Coming of the Guard
By the time the girls had gathered together at Sugarcube Corner later that day, a large crowd of excited ponies had grouped up around the central avenue. There was a huge ruckus as many of them tried to catch a peek at the approaching marchers coming up the path. Speartips and armor gleamed in the late day sunlight as the column grew nearer, each stallion moving in step, as if they were one great body.
Rarity and Rainbow Dash approached, when they were suddenly accosted by a bouncy pink ball of energy. The mare called out to them in a bubbly voice, her magenta mane a huge bundle of springy curls that bounced along with her every energetic hop.
"Hey, hey! Over here Rarity!"
"What's up Pinkie?" Rainbow Dash hollered back, gliding over to where she was bouncing next to Applejack.
"Did you see them!? There's a whole bunch of 'em heading this way! They look all stiff too, like they do every time we see them, except now there's more of them! Well, not as many as there was at the wedding, but more than most any other time we see them!" Unable to contain her excitement, Pinkie Pie accelerated into random energetic talking.
"Has anypony seen Twilight?" Rarity asked, looking amongst her friends. "I hope she's not going to be late."
"I think I saw her over by Quills and Sofas a couple a minutes ago." Applejack replied, craning her neck about. "Maybe she's just havin' a tough time with this here crowd."
"Perhaps, though she did seem a bit nervous earlier. Maybe we should check up on her." Rarity didn't hide the concern in her voice.
"Sorry it took so long." Twilight's voice suddenly came from amidst the press of ponies. "Excuse me, oh sorry, coming through."
Squeezing between a cluster of mares and a building, Twilight finally extracted herself from the crowd and trotted over to her friends. "Whew, tough crowd today. I wasn't sure I was going to make it."
"We're glad you're here, Twilight. Now let's get a spot before the entire procession goes by." Rarity suggested.
"I'm on it!" Rainbow dash yelled, then took off over the crowd. Speeding over the energetic mob, she finally settled on a spot right at the edge of the formation's marching path. Gesturing for the others, she then turned to watch as the first ranks started entering the town.
With all the energy of a pent-up spring, Pinkie Pie launched herself into the air with a whoop, bounding through the press of bodies and coming to a stop right next to Rainbow Dash. "Boy that was fun! Let's do it again!"
"Maybe later," Rainbow Dash said, "we don't want to lose our spot."
"Okie dokie lokie!" Pinkie Pie replied.
The others took a bit longer, and by the time they managed to pop through, the Royal Guards in their golden armor were almost past them. Twilight squirmed roughly around another pony, and was shoved forward from behind. She stumbled out into the marching path, nearly losing her footing.
The Guard on the corner of the next column, a large white stallion with long dark hair caught her as she reeled, steadied her, and continued marching without missing a beat. As he passed, he flashed a smile at her. Twilight found herself sitting right next to the marchers, watching the column go by with a surprised look on her face.
Rarity took her eyes away from the parade just long enough to note the expression on her face, then smiled to herself.
* * *
The columns had remained only long enough to take a parade formation, where Shining Armor handed command of the new Ponyville Guard over to a stallion named Thundercloud. Immediately afterwards, they set to marching again, disappearing down the road on their way to the next destination.
"Aw yeah, that was so awesome!" Rainbow Dash exclaimed. "I'll bet they get to hang out with the Wonderbolts all the time!"
"It was rather impressive, and some of those stallions were positively gorgeous!" Rarity added with a smile. "Now if only their armor had a bit more flair. Perhaps if they embedded some gemstones to compliment the gold."
"I don't even know what I'm going to do with all these new friends to meet! There must have been like a million of them! Or maybe even two million! I'll have to throw them a party every day just to give them all a party! Or maybe just one big, super spectacular party for everypony in the entire town, so that everypony can get to know every other pony! This is going to be great!" Pinkie Pie squealed with delight.
"Actually, each column consisted of one hundred ponies in a formation called a Century. It's based on the old pegasus system for military founded back when the Poseidian Empire still stood." Twilight explained.
"Speaking of pegasus, I noticed you picked up an admirer, Twilight." Rarity teased, relishing the gossip.
"Admirer? Please, he just caught me. It's not like he even noticed I was there." Twilight answered defensively.
"You don't need to worry," Rarity said, still in the mood to play the talk out, "it's perfectly natural for a filly your age to catch the eye of some charming young stallion. I'm sure you've had a special somepony a time or two."
"Nope!" Twilight answered proudly, as if it were some achievement.
"Twilight, you're telling me you've never been around boys before?" Rarity looked at her friend in surprise.
"Well, not really. What does it matter if I spend time with boys?" Twilight replied, looking a bit confused.
"Oh come on, Twilight! Boys can be fun!" Pinkie Pie interjected.
"Yeah, Twi. Ya don't wanna spend yer life all lonesome, do ya?" Applejack added.
Without warning, Rarity sidled up to Twilight her voice hitting a singing note as she began to take on a dreamy look.
"Look out there, what do you see?"
"Um-" Twilight attempted to respond, but was cut off before she got the chance.
