• Published 3rd May 2013
  • 12,626 Views, 945 Comments

The Dusk Guard Saga: Rise - Viking ZX

Steel Song is a lot of things. Earth pony. Uncle. Professional bodyguard. Retired. So when he receives a mysterious package from Princess Luna, he's understandably apprehensive. Things are never as they seem in Equestria...

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Training - Chapter 4

Chapter 4

“Alright everpony, take five!” Steel shouted, his loud voice echoing across the training field. Hunter relaxed his shoulders, falling out of the strange positioning that Dawn had put each of them in as part of their post-morning workout stretch. He had to admit, even though the stretches were a little strange, he did feel better when they were done.

“Hunter, my office!” Steel called. “Everypony else, get a drink, loosen up anything that’s still tweaking, and stay here, I’ll be back in a few minutes. Hunter?”

“Yeah Boss?” Hunter said, arching his back.

“Make sure everything is good here and then meet me.” Steel turned and broke into an easy jog across the training field.

Hunter nodded, although Steel wouldn’t see it, and then turned to look at the rest of the team. They’d broken ranks the moment Steel had given the all clear, and each were doing their own thing. Sabra was—predictably enough—still blindfolded, only now that the post-workout stretch was over he seemed to be doing some of his own, balancing on the tip of his staff. Even after nearly two weeks of the silent zebra’s skillful talents, Hunter still found himself staring in awe. Blindly balancing on a staff was one thing, but doing strength and flexibility motions … Hunter shook his head as Sabra seamlessly switched legs, the leg he had just been standing on stretching out behind his body.

The rest of the team's efforts were far more ordinary. Nova was lying on the grass as usual, still panting from the intensity of the workout. Dawn was performing a few extra stretches nearby, although Hunter could see that she was still keeping an eye on the younger unicorn, checking to make sure he wasn’t being over-trained. So far, it looked like she was doing her job. Nova was already showing the signs of muscle build-up across his entire body, his form looking far leaner than it had been two weeks earlier when they’d first picked him up in Appleloosa. Granted, the colt had just spent a few weeks locked in a jail cell, but Hunter didn’t doubt that in another few weeks Nova was going to be in better shape than he’d ever been.

Sky Bolt was shadow-boxing to one side, already practicing the Tempest forms that he had been showing her. She was far from skilled. Her balance was still off and she tended to want to throw far more powerful strikes than were called for into her offense, something that would leave her off-balance and off-center. But she was learning. Given how recently she'd started learning Tempest, along with everything else she had been doing, her progress so far was impressive. As he watched, she finished up yet another set of practice forms and stood there, chest heaving in and out, wings limp at her sides. Hopefully Dawn was keeping an eye on her. If there was anypony on the team that would work themselves into an injury, it would be Sky Bolt. Youth, energy, and inexperience usually went hoof-in-hoof with disaster.

Hang on, what’s that? Sky Bolt had gone into another stretch, but she’d turned around for some—oh, well I guess that explains it, Hunter thought as Sky Bolt fixed her eyes on Sabra, visibly exhausted but with a smile on her face. And not a standard I’m-happy-to-be-alive smile either. It was the smile of a mare with a mission.

Well, Hunter thought as he took wing and headed for the barracks, enjoying the cool feel of the air as it rushed over him. Should I warn the kid? Naw, he thought with a grin. It’ll be much more fun to watch. Something like that shouldn’t be a problem. A small chill ran through his body, making his shudder as he came in to land in front of the barracks. Then again, best keep an eye on it. He thought. Anytime I start thinking ‘what’s the worst that could happen’ things go and gobsmack me.

The barracks was silent, and it felt like an unusual occurrence after the last week or so of constant noise from the construction crew. Hunter headed straight for Steel’s office, set in the corner of the massive building just as the old office had been, although quite a bit larger than the original design. There were a few other modifications as well, some for simplicity and ease, while others were for privacy. Steel had even made sure that the windows he’d put in were double-paned and enchanted so that sound would have difficulty escaping. Hunter thought the potential for secrecy was a bit much, but then again, it never hurt to be prepared. Besides, he’d bet a wingfeather that Nova could sneak in even if they posted guards.

“Hey boss,” Hunter said, pushing the door open. “What’s up?

“Business,” Steel said, his expression grim. “Guard business. Take a seat.”

Hunter dropped into the seat, his grin sliding off his face. “What kind of business?”

“Technically,” Steel said, sliding a folder marked “TOP SECRET” across the desk at him, “I think we could count it as our first official mission.”

