• Published 13th Sep 2013
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Fallout : Equestria - New Roam Innovatus - Delvius

The land of the old Roaman empire is rife with a toxic wasteland, plagued by the remnants of the old world as well as the new. Finally, a Praetorian arises to protect the city like the legionaries of old.

  • ...

Chapter I - Paradise Lost

Chapter I
Paradise Lost
"Conquered, we conquer."

It was Thursday, and the afternoon was growing old. I would be lying if I said being a guard always meant being busy; this was one those days where barely anything happened. But I liked it. Between our near-daily drills and duties, a whole afternoon assigned simply to a post was a nice change. And the next day would be a holiday, too, which meant the whole day off. And how lucky that it was right next to the weekend!

"And here I thought we'd take part in the Bacchanalian festival," groused the pony next to me.

Ah... yes. Well, the bad part about being a guard on a day of festivities was that we didn't get to participate directly most of the time.

I sighed and looked to the side, at the pony; he was a bleached yellow stallion with a dirty white mane, and went by the name of Summer Sands. He and I had been given the assignment of guarding the 3rd Level entrance to the atrium, wherein all festivals took place. A wide space, with each floor occupied by shops and service stations, and also the only place with real living plants, the atrium was rightfully the recreational and social center for all four-hundred of our fellow Marediolanians.

Summer Sands' disappointed, irritated eyes glanced to the window off to his left, which revealed the festivities going on within -- zebras by the dozens were visible, the occasional show of pony color amongst them. And they were all yelling in delight, drinking and feasting like there was no tomorrow. It was rowdy beyond compare in there; a drunken brawl or orgy could have occurred at any moment. That was, of course, the point of the celebration, and the only reason we weren't stomping it down.

He huffed and sighed wistfully, eyebrows furrowing in desire. "Oh, look at that..." he muttered, placing a hoof to the glass and staring at a whole table laden with nothing but wine. "Damn... what I would give to have my shift in there..."

I shook my head but smiled. He was a lot like I had been, back in my first week. And while I was by no means a veteran of the urban century, I'd managed to evolve quite nicely from fresh trainee to a proper guard in the half-year I'd rendered duty.

"You know very well it's our job to keep them in order; this is the one exception. But they get so drunk as to start killing each other, and we step in. Now if you were in there, drunk and flailing your weapons around, well..." I trailed off, leaving him to think on it. He just frowned some more and slumped. If any one had bothered to be walking outside in the halls, they'd have questioned the demeanor of the normally enthusiastic Summer Sands. I noticed his growing depression and nudged his pauldron with my own. "Don't worry about it. Another holiday tomorrow. I'm sure Horus will let us have the night to celebrate. Do you doubt he would?"

I smiled confidently. I knew that zebra would. Horus was the oldest of us -- served under three praetors, he did. And by the gods, he may have been the age of my grandfather, rest his soul, but the centurion had the prowess of a minotaur! Smelled like one too, but that was to be expected of one who trained like it was a necessity to life. But though he would lambast us for the smallest mistakes, he was a good person, and reverent to all Roaman traditions. When a holiday came, even if it were to the most minor of gods, he made arrangements to have us celebrate it. Bacchanalia, sadly, was the one exception.

'Celebrate 'till you're drunk and brainless, then celebrate some more! I don't care how much you throw up!' That's what he would say on any other holiday. And so each of us did, eagerly.

The pony grunted skeptically. "I don't doubt he would. I just wish I'd get to celebrate with my other friends and with my family. Bacchanalia only comes once a year! We've saved up months of wine for these festivities, and we don't even get to participate like they do..." he murmured, face drawing close to the window. Then he looked back to me. "I... don't suppose you think Horus'd let me have the rest of the day?" he asked hopefully.

"Hah!" I laughed, then sniffled and shook my head, "Not a chance. You know very well he'll only ever let anyone off if they're sick. Even then he'll not let them rest unless...?"

"'... unless Pluto's hand itself is hovering over their head, ready to take their soul'," he rolled his eyes. "Yes, yes, I know how strict and fervent he is about doing duty."

