• 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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4 - Command of Emotions

As Pansy made her way through the rough cloud building that was the temporary home of Senior Command, she couldn’t help feeling the stares of the officers. As a fresh Lieutenant everypony there outranked her, but she walked to the door of Commander Hurricane’s office and gave a knock knowing that the commander would make time for her without question. And she knew everypony there knew he would as well, and that many ponies weren’t happy about it.

“Come in,” the commander’s voice called through the door.

Pansy took a breath, opened the door, and saluted. “Commander, Sir.”

Commander Hurricane looked up from the scroll on his desk. “No need for that. What is it, Pansy?”

Pansy stepped in and closed the door behind her. “Sir, I… I heard that General Brightburn and General Hailstone resigned. Along with a number of their ponies.”

He looked at her with an even expression and nodded. “They did.”

“I heard rumors of the cause,” she said with a frown.

Commander Hurricane tilted his head slightly. “What did you hear?”

With a sigh, Pansy dropped her gaze to the cloud she stood on. “That they’re against joining the tribe to Equestria, and my promotion and our work together.”

“Just rumors,” Hurricane said in a simple, professional tone.

Pansy looked up in surprise to find Hurricane shuffling scrolls on his desk. “Are they?”

He looked at her and raised his eyebrows. “They disagreed with my command.”

She eyed him suspiciously. “Over those things?”

“Doesn’t matter. I’m their commander.” He leaned back with a frown. “If I order them to kiss the tail of a griffon, they pucker up or get out of my sight.”

“Yes, Sir.” Pansy frowned and dropped her gaze again.

“That goes for you as well, in all military matters,” he said.

Pansy nodded. “Yes, Sir. I understand completely.”

Hurricane gave a sigh and something in his face relaxed. His tone changed, sounding more like the pony Pansy had sat beside in the cave than the one she’d saluted for years. “That said, I can’t say I’m unhappy to see the tail end of anypony who might object to honoring a hero, stabilizing our relations with the other tribes, and doing our duty to all ponies.”

“They were respected officers and soldiers,” Pansy said in a soft voice.

“Until their honor was tested. Then they revealed themselves as dedicated to their own glory at the expense of all else.” Hurricane snorted and glared out the window. “Sometimes I think it’s far too easy to hide a lack of honor. It lies in motives, not actions, so it’s only in the twists and turns of life that it’s truly revealed.”

She swallowed and looked at Hurricane. She knew she should accept his words and leave, but the memory of his face in the light of the fire made her speak her mind. “I hate to be the source of that test. I can’t help but feel I’m making the tribe weaker… I can’t be strong enough to make up for the loss of ponies like that.”

He studied her for a moment. “I can’t imagine that you hate having saved our tribe from annihilation. Nor do I believe that you feel we’re weaker for our alliance with the earth ponies and unicorns.”

“Of course not.” Pansy shook her head. “But I could refuse my promotion and commendations, and we’d have those things and our forces intact as well.”

“Our forces…” Hurricane gave another snort, then looked at Pansy with a soft expression. “You’ve yet to command a troop in battle.”

“This is true,” Pansy agreed, watching him with curiosity. They both knew that well.

Hurricane smiled at her for a moment. There was always a weight in his smile, as if his years, or even more, cast a shadow over it, but this one seemed heavier than most. “Well, we command the whole tribe in one now. Together, you and I.”

Pansy’s eyes went wide. “Sir! I’m only a lieutenant…”

He nodded and stood, walking over to the window. “You’re also a founder of Equestria, and this is a battle for the future of our tribe and our new nation. Our foes are anything that might stand in the way of that, whether that’s armies or wild creatures that mean us harm, the intrigues of the unicorns, the manipulations of the earth ponies, or our own bloody-minded pride and stubbornness.” He glanced over his shoulder at her. “Because there are pegasi who mean Equestria harm, and they may not even know it.”

She stared at him and swallowed, taking in every word.

He went on, “The first thing you need to learn is that any pony you can’t depend on is not to be numbered among your forces, and you’re well rid of them. You have to know that your soldiers are loyal, honorable, and prepared to give all. Any battlefield is chaotic, you can look down at Everfree and see it for yourself,” he said, motioning out the window at the bustling new town below. “And any pony who’s prepared to cause trouble is going to eventually, no matter their talent or rank. It’s for the best they do it far from us and our plans, where the damage will be limited and we can meet it with aid from the other tribes.”

