• 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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5 - Open Wounds

Commander Hurricane—

Yak fighting forces are gathering 50 miles due north. Estimates put them at 500 strong thus far. Engagement is expected by tomorrow morning. The 108th Troop is prepared to assume the lead, with the 246th and 543rd falling in behind, and the 304th flanking from the west, downwind.

We have all we need. Look for a messenger by tomorrow evening with a report on the engagement.

— Captain Pansy

I can’t help but miss you. I look for you every few minutes, I’m so used to seeing you among the officers or reviewing the troops for the hundredth time. Now I have to do it myself, and I fear I do it even more often and thoroughly than you. They’re beginning to hate me for it, so I know I’m doing things correctly.

My love to you and the others. Remind them I am a soldier and I fight under the banner of Equestria. They may never understand, but you will, so remind them anyway.

— Pansy

The sun came up, and Hurricane sat on the top of his cloudhome looking north. Thousands of miles from Everfree, a battle had begun in icy wastes, against savage beings three times the size of the ponies who fought them.

If they were lucky, the troops would never come close, never land. They’d attack from the safety of the sky until the Yaks returned to their homeland.

But there were many ways they could become unlucky. The northern weather was out of pegasus hooves, though they’d studied it carefully. The Yaks may prove impervious to spears, or have cover or armor, requiring hoof to hoof combat with swords or pikes. The Yaks may have weapons of range themselves, requiring troops to move in and target the beings wielding them.

Any of these things might have happened already. And at that very moment, Pansy may have been dying in the snow.

That moment or any moment. There would be nothing special about it.

Hurricane knew this was one place where he couldn’t turn to his friends for comfort. If anything happened to Pansy, they would turn to him. “Why did you send her?”

He had a lot of answers for that, and not a blasted one would matter. Not to them and not to him.

He could see her there in his mind, fighting fiercely, so small and delicate next to her massive, shaggy opponents, and yet driven to kill by that spirit that lived within her. He’d seen her in battle; their friends would never recognize her, and he was glad of it. In peace she was a force for peace, and in war she was a force for war. Yet she was always a soldier.

Hurricane’s job was to send soldiers into battle and hope they came back. He did all that he could so they would. He was well aware that every pony he sent was Pansy to some other ponies: a friendly face and a comforting wing, a friend, a child, a parent. The pony somepony loved.

But Pansy was Pansy to him, and he sent her into battle. She wouldn’t have had him do otherwise. And if she would have, if she was a pony to shirk her duty or play on his sympathies and let another pony take her place, she wouldn’t have been the pony he loved.

Any other time he might hide it from himself, but now all the reasons she could never know, and all the reasons he could never know didn’t matter. All that mattered right now was that at this moment, he might lose her.

In a different course of the stars, he would have asked her to be his wife. They would have foals of two honored lines. His bed would be hers, and he would hold her close and wrap his wings around her as they slept. They would stand together at formal occasions, proud and united.

And she would still be a soldier, and he would still send her to battle, and in a moment he might lose her.

It made no difference now. There was a comfort in that, however small. The failing that kept him from her would change nothing in his darkest hour. When sorrow removed all practical considerations, when loss removed the terror of her finding him wanting, when the gnawing of guilt and shame were replaced by worse, his love for her could shine, pure and right.

He prayed to the stars that it would never come to that. He prayed he could never love her as she deserved. He simply wanted her to be safe and proud and content, so his love could disappear once more. As long as he saw her again, alive, nothing else would matter in the days until the next battle.

After an hour, the battle ended. It might have ended earlier or later, he wouldn’t know until that afternoon. He would see her neat writing, or that of another officer, and he would know. But he had things to do, and the battle must end sometime, and this was as good a time as any.

So he set his love aside, as he hoped he always would.

Commander Hurricane—

The Yaks have retreated following engagement. 45 ponies are injured and 10 are dead (see attached list.) We’re treating 10 injured Yaks, and 75 lay dead on the battlefield. A full account of the battle will follow later this evening.

I plan to have all troops remain in our current position for one week, at which time the 246th, 543rd, and 108th will return to Everfree, leaving the 304th under the command of Captain Longfeather to secure the border.

