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Of Candles and Bits [Bannhammer, Remedy]


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A candle's flame sparkled in Bastion's eyes as he read over Rockefilly's letter. As much as he had prepared himself for the day he would actually go out and work at somepony's residence, he couldn't help but feel an uncontrollable joy. The resounding cheer echoed through his room. His mother knocked on the door moments later to make sure he was okay.

"I'm fine, mother!" He laughed and opened the door for her. "Good news. Sir Rockefilly said he would be glad to have me at his estate." As excited as he was, he contained himself. Acting out of hand wouldn't be appropriate for a steward.

Bastion's mother smiled up at him. There were also tears in her eyes and a pout on her lip. "I'm so happy for you. This also means you're leaving me. Again!" She wailed in the doorway, but her son was more than happy to put a hoof around her.

"Don't grieve, mother. You will see me again." He hugged her tightly. When he attempted to break their embrace, she wouldn't let go.

"I love you!"

The white stallion smiled at her and back away. "Now, I have to get ready. I want to catch today's one o'clock train. Got to make an impression by arriving early."

Mrs. Bastion wiped her drippy eyes in her handkerchief and nodded at him. "I think you'll make an impression just by showing up. You're quite the stunning young stallion. <sniffle> But I understand, sweetums. Let me contact your father. I'll get my things and then I will walk you to the station."

---

The trip to the station was a quiet one. They both exchanged silent, yet weary glances, wondering if the other was going to be alright. "I'll be fine," they both said in unison. Bastion chuckled. "I'd better get my ticket then." It was waiting for him like Rockefilly said it would.

--

Right on time, the train pulled into the station. Not only that, but Bastion's father was galloping towards them.

The old stallion huffed as he came to a stop before them. "I got here as quickly.. <wheeze>.. as I could." He panted some more before straightening himself up. "I needed to send you off or I wouldn't be able to forgive myself."

Bastion smiled at him. "I'll be back in Manehattan eventually. It's not like you're never going to see me again." His parents gave him one final hug. "See you mother, father." He waved a hoof and tucked his suitcase under his wing. The proud stallion bowed before them and turned to the train. He boarded swifty and found his seat. It was going to be a long couple of hours.

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Maximilian stood on the platform of the Appleoosa train station, waiting for his new employee to arrive. He was wearing a Tux of course, but there was something else he had on, a smile. He was excited to hire such a promising young talent, and he was anxious to meet the stallion. Max mentally went through their first meeting at the academy, and he couldn't help but feel just a bit lucky for landing his new employee. The Rockefilly truly appreciated not only the talent that Bastion had, but also his respectful attitude and obvious devotion to his work. It was usually risky to hire a pony so soon after graduating, but Max could not let a great opportunity pass him up. If Bastion had gone someplace else, he felt that the stallion's talents would be wasted by being given the job of doorpony or something even less admirable.

The sun beat down on him, but his smile still did not fade. The rich stallion tapped his hooves idly, and he eventually reached into his pocket and pulled out his magical pouch. He extracted a few coins and jingled them around, counting them and putting them into stacks into the air as a method of passing time. Maximilian's mind wandered again, back to his new employee. Would Bastion be able to cope with the very unusual circumstances of living in the desert? Max's summer home was nearing completion, but it still was nowhere near as large as his old mansion in Manehattan. He simply hoped that the stallion wouldn't mind too much.

He knew that this was going to be a different experience for both him and Bastion. In the past, Max was not kind to him servants, firing them on the spot for even the slightest mistakes. Now, the Rockefilly had matured and felt that a different sort of management was in order. His employees deserved respect, and that was what they got. Bastion may find things a bit informal, but it was the new method for Maximilian, and he was not about to go back to his old ways.

A train appeared over the horizon, and Max's smile widened even further. As it approached, he neared the tracks and waited calmly for it to stop and for his new employee to exit. He didn't have a sign on him, but he felt that it wouldn't be too hard to identify the Rockefilly, mainly because he was wearing a tux, but also because practically nopony else was at the station. The train eventually slowed to a stop, and Max found himself scanning the cars for any sight of Bastion. He managed to spot somepony through one of the windows, and he quickly trotted over to the door of the car to meet him.

