

“Yes. I did,” he muttered, closing his eyes to hide his annoyance. By the Courts of Justice, he was feeling embarrassed! Like he was some mortal caught in a compromising situation.

Twilight fought to keep amusement from her face and voice as she came down. “Good morning Pinkie Pie. So, why are you hugging our guest?”

She got a playful pout in response. “Do I really a need a reason? Hugs are fun and make everypony smile! You’re meant to say everypony by the way Pally, not everyone,” Pinkie added, looking back at Tyrael.

“My mistake.” Finally the pink pony released him. Tyrael took a few steps back, not far enough that he would look like he was retreating but enough that he could take...evasive manoeuvres should the need arise.

“It’s alright, you’re new to this.” Pinkie smiled. “You’ll get a hang of it soon enough, at least before the plot starts properly.”

Tyrael began to respond, shock in his eyes. ‘She sounds like she knows!

“Ignore her, Paladin. Please.” Twilight sighed, rubbing her eyes with a hoof. Her saddle bags were swiftly levitated over her back as she approached. “It’s Pinkie Pie. She doesn’t need to make sense.” This the unicorn said somewhat wearily, as though it was an issue she wrestled with often.

He considered ignoring this, but the pink pony’s attention had turned to her friend. Tyrael filed away his questions but resolved to keep an eye on Pinkie Pie. If she did know more about his true nature she might prove a threat.

“Oh, Twilight, I almost forgot!” Pinkie gasped, hooves going to her cheeks. “What if I had forgotten? Then you’d have been a lonely little pony while we all partied so I’d have to throw you a “Not-Lonely-Pony” Party!”

She took a breath, presumably to continue, only to find a purple hoof in her mouth.

“Pinkie,” Twilight warned her. “I’m going to take my hoof away, and you’re going to tell me why you’re here. Okay?”

Pinkie nodded emphatically. The moment Twilight did as she said, the party pony was off – but on track this time. “Well, I woke up this morning when Gummy gummed my nose and I said ‘Good morning Gummy’ but I said it in a really funny way since he was clamped on my nostrils-”

“Pinkie!”

“-Then I thought ‘We need to have a party!’ and then I remembered about Pally-” here she leapt over to Tyrael, bouncing around him. He tried to keep track of her course, a futile attempt at her speed. “- and how he was new and everypony needs a Welcome Party but my Welcome Wagon broke down when Dashie had a collision with the mailmare and they landed on it. So we have to have a proper Welcome Party! Here’s your invitation!” Pinkie finished, shoving another mysteriously materialising invite into Twilight’s face. “And Spikey’s!” A second appeared from under the first.

Giving her friend a calm smile, as though she hoped some of it would rub off on Pinkie, Twilight levitated the invitations over to a table. She took a moment to note of the time and mentally reshuffle her schedule.

“We’ll be there Pinkie. Now, I hate to spoil the fun but aren’t you meant to be helping at Sugarcube Corner?” She pointed out, receiving a gasp of shock.

Pinkie departed in a blur a minute later having extracted a promise from Twilight to deliver the rest of the invitations while she was showing Paladin the town. The unicorn decided to ignore the relieved sigh from Paladin when the party pony was left, knowing what a first meeting with Pinkie was like.

“So, ready to see the town?” Twilight asked pleasantly as she started to the door.

Tyrael answered simply by following her, hiding his thoughts behind a stony, serious expression once more.

***

Twilight led the way with Paladin at her side. Ponies on the street waved at the pair, and Twilight called out greetings to many. She didn’t notice her companion’s wary stance or the way he eyed everypony as though weighing how much of a threat they are.

“-and with the influx of travellers interested in Zap Apples, helped along by Stinkin’ Rich, the grandfather of local chain-store owner Filthy Rich. Thus Ponyville was born from a humble Apple family orchard!” she was also giving him the full history of the town.

To her incredible the surprise, he spoke. “You say one of the original settlers still lives? Admirable.” Paladin said solemnly. He stopped when Twilight did, the unicorn coming to a sudden halt.

“You...you listened to me?” Twilight stared at him with wide eyes. “You actually listened to my entire lecture without tuning me out?” she asked with increasing elation.

If Paladin noticed anything odd about this, he didn’t show it. “Of course.”

