• Published 26th Feb 2018
  • 8,783 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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First Lessons (Part 1)

Jacques and Song entered the Apple homestead to find Big MacIntosh busy at the griddle. The stoic pony acknowledged them with a polite nod before returning to his work. A short while later Applejack entered to help him, exchanging actual vocal pleasantries. Jacques’ and Song’s offers of help were politely declined, so Song decided to expand on the history of the Equestrian military. She began with how, after the unification of the Tribes, each race had agreed to allow a portion of their armed forces to be requisitioned by the Crown for dealing with threats to Equestria. Once Celestia and Luna assumed power after the near-collapse of the state, they took increasing steps to unify the disparate Tribes and their armies, often prompted by the threat of a tyrant like Sombra or the Mad King of the Hunt.

When Song got to explaining the original Nightmare Night, she hesitated. Sensing that something was amiss, he decided to prompt her. “So, am I correct in assuming that Luna’s fall to Nightmare Moon is what necessitated the restructuring of your military.”

Song blinked. “I… well, yes.”

Jacques chuckled. “Madam Song, I recognize that our armies are structured quite differently, but is it so surprising that I’d infer from the context?”

“No, no, it’s not that,” came the hasty reply. “It’s just that… you seem rather unfazed by the knowledge that Princess Luna became Nightmare Moon.”

The friar nodded. “Twilight told me last night.” The mare blinked again. “What’s wrong?”

“That… that doesn’t concern you at all? As an Adjurist?”

He shrugged. “Why would it? Through the Elements of Harmony, Princess Luna was freed from any Dark taint. No further adjuration is needed. My services are not required at this time.”

“Well, no, I suppose they aren’t, I just…” she bit her lip, “it’s not exactly heavily publicized even amongst ponies that one of our rulers once succumbed to Shadow. I suppose I’m just surprised that you’re so… casual about it.”

Jacques laughed. “Morning Song, did you see my Bible upstairs?”

“Your holy text? Yes.”

“Well, the Bible is divided into two sections of Sacred Scriptures: the Old and New Testaments. Of the twenty-odd books of the New, most were written by a man named Saint Paul. Besides writing most of the New Testament, he was also the most prolific of all the early preachers by a considerable margin. He is arguably the greatest evangelist of the Christians.” Jacques grinned and leaned forward. “And do you know what he did before he became a great Christian preacher?”

“No. What?”

“He slaughtered Christians.”

Somehow the white mare managed to blanch. “I see.”

Jacques chuckled. “Indeed. And, unlike your princess, he did not have the influence of mind-altering Dark magic to reduce his moral culpability. He was in full control. If God can make him one of his greatest saints, then I must confess that the deathless, failed coup d’etat of Nightmare Moon seems rather mundane by comparison.” He tapped his chin. “Though I admit the near brush with eternal night and the resultant thousand-year banishment is… significant.”

Song quirked a half smile. “I suppose that’s… one way of looking at it. Well,” she cleared her throat, “after the defeat of Nightmare Moon, with other kingdoms eying the perceived weakness of Equestria, Celestia and her advisors decided to unify the disparate armies of the Tribes into the Earth Unicorn Pegasi Guard, more commonly called the EUP. Over the years this evolved into different specialized—"

“G’mornin’ Friar Jacques!” cried Applebloom as she swept into the room, bouncing with the enviable energy of youth. “G’mornin’ Miss Song! Applejack! Big Mac!”

“Applebloom!” chided Applejack. “You know better than ta interrupt ponies!”

The filly’s ears drooped, leading Jacques to question how parents managed to discipline their children when they looked that precious. “Mah bad, sis. Sorry, Friar. Sorry, Miss Song.”

Song laughed musically. “You’re forgiven my little filly. Come sit with us…” the filly zipped over and sat next to Jacques before the mare could finish, “… I was just explaining the history of the EUP to the good friar.”

“Ooh! Ooh!” clamored the filly. “Can Ah help? Ah been learnin’ mah history real good!”

“Sure,” smiled the soldier.

The bright-eyed Applebloom turned her attention to Jacques. “Wait right here! Imma get mah book ta show ya pictures!” In a flash she was gone.

Song cast a glance at Jacques. “I don’t even know what I’d do with that kind of energy anymore.”

Jacques arched an eyebrow. “Wait till you get to be my age.”


Further commentary was cut off by Applebloom’s return. She tossed her book on the table, causing Jacques to wince at the casual mistreatment of the binding, then leapt up beside it so as to turn the pages with her muzzle with a precision that still boggled his mind. “Ya’ll ready ta learn, Friar?”

As I shall ever be. He nodded.

Applebloom sucked in a double-lungful of air, and Jacques braced himself for a lecture verging on Pinkie Pie levels of mania. He was pleasantly surprised when Applebloom spoke in the rehearsed tone of a storyteller speaking from a script.

“When most ponies think o’ the EUP Guard, they picture the troopers o’ the First Royal Infantry: the Solar and Lunar Guards.” She flipped to the appropriate picture for visual reference. “With their iconic golden and cobalt armors, enchanted with glamor spells to make homah-jenus their coats and manes,” it took him a moment to translate her accent to ‘homogenous,’ but he was still impressed she knew the word, “the Royals are the most recognizable of Their Royal Majesties’ Armed Forces. Charged with the protection o’ the princesses an’ the safeguarding o’ the capital, the Solar and Lunar Guards are the line which separates order from anarchy.

Jacques glanced over to see that Song was looking on with a smile on her face. Applebloom swiftly reclaimed his attention with her animated gestures and admittedly well-timed dramatic pauses.

“But, in truth, the soldiers of Equestria are far more diverse than that, in both color and function. Every branch is unique in its role, diversifyin’ their specialties ta tackle any threat Equestria faces.”

By now Applejack was looking on, confusion on her face. Applebloom continued flipping to new pictures.

“The Wonderbolts, with their blue and gold, are the most famous of the Equestrian Air Corps, noted fer their aerial precision an’ superior acrobatics. But while they are the first and the most famous squadron, they ain’t the only one in the EAC anymore. The blue-uniformed ‘sky jockeys’ o’ the EAC are a broad collection of fliers and gunship crews, most of whom ply a lonely trade along the borders of Equestria, fightin’ pirates and patrollin’ the wastes fer any sign o’ trouble.”

Both the elder Apple siblings had left off cooking to come and stare as Applebloom carried on with the dramatic low tones of a bard relating a tale around the campfire.

“The seas below are ruled by the dark blue and red of the Equestrian Navy and the black of the Royal Marines. They are the defenders of the coasts, the watchers of the seas, and the bane o’ slave traders everywhere.”