“This have to do with out little trip to the museum last night?” Hunter asked as he flipped open the folder. A few slips of paper slid out, each one bearing simple ink sketches. “What are these?” he said, looking down at the topmost sketch.

“Those are sketches made by Princess Luna herself,” Steel said.

Hunter’s eyebrows shot up. "They’d probably be worth a pretty penny on the market,” he said as he flipped to the next picture. The first had been several drawings of a strangely marked cone from a variety of angles, and the second looked like it was following in the same theme, although this time of a smaller, partial piece.

“So are the items themselves,” Steel said with a light shrug of his olive shoulders. “According to Luna they’re keys of some kind. Neither her nor her sister would elaborate on for what, but they’re ancient, and of course, now missing. Somepony,” he said, tapping his desk with one hoof, “broke into the Canterlot Museum a few days ago, without anypony seeing them, found the crate that had these, which not even the Princesses knew was there, stole the keys and left. And somehow managed to circumvent a powerful spell that Luna had put on the crate designed to incapacitate anypony who opened it.”

“Crikey,” Hunter muttered as he looked down at the pictures. “That’s a lot of security for the keys to the house or whatever. So she wants us to track them down?” he asked as he looked up at Steel, his mind racing. “You know we’re not ready for that yet.”

Steel nodded. “I agree with you, it’s a little too early. Technically, all divisions of the Guard are on this one, although the information is restricted, so don’t go spreading it around.”

Hunter looked down at the pictures again. “So let me get this straight. Somepony broke into the museum, I’d assume through that big hole in the elevator doors we saw that night, found a box that nopony knew about—am I on the right track so far?” he asked, waiting for for Steel’s nod before continuing. “Alright, then after they find the box, they steal everything in it—”

“Not everything actually,” Steel said with a sideways shake of his grey mane. “There was something else in the crate, but I’m not at liberty to say what it was. However, I can tell you that the Princesses were mystified that the thief left it. They both considered it more valuable than the keys.”

“So ...” Hunter said, lining the new information up in his brain. “Our thief breaks into a powerfully bespelled box that they shouldn’t have been able to, only to leave the most valuable item and escape without a trace.”

Steel nodded. “You got it.”

Hunter whistled through his teeth. “Ok, it’s a ripper.” He looked back down at the drawings. “So either our thief is either an amatuer, or they only wanted the keys,” he said with a sigh, “So I’m guessing you want me to add this to my pile then?”

“If you could,” Steel said, sitting back and kneading his brow with both hooves. “Although I don’t expect you to spend too much time on it. We’re already spread thin as it is trying to get everypony prepared for an actual mission, and the other Guard divisions are going to be looking into it. But if you checked out the museum sometime, it couldn’t hurt.”

“Can’t do any harm.” Hunter dropped the file back onto the desk. “I’ll take a look at it. Although,” he said as a thought occurred to him. “It’s possible that the train thefts and this theft are connected.”

“A trial run?” Steel asked, still massaging his temples.

“Maybe,” Hunter said, giving his head a sideways title and giving his tongue a click. “But without any evidence it’d be hard to connect the two crimes. Still, it may be something.” He looked up at his boss where he sat, elbows on his desk, rubbing his head. “You alright, Steel?”

“I’m fine,” Steel said, waving one hoof. “Just a lack of sleep combined with all the pressure of getting everything going.”

“If you’ve got a headache, you should talk to Dawn,” Hunter suggested. “Or take a break.”

Steel shook his head. “The latter sounds tempting. Maybe I’ll take the night off and go see my sister’s family. She was supposed to get in last night, and I could use a break.”

“Why not now?” Hunter asked.

“Because of what we’re about to do,” Steel said dropping his hooves and looking up. “It was a little last minute, but I managed to talk Captain Armor into letting us do a little team-training exercise today.”

“Uh-oh,” Hunter said, the words slipping out of his mouth as he sat forward. “We haven’t even started with tactics and team-based operations yet.”

“Exactly why we’re going to be taking on the Royal Guard today,” Steel said, standing and heading for the door. “So that when I sit everypony down to explain to them about tactics and teamwork, I’ll have personal events to remind them of, not just theories.”

“Well them,” Hunter said, backflipping out of his chair with a twist of his wings to follow the large stallion. “What’s the big event that we’ll be needing the Royal Guard for?”

Steel smiled. “It's—”

* * *

“Capture the flag?” Nova asked. He couldn’t believe what he was hearing from the captain’s mouth. “Seriously? What’s capture the flag going to do for us?”

