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by Jeffrey C. Wells
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"All right, maggot!" bellowed Staff Sergeant Thunderous, once of the Equestrian Royal Guard. "Today's the day we teach you to use the most deadly weapon in the Palace Arsenal! Do you know what that is, soldier?"
"With all due respect, sir," said Captain Shining Armor, currently of the Equestrian Royal Guard and in fact the stallion in charge of the entire operation, "you're not actually my drill instructor any more. Plus, I outrank you." Shining Armor scratched his mane with one hoof, and took a glance around at the rather unassuming and grimy Canterlot dockyard bar he found himself in. "I outrank you, like, eight times."
Thunderous threw back another mug of cider, his eleventh of the evening, and wiped the foam off his whiskers with one powerfully-muscled forearm. "You think I don't know that, you lily-livered pansy? I know you're in charge of that sorry-flank outfit you call the modern Guard. Worthless!"
"Again, with all due respect," said Shining Armor, with considerable patience, "they're fine colts, sir. I would trust any of them with my life. Any one of them."
Thunderous laughed, sharp and barking. "And you think they'd actually be able to save your life, if it came to that?"
"I do," said Shining Armor, nodding.
"Pah!" said Thunderous. "They may prance a good prance, but when the chips are down, they're going to need firepower! More firepower than you've given them!"
"They're well trained with the spear," said Shining Armor. "And with all major forms of dessert, up to and including blancmange. I don't think I need to tell you how difficult that is to master."
Thunderous shook his shaggy-maned head and belched heroically into his twelfth cider; Shining had not even seen him order it. "Useless," he said.
"Okay," said Shining Armor, who remained remarkably game despite the rather unusual and off-putting circumstances. "What exactly should I be teaching them to use?"
Thunderous ran a lazy eye over the crowd, vanished into it, and returned, a blowsy-looking purple-hued pegasus mare in tow. "The wife," he said, apparently in introduction.
"Good evening, Missus Thunderous," said Shining Armor, with a polite little bow.
"Please, call me Peachy," she said. She shrugged, smiling. "Colorblind dam."
"Okay!" said Shining. "Peachy... Thunderous. Charmed to meet you. Your husband was just about to tell me exactly what style of deadly force I should be training my recruits to use."
"I did tell you!" shouted Thunderous, causing some of the other bar patrons to glance at him and edge away. "The wife!"
Shining Armor blinked.
"When you said 'the wife', that was actually the answer to my question."
"Of course, dunderhead!"
"You want me to teach the colts under my command to attack the enemy using... their spouses?"
"No better weapon in all Equestria!" crowed Thunderous, pulling Peachy close, as the mare adopted a winsome little oh-you expression. "This is my wife!" the crazed ex-Sergeant shouted. "There are many like her, but this one is mine!"
"Oh, Thundy," said Peachy, rolling her eyes. "Such a flatterer."
"My wife is my best friend!" continued Thunderous, his eyes going a little crazy. "She is my life! I must master her as I master my life! I eat with her! I sleep with her!"
"Well, I would hope so," said Shining Armor, diplomatically. "I mean, I don't think you have to master your wife, as such, but the eating and sleeping thing—"
"Hush, maggot!" suggested Thunderous. "Don't you dare interrupt me in the middle of the Wifleman's Creed!"
"You had better be!" screeched Thunderous. "With disciplined use, the wife is the single most powerful weapon at pony disposal! A trained attacker comes at you armed with his wife, you better turn tail and run!"
"What if it's just his fillyfriend?"
Thunderous's voice got low and dangerous. "Then you marry that mare, son." He nodded decisively. "Thus disarming him!"
"It worked for us," said Peachy, snuggling her husband close. "Twenty-five years since he first stole me away from that low-life mugger I was with, and I haven't looked back."
"Er, okay," said Shining Armor. "How are these, ah, hypothetical spouse-based attackers going to be coming at me? How exactly are they weaponizing their brides?"
"Simple," said Thunderous. "They're going to lift them up and toss them at you."
"Lift them!" screamed Thunderous, directly into Shining Armor's face. "Mark my words, colt, the day is going to come when you'll need to take your wife in your hooves, lift her, bodily, over your head, and chuck her at the enemy! And when that day comes, if you haven't trained, and trained hard, you are going to be in an entire world of hurt! The final darkness will be falling, society will be collapsing to shards all around you, and you'll be lying there in the throes of painful lumbago, absolutely unable to finish the job!"
"The job of... throwing my wife at the enemy."
Shining Armor backed a step or two away. "I'm, er, not even married, sir," he said.
"No excuses!" screamed Thunderous. "Listen to me now, Armor! When that fateful day arrives, you will remember these words, and you will weep, Armor, weep that you did not heed them! Some day, the fate of all Equestria will hang on your ability to treat your wife like a massive projectile!"
"Sir," said Shining Armor, "I think you've maybe had enough cider for the evening."
"Aw, don't be like that," said Peachy. "I thought he was crazy, too. That is, until he used me to decisively end the battle of Rushing Ford. Chucked me right at the insurgent general, knocked him on his helmet, and clang!" She clopped her forehooves together. "Rebellion quashed. Kinda fun, actually." She shot Thunderous a sly little wink.
There was a pause.
There was no reason that this should be a moment on which the world turned, thought Shining Armor. A chance meeting with an old drill instructor, now obviously quite senile and totally bucking insane. A plan that made no sense whatsoever. A highly dubious version of history that did not gel at all well with the books of military tactics that Shining Armor had rather voraciously devoured at Academy. But nonetheless, the air seemed to thicken around him, as though destiny was pressing down on the three of them with an iron hoof. Shining Armor could not explain it, but the sense of inexplicable, inescapable gravity was clear. What he said here tonight, right now, had the power to shape the future of Equestria.
"All right," said Shining Armor, feeling destiny lock into place. "Show me."
"You," said Thunderous, gathering his faithful wife up in his hooves and adopting a lifting stance, "will not regret this."
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Many years later, as invading shadows clustered and gathered close around the Coronation Balcony of the Crystal Citadel, Prince Shining Armor's eyes tracked a falling star of bright teal across the poisoned ochre sky, a tiny streak that represented Equestria's final hope for salvation. If somepony could only fly up to it, catch it in her hooves and snatch it away from the ravenous jaws of the spirit of the ancient and deposed unicorn king, then the Crystal Empire – and, by proxy, all of the world – would be preserved. But Cadance was too weak from exertion to execute a proper pegasus takeoff. And even if his own horn had not been neutralized by dark crystal magic, the falling Heart was well out of his telekinetic range. There was, indeed, only one plan left.
He glanced at his beautiful young bride. She glanced back at him.
They nodded to one another.
"I hope you know what you're doing," said Cadance, clambering up onto Shining Armor's back.
"Everything will be absolutely fine, my dearest," said Shining Armor, flexing his powerful deltoids and quadriceps. "And do you know why?"
Shining Armor's face was a mask of beatific confidence. "I," he said, "trained at the hooves of a master."
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(the, um, end.)