• Published 26th Feb 2018
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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 2)

“I am a proper fool,” observed Jacques glumly.

“Don’t be so hard on yourself, Friar,” Redheart urged as she renewed his stitches. “Why, most of this town, myself included, used to be terrified of a zebra who lived nearby because we thought she was some sort of dark pony witch.”

The soldier barked a laugh. “Am I correct in thinking that you took an extreme leap of reasoning to reach that conclusion?”

“You could say that,” she admitted ruefully. “To be fair, most of us had never even heard of zebras before, and none of us had ever seen one,” explained Redheart. “We’re a small town and pretty far north of the Zebrican Kingdom, and the zebras tend to keep to themselves. To top that off, she lives in the Everfree Forest.” She glanced up as she clarified, “The terrifying enchanted forest wherein you fought the timber wolves and where an ancient horror known as Nightmare Moon did battle with the Elements of Harmony. Twice.”

Jacques blanched. “I see.”

Redheart chuckled. “It seems silly in hindsight, but at the time ‘dark pony enchantress’ seemed a lot more plausible than ‘gifted zebra apothecary’ given what little information we had. We’re close friends now, for the record. Her potions actually helped save your life.” She finished her stitching and patted his leg. “I think you’ll find that most Equestrians are very forgiving, whatever their race. You made an honest mistake, acted the best you could based on what you knew, and took responsibility for your assumption immediately afterwards. It’ll blow over soon.”

“That is… gratifying to hear,” he replied. His robe floated over, upheld in a blood-red magic aura as the soldier prepared to help him dress. That will take some getting used to, he mused as the unicorn helped him into his garment. “And I must apologize to you, good stallion; I failed to inquire your name.”

The stallion’s answer was sardonic in the extreme. “What, you mean thinking that you saw a Fell in the flesh threw you? The nerve!” Jacques smirked. Reminds me of Andrew. And that accent… that is familiar too. Once the robe was back on the stallion held a hoof out for shaking. “Colour Sergeant Krucjata Włócznia, REF. But if that’s too much of a mouthful you can call me ‘Fritters.’ Always a pleasure to meet some creature with better facial hair than mine.”

What an… interesting thing to fixate on. He watched as Fritters turned to get Redheart’s name, kissing her hoof as a gentleman would and eliciting a blush from the mare. Twice for her today, Jacques thought with a grin. But this stallion is an odd one. Looks like a vagabond, acts like a noble, and has the moniker ‘Fritters’ of all things. Too many questions to ask. “The pleasure is mine, Colour Sergeant.” Is he the bannerman of his troop with that rank, I wonder? “Your accent is familiar. I very much doubt the name is the same in your world as in mine, but I must ask: are you, perchance, Polish?”

Fritters scratched his head. “You’re right. It must be different. My people are called the Koniks; we’re a slightly different breed from the ponies of mainland Equestria, but you’d need to be a geneticist to care about the difference.”

“I don’t even know what a ‘geneticist’ is.”

“Then you don’t need to care,” replied Fritters brightly.

There came a knock at the door. “Um, hello?” queried Twilight. “May we come back in yet?”

The two ponies looked to Jacques for confirmation. He took a deep breath and steeled himself. Here we go. “Yes, Lady Sparkle. You may.”

Twilight pushed her way into the room, a wry grin on her face. “Please, Friar, you can just call me ‘Twilight.’ Everypony does.” She and the others reentered, but Jacques was only concerned with the small purple dragon.

There was a part of his mind that still paled at the thought of sharing the room with a dragon. Six decades of lore did not readily move aside, even when the holy thaumaturges of the realm advocated for the creature. Then again, I have God-given magic in this world, so I suppose now is hardly the time for hearkening to certain conventions.

The dragon hesitated to meet his gaze, scuffing one clawed foot on the floor like a child waiting to be scolded. That cinched it for Jacques. Pushing himself up from the bed, he hobbled across the room, drawing a hiss of concern from Redheart which he roundly ignored. “Spike,” he said as gently as possible, lowering himself to one knee, “I am truly sorry for my earlier behavior.” The dragon looked up, meeting his eyes. The eyes of a dragon. Jacques tensed instinctively, but forced his shoulders to relax by biting his inner cheek and shooting off a quick prayer to God for charity. “I will be honest. It may take… time for me to properly adjust to what you are, and what you are not,” he let a rueful smile claim his features, “but please believe me when I say that I will make every effort to treat you with proper respect and to make amends for any time I fall short.” He held out his right hand, trusting his sword arm to the dragon.

Spike hesitated, then took the hand in his claw and shook it. At first his clasp was weak, but he brightened up and gave a more hearty shake after they’d traded grips for a few moments. “Thanks, Friar. No hard feelings.”

“And don’t worry, Friar,” piped up Sweetie Belle. “We’re Spike’s friends, so we’ll help you see that you’ve got nothing to worry about with him.” At that the Crusaders sprang forward to hug the little dragon, and Jacques suddenly felt like he’d eaten a month’s worth of sweets. Something about this world… it’s like every other moment is coated in honey.

“Yeah, yeah, that’s real sweet and all,” groused Redheart, pushing over a short stool behind Jacques. “Now sit before you hurt yourself.”

The friar chuckled, but did as he was bade. “Pax, Bonne Sœur. I am not infirm.”

“No, just hospitalized,” she shot back.

Rainbow snickered. “Hah! A hospitalized Hospitaller!” Applejack facehoofed.

Twilight stepped forward. “I think I owe you an apology, Friar. I should have warned you Spike was coming. I mean, I know how magic is in your world; I should have known that some creatures that are normal here would be monsters in your world, but, silly me, I didn’t think of it and so you felt threatened and—"

Jacques cut her off before she could get too worked up. “I forgive you, Lady Spa… er, Twilight.” He stroked his beard thoughtfully. “Perhaps it would be best if I asked from now on whenever I encounter a new creature.”

She smiled. “That would probably be for the best.”

“Unless it’s attacking you,” cut in Fritters, “in which case all bets are off.”

Jacques rolled his eyes. “Thank you, Fritters. I had assumed as much.”

Marble made an offended noise. “Ah! Frit, how come he gets to call your Fritters no problem, but every time I introduce you as Fritters you threaten my life?!”

Fritters shrugged. “I don’t know. Because you’re short?”

“That’s hurtful.”

Morning Song cleared her throat. “Before my Dogs set too bad of an example for the fillies, perhaps we should consider plans for the rest of the day. Nurse Redheart? I’d like a quick word about his ongoing care; I was just speaking with Miss Applejack while we waited to be let back in, and the Friar will be staying at the Acres starting today while he recovers, under your direction, of course. We also need to discuss care for two Lunar Guards who will be transferred here soon for some much-needed recuperation. I’ve already spoken to Medevac about it, but I’d be remiss if I left you in the dark.”

