• Published 11th Jul 2011
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Pony Age: Origins - OmegaPony11

The Ponyspawn have invaded Equestria, and it is up to the newest addition to the Grey Wardens, Twilight Sparkle, to find the means to drive them back! With her friends and allies at her side, can Twilight win before Equestria is devoured?

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The Battle of Ostequus

Chapter 4: The Battle of Ostequus

“Twilight? Twilight, are you all right? Can you hear me?”

Twilight groaned as she slowly opened her eyes to see the sky lit red by the setting sun. Standing over her were Spike and Applejack, both looking concerned as she wobbled to her hooves. Her vision was blurred and she could still taste the foul ponyspawn blood on her tongue, a burning in her throat while her stomach lurched. She gagged again at the thought, before realizing what had happened.

Digger died when he drank the ponyspawn blood. Ser Magni was killed by Duncan for refusing to drink. She remembered putting her lips to the chalice and feeling the ponyspawns' Taint enter her blood. She remembered the hot flashes, seeing images of a large, corpse-filled field, and that she was surrounded with ponyspawn. She remembered the face and especially the roar of a twisted dragon. Above all, she remembered the pain that overpowered all her senses and eventually overwhelmed her.

Twilight looked to Spike feeling regret for what she would have put him under if she had not survived the Joining. Twilight saw Digger die horribly, slowly, painfully. Ser Magni refused to drink forcing Duncan to kill him to preserve the Grey Warden secrets. If she had refused to drink, or if the Taint had killed her, what would have happened to Spike? Would he even had known what killed her?

Applejack was calling her name, but Twilight ignored her as she wandered about the orchard in a daze. So many emotions rushed over her: fear, anger, eventually happiness that she survived. What was she supposed to feel? What was she supposed to think? All the death she had witnessed was too much, and soon there would be more. Much more. Caused by her hooves and magic.

A soft hoof laid itself on Twilight’s shoulder. The support was enough to bring the unicorn back to reality. Applejack’s soft smile allowed Twilight to breathe steadily again.

“I know a lot happened to ya in the last couple a days,” she said, “But you have to get a hold of yerself. I know you saw a lot, but everything was necessary. Duncan’s been doing this for a long time; he knows how the Joining goes about. He didn't want Digger to die, he wanted recruits. He didn't want to kill Ser Magni, but the secrets have to be protected, ye hear?”

“Do you want to know what Duncan did after your Joining, after making sure you were alive? Ah saw him pray. An’ not just some weak oath, but actually recitin’ the Chant of the Sun and Moon. He only does that when someone fails the Joining. He hates losing ponies to the Joining ritual, whether is because they couldn't take the Taint or because they wouldn't drink from the cup.”

“Look at your cutie mark.” Applejack pointed at Twilight’s flank. “Because that there mean you're a Grey Warden, and that means you’re family now, to me and to Duncan.”

Twilight turned her head to look at her cutie mark. Her stars were still there, but now they were the emblem of a grey shield, a reminder of the Joining and the mark that would be recognized throughout the world that she was a Grey Warden. Now it was her calling to bring the battle to the ponyspawn and do whatever it takes to end the Blight once and for all.

Duncan’s words echoed in Twilight’s head, recalling the lessons he had taught her on the road to Ostequus. We do what we must, sacrifice what we must. Now those words rang true and gave greater appreciation as to who the Grey Wardens were and how much they lost simply by becoming Wardens.

“Applejack, thank you,” Twilight said sincerely, “I… never felt so conflicted. I'm just scared, I guess. Everything is happening so fast, and the Joining hurt. I still remember those images of the ponyspawn and some black dragon. I should be fine now. I hope.”

Applejack shook her head. “Shucks, darlin’, Ah’m just tryin' to help my friends. But Ah know you ain’t fine, Ah wasn’t after my Joining. Was tossin' cookies for a couple hours, at least. You probably felt some things you never wanted to feel, and saw some things that you wish you never laid eyes on. Duncan and me and the rest of the Wardens, we’ll help you get through it all. Like Ah said, we're family, and family always sticks out for each other, don't they?”

In response to those words, Twilight’s stomach growled, with Applejack giving a short giggle. “Now that is something Ah remember real well about the Joining,” she said, “And that’s a huge appetite! Hey Spike, bring over a couple baskets of apples!”