At some point Grannie entered and added her own squint to the other Apples’ scrutiny.

“Dominatin’ the ground outside the capital and the inner reaches of Equestria are the steel-grey armored stallions and mares of the Equestrian Royal Army, each specialized unit o’ which bears its own unique coloration: ultramarine fer the General Infantry, olive drab fer the Auxiliaries, pale green and crimson fer the Fusiliers, dark forest green fer the Rangers, and red and gold fer the REF. The uniforms are as different as their roles, ranging from the conventional tactics o’ the General Infantry ta the more secretive special operations o’ the Rangers, but the underlyin’ purpose of all is—"

Grannie couldn’t contain herself any longer. “Now where in tarnation did ya’ll learn to talk so fancy ‘bout all this?” she demanded.

Applebloom jumped. Apparently, she hadn’t noticed her family’s observation. “Oh! Um, well, Ah’ve got a presentation on it in a week.” She rubbed one foreleg with the other meekly. “What d’yall think?”

Applejack blinked, then gave a broad grin and ruffled her sister’s mane. “Ah think yer gonna get top marks for sure. Right Big MacIntosh?”

“Eeyup,” smiled the stallion.

Grannie Smith patted Applebloom’s cheek. “Always knew ya had a good head on yer shoulders, little’un. Glad yer fahnally takin’ an interest in yer history.” Further praise was interrupted by a loud rumble from Grannie’s stomach. “Speakin’ of history, Ah’m gonna be history if’n we don’t eat now! Ah’m hankerin’ fer pancakes something fierce!”

Breakfast with the Apples was a simple affair of pancakes and eggs with fresh fruit on the side. It was a filling breakfast well-suited to workers. Jacques was grateful to have produce whose quality he had no reason to be suspicious of, and the eggs and cakes were satisfyingly filling. However, the sweetness of the syrup was such that after a single taste even the smell of it threatened him with a mild headache. And I am reminded of Pinkie Pie for some reason.

While the breakfast was in full swing, conversation was reduced to the level of idle chit-chat as they went about the serious business of eating. Accustomed to an ascetic life, Jacques earned more than one admonition to ‘dig in,’ to the point that he realized they’d be offended if he didn’t. Thank God Methuselah saw fit to grant a broad dispensation to my eating disciplines. The memory of the kindly old man left him blinking to clear his eyes.

“Applebloom, I must apologize,” he said, as much to distract himself as anything else, “I believe I forgot to thank you for your lesson and commend your skill as a storyteller.”

Applebloom beamed. “Thanks, Friar!”

“Indeed,” agreed Song, winking at the filly. “Keep this up and I’ll just have to recruit you to teach classes at the War College.”

The filly sat up eagerly. “D’ya reckon Ah could get mah cutie mark in teaching?”

“Well, I suppose it’s possible, but there’s no need to worry so much about—”

Her remonstration came too late. “AHGOTTATELLSWEETIEBELLEANDSCOOTALOO-RIGHTNOW!” She sped for the door in a red and yellow blur, shouting something which was either a farewell or a recipe for German sausages; Jacques couldn’t be sure.

Just as she passed the threshold, she was wrenched to an abrupt stop by a voice that rang with the authority of a Knight Commander.

“Hold it right there, missy!” ordered Applejack.

Applebloom froze and turned, her eyes already welling up to pitiful proportions. “Aw, but sis—"

“But nothin!” snapped Applejack. “Ya know yer grounded fer runnin’ off inta Everfree without tellin’ nopony, an’ there ain’t gonna be no Crusadin’ until yer ungrounded. Ain’t that right, Big Mac?”

“Eeyup,” confirmed the stallion in a basso even deeper than usual.

Seeing that her siblings were intractable, the filly turned her gaze to each of the other creatures in the room.

Grannie proved to be part of a unified front of Elder Apples. “Ah don’t know what yer lookin’ at me for, young’un. In mah opinion yah got off too easy! Of all the gall darn foolhardy things a pony could do, why, when Ah was yer age yer great Granpappy woulda torn a strip off ya in a blizzard an’ ya woulda been thankful for the dirt…” she trailed off, muttering dire pronouncements.

Having exhausted domestic options, Applebloom turned to foreign aid. Song chuckled at the look the filly gave her, but held up one hoof in refusal. “Sorry, Applebloom. I’m not one to step into a family matter. And, if I did, you may not like the side I picked.”

Jacques’ reply was even more blunt, in spite of the filly’s dangerous levels of cuteness. “Honor thine elders, young Apple,” he said with a frown. “It is noble to submit to all righteous authority, and your good family has only your best interests at heart. The…” he trailed off when he realized that he couldn’t say ‘womanly,’ “…the mature thing to do is to accept your penance graciously so that your integrity might be proven.”

Applebloom scuffed a hoof on the floorboards. “Fine,” she said sourly.

The friar’s frown deepened at her rebellion. Was I ever that troublesome? His conscience helpfully reminded him of his own youth. All right, I was worse. Different tactic, then. “Applebloom, come here.” Perhaps caught off-guard by the command in his tone, she obediently trotted over. Jacques bent down so as to more easily look her in the eye. “Young filly, you and your friends call yourselves ‘Crusaders,’ do you not?”

“Yeah?” she replied.

“Well, I will let you in on a little secret,” he said, his frown softening into a conspiratorial grin. “I am a Crusader too.” Applebloom’s eyes bulged. He tapped the cross on his chest. “In fact, I am part of a knightly order of thousands of Crusaders, noble warriors sworn to protect pilgrims and safeguard Christendom. Now, your own Crusade may be different from my own, but I do know one thing.” He tapped her forehead. “A true Crusader follows the orders of her commander, even if she doesn’t like them.” Leaning back, he folded his arms, becoming stern once more. “Now, are you a real Crusader?”

“Yes, Friar! Ah am!” she said eagerly.

“Are you really?” he pressed.

“Ah am! Ah am!”

He nodded. “Then prove it to me by following the orders of your commanders,” he gestured to the elder Apples. “Only in conducting yourself with honor can you consider yourself a true Crusader.”

Applebloom blinked. “O-okay, Friar. Ah will.” With that she marched over and presented herself to the other Apples, who were staring with blank looks. “What chores need doin’ that a noble Crusader such as mahself could help with.”

Applejack blinked several times, exchanging a mystified glance with Grannie and Big MacIntosh before responding. “Um… Big Mac, you got some chores in the south field, aincha?”

“Er… eeyup,” he said slowly.

