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The Twilight Guard (Invite Only)

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Today was the big day!
 
Captain Fire Walker made her way through the (currently) quiet pathways of Ponyville as she balanced an box of recently baked muffins she purchased from Sugar Cube Corner on her back. Like the good little officer, she was on time to meet both Ponyville's beloved Princess Twilight, and six very special ponies that would soon be protecting the happy little village that had become the center of rather important events during the last few years. This included the return of Princess Luna, a rather epic battle between an oversized vampiric centaur and the purple princess of friendship herself, not to mention more than a few invasions. As the village grew in stock, the greater the 'events of interest' became, so they needed a proper guard to keep an eye on the place.
 
The red Pegasus silently pondered the small group of ponies her new boss had picked. Some she knew, others she did not.
 
The first was a officer named Flash Sentry. His once promising career hit a bit of a roadblock after he had been kidnapped and brainwashed into aiding the infamous attack against the Crystal Fair not that long ago. And while he had later been tried and cleared of his 'crimes', he had been pushed into the unglamorous role of an R.E.A paper-pusher. The stallion deserved a second chance, and while she had never encountered the Pegasus pony, Princess Twilight had only good things to say about him. Fire even asked her brothers in the guard about him. Things like 'He's a really nice guy' and '"FLASH SENTRY helps his friends whenever they need him!
 
Sergeant Bonfire was next. Like Flash, he was another pony the mare had not been properly introduced to. But from what she heard, he was a well rounded, experienced  solider. The hefty unicorn was an fully trained Pyromancer and an certified R.E.A instructor. While shooting fireballs at his foes was very useful, the guard would need him more for his experience and discipline. He would be very useful in training new recruits and Ponyville citizens.He was stern, but fair pony who did not creep her out like that General Pummel did. Oh how he gave her the Jibblies!
 
And there was Rapid Fire. Oh dear. How did he end up on the list? He was a highly skilled and respected officer, but sweet, baby Celestia, he was an utter hottie.  Like meow. But would he be suitable for the job? Did it matter? Fire Walker had attended more than a few training missions with the very model of horsey perfection back in the day, but never had the courage to speak to him. And while she later found out that he was into stallions, this was a guy she could still admire from afar. But now she would be near him and oh. Maybe she should just think about those muffins she had on her back. So hot and so firm. ARGH!
 
Next was Raven Shadowfire, an young recruit that held a good deal of promise, or at least that what's the red Pegasus had read about her. She had suffered a serious horn injury at a young age but would not let that stop her from doing what she wanted.  She would be an ideal student for Bonfire.
 
With all the skilled soldiers and wizards marching about, they needed somepony who could help those effected by Ponyville's occasional bouts of crazy.  Placidity was a highly skilled  psychologist and while born a mute, was skilled in telepathy. Not only could she aid Ponyville citizens in dealing with unpleasant situations, she would be also handy when dealing with their foes. Sometimes an enemy could be defeated with the powers of friendship and understanding. If not, that's when the fire magic and pole arms fit in.
 
And finally there was Applejack. Why in the world did the already very busy earth pony throw her hat into this? Not only did she have a foal to take care of, there was also her elderly grandmother and an filly sister she needed to keep an eye on. There was also a farm AND a school she worked on. Yikes! That gal did more in one morning than most ponies did all week. Still, she was one mare the officer could count on and utterly impossible to say 'no' to.
 
The mare arrived at the castle and quickly made her way into the room they were to use as the 'meeting' are for now. There was a small table with an rather festive pink coffee maker mounted on. There she would place the muffin box and start up the coffee maker. Comfortable chairs all needed a goof 'fluffing' which she started on.......She was early, so hopefully the others would be arriving soon...
 
 
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Applejack checked and rechecked everything for the tenth time this morning. She had gotten up since way before the first rooster had crowed, the dawn's earliest light only playfully trying to break through the nightly barrier when she went to work. She had packed her bags the night before and made sure to get Zap Apple ready as well. Nothing like a fussy baby. Then she made sure that her teaching hours could work as a flex around the guard schedule. Early morning farm work as well...it was a busy life, but she wouldn't have it any other way. Other ponies may complain about being overworked but she always felt underworked, truth be told. There was always more work to be done with her bucking legs or to keep her mind a turnin'. She liked to nap and relax, don't mistake her love of work and a great work ethic for anything else other than a virtue, mind you. But when you could do more, land's sake, you should.