“I’m afraid I have much to learn…” Pansy said slowly.

He looked back at her with that same heavy smile. “We both do. To be honest, I haven’t got a star’s damned clue what I’m doing. And I don’t believe for a second the rest of them do, no matter what Smart Cookie wants us to think.” He turned and walked over to her, placing a hoof casually on her shoulder. “But I couldn’t have asked for a more honorable pony to have at my side as we figure this blasted thing out. I count you among the finest the pegasi have to offer Equestria.”

Pansy stood frozen, entirely lost as to how she’d gotten to a place where her tribe and a new country rested upon her shoulders, and Commander Hurricane treated her as an equal and a familiar friend. “Sir… you know I’ll do my best, but you can’t mean that. We both know—”

“That you know how to fight whatever battle destiny throws at you.”

She looked over at him, and his smile grew fonder as he added, “You just can’t throw a spear.”

Pansy smiled and leaned over to offer him a friendly nuzzle. “Commander. Thank you.”

His smile fell and he cleared his throat. “Just doing my duty, Pansy.” He walked back to his desk and unfurled a scroll. “Now, with that bunch of old hawks out there, just hold your head high and don’t mind them. That’s my job. Your job is to keep an eye on whatever Smart Cookie and the rest are on about, and figure out where we fit in. Between us we can get the tribe settled without losing too many feathers along the way.”

“Yes, Sir.” She smiled and saluted.

He raised an eyebrow. “You can call me Hurricane when we’re not in front of the troops, if you like.”

Pansy nodded, “I know, Sir. But I’m proud to have you as my commander.”

Hurricane chuckled. “Just as well. Dismissed, as you please.”

Pansy grinned and walked out of his office. As soon as she left she felt the eyes of the ranking officers on her again, so she let the grin fall to a gentle smile. But she walked with purpose and pride towards the clouds outside, nodding to anypony who caught her eye. A few looked away, but most gave her a considering look and nodded back. Those ponies were her tribe, they were the ponies she led into the new nation, and she knew she had found her place among them.


The sun was setting, and Pansy was off-duty when she landed in front of the massive stone building that served as the school of magic and Clover’s home. She slipped inside quietly and made her way through the narrow stone halls to Clover’s office. Clover wasn’t there, but after checking a few other doorways in the hall Pansy found her knock was answered with an exasperated, “Come in!”

Pansy opened the door and saw Clover standing in a spacious laboratory with counters around the edges, frowning at a large crate in the center of the room. Her horn glowed purple, and the same purple magic swirled around the box. “Almost… just a bit more… ha! Got it.”

The box glowed blue for a moment, then all the magic disappeared and Clover looked over at her.

“Pansy! What brings you by?” she asked, walking over to a counter and picking up a quill in her magic. She started writing something on a scroll as Pansy hesitated.

“I just wanted to talk. Am I interrupting?”

“A bit, but nothing important. Just trying to get rid of this.” She motioned with her head to the crate. “Somepony left an unmovable box in the middle of our lab with twenty eight different spells on it, and I only knew what half of them even were.” She snorted and set down her quill with a bit too much force. “It's a good thing I love the mad old coot. He needs the second best mage in all of Equestria for his blasted housekeeper, and I certainly wouldn't come cheap."

Pansy frowned. “If you’re busy, I can come back later…”

Clover looked up from the scroll, towards Pansy. “Nonsense. This is already disrupting all of my work this afternoon, I’ll be damned if it’s going to disrupt my friend’s lives as well.”

Pansy gave a wan smile and closed the door behind her. “If you’re sure… I needed to speak to somepony.”

“Well, I hope I count.” Clover smiled and motioned her over.

Crossing the room to stand at the counter with Clover, Pansy tilted her head at the array of beakers full of colored liquids, scrolls covered in numbers and symbols, and a stone medallion with an opalescent sheen.

Clover followed her gaze and waved a hoof. “Don’t mind that rubbish. I just need to keep an eye for when it bubbles, glows, or explodes. Now, what’s the problem?”

Pansy swallowed and made her face even. “I asked the commander to sire my foal, and he declined. Very respectfully. I didn’t ask his reason, but I’m sure it’s a wise one.”

