• Published 26th Feb 2018
  • 8,751 Views, 2,067 Comments

A 14th Century Friar in Celestia's Court - Antiquarian

Providence is an odd thing. Friar Jacques de Charrette, warrior monk of the Hospitallers, will learn this the hard way as a vision leads him to Equestria, where he and his newfound friends will face a diabolical threat.

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Welcome to Ponyville (Part 1)

“Twi, I know you want to help the friar adjust to his new life an’ all,” Applejack remarked with a dubious glance at her friend, “but ain’t this all a bit much?

“What makes you say that?” asked Twilight, her face twisted in an utter lack of comprehension.

Or maybe just twisted in strain, corrected Applejack with a glance at the literal cart full of books her friend was pulling. “Oh, nothin,’” replied the farmpony. “Just couldn’t help but notice that you packed half the apple-pickin’ library in that there cart is all.”

Twilight snorted. “Oh, please! Friar Jacques has *pant* literally traversed the universe to come here. The very fundamentals of the world are different. If anything, I’m *whoof* packing light.” Sweat dripped down her face as she dragged the overstacked cart behind her.

Applejack raised an eyebrow. “Twi, if’n this is yer definition of light, I’d hate ta see what yer definition of heavy is.”

“Twilight does have a point though, darling,” reasoned Rarity. “The poor dear was very disoriented when he first awoke, and anything to help alleviate his confusion would doubtless be welcome.”

“Exactly,” wheezed Twilight.

Applejack watched her friend heave against the mighty weight of the cart for several seconds then stepped over, waving a hoof in a cutting motion and shutting her eyes. “Fine, fine, just stop for a spell an’ let me pull instead. It’s painful to watch.”

Twilight shot her a frosty glare. “I’m in perfectly good shape, Applejack. I can get this cart there just fine.”

“Ah ain’t sayin’ yer weak, Twi, an’ Ah’m mighty impressed you’ve gotten ‘er this far unaided, but ya ain’t a farmpony an’ yer gonna strain something at this rate.” Twilight opened her mouth to object, but Applejack shut her down with a firm stare. “Don’t make me lecture you on being stubborn.”

The unicorn thought for a moment, then gave a rueful chuckle and transferred the harness over. “Fair enough. Thanks for the help.”

“No problem. Ah just couldn’t stand the sight o’ ya haulin on this here—” she took a step forward and her eyes bulged at the weight, “Criminy, Twi, didja put bricks in the bottom o’ this sucker?”

Spike chuckled. “She might as well have. I think some of these books are so old that they’re printed on stone tablets.”

Twilight looked concerned. “If it’s too heavy I can take it back and—

“No, no,” Applejack cut her off and started pulling the cart. “Ah’m perfectly capable o’ haulin this. Ain’t any heavier than a plow. Ah just wasn’t expectin’ it to weigh as much as a plow!” She shot her friend a cheeky grin. “Ah guess this explains how a little thing like you keeps in shape reading all day!”

“That and the constant adventuring and monster attacks,” deadpanned Spike.

“That too.”

They chatted amiably as they made their way across town. By the time the hospital hove into view, Applejack was enjoying the satisfaction of a hearty burn in her muscles from the workout she’d received. It wasn’t enough to strain anything, but she did make a mental note to never again use the term ‘light reading’ when Twilight was around. It just wouldn’t be proper ta lie.

A couple blocks from the hospital they collected Rainbow, who had been lazing on a cloud. While that was not an uncommon sight, the figure who sat beneath the cloud did give Applejack pause. “Hiya there, Scoots” greeted the farmpony in a neutrally cordial tone. “Quick question for ya: why have ya got a sign saying ‘Ah went in tha Everfree Forest alone without tellin’ anypony where Ah was’ around yer neck?”

Scootaloo’s gaze was flat and resigned. “I don’t want to talk about it.”

Rarity gave her a sympathetic look. “I take it this is Rainbow Dash’s means of discipline?”


The fashionista scoffed, but Applejack just shrugged. Public humiliation may have been a low blow, but it did tend to be effective as a means of behavior modification.

Sweetie Belle gave her friend a consoling pat on the head. “Look on the bright side; at least Featherweight’s not around to take your picture.”

“That we know of,” muttered Scootaloo.

“Well, it’d serve you right for running off like that,” chided Rainbow with unusual sternness. “You can’t just run off taking stupid risks like that!”

“Yeah,” chimed in Spike. “Taking stupid risks is her job.”

“Yeah!” agreed Rainbow. “Now come on! I’d like to get to the hospital while it’s still light.” With that, she flew off towards the hospital, forcing the others to quicken their steps to keep pace.

As they trotted, Applejack leaned towards Twilight. “D’ya think she realized Spike took a shot at ‘er?”

“Do you think she cares?”

Applejack considered this, then nodded. “Fair enough.”

When they reached the entrance, they found three REF ponies waiting for them. The first Applejack recognized as Lieutenant Song from the previous day. She was engaged in a conversation with two other soldiers.

Both were rather distinctive in Applejack’s opinion. The first was a red pegasus stallion with a shield on his back and a gladius at his side, and he was short. So short that Big MacIntosh would probably have been at about eye-level with him as a colt. Granted, Big Mac was often mistaken for a small stallion as a colt, but still. The temptation would have been to view the soldier as weak due to his stature, but Applejack wasn’t fooled. She saw a lot of muscle beneath the armor, and his barrel was stout as a tree trunk. He’s not small, she realized, he’s compact.