As the ponies were getting off Maximilian bowed his head, still smiling, "Welcome to Appleoosa"

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Bastion never covered so much distance by train before. It was as bumpy as he remembered from his previous experience as a colt. Regardless of the ride, he was fine. Since he boarded, the stallion had changed into another set of clothing. With his suitcase tucked under his wing like before, he carefully stepped off of the train. A charcoal beret nestled between his stark white ears, on top of that silver mane. Upon his chest was a lavender pinstripe vest over a white collared shirt. Wrapped beneath the collar and tucked under the vest was a silky black tie.

A part of him considered that he might have been overdressed for stepping out of a dusty train onto a dusty wooden platform in the middle of a desert, but upon seeing the fabulous pony in a tux standing a few steps away, the concern vanished. It was the pony that he was here to meet, and to serve. Bastion approached his employer in confident stride and bowed before him respectfully. "Good evening, sir," the white stallion offered Rockefilly gentle smile, "It's a pleasure to see you again, especially under these circumstances." The stallion stepped to the side as to not get in the way of the other ponies getting off the train.

The graduate put on a spectacular appearance of remaining calm in the unfamiliar terrain... or at least he did for a few minutes. Then his eyes began to betrayed him, then his ears. Those steely gray hues darted around the small town. He took note of every building he could see from where he stood; their color, their shape. His ears swiveled, taking in every foreign noise.

Bastion shook his head lightly and focused his attention once again on the other pony. "Sorry about that. This place is a bit..." He took a deep breath and exhaled slowly. "It's a bit of a culture shock for me, but I will just have to come to peace with it." The smile reappeared on his muzzle.

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Maximilian smiled, he hadn't expected his new employee to be so well dressed. He gave the stallion a look over, holding a hoof to his chin as he examined the new arrival. After he was properly satisfied, Max nodded and smiled.

"Of course, I myself took a few days to get used to the... rural atmosphere. I'm certain you'll get used to it."

Max waved a hoof and turned around, signaling for Bastion to follow him. The rich Unicorn trotted at a comfortable pace, looking around and pointing out important buildings and ponies to his newest servant. Max suddenly slowed down and spoke in a much more serious tone.

"Now, there are a few ground rules you must know about Appleoosa. First of all, don't be too formal. A nod is all that is needed, do try and refrain from being extremely formal. Another rule, if somepony offers you something, say no. If they ask you again, say no. Only if they ask you athird time may you accept. I don't know why, but that is just how it is."

Max continued trotting along, listing more rules of etiquette and minor things to consider. After a short while, the rich Unicorn stopped talking, mainly because they had reached their destination. It wasn't the largest of houses by Manehattan standards, but it was surely an imposing structure here in Appleoosa. From the outside, it looked like most of the other buildings in town, wooden and square. On the inside; however, it was as elegant as any mansion back in the city that never sleeps. A smaller pony opened the door for the pair of them, and Max entered first, allowing Bastion to follow him inside.

Maximilian stopped and turned around, smiling. "So, Bastion, how does this suit you?"

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Bastion was attentive during the tour of the small town. He tightly clutched his belongings under his wing as he kept up with Rockefilly's trot. Everything the rich unicorn pointed out to him was recorded mentally for later use. A good memory was one of the many important skills any servant should have. The other stallion spoke up and gave him his first bough of orders.

It made sense what the pony said. It didn't seem like a very formal town. In fact, it was nothing like Manehattan, so it didn't come as a surprise that he would be asked to act otherwise. The only odd factor was the rule about receiving gifts. He merely nodded. As he had gotten most of his bearings, Bastion was relieved to see that they had arrived at Rockefilly's home with little trouble. The outside didn't look spectacular, but the inside was magnificent. The white stallion nodded at the servant pony who had opened the door-- he figured he would be seeing more of her (him?) later.

Since he entered the building, the pony appeared to be more relaxed. So much so that the grip on his suitcase was lost and it slipped to the floor below with a thud. He apologized for the noise and looked at Rockefilly to answer his question. "This is a wonderful home you have, sir. It will be a pleasure to work here for you." Formal as his upbringing was, every word was filled with genuine emotion. This was the one moment he waited for ever since he discovered his desire to serve.

Bastion took the suitcase under his wing once more and stepped beyond into the foyer. He examined the structure of the staircases, and the choice of carpet on the floor. The pony also admired the waxed marble that accented the room. "A very lavish domain to be found in Appleloosa, for sure." He smiled and looked to the small pony who had opened the door for them. "Sir Rockefilly, how many other servants do you have here? And if you don't mind my asking, what position do you plan on putting me in?"