Clover studied her for a moment, then frowned. “But you’re unhappy with this?”

Pansy pursed her lips. “As I was considering it, I realized…” she paused, but made sure her voice would be calm as she went on, “why I wanted him to sire my foal. And that I wanted to do more than just breed with him… if you understand?”

“I think I do.” Clover nodded. “Is there a commendation you lot can get that gives you permission to have emotions?”

“A discharge.”

Clover snorted as she eyed a beaker of green liquid and gave it a tap with a hoof. “Well, I doubt anypony’d be happy with that. So, you're in love with Hurricane?”

“I don’t know.” Pansy shook her head, and tried to put into words all the thoughts she’d been having the past few days. “I just… respect everything about him. He’s my highest ideals as a soldier in the form of another pony, and since the cave he’s also one of the ponies I deeply care for. And I know how deeply he cares for me and how hard he works to be a friend to all of us and an advocate for Equestria, against training and the things Senior Command expects, and it warms my respect with affection.”

Pansy swallowed, and added, “And then the other day, I was watching him drill, considering what it might be like to lay with him…”

Clover looked at her and raised an eyebrow. “Your respect got a little warmer than you could handle?”

“Among other things,” Pansy said, raising one back.

“He is in fine fitness.” Clover chuckled and leaned against the counter. “Pansy, I’m sorry to tell you that your deep respect combined with affection and wanting to get under a pony’s tail is generally known as ‘love’ among the other tribes.”

Pansy glanced down at her hooves. “He declined to sire my foal.”

Clover’s face fell. “Ah, yes. I see now. Ouch.”

“I’m trying not to dwell on it.” Pansy shook her head. “He must have a good reason for it, and I have no right to ask for an explanation. But it doesn’t give me hope.”

“No.” Clover frowned, but it slowly turned from troubled to thoughtful. “Of course, it may be the opposite of what you’re thinking. He doesn’t have permission to have emotions either. Maybe laying with you would be more than even that stone mask can take, and he fears you don’t feel the same.”

Pansy looked at Clover in mild surprise. “Do you think?”

Clover shrugged. “He has more reason to fear it than you have. He’s well older than you, you’re required to show him respect, and you're far more open with the emotions you’re not allowed to have. If you’ve never indicated otherwise, why would he think that you see an old stallion like him as anything other than a respected commander and dear friend?”

“Perhaps he wouldn’t, but that doesn’t mean his affections equal my own,” Pansy said cautiously.

“It doesn’t, but it means the only way you’re ever going to know for sure is to let him know how your affections weigh on the scale,” Clover said with a pointed look.

Pansy felt her feathers ruffle and mentally ordered them flat. She swallowed and nodded firmly. “Yes.”

Clover watched her for a few moments, but Pansy couldn’t think of what else to say. Or, rather, she couldn’t think of anything she could say. All of the words she could think of, the protests she wanted to make came with fidgeting and averted eyes.

Finally Clover tilted her head and said gently, “Pansy?

“I’m terrified,” Pansy said quickly and calmly, only allowing her heart to beat faster because she hadn’t worked out how to stop that yet.

“You take a pointy stick and face down things that want to kill you. This is just talking,” Clover pointed out with a fond smile.

“Talking to Commander Hurricane, and asking him to judge me worthy.” She frowned. “It feels disrespectful, as if I’m asking for a commendation.”

“Now you stop that thinking this instant,” Clover said, looking Pansy in the eye with a serious expression. “Another pony might not feel the same way you feel for them, but that’s nothing to do with your worth as a pony or a lover.”

Pansy’s mouth quirked in uncertainty, but Clover titled her head and went on, “If you think differently you need to tell me how somepony is unworthy of me, but worthy of a princess.”

Pansy raised her eyebrows. She’d always assumed something of that nature had taken place, but neither Clover nor Cookie had mentioned it, and they’d had their respective arrangements with Star Swirl and Princess Celestia for years.

Shaking her head clear, Pansy frowned. “Fine, you’re right as a general matter, but in this case… I know the things the commander values, and they’re all of the things I want to be. If I’m not judged as displaying enough of them, how can I take that as anything but a sign that I’m not worthy by my own standards?”

“You know the things Hurricane values in a soldier and a friend, and you know he sees them in you,” Clover pointed out, looking over at the green beaker which had suddenly started bubbling. “What have his lovers been like?”

