• Published 26th Feb 2018
  • 8,757 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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Fancy Words

Even with her sensitive pony ears, Twilight was straining to pick out more than a smattering of words from the strange creature. But what she had heard had shocked her. He’s speaking in Pony Latin, she realized with shock. Quite fluently, in fact. And what he’s saying sounds almost like… like… she couldn’t quite put her hoof on it, but for some reason she thought of Celestia.

Then he began speaking in modern Ponish, and her mystification grew. She could scarcely hear anything he said now, as his voice was growing steadily weaker, but she certainly heard Applejack’s responses. Asking if she’s always been a pony… were his people overrun by changelings? Is that why he’s so paranoid? And now he’s asking after witchcraft and curses… what has this creature endured? Perhaps their whole land is overrun with such things, and that’s why he is so adept at battling evil enchantments! I wonder if—

“Um, beggin’ yer pardon, sir, but, what in the hay is goin’ on?”

Je ne sais pas,” replied the creature weakly.“Demandez à Dieu.” And with that his head sagged to the side. Twilight’s heart skipped a beat.

Applejack’s ears fell flat. “Woah, nelly! Tell me he didn’t just—

Fluttershy zipped in and checked his pulse. “Weak and thready, but still there,” she reported.

The others breathed a sigh of relief. Applejack trotted back beside Twilight. “Well, all the same, we’d best pick up the pace. He ain’t got time for us to be gentle.”

Twilight used her magic to keep her end of the stretcher moving while she shifted the makeshift harness back over to Applejack. The party once more lapsed into silence, but it didn’t last long. Partially to keep everypony’s minds occupied and partially to satisfy her own curiousity, Twilight pressed Applejack for details about the conversation. “What all did he say to you, AJ?”

“Did he say his name?” asked Pinkie Pie.

“Or where he hails from?” added Rarity.

“Or where he got that sweet sword?” interjected Scootaloo.

Applejack shook her head. “Truth be told, ya’ll, I didn’t follow much o’ what he was sayin.’”

“Well, for the first part he was speaking only in Pony Latin,” said Twilight. Stares greeted her comment.

“Pony whatnow?” demanded Applebloom.

Twilight blinked. What do they teach in schools these days? “Pony Latin. The common language of the old Roanan ponies of modern Bitaly, as differentiated from Crystal Latin, which was exclusive to the Crystal Empire.” Heads nodded all around at her explanation, but Applejack just glared at her. “What?”

“You knew he was speakin’ Fancy and ya’ll didn’t say nothin?’” demanded the farmpony angrily.

The unicorn blushed and sputtered over her response. “Well…I…you were just listening so intently… well…I- I just assumed that…well…”

Applejack gave her a flat stare. “Twi,” she began, talking slowly, as though speaking to a child. “Why in the hay would I speak Pony… Latin?

“Big Macintosh does,” piped in Pinkie.

What?!” exclaimed four mares and three fillies.

“Yeah,” giggled Pinkie, glancing over her shoulder at them. “Macky knows lots and lots of languages, sillies!” She tilted her head. “Didn’t you know that?”

Twilight couldn’t help but blink as her worldview was upended. Big Mac knows Pony Latin… and apparently other languages too… and yet he never talks. A thoughtful smile spread across her lips as she wondered if she could manage to change that. It’d certainly make for an interesting letter to the princess!

A swat of Applejack’s tail brought her back to the present. “Focus, Twi. We’ll deal with mah secretive brother later. If’n ya’ll heard what he was sayin,’ what was he sayin?’”

The unicorn shook her head. “Sorry, Applejack, but I only caught snippets here and there. But from what I did hear it sounded like he was doing Curatrix magic.” Applejack just cocked her eyebrow and Twilight took the hint. “It’s the kind of magic used to locate and banish Dark Magic.” That’s a gross over-simplification, but it will do for now. “My best guess is that the people in his homeland must have to fight off a lot of evil magic-users.”

“So, um, could they have done something to him?” asked Fluttershy. “Is that why his magical field is… well… um… strange?”

“I honestly don’t know.”

“Well,” observed Rarity, “perhaps somepony from the foreign office will know. That was the language of Prance that he was speaking there at the end,” she declared, referring to one of the pony nations that lay outside Equestria proper.