Their journey through the streets of Ponyville was delayed as Twilight squealed in delight and did what can be best described as ‘a little jig.’

Paladin watched her, steady expression betrayed only by the slight narrowing of his eyes.

Exactly what she was doing in the middle of the street, in broad daylight, was a sudden and alarming – not to mention embarrassing – realisation. Twilight’s cheeks went a bright flaming red as she froze mid-jig. A few ponies chuckled as she darted over to Paladin and began to pull on one of his hooves to hurry away from the scene of the crime.

“I can’t believe I did that.” All Twilight really wanted at that moment was for the ground to open up and swallow her.

“You appear to be in distress.” Her guest remarked, earning a sharp look from Twilight. Paladin stared back at her with a look of complete seriousness.

“Gee, ya think? Oh, I was just so excited that somepony actually listened to a whole lecture.” She facehoofed and slowed their pace as they neared their first destination.

Paladin had a confused look, or as confused as his hard expressions could be. “I do not understand. You are a learned scholar, is your knowledge not valued?”

“Well...” Twilight hesitated as she thought over her answer. “Ponies come to me when they need help with something magical or when they’re looking for information. “

“But they do not wish to hear more than they need.” Paladin summarised. “They ask for simply the answers, the result, not the why or how. You do not have the chance to display your breadth of knowledge often, and when you do most of your fellows simply cease to pay attention.”

It was the most Twilight had heard him say in a single go, so it took her a moment to remember to reply. He waited patiently.

“I don’t want to show off!” she said frantically. “I don’t want to be a braggart, but...”

“It helps you feel valued. It reassures you to know it is something special you do, to impress others with what you know.” He gave her something approaching a smile. “I have seen much, but never a scholar who cannot enjoy gathering knowledge. There is nothing to be ashamed of in wanting to be recognised for that.”

Silence fell between them, Twilight wrapped up in thinking about what Paladin had said. The pegasus himself showed no signs of what he thought.

Before long, their destination was in sight – Carousel Boutique. Twilight had decided to properly introduce Paladin to her friends, since she was certain they were curious about the strange pegasus. If he was going to be staying with her for some time, as the Princess had indicated, it couldn’t hurt to get that out of the way.

Why precisely he was staying with her Twilight was still unsure. Not that she was complaining, but surely the Princess could have easily been able to commandeer or pay for the rent of a place for him to stay on his own. Celestia was no cheapskate, of course, but it still seemed odd.

Odd being a good word for Paladin, actually.

Twilight banished those thoughts for later, when she could dwell on the strange pegasus and his oddities properly. She opened the door and led him in, the large stallion following unquestioningly.

“Welcome to- Twilight! Darling, what a pleasure to see you.” Rarity appeared from behind a mannequin holding an incomplete project, beaming at her friend. Paladin, being the noticeable sort thanks to his size and white wings, immediately found her attention on him. “And the mysterious Paladin. How kind of you to bring him here so quickly.” She approached him with a smile and Twilight recognised the measuring look in her eyes.

“Greetings.” He nodded solemnly to the fashionista. “I believe you were present when I arrived yesterday.”

“Oh ho, you remember me. How kind, Sir Paladin. I am Rarity, owner of Carousel Boutique and dressmaker extraordinaire!” Rarity practically purred. She circled him a few times. “If I might say, you have a most remarkable colouration. Your wings in particular – I can see that must be natural, there’s no sign of dye. Oh, this is just perfect.”

Paladin frowned again, that same little frown Twilight was beginning to realise meant he wasn’t sure what somepony meant.

“I have been intending to try my hoof at designing suits for some time, you see, but so sadly inspiration has passed me by.” Rarity sniffed and adopted an expression as though the general concept of inspiration had made a faux pas at the dinner table and was in need of a stern talking to. Her face quickly became a mask of joy, however. “But then you appear, good sir, and oh so wonderful you are! Your wings, your tail, that amazingly detailed cutie mark! Unique and, I must say, mag-nifique.”

As Rarity basked in the warm internal glow of inspiration, which she had once mistaken for the consequences of eating something her sister made for breakfast, Paladin took a very small step backwards. Twilight tried not to giggle at the sight of the massive colt, his stony expression barely changed save for a slight narrowing of the eyes and his small frown, retreating from the far smaller unicorn.

