Early in the morning hours, General Bloodwing's carriage landed in Sweyn's Roost. A flurry of servants greeted him as he exited his carriage and they were all set to work with a single wave of the talon. The massive griffon paused for a moment to take in the majesty of the capital; it had been too long since his last visit to the most glorious city in the known world. As Varzeros took in his surroundings, an elderly silver toned griffon moved up and stood squarely in Varzeros's path. The general immediately snapped his gaze to the much smaller silvery griffon and puffed out his chest.
"Well, if it isn't the decrepit old scribe himself. By what honor am I forced to endure your company?" Varzeros boomed as he chuckled slightly to himself.
Keirin Greyfeather stood unphased by the general's insults and instead beset the larger griffon with a stare that could only come from one who had weathered the winds of time and had no quarter left to give for the petty words of arrogant upstarts.
"The king asked that I escort you to the council chambers. He would like to speak with you about this elements business as soon as possible and doesn't want to leave you to your own devices until then," Keirin explained dryly.
Varzeros felt his face flush with heat as his temper rose at the elderly griffons words. He knew it must have been the old bird himself who had insisted upon this and he knew Ozarion prized his old advisor’s advice even more than his own. That fact alone never ceased to put a strain on nearly all of Varzeros's plans. Keirin, despite his age, was still as sharp as ever and meticulously observed every piece of paperwork that came in or out of the capital—Varzeros knew this well enough to consider the scribe a formidable opponent.
The pair made their way down a long, elaborately decorated corridor before being stopped by two guards posted at a massive door. With a nod from Keirin, the guards pushed opened the door and ushered them into a spacious, domed chamber. At the far end of the room, behind a rather large ornate table, sat the venerated king of the griffons, one Ozarion Bright Talon, who ushered them over with a mere wave of the claw. The general and Keirin quickly closed the distance and sat themselves at the meeting table.
The king was the first to speak. "It's been a long time Varzeros, I haven't seen you in over five years. I trust the position I left you with hasn't been too much of a burden."
The general smiled. "No duty in service of the kingdom could ever be seen as a burden, your grace. While the workload is heavy and the hours long, I toil at these tasks for the glory of the kingdom." Varzeros bowed his head.
Keirin cleared his throat at this moment and spoke. "I do not wish to contradict you my good general, but a great many a report that has crossed my table bares the mark of one Avris Grimtalon. I'd be willing to bet my beak that I see nine letters from him for everyone one of yours." The elderly griffon made a point to lock eyes with the general as he finished.
Varzeros mastered himself with supreme effort to avoid showing any signs of falter. "Running an entire country is an extremely taxing endeavor lord Keirin, there are simply not enough hours in the day for me to reply to every single piece of paperwork. Brigadier General Avris is my most trusted adviser and I entrust in him certain duties so that I have more time to oversee the more delicate matters that come with governing a country." He smirked at the older griffon conveying without words that it was his move.
Keirin huffed at the statement. "And what of the King's demands for monthly reports on the princesses of Equestria? Were lucky to see a single report on either of them even half that often."
Again Varzeros bit his tongue—the old bird was indeed meticulous. "Our reports on the well being of Celestia and Luna fall far below the importance of a number of other issues we must bring to the kings attention. The reports we do provide are well documented and go into fine detail exactly how the former leaders are being treated under our rule." Varzeros stated with a smug grin, however his smug attitude began to vanish as Keirin brought up his next point.
Keirin smiled. "Then would you like to explain to our good king why, according to my confidential reports from griffons serving inside Canterlot Castle, you have made Princess Celestia your personal chamber servant and routinely abuse her with little to no cause?"
Keirin held his breath hoping beyond hope that this information would push the general beyond the tipping point. For a moment Keirin believed he had won; the deadly glare he was receiving from Varzeros was so strong he could have sworn he felt it on his very flesh. But everything began to crumble when the general smiled that sadistic smile at him.
"I commend you on your supreme efforts to keep our good king as in touch with the goings on with his kingdom as you've done Keirin but I believe on this occasion you may have overlooked a scroll or two. While it is true I now keep the princess of the sun as a personal attendant, it is only because she was caught sneaking messages out to the Crimson Wing Offensive, the single most active rebel group in Equestria. We believe it was Celestia herself who provided the rebels with the patrol schedule they needed to launch their small scale assault on our barracks in Cloudsdale," Varzeros huffed.
"In the wake of her willful act of sedition I knew the only course of action was to keep her under my own close, personal watch at all times. From that point forward she has been assigned the role as my personal handmaiden." Varzeros cast one final knowing grin at Keirin before he sat back in his chair silently.
