• Published 29th Nov 2012
  • 4,799 Views, 107 Comments

Polarity: A Tale of Two Sisters - Shinzakura

Prequel to All-American Girl. Derpy Hooves must face a number of sudden important life decisions

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Chapter Two: A Friend in Need

“No, Mama, I’m not putting on weight. You’re imagining things.”

Derpy looked at her parents and sighed. She was starting to show now, and while she got some comments at work about “letting herself go”, she’d told Parcel Post, Raspberry Scone and Castor Oil a huge lie: that she’d volunteered to be a surrogate mother for a cousin who’d been injured and couldn’t carry to full term. A doctor in Canterlot had supposedly done the magical transfer from one womb to another, and in eight months, she’d give the baby back to her cousin. The three ponies congratulated her for her selflnessness; not many single mares in a small town like this would be willing to put up with the gossip, but Derpy was a better mare than that.

But even still she had to deal with life. Like her parents taking her out for lunch on her birthday. But it was more than that: the Hooves parents were trying to set peace between their daughters, and as always they went to the older one first, since she was the sensible one. Derpy hated that; she wished that for once they would have gone to Ditzy first, but the fact that her parents moved to Cloudsdale once both sisters left the nest made it much easier to visit Derpy first.

“Sweetie, I’m just worried about you. Why, somepony might get the idea that you’re off the market because you’re pregnant.” The look on Derpy’s face was one of mortification; thankfully her mother misunderstood. “I was just telling your father the other day that it would be wonderful if you married somepony like your sister did. That Autumn Mist…he’s a wonderful stallion, and the way your sister just adores him, well…I want somepony like that for you, too.”

Great. Apparently she doesn’t remember that Ditzy stole Autumn from me, and to make it worse, it’s clear Ditzy’s been lying to Mama. Damn harridelle. Plus, how did Mama forget that just a few short months ago, they were on the verge of divorce? Or is it just self-delusion? Derpy didn’t want to wander into that minefield, so instead she asked her father, “Papa, are you thinking the same thing?”

The paternal stallion chuckled. “Why, Derpelle, you’ll always be my little filly. But your mother’s right: I’m hoping that someday you’ll find a stallion that will make you happy because he can keep up with you. I know that’s always been a problem for you, kiddo, but you’re a Hooves gal – you’ll get that stallion when it’s time.”

Oh, joy: so Mama thinks I’m not dating because I’m fat and Papa thinks I’m not dating because I find stallions too stupid. Buck my life. She knew she wasn’t going to win this one, so instead she shut up and decided to enjoy her parents’ company. She didn’t see them as much as she liked, and she did love them after all…as opposed to certain parts of her family.


Ditzy woke up, hungover and completely sore. She blinked her eyes, unwilling to open them and surrender to the brutal needs of consciousness. “What did you want, Fluttsy?” she murmured.

“Did you say something?” a second voice asked. This time Ditzy awoke fully; that second voice was nowhere near familiar. She found herself staring at a lilac hued pegasus mare with a mane a deeper shade of blonde than hers; it took a few minutes before Ditzy remembered the other mare’s name: Cloud Kicker. From their rather hasty introduction, Ditzy found out that Cloud Kicker was a worker at the Cloudsdale weather factory. She also found that the pegasus was…rather adventuresome in the hay. That had been years ago and since that time, they’d become both friendly and intimate. She’d known the other pegasus for years – how had she not recognized her at first?

Ditzy took stock of the situation as she realized where she was, ignoring the dream that had jolted her back to wakefulness. She’d had another fight with her husband, then flew off to meet an old friend, Cherish Wish. Cherish invited Ditzy to a private party she was attending, and…well…she got to know a lot of ponies there, in a very intimate manner. By the time she fell asleep, she was drunk as hell and very spent, in more ways than one. She didn’t have to worry about getting pregnant, fortunately; apparently several unicorns invited to the frolick had set a ton of contraceptive spells, lest the maternity wards of several hospitals would be very busy around this time next year.

“Nothing, just thinking aloud,” she told the other pegasus and something welled in her slightly. Her daughter wasn’t here – Thank Celestia her daughter wasn’t present – there was something in Ditzy that wanted to hold her foals close to her and just spend forever with them. She shook her head; well, at least they were with their father at the moment, so they were being taken care of.