We almost got two words out of him, thought Jacques with some amusement.

“Well then,” said Applebloom with abnormal formality. “Let us be off to do that then.”

“…eeyup,” agreed Big MacIntosh, who rose to head out to the barn, giving a belated parting nod on his way out.

Applebloom bowed gravely to the other occupants of the room. “Grannie. Applejack. Esteemed guests.” Then she followed her brother out.

Once the door shut behind her, silence filled the room. I can’t tell if she was over-acting or dead serious at the end there, reflected Jacques.

“What in the hay was all that about?” demanded Grannie.

Jacques blushed. “Forgive me, Grand-mère Smith. I did not mean to overstep my bounds.”

“Not that! That was fine!” she assured him. “Anything ta get ‘bloom a’movin. Ah meant what was up with her at the end there?”

“Ah guess the friar made an impression?” ventured Applejack.

Song laughed heartily. “I’ll say he did. That was quite the clever move, playing the Crusader card.” She put her hooves together and made a mock bow. “Teach me, sensei!

Jacques cocked his head. “Que?

“I’ll explain some other time.”

Once breakfast was concluded, Grannie took their guests into the living room to regale them with stories about the founding of Ponyville. Applejack stayed in the kitchen to clear the table, preserve the leftovers, and wash the dishes, pots, and pans.

Ordinarily such a task would have fallen to Grannie or Applebloom, but Applejack didn’t mind. The philosophy she lived her life by was that any job worth doing was worth her time. Her Pa had always taught her that there was no honest work that she was too good for. And so she allowed herself to become lost in the mindless task of applying soap and elbow grease to the implements of breakfast as she reflected.

Jacques had demonstrated a remarkable ease in dealing with Applebloom, as had Song the other day, which boded well for their continued residence at the Acres. The fact that both of them were staying there, however, brought to mind the fact that Song was there for security more than to ‘help Jacques adjust’ as the official story noted. That in turn reminded her of the reason for such security, which itself led to speculation as to the danger of—

“Whatcha doin’ there, AJ?” asked a male voice directly in her ear.

Applejack spat out a word that would have resulted in her mouth being washed out with soap if Grannie had been in the room and instinctively swung the spatula she was holding. It connected with the smirking stallion’s face with speed that would have earned Rainbow Dash’s attention and made a loud thwacking sound akin to a paddle from a slapstick show. Though the spatula was relatively lightweight, Applejack most certainly was not, and even the meager mass of the wooden instrument conveyed enough of her displeasure to send her verbal assailant stumbling backwards to nearly crash into the table. The farmpony dropped the spatula in favor of her bare hoof and was about to give the intruder a serious thrashing when her eyes caught up to her instincts and identified her target. The scruffy brown unicorn was recognizable even without his armor. “Fritters?” she demanded incredulously.

Ojejku,” groaned the Konik, rubbing his face with a hoof. “Good thing I didn’t come in when you were cleaning the skillet, or I’d be getting Jacques’ bunk at the hospital.”

Applejack stared in shock, her heart still pounding like the percussion section of a band. “Land’s sakes, Fritters! Ya shouldn’t sneak up on ponies like that!”

He massaged his jaw ruefully, not seeming terribly perturbed by her anger. “So I’ve noticed.”

The irate mare opened her mouth to lambast him further, but the sight of him in obvious pain cooled her temper somewhat. Ah didn’t think Ah’d hit ‘im that hard, she thought, feeling slightly embarrassed at her outburst. She wet a towel with cold water and trotted across the room. “Here. Move yer hoof.”

Fritters made half-vocalized grumbles of protest, but didn’t fight that hard to push her away. Pulling his hoof aside, she saw that her strike had left a rather red welt on his face. She dabbed at it with her towel. “Sorry ‘bout that. But it serves ya right fer scarin’ the daylights outta me,” she added a touch crossly.

“Yeah, I didn’t really think that one through,” he admitted. “Though, I gotta say, you’ve got one heck of a backhoof.”

She winced. “Yeah, well, runnin’ a farm’ll do that.” Glancing at the door, she noticed that it was closed. And if he’d come from the other room, Ah’d have seen him. “Where the hay did you come from?!”

“Morning Song said my name three times and I manifested in the mirror through the dark magic that sustains my life force,” he deadpanned.

Despite herself, Applejack laughed. “Don’t let the friar hear ya talk like that. He’s liable ta get that sword o’ his an’ start loppin’ off parts ya’d miss later.” Fritters chuckled. More soberly she asked, “Seriously, though, how’d ya get in?”

“The door,” he answered simply. “With the water running it wasn’t hard to do so quietly.”

Applejack left off ministering to his swollen cheek to cock her head. “But that thing squeaks like the dickens.” Does he have a cat burglar cutie mark or something? She checked, but saw only a gleaming spear with a red pennant streaming from the shaft.

Fritters’ horn flared red and the door swung open silently. “Not with a little magical assistance it doesn’t.” The glow faded and it swung shut with its usual creak. “Before the joining the REF, I was a Drapieżnik, so it comes naturally to me.”

Applejack’s nose wrinkled at the odd word. “What in the hay is a Drahpezneck?

“A particularly specialized unit of the Konik Armed Forces,” he answered, ignoring her butchering of the pronunciation. “We can be used for hard and fast infantry and small unit engagements, but much of what we do falls into the more… unconventional warfare. Recon, sabotage, infiltration, that sort of thing.” He shrugged. “A lot of my job specifically was tracking high profile targets in hostile territory and carrying out raids on enemy compounds. That’s why I got picked for Argent’s unit a few years back. Well, that and my Equestrian upbringing.”

“So… like Equestrian Rangers then?”

“Well yes in fact we…” he blinked and stared. “Yes, almost exactly like that.” His eyes narrowed. “Not exactly common for civilians to be familiar with them.”

“Mah folks knew a lot o’ Rangers back in the day,” she replied with a shrug, turning back to the dishes. “An’ Applebloom just gave us a school report on ‘em this morning, so Ah guess it was fresh.” She resumed washing glancing over her shoulder at him. “So, what brings you out here?”

“Training,” he replied, coming over and leaning against the counter. His horn lit up and he started drying the dishes as she finished with them. “Marble and I have already done runs, pushups, etcetera, and now it’s time for sparring.” While he dried, he started glancing over at the leftovers from breakfast. “We’ll get started as soon as Marble finds a suitable spot on the Acreage.” He broke off watching what he was doing to stare at the food. “Song cleared it with Grannie last night, by the way; we try not to be inconsiderate guests.”