Captain Song fixed a glare at him. “You got a problem with capture the flag, specialist?”

Nova knew what that tone meant. “No, sir,” he said, although he couldn’t quite keep his voice from sounding slightly impudent. “It’s just—”

“It’s just what?” Captain Song asked, stepping right up to Nova and towering over him.

“It's just that it’s a foal’s game,” Nova said, trying to not be intimidated by the old earth pony.

“A foal's game?” he asked. He stared down at Nova for a few moments. “Maybe you’re right.” Something about the captain’s tone started setting off alarm bells in the back of his head. “Maybe I’m just wasting all our time.”

Yep, Nova thought. I’m dead. Dead, dead, dead. The look he was getting now reminded him of one he’d once seen a dog give a sleeping cat. “Sir, permission to retract my previous statement?” he asked. His own voice sounded deflated in his ears.

“Denied,” Captain Song said, still smiling at him. “But I’ll make you a deal, Nova. Win this game of capture the flag, and you can have tomorrow off. In fact,” he said, looking at the rest of the Dusk Guard. “You can all have the day off, barring a certain fitting we have scheduled for tomorrow morning. But if you lose ...” he said, turning back to Nova. “Then you, Nova, will owe me a favor. I might decide to make it you taking over my cleaning shift for the barracks some week.”

That ... doesn’t sound so bad, Nova thought, although he didn’t say it, instead managing a calm “Yes, sir.” He’d already said enough to antagonize the old stallion, and the soreness in his hooves was more than enough of a reminder of his previous punishments.

“Good,” Captain Song said, backing up and addressing the entire Guard once more. “Now here’s how it’s going to work. It’s going to be all six of us against two Squads of Royal Guard.” Nova’s eyes darted to the other members of the group. Sabra and Sky Bolt, at least, seemed as confused as he was about how many Guard that accounted to. “That’s twenty-four Royal Guard,” the Captain explained, although he didn’t seem annoyed by anyone's lack of knowledge.

Nova felt his stomach drop a little. Twenty-four against six? A cold chill broke out on his back. Six-on-six would have been easy, crud, six-on-twelve wouldn’t have been a problem. But six against twenty-four?

“You two look a little ill,” Hunter said, shaking Nova from his thoughts.

“Twenty-four?” Sky Bolt said, sounding a little shocked. Then her ears perked up and her wings snapped out. “I’ll bet we can do it!”

“What about you Nova?” Hunter asked, looking towards him. “What do you think?”

Nova’s mind raced, and in moments he had the answer. “I think—” he said, slapping a confident grin onto his face, “—that when the Night Guard was trying to catch me a few years back they dispatched a whole platoon to get me and couldn’t manage it. Almost fifty ponies against me, and they still couldn’t shut me down. Twenty-four?” He let out a small laugh. “We’re going to mop them up.”

Sky Bolt gave a small cheer and did a backflip in the air. “Yeah! We’re gonna rock these guys!”

“Alright, alright, settle down everypony,” Captain Song said, raising a hoof and bringing order back to the group. “I’m not done explaining everything just yet. This will be full contact rules with training equipment, first of all.”

As Steel continued his quick run over the rules Nova was only half focused on what was being said. There was a roiling in his gut, not that he would ever admit it to anypony. He knew what he’d had to do to escape that platoon years ago. He never wanted to go through that again. He’d taken every precaution to make sure that he wasn’t ever in the same situation again. Which meant that if it came down to it today he’d have to—No. Cross that bridge when you get there. He took a quick look back at the Cutie Mark on his flank. It was always there, reminding him of what he’d almost done that night. He almost shuddered, but kept it in check. He had an image to maintain.

“Any questions?” the Captain was saying, running his eyes over the team. Nova quickly ran over the list of items that he’d only been half-listening to in his head. Nope. He gave his head a shake, a motion the rest of the team began to share. One capture, with recovery, no holds barred with training equipment.

The team began following Steel and Hunter towards another part of the training grounds, Sky Bolt and Hunter taking wing overhead, the rest of the group and Nova breaking into a trot. Should I grab a weapon? He thought about it for a moment as they walked, but quickly decided that he’d best not. The only training he’d ever had with a weapon was using his magic to improvise, but that wasn’t the best option anymore.

“You know,” he said, the words slipping out of his mouth as the team rounded the building that housed the obstacle course and saw the the concourse that had been set up for the capture the flag exercise. “When I was a colt at the orphanage, we just played in a back lot.”

