Summer, after the coronation of Twilight Sparkle
Rainbow Dash, Bardigan, Pauldron Sheen (NPC), Skyheart
Bardigan stands outside of Rainbow's door. It is morning, and far earlier than most ponies would like to rise. The sun has only just started to rise over the land, a full circle just a few inches off the ground. The poet pony is already well groomed and ready to go, tap tap tapping on Rainbow's door with a smile on his face. He steps back and waits.
"I want the spinach surprise!" Rainbow Dash yelps out, stirring fitfully as she dreams about attending a royal banquet where all the guests were rabbits. Her hooves waggle about, stirring up her sheets and disturbing her slumber rather thoroughly. "Huh? What!? Ohh..." She looks at her hooves, dejected that she doesn't have any free food in front of her. "Eruh...I wonder who that is?" Still bleary-eyed, she sips out of bed, wobbling a little as she tries to keep balanced, and saunters over to her balcony to peer at the visitor. "This better be important Bardy!" she yells, recognizing that hat of his anywhere.
Bardigan peeks back at Rainbow Dash from under the hat's rim. He's grinning. "Oh, but it is!" he announces, throwing a hoof out grandly and announcing to all the world that this is Bardigan, shouting at the top of his lungs on Rainbow's doorstep. "Don't you remember? You're to introduce me to Pauldron today about the jousting! The more private lessons!" He tilts his head, suddenly skeptical. "I left a message about it yesterday saying I'd be here in the morning. Apparently, you and I have very different ideas about what 'morning' is!"
Uh...message?" Rainbow Dash queries, before her mouth forms a neat 'o' as she remembers that envelope she got in the mail which she accidentally used as a coaster. "Err...riiiiight, yeah, I, uh, remember now!" Guilty-grin. "So I think Pauldron's hanging around in Canterlot right now, so we gotta fly for a bit." She blinks. "You wanna have breakfast?"
Bardigan smiles. "Certainly. All I've had so far is some jam and toast and cereal. Not nearly enough juice for flying, you understand!"
Rainbow_Dash grins. "Well, lemme coook something up, then!" She zips back inside, and about fifteen seconds later RD opens the door for Bardigan from the other side before zipping back up to the living area. Within moments she's scoured her pantry and produced several slices of pita bread, a jar of olives, some kind of yogurt-looking thing, and a bowl of spinach. "Just another Rainbow-powered breakfast!" she declares.
Bardigan trots inside, looking none the worse the wear for the wait. He sweeps his hat off respectfully and wipes his hooves, placing the hat on a nearby... no hat rack? Well, on Rainbow's couch then. He looks down at the spread and grins. "Ah, a breakfast of champions! Obviously," he says with a wink, and waits for her to sit before he does. "Thank you ever so much for doing this. The breakfast *and* the meeting with Pauldron. I know I don't seem like the best candidate for more intensive training."
Rainbow_Dash busies herself with wrapping olives in spinach and then popping them into her mouth. "Whoa, whoa, what? You want..." Her face screws up and she emits a strange, deflating sound stifles a snicker or several. "/You/? Intensive...hang on a second." She zips up the stairs to her room, probably to laugh to herself.
Bardigan raises an eyebrow, waiting politely at the table for Rainbow to come back down whilst he chews on the pita bread. "You don't think I'm visiting with Pauldron just to get to know him better, do you?" he calls up the stairs, choosing with no small amount of willpower *not* to scowl. It's not gentleponyish to be so easily offended.
It's not very lady-like to laugh at other ponies, either, but that's never stopped Rainbow Dash, who hovers downstairs with a smirk on her face. "I dunno, maybe you need more connections, or something," she replies. "Connections that can...buff you up." She stifles yet another bout of laughing by pursing her lips tightly together
Bardigan *does* scoff at that little jibe. "Buff me up!" he says, throwing down an olive like a gauntlet. "Buff me up! Do you have any idea the work that goes into maintaining my form for the stage? I go for quality over quantity, *as* you can see." He jumps up and strikes a pose, raising a wing and gesturing to himself with it. He gives Rainbow Dash a sort of 'So there!' look.
Rainbow_Dash nibbles on pita dipped in the yogurt-like stuff as she looks over Bardigan with a bored look. "Well, you definitely give my brain a workout trying to see it," she jibes again. "Anyway, we'll see how you measure up to what Pauldron has to offer, and trust me he's even tougher than he looks."