Spike pushed a large basket of apples towards Twilight before going back for another. At the sight of the fruit she became hungrier than facing the Hunger demon in the Harrowing. Twilight dove into the basket of apples, happily munching away and savouring the juices from the feast. For a moment, all she could think about was eating as many apples as she could.

“How long was I out?” Twilight asked in between her meal.

“When I woke up, you were still shaking in your sleep,” Spike answered, “What happened to you? Applejack won’t tell me anything except you’re now a Warden. Did they do some magical stuff or something?”

“You could say that,” responded Twilight, “Let’s say they have something very similar to the Harrowing.”

After her stomach was filled with delicious apples, Applejack motioned for Twilight to follow her. With Spike on her back, Twilight kept up with her fellow Warden through the army camp. If it was bustling when she first came to Ostequus, then the pacing now was frantic. Soldiers sharpened their swords, reinforced their armour, and found their officers as they returned to their proper formations. The battle would happen soon, and the energy in the camp could be felt in the air. Despite the large amount of reinforcements, Twilight saw on the faces of many soldiers fear. They were facing monsters that could not be bargained with. In the battle to come, it was kill or be killed.

The two Wardens moved through the camp quickly until they arrived at the tent where King Blueblood, Duncan, and other officers were looking over a map, likely discussing strategy. “King Blueblood is gonna attack the bulk of the horde before they get to Ostequus,” Applejack explained, “Duncan argued that they should wait for the reinforcements from Arl Macintosh, but the King won’t listen. Duncan gathered the rest of the Wardens for the battle, but he has something else in mind for us.”

They approached the leaders who turned to greet the Wardens. Standing tall before them was Loghoof Mac Tir, the Teryn of Glenwell and the Hero of Ridge River. He stood larger than Duncan and Blueblood with a grey coat and a black mane tied in braids, framing his harsh eyes. His cutie mark, two crossed Equestrian flags, showed themselves prominently on his hide. He looked Twilight over, silently judging her in a manner not of praise, but of great expectations for the coming battle. She had never felt so small than right now, to be judged by a hero in the war against the Filesians and one of the chief liberators of Equestria from their control.

“You are the new Grey Warden, yes?” Loghoof asked, “I have known unicorns who could reduce entire armies to dust, and create such wonders that you lose breath just by gazing at them. I am not a religious pony, but a pragmatic one. I know that unicorns have a use, but are also ponies themselves, and should be treated as any other Equestrian. I look forward to the coming battles along side you.”

"T-Thank you, Your Grace." Twilight bowed, a slight smile on her face. Teryn Loghoof was giving her acknowledgement! The idea of such a harsh, yet great pony was something she did not expect, but was still grateful.

“Good, you are both here,” Duncan said, taking Loghoof’s attention away from the Wardens. Twilight gave thanks that he did not mention the Joining, not knowing what she would say to him. “We are preparing to attack the ponyspawn directly. There is still no sign of the Archdemon, but if we can cause enough enemy casualties perhaps their dreaded master will reveal itself.”

Blueblood cantered about with pride, a wide grin on his face, much to Loghoof's chagrin. “Isn’t this going to be glorious? The King of Equestria and the Grey Wardens fighting side by side, just like in the legends!. Our names will be sung for all time from the highest towers in Trotterim!”

“Your Majesty.” Loghoof interrupted King Blueblood’s cheer with a stern look. “All this talk of glory and legends will be your undoing. We must account for reality. We must prepare a strategy now, so our forces know when and where to move. Legends can wait until after the soldiers acheive victory.” Loghoof turned his harsh gaze to Duncan, who matched it with a patient one. There was a venom in his words directed at Duncan, but if he noticed it as Twilight had, Duncan made no outward appearance of such.

“Yes, yes,” the King almost dismissed Loghoof’s words, but instead turned to the map of the battlefield. “I have heard the strategy many times. I shall lead the army in the front lines, with the Grey Wardens covering the eastern flank. When the beacon in the old Imperium observatory is lit, your armies will join us from the west, to complete a pincer formation. Quite boring-”

“Quite practical,” Loghoof corrected, his irritation made known in his voice. “As long as the beacon is lit on time, the strategy will work. The ponyspawn will be trapped by two armies with only one escape route; back from whence they came."

