• 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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2 - A Reserve of Passion

It was an hour until dawn when Pansy landed on the cloud at the spear range. Commander Hurricane was already there waiting.

She snapped to attention, and Hurricane stared at her and gave a nod.

“Begin when ready, Private.”

“Yes, Sir.”

Pansy knew what was coming as she picked up the first heavy, iron-tipped spear and threw it. It landed harmlessly on the cloud, several feet short of the target. She drew a breath and picked up the second. There was going to be failure and pain, just like every morning. She knew that, but she couldn’t fear it. All she feared was that today the Commander would say no.

After her first month in Hurricane’s troop, he seemed to realize that she would never be able to hit a target, so he’d set her this test: Fifty spears, and she had to hit the target just once, or she would be dishonorably discharged.

That day she had met him before dawn, just like this morning, as the first light made the targets visible, and she threw each of the fifty spears. After ten spears her foreleg started to ache. After twenty five her leg was burning and her face was locked in a grimace of pain. By forty her foreleg trembled, she barely had the strength to lift the spears and when she threw them they landed directly in front of her.

But she threw them all, and not a single one hit.

She couldn’t put weight on her foreleg, and she didn’t care. She would have to leave Hippocampus, dishonored and humiliated. She would have to find a place among the earth ponies or unicorns, enduring their taunts and contempt, knowing that her own tribe felt the same way about her.

Commander Hurricane just stared at her, his face expressionless. There wasn’t a hint of pity or sympathy. But there was no hint of disgust or scorn, either. Whatever was behind that mask was her only hope.

As the sun rose over the horizon, she turned, saluted Commander Hurricane, and asked “Sir, may I try again tomorrow?”

He stared at her for a very long time, then nodded and flew away, leaving her to gather the spears.

That was four months ago. Each day, for four months, she threw fifty spears.

She had been throwing spears since she was in Academy, she was already in peak physical condition, there was no strength left to build. She knew that it was physically impossible for her, that the failure and pain were inevitable. She knew that eventually, sooner rather than later, she was going to permanently injure herself.

She knew that Commander Hurricane knew it too. This was torture; he never would have considered doing this to an enemy prisoner. But each day Pansy woke up and flew to the range. And each day she asked for another.

“Commander, Sir, may I try again tomorrow?” she asked again that day, standing at attention, her foreleg throbbing.

Commander Hurricane looked at her for longer than usual, and she felt tears stinging her eyes, but she’d never show them. Nothing but the same blank face the commander wore.

Finally, he sighed. “Private. I offered you a chance. Fifty spears. You’ve thrown more than fifty spears now.”

She swallowed. “Six thousand, one hundred, Sir.”

“Six thousand spears,” he said slowly.

“Yes, Sir.”

The commander shook his head. “Private, answer me honestly. If I allow you to try again tomorrow, do you think you’re going to hit a target?”

She wasn’t sure she could speak without crying, but she had to. She forced the answer out as quickly as she could. “No, Sir.”

He looked her in the eye. “Then why should I let you try?”

Pansy wished she had something better to offer as a response, but she had only the truth. “Because I’ll do the rest of my duties today, and I’ll be here tomorrow, Sir.”

Commander Hurricane looked at her a moment longer and frowned. “What do you plan to do if we go into battle, Private?”

“Fight, Sir.”

He looked at the spears scattered across the clouds, then back at her. “With what?”

“A sling, Sir,” Pansy offered.

He gave a derisive snort. “You’re just barely competent, and that’s your best weapon.”

“Then I shall fight with whatever’s in my hooves, Sir.” She took a deep breath and added, “With all due respect, Sir, I know how to fight. I just can’t throw a spear.”

“At ease, Private.”

Pansy barely moved. She couldn’t tell if it was because her position seemed to offer some form of protection or because the tension in her body wouldn’t allow it.

“Now, explain to me why you’re wasting our time and your talents here,” the commander said, rubbing a hoof over his face.

