• 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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So What You're Saying Is...You're NOT Evil?

Recovery Room 316, Ponyville General, Ponyville

The creature’s eyes widened, and he now looked at her rather than through her. Over the length of his arm their eyes met, as the nameless warrior of an unknown species grasped the nose of the sovereign ruler of Equestria. While she knew precious little of the creature, Celestia had well over a thousand years of experience as a ruler and statespony; long had she danced the diplomatic dance, and it was vanishing rare that she was at a loss for appropriate words.

“Um,” she blinked, “hello.”

Smooth, Tia.

At her words, the creature recoiled, his hand grasping at the strange cross that he wore around his neck. He stared at her with eyes that shifted between intense suspicion and a sharp inquisitiveness. His gaze drifted down to see the wires connected to his chest, and he frowned. Perhaps he is unfamiliar with our medical magic, and thinks it dangerous. Celestia searched for the right words to assure the creature, but her initial faux paus had distracted her and thrown off her usual poise.

It didn’t help that he’d accidentally tickled her nose when he touched her. She tried to hold back a sneeze, but to no avail. “Achoo!” she snorted, her sneeze an embarrassing high pitch between a whinny and a chuff. The creature’s lips quirked towards a smile. The alicorn flushed briefly, but forced a regal smile to her face and held herself upright to address him in Prench. “<Greetings, warrior. I am Princess Celestia, Lady of the Sun, Diarch of Equestria, and Guardian of the Day.>”

The creature’s eyes flickered, but he said nothing.

Changing tack, Celestia regarded him with a companionable grin. “<I’d ask for your name, that I might properly thank you for saving the fillies, but if you are what I think you are, then you won’t give me your name until you’ve determined that there is no witchcraft about me, yes?>”

At that, the creature’s eyes widened.

Celestia smirked. Now we’re talking. “<I don’t blame you, warrior. Though I know nothing of your land, and struggle to understand how you could have made it to the heart of mine without encountering enough ponies along the way to allay your fears, I don’t begrudge you your suspicion. After all, I have fought enough practitioners of the Dark Arts myself to feel a certain justified paranoia about them.>”

Still he remained silent, but his searching eyes bored into her. Celestia found that there was a deep intelligence to his gaze, and a kind of scrutiny of the sort she had seen little of since the old days.

Searching for duplicity, no doubt, she thought, as any wise Guardian would. “<You needn’t fear offending me,>” she assured him. With a wan smile, she added, “<Though I may not look it, I am quite old, and have faced many foul monsters of the Abyss in my time as ruler. Ask whatever questions you must to put your fears to rest. I will answer what I can.>”

The creature regarded her thoughtfully, showing little emotion. Celestia found that she had a difficult time reading his face. His features are not as expressive as a pony’s or even a griffon’s. In some respects, I’ve had an easier time reading dragons. At length, however, he gave a broad grin that was at least an improvement over his brown study. “Princess Celestia, you say?” he said in accented Ponish. “I hope you’ll forgive me if I do not bow in my condition. It grieves me to be impolite, but…” he shrugged with what she felt was genuine apology.

Smiling she assured him, “<There is no need to apologize. As I said, I understand your fears. And, given that you saved three fillies from timber wolves with no thought to your own safety, any courtesy that I show you is really only your due>.”

The creature quirked a half-smile. “I must admit, I find you to be rather forthright for a ruler,” he chuckled. “I respect that. I really do. And, for what it’s worth, I sincerely hope that there is no evil to be found in you. I would so dearly love to have someone I could trust to explain the madness I’ve been seeing.”

Celestia gave a warm smile. “<That would please me as well.>”

“Good,” he replied, reaching for the side-table. At first she thought he might be seeking his sword, and wondered how best to deal with it if he was, but he instead grasped a vial of oil. “You may call me Friar, Princess. It is my title, not my name, but it should suffice for now.” Opening the vial, he traced a cross of oil on his forehead, murmuring something to himself under his breath. Celestia’s sharp ears caught enough of the words to guess that it was perhaps a protection spell of some sort, the formula to which he was reciting aloud. Perhaps it is the custom of his people to do so. When he’d concluded, he beckoned her closer with an apologetic smile. “I hope you’ll permit the touch of a common knight, Your Highness,” he said, evidently preparing to anoint her as he had himself. “But, if you truly wish me to be convinced of your trustworthiness, there is no other way to accomplish it.”