“Perhaps some other time, Rarity.” Twilight came to the rescue, interrupting the fashion pony. She gave Paladin a reassuring smile before looking back to her friend. “I’m just showing him around, and I still have the rest of Ponyville and our friends to introduce Paladin to.”

“Of course, darling, of course.” Already a sketch pad and pencil, wrapped in the soft glow of Rarity’s magic, were hard at work. Twilight caught sight of a stallion figure, lacking a mane, already forming on it as she shooed Paladin out. “Be sure to come again, Paladin dear, I promise you will have the attention of every mare when my work is done.”

“Sorry about that.” Twilight apologised once the door closed behind them. “Rarity can get a little...intense when she’s, uh, what was it Rainbow called it? Oh yes, ‘in the flow’.”

Paladin shook his head. “It was no bother. I must admit, I am not used to such things. Did you not intend to deliver Miss Pie’s invitation?” he pointed out, getting a gasp in response.

“Oh my gosh!” Twilight groaned. “I can’t believe I forgot. Would you mind waiting a moment while I run back and give Rarity hers?”

At his nod she dashed away, leaving the pegasus standing with nothing to do.

Tyrael took a deep breath, somewhat relieved to have a minute to himself. Or as to himself as he could be in the middle of the road. He turned to observe the others around him. The way light shone from his wings, he realised, was attracting attention.

In fact, his wings were the reason something bright orange making a buzzing sound came to a sudden stop in front of him. Tyrael stared down into the eyes of a foal standing on a small wheeled board of some sort, managing to grip the handles at the top of a bar despite the obvious lack of opposable digits.

They stayed like that, filly and stallion, just looking at each other. Her – and Tyrael was merely guessing here – mouth was open wide and fascination filled her eyes.

“Whoa.” She finally spoke. “Whoooa.”

“...greetings.” he replied for lack of anything better to say.

Silence ensued once more.

Twilight reappeared after a minute of continuous silence, trotting up to Paladin. “Thanks for reminding me about that Paladin, I would have hated to have forgotten! Oh, hi Scootaloo.” She waved at the filly.

“Hiya Twilight!” Scootaloo dragged her eyes away from the massive pegasus. “Who’s this guy? He’s huge.” She observed with incredible accuracy.

“This is Paladin. He’s staying with me for a while. Paladin, this is Scootaloo.” Twilight introduced them to each other quickly, mentally cringing at the inevitable delay this would cause. Her poor schedule!

“You’re huge.” Scootaloo said again, this time to Paladin.

“I noticed.” His voice was dry, and something like amusement had appeared in his expression.

The little filly got off her scooter and darted around him, closely inspecting his wings. “Can you fly? I mean, you’re so big! You’re like if Big Macintosh was pegasus.”

She squeaked and dodged away as his wings suddenly opened. If he was big, his wings were even bigger.

“I believe my wings are more than sufficient.”

Scootaloo said nothing, staring with her jaw dropped open. For her part, Twilight was close to the same. She hadn’t realised until now just how big Paladin’s wings were. He was already much larger than the average pegasus, but his wings seemed to be larger compared to his size. They weren’t simply bigger to match his body they were bigger full stop.

More than a few ponies on the street had stopped to stare as well. A ray beaming down shone directly upon his flaring wings and the reflection of light seemed almost...divine. Paladin seemed to not notice, his attention still on Scootaloo.

A cloud chose that moment to crawl treacherously in front of the sun and the magical moment ended.

Shaking her head to get her thoughts out of their stunned state, Twilight trotted over to Scootaloo and gently close her mouth. “Scootaloo, don’t you have school in about, uh, five minutes?”

Alarm replaced awe and Scootaloo was off like a buzzing, orange bolt of ground-bound lightning.

“You’re going to have to be prepared to deal with the Crusaders after school lets out.” Twilight informed him. “Cherilee is going to have trouble keeping Scootaloo quiet today, I think.” She added with a quiet laugh.

They started off again. The rest of the street had gone back to what they were doing now that the spectacle was over, but Twilight had a feeling Paladin might have done more then he thought. One of Ponyville’s vices was gossip and he was definitely gossip-worthy.