“In that case, we will not need Arl Macintosh’s knights or the chevaliers from Filais! I can’t wait to see the looks on their faces when we beat back the Blight on this night!” There was something concerning about King Blueblood’s bravado, Twilight noted. Cocky, rather than overconfident. He was not expecting anything to go wrong and with such a chaotic foe as the ponyspawn, and he seemed to be banking on a quick and decisive victory. Twilight could not help but disagree; pragmatism would likely win the day.

Loghoof seemed to agree, though mention of Filais filled his eyes with anger and a stomp of his hoof confirmed his irritation. He had fought a bloody war against the Fillesians and no doubt wanted nothing to do with them. The idea that they were sending their armies to reinforce Equestria likely had the Teryn fuming inside.

“Twilight Sparkle, Applejack,” Duncan called for their attention. “Lighting the beacon for the Teryn’s forces is of the highest priority. That is why I trust the both of you to go to the observatory and light the beacon fires on time. There should not be any ponyspawn incursion in that area, but be ready for anything. It is important that you succeed.”

Twilight looked at the map where they discussed their battle plans. It was a sound strategy, and the observatory was just over the large bridge she and Duncan had crossed to get into Ostequus. She turned to look towards the observatory, taking in the grand scale of structure.

Movement was seen on the top of the observatory by earth pony soldiers. There was no doubt that a significant enough flame could be seen all around Ostequus and beyond.

Applejack also looked at the map and then turned to Duncan. “I know it’s a big job for us,” she began, “But shouldn’t all of us Wardens stick together? You need all the numbers you can get out there, and if the Archdemon appears-”

“You will leave the Archdemon to me.” Duncan’s words struck hard, brooking no argument. “This task needs to be completed, and I can only trust you two with this task. The soldiers of Equestria have their duties, as we have ours. We do what we must, and what you must do is light the beacon. Is that understood?”

Applejack stared hard at Duncan, trying to get him to change his mind on sending them to the observatory. Duncan kept his eyes focused on her, until she eventually relented. “If you say so,” she said, “We’ll make sure all of Equestria can see the beacon, come bad apples and high water!”

Duncan nodded, returning his attention to the King and Loghoof. Dismissed, the young Wardens bowed and left, returning to the orchard for one last moment of peace before the battle. Twilight looked up, and could see the moon of Luna in the sky, as well as all her stars twinkling in the far reaches of the beyond. She gave a quick prayer of protection to the Alicorn Sisters, hoping that they would see the Warden’s battle through the night.

As they waited for the King’s war horn to sound, signalling the start of the battle, Spike sat himself on Twilight’s back. “You don’t think you’re going off into battle without me this time, do you?” he asked.

“Spike, you can’t come, it’s too dangerous.” Twilight already had the beacon to worry herself over, making sure Spike was safe would not help matters.

“Think about it Twilight,” Spike pressed further, “What if the ponyspawn get through into Ostequus. I’d rather be safe with two Grey Wardens than in the middle of some old ruins and a battlefield. Also, you’re going to the observatory, and what better place than that to have the best view of the action?”

While Twilight could not doubt that he would be most safe with her and Applejack, she was not pleased with the little dragon’s infatuation with the upcoming battle. Still, it was better to bring him with them to the observatory than leave him in Ostequus. Twilight agreed, and the group made their way across the bridge from the ruins towards the derelict tower.

* * *

Everypony was ready as they stood in the rank and file. Weapons and armour reflected the light from the setting sun while soldiers took to their formation. Many of them were young and nervous, this being their first battle. The veterans fared no better, hooves shifting uncomfortably in the silence of the Potpourri Wilds. Looking over the wilderness, Duncan and King Blueblood watched for the first sign of the invading hordes. The Grey Warden looked at the Equestrian king, who appeared the very image of regality and courage in the face of evil.

He made for a good picture, but one whose words telling his true nature could be counted on one hoof, rather than a thousand. Pompous. Foolish. Cocky. He expected the battle to be won like a child expects a hero to vanquish the dragon and rescue the damsel in silly little stories used to mollify young foals. Thankfully, the bulk of the Equestrian forces were being led by a much more sensible stallion. Teryn Loghoof knew his way around the battlefield better than many generals, though his reluctance to accept Filesian reinforcements, even Filesian Grey Wardens, proved troubling.

