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October 12, 2011
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"A Cup of Joe"


Written by The Descendant
Concept by Bronymian Rhapsody/Animal Man


Chapter 2: "Cinnamon"

Seven is early for most ponies to go to bed, but for Joe it was typical…if he had to be up at four it was in fact necessary.

That, however, didn't mean that he had to like it.

In summer it was horrible, going to sleep when the sun was still out, while ponies out in the street talked and whispered romantic utterances that drifted on the still air into his bedroom.

Now, as autumn was firmly setting in and Celestia and Luna changed their patterns to match the nature of the world beyond Equestria's borders, finally the night was showing itself. Finally he was going to bed in darkness…even if it meant waking in the same.

He set his alarm clock once more, though he of course anticipated awakening before it even began to ring, as he always had. Then, with a whisper of an Invoke he settled in to his rest…

But rest would not find him.

In the first dream the infant cried as Mocha bounced it around, as the tiny legs kicked at her and it spun around in the blankets.

"Help!" she called out, "Joe, help!"

"Sis," he said, bounding across the room on his gangly colt legs, "You're doin' it wrong, don't hold 'em by his belly…"

With that Joe lifted the tiny suckling around in his magic, rocking the baby back and forth until it settled into his forelegs.

The baby calmed. Soon it began to make small sounds of content, much to the relief of the siblings. At once it opened its eyes, and after a moment they settled on Joe.

"Mom!" called Mocha, "Coffee Bean's eyes are open!"

"I said not to wake him," called the concerned dam, trotting into the room, "And I especially said not to lift him…from the cradle…"

Her expression softened as she looked down at Joe. She watched him as he rocked his baby brother back and forth, humming softly. The flickering eyes of the infant looked up to him as the soft sounds wafted around the room.

Mocha leaned against Joe, looking up at her brothers happily.

"Coffee Bean really likes you, huh Joe?"

"Yeah," said the colt as his mother leaned her head across his shoulder and nuzzled her second-son, "Yeah."

Joe awoke from the dream. Beyond the tightly drawn shade the purple colors told him that time had indeed passed, that outside night had indeed fallen. He looked back to the ceiling, and before long he was pulled back down into the Land of Nod.

"Well, lads, what is this?" asked an older pony in a crumpled hat as the second dream began.

"Would you like a doughnut, sir? Or some coffee? We made them ourselves!" called Joe, looking up to the stallion.

The warm streets of Canterlot played out before the brothers as a few ponies came and went in the early summer's day.

"Every colt and filly in Canterlot is going to have a lemonade stand…here, let's try something different," Java had said as he helped them to paint their stand the day before. Now, as the three brothers rushed to fill the order they looked upon their first customer eagerly.

In moments Joe had handed the earth pony the doughnut, in reality more of a misshapen lump than anything identifiable as breakfast. Coffee Bean concentrated hard, the little colt sticking his tongue out the side of his head as his new and uncertain magic worked the carafe into pouring the black, steaming drink into the disposable mug.

"Ahem," whispered Java to his younger brothers. "That will be three bits!" called back Joe and Coffee Bean in unison.

"That's a fair price! A fair price indeed," said the older stallion, the earth pony dropping the coins onto the makeshift counter before him from a little pouch he produced from his saddlebags.

The three siblings looked on as the stallion bit into the doughnut. "Well, howdy!" he said, a smile growing across his face. With that he sipped at the coffee, gingerly at first and then with more enthusiasm.

"Colt howdy! That is a fine doughnut! That is a cup of Joe! Well done, lads! You should go into the business!"

At once Java and the older stallion heard a sound like falling stars sliding across frozen lakes, and witnessed expressions go across the faces of Joe and Coffee Bean that seemed as though they thought someone has spilled quicksilver down their flanks.

The two looked around in more than subtle surprise.

"Guys!" said Java, motioning to them, "Your marks!"

The two brothers looked at their flanks, then at each other's. At once Joe had gathered up his little brother, and as the two danced around in great wide twirls they laughed and cheered.

