95w, 3dHuman in Equestria
87w, 3dPony Warfare
87w, 3dThe Writer's Group
22w, 4dAction Stories
87w, 20hPonies in the Real World
22w, 4dAuthor Support
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87w, 20hPonies of War
80w, 6dRead Later
80w, 1dHumans Aren't Bastards
54w, 6dBattlefield: Equestria
22w, 4dAuthors Helping Authors
45w, 1dPonies in the Military
43w, 4dWarriors in Equestria
35w, 6dTechnology VS. Magic
3w, 6dMilitary In Equestria
34w, 3dThe Good HiE List
24w, 3dHumans are Superior
19w, 2dHeroes and Allies: The War Room
10w, 5dMy reading list
Chapter Twenty-Seven: The Chosen Few
The air began to freeze as Phalanx and Gilda watched the chariot of onyx barrel toward Castle Canterlot, bathing the city of New Vertaigh below in an iridescent blue light. The chariot sped up and began to orbit the city, eventually spinning so quickly around the capital, that the chariot and its path looked more like an enormous black ring rather than a single flying object. The wind followed suit, buffeting and lifting any structure unfortunate enough to be in its path.
Phalanx grabbed onto a metal fence to keep from being swept away. Gilda managed to catch Phalanx's outstretched talons. "What is that?!" she shrieked.
"Just hold on!" Phalanx answered back. "His power must be truly incredible!" he thought to himself.
The black ring began to pulse, projecting a sapphire pillar of energy into the sky. As the pillar began to grow taller, a small grey spec rocketed out of it. Phalanx squinted his eyes in an attempt to follow the projectile, as he and Gilda held to the fence like a banner on a flag pole. His eyes went wide as the object appeared to change course, and began to fall right toward them.
"Gilda! Something is bearing down on us!"
Gilda turned her head. "Phal?!"
The object did not appear to be stopping.
"Move! Move!" Phalanx yelled.
The two griffins released their grip, and were flung through the air by the wind, just as the object crashed right into where they'd been just fractions of a second earlier.
Phalanx and Gilda found themselves several feet away, lying in the settling dust. It was in fact this dust that led to the realization that the wind had completely stopped blowing around them. The birds and other assorted creatures dared not make a sound.
The air now hung in absolute silence.
The shroud of dust lifted, revealing a creature that quite literally radiated a dark presence. It had four herculean ram legs, and at the end of each, a split metal hoof met the ground. The massive wings of a pandragon mount adorned its sides, and atop its royal Caprastian head lay two curved horns. Seated around them, a crown of pure black onyx glowed with a dark hum.
Phalanx looked on in awe. "I've read the legends, but something is... You aren't....."
"Silence, chosen son of freedom."
The creature lowered its gaze, and stared at Phalanx and Gilda with two crimson eyes: one bore the sage wisdom of a Caprastian scholar, the other bore the fire of a griffin warrior. A row of black feathers, scales, and silver fur grew around them. The creature opened its mouth.
"For millennia have I waited for this moment. From my eternal shackles have I witnessed the rise and fall of dynasties and thrones, of kingdoms and nations. From my imprisonment in the world between worlds, the fate of millions appeared before me on a celestial stage. The fate of two worlds, brought together by the energy you see before you. Rise, my subjects. The time of reckoning has finally come!"
A thousand years of mental preparation couldn't have held back Gilda's fear. "Who- Who are you?"
"Who am I? I am the force that binds the two worlds of sapphire! I am chronicler of this and every age! I am the one fated to become the true master of this Earth, and the Earth that has been revealed to me by the dark light of the realm between realms! Tell all, far and wide that I-"
The creature began to pulse with dark blue energy, whipping up whole trees in the resulting torrent. Six familiar glowing crystalline jewels, without their usual gold settings, rushed toward the towering creature from several different directions and began to orbit the terrifying figure.
The Earth began to tremble. Phalanx and Gilda were knocked to their knees.
"I am Phalanx, My-" He coughed. "-my lord. It is an honor to finally meet you." Phalanx stood back up and looked around. "What magic is this? How is such dominion over the forces of nature possible?"
"Magic?" The dark king uttered a laugh that bore both malice and amusement. "Magic?! My son, there is a power far greater than any power this world or the other possesses. It is what has brought your enemies together."
Phalanx narrowed his eyes. "Your enemies? With respect, my lord, do you not mean our enemies?"
"No. Humanity and Equinity must witness the blazing light of my freedom soon. This "war" you wage is beneath me, and so shall it be for any who embrace this power!"
"I am sorry, Lord Hircus. I am not sure what you mean."
"Are all my champions not well versed in the ancient texts? I speak of the realm I call Sapphiron, my new celestial kingdom!" Thousands of ancient rams, griffins, pandragons, hydras, ursas, and other assorted creatures from one's worst nightmares began to pour out of the pillar of energy, all enveloped in an eerie blue glow.
"BEHOLD!" He reared into the sky. "THIS IS THAT POWER!"
Phalanx and Gilda stood in amazement as the ancient army nearly blotted out the Sun with its vast numbers. "Wait," Gilda cut in. "They were in there with you? How did they survive?"