“I do not understand. Who are these ‘Crusaders’? Those I know of who call themselves crusaders would ill-befit this land.” Paladin rumbled and when Twilight looked back at his eyes were steadily moving, taking in the sights of inner-Ponyville.

She shrugged. “Oh, it’s just a name a few fillies came up with. ‘Cutie Mark Crusaders’, they call themselves.” A shudder ran down her spine, remembering their attempt at ‘Cutie Mark Crusader Librarians!’ and the mess resulting from it. “Their attempts to find their cutie marks can get a little...out of hoof.”

Paladin said nothing to this, not that she expected him to. Twilight was beginning to understand him a little more, perhaps.

In any case, it was about that moment that they heard a loud call from the sky. Paladin and Twilight looked up to find a rainbow-tailed blur moving towards them. A smile ran across the unicorn’s muzzle as she caught sight of her friend speeding towards them. Tyrael, however, noted a gray pegasus moving at some speed through the air from another direction. If he was any judge, and after ages of warring with winged demons he was, there was going to be a collision in a few seconds.

He heard Twilight cry out as the rainbow trailing pegasus clipped the mailmare and her heavy bag. The blonde mane pegasus managed to right herelf before hitting the ground, unlike the other party involved.

“Looook oooouuut!” Rainbow cried as she lost control, her left wing struck badly from the collision. Already moving fast towards her friend, she came barrelling towards them.

Twilight’s horn lit up, but panic overwhelmed her senses and she couldn’t focus enough to catch Rainbow Dash before she hit them.

Moving faster than his size gave him any right to, Paladin stepped up and was on his hind-legs before a second more passed. His wings spread wide, his hooves sliding apart to brace his weight. He sucked in a deep breath, leaning forward slightly to keep from his weight going backwards.

Rainbow hit him and his breath hissed out smoothly. His hooves dug into the ground hard enough to form dual tracks through the dirt as he was pushed back. The pair went backwards for several feet at once. There was a perilous moment when the force of Rainbow Dash’s descent was wasted and they were left hanging in that split second of comprehension before a slow fall. Paladin’s wings flicked but there was nothing they could do and he fell to his back, a dazed Rainbow Dash lying on top of him.

“Rainbow, Paladin! Oh gosh, are you two okay?” Twilight over them in an instant, levitating both to their feet. The smaller pegasus stumbled a step or two before shaking her head to clear the mental dust. Paladin just rolled his shoulders slightly.

“That...” Rainbow stopped and turned to stare at Paladin. “That...that was...”

Twilight looked at her in concern. “Rainbow Dash? Are you alright?”

“THAT WAS AWESOME!” Ignoring her friend’s question, although she had clearly answered anyway, Rainbow Dash took to the air and hovered in front of Paladin. “That was like totally cool.”

Sighing, Twilight rolled her eyes. “I’ll take that as a yes.”

“I take it that is good?” Paladin asked Rainbow Dash curiously.

“Gah, yeah!” Rainbow Dash, for lack of a better term, pranced through the air in front of him. “Normally I’d have sent anypony flying with that, but you totally caught me. You’re awesome. Not to mention huge.” She paused for a moment. “You can fly, right? Because that would be completely lame if you couldn’t.”

Paladin nodded. “My wings are adequate. However,” and here he had to lie “I have been instructed to refrain for a time from flying.”

Disappointment filled Rainbow’s face. “Aww, come on, why? How could you stand not flying? I'd go crazy.”

“Really?” Twilight butted in, looking at Paladin curiously. “I didn’t realise.”

Inside, Tyrael prepared to lie. It did not come easily or naturally to him, but he had agreed with the Princesses that keeping his true nature a secret was the best course of action.

“Indeed. The arcane nature of my injury is somewhat detrimental. The use of my natural magic, required for any pegasus to fly, is to be avoided when possible.” He hesitated and added, “There are a few other...concerns, but nothing too pressing.”

Dash scoffed, wearing a sour expression.”That sucks. How can you survive without being able to fly?”

He shrugged. “I can manage.”

“Excuse me.” Twilight interjected again. “Can I please just make the introductions?” a checklist floated next to her, a pencil hovering pensively next to the ‘Introduce Paladin to Rainbow Dash - vice versa’.

