• Published 13th Jan 2014
  • 12,716 Views, 256 Comments

Glory - Rune Soldier Dan



Blueblood's not special, and he knows this. He'll never do anything important. But now he has to. There's too much as stake. He knows he'll fail, but he has to try. Because..

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Like a Sunset

Blueblood had thought himself smart. Smarter than the crowd, smart enough to see the way things really were.

Nothing you could do would ever matter. Not in the long run, anyway. The princesses mattered. But you?

A farmer might get ambitious and go into a bigger business. He’d sell things that were already sold by others, and somepony else would till his crops. Nothing would change.

A pony might invent a better wagon. If she didn’t, another would. She wasn’t special, no matter who told her otherwise.

A doctor might cure the vilest disease known to ponykind, saving thousands. Those thousands would die later. He saved nothing.

You didn’t matter. Princesses, they mattered. But you? One of a million ponies, no more special than the pony next to you. You could try. You could struggle, you could create, you could invent. And for all your pain and labor, you’d achieve nothing. Whatever you did, another pony had done before. Or would do later.

Maybe nopony else would ever do what you do. And when the dust settled from your completely unique creation or idea, you’d still just be one among many. Artists and thinkers and scientists, all pretending to be brilliant. All unique in their own mind, all soon to die and be forgotten.

He liked farmers. They were the only ones who seemed to get it. They’d die. Their kids would die. The farm would remain. They’re farmers, and don’t see the need to be anything else.

Routine. Predictability. Planting season and harvest season. Colts and fillies being born, old grandparents dying. They knew how it worked. You could change, sure. You could change for the worse. You could follow your dreams, just like the countless little nobodies around you. You could fail and be miserable, or you could succeed.

You could succeed, achieve your common little ambition, and die in the end anyway.

That’s why the farmers were smart. They were happy with what they were. They didn’t try to be anything else. They didn’t try to be important. They didn’t pretend their dreams were special. They worked the farm.

He had met very few farmers, but honestly liked each and every one of them.

Of course, Prince Blueblood didn’t say this to anypony. Especially the part about the farmers. Nobles didn’t like farmers, and he was a noble. There was no reason to be anything else.

Clink glasses with dukes and ladies. Admire whatever art is ‘in’ this season. Waste money on fashion, for reasons he had long stopped pondering.

Drink the wine. No reason not to. Drink a second glass, too, because we’re all dead in sixty years anyway. Enjoy the ride.

A guilty pleasure when some mare decided to make a move on him. Never a close friend. He didn’t have any. Always some stranger, looking to kiss her way into riches.

Crush her.

Go home, go home, go home. I don’t know you, I don’t want to know you. You’re not important. You’ll never be important. Every minute you waste chasing a better life is a minute lost from your own. A minute that belongs to the Reaper. You’re not getting it back.

Go home. I don’t care how dolled up you are, or how much you want to change.

Go home.

Home.



‘Home’ is a strange word, now. With the chains wrapped around Canterlot’s spires and the animate suits of armor patrolling the streets. Does this still count as ‘home?’

That was another thing. A second part to Blueblood’s philosophy. Unless you were a princess, you couldn’t change much, and you couldn’t change anything permanently.

Unless you were changing things for the worse. Then, change was very, very easy.

It was a unicorn researcher with the worst dreams of change. Dreams of soulless ambition. Dreams of a tyranny with himself at its head.

A silver tongue to gain him access to darker vaults of knowledge. A steel-trap mind capable of mastering the spells within. An iron heart that did not flinch when the time came to betray.

Funny, all these metal analogies. Blueblood smiled, though he was gasping for air. He was running, at times leaping the chains crisscrossing the streets. They were winding their way around buildings, around numb ponies.

Comparisons to metal were appropriate. The one-time researcher now called himself Lord Ironshod, and claimed this city as the capital of the Greyshod Empire.

‘Greyshod.’

That was appropriate, too. The chains were so dull they may have been made of stone rather than metal. They were sprouting, growing, twisting around everything. Sometimes melting into suits of animate plate mail, but mostly just growing. The walking armors herded ponies indoors, the chains wrapped up the buildings, and the work began.

‘Greyshod.’