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Maximilan couldn't help but smile as the younger pony appreciated his home. He knew that Bastion may not get used to the town of Appleoosa very quickly, but no adjustment would need to be made for his new home.

"Thank you, Bastion, I had the materials shipped here from all over Equestria. I've decided that mansions are a bit cumbersome. At least here every room gets used!" He gave a warm chuckle as he approached Wick. 

"And to answer your question, I only employ one other pony. Her name is Scarlet, and she simply performs the menial tasks i'm too busy to do. In fact, she's from Appleoosa, I just employ her part-time. This job gives her a place to stay and a source of income, but she only works in the morning and in the evening, the rest of the day is hers."

Max could see that Bastion needed to put his luggage away, and he motioned with a hoof. "Ah, let's go see your quarters, and I can tell you about your job."

The Rockefilly led his new employee up the stairs. "You will have a few jobs. One, secretary. You will take incoming messages and handle them accordingly, you will also be in charge of my appointments. If you do well, I shall make you my right hoof pony."

The two finally reached the top of the stairs and Max pointed down the hall to the left. "That end of the hall is my room and my office." He turned and pointed the other way. "Your quarters are over here."

The unicorn opened one of the doors, revealing a small but lavish room. A decent sized bed took up a large part of his quarters, but Bastion would also see that there was a desk, a sink, and all the other modern necessities. The entire room was a striking color combination of burgundy and white.

On the bed were a few pillows, on the largest pillow was an envelope with Bastion's name on it. It had been waiting for him.

"If you're not a fan of the color, just say so and we can have it all repainted." Max seemed to ignore the envelope.

Maximilian turned to face Bastion. "That reminds me, let me lay down the ground rules for my house."

"One, call me 'Sir' in public only. You may call me 'Maximilian', or 'Max', or even 'Mr Rockefilly' when we are here."

"Two, do not be afraid to ask me for anything. You may work for me, but that does not mean I cannot do something for you"

"Three, knock twice on my office door before entering unless it is an emergency."

"Four, unless it is a holiday, no drinking."

"Five, do not be afraid to speak your mind. I did not hire you so you could just be a yes pony. If you have questions or comments, speak."

Max scratched his chin as he tried to think of any more rules, but he couldn't think of any important ones.

 "Any questions?"

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Bastion turned the page in his mental notebook and began jotting down the new information Rockefilly was giving him. There was Scarlet, the other pony who also lived here. If that was the case, he would be seeing a lot more of her. The stallion dropped his suitcase onto a table when they entered the room he would be staying in. He resumed his mental note-taking. There would be time to look at the room later.

Rockefilly's quarters were at the opposite end of the hall. To record messages. Take care of appointments. Call him 'Sir' when in public and to refer to him informally when at home. Ask questions. Knock twice. No drinking on non-holidays. Speak.

That was most of it, right? Bastion focused on Rockefilly the entire time. When he asked if Bastion had any questions, the stallion rose his head. “I do have a question... Would it be all right if I went about doing things here as I have learned to during my study at the Academy? And if you disapprove of something in particular to let me know? Unless there are any other specifications you would like to make, I think this would be the wiser option, so we can avoid my asking you if I'm doing things 'correctly'-- or rather, the way you have certain chores usually done.”

The pony trotted over to his new bed and examined the plush pillows. His eyes caught the letter nested on top of one of them. He turned his head. “What is this over here?”

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The Rockefilly stood and listened as Bastion caught on quickly, making sure to ask questions. Maximilian nodded as his new employee spoke, "Bastion, I trust your judgement completely. Do as you see fit, and if I see a need to correct you, I will. Honestly, I don't see anything that could cause an issue, i'm not usually a stickler for details."

Bastion brought up the envelope on the pillow, and Max grinned. "Oh, that? That's your reward, but rewards must be earned." The unicorn motioned with a hoof, beckoning the Pegasus to follow him. The rich Stallion led Bastion out of the room and down the hall. Max pointed towards one of the doors. "That is my office, you may enter at any time, and we already discussed how you signal your presence. If you decide to do some cleaning, do not[/] clean the office. That is the only room that you will leave untouched."

Maximilian pointed towards the adjacent door. "This is your office." He used his magic to open  the door and the two ponies entered. It was a little bit bigger than his bedroom, with a large desk in the middle, covered with parchment and books. 