Rainbow Dash rolled her eyes with a muttered ‘Fine.’

“Good! Now, Paladin, this is Rainbow Dash. She’s the head of the local weather team-

“Not to mention future Wonderbolt!” said pony interjected loudly.

“Yes, not to mention. Rainbow Dash, this is Paladin. He’s staying with me while he recovers.”

“I know, I was there.” The pegasus snorted. “Geez egghead, think you’d remember something like that with your big brain!” she said, ruffling Twilight’s hair with a hoof.

Twilight smacked her hoof away and gave Rainbow Dash a small glare. “Don’t you have weather to clear? It was looking pretty cloudy near the Boutique.”

“Cloudy skies scheduled for today.” Dash smirked back, a tad smugly. More than a tad, honestly.

“Fantastic. Come on Paladin, we’ve got our own schedule to keep!” With that Twilight began to drag Paladin away with surprising strength.

Dash followed along in the air next to Paladin, attempting to strike up a conversation.

“So, what exactly is this ‘injury’?” she asked, clearly looking over him and finding no sign of harm. “You look fine to me!”

“Rainbow! What sort of question is that?”

“Uh, a direct one?”

Twilight scowled at the ground knowing there was nothing she could do to make her friend let go of it. Despite this, her ears moved slightly so make sure she would clearly hear Paladin’s response.

“Magical.”

It was underwhelming.

“Magical?” Rainbow Dash asked flatly.

“Yes.” Looking back at him, Twilight might have been imagining it, but was that a hint of...amusement in his eyes?

There was a moment of silence.

“...oh come on! That’s it?” she demanded.

Paladin said nothing and his expression remained cool and stony, but Twilight was almost certain now. He was doing it on purpose.

“If he doesn’t want to talk about it, you should respect that.” Twilight muttered, hiding her own disappointment and confusion.

“Pfft, lame.”

Now Paladin snorted. “My legs work perfectly fine, and my wings will recover.”

“What?” Rainbow Dash stared at him in total confusion. “What’s that got to do with it?”

Twilight sighed heavily. “Lame; crippled or physically disabled, especially in the foot or leg so as to limp or walk with difficultly.”

Rainbow laughed. “Twi,” she said patronisingly. “That’s not what lame is. Seriously, you’re such an egghead.”

“Yes it is! In fact, that’s one of the dictionary definitions!” Twilight protested fiercely.

As their argument went on, neither side willing to give in because they were either fuelled by the knowledge that she was clearly right or simple stubbornness, they reached the market place. The sight of the resident librarian and problem solver – if sometimes also problem causer, but overall it was the general opinion of the townsfolk that the benefits outweighed the negatives – in an intense grammatical debate was not particularly new so they attracted little attention.

The massive, two coloured pegasus stallion trotting sedately with them, on the other hand...

Tyrael absently flapped his wings and fondly remembered his last wings. They had been made of light and, in truth, been more a part of his soul given outside form then wings. They had also never gotten cramps before.

It was at about this point that Tyrael realised he was being watched. His gaze swept the light crowd and easily caught the movement of ponies trying to look away before his sight settled in their direction.

It had dawned on Tyrael not long after leaving the tailor – ‘Rarity, I have no interest in gaining her ire during my stay for forgetting her name’ – that he was unique in many ways. He was certainly larger than the other wing-bearing ponies he had seen, and the differing colouration was obviously unusual.

Why?’ he wondered. ‘I cannot help but wonder why the princesses would give me a shell so unique. There must be more going on. This girl, Twilight, is apparently the student of Celestia. Even in my crippled state, I can feel some echo of power from her. Why would she be out here, not learning from her teacher in Canterlot?

Curiosity had never been an angelic trait. What was there to be curious about when Itherael stood on the Angiris Council and held Talus’ar, the Scroll of Fate? Itherael held all knowledge that mattered, what did they have to wonder at?

The Scroll does know everything. We know it does...don’t we?

Something moved in the corner of Tyrael’s eye and he moved with the speed of a warrior. Even in an unfamiliar body, the natural instincts imbued within it worked with his hard learned combat experience and his wings spread wide in an instant. With a single powerful flap he skidded backwards.