Pansy gave a shrug. “He’s never had any that I know of.”

“Then you can’t know what he values, and if you don’t have it you’ve no reason to think less of yourself.” Clover took the beaker and sniffed it, then offered it to Pansy. “Don't suppose you'd mind tasting this? If it tastes of peppermint, it's probably illusion. If it tastes of the worst thing you can imagine then the old fool discovered how to transfigure a blasted magical aura."

“I’d rather not?” Pansy said with a wary look.

“Fair enough.” Clover looked at the beaker and toasted Pansy. “Here’s hoping for peppermint.” She took a sip and considered, then took a larger sip. “Third layer of magic’s an illusion.”

Pansy shook her head and looked to Clover. “How do I even broach the subject?”

Clover rolled her eyes and trotted to the box, her horn glowing and the purple magic encasing the box. “Blessed darkness, Pansy, you just asked the stallion to sire a foal on you. I’d think mentioning that you’d be open to courtship if he’d like would be easy.”

“That was a practical matter. If he’d agreed, nothing would have changed but that we’d have had a foal of both of our lines. If he were to agree to court me, it might change everything, and if I don’t address it the right way or give him time to consider…” She looked down and brushed back a piece of her mane that fell near her eyes. Drawing a deep breath, she finished, “He may reject me based on that alone.”

Apparently satisfied with what her magic had done, Clover returned to the counter and made some notes as she said, “How would it change everything? You already work side by side, and have the same friends you spend time with, and enjoy one another’s company. You’d just be doing all that and a bit more of those practical matters besides.” Clover looked at Pansy and smirked. “If he likes the idea, I don’t see why he’d need much time or warning to come to a conclusion.”

“What if he doesn’t like the idea?” Pansy asked, biting her lip.

“Then the Windigos will return and destroy us all,” Clover said dryly. She finished her notes with a flourish and looked up again. “Or, somewhat more likely, you’ll remain friends. You enjoy your friendship with him now, right?”

“Of course!” Pansy said quickly. “I treasure it.”

Clover smiled. “Then you’ll go on treasuring it as it is. And we know he respects you above anypony, and I don’t see why finding out you care for him more deeply than he thought might change that.”

Pansy looked down again, imagining a life where the commander rejected her, where she had somehow indisputably failed him. The thought nearly broke her heart sitting there with Clover, the idea of facing Hurricane in that state seemed unbearable.

“But if he does like the idea…” Clover raised an eyebrow. “Then it would certainly be a shame if you never spoke to him about it.”

Pansy looked up and stared at her for a moment, and then nodded firmly. “You’re right. I have to try.”

Clover grinned. “That’s the spirit. Now let’s get this bugger open.”

Pansy watched as Clover picked up the shining pendant in her magic and laid it on top of the wooden crate. The crate glowed bright blue for a moment, then the color faded and left the box looking as it had before. Clover made her way over to it and gave it a kick with her rear hoof, popping the top off.

Pansy walked over next to Clover. “What’s in it?”

“A note.” Clover frowned and picked it up in her magic. She read aloud, “My clever darling, I’m not sure which I find more beautiful: that you managed to solve two interlocking prophetic equations backwards, or the face you make when you’re ready to murder me. Either way, meet me upstairs at eight o'clock this evening. Love, Star Swirl.”

Pansy couldn’t help but smile as Clover’s frown grew deeper.

“That stars-damned bastard! I wasted the whole blasted afternoon on this!” She gave a snort and started walking around the room, gathering jars and tomes in her magic. “I take it all back, Pansy. If you value your sanity, stay as far from stallions as you can.”

Suppressing a laugh, Pansy started for the door. “I’ll leave you be. I’m sure you have a lot of work to make up.”

“I do, but I’ve got two hours to eight o’clock.” She marched over to the counter and threw open a tome. “That ought to be enough for me to enchant my robes with about thirty magical locks and… oh stars, I’ll set a whole chain of illusions on an onyxian sequence! Ha, have fun with that one, you son of a timberwolf!”

Pansy paused at the door. “Isn’t that a bit much?”

Clover waved a hoof. “It’ll take him all of twenty minutes, and he’ll be ready to throw me on the bed when he’s done. I wouldn’t love him so much if he wasn’t such a stars-damned genius.”