“Good ta hear,” the mare chuckled. “Ah’d hate ta have ta sling yer sorry tail over the fence.” She expected some sort of witty rejoinder, but instead Fritters just stared at the food, towel rubbing away at the already dry pot in his grasp. “Feelin’ a mite peckish, are we?”

Fritters turned back to face her and she saw that he was drooling. “Um, Applejack, I hate to impose, but might I…?”

Applejack smirked. “Well, yer too distracted ta work an’ Ah need mah dryer back, so fill yer boots.”

The stallion needed no second urging. He set to with the vigor of a pack of starving hyenas or, more ravenous still, a group of teenaged colts. Applejack tried to focus on her cleaning, but she found herself trailing off her labors, leaving the water running uselessly as she stared with a mixture of awe and horror at the spectacle.

“Don’t they feed ya’ll in the Army?”

It took a moment for Fritters to respond, as his eyes appeared to have glazed over with happiness. “One, so-called Army ‘food’ is seldom anything of the sort. Two, even when I get good food I never get enough. And, three, it’s psychotic to turn down a free meal, especially when it’s cooked with love by the talented hooves of a beautiful mare such as yourself.”

The mare in question turned back to the dishes with a roll of her eyes. “Such a charmer,” she snarked. “Ah’ll have you know Big MacIntosh did most of the cooking.”

“Well, perhaps I’ll absorb some of his inequine strength by eating it then.”

Applejack chuckled. “Aincha practicing with Song and Marble after this? Yer gonna make yerself sick eatin’ all that before sparring.”

“Trust me,” he said, gulping down food between phrases. “I’m gonna need this to keep me going. My mighty physique demands a mighty repast.”

He struck a heroic pose, but without his armor he just looked thin and scraggly, with visible ribs and scruffy fur; hardly a threatening sight. The obvious self-mockery in his gaze didn’t exactly help either.

Raising an eyebrow, Applejack lightly slugged his foreleg. It couldn’t possibly have hurt, but all the same Fritters put on a big show of clutching the injured limb and blubbering piteously. “Owie!” he exclaimed with the nasally voice of a child. “You broked’ed it!” he pouted.

Applejack snickered. “Big tough stallion, eh?”

“Big tough stallion my flank!” he snorted. “Do I look big and tough to you? No! I look pitiable! Pitiable I say!” Her snicker turned to a chuckle and grew from there. “You should just look at me and pity me. Lots of ponies do. They just look and say, ‘wow, that Fritters guy looks really pitiable!’” Applejack was laughing too hard to keep working. “I’m so pitiable that Pinkie Pie comes to me about running pity parties, because I’m the expert in being pitiable and, say, you know, maybe it’s just because I’m a foreigner, but you don’t have to say ‘pitiable’ that many times before it stops sounding like a word. I mean, ‘pitiable,’ ‘pitiable’ – see, right there! That’s, what, two times in a row and it already doesn’t sound like a word! I can’t even say ‘pitiable’ without getting distracted, Applejack, that’s how pitiable I am!”

The mare was now sagging against the counter, laughing so hard she felt like her belly would burst. “S-Stop! Please!”

“Never!” he cackled. “I shall have my revenge for your egregious assault upon my person, and the first step is to make you laugh! Yes, laugh until you can laugh no more! Mwahahahahahaaaa!

“What in tarnation is goin’ on in here?!” demanded Grannie Smith from the door. Instantly, Applejack and Fritters froze, their levity arrested by the arrival of the irate matriarch.

“Busted,” hissed Fritters as they turned to face Grannie, both looking like guilty youngsters caught stealing cookies. The elder mare was flanked by Jacques and Morning Song.

The friar wore a look of bemusement. Song’s seemingly indifferent features, meanwhile, just screamed, “Yup. Same horseapples as always,” which Applejack felt explained quite a lot.

The lieutenant stepped into the room and gave her subordinate a look of long suffering. “Krucjata, would you care to explain yourself?”

Fritters snapped a precise salute. “Ma’am! I beg to inform you that I am retaliating with mirthological warfare against an unprovoked act of aggression by this farm mare,” he barked with deliberate emotionlessness. “She struck me with a war spatula and I suffered egregious bodily harm in the form of a boo boo on my cheek. It was horrible. She called me nasty names, and I felt so threatened and uncomfortable, and I think I need a stuffed animal and a blankie, and I intend to file a complaint with the morale officer and take sick leave, and I might even cry.”

Applejack had to bite her lip to keep from bursting out laughing again.

Song blinked. “Why are you like this?” she asked softly.

Applejack couldn’t help herself. “Because he’s pitiable,” she volunteered.

Fritters emitted a snork sound, but managed not to break his deadpan.

The lieutenant shot Applejack a matronly glance. “Don’t encourage him.” Song covered her eyes with a hoof and heaved a deep sigh. “Fritters, how many cups of coffee have you had this morning?”

Fritters dropped out of his parade ground stance and considered the question. “Okay, firstly,” he said after a moment, “since when have I needed coffee to be a pain in the flank?”

The alabaster mare didn’t lower her hoof for a moment. When she did, the resigned expression had returned. “Point. Continue.”

“Secondly, how many cups are in one of those big vats they have at the continental breakfasts?”

It was subtle, but Applejack could have sworn she saw one of Song’s eyes twitch. “You know, Fritters,” the lieutenant said quietly, conversationally, “one of these days you’re going to spout off some smart-aleck remark in front of the wrong creature, and they’re going to kick your sorry flank straight back to Konikland, and then I’m going to have to deal with the mountain of paperwork from the international incident that you will doubtless have caused. How does that make you feel?”

He tapped one hoof to his chin. “Accomplished?” he ventured at length.

Another eye twitch. Song let out a long breath, shut her eyes, and pointed. “Outside. Now.”

“Yes, ma’am,” he replied. He turned with military precision, then slouched outside like a vagrant, winking at Applejack as he left. “You can beat me up more later.”

“Don’t tempt me,” she quipped.

Once he was gone, Applejack turned to see Song standing there, staring after Fritters with a look that suggested that her impressive patience might have limits after all. “Applejack,” she said without turning to look, “I’d appreciate it if you gave me a hoof getting into my battle kit.”

“Um… sure. Why?”

“Because I intend to knock the pitiable right out of him,” replied the mare matter-of-factly. Applejack swallowed and opened her mouth to clarify, but Song beat her to it. “Sorry, you meant why do I need your help.” She shook her head as though to clear it. “I don’t, it just goes faster and my armor tends to sit more comfortably if I have help getting it on.” She gave a rueful smile. “Unicorns are spoiled.”