A pie passed through the air he had been occupying and hit Twilight in the face. There was a still moment as the ponies around them tried to decide to either look at the big pegasus in shock at his apparent ability to see the future or giggle at the purple unicorn with pie on her face.

The dangerous twitch was enough to decide them and the pie and its victim were duly ignored by all. Or very nearly all. Apparently the incident with the Smarty Pants Doll hadn’t left quite a deep enough mark on one mare.

“Bahahaha!” Rainbow Dash let out a gale of laughter. “Oh Celestia, that was great! Hahaha!”

Twilight levelled a glare on her so-called friend.

“Hay, don’t get all twitchy at me.” She said defensively. Rainbow pointed at Paladin. “He’s the one who let it hit you.”

“Never mind.” Ground out Twilight, her teeth snapping shut, not willing to blame her guest.

“I am sorry.” He said. “I did not realise it would hit you. I merely moved to avoid something heading towards me.” Paladin frowned, and Twilight had no idea that he was internally berating himself about what would have had happened had it been something more sinister.

Twilight shook her head, sending pie everywhere but particularly in Rainbow’s direction. “It’s alright, Paladin.” She rolled her eyes when Dash avoided the pie-debris and stuck her tongue down at the pie encrusted unicorn.

A sheepish pair of ponies came towards them; a familiar farmpony with a hat making sure the red-cheeked colt next to her didn’t fall behind.

“Aw, gosh-darnnit Caramel look whatcha did!” Applejack berated her companion. “Ah don’t mean to be mean, but can ya even buy a pie without doin’ something like this?”

Caramel looked at the ground, clearly wishing it would open up and swallow him. Despite the fact he was apparently responsible for giving her a pie-mask, Twilight could sympathise.

“It’s alright Applejack, accidents happen.” She raised an eyebrow questioningly at Caramel. “It was an accident, right?”

He nodded frantically. “Y-yes! It was definitely an accident. I’m really sorry Miss Sparkle, really sorry.”

“Well, I suppose it didn’t do any real harm and I can get most of it out.” She pointed out kindly. Her horn glowed and the remaining pie was pulled away. She balled it and dropped it in Applejack’s outstretched hoof.

Applejack looked at the ball of pie-mash in her hoof and up to the still chuckling Rainbow Dash. Her gaze travelled between them a few times as though contemplating the obvious path from one to the other.

“I might as well introduce you while you’re here.” Twilight’s voice distracted the farmpony from her deliberations. “Paladin, this is Applejack. Her family owns and runs Sweet Apple Acres.”

She had not had time to realise it the day before but now Applejack was confronted with the sheer fact that was Paladin’s size. Nor did she have a pie-covered friend to distract her and Applejack’s jaw dropped.

“Well ain’t that somethin’! You’re the biggest darn pegasus I ever did see.” Was the first thing out of her mouth. She coloured slightly at her lack of simple manners. Applejack was not Rarity, but the Apple Clan knew how important greetings were.

Paladin seemed to not notice, merely nodding in a manner that reminded her of a glacier stirring into movement. The fact Applejack had never seen an glacier stir to movement before was something easily ignored for now.

“So I have been told.” He looked thoughtful. “Would this be the same Sweet Apple Acres Twilight has told me of? The orchard of the original settlers?” Paladin inquired.

“Uh, yeah....Twi told ya about that?” she asked cautiously in case Twilight felt the need to give the lecture again.

He gave her another nod. “She did. Your grandmother sounds like a wom- a mare of strong will and great fortune. Tenacity in the face of misfortune is a great gift.”

Applejack blinked, more than a little surprised. “Gee’, thanks. Ah’ll tell Granny Smith so, ah’m sure she’d appreciate hearing ya think that Mister Paladin.”

“It is nothing. The ability to defy what seems inevitable or beyond your reach is something I have always admired.” As Paladin said this, Tyrael couldn’t stop memories flowing into his mind. The original Horadrim, even Kulle, had been mere mortals asked to hunt down the Prime Evils. Creatures even the Angiris Council would battle cautiously and those men had chased them from one end of Sanctuary to the other. He thought too of the three who had faced Diablo beneath Tristram and the party of valiant souls who went in the wake of the Dark Wanderer when Diablo’s influence took control.

