• Published 1st Apr 2014
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Puppets of Tragedy - Iridescence T Wind

We all know the story, human from earth goes to Equestria from buying a mystical prop from a mysterious unnamed salesman to attend Comicon. But what you didn't expect was the prop to be a puppeteers crafting kit.

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Sowing the seeds...

The night was long and full of orkish screaming and yelling. None of it out of fear, but out of jubilation for a good hellish fight. When all was said and done the area was completely purged. So much so, that plant life would probably never properly regrow in that area for a few dozen years, and that the caves themselves would be so full of soot that one could assume a dragon had once had a terrible cold in there. Not even bones remained, as I knew not how far deep the spore spreading went, and went a bit overkill with lightsabers and plasma bombs towards the end, but what remained to be used, was a large amount of metal.

In comparison to standard steel, warhammer 40k boasted its ship grade metals that were far superior, and even orks, despite their famous hap hazard and slap dash technology was no exception to using space grade metals to acquire killing tools.While the weapons and armor, and the half completed rear end of a gargant mech walker was useless for what I was planning, melting it down would still provide far more metal than I would feasibly need in the near future to arm the guard ponies I would be training. The sheer amount of metal and how deep the mines ran had left me spending most of the night gathering it all. As Orks only saw the gemstones of the caves fit for shiny bits on their weapons rather than outright any other use for them. All in all, I had enough metal here to probably forge a small castle, but took with me in a card-turned storage enough suits of armor to melt down proper once I had GLaDOS back up in running, and buried the rest for later recovery.

As the early hours of the morning neared, I returned as quietly as I left, having not closed either portals and significantly drained for all of the mass carnage that had ensured. Armor was not much of a question anymore, gold would be replaced by far easier to make brigandine armor now that I had a non-magically made material to work with. I had toyed with plate armor, but that sort of thing was far harder to repair and create, and required far more custom fitting in a time frame that I simply didn't have, and the brigandine armor itself was wildly popular for both style and the ease of both make and repair in the era before guns and cannons became more relevant. Composed of dozens of small strips of metal riveted to a sheet of durable cloth, the armor was considered one of the inspiring marks for the fantasy armor known as 'studded leather' though the later armor was more of a myth than an actual medieval truth that brigandine was. The popularity came in the different ways it could be made and cut, and the choice of color was an ever popular demand as it allowed one to display heraldry and uniformity without having to sacrifice the ability to make adjustments for individual wearers, and made repair surprisingly easy as you only had to replace the cloth and the surrounding riveted strips of metal rather than try to hammer out the dents made during times of war. While not as strictly protective as full plate, it was more mobile and still offered a fair amount of protection anyway that the current royal guards were sorely lacking. I would of swore that Celestia had designed her guards as a harem rather than a protective military force given the massive gaping hole in their stomach to show their abs in their fur, which by itself was beyond silly.

I'd have an early draft of the design within the next few days, but as I returned to my room, a different problem awaited me. A maid was sitting on my bed. And while her face was perturbed by the dark inky mass of my portal, mine own was similarly confused by the lack of chains coming off her. Especially since I had saw chains on her in our previous meeting where she all but fled the sight of me, "What is a Changeling doing in my room?" I asked bluntly.

I was sore and tired and not in the mood. Concentration dictated results here and now, and as my General Grevious puppet entered the room, he errantly caught the second ambushing changeling by the neck as he fell down towards me from the ceiling above, and tossed it to the first, my short height actually working in my favor for once but that left me feeling like a gremlin rather than a significant threat. "If your plan was to abduct me to sabotage the regiment I'm supposed to be training, you will end up dead. I've had a long night you see, and I want to sleep."

