The blizzard raged all around them as they fell upon the unsuspecting wraiths with the might of a tidal wave. But even as Ganondorf unleashed a deluge of flames against their opponents while the other ponies added to the assault, Zelda was already giving orders.
“Fierce Breeze, create a perimeter and keep them away long enough for me to set the ritual!” Zelda’s firm voice cut through the howling winds of the blizzard as the group pushed against the wraiths that had been attacking the village. “Keep close and do not stray far!”
“You heard the mare! Move it!” Fierce Breeze snarled as she led her fellow pegasus straight against any of the creatures that dared approach the airspace above where the villagers had apparently bunkered down at. The winged ponies roared as one and followed their leader in a display that brought a tiny smile to Ganondorf’s muzzle. There may still be some hope in turning these ponies into proper warriors after all.
“Sure Shot, you and Forest go and reinforce the defensive line!” the Princess commanded the two earth ponies trotting beside her. The first immediately nodded and rushed to do as she was told, and the second following along after giving Ganondorf a quick look before her features firmed into a look of pure determination.
“Ganondorf, all the ponies are at or near that main structure!” Zelda shouted as she unleashed a barrage of spell fire towards the enemy, joining the Dark Lord’s own blasts of flame in thinning their numbers before they got started with their annoying multiplication trick. The Wielder of Wisdom looked him straight in the eye and said in perfect seriousness, “Don’t worry about collateral damage to the rest of the village and deal with their numbers!”
Despite the whole situation, the King of Thieves felt a massive fanged smile grow on his muzzle at the princess’ words. Miss prim and proper herself giving him carte blanche to go all out for a change? Now that was something you didn’t see every day!
“Gladly!” he gleefully shouted as he allowed the fires of his soul to surge forth, to grow from a mere bonfire into a raging inferno as he gathered his magical might. A moment of focus, a flex of will, and he swung his greatsword downwards and covered the northern sky in flame.
A hungry look in his eyes, Ganondorf surged forth amidst the trail of destruction he had just caused. His booming laughter fought for supremacy against the wraiths’ shrieks and howls as he left the defensive line far behind and dove straight at the heart of the enemy horde.
Fire and flame enveloped his surroundings with each swing and strike. Enemy after enemy fell before him as he tested the mettle of these frozen beasts’ unending horde against his own might, and found them wanting.
Forget annoying feelings and useless distractions! Now this, this was what he lived for!
To fight, struggle and overcome! To better oneself upon the anvil of conflict! To forsake the silly masks of society and instead embrace the purity of battle! To seek to ascend past one’s limits and excel against all odds!
Ice and hail rained against his form to no avail. Foes surrounded him from all sides, only for the unending sea of enemies to part before him, as mere pebbles before the greatness of an avalanche.
Swing, strike, dodge, parry. He fell into an easy rhythm brought forth by eons of practice as he filled the frozen air with fury and flame. He never stopped moving, each step perfectly balanced and calculated, swinging his massive greatsword as if it weighed nothing.
As what seemed like hundreds of enemies surged forth in an attempt to end his life. As the roar of the flames battled for supremacy against the raging howling winds of the ever growing blizzard. As he faced his foes apparently limitless numbers, while Zelda got ready to move the non-combatants away. Ganondorf forgot all the annoyances and irritations that had been bothering him these last few days as he showed to all and sundry why he was the Wielder of the Triforce of Power!
The world had once made sense. That was the thought that reverberated through Sure Shot’s mind as she took aim before unleashing a beam of solidified light against a shrieking wraith. You tended to the crops; took care of your fellow earth ponies; and above all else, you did not trust the other two tribes no matter what.
That was the truth, pure and simple, a reality as immutable as the very earth beneath their hooves. Only… that apparently wasn’t the case anymore.