Before he shook the memories away, another name that brought instead a smile.

Deckard Cain. I only hope you still live when I return. You deserve more than death at the hands of some petty demon.

He realised that they were looking at him oddly, and he had just missed much of a conversation.

“I apologise.” His deep voice rumbled. “I was lost in memory for a moment. Please, continue. This, I gather, is Caramel?” he pointed at hoof at the nervous looking pony.

“Y-yes sir.” He squeaked. He actually made a squeak like sound. To be fair to him, he was being practically loomed over by a pony nearly twice his size. Paladin’s now inanimate expression certainly wasn’t helping matters.

“Wow, way to sound like a stallion Caramel.” Rainbow Dash teased. She grinned at him. “But hay, at least you’re not sounding stupidly macho like you did last year.”

He winced. “Please, don’t remind me. I’m never listening to Ace again.”

Applejack nudged him. “Big Mac warned ya you’d just sound silly.” She reminded him. Her thoughts returned to the matter of the pie-ball and its possible uses.

Caramel resisted the urge to say anything about what he had heard about the Gala, since that was the same night he had been trying out Ace’s suggestions to sound studlier. It was something certain ponies could react badly to.

“I’m a cobbler.” He told Paladin in a desperate attempt to change the subject. “Make horseshoes, fit them, sort of thing.” He added when he got nothing in return.

“A vital service.” Paladin remarked without a hint of mockery.

“R-really?” Caramel stuttered in shock. “I mean, it’s not like there’s many ponies who need horseshoes these days. Most of my work is just maintaining Big Macintosh’s, so I have to do odd jobs as well.”

A frown appeared on Paladin’s face and Caramel worried that he had done something wrong.

He really had nothing to fear, as it soon became clear Paladin was confused rather than angry. “I may sound...ignorant when I ask this, but are not horseshoes nailed on?” Tyrael admitted to himself he only knew this because he had kept a watch on the Horadrim in their pursuit of the Brothers and once or twice seen such a thing. Hunting powerful demons across the land required a lot of horse-use.

“Well, a little.” Caramel admitted reluctantly.

Paladin cocked an eyebrow curiously. “Would that not hurt?” he asked.

“Oh no, not at all.” The cobbler reassured him. “I know how to do it without doing any harm.”

Twilight interjected with some of her own knowledge on the subject. “Even if he did make a mistake, there are plenty of unicorn doctors who know how to heal that sort of damage. None in Ponyville, though.” She added worriedly.

She got a gentle elbow – fore-knee, really – in the flank from Applejack. “Don’t you worry, sugarcube. Big Mac trusts Caramel to do his shoe-work.”

“Are we talking about the same Caramel?” Rainbow Dash interrupted. The same Caramel huffed and muttered that he was actually there and he wasn’t that bad. “He just hit Twilight with a pie from halfway across the market place by accident.”

“Pies ain’t his special talent, are they RD?” pointed out the farmpony. “Grass seeds ain’t either, o’ course.” Caramel blushed slightly at the light dig as the girls shared a light laughter.

Paladin failed to join in. Caramel muttered a reminder to Applejack that she had left her stall in the hands of a passing friend to go make sure Twilight was alright and the group began a short journey in the direction of pie.

“So, Mister Paladin, how long ya gonna be boardin’ with Twi?” Applejack asked as they walked.

“I am unsure.”

“Magical maladies aren’t always straight forward.” Twilight began, glad to have a chance to talk about something she was the authority on. “It could take days, weeks, maybe even months.”

“Hmm. Ah hope ya ain’t gonna be freeloadin’.” Applejack tsked unhappily and gave Paladin a serious look.

He sent it right back. If nothing else he was good at looking serious. Almost like he wasn’t used to having a face with which to put emotions on, so he didn’t bother.

“Applejack! He’s injured! I know it’s not a typical injury, but Princess Celestia asked me personally to welcome him into my home.” Twilight argued, frowning at her friend.

“Ah know Twi’, but unless the Princess is givin’ ya bits to feed another mouth it ain’t right if he’s don’t contribute.”

The two squared off, neither willing to give in. Caramel looked awkwardly between them and wondered if getting another pie was worth it and Rainbow Dash snorted and reclined in the air to watch.