But he’s not their father, her conscience reminded her. He chose to be their father, but you didn’t give him a choice – or actual children, for that matter, did you?

Shut up! she snarled at her inner voice. Does it matter? Both Orange and Fluttsy have a wonderful father! And Autumn is doing the best that he can! And besides, I deserve this! Each little step I take gets me where I deserve to be in life!

“Hey, you okay?” Cloud Kicker asked, looking at her.

“Uh…just preoccupied with something. Something up?”

“Well…” Cloud Kicker said saucily, “Meadow Mountain just woke up and I’m gonna see if he’s up for bangin’. I heard he’s really built for a stallion, if you know what I mean. Besides, you and I had sooooo much fun last night, I thought you might want to join us,” the lilac pegasus said, punctuating it with a series of small kisses that raced up Ditzy’s neck.

Ditzy’s body stirred at that, but at the same time, desire waged war with the strange feeling her subconscious was slamming down on her. It wasn’t shame, she knew that much; she was more than happy to admit she was shameless. Was it…guilt? But why? She was having fun, she had a great husband, two – or maybe three, she wasn’t sure – foals, a great job and plenty of entertainment, as evidenced by Cloud Kicker trying to get her started.

“Wanna see who’ll wear him out first?” Cloud Kicker breathed, both a challenge and an invitation.

“Excuse me,” a soft voice said behind them both. Both turned to see a powder blue earth pony mare with coral-hued eyes and a soft lavender mane. “My…name is Tender Sighs. I’m looking for…uh, Ditzy Doo.”

“That’s me,” Ditzy said, noting something about this mare that was getting her started.

“Uh, I….” She blushed. “Well…I was invited to the party by my friend Cherish and she said….” Another blush, more furious this time. “Well, this is my first time, and that she and you would….”

Cloud Kicker clapped Ditzy on the back. “I see you’re going to be busy.” And then whispered in the gray mare’s ear, “Looks like you’ll have to go gentle with her. And let me know how that works out, okay? Might make a run in the meadow with her later if she’s willing.” Not waiting for an answer, Cloud Kicker fluttered off to find the stallion of the moment.

Ditzy looked at the pony before it dawned on her: She has the same colors as my Fluttsy. Obviously not in the same arrangement, but still the same three hues…. Ditzy shook her head before something else stopped her; she was here to have fun and have fun she would.

Tender Sighs looked at Ditzy nervously. “Will it…hurt?”

Ditzy approached the nervous mare and kissed her tenderly. “I promise it won’t. Let’s go find Cherish and introduce you to the world of marehood.” Determined to ignore the chafing voice of guilt building in her head, she focused her attentions entirely elsewhere and was slowly rewarded as the guilt was drowned away in the scent of pheromones.

Shortly after getting home from having breakfast with her parents, Derpy started work on her Stereolab again. She had a long ways to go to isolate the other voices, confirm them as vibrations from other realities and not just magical broadcasts or something worse. She already had dealt with worse and it frightened her: a month ago, she’d tuned in on a particular frequency and instead of hearing a random snippit of conversation from somewhere beyond, an unnatural, inequine voice hissed in a guttural tone, “wE hAvE suCH SiGhtS tO sHow yOu!” The room started to fill with a cold, inky black smoke…only to be stopped as the security protocols kicked in and two ensorcelled yellow crystals blazed with the protective power of Celestia’s Sunlight, one of the most powerful defensive spells known. The smoke went away and the crystal that was attuned to that particular frequency changed from the blue gem it had been to a small, metal box with a strange pattern on it. The Celestia’s Sunlight spell activated a second time, and the box disappeared, leaving the normal smoke of burning wires and slagged crystals now that the security spell was now spent.

She’d since replaced the security protocol crystals – doubled them, actually. She’d also put that frequency on the lockdown list, not to be ever accessed again and went so far as to rewire the Stereolab to remove that crystal’s node and left it depowered while she built in extra protective measures…just in case.

She was about to start again, when there was a knock at the door. She went over to find a member of the royal guard standing there with a message for her; that was an unusual situation, as she was usually used to being on the delivering end, not the deliveree. With a salute, he turned away, flying off into the distance.

Immediately, Derpy opened the note.