Bardigan lets loose with his secret weapon. A raspberry. Pbbbt! he says as he seats himself. "I've been through worse than you think, Rainbow, and come out of it... *mostly* unscathed," he says, crunching on the spinach. "And even if Pauldron doesn't go easy on me, which he shouldn't, I am more than capable of fending for myself. What's the worst that could happen?" Without even considering the irony, he pops a final slice of pita into his mouth and stands, wiping his mouth. "Shall we go?"
Rainbow_Dash downs the last of her breakfast with a glass of milk, grinning a milky grin as Bardigan boasts. "Sure, let's go. I wanna see the look on his face when he sies you up, heheh." She smirks again and steps towards the nearest window, which lust so happens to be shaped like a belfry ready for launching. "Let's move out!" she yells, leaping into the big blue.
(Scene change to Canterlot)
It seems that Pauldron makes his residence at the famed Pinion Row, the noted neighborhood primarily inhabited by veterans of the Air Cavalry. Pleasant, Classical-style architecture abounds, a little piece of Cloudsdale on the ground, and curious food shops inhabit every other corner along with the occasional gyro stand. Pauldron's own home is a tidy little cottage at the end of a cul-de-sac, the small garden outside adorned with fragrant orchids. "Right, he usually doesn't leave home till the afternoon, so he /should/ be around," says Rainbow Dash, padding up to the doorbell and pressing it.
"Well, they certainly didn't skimp on the historicity around here," Bardigan murmurs, following Rainbow Dash up to the cottage. He takes a sniff of the flowers as they go by. "He makes you sweat blood on the training grounds, but apparently gardens in his spare time. Just like Captain Wanerider in 'The Fifth Feather.'"
"I don't think I've read that one!" Rainbow Dash says. "Is there lots of swashbuckling?" The doorbell is answered soon enough by Pauldron himself, dressed not in the Cloudsdale style but something distinctively Saddle Arabian minus the headgear. "Ah, a pleasure to see you thing morning, Lady...Miss Rainbow Dash," he greets, smiling like a close relative. "And you have brought Mr. Bardigan, also! How are you, sir poet?"
"Sir Pauldron," Bardigan says, removing his hat. "I'm doing well, thank you for asking. And thank you for opening your door to us like this. As much as I wish this was just a social call, I'm afraid I have something to ask of you today." He gulps and stands up straight, puffing out his chest. "I'm here to formally request more intensive training, in hopes of becoming an expert jouster."
Pauldron's grin fade a little. He gazes oddly at Bardigan, looking him over rather carefully. "...You are quite serious, aren't you?" he comments. "Come inside." He steps back and lets his guests through the door into his home. Within is a conglomerate of exotica, plush ottomans and foreign carpets and several statuettes that were clearly not of Equestrian make. The coat rack seems to be made of bamboo, and there are a number of paintings that seem to consist mostly of elaborate calligraphy. "It's a tad more cluttered than I would prefer, but it does the job," Pauldron states.
Bardigan glances this way and that, trying to take in every little bit of the assembled antiques and exotic knick knacks. He looks impressed. "Some of these I haven't even heard of," he murmurs, taking an especially long glance at the calligraphy. "Don't worry about it, Sir. My house is just as bad if not worse." He looks over his shoulder to see if Rainbow followed, almost as though looking for support.
Rainbow_Dash is right behind Bardigan, though that's not what he should be worried about, though. Pauldron is there, smiling and being a friendly and avuncular host, much more casual than he's been at every practice. "That one was a gift from the Sheik of Al-Maryna. It's a proverb. It reads: "A thousand enemies without is better than one within." He pauses, looking at Bardigan expectantly. "...Would you like some coffee?"
Bardigan notices the pause, making him pause too. He puts on a smile (though it's somewhat plastic) and nods. "I think I would like that, yes! It's not lunch time yet, and I do enjoy having a cup or two in the morning, every so often."
"You're a stallion of good taste, Mr. Bardigan!" Pauldron declares, lifting up a wing and...flapping it? Apparently, this is enough to generate a localized breeze from the kitchen that pushes out a cart with a coffee set, already piping hot and with one cup partly full. Seems that they've come upon him during a morning ritual. "Please, have a seat," he says, indicating the ottomans gathered around the, well, coffee table.
