Marshals: The Next Generation

by GentlemanJ

Chapter 1

Load Full Story Next Chapter

This is a short story in The Journey of Graves.

The series begins with the first story: When the Man Comes Around.

IMPORTANT: If you haven't read the series, please head back to the beginning and check it out. While each story stands on its own, the character and relationship developments will build on each other as the series progresses.

And so, the saga continues...

Marshals: The Next Generation

By: GentlemanJ

Chapter 1

“Remind me why I’m here again?”

A chill wind blew through the marble colonnades, an icy remnant of snows only just cleared from the still frosty ground. Though the main thoroughfare through the Academy remained packed with frantic cadets and slightly more composed officers with equally hurried steps, Graves strode through the airy hall in his own bubble of free and open space. Now, even the steely-eyed marshal couldn’t have commanded so much deference on a normal day, not even with the growing number who’d heard rumors of the fabled Gunmetal Graves after the Changeling Expedition. However, today was an exception as the raven-haired soldier strode along with a most august companion.

“Like I said before,” General Ironside grinned from behind his slate-hued beard as he walked along in the same spacious vacuum, “it’s about that time of year for graduating cadets to figure out which branch they’re heading for. Naturally, that includes the marshals, and since you just happened to be in town, I figured why not have one of our most active members give them a little intro?”

“Just so happened?” Graves repeated with a dubious eyebrow arched dubiously. “Didn’t you send me an urgent dispatch saying there was a Canterlot emergency and that I had to be here?”

“Did I?” Ironside asked, his eyes wide with obviously believable innocence. “Must’ve completely slipped my mind.” It was a great testament to the young soldier’s self-control that he only sighed as the general stroked his beard in a most satisfied manner.

“Never taught before,” the marshal flatly intoned as boot heels continued to click on marble. “Why not get Skylark? She’s lectured more than once.”

“She’s on loan to the Ivory Tower,” Ironside shrugged. “Helping with some important research, or so I’m told.”

“Then how about Typhoon?” Graves suggested. The general shook his head.

“Troglodyte hunt in the Manehattan sewers.”


“Zombies in Appleloosa.”

“Coursing River?”

“Thunderbird roosting in Seaddle.”


“Bad case of Dengue fever. Too long in the tropics, don’t you know?”

Graves hadn’t known, but he did now. He also knew that it was awfully fortuitous that every active marshal with some sort of teaching experience ‘just happened’ to be indisposed of on a day when those particular skills would be required. Yet despite his scrutinizing gaze that could have scoured barnacles from a ship’s hull, the general merely walked along with ice-blue eyes clear as a preacher’s conscience.

“So why me?” Graves continued with a weary roll of the eyes. “Why not get someone more convenient to do it?”

“Because they’re not as good,” Ironside smoothly replied. “We both know what your record looks like. You’re the best at what you do.”

“Yeah, shooting and not getting shot,” the marshal rebounded with a wry smile. “Teaching’s not exactly not part of my skillset.”

“Might as well add it on, then,” the burly officer chuckled. “Or, I could send you down to records to start working out how much the engine on that Stallion transport ship you blew up costs. That works too.”

It was a testament to his martial prowess that Graves only slightly stumbled at those words.

“No, ah, that won’t be necessary,” he coughed as a drop of sweat appeared on his brow. “Glad to be of service.”

Ironside just grinned.

“Knew you’d understand.”


Under a dull, grey sky, the two soldiers crossed the massive field outside the city proper that served as the Academy’s main training center. With obstacle courses, running tracks, firing ranges, and blast shells, the Plain of Pain was a holistic proving ground designed to push Equestrian cadets to the utmost of their mental, physical, and magical capabilities, then egregiously beyond. Right now, the field was living up to its name as dozens of recruits slogged it out through the multitude of tortuous activities their less than kindly drill instructors put them through.

Right now, though, the pair weren’t concerned with that. As much as they would have loved to pause and reminisce about their own trips through the nine circles of hell, they had business to attend to, business that took them towards the large oak tree on the far side of the field.

“So, you sure you want me to do this?” Graves asked once more, readjusting the spell gun slung over his shoulder as he gave his commander a questioning frown. “I don’t exactly have a lecture planned.”

“Wasn’t counting on it,” Ironside replied as soon as he finished chewing out a greenhorn for improper shooting form. “Your biggest plus is your practical experience and that’s what we want these colts to get a taste of. No textbooks, no theories, just the raw, real deal.”

“Then… what exactly do you want me to do?”

“Whatever you feel like,” the general smiled as they reached the oak. “Have fun. Be creative. For the next three hours, these cadets are clay in your hands.”

At their approach, the presiding drill sergeant barked the order.

“Ten-shun! Form rank!” Like good little soldiers,the four lounging recruits instantly snapped to order.