Redheart blinked. “Oh, um, of course, Lieutenant.” She followed the soldier to a secluded corner of the room.

Jacques turned to Applejack. “’Today?’’” he repeated.

“Eeyup,” replied the farmer, resting a foreleg on his knee. “Mah big brother’ll be by shortly with a cart to take you back to the Acres.” She shot a teasing glance at Fritters. “An’ he’s plenty strong enough to pull that cart o’ books Twilight brought over, so yer off the hook with yer masculinity still intact.”

Fritters wiped his forehead with mock relief. “Bogu dzięki!

“Boy, and I was already to take his stallion card,” sighed Marble.

“Dream on, shorty.”

As they fell to quibbling, much to the amusement of Applejack, Dash, and the young ones, Jacques noticed the absence of a certain alabaster mare. Recalling her outburst earlier, he winced. “Twilight? Is Lady Rarity displeased with me?”

“Huh? Why would she…?” queried the unicorn. “Oh, I get it, because she isn’t here and earlier she was angry with— no, Friar. You’ve got nothing to worry about. From the sound of things she probably left to get something for you. Generosity, remember? She’ll be along.” Twilight gave a sly grin. “But I’d be willing to bet it’s nothing compared to what I brought for you.”

Jacques smiled warmly. Ah, yes, the ‘cart of books.’ So wonderful to see a young mind so passionate about something. Why—

The thought didn’t finish, because three innocent little words had been rattling around in his head for quite some time finally made their presence known, resulting in his jaw falling slack and his eyes bugging out. Wordlessly he gripped Applejack’s shoulder and turned the mare to face him. “Forgive my intrusion, Applejack,” he said as calmly as he could manage, “but, earlier, what exactly did you mean by ‘cart of books?’”

It had seemed an innocent statement at the time, a harmless remark. Perhaps it was her own familiarity with Twilight’s infatuation with books. Perhaps it was that it never occurred to her that another being might have a love of them that would exceed her friend’s. Certain concepts did seem impossible, after all.

And yet, here she was, watching in awe as the friar sagged against the steadily flapping Marble for support as he stammered in broken Prench and Ponish for what felt like an hour. “Je ne comprends— it does not make any— je ne peux pas— I cannot— ouf!

“D’ya think we broke him?” she muttered to Rainbow Dash.

The pegasus snorted. “Figures. We meet an alien and he’s Twilight 2.0.”

Jacques pointed an accusing finger at the cart and shouted in heavily accented Ponish, “This is a literal bloody cart of books! And you just left it out here! Unguarded! All these manuscripts, this wealth of information, priceless tomes of knowledge, copied for painstaking years by scribes, and it’s a cart of books! Je ne comprends—

He launched off into another rant in Prench. Redheart heaved a massive sigh and Applejack patted her on the shoulder. “Just another day in Ponyville.”

Fritters looked on in amusement. “If that’s so, I like this posting already.”

Twilight stepped forward to calm the man. “Friar, please, it’s not that big of a deal. These books are mostly after-market reprints. Sure, it’d be a little expensive to replace them, but it’s not like it would set back the budget that… much… why are you looking at me like that?”

The friar’s gaze was like the intensity of the sun, or Rainbow during cider season. “‘Reprints?’” he asked.

“Um… yes? Like, you know, second runs of printing. You know? With a printing press?”

Jacques blinked. “What is a ‘printing press?’”

“Well, it’s an invention that enables us to…” Twilight’s eye twitched.

“Uh oh,” gulped Rainbow, folding her ears flat. Applejack and Redheart followed suit, and Song imitated them.

“Why ‘uh oh?’” asked Fritters. “What’s—"


“Oh,” winced Fritters, massaging his ears.


She flung herself to his side and hugged his legs, sobbing against his robe.

Jacques swayed unsteadily on his feet, even with Marble’s support. “Wait, you mean to say that anyone can afford books as readily as lords? Without… needing scribes… to copy… years…?”

Redheart turned with a grumble. “I’m going to go get the crash cart now.”

“Fer Jacques or Twilight?” asked Applejack.


Happily, Redheart did not need to make use of her crash cart, but she kept it close all the same. They managed to escort a rather dazed Jacques and Twilight to the front, where they were met by Big MacIntosh with the promised cart.

The big stallion unhitched himself and went straight up to Jacques, his mouth opening and closing as he tried to find the words. None came, but tears sprang to his eyes and he held out a hoof for shaking. Jacques took the hoof with a smile. Neither spoke, but it seemed to Redheart that they said plenty. After that, Big Mac helped the friar into the cart while the other ponies loaded his belongings and medicine.

Once he was situated, the man turned to address Redheart and Medevac, the latter of whom had taken a break to come see him off. “Words cannot express my gratitude to you, my friends,” said the friar. “Simply know that I am forever indebted to you, and that you shall always find a friend in me.” At that he made a cross sign in the air with one hand, reciting, “Benedicat vos omnipotens Deus, Pater et Filius et Spiritus Sanctus.”

Redheart’s knowledge of Latin didn’t extend beyond medical terminology, but she appreciated the sentiment all the same. “Take care of yourself, Friar. If we’re going to come and visit, I’d rather it be for tea rather than a medical emergency.”

“Where’s the fun in that?” quipped Medevac. “Seriously though, take it easy for a few days. And for pity’s sake take your medicine! Don’t be that guy.”

Jacques chuckled. “I shall keep that in mind. Adieu, my friends.”

The two nurses stood waving until the cart passed out of sight, then turned to go back inside. “Well, this has been a memorable couple days,” remarked Medevac, holding the door open for her. “Ponyville am I right?”

“Certainly not what I envisioned at medical school,” she replied. “But I wouldn’t trade this town for the world.” They retrieved the crash cart and headed deeper into the hospital. “And it would be hard to imagine a more pleasant patient.”

“Yeah, it’s not every day you get adopted as somecreature’s sister,” teased Medevac. “Plus, it’s nice to have another soldier to talk shop with around here. I’ve heard most of the town vets’ stories a thousand times by now, and I’m looking forward to some new material.”

“And a chance for a new audience, I suppose?” she quipped as they pushed their way into the equipment room with the cart.

“That too,” he admitted.

She helped him push the cart back to its place against the wall. “Well, you could always tell me more of your stories one of these evenings over…” she trailed off, realizing that she’d been about to ask him out for drinks. Why did I hesitate? We grab drinks together all the time.

Before she could finish her sentence, Medevac came to her rescue. “Over drinks some time? Sure. How does tonight sound?”

Like much too short notice. But, again, why? We’re friends. Friends grab drinks.



“She can’t go tonight, silly. You’re both busy!”