The diarch considered this, then trotted over to his bedside with a nod. “<I am a mare of my word, Friar.>”

“We shall see.” He began tracing the cross. “In Nomine Patris, et Filii, et Spiritus Sancti…”


To say that Jacques had had a strange day would have been something of an understatement. To express that his concept of the world was undergoing a re-ordering would have come closer to the mark, but still fallen short. To conclude that he’d reached a state somewhat akin to the adrenalin rush of combat, where he had no time to be afraid or confused and was thinking and acting at a level of consciousness that was at once heightened and narrowed, would likely have been the best descriptor of his state of mind that could be readily conjured. As in a fierce melee, he was trusting in his instincts, his training, and, above all, in God to get him through unscathed. The implausibility of what he was experiencing almost ceased to register as he focused on moving forward with each new revelation.

Firstly, he determined that Celestia was, herself, not a demon of any sort. There was no doubt; he was a trained exorcist, and had made no error. She was no demon, and neither was she possessed by one.

Very well.

Secondly, he could find no evidence that any evil power had any sort of hold over her. No curses, hexes, or diabolical influence of any kind. If anything, she struck him as being a creature of holiness and grace, touched by God.

Very well.

Thirdly, he found her to be an exceedingly polite conversationalist, who seemed to embody both the regality of a monarch and the personal compassion of a mother. In one sense, she reminded him of the Blessed Mother herself. She had a deeply endearing quality about her that made him instinctively want to bury his head against her, seeking comfort for his ills. It did not help that her sneeze had struck him as rather cute, an oddly earthy moment for an otherwise heavenly creature, and his concentration wavered as he tried to keep focused on the matter at hand.

Very well.

The priest sat back and contemplated the winged unicorn through narrowed eyes. She waited patiently, a pleasant smile gracing her lips as he pondered the significance of what he had learned.

In conclusion, she is no demon, nor is she possessed by one, nor under the dominion of one. She appears to be of a heavenly race, or at least one touched by God, suggesting that the myths regarding such creatures have more than a little truth to them. He glanced around the room. Albeit with an unexpected twist. And, if the last vision is to be taken at face value, then it appears that I have found myself in their realm. One created by God, but separate from my own, except now I have bridged that gap perhaps and—

Jacques felt a headache coming on. He shut his eyes and rubbed his temples, considering the implications. Let’s assume the worst possible option, here. While I know that she is no demon or demon-controlled monster, that does not guarantee that she is not duplicitous or wicked in her own right. He absently tapped a finger against the scar Karim had given him. However, I do not believe this to be the case. God has always granted me a gift to reading the hearts of others. That Applejack mare had no discernable duplicity, and neither does the princess. Moreover, in my vision of Karim, the angel who spoke showed me the visage of a lavender-eyed woman with the aura of the sun. Then, just before I awoke, I saw the winged unicorn in question more clearly. He grimaced as his reasoning brought him to an uncomfortably unfamiliar conclusion. The urgings of the Holy Ghost have brought me this far. Thus, I must trust that they are correct, however strange they are, or else abandon any pretext of faith in my God.

Frère?”asked Celestia gently. “Est-ce que tu vas bien?

Jacques opened his eyes and smiled wanly. “Pay no heed to my discomfort, Princess. It is simply a lot for an old man to take in. And, my name…” he hesitated, knowing how dangerous it could be to hand his name over. But I have armored myself with the Armor of God, and, if nothing else, I know what she is not. “My full name is Friar Jacques de Charette, Knight of St. John and Priest of God’s Holy Church.” He managed a half-smirk. “I suspect we serve the same Master, albeit by a different Name. And, now that we have established this, I propose that we defer to your native tongue. This would be more seemly, as I am a guest in your land.”

She dipped her head in polite acknowledgment. “Very well, Friar Jacques de Charette. I am pleased that you have trusted me with your name. I take it, then, that you have become convinced that I am not of the Fell?”

Fell. Demons. “Correct, Princess. And, I must say, I do apologize for my apparent rudeness, but—"

She waved him off. “There is no need for concern. I would have done the same in your shoes, though likely with … somewhat different terminology.”

Jacques chuckled. “Yes, well, I imagine that, as we appear to be worlds apart, not all our words would be the same.” Though, in truth, I find it maddening that we hold the same languages.

Celestia tilted her head. “Different worlds?”

The priest scratched his head. “That is my guess. You see, I did not come to your land by… conventional means.” He related in brief his experience stepping through the gate and arriving in the field.

