• Published 17th Nov 2016
  • 2,916 Views, 91 Comments

The Prisoner of Zebra - Tumbleweed

Flash Sentry: hero, heart breaker ... and self-admitted coward. For the first time, he details his own undeserved rise to heroism (as well as the trouble such a reputation brings him) in his own words.

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Flash Sentry and the Menacing Manacles of Matrimony

“We have a problem.”

I didn't know how Golden Harvest got into the royal chambers unannounced, but I'd seen enough not to be surprised when she did. I cracked one bleary eye open, and the orange-haired mare's face took up most of my field of vision. As was the usual, she didn't look happy with me.

“It's fine. I'm fine.” I rolled out of the tangle of sheets, and sent a few empty liquor bottles clattering to the floor. “Wouldn't be the first time a groom's been a bit under the weather, eh?” I tried for a roguish grin, but in retrospect the expression probably looked more queasy than anything.

“Not that, you idiot.” Golden Harvest grabbed me by the shoulders and pulled me in close. “Airic Pinfeather is here.”


Golden Harvest closed her eyes and pulled in a deep, calming breath. “Airic. Pinfeather. Prince Percheron's best friend. From childhood. He was supposed to be out of the country on business, but he made it back early for the wedding.”

“Oh.” The words took a moment to sink in. “Oh.” My heart started to beat faster, as my hangover gave way to the familiar dread of impending doom. “Bloody hell, he'll see through this disguise in no time at all! What do we do? What do we do?” I fluttered my wings, and took a longing look at one of the chamber's tall windows.

Golden Harvest hit me.

Thankfully, she wasn't armed this time around, so I didn't have a new dueling scar to add to my collection. Instead, the sting of her hoof on my cheek was just enough to snap me out of it.

“Here's what you are going to do. During the formal presentation of the guests, you will say 'Airic! You made it! So good to see you!' Nothing more, nothing less. Say it.”

“Airic, you made it, so good to see you.” I repeated, by rote. I frowned, and rubbed at my aching cheek.

"Soon thereafter, you will leave the reception, out of … eagerness to spend time with your new bride. Just stay in your chambers with the princess, and I'll make sure that Airic doesn't get too suspicious.”


“I've got my ways.” Golden Harvest said, and the faintest hint of a smile tugged at the corner of her mouth.

“Does that mean you're going to seduce him or beat him senseless?”

Golden Harvest's glare could've curdled milk. It certainly did a number on the contents of my stomach.

“Right. The latter, then.” I said, mostly by reflex.

Golden Harvest shoved me away, and waved a hoof in front of her face. “You smell like a brewery. Go get yourself cleaned up-- you're getting married in the afternoon.”

While the Equestrian Royal Guard might not be a proper fighting force, my time there still taught me some valuable skills. Most valuable, at that moment, was my experience in going from hungover to presentable-- I couldn't tell you how many times I've woken up with a throbbing headache, only to give my armor a quick spit-shine in order to report for guard duty in under half an hour.

After a bracing shower, a hot coffee, and several aspirin, I was more or less ready for the rest of the world. No sooner had I gulped down the last of my coffee, several royal servants bustled into the bedroom, pushing a wheeled suit-rack along with them. As they converged on me, I was reminded of maintenance crews at airship rallies, rushing in to change parts and patch balloons and what have you. Only instead of repairing a racing yacht, they were making me presentable.

In a matter of moments, they efficiently squeezed me into a formal white uniform, and then promptly started pinning various princely medals and commendations to my chest, making me feel like nothing so much as a Hearth's Warming's Eve tree. They topped it all with a blue sash across my chest, and then whisked me out of the bedroom and into the chaos of the wedding proper.

The ceremony itself was a blur. It had all the elements one would expect: a massive ballroom decorated specially for the occasion, ranks upon ranks of ponies in their most formal of formal attire, and even a pipe organ the size of a small house being used to grind out that omnipresent Perchertanian song about turnips.

And finally, I laid my eyes on Princess Ianthe.

To say she was beautiful would be something of an understatement. While she lacked the horn or wings of an Equestrian Princess, Ianthe still radiated that same kind of striking, regal beauty. She wore a dress with geometric patterns in red and orange woven all through it, which somehow managed to look far more elegant (not to mention far more comfortable) than the starched collars and bunched ruffles so popular in Perchertanian high society. Her mane was done up in a bristly, striped crest that reminded me like nothing so much as the brush of one of my formal helmets-- though somehow, Ianthe made it look far more interesting than that.

Once Princess Ianthe set hoof on the red carpet leading up to the altar, several zebras towards the back of the ballroom began to pound out a steady, rhythmic beat that was a lot catchier than the ceaseless bellowing of the pipe organ.