Which is why she joined the Twilight Guard. She had adventured near and far, fought a metric ton of nasties, even guarded it up a bit on Task Force Suntrot. If she could do all that unbidden, why the hay not put herself up to help guard one of her dearest friends? Her schedule would be tight, if course, but not as tight as one might think. She would do most of her farm work in the early morning and her little fella would be nearby anyway. Being a teacher- well that took some time, but not as much as one might think. A class took an hour, she ran two of them, extra work took about an extra hour. She could do them in the morning or do them later on in the day. After all, the School of Friendship was a boarding school whose hours were more extreme. She could shift easier than most.

Zap Apple would be at the castle, part of the reason she took the job. Killer daycare offer! She'd get to see him about as much as any other momma might, not that it wasn't the hardest thing about the job. She wanted to cuddle him just about all the time but reckoned this was fine enough. Honestly, the biggest thing to suffer would be her market work, but Apple Bloom needed a role to fill that she could excel in while she grew the strength to run the farm. Applejack believed in her. Of course, this all depended on what she was asked to do as part of the Twilight Guard.
She was ready for anything or at least believed she was. She just needed to know so she could shift her schedule. No matter. That wasn't important, not really. She was just happy to be accepted and even happier to get to work. She had done her farm work, made breakfast- something to last since she made it while everypony else slept- and then gathered up a large saddlebag and Zap Apple. With a kiss on his cheek and wave to a house where everypony was just now stirring, she trotted into town.

First stop was the castle, where she met with Twilight very briefly. She had been...concerned about Applejack joining the Guard, worried it would overstretch her. Applejack didn't think so. Twilight had taken Zap to play with- Twilight seemed to love almost every foal- and he was soon on his way to daycare. Twilight had wanted to come with Applejack since they were both going to the same place, but Applejack had denied it. Better that they didn't think there was favoritism. Had to appear all sorts of equal and such, which she knew Twi would be and all but appearances were appearances. Twi had joked that this was the last time Applejack would be able to say no to an order and trotted off, which gave Applejack a little food for thought as she trotted over to the place she was to meet the others.

By the time she arrived, she looked as fresh and fine as an apple at a provincial fair. All the work failed to show on her, as if like she had just woken up. The first pony she met was, well enough, the only one she planned on knowing. “Howdy there, Cap'n Fire Walker,” she said, giving a short salute that she remembered from her Task Force Suntrot days. Easier to do without her hat, which she left at home today.  “Excitin', ain't it?”

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"Sister, I have to go now, the law is calling me." Placidity walked out of the front door, adjusting the headband that was almost always present on her head, one of the things that set her apart from her sister, who refused to wear one. She was accepted into the Twilight guard, but her sister wasn't at the time. It wasn't entirely a surprise, she was more social than her sister was. Her sister focused more on the theoretical aspects rather than her own focus on the practical aspects. That didn't mean Tranquility was incapable of doing therapy. It was kind of a good idea for Tranquility to stay back. Somepony had to keep the business up and consistent, even if the potential output was lowered.

 

"Right good luck with that, I'll just be here, studying you know. Slow day and all," Her sister replied over their personal connection. Their connection was the strongest that they have ever been able to achieve and it's no surprise considering they've spent basically their entire lives together. It's only theorised, but it is a possibility that their connection could cover all of Equestria, which at that point, is it even their own prowess that's doing that, or some sort of third party amplification? They had never spent long enough away from each other to test those theories enough. 

 

"Alright if that's what you want to do," She replied making no point to go any further into what she suspected. Now wasn't the time for that. She had to meet up inside the castle, of which she had never entered before. Quite an experience it would be to enter the castle for the first time if it was not for professional reasons. It was kind of hard to imagine that this once humble town could suddenly change because of the existence of this castle. Rumour had it that it suddenly appeared out of nowhere. They moved there after its creation so they weren't able to witness it for themselves. 

 

The Twilight Guard, established because of the rapid expansion of the town. Named after her majesty Twilight Sparkle, although she was perhaps the least majestic of the reigning Princesses, it was just in her personality as far as she knew. She was surprised that her sister had not found a way to analyse the Princess. Most at this stage would be applying to the Twilight guard for the purpose of direct defence, but they also made it clear that they were looking for support roles too. Perfect for her, combat and conflict can be traumatic, even for soldiers, and with Ponyville being a hotspot for danger, there's plenty of trauma that needs to be fixed. 