It wasn’t just the chains and the armors. The colors themselves were fading. Where their magic was touching, every scrap of pink and green and everything were turning to mute, dull grey.

It was especially noticeable on the banners. The great purple pennants. The deep blues of Luna’s flags. The golden images of the sun. All grey.

Even the pictures on them were vanishing. No sun. Not even a grey sun. Just grey.

No sun.

Blueblood’s mouth twisted in anger. He felt the hate. The HATE HATE HATE well up in him. It drowned out his ragged breaths. No more pain in his chest and legs as he pushed his gallop onwards. No more fear.

No sun.

Ironshod? How dare you.

Blueblood didn’t have the breath to say it, so he thought it as loud as he could. How DARE you?



----------



Princesses. Now they mattered. They could change the world, even if they had to do it one pony at a time. And they could change it for the better. Forever.

Widespread hunger. Discord between pony races. Old diseases, and older evils. Across their long centuries, the princesses banished these things. A force for good. Striving for so long to make things better, and succeeding in so many ways.

They hadn’t solved everything. But the princesses had all the time in the world, and were at it every day.

Blueblood liked to think that one day they’d finish. There would be no more evil, and they’d take a long, well-earned vacation.

Especially Celestia. So old. So wise. So tireless.

How easy it would have been for Celestia to despair after her sister’s banishment! To sleep for a thousand years and leave Equestria to rot. Or to embrace her loneliness and depart, convinced of her own failure. Or even to shrug and allow Nightmare Moon a few centuries of night. The ponies would have died out, but nothing of consequence would have been lost.

But she didn’t. Celestia cared for the ponies.

Not just ‘the ponies.’ Each pony. Every one.

Including Blueblood.



No sun.



He had called her “Aunt Celly” before teaching himself not to. It was like a dust mite claiming kinship with a pony. It wasn’t even silly, just stupid. Kids are like that.

As time passed, she began to guess why Blueblood made himself so distant. Of course she did. Celestia must have met dozens like him before.

She met him over tea one day after a cricket match. He won the trophy for his team. No matter.

“You’re special,” she had said, smiling perfectly at him. “You’re unique. And don’t tell yourself otherwise.”

Blueblood’s words were, “I know. Thank you.” Even though he knew it wasn’t the truth. She was just saying that because she cared.

Princess Celestia took his affirmation with a frown. She wasn’t fooled. Of course she wasn’t.

But she had things to do. Diseases to stamp out. A kingdom to rule with ever-growing justice. A newly-saved sister – a fellow immortal – to embrace.

Blueblood’s smile was genuine as he watched her depart.

He loved her.

More than that, he loved watching her go. She would make real changes. Lasting changes. Changes for the better.

”Go!” He had thought. Go do the great things only you can do. Don’t waste time with me. I’ll be gone soon, anyway.



No sun.



Ironshod wasn’t a princess. He was never, would never, NEVER NEVER NEVER be a princess. But he had a steel-trap mind and a silver tongue. He invited those who could stop him to a dinner to present the “amazing results of his research.” The wine was drugged. The chains rose from the floor. And Celestia, Luna, and the Elements were overwhelmed.

Blueblood skidded to a stop. It was in here, of course. The Royal Palace. Almost unrecognizable, with all the chains wrapping around it, and the grey banners from every parapet.

He crouched down, gasping for breath. He felt the aching in his chest and legs. How far had he run?

When the chains began choking the palace, he fled with all the others. Blueblood had watched the guards make their stand. The slithering chains shrugged off their magic. The walking armors ignored their blows, and soon the overrun was complete. The chains sealed the city gates, and the armors began rounding up the populace.

Why did I come back?

There was no real point, one way or another. Blueblood wasn’t a princess. He wasn’t even a fleeting, mortal hero. Nothing would change. He always knew he would never change anything.

Lord Ironshod would win. He had already won. Maybe he would kill the young prince for his impudence. Maybe he would clap him in chains with the others, and Blueblood would die later. No real difference.

The palace gates were open. Chains crossed the entrance, but there were holes big enough for a pony to slip through. Blueblood stepped cautiously inside, careful not to touch any of the chains. He had seen what happened to ponies who did.

Even without touching any chains, he felt their magic wrap around his soul. The air felt heavy. Not from moisture or heat, just…heavy.