The other stallion was a different story altogether. In part it was his lankiness and wiry physique. But mostly it’s that he doesn’t look to be in any shape to be a soldier. With scruffy fur, disheveled mane, unshaven features, and bloodshot eyes, he looked like he’d either spent the last few days drinking nothing but coffee or the last few nights curled up with Crabapple Senior’s ‘Special Brew.’ Or both.

“Oh, my, it’s Lieutenant Song,” observed Rarity. “Such a pleasant mare. Though I don’t recognize her associates.” Her eyes narrowed. “That unicorn looks as though he could… ahem… benefit from a makeover.”

Rainbow Dash snorted. “Leave it to you to look at a professional flank-kicker and go, ‘yeah; he needs some accessories.’”

Rarity shot the pegasus a pointed glance. “I was thinking more along the lines of a shave and an armor polish. Given that he protects the princess, I’m a little shocked at the state of his appearance.”

“Actually, it probably just indicates that he’s from the Rangers originally,” observed Twilight. “You see, since the Rangers often operate in harsh terrain with minimal oversight and support, they have little standardization with their equipment, and often adopt a raffish appearance to better fit in on the frontier. Even those that transfer to other units often maintain their habits and…”

Applejack tuned Twilight out as they walked. It wasn’t that she wanted to ignore her friend; it was just that she was more interested in what the soldiers were discussing. Besides, I know plenty about the Rangers from Ma and Pa. Probably not as much as Twi, but enough to make me curious about this fella.

The soldiers appeared to be aware of their approach, but carried on as if they didn’t. When they were a couple blocks away, she began to make out their conversation. At the moment, the squat pegasus was in the process of ribbing the lanky unicorn. “I’m just saying, we’ve saved each other’s lives, what, seven? Eight times? And you didn’t feel the need to tell me about this?”

“Nine,” grated the unicorn in an accent Applejack wasn’t familiar with. “And it’s my five to your four, so you owe me if anything.”

The squat pegasus adopted a winning smile of the sort that Applebloom adopted when she was begging. “Aw, but we’re buddies, Frit. Doesn’t that count for something?”


With a pout, the pegasus pleaded, “But Frit—"

Uspokój się.

Morning Song chuckled. “Careful, Marble. He’s letting his warlike race show.” The unicorn rolled his eyes and muttered something that Applejack was still too distant to hear. Then Song leaned in close with a tight-lipped smile and, in a sickly sweet, clipped tone added, “Which he’ll need if he ever withholds information like that from me again.”

He raised an eyebrow at her and chuckled. “Dawaj, Song. I don’t fear death.” Applejack chuckled at the bizarre rapport the two shared. Reminds me a little bit of P—

The unicorn’s eyes flicked to bore into Applejack’s. She stopped in her tracks. There was such focus in that gaze; an intensity that a mind addled by drink or drug could not muster, and she’d suddenly found herself to be the focus of—

The stallion blinked and the intensity was gone. He quirked a crooked smile and said to his compatriots, “But come now, our guests have arrived. Let’s table threats to my life and oblique jabs at my heritage until later, tak?

Morning Song chortled. “Okay, but only because you asked nicely.”

Applejack swallowed and forced herself to start walking again. The Crusaders and her fellow Bearers had been too engrossed in their own conversation to notice, but Spike gave her a questioning look. The farmpony forced a reassuring smile and pressed on.

“Morning Song! Miss Morning Song!” cried the Crusaders, who rushed forward to greet the mare.

With a musical laugh, Song slipped off her helmet and crouched down to meet the fillies. “Hello, girls! How’s my favorite little trio doing?” Her eyes narrowed as she caught sight of Scootaloo. “And why are you wearing a sign that says… Rainbow Dash, could I have a word?” The smile didn’t leave her face, but it did leave her eyes.

Rainbow gulped. “Um. Sure. Why not?”

While their superior officer gave Rainbow Dash a very polite, very veiled lecture on the appropriate timing and methodology of disciplinary actions, the other two soldiers stepped forward to greet the mares and Spike. The disheveled stallion stepped up face-to-face with Applejack. She hesitated at his approach, but his grin was genial and showed no trace of whatever had startled her earlier. “The shrink’s gonna be at it a while, I think,” he remarked. “Pleasure to meet you, ladies. I’m Colour Sergeant Krucjata Włócznia.”

Ain’t that a mouthful, she stopped herself from saying.

“But you can call him ‘Fritters,’” interjected Marble with a cheeky grin.

Krucjata ‘Fritters’ shot the squat pegasus a baleful glare. “I will bury you, short stack, and I won’t even have to dig that big a hole to do it.”

“Aw,” wailed Marble in a tone that reminded Applejack of Pinkie’s pouting voice. “But, Fritters, we’re buddies!”

Fritters sighed and rubbed at his eyes. “The dwarf is Staff Sergeant Marble Slab. Pay no mind to him. He was born missing a rather vital organ.”

Apparently missing his tone, Twilight asked earnestly. “Oh? How unfortunate. What was that?”

“His brain.”