“I’ll be unable to aid in the defense as I finish the teleportation circle! Keep each other safe and do not drop your guard,” Zelda shouted to be heard above the howling winds and the sounds of the raging battle. As she spoke, the white-coated unicorn swiftly drew several strange symbols upon the ground with her blade.
“Yes, milady,” the other unicorn that had apparently been leading the defense immediately shouted as he unleashed a jet of flame from his wand, protecting Sure Shot’s left flank as she took aim at another wraith and ended its miserable existence in an explosion of light. “It shall be done!”
Forest, with the aid of the pegasi flying above, made sure to take down any of the beasts that got close enough in order to threaten the defensive line. All while Ganondorf did his very best to level over half of Fire Stone to the ground and set the rest on fire just for good measure, in a display of magical might that would put most unicorns to shame. Sure Shot came to the conclusion that the world had indeed stopped making sense for some time now.
Two more light arrows cut through the air, taking down two of the beasts that were trying to be clever and bombard everypony from afar with hail and ice. She could feel the bone deep tiredness that the arrows caused starting to seep into her body. But nonetheless she soldiered on. Draw the string and nock an arrow. Take aim and shoot. Rinse and repeat as more and more of the ancestors-forsaken freakish creatures fell before the magical arrows she had been gifted, by a unicorn of all beings. With apparently no strings attached or demands of payment!
Yes, the world had indeed stopped making sense when she hadn’t been paying attention.
Eyes narrowed in determination, the ranger took down a wraith about to strike a pegasus from behind. Two pegasi aided Forest against a group of the creatures and three earth pony villagers aided the unicorn with the fire wand in warding more of the creatures away with shovels full of burning coal.
Focus! Draw the string. Nock the arrow. Aim and shoot. She could deal with the rest of the insanity later.
In the end it didn’t matter to her if the world had stopped making sense or not. For, as pegasus, earth pony and unicorn fought together against a common threat, as members of the Three Tribes actually worked together for what had to be the first time in living memory, Sure Shot decided that if it meant the safety of her loved ones, she would fully embrace the sheer insanity that these three crazy ponies had brought forth into her life.
And if that meant she was crazy too, she thought as she nocked a new arrow and took aim, then so be it.
“How could this possibly work?” Wonder Bolt asked in sheer incredulity. Eyes locked at the end of the corridor where the patrol that had just gone by had disappeared moments ago. “I mean… just… how?”
“People very rarely look up,” Link promptly replied with a small nod. His words sounded as if he was sharing something of great importance with the azure-coated pegasus.
“We are a flying race for bucks sake!” Bolt indignantly pointed out as he gestured towards their flapping wings. The fact both of them were hovering near the ceiling of the corridor just reinforced the fact. “How could they possibly not think to look up? By the great winds, it’s just common sense!
“It doesn’t matter that the only other flying races around are the dragons and the gryphons and how neither species would recognize stealth if it hit them on the head with a war hammer!” he kept hissing, hooves gesturing wildly even as both ponies lowered themselves back to the floor. “Searching everything during a patrol is basic procedure! Not doing so is just shortsighted, idiotic and sloppy to the extreme!”
“From my personal experience, I tend to find that the intelligence of the average guard is not that high,” Link helpfully pointed out.
Trying not to glare at the green pony calmly flapping his wings as they got back to the floor, Wonder Bolt dearly wished he could refute Link’s words. But sadly, he could not. When the green pony had first told him his plan of how to ‘hide’ by basically going up and getting out of line of sight, Bolt nearly had a heart attack. He had been sure that was it, that there would be simply no way that they wouldn’t be discovered and the whole mission would be put into jeopardy.
That had been five patrols ago.
This was the fifth patrol they had avoided by simply flying up towards the ceiling and ‘hiding’ by staying between the wall and one of the columns keeping said ceiling up! And even worse! Out of the five patrols, out of the dozens of ponies composing said patrols, only a single pony had bothered to look up for even a moment!