At once Joe and Coffee Bean gathered Java up in a hug, their older brother looking down on them happily. They then ignored all of the good and practical information that their parents had imparted to them about interaction with strangers and gave the old stallion hugs as well. He smiled with a hint of embarrassment as he tried to balance his coffee before they returned to embrace Java, and each other, once more.

Joe awoke again. He ran his hoof through his mane, then across his flank. The doughnut was not visible there in the night, yet the feel of its color in his coat was evident…the odd way that everypony knew their own mark to be different from any other bit of their body. The Seal of the Sisters upon him…a promise made to all Ponies.

"Please," he whispered to the nothingness. "I need just a few hours of sleep, to get through the day…"

The dreams though were remorseless, and after he had fallen off to sleep once more Joe found himself awakening inside the dream itself.

The tall trees stood over the camp as he awoke. He rolled out of his tent and slid into the armor. The grey steel of the Regular Army uniform offered little protection against the cold, but what little it offered was appreciated.

He went silently, knowing he was the first to awake, as he always had been, and made his way to the remains of a campfire. Here he piled more wood upon the charcoal, taking deep breaths and blowing into it to fuel it as it rose. As the fire came up it revealed a face looking at him from beyond the growing flames, and he raised his head.

"At ease, Corporal Joe. First up again?"

"Yes, Captain Summer, sir. Didn't…didn't you get any sleep again last night, sir?" he asked, placing himself against the fire, trying to draw in its warmth.

"No," answered the captain, huddling beneath a dirty brown blanket, "I never sleep much on campaign. I get too nervous, at times. Every little thing becomes an omen…like this morning. Every other morning we've heard birds…where are they today? I get crazy with this stuff, it seems, seeing omens everywhere."

"Yessir," said Joe, smirking to himself at the superstitions that seemed to haunt the officer. Raising himself up he brushed off the ashes and saluted.

"Excuse me…I have to relieve myself, I'll bring back some more wood, sir."

"Thank you, corporal."

Joe went deep into the woods that surrounded the Hemlock Army Corps, out far beyond his own division, long past the tents of his own brigade, his own regiment.

Finding a secluded spot he stopped and removed his helmet, less it fall into the stream of his water like that first time…an embarrassing situation that he wished not to repeat.

He looked into his corps badge, the hemlock leaf. As his water flowed he pondered the regimental horn and the number within, the 145th Light Infantry, "The Falling Leaves Regiment". He was proud to be out here, serving, protecting…doing his part…

The fact that he hadn't had to do any real fighting, and had even been promoted to corporal, made it that much better.

As he finished up he put the helmet back on his head he looked down into what he had thought was a latrine pit and realized that all of that good fortune was about to come to a sudden and immediate end.

It was in fact not a latrine, but a foxhole, and not the type inhabited by foxes. He instead realized that he was looking down into the incensed faces of a group of Scrofa soldiers.

Since the rumors of a belligerent tribe of Scrofa snooping at Equestria's borders was the very reason that the Hemlock Corps were out here in the Everfree, he realized, this was not going to be a pleasant way to begin the morning.

The second thing he realized was that the foxhole he had just weedled all over was just one of what was, after a millisecond of observation, many dozens of such scrapes and hidden emplacements. And all of these, it seemed, were filled with unhappy looking porcine faces, each tusked and with hard black eyes.

The third thing he realized, in those tiny moments, was that they must be excellent soldiers. This he gathered because they (despite the obvious burning, seething hatred that was radiating from them, as anyone who had just been urinated upon would naturally have for their defiler) did not move to attack him until one of their officers hissed quietly, "Kill him."

At once four large Scrofa warriors erupted from the foxhole, their tusks flailing at him, their spears missing him only by inches.

Joe wheeled over, catching a glancing blow with a spear across his armor, using his magic and the momentum of the soldier to carry the boar high and wide and against a nearby tree.

As the creature smashed against the tree with a sickening crack Joe turned and ran, pelting at the earth, using his magic to cast up rocks, sticks, trunks of fallen trees.

In a quick glance over his shoulder he saw the entire assemblage of the Scrofa ranks rise out of the earth, begin gathering into columns. It was a full-fledged attack, timed to the dawn. Overhead, Joe noted as some arrows fell near him, that there were no birds…these were omens, signs. The captain had been right.

