Fists of the Evening Star

by Vermillion Prose

5 - A Day in the Life

Sparks danced across the crystal floor of one of the Friendship Castle atriums. Blades clashed as Hesperos and Te’kan sparred. Te’kan was clad in his battle plate, as he had been during the changeling intervention. It had taken months of work to restore it to function, only achieved with the combined knowledge of the Thousand Son and fine magical control at Twilight’s command. Some of the components were of inferior quality, as Equestria lacked the means to fabricate some of the esoteric materials used in its original manufacture, but power armor had been restored to function with lesser resources available. The Heresy and millenia of war had seen to that.

Spike watched from a balcony as the astartes sparred, observing the difference in their movements and sword styles.  Hesperos was not quite as swift as the Salamander, but each sweep, parry, and thrust had an almost aquatic economy of motion and fluid grace. Te’kan’s style suited his controlled, fiery temperament. His motions were sure and sudden, volcanic explosions of motion followed by calm before the onslaught resumed. His defense was intractable, his offense relentless.

The flare of cascading brilliance intensified as blades locked for a grapple, the power field of the power axe Te’kan had recovered from the crash site fitfully attempting to overwhelm the subtler energies of the psychically imbued khopesh sliding along its weighty edge. Te’kan shifted the blade lock suddenly to hook his opponent’s weapon and tear it away, but Hesperos countered with a wrenching motion of his own that ultimately saw the weapons slip from both their hands to rattle-clang to the crystal floor. The clash of ceramite greaves signalled their grapple to passers-by.

Spike was about to shove another handful of popcorn into his mouth when Twilight sprinted in, aghast, and pleaded with them to stop fighting. She grew understandably confused when Spike laughed raucously from the balcony, and she turned back to see Te’kan grinning as the two casually disengaged and Te’kan settled into banter.

It had taken quite some time for the Salamander to adjust to his new life living and working with the colorful equines of his new home, and even longer to break the hidebound suspicion and automatic hatred of the Thousand Son.  After long, tense nights filled with minor quarrels (which ensured Twilight was ever fearful of a relapse), and the intervention of other ponies with checkered pasts seeking to mend fences millenia old, Te’kan had come to a cool comradeship with Hesperos in service to Twilight. Though he had not sworn himself to the princess the same as Hesperos had, the humanitarian mien of the Salamanders had meshed quite well with the Equestrian mentality, and he had found himself more inclined to defend the ponies and build a legacy of triumph over monsters and legends. One day, he reminded them, he would return to his chapter with more stories than they could dream. Hesperos likened him to the warrior poets of the old legion, which Te’kan had taken to heart.

Starlight trotted in, rolling her eyes as she moved to retrieve the discarded weapons, giving the curved sword a flourish, and smiling at the approving nod of the Thousand Son. She had been studying magic with him of late, and even bladework. Officially, at least, that was what Twilight had allowed. She did not need to know about the plasma pistol safely tucked away under Starlight’s bed. She floated the axe over to Te’kan, who nodded his thanks as he took it from her mage grasp, then fell into step beside Hesperos as they left to begin their lessons for the day.

For Spike, it was his signal to grab the bundle of parchment he had laid down nearby and run down to join Te’kan. He had taken to be a scribe for the giant warrior when he was not occupied working with Twilight or his personal goals. Today he was tackling tasks for Twilight and Te’kan both, as he learned and recorded more cultural and historical notes. It was less tedious work when it so intrigued him. The Salamander also respected him in a way no one else seemed to. It had shaken him at first when he had finally learned of the ritual hunt for the warrior’s namesake that saw him elevated to a space marine, but he understood the bestial nature of the animal in question and what it represented in their harsher reality. It had driven him to expand his own worldview, and he had begun to grow in more ways than one.

Twilight offered a sigh filled with equal parts long-suffering and amusement at the way things played out this day. Just another day in Ponyville. She frowned. That was what had been bothering her of late. It was just another day in Ponyville.

Why was she beginning to share Hesperos’s sense of foreboding?