Bardigan sits without any qualms, looking suitably impressed by the incredible display of air power that Pauldron demonstrated. "Er... thank you!" he says, at a loss for words otherwise. "And... yes. I'm quite serious about the jousting. It's something I've decided I need to be good at."
Rainbow_Dash takes a seat on the ottoman opposite of Pauldron's, letting Bardigan sit closer to the old veteran. Pauldron himself is having another sip from the partly-filled cup, maintaining stillness as he hears out the other stallion. "Ah, a fine endeavour indeed, to perfect the ways of the joust. I hope you'll forgive me if I ask why you've developed this interest so suddenly?"
Bardigan coughs into his coffee. He's not very good at being subtle. "Er, well... it's probably not... what you'd call 'noble,' but..." He takes a deep breath. "I wish to prove that I can take care of myself in a dangerous situation," he says simply. "Too often I've been left at the mercy of something, waiting for help to come to me. Call it pride, call it vanity... I want to prove to myself that I have some skill at the martial arts. That jousting is also so noble and ancient a tradition helps." He gulps and glances to one side. "I have... it's something I need to do. *Want*. To do."
Pauldron smiles and gives Bardigan a knowing look. "I suppose that a young stallion like yourself just do what he must," he comments vaguely. "If you may, I would like to show you something." He sets his empty coffee cup on a saucer and slips off his ottoman, beckoning the other pegasi to follow him into a room at the rear of the house, the door of strong oak.
Bardigan gets up and follows, a neutral expression on his face. Inside, he wonders frantically if Pauldron can see right through him - he seems like the kind of stallion who can do just that.
Beyond those wooden doors is a different world, a place of myth and legend. A rack of lances and swords is the first sight, the metal portions decorated with runic engravings. On the walls on either side are medallions, banners, pictures, the gathered remembrances of a long and storied career in the Cavalry. Within a glass case are numerous decorations of service and honour. The Order of the Sunrise. The Aegis of Chivalry. The Mark of Distinguished Service. Further along the wall are banners of battle, their huge colorful surfaces, inscribed with beings of power and glory, inspiring awe and fear. A unicorn rears up in victory as its bolt of magic sears the edges. A gryphon lashes out with its claws to rend the pattern into many radiating lines. The far side of the room is dedicated to a single regiment: the 23rd Hussars, the "Cavaliers". Their regimental banner, an eagle descending in attack amidst a rising sun, occupies most of the wall next to several sets of armor and a large battle board listing their achievements. Solstenheim, 978. Bitsburg, 981. Greenmist Island, 982. Several of the place names are blank and only have a year, singular monuments to secret conflicts that only memory would preserve for the ages to come. Then, as one comes back to the door again, a series of many photographs, some grainy from age and the vagaries of cruder technology. There's a young stallion, so very much like Bardigan, standing with Celestia upon receiving his knighthood. Now, there's several young stallions, sitting for a group photo and looking chipper despite their ragged state and the tears in their battle uniforms. The last few photos are in colour, and next to the door is a most intriguing picture: Pauldron, already a bit grizzled, alongside a young stallion with sky-blue fur and a rainbow-coloured mane. "Had a unicorn cast a dust-free spell on this room. Very expensive, but well worth it."
"Amazing," is all Bardigan can say. The history here is alive, full of stories from all walks of life. This is what the playwright lives for. He dares not move or touch anything lest he break the enchantment woven so carefully into the tapestries and smiling faces and proud medals. Equestria doesn't have a large military that he knows of, so to see a pony so closely involved in what they do have is breathtaking. "I can't even imagine..." He shuffles, suddenly uncertain. Is he really *worthy* of asking for help from such a distinguished stallion?
Skyheart stands around in awe as well of the breathtaking display. Tales of gallantry were not his bread and butter they always added something to the romance of the tale. His spirit lie with tales of the heart, not the sword. Still, he's speechless. "I'm... not sure if bringing me here for moral support is going to help much really... Are you just as stunned as I am?"