Celestia’s eyes widened. “So he was right then,” she murmured to herself.

“Who?”

The winged unicorn blinked. “Starswirl the Bearded. A mentor of mine many ages ago.” Jacques wondered at her use of the word ‘ages,’ but didn’t have time to ponder as she continued. “He once theorized that there were many other worlds born of the Creator other than our own, and postulated that they might be wildly different from our own.”

Jacques found himself thinking of the Book of Job, wherein God had taken Job on a tour of the cosmos and its infinite wonders, all of which were beyond human imaginings. Behemoth and leviathan… and winged unicorn princesses, it would seem. “T’would appear that your mentor was right,” he agreed. “It seems to be the most logical solution, though given a thousand lifetimes I don’t think I could even begin to comprehend it.” Celestia nodded sagely. “It would certainly explain what I just saw in my vision.”

“Vision?”

“One of several that I have been graced with of late,” he nodded, proceeding to relate to her the most recent dream.

Celestia nodded in ready understanding at his explanation, her face taking on a hint of awe. “You are blessed, Friar Jacques. What you saw was the Creation of our world, the coming of the Source in the flesh, the birth of the races, even the sacrifice of the Source and the coming of the Fire. Few besides my sister and I have been graced with such a vision.”

Jacques stroked his beard, his mind racing. “Creator…Source…Fire…” He found himself sitting forward. “The Creator is the great progenitor, yes?” Celestia nodded. “This ‘Source’ you speak of… a willing sacrifice for your salvation, yes?”

“Indeed. To bring us all back into harmony with the Creator,” answered Celestia. “This is why the Fire was sent.”

“Bringing the hearts of flame to rest within the mortals who accepted them,” nodded Jacques. Akin to the tongues of fire from Pentecost, perhaps? And the Source is the Source of Love and Harmony… just as God was described in my first vision… and ‘where you find harmony, there you shall find God.’ His mind raced. Father, Son, Holy Ghost … Creator, Source, Fire? He ran a hand through his hair. I suppose that would only be logical, as this is a different world, so the same God would show Himself differently, but…

He groaned and massaged his temples once more. I suppose God has His reasons, but how I wish that the visions could have been a little more explicit! Idly he wondered at how a non-Christian like Karim, or Isaac for that matter, might have interpreted the vision. He began to speculate that Karim may have called the Creator ‘Allah,’ and Isaac ‘Yahweh,’ but was unsure whether they would see the Source as a prophet, or as an element of the Creator, or as an angel—

No! He chopped off the line of thought savagely. This is hard enough pondering my own belief without speculating on how a Muslim or a Jew might see it!

“Friar Jacques?” asked Celestia gently. “Forgive me, but you do not look well.”

Jacques gave a wan smile. “It is I who should beg your forgiveness, Princess. I am allowing my befuddlement to get the better of me.” He shook his head and opened his eyes. “I am convinced now, however, that we serve the same Master. Among my people, we call this Divine Being ‘God,’ in the Persons of the Father, the Son (Jesus), and the Holy Ghost, whereas you refer to the Persons of God as Creator, Source, and Fire.” Jacques opted not to mention how other religions might speculate on the matter at this time. Ironically, the pagans would have an easier time with all this than I. Wrong, but easier.

Celestia’s eyes were alight with interest. “Truly fascinating! And to think; before today, I never would have imagined such a thing could be!”

“That makes two of us,” he replied dryly.

She chuckled. “Yes, I’m sure. I must confess, it’s rare for one like me to encounter something so new and exciting.” And why is that? he wondered. Just how old are you? “I imagine that a certain student of mine will be even more thrilled. She drinks in knowledge as most ponies drink water. I must warn you that she may be quite… insistent in interviewing you.”

Jacques smiled, recalling his encounters with such scholars over the years during his studies of philosophy. “I am sure it will be a good learning experience for me as well, as I know precious little about your world, save for how it differs from my own.” He fiddled with the strange white strands that were attached to his chest. “Like your medicine, for instance.” He gestured to the beeping box-like construct next to him. “And this odd instrument that seems to make tune to the beating of my heart.”

“Yes, it is an impressive little machine, isn’t it?” smiled Celestia. “I take it that you do not have the like of it in your own world?” He shook his head. “Well, you are correct in guessing that it detects your heartbeat, as well as your other vital functions. It then tells the doctors in the other room that you are healthy, or warns them if you are not.”