“Have fun, I suppose,” Pansy called, shaking her head as she left the laboratory and followed the stone hallways outside. As she took to the sky she gave a light sigh. It was nice to consider that while her own matter of the heart seemed tangled and her chances slim, there were far stranger affairs that found a way.

***

A few days had gone by, and each evening Pansy had flown by the Senior Command building as she went off duty. She found it hard to arrange the proper time for this conversation with the commander; it wasn’t business, or even practical. It wouldn’t have been right to ambush him with it on their way to a meal or a gathering of their friends. Yet she desperately wanted to avoid making a fuss about it by asking him to speak with her, for fear that might give it undue weight.

She had settled for hoping to catch him as he left the command building on his way home. It would give them the chance to speak casually, and if all went well they could have some tea and continue their conversation. If it didn’t go well, they could part ways for the night and Pansy could return home to adjust.

With her plan of battle in place, Pansy slowed her flight as she neared the Senior Command building. As a few agonizing seconds and the building itself passed, it seemed she’d had no luck once again. Then, just before it was out of sight, the light in the commander’s office went out.

Pansy’s heart beat faster. She circled the building then landed on the cloud in front. She waited there, hoping to the stars that Commander Hurricane would be alone when he emerged.

A group of officers stepped out and nodded to Pansy, but Hurricane wasn’t among them. She nodded back as they took off towards the mess hall. Pansy took a deep breath.

Eventually, Commander Hurricane stepped out, shadowy in the dim light of the sun being lowered.

Pansy’s throat felt dry, but she managed to call out, “Commander.”

“Pansy.” He nodded to her. “I was just heading home. Did you need something?”

“No, Sir.” She stepped towards him, glad the dim light might hide the blush warming her cheeks. “I was just leaving as well, and I was wondering if you’d like somepony to fly with?”

“If you’re headed south, I wouldn’t mind,” Hurricane said, flapping into the air on his broad gray wings, but he paused for her answer.

“I am.” Pansy gave a few flaps herself, flying over next to him. Side by side they turned to the south, toward the barracks.

The evening air was cool, with a gentle breeze from the east. Clouds were placed to dot the sky, and they caught the last rays of the sun, glowing orange in the purple dusk.

“It’s a nice evening,” Hurricane noted, looking around. “The Weather Corps did a fine job.”

“Yes, I heard they promoted Lightning Strike, and she’s proving to be a talented manager.” Pansy felt like the normal conversation was coming from a different pony, but she went on, “I like the cloud placement these days.”

“It is well done.” He looked at a cloud as they passed close. “I’ve been considering appointing a Weather Corps manager to Senior Command, to have their say in the business of the tribe. They’re becoming the equal of the troops in size and importance, and they ought to have as much access to both of us for communication with the princesses.”

“I think that’s a wonderful idea, Sir. I can send for a list of candidates tomorrow, if you like.”

“Go ahead and select one. And make sure the generals find out I’ve ordered it, I want to deal with any trouble before an official meeting.”

“Yes, Sir. I’ll deliver the selection through Sergeant Whisper Wisp. The divisions as far as the northern border should know about it before Weather Corps does,” Pansy said with a smile.

Hurricane chuckled, and Pansy smiled more broadly to see him in good spirits.

A silence settled for a moment, and Pansy considered her reason for this flight. She glanced at Hurricane, but her words failed her as she searched for something else to fill the air.

“I spoke with Compass Rose,” Pansy said, with a few sharp thoughts to herself regarding cowardice. But she went on evenly, “She’s assigning three ponies to the road full time, but she’s requested that if it proves time consuming, we might spare a troop. Most of the scouts are assigned to exploration and mapping these days, so they’re stretched a bit thin.”

“Can you spare one from your division?” Hurricane asked, glancing at her with a frown. “The last thing we need is the hotheads under Highwind puffing their feathers and lording over an earth pony guild. No doubt there’d be words exchanged, and Puddinghead would never let us hear the end of it.”

Pansy nodded. “Speak to General Swiftwing, and I’ll have a troop stand by. Captain Mistguard has been on timberwolf detail with the woodcutters, so his ponies should be used to dealings with the earth ponies.”

“I’ll let Swiftwing know.”

