Canterlot’s normal drone crashed into a rumbling, atypical murmur. It held its sway over the farmers’ market grounds for several seconds, producing raised hairs and unnerved souls before the shockwave of the cacophonous swell hit. Castfire cracked, its dull-toned blaze chaotically sweeping across the square, as it arced from a slate-colored horn. Violet irides methodically traced terrified ponies as they attempted to flee, but Tepesch would have none of that.
His sorcery burned into their coats, seared their flesh, and forced even the strongest-looking earth stallions to the cobblestone streets. Squeals of frightened children rang to the unicorn’s delight as he brushed a renegade ivory lock from his muzzle. He threw his powerful hind legs into a brutal buck that transformed a prestigious display of orchard apples into a showering snarl of splintered wood and mush.
A sadistic chuckle brewed in his lungs before bellowing forth in an accented tempest. His concerto reigned as he steadily approached a downed victim – a tan-colored pony grimacing in pain. Like the twisted clef dictating the pitch of his sonata, Tepesch made his move as soon as he caught a glimpse of the fear tainting this heretic’s green cores. Just as expected, the inferiors cowered in his presence. Equestria’s lies had made them weak. He could see it in the way this trash quivered at his hooves, and he could hear it in the way the anguished whimpers crawled into his ears.
Tingles of rage spiked the colossal charger as he reared up. He was Ashen’s pike – an impaler meant to deliver the sermon of truth to the unworthy. There was supposed to be a challenge. His boiling muscles were destined to beat the opposition into the hell it deserved, but the throbbing heat simply drove his forehoof into the head of this crumpled mass with ease.
He flicked dangling crimson globs from his retracting leg and took pause to examine his strike. Even in death, panic saturated the stallion’s lifeless orbs, and Tepesch’s posture instinctively adjusted to acknowledge the sin of pride. The impacted skull, the inert form – all features to be assigned to the rats.
The unicorn perked to the bustle of the coming guard. Their sirens and battle cries derailed his concentration, but they also served as indicators that he was indeed drawing them towards his kingdom. The distraction mattered not. He had time to play, and no mortal of Celestia’s troops would have the power to parry his spear. In fact, the point had already secured its next target.
A light-blue earth pony had lain upon his side after feeling the scourge of Tepesch’s crippling magic. He panted heavily, ignoring the tear in his torso as he tried to wave off a yellow unicorn filly defiantly standing in the monster’s line of approach. The connection was as clear as the afternoon sky. The blood that spilled from the wounded also flowed through the young one’s heart.
“Is he your father?” Tepesch asked as he neared the child. His icy intonation sliced the air and made the filly tremble. They had all seen the brute’s diction of mercy – a terse, unyielding scythe that reaped innocence from their world. His horn illuminated with the fire of coming death, and his mouth opened to deliver the sentence. “Filth must be purged no matter the form.”
The bolt sprang from his head before another crack of thunder shocked the plaza, but the castfire did not reach its mark. A silver shield had wrapped its aura around the young pony, protecting her from the demonry that loomed. The blood that stained her father’s fur rose and vanished as his injury was rapidly exorcised into the nothingness.
Dumbstruck, and glowing in the celestial glimmer of restoration, the stallion stood and turned to see an alabaster mare a few paces behind his assailed family. Her brown mane twirled with the breeze in a soothing manner that sharply contrasted the way in which her piercing cobalt stare ground against the sturdy Tepesch. “You will not touch them,” Amora retorted when a fractal spark rolled along the surface of her barrier.
A bright spiral of energy quickly ascended her horn before a radiant blast engulfed Vormacht’s enforcer. He emerged from the spellfire like a ship’s bow cut through the waves, and another boisterous laugh leapt from his lungs as he brushed aside a wayward argent flicker. The medic gawked in disbelief at the state of this stallion. Her internal metronome stumbled furiously forward as she noted his pristine condition. If Trigger had been there, it would have been easy; but this thing possessed a plethora of transgressions that would take time for her to penetrate.
“Impudent child,” Tepesch countered. “For one of the misguided, your defensive capabilities are impressive. However, that offensive strike was nothing more than pathetic.” He reared up again and drove both of his forehooves into Amora’s shield. “I’ve already put the fear in them!” he roared at the quivering ponies who had unconsciously recoiled. “You’re too weak to defeat me, and a shield always inevitably breaks.”
Driven to prove his argument, Tepesch slammed against the sphere once more. The bubble held firm, giving Amora some moments to scan the landscape. There was one confirmed fatality and numerous casualties. The thick aroma of bled iron sat in her nose, and it was obvious to her that many of the injured were teetering on the edge of death’s unnegotiable event horizon.