"You probably shouldn't," Pauldron suddenly says to Bardigan, his warm smile fading as he adopts, for a brief moment, the sternness of a cavalry commander. "War is a hard thing." Then, just as quickly, the smile returns, and he gives Bardigan a hearty pat on the withers. "All in due time, Mr. Bardigan. Now, before I go on, do you have any questions?" -- Rainbow just stands silently off to the side, the gaze of amazement somehow muted in her by seeming familiarity. She takes a very good look at the photo of the rainbow-maned stallion, wide-eyed as if meeting an old friend.
Bardigan shakes his head, bereft of anything save that heady intoxicating sense of wonder that seems to come with rooms like this. "None, sir," he whispers, scooting closer to Skyheart just so he can remind himself he's not alone in his amazement. It helps him steady himself, regain his composure, and eventually stand a little straighter even in the midst of all this glory and honor. "I'm... I'm as ready as I'm going to get. If I'm going to train, it seems you're one of the best to learn from, if you don't mind my saying so."
Skyheart stands at an aside. He really doesn't have any business being here. As the old saying goes, he was a lover not a fighter. Or at least that would be true if he were ever successful in the love front. He watches silently and obediently with all the discipline one would expect from a lawyer's son.
Pauldron Sheen nods in acknowledgement. "I can see that your fervour is true. Very well, then." He strides out of the room, past the ottomans and the coat rack towards the door. "Fly with me, if you please."
Bardigan blinks once, glancing over his shoulder at Rainbow Dash, but then realizes Pauldron is talking specifically to him. "Very well," he says, spreading his wings.
Rainbow_Dash waggles her hoof forward, mouthing something to the effect of 'better do as he says!' as she takes the rear. When Pauldron takes off there is a definite stream of air that forms behind him, almost like a tunnel of wind to guide his companions, or, perhaps, to keep them in line. Their destination isn't too far off, just over the wall into the inner city towards a cozy little keep that, surprise surprise, flies the banner of the Cavaliers. As soon as Pauldron lands the pegasus guard at the guardhouse trots out andd salutes him stiffly. "Sir!" he intones, youthful exuberance betraying his novice status." -- "At ease, Wingpony," Pauldron states, and the young stallion relaxes somewhat. Without much word the grizzled veteran signs the logbook, entering his name along with Bardigan's, Skyheart's, and Rainbow's, and then presently they proceed into the keep, which contains a courtyard that seems much bigger inside than the outside. It's a full-fledged training field, with jousting lists and targets and even a shed full of practice weapons. "Ah, this place brings back a lot of memories," Pauldron observes, looking over to the far end of the field when two pegasi are practicing close quarters combat, their lances intertwined in a fierce contest.
Bardigan is now even more intimidated than before, but with Pauldron at his side he can at least feel a bit more important - in a way that matters, at least. He trots along behind the older stallion, gaping at everything and anything he can get his eyes on. When they get to the dueling pegasi, he stops up short, eyes flicking back and forth in their sockets to follow the blurred tips. "You're going to teach me that?" he wonders.
Pauldron shakes his head. "That over there is merely advanced techniques in jousting which I will eventually be teaching the club anyway. No...I have something else in mind." He strides past Rainbow Dash, who as a mark of respect has her hooves firmly planted on the ground, and walks towards the weapon shed, entering and rummaging through the various implements available. After some time, he emerges out the hatch on the top carrying...swords. Wooden cavalry swords, nestled snugly into his hooves. "Catch!" he shouts, tossing one at Bardigan.
Bardigan jumps backwards with a yelp, flailing with all four hooves and both wings to catch the sword in time. He manages it, with one wing and both forehooves. He stares at it for a moment, perplexed. "We're... starting with these? For jousting?" he wonders, managing to sound more curious than incredulous.
Pauldron shakes his head slowly. "No, Bardigan, the joust is a fine art, but one that is common to all the pony races. I will teach you an art that we as pegasi are capable of performing to the exclusion of others due to our natural talents. I shall teach you the melee." He holds his sword in his forehooves, the handle apparently designed to allow for hooves to grasp them, but he keeps his body upright by remaining in a hover. "Hold the sword now, learn how it feels, how it weighs."
Bardigan isn't quite sure where Pauldron is going with this - he came here to learn how to joust, not soldier! But Pauldron has so many medals and so much history behind him he must be worth listening to. He gently takes the sword in both hooves, hovering like the older stallion and holding the sword out. "Right. It's... it feels good," he says, hefting the blade. "I think."