Pansy looked him in the eye and spoke from her heart. “Because this is what I care about, Sir. It’s all I care about. This is the heart of our tribe; even when we have no battles to fight, everything we do, everything we are comes from our warriors. Who those warriors are is who the pegasi are, and I know in my heart, and in my destiny, that I’m one of them.”

Commander Hurricane raised an eyebrow. “It might have been kinder for destiny to give you the ability to throw a spear, in that case.”

Pansy swallowed and nodded. “I know that better than anypony, Sir.”

He shook his head and sighed. “Destiny can be a son of a crow sometimes.”

“Yes, Sir.”

They were silent for several minutes that seemed like hours. Pansy’s heart begged the stars and the winds and the spirits of every pegasus in her line that Hurricane would allow her another chance to fight through the pain and humiliation of the morning.

Finally, he spoke. “Tomorrow morning, report for duty with the rest of the troop.”

Pansy snapped a salute on instinct, her heart soaring. “Yes, Sir.”

Commander Hurricane turned to leave without looking at her. “You’re dismissed. Go get breakfast.”


Pansy happily avoided lunch at the officer’s mess, instead sitting in front of a table full of sandwiches made from thick, hearty earth pony bread in a cluttered apartment over a haberdashery. Smart Cookie had invited her and Clover for lunch, and while the pegasi had many fine qualities, Cookie’s apartment was superior in both food and company.

Clover lay with her blue mage’s robes puddled around her green body on a floor pillow, her sandwich on a plate next to her and her tea held in her magic, while Pansy perched on the shabby couch that Cookie always said he would replace but never did.

Cookie occupied another floor pillow, but since Pansy’s news his beige body sat fully upright, his tea and lunch seemingly forgotten as he looked at her in confusion. “So they want you to bear a foal because…?”

“My career has been exemplary, and they want more pegasi like me,” Pansy explained with a small smile she couldn’t contain. She never thought she’d speak those words.

Clover cocked her head to one side. “Your career has been exemplary? Do they think spontaneous magic might run in your family?”

Raising an eyebrow, Pansy took a sip of tea. “I have done a lot for the military since then.”

Cookie wrinkled his muzzle. “So they just… breed the pegasi they want?”

She fought the urge to roll her eyes. “I’m not being ordered to breed, I’m being offered an opportunity, if I want it.”

“If you wanted to, you could have had a foal before this,” Cookie paused and eyed Pansy. “Right?”

Pansy nodded. “In a way…”

“In what way couldn’t you have?” Cookie’s eyes were fully narrowed now. She knew he cared deeply about the freedom of individual ponies and remained deeply suspicious of the traditional pegasus hierarchy, willing to believe it guilty of the most outlandish controls over her life.

She shook her head at Cookie and explained, “Well, I would have had to take leave. It would certainly have been granted, and I wouldn’t have been penalised, but I might have missed out on assignments and chances to advance. Most ponies who reach my rank are soldiers first and always.”

“And those are the ponies pegasus Senior Command wants more of, so they turn it into a commendation to earn.” Clover smirked at Cookie and took a bite of her sandwich, continuing with her mouth full, “It’s brilliant, in a mad way.”

“It’s our way.” Pansy gave Clover a look of gentle reproach. “If I decided to have an honor foal, while I carry it and recover I would be considered still on active duty, and even eligible for promotion if it came up during that time. And when the foal is born there’s a nursery that will take care of the foal as often as I need, even during deployment if necessary.”

“What about families?” Cookie asked with a frown. “I mean, I hate to be rude, but if you’re too dedicated to take the time to bear a foal without permission, and you have no husband, how in the name of the stars can a mare in your position provide one?”

She shrugged. “We know our lineages, but actually living with a family isn’t always possible, so we don’t think much of it. Soldiers, scouts, and weather ponies are all still deployed frequently, and in the past many ponies didn’t return. The ponies who run the nursery are very caring, it’s their duty. They’re raising the future of the tribe, they give all that they can just like everypony else.”