The captain…

Joe concentrated his magic, let it leap ahead of him and far down into the camp.

There he found the fire. Joe flung his consciousness forward, moved through his magic as the boars leapt at him.

He felt the fire around him, grateful for the heat. A deep and powerful magic spun out of his body as he dodged the pursuers once more, as they grunted and squealed at him, called to each other as they jabbed at him.

At once he flung himself through the magic. The fire rose up, and he looked down at Captain Summer who, though surprised, immediately understood what was happening.

"Sir," Joe called through the magic that rose through the fire, "Scrofa. Southeast of camp. Five hundred yards. At least a division. I'm about to be killed.  Goodbye."

The last thing Joe saw as the magic dissipated was Summer saluting him and then running off yelling at the top of his lungs…

That's when the first spear hit him. He felt it pierce all the way through his withers, finding the one gap along the top of the armor. He felt it draw him down to the earth with a crackling thud. As the blinding pain began he rolled to his back as the boar tried to gore him with its tusks, rolled again as it lunged upon him.

He somehow rose to his hooves as it screamed at him in the high-pitched squeal. He yelled back at it with a wild bray, pulled the spear through himself with his magic and straight into the throat of the Scrofa, returning it with pleasure to its former owner.

There was movement behind him, and he unsheathed his hindleg spurs just in time to slice one more boar across the leg, dismembering the limb and sending its former owner tumbling with squeals of pain before he began pelting off again.

The pain in his withers was inescapable, and he screamed to himself as he ran. Yet, at once he leapt forward with his magic again, sent his power floating deep down into the camp beyond.

There the few ponies in who were awake saw it and wondered at it. In camps of his own regiment, in other regiments, in any place he could find he searched for pots, pans, the act draining him even as he felt the presence of more boars around him.

At once he began clanging these cooking implements together, the powerful spell ripping the energy from him, letting his pursuers catch up to him…yet, giving the Hemlock Corps warning, time…

He beat the pans together, felt them out with the magic, beat them against rocks, trees…against the heads of ponies who dared try to go back to sleep over the ringing cacophony.

That is when the second spear bit at him, once more hobbling him. Just as he turned to deal with it an arrow too found a space inside him, sending him rolling around in the old leaves and twigs at the bottom of the hollow into which he had fallen with screams of pain.

The spear he quickly pulled out, a great arc of blood erupting from his shoulder as he did so. "Well," he thought, laying the spear across the ground, "That's an artery…I'm dead."

He did the same with the arrow, crying out horrifically as he wrenched it out of his stifle. This immediately he launched at the first boar to appear at the top of the hollow, catching it through one of the soulless black eyes.

As the boar ran off screaming into the woods more appeared at the top of the ridge. Joe looked up them with a snear, daring them to come on.

One leapt, and Joe's magic lifted the spear to catch it as it did so. It ripped into the Scrofa just at the heart, the boar going limp instantly, blood gushing from it as it wheeled over Joe's head like a macabre pole-vaulter.

Drenched now in his own blood and the blood of his enemies he unsheathed his spurs and looked up at them. They gathered there, looking down on him with something approaching interest as the blood pooled around him.

After a moment, one spoke.

"Honorable," it said, nodding to him, "Honorable foe."

Joe nodded, backing up slightly, his spurs still raised. He wobbled. Joe felt his vision beginning to recede, felt the blackness creeping in. Beyond the group he could hear the thud-thud-thud-thud of thousands of porcine hooves, their army closing in on the unsuspecting camp of the Hemlock Corps.

"Yes," added another, "Much honor in killing this one."

With that a few advanced on him, and as he sank down into the mire of blood, sticks, and leaves he felt his body begin to collapse around him.

As he thudded to the ground he heard the wild yells of pegasi, the elite skirmishes and scouts of the corps, racing in with wild abandon.

He was lifted on gentle hooves as the sounds of Equestrians of all three races colliding in battle with the Scrofa followed him down into the darkness.

Joe awoke again. At first he feared that he had befouled himself, as the sheets were slick with moisture. No, he realized, it was sweat...it was just sweat. He lay down again in his own wetness, the awful smell of his own body odor enveloping him.