At last they saw movement in the Wilds, trees being rustled if not outright torn off their roots. The first wave of ponyspawn galloped through the foliage, trampling over every blade of grass as they rushed towards the waiting Equestrian army, their snarls and growls forming a low thrum throughout the battlefield. Hundreds of screamers filled the sky, screeching in unison in a terrible medley. The King shook as he watched the tide of monsters advance ever closer, his once confident face now making way for sheer terror.

“Your majesty,” Duncan said calmly, “You must give the command.”

“I know!” Blueblood barked back, his eyes wide. “War dogs! Go! Go!”

The mabari war dogs sang out in a chorus of barks as they rushed forward, biting and killing any ponyspawn they could get their powerful jaws around. As large as a pony, the mabari where known for their fierce loyalty to their masters and for their voracious appetites. Combined with their immunity to ponyspawn blood, they were a capable weapon against the Blight.

However the hounds were quickly felled as the ponyspawn soon outnumbered them. Throngs of donlocks lead the front lines of the Blight, giving no heed for their fellows but only to their desire to kill and feast. Slasher smiles tore into mabari flesh while the main force of thelocks galloped past their smaller brethren.

“Archers!” Blueblood shouted, his voice shaking at the sight of the oncoming army. The earth pony archers readied their bows and let loose a volley of arrows. The piercing rain crashed first into the screamers, sending their bodies down onto their monstrous cousins as more arrows sailed towards the ponyspawn. As per Loghoof's suggestion, continuous fire was acheived by having two lines of archers; while one line fired, the other readied another arrow.

Still the ponyspawn charged ever closer, their hungry fangs and jagged weapons now in sight. Losses to them meant nothing.

Ponies drew their weapons as the ponyspawn drew nearer. Duncan looked to his Grey Wardens and nodded, each Warden ready to fight to the last. “For Equestria!” shouted the King, enticing his soldiers to roar with him as they charged to meet the hellish foe. Despite this, King Blueblood fell back closer to rear lines.

A whistling noise permeated the air, causing many to look up and then give shouts to run. A great ball of fire crashed near Duncan, exploding with violent force. Blueblood shrieked as his escape route was blocked by flames, while the barrage of magical fire from the ornlock emissaries continued unabated.

Duncan cursed as he unsheathed his sword. The King was not only a glory hound but a coward. No matter, he thought as he charged with his fellow Wardens, the day can only be won with sacrifice, not glory. He looked up to the observatory, still unlit. Celestia and Luna protect you both.

* * *

“I thought Duncan said there wasn’t supposed to be any ponyspawn!” Twilight yelled as she and Applejack rushed through pony soldiers and ponyspawn beasts fighting on the way to the observatory. Somehow a force of ponyspawn had breached past the front lines and were not attempting to flank the army by way of around the observatory. Twilight was not sure what she was frightened of more: that the ponyspawn were right in front of her or that they were clever enough to use such a tactic.

“They’re monsters, but that means they ain’t stupid either!” Applejack shouted, “We have to get to the tower and light the beacon! Duncan is countin' on us!”

The observatory towered above the battlefield as the Grey Wardens galloped towards it. Despite the battles being waged around them, Applejack continued to run forward, with Twilight looking desperately at the soldiers being overwhelmed by ponyspawn. Ponies she saw milling about in the camp, eating, talking, laughing, praying were fighting for their lives while the ponyspawn gave no regard to their own. One donlock tossed itself onto the waiting blade of a soldier, distracting him long enough for a thelock to impale his neck on it's tusks.

“We have to help them!” Twilight shouted over the noise of combat. Applejack shook her head.

“Ain’t any time! We have to get to that tower and light the signal fire. They have their duties, and we got ours!”

Twilight took in a sharp breath of air as she gave one look to the losing battle behind her. It was wrong to just leave the soldiers to their fates considering the sheer power of magic she had in her horn. With a spell she could turn the tide, but it would mean leaving Applejack to light the beacon alone. This was the truth of battle, that every decision had to be made in an instant and without hesitation, and that she had to follow through with her choices. Stay with the soldiers or light the beacon with Applejack. Save the few to help the many.