Cookie snorted and picked up his tea. “I’m sure the hundred and fifteenth griffon war over a particularly advantageous piece of rock was well worth abandoning and orphaning foals.”

Pansy looked at him pointedly and took a sip from her cup. “Had we remained closer to Hippocampus, we would have had 50,000 armed and trained soldiers sitting next to Girthshire.”

Cookie stared at her for a moment, then frowned in thought. “...you would have only needed a quarter of that.”

She gave a nod. “We needed more if we wanted to fight the griffons instead.”

Clover rolled her eyes. “Did you ever consider… not fighting?”

Pansy gestured to the window. “We’re trying it now. It’s hard for some of us. It’s what we were raised to do.”

“And bred for, as it turns out,” Cookie added.

Clover frowned in thought. “Does Princess Celestia know about this, Cookie?”

“She’s going to tonight.” He settled on his cushion took a sip of tea.

Pansy frowned at him. He’d been Princess Celestia’s unofficial consort for years now, and everypony was of the opinion that she had remained even and unbiased in her rule, but Pansy didn’t exactly have faith in Cookie to paint her tribe’s traditions in the best light.

He shook his head and offered Pansy a sympathetic smile. “I’m sure nothing will come of it soon. Each tribe has traditions Celestia isn’t comfortable with, but she prefers to be careful about dismantling them given how young this experiment is. She has a longer view than we do… she’s to select Hurricane's replacement when he retires and all the commanders after that, so it wouldn’t surprise me in the least if they become less traditionalist over the next few centuries, especially in areas she’s not fond of. But for now, I suspect she’ll find this madness harmless enough.”

“We’ve already made tremendous progress, you know.” Pansy frowned in thought, looking at her friends. “I don’t think the other tribes realized what it was like. I know you all thought we were a bit obsessed with our ranks, and following orders from Senior Command, but things like a pegasus living on the ground and working outside command structure used to be considered dishonorable enough that we were hardly allowed to speak with the ponies. Now there’s that whole stretch from Wing Street to General Road full of pegasi, and half my division lives there alongside independent businesses.”

Clover smiled and motioned towards Pansy. “And who was the first officer to give permission for that?”

Pansy returned the smile. “Most of Senior Command hated it, but Commander Hurricane signed my waivers without question. He does deserve credit as well.”

Cookie nodded. “He does, and he seems to be breeding for intelligence and compassion these days, so I shall give you both your due.”

“So are you going to do it?” Clover asked, then took a sip of her tea.

Pansy blushed. “I’d like to. I was an honor foal myself, and it would be a shame for a successful line to end because I’ve never focused on my lovelife.”

“You’d need to find a stallion,” Cookie pointed out. “Unless pegasi grant that as a commendation as well.”

She shot Cookie a look. “We do not. And that’s where the hesitation comes in. I’m not looking for a stallion to court; I’m happy focusing on my career. If I had a foal I’d probably let it stay in the nursery, so I’d just want to find a stallion who might contribute to making a strong, healthy foal.”

Clover grinned. “So you're looking for breeding stock. Is there a market or fair where you can shop for a stud?”

Pansy sighed. “It would be easier if there were. It’s not as common for single mares these days, but most stallions do consider it an honor to be asked, even if they aren’t interested.”

“I suppose I wouldn’t be terribly insulted if a mare suggested I was a fine specimen of stallionhood and wanted to carry my foal,” Cookie said, considering. “I’d think she was utterly mad, but I wouldn’t hold it against her.”

Clover raised an eyebrow at Cookie with a suggestive smirk.

Cookie raised his eyebrows in response. “...in any way, thank you.”

Chuckling, Clover leaned over to pat his hoof. “Trust us Cookie, nopony but Princess Celestia might mistake you for a fine specimen of stallionhood.” She shook her head and turned back to Pansy. “So have you seen any likely specimens?”

Pansy looked down at her tea and took a deep breath. “I intend to ask the commander.”

“Stars above,” Clover muttered, her eyes growing wide.

Cookie cleared his throat and set down his teacup slowly in shock. “Am I missing something, or does this require you to have… relations with Hurricane?”

