Chapter 3 - Summer Solstice. Year 10 AE.
There was a palpable tension in the very air, o diary, that I could feel in the roots of my mane and tail as I entered my lady the Queen's audience chamber. It was as if the pegasi who now stood in a smart v formation before the dais had brought the ominous feeling that pervades the air in prelude to one of their thunderstorms inside with them but left behind all the black clouds, rain, and lightning.
Her majesty's knights destrier were out in force, girded in their splendid barding and glaring fiercely at the pegasi warriors, but for all their grandeur and pomp, I could sense an underpinning of nervous bravado in my Queen's noble defenders. It was a nervousness that I shared. In these ten years building our unified nation of Equestria, I have come to know and like many of our winged pony brethren, but even the mildest of them possess a certain wild, dangerous quality that makes me feel a bit skittish in their presence.
Her excellency Commander Hurricane stood at their forefront, pacing back and forth before my lady's throne, clad in the well worn armor she often wore on border campaigns with her helmet tucked 'neath one of her wings. This I took for a hopeful sign, as when the Commander's helmet is on there's simply no way of getting anything through her head.
Dearest Pansy was standing at the rear right of the v, watching quietly as is her fashion, as Hurricane and her majesty Queen Platinum groused at one another. I could tell she was troubled, but I was relieved to see that steady look in her eye that said she would see to it that nothing got out of hoof.
All heads turned as the herald tapped his ceremonial staff on the flagstones and announced my arrival. The Commander wheeled to face me, and I believe she was about to ask what was the meaning of the disappearance of the Warming Heart. I braced myself for the usual wave of bombast and gave a respectful curtsey in greeting.
When her eyes fell on little Dawn, who trotted obediently at my side with her tail twined in mine, they went wide in what I took as outrage and she pointed at the filly and essentially demanded to know "What is that?" (I paraphrase, o diary, for she embroidered her question with some language that I consider highly inappropriate for court, especially when there are foals present, and thus unworthy of being recorded here.)
Bless her if the dear poppet didn't immediately take up the game she and I were playing in the castle dungeon, loudly proclaiming her name and bounding forward to begin pointing out parts of her and Hurricane's bodies after a brief introductory hug, taking considerable joy in comparing their wings. This her excellency submitted to with remarkable forbearance, or so it seemed to me at the time.
My words of admonition for little Dawn died on my lips as I studied the old warrior's face, gone still like a mask as the newcomer gamboled about her, poking and prodding at her and breaking the otherwise stunned silence with joyful shouts. I looked to the rest of her cadre, and saw that to a pony the pegasi had lost their fierce bravado and had gone wary and watchful, awaiting their leader's response.
I met Pansy's eyes, and saw none of the usual meekness and deference that I often see when we find ourselves at court functions, instead seeing the clarity and strength that emerges in times of danger or desperation. She broke ranks from her fellows and approached Dawn and the Commander, calling out the filly's name.
When Dawn saw her, she bounded toward her with a joyous squeal, knocking poor Pansy onto her rump just as I had been bowled over this morning, and I could not help but wince, for this time 'twas on the hard flagstones of my queen's audience chamber rather than on the soft grass of the courtyard. Ever the stoic, dearest Pansy made no cry but nuzzled the filly and gave her smiles and soft words of greeting. 'Twas most incongrous, to see them there on the polished stones in the midst of the court and the warriors of two tribes, Pansy herself in her coat of mail and dark cloak, her spear and helmet slung across her back, playing with the strange filly as a mother and foal would by the hearth.
The pegasi watched all this in gaping shock, until the Commander's bellow called them to attention with such force that even the flabbergasted unicorns of her majesty's court snapped alert. She bade them stand at parade rest, and then approached me with the strangest look in her eyes, and in a low voice requested to speak to me in private council. Perhaps requested is by far too delicate a term on my part, in truth it was an order that would brook no refusal.
She turned on her hoof and I followed, pausing only as my lady the Queen got to her hooves with understandable indignation, demanding to know where we might be going. Never one for the niceties of my people's royal court, Hurricane bade her to come if she wished, or to shut her mouth if she didn't. This, of course, loosed a flood of offended gasps and mutterings of disdain from my lady's faithful courtiers, which in turn caused her excellency's cadre of winged warriors to bristle in return.
Acting quickly to diffuse the situation before an intertribal incident occurred, I took a knee and begged my lady's pardon and permission to speak in private with the Commander, as I begged her patience with a look shared between us. This she granted with an imperious wave of her horn, and I thanked her majesty profusely and bowed and scraped as much as I could as I hurried to keep pace with the rapidly walking leader of the pegasi. I shared a last look with Pansy, who gave me a nod of stern encouragement as she kept Dawn busy by tickling her belly.