Ozarion paused on his adviser for a moment to see if he had any further rebuttals, when he was certain Keirin was finished he turned to Varzeros.
"While I'm glad to see you both pursue the safety and stability of my kingdom with such fervor, we have something more important to discuss. As you no doubt are aware, general, I have received word from my runesmiths and they assure me that we will have the means to destroy the elements of harmony by the week’s end. Since it was you who broached this agreement with the spirit of chaos, you should be the one to have the honor of destroying those damnable gems."
Varzeros swelled with pride. "Why, your grace, you humble me, I was simply acting in the best interest of the kingdom—I had no desire for any sort of reward. But if you see fit to allow me the honor, then I certainly won't pass up the chance. I will see to it personally that the elements are reduced to a fine dust and scattered on the wind." As the general sat back in his chair with a smugness few could rival, he was unaware of how swiftly things back in Equestria were about to go awry.
It was nearing high noon in Equestria as Avris Grimtalon stretched his neck, he had been sitting at the general’s desk since breakfast filling out paperwork. Even though he had been tasked with taking on the generals workload while he was in the capital, nothing had really changed for Avirs. He had been doing the majority of the general’s work for years now; the only difference now was that the chair he sat in was a bit more luxurious than the one in his office.
A faint knocking interrupted his concentration and he turned his head to the main office door, swiftly rising from the desk glad if only to have a reason to stand for a change, and made his way to the door. There before him stood the timid, almost frightened form of princess Celestia. He noticed a tray full of food floating in her weak, golden telekinetic aura.
"I beg you pardon, sir Avris, but I have brought your lunch as well as a personal message." Celestia bowed her head low.
Avris couldn't help but feel unsettled with the alicorn’s mannerisms—it was almost like watching a whipped dog whimper. With the wave of a talon, he ushered her inside.
"Why thank you, Celestia—with all the work I've been doing I had honestly lost track of the time. Place the food on my desk and take a seat for a moment." Avris motioned to a large lounge chair near by.
The alicorn seemed to freeze in the doorway, unmoving, her eyes somewhat confused as to what to was happening. Avris saw this and could only shake his head; he knew the general could inspire fear but this was bordering on the ridiculous.
"I can assure you, my dear, this isn't a test or anything, I don't have any orders for you at the moment and I would like to read my letter. Please relax for a moment while I tend to these matters." Avris spoke in a soft gentle voice as he once again motioned with an outstretched talon to the chair.
Celestia looked at him with glassy eyes, as if the mere act of offering her a place to sit was enough to make her cry. With the barest of movement she nodded and sat down gracefully. Once Avris saw she was comfortable he turned to the letter she had delivered and opened it. The letter was from his wife and seemed more of a mission statement then a letter.
"To my loving husband,
Since you haven't the time to make it home for meals I have taken it upon myself to request through your office a personal visit. Our daughter has seen less of you in the past few months then she did in the womb. I have committed a hostile takeover of your midday meal—your colonel and private will be seeing you within the hour.
Your loving wife, Eyra."
Avris swallowed hard. This was not a pleasant turn of events. Being forced to visit him at work was not something his Eyra was going to be happy about. With a shaky head, he turned to Celestia.
"Celestia, would you please return to the kitchen and bring me two more meals identical to my own? It appears I will be having company for luncheon today. After you bring them back you may take a two hour lunch break yourself. I fear I will have my talons quite full, so I won't be needing your assistance."
Celestia opened her mouth as to speak but quickly turned her head back toward the ground. Avris saw this and quickly addressed her.
"You may speak, don't be afraid."
Celestia against he better judgement glanced at the Brigadiers face and saw not the furious hard glare she was expecting but a soft compassionate glace. If gave her the strength to look up and speak.
"M-my lord general Bloodwing has instructed all the staff in the castle that if I am found away from his chambers for anything more than twenty minutes I am to be beaten and brought to him immediately." She cast her eyes back to the ground as she finished. She was taken by total shock, however, as the brigadier stormed off to the generals desk and snatched up a piece of parchment. She saw him furiously scribbling down something before snatching the paper off the desk and presenting it to her.
"If ANYONE in the castle gives you any issues about the break I allow you to show them this and remind them who is in charge at present." Celestia was somewhat shocked at the look in the griffons eyes. He had the same fiery anger in his eyes that Varzeros had but she could almost feel a warm glow coming off it, as if it were directed not at her, but at anyone who might disrupt the free time he had given her. With a deep bow, Celestia took the parchment and made her way to the kitchens to fulfill the brigadier’s orders.