— Captain Pansy

Tired and filthy, and have a very long report to write. But safe and proud. Love to you and the others.

— Pansy


Commander Hurricane sat at his desk, reviewing scrolls with a single-minded focus.

It had been three days, and Hurricane hadn’t seen Pansy once. He hadn’t expected to. He knew he would see her eventually at council, or when she had official business, or at gatherings of their friends. But he knew just as well that there would be no more friendly chats or companionable flights for quite some time.

It was for the best, for both of them.

As long as he was reading and considering and signing he could believe that. So when a knock sounded on his door and threatened to interrupt his certainty, he kept his eyes focused on the writing in front of him as he barked, “Come in.”

“Commander.” Her voice was crisp and emotionless, but it was hers.

Hurricane looked up slowly to see Pansy focused on him with an even expression. She stood proud and relaxed, and he knew too well that she had trained most of her life so that he had no way of telling her thoughts or feeling from this. He had as well, so he set his face in a blank expression and did his best to steel his nerves.

She went on in the same tone, “Platinum asked me to let you know we’re invited to dinner Thursday. “

“You can let her know I’ll be there,” he said, unable or unwilling to look away from her eyes.

“Of course.” She nodded.

“Good.” He took a breath. “Thank you.”

“You’re welcome.”

Hurricane closed his eyes, as if he couldn’t see her just as easily in his mind. He had done what he needed to do. But if Pansy was in pain beneath that mask, if his weakness had caused that, it was his duty to try to bandage the wound.

He sighed and opened his eyes. Pansy was looking at him, concern plain on her face.

“Are you alright, Sir?”

Hurricane nodded. “Pansy… I was too harsh the other evening. I’m sorry.”

Pansy drew her face even again. “You were harsh, but it was fair.” Her voice softened. “I never intended to persuade you of feelings you don’t have, I just wanted to make mine known.”

“Still… you’re my dearest friend, and I can’t help feeling that I should have been more gentle.” He offered a grim, joyless smile. “I told you I lacked the temperament of a suitor.”

She raised her eyebrows. “I’m not to speak of that, Sir.”

Hurricane sighed and shook his head. “I rescind that order. You’re my friend, you can always speak about whatever you like.”

“Thank you, but you were right. You made your feelings on the matter perfectly clear. I let my emotions get the best of me.” Pansy looked down and added softly, “I’m sorry, I assure you it won’t happen again.”

Hurricane swallowed. It wouldn’t. He’d made sure of it, and Pansy’s word was as solid as steel.

It was for the best, for both of them.

After too long, he drew another deep breath and tried to sound casual. “Are you going to Platinum’s?”

“Of course,” she said, tilting her head in confusion.

“Would you like to fly together?” He added quickly, “I understand if you’d prefer not to.”

“I would like to.” Pansy looked at him, a sad hope in her eyes. “I—I do want our friendship, Sir, if you’ll forgive me my foolishness.”

“Pansy—” he started, then he bit his tongue. His honor burned to let her know there was nothing to forgive, that there had never been a foolish thing about her but her belief in him. But he knew it would make no difference, she would have felt a fool either way. “Of course I will. I consider myself lucky to have the chance.”

Her friendly smile stabbed him in the heart. “I’m glad. I truly am. I value our friendship above nearly all else, I was worried I’d been careless with it.”

“No. You did nothing wrong,” he said sincerely, looking out the window at the sky outside. “I know better than anypony that one can’t control what’s in one’s heart.”

“Yes.” There was a pause, and she let out a breath. “Well, I’ll let Platinum know to expect us.”

He turned back to her with a smile he forced on his face. “I’ll look forward to it.”

“I will as well.” She smiled and turned to leave, looking over her shoulder when she got to the door. “If fine company managed to chase off the Windigos and found a nation, I’m sure it can overcome what ails me.”

Hurricane gave an encouraging nod as she closed the door behind her. He looked down at his reports with a lighter heart, hoping that this meeting would set the path forward. Perhaps in a few weeks things would be back to normal, and Pansy would realize they were well rid of this mess.

It was for the best, for both of them.