 

She made her way into the castle where she made her way over to the meeting room. As far as she knew she was the least combatant member of the guard at that moment so it was going to feel a bit weird at first, but it won't matter because they will all remember her when they're still mentally healthy. Psychic combat, she had never really considered that. She had always developed her magic for the purpose of helping others, but there may be a situation where she will have to hurt someone to save someone. 

 

Entering the meeting room, it appeared that she was the third one there. Applejack, Element of Honesty was there alongside who she presumed was Fire Walker. Didn't really matter if she didn't entirely remember her because she was going to learn everypony's name anyway. "I Placidity, am honoured to be invited into this new branch," She formally addressed publically, the artificial voice resonating in the minds of anything that was present in the room. "You're going to be glad when your mind isn't collapsing on itself."

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Raven smiled as she walked through the quiet town of Ponyville, her ancestral armor gleaming from it's fresh waxing and of course the enchantments on it. The few ponies that were on the street gave her odd stares, and more than a few seemed to shy away from her, but they probably weren't too used to seeing armor clad ponies. She honestly was just idly wandering for a bit, the castle looming over the town her destination, though she never headed straight towards it. Better to learn the new city she would be defending, be living in for her duration with the twilight guard...

 

She finally made her way to the castle, where she found her way to the meeting room. The signs were nice, even if there was a few too many, but this was a very important event, couldn't let anypony get lost. She didn't so much as walk in as marched in, knowing that for her, giving a strong first impression. To that end, she noted one other pony in armor, and snapped a salute, just like her mother had taught her so long ago. "Recruit Raven Shadowfire, reporting for duty, ma'am." She said, giving a nod towards the other two, a unicorn mare who stood serenely still, though a bit of power seemed to crack around her, and an orange Earth pony wearing a Stetson... She looked really familiar to Raven, and she kept glancing at her, trying to figure out who she was...

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Bonfire adjusted the straps on his new armor...  again.  The unicorn had had numerous sets of armor over his career, from functional field armor in his regular REA days to the more decorative armor of the Royal Guard.  There was always an adjustment period getting any new armor to fit correctly, and this armor was just different enough that it would probably be uncomfortable for a while to come.

 

Bonfire's new apartment in the barracks of Ponyville Castle...  Friendship Castle?  Did the castle even have a real name yet?  Anyway, the place was still full of partially unpacked boxes.  The unicorn had been surprised at how much... stuff he had accumulated during his time in Canterlot.  Military life usually involved a lot of moving around, so you you just didn't keep many posessions.  The more stable life in the Guard had given him more time to accumulate things.  Granted, much of the stuff was old armor and weapons, But there was a surprising amount of personal items too.

 

There had been an entire box of old unit and family photos.  One of those now stood on the table next to the bed.  The frame was filled with unicorns of various ages, most in shades reds, oranges, and yellows.  Many of the pictured ponies appeared to be smeared in dark soot.  Last year's family reunion had gone a bit off track due a wild fire.  But with a whole family of pyrokinetic unicorns, the conflagration had been contained with ease.  Bonfire remembered the day fondly.  The fact that he had even GONE to the reunion was a bit unusual though.

After after not taking any leave for several years, Bonfire had been sent on an 'enforced vacation,' After that, he had begun to realize that he was too wrapped up in the day-to-day of the palace, and that he needed to get out and change things up.  That's why he'd finally accepted that invitation to visit the family, and why he now found himself in Ponyville, rather than Canterlot.  

 

Since her ascentsion, Princess Twilight had been without her own detachment of guards.  While the Princess and her friends were a formidable force on their own , so were the Royal Sisters.  And Celestia had had guards for centuries.  No matter how powerful a pony was, they still had vulnerabilities that could be exploited.  Several attacks on Canterlot had proved that to be all too true.  When Bonfire had heard of the formation of the Twilight Guard, he thought that it might be the perfect change to get him out of his rut.  