No more than ten minutes after Celestia had delivered the extra food did Avris' wife and daughter storm into the room. The thing he loved and hated the most about his wife was her complete and total bluntness. She was never afraid to do or say whatever was on her mind at a moment’s notice. Now here she was, in all her terrifying glory, glaring at him across his desk.
"Colonel Eyra and private Leetha reporting for duty sir." Her words were harsh and her tone and mannerisms only reinforced her overly negative mood. Luckily for him, his daughter did not seem to share her mother’s sourness and bounded around the desk, nearly crash landing into her father’s chest.
Avris laughed warmly and scooped the child up into tight hug. "How is my little song bird today?" he asked in a chipper tone.
"I'm super excited for my recital next weekend, mommy and me spent this morning at Ms. Olivia's so I could practice. Are you gonna be able to come see me sing this time daddy?" Avris felt a pang in his chest as his daughters tone turned somewhat sad when she asked him if he was coming. He also didn't miss the glare his lovely wife was giving him just behind their daughter.
"Well you will be very happy to hear, my dear, that I will most certainly be there for your recital." This news seemed to catch Eyra by surprise and she momentarily lost her frosty demeanor.
"What do you mean you’re going to make it? Has your schedule changed in some way I am unaware of?"
"In fact, it has, my beautiful wife—once the general returns from the capital I have requisitioned a month of leave. I informed him that I have been busting my wings off with all the paperwork around here and that I found the lack of time I had to spend with my family was becoming unacceptable. Surprisingly, he said he felt the same way and would have let me start my vacation today, but he needed me to run Equestria until his return."
Leetha was immediately giddy after hearing the news, "Are you serious, daddy? You’re gonna be at home every day for a whole month!?" Avris smiled at the girl and patted her head.
"Well, hopefully we won't be at home every day, we might take a trip to the capital for a few days to visit your grandparents. Staying cooped up in the house all day would be very boring." He laughed.
The news seemed to soften Eyra’s features a great deal and, for the first time since she had entered the office, she actually smiled.
"Well, that really is good news. I'm not even sure I'll be able to put up with you for a whole month after seeing so little of you. I do like the idea of visiting the grandparents, though—I haven't seen my father in ages."
"Well if you could, would you send them a letter when you get home and inform them of our intentions, just to make sure we don't have conflicting issues?"
Eyra sighed and took a seat next to her husband. "I supposed to could handle your mail for you brigadier, but for now why don't we eat before our lunch gets cold?"
The griffon family settled into their meal, quietly chatting amongst themselves, all the while two messages from two locations both carrying equally dire news were headed straight for Avris's desk.
General Varzeros sat stewing in a silent rage in his massive bed chamber in the royal palace. He had been planning to use his time in the capital to personally attend to a few issues that were currently slowly progressing on his grand scheme. Unfortunately for him, it had become apparent on day one that Keirin had command and control in Sweyn's Roost comparable to what he had in Canterlot. While he had never caught a single one of them any time he had ventured outside of his room he could feel the eyes of Keirin's spies glued to the back of his head. He had heard tales of the old bird’s secret network of spies that permeated the capital. Shadow seekers, they had been nicknamed by the royal guard, gathering any form of information they could get their hands on before slinking back to the shadows to fairy it away to their master.
For this reason, Varzeros had been largely confined to his room for most of the duration of his stay, not risking giving that damned old fool even a scrap of information. Luckily his stay was nearly over; the meeting with Discord would go down tonight and in the morning the means to destroy the elements of harmony would be finished and he could return to his kingdom. He was brought out of his train of thought by a rapping at his chamber door.
He could feel his anger boiling over—he had left explicit instructions not to be disturbed until the meeting with all the servants in his wing. Whoever was at his door would be lucky if they walked away with their throat intact. As he reached the door he nearly tore it off its hinges with the force he used to rip it open.
"I thought I informed everyone that no one was to disturb me!" he screamed.
"Yes, well, unfortunately general, my orders carry a bit more weight around here then yours," Ozarion stated smoothly.
Varzeros barely managed to stammer out an apology, "Y-yo-your grace! Please forgive me, sire, I never imagined you would personally come to my chambers. Please, come in and have a seat."
Varzeros quickly ushered the king in and pulled out a chair for him around his dinner table. "Would your grace like a refreshment of some kind? I brought a few bottles of wine from my person cellars with me, purchased from the griffon monks in the Hollowing mountains."
Ozarion nodded and Varzeros poured them each a goblet of wine and offered the king a glass before sitting down at the opposite end of the table. The two locked eyes for a short moment, each taking a sip of their wine. Varzeros was the first to break the tentative silence.
"Might I ask your grace what brought about this personal visit? It's not every day the king drops by one’s personal apartment even if the griffon in question is a general."