"Don't worry, you won't be spending much time cooped up in here. I'm trying to get out more, so if you play your cards right, you'll be coming with me."

Maximilian pointed to a huge stack of envelopes on one side of the desk. "Well, Bastion, I have your first job for you. I've been so busy with my newest project that I haven't been able to check my mail in weeks. I need you to go through and sort it all by importance and then alphabetically."

Max didn't want Bastion's first job to be annoying, so he pulled out another piece of paper and put it on the desk.

It was simply a list of items, the paper read : Pick up blazer from cleaners, my order of salt licks, 103 cactus needles, a cowpony hat, a new vest, and two apple pies.

 "Also, I have a few items that need to be fetched. Once you're done with all of this, go find the few items on the list for me."

Maximilian turned and grinned. "Well, I'll leave you to your work. By the way..." Max pointed to the clock."You have three hours."

With that, the Rockefilly left the room and left his new employee perform his tasks.

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Bastion wasted no time in getting started. The moment his employer went out the door, the pony got to work. He took to the wooden seat behind his new desk, propping his rear onto it, and then began sorting through Rockefilly's mail. It was a mindless task, but he made it a test of his own vigilance to see how fast he could be done with it. Sorting the mail took up less of his time than he expected. The initial pile looked big, though the majority of the letters weren't important according to his judgement.

The stallion looked around the room and eyed for anything similar to a serving tray. He found one over in the corner on a small table. There were a few things on top of it, but nothing that couldn't be moved to the side. He placed a few stacks of letters on top that he loosely tied together with a thin string he found in one of the drawers. Under the string on top of each stack was a small slip of paper. The stacks read: 'Priority', 'Invitations', 'Expired Invitations', and 'Secondary'. Bastion would see how the rich pony responded to his style of sorting. This was something he came up with himself. The Academy would teach him one thing, but he would innovate and go about it in a less efficient manner, though it would be more aesthetically pleasing.

After he was done preparing the tray with letter stacks, he folded the shopping list neatly into a vest pocket, and then hoisted the tray onto his nose. The stallion headed out of his office and walked across the hallway to Rockefilly's. He knocked twice, as he was told, and then pushed the door open. “I have finished sorting your mail, Mr Rockefilly.” That last part tasted odd as it rolled off of his tongue... Bastion was all too familiar with using the word 'Sir'. He entered the office with the tray still balancing on his nose, and approached the other pony's desk. Was he even in here? That would be embarrassing. He turned his head and eyed the large mahogany desk in the middle of the pony's office, expecting to see him sitting behind it.

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Max was indeed behind his desk, he heard Bastion knock twice and it made him grin. This pony knew how to follow instructions. He didn't really care about the number of knocks, Maximilian just wanted to test whether or not the pony was actually listening. The unicorn was also pleased to hear the younger stallion refer to him as 'Mr.Rockefilly'. The Rockefilly turned around to face Bastion.

He was still trying to figure out exactly how he felt about the other stallion. He certainly appreciated the pony's formal wear and pleasing attitude. However, there was a sense that this pony might not have enough experience to be effective. He was good, but he had only just graduated. Maximilian looked Bastion up and down, giving him a quick look over. It would take time to properly appraise him, but Max felt like he had made the correct decision in hiring, at least so far.

"Ah, thank you. That was quick!" Max levitated the tray over towards himself and set it down on the desk. He took a moment to examine it. "Interesting sorting system... not exactly conventional..." He put a hoof to his chin and levitated each stack into the air, turning them around and getting a closer look."but it is effective." Grinning wide, Max drops two of the stacks into a wastebasket and moves the remaining to a corner of his desk.

"Well done, Bastion, but I do believe you have a few more tasks to accomplish if you want that reward, no?" With a nod of his head and a flick of his mane, Max turned around and faced his desk, silently dismissing the pony to finish his work.

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Bastion understood Rockefilly's gesture and excused himself from the office. As much as he wanted to change into his coat tails, he decided to wait until he finished the second part of his first assignment. His beret would have to do for now. With the list in his pocket, he set out into the small settlement of Appleloosa that he would come to know in the following days, weeks, months? The dirt beneath his hooves wasn't new, but the color was. It had a slight orange tint to it that stood out against his white fur. Something told him.. things would end up messy if he wasn't careful.