With the ATF in place, she could not teleport them to safety. Erecting protections around all of them was possible, but there was that ever-haunting chance that she would have to cope with a direct attack. “Where in Tartarus are you…”
Two black blurs preceded a sudden pressure front that tore Tepesch from the task of delivering repeated blows. Decked in matching midnight threads, Defiant and Wick took their posts at the center of the market grounds. Amora was relieved to see them; the aggressor was more than intrigued. Within the span of a few seconds, he had spun from the buffer and lunged towards the commanders.
D.H. lowered his stance while his wings spread to attention. The orange pegasus was ready to take off the instant his instincts gave the signal. Meanwhile, his partner remained still. Wick’s red irides – a canvas upon which nature painted its ardent fire – observed every stride Tepesch took. His grey wings also flared as computations estimating the unicorn’s strength, speed, and skills ran beneath his jet mane.
Wick sniffed when the stallion took another step, and his ear flicked at the recognition of Amora’s choice of spell. “Parameters, Ams!” he called before he and Defiant darted in opposite directions. He quickly rolled atop the street’s surface to dodge a round of castfire Tepesch had flung his way. The magical residue sizzled upon the stone behind the pegasus, leaving no doubt that this pony was a beast incarnate.
“12 minutes, 43 seconds, Colonel.” She expected orders to follow, but they did not come. Wick barrel rolled around another bolt of magic while Defiant swung towards the unicorn’s rear. The pair had entered the dominion of battle, leaving the medic to tend to the wounded and the unsecured perimeter. She shifted her attention to the earth pony stallion and his daughter. “You should evacuate now.” Her serene voice was met with thanks, a gentle nod, and a quick departure. Her prayer had been answered, for she was now free to heal the fallen flock.
D.H. dashed into the opening created by the unicorn’s strike. He would start with a quick jab to the flank that would benchmark the dreadmonger’s close combat abilities. The maneuver did not connect, and Defiant’s eyes grew wide as he sensed the power of the pike’s pending buck. Tepesch had moved with an atypical agility for a stallion of his build, but the Bolt commander would not let anypony one-up him on the field. A single flap pushed Defiant out of the line of fire. He contorted his frame and landed on all four hooves before a pair of surprisingly respectful grins tugged the combatants’ expressions.
The ephemeral fermata gave way as Wick sought to add his own riff to the score. He hopped up about two meters into the air and swooped in Tepesch’s direction. “Fun, but gnats nonetheless,” the unicorn muttered as erupting slate snarls sought the pegasi. The magical bands bounced off the fibers of Wick’s uniform, indicating exactly what type of spell had been hurled his way. All DarkOps uniforms had been enchanted to resist rheostatic, physical manipulation sorcery.
It appeared as though his enemy had gone straight for the one-shot and failed. The greyscale pegasus surged forward, deciding to use the opportunity to demonstrate a little magic of his own. He collected moisture from the air as he flew and seeded a small cloud that had sprouted in his grasp. Wick curved around the beams of the meandering labyrinth and thrust his wielding hoof at Tepesch’s illuminated head.
The cloud compressed during the punch, and a cascade of fragmented lightning emerged from the overstressed tuft of vapor. Surprised, the unicorn pushed up onto his hind legs and twisted away from the sprinting Wick. He growled as one of the sparks dug into his muzzle, and with a shout, he tossed a violent spell at the duo.
“Bucking windrats!” he raged, reacting harshly to the scarring pain of the electrical ejection. The stone-colored stallion returned to his standard posture as flames burst from his horn. The rock beneath his hooves shattered from the force of his supernatural will, and the sky above reverberated with the vigor of his fierce cry. “If I can’t grab you with my power, then I’ll just beat you both down with something that can!”
Amora snapped her head after curing one of the fallen. Her heart pounded as thousands of cobble shards swirled about her friends, and she was slowly drawn ever closer to the trio of warriors. In the span of another step, she had constructed armor around herself, Wick, and Defiant Hooves. “Order rescinded, sir,” she barked. “I can’t allow Wing’s little brats to get their asses kicked while I’m on the job.”
The colts exhaled sighs of relief as the pebbles rebounded off Amora’s defenses. While both had the speed to outfly the circling swarm of gravel, performing those maneuvers over the duration of time required would have undoubtedly led to a lost battle of attrition. “Thanks, Ams,” Defiant spoke as a cool breeze descended upon Canterlot. “If you’d please…”
“Barrier established, D,” she interrupted. “We can’t have others coming in, and we certainly can’t have this nutcase expanding his reign of terror. Now, how about the two of you stop pussy-hoofing around and just up the damn ante already?”