Twilight stammered over her response. “Oh, my, that’s, um…”

Rarity tutted. Spike snickered into cupped claws.

Applejack gave a loud and hearty laugh. “Hooee!” she exclaimed. “Ya’ll don’t hold back in the REF, do ya?” She winked at Marble, who seemed unbothered by the insult. “Still, Ah known plenty o’ stallions with that affliction, so Ah’m pleased to report ya can live a normal life.”

Marble wiped his brow with mock sincerity. “That’s a relief!”

“It might even help him make Lieutenant,” muttered Fritters.

“I heard that, Sergeant!” snapped Song. Fritters winced.

Applejack chuckled. “Yer in hot water there, partner.”

“Ah, what else is new?”

Seeing the stallion’s companionable nature put Applejack’s mind at ease for whatever had troubled her earlier. “Well, new friends fer one,” she said, holding her hoof out for shaking. “Ah’m Applejack.”

Rather than shaking it as expected, the stallion once more threw her for a loop by taking her hoof in his and kissing it. “Charmed,” he said with a smile and a debonair wink that was totally at odds with his appearance. He turned to Rarity. “And you, madam? The Lady Rarity I presume?”

Rarity flushed red and stammered as she held her own hoof out. “Wh-why yes, I am she, the, er, the Lady Rarity that is, h-how do you do, sirrah?” As he kissed her hoof, the fashionista shot Applejack a baffled look as Fritters’ gentility seemed to emerge from nowhere. Applejack shrugged and held up a hoof. Don’t look at me!

“He better not do that to me,” growled Spike.

As Fritters proceeded to greet Twilight and even Rainbow Dash (mid-lecture) in the same manner, Marble stepped forward with a quirky grin and held his own hoof out. “I’ll just shake if that’s all the same to you. Don’t mind his lordship over there. It’s his Konik gentility showing through. They raise all their colts to treat all mares like noble ladies. His appearance may be a disgrace to his proud warrior tradition, but at least he keeps his manners,” he quipped.

Fritters gave his fellow guard a frosty glance as he shook Spike’s claw. “My appearance is normal for a Drapieżnik. We prefer to blend in with the ilk we hunt.”

“Yeah, but you haven’t been in the Draps for five years.”

“I’m a stallion of consistency.” He ambled back over and gestured to the books. “Doing a little light reading, Miss Applejack?”

“Just ‘Applejack’ or ‘AJ’ will do fine Krugkat— Kruge Cat— Krujkataka—"

He held up a hoof and gave a dry smile. “Just ‘Fritters’ is fine. I don’t expect the Equestrian tongue to bend readily to Konish.”

She gave a rueful grin. “Fritters, then. And these books ain’t for me.” And they ain’t light! “Twi here thought that the friar could benefit from ‘em.”

The purple mare smiled. “What better way to learn about a culture than from their written word?”

“Fritters prefers to just fight ‘em,” deadpanned Marble.

The unicorn cuffed his companion on the back of the head. “Enough of your jokes. They’ll think you’re serious.”

“Marble,” called out Song. Applejack looked over and saw that the Crusaders were eagerly bouncing inside, shepherded by Rarity and a much-chastened Rainbow. With a flick of her ear Song indicated that the short pegasus should follow them. Soon it turned into a chase as the fillies ran on ahead, fueled with youthful eagerness, and the adults had to speed themselves to catch up. Turning her attention to Twilight, the lieutenant beckoned the mare after her. “The princess regrets that circumstances at the capital forced her abrupt departure, but she did leave instructions. If you’d like, I could go over them with you now.” It was phrased like a request, but Applejack got the impression that it wasn’t.

“Oh. Okay,” blinked Twilight. “Spike would you—"

“Yeah, I’ll make sure the books get in all right,” preempted the dragon. With a grateful smile, Twilight departed with Song, leaving Spike, Applejack, and Fritters.

The stallion quirked a smile and pointed to the cart. “I must inform you of my chivalric duty to get that for you.”

Applejack put on a mock offended air. “You sayin’ Ah can’t get it mahself?”

Fritters scoffed. “Perish the thought, madam. Far be it from a lowly War Dog to presume that the great Bearer of Honesty herself might require my meager assistance.” He made an elegant bow. “I simply wished for the honor of relieving you of your burdensome task.” His voice dripped with decorum.

The farmpony couldn’t help but be amused. “Well, if’n it means that much to ya,” she remarked, unhitching herself from the cart and passing the harness over, “Ah reckon Ah can let ya pull ‘er.”

“Most kind of you,” he smiled. “Now, we should probably join the—oof!” he exclaimed as he took his first step under the weight of the books. “Celestia’s flaming wrath! How many books are in this blasted thing?”

Applejack smirked. “Ya want Ah should take it back, Fritters?”

“No, no,” he replied as he began to pull the cart inside. “I’ll be fine. Now, granted, a strong earth pony such as yourself would doubtless have an easier time of it than my scrawny flank, but I am duty bound to pull it.”

“Ah don’t mind pullin.’”

“But what you fail to understand, dear Applejack, is that my male stubbornness has set in, and I am now unable to see reason.”

“Ah really don’t mind—"

“Too late. Too stubborn.”

Applejack rolled her eyes as the trio entered the hospital and made their way down the halls in the direction of Jacques’ room. “Just like Big Mac and Pa.” She shot a glance at Spike. “Is this a guy thing or somethin’?”

