• Published 5th Oct 2017
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The Spirit of a Pegasus - bookplayer

In early Equestria, the pegasi cling to their traditions. Seeking a father for her foal for one of those traditions leads Pansy to consider her true feelings for Commander Hurricane, but she finds his emotions protected by armor nopony has pierced.

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1 - The Finest Feathers

Commander Hurricane peered over the scroll in front of him at the pale blue mare standing at attention in front of his desk. She was young, three months out of the Academy, but she stood in perfect form and frozen like a statue. This was a pony who’d practiced.

It was a shame.

“Private Pansy. Your commanding officer strongly recommends I discharge you without honor or quarter.” He kept his own face even as he said it, to keep the pity he felt from showing.

“Yes, Sir.” Not a twitch of emotion crossed her face, but her eyes focused in the distance for a moment.

Hurricane had been Commander of the pegasi for a year now, but despite the weathered look that came naturally to his grey face he knew too well he was young and fresh for his position, and there was still nothing he liked less than sentencing ponies to the ground. It was made worse by the look of the mare: lithe and delicate, with large purple eyes and a cropped white mane, but every inch of her full of the pride of a pegasus. If discharge from the troops wasn’t enough to break her, a lifetime on the ground, being called ‘featherbrain’ and taking odd jobs and scraps from a mud pony or stick head ought to do the job.

“Your mother was General Springwind?” He frowned at Pansy, narrowing his eyes. He’d fought the griffons under Springwind years ago, not long before she fell in battle. She was made of the finest feathers.

“Yes, Sir. I’m her honor foal, Sir.” She closed her eyes, then opened them quickly. Too long for a blink from a pony of her precision, but close enough that he wouldn’t blame her.

Hurricane nodded. “That’s the reason you’re in front of me, instead of on the ground already.” He looked her in the eye. “The only reason. The scroll from Captain Lancer says that you disobeyed orders, failed to follow procedure, never completed required training, and demoralized the troop.”

“Yes, Sir,” she said, holding eye contact.

He leaned back in his chair, and set the scroll with the captain's account on the table in front of him. “Explain.”

“Yes, Sir.” She began in a clear, even voice, “We were on patrol over Hoof Road, ten miles from Girthshire limits. A caravan of earth ponies was camped below. When we approached they were unfriendly, and exchanged words with Captain Lancer. Captain Lancer ordered us into formation. I obeyed, and then he asked the earth ponies for the standard toll of passage, and they refused. He ordered us to ready spears…” She paused and took a deep breath.

“I didn’t. It was clear to me that they were traders, and no threat to us. I called out to request permission to speak with them and try to negotiate. He declined, so I—” She swallowed, but her voice remained steady as she went on, “I landed. I asked them what they could offer, as they were in Hippocampus and we had a right to demand a toll. I negotiated for half of the standard, so long as they packed their camp and left for Girthshire immediately.”

He raised his eyebrows at her. “You disrespected your commanding officer and dishonored your post for a caravan of rowdy mud ponies?”

Her cheeks colored, the only sign of emotion through her bearing. “Yes, Sir. I didn’t want it to come to bloodshed. They were hostile, but unarmed and no threat to us.”

Hurricane frowned with his most disapproving glare, reserved for troops who felt themselves above the command structure. “That was up to Captain Lancer’s judgement.”

“Yes, Sir.”

“Are you sure it wasn’t to save yourself from embarrassment?” He tapped the scroll on his desk with the tip of a hoof. “This failure to complete required training says that you can’t hit a target with a spear at twenty feet.”

“Yes, Sir. I can’t hit a target. But my troop knows that well, there would have been no fresh embarrassment from their seeing it.”

Another piece fell into place and he nodded. “I’d imagine the demoralization charge stems from your fellow soldiers displaying just how well they know your incompetence?”

She didn’t hesitate in responding, “I couldn’t make that determination, Sir.”

“Do they taunt you about it?”

“They’re soldiers, Sir.”

“Are you hurt by it?”

“I’m a soldier, Sir.”

Hurricane gave a derisive snort. “A soldier who disobeys orders when she feels like it.”

She made no response, and he sighed. “I could discharge you, but it looks to me like you simply don’t have the stomach for combat. You’re lucky, in a battle you would have gotten ponies killed, but instead you just got to show your worth.” He reached for a fresh scroll and a quill. “I’m going to transfer you to the Weather Corps.”

She spoke up, clear and sure, “Then with all due respect to you and my tribe, Sir, I must resign all rank.”

His eyes narrowed as his head snapped up to look at her, wondering how he’d misjudged her. Resignation of all rank would invoke the same exile as discharge. But she remained at attention, her face impassive and betraying nothing.

“Resign? Why?”

“I’m a soldier, Sir.”