Redheart shrieked and stumbled back at the sight of Pinkie Pie hanging out of a ceiling tile.

“Mother of Pearl, Pinkie Pie!” shouted Medevac.

Pinkie giggled. “I’m not the mother of somepony named ‘Pearl,’ Medevac. Sheesh, I don’t even have a coltfriend yet, much less a husband! And even if I had a kid I don’t think I’d name my filly ‘Pearl.’ I mean, it’s a great name for another pony, but ‘Pearl Pie’ just doesn’t really roll of the tongue, you know? Besides, I don’t think a pearl pie would taste very good, unless maybe you were a clam, but clams don’t really eat pearls, and who knows if they even like them, which would really be sad if they had things that weren’t tasty in their mouths all the time and—"

“Pinkie!” interrupted Redheart.

“Yeah-huh?” she asked.

“Do you need something?” gritted the nurse.

“Oh yeah! Silly me! I came by to give you these!” Her forelegs stretched to impossible lengths to give each of them a hoof-made invitation that looked to be stylized to resemble a castle. “Make sure to get there plenty early! I already spoke with your boss about the schedules, and he said that you could both have the rest of the day off because it was a slow day and you were here all night and you both always ended the year with more vacation days than anypony could shake a stick at it, so it’s okie-dokie-lokie! Bye now!”

With that she was gone, the ceiling tile slotted back into place, leaving only the invitations and the heart palpitations to indicate that she’d come.

The two nurses stared in silence at the tile for a moment before exchanging a glance particular to those who’d spent at least a few years living in close proximity with Pinkie Pie. Then he smirked. “Want me to fire up the crash cart?”

“Don’t even think about it.”

Jacques’ admiration for the fabled strength of earth ponies increased by a factor of ten upon observing the aptly named Big MacIntosh pull him, the wagon, his possessions, and the cart of (he felt a shudder of awe) books without apparent effort. He’s too short for me to be able to easily ride at my height, and yet no horse I know could have borne such weight so readily in my homeland. At one point the fillies clambered up onto the seat with him. The draft pony didn’t seem to notice. These ponies may be handsome creatures, but they are not to be trifled with. Which begs the question what form this emerging threat will take. Fellow ponies dabbling in the Dark Arts? Ancient horrors like this ‘Nightmare Moon’ Redheart mentioned? He wanted to dive into research immediately, to read the wealth of books in Twilight’s library… his heart quickened at the thought of so much knowledge at his fingertips…

Which in turn reminded him of Redheart’s severe remonstration to Twilight when the mare had offered to show him her full collection: “Oh, no! He’s not going anywhere near that library until he’s acclimated! You’ll give him a heart attack! If he so much as sets a foot in that library before he’s adjusted, you’re gonna have to learn to walk with two legs!”

Given their relative social statuses, Jacques imagined their exchange was akin to a yeoman peasant lecturing a Peer of the Realm, but Twilight had bowed meekly and acquiesced. They seem to hold little regard for rank. It is fortunate that my parents taught me to regard wisdom before class, else I might be scandalized instead of merely shocked.

Dawn had come and passed, and there were an ever-increasing number of ponies milling about. Most stopped to stare at the odd little cavalcade, but none approached. Twilight made a remark to the effect that the majority were simply becoming accustomed to such oddities, which implied worrying things about the town. Still, there were a number of ponies that looked skittish or outright fearful. Three mares selling flowers took off running the moment they saw him. I don’t think I look that threatening.

Rainbow Dash seemed perturbed by their actions. “Again? Really?” she shouted after them. “He’s literally sitting next to fillies!” Grumbling, she addressed Jacques. “Don’t mind them, Friar. They always bolt when they see new creatures.”

“Naw,” interjected Marble. “They just saw the Colour Sergeant’s face.”

“Six feet down, Slab. Six. Feet. Down.”

Jacques ignored them and addressed the rainbow-maned mare. “I understand. After all, I reacted in similar fashion this morning. And most people don’t wish to meet a man with a bloodied surcoat.”

“And for that, I have a solution,” sang a sophisticated soprano. Jacques turned to see Rarity approaching. “Apologies for darting off earlier, darling. I had intended to make only a quick run to my shop, but along the way I encountered Pinkie Pie and… well… Pinkie Pie.”

Well, the Pink One is a Trickster entity of some variety. “No need to apologize. I imagine creatures like her can be quite… distracting.”

Rarity arched an eyebrow at the remark but didn’t pass comment. “In any case, she passed along a few little errands that she would be ever so grateful if you all could help with. Girls? A moment?” The other Bearers trotted over and Rarity gestured to the fillies. “You too, little ponies. Now, let’s see, Fluttershy could use a hoof with food preparation and would like to borrow some of your expertise, Twilight. Pinkie provided me with a list of books and ingredients you’ll need. Spike, I believe your dragonfire would expedite the process.”

“Um… okay,” replied the purple unicorn. “Wait, why does Fluttershy need my help?

“You’ll see.”

“Anything for you, Rarity,” gushed the dragon. Jacques raised an eyebrow. Oh dear. The poor lad has it bad. He blinked. Wait, he’s a dragon and she’s a pony. How in the world does…?

The first two trotted off and Rarity addressed the others. “Applejack? If you and the fillies would lend Pinkie a hoof at the Acres, it would not go amiss.”

Applejack frowned. “What all’s she doin’ to the Acres?”

“Mustn’t tell, darling, but rest assured, Grannie gave her approval.” Mollified by this, Applejack departed, whistling for the fillies to follow. They did after bidding Jacques an enthusiastic farewell with yet another synchronized moment of adorable smiles and well wishes. If my heart doesn’t give out by the end of the day, it will be a miracle. “And, finally, Rainbow Dash, if you would be so kind as to distribute these invitations to the following musicians—"

Rainbow scoffed. “What am I, a messenger bird? Why not get a mailpony to do it?”

"—to a half dozen ponies, some of whom live several hours travel away and must all be notified within the next hour if they’re to arrive in time.”

“Ah. Say no more!” She took the letters, turned in the air, and made a pose akin to a human sprinter about to start a race. “Watch close, Friar,” she said with a wink. “If you blink you’ll miss it.”

Jacques smirked. He’d already come to the conclusion that Lady Dash had something of an inflated ego, but it was nothing he hadn’t encountered before as a soldier. “I look forward to it.”

“Good! Because you’re about to see my patented—"

“Hold it!” interrupted Song sharply. “Miss Dash, are you about to perform your signature Sonic Rainboom?”

The pegasus huffed. “Well, it was gonna be a surprise but—"

“A surprise is exactly what I’m afraid of,” replied the lieutenant. “He doesn’t have magic in his world, remember? For the sake of his mental health, and possibly physical health, I’d ask that you be considerate enough to at least inform him before performing a feat that’s nigh impossible even by pony standards. And, in fact, maybe do it a couple miles out.”