"Who speaks to me? What is your name, daughter griffin?"
"Yes. You, your kind, and the others that stood with you have given me my greatest triumph! Hark! The time of trial is over for you. You have been relieved of all of your duties. Go now, and spread word of my ultimate victory!"
Thousands of ancients began to collect in the surrounding fields of Castle Canterlot. Phalanx and Gilda traded unsure glances.
"It will be done," Phalanx bowed. "We go in victory."
Gilda performed what appeared to be a half bow, half curtsy. "Yeah, what he said."
The two griffins quickly took to the skies, not sure of what to do next.
Dr. Harrison jumped from his desk as several alarms began to ring out from the One Array control center just outside his office. He carelessly flung his office door open as he quickly made his way into the control room.
"What's going on out here?!"
A technician turned around at his console. "Anomaly emergence warnings, but no anomaly sir!"
"Is the array acting up again?"
"No sir. The array is quiet, but we're getting readings from an outside source! I can't determine where!"
Harrison turned around and ran up to the top of the flight of stairs leading outside. "I'm going to confer with my superiors. You keep a handle on those readings, you hear me?! I want you to notify me if this gets any more severe! I get the feeling this isn't just a random series of fluctuations anymore!"
The sun continued its natural journey through the heavens, casting the nearly nonexistent shadows of high noon.
Phalanx sat in a large chair in one of Caste Canterlot's many suites, with a book firmly grasped in one of his talons and his chin in the other.
The story of the Great Purge is not a proud tale. It never was and never will be. What it is, however, is the final chapter in the most horrible time in our history. I am Celestia, princess of the sovereign Kingdom of Equestria, and I have written this document for those who will live in a time that I won't. If you are reading this, you are clearly a being of immense magical power, for the magical seals built around this text are far too strong for any normal being to break.
"Unless you are a being with the right tool," Phalanx thought to himself. "The IMP did its job well."
It was a very different time. The forces of magic were split among many nations, and an eternal struggle for dominance raged on through many centuries. My father, King Soltaire, and my mother, Queen Noctau ruled the land with a firm, but just ho- .
Gilda suddenly burst into the room, nearly causing the Praetor toss the book out of one of the castle windows, and making him instinctively draw his mini-caster. "Oh, Gilda, it's you. You should try more subtlety next time."
She shut the door and rushed over to him. "Phal, something's wrong."
Phalanx's face hardened. "What is it?"
"Those new soldiers are still coming through. There's got to be millions of 'em Phal!"
"Why would this be a problem, love?"
"Because they ain't right in the head, if you know what I mean. I tried to talk to one, and he didn't even seem to notice me!"
Phalanx chuckled. "He wasn't guarding the castle, was he?"
"No. I've seen the ponies' royal guard before, but these guys were different. Phal, it's like they weren't even there. You know, nobody home?"
"Hicus's ancient armies have endured unimaginable conditions. Who knows what that would do to a being's mind."
"No, no, you don't get it! I saw some of our guys who got trapped in that huge blast come out of that blue tower of his! They were normal before. Now there all quiet and shadowy! It's creepy, and I'm pretty sure it ain't natural!"
Phalanx shrugged. "What do you suggest?"
"I just think we keep an eye on things is all. I don't want to wind up like that."
"Then don't get caught in any explosions," Phalanx answered.
"Funny. This is serious, Phal! I don't like this at all."
"Then I'll look into it." Phalanx put the book back to his face. "-after I finish reading this most fascinating text."
"Phal, we can't just-" Gilda stopped as she noticed a pair of ram guards enter the room, seething with dark energy.
"Praetor, a wire message has arrived for you."
Phalanx noticed that neither of them attempted to make eye contact with him. "A telegram? I wasn't aware the cables had been laid out this far. Where are my normal guards?"
One of the guards spoke up. "The Equestrian lines were cut during your invasion. Our machinists have repaired them and merged them with our own. As for your guards, they have been relieved."
"On whose authority?" Phalanx questioned.
The guards turned to face Phalanx and seemed to stare into his soul with their glowing blue eyes. "The highest authority there is, Lord Hircus himself."
Phalanx nodded. "Very well, I will see this message now."
It is from a "Lord Vhesk," addressed specifically for you, Praetor, transcribed by the pandragon operators as soon as it arrived." The guard pulled out a clawritten parchment from a folder, and gave it to the griffin in question.
Phalanx held the parchment to his face.
Greetings, Praetor. I am called Vhesk, head scholar of the IMP directive, and chief overseer of the project. I have made a most interesting, if not distressing, discovery that I am quite sure you will be very interested to see. I would elaborate, but I would much rather meet you in person to discuss such things. I have had my laboratory equipment moved from the pandragon capital of Terodai to Canterl- New Vertaigh, to further my studies. I would meet you in person, but I am quite busy at the moment. Please come to my new laboratory as soon as possible using the instructions laid out below. This is a matter of great importance to all of us. Please do not tarry.
-With honor and respect,
Lord Vhesk, of House Teero
Phalanx put the note on a nearby coffee table, "Interesting. If he believes it is that urgent, I suppose it wouldn't hurt to pay him a visit. Guards, thank you for bringing this to my attention."