“Oh, most definitely,” replied the young drake. “I once spent ten minutes trying to knock a ball out of a tree with rocks rather than just taking thirty seconds to run inside for a ladder.”

Fritters nodded in approval. “Good lad.”

Applejack stared in confusion. “But why?”

“Because I decided to get it down with rocks,” replied Spike.

“And once he started, there was no stopping,” added Fritters.

“But… why?”

“It’s a guy thing,” the pair chorused.

“What, stupidity?” she demanded.

Spike raised an eyebrow. “This coming from the mare who tried to harvest the entire Sweet Apple Acres by herself from sheer stubbornness.”


Fritters chuckled. “It’s all right, Applejack. We’re all entitled to our bouts of foolishness. Speaking of foolishness,” he turned to Spike, “would you mind running ahead to let them know we’re coming, but that we’re delayed by the weight of this fool cart and my fool pride?”

“Sure,” said Spike obligingly. He ran off, leaving the two of them alone.

For a moment they walked side by side in silence, moving at the slow pace dictated by the weight of the cart. “I’m sorry that I startled you earlier,” said Fritters abruptly.

“Er, yer what?”

“When you were approaching the hospital, I looked in your eyes and you stopped dead in your tracks,” explained Fritters. Applejack blanched. “I’m sorry I startled you.” His eyes glanced left to meet hers. “I assure you that it was not my intent. It’s simply a side-effect of a technique of mine.”

Applejack’s eyes narrowed in suspicion. “What kind o’ technique?”

“The magical kind,” he replied. “Don’t worry. It’s not dangerous,” he hastened to add. “It’s Harmony magic, in fact. That or cutie mark magic.” Applejack gave him a long look. “It’s complicated. Suffice it to say I have a twin sister and some of her magic bled over to me during the pregnancy. Her specialty lies in seeing through deceptions and noticing things that other ponies miss. We always called it Zaufany Wzrok, the True Sight.”

His explanation mollified Applejack somewhat, but she still wasn’t keen on having spells she didn’t understand worked on her. On the other hoof, Ah am best friends with Twilight, so you’d think Ah’d be used to it. “What all does it do?”

Fritters squinted one eye in contemplation and tilted his head side to side. “The technical explanation is a little heady for my tastes, but it basically helps me souse out whether or not the target is under an illusion or hiding something. It’s not without its limitations, and it came with some…” he blinked several times in rapid succession, “pretty severe drawbacks, but it’s helpful for security all the same.”

Applejack frowned. “So why were ya using it on me?”

“To be fair, I used it on all of you. As to why, one word: Changelings.”

The mare was forced to nod. “Okay, fair.”

With a smirk, he reminisced. “My sister’s little gift is actually what let me save Marble the fourth time. He thought the pony behind him was Captain Argent, but I was suspicious because I knew she was deeper into the palace grounds on the day of the Invasion. So I looked closer.” He chuckled. “There was an epaulet missing from her uniform, she fell for a trick question I asked, and Changelings are not unknown in my homeland, so I knew what to do. Imagine Slab’s surprise when I speared the ‘captain’ through the heart.”

Applejack looked at his spear and sobered at the realization that, had she been an enemy in disguise, she might have found herself on the receiving end of that very weapon. “Ah can see how that’d shake him up.” Her brow furrowed as another thought occurred to her. “So, if’n ya used this ‘True Sight’ on all of us, how come Ah’m the only one that noticed.”

Fritters shrugged. “I don’t really know, in all honesty. I thought perhaps it was your connection with Harmonic magic as a Bearer, but if that was the only factor then the others would have perceived it as well. More likely it is either a natural affinity or something specific to the Element of Honesty.” He stroked his chin with one hoof. “Though if that’s the case, I wonder if it’d be possible for you to use your own Harmonic magic to replicate the effect your own way.”

Now that bears considerin,’ she thought. Woulda been mighty useful in Canterlot. “Can’t ya just teach me how you do it?”

He shook his head. “What I do is genetic. Besides,” he added with a bitter chuckle, “you really don’t want my exact ability. I make it work with my magic, but I think you’d find it detrimental to your lifestyle.”

Applejack’s brow furrowed. “An’ why is that?”

Whatever Fritters’ response might have been was cut off by a commotion at the end of the hall, a startled shriek from Rarity, and the sound a male voice bellowing at the far end of the hall. The two ponies exchanged a glance, then bolted down the hall, abandoning the cart behind them. “I’ll get back to you on that,” he replied dryly.

Jacques and Redheart sat in silence, each with their own thoughts. Jacques, for his part, was pondering the mysterious nature of Providence which had brought him on such an unusual journey. Redheart, for her part, seemed to be pondering something else entirely.

“I cannot believe she just hooved you that much money.”

The friar raised an eyebrow. “Is it truly such a gratuitous sum?”

“Yes!” she exclaimed. “You could buy a house and a small plot of land with that money! And probably hire a maid at least part time to clean it!”

“A rather specific example,” he teased. “Would you be interested in such a position?”

Redheart snorted. “Trust me, you don’t want to depend on me to keep your place clean. I clean wounds, not kitchens.”