"Well, I'm sure the gods appreciate him," I added, tapping into his faith to the Roaman deities. "Remember, we do all these things we do in their name." I bowed my head in a show of reverence.

He looked at me, quizzical. "Oh sure, you bring the gods up. But you don't even believe in them! That's so hypocritical."

I smiled bashfully. Yes, it was true that I never really believed in their existence, but they made for wonderful imagery and food for thought. "Well, belief in the gods has never been mandated... though I'm sure Horus would have my hide if he found out..." I murmured, and he smirked. Then I snorted. "Well, just don't go spreading that around. Friends don't do that to each other. Hell, I respect you and have never spread your secret preference of Venus over even Jupiter -- a thing I'm sure more than a few people would raise eyebrows over."

His smirk died right there. "Point taken."

After a little while it struck the hour of 4PM. That was the end of our shift. With just half a minute's delay, our replacement came in -- two zebras, twins by the name of Excluvius and Incluvius. They always went together; Horus had thought that Excluvius' wild enthusiasm would be balanced by Incluvius' laconic discipline. And he was right, as he often was. What he may have failed to foresee was that they would often argue, though thankfully it never went beyond Incluvius' reactions to Excluvius' constant yammering.

Looking as though he were having a headache, the sterner of the two zebras approached me, and we both rendered a salute. Then taking Summer Sands with me I left, leaving the twins to once more give each other a hard time. For you see, Excluvius was an avid partier, and missing out on Bacchanalia was driving him insane. And poor Incluvius had to deal with it.

"You see?" I said, nodding my head back over at the pair as we left for the barracks. "Excluvius is what you'd be like if we just let you run off to every celebration. And I'm sure you know that he's one of the most annoying of the guard."

He smiled faintly, "Well, then thank goodness for that." Then he frowned again. "But today still sucks."

I smirked. Oh, he may have thought it was going to be another day of missing festivities. But that would not be the case today.

*** Roama Victrix ***

Through winding halls and living quarters, we made our way back to our weekday home: the barracks. Along the way we'd encountered families hosting smaller parties for Bacchanalia -- my companion threw himself through a door when he saw his own parents and little sister. But bidding him do his duty, his father sent him off.

"Son, the gods will be more pleased that you served rather than feasted," the old stallion had said. "Now go, or I'm betting Horus will flog you without restraint." And as we were leaving he muttered, "Zebras tend to do that. Least it's better than starting wars..."

And so we came to our living quarters: a long room, with a fair width and dull grey steel walls lining every direction of the space. Twenty bunk beds lined each side of the room. Unlike the carved metal pillars and bright banners decorating the rest of Marediolanon, our quarters had little in the way of design. That's why no one liked to stay here except to rest: the place was absolutely dull and plain. Save Horus' own room at the far end, separated from our communal quarters by his own door, the place was basically a metal rectangle.

Luckily, there were some people here at that moment. A few pairs of guards lazed about, preferring to use their free time to rest rather than, say, try to sneak into the festivities. I recognized most of them, though admittedly I didn't know all 80 of the guards. Still, they were here. And not simply lazing about as they seemed; they were here just according to plan.

"Today really sucks," Summer Sands grumbled as he fell forward on his bed, not even taking his armor off. He spat Imperial swears into his pillow, cursing his day. "Why the hell do we have to be excluded?" he mouthed through the cloth.

My eyes went to the others in the room; they were all looking back at me. I winked. They all slowly got up. I heard movement from underneath Horus' door, all the way on the other side.

"You know how it is," I said comfortingly as I sat down on the edge of the bed. This was my job now, to keep him occupied. "Marediolanon simply can't afford to let everyone celebrate. Some people have to be excluded. For the sake of those we serve, we're the ones who don't get to. Think of the strain on our rations."

"Blargh," he muttered sourly, craning his head backwards to look at me. I hurriedly got into his view as those behind me snuck into place. "That's a load of manticore shit and you know it. Marediolanon's built into a mountain -- the entire base of the thing is a grape orchard. More than enough to let everyone have some." That said, he groaned and planted his face into the pillow again.