An eyebrow arched in question as Graves looked over the group. They were an interesting and varied group to say the least, and by varied, he meant that they were about as varied as the ingredients in Pinkie Pie’s Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, Never the Same Surprise Cake. True, each wore the same faded green uniform that marked out cadets as the lowest rung of the armed forces totem pole, but that was pretty much where the similarities ended.

The one furthest on the right was a veritable giant of a youth, one probably a good few inches taller than Graves and probably half again as wide. With thick arms, a barrel chest, and a cleanly shaven head that only seemed to make his formidable form seem even bigger, he looked to be the sort of man who could bench press cattle before eating them for breakfast and going back for seconds.

Next to the giant, the girl beside him seemed downright miniscule. Dainty enough even without comparison to the hulk, a first glance would have had most thinking her far too delicate for the military life. A second look however, one that took in her burning bronze ponytail and tawny eyes that peered out with the sharp cunning of a wild fox, clearly showed that underestimating her would be a costly and – quite possibly – very painful mistake.

The third cadet was taller and the only one sporting a regulation crew cut, but his thin as a half-starved bean sprout body testified to how he clearly wasn’t one of the most physically capable of soldiers. Not that it mattered though. Even behind the bulky glasses framing his narrow face, there was no mistaking the spark of inner fire in those hazel eyes that marked the truly gifted mages.

Lastly, there was the fourth and probably most noticeable of all the recruits. Broad-shouldered with sandy hair and bright green eyes, the lad that stood eye level with the marshal was a living, breathing recruitment ad. With a face made for movies and a build to match, he was the kind of poster child the brass loved to put on those hokey "We Want You" posters everyone seemed to love. Of course, the confident smile and balanced stance showed the trained eye there was much more to this one than a pretty face.

An interesting bunch, these four. Very interesting indeed.

As they stood at attention, Ironside said nothing. Instead, he chose to slowly pace up and down the line as he gave the cadets a once over, a lion prowling before he settled down to dinner. Any joviality that the general had previously shown was now replaced by stern silence and imposing authority. It was time to get down to business.

“Recruits!” he called, his voice booming with the force of cannon fire. “You are the top one percent of your graduating class, a distinction that grants you right to enroll in any branch of the Equestrian armed forces you choose. So let me ask you. What is your choice?"

"Sir, we want to join the marshals, sir!” they called in forceful unison.

“Do you have what it takes?”

“Sir, yes sir!”

"You sure?"

"Sir, yes sir!"

“Well alright, then,” the general smirked. “Introduce yourselves. Who are you and just what makes you fit to join Equestria’s finest?”

“Sir,” the big one began, calling out in a deep, thunderous voice at a nod from his drill instructor, “my name is Boulder, sir! I’m as strong as they come and an expert in hand-to-hand combat. When it comes to up close and personal, nothing speaks louder than my fists, sir!”

“Sir!” the wild one called, never once having taken her tawny eyes from the marshal’s gunmetal greys, “my name is Foxfire, and I’m the best marksman that the Academy has. I don’t miss; never have, never will, sir!”

“Sir!” the thin one called in the cool, collected tones of a scholar, “my name is Spellbound and I have unparalleled mastery over the arcane arts. Subtle or fierce, simple to the supreme, my magics make me a one-man battalion, sir!”

“Sir!” the pretty one called, his voice sounding like it was half a moment away from breaking out into a confident grin, “my name is Comet and I’m just the best. I’m great at whatever I do, sir!”

Graves nearly smiled at that last one.

“Alright, then,” the general laughed aloud. “So seeing as none of you baby-faced recruits has any idea what that it means to be a marshal, I’ve arranged a special guest to rectify the situation. This here’s Graves, though you might know him better as Gunmetal Graves, the Ghost of Thunder, or just the best goddamn marshal that ever walked these grounds. He’s going to be your instructor for the day and educate you on just what being a marshal’s all about.”

Like the general had before him, Graves at first said nothing. Instead, he looked, casting his iron-grey eyes over the four cadets before him, weighing and appraising them as he would a new component for his spell gun. Well, maybe not so much. Spell gun components had proven worth, after all.

“So, you all want to be marshals?” Graves asked, his gravelly baritones low and level in contrast to their raucous calls. Yet even as calm as he was, there was no hiding the hint of condescending skepticism lacing each and every word. And just as expected, the cadets bristled in response.

Of course they’d all heard rumors of Gunmetal Graves. Who hadn’t? The lone marshal who’d spent years on solo missions and single-handedly changed the course of battle more times than a drill sergeant lost his temper was the stuff of mess hall gossip gold. If they were honest, rumors of his exploits had been a big part of all their interests in joining the marshals, just like it was with every one in their class of recent date.

But now that they’d come up against the legend himself, they had to say, it was a little underwhelming.

Sure, he looked pretty tough – every marshal did – but he didn’t look that tough. After all, Comet probably had a good ten pounds on him, let alone Boulder who probably could’ve snapped him in half with a good hug. He may have had more experience than them, but really, standing there in that drab, brown coat with that over-sized spell gun... it was hard to see what he had that they didn't.

