• Published 26th Feb 2014
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He Who Walks The Graves - The Zealot



When the ignorant find knowledge they are dangerous. One man understands this, and so seeks to educate the nation he once fought for, and to bring down it's tyrant ruler.

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Chapter 16: ... and Kiss Yourself Goodbye

He Who Walks The Graves
By: The Zealot
Chapter 16: … and Kiss Yourself Goodbye

February 12th, 1189 Y.R.S.

That was a day that I would remember for many years to come in my long, long life. A day I would never forget, no matter how much I wished I could. A day that I took a lesson from, a lesson I never forgot.

That was the day I went to war.

I was given a mission by Celestia, go out to a border town in Gryphon controlled France, along with a group of rookies whom I would be leading. They were still clothed in the golden armor present in many parts of Celestia’s forces, as the new designs had not yet been mass produced and the sets that had been were sent off to the front front-lines. We were tasked with capturing the city, allowing it to be used as a forward point in taking back France.

I was excited, eccentric, even. Games and movies and books had painted my view of battle, of combat, of glorious warfare! But as the world often does, my dreams of such things were shattered against the rocky shore of reality.

We were taking cover in trenches as magic bolts, arrows, and even lighting were fired at our Gryphon foes, who were doing the same to us. Things were going quite well, actually, it was more or less a war of attrition as we took out their troops, the unicorns and their magic, earth ponies firing off bows, and pegasi commanding the weather, and of course, myself firing my rifle, all was going well.

It was then I made my gravest mistake. In my battlefield naivety I ordered a frontal charge, sure we would take the enemy by force. Some ponies objected, but I did not listen, and so we ran across the field. For a time, blinded by adrenaline, I thought all was well, that the pony soldiers were having their own time of mowing down Gryphon lines.

It was only after I found myself surrounded by Gryphon troops that I looked around, it was only then that I saw the bodies of countless ponies strewn about, comrades I had been given command over that I had idiotically ordered to death. I kept fighting though, but eventually I was overwhelmed by the enemy, and I was captured.

They rendered me unconscious, bound me, and dragged me away. I awoke in a crude cell, bound to a metal chair, though still armed in my weaponry and armor. I was there for hours as they interrogated me, thankfully their methods were mostly brute force, and my armor absorbed much of that. Where I would have had broken bones I instead only had bruises, and it was because of this reduction in pain that I was able to resist spilling the few military secrets I held.

Eventually they realized I would be of no help to them, and so they marched me out to a cliff behind the building I was previously in. A sheer drop off the side of a mountain, so far down I couldn’t see the bottom. I pondered, for a time, why they would make a base here, there was nowhere for them to run. They were flying creatures, the answer finally came to me, and that was the final thought as I was kicked from the cliff side and sent plummeting down to the darkness below.

Of course, there was a bottom to the cliff, and so it was that I found myself impaled upon an earthen spike, straight through the center of my chest. How it missed my heart and lungs I did not know, but I was certain of death. I was bleeding profusely from the chest wound, and after just a few minutes my vision started to blur.

It was then that I fell upon the spike a bit more, this seemingly insignificant change in position had quelled the bleeding, as it was now coming out in a trickle. I stayed upon that spike for hours, all I could do was look around at the bodies of people who had also met their end down here, Gryphons, ponies, Changelings, even Sheep were here. My last thoughts were of prayer, though I was never a religious man, before the darkness claimed me.

[February 13th, 1189 Y.R.S. 3:12am]

*****

But it was not, as the Gryphons had hoped, the end of my existence. Rather, it was the prologue to the long and bloody story that would be my life.

I awoke upon the edge of the cliff I had just met my demise at. At the time I didn’t think of how I was there, I had died, I knew that, yet I was back. I pushed the thought from my mind for a time, but as my life continued I found my own death to be a more constant thing than I ever could have thought.

As I looked around the area I saw pony flags instead of Gryphon ones, it seems some time had passed, for the ponies now controlled this encampment. Strange, I thought, but I did not think on it longer than I had to.

As I entered the base looks of shock ran across the faces of most everyone there, I had been counted among the dead it seems, fitting. They wondered what had happened, if I was the only survivor.

“No, I didn’t survive. I was merely lucky enough to come back.” Of course, my answer brought more questions, but I did not answer them, I just pressed on. I wanted to be away from here, from this place where I had been so foolish, go back to the palace and learn more, become a better commander, as that would be required.

It occurred to me, as I was en route back to the palace, that explaining to Celestia would be hell. But I would not lie to her, no, and I would have to apologise to all those who had lost someone under my command. It would be a black day in paradise.
I would like you all to remember, no matter what you might think, about how glorious battle is, how amazing combat would be, just remember, war is hell.