As soon as we'd passed through the curtains into one of her majesty's private council chambers, I was startled as Commander Hurricane dropped to her knees, panting and shaking like a leaf, her wings unfolding and flopping limp on the carpet. Thinking she'd been struck by some sort of fit, I was at once at her side asking if I could render aid.
She turned, and presented a face the like of which I'd never seen nor expected to see on this mare, who'd led armies clad in thunder and lightning, who'd cleft the skulls of great and terrible monsters with her spear, who'd set dragons fleeing like birds from a roughly shaken tree. It was the face of a frightened foal, cowering beneath her blankets as a thunderstorm raged in the skies above, rather than of a battle scarred general who mastered the tumult from atop the black, boiling clouds.
Here the resemblance to a child ended, however, for with very un-foal-like strength I found myself lifted by my cassock up off of my front hooves as Hurricane once again demanded to know what Dawn was. After I'd breathlessly persuaded her to let me put all four hooves on the ground once more, I proceeded to tell her of all that had transpired that morning.
When I had finished, the Commander sat in silence, brooding as she held a goblet of water I had floated to her in armored hooves that still trembled slightly. In these ten years of dealing with Hurricane and her tribesponies, I had learned that for all her bluster and bravado, a forthright question would serve as well as a carefully chosen inference or an elaborately couched leading of the subject would with my lady Queen Platinum, so I asked her directly what had put her in such a state.
I have been thinking much on her reply since then, o diary. She looked at me with a furrowed brow, and said "You unicorns... So much magic, and yet you have no understanding of power."
At my puzzled look, she elaborated in her brusque way. As fighters and cloud shepherds, she told me, pegasi learn to sense the formidability of a foe. They develop the ability to tell at a glance how fierce a beast to be subdued might be, or how much deadly lightning might be pent up in the depths of a black cloud. With the slightest of wry smiles she said that a lopsided runt like her would never have risen to the position she had among her tribe if this instinct were not finely tuned indeed. She owned that this was a strong quality in dear Pansy as well, and what made her her most trusted advisor, although her general approach of kicking harder the bigger they were was the exact opposite of her former batsmare's habitual caution.
This hint of candid mirth disappeared like a moment's breeze as she told me that the sense of raw, primal power that filled the chamber as soon as dear little Dawn had entered the room had so terrified her that it had taken all of her willpower to stand silent and accept the filly's embrace rather than taking wing and hurling herself through the window or emptying her bladder on the spot.
I must admit, o diary, that I marveled at this. I had seen Hurricane look dragons in the eye without flinching. I'd seen her backhoof griffon warlords and make them apologize for scuffing her greaves. I'd seen her fly through hailstorms as if they were gentle spring drizzle. She looked me in the eye and asked me if I'd ever seen her bend steel, or emerge from a giant heart of magical flames.
This, I agreed, was among many strange things about this singular filly, but I daresay I stomped my hoof with conviction as I asserted that Dawn was a sweet, innocent child, and meant no harm.
Hurricane shook her head, and replied that one may not mean to do harm and still do it, particularly one such as Dawn who had the careless mind of a foal and the power to level mountains. Most nonplussed, and resolving to myself to try some simple scryings upon the little filly when we returned to the court, I asked the Commander what she would suggest we do.
A blow across the cheek that set my skull ringing out to the tip of my horn was the next thing I was aware of after she gave her answer, and when my eyes uncrossed I found myself staring into Hurricane's wearily smirking face, with my hooves grasping her armored plastron and shoving her against the wall, with mysterious cracks in the plaster radiating from behind her head. With a voice of strained patience, she clarified what she had just said, saying that while quietly getting rid of Dawn might be the sensible thing, it wasn't the right thing, and she wasn't suggesting it in earnest.
As I sheepishly allowed her back onto her hooves, I noticed that she'd kicked off her iron spiked boot before she struck me, and I thanked her for that consideration. This elicited a chuckle from Hurricane, who wryly owned that she wasn't the same pegasus she'd been ten years ago. I bore a further comment that I was pretty strong for an egghead with as much grace as I could as my cheeks burned and my ears drooped.
She stepped to the window and gazed out it, and said to me with a sidelong glance that in a further departure from the Commander Hurricane of the old days, she thought our best course would be to summon our friends among the earth ponies so that all the tribes of Equestria might take council and decide on what might be done with this stranger among us. Her eyes became distant as she looked again to the sky, and she said to me that Dawn's arrival was of great portent to our nation. She knew not how or why, but said with implacable certainty that she could feel that significance in her very bones.
Our private council ended, we returned to my lady the queen's audience chamber, where we found her majesty's courtiers milling about uncertainly as Hurricane's pegasi stood like statues and Pansy played patty hoof with Dawn on the red carpet. That worthy pegasus mare stood with a respectful salute to the Commander as she approached them. I gave a nod to my lady the Queen, in promise that I would tell her all of what had transpired.