I looked back. A little over a dozen zebras and a few ponies were making their way closer, most of them holding a cupcake. The old centurion was giving off quiet, wheezing laughs, and I could see why. The sly old zebra had a cake thrice as big as the others'. Outside the door, Incluvius and Excluvius had managed to gather the others.

"I know it may seem... unfair. But if it's any consolation, this is my first Bacchanalia in the guard, and I don't get to celebrate too," I said, just loud enough to conceal the noise of the others' approach. "I... kind of miss the time before I was a guard."

"Well, sucks to be us, then..." he sighed into the pillow. "I just wish that more could be made of this day. I mean, it's the most festive day of the year... and we just spend it guarding." He went quiet for a moment. "And... wait a minute!" His head shot up. "Wait, I should be fucking celebrating! It's my damned birth-..."

"Immittendi cupcakes!" Horus shouted, and at once he jumped up and tossed his extra-large pastry right into Summer Sands' face. Cream splattered the walls and stained the sheets, and the baffled pony was so caught off guard that he jumped up off the bed and fell to the floor, an easy target for a whole volley of sugary cakes. All kinds of colors flew through the air, from violet to green, red to blue. I myself lobbed at him one of his favorite color: pale yellow, the color of his coat. We screamed like mad as our volley came to an end.

When it was over the floor was absolutely littered with cake splatter and icing. Our target was mummified in a cocoon of cream, his head exposed and revealing the immense shock in his eyes. "W-what the... you... wha... HUH?" he stuttered in surprise. Then we got out the banner of him we'd printed and wrapped it about him like a cloak. His agape mouth slowly broke into an open grin of total surprise. He uttered nonsense as we all screamed out 'happy birthday' and yanked him up, patting him on the shoulder and greeting him in turn.

"What the fuck Goldwreath?" he breathed as my turn came up. "You... everyone actually knew..."

"Ah, shut up birthday colt," I grinned as I gave him a cake-filled hug and patted him on the back. Then I pulled away. "Be glad! You're the first of us to get the brand-new birthday treatment, courtesy of the praetor!"

"Courtesy of the praetor? Tradition? Brand-new? Wha-huh?" he blinked, eyes widening at each word.

"That's right, meat!" Horus laughed as he approached, his aged face showing his missing teeth as he grinned spiritedly. "Praetor Eckris now hosts birthdays. Exclusively centuria urbanae birthdays. Guess who convinced him." His mischievous grin broke to a more genial one as he added, "Bacchanalia comes once a year. We custodes have never celebrated it, otherwise Marediolanon would be a wreck by now. But there's no harm in eating cake now, is there?"

We all roared in the negative. Just then a wheeled cart came in, bearing another tray full of cupcakes, and a larger one crowned with candles and topped with icing meant especially for the celebrant. Refrigerated, carbonated grape juice came in next, pushed in by some hiccuping zebras. That surprised the lot of us -- we'd managed to secure quite a bit of flour for the cakes, but from where had we obtained the extra grapes? Surely all of them had been used to make wine for the Bacchanalian festival.

We all looked to our leader. He smiled with pride, but his face turned stern. "And what are you louts looking at?" he snapped. "Don't you know it's a sign of disrespect to gape at an elder's gift? I spent weeks obtaining these. Now drink 'till your stomach ruptures, then drink some more! I don't care you much you throw up!"

That said, he grabbed the nearest bottle and shook it, then yanked the cork off and let loose the jet right into Summer Sands' face.

We cheered. The celebration had, beyond our own anticipation, reached its peak. This wasn't Bacchanalia, but it was going to be damned close. Not for me, though. I'd stay for some of it, but leaving our home without guards at that day was just asking for trouble.