So it was with four very different voices but one very singular message that the cadets replied,

“Sir, yes sir!”

The raven-haired soldier appraised them for just a moment more. Then he smiled.

“… No. Definitely not.”

The pronouncement was met with four very confused looks.

“Sir?” Comet asked, a conciliatory smile coming to his movie-star face. “What do you mean you don’t think so? We’re the top of the academy, the best Equestria has to offer. Whatever it takes to be a marshal, we have it.”

“You think so, do you?” Graves asked as eyebrow arched in amusement. “Well then, let me prove you wrong.”

In one smooth motion, Graves unslung his spell gun and raised it towards the cadets. If they had been surprised before, then now they were blindsided-by-a-leprechaun startled.

“Sir? What are you doing?!” Spellbound cried in alarm. “That’s a Gungir-class heavy ordinance long rifle!”

“Yes, yes it is,” Graves nodded as the familiar hum of charging lightning began.

“Then why are you pointing it at us?” the mage asked with increasingly wide eyes.

“Why do you think?” Graves smiled. “I’m going to shoot you. All of you. In three...”

“Sir, are you serious?” Boulder interjected.


“You’ve got to be kidding,” Comet laughed.


Tawny eyes went very wide in alarm.

Four quick pulls of the trigger and all of the cadets went down, yelping in pain as they were each struck with the electrical force of a fully-charged stun baton.

“Nothing,” Graves sighed, sounding as disappointed as a kid who’d gotten underwear for his birthday. Twice. “Even with a countdown, not one of you fought back.”

“Of course not!” Firefox snapped back, emotions getting the better of her as she snarled at the marshal with near feral eyes. “What did you expect us to do, dive in kamikaze style? You’ve got that cannon of a spell gun pointed at us! Of course we did nothing!”

Graves arched an eyebrow in curiosity.

“Girl,” he began his tones still level, though now several degrees cooler than they’d been moments before. “Aren’t all cadets assigned a basic spell rifle or armor set upon enrollment?”

“Well… yes sir, we are,” she replied uncertainly, somewhat caught off guard by the unexpected question.

“And aren’t you all given permission to carry them with you at all times?” the marshal continued, his voice growing colder by the moment.

“Yes sir… we are…” Firefox answered softly.

“Well then,” Graves began once more, words laced with permafrost that would have made the chill air around seem a furnace. “Where. Are. They?”

The bronze-haired cadet openly gaped, then looked to her compatriots for answers. They could only stare back with the same, mute eyes.

“I suggest you run and get them,” Graves intoned as he leveled his charging rifle once more. “I suggest you run real quick.”

You know how urban legends get started, but nobody knows how? Well, this wasn’t one of those cases, because no less than two dozen witnesses would later corroborate the advent of a true Sergeant from Hell. Four cadets ran their way across the Plain of Pain, racing as fast as their legs could carry them. But every few seconds, one of them would yelp out loud as a soldier in long, leather coat and broad, flat-brimmed hat leaning against the lonely oak lazily popped off blast after blast of electric shock into their backsides. This continued all the way across the field, as the thunder of each blast echoed alongside the general’s booming laughter.

It must have really sucked to be those cadets. Not a single one of those lightning bolts missed.


By the time the cadets made their way back, rifles in hand and spell armor pack strapped on, they were madder than volcano gods denied their regular dose of sacrificial virgins. As such, they were ready to get it on, to raise cane and make hell for the marshal who had dished out such healthy doses of stinging pain and burning humiliation.

Only, he wasn’t there.

“Wha- where’d he go?” Firefox gaped, sharp eyes darting about the field and catching no sight of the errant soldier. “Don’t tell me he ran off.”

“Hey, check this out,” Comet called, approaching the tree where the four of them had gathered earlier, where upon the trunk was tacked a single sheet of paper.


I know you don’t have what it takes to be marshals, but Ironside’s making me give you a chance. So here’s your job: get my badge however you can. I’ll be waiting on the first training mountain. You have three hours.

Good luck. You’ll definitely need it.


It’s really amazing. In a succinct forty-nine words, Graves had managed to take the cumulative rage and hatred bubbling up in those four youths and magnify it fivefold. If they were mad before, then they were stark, raving furious by now.

“So, however we can, eh?” Boulder grunted, cracking his knuckles ominously as only a very large man with crackeable knuckles can. “Guess the general can’t blame us if some… ‘accidents’ happen, right?”

“Normally, I’d frown upon such boorish goals,” Spellbound sniffed as he checked his travel pack and rifle with practiced efficiency, “but for once, I agree with you, full stop.”

“Well then, what are we waiting for?” Comet laughed aloud with the fierce grin of a war god painted across his face. “Let’s get this bucking bastard and make him eat his words!”


Next Chapter: Chapter 2 Estimated time remaining: 37 Minutes
Return to Story Description


Login with