"My minions! Tremble and know me as your Lord!"
A tremendous cheer rose from the gathered crowd; hooves stomped in applause and the icy walls of the city rang with joyful shouts and whistles. The city's central plaza was full; from the edge of the central stage all the way back to the stone streets that encircled the plaza, ponies were packed shoulder-to-shoulder. Many more leaned from the walkways of the higher street and from the windows and the rooftops; nearly the entire city had turned out for the speech. A sea of bright, pastel colors dotted the mixed stone and pale ice and dark iron of the city nearest. All attention was on the tall figure of Forgath, standing atop the stage towards one edge, clad in his full armor, freshly polished, his helmet adorned with the spiky crown of his rule. Behind him, in the very center of the stage, the pillar of dark fire yet blazed. Its flickering flames lapped out from the column as it rose high, leaving any who looked at it too long to perceive agonized shapes in its tongues. On the stage with him were a small court of ponies - just shy of a dozen. They stood proudly, two in their concealing robes, three in armor, and six in rather snazzy suits (all in properly dark tones, of course). To either side of the line upon the stage were two clusters of ponies, less extravagantly but no less formally dressed. They sent the occasional smile and wave out towards the crowd whenever Forgath was not looking - and as the Lord's attention moved from point to point in the crowd, he was not looking most of the time.
As the cheers died back to a manageable level, he continued. "Yes, my minions, be joyful, for you stand at the pinnacle of our achievement! One-thousand years ago to the day, your forebearers stood on this very spot, covered in snow, living in ramshackle tents, slowly dying in the cold. I met them there, lead by their undaunted chief, Forge Bellows." He was forced to pause as a portion of the crowd shouted "Puffy!" and others laughed, but he paid them no mind. "I offered them power and safety if they would join me, and look how far we have come!"
The cheers erupted again, echoing amid the Gothic architecture of the city.
"Our city stands, in defiance of the cold! Our city grows, in defiance of the windigo! Our city thrives, in defiance of all our foes!" Whoops and hollers followed each proclamation. "Never before have we been more mighty! Our warriors stand without fear, and our mages teach secrets that would sear the mind of lesser beings. But it is not just our generals and magi that are to be lauded," here, he turned and swept a hand to indicate the line of ponies behind him. "Our tradesmen, craftsmen, merchants, and administrators have made us not just mighty but prosperous. Be it mind or metal, coin or cloth, the world quakes when I stretch out my hand, and you are my reach. My most skilled and loyal stand before you; what say you, my minions?"
Once again, a great cheer arose. The line of exalted ponies stood a little straighter, smiles tugging at stoic lips as they basked in the praise of their people.
Turning to face the line, he continued. "Be proud, my generals, my magi, my keepers; you serve me well." A hand indicated the clusters to either side, one after another. "And the prized of our city; guild leaders, scholars, commanders, friends, all those who could be called noble - you too be proud."
If anything, there was a greater cheer that rose up; while relatively few in the crowd were close to the city's most illustrious, nearly everypony ended up knowing one or two of the "nobles", for they included those accomplished in nearly every craft, business, and pursuit. The groups largely tried to stand stoically as the illustrious had, but many couldn't resist a few waves or blown kisses, and one pink filly was all but pronking in place as she shouted "Yay, Dad!"
Resuming his slow turn, Forgath addressed the crowd after the cries again died down "Work hard, my minions; work hard and raise our city higher; show the world my power in your every step. Serve me well and obey, and together we shall make the next thousand years greater still than the last!"
There were a few ponies (and other beings) scattered through the plaza that seemed confused at all the cheering that some of this speech got, including visitors from elsewhere and a small number of diplomats, but nopony paid much attention to them; tourists are going to be tourists, after all. Still, it was not just the sight of this armored biped nor his questionable speech that they found odd, but the further sight of the tiny blue foal sitting atop his head. For throughout the entire speech she sat up there, looking out from behind the spikes of his crown, waving to the crowd and flapping little leathery wings as she giggled and babbled to herself. The less-confused portion of the crowd made a habit of waving back and making faces at the adorable little thing - at least so long as Forgath wasn't looking at them, of course. Forgath's slow turns and level gaze did nothing to dislodge her; she seemed perfectly content to sit up there.
