• Published 19th Oct 2012
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Eljunbyro - Imploding Colon



Bellesmith must perform experimental tasks in order to keep herself and her beloved safe.

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Different Strokes

"This is, without a doubt, the absolute best thing to have happened since I picked up sword and shield and headed north into Ledomare!" Eagle Eye exclaimed, his bright eyes aglaze with the amber light from the nearby campfire.

Bellesmith giggled lightly. She turned her head to the side from where she squatted on her haunches, attempting to get a peak at him through her peripheral. "I think you're dramatizing just a tad bit."

"You kidding?!" He squeaked, then forced her to tilt her head back forward. "I'd gladly leap off a cliff just to dream of hair like this, much less be given the opportunity of straightening it out!" Sitting behind her, the petite stallion resumed stroking the brush through her earthen brown mane, drawing the tangles loose and plucking each errant leaf and speck of forest from the mare's silken threads. "This is the stuff of royalty, girl! I'm not even kidding!"

"Heh... well, that's certainly a sweet compliment," Belle remarked. Her soft voice echoed against the pale walls of the ruined stone enclosure surrounding them. A ceiling of granite and thick marble pillars blocked any chance the firelight had of reaching the dim canopy of Foxtaur above. Around the, the forest brimmed with crickets and the hushed murmur of nocturnal life. "To be honest, I think everyday about cutting it short."

The air reverberated with what resembled a hydrogen zeppelin catching fire and collapsing in the center of Eagle Eye's chest. "Perish the thought! This is the most gorgeous thing to have graced Foxtaur since Zenith and Phoenix tossed my starweave winter coat to the Ursa Major in central Xona!"

"Ooooh..." Belle winced, hissing through her teeth as Eagle Eye tugged and brushed at her mane. "How horrible! Starweave is expensive! Why'd they do that?"

"Meh," Eagle Eye shrugged, squinting carefully at his telekinetic brushwork stretched out in front of him. "Because the coat existed. Why else?"

"I think you let the two of those guys pick on you waaaaay too much."

"Yeah, well, I'd rather be surrounded by manageable enemies than ones who'd kill me at the drop of a spear." Eagle Eye managed a bitter smile. "Besides, they won't ever do anything seriously bad to me. At least not while Crimson is around."

Belle slightly nodded, carefuly not to mess up his attentive care. "I see..."

"I bet you have this horrible idea of us," Eagle Eye said.

"No! Not at all!"

"We pick on each other so much..."

Belle smiled. "As stallions tend to do."

Eagle Eye froze, blinking. He smirked. "Heh. I never thought about it that way."

"Can I ask you something, Mr. Eye?"

"Please, call me EE," he said with a gentle grin. "And you can ask me anything, so long as you keep your head still enough that I can brush each strand straight."

"Very well." Belle took a deep breath and spoke. "Why did a pony like you jump into battle to begin with?"

Eagle Eye paused again, this time raising an eyebrow. "'A pony like me'...?"

"Er..." Belle fidgeted, gazing guiltily at his shadow against the wall beyond her. "I mean a pony that... that..."

"Would rather be beautyifying manes and drawing butterflies than spilling blood?"

"Uhm..." Her ears drooped as she smiled helplessly. "Yeah..."

Eagle Eye shrugged, returning faithfully to the mare's chestnut hairdo. "The talent's always been in the family, I guess. It's really hard to shake tradition, even if you really want to. Heh... I should know." He inhaled slowly while plucking a few strands of moss from the female fugitive's mane. "Besides, Xona is bad news for this whole continent, and if Ledomare falls, Franzington to the south is likely to go next, and I can't be having any of that. I... I don't enjoy taking lives, but I like the idea of my family being murdered or relocated even less."

"I don't know if I could be that brave," Bellesmith remarked, gazing thinly into the shadows of the stone ruins around them. "To believe in something so much that I'm willing to do the unthinkable to protect it." She tilted her head towards him again. "Your family must be really proud of you..."

Eagle Eye was dead silent.

Belle gulped. "Right?" she stammered.

He breathed evenly, his brushstrokes of her hair a slow and methodic thing at this point. "They... tolerate me. Or, that is, they did for a while. Things got hairy there at the end..."

"What do you mean?"

"I mean right until I moved into the central mercenary camp of the Blades Guild—"

"No, I mean, how do you mean it 'got hairy' with your family?"

"Well, maybe not so much my family," Eagle Eye said with a hissing breath. "More like with my dad..."

"Ponies of the south country are all about tradition, right? Isn't he a soldier too?"

"Twenty years retired."

"And he's not proud of his own son?"

"Last time we saw each other, he didn't exactly call me 'son.'"