Pansy gave him a mild look and took a sip of tea. “It is usually how you produce a foal.”

“Relations. With Hurricane.” Cookie frowned.

Clover rolled her eyes. “She’s not suggesting that you have them. If she finds him attractive enough...”

“How can anypony find him attractive?” Cookie gaped. “He has two facial expressions: scowl, and deep scowl.”

“I’m not concerned with whether he’s attractive,” Pansy said with a glare at Cookie. “I work with dozens of stallions, and I know of none that are his equal in strength, talent, honor, compassion--”

“Compassion?” Cookie snorted. “The only reason he hasn’t murdered any of us is that it’s not worth his effort.”

Pansy frowned. “That’s not true.”

Cookie nodded. “You’re right. He’s also a bit scared of Clover.”

“Only had to threaten to turn him into a toad once,” Clover said with a smirk.

Pansy shook her head. “You know he loves us all.”

“He does, without a doubt. He’s just…” Cookie motioned with a hoof. “Stars above, he’s Hurricane! I can’t imagine the pony bedding a mare with anything but emotionless military precision, and believe me I don’t want to be imagining that.”

“Well that’s all I require.” She took a sip of tea, then she went on in a firm voice, “But I do think there’s more to him than you see. Nopony could love his friends or tribe as fiercely as he does and not have some reserve of passion.”

Clover's mouth twisted in consideration. “I could see it, honestly. Remember, Cookie, he’s a soldier like Pansy. We know Pansy feels far more than she shows us because she’s opened up to us before. Stars know what emotions Hurricane’s got under his armor.”

“That’s fair.” Cookie smirked. “Perhaps Hurricane keeps scrolls full of poetry under his pillow. I am content to let the full range of things under Hurricane’s armor remain a mystery, though I wish Pansy luck in discovering them.”

***

It was nearly two o’clock, and Pansy knew she would find the commander in the drill sky. He took exactly one hour each day to maintain his own training in flight form and weapons, despite it becoming increasingly unlikely that he’d ever see battle again.

She landed on a cloud and spotted him easily, practicing flight forms above her. He was a large stallion, and the most powerful charges and dives looked beautiful when he flew them, a perfect marriage of form and function.

But what always made Pansy smile in appreciation was the grace in his precision. The sharp turns, controlled banks, and dive recoveries that seemed to come naturally as he flew, despite logic and experience telling her that he was fighting a battle against the sky with each one. That could only come from a lifetime of work, of dedication to perfecting his skills for no reason but the pride of having done so.

There had been reason early in his career, when Hurricane had seen battle after battle. That precision and control would have allowed him to fly with his troop, each pony sure in the position of everypony else as they enacted evasive maneuvers or drew attention to protect others. By the time he was made commander, Hurricane had spent more time in battle than ponies twice his age, displaying bravery, tactical brilliance, and deadly skill that allowed him to move up the ranks with the same ease and grace he moved through the sky. Few dared to grumble, even when he was appointed commander over older generals who seemed in line; his record had been short, but it had been packed full of honors and what was there was beyond reproach.

Pansy smiled at a memory; if there were a few grumbles, none had been heard at Academy, where she had been a cadet at the time. Hurricane cut a dashing figure that appealed to young soldiers. There wasn’t a cadet who wouldn’t have eagerly followed him to battle, and few mares didn't hope to catch his eye and share his bed, in marriage or otherwise.

For the first time, Pansy seriously considered sharing his bed. It brought a blush to her cheeks, but it was a real possibility that would have to be faced.

She would never have claimed he was handsome. His grey face had a look of rough stone about it, and thinking of his expressions, Cookie’s estimation had been fair—he rarely smiled, and as long as she had known him there had been the look of an old soldier behind it when he did, always in the shadow of memories and experience that weighed on the joy. But she was fond of his smile nonetheless, those shadows lent it wisdom and if it was harder won than most it was all the more dear to her.