Dear Derpy,

I know we have not met before, but Shiny has talked so much about his friendship with you that I feel I know you already and I hope that someday we will have a chance to meet face-to-face. I am Mi Amore Cadenza, Crown Princess of Equestria, Heir to Her Majesty the Princess Regnal Caelum de Aurae of Equestria, Avatar of Love, Maiden of the Spring Sky, Keeper of the Bow of Love and a dozen other pointless titles I don’t care about – you can just call me Cadance.

The reason I’m writing to you is for a personal favor – I need your help. About a couple of days ago, Fort Appaloosa was attacked by a bunch of madponies calling themselves “The Army of the Nightmare”; they claim to worship The Mare in the Moon and attacked “in preparation for the return of the Nightmare and the culmination of Endless Night.” The fort beat them back handily – I mean, we’re not talking about the most stable of ponies here – but in the process due to their numbers they managed to wound several of our troops, including Shiny. I don’t think I need to tell you how much I’m worried about him.

For some reason, my aunt has forbidden me to travel to Appaloosa, and she seems very shaken by the incident; I don’t know why, nor will she tell anypony. Likewise, she has forbidden ground travel between the Appaloosan plains and central Equestria until further notice, but that’s mainly for security precautions, I suspect. As a result, none of Shiny’s family can go visit him – Twilight, especially, is in a snit about it, but I guess that’s just how teens are. Fortunately, however, my aunt has authorized cargo and air travel to Appaloosa – although under escort – and that’s where you come in.

If you are willing, I am asking you to be the Crown’s personal envoy to Appaloosa. It won’t take but a week, it will mainly involve writing some reports and talking to the townsponies and assuring them that we will be there to protect the populace. It may also involve talking to a couple of the roving tribes of bison in the area, though most of them are either already sending reports to us or assisting the Guard in hunting down the rest of the Nightmare Army. But I also want someone who knows Shiny to deliver notes from me and his family and assure him he’ll be alright and we haven’t forgotten about him.

If you agree, just burn this letter within twenty-four hours and it will transport back to me magically and then I’ll make the arrangements. I understand you’re a busy pony already (on Shiny’s recommendation, we ordered one of your coffeemakers for the palace and the kitchen staff says it cuts their coffee prep time immensely!) but you are one of his closest friends and you’re the only one I can trust. I’ll be honest: though I could make it a royal command and force you if I wanted to…I wouldn’t. You and he are close and I wouldn’t do that to one of his best friends, one I hope to call one of my own someday.

Hoping I’ll hear from you soon,

PS – Oh, and if you have time, please send an instruction manual on how the coffeemaker is powered. Chef Bouillabaisse is so worried that it will run out of power when he needs it most he wants to make sure he has whatever powers it on hand, just in case.

Derpy didn’t even hesitate – if the roles were reversed, Shining would come in a heartbeat; she couldn’t let him down. Racing over to the kitchen, she slapped a red button on a box with her left forehoof, and a circle atop the box became a circle of fire. She’d been experimenting with some gasses and mechanics to create a non-magical stove, but since magical ones worked on almost the same principle – save for fire spells substituting for mechanically created fire – and were so commonplace she never got past her initial prototype model, which she now used as a replacement for the magical one the prior owner of the house had installed.

She placed the scroll on the fire, and it burst into flame instantly before transmogrifying into golden motes of light. The golden swarm immediately flew out the window, heading towards distant Canterlot. She was familiar with the spell – a flamefax, named after the dragon assistant of Star Swirl the Bearded and creator of the spell. Shining once had told her that his sister Twilight was the second pony in history to have enough power to hatch a dragon egg; Twilight’s family had adopted the young drake, though once he was old enough to walk he virtually tied himself to his older sister. Spike, as she’d named him, was a well-read and intelligent young colt, Shining had said.

The thought pattern finally circled around to Shining himself. Was he okay? He must be, because had he been seriously wounded, Cadance would have likely defied her aunt’s edict and went to Appaloosa anyway, though likely he would have been transported to a hospital in Canterlot for emergency care. But most of all, he would tell her, because he’d ask for advice and counsel. He was one of the very few ponies in the world that never made fun of her disability; in fact, he went out of his way to talk about her exceptional abilities, instead. Who knew – if things had been different, maybe….