I saw my opportunity. Summer Sands had been swept into the middle of things, and now he was enjoying himself as much as he wanted. Good for him. But our home needed someone to keep the peace when the populace was rowdy. Horus had left a few moments after his little decree -- he was always busy like that, what with him being the praetor's right-hoof zebra. I could understand if he left without a word on his own business, letting us go wild while we could. But he'd trained us to always be vigilant. We were given this one opportunity to be the exact opposite, but it really just wasn't for me.

Besides, I didn't want to have a hangover the next day. So I stepped out into the halls, and smiled as I went off.

*** Roama Victrix ***

I don't exactly know what time I came back, but damn did the place look like a mess! I had to question whether or not the grape juice had alcohol, because I did not believe they'd have made a mess like that sober. Icing and cake, all over the ground like they'd tried to use it to polish the floor. Bottles lay in heaps in the corners. Some of us were passed out on beds or on the floor near the beds; everyone still standing was either leaning against the wall or stumbling around purposelessly.

And yet despite that, they were still at it! Well, some of them were -- Summer Sands and Excluvius and a few of the more energetic of us had turned a bed into an impromptu stage where they sang songs. They looked tired, filthy, and absolutely like the opposite of what a guard should have appeared like -- but hell, we'd only get to go crazy like this once a year.

I missed that opportunity. But I didn't regret going on that patrol. I found my own pleasure in making sure the drunkards got home, not hurting others in their stupor. And I managed to stay for the end of a few of my friends' family's parties, if only because the parents who saw me just had to know how their sons were. For you see, being part of the guard had the terrible side-effect of crippling familial contact. We followed our routes and stayed in our posts, and any who didn't were punished.

So after closing up the doors of the atrium I went on my way back to the barracks, and now here I was. My hooves ached, sore almost as much as my first day of training from guiding so many back to their quarters. But I was satisfied, and stayed that way as I crashed onto my bed.

I smiled as I glanced over at my friend, still enjoying himself. Then the exhaustion took over, and I drifted off.

*** Roama Victrix ***

I awoke to the firm shaking of a hoof on my shoulder. My head throbbed like a nail had been driven into my skull, and my eyes were determined to stay shut. But the moment I heard the rushed breathing, I forced them open. Blinking thrice and clearing my vision, I groaned as I lifted my head up. It was still night; Marediolanon's day-night simulation system proved it.

But even in the dim light of the room, I had no trouble making out the face looking at mine. It was Horus.

"Cen... turion, sir?" I muttered sleepily as my head swayed. "I'm... I don't meant to be disrespectful or anything, but it's a holiday sir... we'll clean up later and all that..." I yawned.

The zebra's eyes lit up with a flicker of... what was it? Anger? No, it seemed far too foreign. Disgust? Surely we were filthy like pigs, but he wouldn't have let us make such a mess if he would simply punish us for it -- unless it was one of the times he felt extra professional and wanted to give us 'fresh meat' a hard time.

"Gods damn it boy, wake up!" he growled, slapping me across the face. The smack jarred me fully awake, and I became acutely aware of just what it was gripping him: fear. I lay motionless as I stared at him, seeing him panicked for the first time in my life.

My inactivity infuriated him. "Impudent pony! Get up or I'll flagellate you! All of you worthless ponies and disgraceful zebras, GET UP NOW!" he shouted, uncaringly pulling me off my bed and yanking me up. A few of the others had been forced up by his voice; already they were scrambling to assemble before him, waking more of us as they went. A messy assembly wasn't nice to look at even with polished suits, but now it was just a mess. Some of us were missing stockings, shirts, and cuirasses; others their shields and weapons. And all of us were groggy and stained with cake and juice. It was the worst formation I'd ever seen. I saw Summer Sands stepped on in the stampede; he'd fallen asleep on the floor. It took three of us passing by to get him to understand what was going on.

But even as we struggled in our stupor to arrange ourselves before him, everything went red and a siren rang out; for the first time ever, Marediolanon's shelter-wide alarm had gone off. We all froze, shocked. That could only mean...

Horus stared up at the blinking red bulb, then looked down at us. He threw his centurion's helmet onto his head, and bellowed, "All of you, to Marediolanon's entrance! Move!"