Although the dry cleaners was first on the list, Bastion figured it would be better if he got the other items first. After all, where was he going to get cactus needles? Surely he wouldn't want to bring along a recently washed and pressed blazer. Since the needles were the most ridiculous item on the list, the pony sought to get them first. He stopped by the general store and asked the shop keep if they held cactus needles. The pony just looked at him funny, then replied, "If you want strange things like that, try going across the road to the doctor. I hear that pony grinds up all kinds of things. Maybe he'll have these cactus needles you want so bad." Taking the general store pony's advice, he trotted over to the shop right across. The medicine pony didn't store cactus needles either.

"What would he need cactus needles for anyway?" He thought to himself as he walked out of the doctor's shop. Left with no reasonable option, he set out into the prairie with a basket on his flank to collect them. His worked quickly since he still had many things to do. The needles would pinch his nose as he plucked them out of the cactus by his teeth. But he was diligent, and counted them one at a time. Bastion's white fur was stained with the red clay of the desert, but you bet he got those damned needles. That took him way too long. He only had thirty minutes left to complete his other tasks. The pony gasped and galloped back to town. Once there, he walked into a store that had clothes showcased in the window. He found what he needed in there-- one vest and one cowpony hat-- and paid for it out of his pocket.

Next was the bakery. They had the salt lick order wrapped in a box. When Bastion asked for the apple pies, they offered them free of charge. He refused the first time, then the second time. The third time he was supposed to accept right? He had no choice but to take those apple pies for free. Bastion never liked getting things for free. He put his pride aside and let the pony have her way. Fifteen minutes left.

Finally Bastion made his was to the cleaners. He was surprised that Appleloosa even had one of those. Suppose with all the dirt, you'd need something like that. All of the buildings looked very similar though, so finding it was going to be a bit of a task. Or so he thought. Upon asking for directions from a nearby pony, he trotted to the building that was sure to be the one he was looking for. And it was, to his relief. Inside, he stepped up to the counter and rang the bell. A pony emerged from the back room and greeted his customer with a smile, "Gooday, Sir. What can I do ya for?"

"Good evening to you too. I'm here to pick up a--"

The cleaner pony leaned his head over the counter and got a good look at the white stallion. "Ah! I haven't seen you 'round here before! So yer new, eh? Where ya from?"

"Oh, uh. I am from Manehattan. I have a feeling we'll be seeing a lot of each other.. Now if you don't mind, I'm in a bit of a hurry..."

"That vest and tie suit up reminds me of that Rockerfillay fellow that settled here a while back. You know em?"

Bastion smiled and nodded his head slowly. "I'm here to pick up his blazer, actually."

"Well, why didn't ya say so! I have it right here..." he reached behind the counter and withdrew the garment hung on a hanger. But then he realized Bastion's disheveled appears. "Golly. You're all covered in dirt. Aren't you just going to get this jacket dirty if you carry it looking like that?" He put the blazer in a bag and then placed it across Bastion's back," There. That should hold steady. Be careful with that."

The white stallion frowned and blinked up at the pony. "Do I owe you anything?"

"Nah! Was all payed fer. Go on and return it quick 'fore it gets a mess!"

Bastion nodded at him and left back for the mansion. Those two hours couldn't have been longer. He was an ungraceful mess. His mane and tail had collected dirt and cactus needles. His beret had met oblivion. It had fallen off so many times on his needle-hunting expedition that he constantly trampled it without realizing. He just didn't even want to think about his physical appearance right now. Scarlet was there to open the door to the mansion for him, and that was all he could have asked for.

"Thank you, Scarlet." He lowered his head to her and ascended the staircase. There was no time left to spare... and he didn't want to be late. Bastion had no choice but to let Rockefilly see him in his current state. Pride. He could push it aside one more time today, couldn't he? The pony knocked twice as he did earlier on Rockefilly's door, and entered. "Mister Rockefilly. I have everything else you asked for." He put on his best face, trying not to look exhausted. "Where would you like me to put everything?"

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Max was trying to work, but he couldn't help but check the clock ever couple of minutes. He was a bit worried about how Bastion was going to perform. Would he be on time? Would he have completed every task? The Rockefilly shook his head, trying to focus on his work, and set to completing more paperwork and writing more letters. Maximilian had to admit, the sorting system had made his work much easier, by sorting invitations in their own category, Bastion had made sure that the letters pertaining to business were easy to spot. He had high hopes for his new employee.