The two dark rams left without a word.
"I'm coming with you," Gilda insisted. "You know, maybe this guy knows what's going on."
Phalanx sighed. "Fine. Just don't disturb him with your suspicions. I'd rather not start some kind of panic among the troops."
Gilda made a mock two-armed cross-chest salute.
"Whatever you say, Praetor."
A lanky pandragon scientist with a white cloak stepped down the stairs into is laboratory. After putting on his tiny spectacles, he began to pace around the room
"Now where is he?! This cannot wait forever!" he thought. "Salsiva, the message was sent, correct? I'll peel off my own scales if they take too much longer!"
A female pandragon minor in a crimson dress slip stepped down the stairs, the scales on her head forming a shoulder-length hair-like appearance. "Yes dear, I sent it more than an hour ago. They must have received it by now."
"Alright then. Now we wait."
The two stood in silence for a full minute.
Vhesk turned to his wife. "So dear, the dress. Isn't that a bit... excessive?"
"Grand Praetor Phalanx is coming to our home. You cannot overdress for such an occasion."
"Overdressing isn't the problem," Vhesk muttered to himself.
Salsiva cocked one of her eyebrows. "What was that?"
"I said, put something over that outfit. I would rather force the good praetor to use more of his imagination."
"Excuse me if I want to look nice for a most important guest! You should have done the same!"
"I wore my best lab cloak! Is it not enough for y-"
Vhesk froze as he noticed two confused looking griffins at his door. He rushed over, opened the door, and gave an elegant bow. "Ah, greeting my honored guests! Praetor Phalanx, Mistress Gilda. We've heard the stories! It is not so often I have such esteemed figures in my home. Well- my home away from home here in this newly acquired city."
"I am honored to hear that," Phalanx answered. "What was that discussion you were having just now-"
"Nothing, my lord! A tiny debate with the wife." He reached out and pulled his wife to his side. "Speaking of which, this is Salsiva, my wife!"
"And they say we make an odd couple," Gilda mumbled under her breath.
"Regardless," Vhesk continued. "Welcome to my humble facility!"
"Humble? This is quite the operation you have going on here," Phalanx commented. "Are the others outside your staff?"
Vhesk nodded. "Indeed. We need all the help we can get to run our experiments."
"Fascinating." Phalanx put a talon to his chin. "Perhaps I will take a look at some of them la-"
"Excuse me," Gilda interrupted "-but wasn't there some urgent thing you wanted to show us?"
"Oh, yes." Vhesk put a hand to the back of his scaled neck. "I'm very sorry. What is wrong with me? Wasting time with frivolity while calamity begins to fold down upon us all! Follow me. We will need to go to the more- hidden section of our facility."
"Very well," Phalanx nodded. "Let us see what you find so interesting."
"Where are we?" Gilda's voice echoed in the dark cavern she now found herself in.
"This is just another large chamber in the rather extensive Canterlot underground cave system. It stretches for miles, so we thought it would make a great place for our larger equipment."
Phalanx looked over a guardrail. Down below, a whole team of specialists busily worked away at a complex system of pipes and wires which connected to a large vertical ring in the center of the cavern.
Phalanx turned to the pandragon scientist in question. "Lord Vhesk, what is all of this?"
"What is it indeed? Allow me show you." The pandragon minor walked over to a large table covered in various devices of unknown origin. "This is the bulk of what we recovered from the human forces that recently occupied this area."
He moved to a small table.
"We believe these to be some sort of large area speaking devices, designed to allow seamless communication over long distances. Annoyingly, I was already working on such a device. I was going to call it the "Wireless Telegram system", but the humans beat me to it apparently." Vhesk ran his claws though his crest scales in annoyance. "Like most of the various objects recovered, we can't yet reproduce them, but we have been able to modify them to work with our lightning turbines. They are re-energized and ready to function for at least eleven or so hours. Here, take it. It is a rather simple device. We've taken out the more advanced components for study. I'm sure you will be able figure it out."
"I'm sorry, is there something I have missed?" Phalanx questioned. "Why do we need these again?"
"Ah, I supposed I should explain what this facility is really about."
"Yeah, I guess you should," Gilda added gruffly.
Vhesk sighed and turned his back to his guests. "When they said that we were going to capture the famed "Elements of Harmony" to release The Dread Lord Hircus from his prison, I said they were mad. When they signed me onto the IMP project, I wasn't sure such a thing was possible. A device of such magical power that it could overwhelm the abilities of so many was nearly unthinkable." He turned back around. "To be honest, we've done quite a lot of "Impossible" things. Even so, I wasn't sure a device like the one before you was even possible until the humans proved that my concept works."
"A device like what? What are you getting at, Vhesk?" Phalanx questioned.
"I'm talking about much more than puncturing the barrier into the Realm Sapphiron. I'm talking about crossing it completely to reach into the other world."
Phalanx stepped back. "You mean the human world? This device is... some kind of portal machine?"