Rainbow didn’t seem bothered by the remonstrance. “Heh! Figures that my awesomeness is enough to break some dude’s brain.” She turned to Jacques, a cheeky smile on her face. “Hey, Friar, I’m about to break the sound barrier through sheer force of radicalness.”

He tilted his head. “What is a ‘sound barr—’”

In a streak of rainbow light she was gone before he could blink, suddenly hundreds of feet away as she climbed into the sky with speed greater than that of a diving hawk. Jacques gaped as she became a distant speck in mere moments. Unconsciously he slipped into French. “<How in the blazes…>”

“Brace yourself, Friar,” put in Song mildly. “It’s about to get bright and loud.”

As soon as she finished speaking, her prediction came true in a spectacular fashion. A thunderous boom rippled through the countryside, and Jacques’ eyes bulged as a ring of dazzling color exploded across the sky, sending a wave of wind that rippled his clothes even at this distance.

“Dang,” exclaimed Fritters. “She puts on quite a show, doesn’t she?”

It took Jacques time to find his voice. When he did, it was a whisper. “<Merciful heavens.>”

Rarity had to admit that she took particular pleasure in observing another creature when he or she saw the Sonic Rainboom for the first time. Seeing the experience fresh in the eyes of another let her appreciate it freshly herself. After all, it would be an injustice to become blasé to art, especially an art once performed to save my life. “Yes, our Rainbow Dash is quite the gifted mare, wouldn’t you say?” she observed aloud.

Jacques held up a hand to the sky, then let if fall slack. “Words fail.”

“Eeyup,” concurred Big MacIntosh.

They sat in silence for a moment until the colors faded. Then Rarity began trotting off, beckoning the others to follow. “Now come along, darlings. Let’s get the good friar out of his mussied garments before lunch, shall we?”

“Lunch?” asked Fritters, his eyes narrowing. “Aren’t we just going to the Acres?” Big MacIntosh nodded in agreement; it was news to him too.

“Oh pish tosh, darling! There are four newcomers in town and Pinkie Pie is involved. Surely you did not expect things to be quite so bland.”

Blinking, Fritters turned to Song in mute query. The senior soldier shrugged as she trotted up to walk by Rarity. “She’s right. I imagine some festivities are in all of our futures down at the Acres.” She glanced over her shoulder to see that Jacques was still distracted before asking in a lowered tone, “Though what exactly should we be prepared for? I don’t think it’s wise to expose Jacques to too many oddities in one day.”

“Now, now, Lieutenant,” chortled Rarity coyly, “a lady never tattles.” Song frowned and Rarity rested a hoof on her shoulder as she added in a more serious voice, “But I assure you that you will enjoy yourselves. And I saw enough of her preparations to know that it will be rather more muted than her usual soirées. Nothing more shocking than, well, Pinkie Pie.”

Morning Song raised an eyebrow. “That’s quite the qualifier there, Rarity. Though,” she admitted, “I suppose if he’ll be living in Ponyville it’s an inevitable shock, so perhaps it’s best to get it out of the way. Rip off the bandaid, so to speak.”

Rarity nodded. “My thoughts exactly, darling.”

“When are the ‘festivities,’ Miss Belle?” asked Marble, from his place farther back in the impromptu caravan.

“Oh, please, darling, call me ‘Rarity.’ As for the time, we shall need to keep ourselves busy until four.”

Marble’s eyebrows shot up. “Four? It’s not even nine! Besides lunch, what are we supposed to do? Even Fritters won’t eat for that long.”

The scruffy stallion smirked. “Challenge accepted.”

Song glared at him. “No.

Rarity smirked. “Don’t trouble yourselves, darlings. We shall be quite occupied until then. Big Mac? I know you have to spend a little time at the market today, so once you’ve delivered the good friar I’d ask that you leave the cart and return around one for lunch.”

“Um… eeyup?” replied the stallion.

Hm. Two words… sort of. I’m impressed. Now if only he would start speaking Prench… Around that time they reached Carousel Boutique. With a proud smile, Rarity trotted up to the entrance. “As to how the rest of us shall be passing the time, it will be quite simple, darlings,” she said, throwing the door open. “We shall be creating art!

She was greeted with silence as all the males present, sans Big Mac, stood in mute incomprehension. Song simply flashed a knowing smile.

Marble blinked. “…meaning…?”

“Clothes, Slab,” clarified Song. “She makes clothes.”

“Not just clothes, darling. I create art!” She pointed at Jacques. “And today, I shall create art for you!

“Me?” he demanded.

Yes! Just think of it! An entirely new line of fashion, never before conceived by mare or stallion! Just think of the possibilities!”

Jacques swallowed. Eager anticipation no doubt. “Ah, Madam Rarity, I couldn’t possibly impose…”

Nonsense!” she exclaimed. “It’s the least I can do after I snapped at you earlier, and in front of the very sister you saved, no less!”

He opened his hands pleadingly. “I am but a simple friar, Madam, I cannot—"

“Ah, ah! I won’t take no for an answer darling! It may take a few hours, but you shall have the finest of attire when you leave!”

Jacques sat back in his seat, befuddled. Big Mac unhitched himself from the cart and reached up to pat the friar’s leg before departing. What was that little exchange all about?

“Whelp,” interrupted Fritters, “I’m out.” He turned and strode off after Big Mac. “I’m gonna go see if the Big Red One needs a hoof.”

Rarity tutted, having anticipated this. Stallions don’t tend to like waiting for other stallions to have their outfitting done. “Fret not, darling. It won’t just be the friar receiving my talents. I could hardly let you depart without giving you the benefits of my talents first.”

“That’s what I’m afraid of,” he called back.

That rocked Rarity back on her hooves. She opened her mouth in outrage. Why that scruffy-looking little… and he was so polite earlier… how could he just brush me off—

Song cut off her thoughts before they could fully coalesce, trotting up with a wan smile. “Don’t mind him, Rarity. He’s a crusty soul who makes a point of looking the way he does.”

“M-makes a point of it?” she exclaimed, horrified. “But… but why?

The other mare shrugged. “It’s…complicated. He is, by his own admission, a touch bent.”

I on the other hoof, will happily take you up on your offer,” announced Marble, stepping forward. “They don’t exactly have a ‘Stallion’s Squat and Buff’ store in Canterlot.”

Song shook her head. “It’s a good thing Fritters isn’t here to hear you say that.”

Yes, good riddance to— she chopped off the uncharitable thought with a mental rebuke. That’s hardly fair to him, Rarity. My, you’ve been snippy today. “Come along, darlings! We begin!”

