The Night is Dark and Full of Terrors

by Fanatic-Heretic-101

Prologue: Children of the Night


A mighty ringing sound shatters Dusk Spectre’s sleep, a whistle being blown with full force by the garrison’s stallion Earth Pony commander who hustles down the lines of bunk beds, blowing the whistle more and even directly at those slow to react. RRRRRRRR! “Wake up, you fruit addicts!” RRRRRRRR! He spouts with conviction, such a display soon mobilising every Bat Pony Legionnaire in the barracks to awaken. What moments before was a dead silent pitch black room, now teams alive with dozens of troopers rapidly making their beds and standing at attention, cyan coloured torchlights across the walls illuminating the barracks after having been lit by magic from Unicorn lieutenants accompanying the commander. 

Rushing as fast as possible and disregarding his tiredness away to the best extent, Dusk Spectre completes his bed and stands to attention alongside his comrades, everypony dressed in dark purple and black attire of the Lunar Empire’s uniform. A few late comers were smoked by the commander, having been “encouraged” to do better next time, but before long everypony was ready for what was to follow, something the commander made clear as day, “If you cave dwellers can move as fast through the obstacle course as you are at making beds, I just might start being impressed. Let’s see how quick you are this time without wings. Move out!”

“Yes sir!” Shouts every soldier back in unison, turning to jog out of the barracks in systematic lines following the commander, Dusk amongst them and in the front quarter. 

Upon exiting the barracks, silver rays of the full Moon that stands almighty in the star-filled sky’s centre above shines across Dusk Spectre's body, a subtle chill from the wind traveling up his spine that despite said silver rays being magically enchanted by the Moon to provide daylight warmth without the brightness, still makes him shiver initially. However with each passing moment of physical activity from the running, Dusk’s body soon warms until the temperature was no longer a bother. 

The soldiers run through the courtyard of the restored Castle of the Two Sisters (now named the Lunar Castle) and out the front gates, their route predetermined through the immediate area of the Everfree Forest surrounding the castle to be a series of twists and turns broken up by prolonged straight stretches filled with small hills and trenches to traverse. Several obstacles were also placed throughout the trail such as monkey bars to climb across, walls to scale, barbed wire to crawl under, weighted ruck bags to transport to various checkpoints and vertical logs to weave around, in addition to pull-up bars to be used, jumping jacks and push-up sessions along the way. 

“Let’s go, you mango munchers! I want to see the same enthusiasm for this that you would have for eating that fruit!” Demands the commander, leading everypony through the trail; a behaviour that the Lunar Empire prides itself on for having superiors who lead by example and from the front, just as their Night Goddess did during the Civil War. 

It would total to one hour of this rigorous training until completion, consisting of not only the physical demands but also the mental demands of having to repeatedly recite the Empire’s constitution and praise the God-Empress in perfect timing, all with fanatic zeal. Plenty of troops had fallen behind with heavy panting and slacking postures only to be “motivated” by the Unicorn lieutenants, who brought up the rear, to stand up straight and continue running longer. Dusk himself was one such Pony to fall behind halfway through the training and receive “encouragement”, but by the final quarter he had managed to regain his initial position in the group and keep it.

Breathing deep inhales and exhales, Dusk at last runs out of the Everfree Forest as the imposing Castle fills his vision with its shadowy silhouette, morale-breaking battlements and piercing tall spires - the finish line. Fuelled by final drops of energy Dusk reaches the courtyard and comes to a stop within it, soreness aching across his muscles, his lungs burning. The Bat Pony hangs his head alongside his comrades, all panting and attempting to recover as fast as possible with the commander (seemingly not as exhausted as everypony else) yelling for them to stand up straight, “Real Legionnaires bow to the Empress, not to fatigue!”

More and more soldiers return to the courtyard across every moment, more and more taking their time to at last recover now that the training has finished. A couple minutes after Dusk’s return marks the final trooper’s arrival and the lieutenants trailing him with profanity for being last place. For a few moments longer preceding everypony having recovered fully, Dusk scans the surrounding group, noting 8/10 of the Legionnaires to be stallions with the rest mares, all of whom including himself now being ordered to, “Find your battle buddies and stand at attention together!”

Dusk obliges, searching for his companions with haste, ducking and weaving between others in the large bustling group until he catches sight of them; four other Bat Ponies, three stallions and a mare, waving him over. Jogging to his squad, Dusk soon stands between them and at their centre, displaying a straight proud posture alongside the others. In what was a random though fast alteration that took seconds, squads of the Lunar Castle’s garrison are now arranged in symmetric clusters worthy of an empire’s troop formations. Walking between the ranks, the commander firmly assesses the squads with a prying gaze, shouting at some ponies to dust their uniform down, stand up straighter, or to take a few steps back/forward to be in perfect line with others, his lieutenants offering the same for each column.

Eventually the squads were arranged in satisfactory formations within the Castle’s courtyard, surrounded by the fortress’ towering stone walls that were draped in banners of the Lunar Empire’s flag, the symbolism embracing everypony who were present. One particular large flag that the troops all face consists of the commander standing beneath it, flanked on both sides by his lieutenants, as they too retain a formal posture and firm analytic expressions.

Taking a deep breath in, the commander begins, “Never forget, the Ponies standing shoulder to shoulder with you embodies the most powerful weapon any soldier can have; their brothers and sisters in arms. You can have the sharpest of swords, the most resilient of armours, and the most destructive of spells, but all of it will pale in comparison to what the undying determination of a soldier's morale can offer, fuelled by fighting for their fellow Ponies.

“The Lunar Empire was not founded on the efforts of a single Pony, but with the blood, sweat and tears of many. Even our God-Empress Nightmare Moon required us mortals to win the Civil War and vanquish the tyranny of the Solar Empire. So never forget the importance of your fellow Ponies. Fight for them, they are your strongest weapons and you are theirs’. Praise the Moon!” Burning with imperial faith, the commander holds out a straight hand to draw an imaginary C in the air before pulling said hand over his heart - a drawn crescent moon being pulled into his heart - the salute of the Lunar Empire.

“PRAISE THE MOON!” Shouts every soldier back, including Dusk, in a volume to rival the Canterlot Voice, all present performing the same salute and not one a moment out of timing. 

“Bat Ponies, report to your assigned combat training yards at the appropriate time your squad was given! Let’s see if your dummy killing skills are as remarkable as your fruit killing skills.”