“Really?” Sky Bolt said as she stopped and looked at him in surprise. “You grew up in an orphanage?”

“I started there,” Nova said, walking past the grey mare towards what was clearly more than just a simple field for some friendly games of capture the flag. No, Nova thought. Unless I’m missing a lot here, this is a dedicated field built just for capture the flag!

The field itself was about the size of a standard hoofball field, which by itself gave the field plenty of space. It was also, Nova could see as they drew closer, recessed into the ground by about ten feet, giving ponies around the edge of the field a better view. It was also completely unlike any field he would have expected to see.

The first thing that he noticed were the trees. There were actual, large trees growing all over on the field, springing up from the dirt with widespread leafy canopies. Then there were the walls. Some of them were chest high, others ran all the way up to ground level, almost ten feet. There were small buildings. Simple, basic wooden things, but buildings nonetheless. There was even a tall, wooden tower, looking like a mast that had lost its ship, sitting in the center of the field, a small platform at its peak.

“Wow!” Sky Bolt said, flying past him and out over the field. “This. Is. Awesome!” She darted back to the rest of the group, the sudden rush of air from her flight rustling Nova’s mane. “Did they make all this just for capture the flag?” She let out a hoot of laughter and did another little flip in the air. “I like the way these ponies think!”

“Actually, we did build it for capture the flag,” an armor clad member of the Royal Guard said, his voice booming as he climbed up a steep set of stairs from the field. “Staff Sergeant Blitz, referee, at your service.” He threw Steel a quick salute, hoof snapping up with crisp precision to rest next to his horn. His coat, Nova noted, was the customary enchanted color of the Royal Guard, although the white was a little off thanks to some smudged dirt.

“At ease, staff sergeant,” Captain Song said with a smile, returning the salute. “You feel like explaining to my team exactly why it looks like your hoofball field was overtaken by a mad architect?”

The sergeant laughed and plucked his helmet from his head, changing his eyes from the ubiquitous teal of the guard to a more relaxed dark green. “Simple really. It was a hoofball field for a long time. One that hardly ever got used as I hear it. Then about thirty years ago somepony suggested using it for a capture the flag match to settle a grudge between two Guard platoons.” He waved a hoof at the field. “The place was kind of a mess anyway. Hoofball was popular, but not popular enough that the field got used everyday. So they set up some training barriers, established a few rules, and let the grudge match go.”

“Who won?” Sky Bolt asked.

The Sergeant shrugged. “Don’t know, didn’t really matter. What did matter is that the next day when the platoons came back to clean it up, they found a whole bunch of off-duty Guard playing their own game of capture the flag So they put off fixing it up, and the whole idea caught on more and more until the Guard just gave up and turned it into a full-time capture the flag field.” He put his helmet back on, his eyes fading back into the teal of a Royal Guard. “Anyway, now it’s a big thing between the Guard every year. We’ve got teams, a tourney. Winning team gets a gag trophy, losing team gets to redesign and rebuild the field for the next year.”

“Wow,” Nova said, looking down at the field. “You guys rebuild this thing every year?”

The sergeant nodded. “Yep. Except for the trees. We can’t really move those easily, so they’re more or less permanent. The rest of it we just tear down and build elsewhere. Anyway, this year's setup is pretty nice. The team you guys will be playing against is already down at the far end there,” he said, pointing. “So that means you guys have the run of your half of the field. Flag placement for this game is going to be fixed; you’ll see the pedestal in your base. Did your captain explain the rules of the engagement?” He waited as each member of the group nodded.

“Alright then,” Blitz stepped back but then spoke up again, his booming voice so loud that Nova folded his ears back. “Then let me just reiterate one core rule. This is a game, skill notwithstanding. If anypony on the other team is badly injured in a manner that was not accidental, your team automatically loses and a punishment recommendation will be made to your senior officer. This is a game. And while it may be for training purposes, it is still supposed to be fun. We use training weapons and armor, so each engagement is considered a spar. If you take a blow that in the real world would incapacitate you, we expect you to play fair and go down.”

Blitz paused for a moment, frowning and giving Nova’s ears time to recover. “Oh!” the Sergeant said, eyes lighting up. “One other thing I forgot to mention. As the ref, I’ll be on the field to observe and make calls,”

Well there’s no way we’ll miss you calling it, Nova thought, still folding back his ears under the stallion’s high volume onslaught.