What Rarity had meant by ‘we begin,’ as it turned out, was to send Jacques into the bathroom to get cleaned up. The hospital staff had cleaned him whilst he was still unconscious, but Rarity had offered her washroom that he might freshen up and change into a simple cloth robe that the couturier had apparently made during her absence earlier that morning. She collected his habit so that the blood might be washed out. Marble assisted him while the two mares chatted in the other room. Jacques found the diminutive stallion to be an easygoing and jocular conversationalist. If he was bothered by helping an old man freshen himself up, he didn’t show it.

For his part, Jacques was more than a little impressed by the merchantmare’s establishment. Resembling a mighty lord’s pavilion from the outside and a lavish mansion from within, he’d met many a man who would have happily stabbed his father for such luxury. Fortunately, my hostess doesn’t seem the type. If anything, it’s her generosity that’s overbearing.

Returning to the main room, he found only Song, though he could hear Rarity singing to herself in the next room. Song hummed along and he wondered if it were a popular local tune. It sounded to be something about the ‘art of the suit,’ but he couldn’t be sure. When he sat down, Song leaned over to him with an apologetic smile. “I hope you’ll pardon Rarity’s insistence upon outfitting you. To her, the perception of any creature in need, particularly one to whom she feels she owes a debt, is nothing less than an obligation to assist. It’s also how she expresses gratitude. It would be easier to convince Twilight not to loan you books, though only marginally.”

“Oh? An insight born of long friendship I take it?”

Song shook her head. “Nothing like that. We only just met today, though her reputation does precede her, and I’ve read her file.” Jacques cocked an eyebrow. “I have known ponies like her before, and it’s not hard for somepony with my training to read her.”

He tilted his head. “What training is that?”

“Psychology.” Seeing his confusion, she explained. “In short, psychologists help treat their patients’ mental and emotional ailments and traumas and give them the tools to cope with their struggles.”

The friar pondered this. “A noble profession, to be sure. In truth, it sounds not altogether different from being a spiritual advisor. Is this a common trade within your soldiery?”

Song pursed her lips, and he sensed a story behind her hesitation. “Not exactly. There are psychologists in the Armed Forces, of course, but my own case is somewhat… unique.”

Before she could go on, Rarity returned, bearing with her Jacques’ now cleaned robe and several swatches of fabric. “Now then, darling, I am just bursting with ideas for you! Putting aside even the prospect of three-piece suits, capes, doublets, and the like, I have a goodly number of sketches drawn up for different variants on the robe. I think you’ll find that they not only look fabulous, but that they’re more comfortable to wear than…” she flicked his robe with a hoof and cleared her throat, “this particular material.”

At her magic’s command a flurry of pages flew to him, each bearing a different and increasingly exotic vision of a robe and its accoutrements. While Jacques had never had that deep an appreciation for the intricacies of fashion, even he could recognize the common themes of his garb and possessions, including the Hospitaller Cross, chorded belt, rosary, and even the fleur de lis (which he found particularly fascinating, as it implied yet another parallel between their worlds). While it was plain that Rarity did not fully comprehend the religious significance of many of the articles used, her skill at tying them in was undeniable. He bit his lip. Which is only going to make what I have to say harder.

“…and on this pattern,” she was describing, “you’ll notice how the cross itself is comprised of… what’s wrong, darling?”

Jacques sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose. “Lady Rarity, while I do greatly appreciate the effort that you have gone to on my behalf, and while I admire your craft, I fear that there is a misunderstanding regarding the significance of my attire.” He gestured for her to float his garment over. Taking it from the air, he gestured to the pattern. “This habit, this robe, is not a fashion choice. It is the visible pledge of my vocation, of my office. I am a priest; a chaplain; a monk. These are not roles I retire from at the end of the day; they are the essence of my being, my purpose. While I might don a heavier cloak and hood for warmth or exchange it for a surcoat when wearing armor, I cannot simply go about attired as I wish. To do so would be akin to…” he groped for the proper analogy, “… akin to…”

“To denying one’s cutie mark?” ventured Morning Song.

The friar recalled his conversation with Medevac. “Yes. A most wise insight, Lieutenant.” He turned back to Rarity. “As for the coarse fabric, even that is deliberate.”

The unicorn sputtered. “W-whatever for?”

“Mortification,” he replied. “The flesh is weak, and easily swayed by pleasures and luxuries. While not evil in their own right, to overindulge in them is to invite calamity. By mastering the flesh, making it submit to a Higher Purpose, I am freed from any earthly constraints that might keep me from my duties as preacher, confessor, and soldier.”

To Jacques’ eyes it seemed that Rarity paled somewhat. “That seems… rather devoted of you.”

He gave a crooked smile. “I never said it was easy, Lady Rarity. But, in truth, I find it easier to be detached from great pleasures if I am disciplined in being detached from little ones.” Gesturing to Marble and Song he added, “I’m sure that any soldier could tell you of the importance of such subordination of the flesh.”

Marble gave a flat nod. “Oh, yes. We bid farewell to creature comforts every time Captain Argent orders us to eat Trottingham food.” Song gave a snort of guilty amusement.

Rarity sighed, looking crestfallen, and began gathering up the pages. “Well, I suppose I can’t very well ask you to deny your special talent, so to speak. It was… an interesting thought experiment if nothing else. I’ll just have to repay you… some other way.”

Jacques winced. While he felt no need of repayment, it was plain that Rarity would be deeply troubled if she could not give him a gift to show her gratitude. But how? I doubt it would satisfy her simply to make a half dozen habits for me, as useful as that may be. If only I had need of—

He caught sight of one design, a multi-layered robe that, by some well-fated chance, resembled priestly vestments worn at a High Mass. Before she could take it away, he pulled it from the air. “Un moment, s'il vous plaît,” he said. Rarity looked up hopefully as he scanned the drawing. It’s not as though I will fail to celebrate the mass. And I could always wear a hair shirt underneath the vestments… he broke into a grin. “If you’ll take the input of a tired old monk, I believe I may have a commission for you.”

Rarity beamed.

By the time Big MacIntosh and Fritters returned to collect them for lunch, Rarity had designed vestments for each season of the liturgical year while simultaneously manufacturing several plain habits for Jacques and taking the measurements of Marble and Morning Song. In the course of the process, she’d slipped into a trancelike state that reminded Jacques of a pious monk lost in his contemplation of Scripture. Flipping back and forth between English and French, she sketched and sewed and pondered aloud her designs with the fervor of an abbot. He was at once impressed and mildly alarmed. Fortunately, Song and Marble had kept him engaged in conversation to prevent the experience from becoming too bizarre for him.

Now the six of them sat in front of a tavern of some sort at a table resembling a giant toadstool, ordering lunch from a smartly-dressed stallion with twirling mustachios. Such was Jacques’ bemusement that the flower-laced menu struck him as more unusual than both the table and the maître-de.