Finally deciding that the new armor was fitting as well as he could get it, Bonfire trotted out of the barracks.  The sun was barely up, but he wanted to be early.  This would be the first opportunity to meet his new CO and the rest of the fledgling unit.  Arriving in the castle, he found that several mares had preceded him.  

 

The first he recognized right away.  Applejack, Bearer of the Element of Honesty, national hero, personal friend of the Princess...  and one of the lowest ranking ponies in the unit.  Even after reviewing the personel files, Bonfire was still surprised that the mare was actually here.  At the moment, he could not fathom why the mare had enlisted.  I mean, he could understand the desire to protect a friend or a loved one; nearly any pony in the Guard would feel the same.  But starting out at the bottom as she was, along with her other duties...  He shook his head, having no idea how that would work out.  

 

Of the three remaining mares, two were young unicorns.  That would be Placidity and Raven Shadowfire.  The first was also a bit odd to be an enlistee, being a specialist in therapy.  The second mare's file had drawn his attention from her talent for fire-based spells.  Similar to his own, but also very different.  No real surprise on her enlistment though, coming from a Guard family.

 

The final mare he approached before stopping and standing at attention before giving a practiced salute.  Taking in the mare's armor, he said, "Captain Fire Walker I presume?  Sergeant Bonfire, reporting in.  Good to meet you, ma'am."

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Rapid Fire trotted towards the Castle of Friendship, his thoughts for the first time in a long time focused. The offer that had come his way was indeed something to preoccupy him from a broken heart. Well, at this point it was a heart well on the mend. He had been ready for something new and when the the information of the Twilight Guard had come his was he had jumped to attention! 

 

His new armor creaked a bit as he went. It was snug, to say the least. From his part experiences with the Guard and with new equipment it was would loosen over time and he would adjust to it's fit. A natural give and take. Something he was trying very hard to accomplish with his life. He had felt without a center for quite some time now and even as he made his way nearer to the gathering he felt his old self returning to him.

 

Rapid was used to such meetings of ponies. Military time and training had done little to correct his easy going nature. His way of speaking and carrying himself, he had noticed on countless occasions made the mares turn his way. Though he had spent time with a pretty mare or two in his days, Rapid always had his eyes out for the attention of a military stallion. This however, was no venture into starting anything new on the relational front. He was ready to throw himself into work and the Twilight Guard offered him just that opportunity. 

 

He made his way onto the scene, nodding to a small grouping of unicorn mares as he went. Noticing the muffins laid out on the table his stomach made a small gurgling noise. He hadn't eaten yet and the trademark box from Sugarcube Corner beckoned to him. He selected a toffee oat cluster muffin, one of Pinkie's trademark varieties, and took a large bite. The sweetness brought a smile to his muzzle and in a couple more bites the muffin had been dispatched. 

 

The armor of the leader was hard to miss and so Rapid sauntered up to Firewalker and nodded upwards with his chin to her. "Captain Firewalker," He eyed her for a split second in the fashion only a stallion like himself could get away with.

 

Of course the well muscled unicorn hadn't missed Rapid's attention, Bonfire was introducing himself at the same moment that Rapid approached. The red unicorn certainly fit the part of a seasoned officer and Rapid enjoyed playing games with those who played the military part. They were fun to poke fun at, to get their attention of course. For now Rapid offered a sidelong glance and a quick wink.

 

He also noticed the famous farm pony Applejack standing nearby. Though he hadn't had any previous interaction with her, Rapid addressed her as a friend. "Hey there AJ. Good to see ya!"

 

 

 

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Fire Walker returned the salute with a smile. Of course ‘Corporal’ Applejack would be the first to show up. A farmer’s schedule was probably as strict, if not more so than an officer’s. Among other things, it was easier to milk a groggy cow than one that was fully awake. And they also did not talk as much when they were half asleep. The pegasus pony usually stuck with soy milk when it came to her coffee, tea or cereal.
 
“Nice to see you Corporal.”, the mare was finally sure the chairs were fluffed to maximum fluffability! “Please go ahead and have a cup of coffee, and a muffin.”, she glanced over at the table, “Mrs. Cake just made this batch and she really out did herself." There were a few flavors that obviously could only come from the mind of Pinkie Pie. Both the 'Red Hot', which used cinnamon candies as their main ingredient...And one that had the officer's little sister's favorite cereal, 'Double-Chocolate, Sugar-Frosted Soundy Puffs' might be just a little too much to handle. Thankfully the Cakes usually labeled their muffins on its wrapping.
 