Pointless.

Blueblood had already known that, but now he felt it like a slap in the face. Words forced their way into his thoughts, stern and forceful. Ironshod won. He is the tyrant of all Canterlot. You have to give in. You don’t have to like it, but there’s nothing you can do.

Numbing.

Draining.

Hard to move.

That’s okay. Ironshod will give you permission when it’s time to move.

In a thousand chain-wrapped buildings, ponies were frantically trying to escape. But their limbs were growing leaden and their thoughts were going numb. It was even worse for the ones in the street, physically bound around the neck and hooves.

Resist? That’s okay. When you give in – and you will give in – You can rest until Ironshod gives you your orders.

Though he probably won’t ask for much. Just your obedience. Your will. These things will feed the chains, and they’ll grow. They’ll grow long enough to stretch to other towns, then from those towns to other towns and cities. Until Equestria is Greyshod, and Greyshod is Equestria.

That’s how this is going to play out. There’s nothing you can do.


“Tell me something I don’t know,” Blueblood growled, forcing his conscience from the unbidden thoughts. No, there was no point. He already knew this. The hard, oppressive fact washed off of him, and he walked forward.

So why?

That one was easy.

Celestia.

Ironshod had no right to touch her. No right to defeat her. NO RIGHT.

She’s a princess. The greatest princess. The kindest princess.

At worst, Ironshod was a fool researcher with maniac ambitions. At best, he was a petty tyrant, the likes of which she might depose on a slow Tuesday.

Ironshod and Celestia? It was like comparing a dust mite to a pony.

AND HE HAS HER!

The hate drove back the grey numbness clamoring for his soul.

Celestia is eternal. Ironshod has her. Is Ironshod eternal now?

A dust mite RULING a pony.

It couldn’t happen. It could, but Blueblood would never accept that. He would go mad first. Maybe he was already mad. He could feel the thought dancing at the edge of his mind, needling him to consider the damning truth. It wasn’t even the chains’ magic; just a piece of reality he was desperately trying to ignore.

The more he tried to ignore it, the more it invaded his thoughts. Celestia fallen. A pony ruling a princess.

The despair, the hate, the swirling confusion…all these formed a maddened, screaming defense against the chains’ magic. Blueblood howled, caring not for who might hear.

Walking down the Grand Hallway, the prince levitated a sword from its place on a wall. At the touch of his magic, purple sigils raced up its length. The greyness it had faded to vanished, leaving gleaming silver and a bejeweled pommel. A blade forged with magic. A relic from a once-great, now forgotten hero.

It was alright to be forgotten. We all will be, one day.

But not Celestia.

A numbness engulfing the land? Fine. All ambition, all desire for change, robbed from its inhabitants? Fine. The ponies doomed to a grey world of meek submission? That was fine, too.

Hay, that’s really not so bad. Routine. Predictability. No pony reaching beyond their station, wasting their life pining for things out of their reach.

Blueblood’s life honestly might not change much. Lord Ironshod wanted to be a king. Every king needed a horde of sycophant nobles nodding at his every word.

But not Celestia.

Never Celestia.

He floated another sword to his side, almost smiling as its blade came alight with yellow fire. Wielding two blades took intense skill. He had no skill even with one, so two probably wouldn’t hurt.

His steps took him right to the throne room. Of course the damn pretender would be there.

The doorway wasn’t closed. The chains even drew back as Blueblood approached, permitting him entry.

Ironshod was there, perched on Celestia’s throne. One more insult. He was smiling as Blueblood approached. A simple, happy smile.

He wasn’t impressive looking. Ironshod fancied himself a tyrant, but was nothing if not a functional one. The only ornament he wore was a mute brass crown. He seemed athletic, but only slightly moreso than Blueblood. Mane, body and horn were the same dull grey, almost giving him the impression of being bald.

As Blueblood stepped into the room, he saw the chains. They were piled in tiny hills to each side of the red carpet, like a dragon might pile its wealth. Shifting. Clinking. Growing.

There were three piles on each side, and each one had a bound pony at its top. The Elements of Harmony. Only a few specks of each were visible. A pink hoof. A spiraling purple tail.