“Darn tootin’,” agreed the farm mare.

They retreated to the guest room. Applejack made for Song’s armor, but the soldier cut her off. “Bandolier first,” she said, pulling what looked like a hoof-full of belts with strange metal cases hanging from them out of a duffel bag.

Applejack trotted over to get a closer look, confused by what she saw. “What in blue blazes is that?”

“A blade bandolier,” repeated Song, holding the mess of belts on both forehooves and spreading it out so that the length could be seen. “Or blade harness, really.” The strange ‘bandolier’ proved to be a series of straps which, when worn, would encompass the torso, hooking around her legs where the joints met the barrel. The strange metal cases attached to it at various points proved, upon closer inspection, to be some strange kind of sheaths holding—

“Are those all knives?” asked Applejack. “Ah ain’t never seen hilts like that before.”

Song nodded. “Most haven’t. I had them commissioned myself. They’re fitted to my hooves specifically,” she explained, holding up the appendage for comparison. “Optimized for quick draws and arranged so that I can reach several knives with either foreleg from multiple angles. The harness fits under my plates and slots into the armor at specific points so that the hilts blend with the plating of the armor.” She picked up one of the plates and held it to the appropriate sheath to demonstrate.

“Okay,” nodded Applejack, “Ah can see how that would be mighty uncomfortable if’n ya didn’t get it on straight, but … why? Why not just have ‘em on the outside like everypony else?”

The soldier shrugged. “Lots of soldiers like having concealed blades, especially in the REF. It pays to let your enemy underestimate you. I just take the whole understatement thing to the next level.”

Applejack gave the kindly-looking mare a reappraising look. “Remind me never ta play poker with ya.”

Song smiled. “It’s funny. Argent said the same thing when I first showed her this rig. Now, the first part of this is the trickiest…” Clip by clip, plate by plate, Applejack helped the soldier mare into her combat gear. As they were nearing completion, Song stated abruptly, “I have to thank you.”

The farm mare scoffed as she tightened the final strap. “Aw, shoot. Ah use a harness fer farmwork. Ain’t no trouble ta help.”

“Not that,” clarified Song as she donned her boots. “I meant with Fritters this morning. Many ponies find him rather… off-putting. Both for his mannerisms and his chosen profession. I understand why, but it’s still always nice to see a pony treat him like another pony and not an oddity.”

Applejack chuckled. “Song, Ah’m best friends with Pinkie Pie, remember?”

“True enough.”

“ ‘sides, he seems like a nice enough stallion under all the, well, um…”

“Craziness?” suggested Song with a chuckle as she grabbed her helmet. “Yes, he really is a good stallion,” she assured the farm mare as she slid the helmet into place. “Even if I want to give him a good kick sometimes.”

Jacques looked down at Grannie after the two young mares departed the room. “I plan to watch them with their combat practice, Grand-mère. Would you care to join me?”

“Aw, shoot, what the hay,” nodded the elderly mare. “Ah got nothin’ else need’s doin’ right now. An’ there’s just somethin’ funny ‘bout seein’ young ponies with gumption have a set to until they’re worn slap out.”

The friar was reasonably certain that she’d spoken in English, but didn’t feel confident enough to reply. He gave a polite but noncommittal smile and held the door open for her before exiting the farmhouse.

They found Fritters outside, standing by two large duffel bags, donning his armor with the help of his magic. He did so without apparent effort; without even looking, in fact. He was focused instead on swapping out the long, sharp-bladed spearhead currently on his shaft for a blunted one of the same length. Seeing the ease with which he kitted himself out for war, Jacques was reminded of the frustration of donning his own armor, and suddenly he understood why Song felt that unicorns were spoiled.

Fritters looked over at their approach, not slowing his preparations in the slightest. “Coming to see the exhibition fights? Well, the friar will have to pay full price, but pretty mares like you get in free,” he said with a wink at Grannie.

Grannie cackled. “Ah’m outta yer league, soldier boy, so don’t ya’ll get any funny ideas.”

“Drat!” exclaimed Fritters with mock disappointment. “Though I suppose it’s just as well,” he sighed, pulling two more blunted spearheads out of his kit bag; each blade was about the length of a shortsword and had a base long enough to be gripped by a hand or hoof. “Lieutenant Song says I’m a better minion when I’m sad and alone.”

Jacques cocked an eyebrow and folded his arms. “I have a very hard time believing Morning Song would make that remark even in jest.”

“Really? Huh,” replied Fritters thoughtfully, sliding the spare spearheads into sheaths on either side of his barrel. “Must just be the voices in my head, then.”

“You should get those checked,” declared a new voice. Marble Slab landed in front of Fritters, sending up a small cloud of dust and startling both the friar and Grannie. Fritters didn’t so much as blink, merely sliding the second duffel over to the red pegasus. Marble opened it and began armoring up, but before he did Jacques saw his cutie mark: a rectangular slab of white-grey marble shaped like a tower shield. It reminded the friar of Roman statuary.

“Find a good sparring spot?” asked Fritters, who, having completed his own preparations, now helped his comrade.

“Yup. There’s an unused pen a little ways west. Pretty flat, small enough for an arena, but not so small that we can’t maneuver.” He looked over at Grannie Smith. “Assuming we’re allowed to use that spot, of course.”

“Long as Ah get ta watch.”

Fritters flicked an ear in her direction. “Her ticket’s free.”

Marble nodded sagely. “Well, of course. Pretty mares get free tickets. Sorry, Friar. Those are the rules.”

“Pray, don’t concern yourself. I wouldn’t want to break protocol,” replied Jacques dryly.

“I also saw Miss Sparkle on her way here when I was scouting around,” added the pegasus. “Probably here to see you, Friar.”

Twilight arrived not long after. They exchanged greetings and the young mare said that she’d come to see how Jacques was acclimating and to discuss his new magic with him. To Jacques’ eyes, it seemed that she was more excited about it than he was. In truth, the whole subject still left him reflexively uneasy, but he couldn’t bear to crush her spirit, so he promised that they could talk about it once the morning sparring had concluded. Her ears fell and her shoulders sagged at the delay, though it was obvious that she was trying to hide it. Marble tactfully mentioned that she’d get to observe some interesting magic during the sparring, which softened the blow considerably if her perked up ears were any indication.

At about that time, Applejack and Song emerged from the house. Fritters gave an exaggerated sigh of relief and slumped as though from exhaustion. “Finally,” he groaned when the two mares reached them. “Mares take so long to get ready, am I right?”

