A sigh escaped the lips of a midnight black unicorn, a sheet of paper vanishing in a flash of purple flames. A letter of utmost importance, one he had penned with great care.
This letter was one that must be delivered, starting in motion a plan over a hundred years in the making. A knock on his door drew him out of his thoughts as he turned from his desk.
"Lord Nightfire? The preparations for departure have been completed. What are your orders?" The swung open to reveal a stallion clad in dark armor emblazoned with a crescent moon. A set of crossed swords was painted underneath it; the one on the right colored red, and the left a light blue.
The Symbol of the Shadow Guard.
"The Night Guard are to be dispatched immediately. Our base must be complete when we extract our Queen; otherwise it will all be for naught. Hold only three squads of the Night Guard back. We will need them to go to Canterlot as the advance party." Nightfire stated, his tone commanding. "The Shadow Guard has seven hours to get their affairs in order. Make no mistake; we're not all coming back from this. The Infiltration Corps are in place in Canterlot already. They'll slow down the advance, but it's the Shadow Guard's duty to do the heavy hitting."
The soldier saluted, the very picture of discipline, yet not leaving. "And the Plan has not changed?"
"Nay. The plan remains the same. Secure the Elements, our Queen, and our base. All other objectives are....secondary. Send Battalion one, two, and five to Cloudsdale. The mark must be taken, or destroyed. If you cannot hold it, burn it to dust. It cannot fall to Him. Battalions Three, Four, and Six will be sent to Canterlot. Battalion Five is to locate the Elements of Harmony and extract them to the base. Star Strike will oversee the Canterlot Assault. I will oversee Cloudsdale if I can. I'm trusting Desert Shard to locate and protect the Elements of Harmony. Halcyfer will have to be patient."
"As you command, my Lord."
"You are dismissed, Soldier."
"Sir! Yes Sir!" The pony replied, turning and closing the door behind him.
"Luna preserve us...." Nightfire mumbled, turning to his desk and surveying the map laid upon it. "May this be our last....."
Seven hours later found Nightfire standing on a platform, looking out upon a mass of armored ponies, all bearing the Shadow Guard's Coat of Arms. They all stood at attention; Unmoving, Disciplined, and Prepared.
They would Fight for him. For Luna. For the Dream their ancestors once fought for, so long ago.
They would fight for Him. For Luna. They would Die for their Dreams.
It was a bittersweet moment. His chest swelled with pride, sorrow, and shame. This was the army he had raised. The army he had trained. The army he commanded. This is the army that would either rise and live...or fall and die. this was the fruit of his efforts.
His mouth was dry, but he would not falter. Fear was not his master. Fear was his ally. Fear walked alongside him, ever his companion. Fear Spurred him on. But fear did not rule him.
"My Soldiers!" He shouted, his voice amplified by magic, booming across the large sea of metal, flesh, and bone. "My Ponies! My Friends....Today, we take a step. Today, we begin our march to our Dreams! Every Footstep forward is a Journey! Every Step we take today, every flap of our wings, every breath we take brings us ever closer to what we have striven for so long to achieve. For at last, we march to take our Queen to the Throne we promised her a thousand years ago! But even as we speak, our Foe rises! He turns his gaze to the Equestrian Lands; where our Queen awaits us. He would take from us our dream! He would take from us our HOPE! HE WOULD TAKE FROM US ALL WE HOLD DEAR! Will you allow this?!"
A thundering of hooves was his answer as his soldiers voiced their anger at such a concept. He smiled, but it was not a nice smile.
"I'm glad to hear it. This is our moment of Reckoning. Our time is NOW, my Ponies. This is our time. We are the Shadow Guard! We are Many! We are Mighty! We are the Chosen of the Goddess Luna! Our Goddess, the Nightmare Moon who protects our Dreams! Our Queen; she who rejected the Tyranny of the Sun! Our Queen, who shall lead us to Victory! Our Hooves Shake the Earth! Our Rage is the Rage of the Stars! Our Will is Unbreakable; for it is the will of the Moon which guides us!"
Hooves once more stomped in approval and eagerness, only to be silenced by a single stomp, loud as a thunderclap. Nightfire's smile had vanished, and he looked somber.
"However, make no mistake. You will not come back from this. Each and every one of you has tasted the very essences of your teammates. Each one of you have grown as a family outside of a family. Each one knows the others on your team as well as you know yourself. And each of you know me.
I am Nightfire, Oldest of my Queen's Guard. I was there when our Queen fell. I was there when I saw her struck down. I was there when the Tyrant banished her to her beloved Moon. I have lived well over my lifetime, over and over, I should have died. But I am not dead. Queen Luna once favored me, and I considered myself her most Loyal Servant. But I failed her. I failed her, and this is my curse. That is what I thought, anyway.
It is not a curse. This was a blessing. For years after, I wished to die. I wished to be free of my shame; to be free from my haunting failure. For years, I wandered, lost and disgraced. My self hatred knew no limits, and no end...until I chanced upon a small pool of water in a clearing. It was so insignificant at the time, but through it, I saw the reflection of our Queen's prison. And as I came closer, I saw also what I had become. It is not failure which defines us, my ponies. It is our amends. For years, you have trained, and know this to be true. I am old, and I have made many mistakes, but very few as grievous as this.
