Basic Training: A Show Of Force
[Linked Book Entry]
Wrong yet again. How come every single time I finally gather what little courage is in me in order to do the right thing I get stopped by some nonsense?
On the other hoof, Sombra doesn't seem to be trying anything. Apparently, keeping me alive drained him to the point where he can barely interact with me so probably no taking over the world any time soon.
What's bothering me is...
Actually no, nothing's bothering me anymore. There is no outcome of this situation that is negative for me. The problem is that there's no hope of anything good happening either.
Whatever. Let's do this.
"My name is sargeant Rising Thunder, maggots, and you will grow to hate me!" yells a bulky grey earthpony at us.
I strain my self-control not to start laughing. Besides the fact that he's about as tall as me so his casting threatening shadows on the smaller ponies doesn't work on me I also have more than enough experience with a drill sargeant screaming insults in my face. I can't look around to see the reactions on the faces of other recruits but that's maybe for the best if I want to keep my cool.
Someone whimpers close to me.
"WHAT WAS THAT?" Rising focuses on one unfortunate pony who seems to be having trouble keeping his breakfast in, "Are you a guard recruit or some little filly scared of monsters in her closet?"
"Filly, sir!" his eyes go wide as his brain catches up, "I mean a guard, sir!"
With Rising Thunder yelling at random recruits I finally have a chance to look at the bunch of ponies standing at attention.
Mistake spent last two nights sleeping on the floor of my apartment without a single complaint and helped me find the Royal Guard recruitment center. I was worried about guards checking my background and finding out about my Legion problem but nothing of that sort happened. It appears Mistake was right when he said that both branches of the Guard were understaffed and were desperately looking for anyone capable of holding a weapon or willing to learn how not to cut their own leg with one.
Yeah, there are two parts of the Guard. The Royal Guard, sworn to princess Celestia whom I haven't seen yet but whose pictures litter the recruit barracks, and the Nightguard, which we can't join on account of not being changelings or something called batponies. Speaking of which...
After Mistake told me about recent conflicts within Equestria I was wondering about ponies being such peace-loving creatures as Legion intelligence kept telling us. Most of all I wondered about their military status and I was surprised to find out the information was correct. Even with the Guard offering a lot of open spots and free training there is only one group of recruits. It seems that a lot of ponies left the Guard or don't want to join anymore after they had a taste of what real war is like.
The second reason for that might be what Mistake, who is a fountain of knowledge about anything within Canterlot and the Guard especially, told me that the real recruitment starts with every new year and since there's about three weeks left before this year ends we're just a pre-recruitment group.
There's about twenty creatures in our group. I can't really say ponies because while they are a heavy majority there's still me, the only griffon, and two changelings who are currently the victims of deadly glares from Rising Thunder. One of them bears the usual form I've been taught to fear and hate - pony shaped with chitin armor instead of pony coat specked with holes in the plating, blue buggy eyes and black patches of something resembling fur on his head and instead of a normal tail. The other one is slightly taller, more pony-like with regular mane, dark blue, and some additional belly plating of the same color. In contrast to the 'standard' changeling she doesn't seem to have wings. Yes, it's definitely a 'she', I've got a good eye for those things.
None of the ponies seem particularly interesting despite them being a mixed batch of unicorns, pegasi and earthponies. Perhaps after they stop being just something for Rising Thunder to yell at I might get to know them better. Fresh recruits always appreciate someone with experience who might prevent them from scrubbing the latrines for weeks.
Then there's Mistake who doesn't seem to be interested in anything going on around him and is just looking at Rising with narrowed eyes. Damn, the little patch of longer fur under his chin is so nnnngh. I don't know whether it's the pink eyes, the contrast of black and blue or the 'please, do not waste your time with me' attitude but I just want to squeeze him like a tube of toothpaste and don't let go until his head unscrews itself.
Well, ehm. Got a little distracted there. He's a pretty gloomy guy but at least he doesn't bother me with it when it becomes too much. I felt a little uncomfortable when he was carrying all my shopping yesterday but there were some things for him as well in those bags. It turned out he didn't have anything on him. Literally nothing aside from a small bag with something square inside it.