They didn't even deign me with words, but hisses. Sloppy, Chrysalis, sloppy. At least give me a dramatic speech about how I was doomed to be under her thrall or something. The third changeling came from the side, and my puppet marched around me swiftly, grabbing it and the other two changelings invading my sanctum once again by the throat, hissing and flailing futilely at reinforced metal. I groaned at the stupidity. Apparently it wasn't just the show that had ponies and other creatures alike ditching weapons for bare hoofed combat. With three of them in hand, I decided to make a point. Magna guards, machines that my puppet had trained personally and only were around thanks to him in the show, was made, each one bearing a lightning lit staff to bear. That staff they used, a painful disorienting shock with all the power of a glorified taser was enough to send them sprawling limp after a few spasms in my generals grasp. I had the temptation of letting them go to Celestia, Starswirl and Luna, but they had seen my portal. Which meant I had to get creative. Portal was still open... So I escorted them into the realm between realms, to their dismay, and then out to the random empty plains where another of my blank face puppets were slowly going their way to the Siren city. Dumping them in the middle of an open plains dozens of miles from the next nearest settlement, and leaving them there as the puppet itself picked up pace, having been given the proper chance now to turn into a fighter and fly a decent distance away from them before returning to a regular puppet on the march. I needed rest, after all.

Once returned, I closed my portal, put away my puppets in their cards, and went to sleep. Exhaustion played its part in keeping my rest dreamless, though I knew Luna would probably be curious to why I hadn't slept at all last night. Hopefully Celestia wouldn't notice the shenanigans I had also pulled. The changelings hadn't outright spoke a word, but I was firmly unable to be taken away in my sleep as long as I slept in a card. Which was an extremely weird thing to think about, now that I thought about it. How was it and the rest of my magic maintained in my sleep? As far as I knew, even how was my magic working in the first place? The fundamental laws of magic stated I couldn't create something from nothing, yet the props, and puppets clearly pulled from elsewhere. My mind was befuddled, and I just threw the blame onto Discord. Perhaps I was drawing matter from wherever that chaos dimension he called home was, but it was a mystery for another time. Sleep beckoned and I was not above wasting most of my morning and early afternoon passed out.

When consciousness returned, I found a few trays with the afternoon meal of fruits and salad, alongside a few scrolls. Reading through them, Celestia had wanted me to draft up the requirements for the guard regiment I was going to be training, and gave me the actual date for Shinings Canterlot Wedding, a little less than two months from now. Hardly the time I needed to pull a proper guard regiment together, but with a written reply taking mere minutes I devoured breakfast while an errant puppet wrote for me. Blacksmiths, armorers, and weaponsmiths were a requirement, with at least another two weeks before my puppets could reach Yoko proper on foot... I wasn't going to be getting GLaDOS back soon enough to forge proper equipment myself, even if I knew where to begin. But the design of the armor lent itself to a mixture of updating the appearance and functionality of the guard with what I had built as props for other people back on earth.

Already I had a few unique weapons in the works for the magic unicorns applied, and pegasus type bodies were in a far odder case to work with. While mine own fighting style was something of a gimmicky mess, fighting the orks the other night had given me a fresh perspective on the value of massed arms, formations, and close ranged combat from their wild disorganized mess disintegrating upon the rank and file gunfire of legions of droids. While I wasn't going to cheat and just throw magic guns at them, It had given me a few ideas on how to get them into tip top shape, between my own theorizing for revolutionizing unicorn warfare, and updating the armaments of the guards from mere unused spears and bare-hooved combat.

While the space-steel Brigandine chest armor was going to be an updated design of infinitely better protection than the gut exposed horrendous gold of Celestias current guards, I would have to see about getting someone who could work the fine loops of chain required to update the horrendous open faced Barbutes that the current guards used that left far more than enough exposed for a proper stabbing. I was thinking a mixture of the neck armor known as aventail, which was essentially chain mail for the neck, and Great Helm for the head proper. The helmet design was popular for crusaders, and fairly protective, and in addition to the aventail, people would have a fair hard time trying to stab up through the jawline of a guardsmen wearing it. As much as I would of liked having bullet proof glass as a face shield, I simply didn't have the know how to build it, nor the time to figure that out. As for the arms...