“Well, all the same, I doubt I’ll be keeping most of my newfound largesse for long. I imagine that commissioning a suit of armor for one as… unique as myself will be quite expensive.”

The nurse nodded. “I won’t pretend to know anything about that, but Medevac or one of the soldiers the princess left probably would. Though I hope you intend to let your wounds heal properly before you attempt to use said armor,” she added with the touch of an edge in her voice.

He held up a placating hand. “Far be it from me to scorn the advice of a physician, especially when so much has changed about my condition.”

Redheart gave a satisfied smirk. “Good. Glad to hear you won’t be one of those curmudgeonly old stallions who needs his missus to drag him in when he’s having a heart attack because he insists that ‘he’s fine.’” Her ear twitched and she tilted her head towards the doorway. Her smirk broadened into a cheeky smile. “Though it sounds like your heart might be getting a workout in a moment, Friar. Hope you have a high tolerance for adorable.”

Que?” he asked.

“Just wait.”

A short time later his question was answered as his human ears finally detected the approaching clatter of tiny hooves on tile. Tiny hooves… adorable… does she mean…?

The door burst open to admit three beaming fillies. Their large, lugubrious eyes darted about the room until they alighted upon the friar, at which point they lit up so brightly that Jacques could have sworn that he saw stars twinkling in their pupils. They began jumping up and down in a circle, crying out in synchronous glee, “He’s awake! He’s awake! He’s awake!”

Jacques clapped a hand to his heart and breathed heavily. Redheart’s grin was sly. “You okay there, Friar?”

“I’ll tell you when my heart begins to beat once more,” he replied.

Rainbow Dash and Rarity appeared in the doorway, the latter panting slightly, accompanied by a squat pegasus in armor. “Sweetie Belle, honestly!” exclaimed Rarity. “Must you run ahead so?”

“He’s awake, sis! He’s awake!” exclaimed the white filly with a squeak.

“We finally get ta see him!” added the yellow filly, whose bow bounced with her mane.

“Yeah! A real live monster slayer!” chimed in gravelly-voiced pegasus filly, who buzzed her wings like a hummingbird to add height to her jump.

Surely such a degree of cute is a violation of some element of the natural order. Mortals are not meant to wield such power.

Rainbow rolled her eyes and flapped over to the fillies. “Hey, squirts, here’s a thought. Instead of telling us how excited you are, howsabout you just go introduce yourselves to the guy who’s literally sitting right over there.

The three fillies turned to look at Jacques as though seeing him again for the first time and blushed. “Oh,” squeaked the white filly. “Right.”

Jacques felt as though he ought to say something, perhaps to introduce himself or make some joke to set the children’s minds at ease as was his habit, but his mind was left thoroughly in the wake of events, overwhelmed by the pace and rendered mute by the shocking cuteness of the fillies.

In a flash, the trio zipped across the room, the first in line coming to an abrupt halt that almost tipped her over, and the other two falling in line next to her successively in the same manner as they introduced themselves.

Zip. “I’m Sweetie Belle!”

Zip. “Ah’m Applebloom!”

Zip. “I’m Scootaloo!”

“And we’re—"

Jacques realized too late that all the adults in the room had covered their ears.


The friar blinked several times, praying that the ringing in his ears would not be permanent. However, it had at least served to shake him from his stupor, allowing his faculties to resume their proper functions. His lips broadened into a grin. “Hello, children!” he greeted them, his basso voice resonating through the room as his hearing returned. “I am most relieved to see that you are all well after yesterday’s ordeal. I trust you are none the worse for wear?”

Sweetie Belle took a deep breath, and this time Jacques was prepared enough to cover his ears. “OH MY GOSH HE HAS A PRENCH ACCENT!” she exclaimed with joy.

“AND LOOK AT HIS SWORD! IT’S HUGE!” shouted Scootaloo.

“HE’S LIKE A WANDERIN’ RONIN FROM THEM JAPONESE MANGAS!” Applebloom added to the cacophony.

I’m like a what from what?

“This guy’s so cool, you know what he needs, Crusaders?” asked Applebloom.

She became quieter, and yet I get the impression that my reprieve is temporary.


Oh dear.

The fillies crouched, ready to spring like leopards upon their prey, and Jacques braced himself for fresh pressure upon his wounds, but fortunately for him the pegasus stallion intervened. The armored pony planted himself directly between the bed and the fillies, and they simply bounced off his bulk. Despite his small size, the three fluffy impacts didn’t budge him an inch. “Woah, fillies,” he chuckled. “Simmer down there! The poor guy’s wounds probably haven’t healed yet.”

Looking abashed, the three fillies tilted their ears back, dipped their heads, and mumbled apologies in an expression of contrition so winsome that Jacques’ heart fluttered again. I must be going soft.

“No apologies necessary,” Jacques assured them. “You were simply eager.” And I was young once too. He clenched a gnarled hand. Once.

Rainbow trotted into the room and gave the stallion an approving smile. “You’re pretty fast there, Slab.”

He winked. “Thanks, Miss Dash, but I’m sure I’m nowhere near as fast as you.” Rainbow gave a cocky smirk, but before she could speak the stallion turned to address Jacques. “Staff Sergeant Marble Slab, REF, at your service.”

