War’s favorite thing was fire. No question about it.
Fire was so pure. Easy to start, but almost impossible to control. Like anypony, it had the potential for destruction, but also the potential for life. It could heal, but it could also destroy. It gave her hope, and hope was something that War, of all ponies, needed right now.
War rarely saw hope anymore. She saw no hope in the fire she was looking at, the flame that now consumed the building she saw before her. The fire reached higher than the roof of the decrepit city hall of...what town was it?
War looked around and saw a newspaper floating in the breeze. The wind had the generosity of placing it at her feet.
The Appeloosan Times. That’s right, Appeloosa. Spark was always bad at remembering things like that...
War cursed herself. She always used that name for herself.
My name is War, she told herself. I’m not Spark. Not anymore.
This had always been the hardest part for Spark.
Damn. War. Not Spark.
She wouldn't admit how hard it was to her companions, though. They might doubt her. Should they? War had no answer for that.
She looked behind her, and saw Death, sword in tow, approaching. Her face hadn’t changed, even with all the killing. The skull-face still remained as stoic as ever. Her freshly bloodsoaked hoove-claws and sword were the only indication that she had been in battle, or that anything had changed.
She approached and stopped, and began to briefing War about her progress. Her deep voice echoed through the empty street
“All of the ponies hiding in the orchards have been dealt with. Famine and Pestilence have decimated the surrounding areas, though nopony had any relevant information pertaining to our target.”
So they all died for nothing.
Had War seen this all before she took the mantle, she would likely have been horrified. She would have ran, tried to find help, or something useless like that.
But at this point, she was numb to it all. The ponies, to her, were just faces. War had no time to listen to their screams and cries for mercy. She had a mission, and she was going to see it through. All these ponies have died for a great and noble cause, and their sacrifice will not be forgotten.
That’s what they told her, but War wasn’t so sure she believed it anymore. She wasn’t sure what she believed anymore.
But then again, what were her choices?
“Very well, then. We will proceed to the next town.” War’s tone was dry, indifferent, like Death’s. “How far is that town from Canterlot?”
“Not far.” Death replied quickly and without prejudice. No added commentary, no excitement about their fast-approaching goal, no feeling. It chilled War to the bone.
Death slowly turned, and went to find the other heralds for their long journey.
Soon, War was, once again, alone. She felt alone. It was only her, and the flame of hopelessness.
She had to stop. This was her life now. She was supposed to be dedicated to her mission. Equestria will be reborn.
“I will see this through...” she uttered. But to her dismay, she didn’t sound as confident as she had hoped.
War stood with Death, Famine, and Pestilence. Famine stepped forward, her beady eyes darting back and forth. War almost had to back away. Famine was as stringy as ever. In a way, she looked more dead than Death. Her belly was almost hollow, and her gray hide clung to her bones. Where War’s mane was a bright red, Famine’s was a pale yellow, and seemed to be falling out.
Famine spoke with a raspy, sickly voice.
“This raid was a waste of our time! We learned nothing about the pony we seek!”
She looked directly at Pestilence, the one who had proposed the raid.
Pestilence’s appearance was even more unsettling. While Famine looked like she was near death, Pestilence looked like she had already been dead for years. Her yellow flesh was rotting and falling off. While War wore pieces of armor on her head and hooves, the only thing Pestilence wore were bandages meant to keep her from falling apart. The thing that War was most disturbed by, though, was her eyes. Pestilence’s eyes were empty and lifeless.
When War looked into them, it was almost as if they were reflecting back at her. They were showing her the extent of her sins. Killing didn’t faze War, as she was always in the heat of the moment and had been killing since their quest began, but the almost grating reflection in Pestilence’s eyes tormented her as long as she had known Pestilence. War turned away.
Pestilence began to defend herself. Her voice was monotonous. It had just as much life as her eyes.
“We do not know her location. We had to look everywhere. At least we know she is not here.”
Famine scoffed. She was acting angry, as if she had hated the raid. War knew the truth, though. She knew that there was no need for a raid in the first place. Nopony showed it when Pestilence had proposed it, but all of them, even Death knew that their target wasn’t going to be there. Death would’ve sensed the target if it was there. War knew why they decided to raid Appleoosa anyways. The same reason they had killed so many others. It was fun, and it gave Equestria a glimpse at the ponies who would change it forever. That only made the knot in War’s stomach tighter.
War knew, though, that Famine didn’t regret the raid. None of them regretted it.
Everyone looked at Death, who had just spoken. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath. The wind began to pick up, and seemed to swirl around Death, pushing up her dark, wispy hair. Everyone knew what this meant. While they had no real leader, everypony knew that their master, the driving force behind the quest, only communicated through Death.
Death soon opened her eyes.
“We are close...”
Famine smiled, Pestilence bowed, and War stifled a shiver.
Death began to walk towards the exit of town. Death spoke once more.
“We now know who and where our target is.”
The heralds began to walk with her. For a moment, there was only silence. It was Famine who broke it once they started on their way.
“Who is our target? Where is she?”
Death took a moment before she responded.
“Her name is Twilight Sparkle, and she resides in Ponyville.”
War could only hope that, whatever Twilight Sparkle was doing, she was prepared for the storm that was coming.