Jacques and Marble elected not to comment, which was probably wise, if the loud metallic clang that rang through the acres as Song’s hoof smacked Fritters’ helmeted head was any indication. “I deserved that,” he admitted.

“You usually do,” agreed Marble.

They chatted amiably as they moved towards the unused sheep’s pen, moving slowly enough to allow Jacques and Grannie to keep pace. At one point, Fritter’s produced a ration of some sort from his harness and wolfed it down, earning a “Seriously?” from Applejack, though Jacques wasn’t sure why. Perhaps he offended her by not eating some of her crop, the friar speculated.

Once they reached the dirt-and-grass enclosure, the three soldiers stepped inside while the spectators arranged themselves at the fence. Applejack pulled over a disused crate for the elders to sit on while she and Twilight leaned on the fence itself.

“This is so exciting!” beamed Twilight, her enthusiasm bringing a smile to Jacques’ face. “It’s been so long since I got to watch this sort of sparring. I used to watch the Solar and Lunar Guards train to learn about the applications of magic in combat. And to spend time with my brother, of course.”

“Your brother is a soldier, then?” asked Jacques.

“Oh, yes,” she replied proudly. “Until he became Prince Consort of the Crystal Empire, he was the Captain of the Royal Guard.”

Jacques blinked, wondering not for the first time at the true height of Twilight’s social rank. The innocent mare seemed quite oblivious of the prestige that she must surely enjoy as a champion of the Diarchs and a sister of Royalty.

Unaware of his amazement, the young mare chatted on. “Marble mentioned last night that he comes from a long line of stoneworkers and craftsponies, mostly earth ponies. His special talent gives him a physical strength and stability that’s more commonly found amongst earth soldiers than pegasi, which I suspect will make him difficult to unbalance. Between his speed, his talent, and that big shield he’s got, fighting him is probably like trying to stop a wrecking ball.”

“I am unfamiliar with this term ‘wrecking ball,’ but I believe I understand what you mean,” said Jacques, quietly impressed at Twilight’s ready assessment of the pegasus. “In all likelihood you are right, but I am not familiar enough with how ponies fight to add my own speculation.”

In truth, Jacques was probably being modest. The core elements of war remained universal, whatever the specific weapons and tactics. Given the heavy cut of Marble’s armor and the fact that his shield was practically as large as he was, the friar was inclined to agree with Twilight’s guess.

And, though he kept his thoughts to himself, he suspected that he also had a fair measure of how Song would fight as well – misdirection, cunning, and rapid hoof strikes to incapacitate her opponents. He suspected that her talent would help her predict her enemy’s movements and manipulate them. Still, the fact that she was apparently unarmed seemed strange to him, and, as of yet, he didn’t have a sense of how significant the differences between the races were.

Fritters gave him pause. In part it was that he didn’t know how direct magic would function in battle. In part it was just that Fritters struck him as something of a wild card. His demeanor reminded Jacques of the tales of the Celtic wild men of old, but with more precision and purpose to his actions. Last night he was frightfully accurate with thrown weapons, especially that spear of his. As for those two extra spearheads he carries, somehow I doubt those are just for show.

While he’d been pondering, the three soldiers appeared to have finished their discussion and were moving to form three points of an invisible triangle, equidistant from each other. Song, who was closest, turned her head to address the unicorn mage. “Twilight, would you please cast a light forcefield over the arena? It’s probably an unnecessary precaution, but I’d rather not put somepony’s eye out with a stray missile if things get out of hoof.”

“Yeah, Fritters is sloppy,” quipped Marble.

The Konik cocked an eyebrow. “Annoying me before a sparring match is not wise, ankle-biter.”

Twilight nodded. “Sure thing, Song.” She closed her eyes and lit her horn. The crimson glow intensified and the air hummed as sparks swirled around the unicorn. Jacques tensed as he felt the atmosphere around him shift. The longer he watched, the more he felt like he could feel the changing currents of energy as the unicorn prepared her spell. As her charge reached its apex, he could have sworn that he felt a tingle in the back of his teeth. Then a beam shot out from the unicorn, striking a point in the sky above the pen, and from it ran a shimmering field of energy, pouring out like water over an invisible sphere until it ran to the ground.

Mute with wonder, Jacques stared at the impossibility that Twilight had casually spawned. His caution warred with his amazement, until after a moment the latter won out and he reached out a hand to tap the transparent shield. It emitted a hollow thunking sound, not unlike an empty barrel. “Extraordinary,” he breathed. “Had we possessed such thaumaturgic might at Hattin, we might not have been driven from the Holy Land.”

“Oh, I wouldn’t use this in combat,” Twilight said hurriedly. “The larger the shield, the weaker it becomes. I don’t have the special talent of my brother or the raw power of an alicorn to maintain this for long, and trying would just tire me out.” She gestured to the impromptu arena. “But it’s adequate for the purpose—”

Fritters cut her off with an exaggerated yawn. “Not to be rude, but can we get on with it?” he demanded, leaning on his spear. “I haven’t had a proper scrap in ages.”

“We sparred two days ago,” pointed out Marble.

Ages I tell you!”

Applejack chuckled. “If’n yer gonna shoot yer mouth off like that, Frit, you’d better put on a good show.”

The unicorn gave a wolfish smile that was no less predatory for having come from a pony. “Your wish is my command, fair lady.” He hefted his weapon. “Care to count us down?”

“Um… okay. Three…” The combatants rolled their shoulders and shook out any last lingering stiffness. “Two…” They slid into ready positions, heads down. “One…” Muscles tensed. “Go!”

In a flash, Marble was off. The pegasus aimed straight for Fritters, shield forward and gladius tucked in behind, speeding along on his wings to bowl over the rangy unicorn. Fritters fired a red blast of magic from his horn, which ricocheted harmlessly off the metal shield, before sidestepping the charge, gripping the spear in both forehooves, and stabbing up at Marble’s flank.

Marble pivoted his shield to block the blow, but was forced to pivot again to block a flung knife. Song was advancing, running on three legs as she alternated forelegs to toss short blades that she pulled from somewhere in her armor to sling at her opponents. Fritters parried one with his spear and blocked another with a small conjured shield before shooting back a magic missile. Song sidestepped his attack, and before he could shoot again he had to fend off Marble’s gladius. While the two males were distracted, Song lowered herself into a full sprint and closed the distance, leaping through the air to strike downwards with—

“What in blazes?!” exclaimed Jacques as foot-long blades extended from Song’s heavy fore-shoes. She landed on her hindlegs, throwing a torrent of punches at her opponents. Any time she needed to plant one of her forelegs, she simply retracted the blade, pushed off the ground to pivot or kick with her back legs, and came back swinging. Only Marble’s careful shieldwork and Fritters’ skill at parrying saved them from early ejections from the match.