She smiled softly. Maybe – but Cadance is a lucky mare, and I’m blessed enough to have him as my friend. And that friendship, more than anything, was what spurred her to action. Immediately, there was another knock on her door. Derpy went to it, thinking Wow…Cadance moves fast. She opened it, instead to find a half-drunken Bottlerocket, reeking of cider. “Uh, hi, Derpy,” he slurred.

“Hello, Bottlerocket,” she said evenly. “What can I do for you?”

“The harri…m’ wife an’ I, we’re,” he slurred, pausing if trying to remember his words, then continued, “off t’ Dra…Dric…th’ dragon lands. Pot’ntial job there f’r a dragon lord.”

Derpy didn’t know what to say; if her situation was bad, theirs was dire: at the competition a few months back, not only were they bested by a husband/wife unicorn and pegasus team who won the prize and the job as Royal Pyrotechnicians, but Oriental Blossom reputedly lost her temper and set off a spell that burned down the summer palace of Prince Campion. While they managed to avoid a grim fate at the hooves’ of Princess Celestia’s unicorn nephew, his son Prince Blueblood demanded that the two pay for the damage. It had left the pair destitute and desperate for jobs. Undoubtedly, it took a toll on their marriage, as well.

“Be careful. Dragons expect some truly powerful displays, and you don’t want to sell yourself short.”

“Don’ y’ think I know that?” he snapped, before calming down. “Sorry…nerves. An’ way, I wuz hoping y’d…. You know, you have a really cute plot.”

Derpy blushed and spread her wings out to cover her flanks from his view. If anypony else had said it, she’d have dealt with the compliment. Had Autumn – no, don’t think of Autumn – said it, she would have – I said, stop thinking of Autumn! But Bottlerocket was a married stallion, with a child. She’d made that mistake once – she was still paying for that mistake – she’d never do that again. Besides, she wasn’t attracted to him to begin with, and in this inebriated state? It was rather repulsive.

“You were saying?” she said, archly.

“S’ I wu….wus won’drin’ if y’d watch our brat f’ us.”

Brat? She’s your foal! Derpy was about to scream, when she had a sudden thought: a foal as young as Sparkler wouldn’t do well in Draconia. For that matter, adult ponies that made the journey to the dragon lands almost never fared well, either. It wasn’t that dragons were cruel or capricious, it was that Draconia was split into two large landmasses, and depending on where they were in their migration, the air was breathable for ponies or they were in a sulfur-filled land of volcanoes which could kill any creature that wasn’t a dragon quickly. Of course, that wasn’t common knowledge, which was why the average pony didn’t know a thing about their fellow winged beings. Fortunately, scholars like herself and presumably Shining’s sister did.

In any case, Derpy wouldn’t let anything happen to Sparkler. “I’ll be happy to watch her for you.” Instead, of thanking her as he did in the past, instead he just staggered off to his home across the street, looking more and more pathetic as he walked away from her home.

She was about to close the door, when there was another knock. Fortunately, it was Parcel Post. “Derpy,” the russet stallion began, shaking his head, “I’ve known you for a couple of years now, and I have to ask: why are you just a mailmare?” Before she could say anything, he said, “I just got a flamefax from the Postmaster General herself excusing you from work for the next two weeks. Apparently you’re doing some special duty for the Office of the Crown Princess, and that it was so hush-hush even Special Stamp didn’t know what it was for. Who do you know in the Crown government and why aren’t you working for them?” he chuckled.

“I…don’t like taking advantage of friends,” she answered diplomatically. “As for the request, maybe I was recommended to her highness?”

“Well, just take care of yourself. Wouldn’t want to lose my best mailmare, and Appaloosa’s real dangerous right now – apparently there was an attack by some brigands just recently. In the meanwhile, I’ve got Lemon Drop handling your route as well as hers; she could use the overtime anyway, she said. So we’ll manage here.” He looked at her. “But what about your, ahem, ‘special package’? Wasn’t there some concern?”

“I, uh, talked to my doctor, and he said that while I can still fly, it’s fine. The moment I become too big and heavy to fly is when I’ll need to be on light duty. But thank you, Parcel. It’s good to know you care.”

“Well, just wanted you to know. I’ll see you when you get back, then. Best of luck, Derpy.”

This time, she didn’t bother closing the door, as in burst Raspberry Scone, another of her good friends. “Derpy, what are you doing? Are you crazy?”

The gray mare looked at her friend and chuckled. “Nice to see you as well, Sconey.”