Ozarion chuckled lightly, "Does a king need a reason to visit his subjects? You also undervalue yourself, general. It was you work that laid the foundation for the invasion and eventual victory in Equestria. I was merely stopping by to inquire about your well being, you aren't the type of griffon to spend his days locked away."
"I fear the rural life may have taken root in me, your grace. The hustle and bustle of the capital is far removed from what one experiences in Equestria. I tend to spend my days now lounging in my study cradling a good book rather than getting mixed up in the fast paced arena that is politics."
Ozarion took another sip of wine, never removing his eyes from Varzeros. The general could feel the penetrative glace of the king on him; while the king’s attention could be swayed at times with matters of the people, Varzeros knew Ozarion was no fool. The king may be young, but he was fierce in his ambitions. He had a natural gift for ruling that even Varzeros had to respect, a gift that was as unpredictable as the king’s visit this very evening.
Ozarion smiled, "Well, I can surely respect that—living so far away from one’s own people, it can't be helped to pick up a trait or two from the locals. I just trust your edge hasn't dulled from spending so much time in a place so mundane as Equestria."
Varzeros allowed himself an internal sigh of relief, it was clear to him now the only reason for the kings visit was to determine if he was still willing to go forward with the deal with Discord.
"I can assure you, your grace, that I am as steadfast as ever. I am almost giddy with anticipation for the morrow when I can wield the tool of our salvation in my own hands."
Ozarion smiled and placed his cup on the table. "That's exactly what I wanted to hear, general. I'll take my leave now, be sure to get your rest. From what I hear, this Discord fellow can be quite a handful to deal with."
With that the king exited the chamber leaving Varzeros to his own devices. The general merely chuckled to himself; he was so close to victory, he wouldn’t allow an army of ten million interfere with his plans let alone one spirit of chaos. Varzeros sat back in his chair, taking another long pull from his wine glass, effectively emptying it. Come morning the last remaining obstacles in his way would be removed and he would be free to continue on with his plans. With a wicked smile he closed his eyes, hoping to dream dreams of the morning that was to come.
Varzeros could barely contain his excitement as he marched down the long corridor to the runeforger’s chambers. He had waited over twenty years to see the instrument of Equestria's true downfall and being so close to it had reverted him to a mere schoolboy. As the massive door into the runeforge opened for the nobles, they were buffeted by a wave of intense heat. The temperature inside the forge easily jumped forty degrees, leaving the king, his adviser, and Varzeros panting as they trekked through the hall.
It wasn't long before the foremen halted the march, leaving the small group standing before a massive furnace, flames and smoke spewing high into the air. As if by some grand design, as soon the group arrived the senior runesmith called a halt to all production and seized a pair of heavy metal tongs. With supreme care, he removed a large object from the great forge and placed it carefully into a vat of quenching oil. As the object was removed, its form became more pronounced, appearing to be a warhammer of massive size.
The deadly end of the weapon appeared to have runes engraved on all sides that glowed a faint yellow. With the utmost care, the master runesmith lifted the now cool object off its makeshift pedestal and approached king and company. He bowed low to the ground and offered up the mighty weapon.
"I present to you, my king, the instrument of harmony's destruction. We, here in the great forge, have affectionately named it 'Harmony Breaker'."
Ozarion turned his glance to Varzeros who promptly moved to the head of the group. With an outstretched talon he grasped the mighty weapon and hefted it into the air. It was heavy, and he could literally feel the power radiating off of it. He took a step back and performed a few practice swings, testing the weapon’s weight and balance.
"It's perfect, I have never before held such a fine weapon. You have outdone yourselves, humble masters. You are certain this weapon will destroy the elements of harmony both physically and magically?"
The master runesmith lifted his head to match Varzeros' gaze. "My lord, if you strike the elements with this hammer it shall be as if they never existed. Our runeforging is without fault."
Varzeros could do nothing but smile, here, resting in his hands, lay the final instrument of Equestria's downfall. He could hardly wait for the brief meeting awaiting him with the spirit of chaos, and could almost hear the elements shattering as he left the great forge.
The trio left the great forge and made their way to the war room where the meeting with Discord would take place. As the guards opened the grandiose door, the king and company were met with a startling landscape. The interior of the war room had been transformed into a vision straight out of the mind of a madman. Chairs and tables floated across the room, goblets conversed with themselves about which liquid they preferred to be filled with, and the paintings decorating the walls had taken on the lives of their own visages, griffon kings who argued endlessly with one another over who ruled best.