“This is just embarrassing,” he bemoaned as he fought the urge to face-hoof at the level of competency displayed by his fellow pegasi today.
He grumbled about the stupidity of it all for a few moments longer as they went deeper and deeper into Pegasopolis. By the great winds, he knew he shouldn’t be complaining about it since it was actually helping them on their mission, but this could not be allowed to stand! What if they were actual enemies to the Armada?!
“Don’t worry about it too much. It’s an incredibly common problem if you bother to pay attention,” Link added with a small shrug of his wings. Bolt simply let out a tired sigh and decided to focus on the current crisis. Restructuring the training of the patrol squads could be tackled when they weren’t fighting for the survival of pony-kind.
They walked in silence for a couple of minutes, as the sun slowly started to go down on the western horizon. Twice more they were forced to go up towards the ceiling. Neither patrol bothered to look up, which made Bolt reinforce the thought not to forget this problem. But, save that, things were proceeding incredibly well for a change. They probably would reach the center of the western quadrant and the barracks under Colonel Shake Spear’s command shortly.
“Bolt, would you mind answering me a question?” Link asked, breaking the silence. The corporal simply gave his odd companion a look for a moment before answering.
“Sure, what do you want to ask?”
“Is racism and prejudice as prevalent amidst the pegasi as the meetings we have had so far lead me to believe?” the green-coated pegasus calmly asked, as if he was inquiring about the weather and not an incredibly sensitive topic.
“Yes. And no,” Wonder Bolt answered after a few moments to organize his thoughts as they stopped at a corner and took a quick look to make sure the area was clear. “It’s complicated.”
“Oh?” Link wordlessly asked for further clarification as they moved towards a large closed reinforced door at the end of the corridor.
“What you need to understand is that pegasi like you and me, who had first hoof experience with the other tribes, are few and far between,” the corporal said with a tired sigh as Link moved towards the cloud wall right next to the large closed door barring their path and proceeded to make a hole in it, bypassing the obstacle entirely. “The vast majority of our tribe almost never interacts with ground dwellers. And when they do interact with them, that interaction tends to take the form of a mission for the Armada.
“Missions that more often than not involve conflict of some kind with said ground dwellers,” he continued as they passed through the hole before Link proceeded to close it. Bolt still wasn’t sure if this newly found method of bypassing the Armada’s defenses deserved his attention later on or not. After all, how many ponies could boast to have Link’s downright insane magical reserves? “Which, in turn, causes them to have a negative impression of non-pegasi. An impression that is slowly reinforced as the years go by with little to no positive interaction with the other tribes. And that can easily lead to prejudice and the sorry sights you have been witness to.”
“I see,” Link thoughtfully said as they continued on their journey. His eyes briefly looked at Bolt’s before he faced forward once again. “And yet, despite that, and their prejudice towards your own person, you still remain steadfast in your loyalty towards them. Commendable.”
Bolt blushed at the frank compliment, coughed and picked up the pace. “It’s not that I don’t see that the Armada has its issues, I know that. But that doesn’t change the fact that it also does a lot of good and is basically all that stands between pony-kind and the dangers of the world.
“What is needed is to fix those faults. To right those wrongs and allow our brethren to see that the other tribes also have their virtues,” he spoke more to himself than to his companion. His mind reminisced at the vague dream he had started to harbor ever since meeting his father’s family for the first time. “To show that the treaty between the Three Tribes is not merely a piece of parchment, to make it so that we can actually work together in mutual aid, so that the act of stepping forward to help another is not something worthy of note, but instead something… normal.”
“So you desire to be a hero,” Link immediately answered in a calm and collected tone. Only the small smile on his features betrayed any of his thoughts about the matter.
“What? No!” Wonder Bolt replied in shocked surprise. Actually stopping moving for a moment, before he shook his head and rushed back towards the still calmly trotting green pegasus’ side. “I just want to help change this stupid outdated mindset, that’s all!”