Her hooves barely seemed to touch the ground as she glided up the aisle, her expression blank and serene. It wasn't only until she stepped up to the altar in front of me that I realized Princess Ianthe stood about half a head taller than I did (not including a few inches of mohawked-mane). Her brown eyes settled on mine-- however briefly –before raking down the rest of me in an unabashedly appraising look.

Well then.

I just puffed out my chest a little more, and tilted my chin up at a properly haughty angle, and settled in for the ceremony. Some bearded old codger with a too-tall miter* pontificated about the importance of love or somesuch, until it finally came down to obligatory “I do's” and the obligatory “you may kiss the bride.”

*The Archbishop of Canter-Berry, for the record.

I cleared my throat and leaned in to plant one on Princess Ianthe, and damn if it wasn't like trying to snog a statue (which, I might note, is something my chum ol' Bluey once tried after about three brandies too many). Princess Ianthe barely puckered her lips, instead remaining stock-still. Not that I could blame her-- she was just as tied up in this marriage nonsense as I was. Moreso, really, given that I would get to make my exit as soon as the real Prince Percheron recovered.

Awkward smooching or no, the crowd loved it, and immediately broke out into thunderous applause. The pipe organ started grinding out another 'triumphant' Perchertanian dirge, only for the Zebrican drummers to start hammering away in a competition of who could be louder.

Princess Ianthe and I walked back down the marital carpet side by side, at which point a gaggle of official-looking folk (including Golden Harvest and Vizier) ushered us over to the reception hall. After being announced for the first time as “Prince and Princess-Consort Percheron,” the two of us were planted down on a pair of ornately carved (though hardly comfortable) thrones at the far end of the hall.

No sooner had we rested our royal rumps upon those velvet cushions, we were beset by a steady train of well-wishers. Duchesses and dukes, counts and contessas, all parading through the ballroom, jostling for their chance to fawn and flatter the two of us. Princess Ianthe endured it all with stoic aplomb, merely nodding and murmuring thanks no matter who said what to us. As for me, I found myself swinging between utter boredom and complete paranoia that somepony would see through my disguise. Still, my time in the Royal Guard had taught me how to endure long periods of enforced idleness-- if nothing else, I at least got to sit instead of standing around at attention, holding a spear upright.

I let my mind wander, idly imagining what I would do at such an event as, well, myself. There were more than a few lovely-looking mares in the crowd, and I knew I could easily entwine myself with a willing bridlesmaid or two if I wasn't pretending to be Prince Percheron. But, such things were not to be.

“Lieutenant Commander Airic Pinfeather.” The majordomo's droning voice snapped me from my daydream. I shook my head, and felt my heart freeze as I looked down at a square-jawed pegasus with shiny gold hair that matched the oak leaves pinned to his collar.

“Airic!” My voice may have cracked. “SoGoodToSeeYouI'mGladYouMadeIt!” The words tumbled out of my mouth in more or less the right order, and about triple the normal speed and volume.

Airic stared at me for a long moment-- but instead of calling me out for the fraud I was, he just smiled. “I wouldn't miss it for the world, sir.” He arched one blonde eyebrow. “I trust you're doing well?”

“Nerves!” I blurted. “It's, ah. The nerves, that's all. From the wedding. Never been married before, and all that. Ha.” I managed a wan smile, even though I could hear slight murmuring already rippling through the crowd. Golden Harvest, still wearing a colonel's uniform, just glared at me from the periphery of the gathering.

“Indeed. I shall leave you to your … marital bliss, sir.” And with that, Airic sketched a low bow before making way for the next guest. From the corner of my eye, I saw Golden Harvest's shoulders relax once it became clear she didn't have to clobber anyone.

“Perhaps we should continue with the celebration.” Princess Ianthe said, her voice clear and commanding. While I may have been an impostor, there was no question of Ianthe's royal upbringing-- she spoke with the utmost confidence that she would be obeyed.

And she was.

I spent the rest of the reception shoveling a steady stream of cake and champagne into my mouth to prevent myself from saying anything that might give me away. Which, in retrospect, was something of a mistake, given the fact that massive amounts of refined sugar and bubbly certainly do not mix.

But, by the stupid coincidence that has defined most of my life, it worked out in the end. Golden Harvest must have noticed my cheeks tinting green, as she soon murmured something to the majordomo, who murmured something to Vizier, who in turn murmured something to Princess Ianthe, and soon enough the two of us were bustled off into a large carriage with dangling strings of tin cans and a crudely written “JUST MARRIED” sign tacked to the back.

Ianthe kept quiet as we clattered down the road. It wasn't long before the carriage came to a halt, and a couple of valets in starched collars opened the door for the two of us. Again, Princess Ianthe stayed silent as we clambered out of the carriage, and then walked up the path to the cozy little cottage it had taken us to. Every little detail, from the soft light of dozens of candles, to the white rose petals sprinkled over nearly every available surface, was strategically geared to make the interior of the honeymoon cottage as romantic as possible.