[1189 Y.R.S. 10:16am]

*****

Celestia and her sister were amazingly displeased with my performance, as was I myself. I was cast away for a time, unable to lead nor give direction, probation they called it. But eventually I was allowed back into things, I had to work my way back up, rekindle the friendship I had with the Sisters Princess. That took around a year.

I went back to combat a time later, I never ordered such a foolish command as I did that day, though the new armor the ponies wore made them nigh invincible one the field, arrow and blade could not pierce through the steel and rock, and the pegasi were far too agile to be hit.

I risked myself each time I went to battle, I was there for one thing, and one thing only, to make sure that as few ponies died as I could. So I gained a reputation, The Lion they called me, for I was strong and swift and let none stand in my way. At least, that was the reason they gave. Though it was no comfort to me.

For the longest times those who I had ordered to their deaths weighed heavy upon my soul. Until I found them in my part time job, leading them to the afterlife, I begged of them forgiveness and in the spirit of their kind they gave it, and so a great burden was lifted from me, though I would never be the same again.

But still I fought, and I came back, live or dead, I always came back. It was on one of this few times of respite, where I was at the castle, that I met the next member of my team, a Gryphon, surprisingly.

[1189 Y.R.S. 1:30pm]

*****

“Come along Reaper, I have something I would like to show you.” Celestia’s voice rang through the hall we walked along, she had asked my assistance in something and so I followed her.

We reached our destination soon enough, a guest room along the outer wall of the castle, which she knocked upon and had apparently been granted entrance to, for she opened the door and motioned me inside.

I will admit, I was a bit surprised to find a Gryphon sitting at a table, sipping at a cup of tea and reading a book, but I contained myself. If he was here, in a guest room and not the dungeon, and if Celestia had shown courtesy to him then surely he was no threat.

“This is what you wanted to show me? Why would that be? And where did he come from?” I asked these three questions, I was in no mood for any games of Celestia’s, I had only just returned from a combat mission, you see.

“Yes, this is who I wanted to show you, his name is Werner, I thought perhaps you would like to meet him. As for where he came from, well, he came to us from the Gryphon Kingdom, or more accurately, he met a scouting party of ours and asked to join us.” This was the cheery explanation by Celestia, and not once did the Gryphon disagree.

“A defector? Interesting.” This was my response, and I could see the hint of a smile on the beak of the ex-soldier.

“Ja, it turns out that the ‘cause’ we were fighting for wasn’t quite up to snuff, so I decided to see if I could change sides. Thankfully your princess here is quite nice.” Came a reply from Werner himself, he even had a German accent, but not stereotypical, thankfully, and more like someone who had actually spoken German for most of their life.

“Hmm, interesting. Well, Werner, what is it you used to do in the Wehrmacht?” I decided to use the Nazi military name from my own world, perhaps it would be correct perhaps not, but whatever this soldier used to do was obviously something Celestia thought I could use.

“Well, I was one of the few soldiers who were educated before we were drafted for the war, and so I went into the Rune-Corps. Since we Gryphons have less latent magic than, say, ponies or Changelings, we instead use runes. I was in the branch that dealt mostly with demolitions, explosives and fire cleansing, that sort of thing. Sometimes we even had shows back at camp, after we won a battle or something.” A Rune-Crops? Quite interesting indeed, and demolitions was something I didn’t have for my team, unless you counted myself which I didn’t. He would be very useful, if he would accept.

“Hmm, well then, Werner, I would like to offer you a position, in a private squad of my own creation. We could use someone with your expertise.” As I said the words his brow furrowed, and he seemed to be in deep thought. Joining my group was a decision that should not be taken lightly, I suppose. “I’ll give you some time-” I was going to leave, but he had made his mind.

“Nein! I mean, ja, I would love to be part of your special squad, just tell me where to go and I will. I’m sorry, it’s only now really occurring to me that I will be fighting against my brothers. I will be fine though.” It was understandable, really, he was turning his back on his whole life, and a choice such as that was not to be made lightly.

“I thank you for your acceptance, someone will be by within the day giving you instructions on where to go, in the meantime I have something to put together. Have a good day, soldier, and always be faithful.” I gave him a quick salute, which he replied to in kind, before turning and leaving the room, as Celestia and Werner started talking about whatever it was the would.

[1189 Y.R.S. 1:50pm]

Author's Note:

So, because doing a detailed run through of all the many battles would be terrible, I instead did something I thought would work better, mainly, a telling of how things went, his first battle, and war from then on. It also gave me a chance to just snap to the 'present-past' if you will, and introduce the second member of the team, in case you're wondering, Werner is a German name, and if you don't think so than Google it. Anyway, I had a good time with this one, really, although it is once again darker than usual. I was originally going to have two fight scenes where music plays, but more recently I realized that wouldn't work. So here are the two songs that would have been used in some frontal charges.

First Act: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YlBnJ0egT_4

Second Act (The Lion): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kw4bGBDKrPs