“You have a point.” The two mares looked at the subject of their nearly opened can of worms in surprise. He directed his gaze at Applejack, and something like respect was in it. “It would be unjust of me to expect you to allow me into your home and to take without paying you back in some way.”

Twilight blinked dimly at this while Applejack smiled at Paladin. She dipped the brim of her hat to him. “That’s mighty fine of ya, Paladin. What sort of work is yer business?”

“You really don’t have to-” Twilight tried.

“It would be wrong of me to take advantage of you, Miss Twilight.” Paladin told her. “Furthermore, it would be against my nature.”

Without thinking her eyes were drawn to his cutie mark. A winged sword with scales hanging from it. Sword. Wings. Scales. Her mind worked feverishly to decipher this mystery.

To Applejack he was saying “Nothing of use here, I fear. It may take me some time to find something I can do to repay her kindness.”

They reached the Sweet Apple Acres stall, where a brown stallion with a spiked mane and hourglass cutie mark stood. He seemed perfectly at ease, and nodded cheerfully to Applejack when she thanked him for looking after her stall.

With a farewell, and a badly concealed look of curiosity at the big pegasus Doctor Whooves departed munching on an apple fritter.

Clearly a pony so dull in colour wasn’t going to do anything of interest, so no further interest need be paid to him.

Caramel shortly received his new pie and left. He glanced a few times back, wondering about the strange stallion. Paladin certainly seemed to be nice enough. Another colt was always welcome to even the odds in Ponyville, that was for sure. Maybe he could even give him some tips on how to be stallionlier.

“We have another stop to make, sorry girls.” Twilight apologised a few minutes later. “Dash, are you coming?” she asked.

Rainbow Dash flapped a hoof lazily, her wings flapping more usefully. “Nah, I think I’ll keep AJ company.” She gave Applejack an irritating grin who just rolled her eyes.

“Oh joy.” The farmpony deadpanned. She handed a slice of pie to both departing ponies. “It was a real pleasure to meet ya Paladin. If yer still havin’ trouble findin’ work swing by Sweet Apple Acres. We always have something for a strong stallion who don’t mind workin’ hard.”

“I will keep it in mind, Miss Applejack.” He inclined his head to her, if only to vary from all this nodding. There was really only so many obvious physical signs he could make in such an unfamiliar body.

“Good ta hear. I’ll see you both at Pinkie’s party tonight then. Have a fine day.”

Twilight and Paladin trotted away, unknowing of trouble brewing.

Or in this case, digesting.

***

Spike grinned to himself, satisfied that he had finally finished cleaning the windows. As annoying as it was to have to do this job at the end of the day Twilight’s thanks would make it all worth. The extra gems he could get out of her would help as well.

He puffed his little chest out in pride. The ladder wobbled a little and he was forced to pay attention. Stabilising himself, Spike let out a brief sigh of relief. He had spilled water in the dirt just below these windows and if he fell he might get them dirty again. That was something he would not look forward t-

A feeling began in his gut, a familiar tingle of heat and energy.

“Oh come on!”

A gout of green flame belched from his mouth with enough force to destabilise the little dragon and he tumbled into the mud. He didn’t open his eyes for a few moments, unwilling to see the inevitable mess.

Finally he had to open his eyes or Spike knew the scroll from the Princess would get dirty too.

“Oh.” The windows were fine, though the tree trunk under the lowest window was a little dirty. Spike laughed in relief and wandered over to the scroll. Picking it up, he kept smiling as he unrolled it.

His eyes ran across the lines, and his smile was suddenly gone.

“TWILIGHT!”

* Chapter Fin. *

Author's Note:

Well, there’s another chapter done. Like I said at the start, don’t expect another chapter as soon as you got this one.

This chapter does feel a little talky, but meh, I think it does what I want. Establish a few things, say some stuff, introduce MLP characters to Tyrael.

Oh, if anyone is curious about my use of the names Paladin and Tyrael, I should have a blog post up at some point soon to clarify.

Remember, every thumbs up and comment is coal in the engine of my motivation, so feel free to say something. Preferably positive, but even if you’re just pointing out a grammatical error I’ll appreciate it.

In summary, thanks for reading!

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