The priest blinked, once more unable to truly process what had just been said. Long before the Knights of Saint John had borne swords, they had borne bandages. After becoming a martial order, their practice of medicine had remained an integral part of their identity. Even their name ‘Hospitaller’ was a reference to their origins. But this… this is beyond imagining! “Magnificent,” he said aloud. “Tell me, Princess, how does it work?”

“Why, magic, of course.”

The instant he heard ‘magic,’ he felt something change. A bizarre sensation passed through the whole of his body, akin to the rush that came from battle, but somehow more ordered and mechanical. He felt that his body had become encased in armor in an instant, as though the ‘Armor of God’ had become a very physical thing.

But that was not all that happened. The instant the ‘armor’ went on, the beeping of the machine went ‘off,’ replaced by a single, long note.

Celestia frowned. “Oh dear.”


On-Call Break Room, Ponyville General, Ponyville, several minutes prior…

Redheart flattened her ears against her head and shut her eyes, holding the coffee cup in both hooves. The precious dark nectar within had her full attention. With reverence bordering on worship, she brought the cup to her lips and took a long, glorious drink. “Mmmmm,” she sighed, utterly content with the world.

Medevac snickered.

Almost utterly content, she amended.

“Cripes, Red, are you gonna marry that swill?”

Redheart considered ignoring him, but the ‘swill’ comment had gotten her blood up. She opened her eyes to give him an arch look. “This ‘swill,’ as you call it, is imported from the southern tip of Zebrica, from trees tended to by a tribe whose name is unpronounceable to non-zebras because our speech patterns have developed without the requisite capacity to form the syllables, and which is only obtainable by me because Zecora is my friend.”

The former medic’s eyebrows shot up. “Eesh. That good?”

With a smirk she replied, “Divine.”

Medevac blinked. “You’ve been holding out on me, Red. Don’t suppose you’d like to share?”

She smiled sweetly. “Maybe I would have before the ‘swill’ remark.”

Medevac opened his mouth to protest, then shrugged ruefully. “Yeah, I suppose I deserved that.”

The two of them sat in the on-call break room, taking a much needed break after the long day. It was a tranquil place in the sometimes hectic hospital, with all trappings of the medical facility stripped away. Well, amended Redheart with a glance at the light panel, almost all. The panel showed an array of room numbers and corresponding lights, most of which were off. A small hoofful of green lights indicated rooms where patients were hooked up to machines to monitor their vital signs. If for any reason the patient’s vitals left normal ranges or the machines failed, the light would flash red and whoever was in the on-call room would scramble. As such, Redheart couldn’t completely relax.

Still, it was a nice break after the unexpected patient and the frantic surgery. And a chance to catch up with my closest friend. “Mmmmmmm,” she hummed to herself as she took another sip of it.

“Seriously, Red, I’m getting creeped out by how you feel about your coffee.”

She gave a coy smirk. “Why? Jealous?”

Medevac flushed red and went back to his newspaper, muttering something under his breath.

Redheart blanched. Oh, sweet Celestia, is he…?

“I just think it’s odd that you love coffee more than I do,” replied the medic. “ After all, I once spent nine months in a country where coffee was forbidden under pain of death. Gives you a certain appreciation, you know?” He flipped through the paper, not looking up. “Just sayin.’”

The mare returned her attention to her coffee, not daring to look at the stallion. Right. Of course. Just his usual joking around. Nothing to worry about. She wasn’t sure if that was a good thing or a bad thing, and, at that moment didn’t especially want to think about it.

Perhaps fortunately for her, she didn’t get the chance. With an abrupt *beep*, the light to Recovery Room 316 flashed red. Both nurses dropped what they were doing and bolted for the door. “Never a dull moment,” sighed Medevac.


Waiting Room 301, Ponyville General, Ponyville, several minutes ago…

Argent stood quietly in the corner of the waiting room, watching one door out of habit while Corporal Thresher watched the other. Scattered through the room were the various Element Bearers. In Argent’s experience, a room containing seven mares tended to generate a considerable volume of conversation, even if one of those mares was the purportedly timorous Fluttershy.

Yet the room was eerily quiet. Applejack and Twilight hadn’t said a word to the others since they’d entered, and they didn’t look like they were about to. Rainbow had looked to be on the verge of asking them something several times, but on each occasion her mouth had flapped open and then shut without anything being said. Each of the mares just looked miserable.