And yet, while the décor might have been enough to make nearly any other mare swoon, Princess Ianthe did not speak a word until the servants had closed the door behind us, leaving us alone.

“Are you intoxicated?” Princess Ianthe asked me, coolly. The flickering candlelight washed over her striped coat, making the dark lines almost seem to move under their own volition.

“I wish.” I said, and started rummaging around the kitchen. “They've got to have left us some provisions somewhere.” Unfortunately, the only grub I could find was an array of delicate (and suggestively shaped) appetizers, with nary a drop of booze in sight. I should've stolen a bottle from the reception, I realized.

“Then you are sober?” Princess Ianthe said.

“Damnably so.”

“Good. We have work to do.”

I looked up from a platter of chocolate-covered strawberries. “Beg pardon?”

“You may send for refreshments once we have consummated our union.”With a single, deft movement, Princess Ianthe swept her dress off and cast it to the side, allowing the elegant attire to crumple into a forgotten puddle in the corner. She flung herself onto the bed hard enough to make the springs creak, and posed in a way that showed just how far down her stripes went.

“Be gentle.” She said, and closed her eyes. “I am bound to this duty, just as are you, Prince Percheron.”

I stopped.

As I jot these words down, I realize just how absurd this situation may seem to the reader. After all, I just spent thousands upon thousands of words confessing just how much of a cad and a bounder I really am. So, I suppose I can forgive you, the reader, for thinking “well, of course a lecher like ol' Flashy would consummate a gorgeous zebra princess' brains out!” **

**I certainly did. -G.M.F.


Of all the lovely mares I've had the pleasure of entangling myself with, the one thing they've had in common is that they've all had the pleasure of dallying with dashing and handsome Flash Sentry. To ravish a lady (no matter how beautiful she was) under false pretenses just wouldn't do. I realized that if I were to take what Princess Ianthe was offering to me (or, more accurately, to Prince Percheron), I'd be no better than a damned changeling.

“Ah.” I managed over the lump in my throat. “It's been a long day. Perhaps we should just get some sleep, instead. In separate beds. I have a tendency to snore, you see.”

“We may rest later. You must sire a heir, first." Princess Ianthe splayed her legs out a little wider in a decidedly un-princesslike fashion. "It is tradition."

“Well, maybe some traditions could do with re-thinking.”

Princess Ianthe turned a properly regal glare at me, harsh enough to make me take a step back. “I have traveled hundreds of miles for this, in order to ensure the safety and prosperity of my people. I have gone through too much trouble and effort to have the alliance between our peoples be jeopardized by your cold hooves. Now you shall make love to me.” She swished her tail from side to side, and I gritted my teeth to keep myself from looking anywhere lower than that. “You may think of your mistress if you have to.”

I blinked, as confusion washed away any untoward thoughts I might have had just then. “Mistress?”

“Do not try to deny it. My Vizier has seen the way you talk to that orange-haired pony. He even spied her slipping into your chambers this morning, despite her best efforts to remain unseen.”

“Orange haired--” The realization hit me. “Her?” Unable to help myself due to the ridiculousness of the situation, I burst out laughing. “Oh! Oh! I shouldn't.” I staggered into a high-backed chair and wheezed as the absurdity of the idea set in.

“What's so funny?” Princess Ianthe rolled back to all four hooves and turned to face me, which thankfully put the more delicate parts of her anatomy out of view.

“You think she and I are … oh!” Another wave of laughter wracked my body, and I felt tears begin to stream down my cheeks. The whole absurdity of the last several weeks finally caught up with me, and it was all I could do to keep myself from curling into a helpless, comatose ball. “I'm sorry. I'm sorry.” I sniffed and wiped the corners of my eyes, only to look up into Princess Ianthe's. She glared at me, her expression equal parts ire and confusion-- the sort of look I've been on the receiving end of many a time, from many a mare. I sputtered another laugh, and leaned back in my chair, somehow comforted by that fact.

“Explain yourself, then. Am I not … pleasing to you?” Her voice faltered, ever so slightly, and for the first time I saw a chip in her proverbial armor. “Have I done something wrong?”

I stopped laughing.

“Princess Ianthe,” I leaned forward, and took one of her hooves in both of mine. “I can honestly say that you are one of the most beautiful women I have ever laid my eyes on. I would like nothing more than to take you in a manly fashion, were the circumstances … different.”

“How different, pray tell?”

“Well--” The words piled up in my throat like water behind a dam-- slowly, inexorably building pressure to that final catastrophic overflow of terrible, insane truth.

I almost told her everything.

But then the ninjas showed up.