After requesting that none of them order roses (and setting them to laugh upon explanation), Jacques became aware that they were being observed by a pair of mares sitting at a nearby table. In truth, most of the patrons seem interested in my presence, but these two in particular won’t stop staring. Casting periodic glances back, he was able to get a good look at them: a pale green unicorn with two-tone green and white mane and a cream-coated earth pony mare with blue and pink mane. The green one in particular maintained a steady gaze. At one point they made eye contact, and Jacques felt like fresh blood-stock being scrutinized by a discerning buyer. Which is an ironic comparison on more than one level.

Apparently the mare took his eye contact as an excuse to come over, accompanied by the other mare. As they approached, all three of the soldiers subtly shifted their positions so as to be ready to attack in an instant if needed. Jacques noted that.

“Sorry to interrupt,” said the green mare hurriedly, “but my friend and I were having a little disagreement that we were hoping you could settle.”

The earth pony huffed. “It’s not a disagreement, Lyra. You’re just wrong.”

Lyra snorted. “We’ll see.” Her eyes narrowed as she examined Jacques. He swallowed involuntarily. Do these ponies have any state between endearing and unsettling? “The question is, are you a magical hybrid, or a unique creature from beyond the borders of Equestria?”

Jacques blinked. Is the first one a common option? “Erm… the latter.”

The unicorn gave a toothy grin, turned to the earth pony, pointed, and shouted, “Hah! In your face, Bon Bon! I knew he was a—” she turned to Jacques. “What are you, again?”

“A… human?”

“A human!” she cackled. “Which means you’re selling sweets at my next musical showcase, and not the other way around. Nyah!” The other mare scowled as Lyra continued to cackle. “Well, Mister Human, much as I’d love to learn about a race that isn’t covered in the textbooks, I’ve got a gig to prepare for. Later!” and with that she trotted off. The other mare followed, muttering something about ‘crazy friends’ and ‘short-sheeting her flatmate’s bed.’

Once they’d gone, Jacques turned to Rarity and simply asked, “Que?”

Rarity smiled. “Ponyville, darling. You’ll get used to it.”

The remainder of the afternoon passed in a pleasant if less memorable fashion. Big Mac pulled the cart while Rarity showed the friar and the REF ponies around town. They saw most of the landmarks, but for some reason didn’t go near the library. Big Mac was a little put out by that, as he always enjoyed seeing the magnificent blend of earth magic and pony lore, but he wasn’t one to complain. Jacques inquired after the tree himself, making a remark about its elven quality and speculating that a powerful wizard lived there. Not all that far off, Friar, thought the farmer. To Mac’s surprise, Rarity avoided answering any questions about the library directly. He guessed there was a story behind that, but refrained from asking, reasoning that it wasn’t his business.

Eventually they wound their way out of the town proper and into a vast orchard that seemed to stretch over every hill and dale as far as he could see. “Tell me, MacIntosh,” said Jacques, “is this your family’s acreage?”

“Eeyup,” replied the stoic farmpony, letting a hint of pride creep into his voice.

“Impressive. How many workers do you have to tend the crops?”


Jacques made a strangled sound. Big Mac turned, concerned that perhaps the old man had had a heart attack, only to see him staring with bulging eyes. “Four?”

Reassured that the friar wasn’t having some sort of cardiac arrest he resumed his forward gaze. “Well, s’really more like three. Grannie ain’t as young as she once was and Applebloom’s still a little’un.”

Jacques was silent for a moment, then spoke in whispered Prench, “<Is there no end to the wonders of these ponyfolk?>” Big Mac allowed himself a small grin.

When they reached the homestead proper, they were greeted by three fillies wearing what looked like costumes from a Hearths Warming play and apple-eating grins. Big Mac frowned slightly. They better not o’ been playin’ dressup when there’s work ta be done. “Ain’t ya’ll supposed ta be helpin?” he asked.

“We are!” Applebloom assured him. “We’re yer escort!”

“I feel safer already,” deadpanned Fritters.

Sweetie Belle bowed deeply, and the other two followed suit. “If messieurs and madams would please follow us, the festivities await.” Giggling to each other they trotted off towards the barn.

Big Mac looked to Rarity and cocked an eyebrow. The mare nodded encouragingly, and he obediently followed the fillies.

When they reached the front of the barn, they were met by Grannie Smith herself. The matriarch of the Apple Family waited until Big Mac had helped Jacques out of the cart and over to the door. Then she approached. “Ah ain’t much for highfalutin speeches,” the venerable mare began, “but after what ya’ll did fer Applebloom,” tears sprang to her eyes, “fer mah little Applebloom… if’n ya ever… if’n ya ever need anything…” her emotions choked her off as she held out a hoof towards the friar.

Visibly moved, the man lowered himself to one knee to receive her. He made to kiss her hoof, but Grannie, with surprising speed, managed to embrace him tightly instead. Big Mac had to look away before his own tears turned into a torrent. After a moment, Song tapped him on the shoulder, gave him a sympathetic smile, and mouthed, “They’re done.”

Looking back, Big Mac saw Grannie shaking the man’s hand. “If’n ya ever need anything, ya don’t even have ta ask. The whole Apple Family will move heaven an’ earth for ya!”

Jacques gave a gentle smile. “Grand-mère Smith, in opening your home and your hearts to me, you have already done more than enough.”

Grannie showed her dentures in a broad grin. “Well, ain’t you a gentlecolt than?” She sniffed and wiped her eyes dry. “But enough o’ this sentimentin!” She kicked open the doors. “Let’s get ta celebratin!”

Big Mac peered into the barn, attempting to brace himself for the unexpected.

It was not enough.

“This is really something,” remarked Redheart.

“What is?” asked Medevac around a mouthful of some sort of potato dumpling. He appeared to be only half-listening as he watched Fritters perform a trick with his spear that involved snagging food from unsuspecting passersby, much to the amusement of the Crusaders.

She looked at him like he was an idiot. “This!” she exclaimed, gesturing around the barn. “All of this! I mean, how does anypony get a full band of medieval reenactors for the music, recruit two local ponies and a dragon to cook a full period meal from textbooks alone with fish and chicken dishes for the omnivore, contrive to get every member of the hospital staff who worked on Jacques time off so they could attend, and redecorate the entire barn to look like a medieval tavern, lock, stock, and literal barrels,” she gestured to the slew of barrels, casks, firkins, and kegs that lined the back wall, “all in a single afternoon!

Medevac shrugged. “Pinkie Pie.”

“At what point are we going to decide that isn’t a satisfactory answer?”

