Chapter 1: Page Chores
It was quiet in the armory. Brave Storm had always imagined herself to be the big sister of her group of apprentices. When a pony would ask about why they had to perform their mundane tasks to become a guard, Brave Storm would be the one to step in and explain the importance of their duties.
“Ugh, why do we have to polish somepony else’s armor?” One would ask while another would complain, “Why do I need to sharpen Captain Thunder Hooves’ sword? He’s the one that dulled it.”
“Usually, they maintain their own armor.” Brave Storm would say, gladly taking the time to buff out a stubborn scratch on a unicorn’s chanfron. “And when we’re guards, so will we. It’s important that we learn this now so we’ll know when our equipment needs repairs.”
The other apprentices with her would mumble and agree. They weren’t happy to have to do menial tasks, but they felt better knowing they weren’t being given chores just so that their senior members didn’t have to do them.
But instead, all she had for company was her own reflection in the armor she was polishing. She joined far later than any creature else in her batch of potential recruits, and the guards were still considering their November options. Something Brave Storm was certain was put onto the backburner since Queen Vespa had arrived. She felt her stomach knot at the thought of the beautiful changeling queen. She swallowed down her anxiety and moved on to the next piece of armor.
It didn’t take a keen eye to notice a huge dent in a crinet piece that effectively fused it to the next layer. She tossed them aside. The damage would have removed mobility in the wearer’s ability to turn their neck. It needs repairs, not polishing. Next, she grabbed what was possibly the largest singular part of the armor- the peytral. If it wasn’t obvious by the golden color of the metal, then the sun-themed etchings were a dead giveaway the set belonged to a Daywatch guard.
Brave Storm found herself wishing she had company, any company. Even Summer Solo would be fine; they could have talked for the first time since that early November Day. She could speak to him about that letter- that she forgot about until now and didn’t bring along with her. She sucked her teeth in and set the peytral back onto the mannequin.
The fumes from the polish were making her head swim and her sore chest and forelegs were begging her for a break. She headed out the armory doors where she found a Canterlot guard on patrol nearby.
“Taking five, recruit?” she asked when she noticed Brave Storm.
“Is that all right?”
The guard nodded. “If any creature comes looking for you, I’ll let them know you’ll be back.”
Brave Storm noticed that the guard’s head hung a little low and her ears were drooped ever so slightly. She wanted to ask if everything was all right, but the guard returned on her patrol route before she could even open her mouth. Figuring that she probably wouldn’t even open up while on duty anyways, Brave Storm headed in the opposite direction, up a few flights of stairs and to the nearest balcony.
The early Winter air was brisk but fresh. Brave Storm enjoyed the way the wind combed its fingers gently through her long coat and brushed her mane. She hoisted her forelegs onto the balcony railing and overlooked the scenery as she drank the clean air.
She wanted to enjoy her time spent as a Knight’s page, but instead, anxiety gripped her heart. With no creature else to distract her, her mind kept drifting far away from Canterlot and into Ponyville.
Soft Glow was currently hiding away in Brave Storm’s home. Brave Storm wanted to stay in Ponyville, ready to fight to keep Soft Glow with her or at least to say goodbye when she had to leave. But the week went by and none of the changelings had left yet. She wanted to stay longer, just in case, but Soft Glow insisted that Brave Storm left for Canterlot. Now, all that Brave Storm could think about was the idea of Soft Glow being taken away. And occasionally a thought would creep in, wondering if she was being selfish for only caring about one changeling out of hundreds.
She heard the balcony doors creep open behind her and the voice of a stallion chattering as the cold air hit him. Followed by approaching light hoofsteps. She heard the stallion hoist himself up on the balcony next to her. She didn’t look, but in her peripheral vision, she barely noticed the golden hair which was covered up in a blue coat. What made her certain of who the stallion was was the sickle-like horn on his head.
“Hey.” Summer Solo finally said after a moment.
“Hey.” Brave Storm parroted, her tone was muted compared to how she felt.
“It’s been a while.”
“Mhm.” was all that Brave Storm could say in response. She thought back to how not even ten minutes ago she was wishing that anypony, even him, was there. And here Summer Solo was, and she couldn’t bring herself to say anything to him.
“Did you go for the guard or the knights?” he asked.
“Why are you here?” Brave Storm asked bluntly, her brows furrowing.