“Friar Jacques de Charette, Knights Hospitaller, at yours,” he replied. He examined the red pegasus a little closer, noting the soldier’s stout stature, his shield, and what appeared to be a Roman gladius. His smile is disarming and his eyes cheerful, but I imagine he’s not one who should be riled unduly. “Can I assume that you are one of the soldiers Her Highness spoke of?”

“Guilty,” he answered. “Lieutenant Song and Colour Sergeant Włócznia will be along shortly, along with the Bearers of Honesty and Magic.”

Rainbow snorted. “You can just say AJ and Twi, dude.”

‘Dude.’ What is ‘dude?’

“Applejack and Twilight, then,” said Marble. “And Twilight has brought a considerable number of books for your perusal, Friar.”

Jacques’ eyebrows shot up. She has a personal collection of books? And she’s going to let a perfect stranger read them? The student of Celestia must be quite the wealthy woman, or rather mare, indeed.

He was about to inquire further when he felt a tug at the base of his habit. “Um, excuse me? Mister Jacques?” The friar looked down to see the trio staring up at him with those unfairly expressive eyes. It didn’t help that Applebloom had been the one to speak, and that he found her accent incredibly endearing.

“Yes, child?”

“Would it be all right if we hugged you real gentle-like so we can thank ya for savin’ our lives?”

The Hospitaller’s heart melted instantly. “I don’t see why not,” he said huskily.

Beaming, the three fillies climbed up on the bed and, with the delicate touch of a mother and her newborn, enfolded him in an embrace made doubly warm by their gratitude. They nuzzled his side, burying their faces in the folds of his cassock, as a babe might in her father’s cloak. Jacques couldn’t keep a smile from his face as he felt happy tears slip into his beard. Thank you, Holy God, for the lives of these little ones. Such innocent souls… truly they are your beloved.

Hearing sniffling, he looked up from the tender moment to see Rarity blowing into a kerchief while streaks of some sort of ink or makeup ran down her cheeks. Rainbow Dash seemed keen to be looking anywhere other than the sentimental display. Marble’s features remained benign. Redheart’s face was contented; happy. “That’s precious,” she said softly. Then, with a twinkle in her eye, she added, “It’s a pity Medevac isn’t hear to see this. The big softie would probably be blubbering right now.”

Jacques chuckled softly. “There is no shame in tears, Bonne Sœur. Especially when they are earned.”

Concerned, the three fillies pulled their heads away to look up at him. “Are you crying, Mister Jacques?” asked Sweetie Belle.

“Yes, petit, but don’t fret. They are happy tears.”

“Aw,” cooed two mares from the door. Jacques looked up to see Twilight and a white earth pony mare in armor whom he did not recognize.

“Lady Twilight,” he said, dipping his head in salute. “And Lieutenant Song, I presume?”

“Indeed,” smiled the second mare, sweeping off her helmet to reveal locks of black hair with golden streaks. She had a sunny disposition and merry eyes. “First Lieutenant Morning Song of Their Royal Majesties’ Royal Expeditionary Force. It’s a pleasure to make your acquaintance, Friar. My other soldier will be along shortly.”

Jacques caught sight of movement behind her. The purple figure seemed much shorter than her, and he wondered if perhaps he was the twin of the diminutive Marble Slab. “Is that him now?”

“Nope,” answered a male voice. The speaker stepped into the open and Jacques’ blood ran cold. “I’m Spike the Dragon.”

Twilight and Morning Song stepped briskly down the hall towards Jacques’ room. Rarity and Dash had already gone ahead with the Crusaders and Marble, and the other three were still lagging behind with the precious books, which had given the two mares time to discuss the scroll that Celestia had left for the Bearer of Magic.

While Twilight had not begrudged her mentor her abrupt departure, she couldn’t exactly take comfort in the reasons for it. If security in the castle’s magical defenses has truly been compromised, then I should be there helping. I know those halls like the back of my hoof. Better in fact! I could help them isolate the disturbance! I could—

“I know you’re worried, Twilight, and that you would surely be of great help in Canterlot,” Song assured her, “but Celestia would not have asked you to remain in Ponyville if it wasn’t where you could be most helpful.”

Twilight rolled up the scroll and tucked it away for later. “Are you a mind reader, Lieutenant Song?”

“Just ‘Song’ or ‘Morning’ is fine, Twilight,” came the sunny reply. “And, no, I am not clairvoyant. Merely a humble psychologist who had time to review your file before coming to Ponyville.” She gave Twilight a pat on the shoulder. “Somepony as dedicated as you, it’s not surprising that it troubles you to be so far away from what you see as the greatest source of trouble when you feel that ponies are counting on you.” The mare leaned in to give Twilight an earnest look. “But, Twilight, believe me when I tell you that Celestia, Luna, the captain, and the EMI all know what they’re doing, and right now the best thing you can do to help them is to remain here.”

Twilight sighed, allowing her head to hang a fraction. “Intellectually I know you’re right, but…” she trailed off as Song gave her an earnest look, then heaved another sigh and straightened up. “No, you are right, no buts, and I just need to buck up and do my best.”

Song gave a winning smile. “That’s the spirit.”

The unicorn grinned and shot her a sideways glance. “You’re really good at this.”

Waving her off, the psychologist replied, “I merely help ponies to recognize the truth, a truth they often already know themselves.” She winked. “And it helps that you’re a receptive and intelligent patient.”