Pauldrons were a favorite of mine, aside from protective measures, properly built one could add storage into them. While I wasn't building them to scale to match Yoko's own space marines, I could reasonably have them carry a few small items in them like bandages and salves.The protective thickness would also go a small way into protecting the collar bones, and reinforce the difficulty of doing overhead swings down onto the armor. While a vambrace on the arms would destroy the classic crusader look, I wasn't above kitbashing a new infantry unit into the field. I did sigh when it came to hand armor though, hooves were simply horrendous, and the standard guard armor for that would have to do, albiet in a sturdier metal.

Turning to the draft legs, as I devoured a mango with mild relish, I had to consider a few options in regards to weight over protection. Given the time constraints, I would likely be forced to extend the chest brigandine to have a skirt around the upper thighs, and stick to greaves as the protection for the lower legs. As much as I'd like to plate them up, or even turn the unit into heavy infantry, I had to realize the practical time constraints required for them, and that if I was to get them trained up in time, I would not have the time to fully equip an entire company of men in custom fitted plate armor. Else I'd be making plate armor, instead of brigadine. To make up for this, an aketon, or arming doublet would be covering up more of the arms and back of the legs around the joints, in order to better protect them, and keep the armor from chaffing the person wearing it too much. But that left the magic side of things, which would be a conversation in of itself.

I didn't know what the jewel did in the royal guards golden armor, if it just was a pretty piece, or as I thought it was, an enchanted bit to make the armor somewhat usable. Inquiring with star swirl revealed he didn't know much about it either, than that it was just magical in nature upon his own casual inspection of the guards he passed by day to day. Together we made to Shining Armors quarters, as to make our inquiries in person to the current state of the guard and their more... arcane tactics. What I found didn't impress me, Shining Armor and the Royal guards used tactics revolved around pairs of guards, rather than the sacred three or four per patrol. Which meant if one guard went missing, the other was likely to be takne out as well quizzically looking around for where their buddy went. I would be updating that to a three to four man patrol schedule in my own update, but I was more aghast to learn about the armor itself.

Made of solid gold, it came in to weight about two and a half times as heavy as if it had been wrought out of steel. Which meant a suit around 50 pounds or so of steel, had been transformed into a burden of about just over one hundred and twenty three pounds when the math was done. When I had asked how his men managed to move at all in that, he cheerfully explained the point of the jewel. Inlaid with wards of an enchanter named (creatively enough) Ace Enchanter, the armors central jewel bellied its strength in reducing the weight of the armor itself, and reinforcing the strength of the wearer to help deal with the load. In order to not burn out, however, as my jewels often did in the generators I'd acquired, it was in a consumptive rate low enough to only need to be replaced once every decade or so. This meant to the guard wearing it that it was enough magic to drag the weight back down into reasonable measures, but in the end I saw the flaw for what it was.

Shining Armor didn't see the problem till I more or less challenged him to a spar, and within three heartbeats of it starting, ripped the jewel from his armor and watched as he went more or less face first into the ground under its own weight as I juggled a glorified marble. The design of it wasn't even locked, it was a mere clasp. I tossed the jewel back to him and gave him a lecture that armor that was as useless as his was, was worse than decoration. The rematch that followed had me more or less ramming my shield by the edge into his gut and having him crumple a second time. The third match up was even worse as I let Grevious handle it, ripping the sword he carried in a telekinetic grasp with Grevious's own bare hands, and bashing him again in the gut with the pommel. At this point the nearby guards were looking uncomfortable.

The fourth rematch, was offered and accepted with three other guards backing him with their training spears. Bemusedly, I brought my shield, and Grevious took a pair of training swords, and we made short work of them. Jewels finding a repeat performance after one of the unicorns tried to contest me with his own magic like a goldfish to mine shark. The distraction, was enough that Grevious grabbed his face with his clawed foot and knocked him unconscious by throwing his heavy helmed face into the ground, and taking out two more guards with a firm whack upside the head. Shining fell once more left alone, as his sword was parried off my shield, with nowhere near the velocity or ferocity of Yoko, he was a joke in comparison as the counter stroke of me ripping his jewel out again with my bare hands this time round was my counter.

"Dead weight, even when reduced, is dead weight." I told the stallion bluntly, "Fix this, or you're unworthy of being called captain of the guard. How can you protect the ones you love if this is what you can provide?"