"Please, I just want some sleep…please…" he called to the nothingness.

The next dream started with him staring into his own big green eyes.

As the attendants came to him they wiped the white paint along his flanks, through his mane. It was cool, and the touch of their hooves brought with it the feeling of being swept away on a sheet of ice.

As the lovely mares lowered the armor upon him they spoke, "Gold, the color of worth. You have proven yours beyond any doubt."

As the beautiful mares lowered the plumed helmet upon his head they spoke again, "Blue, the color of loyalty, as you have shown to Equestria in your actions, commitment, and sacrifice."

With that they took Joe's hoof, turning him towards the gathered assembly. Before him stood the Minister of War, ready to give the oath once more. To Joe's side there stood ranks of other newly minted guardsponies…some wounded in the same battle as himself, all having made a sacrifice above and beyond what was asked for.

As the Muses of the House of Unicorn stood beside him he looked out into the assembly, found his parents there…Mocha, Java and Coffee Bean as well. He tried to smile, but he was afraid the paint would chip.

Finally, after agonizing minutes, the Minister approached.

"Brevet Sergeant Pony Joe of Canterlot," he said, reading from the prepared notes, "in light of your bravery and selfless actions at the Fifth Battle of The Tall Pines, which perhaps saved the Hemlock Corps from destruction, you have been offered the paint, armor, and helm of the sovereign. Will you wear them?"

"I will."

"Will you rise to protect her from any foes, as you have protected the ponies who are dear to her?"

"I will."

"Will you protect those she loves? Those who call her 'Aunt'? Those who serve her?"

"I will."

"Then, sergeant…in her name, I ask you to take your place in the ranks."

With that he cantered down the length of the podium, a smattering of applause reaching up to him, and found his place before a squad of ponies in the Light Infantry Regiment of Her Majesty's Brigade of the Household.

He was a Royal Guardspony. Who in the Well would ever have thought it?

The dream wrapped around itself, moved forward in time. He was out of the armor, back home…his real home, not the apartment. The home where he had been raised…the place where he had been surrounded by love and comfort, where he could offer the same.

"It's gonna suck for Mocha with you not here," said Coffee Bean, squeezing into the uniform.

"It's generally discouraged for the fierce, elite fighting ponies of the Guard to live with their parents," said Joe with a roll of his eyes.

Beanie snorted, fought harder to slide into the Regular Army uniform.

"Damn," replied Joe, "is it too tight?"

"Naw," replied Beanie, "I was just in hurry to get into it."

With that he undid the straps. As he did the uniform began to clang and ring out, the plates falling into position. Soon enough, with Joe's help, it sat perfectly upon the smaller unicorn's body.

"Looks good on ya'," said Joe, looking past his brother, catching his eyes in the mirror.

Beanie lowered his head, looked at the corps badge. It was a linden leaf. Inside the bow beneath it sat the number twenty-eight.

"I wish I had been assigned the same corps as you, the same regiment as you," he said with a sigh.

"Nothing wrong with being an archer, most important job on the field at times. Besides, the 28th Archer Regiment is a famous one, 'The Sunspot Archers', nice and low numbered…dates back to the War of the Witches," Joe said earnestly.

Beanie said nothing. After a moment he caught his brother's eye in the mirror.

"How long do you think it will take for me to make The Guards?"

Joe shuddered.

"Do you think we'll be in the same regiment when I get to The Guards?"

Joe trotted forward, leaned his head against his little brother's.

"Beanie," he said, his voice cracking, "I don't want you to think about trying to make The Guards, okay? That's not what it's supposed to be about. It…I went through the Well, out there…at Fifth Pines. I…I almost didn't come back, Beanie."

Joe suddenly wished he had told Beanie more about what it was like…maybe, maybe he would have chosen differently. Maybe, maybe they would have started that café together, like they had talked about...

No, no point worrying about that now. Not when Beanie was standing there in his grey steel armor and beaming with pride, the quiver of arrows leaning against the doorframe.

"Be…follow orders. Don't take risks. All I did was try to take a piss and it nearly killed me, Beanie. Do your best, but be practical, okay?"