Time continued to pass by, and Max once again glanced at the clock, noticing that it was getting perilously close to the two hour limit. Just as the second hand was nearing that fateful point, two taps could be heard coming from his office door. Sighing in relief, the rich unicorn backed away from his desk to see exactly how Bastion had done. The door swung open and a disheveled, messy, tired, sweaty pony stood before him. Maximilian simply blinked a few times, trying to get used to the image. Bastion managed to ask him where he should put everything, and Max simply pointed, "Put my clothes in my bedroom on the bed, and put everything else here on my desk."

The rich Appleoosan smiled warmly at the younger Stallion. "Then you may wash up and collect your reward." Max didn't want to tell him what it was, since part of it was a surprise. The envelope contained a few things, and Max knew that each one would be important to Bastion. The first was his paycheck, it was a thousand bits and some change, just to show him exactly the kind of salary a pony working for the Rockefilly's could expect to earn. The second item was a bit harder to procure, it was a letter from home, in the two hours that Bastion was gone, Max had written something short to his family. His mother sent a short but heartfelt note in reply, and the rich stallion had placed that inside of the envelope as well. The final item was a bit of a test, it was a train ticket, on it Max had scribbled,Last chance.

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The pony nodded in response to Rockefilly's orders and found a clear spot on the mahogany desk to place the salt lick box, basket of cactus needles, and the apple pies-- also in boxes. He stacked the two pies and put the smaller salt lick box on top. Next to it, he left the basket of needles. “I shall return momentarily,” he grinned and left the office, heading a few doors over to the rich pony's bedroom. He left the blazer, vest and cowpony hat st the foot of the bed where it would be easiest to spot. Satisfied with his work, he left the bedroom and returned to his own quarters on the opposite end of the hall.

All he could think about was getting cleaned up. Thoughts of Rockefilly's 'reward' didn't cross his mind one bit. He made sure the door to his room was closed before stepping into the small washroom that was connected to it. The stallion ran the water and removed his dirty clothing, dumping it into a basket next to the tub. “Glad to be out of those filthy things. What a day.” He sighed and made himself presentable once more.

Twelve or so minutes later, he was all clean and had half a leg in his coat tails. He'd never actually worn the jacket before. His mother and father bought it for him weeks before his graduation at the academy. Bastion smiled as he examined his flank in the tall oval mirror next to his bed. He told his parents that he didn't like how old fashioned this style of coat was... But they told him that he held a certain elegance in it, that a modern suit didn't do his charm any justice.

'Your new outfit should be just as unique and special as you are,' was written on a small card that stuck out of his left breast pocket. The pony chuckled and was suddenly reminded of the letter on the bed. Bastion walked up to it slowly and retrieved the envelope. He detached the wax seal from the back with a silver rose letter opener that he always kept at the ready, and spread out its contents across the quilt. Money, a note, and a train ticket. He blinked. Having more interest in the note, he unfolded it and brought it up to his nose. It was from his mother. As he read it tears began to collect in his eyes, though he refused to let them fall. He looked to the train ticket briefly, but shook his head. No. This was were he belonged. His duty would begin here at Maximillian Rockefilly's side.

Bastion scooped everything, including the money, back into the envelope and tucked them into a slide out tray within a nightstand by the bed. “There.” He wiped his eyes in the fold of his wing and trotted back to Rockefilly's office. Two knocks later, he was inside once more, alert and awaiting orders.

“Witticus Bastion at your service.” He lifted his muzzle confidently and smiled.

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Max wasn't surprised by when Bastion returned, he was simply impressed by how quick he was. He never suspected that his new employee would leave on that train, but he had to give him that choice. Max turned away from his desk to his newest servant, and he was delighted to see what he was wearing. Growing up, Max had always seen the family servants in coat tails, and while Max had never required such an archaic uniform from his employees, he had a soft spot for the classics. "Well, if your act is as classy as your clothes, I can see you becoming the staple of my workforce."

The Rockefilly's grin quickly faded as he approached Bastion and started to circle him, getting closer with every pass. "But do not allow yourself to start coasting. You performed well on your first task, but there is more to come, and I will not always be so patient. Too many mistakes, and the next train ticket you see will not be a choice."

With that, the rich unicorn stopped in front of Bastion and smiled. "Do you understand?"