*** Roama Victrix ***

That was one of the most harrowing marches of my life. We'd sped down the halls, rushing past red-tinted windows and reflective metal walls. Our eyes twitched; our hearts were pounding in our chests. We brought panic as we rushed past. Fathers and mothers and siblings called out to us, asking what was wrong. We couldn't answer, not only because we had no time to stop, but also because we didn't know. And I knew the people we passed by -- they always relied on the centuria urbanae. That we ourselves were in such panic only drove them to paranoia. My own parents were there, waiting for us at the stairwell going up. I tried my best to reassure them, but I'm sure our stomping drowned me out.

There was nothing else I could do once we went up those steps. I could only breathe and hold on tightly to the shield and spear I had in my hooves, and make sure the sword dangling on my hip didn't fall off. At least I'd come fully equipped for what was to come -- some only had just one of their most vital equipment.

Finally we reached the door. It was a heavy metal slab, ten feet wide and two feet thick. On it was marked the insignia of Marediolanon: a prowling golden silhouette of a wolf, enclosed in two golden laurels and engraved with the golden letters IPQR underneath. But most people now didn't even see the logo, nor knew its translation -- such was the neglect we'd given to the uppermost floor, up until now.

We assembled before it in combat formation, with each controbernium lining up their members from wall to wall, the decanii on the farthest right. Thus eight battle lines were formed, spears and gladii ready. Horus gave the order, and for the first time since our training we activated our weapons' hidden function: ionizing the blades, charging them up with the ability to slice through an inch of steel with ease. That we had such deadly weapons gave me a little comfort in facing what enemy awaited us. That and being part of the second line rather than the first.

But then a thought counteracted the comfort. There was an enemy out there. Why else would we be here? Mutants, monsters, radiation -- those were what we'd been told existed out there. That it was all to the world above; Roam and her empire was gone, subjugated by a wasteland. And I had no doubt it was true. Now here we were, defending ourselves from whatever it was out there. We had the door, though. What manner of monstrosity could go through it? Surely it was enough to hold off even-...


A massive barbed hook punched right through the door, then slammed right back against it from the inside. The impact was deafening, the vibration running through the space like a gong. We were all momentarily stunned as another hook punched through just in the same manner as the last. The third that hit only compounded the shock. All three hooks started yanking backwards, drawing sparks from the hinges of the doorway. Soon the metal slab started contorting, bending backwards from the center. Marediolanon's insignia was soon nothing but a a twisted flicker of gold.

"Steady now!" Horus bellowed from where he took position, on the farthest right in front of the column of decanii. When he noticed we were taking tentative, fearful steps backwards he rounded on us. "I said STEADY! You are soldiers of Marediolanon, of your home! Whatever comes through that door you will hold your ground!" He stomped a hoof and ferociously drew his sword. "Take heart! Your praetor and his elite guard are with us. Even now they take positions to aid us in facing this foe!"

It was true. Marediolanon was built into a fairly tall, broad mountain. The top most part of it was filled in with the praetor's quarters and office, and right beneath that his own elite guards -- completely different from the centuria urbanae -- made their home. On the interior, the office was akin to a glass-encased balcony that projected from the walls, allowing Eckris and his troops easy view of the situation. They were there right now, watching. All of them were uneasy, frightened and uncertain, but there they were. There was something on the face of our praetor, though; a kind of expectancy. He'd always spoken of contact with the other zebra shelters: it was no secret those that were operational were capable of communication. He'd even said some of them had managed to connect to each other.

But such contact could be dangerous. What if he'd angered the other shelters? Each one was capable of waging a small-scale war -- Marediolanon's capability in particular was high, but contained merely to using our facilities and professionals to creating a well-equipped guard. He'd have told us if he'd angered them, though. So it left me in the dark, not sure what to believe was breaking in. I started to tremble, the weight of the situation bearing down on me. Merciful Jupiter, what was trying to break in?