“Ooooooh!” exclaimed Pinkie. “The home of Fancy Talking! You speak the lingo, Rarity! What’d he say?! What’d he say?!” Somehow she managed to bounce in her step without disturbing the stretcher.

“It was hard to hear for sure,” admitted Rarity, “but it sounded like he said, ‘I don’t know, ask Dieu.’”

Dieu,” repeated Twilight. “Is that a common Prench name?”

Rarity shook her head. “Not one that I’m familiar with, darling.”

As they’d trotted, the trees around them had gradually thinned out until they broke through into the unbridled afternoon sun of the fields around Ponyville. They were greeted by a welcome sight: an ambulance cart pulled by two stallions on a nearby pathway, and the anxiously hovering figure of Rainbow Dash. The moment she saw them, the mare shouted, “Hey, slowpokes! Get a move on!”

“Thank Celestia,” laughed Twilight. “Things are looking up!”


Ponyville General, Ponyville.

Things were not looking up.

Redheart had to give it to Twilight and her friends: they’d done a good job getting the strange creature here in the best condition possible under the circumstances. But that’s the only thing that’s gone our way.

Initially, matters had progressed in a fairly standard fashion. It was true that they hadn’t found anything about this bizarre, robe-wearing primate in any of Zecora’s rather impressive notes, but using medical charts for several kinds of simian creatures the hospital staff had been able to at least make educated guesses. They’d removed the creature’s outer garments and possessions and stacked them on a nearby table for safekeeping. Cold spells had been applied to slow any residual bleeding while Nurses Needle and Thread ensured that his wounds were properly disinfected and stitched up. Doctor Stable had done a basic scan of the primate’s organ structure while Nurses Redheart and Medevac had connected the machines to monitor his vitals before preparing the blood replicator.

And that’s when the trouble started.

The primate hadn’t flinched at all when the needles had gone in, which Redheart wanted to interpret as indicative of his hardiness rather than a sign of nerve damage. He certainly has enough scars, she’d thought at the time. Likewise the creature hadn’t moved when they hooked up the sensors to monitor his vitals and magical field, nor when they put in the probes that would determine the composition of his blood and replicate a synthetic replacement.

No, it’s when we turned them on that he started twitching like he was in a nightmare. Which, had that been the whole of the problem, would only have been mildly disconcerting. But that wasn’t the whole of it.

“I don’t understand!” fumed Dr. Stable. “It’s like he’s resisting the magic in the machines! We can’t read any of his vitals, and the blood replicator won’t work without a reading!”

“Twilight told us he has a peculiar magic field,” observed Medevac. The lanky stallion’s back hoof was a metal prosthetic, and he tapped it in a steady rhythm against the floor as he pondered the situation. “Maybe it just reacts badly to pony magic.”

Stable shook his head with a grimace. “No, that’s not it. If that were the case I wouldn’t have been able to scan him to create a diagram of his organs.”

Redheart walked over to the monitors to study the feeds herself. “It’s not just a passive resistance, either. He’s reacting to it as though he’s fighting something off.”

Medevac shook his head. “Twilight did say that he managed to permanently kill five timber wolves. Maybe it’s a survival trait in the land he’s from.” He regarded the unconscious being. “It doesn’t look like this is the first time he’s been cut up like this, if the scars are anything to go by. I’d say he’s from a hardy species, if nothing else. First time since leaving the Corps that I’ve seen scars like these on any creature.”

With a sigh, Redheart stepped back over to the operating table. “Maybe the sensors just need adjusting to get through the interference. They’ve acted up before, after all. I’ll try moving them around. Hope we get lucky.” The others didn’t say anything. They all knew it was a longshot.

The creature twitched each time she removed a sensor and each time she put it back down, but other than that there seemed to be no change. Then, as she went to adjust the sensors on his chest, her hoof brushed against the strange metal cross that hung around his neck.

Redheart yelped as a gnarled hand shot out and closed around her forehoof like a clamp. The creature’s icy blue eyes snapped open and bored into her, full of outrage and defiance. “Red!” shouted Medevac, jumping to her side. But before the stallion could do anything, the creature spoke in a guttural snarl.

Libère moi, bourreau.”

The nurse’s lip quivered and everyone else in the room froze, unsure of what to do. “W-what?”