She cursed before turning to rejoin Applejack. This was her life now, whether she liked it or not. "Hang on, Spike," Twilight said while Applejack bucked the doors of the observatory wide open. "Things are going to get bumpy."

In another time, the observatory would have made Twilight awe in wonder of the architecture of the Unicorn Imperium. Inside the observatory was no better than the outside. Thelocks and donlocks were ravenously eating the soldiers in the tower, but the sounds of galloping hoof steps averted their attention to new prey. With a shout, Applejack and the other soldiers charged towards the enemy, while Twilight began to channel spells.

“Those are the ponyspawn?” Spike pointed a claw at the monsters, sounding truly terrified for the first time in his life. A pang of regret for bringing Spike to the observatory distracted Twilight only for a moment, but the ponyspawn would not wait for him to calm down. As she concentrated her staff to fire bolts of arcane energy at ponyspawn archers, Twilight began to cast another spell of ice to blast in front of her. It was a strain to cast two spells at once, but considering the circumstances, a little strain made up for the result.

Before the cone of cold was unleashed, Twilight wanted everyone out of the way lest the frigid air injure ponies instead of ponyspawn. “Move!” she shouted, and as Applejack and the rest of their soldier company rushed to the sides, she blasted the ponyspawn with a powerful gust of magical cold energies. Any of the creatures not frozen solid or made brittle by the arcane ice were slowed to a crawl, making them easy targets for swords and maces.

With the enemy dead, the soldiers galloped to the door to seal it against further attacks, propping up bits of debris for a makeshift barricade. The wooden barrier would not last long, but it was hopefully enough to slow the ponyspawn. Twilight, Applejack, and a few other soldiers began a mad rush towards the top of the observatory. Corpses of ponies and ponyspawn alike littered the ground of the tower as they climbed the staircase. Twilight felt her chest constrict in pain as she tried to keep up with the more athletic ponies. Ser Magni had a point. Perhaps should she live today, she would go back to the Unicorn Tower and ask if the unicorns could get proper exercise.

At the top of the of the observatory was the beacon ready to be lit, a great pile of wood coated in oils that only needed the heat of an open flame. Waiting for them as well was a dozen ponyspawn being led by one much different than any Twilight had seen so far.

This ponyspawn resembled a pony much more closely than the other breeds. The monster still had the same chitin hide and sharp teeth, but its eyes were clear and focused compared to its savage brethren. What was most striking was the single horn upon its head, curving upward and already pulsing with magic. The ornlock emissary, as Twilight remembered it was called, snarled and hissed at the ponies before rearing on its hind legs and letting loose a torrent of magic fire, horn glowing a crimson hue.

Applejack and Twilight moved out of the way of the oncoming inferno, while two other ponies were not so fortunate. The fire engulfed them whole as they burned alive, their screams and prayers to Celestia being unheard. The other ponyspawn began their attack, charging forward into the soldier's lines, fangs eager for flesh.

The ornlock’s horn began to glow again as a large orb of fire formed in front of its horn. Twilight immediately began to counter the spell, raising a barrier that engulfed Applejack, the soldiers, and some of the ponyspawn as well. The fireball crashed into the arcane barrier, flooding the area with fire and consuming many of the ponyspawn not inside the shielded area.

The shock of the attack left Twilight gasping as the shield failed. Never in her practical studies of magic had she felt the strain of casting spells as she did, having to combat the comparable magical aptitude of the ornlock. Applejack slew a donlock nearby, but they were still outnumbered. Another soldier fell as a thelock jumped and bit into his neck. The ornlock was also preparing another fireball to be launched, not caring if it burned friend and foe alike.

“Applejack!” Twilight yelled, realizing just who the other Warden was and what she could do. “Forget the grunts and help me deal with the emissary!”

“How?” Applejack called back, parrying a blow from one thelock before bucking another donlock's face that was trying to flank her.

“You were a former templar! Do something!”

Applejack turned her attention to the ornlock. As she galloped towards the monster, the irises of her eyes changed colour from brilliant green turned pitch black. Twilight had seen other templars do the same when they used their abilities against rogue unicorns and thanked fate that Applejack had not forgotten her templar training. She was using a nullifying magic that only templars knew how to use, something separate from the magic of the Fade. The fireball fizzled out of existence and the emissary looked at its attacker with surprise.