And it was more luck than he’d dared hope. As he went about his work, he smiled with a tinge of both guilt and pride at the thought that he’d underestimated her resilience.

***

The dining hall at Platinum’s manor was a large room, hung with tapestries and paintings and a massive chandelier. The table sat twelve, but that night half of it went unused as the six friends gathered around where Platinum sat at the head. Hurricane took the seat furthest, with Clover and Cookie between them, while across Pansy sat beside Puddinghead.

Through the tone and glances at dinner he’d gathered that Clover was the only one who knew anything about his conversation with Pansy. He was glad for that, she was a sensible pony and most likely had offered Pansy comfort without making a fuss, and she didn’t seem inclined to lay blame at his hooves. It made the dinner comfortable and familiar, even between him and Pansy, and he found it easy to let what had happened between them remain buried in the back of his mind.

As Platinum’s footponies moved around the table with trays and dishes of dessert, Pansy smiled and allowed them to fill her plate with delicate pastries and rich puddings. “Platinum, you’ve outdone yourself.”

“Thank you.” Platinum grinned and tossed her mane. “I do enjoy outdoing myself, but I find it harder and harder as years go by.”

“Well you’ve managed,” Cookie said, taking a bite of pastry and then motioning to the plate with his hoof. “And my sincere compliments to your kitchen.”

Clover nodded, though she sat in front of an empty plate. “Mine as well, though I’m making a guess regarding dessert. I couldn’t eat another bite.”

“Come now, haven’t you got some sort of interdimensional pocket you can slip it into for later?” Puddinghead asked, taking a drink of wine.

“Those are my other robes,” Clover said with a chuckle. “These only have the regular sort, and the berries would make a blasted mess.”

Platinum smiled at Clover. “I’ll send some over for you tomorrow.”

Puddinghead looked to Platinum and tilted her head. “You know, I don’t have any interdimensional pockets either.”

Clover smirked at her. “I saw how much of the squash you ate, and a half dozen glasses of wine, and dessert on top of it all. Your stomach certainly qualifies.”

“Doesn’t help me tomorrow.” Puddinghead gave a mock frown, then went on to Cookie. “You’ll have to bring muffins by the office.”

Cookie smiled and raised an eyebrow. “You do know I’m not actually a baker, right?”

“I do, in fact. But don’t worry, I won’t let it slip to Princess Celestia,” Puddinghead said, finishing another glass of wine and holding it up for a footpony to refill. One stepped forward, but Platinum waved a hoof, dismissing him and his fellows, and her own magic took up a wine bottle and filled Puddinghead’s glass.

Cookie chuckled. “Appreciated. Imagine how disappointed she’ll be to find I work in government?”

Hurricane gave an amused snort. “You work? Since when?”

Cookie leaned over, looking past Clover to answer him, “I’ll have you know I reviewed three charters for new towns this week. Two of them were for the same town. We rejected their initial request to define their northern boundary as ‘where-so-ever Dither Withers eventually decides to build his barn.’”

“The cartographers would have loved that one,” Hurricane said, rolling his eyes. He took a bite of some kind of buttery chocolate pastry that melted in his mouth, and enjoyed it more than he would admit to another pony.

“We are quite liberal with our requirements, but one I remain firm on is that a town must have an actual, rather than theoretical, location.” Cookie tapped the table for emphasis.

“Don’t tell Star Swirl, he’ll take that as a challenge,” Clover said with a nudge to Cookie.

Platinum was halfway through a drink of her wine, but motioned with the glass and went on once she had swallowed, “That reminds me, Clover. He borrowed a sapphire pendant from me… do I want it back?”

Clover pursed her lips. “How do you feel about holding on to your lifeforce?”

“Sapphires are out of fashion anyway.” Platinum sighed. “But could you ask him to stop doing that with my jewelry?”

“I wish I could. I can’t keep a blasted mirror in the house,” Clover said with a dry, commiserating look to Platinum.

“Well, that does explain your mane,” Puddinghead said with a smirk.

“It does.” Clover nodded, then raised an eyebrow at Puddinghead. “So what’s your excuse?”

Before Puddinghead could respond, Platinum turned to Cookie and asked loudly, “And how is Princess Celestia?”