"And so, let the millennial celebration begin!"
One last whoop from the crowd, a flare from the pillar of flame, and the crowd began to break up, moving to the various shops that lined the plaza and the stalls that lined the nearby streets. Carts of food and knicknacks were pushed into the plaza proper once the crowd started to thin, and the festivities began in earnest. Over the day and well into the night ponies would feast and celebrate, in deference to their dark lord's order of course.
As the ponies from the stage made their way to the stairs to join in the ruckus themselves, Forgath made his way over to one of the groups - and was met halfway by the pronking pink filly who had shouted out earlier. She bounded her way around him in a little circle, her yellow pigtails bouncing as she chattered excitedly. "Dad, Dad, Dad, Dad, Dad, can we go? Can we play some games? I wanna play some games and win a stuffed bat and eat some taffy and and and...."
"Settle down, settle down. First, let's get you and your sister some food."
Later that evening when they arrived back at The Tower of Despair, a little filly was still enthralled.
"...And did you see the way I threw the ball? It went right into the cup! That's how I won my new stuffed duck!"
"Mmmmhm, I was there." Forgath inclined his head slightly to the guards as he passed, getting a giggle from the foal atop who had wanted to ride home and now rocked forward, forcing him to steady his helmet. The guards, plenty stoic, stamped a quick salute. They pointedly ignored the few plush toys and similar fair fare their lord carried in a bag at his side.
"And the popcorn! That stuff was good! You should tell somepony to import more of that!"
"And when we got to play Pin the Dagger in the Traitor? I got it on the first try!"
"Hey, the tail counts!"
"If you say so."
She stuck out her tongue at him, blowing a smiling little raspberry. "You're just jealous."
"I missed on purpose."
"Sure Dad, Suuuuure."
As they reached the apartments (passing further guards), Forgath gingerly plucked the foal from atop his head, who whined and wiggled until she got a belly-tickling. Once she was safely set on the floor to play and watched by her sister, he went about removing his armor. The gauntlets went first, unstrapped and freeing a pair of blackened hands. The helmet second, placed upon the top of a convenient rack. Boots and greaves and gorget and cuirass followed, one after the next. With his magic to help, eventually he was left in more simple fare; a tunic, pants, and a shirt of fine chain over his chest.
"So, can we stay up late tonight?"
"No. Little fillies need their sleep so they can grow up to be strong."
"Aw, but everyone else is staying up!"
"The adults are, yes."
"C'mon, we'll behave!" Here she indicated her younger sister, who blew a raspberry in support.
"Hah. Dinner, and then bed."
She gave him her best pout, a hoof poking at his leg as he passed. "Daaaaad, I'm serious!"
Forgath's instincts perked. Turning slowly, he looked down on her with his stony gaze. Her eyes widened; she recognized her mistake, but it was too late now. Forgath leaned a little closer, the beginning of dark mirth welling up within him. The filly raised her hooves, as if to ward off what she knew was coming, but it was in vain. Forgath opened his mouth, and spoke the most cruel words he possibly could.
"Hi Serious; I'm Dad."
After dinner arrived and was eaten, the pair of fillies had played until they tired and then nestled up against their father to listen to him read. It wasn't long before they were dozing, the smaller in his lap and the other against his side.
Forgath reached down, his hands still free of their gauntlets. He reached for things familiar, soft and dear. He gently stroked the manes of his two drowsy foals and they nestled closer. Parting at his touch, running in soft locks, their hair passed through his fingers. The rest was tended to soon enough; he pet the foals a few more times, getting little yawns that betrayed just what his daughters needed. Lifting the ponies gently into his arms, he made his way towards the bedrooms; there was some wiggling and one tired objection, but he paid it no mind. Soon they rested in bed and crib, sleeping soundly. Their dreams would come. And Forgath knew, as he long had, that he had purpose.