“So that means,” the sergeant continued, not privy to Nova’s observations. “You’ll need to be able to identify me so that you don’t mistake me for a member of the other team.” The guard's horn gave a quick flash and the color of his armor changed, switching from the customary burnished gold to a more startling vivid red. “I’ll be maintaining this enchantment for the duration of the game, and it’s against the rules to mimic a ref, so no worries there. Anyhow,” he said, giving Captain Song a quick salute. “I’ll be in the middle of the field, signal me when you’re ready to start!” There was a pop and a flash as the stallion teleported away, presumably to somewhere on the field.

“Alright team!” Hunter yelled, swinging his hat on one hoof before slamming it back down on his head and flying out over the field. “Who’s ready for this?”

Nova took another look out at the field. No armor and—hay, he didn’t even have a weapon other than his magic. Against a whole platoon of Royal Guard with armor, training, and experience. Then again … He ran his eyes over the field. Trees. Mock buildings. Walls. There were larger, open spaces, but also plenty of places he could sneak around in. I can make this work, he thought as he took in the lay of the field. Just like the old days. Sneak, stay hidden, strike when unexpected.

* * *

“Alright,” Captain Song said, calling Nova’s attention along with the rest of the group. “Is everypony ready?”

The team was standing around their flag in what was effectively their “home base.” It wasn’t much, just an open square field of hard-packed dirt surrounded by a chest high wall. The back end of the base, which was up against the end of the field, had a raised wooden tower that stood about twenty feet off of the ground. A solitary rope ladder on the backside was the only on hoof route to reach the top, so anypony who was keeping watch wouldn’t be able to quickly reach the flag if something went wrong, nor could a pony down below simply pop up to take a look every few seconds.

“I think I’m good to go,” Sky Bolt said, flexing her wings.

Mimi niko tayari,” Sabra said, his staff carefully balanced in his hooves. He shook his head and gave a small embarrassed smile as everypony looked at him in confusion and then spoke again, this time in his melodic Equestrian. “I am ready.”

“Ready.” Dawn said. She didn’t look ready to Nova’s eyes, but then again there was something about the way she seemed so confident about the coils of rope on her back that made him second guess the thought.

“I’m ready too,” he said, grinning. He’d already figured out what looked like a great optimal route to get to the other team's flag. The left side of the field had two wooden buildings, three trees and a whole host of low walls, bushes, and ditches from the look of it, and that meant plenty of places for him to hide his distinctive purple coat.

“Ok then,” Captain Song said with a nod towards Hunter. “Do you have any tactical assignment?” Hunter had taken wing a few minutes earlier and flown up high, getting a good view of the other team and terrain. Of course the other team had done the same thing, although with three pegasi instead of one. As far as Nova had been paying attention, apparently it was a common tactic. The only thing they couldn’t do was cross the middle line before the game started.

“You bet,” Hunter said. He began to scratch lines in the sand, quickly making a small, loose sketch of the field. “Alright,” Hunter said, tapping the respective ends of the field. “We’re here, and their team is here. We’ve got buildings here—” he scratched several squares on the field, “—and trees here.” Another few marks went onto the burgeoning map. “Now, the right side of the field seems more open, so Steel, you should probably head that way. See if you can goad some of them into attacking you, try and thin their numbers a bit. Meanwhile, Sabra should hang out around here,” he said, tapping the center of the map. “Try to hang back a bit so you can protect our flag if things get hairy.”

“Now, you two,” Hunter said, pointing towards Nova and Sky Bolt. “I want you both to try and work your way up the left side.” Nova nodded in agreement as Hunter tapped the map. “There are a lot of bushes and ditches, plus those buildings, so the two of you should be able to stay fairly well concealed.”

“What about flying?” Sky Bolt asked.

“Up to you,” the captain said, Hunter nodding in agreement. “But I wouldn’t risk it.”

“I got a good look at the other team,” Hunter explained. “Ten of them are pegasi. Eleven Unicorns. Three Earth ponies. Plus the team leader, a unicorn from the look of him. If you take to the air and get too high you’re just going to get taken out, or at the very least give away your position.”

“Alright,” Sky Bolt said, turning towards Nova. “Looks like it’s you and me, tough guy. You ready to show off your thieving skills?”

“Sneaking isn't exactly thieving,” Nova said. “But yeah, I think this’ll go fine.”

Sky Bolt rolled her eyes. “Capture the flag? Totally stealing!” She grinned and looked at Hunter. “We’ve got this, sir.”