Without waiting for a response, the Rockefilly took on a more solemn tone. "Your next task is of crucial importance, and I will give you ample time to prepare for it." Maximilian opened a drawer of his desk with magic before levitating a large envelope out of it. "In this envelope is a letter of the utmost importance. You will be delivering it to Stalliongrad in the coming days. I cannot stress how important this is to me, this is the foundation of my newest project, and if it is not delivered on time my task will become infinitely more difficult."

"However, you have a few days before you have to deliver it, so in the mean time..." Max's smile returned. "How about I show my newest employee around his new home?"

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Bastion held his poised stance, ears hitched forward, as he listened to the other pony talk. There was no doubt that Rockefilly had a terrifying air about him at times, but what he spoke was imperative, in both tone and context. If Bastion were to fail on the missions entrusted to him, then the rich pony wouldn't have no choice but to send him back home to Manehattan. That would be the absolute worst. It would an embarassment to his name: to his graduation. And he would let down his family. The butler flicked his tail to the side when Rockefilly stood before him, who afterwards retrieved a large envelope. A few days to complete the delivery? That didn't seem difficult. Still, he should never underestimate the journey, as he had learned today.

The white stallion would not allow that ticket to ever be waved in front of his nose again. He would not be sent home because of failure. "I would greatly appreciate the tour, Mr Rockefilly. Although I have been eager to explore, you've done well to keep me on my hooves." He chuckled. "I get the feeling you aren't going to let me feel right a home just yet. These assessments of yours have been galvanizing." He could analyze and put two and two together, but when it came to orders, he would do anything no matter how ridiculous. "If you don't mind my asking... what does a pony do with 103 cactus needles?"

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Maximilian smiled as Bastion spoke. He certainly wasn't a boring pony, that much could be said.

"You're exactly right, I'll always be looking for good opportunities for you to be tested. But for now, let us simply enjoy a nice day here in your new home."

"To answer your question, there are many uses for cactus needles, there's sewing, record players, combs, etc... But the best use is just go give somepony something to do!" With a warm chuckle Max brushed past Bastion to reach for the door. "I'll give you a quick tour of the important places you need to know."

The older stallion bounded down the stairs with all the energy of a young colt, and he was quickly at the door. With a nod to Scarlet, the front door was opened and the rich unicorn stepped out into the hot Appleoosan air. He waved a hoof in the air and started trotting. "Follow me."

It was a quiet day, and not much was going on in the entire town. Every now and then Max would stop and point at a building. "That's Madame Bistro's place, if you ever need a cup of coffee, go there."

"Sheriff's Office. Let's just say that I hope I never have to visit you there, and even less so that you'll have to break me out."

"We've got Honey thread's shop and the rest of Appleoosa's small businesses."

Maximilian placed a hoof to his chin. "There's not really that much else to see, other than the apple orchards. I think this is the best time for questions, if you have any."

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Appleloosa wasn't that big of a town, so he knew that he would become accustomed to the shops around here in time. It was the kind of place that had a few shops that had multiple specialities, and only sold what the people needed. He would keep Madame Bistro's in mind, although if Rockefilly allowed it, he would be more than willing to serve tea and treats. That brought up something else.

"So there is only one other pony working for you in Appleloosa. How do you get your meals? Does Scarlet cook for you?" He tilted his head in curiosity, his silver mane waving in the dry breeze blowing across the prairie. He wasn't a cook by any means, but he did know a few things, such as how to brew teas and grind coffee beans. This was so important that the Academy taught Beginner, Intermediate, and Advanced classes. He even participated in their silly competitions. "I am more than willing to improve your staying conditions in Appleloosa in anyway I can, sir."

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Max stopped to look at Bastion. Meals certainly weren't a problem, but he appreciated his new employee's concern. "While I'm sure that you are more than capable of providing good coffees and fresh teas, I assure you that Madame Bistro's does a great job in and of itself. Also, ingredients are a luxury around these parts, and Madame Bistro's is the only establishment in these parts with coffee beans and tea leaves on demand. If you wish, on occasion I can procure the necessary ingredients"

"The meals we have here aren't very complicated, usually just eggs for breakfast and a sandwich for lunch. Most of the time, Scarlet is in charge of meals, but on rare occasions I'll take over and prepare something myself. For Supper..." Maximilian shrugged, "we usually just eat someplace in town."

With a snort, the Rockefilly continued to trot. "I'm glad to see your enthusiasm, but rest assured that I didn't hire you to perform such menial tasks as brewing tea or coffee, not when there are ponies here much more qualified to do it."