"A handsome boy looking right over at me."
"Yeah but-" Again her protests went unheard.
"We'll dance at the ball,
He'll swirl me 'round the hall.
Whisper poems in my ear,
Call me his one true dear."
"Or mare!" Pinkie Pie added.
"A handsome boy is what I long for.
What girl could ask for more?"
"I really don't see why it-" Twilight tried.
Pinkie Pie, caught up in the excitement, began to sing as well, bounding in circles around the others.
"I always love to laugh and to run,
Boys always make it so much more fun!
They love fun games!"
"What does that got to do wi-"
"Lots of new friends is what I long for!
What girl could ask for more?"
"Okay, I get it. Boys can be fun, but do I really need to tromp around with a boy to enjoy myself?" Twilight finally managed, breaking up the musical.
"You're missin' the point there, sugarcube." Applejack said with a smile, before continuing the melody.
"A good boy is steadfast when you need a friend,
He'll love ya and and stay by, to the very end.
Goin' out for the day,
Or rollin' in the hay.
An' gettin' that first kiss,
Way ta make a girl's day."
"Kiss!?" Twilight's eyes went wide with surprise at her friend's suggestion.
"A lil companionship is what I long for.
What girl could ask for more?"
"Rainbow Dash, help me out here." Twilight begged, hoping for some kind of support.
" Rainbow Dash started, somewhere between embarrassment and pride.
"Not you too." Twilight moaned impatiently.
"I'm not much for boys, but I love to race,
And they're all the ones who keep the pace!
Speeding through the clouds,
Racing like the boys do.
If you could ever fly with them,
You'd love to hang with boys too!"
"This is hopeless!" Twilight cried.
Rainbow Dash launched herself into the air, spinning like a corkscrew as she finished her lyrics.
"A good boy who keeps up is what I long for!
What girl could ask for more?"
"I don't have time for boys!" Twilight, having finally lost it, yelled at the top of her lungs. The song came to a screeching halt as the others stared at her in surprise. Blushing a little, Twilight glanced around. "Well I don't
* * *
Out in front of Ponyville Town Hall, the Guards had assembled, and were awaiting orders from Thundercloud, who had promptly left the impatient ponies to stand rigid under the eyes of the locals, each one as stiff as a board. Still holding his place amongst the first rank, Boldheart glanced about, taking in the sights of his new home.
Only a few of the buildings rose more than a few of stories off the ground, each with sloping roofs and a quaint, picturesque design to them that made Boldheart think of those pretty murals in the Trottingham Museum of Art. He was also a little surprised to see just how many mares there were compared to stallions. He paused for a moment, trying to decide if there were just more of them, or if all the stallions were out working. It would have made sense, except that it was getting late, and the sun was sinking slowly behind the horizon.
The horizon! What if they didn't get a place to sleep tonight? What if Thundercloud decided they would exersize all night? Haunting memories of Hoof Camp flitted through his mind, turning his stomach into knots. He started looking about, wondering if any of the others knew. No, they couldn't know either, since no one had announced what was happening.
Boldheart wanted to move so badly now, his ears itched, he was worried, tired from the long march, and now that he thought about it, he hadn't even gotten a mouthful of grass since early that morning. To make matters worse, a pink filly with a crazy mane came bounding up, stopped at the formation, and grinned at them.
"Hello!" She bubbled, giving the Guard ponies a huge grin. "My name is Pinkie Pie, and I wanted to be the first to greet you all to Ponyville!"
Just ignore her
Just ignore her
Pinkie Pie dashed off like a bolt, then reappeared pushing a cannon, which she promptly pointed at the assembled ponies. Was she some kind of loony!? Boldheart felt his adrenaline surge, anticipating the order to attack, or break ranks, or something! He wasn't alone.
Upon seeing the cannon, the entire column shifted like a ripple, then within a single moment, the Guard broke formation and went everywhere. Many of the younger colts bolted, shouting in surprise. Several of the older ones charged Pinkie Pie, who being herself, whooped and fired the cannon, spraying balloons and confetti amongst the spooked ranks.
"Isn't this fu- Oof!" Pinkie didn't get to finish her sentence as she was tackled to the ground by no fewer than four of the Guard.
One of the more zealous Sergeants, seeing everything falling apart, started shouting orders. "We're under attack! Form up and prepare to charge! Scouts, spread out and locate the enemy! Give 'em blood and take no prisoners!"
Some of the ponies responded, while others took cover in the shadows of buildings, brandishing their spears at anypony who came near. To make matters worse, several of the mares panicked at hearing the announcement of attack, and began screaming. They too scattered in every direction, causing more and more ponies throughout the town to go racing off.
Boldheart, still stunned by the blast of confetti that had taken him full in the face, responded to orders immediately, taking up a fighting stance, and waited for someone to attack him. Then he saw it, a small group of fillies that came charging straight at the holding remnants of the Guard unit.