We locked shields, heartened by the support of our praetor. But I wasn't emboldened. I was frightened, scared out of my mind. Gods, I'd never even used the sword on any living thing before! I could cut down a dummy, but an actual living thing... if it were anything aside from mindless mutants or monsters, I... could I? I would try if I needed to, but could I bring myself to strike that final blow?

I was pushed from behind. "Keep the line straight now," a pony said. His voice was shaky. He gulped. "We'll need it."

I swallowed, getting myself together. I was a guard of Marediolanon. This was my duty. The brave populace of our home would stay informed, ready to react appropriately for what was to come. But it was us standing between them and doom. My family, my friends and relatives -- I stood for them. Damn me if I was going to let them down while I breathed. So even as my heart raced and my eyes darted about in suppressed panic, I remained alert and ready.


Marediolanon's symbol crunched back, the doors giving a great hiss as air rushed from all around us and sped out. Immediately a foreign scent hit my nose: something... earthy and and dry, like our botanical gardens in times of water shortage. Except this stench was tainted with something toxic, something dead... it made my stomach lurch.

"Get ready!" Horus shouted, and blew the whistle around his neck as loud as he could.

The hooks gave one more yank, and the door snapped off its hinges and flew backwards with an earthshaking clang. The resulting wind nearly swept us off our hooves, and the sudden change in temperature combined with the intensity of the smell dizzied me. But none of that was nearly as foreign as the blinding light that beamed through the broken doorway. Brighter than any lightbulb I'd ever seen, it stung our eyes simply to keep them open. Our shield wall shattered -- our reflexes had us hide our eyes from the light, compromising our defenses.

While we fumbled around behind our shields, filthy and dumbfounded and absolutely not ready to fight, there came the sound of metal on metal from outside, like boots on a floor. I barely managed to peer around from my shield.

There was a silhouette there, standing on the wrecked and bent carcass of our door. The shape of it nearly stopped me dead -- it looked exactly like Horus; same helmet, with a cape that fluttered in the foreign breeze. There was even a sword strapped to the right hip. Two figures followed, each one looking eerily just like guards of the urban century.

I stared in horrified paralysis, overwhelmed by the revelation. Eckris had gotten us into a war, and with people just like us!

The figures cautiously stole their way in. Then the one that looked like Horus spoke, "Legionaries, movere deinceps, nunc! Movere deinceps et... quid vis?" It stood there for a moment, then seemed to lean. Then it raised a hoof in the air as if in greeting. "Ah, custodia civile! Salve! Si tu es Roamae amic-..."

Suddenly Horus roared and charged, his figure losing detail as he was encompassed by the light. A few of us, those not so unsettled by the recent events, joined him. Just as I was about to, I noticed the forms of guns -- weapons restricted to the praetor's elite -- in the hooves of the figures.

My eyes widened, and I reached out a hoof. "Horus!"

The figures jerked back in shock. "Quid...? Non! Ydiota, non-..."

Horus collided with the silhouette, slamming both to the ground in struggle. One of the gun-wielding forms approached, weapon pointed at the two locked in combat, shifting between them as if unsure who was who. Then one of us who'd charged hit him right in the side with a spear, and he cried and fell down. The other figure was struggling to get his weapon to bear when two of us rammed him, crashing themselves against the wall. Then his gun flashed twice, and the bullets flew into our lines.

The first struck uselessly against my shield... but I yelped and jumped back anyway. The decanus of the first controbernium wasn't so lucky. Even as the rest of the first line charged, he crumpled to the ground, limply letting his hooves dangle around before he fell down, blood pooling around his head. Unless our own decanus ordered us forward, we were going to hold our ground. Just as well, because I couldn't bring myself to look away from the dead zebra, much less fight.

The fight seemed pretty well ours, though. Both gun-armed invaders were neutralized, and with my eyes having adjusted I could tell that Horus had emerged victorious in his scuffle. Now he was having the first line form up just under the doorway.

"Century! Move forward, secure the doorway! We'll beat these outsiders back for the glory of Jupi-..."

Then there was a whirring. PRRRRRRRRT!