Before the ornlock could bring another spell into being, Applejack swung her body with her sword in her mouth, piercing the ornlock’s neck. As black blood flowed from the monsters mouth, Applejack wrenched her sword free, spitting out some of the blood that spurted from the lethal wound. Twilight turned to see the last of their soldier companions fell, while only two more ponyspawn remained on their hooves. A moment’s thought brought forth two arcs of magical energy from her horn and her staff, blasting the ponyspawn and sending them flying into the wall.

When she was certain that the magical attacks had done their work, she walked over to Applejack, who was covered in her own blood as well as that of the ponyspawn. “Are you okay?” she asked. Several parts of her armour were torn open, revealing several severe wounds. Despite the damage to her body, Applejack stood tall and shrugged them off.

“Right as rain,” Applejack answered, though her heavy breathing betrayed her fatigue. “Hurry over to the beacon, we need that fire lit!”

Twilight rushed over to the large stack of logs and began to channel a small flame from her magic. Fire was never her speciality, but she could create enough to set the beacon alight. The fire quickly blazed while light from the bonfire covered the entire room and spilled outside of the observatory. Twilight shielded her eyes from flames, stepping backwards until she was next to Applejack again.

The costs were great, and she would have to pray for the souls of the fallen, but they did it. The quest was completed and the beacon was lit. Teryn Loghoof's forces would move out now, and the army would defeat the ponyspawn quickly and decisively. From the top of the of observatory, they could watch the battle in relative safety, perhaps even see the Archdemon appear.

Celebrations were short lived as the floor and walls around them began to shake. The door suddenly burst open as ponyspawn spilled through the entrance, followed by the largest creature Twilight had ever seen. It did not stand on four legs like the rest of the ponyspawn, but instead stood on two hooves. With massive muscles ending in heavy hands, the beast’s head let out a howl that shook the very foundations of the Observatory. The head was adorned with large curled horns, and through its nose was a metal ring.

“By Celestia,” Applejack gasped, “A minotaur.”

Not even in her nightmares caused by the Fade had she ever seen a creature as terrifying as the minotaur. Twilight wanted to scream, but was too frightened to even breathe. All she could think about was its massive hands, horrid teeth, and prayers to Celestia for a way to escape.

Twilight said nothing as both Wardens backed away from the large force of ponyspawn. Their archers began to fire, one arrow embedding itself in Applejack’s side, felling the pony instantly. Another arrow found its way through Twilight’s robe. She already felt faint as the pain was overwhelming her senses. Poison, she thought as she fell to her side.

Spike called her name as the ponyspawn advanced, the minotaur’s razor sharp teeth soon in close view.

As she looked out towards the night sky, a brilliant flash of light shone through, with the shadow of great wings flying towards the observatory. Twilight couldn't help but smile as she faded away. Celestia would not abandon them. She couldn’t…

* * *

“My lord, the beacon has been lit. What are your orders?” Ser Sunsword looked at Teryn Loghoof, ready to carry out his commands to the spirit of the letter. The old general looked across to the battlefield, to where the Grey Wardens were fighting the ponyspawn. They would soon be overwhelmed. He saw King Blueblood issuing orders to his army, but he too would soon be overwhelmed. They would all be overwhelmed if Loghoof’s army did not move to join them.

Traitors, all of them, Loghoof thought. You would do this country I poured my sweat, blood and tears fall into the hooves of our enemies. I would rather die than let you have that opportunity. To that end, I will see you all die first. Let the Filesians watch from their sculpted towers as their hope to take my country dies here in Ostequus.

“Signal the retreat,” he said at last.

“My Lord?” Ser Sunsword looked at the teryn with surprise. This was obviously conflicting to her. She had sworn an oath of fealty to king and country, but she owed Loghoof everything that she was. Her knighthood was thanks to him. Surviving was thanks to him. As much as it pained him to use such as leverage, Loghoof was a pragmatic pony. Any advantage that could be used would be.

Loghoof’s fierce eyes bore down on his chosen knight, allowing no discussion. There could be no hesitation.

“Do as I command.”