Libère… moi… bourreau,” repeated the creature more slowly.

“Sir, please,” she replied, her training reasserting itself and steadying her voice. “I don’t know what you’re saying. Please release my hoof. We’re trying to help you.”

Aider?” he spat. “Vous prétendez aider…” he trailed off as his eyes focused on something. At first Redheart thought it was her eyes, but then she realized it was her hat. The creature frowned, as though confused. “Templier?” he muttered. Meeting her gaze he inquired. “Une femme Templière?

“Sir, please, I…” Redheart took a deep breath. He’s scared of something. From what the Elements said, he’s scared of us for some reason. “Sir,” she said as gently as she could manage. “I’m Nurse Redheart. You’re in Ponyville General Hospital. You’ve been badly injured, but we’re here to heal you. Please, sir, let us help you.”

The creature’s face creased into a tired smile. “Ah. Une infirmière.” His head fell back against the pillow and he released her. “Pardonne-moi, bonne sœur. Merci ma,” he breathed as his eyes rolled back. “Merci ma.

Seeing him pass out again, Redheart’s hoof flew to his neck to check his pulse. Still weak, but still steady. Thank Celestia!

Before she could report this, she was startled by the sound of beeping and a loud “Yes!” from Dr. Stable. Looking over she was greeted by the sight of the doctor beaming at her. “I don’t know what you did, Redheart, but it worked! He’s not fighting it anymore! The replicator just got a read and is getting to work!”

Sure enough, a few seconds later the IV flowed red with fresh blood. Redheart just stared, not sure how to take it all in. Unconsciously she took off her cap, the one that had so grabbed the creature’s attention, and studied it. There was nothing particularly eye-catching about it; just a plain white hospital cap adorned with her red cross-and-hearts Cutie Mark. It’s just my cap, she thought, twisting it in her hooves. So what changed?

Medevac gently pulled her back away from the table and put an ice-pack on her hoof. She hadn’t even realized it had been throbbing painfully until he did. “Nicely done, Red. How’d you manage it?”

Redheart stared in confusion at the unconscious creature, who was now resting peacefully, a gentle smile on his face. She looked over at Medevac and gave him her most convincing grin and her best guess.

“Magic?”


Twilight had resolved not to pace. It was, at best, an unproductive use of her time, and likely to leave her a little sore after the day’s intense running and hiking. At worst, it risked upsetting the others, in particular the fillies, who were already upset enough as it was.

And so Twilight had resolved not to pace.

“Twilight, you’re pacing,” admonished Spike.

“Thank you, Spike. I am aware,” she replied crossly. Darn it! Better luck next time!

The young drake had met them at the hospital, bearing with him a message from the Princess that she would find out what she could about the strange creature and ensure that any help she could send would be sent. She had also asked for further details. Twilight had distracted herself for the first hour by dictating every iota of knowledge and speculation about the beast and his origins to Spike, enlisting the help of her friends to make certain that she didn’t overlook anything. It had done a wonderful job of taking their minds off of the mysterious savior who lay in the Operating Room at death’s door.

For the first hour.

That had been three hours ago and, aside from the occasional visit by one of the nurses to ask for clarification on a specific detail, they’d had no word from the inside. To say that the waiting ponies had become quite anxious would have been something of an understatement.

Still, some handled it better than others.

Ugh! I can’t take this anymore!” shouted Rainbow Dash, flapping into the air. “I’m going in there!”

Before she could jet off, Applejack seized her tail in her teeth and yanked her groundward. “Nothin’ doin,’ RD! For the twentieth time, you can’t go in there!”

“Nineteenth,” corrected Fluttershy from the waiting room couch.

“Why not?!” demanded Dash, as though she hadn’t been told nineteen times previously.

“Because, darling, you’ll risk spreading infection,” interjected Rarity, who had taken to coping with her stress by fashioning the waiting room drapes into a gown, much to the receptionist’s chagrin.

Rainbow huffed in offense and folded her forelegs. “I’m not infected.”

“And I’m sure you’re not, Dashie, but that’s not how infection works in this sort of situation.”

“Well, we can’t just sit here and do nothing!” exclaimed Rainbow.