"Sure," answered the younger unicorn, "Sure."

Joe looked at Beanie for a great long while. Soon he had lowered his head again, was wiping it across his brother's head, neck, withers.

"In Celestia's name, Joe, jeez…" said the startled unicorn.

"I love you Beanie, be safe, okay?" said Joe as his voice broke.

Beanie turned up into his brother's embrace. His voice became weaker as he spoke as well, the two swaying slightly as they laid their heads across one another.

"Yeah, yeah…I will. I will. I love you too, bro, I love you too…"

As they stood there, sniffling, the light fell through the windows that lined the door. It enveloped the brothers in visible shafts as outside birds chirped and the sounds of carts went up the cobblestone streets beyond the walls of their home.

"Please," called Joe to the nothingness, "please…please don't make me…"

Joe leapt from his bed. His head waved back and forth on currents of drowsiness and uncertainty. He stumbled out into his hallway, looked around himself, called down the empty hallway, "Leave me alone!"

He strode into his tiny living room, berated his bookcase, "I just want to sleep!"

His cries echoed through the little apartment, the unicorn raging at nothing, angrily denouncing the invisible.

With some hesitation he crawled back into the bed, ignoring the sheets which had come undone from the corners, the way half the blankets now lay nearer to the floor on one side than the other.

"Please, please, leave me alone…"

But the dreams would not. The part of his mind he tried to keep silent and still opened up once more, awakened by the casual utterances of two ponies in the market a few hours before.

He flashed in the dream down into his armor, the white paint covering him.

It was raining outside, and there was a general hurry about the palace. Bad news had reached the city…a defeat, a rare thing, had befallen the Regular Army. In the mountains beyond the Everfree Forest the Gold Army Group had been cut up badly. Three whole corps had been nearly halved…Chestnut, Cherry, and Ash Corps if he remembered his dispatches correctly.

As he walked beside Princess Celestia (his eyes vigilantly checking for whatever in the world thought it could successfully attack a seemingly immortal and apparently divine alicorn) he breathed a small Invoke. His heart went out to the families…to the wounded.

He was grateful that Beanie's Linden Corps wasn't involved. He shuddered at the thought.

He listened in as a group of ministers, parliamentarians, and army officers followed behind, each making entreats for upon the alicorn for action.

He rolled his eyes at the sycophants…it was only when General Black Hat of Sycamore Corps spoke that anything resembling sense was made, and when another general, a brigadier named Wander joined them things of worth began being accomplished.

He watched as the princess pulled out Wander's old brigadier rank board with her magic, slipped a new major's one into its place. As she did Joe suddenly felt better about the situation.

He followed once more, keeping even the most trusted of the advisers under his watch as his file partner did the same. "You are relieved, Sergeant," came a voice, and as a new pony took a watch he bowed to the princess and departed, walking in cadence with his file partner down to the barracks.

As they rounded a corner they stepped aside to let the Minister of War pass, the frantic look on the face of the graying unicorn one that denoted just how horribly the day was going…just how bad the situation truly was.

The Minister of War nodded to them before continuing on, barely lifting his head from a mountain of scrolls…but at once stopped.

"Minister?" his file partner, Winding Stream, asked, "Is everything alright, sir?"

The minister turned back to them slowly, looking first to Stream and then to Joe.

"Sergeant? It's Sergeant Pony Joe, of Canterlot? Correct?"

Joe looked first to Stream, and then back to the minister.

"Yes, sir. How can I be of service?"

The minister rummaged through the scrolls, pulled out a small one, ran it up and down. At once he stopped and looked up to Joe.

"You…are aware, of course of the…defeat," said the minister, choking on the word, "the defeat of Gold Army Group, yesterday, correct?"

"Yes sir."

"Are…are you aware of what units made up the Gold Group?" asked the minister, walking slowly towards them.

"Not too deep into the individual units, sir, but it was my understanding that Gold was made up of Chestnut, Cherry, and Ash Corps."

The minister looked out a nearby window. The rain began to slow as pegasi began breaking up the clouds. It was to be a nice day after all…far too nice.