Now, Argent was not the sort to be bothered by long silences. Her upbringing, while by no means stifling, had been regimented, and she had learned at an early age to be comfortable with remaining silent when conversation would have been little more than filler. Her time in the military had further drummed home the value of quiet. Especially on the Echoing Trail, she mused. Thus, while she was quite an outgoing and verbose mare, she was accustomed to enduring long quiets with dignity and poise.

So why does this just feel stifling? “I must say,” she said, breaking the uncomfortable silence, “you lot have done a rather fine job of managing national catastrophes of late.” The mares’ ears perked up to listen. Smiling, the captain continued. “I was in Canterlot recently, you know, and I had the privilege of appreciating the stained glass representations of your many triumphs.” I was also attacked by a crazed pony using witchcraft, but that’s hardly relevant at the moment. “You’ve garnered quite a reputation.” She shot a wink at Fluttershy. “Some of my comrades are speculating that you’ll put us out of a job soon.”

Fluttershy blushed. “Oh, we will? I’m sorry.” She hid behind her mane. “I don’t want to put anypony out of a job.”

Argent blinked. Well, that didn’t go as planned. “I’m only jesting, dearie. Though I must say that in a way I’d be delighted for my services to go unneeded.”

Pushing her hat back, Applejack gave her a quizzical look. “Don’t ya’ll wanna be needed?”

Well, that’s not quite what I meant… “Well of course, my dear lady. I simply wish that ponies with my…” she tried to think of a more pleasant way of saying ‘skill at killing people’ and settled on, “particular set of skills were not needed as often as we are.”

She tensed and almost drew her sword by reflex as she was abruptly accosted by Pinkie Pie, who had somehow sprung from beneath the seat cushions of a nearby couch to seize her flank and lift her armor plating to see the cutie mark beneath. The pink mare made a thoughtful face. “Mm, I dunno. What else would you be with a special talent for swords? A sword swallower maybe? Or, ooh! Ooh! A professional stunt double for action comedies!”

Argent pushed Pinkie away and readjusted her armor with as much dignity as she could muster. She made a mental note to encourage Twilight to teach her friends not to grab a soldier recently back from the borders without warning. Sweet Celestia, if I hadn’t been briefed on her… “That’s certainly one suggestion—"

Rainbow gave a dismissive snort. “Nah! Being a monster hunter would be way cooler than that!” She swooped in to hover mere inches from Argent’s face. “Hey, Argent! Have you ever faced down a horrifying hydra before?”

This conversation is not going how I thought it would, she lamented, wishing that Morning Song hadn’t left with the fillies. She’d at least know how to handle these madmares. Reaching up with a hoof, she gently pushed Rainbow out of her personal space. The pegasus didn’t seem to notice. “I have,” she answered. “Though it wasn’t exactly an experience I’d seek to repeat. Not so much because of the hydra itself, but more because of the swamp where we battled it.”

“It was quite an ordeal,” said Corporal Thresher, speaking up for the first time. “Purportedly, it took the esteemed captain three days, two quartermasters, and ten gallons of cleaner to get the smell out of her armor.” Thresher kept his face a studied non-reaction as he said this, but Argent wasn’t fooled. He was enjoying himself. She shot him an arch look. You’re playing a dangerous game, Thresher. Four years of loyal service won’t save you from me.

Rarity nodded in sympathy. “Oh I completely understand, darling. I can only imagine what a nightmare it must have been to restore your armor. And, I must say, I find your regalia to be quite impressive.”

Argent smiled in spite of herself. Her battle harness had undergone many personal modifications over the years to give it more panache, to the point that it only fell within the bounds of regulations by the loosest and most creative of margins. Still, a lady must uphold the family tradition somehow.

“Gotta say, I prefer this REF rig o’ yers,” said Applejack. “No disrespect to the Solars, but gold ain’t exactly a tough metal.”

“Their armor isn’t made out of gold,” chirped Pinkie. “It’s a high density steel alloy forged with a combination of smithing techniques from all three races to help it absorb and divert damage from the user up to a certain thaumatic and kinetic degree. The gold appearance of the Solar Guard is achieved with glamor enchantments that bond to the alloy to create a uniform appearance amongst the guards, though this enchantment is not, strictly-speaking, woven into the metal, and as such is more readily broken than the armor itself.”

Blank stares greeted the bubblegum-colored mare.

“What?” she asked. “I grew up on a rock farm. I know about metal.”

Rainbow covered her eyes with a hoof. “Pinkie Pie, you are so… random.”