"Yes, thought it was nonfunctional before we discovered the solution the humans developed. It was all a matter of concept. We envisioned the portal as a tunnel through an enormous mountain. The humans saw as more as a bridge over a vast canyon. I sent scouts, surveillance crews, and my best scientists to observe the human's work. We now have the means to finish my designs. Well- once we can find a suitable relic to act as a power source. We planned on using the Elements themselves, but Hircus has them now. This is where you come in an-"
Phalanx stopped him. "Vhesk, what are you talking about? We have no reason to invade their world. This whole war, from beginning to now, was all about retaking what was once ours. We have no stake in their domain."
"Invade? You don't understand. This is not for some kind of invasion. With this machine, we can flee the approaching freedom and regroup."
Phalanx looked over to Gilda, then back to Vhesk. "I think I speak for both of us when I say, you've lost us."
"Yeah," Gilda added. "I think you should start explainin'."
"Allow me to put it simply then," He paused to adjust his specs. "Hircus wants nothing to do with our petty war."
"That much he told us," Gilda added.
"You fail to understand. We have unleashed an unimaginable terror. I advised the council not to do this, but alas they did so anyway. Phalanx, Gilda, I believe you can be trusted with the truth. The true soldiers of the Banded are what you see coming out of the Sapphiron Pillar. My lords-"
"-we are being betrayed."
Far below the streets of Canterlot's New Vertaigh district, a patrol of glowing griffin and ram guards methodically marched past General Locklear's cell.
"Excuse me, I'm trying to sleep here, and your "glow in the dark" routine is cutting into my nap time," the general spoke sarcastically to one of the guards.
The seething patrol soldiers did not so much as turn their heads.
The general cocked an eyebrow. "Oh, I see. The silent treatment. That one of your best torture techniques?"
Again, there was no answer from the guards.
"Wait, what's wrong with you guys? Feeling... blue?"
Still no answer.
"Heh. The old guards were more amusing. At least they'd hit you with the blunt end of their weapons when you told a bad joke."
"Ooh, tough crowd. Fine then, team glow stick! I guess I'll just have to get used to you all being complete and utter a-"
Major Bronze Leaf rushed to bars of his cell. "Lock, what's going on?!"
The general looked around the dark chamber. "No idea!" His gaze lowered to the prison floor. "The guards, they're all... dead!"
The elite griffin operatives of Flock HeartWing dropped down from the ceiling, followed by their leader, Flockleader Wingroot.
In the darkness, Locklear managed to make out the face of the griffin leader. "You! You were the one that destroyed my battalion!"
"Human, I do not have time for your accusations. Do you wish to be free or not?"
"I'm sorry, what now?" Locklear spoke in confusion.
Wingroot face-taloned. "Must I break it down for you, simpleton? We. Are. Breaking. You. Out!"
"Start at the beginning," Locklear answered coyly.
"Gah! There is not time for such games!" Wingroot pulled a magma orb from his bag and armed it.
Locklear jumped back in his cell. "Whoa, whoa, whoa! What are you doing with that?!"
"The keys to these cells are located in the central prison complex under Canterlot Castle. We have no time to fight our way there. I'm going to melt you all out."
"You still haven't explained why yet! Is there some kind of mutiny going on?" Locklear wondered as the griffin team leader began to melt the bars with magma from the orbs.
Wingroot stopped for a moment. "I suppose you could say that." The cell lock finally broke free. "Come now, help me free the others."
Locklear kicked open the cell door, knocking Wingroot to the floor. "Let me get one thing straight right now. I haven't forgotten what you did to my men. I won't ever forget." He offered a hand to help the leader off of the ground. "But if you're helping us get out of this miserable hell hole, you have my thanks. For now."
The griffin flockleader wiped a small thread of blood of his beak and stood back up on his own. "Hmm, I think I like you already. We will fight alongside each other for now, then settle our quarrel in single combat like true warriors!"
"Fair enough," Locklear growled. He turned to the other captured human troops. "Listen up, men, we're busting out of here. No matter how much it pains you, I want you to listen to what this griffin tells you. He knows more about this place than we do. I guarantee we'll find out what's going on later. For now, let's mount up and get outta here!"
A human private walked up to the general with a small group behind him, including the three members of Matchbox One's crew and the other survivors. "We're with you, sir."
Bronze Leaf limped out of his cell. "Stallions, mares, fall in and get ready to leave this moon pit and never even consider looking back."
"Yes sir," a host of other Equestrians answered.
Bronze turned to Lock and Wingroot. "I was starting to lose all hope of ever leaving this place. Though I never imagined it would be alliance troops that would facilitate our escape. Is this some sort of power play? Are you using us to create some kind of coup?"
Wingroot shook his head. "I only wish it could be that simple. The matter that has forced us to be allies is a terrifying turn of events indeed."
Locklear turned to Wingroot. "Be that as it may, we're going to need weapons."
Wingroot loaded a new belt into his fire-bolt caster. "That is part of the plan. The armory is this way. Hurry up now, it won't take too much longer for their reinforcements to arrive."
"Hold on a moment." Locklear turned back to his cell to face the old griffin commander that had tough him so much during his stay. "Veltor, wake up! Looks like you aren't crazy. You're "friends" are here. Get up off of the floor and come on!"