Hurricane relaxed. Not a lack of honor, but an unfortunate misplacement. She needed to be brought back to the clouds. “There’s a troop of ponies out there who tell a different story.”

“Doesn’t matter, Sir.”

Hurricane rolled his eyes, then his eyes landed on her cutie mark; a sun half blocked by a cloud. “What does your cutie mark mean, Private?”

“That I can find the balance between sun and clouds, Sir.”

“It would seem to me a good cutie mark for the Weather Corps,” he pointed out with a frown.

“No, Sir. It’s the cutie mark of a soldier, Sir.”

He tilted his head, his brow furrowed. “How so?”

“Because a soldier has to be able to find balance, Sir. They have to know their weaknesses and their strengths, and those of the ponies around them. They have to be fierce but tactical, strong but flexible, and noble in both victory and defeat. I know I can bring that to my troop, Sir.”

Hurricane stared at her. “You are determined, aren’t you?”

“Yes, Sir,” she said with a firm nod.

“Why?” he asked, looking into her purple eyes for the force that would drive a pony so obviously unsuited to the life of a soldier to choose exile rather than a step down.

She returned his stare without blinking and answered simply, “Because I’m a pegasus, Sir.”

For a moment, Hurricane felt the full weight of the truth in those words beyond wings or magic. He knew he was looking at pony with a soul forged to tame thunder and lightning, to fly straight and true no matter the gale, to offer her life and death to other ponies without a second thought.

He had dedicated his life and all of his energy to his tribe, and he felt like for the first time, before him stood a pegasus.

And somewhere deep inside, he had the very uncomfortable feeling that she outranked him.

“You are,” he said softly. He cleared his throat and unfurled the blank scroll. “Well then, Private, let’s see how you perform in my honor guard.”

She blinked in wonder. “...Sir?”

“You may have heard that my troop is the toughest posting there is. That I drill more often than any other and expect every skill to be mastered. That my soldiers eat, sleep, and breathe when I tell them. That when there’s fighting I assign them to the thick of the fray. And that I don’t tolerate soldiers who can’t keep up.”

Hurricane looked her in the eye. “You have no blasted idea, Private. You are going to work twice as hard for me as you’ve worked in your life, and if you so much as think about disobeying my orders, there won’t be any offer of Weather Corps. You will be discharged without honor or quarter. So if Weather Corps is sounding more reasonable right about now, you had better speak up.”

She didn’t say a word. He didn’t expect her to.

He nodded. “Very well. I’m told you have the cutie mark of a soldier, and so a soldier you shall be. Move your things to the eastern barracks, and meet me at the drill clouds at three o’clock.”

“Yes, Sir.”


She flew out of the room quickly. Hurricane just sighed and took up the quill in his mouth, staring at the blank scroll in front of him. In his head, the voices of every commanding officer he’d ever served under—voices of hundreds of years of experience, tradition, and expectation—berated him for this moment of weakness.

The generals of Senior Command would have questions, and he had no answers. Well, except for the easy one that he was the stars-damned Commander and they could kiss his tail.

But he had the vision of the pegasus mare standing at perfect attention burned in his mind, so he quickly wrote and signed the order for her transfer.

The Senior Command building floated over the forest to the North of Everfree, and the other cloud buildings of the pegasi floated around it. The tribe had undergone sky shattering changes since Equestria had been founded a decade ago, but the princesses allowed the pegasi to maintain command of the military, scouting and exploration, and the Weather Corps under their traditional structure and the trusted management of Commander Hurricane.

Hurricane had been in that cave where Equestria was born, he saw the way the winds were blowing, and knew the old order was coming to an end. He listened carefully to Smart Cookie and Clover, and most especially to Pansy. Even as his own urges were for the things he knew and trusted, the things his compatriots in Senior Command tried to demand, Pansy balanced respect for tradition and pride in their tribe with practicality and compassion for all ponies. It was a better way, even if it meant that a spear had to be driven through the heart of some of their more harmful rules and traditions, and it was Hurricane’s job to wield that spear.

At least there was some comfort in the parts of the old ways that remained, however unnecessary and ridiculous they might appear to the other tribes. These were the things that had built the strength of the pegasi, and though he knew they’d be lost someday, it wouldn’t be on his watch.

He stood behind his desk in his office, a small smile on his face at Pansy standing at attention on the other side, her head high and expression even.

“Major Pansy, it’s my honor to inform you that Senior Command would like to formally request that you bear a foal on behalf of the pegasi. This request is made with the deepest respect, and your decision on the matter will never be questioned, and will not affect your career in any way.” He paused the traditional address and added his own promise, as he had to every mare he’d given it to, “You can be damned sure of that.”

“Yes, Commander.” Pansy’s eyes shone with pride, and the hint of a smile played on her lips.