I will not think less of you if you decide not to undertake this journey that may end with your death; it is not my right to judge. This was my mistake; My mess. If I had been stronger, maybe it would have been the Tyrant who fell that day. But I was not. So I ask you now....Will you help an old pony right his wrongs? Regardless of your answer; We will need ponies to volunteer to protect our most precious cargo; our families. What is the point of victory if it costs us what is most precious to us? We fight not only for ourselves, but for those that depend on us. Each of you has seen battle, tasted the bitterness of defeat, and the sweet tang of victory. We are strong, but even the mightiest will bow before a foe who holds his flesh and blood in their hooves.
Stay and protect the family of your brothers, or stand and march unto Equestria to bring them our great Queen Luna. The choice is yours, and no glory is lost if you choose the role of the defender.
Rally your courage, and prepare yourselves, for Today, we March! Today, we begin our journey, all the while knowing that there is that possibility that we will not live to see the end. Know that Tonight, We may dine in Hell!
Earth ponies, Strong and Steady; don thy armor, for yours is the Might of Stone and Wood!
Pegasi, Swift and Sure; sharpen thy blades, for yours is the Cutting Winds and Free Sky!
Unicorns, Masters of the Arcane; Steady thy minds, for yours is the Might of Magic!
Ponies, March! Glory Calls, and we will hear her call! ONWARD! For Queen Luna!"
The roar was deafening. Hooves beat the ground, making the very earth shudder.
Earth ponies prepared themselves for battle, most equipping heavy armor and weaponry. Certain ones did not, opting to instead go over to several steel constructs as large as houses, climbing into the chest as unicorns activated runes inscribed on the doors, stepping back as the door swung closed, only operable from the inside once closed.
Nightfire gazed at the constructs, a sense of pride welling in his chest. He had no hoof in the making of these behemoths.
That had been his students idea. The outside may be cold steel, but inside was a thick layer of living wood inscribed with wood. The runes had been tricky, as it had taken a while to convince the wood to grow with the etchings inscribed in them. It had paid off in spades.
The armor was massive, capable of causing massive destruction, and the iron protected the enchanted wood, which in turn moves with the earth pony who operated it. This was a triumph for all three races, as while only an earth pony could operate it, it required the help of a unicorn and pegasus to create.
"Over a thousand years, and you still can't give a speech. Kinda sad, don't you think Nightfire?" A coltish voice came from behind him on his stage. He turned, his gaze falling upon a well armored unicorn, his armor shining in the evening light as he smirked at the leader of the Shadow Nation.
Nightfire fought down a surge of indignation as he regarded his pupil, Star Strike. "Shut up, Star Strike...I've never been good at inspiring ponies with grand speeches. Tell you what; Next time I'll let you do it."
Star Strike smirked through his helmet. "No thanks, Night. I'd rather not make a fool of myself." He walked forward to watch the army below their stand as it prepared to march, pride swelling as earth ponies entered his constructs, bringing them to life as they rose from their prone positions. "I added runes to the metal plating to increase durability and create a bit of spell shielding. I have no doubt it could shrug off a blast from the Tyrant herself. We have this in the bag, Nightfire."
"Don't be so certain of their invincibility, Star Strike. I've seen what she can do. The series one constructs would be obliterated by one strike. Series two may survive one strike, but it'd cripple it. Series five, however....That monstrosity would be a nightmare to fight. One earth pony, four pegasi, and two unicorns....That's a scary beast to fight. Three and four would be a war of attrition. But on the battlefield.....Just a few of these could hold the defensive line for days if needed."
It was a second before the lack of sound registered to them. Looking out, they beheld their fully outfitted army. Armour gleamed as the soldiers stood still as statues, awaiting their last order. The Constructs stood tall and proud, towering ever all others as their trump cards.
Nightfire let out a soft groan of exasperation as Star Strike smirked at him again through his helmet. He turned once more to his troops. "You have done me proud today, my soldiers! Now begin the final march; To Equestria! To Luna! March unto victory, and may Luna watch over us all!"
The sounds were like thunder overhead as the army turned as one and began their march. To death or to victory, no one knew. But they would not go quietly if it was their last.
It was quiet at first, but he could hear it growing louder. Somepony had begun to sing as they marched; and slowly, others joined in until it was louder than even the beat of hooves.
All embrace her,
It’s our time to move at last
For too many years
To sit upon her throne!
One Allegiance, to which we swear an oath!
Crowned by Moon, Not by the church, as Her power is divine!
They thought She had no right to rule the land,
Just as they failed to understand,
Born to Rule!
Our Time has Come!
Nightfire blinked as Star Strike smiled. "That is my little touch. Enjoy, Master Nightfire." The aformentioned stallion could only stand in stunned silence as he heard his student join in as the song of war echoed through the field as his massive army marched.
We were chosen by Heaven!
Say her name when we pray!
To the skies!
See Queen Luna Rise!
With the Moon Our Protector!
Make them Bow to Her will!
To the Skies!
See Queen Luna Rise!
To The Skies!
See Queen Luna rise!