"I do not know them, but they must have been sent by those who chose to listen to my warnings. My allies have come through for me, and all of you. Two months ago I told them what I told you. For a hundred generations the Liberation Alliance has risen to defeat one great tyranny, and the fools in the council would rather unleash another one. They must be stopped. He must be stopped. Go forth, human. Help them spread the news of our true enemy, and you will be heroes unlike any other."
Lock crouched down. "You're not coming?"
"No. My duty is done. I am a warrior no longer. I would only slow you down."
"I don't know what they told you about humans, but we don't like to leave a man behind if we can help it. You're coming with me, and I don't think you're in a position to refuse."
Veltor narrowed his eyes. "Very well, Jonathan Locklear. I will aid you on your quest. As it is, you will need all the help you can acquire."
"Good to hear. Now let's get moving."
Wingroot dug in his bag for his new piece of human equipment.
Lock put his head in his hands. "Great. Bad enough you had to humiliate us, but now you're stealing our gear? That's just great." He sighed. "At least that means we'll have decent equipment. You wouldn't happen to have an M16 in that bag, would you?"
"Quiet human, I am trying to "make a call," as it were." Wingroot answered. "Phalanx, do you hear my words? This is Flockleader Wingroot."
"I can show you how to use that..." Lock offered.
"I am more than capable of handling it myself," Wingroot growled before beginning to press random buttons.
A dread guard entered Castle Canterlot's main throne room.
"Great master, you have summoned me?"
The dark form of Lord Hircus materialized in front of him. "Yes. I have felt death touch my sons at the dungeons. Something, someone is opposing my will. Take your forces and eliminate whoever is the cause."
"Yes, my lord. It will be done immediately."
Phalanx and Gilda held a pattern over Castle Canterlot. The blue pillar of dark energy continued to send forth a steady stream of ancient soldiers from inside its seemingly infinite maw.
"So you think everything the pandragon said was true?" Gilda asked her companion.
"If we truly have made a grave mistake, I feel a fool for not realizing it sooner. We have been lied to, hopelessly caught up in a centuries-old torrent of deceit!"
"But... the whole world? Does he really plan on-"
"Gilda, these skies could have ears. We'll talk about it later. For now, we have a mission. Vhesk needs a power source of immense magical energy. If there is one to be found, it will be in the Canterlot vault. According to the royal library, it is where items of untold power have been stored for centuries by the princesses themselves."
Phalanx's cobbled together radio began to crackle to life.
..."My lord, it is I, Wingroot. I have single talonly managed to get this infernal device of Vhesk's working. I can report that we have freed all of the human and Equestrian prisoners from the main dungeons. We are proceeding to the armory to rearm and prepare for the coming battle."...
Phalanx pressed a large mismatched button on his radio. "Excellent. Inform them of the situation."
..."They already are."...
...."Seems Lord Vhesk had allies in the upper workings of the council even before now. The old griffin commander Veltor is here."...
...."That's what the council called him anyway. Apparently, he uncovered this plot long ago, and warned Vhesk of the danger."...
"Commander Veltor planed this?"
..."Indeed, the old man set our plans in motion before we even made them."...
Sounds of shuffling could be heard coming through the radio.
..."Well hi there, Phalanx wasn't it? It's your favorite nemesis."... The voice could be heard groaning through the com channel. ..."It's me, General Locklear Here. I should have figured you'd be behind this. Fate seems to be forcing me to team up with everyone I hate today. Now then, I expect you have a plan to get us all out of here alive?"...
"Indeed, though it is not my plan."
...."Don't bother wasting the time explaining. I'm not sure I want to hear it over the radio. Hint, hint."....
"Oh, yes. Can you return the device to Flockleader Wingroot?"
..."Sure, whatever you say..."...
..."I am here, my lord. May ask a favor of you? We will need assistance to take the armory. Can you route some friendly forces our way?"...
"That is just what I was about to tell you. A friend of mine is on his way to assist you now."
..."Just a friend, my lord? Do you not mean friends?"...
"He will be all that you need. Anything more would tip off Hircus's armies and I have dragon-lift battle wagons at the ready if you require them. May fortune smile upon you, flockleader."
..."Thank you, my lord. I wish the same for you. You have not failed us, Praetor. I wish to remind you of that. I will trust your judgment, no matter how odd it may sound. We will begin now."...
"Very good. I will leave you to your work." Phalanx placed his radio back in a pocket in his combat harness.
Gilda shook her head. "This is nuts! Didn't the big bad king himself shack up in the castle?! You know, just a few miles away from where we're headed?!"
"Lord Hircus was last seen there, yes. We just need to work quickly before he catches wind of all of this."
Wingroot, Bronze Leaf, General Highlander, and a small force comprising of Flock HeartWing and the escaped prisoners waited in the shadows near the entrance to the Canterlot Central Armory of the Grand Army of Equestria. A small team of blue, seething guards stood watch. Having being converted for use by the alliance military, the tables beside them were covered with both Equestrian and Liberation Alliance weaponry.
"So what's the plan?" Lock whispered to Wingroot.