"For Equestriaaaa!" He shouted, charging straight at the group, his horn lowered to attack. Two others passed him before he realized they weren't coming for him at all, and he attempted to skid to a stop by planting his hind legs, but to no avail. He went sprawling straight into a blur of white and purple, sending the mare tumbling to the ground with him.
"Oof! Watch where you're going, you
brute!" Rarity squealed, trying to disentangle herself from the unfortunate Boldheart by kicking him repeatedly.
"Ow! Hey, cut it- Oof! Sto-" Boldheart protested, but the furious fashionista continued her assault.
"Take that, and that!" She yelled, battering him with her hooves.
"Stop it!" Another voice shouted, sending both of the entangled combatants whirling away from each other in a wave of pink magic.
"Ahh," Boldheart let out involuntarily as he picked himself up, "she's the one that kicked me."
His response went unheard, as Twilight had already rushed over to sort out the combat that had developed between Rainbow Dash, Applejack, Pinkie Pie, and the four Guard ponies who tackled her.
"Owwie, that wasn't a very good group hug." Pinkie Pie complained as she extracted herself from the mess of hooves. "Somepony is going to get hurt like that!"
"What is going on out here!?" Thundercloud demanded as he burst forth from the Mayor's office, followed by the grey maned tan mare, known only as the Mayor.
"We were attacked by the pink mare with that cannon." A ramrod backed Sergeant stated matter-of-factly, gesturing to the artillery piece Pinkie Pie had brought out.
"Heehee, oh that! That's just my party cannon!" Pinkie giggled.
"Your ponies attacked mah friend here!" Applejack pushed herself to her hooves, frowning angrily.
"Well, it was only confetti and balloons." Boldheart said, trying to calm things down.
"It is a weapon! We could have been killed!" The order shouting Sergeant, a lime green earth pony named Citrus Burst, yelled back. He trotted up to Applejack, and they began shoving each other about.
"Stand down!" Thundercloud ordered furiously. "I don't care who's fault it was! You are all to return to formation, and await my return! And if I catch even one of you moving for anything less than Princess Celesta herself, there will be chaos to pay!"
The sullen Guard ponies formed back into ranks, a few of them shooting dirty looks at the mares, particularly Rainbow Dash, who had taking to making faces at them. Boldheart sighed to himself, shaking his head. This wasn't how he wanted to start his first assignment at all
* * *
Thundercloud pushed the door shut gently behind the Mayor, his head hung in frustration. "I apologize for the behavior of my Guards. Many of them are half-trained colts who spook easily. I should have kept a better eye on them.
"Oh, it's quite alright." The mayor replied with a knowing smile. "I've seen the trouble our fillies can get into when they lose their heads too."
"I'm glad you understand." Thundercloud nodded over to the table where a map of Ponyville sat with small, colorful markers poking up here and there. "Shall we get back to business?"
They began discussing the map once again, gesturing to the little markers placed here and there. Some were rally points for the Guard, while others marked the locations each of Thundercloud's ponies would be staying at. It was a complex task, finding suitable locations for the troops amongst the volunteer residences that would work with the unit's needs.
"I will take this residence myself." Thundercloud gestured to the library, which sat relatively close to the center of the map. "It'll make a good spot for me to coordinate from, and I'm already familiar with the resident's brother. I'm sure she won't mind me much."
Twilight would probably take better to someone she knows. I suppose it won't be a problem." The Mayor concluded.
"I think it would be best to place Sergeant Ramrod here, at Sugarcube Corner. He'll be able to keep an eye on the younger ones who might try snacking too much."
"A good idea, especially considering Pinkie Pie's love of partying. I would be distressed if anything were to get out of hand in the Cakes' home." The Mayor agreed, nodding her head. She stretched, yawning as she took a few paces back from the table.
"Perhaps you should get some rest, Madam Mayor. It's been a long day, and I can handle the rest from here." Thundercloud suggested.
"Thank you, I think I will take your advice." She turned and headed to the door. "Good night, Lieutenant Thundercloud. I will see you in the morning."
With that, she departed, leaving him alone in the office. He looked back at the map, and at the library more specifically. The Captain's sister, she would be an interesting roommate indeed.
* * *
It was well after midnight when a weary Boldheart tottered his way into Sweet Apple Acres' barn. He had been among the last assigned, and had the furthest to travel to his temporary residence. He stumbled over to the hay he'd been allowed as bedding, then began shedding his heavy armor. Old iron plates clattered quietly to the earthen floor next to a short blade Boldheart had been given as a weapon.
Even through tired eyes, the young Guard smiled down at the tired blade and battered armor. Boldheart may have been a misfit, but he was proud of the few things he's earned. They said he would never make it, but he had endured. The bigger stallions had teased him about being small and weak, yet here he was, a Guard himself. Even if there was never a single spark of magic from his horn, he would prove to them he was no ordinary pony. They may have been battered old gear, but they were his, and he was proud of them.
Settling into the hay, he snuggled down in a little ball, letting out a long yawn. It had been a hard day and his hooves were sore, but he was here, standing for his home and all he loved. As his eyes closed, he thanked Princess Celestia. No matter what, he would be strong.