“Good,“ Hunter said, turning towards Dawn. “Which brings me to you, Dawn. I want you to hang back and guard the flag. I know you’re absolutely terrifying with ropes—”

Nova let out a snigger at Hunter’s words and the lieutenant choked, strangling off whatever he had been about to say with a forced cough that was a poor cover for a fit of laughter. Steel and Dawn both fixed Nova with a glare.

“For the record,” Nova said, trying not to laugh himself as Hunter coughed a few more times, “I didn’t say it.”

“One mile, after the game,” Captain Song said, still giving him a stoic glare. “And you owe Sergeant Major Triage an apology.”

“Sorry, sergeant major,” Nova said, although he still couldn’t keep a straight expression.

“Apology accepted, specialist,” Dawn said, giving him a glare that could have cut ice. “Remember this next time you come in for a physical. I have some very large needles.” Hunter shuddered at her words, the smile vanishing from his face. “Please continue,” Dawn said, turning back towards the suddenly serious pegasus.

“Right, as I was saying, I want you to hang back and guard the flag,” Hunter said. “You’re good with traps, and you’re a pacifist—” Nova’s eyebrows rose, along with Sky Bolt's. That wasn’t something they’d heard before. “—so I doubt you’d want to take offensive action anyway.”

“Either role is fine with me,” Dawn said, coyly batting her eyes. “But I think guarding the flag will be a bit more fun.”

There was a loud pop as a magical bolt exploded in the sky over the other end of the field. “Other team's ready,” Hunter said, taking one last look at the map. “I’ll operate as overwatch and try to help out where I can. Boss, you have anything to add?”

The Captain shook his head. “Looks good to me,” he said, scuffing over the map with his hoof. “Everypony stay sharp out there. I don’t know who we’re going up against, so I don’t have any idea what their strategies and tactics will be like. I would expect them to try a fast assault at first, then a few probing maneuvers to see how we respond. That’s the usual standard Guard tactic when facing somepony for the first time. Once the game starts, we’ll have thirty seconds before either team is allowed to cross the middle line. Use that thirty seconds as best you can to get the lay of the land near your position."

"Remember,” he said, looking at each one of them. “They can afford to lose a few ponies. We can’t. If you get in over your head, call for support, fall back, or both. Don’t jump into something you can’t handle. That said—” his face lighting up with a smug grin, “—the Dusk Guard is supposed to be the best there is. So when it counts, let them know it.” He looked around at the group. “Any last questions before Dawn fires off the ready?”

“Yeah, I’ve got one,” Nova said, surprising himself with his own initiative.

Captain Song looked at him in surprise. Either he hadn’t expected a response or he hadn’t been expecting him to say anything after his joke. “Alright Nova, what is it?”

Nova grinned. No sense in backing off now. “Do we have a slogan, sir? A catch-phrase? Something to shout?”

“Aaaahhh-no,” The Captain said, a look of genuine surprise on his face. “Any suggestions?”

“Yippee ki-yay?” Hunter offered, only to deflate under the captain’s look. “Drat. Worth a try.”

“Why not just ‘For the Princesses?’” Sky Bolt asked, making a face as soon as the words left her mouth. “Nevermind, I answered my own question.”

“Did you have an idea?” Captain Song asked, turning back towards Nova.

“Not really,” Nova said, shrugging. “‘Catch me if you can, losers’ used to be my phrase of choice—”

“Hey, if you got the flag, that’d work,” Sky Bolt said with a grin. “Let know they got robbed by the master!”

Nova rolled his eyes. “It’s not quite a slogan though,” he said. “More of a taunt.”

“Well then for now lets not worry about it,” Captain Song said. “Although I like the idea. If anypony thinks of anything let me know. We’re going to need one eventually.” He stuck his hoof out. “Ready?”

Nova stuck his own hoof out, followed by Hunter, Sky Bolt, Dawn, and last of all and looking slightly confused by the gesture, Sabra. “Ready,” Nova said. He could already feel the adrenaline building in him, like a charge of magic, but running through every muscle.

“Alright then. Dusk Guard?” Captain Song looked at each one of them. “Let's win this.” Everypony lifted their hooves, and broke, Sabra following suit a second later. A burst of light shot into the air from Dawn’s horn and exploded high above them.

“Don’t worry about it,” Nova overheard Sky Bolt say to Sabra as an answering bolt of magic flew up from the tower in the center of the field. “It’s just something you do before a game. I don’t get it myself.”

“Alright, everypony!” Hunter yelled as the bolt of magic exploded with a pop. “The game is on!