Applejack rolled her eyes. “An’ what exactly do you suggest we do, RD? We ain’t doctors! Heck, the only one of us who’s got any real medical trainin’ is Fluttershy, an’ she’s already done all she can!”

“Arrrgh! I can’t just sit here! I’m gonna crawl the walls!”

No sooner had she said this than Pinkie Pie had raced across the room and pinned Rainbow in a choking hug. “Don’t do it, Rainbow!” she pleaded. “You remember last time! The doc said the crash didn’t give you super spider wall-crawling powers! And if you tried then you’d get injured and then I’d have to plan two Get-Well-Soon-Glad-You-Didn’t-Kick-The-Bucket-Parties!”

Applejack face-hoofed.

While Rainbow attempted to extricate herself from the pink party pony’s hug and said party pony attempted to explain the nature of such parties to a befuddled Rarity, Twilight looked over at the three fillies. They were seated next to Spike. The young drake had taken it upon himself to try to lighten their mood with stories about comic book heroes fighting scary monsters, and the unicorn had been very proud to see his composure as he put on a brave face for them. But as the hours had ticked by and they’d gotten no answers from the hospital staff, even Spike’s relentless efforts had proved insufficient to lift the children’s spirits.

They were huddled together quietly now, their eyes fixed on the door that lead to the O.R. Twilight remembered a time in her own life when she’d sat like that, staring in anguish at the clock while she waited for news about her brother, Missing in Action deep in raider territory some eight years ago during his time with the REF. They had been the longest hours of her life, and she hated seeing the young fillies going through it.“Spike, it’s getting close to suppertime,” she said. “Would you please take the girls home? I’m sure they need to—

“Nothin’ doing Twilight!” snapped Applebloom.

“Yeah,” added Scootaloo. “We’re the Cutie Mark Crusaders, not the Cutie Mark Deserters! We’re not leaving him here to… we’re not leaving him!”

Sweetie Belle didn’t say anything, but there were tears in her eyes as she gave a fierce nod.

Twilight looked over at the siblings, both blood and adoptive, for confirmation. Rarity opened and closed her mouth several times, and Twilight thought she detected moisture in her eyes, but, like her sister, she said nothing, but simply nodded. Applejack took a deep breath and bowed her head so that the stetson covered her eyes. “If’n you’re sure, sugarcube,” she said in a husky voice.

Rainbow Dash managed to pry herself loose of Pinkie Pie to flap triumphantly overhead. “Good on ya, Scoots!” she declared. “Never leave a friend hanging!”

‘A friend.’ The word echoed in Twilight’s mind. He jumped right in to protect a bunch of fillies in a strange land, with no thought to himself. She felt herself blinking back tears of her own. A friend in deed is a friend indeed.

Rarity cleared her throat and addressed Rainbow Dash. “Well, darling, if you’re still looking for something to do, I suppose you could take the fillies to the dining hall and gather some refreshments for us all. And, Spike, if you would be a dear and help them?”

The dragon hopped down from his seat and gave a courtly bow. “Anything for you, my lady. Come on, fillies. Let’s go get some grub.”

Pinkie giggled. “Oh, Spike, don’t get grubs! Ponies don’t eat grubs, we eat…” her voice trailed off and her eye twitched.

When nothing happened for a moment, Twilight took a step closer. “Um, Pinkie? Are you oka—

Hrgrbrgbhrghbhrhghrrghrrrhbbbbbrrbrbrbrbrhhrbrr!” exclaimed Pinkie, which likely would have been enough to hold Twilight’s attention under other circumstances, had it not been accompanied by the horrifying visage of all of the skin on Pinkie’s face crawling at once.

Naturally, Twilight responded with a non-linguistic vocalization of her own. “GAAAH!” she screamed as she stumbled backwards in fear, accompanied by similar cries of dismay from the others.

Pinkie’s facial skin continued to crawl in a manner most unpleasant to behold for another few seconds before, as suddenly as it had begun, it stopped. Silence filled the waiting room. A sound of retching came from behind the receptionist’s desk, but somehow Twilight found herself unable to turn her back on Pinkie Pie to investigate. Pinkie blinked several times, then burst out into hysterical laughter, rolling onto her back in the throes of mirth. “Oh what a doozy of a doozy that was!” she giggled. “I haven’t felt that one in a while!