"It was…when dispatched, but an unexplained flood at the foot of the Everfree Forest caused Ash Corps to be delayed…"

"Yes sir," answered Joe, looking down into the face of the minister, wondering why the pony seemed to be supplicating himself before him, "Nasty place the Everfree, sir, weather's all unpredictable in there…why, when I was in regular service we…"

"Do, do you know which corps we had to replace it with?" interrupted the Minister of War, lifting one scroll with his magic.

"No, sir," answered Joe, softly.

"Linden Corps…we had to move up Linden Corps."

Joe suddenly felt as though he had been slapped across the face with an apple cart.

"I…I received a letter from General Verdant, of Linden Corps Third Division. He, he was commending ponies…ponies who had fought bravely…in the defeat…"

A great pool of water began moving inside Joe's mind, and as it began to slosh about he wavered, and the waters began to form a whirlpool that threatened to drag him down.

"His…his first brigade, under Brigadier Gleaming Orb, caught the worst of it…you see, but held out bravely…163rd Light Infantry, 61st Heavy Infantry, 49th Cavalry…twenty…28th Archer…28th Archer, Sergeant…"

Joe began to shake, stumble, Stream literally moving to catch him.

"Sergeant, Sergeant…I, I don't know how…" said the minister, going pale.

"Read it to me, minister, please."

The Minister of War placed his foreleg over his mouth.

"Please…"

The minister unrolled the scroll.

"Principal in the defense," began the letter, "was the brigade of Orb, who was killed leading said brigade valiantly. Among that brigade, the first of the third division, fell so many great ponies, each one more loyal and dutiful than could ever be asked…"

Suddenly Joe remembered looking down into the eyes of a little foal he had held in his forelegs as it gurgled and cooed at him. The image dug a burning knife into the spot just below his ribcage, twisting into him unforgivingly as his world began to shatter around the words.

The minister skipped ahead.

"It was the 28th Archer Regiment that most bore the brunt of the final assault of the Chrey. With the entirety of the brigade's regular infantry units shredded this unlikely unit, though storied, was most responsible for allowing the majority of the division to escape entrapment. My mind's eye clearly sees one individual in particular, a private, whom must receive mention…"

The images of dancing around with Beanie as the warm summer air revealed to them their marks for the first time beat at him. The remembrance of his baby brother's laughter belabored Joe like a club across his head, hammering at him mercilessly.

"With all the regular and non-commissioned officers dead or deathly injured it was Private Coffee Bean, Brother of Joe, Hero of Fifth Pines, who bore up his fellow ponies. Multiple sources here state that he was seen rallying them not three but four times until he, though already terribly wounded and given every chance to escape…"

"Terribly wounded."

"Every chance to escape."

These two lines bit at Joe as his face began to twist in agony, as he looked back into his memory and heard his baby brother say, "How long do you think it will take for me to make The Guards?"

Make the guards…baby brother.

"…ultimately was killed…"

The water, the massive whirlpool sloshing around in Joe's head roared up at him, knocked him over. At once the Minister of War grabbed at him, Stream trying to catch him too as his body came crashing down to the floor.

Beanie was dead. Trying to make The Guards…be like his brother. Hero of Fifth Pines. Baby Beanie is dead…little baby brother Beanie. Gone. Dead. Beanie is dead.

Joe fell out of their forelegs as horrible sounds began to come from deep within him, first low moans of anguish that grew into high, resonant shrieks of unnamable pain. He raised himself up, darted at nothing. He fell against a marbled column, his armor clanging against it, and then crashed past it into the wall beneath a tall spire of stained glass windows.

His helmet rolled off of him as he hit the floor, spinning.

"Oh, Ser…Joe, Joe I am so sorry…I'm so sorry," said the minister, placing one hoof on Joe's shoulders as the pony wailed, kicked uncontrollably and wildly.

"Oh Joe, Joe…" called Stream, trying to lift him from the floor, trying to wrap his forelegs around Joe's despondent form.