Ser Sunsword appeared stricken, but carried out her lord’s order. “You heard the teryn!” She shouted to the gathered army, “All units fall back. We return to Trotterim. Move out!”

Sunsword gave one more look to Loghoof before joining the retreating army. The teryn continued to watch the battle unfold, not allowing his inner rage to show on his face.

I am sorry, old friend. He thought back on Blueblood’s father, his comrade-in-arms, his sworn brother who he had fought and bled and suffered beside during the days of the Filesian occupation. Your son would give Equestria to our enemies. I cannot allow that to happen. When it is time to meet my punishment at Celestia’s hooves, I will accept it. But for now, I do what I must to protect Equestria.

Loghoof turned his gaze to where the Grey Wardens were fighting, and losing. “Die well, Wardens,” he said before rejoining his army to the march back to Trotterim. There would be much to do, and little time to do it.

* * *

Duncan had been a Grey Warden for over twenty-five years. He had fought against ponyspawn as well as fellow ponies in his lifetime. He had trained Grey Wardens, and had seen them fall in the line of duty. All that kept pushing Duncan forward during his life was the knowledge that he was putting the darkness to the sword and that he was giving respite to a world plagued with evil, a world that did not need the assistance of the ponyspawn to help it in the downward spiral.

But even he was a simple mortal pony, who put his faith into others. He wanted to believe in Digger and Magni and that they would pass the Joining and become full Grey Wardens. Despite his dislike of the colt, he wanted to believe King Blueblood would see this battle to its end. He trusted that Teryn Loghoof would bring the much needed reinforcements and force the ponyspawn back into the Wilds.

The beacon fire in the observatory was blazing. The flame could be seen for furlongs around. Ponies cheered as the light shone across the battlefield. Teryn Loghoof’s soldiers would descend and help them rid the land of the ponyspawn. The battle would be won, and the Archdemon would reveal itself allowing for the final battle between the master of the Blight and the Grey Wardens, a battle that history repeated four times before now, all in favour of the Grey Wardens.

Teryn Loghoof’s soldiers did not come.

The battle plunged into utter chaos. Whatever progress they were making was broken as morale shattered. Ponies turned tail to flee, but were chased and killed by the ponyspawn. The battlefront was replaced by mayhem as the monsters pushed their attack.. Duncan and the rest of the Grey Wardens fell back as they tried to hold the line.

A thundering roar signalled the beginning of the end. From the trees came a monstrous minotaur, as large as any tree, rampaging towards the front lines. Crushing ally and foe alike, the minotaur made its way to Blueblood’s position, the king desperate for an escape route. The king made a feeble attack with his sword, only for the giant ponyspawn to bat the weapon away.

Duncan rushed forward, sword in his teeth trying to reach the monster in time to save Blueblood. But as the minotaur’s giant hand closed in on the king, the elder Warden knew it was too late. With the king held in its grasp, the minotaur roared into Blueblood’s face, his intricate golden helm falling to the ground. Blueblood whimpered, desperate for a way out the creature’s grasp.

The minotaur squeezed, crushing Blueblood in his hand. With a careless toss, the king’s body sailed over the field before landing in a crumpled heap. Duncan leapt forward, sword in his mouth as he pierced the minotaur’s chest. The massive ponyspawn hollered in pain, swinging its arms at its chest to get rid of the old earth pony. Duncan swung with the creature’s own momentum, driving his word ever lower towards the monster’s heart.

With a shout, Duncan seized the opportunity, plunging the sword deeper into the minotaur’s chest cavity as black blood gushed from the wounds. The minotaur gave one last gurgling shout before collapsing. Duncan released his hold on his blade, but did not move in time for the foul beast to land on top of his hind legs.

Duncan gasped as he struggled to pull himself forward with his front hooves. His hind legs were broken and his sword was lost. He looked up to see the last of the Grey Wardens and King Blueblood’s army struck down in front of his eyes as more ponyspawn charged into the battlefield. He looked up to the observatory, and to the flame that should have signalled victory.

Twilight Sparkle. Applejack. By Celestia and Luna, please live. Duncan turned his gaze towards the advancing horde. A thelock galloped towards him, a savage blade in its teeth.

May the light of the Sun and Moon protect you both. You must not fai-

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