In one of them, a head was poking out. An orange mare with a blonde mane, somehow still struggling against the numbing magic. She stopped her futile wiggling and stared as Blueblood walked past her.

When he caught her eye, he just gave a quiet shake of the head. Nope. No rescue, here. No hero.

A rustle from above caused Blueblood to glance up. Luna, lashed to the ceiling by chains. Like vines they had climbed the arched walls and held her fast.

While the Elements were buried, she was just held by the hooves and neck. Her will was waning, but not gone yet. She had barely enough energy to tilt her head and look down at him.

With hope.

That arrested him in his tracks. He met her gaze, somehow unable to walk past.

It was too strange. The latest break in Blueblood’s reality. A princess. Looking to me with those eyes. Hoping, pleading, for ME. A princess!

He didn’t quite know what to think. Not anymore. So he broke eye contact and pressed on, pushing the encounter to the back of his mind.

Through all that, Ironshod waited for him. Smiling. Still not a cruel smile, but a happy one.

And there she was. Princess Celestia. Held at the throne’s side by a single chain, sprouting from the ground and wrapped tight around her throat. The chain was low and taught, forcing her to kneel at her own throne.

His throne. It was Ironshod’s, now.

She turned her head to look at him. The movement was slow. The chain dug into her neck, and she coughed weakly.

There was nothing but sadness in those eyes. No hope.

A mad vindication flared in Blueblood’s heart. Old Celestia. Wise Celestia. She knew. She knew they were doomed.

It would make this last part easier. Go with the flow. Play your role, and bow when the curtain falls. Just as always.

“It’s fitting, I think.” The clipped, loud words snapped Blueblood’s attention back to the usurper. He blinked, needing a few seconds to comprehend them. It was strange to hear another voice, after all that happened.

“A plan, no matter how brilliantly executed, is useless without the might to enforce it.” Ironshod still spoke loudly, stressing every word. Like he was talking to a crowd, rather than a lone noble. A resigned noble, with two swords in a wobbly magic grip.

Ironshod drew his own blade, holding it with a brackish magic glow. The sword was unadorned, barely even having a hilt.

“After all,” he continued. “If my self-enchantments are imperfect, any assassin could slay me one day. I mean to rule for eternity! Not six or sixty years, but eternity! If I am to die, let it be today so destiny taunts me no longer!”

The tyrant raised his sword in a warrior’s salute. “’Fitting,’ I say again. A last duel for the fate of the kingdom.”

Blueblood actually vomited a little inside his mouth. Rising through the despair, his long-entrenched cynicism reasserted itself.

“You’re joking.”

Ironshod smiled, humored. A very smug look was coming to his face. “Oh, but I am not. In fact, I invite you to strike me first. It does me no good to beat you if I’ll just die to the next one.”

He waved his sword to the side and thrust up his nose. The left foreleg was raised as well, fully presenting his bare chest and throat to Blueblood.

Adrenaline roared in the prince’s chest, drowning out everything else. ”Cut the stupid bastard down!”

The flaming blade twitched happily as he swung it forwards. But the blow was pathetic. The prince aimed too low and it scraped into the ground at Ironshod’s hooves.

Ironshod didn’t move. He didn’t even roll his eyes at the incompetent swing.

Still magically gripping the sword’s hilt, Blueblood raised it and swung again. This time it was a horizontal blow, striking true into Ironshod’s neck.

It didn’t work. Honestly, Blueblood had known it wouldn’t.

A clang of metal on metal sounded as sword met flesh. Blueblood’s sword didn’t bounce back, though. It remained held onto the tyrant’s neck. Like dribbling water, the grey from his coat leaked into the blade and ran along its length. The enchanted flame guttered and died.

The greyness began creeping into Blueblood’s magic, but he dropped the spell before it could get far.

The sword clattered to the ground, dull and featureless. Ironshod’s smile grew, and he raised his hoof in salute.

Blueblood knew that should have been the end. His curiosity sated, Ironshod had no reason to match blades. He could just have one of the chain-hills lash out, and that would have been that.

Instead, Ironshod twirled his blade and began advancing. He promised a duel, and was delivering. Some twisted, tyrant’s honor bid him fight.

Honor?

A harsh laugh rumbled in Blueblood’s throat. Where was Ironshod’s honor when he struck the Elements from ambush? When he dared shackle the princesses?

