No Rest For The Traitor

Basic Training: Discovered

"How is he?" I ask sargeant Heavy Hoof.

"He'll be fine in few days. We have the best healers in Canterlot even if..."

"Even if what?"

"The unicorns said something is interfering with the healing spells. Something they can't identify yet."

"Weren't they just giving you the usual white lies?"

"I doubt it. The wound isn't too severe anyway and even if magic fails then the following surgery won't."

Mind clearer and calmer, I have to return to one serious and amusing point.

"He sure did a number on you and your guard mates."

"Yes, he did," Heavy scratches his chin thoughtfully, "A pony with such hoof to hoof combat skill is certainly unique. How long have you known him?"

"Two days. I arrived in Canterlot the day before yesterday and he helped me find a place to live."

"What do you think about him? Tell me everything, I just need a second opinion."

"About what?"

"About him. Anything I might tell you could make you biased."

"I don't know. He just seems like a really nice guy with a lot of issues. He helped me without asking for anything at all."

Not sure if I want to go into details about that.

"I need you to tell me everything. I'm not going to tell you why, yet, but it's extremely important. How was he when you first met him?"

Is it possible he knows him? He didn't seem to recognize him.

"What are the mental requirements for working in the Guard?" I shift the direction a bit.

"We aren't too picky at the moment-"

"Yeah, he said you've had some military trouble recently."

"Really? What did he say?"

Shut up, mouth! Wait for brain to send a memo first!

"Just that both branches of the Guard would be understaffed after recent events."

"An easy guess."

Damn my curiosity!

"Okay. He tried to jump from Canterlot city walls down the mountain. Happy?"

Heavy sighs slowly, looks at the ceiling and scratches his head.

"Keep everything you've just told me to yourself. No princess, no guard, nopony must know, at least not until I decide what to do.

"Can you perhaps not talk in riddles?"

"I wish I could but I don't trust you enough."

"Who is he?" I go straight to the point.

"Not now, we can't have a recruit miss his training, Cromach."

I wave my hand.

"Pff. I was trained by Imperial Legion, one lesson won't hurt too much."

"Oh? I've always wanted to practice against a Legion soldier," Heavy seems genuinely interested now, "Care for some practice, let's say, this weekend?"

"I don't know," I grin, "Can someone who got smashed by a raw recruit teach me anything?"

Heavy actually laughs instead of looking insulted like I would expect.

"Trust me, I'd like to spar with Mistake once again without Darky and Rising getting in the way. I'm not asking you as a sargeant. Trying new things is sort of my interest."

Say yes! You'll see him sweat and maybe he'll pick up a bar of soap in the showers afterwards.

"I agree... under one condition. You'll show me a friendly bar in the city where adventurous ponies go."

"Deal! I'll be going then. Remember, NOPONY must know about Mistake until I say so."

"Sure, sargeant."

"Thank you, recruit. I owe you a serious favor. Not only me. Consider today a day off. I'll tell Darky."

When he leaves I sit down...

...and stand right back up.

Staying here might be a really bad idea since Heavy mentioned the princesses and I have the rest of the day free anyway. Pegasi and other winged creatures have a comfortable advantage in that they can just open the nearest window and fly wherever they want. For me it's a direct route to my apartment.

Grabbing a soda out of the cooler we bought yesterday, I drum my talons on the rickety table.

Damn, now I'm curious about what Heavy was talking about.

The thing is that none of that is my problem. Aside from curiosity there is nothing forcing me to involve myself in... what?

Heavy Hoof didn't say there was something but the fact that nopony must know about Mistake proves there is something bigger I might get pulled into. On the other hand, do I want to spend my days pounding the pavement?

Yes. And some other things.

I grin as the memory of Heavy's rump makes itself travel from my head lower. Why settle for some club skanks when I can go for a body sculpted by gods themselves? I'll have to find out if Heavy is single or at least open to experimentation with a griffon but I like the challenge.

I grab a little snack. I still haven't managed to find a meat vendor but there's enough good food being sold around these parts.

Heavy said he'd like to spar with Mistake [i]again[/i]. I grin to myself.

What to do in a city I don't know on a day off?

Mistake recommended me a bar, when I told him I liked listening to stories, called Sole Regret. Pretty fitting that he would know a place with a name like that. He also said that the bartender and owner of that place might be selling meat as a lot of his patrons are mercenaries and caravan guards.