Link stopped moving. He looked Bolt straight in the eyes for a long moment, and when the azure-coated pegasus started to fidget in place, he spoke.
“Anyone who wants to change the world must first overcome it,” he spoke, his serene voice carrying within it an undercurrent of strength that seemed to consume Bolt’s entire focus. “If the derision the Armada shows towards the other two tribes is as widespread as what I’ve seen so far. And if most of the other two tribes respond in kind, then any chance of change will only be possible if those seeking the change are strong enough to shatter the old in order to erect the new.
“A hero, a true hero, is one who overcomes life’s misfortunes.” he continued, eyes never straying from Wonder Bolt’s. Each word was burdened by a weight Bolt could barely fathom. “One who challenges the world despite all odds in order to right its wrongs. No more and no less.”
And with those words the green-coated pony turned around and continued to trot down the corridor, as if nothing of note had just happened. Bolt stood there fixed on the spot for a moment longer before he let out a breath he hadn’t noticed he had been holding.
With a vigorous shake of his head he tried to focus on the matter at hoof as he galloped after Link. Even so, he couldn’t help but keep thinking at the strange pegasus’ words.
Limelight really wondered what he could possibly have done in a past life to have deserved this. It was undoubtedly quite serious, but at the same time it couldn’t be that bad, could it? After all, help had come against all odds when all hope seemed lost!
Though, that didn’t change the fact that he was still, somehow, at the very frontline of battle against monsters straight out of a fairy tale, while prominently figuring in what looked more and more like a story straight from the Age of Legends.
“Get down!” he shouted to the orange-coated mare that, somehow, seemed able to actually hit the specters with her bare hooves. She ducked low as he shot a jet of flame against one of the creatures that sought to end them all, destroying it before it could strike at her back.
Getting a short nod from the mare, he moved backwards so he could stay side by side with the sea green ranger shooting what looked like rays of light out of a bow of all things! If not for the biting cold, the pain from the myriad of small injuries and scratches covering his form, and the deep tiredness plaguing his whole body, the young troubadour would easily think he was having a very vivid nightmare of some kind.
“Stoke the fires! There is no need to save coal!” he shouted to the villagers, who immediately ran to fulfill his demand. “We need to keep the beasts back until Lady Zelda is done! Stay together and do not falter!”
A roaring wall of flame all but consumed the northern part of the village, as the massive earth pony wielding the even more massive magical sword of terrible might added to the surreal feeling of it all. Before today he had been certain that earth ponies capable of freely expressing magic in a visible way was the stuff of tales and songs, myths and legends. But with three different examples standing right in front of him, he would have to seriously reconsider that notion.
Letting out an undignified squeak, he dropped low to the ground in order to avoid having his head impaled by a spear of ice. Luckily no one appeared to have heard him due to the sounds of battle and the raging blizzard. And even better, the ranger had destroyed the beast that attacked him with another ray of light out of her bow.
“The circle is almost done! Be prepared to protect the non combatants as they are teleported away!” the war mage added as she continued to work at the mind bogglingly complex spell matrix she was drawing. Something that would apparently teleport the entirety of the village population away towards another circle she had prepared beforehoof.
It was just another bout of insanity to this already insane day! But Limelight knew better than to question a war mage! If she said that the array could teleport ponies several miles away, then it would teleport ponies several miles away, no matter what his sensibilities had to say about the likelihood of that working.
“Yes milady, it shall be done!” Limelight promptly replied, fighting the urge to bow low as he unleashed another jet of flame. Truth be told, he had no idea if the mare was even a noble or not. But nonetheless, she was a war mage, and only the most foalish of idiots would fail to show one of their numbers the proper respect.
The fabled spell casters were renowned far and wide for their skill and power. Something that was only reinforced by the fact that all the awe inspiring displays of magic the mare had shown so far had been done without the presence of any artifacts or magical items on her being, no runes or artificial boosters of any kind, nothing to add to her magic but her own power.