Celestia! Celestia who saved and nurtured his ancestors! Celestia who protected him in his womb, and his mother in hers!

Celestia who was chained at the foot of her own throne.

Ironshod’s throne.

Celestia who was looking to the ground, knowing what Blueblood knew. This was the end.

Tyrant’s honor? It was a lie. But it was a lie the bastard had started to believe. So no chains assailed Blueblood as he readied his last blade. The purple runes along its length flickered eagerly. He could feel its warmth.

Its hope.

Hope. Blueblood glanced upwards. There was Luna, still looking down at him. Her eyes full of fear and hope. Begging him to triumph, to save them all.

Princesses aren’t always right. Any child would agree, knowing the legend of Nightmare Moon. But it was a bit different to see it in the flesh. It was discomfiting, to see such a wise, good creature be so wrong.

The hope was wasted. Ironshod would kill him, and she was fool enough to watch.

I’m sorry.

Blueblood raised the sword in a high guard above his head, hiding Luna from view. He brought his gaze to ground level. Ironshod was advancing, holding his blade in a lower, fencing position.

Their swords met once, then again. Blueblood’s parries were clumsy, but Ironshod fought with utmost caution. He ignored the holes in Blueblood’s guard to maintain a perfect defense. The two circled, carefully dueling. Sometimes they were over a dozen paces apart, their magic-held swords meeting in the middle.

Ironshod kept smiling.

He was enjoying this.

The realization made Blueblood’s lips draw back in a snarl. Ironshod could kill him at any moment. Even if Blueblood somehow struck him, his magic wards would turn the offending blade to his own side. There was barely any reason for the duel, and certainly no reason to fight so cautiously.

But he was ENJOYING this. Ironshod was living out his own damn fairy tale. This was the grand finale. The last champion of the old power, dueling the new lord with eternity at stake.

Champion? What a joke. He was only a champion in Ironshod’s imagination. Blueblood wasn’t special. The special ones were clapped in chains around them.

The distance grew yet again as the two skirmished. Ironshod just wouldn’t end it, no matter how much his opponent willed him to.

Blueblood slashed one of the chain piles, roaring in frustration. He half expected the sword to fade – a fitting end to the stupidity. Instead, it severed the few chains it connected with. Woefully inadequate to free the prisoner inside, but the tiny victory made him feel a little better

He set his gaze back to Ironshod. The bastard had stepped back and allowed him his temper. Behind him was the throne, and to the side-

Celestia.

Kneeling there, with her eyes closed. She knows what will happen.

Luna, hanging above. She thinks it might end differently. Princesses aren’t always right.

This was torture. Blueblood HATED this. Let it end. He wanted to die and be done with it. Be done with this farce of a duel.

Be done with this farce of reality. Celestia overthrown? He didn’t want to live in a world where that was possible.

Strange, but that was exactly what kept him fighting. What stopped Blueblood from falling on his own sword, or leaping at Ironshod’s. What made him parry and dodge, always careful not to step on a loose chain.

Ironshod won. Celestia lost. Now and forever.

But maybe that wasn’t reality. Maybe that wasn’t the way this would play out.

The notion brought a tiny ember of hope. Blueblood didn’t recognize it consciously. It was instinct. His hooves and sword moved without thought. His eyes darted around, seeking advantage without him even realizing it.

Deny reality.

Celestia was perfect. She didn’t fail. He knew it to be so, even as the facts mocked him. There she was, chained at the neck. Her eyes closed because she knew what came next.

Blueblood’s death.

That was okay. Ponies failed. Ponies died.

But you, Celestia? Never.

The hope inside of him did not grow, but it joined the riot of emotions in his chest. The hate, despair and denial now jostled with this warm new feeling. And together, they released a jolt. A drawn line that connected what he saw and what he knew.

It became an inkling, and then a thought. A plan.

Blueblood swept his sword out wide, thrusting his nose to the air. True to form, Ironshod did not seize the opening.

“One strike!” The prince shouted, as bold as his parched throat could muster. “The next strike ends this!”

Ironshod smiled and nodded, thrusting his own blade out wide. A last trade of blows. How gallant. How fitting. Nevermind that Blueblood’s swing would mean nothing.