The other possibility is to return back to the castle and catch the afternoon training session.

As much fun as watching recruits fail at doing pushups might be I think I should go for a little more high-class entertainment so I grab a little gold and dig out where Sole Regret is from my memory.

The bar itself isn't anything special aside from it being shockingly clean. Most travelling sword types aren't exactly sticklers for hygiene but this place doesn't smell of anything other than cigarettes, pipes and whatever aromatic aperture some patron brough with him. The estabilishment is basically just one large room with numerous square tables spread in seemingly random pattern, two chairs at each table. That doesn't discourage those who want to socialize and recount the stories of their latest exploits as they just take the unused chairs of those who want to sit alone and drink.

Noone gives me a second look as I walk to the table where a unicorn, presumably a soldier, is telling a story I actually know.

"Mind if I join?" I ask the bunch of semi-armored ponies listening to the one retelling an epic tale of a pirate encounter on high seas.

"Celestia's glorious backside!" the unicorn grins, "The hero himself is here. Guys, this is the griffon who blew up a pirate ship with the pirates still tied up inside. Bloodthirsty bugger. Pull up a chair, boy!"

I grab a rump-free one and two ponies squeeze together to give me some room.

"So, how's life in Equestria treating you?" the storyteller asks.

Scratching my head, I wonder whether my joining the Guard will raise my profile with these guys or the exact opposite.

"Pretty good, gotta admit. Would be nicer if ponies didn't flinch every time I enter a shop but pretty good nonetheless."

"Aaah. I used to be the same when I started travelling. First time in the Empire, everypony is a head taller than me and armed with sharp talons, it's easy to get shaken."

"Speaking of a head taller, I've just joined the Royal Guard. From a Legion private to Guard recruit in less than two weeks."

The unicorn looks at me quizzically.

"Why not stay in the Legion? I heard it's pretty sweet there. Not to bash the Guard but not even Celestia's backside can compete with the perks you guys have, sorry, had."

"Eeeerm, personal reasons?"

The group of ponies laughs in unison and someone slaps my shoulder.

"Don't worry. You're not the first who had to stay low for a while and you're not the last. Most griffons born here in Equestria actually are descended from Legion deserters who for some weird reason didn't want to get their head smeared with strawberry jam and stuck in an anthill."

"Really?"

"Yeah. Just don't cause trouble and soon the only thing you'll have to do will be to wear golden armor and walk endlessly in a circle around the royal library."

Mistake said something about library night shift being the highest point of a guard's life.

"I think I've had enough excitement during my time in the Legion. This might be a welcome break."

"Well, if you ever get bored you know where to look for a real job."

Maybe I shouldn't have been so loud but why does it seem like the pony in the corner is looking at me?

"Maybe," I smile at the unicorn, "Speaking of which, how do the runaways from the Empire deal with Legion Hunters?"

He smiles bitterly.

"Being a part of the Guard should help but I'd still watch your back when patrolling the streets at night. There aren't too many griffons who could answer your question."

"Do you have bounty hunters in Equestria?"

"No, at least not the Hunter organization like the Empire does but there are still those who accept any contract. So... who is it?"

"The pony in the corner," I lower my voice.

"Ha ha ha, Great story!" he laughs loudly while all ponies around me look carefully in the suspicious pony's direction.

Few of the ponies shrug.

"Well," the storyteller continues, "He might have not seen a griffon yet. It's not too unusual. Rest easy though, nopony will try anything here. A lot of us are wanted or banned from some place or the other. It tends to come with the job. You accept a contract, you piss off the victim. If somepony tries to start anything here they'll be looking for their own teeth in the nearest gutter."

"Good to know," an urge washes over me, "Sorry guys, nature calls."

"No problem, Whitey! We'll buy you another drink if you tell us what happened inside the pirate ship."

"Sure thing."

After doing my business, my heart almost stop when the suspicious pony enters the little merc's room and slaps my shoulder when I'm washing my talons. Shifting uncomfortably, I return to the main room with my shoulder still stinging. Another beer is waiting for me on the table already and so is a group of anxious ponies.

"Hey, what's that?" asks one when I sit down.

"Hmm?"

My shoulder stings again and he spits out a piece of paper on the table.

"The was pinned on your back."

I look at the white card and even with my natural color I pale as all blood drains from my face.

Got you once. Better start running.

Well, that didn't take long.

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