The others simply stared in mute horror. Rarity was the first to find her voice. “Pinkie Pie, darling,” she managed before emitting a hurk sound and clamping a hoof to her suddenly bulging mouth. She shuddered and swallowed. “What…” she gagged, “precisely was that?”

“Um… if you don’t mind saying, that is,” added Fluttershy, who had torn her gaze away from Pinkie long enough to check that the receptionist was alright.

Pinkie bounced to her hooves. “Oh that’s easy, silly fillies. It was my Pinkie Sense a-goin’ off! And I haven’t felt that one in a while?”

Applejack took a step back from her fellow earth pony. “And… uh… what exactly was that one?”

“Why it’s my the-doctor-has-good-news-but-won’t-say-for-sure-it’s-good-news-because-they’re-bound-by-certain-legal-restrictions-tied-to-the-Hippocloppic-Oath-sense, of course,” she explained. “My face always gets all crawly when I get that.”

Rainbow Dash rubbed her eyes, as though attempting to get the image out of her brain. “We noticed, Pink.”

Twilight forced herself to look away from the cheerfully grinning earth pony and process what had just been said. “Wait, did you just say the doctor—"

At that moment the door swung open to admit a very tired looking Dr. Stable. “Hello, everypony.”

Immediately the doctor was mobbed by the gathered friends, with the three fillies leading the charge, and bombarded with more questions than any mortal could possibly hope to answer. His feeble verbal defenses could not stem the onslaught, and he was in danger of being overwhelmed by the superior weight of the attacking force until an unexpected ally arrived at his side.

“EVERYPONY STOP!” commanded Fluttershy.

Once more the room was reduced to silence, and this time there was no retching from behind the receptionist’s desk to interrupt it.

“That’s better,” smiled the pegasus. “Now, Doctor Stable, would you please tell us how our friend is doing?”

“Uh- of course,” stammered the doctor, who himself had not escaped unscathed from Fluttershy’s devastating counterattack. “Well, it’s impossible for us to make any definitive statement about the patient, since we don’t have a baseline for average health with his species, but he’s resting comfortably now. Nurse Redheart managed to get the blood replicator working, somehow, and replaced the blood he’s lost. It shut off automatically a short while ago, meaning that it has determined that his body now has the appropriate amount of blood for a creature of its type.” He took off his glasses and cleaned the lenses. “Now, I must remind you all that this is entirely a matter of educated guesswork on our part, but it is our opinion that, for now at least, he seems to be out of danger.”

Now, Twilight had resolved not to break into an unladylike celebration on the off-chance that they received good news. After all, the doctor had made it very clear that they were dealing with a new species, and as such it would be all too easy to overlook some dire health problem without a proper working knowledge of this creature’s physiology. She would allow herself to celebrate with the others, yes, but she would not leap around in a circle crying “Yes!” over and over, would not squee like a schoolfilly with new ribbons, and would not join her friends in enveloping poor Dr. Stable in a group hug.

She had resolved not to, after all.

“Twilight? I think you and the girls better let the poor guy breath,” admonished Spike.

A short time later the group found themselves in the dining hall, chatting happily as they collectively pretended to enjoy what the hospital referred to as ‘food.’ Dr. Stable had outright forbade them from visiting the creature until he regained consciousness, but had promised to send an orderly by to collect them all when he did. Most of the others contented themselves with speculating how best to celebrate his recovery, ranging from a new ensemble to replace his ‘drab old rags’ to a lifetime supply of apples to front row tickets to the Sonic Rainboom Blitz Extravaganza (trademark pending) to a Welcome-To-Equestria-Thanks-For-Saving-The-Fillies-Your-Magic-Is-Weird-But-We-Love-You-Anyway-Party. The Crusaders exchanged ideas about how they could get Cutie Marks in being the best Patient Recovery Wellness Support Ponies (working title) ever. Fluttershy was supportive of everypony’s ideas.

Twilight, meanwhile, sequestered herself from the conversation, and plied her mystery mound of edible matter with fork and knife in silence. External silence, that is. Internally, her mind was awash with questions. Where did this creature come from? What was he? What complications had they encountered with the blood replicator, and how had they been resolved? Why had nopony heard of this species before? What would explain his bizarre magical field? And, incidentally, where did his paranoia come from? Was his land overrun with nightmarish monsters? If so, could any of them have followed him here? And how best to combat them? With so many choices, and such worries aplenty, she didn’t actually hear what Spike said to her; only that he spoke.