Blueblood dashed forward. Ironshod followed suit. A few paces away, they both swung their blades in wide arcs.

Both swords changed directions very suddenly.

Ironshod wanted a clean kill. The blade shifted as his sweep became a stab, thrusting towards Blueblood’s unprotected side. It slid perfectly between two ribs – buried over halfway into his chest, but with only a bare trickle of blood creeping out.

Blueblood’s? It didn’t even come close to Ironshod. It changed from a slash to a stab as well, shooting past the tyrant with purple runes blazing.

The young prince smiled. It was over. This stupid farce was over. He felt nauseous, but there wasn’t much pain. It just felt like somepony was pinching him.

He coughed and blood came out. It felt cold in here. His vision swam out of focus, but he forced it back. He had to see. It’d make no difference, but he wanted to see so badly.

There. There. The forgotten hero’s sword had shot forward like a cannonball, far wide of Ironshod and his blade. It sped past them to the back of the room.

It pierced the chain stretching from Celestia’s neck to the floor. There was a crack. Her head jerked back, suddenly freed. The motion sent the remaining links clattering to the ground.

Princess Celestia opened her eyes. They glowed pure white, brilliant enough to fill the room. Her horn lit and vanished in its own radiance. She stood tall, blinding to look upon.

Blueblood fell. It hurt bad as the sword jostled inside of him, but he barely whimpered. The pain turned to a dull ache within a few seconds. Then even that began to fade. Blood filled his mouth, so he coughed it out. It filled it again, so he coughed again.

No good. The blood kept coming. It filled his mouth a third time and he let it be.

The world was dimming, letting him watch without shielding his eyes. Even now, he had to squint against Celestia’s brightness. Her eyes were white. Her mane was white. She was floating in the air now, a miniature sun above her throne.

Her throne.

Ironshod roared, gesturing wildly with his hooves. Like an army of snakes, the chains attacked. If just one of them could connect, it would be over. The oppressive submission would return. The dull, numb defeat.

They fried to ash as they drew near her. Ironshod’s chance was gone.

The light grew even brighter. Celestia’s aura expanded, swallowing the pretender.

He appeared a last time, fleeing the Celestia-Sun. His brush with her corona left his body breaking. Not burning like a pony should, but flaking, twisting and melting like scorched metal. His rear legs fused to the floor. Ironshod screamed as his fore legs scrambled on the smoking red carpet, trying to flee.

The white aura grew again, swallowing the would-be tyrant. His reign was over.

Celestia’s would go on.

Blueblood smiled. It didn’t hurt at all.

Celestia.

Her mane and eyes returned to normal. It was still white all around her. Or maybe it was just in his head?

She had given up hope. She had thought it was the end.

Princesses aren’t always right. Even Celestia.

Somehow, that made him love her even more.

It felt good. To be… a hero? The thought would have made him frown if he still had the strength. No, not a hero. I just got lucky. Is that what it takes to be a hero? Luck?

Maybe it is. Maybe I am.

Maybe not.

But it feels good.
Whatever I am,
It is,
Exactly what I’m supposed to be.



Celestia



Lives.



----------



Luna had already gotten to work freeing the others. She was staggered with exhaustion, and the Elements were all but unconscious.

But it wasn’t hard work. The chains crumpled like paper as she tore through them, not even leaving dust behind. Sustained by a strange metal magic, they were nothing at all without it. And, across the city, nothing was what they were becoming.

A few of the girls were mobile enough to help. Wobbling drunkenly through the feeble chains to pull their friends free.

The Night Princess took a steadying breath and looked to the entrance. The chains across the doorway fluttered in the draft, already ripped by a fast-moving force.

Celestia had dashed out, speaking not a word. Hoping with all her might to find a doctor who could help. Before it was too late.

On her back, balanced by her magic, a sad, bloody bundle lay.

Where, weak and faint, a heart was still beating.

Author's Note:

Normally, it is my style to write very slowly, methodically, and with the head rather than the heart.

But this? This is the product of one manic, half-remembered night of writing. I did a little editing, but the text is largely unchanged from that bizarre creative surge. Makes it a lot less precise than my usual style, but I hope it made a good read.

Don't think I got much else to say right now. Thanks for reading.