Yet, they could not, no force in Equestria could lift him, it seemed, as he lay there on the cold marble floor. The deep cries of anguish continued slipping out of him, filling the corridor with horrible sounds that brought ponies cantering and trotting up from all corners of the palace…

At once the image of the smiling face of his brother reached him, the new armor shining upon him. Two attendant mares laid his head across both of their laps as he called for his little brother in wild, wounded tones.

He called for his baby brother to rise up out of the Well of Souls…to come back up the long stairs and go with him once more down into the creeks that fed the vast waterfalls of Canterlot. He begged his little brother to go with him out into the crisp autumn as it fled into Nightmare Night, laughing as they gathered treats from the lit houses and watched candles flicker inside pumpkins.

A ringing grew in his ears, chiming in loud cadence to the throbbing behind his eyes as he called for his little brother, begged him to come back…

His voice called, pleaded, to his little brother to come back to him, to all of them…to once again fill the house with his soft presence…just for a day, an hour, even just a handful of minutes… just so that they could tell him how much they love him one last time…embrace him just once more, please…please just one more time…

"Beaannnniiiieee!" he brayed out loud, his armor biting into him along the folds.

"Beaannniiieee!" he called again and again as the attendant mares stroked his mane and rocked him.

"Beannniiieee!" he screamed, his throat burning, a ringing behind his ears growing as the gathered ponies began to sob on their own accord, the knowledge of the cause of his misery somehow spreading among them.  

The stately ponies, lords, ladies, barons…they looking down at him, their hearts growing in sympathy but unknowing how to help…looking on at the perfect tangible horror of his dejection.

At once more hoofalls were heard, and the as the sobbing assembly looked up to see who had joined them they parted for her.

The ringing grew louder…then stopped.

He felt a soft light fall over him, and the guardspony looked up to see himself encased in that light. He was floating in a pool of his own misery, yet it was not reaching him. It was as though he were within the perfect golden light of an egg yolk, and the horrors retreated from him, retreated just enough to allow him to breathe again…

"Joe," came the sound of a perfect voice, and the soft feeling of a muzzle placed along his face, "Give me your pain Joe, let it flow into me…"

At once he answered it, leapt at it for the comfort and solace it offered, and with that Procer Celestia Invictus enveloped him in her light all the way down to the very roots of his soul.

A new ringing reached him, and for the first time in his adult life Joe awoke to the sounds of his alarm clock. He had failed to awaken before it, as was his custom.

He had failed…just as badly as he had failed Beanie.

He opened the window, and with the force of his magic behind him, launched the still-ringing alarm clock out into the cold morning streets of the capital. Beneath it the streams still merged into the vast waterfalls as he let out a cry that filled the streets.
Pony Joe awakens before the dawn each morning, readies himself for his day, and then walks through Cantelot's cold and silent streets to his doughnut shop.

Life has become pretty mundane for Joe, but as he serves his customers and chats with his regulars he realizes that he has come to rely on that repetition...he relies on it to keep from remembering.

As a casual utterance by a new customer sends Joe into a spiral of haunting memories we learn about his life...and what he must give up if he wishes to move beyond his past.

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...and here on Equestria Forums!

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See you there!

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(C) Hasbro Studios, used in parody in satire with respect to copyright.
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fotland42 Featured By Owner Feb 10, 2013
It wasn't your fault. He didn't die because he wanted to be a Guard. He died because he wanted to give the rest of the army time to escape, because it was the right thing to do. You cannot control the actions of others, and to hold yourself responsible for them is nothing but a path to madness.