As to his form, even well into middle age he was the picture of fitness, but it didn’t speak of a lover. His size and color made him seem solid, and he stood with military stiffness that gave him the look of a statue, hard and unmoving. Once again, though, Pansy didn’t find it at all distasteful; he displayed the strength and discipline of a warrior, and her admiration for that colored her thoughts.

The more she thought about it, the deeper her blush grew. She had known Hurricane for years, as a commanding officer, a fellow member of the council, and a dear friend. She was well aware of his many flaws, but she had developed a respect for him so deep that she didn’t know words to describe it. On consideration, that respect seemed to invade every aspect of him, turning his honor, bravery, and discipline into a physical form that could be touched and smelled and tasted, and that ran through her like a shiver.

“Major.” Commander Hurricane gave a casual nod as he landed next to her.

“Commander. Sir.” Pansy’s eyes grew wide, but she swallowed and steadied herself, her even military expression falling over her face. She reached into her saddlebag and pulled out a scroll. “Cookie gave me the itinerary for the council meeting, I wasn’t sure if there was anything you wanted to discuss with Senior Command.”

“I’ll look it over,” Hurricane said as he took the scroll from her. He walked over a few steps to his own saddlebag and placed it inside, then pulled out a cloth and began wiping the sweat and dew that had collected on his coat.

Pansy looked over his shoulder, avoiding watching him directly. “I’ve already spoken to Captain Compass Rose about surveying the road to the Canterlot mines. She thinks we should collaborate with the earth ponies on it, or there’s going to be another tangle.”

“Let’s see if we can get Princess Celestia to put that under our charge.” He rolled his eyes and tossed the cloth back in his bag. “If we leave them be, the Mason’s Guild might finish the paving before the stars fall, but it’s doubtful.”

Hoping she was safe now, Pansy cast a sideways glance at the commander, even dropping her mask to purse her lips. “Cookie and Puddinghead won’t like it, but let me fight it out with them at the table. The three of you will just end up shouting at each other. The princess will hear me, and I’m sure she’ll see reason.”

He glared briefly, then gave a begrudging nod. “Very well.”

“There’s also an item about engaging the Diamond Dog colonies… I know you’ll be for it, but I should warn you that I’ll have to respectfully disagree.” She gave an apologetic frown. “We’d be at a severe disadvantage fighting in their holes, and while it might be nice to have access to those mines, we’ve got more than enough elsewhere.”

Hurricane crossed his forelegs and raised his eyebrows at her. “Those are Equestria’s mines…”

Pansy raised her eyebrows back. “Only because we drew a map around them. The dogs were there first. And they seem content to allow us to do what we like above ground.”

“‘Content to allow us’?” he said slowly, his expression unchanged.

“I understand, Sir, but it’s my opinion that this is best.” Pansy shrugged with a wan smile. “I’d imagine Platinum will support you.”

He stared at her for a moment, then offered a smile in return. “It’s Princess Celestia’s decision. She’ll hear from all of us.”

Pansy nodded. “She will.”

“Any chance this will be a short one?” He walked over and took up his saddlebag with a glance back at Pansy.

She smirked and shook her head. “Not a chance in Tartarus. I’m going to visit the mess hall first, we won’t be in the kitchens until midnight.”

“I’ll join you, we can fly together.” He walked across the cloud to her and offered a nudge. “At least the company won’t be stale.”

The feeling of his shoulder against hers brought back to mind all that she had been thinking earlier, and a blush rose to her cheeks. She stepped to the side quickly and offered a nervous smile and a curt nod.

“I look forward to it as well. But I’d better get going, I’ve got scrolls to write up.”

“Don't let me keep you,” Hurricane said, turning to take off towards the Senior Command building. “I’ll see you at dinner.”

“Yes, Sir.” Pansy nodded again and took off towards her office to the east of the Weather Corps.

Along the way she tried to think of anything but the feeling of Commander Hurricane’s shoulder against hers, but she didn’t succeed until she was safely in her office with a stack of reports from her officers that were dull enough to chase off even the most pleasant thoughts.