"Simple. They believe me to be on their side. I will use this to my advantage." Wingroot confidently strode out of the shadows.
"Stop. What is your business here, griffin?"
Wingroot didn't skip a beat. "I am Warden Tacticus! I am tasked to keep watch over this facility! What is your business here?!"
One of the guards glowed much brighter than usual. "Fool! Did you think you could hide from my gaze?"
Wingroot froze in his tracks.
"I see through my sons and daughters! You are not of my loyal followers, traitor! I know what you are trying to do! Warriors, slay this turncoat!" The guard returned to normal and pointed his weapon at the griffin flockleader, along with all of the others.
Surrounded, Wingroot put his talons in the air. "This plan did not proceed as I'd hoped. Guess it will be plan b then."
"Take 'em!" Locklear yelled from the shadows. HeartWing flock burst from the darkness, weapons blazing. Wingroot took advantage of the sudden confusion to blast the lead guard with two bursts from his mini-bolt caster, then rolled over to one of the weapons tables.
"A chain caster! Ancestors be praised!" While HeartWing covered him with suppressing bolt-fire, Wingroot loaded the large shoulder-mounted fire-bolt caster. "Now we see who the true warriors are!" He opened up with the large weapon, quickly spreading the continued fire from the caster through the ranks of Hircus's guards.
"They have Reinforcements!" one of the HeartWing troops called down to its leader. "Strange. They don't appear to be carrying weapons, sir!"
A new team of Hircan troops dashed into the room in a row by row combat formation. The reinforcements, a team of dark seething rams, griffins, and pandragon minors, held up their hooves, talons, and claws, and let loose with blasts of raw dimensional energy. The first volley managed to claim one of the HeartWing warriors, burning through his combat harness completely. The second volley came within inches of taking WingRoot's head.
"Don't just stand there and let them destroy us! Return fire!" WingRoot ordered.
A HeartWing soldier tossed a magma orb into the incoming Hircan troopers. "Die abominations!" The orb sent the Hircan troops diving for cover behind another set of armory tables.
"Now's our chance!" Bronze Leaf yelled. "Secure a weapon before they reorganize!" The prisoners, human and Equestrian charged into the room, grabbing as many tools of destruction as they could.
Locklear leapt from his cover and dived for one of the weapons tables. Making sure he didn't expose anything other than his hand, he grabbed the nearest weapon and pulled it down. With energy blasts zipping overhead, the general frantically tried to ready the strange weapon. A HeartWing griffin ducked behind the same table the General used for cover.
"That's a GR-3. Nice model. Allow me." He pulled a lever on the caster down and to the left. "Now, to battle!" The griffin swooped into the air and dive-bolted the line of energy infantry as the general looked on.
"Right." The general popped his neck. "To battle." He jumped up from behind his cover and unloaded a full belt clip of fire-bolts into attacking Hircan forces, breaking their lines, but drawing their fire. Locklear ducked as energy blasts singed the weapons table above, igniting a small fire.
"Great. This place is about to go up!" He made a run for it as ammo crates full of fire-bolts and explosive Equestrian arrows detonated, filling the entire room with smoke.
"The weapons caches are on fire! Get back!" Bronze Leaf called out from somewhere within the smoke.
The two opposing sides quickly began to back up as multiple explosions rung out through the large chamber.
Lock and Bronze regrouped with the other escapees on one side. "The room's filling up with smoke, but we can't backtrack!" Bronze warned.
"Ideas?!" Lock questioned.
Wingroot emerged from the smoke, violently coughing. He took a moment to recollect himself as more energy blasts struck their cover. "I have a suggestion!" he coughed again. "We go up! Does anyone have a concentrated power weapon?!"
"I do!" a human marine with an Equestrian JSL answered.
"Attack the ceiling human! Bring it down or we'll be trapped here!" WingRoot ordered.
The human marine held up the over-sized explosive arrow launcher and hastily pointed it at the highest point of the room.
"Simmons, shoot it already!" Locklear shouted.
"I can't find the trigger. sir!" the marine yelled back.
"It's the stem with the latch on it!" Bronze Leaf called out from behind cover as he took sporadic shots with an Earthfantry bow.
The marine did what came naturally and put the newly found bit trigger in his teeth, then bit down on it. The massive projectile careened into the large cavernous ceiling above the armory, setting off a cascading set of blasts throughout the entire chamber.
"Not again!" another marine groaned. "What's with this place and collapsing caves?!"
Locklear, Bronze Leaf, and Wingroot fled back into the detention area along with the other escaped soldiers as the caves finally gave way and came down on top of the attacking Hircan forces.
A piercing white light filled the caves through a hole to the surface. Bronze Leaf averted his eyes. "It's... the sun! It was night when I was captured! This is a good omen!" Everyone turned their heads, their eyes having been long adjusted to the darkness.
An Equestrian solider turned to Bronze Leaf as they both shielded their eyes. "Sir, does that mean the princesses have been rescued?"
Wingroot clenched one of his talons. "Yes and no. They escaped to the world of the humans."