Though I have every faith that she meant well, I fear it was Celestia's help that prevented you from realizing this. By treating the symptoms, she ensured the disease would remain unchecked.
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:iconthedescendantofkehan:
TheDescendantofKehAn Featured By Owner Feb 10, 2013  Hobbyist Writer
I picture that, what Celestia did, was more akin to simply providing rescue breathing, rather than, say... provide a drug regimen. In either case, I'm glad that you felt moved enough to write a comment. That was the first one I think I've ever seen directed at a character rather than me as author, so it was interesting to read!:)
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:iconfotland42:
fotland42 Featured By Owner Feb 17, 2013
I finally figured out why I found it so very odd you said that you've never gotten a comment directed at a character before. I'd say you generally write about characters that experience events, as opposed to writing about events that happen to characters (if that makes any sense), and that is a good way to inspire me to talk to characters. I'd think that I would have left comments similar to the above on most of your stories.
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:iconthedescendantofkehan:
TheDescendantofKehAn Featured By Owner Feb 17, 2013  Hobbyist Writer
That's a very unique way of looking at it!:)
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:iconlzsmith88:
lzsmith88 Featured By Owner Apr 15, 2012
Yea, I cried too.
Ok! Start at the top, work my way down. Babies are adorable, and Joe and Beanie start off well by being adorable children. And its easy to see that its Joe and Beanie who are the closest pair of brothers.
Marks are important, and though there were no Sonic Rainbooms or Dragon Birthings or whatnot preceding Joe's or Beanie's, its still easy to see this is the turning point in these little colts lives. Also, the falling stars and quicksilver thing is really cool!
Then everything changes.
War in Equestria, which is both traumatic and a good way to explain why there are no stallions. Which is a terrible thing to say, I know, but it makes sense. Joe vs the boar creatures is awesome and terrible and defining. He quite nearly sacrifices everything to warn his comrades, and fight the Scrofa (which are really cool baddies by the way).
And then Joe was part of the Royal Guard, which is way cool. The initiation sucks apples, but theres great benefits.
Beanie the Unicorn Archer. Archery Ponies are incredibly wicked, and I both love and hate picturing this big unicorn stallion standing atop this great hill, firing arrow after arrow after blood covered arrow into the horde, all in the name of Celestia, but more importantly, too live or die following the example of his brother. Oh Beanie :'(
The final paragraphs of the chapter, with Joe and the realization that hes lost what most dear too him... its heartwrenching!
thank you! thank you for writing this sir! its so great!
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:iconthedescendantofkehan:
TheDescendantofKehAn Featured By Owner Apr 15, 2012  Hobbyist Writer
I don't know if you've read Tangled Up in Blues yet, Liz, but that's the effect that I use whenever I have a principal character discover their mark. I'm glad you like the effect.

The prolonged conflicts that I call The Wars are indeed the reason why there's there's so few stallions in the series, most are off fighting. I prefer that to some of the more unhappy suggestions.

Glad you liked the Scrofa!

I'm very glad that it was able to bring up such feelings and imagery for you. Thank you so much for taking the time to read and comment!:)
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:iconkurseofkings:
KurseofKings Featured By Owner Apr 9, 2012
What is a Scrofa? Also, what do they look like?
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:iconthedescendantofkehan:
TheDescendantofKehAn Featured By Owner Apr 9, 2012  Hobbyist Writer
The Scrofa are another race from beyond Equestria's eastern border. They look like boars or wild pigs. "Scrofa" is the genus of pigs.;)
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:iconradiantvoid:
RadiantVoid Featured By Owner Mar 24, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
Ouch.

Really now? You went for a full denial on him morning the death of his brother. Joe was completely unfazed by the minister until the regiment switch reveal. The reader already knew what was coming for a few lines, but the fact that Joe was ... just .. wishing it wasn't so was heartbreaking. Him collapsing from the shock of it all did get a tear from me; seeing a guard break down like that is just sad.

Any particular reason why Joe had such resilience overall? It seems unusual that a new recruit (or newish) would be strong enough to survive so bad an encounter. Did he get lucky, or did his magic help him survive?

Also: his brother was named Coffee Bean, i find that funny. I also find it funny that the 'donut' that gave him his cutie mark was a 'misshapen lump of dough'. Imagine if he got that on his flank.

5/5 definitely. Although I think i liked "The Talk" a bit more.
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:iconthedescendantofkehan:
TheDescendantofKehAn Featured By Owner Mar 24, 2012  Hobbyist Writer
I read a lot of soldier memoirs, and stories like soldiers finding out that close friends and even blood relatives have been killed play a big part in how I wrote this chapter.

Just as Joe loses consciousness he feels hooves upon him. I don't mention it, but they are skirmishers... he was immediately rescued and was in a field hospital within moments.

The Magic of Equestria is more forgiving than to give him a lump of dough!;)
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