"Having fun as usual, Rising?" says an amused familiar voice.
The sargeant looks around to find who had the audacity to talk to him like this.
"Celestia's plump backside, who let YOU come back?" Rising facehoofs at seeing Valiant Charge trotting to him.
"Hey, my sentence is over and I'm now a model citizen coming back for retraining," the brown earthpony grins.
The heavy breathing interwoven with snarls coming from Mistake doesn't escape his attention though... and subsequently neither do I.
"Hey, kid! Good to see you made it," Valiant comes closer and looks coldly at Mistake trying to hide behind me, "And you got yourself a pet unicorn."
He ruffles Mistake's mane.
I have no clue what to say.
The growling from the black unicorn stops in a gasp and I look at him just to see him looking wide eyed past Valiant, past Rising and on two approaching figures.
The first one in an another earthpony who is even taller than Rising. I make a mental note to get that guy to bed no matter how expensive the drink I'd have to buy might be. The white earthpony grabbing everyone's attention has features that statues of ancient heroes would beg to have. Every muscle visible and toned to perfection, stallionly and yet softer lines of his face and the blue patches of fur same as his mane and tail around his hooves make my knees go weak for a second.
Rising Thunder bows, the crazy, abusive sargeant actually bows to the guy. Valiant...
...completely ignores him and stares at the other pony.
Who stares back, contempt and barely contained fury in her red eyes.
I've never seen a pony like her before. Charcoal black coat, red eyes with slit pupils, short, red mane and a tail braided into one thin strip could pass for mostly normal, even the small fangs in her mouth showing when she smiled at the godlike earthpony who came with her. What is completely unique are her wings. One of them seems made of phoenix feathers, red and tipped with gold and the other one...
I've seen that before.
...it's the same black wing tipped with purple flames the alicorn at Zeph's had.
When she looks away from Valiant she smiles widely at the entire group.
"Sooo... who tried to smack ya in the face, Rising?"
"Nopony yet, commander!" Rising salutes. I can tell he's uneasy in her presence for some reason.
"Well, we better change that."
This time it's Mistake who whimpers quietly. Unfortunately for him, the twitch of the commander's tufts of fur on the top of her ears shows she heard it.
"Ya look like a fighter," she pats Mistake's head. He leans away, pupils jist a pin pricks in his eyes, "Come on, Rising doesn't bite."
"I-please-I'd much rather-no-I can't," Mistake mumbles.
I push him forward and hide a grin with one hand.
"So... what's your poison?" she nudges him.
"Sorry?" he looks at the ground.
"Who would ya prefer beating ya up? Since ya've, well, been volunteered," she chuckles.
Mistake takes a deep breath. Why do I have the feeling that the pony girl in front of him is digging her own grave?
Oh right, that's why. Mistake sniffs, rubs his eyes and laughs.
"I'm really bad at making good choices, it seems," he whispers and then raises his voice, "Why not all three of you? Just give me a sword and a warmace."
"Got courage, I like that," she grins.
"Darky-" the godly earthpony facehoofs.
"Commander-" Rising objects as well.
"You heard the unicorn," she shushes them, "Let's give him a bite of a reality sandwich."
"Can't be worse than your cooking," Mistake says loudly.
There's something I can't identify in his eyes. He looks as if he could start crying any second, which he undoubtedly will when he gets smashed, but also hunger, joy?
"I'll make you eat those words," the commander stands on her hind legs and strikes a pose.
"I stand by my statement!" Mistake snorts, mirrors her stance but crosses his front legs on his chest.
That taunt is enough for the black mare to blur and appear at lightning speed next to him...
Gotta admit, I wasn't expecting ponies to know griffon hand to hand combat but she seems to be well-versed in it, at least from the stance. In her case it must be more a hoof to hoof combat. I'm not sure how she would fare against a griffon who would have a natural advantage in his talons but her speed is definitely amazing. I agree with Mistake's decision to take all three on though. He must know he can't win against who look like they are masters of their weapons and just wants to make a show. Noone will be expecting him to do well and if he can just land a good slap at one of them he'll be a recruit hero.