The look on the soft red earth pony’s face was one of stupefication. “No, I’m not going to let you do this to yourself, Derpy!”

“Do what?”

“There’s a rumor going around town that you joined the Guard to chase after that stallion boyfriend of yours! The one to moved to Appaloosa and left you pregnant!”


There was a mischievous grin on the farmer’s face. “I know. I kept telling them that was a lie, but…you know this town. I swear, sometimes I think you shouldn’t’ve moved here to Berryville for your own good, Derpy, but if you hadn’t, I wouldn’t have met you.” The second smile was more sincere as Scone asked, “Seriously, what’s going on, and will it affect you personally, if you know what I mean?”

“I was contacted by the Office of the Crown Princess to be the envoy for the Crown in Appaloosa. I’ll be gone for about a week or so. And according to the doctor, I should be fine.”

“When did I say that?” an astonished voice rang out behind Scone; sure enough, it was Castor Oil, who’d also come, having heard the news. “Derpy, you know that as your doctor, I would never have agreed to this.”

“They, uh, sent a doctor to, um, check me out,” she said, hating piling a new lie on the sizable mountain she’d already created. “Same, uh, doctor that did the, uh, transference spell.”

Castor sat down and folded his forelegs. “I’ve a mind to travel to Canterlot and give that doctor a piece of my mind. You’re in the formative quarter of your pregnancy, which is the biggest chance of miscarriage. He should know that – hell, it’s the reason I wouldn’t let Winter out of the house when she was with foal.”

“Look, Castor, Sconey, I appreciate you two looking out for me,” she said, embracing her friends. “But this is only for a week or so, I’ve been assured that I’ll be safe as safe can be – I’ll be under military escort all the way – and I won’t be exposed to the front lines. My…cousin’s foal is important to me and I would never endanger it.”

A new thought crossed Castor’s mind. “Does she know? No offense, but if it were mine and Winter’s foal you were carrying, I’d go yell at Princess Celestia herself if it would make a difference.”

“I’m not sure Autu…August Wind knows,” she said, pulling the name of a distant cousin out of her hat. “I don’t think August would be happy if she did.” Especially since he’s male, she told herself, chiding herself for yet another lie.

“Then you should tell her,” Scone said, Castor agreeing at the sage wisdom.

Derpy sighed; she was digging herself in deeper each day she lied about the whole thing, and now she was adding a new layer to the whole thing. “Fine, I’ll write her and her husband a note once I’m on the way. But I promise I’ll be okay, alright?”

“Daddy? Where’s Mommy?” Flutterwonder said, laying down next to Autumn. On the other side of the bed, Orange Box was already asleep, snoozing softly. Both fillies were having nightmares lately, so Autumn had them sleep with him for the duration.

“I don’t know,” he said, softly, meaning it. After his visit to Derpy, he returned home and a few days later, Ditzy came back. They went through the usual song and dance of making up, and for a change it almost seemed as though his wife had meant it this time. But that ended when he got off early from work one day, found an all-too familiar scent in the house, the bedroom window open and Ditzy very conveniently taking a shower.

The argument didn’t go well – she was gone within minutes, shouting something inaudible but clearly designed to hurt him. And as she flew off into the distance, all he could whisper to her retreating form was “Happy Anniversary, dearest wife.” That was two weeks ago, and as per the norm when she was off sowing her wild oats, he hadn’t a clue where she was.

“I don’t know, sunshine,” he told Fluttsy, nuzzling his daughter gently. He knew neither she nor Orange Box was his by blood, but he’d never really cared about that. If he and Ditzy divorced, he would push for custody of his foals by Tartarus or by highwater. And if he remarried, he’d sure as heck look for a better mare than his wife.

“Daddy? Is Mommy mad at us?” Flutterwonder asked, the look in her eyes worried.

“Of…of course not, Fluttsy. She’s just…busy.” He fought not to spit out that last word in anger. He would be infuriated with Ditzy, but never in front of the foals. “What makes you say that?”

“At school, Miss Butterfly Wishes said that Watermelon Splash was gonna hafta go to a different school because her mommy and daddy are di…dee...diver….”

“Divorcing?” he asked, and she nodded. Makes sense. Watermelon’s father had been one of Ditzy’s trysts, and obviously his wife hadn’t cared for that; it was entirely possible that either of Autumn’s daughters had been sired by that other stallion.