“Cutting to the chase, all right.” Summer Solo sighed, dropping to all fours. “I’m sorry.”
“Oh?” Brave Storm pressed, finally turning to look at the unicorn. The bags under his eyes were dark and his oily mane was put into a messy bun.
“I’m sorry about last month- with the Wild Magic research. I should have respected your opinion and talked to you about your decision to do… whatever you were doing,” he said, talking quickly and sounding flustered. “Look, I know I was a bad friend a while ago. I don’t entirely know why or what I could have done differently, but I just know that I messed up. I… I wanted to make it up to you earlier, but I’ve been so busy. And I’m sorry that the first thing you heard from me was asking you for help and I couldn’t even do it in person, bu-”
“The letter?” Brave Storm interrupted, feeling too emotionally exhausted to be polite. “I didn’t read it.”
“Yeah, that’s fair.” he sighed deeply. “But what about you? You look like you have a lot on your mind.”
“My best friend’s a changeling.” she answered after resting her head between her hooves.
“Oh, Brave Storm. I’m so sorry.” Summer Solo offered his empathy. “I can’t imagine how you’re feeling.”
“I don’t want her to go.” she sniffled, burying her head under her hooves, “But I don’t know what to do. She’s always been there for me and when she needs me most, I don’t even know what to do.”
Brave Storm felt Summer Solo press into her. It was slow and light like he was unsure if it was okay to do. And she honestly didn’t even know if she wanted this, but she knew she needed it. She leaned against him, careful not to put too much of her weight into him.
“For what it matters, that’s what the letter was about.” He explains. “I didn’t like the decision either. It doesn’t feel right to have an alliance with the changelings where they can’t live with us. I managed to convince Queen Vespa to give us Equestrians a chance to convince her to let them stay.”
“And where did I come in?”
“I was hoping you’d be able to help me get a rally in Ponyville, but, well- you’re here now.”
Brave Storm laughed and Summer Solo pulled away, a look of surprise and disgust on his face.
“Let me explain.” Brave Storm requested. She wiped a tear from her eye and took a deep breath. “I can assure you, you’ll get your Ponyville help. Soft Glow’s in my home right now, and I can guarantee you that she’ll snoop in my letters and find yours.”
“The changeling friend.”
“You’re okay with her reading your mail?” Summer Solo asked, the disgust on his face leaving to make way for more confusion.
“I mean- no, but all friends have their flaws.” Brave Storm answered, offering a warm, but teary-eyed smile to the unicorn. “I could have been better, too. I could have stayed and offered my perspective to you. I’ll admit that I tend to be rather defensive, and that isn’t fair to you.”
“We’re still friends?”
“Yea, we’re still friends.” Brave Storm answers with a soft tone and quickly shifts to a firm though playful one. “We are definitely attending the Friendship School if that ever opens though.”
“Completely agree. I have no idea how to be a good friend.” Summer Solo agrees as he rolls his eyes at himself. “Never really had any growing up and it’s definitely showing.”
“Well, isn’t that sweet?” A new voice says behind the pair. Brave Storm and Summer Solo whipped around to see True Heart standing in the doorway. Her chest buffed out, her wings unfurled, and her stance wide in the back and narrow at the front giving her an overall look of dignified intimidation. “Recruit, I was told that you’d be back at your station ‘soon’, yet it’s been well over fifteen minutes.”
“Sorry, I must have lost track of time.” Brave Storm apologizes, dipping her head to the Daywatch Head. Even though she was with the Knights of Equestria, guard apprentices and knight pages start with the same training. To cut down on resources, they share the same space until partway through the squirehood and the trainee stages. So while Sword Dancer didn’t have much authority over the guard recruits, and True Heart and Dark Wing didn’t have any over knight recruits, it was in a creature’s best interest to treat all of them with respect as they train.
“I’ll let you off this time since somepony who should have known better-” Summer Solo grimaces as he looks away “-kept you distracted. Get back to polishing.”
“Yes, ma’am.” Brave Storm nods, turning to Summer Solo she adds, “Cya around.”
As she skitters out behind True Heart, she barely caught her talking to Summer Solo. “Are you proud of yourself?”
She slows, ready to turn back and defend Summer Solo from a scolding. But she was surprised to hear the pegasus follow up with, “Well, you should be. You’re doing good, foal.”
Brave Storm felt her heart warm and she hurried back to the armory before True Heart caught her eavesdropping.
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