Only the best and brightest could ever dream of becoming a war mage. Many great and gifted unicorns toiled for years in search of such a title. And most of them failed the endeavor regardless. It was, in fact, one of the only two positions in the whole kingdom where money and status was not enough to buy a haughty useless noble into. And considering how the other position where that held true was the bucking Arch-Mage, that was saying something.
So, only the truly foolish would not show one of their august numbers the proper respect. Which was why, when the mare had commanded him to aid to the defense as she prepared her ritual, he had promptly agreed while doing his level best to appear enthusiastic about it. Facing the ravenous horde of ice spirits was probably far healthier than angering her, after all.
Another massive wave of fire proceeded to consume more of the already merrily burning village of Fire Stone, making him flinch in place. All the while the massive earth pony that was the cause of said fire kept laughing despite dozens of the beasts attacking him from all sides.
Fighting down his incredulity and shock, the silver-coated unicorn continued to use his new wand to send jet after jet of flame against the creatures as he focused on something far more important than what looked like a tale straight out of legend come to life - his continued survival.
“It’s done, start sending the villagers!” that survival had become far more likely as the massive array started to glow a fierce blue hue and thrum with magical power.
“As you will, Lady Zelda!” he enthusiastically said as he started to push the ponies to make great haste! After all, the faster the non combatants left the field and went to safety, the faster he could leave too.
And so the young troubadour redoubled his efforts in keeping the beasts at bay. Something now infinitely easier thanks to the awe-inspiring magic barrage Lady Zelda was unleashing against the creatures.
It looked like they would actually survive the day! Things were definitely looking up!
As the teleportation array he had just gone through powered down, Ganondorf couldn’t help but smile as he cracked his neck in order to loosen his muscles. Now that had been a very enjoyable way to end the day!
“That’s everybody. Proceed to seeing to any injured immediately,” Zelda promptly started, even as the blue glow of the array hadn’t faded completely. “Honored elder, I trust that the medical supplies had been made ready?”
Seriously, that mare really had to learn to relax a little! Especially since Ganondorf knew that the Wielder of Wisdom had to be feeling the magical strain of powering such a massive teleportation gate. And yet, regardless of that, he knew that the self-sacrificing idiot was going to proceed to heal as many people as possible.
“Yes, all is ready and prepared, and we have already started treating the villagers,” Old Oak promptly replied as he gestured towards an area near the wagons where several temporary tents had been erected.
“Very well, I shall go aid them immediately,” was Zelda’s far too predictable reply as she started towards said tents. Stubborn to a fault, as always.
He took in her swiftly departing form bathed by the light of the setting sun. Oh, she was hiding it well, the Dark Lord would give her that, but to him it was clear that she was nowhere near one hundred percent. He pondered what, if anything, he should do about that for a moment… until Forest called him, breaking his train of thought.
“Ganondorf, is something wrong?” the lightly panting orange-coated mare asked, her eyes moving from the tent Zelda had just entered to him. That made him decide that second guessing himself was a waste of time, he had always been one for action and damn the consequences, after all.
“Hey, Old Timer, do keep an eye on Zelda, will you,” he bluntly stated. Better to make sure she wouldn’t burn out, than risk her not being able to help when the frozen beasties inevitably attacked again.
“Is there a problem with her?” the elder seriously asked as he stopped on his tracks and gave Ganondorf his full attention.
“Look, the magical cost of a teleportation spell is directly proportional to both the distance travelled and the mass relocated,” the Dark Lord quickly summarized the situation to his now very attentive audience. “Fancy rune circle or not, those things become magic drains fast!
“So while she made it look easy, the truth is that you can count the number of people that can pull off what she did in one ha- Oh right, guess that saying doesn’t make sense anymore,” the Wielder of Power trailed off as he briefly looked at his hooves for a moment, to the slight confusion of both earth ponies. “Anyway, my point is that that self sacrificing idiot has got to be exhausted, and it wouldn’t surprise me if she kept healing ponies until she eventually falls down unconscious.