"Excellent," says Pauldron Sheen, hovering a bit above Bardigan. "Now, move around with it, learn how gravity touches it, how it yields to passive forces." His voice has assumed a soothing didactic tone, as if his speech itself was one of those 'forces'.
Bardigan waves the sword about experimentally, doing little more than wagging it back and forth to see how heavy it feels on the move. "Yes. Gravity. Strange, having weight so far out from the hoof... most I've ever carried on the wing were plastic props."
"In time the weight of the blade will seem as such," Pauldron advises. "But for now we must focus upon the fundamentals, like your stance. You need to hold the blade out, have it angle away from yourself, like so." He demonstrates by moving his own practice sword out at a sharp angle, the tip going out and forward. "This guard is known as /pflug/, or plow, and is one of the basic stances of this art."
Bardigan nods, doing all that Pauldron Sheen tells him. He's an actor, so he's good at following stage directions - this is hardly any different, really!
Pauldron spends at least half an hour teaching Bardigan how to hold the sword properly, and all the different stances, or 'guards' as he calls them: the ox, the fool, the roof, the near ward. "Remember to keep your fetlocks still to maintain the guard," he advises.
"Fetlocks?" Bardigan glances down at his legs. "Right. Maintain the guard... how long does a fight usually last? The only ones I've been in were fake, and lasted as long as the drama asked for it."
"Between those of average skill," Pauldron states, "it is about ten seconds, maybe...twelve?" In time, Pauldron requests that Bardy hover before him and hold his sword out. "Now...it is time to show you how to maintain your guard during a fight."
Bardigan gulps. "During a fight, huh?" he says with a timid little smile, assuming the guard Pauldron showed him. "Is... this where the lessons start hurting?"
"A little," says Pauldron, raising up his practice sword and slashing downward at Bardigan.
Bardigan's eyes flick up to the first attack coming. He feel himself tense and for a moment he just... forgets everything he was just learning. He's actually about to be hit, just like the Dogs tried to hit him and the Nightmare tried and everything else, and he doesn't know what to do- no, wait. He does. He lashes up, clumsily but powerfully, to parry blade with blade, snapping quickly like a mantis, acting out of pure instinct.
Pauldron just whales on Bardigan, committing strike after strike from different angles, trying to wear down the other pegasus's defences. He says nothing; his face is a mask of martial sternness.
Bardigan smirks as the first blow is blocked. He can do this. He can *do* this- wait, he wasn't expecting more! His eyes widen and he jerks backwards, of course, having no defense for that. As soon as Pauldron keeps up the attack, his confidence drops through the floor, down about a hundred feet, and knocks a random pedestrian on the head, rather like Pauldron's sword easily finds (several) gaps in his defenses. Bam. Whack. Pok. "OW!"
Pauldron relents and ceases his assault, hovering back a bit and letting Bardigan nurse his wounds, such as they are. "A good beginning, but there was great...decay. You must always expect an attack while you opponent still prevails."
Bardigan scuffs a hoof on the ground, rather glad Pauldron was the only one around to see that. "Er, right. *Decay," he says, finding that a very distasteful word to use. He wouldn't call it decay, he did perfectly fine the first hit! "Well, then. We'll go best two out of three and see what happens there, hmm?" he asks, testing his limbs. They aren't exactly in the best condition.
"We will see indeed!" Pauldron responds, grinning peevishly as he attacks Bardigan with several downswings, keeping the direction of attack the same to train Bardy's reflexes. He also seems to hit slower.
Bardigan's eyes widen ridiculously as the attacks continue. Slow to Pauldron is still lightning fast for Bardigan, who resorts to keeping his sword up and stiffly blocking everything Pauldron throws at him. "Ah! Ah ha! I think I'm getting it!" he says, slowly growing accustomed to the rhythm. It's rather like dancing, now that he thinks about it! "I'm actually doing it! Why does it still *sting?* Ah! Ha!"
Pauldron smiles a little. "This is a low difficulty!" he warns, starting to add some sideswipes.
Sidewsipes? Bardigan can handle sideswipes. He's starting to feel more and more daring as he blocks one attack after the other. "Ha! Ho! Ha ha!" he says, sounding so much more triumphant than a pony just blocking one simple, easy to see attack after another. "This is easier than I thought! I didn't think I'd even get *this* far!"