"I hope you don't mind, but I was a bit tired of waiting so I decided to amuse myself with the scenery," came a whimsical tone from seemingly out of nowhere. In a brilliant flash of light, the spirit of chaos materialized in front of king and company, bowing deeply before snapping his fingers and returning the room to its natural state.
"I could tell from the looks on your faces that my preferred arrangements weren't going to work, so in order to make this all move along smoothly I suppose we can discuss the matter in a more normalized environment." Discord proceeded to the far end of the war table and sat down gracefully while motioning for the rest of the group to sit down as well.
As the king adjusted himself in his chair he cleared his throat. " Lord Discord, I trust you know why we have gathered here today?"
"Why of course I know why we've all gathered in this terribly droll little room; we've come to discuss exactly how you plan to destroy those precious little gems over there on the table."
Ozarion cleared his throat, "Quite—we present to you the culmination of over two decades worth of work and research." Varzeros stood up next to the king and unbuckled the warhammer from his back, placing it gently on the table.
"The runeforged war hammer 'Harmony Breaker' will reduce the elements of harmony and the magic they posses to nothing."
Discord's head stretched clear to the other side of the table and inspected the weapon. "Hmm, it does seem rather impressive. So, will I be doing the honors, or will that fall to our esteemed king Ozarion?" Discord mused.
Ozarion shook his head. "General Varzeros will be doing the honors—he is, after all, the one who put this whole thing together."
"Well, if you all would be so kind I am a very busy spirit of chaos, so if we could get this evening’s show underway I would be very appreciative."
Ozarion raised a talon and motioned to the servants at the door behind him. Immediately the doors opened and a cart carrying a large anvil pulled by four burly guards was brought into the room. Together, the four guards hefted the anvil off the cart and placed it down next to the middle of the table. Without a word the guards and servants quickly exited the war room and closed the door behind them.
Varzeros rose from his seat, placing a talon on the warhammer and gripping it tightly. He paced over to the anvil, weapon in hand, and stood up on his hind legs, plucking the element of magic from the necklaces sitting on the table and placing it on the anvil. With the warhammer clenched tightly in his right arm he lifted the weapon high into the air and with all the force he could muster brought it down onto the bejeweled necklace. With only a small explosion of light, where once the element lay, nothing remained.
General Varzeros made quick work of the task, destroying all six elements in rapid succession. As the hammer fell on the final necklace he let the warhammer slip from his grasp and clatter to the ground, panting heavily.
"I must say, you seemed to enjoy that a bit too much general," Discord chimed in.
"I don't see how I could have enjoyed it less—those accursed things have been the sole power of Equestria for centuries. Celestia and Luna used them to hold dominion over most of the world for far too long. That ends now. We have upheld our end of the bargain, chaos lord.
Now it is your turn to uphold yours."
Discord grinned. " Well I shall certainly try, but my ability to uphold my end relies solely on whether or not your little hammer worked."
Discord turned his gaze to the heavens locking eyes with the setting sun. He rose a claw and, with a snap of his fingers, attempted to set the sun and moon free from their false masters control. For a moment nothing happened, but then slowly the sun began to rise back up into the sky. The entire collective party watched, awestruck as the sun crept back up into a position denoting high noon.
Discord smiled gleefully. "It is done! The sun and moon are now once again moving in their natural alignment ."
"How can you be sure of this?" Varzeros questioned.
"Think, my dear general. Celestia has no idea whats happening at this very moment. There is no way she could possibly have moved the sun in alignment with our actions. Our deal is done, I shall now take my leave. Equestria no longer needs me as long as you all are in charge."
With a snap of his fingers the spirit of chaos disappeared from the room without a trace. This, however, was not enough to draw the attention away from the now free roaming celestial bodies. Ozarion, Keirin and Varzeros all knew looking at that mid day sun that things would never be the same again.
Avris glared down at the two letters sitting on his desk. He could hardly believe either but the details provided could not be overlooked. Facility 87 had been entirely wiped out, not a single griffon stationed at the facility was alive to verify exactly what had happened. Then there was the even more pressing report that not only had the elements of harmony and their families escaped Ponyville, but they had done so with the aid of a grown dragon.
Avris was hard pressed to begin writing the letter he knew he had to write. This turn of events would totally obliterate any chance he had at getting personal leave to spend with his family. With all that in mind, he raised the stamp bearing his sigil and pressed it into the hot wax, sealing the letter to the general. Duty, Honor, Family: that was the griffon way, and Avris had been raised his entire life to embody that philosophy.
With that stamp, the letter was sent off to general Varzeros with the utmost haste. Avris had brief fantasies about what would happen when the general returned to Equestria after reading the news. None of them, however, would prepare him for the savage rage that was to come.