Scratch that. She’s reeeeally good, amended Twilight. Maybe I should ask her to psychoanalyze Pinkie Pie. That thought didn’t last long before she dismissed it out of hoof. No, it would be irresponsible of me to break a gifted psychologist.

“In any case,” she said aloud, setting aside the memory of what trying to understand one mere tidbit of Pinkie’s… Pinkiness had done to her, “the rest of the accommodations shouldn’t be a problem. I was already planning on stress testing his magic and helping him explore it once he’s recovered anyway. I mean, just think, a whole new field of untapped magic, just waiting to be discovered, begging for days of research, weeks even… months… years…

Song glanced over. “Twilight, you’re drooling,” she pointed out mildly.

Blushing, Twilight wiped her mouth.

“Yeah, she does that,” called a young male voice from behind. Spike jogged up and fell into step behind them. “Just be glad you didn’t see her when she was first granted access to the Tempora the Crooked Wing at Celestia’s School. The janitor had to follow her around with a mop.”

Twilight flicked his nose none too gently with her tail. “Spike! Don’t tell her that story!” He snickered, nonplussed by her outburst. “And, anyway, shouldn’t you be watching the books?”

He waved her off. “Please! I left them with AJ and an REF sergeant. It’s not like they’re going to eat them or anything.” She meeped at the thought. “Besides, I wanted to meet this guy everypony keeps talking about. He sounds super cool!”

Morning Song chuckled. “Yes, well, I also look forward to meeting him. A warrior who can destroy five of those monsters at his age is someone I’d like to shake hooves with. Or shake appendages with, I suppose.”

Reaching the end of the hall they stepped into the room to find the friar being cuddled by the Crusaders. Twilight couldn’t help a coo from escaping her lips and, by the sound of things, neither could Song. They greeted each other, and the lieutenant introduced herself. Spike stepped around to meet the human as well.

And that’s when the morning took an abrupt turn.

The dragon stepped into the open and Jacques’ brain flew into a frenzy of activity as the old soldier fell back on over four decades of bitter combat experience. Most of the ponies in the room were soldiers or champions of some sort. Redheart was far enough away to be out of immediate danger and was flanked by two of the Bearers. That left the fillies and, given that the drake appeared rather young, they would probably be the first target.

Moving with speed that he hadn’t possessed since his youth, he swept the fillies up with one arm and thrust them defensively behind him while his free hand snatched the closest weapon: Marble’s gladius.

St. Michael, St. George, be my guardians against the vile wyrm of hell! There was a familiar rush of power as his limbs flexed with strength and he felt the comforting embrace of armor closing around him.

“Back, foul spawn of hell! In the Name of God, begone from here! You shall not touch these children!”

Twilight had seen many unusual things in her study of magic over the years. The frequency of such experiences had only increased since becoming the Bearer of its Element. Between her race, her special talent, and her attunement to the Element, she was able to perceive the magical energies that surrounded her at a level that most mages would envy. When observing spell matrices activating, she was usually able to understand and even copy the spell herself with a little effort. Most of the time this additional data was simply part of the background, easily fading into the scenery.

This was not one of those times.

As Jacques brandished the gladius and roared out his challenge with a thunderous voice, eliciting a shriek from Rarity and cries of shock and dismay from the fillies, Twilight was distracted by another rather jarring sight. It lasted only a split second, and she doubted that any of the others had the power and knowledge to see it, but she did: a full suit of shimmering white plate armor, encasing Jacques from head to toe. In a flash, it was beyond her vision, but she was experienced enough to know that it wasn’t necessarily gone.

Under other circumstances she would have found it to be a fascinating topic of study. As it was, she had more pressings concerns. “Woah! Hey! Friar! Put the sword down!” she ordered, stepping between Spike and the old warrior.

“Lady Sparkle, step away from the dragon!” ordered Jacques.

“Why would I step away from my friend?!”

“From your what?!

Spike quaked behind her. “Twilight? Why is he holding… why did he call me a… tell me to…?”

“Woah, Friar! Take a chill pill, dude!”

“Friar, please calm down, your injuries—"

Applejack and Fritters sprinted into the room. “What’s going on?” demanded Fritters, hefting his spear. “Why is his sword out?!”

“What in tarnation is goin’ on here?!”

Step back!”

Not until you tell me what’s wrong!”

“Can I have my sword back?” asked Marble mildly.


A shockwave seemed to ripple through the room. All heads turned to the source:

Morning Song.

The lieutenant’s indigo eyes blazed for a brief moment, then receded to their natural calm. The room remained tense, as Jacques’ grip on the blade did not waver, but no creature spoke. Clearing her throat, Song broke the silence. “Friar, would you please explain the nature of your concern?” she requested, her tone soothing.

Blinking in some confusion, Jacques replied. “There is a dragon behind Lady Twilight.”

“I see. And this concerns you because?”

Jacques tilted his head, his brow furrowing in incomprehension. “Because… because dragons are demons in the flesh, come to ravage any innocents who walk upon the face of…” his eyes widened, “… upon the face of my earth.” He shut his eyes with a grimace. “La vache. That’s not the case here, is it?”