“So just keep an eye on her to make sure that doesn’t happen. It won’t do if she is not able to help should something else happen later on,” he finished with a serious nod, happy he managed to actually explain the situation.
A brief moment of silence followed his words, before a small smile appeared on Old Oak’s muzzle.
“You are a good friend,” the elder stated out of nowhere. Which made Ganondorf question if maybe he hadn’t explained himself right after all. “Rest assured, I’ll make sure Zelda does not exhaust herself.”
“Whatever,” he promptly replied, a strange feeling of discomfort now making itself known to him. “Now come on, Forest. There is no time to dilly dally. Let’s go check the perimeter.”
And with those words he swiftly turned around and power-walked away from the still smiling elder, Forest right on his heels, grumbling all the while that he knew he shouldn’t have bothered speaking about Zelda’s idiotic little habits.
As he watched the slowly setting sun from one of the large windows of his personal office, Colonel Shake Spear pondered about the problems that had been pilling higher and higher these past few days.
With an aggravated huff the cream-coated pegasus turned around, the many curling ringlets of his wiry black mane catching on the late evening wind as he coiffed his perfectly trimmed beard in thought.
Things were getting more and more complicated, it seemed. Colonel Winter Gale had become even more militaristic as of late, something he didn’t even think was possible. Add that to the very odd reports he had been getting, and said colonel’s not-so-secret meetings with Colonel Thunderstrike. Not to mention the fact that the northern barracks were acting like a kicked wasp nest for the past few hours. The picture that started to appear really wasn’t very pleasing.
All of it happening while Commander Hurricane was away trying to make sure the unicorns hadn’t completely lost their minds compounded the issue.
“How vexing,” he tiredly spoke with a shake of his head as he moved away from the window. The last few rays of the setting sun highlighted his cutie mark of a spear crossed with a writing quill.
Truly, that had been terrible timing on the part of the Commander. But then again, it was not as if he could let whatever new insanity was assailing the unicorns pass by without complaint. An answer was needed for why they had suddenly changed the cycle of the celestial spheres without prior warning, after all.
But, nonetheless, Hurricane’s absence complicated things.
It wasn’t exactly a secret that Winter Gale wanted Hurricane’s position. And with the commander away dealing with the unicorns, Shake Spear feared that it wouldn’t be long before his fellow colonel did something untoward, ill advised and, quite frankly, downright stupid.
He wondered what exactly could be done, until his train of thought was cut short as he heard a strange faint bubbling sound. He turned around in search of the source of the weird sound, now clearly audible, only to stop and stare in fascination as he saw one of the cloud walls of his office start to ‘ripple’ outwards, for lack of a better term.
“How curious,” he sincerely stated, keen eyes taking in the odd phenomenon with interest, even as he walked towards his desk and took his ornate spear out of its holster. You simply didn’t get to his age by not taking some sensible precautions every now and then.
A moment later, his wall now sported a new hole more than wide enough to allow a pony to easily pass through. Something that was immediately put to test as two pegasi proceeded to do just that the very next moment. One was a calm and collected looking green-coated young lad with a marvelous blonde mane, and the other a very nervous looking azure-coated one with a very striking neon green mane.
He stood there, spear ready at his side, wondering how exactly to proceed in regards to these two strange interlopers, or who they were for that matter. The azure-coated one started to sport a very brittle smile and fidget in place, before his features took a resolute look and he gave him a salute.
“Colonel Shake Spear, sir! Corporal Wonder Bolt, forty second patrol squad, I bring you an urgent missive from Sergeant Fierce Breeze, sir!”
A moment of silence followed. Blinking once in both surprise and slight befuddlement, Colonel Shake Spear couldn’t help but think that this was the most unique way anypony had ever delivered a missive to him.