They were interrupted by a loud cheer from across the barn. Fritters, it seemed, had challenged Big Mac to a competition of some sort. Redheart couldn’t be sure what all it entailed, but between the sight of knives, axes, short blades, pitchforks, and Fritters’ spear being stockpiled and the target being fashioned by Rainbow Dash, she could make a fair guess. Soon most of the barn was gathering, including Jacques, who appeared keen to try his hand, injuries or no. Sighing, she remarked, “Should we even bother trying to put a stop to this?”

“We could,” replied Medevac. A mischievous grin gripped his features and he pulled out a knife from beneath his jacket. “Or I could show you why I’m so good with a scalpel!”

Redheart rolled her eyes, but couldn’t suppress as smile as she followed him over.

The celebration lasted for several hours, and Jacques couldn’t keep a smile off his face as he thanked God for the benevolent Trickster who had gone so out of her way to make him feel at home. It was truly remarkable how familiar everything felt; the food; the drink; the music. Had it not been for the pastel ponies, he would have sworn he was back in Europe.

Best of all was the company. Surrounded by such warmth and youthful energy as he had not felt in such a degree for many years, his age slipped away and allowed him to simply enjoy being alive. Whether discussing culture with Rarity, exchanging war stories with the soldiers, explaining theology to Twilight, watching the Crusaders, teasing Redheart, or any number of other merry pastimes, joyous tears were never far from his eyes.

All things must pass in due time, however, and so the evening sun set behind the horizon, bringing the festivities to a close. One by one the guests trickled out, bidding Jacques and the Apples a fond farewell. Soon, only Morning Song remained. The other soldiers had temporary accommodations in town for the time being, but Song had arranged to stay in one of the guest rooms at the farm. Allegedly it was to help Jacques adjust, but it was plain that all the adults present knew that wasn’t the whole story. An unusual bodyguard, he pondered as the gentle soldier bid him goodnight, but I won’t make the mistake of assuming she is incapable.

The Apples showed Jacques to his room. It was far larger than what he’d lived in at the Priory, larger even than his room at his father’s castle. Grannie Smith had apologized for the rustic nature of the room, but Jacques had insisted that it was quite lordly by his standards. “My bed for the last few decades was little more than a board,” he’d said, “and before that it was often the hard dirt of the campaign trail. This is more than enough.” By some miracle, the bed was long enough for him, if only just. Had it not been, he would have slept on the floor without complaint. After showing him the adjoining washroom and helping him put away his belongings, they departed, Applejack carrying the dozing Applebloom on her back.

Now alone, Jacques took a moment to rest in a high-backed chair and collect his thoughts. It proved to be a difficult task. Far too much had happened in the last few days to readily lend itself to understanding. He chuckled softly. “Long may it be before this all ceases to seem dreamlike,” remarked the old man.

Still, he was a creature of habit and piety, and even the jarring new world in which he found himself could not change that. Rising from the overstuffed chair, he made his way carefully across the room to his satchel and took out the articles of the mass. Setting the altar stone on a nearby dresser, he knelt down and began the service. As the minutes ticked by, he found himself sagging forward as his eyelids threatened to shutter themselves. Undaunted, he pressed on. By the time he finished the mass, he realized that he no longer had the strength to stand and make his way to bed. With a rueful laugh, he reasoned that he may as well pray the last Office of the day in the hopes that his strength would return by the time he’d finished.

It wasn’t too long a prayer, after all…

Applejack yawned as she walked back from the kitchen. She’d found it difficult to sleep. Her mind was active, as if there were something that needed doing. The warm milk that she’d gone to fetch hadn’t helped much, which left her wandering aimlessly.

In truth, she was worried. Worried for what this new danger could be, these Shades that even Celestia seemed to dread. She tried to assure herself that they’d been beaten once without the Elements of Harmony, but in the quiet of the night that seemed to be cold comfort. So many died in that war, and even the princesses couldn’t stop that. What if the Shades come here? What if they attack the farm? What if—!?

She heard a thunk sound from the room to her right. The room where Jacques was staying. Her hoof reached for the door, but she hesitated. I can’t just barge in without knockin! This is Ma and… the thought trailed off and she sighed. Ain’t their room anymore, and the friar might have hurt himself. She pushed her way into the room as quietly as possible, biting her lip in fear that the old man had fallen out of bed and cracked his head.

When she saw what had really happened, she had to bite her lip to keep from laughing.

Kneeling in front of one of the dressers, with a flat stone, a chalice, a plate, and his strange cross symbol set atop it, was Jacques. His arms had fallen to his sides, and his head fallen onto the dresser as he snored into the hardwood, unconscious of the uncomfortable posture he’d assumed.

Stepping lightly so as not to startle him awake, Applejack edged her way over to him and reached out a hoof to tap his elbow. “Friar,” she whispered.

At her touch, the man jolted awake, almost striking her with an errant hand as he swayed. Ducking under the swing she caught his sleeve in her teeth so that he didn’t topple over.

Shaking his head into some measure of wakefulness, he peered at her in confusion. “Madam l’Applejack?

So that’s mah name in Fancy, huh? Ah ain’t impressed. “Let’s get you to a proper bed, Friar.”

With an owlish blink he took stock of his situation before nodding. She tucked her head under his arm and pulled him around to the edge of the bed, where she helped push him up. He flopped onto the plush mattress and almost immediately passed out again, scarcely stirring as she tucked him in. He nestled deeply into the embrace of the bed, his lined face becoming eased. With a maternal smile, she turned to leave.

“Merci, madam,” breathed the man behind her.

The mare’s smile broadened as she looked back at him. Unconscious and still polite. Maybe chivalry ain’t dead after all. Her eyes fell upon his sword, leaning up against the nightstand. He’s pushin’ seventy, an’ still swingin’ that thing like he means business. A true knight, like in the storybooks Ma used to read us. At the thought, the threat of the Shades seemed paltry by comparison. If’n an old codger like him can do it, so can we. With a confident nod, she departed, suddenly feeling the appeal of a good night’s sleep.

To the unassuming eye, the manor house was rather unremarkable: one of many fine alabaster homes in the Pearl District of Canterlot, the quarter colloquially called Lord’s Row. There were plenty of homes in the same quarter that were more opulent, and plenty that were less. Set off from the main road by a long drive, a stone retaining wall, and thick shrubbery, it could easily have been dismissed as the home of some faded aristocrat, withdrawing increasingly from the world.

The stallion known as Quartermaster approached the black iron gates with the deliberate stride of a pony unaccustomed to having things stand in his way. When he reached the gate, he did not slow; he simply struck the ground with his hoof. The gate swung open at his command.

He strode through the thick hedges of the manicured front lawn, past elegant statues and burbling fountains, not bothering to regard the obvious wealth that surrounded him. Halfway across the lawn, he paused, one ear flicking slightly. “If you’re going to strike, do so,” he commanded, his basso voice cutting through the silence with the subtlety of thunder, “but you had best kill me with the first blow, Kuro.”