“Sir, are you doing anything tonight?” Pansy asked. She immediately felt as if she’d stopped flapping her wings and was about to fall to the ground. It wasn’t even the heart of what she had to say, but as soon as the words left her lips she knew the horns had sounded and she had set her spear, and there was no turning back.

He shook his head. “I don’t have anything planned. Are you visiting somepony?”

“No, I just…” She paused and took a breath. “Commander…” She glanced over and realized that set the wrong tone, so she corrected herself, “Hurricane?”

Hurricane tilted his head with a curious look.

She’d rehearsed her speech in her head every day, so when she began speaking it was in an assured but somewhat official tone. “The other day, when I said that you were the finest stallion I know, and that being sire to my foal was all I asked for—”

“Major, I’ve made my statements on that matter.” His cool authoritative tone startled her, and she glanced over to see a flat expression on his face that was nearly enough to make her abandon her mission.

But Pansy had never abandoned a mission in her life, so she swallowed and drew her courage. “I know. This isn’t about siring a foal, Sir.”

“Then go on…” He looked at her and nodded, but his expression didn’t change.

She looked down at the town below them and continued, “That was all I was asking for. But it wasn’t all I hoped for. My feelings for you have grown deeper than I’ve acknowledged to this point, and I have to admit I hope you might feel the same and consider courtship.”

Hurricane was silent. She didn’t dare look up.

Finally he answered, “Noted.”

Pansy focused for a moment on the flapping of her wings and on the feeling of the wind. Tears stung her eyes, but she wouldn’t allow them to fall. She still didn’t look up, not because she didn’t dare, but because it didn’t matter.

Finally she said quietly, “I’m sorry, Sir.”

“You’re young and proud, you should find a stallion to match your position. Not an old soldier with his glory behind him,” Hurricane said stiffly.

Pansy glanced at him. “Your glory in battle, perhaps. But I see the glory as you lead us into Equestria, facing our fellow officers on one side and the misconceptions of the unicorns and earth ponies on the other.”

Hurricane frowned. “We both know my temperament is unsuited to courtship. I lack the warmth and comfort a mare should expect from a special somepony, and I wouldn’t know poetry from a recipe for tarts.”

“You’re a soldier.” Pansy frowned and shrugged. “So am I. I think by now I’m well used to your bearing, it would be strange if I expected courtship to change that.”

He shook his head. “This is simply infatuation with a commanding officer. It’s common, and not to be taken seriously.”

Pansy felt her cheeks burn. With a swift flap of her wings she was in front of Hurricane, facing him, forcing him to stop short and hover. She held her face hard and even, and said crisply, “No, Hurricane. It’s not. You’ve been my commanding officer for nearly fifteen years, and I can assure you that as a starry-eyed enlisted pony I was terrified of you. Oh, I did respect you then, as one respects lightning or a sharp blade.”

Hurricane just stared at her, blinking in surprise.

With a deep breath to calm herself, Pansy went on, “But after the cave, you became my friend, and… I’ve always thought you came to respect me and my talents. And I came to see you as all that you are, and always have been: a brave and fierce soldier, and a wise and respected commander, but also a trusted and loyal friend, and honorable and intelligent councilor, and a virile and attractive stallion. I—”

“Major Pansy!” Hurricane shouted in a voice that circumvented all of Pansy’s emotion and reason, and nearly made her try to snap to attention in the air. He went on, “I am your commander, and this is inappropriate. I do not give a flying feather how you see me, or how you feel about it. There are only two options here: you keep this to yourself, and we return to our previous relationship, or you find yourself reassigned to Weather Corps tomorrow. Is that clear?”

She was silent, her face the impassive mask she’d constructed specifically for taking orders. She looked Hurricane in the eye, but she found only the same even, emotionless expression she wore reflected back at her.

Finally, she nodded. “Yes, Sir.”

“Good,” Hurricane said, his face relaxing in a frown.

“May I be dismissed, Sir?” she asked, refusing to allow herself to look away.

She hoped she saw his frown waver, and some small shame in his eyes, but if she did it vanished when he nodded. “Dismissed.”

Pansy pivoted and gave a few sharp flaps of her wings, sending her briskly away from the commander. She wasn’t sure where she was going, she wasn’t even sure what direction she was going, but it wouldn’t matter until she was out of his sight. Then, and only then, would she stop to tend her wounds and study her defeat.