“Are you and Mommy…?”

I wish I could say yes, he told himself. I wish I could say I am, we’re leaving and we’re going to live with your aunt, who will be your new Mommy and will be a billion times better one. But Derpy had closed that door for him for their sakes; and right now Fluttsy needed more comforting words than the truth. “Of course not, sweetie. Your mother and I are fine.”

“Then why isn’t she here?” Fluttsy wailed.

“Because she’s busy, Fluttsy. Sometimes some ponies are very busy and…have to work long hours. Remember when I had to leave you with your grandparents for a few weeks because I had to go on a business trip?” When she nodded, he said, “Your mother’s…even…busier than that. But when she comes home, we’re always happy, right?” Because Ditzy has at least enough sense not to fight in front of the foals, he mused.

“But I need her now! The Filly’s Day Festival at School is in two weeks, and I can’t do it if Mommy’s not there,” Fluttsy moaned.

“Your Mom might not be home in time,” Autumn sighed, trying not to show the rising anger with his wife that he felt. Damn you, Ditzy – of all the times I need you here and not screwing every pony you can get your hooves on, it’s now! But instead, he smiled and asked, “But have you written your Aunt Derpy? You know she would be glad to help if she can.”

The filly’s eyes brightened like Celestia’s sun; why hadn’t she thought of that? was the look clear on her face. “Daddy, that’s a great idea! Will you help me write a letter to Aunt Derpy?”

He nodded. “Of course, sunshine. Go get a paper and pencil and I’ll help you.”

Fluttsy pranced off happy as a lark before stopping and turning to look back at her father with a guilty glance. “Daddy? Sometimes…sometimes I wish Aunt Derpy was my Mommy.”

“Sweetie, you shouldn’t say things like that,” he gently scolded. She nodded and went off to get the paper, leaving Autumn to silently say to himself, “But so do I, Fluttsy. So do I.”

Oriental Blossom had dropped off Sparkler, who was somewhat shaking. “I just found out that I have to be out of town for a couple of days,” Derpy told the unicorn mare. “I’ll take her with me. You don’t mind, do you?”

While Blossom had never been on good terms with Derpy before, she was downright venomous with her now. Giving the gray pegasus a once-over look and muttering something about “knocked-up”, Blossom then added, “Look, if you lose the runt, I don’t care. Just don’t get me in trouble, got that?” then wheeled and walked away before anything else could be said.

Derpy instead looked at her charge. As Blossom walked away, Sparkler started to calm down slightly. She was especially calm once Derpy nuzzled her, cooing, “There, there, sunshine. I’m here for you. Are you okay?”

The little filly nodded slightly, relaxing finally. “I’m…okay. It’s just that Mommy and Daddy were yelling at each other and it was really scary and stuff. Then Mommy yelled at me.”

Derpy’s jaw firmed up. When the unicorns returned, the pegasus would have to have a chat with Blossom about being a parent. She might be told it was none of her business, but there was no reason at all to yell at a filly as young as Sparkler. Besides, right now Sparkler was her charge. “Sparkler, I have a surprise for you: I have to go on a trip tomorrow, and how would you like to come with me?”

Sparkler’s mouth opened in an o of astonishment. “Really?”

Derpy nodded. “We’ll be flying, too.” Fortunately, she had the spare saddle harness from when her nieces visited, and it would easily fit Sparkler. “Promise.” That was enough to set the unicorn off, and soon Derpy had a hyper filly running around the house, from time to time hopping as if she were trying to flap wings and shouting, “I’m gonna fly!”

Derpy smiled, imagining Sparkler for a second – just a second – as the unborn foal growing within her. But doing that brought up mental images of her, Autumn and a family, living together in love, a love they could never have. Part of her wanted to cry, but it was clear that Sparkler needed comfort – something was happening to her family – and Derpy would have to be the bedrock for this poor foal.

The two spent the rest of the night making dinner, working a bit on the Stereolab – Derpy wouldn’t turn it on again until she was sure all possible protections were in place – and then played a couple of games of Cloudbusters with Sparkler until the unicorn yawned. With that, Derpy put the young foal to sleep, and then went over to her shelves to start researching about Appaloosa; if she was being chosen by Cadance to serve in an official capacity as a liaison, then she wouldn’t let the princess down, friend or not. Besides, she was bringing along Sparkler, and while she figured it was safe, Derpy would be sure to take precautions.