A lance of bright particles tore through the doorway, eviscerating half the first line instantly. I swear I saw it in slow motion as the particles punched through my fellows' flesh, like perverse fireworks erupting on their skin. If there were any survivors, they would have been indistinguishable from the dead as the rest of the line hit the floor. Even when they were all on the ground the beam of high-velocity lead stormed over to us, heat singing at my coat as the tiny bullets whizzed by. Our lines were driven into disorder as more of us fell. The whirring didn't stop, only growing louder as the source of the hot death closed in, now revealing itself as a muzzle flash brighter than the light through the door.

Some of us started to turn and run. I couldn't. In the chaos I'd been pushed down and stepped on. I could only crawl to the side, hoping to whatever good there was in the universe that the invaders didn't aim for me next. This was an unfair fight, but the moment I saw another of them I swore I'd kill him. If they were going to take my home I was going to make them pay for it, and damn everything else!

And then suddenly the whirring stopped, though the chaos it'd sown remained. I heard a thump, and a cylindrical object launched itself through the ruined doorway. It landed right in front of me, rolled, and came to a stop. It was metallic, but I could make out a tiny inscription on it, in Imperial:

'Bonum nocte, spurios!'

I only managed to read the inscription. The time I was left with wasn't enough to even bring my shield in front of me in defense.

The object detonated with light, blinding me and leaving an agonizing crackling in my ears. I spasmed uncontrollably, like a powerful current was running through me. And I couldn't move, not with my greatest effort. I couldn't even think straight; my thinking was completely scrambled and useless -- it tired me just to try.

I couldn't move, still, when the spasming subsided. I couldn't even feel my limbs. Nor could I see the world around me except as a blur of pale colors. But I could tell the intruders were moving in, and there were lots of them. A little over a dozen were picking their way through the bodies, dead or alive. The dead they ignored, the living they dragged over to a corner. Then one of them stepped over me, and bent down.

For a moment I'd hoped it was Horus, if only because the zebra that looked down at me could have been his age. But Horus would never give a glare so genuinely filled with disgust, as this one did. Nor did Horus ever have half his face bandaged.

"Why do they always resist..." he muttered disdainfully, then glanced upwards. I followed his gaze up towards our praetor's office. The glass windows had punctures and holes and cracks, but it seemed Eckris and his elite were unscathed. In fact they were standing there right now, our leader in disbelief and horror. Then Eckris' troops kicked over the heavy wooden table as cover and mounted their guns on the broken glass.

"Take one more step into Marediolanon and you're minced meat!" one of them threatened. "Now identify, and prepare to pay reparations! Your operation is over."

"Oh, it's only just begun," said a voice, somewhere near the doorway. There was a momentary rush as the invading troops hurried into two lines opposite each other. Then I heard hoofsteps on the metal floor. "For you see, my dear garrison... this copycat Equestrian Stable, this 'Marediolanon'... it belongs to us. And it always has. The blood unfortunately spilled today was a cause of your foolery and ignorance."

"I said identify!" the guard barked back.

The figure's shadow came into view, and his hooves stopped right at the end of the two lines, right where I was. I managed to very painfully twist my head so as to see who he was.

A Roaman officer is what he looked like; high-ranking, judging from the muscle cuirass and plumed helmet he had. He had a rather smug look on his face. If I'd have been able to move I'd have punched him in the face just for wearing such a condescending look in my home.

The officer looked up casually. "I am Thanus Meridius Decimus, legatus de legio IV Valere Victrix Equestrius." His relaxed smile tensed up a bit as he narrowed his eyes and gestured a hoof at the death around him. "We are of the Imperial Roaman Legion. And your leader and I... we have much to discuss."

Entry #1
Custodes Civile... that's what I am. And I think the months of hard work's gotten to me. I feel stronger, better. I've grown used to the gladius and to keeping the peace with words. Hmm... I should keep track, keep the professionals as my milestones...

Speech -- 20+5 / 100
Melee weapons -- 20+5 / 100