...or he could just move his hind leg, shift his stance slightly and trip the mare up so she lands face first on the ground.
Rising Thunder returns with the two requested weapons he previously pulled out from a large crate on the border of the training area.
Mistake offers a hoof to help the commander up. A normal pony would be smiling smugly I guess but his expression seems fully sincere. She must have caught on it as well because she pulls herself up and pats his head.
Holy Emperor's balls, he's blushing.
Must not laugh! Must not laugh!
"I think it's just fair to introduce ourselves to such a gallant challenger," the commander says and the three of them surround Mistake, "My name is, ehm, Choking Darkness, princess Luna's personal bodyguard and the leader of the Nightguard."
"Rising Thunder, drill sargeant, spear master, your worst nightmare."
"Heavy Hoof," the white godpony nods at him, "Staff."
Choking resumes her combat stance and the other two pick their weapons. Mistake just leaves his set lying in the snow and stands up as well.
Rising, armed with what looks like a staff with a pink pom-pom on one end jumps forward and unleashes a series of fast jabs that Mistake avoids by simply taking a step back. He's not fast, he just uses the minimum amount of effort necessary to keep himself safe. There's no way for him to keep doing that after the other two join the fight.
They seem like weapon experts but it's soon apparent they're used to working together, at least Heavy Hoof and Choking who take their positions on each side of Mistake and attack.
"Whoooooooah!" the recruits exclaim as one and begin stomping the ground, an equivalent of clapping.
As soon as Choking moved, Mistake turned away from Rising, kicked Choking's legs from underneath her and in one wide swing grabbed her with his front legs and used her acceleration to fling her to the side. Normally that would leave him with a pink pom-pom sticking in his side and a horrible headache from having his head smashed by Heavy's quarterstaff but something else happened in the same instant.
Black mist swirled around Mistake's horn and the spiral on it turned bright orange. The dull practice sword on the ground was enveloped in orange glow and in one swoop broke Rising's practice spear in half. The large warmace almost as tall as Mistake was enveloped with the black mist and stopped Heavy's blow.
Suddenly the situation changed into Heavy Hoof desperately, yet successfully, defending himself from an assault of two flying weapons and a unicorn dancing around to find a weak spot.
The two guards used the time Heavy bought them to gather themselves and go for an another attempt.
This time Rising ended with a practice sword hitting him in the stomach and leaving him groaning on the ground. With him out of the way, Mistake was able to dodge Choking's flanking attempt, spin behind her and punch her kidneys. A blow like that would make a griffon lose control of his limbs in pain despite not actually being dangerous and the pony reacted in a similar way.
That, unfortunately, left her completely unable to dodge Heavy's crushing swing closing in on her. The blow that should have sent her to hospital didn't connect, at least not with her. Using his weight, Mistake pulled her backwards and spun both of them to leave himself on top.
The cracking of bones is the only sound that pierces the shocked silence of the recruits and Mistake hits Choking on the ground like a sack full of potatoes. She doesn't waste a second and pushes him away.
"Already on it," yells the white earthpony running towards the castle entrance.
Choking tries to get the completely limp unicorn's attention but it's soon obvious that Mistake is unconscious.
"Is anypony friends with that guy?" she yells at us.
I raise my hand.
"Help Heavy with the stretcher and carry him off to the infirmary. We'll deal with the missed training session later. Rising," she turns to the drill sargeant, "feel free to continue the practice. I'll take care of this guy in the meantime."
"Yes, commander!" Rising salutes.
I watch the fresh recruits follow Rising's explanation concerning weapons and try their first practice swings. It does seem that unicorns have massive advantage over other pony races in terms of fighting but since all three guards responsible for today were magicless they must overcome it somehow.
When Heavy returns we put Mistake bleeding out of his mouth on the stretcher and go to the castle.