Pauldron just...keeps smiling. "That's because I'm not using any technique," he says. He furls his wingtips up, and suddenly a huge gust of wing builds beneath him, buoying up his whole body as he surges forward, striking at Bardigan with a powerful, wind-assisted assault.
"Hey! Whoa! WHOA!" Bardigan squeaks as a blast of wind accompanies a powerful strike that blows straight through his defenses. Impressive though his muscles may be, they're made to make him look good rather than stand up to concentrated hammer blows like that. His sword goes flying out of his hooves and he tumbles to the floor, even rolling several paces back until he ends up hooves over tail. "... Ack. Um. Ow. I think I lost, sir Pauldron."
Pauldron looks over Bardigan with a satisfied look on his face. "That's just a taste of what a real fight between pegasus knights is like," he says, hovering down until his hooves touch the ground, the sword slipping from his grasp. Walking over, he gently reaches down to help lift up the defeated poet. "In battle skill as well as strength will see the day, but above all a keen eye and mind."
Bardigan grins as he grabs Pauldron's hoof and flips himself upright. In spite of the bruising and welts he will inevitably bear, he's proud that he even showed up and managed to find the pointy end of the sword! "Oh, a keen mind and a keen eye is what I have in spades, good sir!" A mind for words and an eye for mares and wine, maybe, but surely those can be repurposed.
Pauldron smiles again, but this time there is a gravity to it, as if the upturned corners of his mouth were held up against invisible worries. "I've only met one other pony who's matched your enthusiasm, and he became quite a legend among his peers. Isn't that right, Lady Dash?" -- Rainbow Dash, who has been watching the whole thing all along, is stirred by this sudden address. "Whuh? Right, right! Yeah...heh." Behind Bardigan's back she enacts a number of wild gestures, a rather panicked response, it seems, to something Pauldron said. -- Whatever she means, Pauldron seems to understand at once. "I do hope you've at least a portion of that enthusiasm for our future practices, Mr. Bardigan."
Bardigan's nodding is akin to a loose flag in the wind. "Oh, certainly sir Pauldron! I'm looking to learn the real deal. I won't let you down. Well, I probably will. But at least I'll be trying!"
"Good," says Pauldron, sheathing his training sword and slinging it across his withers. "After all, you'll need to be quite excellent if you wish to impress the Princess Twilight." With that, he grins mots mischievously.
Bardigan ahems and sheathes his own sword with a bit of a flourish. "Well, it just so happens I have *already* impressed the Princess Twilight. I'm just looking to make sure that when the time comes she can actually call upon me." He refuses to be made fun of! Not over the pony he loves, at any rate. He does, however, sneak a glance over his shoulder, wondering if Rainbow Dash has heard about the recent developments between himself and Twilight.
Sure enough, Rainbow has an expression of realization just then, apparently not being too in-touch with the latest rumours. Meanwhile, Pauldron is cleaning up, taking Bardigan's sword off his hooves and hovering back to the shed where they're kept. "Let us hope that you'll be up to that challenge, then, Mr. Bardigan! Now..." He disappears into the shed for a minute or two before emerging, unladen, from the door. "Perhaps you have some inquiries in mind?"
Bardigan nods again, unable to repress a bit of a smirk at catching Rainbow off guard. "Inquiries? Well. I will admit that I wasn't sure what to expect. I am grateful that you even decided to take me on at all. I've never heard of a knight of your illustrious background taking on a playwright apprentice. Except perhaps in my own stories."
"Legends are written every day," Pauldron Sheen states, grinning at the playwright playfully. "Let's return home; I think it would be prudent to end our time with some refreshments, don't you think so?"
Bardigan brightens up almost immediately at the mention of "refreshments." He is, without any shame whatsoever, a bit of a socialite, and can't resist a good drink with a soon-to-be friend. "Ah ha! After all the guards and parries, you're finally talking my language!" he says with a hearty chuckle.
Pauldron nods and passes out of the yard, past the checkpoint where he accepts another salute, back up into the air above, and then finally, mere minutes later, at the door to his living room, where he busies himself stoking the little portable gas stove made, apparently, just for heating coffeepots. "I remember the first time I ever had coffee as a colt; quite a jump, I say!"