Song gave a winning smile. “Fortunately so, Friar. I assure you that in this world the dragons are as much the Creator’s children as any others, and that Spike here has been a loyal citizen of Equestria and personal assistant to Twilight Sparkle for sixteen peaceful years. So, while I appreciate your vigilance, please understand that it is not necessary at this time.”

Heaving a mighty sigh as his cheeks colored, the warrior returned the sword to Marble and slumped against the bedside, running a hand through his hair and muttering something under his breath. Twilight didn’t speak Prench as readily as Rarity, but she understood enough to know that he’d referred to himself as a slang term for a donkey. “Mea maxima culpa, young Spike,” he said after a moment. “Had I but known that the dragons of your land do not share an origin with those in my own, I would not have treated you so poorly. I am ashamed of my outburst and my treatment of you, and I humbly beg your forgiveness.”

A heavy silence hung over the room. Twilight realized after a moment that her mouth was flapping open and shut as she tried and failed to process what had happened. She’d been so excited to see the heroic human again, only to have that ripped out from under her by fury at the thought that he’d try to hurt Spike, and then that had been shut down by the disproportionately calm reaction by Song and by Jacques’ own contrite response to it. She had no idea how to respond.

“Well I should hope you are sorry!” snapped Rarity, who had regained her composure enough to be outraged. “The nerve! Snapping at poor little Spikey-Wikey—"

Twilight instinctively opened her mouth to calm her irate friend, but, as it happened, Spike beat her to it. “Rarity, it’s okay,” said the dragon.

Twilight turned to see Spike, tears welling in his eyes as he tried bravely to pretend that he wasn’t crying. “Oh, Spike,” she murmured, turning to embrace him.

The little drake pushed her hooves aside, his eyes locked on Jacques. “So, let me get this straight,” he said, somehow managing to keep his voice steady. “In that other world you’re from with mostly no magic, dragons are like the Fell, right?”

“Yes,” replied Jacques.

“And your first instinct on seeing me and thinking I was a threat of that kind was to protect the fillies, even though you’re still injured.”

Jacques frowned as though the question didn’t even need asking. “Well… of course.”

Spike gave a broad grin that Twilight guessed was only partly forced. “Then, dude, we’re cool. Any guy who’s willing to fight a monster to protect my friends is okay in my book, and, hey, everypony was here to stop you from stabbing me, so bonus, right? Hehehe,” his awkward laughter trailed off.

For a moment, it seemed that the awkward silence would swell to suffocate them all, but then Jacques broke it with a murmured “Dieu merci,” before adding in a louder voice, “You are wise and gracious beyond your years, young Spike. Thank you. And I apologize to the rest of you as well, for causing any concern.”

“And for taking my sword,” interjected Marble blandly.

“Yes, and for taking your— urgk!” Jacques gripped his side, pain lancing across his features.

“Oh dear, darling!” exclaimed Rarity. “Are you all right?”

Redheart darted over and pulled the hand away, revealing a dampening area of the robe. “Son of a— you opened your stitches, you big idiot!” Her irate gaze flicked around the room, falling upon Fritters. “You!” she snapped. Fritters straightened to attention. “Medic training?”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“You stay. Everypony else, out. We’ll get you when we’re done.”

None of the ponies seemed eager to risk the ire of the nurse, and they filed out of the room, bidding farewell to Jacques as they went. Rarity looked somewhat downcast and said something about ‘making amends’ and ‘clean change of clothes’ before announcing that she’d be making a quick trip home. She gave Spike a peck on the cheek before she left, telling him that he was a brave boy. Fortunately, Twilight managed to catch him before he cracked his head on the floor.

“You really are brave,” she said, quietly enough that the others, now wrapped in their own conversations about the startling occurrence, wouldn’t overhear. “And I’m very proud of you. Forgiving him like that and seeing things from his point of view was both generous and mature, and I’m quite impressed.”

Spike blushed and shrugged. “Aw, it was no big deal,” he said, scuffing one foot against the floor. “I mean… it’s not like it’d be the first time I got treated different because I was a dragon…” his voice dipped sadly before he forced a smile to his face, “…but, hey, it’s the first time the guy actually had a good excuse and, once he realized he was wrong, he apologized immediately.”

Twilight’s eyes narrowed. Given what she knew of the friar, she knew Jacques wasn’t at fault here. If anything, he’d acted rather nobly given what he thought to be true. Still, she thought as she scrutinized Spike’s mask of unconcern, even though he’s hiding it, that did bother him that he got yelled at like that. It’ll take time before that goes completely away. She smiled and gave the dragon a tight hug. “Well, all the same, you showed just now noble a dragon can be.”

He flung himself gratefully into her embrace, and she felt tears dampening her coat. “Thanks, Twi. Thanks.”

Author's Note:

Hey, folks! So I know it's been a while and- hey! Put down the torches! My obligatory Antiquarian vs the Angry Mob vignette isn't until Part 2! Back off!

Ahem. Anyway...

I do truly apologize for the delay. Beyond all the delays resulting from work, life, and the like, this chapter just got loooooooooong. I felt like parts needed cutting (and I still kind of do), but at the same time there's not a lot that felt like it could be cut while still giving the experience of Jacques interacting with mundane Equestrian slice-of-life things that people wanted and introducing new characters. Doesn't mean I'm happy about the delay. See Part 2 for the endorsement and my encounter with the Angry Mob.

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