Applejack shook off her stupor and returned to the conversation. “Well, I’m glad to know ya’ll ain’t usin’ gold armor, though I still think the gold look’s a bit much.”

Rarity scoffed. “Oh pu-leeze, Applejack. Have you no sense of aesthetics? The gold is meant to be a reflection of Celestia, and a royal palace must have a certain degree of je ne sais quoi, no?

“But it ain’t practical!”

“It doesn’t need to be practical, darling. It’s a matter of presentation.”

“Yeah, I’m with Rarity,” agreed Rainbow Dash. “You gotta have sick uniforms when you’re guarding the palace.”

The unicorn nodded. “Yes indeed thank you so much Ra—,” she blinked as Applejack just stared at Rainbow. “…thank you for agreeing with me… on fashion… Rainbow Dash.”

“I’m with AJ on this one,” said Twilight. “A plainer color-palette would make more practical sense in combat. I was personally always partial to the steel and blue of the General Army.”

“Um… I prefer the more muted colors. They’re… well… less startling to animals.”

“I think the gold looks super-dooper pretty!”

Soon the six were buzzing with debate as they considered the fashionability, presentability, and general practicality of standardized military regalia. Thresher just rolled his eyes, but Argent smiled. They seem a rather resilient lot, she reflected, bouncing back to a happier frame of mind without too much bother. She was especially happy to see Twilight enjoying herself with her friends. The poor filly always was so shy. Good to see for myself just how thoroughly she’s broken from her old habits. It brought her joy to see the six ponies just enjoying each other’s company, their minds diverted from worrying about the strange creature’s condition. Speaking of which, I wonder how he’s getting on?

At that precise moment, Redheart and Medevac hastened past the open door of the waiting room, pushing a ‘crash cart’ along with them as they all but sprinted in the direction of the old warrior’s room. Argent sighed. Never ask a question you don’t want the answer to.

The conversation ground to an abrupt halt as the six mares stared out the open door. Argent cleared her throat. “Don’t worry, girls, I’m sure it’s—"

She found herself addressing empty space, as even Thresher had left.

“…Starswirl’s Beard they’re fast,” she grumbled as she dashed after them.


Recovery Room 316, Ponyville General, Ponyville, present time…

“Oh dear,” frowned Celestia as Jacques flat-lined. She rose to tend the patient, but the fact that he was sitting normally suggested that this was his magic at work rather than a heart attack. But what would have caused him to use his magic again? Is he reacting to some threat that I haven’t seen, or… then she saw the look of shock and betrayal in his eyes, and she understood.

With a flick of her wing she switched the monitor off. “I’m afraid that I became complacent with our similar languages, Friar, and forgot that the same terms may not apply in both camps. I suspect that when I said ‘magic,’ you immediately assumed that I referred to the Dark Arts, yes?”

For a moment, Jacques neither said nor did anything other than glare, and Celestia feared that she had broken his fragile trust of her, but after what felt like an eternity he gave a single nod. The princess sagged a little with relief. “I thought as much. You may rest assured that I would never allow such evil to be done to you, and if you require convincing then, by all means, use your own judgment upon the machine and again on me if you wish, but first I must assure the doctors that you are, in fact, not dying.”

Without waiting for a response, she rose and made for the door. Sure enough, she soon heard the rapid clatter of hooves approaching. Tugging the door open with her magic, she found herself face-to-face with Redheart and Medevac, followed closely by Twilight, her friends, and the guards. Before any of them could speak, she declared, “The patient is in good health, but he reacted defensively to the monitor, so I shut it off. Please remain out here while we continue our discussion of the matter.” She shut the door before they could respond.

Returning to the bedside, she sat beside Jacques, awaiting his scrutiny. He was in the midst of examining the monitor, though one eye was always on her, and one hand always gripped his cross. She pondered the latter fact, wondering if perhaps it were some artifact for resisting dark magic. He always grasps it before he grasps his sword. I respect a warrior who understands the most important weapons are not physical ones. Finishing with the monitor, he turned his attention to her and ran through an abbreviated version of his earlier tests. Upon conclusion, he sat back in his bed, his eyes narrow as he regarded her.

“Are you satisfied that I bear you no ill-will?” she asked.

“Satisfied, yes,” he admitted, “though in no small degree confused. Perhaps it would be best if you clarified your terms.”