Cookie swallowed a bite of pastry. “Well, tonight she’s being bored out of her skull by the Duchess of Clairmount.”

Clover frowned. “Oh dear. She does know that Violette cheats at cards, doesn’t she?”

“She does.” Cookie smirked. “Though I’m not sure that Violette knows that when a pony tries to cheat Celestia, she takes that as permission to return the favor.”

“Now Cookie, Violette is a dear friend of mine…” Platinum gave him a reproachful look, then leaned towards him. “I don’t suppose the princess would teach me how?”

Cookie chuckled. “I’m sure she’d love to. She’s been meaning to have you to tea to discuss something about dresses and whatever blasted ball is coming up.”

“The Harvest Ball is next month.” Platinum tilted her head. “I don’t suppose you know what colors she’ll be wearing?”

“Oh come now, Cookie doesn’t spend his evenings at the castle gabbing about dresses.” Puddinghead made a considering face, then added with a smirk, “Though it is Cookie, so one never knows.”

Clover cast a knowing glance at Cookie. “One certainly does. He has time with a beautiful princess, alone in her chambers...” She nodded firmly. “He spends it gabbing about politics, of course.”

“I… have absolutely no defense for that,” Cookie said with an abashed grin.

Hurricane shook his head. “That mare has the patience of the stars.”

“So what’s been on her mind, lately?” Pansy took a sip of her water.

Cookie glanced at her. “Well, we were discussing this honor foal business. We were troubled.”

Hurricane’s ears perked up as his muscles tensed. He glared at Cookie. “Neither of you need to be troubling yourselves about it.”

“That’s true, so long as there’s no pressure on a mare to have one.” Cookie frowned. “Celestia’s not terribly happy with the idea of her military intimidating mares into bearing foals, which I count as a point in her favor.”

Pansy spoke up calmly, “I assure you I don’t feel any pressure, and I certainly would let the commander and Princess Celestia know if I felt intimidated. Commander Hurricane has made it clear at every juncture that it’s entirely my choice.”

“Is that every mare, though, or just you? Hurricane cares for you as much as we all do.” Cookie paused and blinked, then looked at Clover. She responded with some vivid faces that left him shaking his head.

Hurricane took a long drink of his wine before answering, “It’s every mare. I’m aware that it’s a personal consideration, and it’s offered to my most talented officers. Whether they’re serving their tribe in their office or through their progeny, either is to be commended.”

“But only mares are requested?” Cookie pressed.

“Stallions can continue on in their duties while their wives or mates bear a foal. But for the mares who give the most for the tribe, it would require sacrificing time and stepping away from duties, so the benefits offered are important,” Pansy explained, then took a small bite of her pastry.

Cookie pursed his lips. “I would imagine many of them think like you in terms of selecting a sire— Ow!” He shot a look at Clover.

Clover buried her face in a hoof. “Oh blessed darkness, Cookie.”

“Well you could give me some clue what you’re on about rather than assaulting my side with your elbow.”

“Clover, it’s fine.” Pansy nodded to Cookie. “Go on.”

With another glare at Clover, Cookie continued, “So how is it not a kind of a harem for the highest ranking stallion officers?”

Hurricane leaned forward to see past Clover and fix Cookie with a stare. “As the highest ranking officer, I can tell you that neither I nor any of my predecessors would allow that, even if others in Senior Command might be tempted. The mares are high ranking officers themselves and commended for their talent and dedication, with no other considerations. They’re free to select any stallion who’s willing as sire, for whatever reason they like. If we didn’t trust them to do that much, why would we ask them to bring us the next generation?”

Cookie gave Hurricane a flat look. “Well as the highest ranking officer, how many mares have asked you?”

Hurricane looked at him for a moment and then leaned back, shifting his focus to his wine. “I’ve been asked since I was a sergeant.”

“So how many foals are of your line?” Platinum asked, her head tilted in curiosity.

Hurricane drained his wine glass before answering, “I’ve always declined.”

She raised her eyebrows in mild surprise, her magic retrieving a bottle from the sideboard and filling Hurricane’s glass. “None? I’d think your line would be just as honored and valuable to the pegasi as Pansy’s.”