"I made up an entire play right on the spot," Bardigan says, his voice quiet with nostalgia. "It made absolutely no sense, but there was a running theme through it about a mushroom trying to be as beautiful as a flower." He blinks. "I made it into a children's book. It didn't sell particularly well."
"We all have our rough beginnings," says Pauldron, laying on his underside upon an ottoman and sipping from his cup of pure, black coffee. "When I was merely a squire I once misplaced my liege's shield and he had to make do with an ironing board. It...worked rather well, actually." He lays his cup on a saucer sitting at the edge of the coffee table and rests his head on his hoof, pondering something deeply. "Tell me, Mr. Bardigan, what are your parents like?"
"Crazy," Bardigan says without any hesitation whatsoever. "No, really. They're quite mad and loving every second of it. I settled down, got myself a big name in showbiz and made myself a proper Canterlotian who just happens to live in Ponyville. My parents got me started on the stage and never stopped traveling. They're somewhere near Vanhoover, last time I checked, still entertaining the masses..." As long as they stay far, far away from here. And never, ever, *ever* hear that he is involved with a Princess. Ever.
"Hah!" Pauldron exclaims jovially. "They sound like very energetic ponies! As for me, well...my mother was a seamstress in the court of the High Elders of Oasis colony, which is near Saddle Arabia. My father was a soldier of the same, and so was grandfather, and great-grandfather. The military, it seems, is in the blood, as it tends to be for all pegasi, right Rainbow Dash?" -- Rainbow Dash gawks. "Uh...um...right! Yeah! Heheh....eh..." Guilty-grin. -- Pauldron smirks. "And as it seems to be for you as well, Mr. Bardigan."
Bardigan's eyebrows raise up. "Oh, er, me?" he asks, setting his cup down as if it was the one to start throwing implications about. "I'm not sure, I mean... I'm hardly a *militaristic* pony. Just... trying to find a way to make myself useful is all, you know?"
"You say this now," Pauldron responds, a marked solemnity emerging within his voice, "but even I can see the seeds of your innate martial nature. When you feel the force of the wind churn within your breast, and the shivering hail dance across your wingtips; when the clash of mithril keeps beat with the rolling thunder, and your heart awakens to the battle-drum of the clouds, until you can barely keep yourself from falling apart in desire of it, then you will finally understand." His words permeate the air, giving it strange corporeality. Even Rainbow Dash stiffens noticeably as she hears them. "But until then," Pauldron says, lurching back to a calmer, softer voice, "we shall amuse ourselves. Would you like a biscuit?"
Bardigan's eyes widen considerably, his ears going taut and erect, quivering ever so slightly at the tips. Pauldron's monologue seems to have had quite an effect on him. "Well. I think you got the blood racing a little just now!" he says, taking a careful sip of coffee. He glances back at Rainbow Dash, having noticed the unheard conversation going between the two of them all night. "A biscuit? Certainly. But please... tell me how you and miss Dash got acquainted."
Something like a twinkle manifests in Pauldron's eye (Rainbow Dash manifests a fit of silent panic). "I have always been a close friend of her family," he says, "but as for the rest, you will have to ask her yourself on her own time." He calmly sips from his coffee once more.
Bardigan chuckles as he looks over his shoulder at Dash. "Very well," he says, a hint of ominous foreboding in his tone. "I shall have to do that later."
Pauldron smiles silently and helps himself to his own coffee table of treats. Rainbow, in the mean time, gives Bardigan a distinct expression of indignation, which is probably a good sign of where such a line of questioning might lead towards. After quite some time, Pauldron settles his empty cup onto the saucer. "I assume that I can look forward to future such sessions, Mr. Bardigan?"
"Of course," Bardigan says, raising his cup in a little cheer. "I'm not one to drop a thing right after I've started. Otherwise I'd never finish my plays! And might I say I look forward to it. Painful though it may be."
Pauldron Sheen smiles again. "I am happy to indulge in your perseverance," he says, "as I have done in the past." He rises up and starts putting away the coffee set. "Your next play is to be performed soon, I surmise"
Bardigan nods decisively. "Of course. It's going to do nothing short of dazzle everypony in attendance." He glances away for the barest moment, looking pensive. "I know it will." He turns back to Pauldron with a smile. "You'll be attending, I hope? Don't worry about the date - everypony will hear about it when it's ready."