The next was Mrs Placidity and good gravy, the odd voice that could be heard in their -minds- was going to take awhile to get used to. She was not sure what the mare meant by 'You're going to be glad when your mind isn't collapsing on itself.' She did not ask as there was probably a very good chance she soon would find out..Or maybe she did not want to know.
 
The next one to pop in was the uniquely named Raven Shadowfire who wore an very impressive suit of armor. Fire wondered if the pony would be upset if they told her that she would be wearing more of an 'uniform' suit of armor. Like the older officer, the two had a similar background. Both were from generations of officers and soldiers...And that horn? That was not the first unicorn she had seen with a cracked horn. Thankfully this azure coated pony had yet to try to take over Canterlot with whatever the heck the 'Storm King' was. 
 
And there was Sergeant Bonfire, the Pyromancer was sporting their fancy new armor. "Good to meet you as well, officer.", she made a quick motion towards their little breakfast table. "We're just waiting until the princess arrives. Feel free to have some coffee and a muffin. Best in Ponyville."
 
Rapid Fire was the last to arrive. Had he gained fifty pounds and lost his mane since the last time she had seen him? Did he get stuck with the first mare he fell in love with and now was saddled with ten kids? Nope. She was still perfect and utterly gorgeous. Perfectly gorgeous. Thankfully years of training kept her from staring at the impressive stallion. "<Insert ranking> Rapid Fire.", hopefully he would not notice her cheeks her slightly redder than normal. "It's good to finally get to work with you after all of these years.", again she motioned towards to the table.
 
That was it. All those she and Princess Twilight had picked were here. They had experienced officers and new recruits. Experience mixed with fresh minds.
 
"We're just waiting on the good princess and then we can continue...Please feel free to enjoy the coffee and muffins...And maybe even learn a little something about each other...I'll start.", she paused to clear her throat, "As many of you know, I am Captain Fire Walker. Formally of both the Canterlot and later, Fillydelphia guard. My family has been serving Canterlot and its rulers since pretty much day one...And considering how large my family is, I would not doubt if at least a few of you have served alongside at least two of my brothers during your career."
 
"And while I was not born here, Ponyville had became a second home to me thanks to my parents and little sister moving here awhile back. It had been known as a mostly quiet, farming community, I could not help notice as the village grew in stock, so did the unpleasant incidents, which is something we hope to put an end to with this guard..."
 
She trailed off, allowing others to speak...
 
 
 
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Applejack was actually excited to work with Fire Walker. Not that long ago they had ventured into the Everfree together and the good Captain had shown herself to be an exceptionally strong-willed popny. That was always great to have in a leader. That said nothing of her record or what she had heard from Twilight about her. Fire Walker wasn't one of those quill-pushing do nothing officers. Nope, she had gone out and proved herself on more than one occasion. Of all the officers they coulda picked in the Guards and Army to lead this bunch, Applejack's admittedly minor experience didn't tell her there was anypony better suited. “Thank ya kindly, Captain. Can't say no to some good coffee,” Applejack said as she trotted on over. She already had a big breakfast and didn't feel as though a muffin was warranted right about now, but coffee was always a good idea. It didn't hurt that she could smell Pinkie Pie's muffin creations from here and was liable to pass on them anyway.

Placidity's hoofsteps were heard by Applejack long before the telepathic message was delivered. Didn't make it any less unnerving for a second or two. She'd heard stories about ponies who can speak directly into another pony's mind and it just seemed...scary. Your mind was the one place you were truly and utterly free of any direct influence and to have somepony be able to casually invite themselves in seemed awkward at best. Of course she got over this quickly. She didn't know the mare any but knew that between Twilight and Captain Fire Walker it was doubtful that anypony was getting through who wasn't worthwhile. “Well, tha last time mah mind went on and decided to collapse on itself was when Ah mixed in Zap Apple jam with some cider, a thicker drink. Drink itself worked out fine mind you, but Ah think them Zap Apples act mighty odd when paired up with a cider. Ah'm Applejack, pleasure ta meet ya!”