It was finally closing up on midnight by the time Derpy went to bed. To her surprise, she found Sparkler there, a frightened look on her face. “Miss Derpy? Ca—”

Derpy smiled. “Of course you can sleep with me tonight,” she said, crawling into bed. She put her foreleg around the small filly and nuzzled her. “Good night, sunshine.”

Sparkler must have been so tired at that point, she whispered a “G’night, Mama,” while falling fast asleep in Derpy’s forelegs. Knowing that someday she’d hear those words on a regular basis, Derpy fell asleep, dreaming of a loving husband that was hers. While she could never have him in her life, dreams were always a different story.

Morning came. The two had eaten breakfast and Derpy had just started to explain the flight rules and how the safety saddle worked when there was a knock on the door. Derpy opened it to find an unfamiliar earth pony standing there in the barding of a Guard. He was nervous, several years younger than her – couldn’t have been older than 22 – and junior ranked. Standing ramrod straight, he threw a salute with the squeaky clean precision of someone just out of basic training. “Ma’am! The 37th Combined Guard Cohort is here to escort you to Appaloosa, ma’am!” he said, voice booming with uncertain authority.

“Good day to you, sir.” She knew he had to be from Canterlot, because she knew just about everypony in the local garrison and they wouldn’t be this formal around her. She eyed him carefully: the young soldier stood there, the muscles just rippling under his dark gray coat, though the military-short manecut made his bluish-silver mane look too short to attract any mares. But otherwise, he seemed like the typical stallion that served in the military.

A sudden thought came to her: did Cadance send someone single to flirt with Derpy? As just as soon as she thought that, the pegasus shook her head at the silliness of that, as Cadance had to be more professional than that.

Then again, she is the Avatar of Love….

“Yes, ma’am,” he said, a flicker of nervousness in his eyes for the moment. “Permission to speak, ma’am,” he finally said.
She favored him with a sincere smile. “Look, Private—”

“Silversteel, ma’am.”

“Silversteel. My understanding is that we were going to fly there under our own wingpower.”

Silversteel shook his head. “No, ma’am. That is, that was the case but no longer, ma’am.”

“Derpy. Just Derpy. No titles or anything like that necessary, Silversteel.”

He relaxed audibly at that. “Well, truth be told, that was the original plan: that you were going to fly under the escort of the Wonderbolts and a couple other Pegasus Combat Centurias, but something happened yesterday. The rebels have hired soldiers of fortune to fight for them, and because of that, Her Majesty ordered a complete combat expedition to put them down, which means that peace negotiators such as yourself will be heavily protected for your safety. We’ll be flying out the entire cohort, all one thousand troops, so you’ll be heading to Appaloosa on our newest combat airship. Personally, I think it’s needless overkill, but….”

Derpy arched a brow. “But?”

“My sergeant informed me that Lieutenant Shining Armor is watching your escort closely and that if we screw up, we’re on KP for the next twelve lifetimes – if we’re lucky. If we’re not, we’re going to have to explain what we did wrong to Princess Cadance herself.”

Derpy rolled her eyes and chuckled. Really, Shining, is it that necessary? “Don’t worry. I know the lieutenant and her highness and as long as you do your job, I’ll give them a glowing report.”

“Uh, that’s not really necessary.”

“So when do we go, Miss Derpy?” Sparkler asked.

Silversteel looked down at the filly, and then back to Derpy. “Uh, we…weren’t informed about—”

“Glowing report with a recommendation for a medal and promotion,” Derpy said smoothly.

Silversteel looked at the mare, then the filly, then at his armor’s left breast, where his rank was. As befitting the rank of a private, it was completely blank. He then for a second imagined a higher rank on there, like corporal or sergeant…maybe even warrant officer or lieutenant…. “Right, then. Well, as soon as you ladies are ready to go, I’ll be happy to help you with any luggage that you have.”

“Thank you, Silversteel. I promise I’ll be out of your mane once we get to Appaloosa.”

He shook his head. “Sorry, Derpy, but…the lieutenant assigned me as your personal bodyguard. Which means until we return, I’m within protective distance of you, 24/7.”

Derpy grumbled. Yeah, Avatar of Love, alright. “Fine. Let me go get our bags and we can depart.”