Pauldron nods. "And I will expect no less of you," he says. "Now...do you have any other inquiries?"
Bardigan shakes his head. "None, sir. Thank you again."
"Very well," says Pauldron, and with that he walks over and politely leads his two guests to his front door. "A fine day we've had, indeed, and hopefully an indicator on things to come."
Bardigan bows graciously to the old knight, stepping aside to let Rainbow Dash out before leaving himself. There's a bit of a new spring in his step... though that might be him favoring his now sore limbs.
"Thanks for having us, Sir Pauldron!" Rainbow Dash shouts, waving back at him as they fly off back home. It's already past noon, and they haven't had lunch yet! Maybe that's why Pauldron had all those biscuits for them. "So, uh...you liked it, I guess?"
Bardigan lets the wind answer for him for a moment, thoughtful and quiet. "I did," he says. "It's strange, though. Thinking that the skills I learned once helped the very ponies I wrote about, and still do. Helps.. .connect me with them more, I suppose. And thank you, miss Dash, for connecting me with him. I owe you."
"Hey, you're welcome!" Rainbow Dash answers. "He's something, isn't he? I mean, there's actually stories he's not /allowed/ to tell us."
Bardigan nods. "I gathered. Speaking of stories, how *does* he know you? I mean no offense, but I've never seen you in Canterlot, and when I see you around here, it's usually taking a nap!"
"He's an old friend of my dad's," Rainbow Dash explains. "And I /do/ go to Canterlot, you know, just to fly around mostly. And other stuff."
"'Other stuff?'" Bardigan says, sounding almost amused. "Miss Dash, don't say you have some kind of secret jet-set alter ego who makes the rounds in Canterlot, unbeknownst to her friends in Ponyville?"
"As if!" Rainbow Dash declares. "There's other parts of the town than the fancy-schmancy places, you know." In fact, they fly over one such area, a quaint little neighbourhood with plenty of vine-laden buildings, as they exit the city limits, the vast expanse of the valley strething out below them.
Bardigan glances down at the older buildings. "I've never seen those before," he says with a note of surprise. "You explore the city much? I can't say I have enough free time when I come here to wander the districts further from the castle. I *do* know a quaint little eatery I visited with Twilight..."
"Uh...what kind of eatery?" Rainbow Dash asks, risking the possiblity of goo-goo romance stuff.
Bardigan does a little corkscrew in midair. His hat drops off his head and lands right back on when he ends the maneuver. He does, indeed, have a goo-goo romance kind of smile on his face. "It was where she first comforted me, after that disaster of a play about Horizon. We needed a quiet place to talk, and I brought her there. It's on the southern edge of the city, amidst the towers. There's a balcony where you can look out over Equestria. It was... wonderful. There I think my opinion of her turned irrevocably... affectionate."
Ugh, this was definitely a mistake! "OK, OK, I get the point," she states, rolling her eyes. "You remember the name of it?"
Bardigan laughs and barrel rolls! "Oh, Rainbow Dash. If only you knew. And the name is 'The Jumping Bean.' They serve delicious coffee, straight from Brayzil."
"I /don't/ wanna know," Rainbow Dash states, making a mild disgusted face. Her house is coming up closer and closer, but she seems to be making for the centre of Ponyville instead. "Anyway, I hope you two are doing good, especially given how Twilight can be, like.... you know."
"Oh, I know," Bardigan says with another little chuckle. "Believe me, she can be merciless. But I wouldn't give up any one part of her. Thank you for your concern. We're doing just fine."
"Twilight? Merciless?" Rainbow Dash says, stifling her laughter. "I guess she /does/ organize her books pretty mercilessly," she quips. They're almost up to Ponyville now, the little specks of ponies below becoming steadily more distinct. "Work. Kinda wish that it wasn't so...worky."
"Yes. The eternal refrain of ponies who just want to have fun." Bardigan salutes Rainbow Dash and starts to peel off. "I hope we can do something like this again, sometime! Thank you again."
Rainbow Dash chuckles and salutes him back. "No prob! I think Pauldron took to you, which doesn't happen often, so it turned out great!" With that, she zips off towards the Weather Patrol HQ atop Town Hall, preparing herself for another round of administration. Oh, adult life.
Wednesday, December 25, 2013