"You lie, griffin. How has the sun risen if the princesses are not here?" Bronze Leaf questioned the griffin flockleader.
Wingroot shrugged. "Do not ask me. I know very little about such things."
Locklear checked the debris for signs of Hircan survivors, then shouldered his fire-bolt caster. "Perhaps it simply rose all on its own? You know, with gravity and all?"
"It is no matter! If what Hircus said through that soldier was true, we will have an entire brigade on our heels in a few moments! I suggest we vacate the premises! Now!"
"And I suggest we use the hole in the ceiling," Bronze Leaf added. "Stallions, Mares. By show of hooves, how many flight-ready pegasai are with us?"
Seven or so pegasai raised their hooves.
"Alright, get ready to-"
..."HeartWing, this is Vhesk! Scouts are telling me there is a large force of Hircan warriors gathering at Fortress Canterlot! You have approximately ten minutes before they reach you! Oh, and we have eyes on Lord Hircus himself! Strange. He's not heading toward you..."...
"Thank you- whoever you are, but we'll take care of it." Locklear jumped up on top of a large piece of the cavern wreckage. "Alright, listen up! We need griffins and pegasai to begin lifting our operatives to the surface! One by one if you have to!"
Wingroot narrowed his gaze. "And how did you get in charge of this force, human?"
"You want to argue, or you want to live? I'm technically the highest ranking officer here anyway!" Lock answered.
"So you are now familiar with our ranking system then?" Wingroot questioned.
Locklear rolled his eyes. "Enemy troops are getting closer by the seconds! You really want to do this now?!"
Wingroot sighed. "I'm in command, but I will let you take point in this matter. HeartWing, pegasai, do as he says! Begin lifting the non-flyers to the surface!"
Everyone turned their heads as a lone griffin made his way from the detention area. Veltor noticed all of the eyes that were suddenly upon him as he stepped into the light.
"What? Did I miss something?"
Phalanx and Gilda landed at the entrance of a large unassuming structure several miles south of Castle Canterlot.
Gilda touched down first. "Is this the place? It doesn't look very important."
"Then it is doing its job. Come, the entrance is on the roof."
..."Praetor. It is I, Vhesk here. You're elite warriors have done well. I just received reports that they are escaping with the prisoners into the Canterlot "Old Quarter" district, though this comes with very- negative news."...
"Out with it, Vhesk. We have a mission to continue," the praetor growled.
..."I'm sorry, my lord, but I've just received information that Hircus's pillar is increasing in size! It has already enveloped our entire central base at New Vertaigh! At the rate and direction it is increasing, Gryphonii, Terodai, and Kas'vernan are next if we can't stop it! My lord, Hircus is making his move!"...
"Then we make ours. How long until you can be ready to activate this device of yours?"
...."I am ready, praetor. All I need is a power source. An amulet, rune, or anything that once possessed great magical power."....
"Didn't the IMP neutralize magic in this part of the region?"
..."I said, once possessed, didn't I? I only require a relic that can focus the dimensional energies. It doesn't have to be magically active."...
"Very well. Gilda and I are about to enter the vault. We will find a relic for you to use."
...."Many thanks. By the way, praetor, that mysterious "friend" you contacted wasn't needed at the prisons, so he is en-route to give you assistance should you need it."....
Gilda raised an eyebrow. "Who exactly is this guy they keep mentioning?"
Phalanx clicked off his radio. "A warrior that I trained beside. I'll explain later, Gilda. I promise." He reengaged the radio. "Thank you, Vhesk. We will be done here shortly."
"I'd say about-"
"So, the leader of this coup is none other than my very own champion. A pity, you would have done well to stand by my side. The power of the realm between realms could have been given to you as a reward."
"Very little escapes my sight, fallen son. Though I am at a loss as to why you hath betrayed me so quickly. What has that pandragon whelp told you that has you so worried?"
"I know what you intend to do. The council made its last mistake ordering your release."
"Indeed they did. The fools claim authority, but have none. I have them now, along with all of thy great armies. Now, you haven't answered my question. What have they told you?!"
"It doesn't matter, because we all know you are not the real Lord Hircus. The real Lord Hircus stood for honor and justice! The real Dread Lord was dread only to those who fought for prejudice and foolish superiority! Your approaching freedom is really nothing more than an eternal void. You would enslave us all! You are no better than those you claimed were tyrants!"
"You knew this, but you summoned me anyway? You contradict yourself. You will tell me why."
"Well I-" Phalanx stopped.
"You do not know! Ha ha haaaa! What are you fighting for, fool?! What purpose have you?! For what reason do you do such things?!'"
Phalanx turned to take a quick glace at Gilda. "Because I will stop at nothing to give my kind a better life! Just like those you once served beside during the ancient wars! I believed you were like the great lord of legend! The one that stood for freedom, not senseless conquest!"
"Senseless conquest? Then now you will die as one I have conquered!"
..."Phalanx? Gilda? Praetor, are you still there?"....
"Not now Vhesk," Phalanx spoke without breaking eye contact with the beast before him.
..."Scouts have pinpointed Lord Hircus himself near your location!"....
..."Yes! I suggest you flee immediately!"...