“It is entirely up to the ponies in question,” he said evenly.

Cookie leaned back, apparently satisfied. “Well, I suppose it’s good that it goes unquestioned, at least. Celestia will be glad to hear it.”

“Why don’t you ask Hurricane, Pansy?” Puddinghead said, motioning with another nearly empty glass of wine. “He can’t have reason to not want a foal with you.”

“I asked. He declined,” Pansy said simply.

“He even declined you?” Puddinghead gave Pansy an incredulous look. She turned and eyed Hurricane. “Why?”

Hurricane grit his teeth and glared at Puddinghead, but she just turned her attention to Pansy.

Pansy took a sip of water then drew a deep breath. “I didn’t ask. He doesn’t need to make excuses to me.”

“Well he ought to,” Puddinghead said, draining her glass and setting it firmly on the table. Platinum’s magic lifted the wine bottle, and she hesitated a moment before setting it back down.

Clover frowned at Puddinghead. “No, he shouldn’t. This whole thing is just about tolerable the way Pansy and Hurricane talk, expecting ponies to justify an extremely personal decision is a step in the wrong direction. “

Puddinghead snorted and motioned with a hoof to Hurricane. “He can’t find her unattractive, not when he looks like a pile of rough stones himself. And the tribe basically cares for the foal, so it would take him all of fifteen minutes. Even if he wasn’t attracted to her, you’d think he could grit his teeth and get on with it as a favor to a dear friend, not to mention one of the ponies who saved his blasted life.”

Hurricane shot her a glare that would have stopped the heart of one of his soldiers. “Mind your own business, Puddinghead.”

“Well you’re both my friends, so I guess this is my business,” she said, raising her eyebrows at him. She reached for another drink of wine and frowned as she found her glass still empty, her frown deepening as she went on, “If you pegasi have this honor rutting thing, I don’t see why you wouldn't care to keep it between friends rather than making Pansy do that with some stranger.”

“Leave it be,” Pansy said firmly. “He declined. It’s fine.”

“It would have to be fine, but I do think it’s fair to ask him to tell you why not,” Platinum said, before noticing that Hurricane had turned his glare on her. She quickly nodded and picked up her wine glass. “...or I could mind my own business. Yes, I think that would be wise.”

Puddinghead turned to him. “So, Hurricane, why not? You know perfectly well Pansy is going to kiss your rump no matter what she thinks about it.”

Pansy shot Puddinghead a cold glare that Puddinghead didn’t seem to notice.

It took every ounce of control Hurricane had built over his career to remain seated, but he turned to look Puddinghead in the eye and said slowly, “I have no need to explain myself, especially to you.”

“Oh come now, you don’t think I’m going to shout ‘Yes, Sir’ and leave it be, do you?” She smirked at Hurricane, crossing her forelegs in front of her. “You’ve got thousands of brave soldiers, and all of them are scared to tell you when you’re being a twit.”

“Puddinghead, you’re being a twit,” Clover said, slumping back in her chair. “For the record.”

“If you’re not going to say anything, perhaps I shall guess the reason.” Puddinghead tilted her head in mock consideration. “Do you prefer griffons to ponies?”

Hurricane felt his wings twitch and his eyes narrow in spite of his best efforts.

She kept her smirk fixed on him. “Or are you a stallion’s stallion? You know what they say about pegasus barracks.”

At that, Hurricane rose from his chair, his wings spread behind him. He felt his body preparing to attack on instinct, and he growled through gritted teeth, “Puddinghead, I am warning you.

“Cookie, perhaps it’s time for Puddinghead to retire,” Platinum said quickly, with a not-so-subtle motion of her head.

Cookie nodded and started to stand. “I’ve been saying that since she was elected.”

Puddinghead ignored them and pressed on, “Maybe you just can’t get it up at all. That’d explain all the pointy metal things, wouldn’t it? Overcompensating. Not stallion enough to please a mare.”

Hurricane channeled all of his anger and hatred into words that he wished with all his heart were a spear.

“No, I’m not stallion enough to please a mare. Laugh all you want, you ill-mannered mud pony nag!

He turned flew from the room, slamming the door behind him.