“Jeepers, she’s fast!” shouted Applejack, pounding on the fencepost in her excitement. “Look at ‘er go!”

“I’ve never seen weapons like that before!” chattered Twilight in excitement. “A new combat style! Oh my gosh, I need to take notes!”

Grannie’s response was more muted, but still awed. “That pony may not be a farmer, but she feels the earth. Look at how she pushes off the ground fer her strikes. Ah’ll bet she’d be a prime apple-bucker.”

Jacques gave himself a good shake to dispel his own amazement and forced himself to focus on the fight itself. “Quite impressive, to be sure,” he agreed, “but unless she can overwhelm them before they change tempo…” he took particular note of Fritters, “…there!”

As he spoke, Fritters made his reply to the onslaught. While still fending off attacks with his spear and, occasionally, his hoof-guards, he fired a quick burst of magic at Song’s feet. She sidestepped it easily, but in doing so slowed down enough for his spear to snake through her defenses. A last-second block kept it from striking her square on, but it still scraped against the side of her armor and, more importantly, yielded the initiative to him. Fritters went on the offensive, pushing Song back, exploiting the reach of his weapon ruthlessly to keep himself out of her effective range.

Of course, that only invited Marble to attack, and Fritters was forced to throw up a magic shield to deflect a flying charge from the pegasus.

Which left Fritters fending off a pair of thrown knives.

Which left Song facing Marble’s gladius.

Which left them both dodging Fritters’ questing spear.

And the melee continued.

Certain patterns emerged as the fight evolved. Twilight’s prediction of Marble’s style had proven to be spot on. The pegasus stayed largely on the defensive, with the combination of his aerial mobility and sure-footing on the ground making him nearly impossible to hit. When needed, he would use his shield and wings to get some breathing room before zipping back in for brutal close-quarters work with his gladius and shield. His main challenge proved to be that, while he was hard to hit, he was not as versatile on the offensive as his opponents.

Song lacked his vertical mobility, but was just as quick on her hooves as Marble, if not more so. Her fighting style was intensely up-close-and-personal, but whenever she was forced back she would use her daggers to change her enemy’s tempo and create openings. Jacques also noticed that she seemed quite adept at reading her opponents, anticipating their attacks and manipulating the battlefield to suit herself. However, while she had not run out of knives yet, Jacques had seen her needing to roll and scramble to retrieve spent blades from the battlefield, and Fritters seemed harder for her to read than Marble.

Fritters… Fritters looked like he was having fun. Doubtless recognizing the advantage that his reach gave him over the others, he used magic, clever footwork, and careful strikes to maintain his distance. He seldom over-extended on his strikes, always keeping the haft and blade centered on himself so that they could not slip in under his guard. Any time he did over-reach, it was a feint, one he covered with close-up magic until he could shift his grip on his weapon to be closer to the blade for knife-range fighting.

Also, while it was subtle, Jacques noticed that the other two seemed to have an unspoken agreement to focus on Fritters. They still attacked each other, of course, but Fritters always received just a little more attention. And yet his smile never faded.

Why the joint attacks? he wondered. And as for you, Fritters, just what are you playing at, soldier?

Applejack did not appear to share his opinion that the unicorn was up to something. “Come on, Fritters, ya promised me a show!” she taunted good-naturedly as the three combatants separated to size each other up. “Was a full Apple-family breakfast too much for ya?”

Her question was innocent enough, but Jacques could have sworn he felt a chill blow over the field as her words reached the combatants. Song and Marble exchanged a glance, and from his angle Jacques could see fear in the stocky pegasus’ eyes. “He was carbo-loading?!” demanded the squat soldier. Fritters’ grin broadened and his horn glowed. “Son of a—”

There was a sharp crack as Fritters charged, red light surrounding his hooves as he shot forward, leaving four smoldering hoofprints where he’d been standing. His weapon glowed with the same light as he stabbed, and a spear of magical energy lanced forth from the tip to strike the pegasus. Marble brought his shield up and dug his hooves in, but even so the force of the blow pushed him back. Fritters sped around the side, spear striking inward around Marble’s guard, but the pegasus shot into the sky, dodging the strike by a hair’s breadth.

The sky brought only the briefest of reprieves. Fritters smote the air with a flurry of blows, crimson spears of energy stabbing heavenward in a quest to bring down the pegasus. Marble dodged most of them, deflecting those he could not, but the spears arced their trajectories midair, denying him the luxury of a single direction to defend. Seeing only one chance remaining, the pegasus dove straight for Fritters, faster than the spears could angle inwards, shield front to protect him from the only direction he had to fear.

It might have worked, too, if it hadn’t been for Song.

Both stallions had presented their broadsides to her in their fight. Seeing her opportunity, the mare flung a trio of knives at both of them. Marble’s shield saved him from Fritters, but left him totally exposed to the surprise attack. Two of the three knives struck him and, though the blunted blades did not penetrate his armor, the force with which the earth pony had flung them knocked him off course, and he plowed into the ground. His shout of “Oh come on!” reached over the arena, indicating that he was not hurt, but he stayed on the ground, knocked out of the match by what would have been a lethal strike with sharpened blades.

The three knives that were flung at Fritters had an even easier target, as he was not airborne, and each hit its mark. Or would have, under other circumstances. Even as Marble had barreled towards him, Fritters had ceased his attacks and directed his magic elsewhere. Two knives were knocked off course by a burst of magic, while the third was deflected by a blade – one of the spearheads that he’d left strapped to his side until just then.

Silence fell upon the arena, as both remaining combatants stood motionless; Song, with her four hooves planted in a wide stance for maneuvering; Fritters, with his spear up, his magic gripping the spare head, and a smirk on his face as he watched Song from the corner of his eye. The stallion chuckled and shook his head. “Sneaky, sneaky, boss. Using the last of your knives to go for the hat trick while Marble and I squared off. Woulda worked if I hadn’t seen you coming.”

Song gave a dry smile. “Well, I’ve got to find a way around your ‘True Sight’ eventually,” she replied.

Twilight and Grannie looked as perplexed as Jacques felt at that, but he heard a sharp intake of breath from Applejack.

Fritters pivoted to face Song. “All the same, you’d have made a fine Drapieżnik.” With a tug of his magic, he loosed the other spare spearhead, holding them both in his magic like gladii as he hefted his spear in one hoof. “Course, I can’t just go easy on you, now can I?”