"That is no longer an option for them, flying swine. Soon, I will be visiting you as well!"
..."Oh dear. *click* "....
"Now, shall we finish our business here? If so, then I believe the time has come for your final words."
Gilda stared down the enormous dark king. "Last words? Really? You really are ancient."
"Ha ha! You two bring great amusement! You will make great companions for Lord Discord's family in the afterlife!" A surge of energy gathered around Hircus's horns. He stepped toward the two griffins. "Now, about those final words!"
"By the blood of the ancients-"
A ram straddling a large pandragon mount with a battle wagon secured underneath roared in from the glare of the sun. "Here's some words for ya! Die, freak show!" The pandragon and the heavy alliance vehicle below it crashed directly into the dark king, creating a massive plume of dust and flying debris.
As the dust began to settle, Gilda stared in amazement. "What just hapen-"
The ram stumbled out of the cloud of dust and held a hoof in the air. "Wait for it..."
The battle wagon's heavy-bolt ammunition detonated in all directions, sending multiple blasts into the surrounding area.
The ram put his hoof down. "I'd brought the dragon-lift battle wagon to help the prisoners, but I see you needed it more! Let's go! The rest of the free Caprastian forces are waiting just over the hill!"
"I- I-" Gilda stuttered. "Who are you?!"
Phalanx kept the ram from stumbling to the ground. "He's the only ram fool enough to ride a pandragon into battle! My old friend Berhal! It has certainly been a while! I'm afraid we have not time to catch up, as we need to find a relic and leave! Preferably now!"
"What about this? Our friend there dropped it." The ram held up a black onyx crown. "Will this do?"
The wreckage began to stir.
Phalanx grabbed the crown. "It will have to!"
The two griffins grabbed the ram by the shoulders and tore into the air.
Phalanx grabbed his radio with his spare talons. "Vhesk, do you hear?! Prepare your machine! We are on our way!"
..."I hear! We are already prepared!"...
The dark king's armies swarmed in from all directions to come to their king's aid. Dark blasts hurled past the escaping griffins and their Caprastian savior.
"Vhesk, we are making a break for it! Gather every single free solider and civilian we have left! We won't have long to make our escape!"
..."In that case, I bring some good news this time! Hircus didn't bother with most of the civilians! There are thousands of confused alliance citizens and Equestrians that have already gathered around to see the pillar! We are bringing them underground as we speak!"
Phalanx ducked to avoid an incoming blast. "Excellent! We will meet you in the caves as soon as we can! Protect the civilians at all costs!"
..."I understand! We will be waiting!"....
Commander Stuart entered Dr. Harrison's office. "Can you make this quick? The North Dakota is leaving port at King's Bay in three hours and I'd rather not be left behind on my own mission."
Harrison looked up from his paperwork. "If you're out searching for more anomalies, you might not have to go far. Take a look at these." He handed the commander a manila folder filled with spread sheets and data tables.
"What's this? More sensor results?"
"Anomalous readings. Funny thing is, the array is still completely offline and the next natural anomaly isn't for two weeks."
"I'm going to assume you have some kind of theory for this?" Stuart suggested.
"No, and that's what worries me. First the array cracks to life completely unexplained, then we get anomalous readings without any actual anomalies appearing."
"I can see why that would be frightening, but what exactly do you want me to do?"
"I want you to tell Admiral Gates to keep that sub of his near the coast. I get the feeling he won't have to go very far to find some answers to all of this."
"I'll ask very politely. Is that all?"
"Yes." Stuart put his hands on his head in exhaustion.
"I take it you didn't get much sleep last night."
"Heh. Things are getting a bit too weird around here for that."
Liberation Alliance Central Command Requisition File #305: Leviathan Class Airships
Few objects in our history have been as intimidating as the sight of a Leviathan Airship rising over the horizon. Based on the magnificent land based warships from our ancient past, griffin airships form the strong arm of the alliance fleet. The original design was developed in conjunction between the Griffin and Caprastian states, in what was actually the first joint operation between our two nations in the last two centuries. The very first of the class was serial number LAAS 0001, The Reckoning, of which the keel was laid more than thirty years ago. Boasting twelve heavy magma orb main cannons in four turrets, and more than three hundred fire-bolt caster deck turrets for defense against flying adversaries, this prototype airship is easily the single most powerful ship in the entire Liberation Alliance fleet. The ship itself is twice the size of the more common behemoth class airships, and was built to be a city-crushing, world-beating dreadnought. The bridge tower, which is slanted backward at an eighty-three degree angle for aerodynamic efficiency, is a proud symbol of Liberation Alliance strength and engineering spirit.
Though its power was unquestioned, Reckoning has never fired its weapons in anger. The amount of water required to create enough red cloud matter was impractical at best, and bankrupting at worst. Small lakes were drained to fuel the ship's massive vapor engines and create enough of cloud matter to keep the vessel positively buoyant. Eventually, these gross figures became too much for the early alliance military to afford. The vessel was mothballed and is currently berthed at Lake Avio in the griffin capital city of Gryphonii. Recently, talks have begun regarding the possible refitting and recommissioning of this massive ship.