A thin, off-white unicorn stallion emerged from the shadows with a scowl on his face. His black mane was slicked back in a manner that revealed his pronounced widow’s peak, and his lime green eyes gleamed in the darkness. The angle of his horn and the nature of his tunic suggested an eastern heritage. The looseness of his katana and wakizashi in their scabbards suggested violent intent. “One of these days you will slow down, ‘Quartermaster.’”

“And on that day I will crush your foolish head like a grape,” replied the larger stallion matter-of-factly. Kuro snarled and his swords rattled in their scabbards. Quartermaster watched impassively, knowing full well what the outcome of a confrontation would be.

Apparently Kuro knew it too, because he looked away with a snort. “One day, when the Master does not have use for you anymore.”

Quartermaster didn’t bother to correct him. “Where are the other Children?”

Kuro leaned against a nearby statue and flicked an ear towards the house. “Inkling is in her usual haunt. As for the others, who can say?”

Frowning at the stallion’s lack of care, Quartermaster resumed his journey inside. “I shall require some of your Blades to keep an eye on matters with the Vox.”

The unicorn gave a mocking laugh. “Having trouble keeping a lid on a herd of sniveling revolutionaries, are we? Has the mighty Kiln fallen so far?”

Kiln, whom some knew as Quartermaster, stopped. One eye flicked to Kuro. “I require your obedience, Kuro Ken. Not your tongue.”

“And why should my Blades assist you in some menial task?”

Kiln didn’t answer for a moment. Then he sighed and strode back over. Kuro gave a leering smile and opened his mouth to deliver another jibe.

Before the words could leave his mouth Kiln’s hoof blurred past him, striking the statue the unicorn was leaning on with a mildly forceful tap. Kuro collapsed to the ground as the statue disintegrated under him. He tried to stand, but found Kiln’s other forehoof resting lightly on his head.

Kuro swallowed.

Your Blades, little Ken?” asked Kiln, his voice mild. “Don’t presume to think you own anything that has not been given to you,” he patted the stallion on the head, “or that it cannot be taken away.” Without another word, Kiln walked inside.

He strode unchallenged through the halls of the manor. When other ponies interrupted their work to bow as he passed, he acknowledged them with the barest hint of a nod. The journey took him to the cellar and through several secure doors before finally reaching his destination. A small wooden door painted midnight blue awaited him, and he pushed it open and entered without knocking.

The room was almost utterly black within, the sole illumination being what could creep through the door around his massive frame. But even this did little to penetrate the darkness, which seemed to encroach upon the light with malicious purpose.

Which, of course, it did.

“Entering without bothering to knock,” purred a dark, salacious voice from within. “I’m hurt, Kiln. Have you no manners for me?”

Kiln kept his eyes forward, not even attempting to see in the blackness. “What purpose would that serve? You already knew I was coming.”

“True.” The mare’s reply seemed to echo in his mind. “But then, I suppose I don’t have the best record for how I receive…” as he watched, the shadows moved closer, “…guests.”

The stallion rolled his eyes. “I’ve had quite enough delays tonight thanks to the Youngest. I don’t have time for your games, Inkling.”

“Aw,” pouted the voice as tendrils of darkness reached out to coalesce at his hooves, wrapping around him like a morning mist. “You used to be so much more fun, Kiln.”

Kiln sighed. “Has the Master given any new instructions?”

The mist rose and wrapped around him, becoming more solid and sinuous with every passing moment. “Why? Getting anxious?”

“Irritated,” he replied. “I don’t doubt that the revolutionaries are a useful tool, but I find them tiresome.”

“Want me to help?” inquired Inkling eagerly.

“I doubt the Master wants desiccated corpses floating in the moat,” replied Kiln dryly. “And if he has left you no further instructions, then I will take my leave.” He pivoted and exited the room, the shadows melting away as he strode through them.

“Bye bye, Kilny! Send me a new playmate soon!”

Kiln gave a ghost of a smile. “Fear not. If all goes as planned, you’ll have your fill of visitors soon enough.”

Author's Note:

Antiquarian yawned as he pushed aside his work and leaned back in his chair. Sighing as he rubbed his temples. He couldn't find the energy to look up as Aura knocked on his door. "What is it, Aura?"

"A representative from the Angry Mob to see you, sir."

That got his attention. "Just one?" he mumbled, rising and coming to the door, his curiosity overriding his caution. Which will no doubt be on my tombstone. He opened the door and, sure enough, there stood a single stallion holding a pitchfork.

The stallion doffed his cap. "Good day, sir. I'm Tar."

And his brother is Feather, no doubt. "Nice to meet you," replied Antiquarian. "Are you, ah..." he looked over the stallion's shoulder and saw an empty hall, "the only one here? I wasn't aware you lot did singletons."

"Well, normally we wouldn't, but with new episodes airing we're split between many riots."

"Ah." Antiquarian cleared his throat awkwardly as the two stared at each other. "Are you... um... here about the chapter delay, I assume?"

"No, actually." Antiquarian's eyebrows shot up. "I mean, we're peeved about that, pardon my language, Miss Aura, but our spies informed us that you had family in town for two weeks and a month's worth of work to catch up on." That's an unsettling revelation. "Besides, you did give us two chapters."

"So I did," replied Antiquarian. Tar nodded. Silence. "Tar, why are you here?"


Antiquarian blinked. "Lyra."


"... You do realize she isn't canonically described as being obsessed with humans, right?"

"You do realize that the fandom doesn't care?"

Antiquarian sighed. "Yes, I suppose I do. Listen, you seem a decent chap, and I've had a rather long day. I don't suppose you'd give me a five minute head start?"

Tar considered this. "That seems fair."

"Thank you." Antiquarian turned to leave, then added, "You know, this is so much more civilized when it's just one of you, which I suppose is why you go around in Mobs in the first place, to prevent rational thought from-"

"Clock is ticking, sir," interrupted Aura.

"Right. Thank you!"

Anyhoo, see the last chapter for comments on this one. Housekeeping for the future, we'll be getting into more of the meat of the story now. Stuff's actually going to start happening. Still plenty of slice-of-life, but things will now be ramping up to the full-blown action.

However, it will be a somewhat slow ramp because life is busy for me right now (not bad, actually very good, just busy), so if I don't update for a bit don't be concerned. I'm not giving up on the story. Thank you for your patience!

This update's shoutout is "Paint it Black" by horizon. It's about ponies with jobs much more trying than mine being made even more trying by hyper-commercialization. You brave souls who work the Black Friday sales... you have my respect and my apology... my apology for the unwashed masses inflicted upon you. On their behalf I beg your forgiveness.

Happy reading!

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