Song stood on her hindlegs and held her forelegs at her sides like a human. With a twist of her limbs, jagged sword-breakers extended from her hoof-guards, as well as the blades from before. She nodded in acknowledgment, and he nodded in return. Jacques had a sudden flashback to a certain Arab and a hot day in Acre.

Without a word, they charged.

Applejack had never considered herself a warrior. She was a farmer, first and foremost, saving Equestria a half-dozen times and facing down various monsters and villains notwithstanding. That being said, she knew how to fight. In fact, she was a good enough fighter that she’d held her own in the Changeling Invasion, against various monsters, and in a few instances where the Bearers had quietly handled groups of ponies messing with magical artifacts that they probably shouldn’t have messed with. As such, she felt that she was far above the average when it came to being able to hold her own in a scrap, and she had a track record and several complements from actual soldiers to back that assertion up. She still felt that way.

But seeing the REF soldiers spar was… something else.

She’d always had a vague notion that Equestria’s finest were on another level when it came to martial prowess, but it was one thing to know that and another to see it. Especially jarring was the fact that, until now, all three of the fighters had just acted like normal ponies. Sure, they’d worn armor and been suitably formal (except for Fritters), but, barring that unsettling encounter with Fritters’ odd ‘True Sight’ power, none of them had given any hint as to their capabilities. Song had acted like a schoolteacher, Marble like a goofball brother, and Fritters like… Fritters.

Now, as the psychologist and the vagabond clashed like a thunderstorm, Applejack knew she’d never look at them quite the same again. Song was a blur of blows, kicks, stabs, strikes, and headbutts as she fought to get through Fritters’ defenses. Fritters, meanwhile, fended her off with equally rapid stabs from his spear and blasts of magic while his sword-spear-thingies parried anything that got too close. Their battle took them across the arena, forcing Marble to take off and hover to avoid being caught in the middle.

And, all the while, Fritters just smiled.

Applejack didn’t know enough about fighting to say exactly what was happening, but she could tell that Fritters had Song outclassed. She wasn’t sure how he did, or where that burst of magic had come from earlier, but he did. Somehow, the scrawny, cadaverous unicorn was controlling the battlefield with ease, and, try as she might, Song couldn’t change that. Whatever had let her anticipate him before was gone, and it was all she could do to keep the pressure on and prevent him from overwhelming her. But she was still faster, and almost certainly physically stronger, and her chance lay in using that to overwhelm him.

The only problem was, she couldn’t break past his defenses long enough to make it matter. His spearhead secondary weapons danced like leaves on the wind, keeping her off his back while he attacked with his primary weapon. Every once in a while one of the short blades would snake out and stab at her under the cover of his main weapon, and each time they got closer to succeeding. Applejack bit her lip as Fritters’ strikes came within inches of ending the match, but Song managed to stave off defeat. The farmpony gasped as one blade lunged for Song’s belly—

Then cheered as Song caught the spearhead in the strange, jagged blades on her forehooves and ripped it out of Fritters’ grasp, sending it sailing away. The loss of the weapon created a temporary chink in the stallion’s armor, and she lunged, aiming a blow at Fritters’ head. He had to drop backwards to duck the strike, her blade whizzing through his crest at the near miss, but Fritters was down on all fours now, his back turned to her. She swung for a downward strike, but in doing so she was open to the buck that he sent flying up into her exposed barrel.

The buck connected… with the force of a light slap. “Tag!” he shouted cheerily. “You’re it!”

Applejack blinked.

Song froze, and Fritters rose to his full height to turn and face her. “Good bout, Morning, but a little sloppy there at the end.”

“Bwa-ba-huh…” Applejack stammered. “Huh?! How in the hay did he win?”

“Yeah!” agreed Twilight. “Even if that buck had connected, there’s no way that would have incapacitated an earth pony like Song!”

Jacques gave a quiet chuckle, and both mares turned to face the old man. “You’re quite right, of course,” he agreed. “The ‘buck’ wouldn’t have.”

“So how did he win?!” they chorused.

The friar pointed. At first, Applejack wasn’t sure what he was indicating, but, when she saw it, she paled. Behind Song, its base planted into the earth and held point aloft by magic, was the spearhead Song had knocked aside. If he’d bucked her onto that point…

Her thought trailed off as she turned to see Fritters chatting amiably with his fellows, discussing how the fight had gone. His bloodshot blue eyes caught her scrutiny, and he winked. “Did I give you a good fight, your ladyship?”

Applejack had faced many horrible monsters in her day. In all likelihood, she would face more. But in that moment it came home to her that this stallion, who played the buffoon, ate all her food, and allowed himself to be the butt of many jokes, was one of the most dangerous ponies she had ever encountered. And she would be seeing a lot of him. Faced with this realization, there was only one thing she felt would be appropriate to say.


Author's Note:

IMPORTANT NOTE THAT YOU SHOULD READ EVEN IF YOU IGNORE ALL THE OTHER AUTHOR'S NOTES! Aw, who am I kidding. People either read these or they don't. Anyway, I have heard my readers' cry and heeded it. I have created a document that lists a basic physical description of named original characters up to this point in the story for reference. You may notice that the link is a new 'story' in itself. That is because I intend to have little one-shot chapters in that story. Some will be canon but too off-topic to have in the main story - world-building supplements and the like. Some will be non-canon, like 'what if Friar Jacques had popped out in (insert EqG movie or work of fanfiction)' one-shots done mostly for comedy. I might even do a QnA with cast members of 14th Century Friar if enough people request it (and keep it clean :ajbemused:). So give it a look. Or don't. Up to you. Just don't say I never did anything for ya.

This chapter was a lot of fun for me to write, even if it did take a while. World-building, little bits of character building, and a fun fight scene. Good times.

Much as it pains me, updates will likely be slowing down slightly; work has been... work has been a lot this month and I'm kinda fried. On top of that, I need to finish the story that I'll be posting for Veteran's Day this year. It's the hundredth anniversary of the end of WWI (you know... the original Veteran's Day), so I'm doing something special. Keep your eye out.

This week's shoutout is rather special to me. It's a story that I read even before I was a fan of the show, referred to me by one of the guys who got me into the show - thanks Krovgar Warhawk. It's a Veteran's Day tribute with some heavy WWI overtones. Fitting given the upcoming memorial. Lest We Forget by knightcommander.

Happy reading!

Edit: Shoot! Forgot to mention that Fritters' "pitiable" speech is actually a reference to a specific scene in Phineas and Ferb. You get a metaphorical cookie if you know which one.

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