The next pony to come in came in very professionally, Applejack supposed. Of course in her time in Suntrot she hadn't seen ponies marching from point to point unless they had been undergoing some sort of training regimen. Otherwise they just sort of moved all normal like, and none of 'em had any sort of personalized armor like this fella did. If that was just mistaken, she was woefully underdressed. Still, it was nice to see this new pony. Excitement came in many forms and if this here Raven Shadowfire was going to play his role this way then she was happy to have him. “Howdy, Shadowfire. Nice armor ya have there.”

The next pony to saunter on in was another unicorn- land's sakes, by now she was expecting at least a little more diversity!- but this one was different. He carried himself differently. He had the bearing of a professional, a veteran, somepony who knew his way around the Guard. Raven was clearly a recruit and Placidity didn't seem military at all. Maybe intelligence? But this fella, he was a different bushel entirely. He was as well built a unicorn as she had seen in some moons since...well, since a while. He then introduced himself as Sergeant Bonfire. Huh, she could swear he would have been a higher rank by now. He didn't look old per se but he looked rather experienced. Maybe there wasn't a lot of promotions available? She shrugged off such random questions. She snapped off a friendly salute (the best she knew from her Suntrot days). “Welcome ta Ponyville, Sergeant Bonfire.”


Rounding out the new guards for now was the final fella to arrive. He did so at the same time as Bonfire arrived, making a beeline for the muffins and coffee. Applejack was going to say something but she was kinda impressed by how casual he was. Musta meant he was comfortable in these environments. At least somepony was! He was really comfortable, come to think about it. So comfortable that after eating up Captain Fire Walker with his eyes for a second he sauntered on over to her and struck up a conversation. At least it wouldn't be hard to know where he stood on certain subjects. “Nice ta see you too-” she looked at his armor and then smiled, “-Rapid Fire. Yer a friendly sort, ain't ya?"

Captain Fire Walker took over at that point, giving them a brief rundown of what was happening and who she was.She knew the members of the family that lived here. They were all good folk, good stock. She seemed to further that image. Coming from a military family must've been rough on her at times but look at her- a beautiful captain of the Twilight Guard, well respected, and marrying some fancy parts noble from what Applejack heard. Not bad at all! Her family must've been mighty proud of her and Applejack was happy to have her as the leader of Twi's Guard.

Applejack's turn came eventually and she spoke, just like it was the first day at school all over again. “Howdy y'all, Ah'm Applejack. Ah run Sweet Apple Acres over yonder, tha best Apples in all of Equestria come from there. Work and live here in Ponvyille, the best little town in the world. Decided ta join 'cause Ah know Ah have somethin' ta offer ahn as long as Ah have somethin' ta offer it'd be a crying shame to be all lazy-like and not do it.”

------

Some time later, after everypony had a chance to meet and greet one another, Twilight arrived as the doors slid upon soundlessly to reveal Twilight in as royal a regalia as she allowed herself. She wasn't Rarity by any means but she was still a mare, and mares wanted to look good. She trotted in, smiling at the group. It was the foundation upon which great things would be built.“I see you've selected a fine group, Captain. Has everypony had a chance to get to know one another?”

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Raven watched the others come in, a semi-professional stance to the way she stood there. However, just about all the others were relaxed, and it slightly threw her off. The captain gave a short speech, breaking the ice and asking them to tell a little about themselves. As she went to speak, the familiar looking orange Earth pony spoke. As soon as she heard the name, her eyes widened with surprise. Applejack was known in Canterlot as one of the bearers of the elements of harmony. Raven had even once taken a tour of the palace, and seen some of the stained glass windows. After getting over her shock at working next to some pony so important, Raven spoke next.

 

"Hello, every pony... I'm Raven Shadowfire, heir to the House Dupone. While I haven't spent much... or any... time in Ponyville, I've known since... well, for as long as I can remember, I knew that I was to serve Equestria in a militaristic capability. After the accident that caused the cracks in my horn, both my parents, veterans of the REA, as well as the recruitment officers tried to steer me from service. My parents didn't want to see me hurt farther, and the recruitment officers said if I did get in, I would be regulated to desk jobs... However, when I saw the flyers for this position, I knew it was fate, that this was the opportunity to follow in the hoofsteps of my ancestors, as well as fulfill my dreams. I look forward to training with each of you, and serving as well..." Her words were confident, but they sounded off, as if she was partially saying whay she thought the others wanted to hear...

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