What Hurricane did next, o diary, still surprises me as it utterly flabbergasted all in attendance, save Pansy who gave the slightest nod of approval that mayhap only I noticed. The proud warlord of the pegasi hosts took a knee before little Dawn Heart, touching her nose to the ground at the filly's feet. For her part, our mysterious foundling let out an tiny giggle at what doubtless seemed to her some new kind of game and bent to kiss Hurricane on her forehead.
The Commander rose to her hooves, and spoke in a voice that I'd heard her use to cry orders across the peaks of thunderheads, and this, o diary, is what she said. "I hereby swear an oath upon these my wings and the winds that bear them skyward, that no harm shall come to this child, for she is under my aegis until such time as the leaders of the three tribes may take council regarding her place in Equestria."
My lady the queen stood upon her dais in the stunned silence that followed, and not being one to be upstaged in her own theater, sparked her horn in the colors of royal decree. "Hear ye, my subjects. We hereby declare this waif a ward of the crown, and offer her our protection and the hospitality of our court as well."
As the Commander stepped to the head of her cadre to formally address Queen Platinum, I surreptitiously crossed to where dearest Pansy stood with little Dawn, who bounced on her hooves and hugged me with her wings in greeting as I said a quiet hello to my pegasus friend. I was part way through thanking her for so ably dealing with Dawn and helping to keep things from getting out of hoof when the little filly startled me by pulling me to my knees with that uncanny strength of hers to kiss me at the base of my horn as she'd kissed Hurricane.
Pansy and I shared a guarded glance as she knelt to allow Dawn to kiss her forehead as well. At that moment, I thought on my recent conversation with the Commander, and decided then and there to cast a small detection spell to see if I could detect something of what she had claimed to sense with her pegasus instincts using my magic. I gently called to Dawn and met her open, innocent gaze as I softly lit my horn.
A corona of pink flames seared my inner eye and all was white light and the peal of a trumpet the size of the world, and then all was silent and black.
 I use underlines rather than italics for emphasis in keeping with the horn written nature of the original manuscript, and the method Lady Clover herself used for emphasis.
 The common popular image of Commander Hurricane as a long maned amazon off the cover of a Red Ponya comic book is quite different from the image of the actual historical mare who appears in glimpses through Lady Clover's journal.
In this account, Hippolyta Hurricane was rather short and stocky, and contemporary sources corroborated by a set of her personal armor held in the royal archives tell us that her left hind leg was a bit shorter than the right, and unshod she would have walked with a pronounced limp. However, this probably wouldn't have been much of a hindrance to her as a pegasus, especially one who was reputed by all accounts to be a superlative flyer.
Said armor is also quite brutally functional, consisting of a streamlined helmet and plastron plate, greaves, and a set of spiked platform shoes, with a little extra height on the rear left shoe. While the pegasi wore cloaks to travel, they would never wear them in battle, and wore quick release buckles that would loose the cloak if a fight was imminent and they hadn't time to roll them and stow them in their packs. The elaborate ceremonial helmet crests and dramatically looping and fluttering capes we see in the Hearth Warming costume is a post-Reneighssance affectation further distilled through the historical plays of Shakespony's day.
In addition, in all likelihood Commander Hurricane and other pegasi warriors of the time would probably have worn their manes quite short, so as not to get them tangled or produce extra drag in aerial battle. The flowing manes and tails of classical antiquity are an invention of the Romanetic era, more popular with poets, novelists, painters, and playwrights than they would have been with the fighting ponies of antiquity.
 This passage is interesting, and a bit chilling, as Lady Clover wrote down a much more detailed description of just what Commander Hurricane off-hoofedly suggested, which involved a dagger, a sack, and the Saddle River. This she crossed out so vehemently she splattered the ink, and filled in with a more vague phrase. I, for one, and many generations of ponies besides, am quite glad that Hurricane was merely being facetious (albeit in a grim, medievally violent fashion).
As I spoke to Princess Celestia about this particular footnote, she asked me not to think too harshly of the Commander, as she was the rough product of a wilder, less civilized time, and pointed out that were it not for her hoof in the process of building Equestria, talk of... getting rid of somepony who troubled you would be a commonplace and casual thing rather than unthinkable in these peaceful, civilized times we find ourselves in.
 One of Lady Clover's endlessly charming doodles appears in the margins by this passage, showing her face with little spirals in place of her eyes and her tongue sticking out, with another doodle of a bearded stallion with bells on the brim of a large hat frowning at her, accompanied by the high monoceric equivalent of our modern pejorative "numbskull" underlined three times. (Don't be so hard on yourself, Lady Clover. I would probably have done exactly the same thing in your horseshoes.)
 I can no more bring myself to write it out than Lady Clover could, so I'll borrow the term she used.
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