“Hm?” she asked.

“I said what’s wrong, Twilight? You’ve got that face again.”

“What face?”

He folded his arms. “That face you always make when you’re wargaming every possible way something could go wrong as you descend into a near manic frenzy.”

Twilight huffed. “I do not have a face that I make for that.”

Spike chuckled as he crunched his way through his soup. The unicorn tried not to wonder why it crunched. “Whatever you say, Twilight. Just don’t get yourself worked up over nothing. You haven’t even spoken with the Princess yet to see if she’s turned anything up.” He bent to take another bite, at which point his eyes crossed and he clamped his claws over his mouth, his cheeks bulging as he emitted a hurlp noise.

Fire in the hole!” cried Pinkie Pie, pulling a green helmet from nowhere and slapping it onto Twilight’s head as she tackled the poor mare to the ground. “Incoming!” There was a belch and a burst of green fire, and a scroll appeared in midair, bouncing off of Twilight’s helmet on the way to the ground. “Oh!” exclaimed Pinkie with a laugh. “It’s just a letter from the Princess!” She jumped back to allow her friend up. “My bad! I thought that Spike’s tummy had decided to sound general quarters and repel all boarders.” She poked experimentally at her bowl of toast. “Can’t say I’d blame it.”

Rarity glanced over at the bowl of toast with a suspicious look on her face before asking, “Sweetie Belle, darling, by any chance have you and your friends been trying to get your Cutie Marks in making hospital food?”

“No. Why?”

“No reason.”

Twilight ignored them and stood, unfurling the scroll with her magic and reading the contents. It didn’t take long. There were only eight words:

My dearest student,

Meet me out front.

~Celestia

“Pack it in, girls. The Princess is out front!”

“What?!”

“She’s here? Now?

“I haven’t a thing to wear!”

“Shift it, ladies!”

Nine ponies and one dragon hustled out the door just in time to see Celestia descending from the sky in a chariot pulled by four stallions.

But they weren’t alone. A half-dozen other chariots arrived in formation with her, each carrying a mixture of soldiers from the Solar Guard, the Lunar Guard, and the Royal Expeditionary Force. Twilight gaped at the sight. “What in Equestria…?”

The chariots landed a little distance away and disgorged their occupants, some forty-odd soldiers in number, who swiftly took up a defensive formation around Celestia. Why all the guards? And why the Lunar Guard and the REF? Two Expeditionary soldiers, a lavender unicorn mare and a brick red stallion, stepped to the Princess’s side. The stallion looked vaguely familiar to Twilight, and she put it down to her brother’s time in the REF. He was a rather large specimen, nearly Big Macintosh’s size, with russet hair, a heavy variant of the standard REF armor, and a sizeable maul. The unicorn she recognized as one of Shining Armor’s friends from his Academy days. What’s Argent Sabre doing here? she wondered as her friends whispered to one another.

Argent and the earth pony saluted Celestia. “What are your orders, Your Highness?” the unicorn asked, her voice carrying far enough that Twilight and the others had no trouble hearing her.

Celestia cocked an eyebrow at the assembled soldiers and gave a dry smile. “I think perhaps it would be best not to bring everypony inside the hospital, Captain. Perhaps have the majority secure the perimeter while you and a chosen few accompany me.”

“Very good, Your Highness. First Sergeant Brick?”

“Ma’am?” asked the stallion in a voice that suggested that he gargled gravel every night before bed.

“Take three squads and secure the perimeter. And please do ensure that the candidates perform well for Her Royal Highness.”

“Yes, ma’am.” The stallion turned and addressed the troops with a stentorian roar. “C Squad! D Squad!” Two squads of mixed Solar and Lunar Guards snapped to attention. “You weak-livered, miserable excuses for enlisted ponies will be securing the perimeter! You will not spend any time making daisy chains or playing with fru-fru dresses or doing anything else that you misbegotten mewling stacks of worthless crud do when you aren’t standing perfectly still guarding the Royal Privy! Under the watchful and oh-so-judgmental eye of B Squad, you dregs will be sealing up this perimeter so tight that a butterfly’s fart will not be able to get in without my explicit say-so! Is that understood, maggots?!”