Max looked around, stopping again. "Any questions about Appleoosa?"

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Bastion nodded at his reply and stood next to him as he came to another stop.

"No questions as of now. If I get any, I'll be sure to let you know," he smiled and changed the subject. "About the envelope from earlier. You say I have a few days to deliver it to Stalliongrad. That's quite the trip. I feel like it would take exactly a few days just to get there." He could be wrong of course. The pony never did much of traveling. "If it would be alright with you, I would like to leave for the trip early, and plan how I am going to get there later this evening."

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Max rubbed his chin with his hoof. "Bastion, you're going to have to trust me. I know exactly when you are going to leave for that trip, and I'm going to ask you to simply go with the plan."

"You are going to Stalliongrad to announce my intentions to some of the most important minds in the world. I will be joining you there a few days afterwards. I have all of this under control, believe me. You'll leave Appleoosa on time and in control."

The Rockefilly smiled and patted Bastion on the shoulder. "I do appreciate the enthusiasm...."

His mood quickly shifted, and he took on a more serious tone. "I have a question for you, come to think of it. How much do you know about the Rockefillys?"

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The white stallion let his concerns slip away as the other pony assured him that everything had been taken care of. "Alright, sir. It's out of habit that I become... 'enthusiastic', as you put it, about these kinds of things. I'm not used to being around a pony so organized." It was a relief to him to know that he had become employed to such a considerate stallion.

But there it was again. His tone had changed. Bastion straightened up and gave the other pony his full attention. How much he knew about the Rockefilly family, huh?

"Not much, I'm afraid. I've only met you, and I've heard nothing of others who may be of your ilk." He frowned as he continued. "After we had our meeting when I was still a student, some ponies approached me and filled me in on the 'misfortune' Maximillian Rockefilly had stumbled upon. I only know what they told me, and I am not inclined to believe any of it. It had something to do with plants and... the untimely destruction of your old mansion in Manehattan." Bastion shook his mane. "I don't care to remember silly rumors like that. I don't even know if you would like to remember such a thing, if it is true. So I apologize if I rubbed some salt on your would there, if it is a wound at all."

Bastion went on, smiling, "I disregarded their mockery because I felt like you would be a great pony to work for." He shifted on his hooves a bit. He really shouldn't say such things aloud. "But... perhaps I'm getting a bit off topic." He drew back his ears and lowered his nose, patiently awaiting a response.

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Max sighed. "The rumors are true, my house was lost because of my own foolishness. A scoundrel showed up and decided to teach my a lesson by selling me some magical growth formula for my plants. Needless to say, it worked."

"There are many ponies out there who have no love for me or my family. It is not an understatement to say that there are quite a few that would take great pleasure in seeing me fail. I do not blame them, my family has done terrible things in the past. However, I am trying to change. I am not foalish enough to believe that ponies will forgive me quickly, but I do know that I must try and do good."

"I am not sure if you were aware of my less than pristine legacy, and I do not wish for you to continue serving me if you feel that I am unworthy of it. Also, I would not find it fair for you to get in trouble against your own wishes simply by being in my service."

Max reached into his Tux and pulled out an envelope. "With that said, I will once again offer you this ticket. You are free to decide whether or not you wish to serve me, after learning about the circumstances."

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The white stallion listened to his story. "Misfortune can befall a pony that he may not have been able to control, true. " Bastion tilted his head as he spoke intellectually, "The past is already carved in stone, sir. You can only hope that flowers and vines grow over it and cover up what is written beneath. Metaphorically speaking, of course." He offered a small smile. "But as you said, you are attempting to fall off that 'terrible' path, and I will take your word for it. We left an impression on one another, sir, that one evening in Manehattan. I, for one, do not believe that following my gut instinct is fanatic, though pompous ponies might tell you otherwise. Like they told me."

With a small sigh, he turned away from the other stallion as he offered the train ticket once again. "I find it odd that you carry around such things, Mister Rockefilly. Do you not enjoy my company," he teased. Bastion followed the rich pony's example by lowering his voice and appearing more stern. He eyed the envelope. "The next train ticket I see wasn't supposed to be a choice, remember? So, does this count? Do you wish for me to leave?"

He leaned his head in and held out a hoof. "Let me hold onto that silly piece of paper. It looks much too heavy for you, sir."

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