“Certainly,” she nodded, launching into the impromptu lesson with an ease perfected over many years of teaching. “What I call the Dark Arts, and you, it seems, call simply ‘magic,’ is the bitter fruit of the Fell. Since they were once beings of Light, or ‘Angels’ in the old tongues, they have an innate power. They offer this power to mortals for a price, though the price they ask is invariably that of enslavement to Darkness, however they phrase it. The mortals gain power, it is true, for the Fell are bound to the Laws of Creation even now and must honor their word, but because this power comes from a perverted source, everything it touches is corrupted.”

Jacques grimaced. “That certainly sounds familiar. But this is not the only thing you use the term ‘magic’ for?”

Celestia thought she heard a scratch at the door, but put it down to one of the guards shifting his weight. “Yes. The opposite of the Dark Arts is, not surprisingly, called Light Magic, though it is more commonly called Harmonic Magic. This is the power of the Creator, the Source, the Fire; it is born of light and love, and bestowed upon those with worthy hearts and virtuous souls. While conventional magic requires skill and training, the Arts of Harmony respond to the content of a being’s character rather than his or her technical skill. Whether it is a power granted to a specific wielder, or a solitary event granted for the sake of a righteous heart, the results are nothing short of miraculous.”

The Friar’s brow, once knit with worry, was becoming smoothed as his tension waned. “Miraculous,” he repeated. “With this I am familiar. It sounds to me like the wondrous works granted to saints, or the divine authority given to clerics and prophets.” He tilted his head. “Though what is this conventional magic of which you speak?”

Again, Celestia thought she heard a sound at the door, but was so intent on the conversation that she dismissed it. “Common or Innate Magic is the broad term used to refer to the everyday magic that naturally flows around us.” With a tug of her magic she opened the curtains wider to let more of the evening sun’s light drift into the room. “While the specifics of this innate magic differs from creature to creature, all stem from the basic piece of stewardship over creation granted to each race at the beginning of the world.”

Jacques gave her a long stare. “To each race?” he asked, as though not certain he’d heard her correctly.

Celestia tilted her head. “Ye-es,” she answered, unconsciously drawing the word into two syllables. “Of course. No creature is without magic, after all.” She smiled at the obviousness of such a statement.

Her smile wavered as Jacques continued his unblinking stare. “Stewardship,” he muttered to himself.

“Friar Jacques? Are you all right?”

He stared at a point past her shoulder, lips mumbling as he seemed to ponder some great mystery. “The first lights… given to each of the races… their ‘magics,’ to govern the world…” His eyebrows rose. “To govern the world… to till and keep it…” he said this last part as though quoting something, “…stewardship…” A slow grin spread across his face, and a glint bordering on crazed entered his eye. “Which means…”

For a long moment, he did not speak. Concerned, Celestia leaned closer. “Jacques?”

Without warning, he burst into raucous laughter, shaking the bed with his mirth. “Oh, my God, my God,” he laughed, staring up at the ceiling. “As You did with Man in my world, so too did You give unto them the right to govern their earth, but oh how literal you were with them!” Soon he was laughing so hard that tears streamed down his face, and Celestia simply stared, eyes wide. “And that’s what’s different about me too, isn’t it? Why I did not tire? How I felt those beasts die? That was the flame you woke in me, wasn’t it?! In this realm, that is simply a part of what I am!

And he descended fully into the gales of laughter, pounding the side of the bed with a clenched fist. Even the periodic winces of pain from his cracked ribs could not halt his cackling, and Celestia became concerned that the poor creature’s mind had snapped from the confusion of it all.

“Friar de Charette?” she asked. “Jacques?

With great effort he brought his laughter under control, and the gleam left his eyes. A hand reached up to nurse his side, as with the end of his mirth the pain of his injuries seemed to return. “Forgive me, Princess Celestia,” he managed with a final chuckle. “I’ve just come to a rather startling realization.” Wiping a tear from his eye, he continued, “This may seem an odd question, but please be patient with me.” He cleared his throat, “Do I have magic?”

Celestia’s eyes narrowed as she stared at the possibly crazy Friar. “Why…yes. Of course you do.”

Jacques smirked. “I thought as much, and I can see that you speak truly. You must understand though, Your Highness, that this is something of a shock for me. You see, where I come from,” he leaned closer as if about to share the punchline to some great joke. “There is no innate magic.”

Now, the princess was centuries old; one of the oldest living beings in existence, in fact. Even amongst the dragons there were few who could claim to remember a time before her. As such, there were few matters that could truly be said to be unfamiliar to her.