He nodded and went on, “The request has been added to your records, and if you’d like it made public it can be read at the next commendation ceremony. And any foal you bear will be welcome at the Officer’s Nursery, and receive automatic entrance to the Academy.”

She gave a small nod. “Thank you, Sir.”

“At ease,” he said, sitting down behind his desk.

Pansy relaxed, her face brightening with a smile, restrained and calm but genuine.

It made Hurricane smile as well. “I’m glad you’re pleased. I know this commendation won’t last much longer, it’s a bit pointless these days. But I knew you’d take it as intended. You were an honor foal yourself, after all.”

“We both know I never would have gotten into the Academy, otherwise,” she said with a small smirk.

“Well, maybe there’s some merit to the idea.” He chuckled and leaned back against his chair.

Pansy nodded. “There may be. I’m considering it.”

Hurricane raised his eyebrows in surprise. “Are you, now? An unmarried mare looking for a sire isn’t as common as it used to be.”

She shrugged and brushed back a piece of her cropped mane that had fallen against her cheek. “As you said, I was an honor foal. Even if keeping the tribe strong isn’t as important, I’d like to provide a foal of my line for Equestria’s future. I’m never going to marry at this rate, but between maternity duty and the nursery...”

Hurricane studied her. Gentle in her gestures, calm and quiet in her speech, with a slender body that could never build muscle; in some ways, she was the worst soldier he’d ever allowed to remain. But those were the old ways.

Just as familiar was the firm set of her jaw, her proud posture, and her big, purple eyes that seemed to flash like lightning when she entered a battle, whether of words or spears. Those were the things that would make future generations of pegasi strong, and those pegasi would keep Equestria strong.

Deep inside, he knew that he had hoped to see her bear a foal that might equal its mother, but he kept his face even and nodded.

“Congratulations, whatever you decide.”

Pansy smiled. “Thank you.”

Clearing his throat, Hurricane looked down at her record again. “Do you want it announced?”

She shook her head, a blush coloring her cheeks. “No. That won’t be necessary. Though I’ll be telling our friends.”

“Of course.” Hurricane gave a snort and half muttered, “I’m sure Cookie will have a thing or two to say.”

Pansy nodded with a knowing smirk. “He always does, but I don’t mind it. When his complaints have merit, we should hear them. When they don’t… well, he’ll make sure we hear them, but we can dismiss them as we please.”

“You have far more patience with that than I do,” Hurricane said, shaking his head.

“While you have far more patience with Senior Command.” Pansy paused and tilted her head with a fond smile. “I know whose idea my commendation was, you know. And I know that not everypony was happy with it.”

Hurricane rolled his eyes. “I’ve yet to see a pony suggest something that all of Senior Command was happy with, and if they sent it to me I’d toss the scroll out the window for fear of a curse.”

She nodded with the same smile. “So you argued on my behalf.”

“I had help. Ponies can see how well you represent the tribe.” Hurricane offered a grim smile. “Perhaps someday Senior Command will be half as worthy as you make them seem to Princess Celestia.”

Pansy gave a soft laugh. “So long as you see it, and the princess sees your worth as our commander, I’m content. And I know both of those things are certain.”

Hurricane nodded to her. “I hope they are. And I hope you are content. Take pride in your commendation, it’s more than earned.”

“Thank you, Sir. I’m honored.” She paused a moment and looked out the window. “But I’m afraid I really should be getting back to work. I still need to check in with the Weather Corps to see if there’s anything they need us to bring before the princess this week.”

Hurricane glanced at the pile of reports on his desk. “I have plenty to do myself. Dismissed, as you please.”

“Thank you, Sir.” Pansy turned around and walked out, saying over her shoulder, “Have a pleasant day.”

As the door closed behind her, Hurricane sighed and stared at the space she’d left behind.

Pansy had been right, there were a few generals who strongly objected to her being granted an honor foal. Their resistance was easily overcome, as they had been soldiers long enough to know that annoying a commander was a good way to get assigned to clean pigeon droppings off the stonework of the Castle of the Two Sisters. He had to guess it was mostly on principle these days anyway; contrary to popular belief among the troops, none of Senior Command was senile enough to think this was Hippocampus.

But he had been honest as well; there were more voices than his on her behalf. With each passing year more ponies settled down, finding reasons to appreciate Pansy’s tireless efforts at organization and diplomacy both among her own troops and between the tribes and the princesses. As set in their ways as old soldiers could be, they were beginning to see that if the pegasi were to continue to prosper in Equestria, they were going to need more like Pansy.

Hurricane looked down at the scroll on his desk, the traditional commendation meant to keep the pegasus tribe strong. He sighed as he rolled it up and set it aside, knowing he’d done his duty as best he could, and the rest was with the stars.