The cheering crowd, the ecstasy of delighted foals, and the misplaced love pushed Ashen to madness. She hated the spectacle to its very core. Even unicorn youth, with their futures so bright and filled with promise, turned their undivided attentions to the likes of Spitfire, Soarin, and Fleetfoot as they proved over and over that all a pegasus was good for was turning left.
The group, cloaked by the resolve of Kinetic’s gift, pressed against the brick archways that circumscribed the arena pitch and waited for the cue to come. Minutes into the race, the piercing tone of brass reached their drums. The guards stationed at the upper levels of the stadium appeared distraught – as if they were torn between a duty to stay and a desire to go.
For the time being, the onlookers remained less concerned. The sport carried on for several minutes until Mystic determined that Tepesch’s decoy had gone on long enough. The six stepped onto the field and unleashed a spectral array of castfire that downed the renowned Wonderbolt racers. A gasp gripped the audience as a stunned panic crept into their innocent hearts. Those near the crashes stared in anxious anticipation as the three pegasi stirred within their painful stupors.
Guards rushed down the stairs once the initial doubt yielded to the unrelenting gravity of truth. Those with magical abilities returned salvos of their own, but they were quickly brought to their knees by the ever-expanding web of Erzsevine’s crimson blaze. A playful giggle leaked from her lips when she cut them down without mercy, and her crescendo only grew to match the dichotomy that flourished before the sight of tumbling heads.
The maniacal unicorn embraced the screams and danced amongst the notes while her smile spread to match her budding joy. Inferior ponies were dying in droves from her touch, and their sanguine cocktails – while of lesser quality – still managed to arouse the mare in manners few others could. Her compatriots, finally opting to sling their own strikes at the spectators, threw their own strokes upon the wicked portrait.
Unicorns in the crowd struggled to fabricate their own barriers of protection. They were not accustomed to the pace of battle or the horrors it wrought. Their fortifications lacked the spirit that had made Einhorn Vormacht a desperate and formidable foe, and as such, they crumbled bit by bit after each inbound assault.
Amidst the bedlam, one of the stallions of the fold spotted a particularly lanky red unicorn colt tending to one of the fallen fliers. The scene yanked the sergeant as a pang of hatred stung his heart. Members had been taught one simple truth. They were the chosen race, and compassion for the thousand-year oppressors was never to be tolerated.
The snow-blue assailant trotted towards the blasphemous display, levitated himself over the metal railing, and ventured into the stands. His blizzard-like gaze descended upon the quaking child while that chill wind ruffled the steed’s golden mane. A sadistic expression exploded upon his countenance as he charged an attack worthy of the scene. He would gouge out this foal’s green eyes and dissect the legendary Captain Spitfire. His name would be etched into the annals of their reich, and he would ascend to greatness.
Awe fell upon the arena as an enormous onyx-hued shield enveloped the bleachers. Erzsevine wailed in disgust as her enchanting strands were cast into oblivion. Telekinetic Haze was taken aback by the utter strength of the barricade, and even Ashen Mystic wondered if they had incurred the plight of an alicorn princess.
If there was one thing that I hated witnessing more than anything, it was the attempted abuse of a filly or colt. The cloud was already condensing in the cup of my hoof as I dropped along the edge of Trigger’s shelter. That stallion’s absurd abilities not only cut the aggressor off from his allies, but it provided the perfect distraction to annihilate with a death from above.
The bolts sprang to life in my grasp, and their cackles grew louder and louder as I closed the gap. Adrenaline usurped my frame for the climax, and my breaths collapsed to deliver a lurid howl at the instant I drove my hoof into that bucker’s head. The cluster of firebolts I had carried discharged in a volatile release that ravaged the stallion’s eye sockets, ears, and skull.
I landed between the slumping corpse and the colt as the odor of burnt hair reached my nose. I had taken another life and could feel the action’s accompanying bitter gale, but its reach was not as strong in the bournes of this carnage. There was no twinge of regret rumbling about my mind this time around, for there were plenty in this warzone who needed and deserved our protection.
When I finally hurled my gaze to Ashen Mystic, Trigger had taken his place at my side. He was still wearing his mask, yet his weapon-wielding stance betrayed the silent fervor that brewed in his magical blood. I knew his glare to be piercing and imagined that its amber snare spoke the same message. We had an engagement with destiny that transcended the calamitous precipice at which we all stood. An intersection fabricated by creeds and crimes tossed the weight of the impasse upon our very souls, and in that moment of locked stares, I swore that Mystic mouthed, “It’s you.”