This was one of those times, and she likely would have spent a considerable amount of time staring dumbly at the Friar had it not been for sound of a scuffle at the door.

“No, Twilight, you can’t go in there!”

“But what he just said… it’s impossible! It undermines the most fundamental laws of magic as we know them!”

“Ah don’t care! Ain’t no call to go interruptin’ the princess!”

“Yeah! If Pinkie can’t go in when he starts laughing, it isn’t fair for you to go in for egghead stuff.”

Mmmhmmhmhm!

“I don’t suppose, I mean, now that he’s stopped laughing, maybe we should untie Pinkie now?”

“You can’t keep me from this! It’s too important! I have to know!”

Oddly enough, the humor of the situation proved to be exactly what Celestia needed to regain her poise. With a sly grin at Jacques, she magicked the door open, causing the six Bearers to tumble into a heap inside. “Twilight Sparkle!” she called out, a hint of mischievous rebuke in her voice. “Have you been eavesdropping?”

Twilight turned a bright shade of red and put on her lying face. It was about as convincing as Applejack’s. “Eavesdropping?” she squeaked. “Whatever do you mean, Princess? There are no eaves at Ponyville General. Heh heh heh.”

Argent stood over the pile of mares, shaking her head slowly and smiling. Celestia addressed the officer. “And you, Captain? Allowing them to eavesdrop?”

The captain snapped a salute and put on a diligent face. “No, Your Highness. I was merely monitoring them while they conducted reconnaissance on a powerful magic-user of an unknown species for the sake of ensuring your security.”

Celestia smirked. “You wouldn’t lie to my face, would you, Argent?”

“Never, Your Highness! I’d merely bend the truth.”

Celestia chuckled. “Well, that’s all right then.” During their conversation, the six mares had managed to untangle themselves and were in the process of bowing. “Rise, my little ponies.” She looked back to Jacques, who was still sitting with an odd grin on his face. “I believe that introductions are in order.”

Author's Note:

Before I get into the minutia of the chapter update, I would like to take a moment with you to honor the heroism of one of Jacques' countrymen. Arnaud Beltrame was a French policeman who willingly traded places with a woman during a hostage crisis in Trebes, saving her life. When he took her place, he surreptitiously placed his phone on the table when he entered the supermarket so that his men outside could hear what was happening. When the terrorist, who had pledged allegiance to ISIS, opened fire, Beltrame was mortally wounded and died a short time later. Beltrame's heroism is in accordance with the highest values of courage and self-sacrifice, and reflects great credit upon him and his country. Speaking of her son's courage, his mother was not surprised, stating, “I knew it had to be him. He has always been like that. It’s someone, since he was born, who gives everything for his homeland." For those who are believers, please keep the Beltrame family and all those involved in the siege in your prayers. For those who are not, please take heart from the knowledge that there are good men in the world who will make the ultimate sacrifice for the good of their others.



Now, down to brass tacks.

Firstly, thank you all for your patience in waiting for this chapter. Life has been… something of a mess for me lately. Health problems were exacerbated by scammers trying to take advantage of my health problems, and while I dodged the latter, I’m still dealing with the former (friendly tip, if you can’t get your prescription medicine direct from your doctor, the drug company, or the pharmacy, don’t trust it). The unfortunate result was a delay of more than a week for this chapter.

Secondly, I’d like to briefly reiterate a bit of what I talked about in the last chapter’s note: Jacques is going to process what is happening to him through the lens of his own faith. It’s necessary for his character. As such, I am trying to walk the tightrope between spending enough time on it to give it the consideration it needs and avoiding turning the story into a theological dissertation. Or, to put it another way, I’m trying to write a story where two unique cultures are encountering each other for the first time, and having magic in play only complicates matters. Let me know how I did.

Thirdly, I didn’t expect this story to get the following it has. I’m going to pay that forward by giving shoutouts to excellent stories that I feel deserve more views. Today’s story: Under Layers of Dirt and Worry, by Tangerine Blast. A wonderful little one-shot about how Maud feels about Pinkie being a savior of Equestria. It’s not only a great exploration of their sisterly bond (with all the joys and struggles that come with it), but also of what it means to be the person who makes the decision to be the hero, even if it costs everything. It’s a very touching story, particularly to someone like me who has friends and family in the Armed Forces and Law Enforcement. I felt this fitting, given the Beltrame tribute.

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