“Yes, First Sergeant!”

Then get moving!

No sooner had the words left his mouth than the two mixed squads, along with one squad of REF regulars, dashed off to secure the perimeter.

Reactions to the sergeant’s manner were mixed. Rainbow Dash and Pinkie Pie were laughing outright, along with the three fillies. Applejack was trying to rebuke the children for their laughter, but was too busy holding back chuckles of her own for it to have much effect. Twilight and Spike had grown up in a garrisoned city, and as such were more taken aback by Brick’s demeanor in the presence of the Princess than by the words themselves. Spike was amused, while Twilight was horrified. Fluttershy hid behind her mane and murmured ‘oh my.’ Rarity fainted outright.

Captain Sabre sighed and put a hoof to her forehead. “Princess Celestia, please accept my sincere apologies for my First Sergeant. He was dropped as a child you see.”

“Twice, Your Highness,” confirmed Brick calmly.

“Brick, apologize to Her Royal Highness for being an uncouth barbarian of a stallion.”

“Your Highness, I apologize for being an uncouth barbarian of a stallion.”

For a moment, Celestia didn’t reply, but simply stood there, her sides shaking. Twilight worried that her mentor might be having some sort of fit, but eventually the diarch found her voice and said a touch shakily, “That’s quite alright, Captain, First Sergeant. I can certainly appreciate the need to… ahem… test the personalities of soldiers before acclimating them into the REF.” She emitted a sound that might have almost been a snort of laughter, but Twilight dismissed the notion. There was nothing funny about what just happened, she thought crossly. The Princess gestured towards the hospital. “Shall we?”

Argent nodded and led the remaining squad of REF ponies forward, keeping Celestia in the middle. Brick stayed behind to command the perimeter. As soon as the diarch was close enough, Twilight and the others bowed. “No need for that, my friends,” smiled the alicorn. “Today is an informal visit, after all.”

Applejack tipped her hat to the Princess. “Beggin’ your pardon, Your Majesty, but that there’s an awful lot o’ security for an informal visit, if you don’t mind my sayin.”

“These are unusual circumstances, Miss Applejack,” said Argent, who kept glancing around as though she were afraid an attack might come from the shadows at any moment. She did spare a glance at Twilight and her dragon companion. “Miss Sparkle, Spike,” she said with a quick smile. “You’re looking well.”

“You too Argie, er, I mean, Captain Sabre,” replied Twilight. She blushed at her own breach of protocol. The captain smirked, but said nothing. Twilight turned her attention to her mentor. “I’m sorry, Princess, but why do you have so many guards?”

Celestia gave an odd smile. “Well, I come bearing important cargo, of course.” Her horn flared and a comic book appeared, dropping into Spike’s claws.

“Awesome! Thanks, Princess!” exclaimed the young drake.

“You’re quite welcome, Spike,” she chuckled. “Though you’re lucky it came to me and not Luna. She’s been waiting for that comic for months.” Celestia swept past Twilight on her way inside, but bent down to whisper in her student’s ear as she did. “You may want to keep a closer eye on the age ratings of his comics, though.”

Twilight shot a quick glance back at Spike, who was already eagerly turning the pages of The Killer Joke, but shook her head forcefully before she could think about it. Enough time for that later. “Forgive me, Princess, but we didn’t expect you to come in person, let alone with all these soldiers, and the REF at that and…well…this is all very strange, Princess.”

Celestia did not slow in her march inside, and the others were forced to catch up or be left behind. “Indeed it is, my faithful student. And it is likely to get stranger yet. Come along, all of you. We have much to discuss.”

Author's Note:

Well, I just keep teasing you all with Jacques' peculiarities, don't I? Answers soon. Promise! :pinkiehappy:

Otherwise, Twilight might come for me... :twilightangry2:

EDIT: It should be noted that The Killer Joke was inserted as a reference to the comic The Killing Joke (which is excellent) and not the movie (which sickens me). Fans were very excited to hear about the movie, but it was so offensively bad that the hype died essentially the same day that it came out. I'm not sure I've ever seen a movie die that hard, but it deserved it. The comic (though dark) is worth reading for Batman fans. The movie is worth forgetting.

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