"I..." Belle's lip quivered. She gulped. "I-I'm so sorry, EE, I didn't realize..." She sighed. "I shouldn't have said anything."

"No..."

"I'm sorry."

"No, it's alright," Eagle Eye said in a soft tone, briefly laying a hoof on her shoulder. "It's not like I haven't told the story before, dozens of times." His nostrils flared, but he maintained composure as he said, "Franzington is a lot like your Confederacy. The only reason it hasn't been annexed is because it's mountain country, and that isn't exactly easy to... well... to conquer."

"Right." Belle nodded ever so slightly. "I gotcha."

"But that doesn't change the fact that we still hold many of the same values—especially that of sacred matrimony. Only, y'know, in Franzington... back home, things are a bit more... eh... rigid."

"Rigid? How so, if I may ask?"

"With tradition comes guidelines, parameters that are set to make sure that future ponies mimic said tradition." He brushed a long lock of her hair and smoothed it along the other chestnut strands. "And, well, this kind of puts a choke-hold on tolerance—heheheh—to say the least." He gulped and fidgeted slightly as he said, "Take yourself and Pilate, for example. You're the happiest, most loving couple I think I've ever seen. But if you tried to say your vows down in Franzington... er... well..."

"Life wouldn't be very easy for us," Belle said with a calm expression. "I'm hardly surprised, EE. I'd be lying if I said that Pilate and I haven't run into ponies with that kind of an opinion before."

"It's totally wrong, of c-course!"

"Heehee... it's okay. I know you're only explaining the rules back home. Still..." She tilted her head towards him again. "For what it's worth, you've not done a single thing to insult me or my beloved."

"Because I know that what you have is sacred," Eagle Eye said softly. "And nopony should ever make you feel bad for when true love grips ahold of your heart, soul, and body." He lingered on the last few words, and then his lavender ears drooped in the camplight. "I only wish my dad felt the same way about things as I do..."

Belle was silent, her brown eyes wandering across the floor of the ruins.

With a deep sigh, Eagle Eye continued brushing. "The last time I saw him, he told me never to come back to the village." He gulped dryly but maintained a solid voice. "He said that I'd be more of a true son to him if I died in combat than allowed myself to live and 'make an abomination out of my beloved.'"

"That's... horrible," Belle squeaked.

"That's life," Eagle Eye said, though his smile dissolved any bitterness in his tone. "And the challenge in life is not being dealt with obstacles, but learning how to surpass them. I'll always love my father, but I know that I'll never be allowed back in his household. He's something of a powerful pony too; I doubt I'll even get to move back into my village after me and the stallions get back from all this mess. Especially now that—on top of all things, well—I'm a deserter."

"If... if that's the case... Then what are you going back for?" Belle glanced back at him. "You are going back to Franzington, right?"

"Well..."

"Isn't that the plan? Isn't that what all of you are fighting for?"

"Yeah... I guess..."

"You guess?" Belle squinted. "Well, are you or aren't you?"

"I wouldn't have made it this far if it wasn't for all the stuff that Crimson did. He had faith in our own virtues when nopony else did. Even if I died under his command, I'd be happy knowing that I fought for what was right—and I disobeyed orders for even greater righteousness." He smiled softly. "We've all talked about gathering Crimson's and Phoenix's clans and moving further south to an unsettled part of the mountains beyond Franzington. We'd start a farm or something. It doesn't matter. Anything's better than being on the run." He gulped. "Or being pariahs."

"So, that's it, then? You and Zenith and Crimson's and Phoenix's families?"

"You make it sound like a bad thing."

"It's just that... You could have been with your family," Belle murmured. "And they'll be at your backdoor, just a stone's throw away across the mountains."

"Sure, I guess..."

"Wouldn't that haunt at you? Constantly?"

"I... I..." Eagle Eye fidgeted. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath. "I guess... I don't really care where I end up, to be p-perfectly honest," he said in a wavering voice, then reopened his moist optics with a tender smile. "I think I'll be fine with living anywhere, so long as it met one parameter—a guidline set by me and me alone, not Franzington."

"And what's that?"

He stirred for a few seconds before practically whispering, "I just want to have somepony to come home to, is all." He choked briefly and murmured forth, "More than anything in the world, I just want somepony to love... somepony to trust." He sniffled, but smiled bravely. "Even my family's house wouldn't be a home to me if I couldn't have that. So... I'll be searching... I guess..."

Belle bit her lip. She smiled with a slight sparkle to her eyes. "I really hope you get to find your beloved someday, Eagle Eye."

"Hmmm... Yes. But right now," he said in a kindly tone as he started twisting her mane into delicate little braids. "What I really wanna do is make your mane look perfect."

"Heeheehee... sure thing. That sounds lovely, EE."

"The best things in life are."

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