With his mounting hatred of me, probably reaching new levels, I wouldn't put it past him to overwork himself for that comment. I walked away while he seethed, and hoped he a clever enough man to put aside his emotions for once. As Starswirl rejoined my side, he asked without comment to the unfolded scene, "Did you have to prove your point so harshly?"

"If they fought in any of the wars my home land marks its history with, they'd be dead in the opening volley of their first battlefield." I replied bluntly, "If that was the best Equestria itself had to offer, I'm surprised this nation is as large as it is, one would think it would of long been taken over by more war like species, like the Griffons or Minotaurs."

Starswirl chewed on that, thinking it over before coming to his own comment, "That would probably be due to the Clover Field Effect." He cited, and I gave him a confused look.

"Clover Field? As in your apprentice Clover the Clever?" I prompted.

He nodded, and started the explanation by quoting "Equestrians are not a war like species, but their dominance in the field of nations is primarily due to the high masses of energy that a large number of Equestrians bear due to their race and destiny. With each pony having enough magic to alter their destiny to a special talent, and enough magic to defy what we have come to known as basic and advanced physics, the phenom known as arcane circuitry came into discovery quite naturally."

"What does this have to do with Equestrias dominance of wartime practices, exactly?" I asked, as he was about to explain arcane circuitry, "I know that every creature native to this plane of existence has an amount of magic more or less inherent in them, from a mixture of their body, soul, and mind, but aside from Equestrian's having cutie marks when others don't, what does that have to do with war or Clover the Clever?"

"I was getting to that." he harrumphed, "The Clover Field Effect, is the mark of what we came to now know as an arcane flare, or an event when a being of high magical potential reaches a stressful climatic point in their lives. Typically a unicorn is the most common creature of this, where when under great stress their magic will flare, and be released all at once. Usually in an act of self preservation or to deal with a situation of extreme stress. But the Clover Field effect has to deal with a much different flare effect." He sighed.

"Marked originally during the events of the Griffin-Pegasai war, the Clover Field effect is the result of when a magically gifted, high capacity being meets a violent end without being given the time to discharge their magic properly before death." His look turned dour, with mild grief marring his tone, "The arcane surge, turns far brighter, typically consuming what remains of the users life to output a random effect, typically based on the thoughts of the one who was centered upon it. The first of these events, was Clover the Clever whose death assured the permanent place of the Pegasai after she was stabbed with a spear. She cast a spell with her dying breath that hit the majority of the continent and is now what is to blame for the current state of Pegasai affairs with weather factories and manual turning of seasons.

I stopped in my tracks and my jaw was mildly agape, "You're telling me one unicorns violent death was enough to cause an entire continent to lose its natural turnings of the weather?"

"Suppress, to be more accurate, you can find all of the continents weather crammed in the now Everfree Forest, which was shielded from the direct blast by Luna and Celestia back in the day. Or did you not notice how oddly shaped the forest was?"

I hadn't truth be told, but I wasn't going to admit that, "It certainly explains a few things, but that's a bit much for a single unicorn, truth be told."

Starswirl snorted, "She was unlike most, with a true talent for magic and the strength to move distant stars and planets besides. My apprentice was a genius, and spent far more time training herself than most ponies would even consider. Most ponies wouldn't be able to level a house, but the concurrent danger of that likely warded off all future outright wars with Equestria, and turned doctrine for any skirmishes fought against Equestria into non-lethal affairs. It probably didn't help that Private Pansy and Commander Hurricane fueled the spell as well, as they were caught in the crossfire as well."

"With a society of living explosives waiting to be set off, I can easily imagine that no one would want to war with zealous suicide bombers." I shook my head, "What of the other races then?"

"Griffins and minotaurs have a moderate amount of magic, but no where near enough to be considered a Clover Field risk normally." the older stallion admitted, "Griffins have difficulties staying in the clouds without enchanted items, as their supply can typically only last a few hours before needing to return to the ground. While Minotaurs were ever a race obsessed with their flesh than with the metaphysical. Dragons offer much the same effect as a decent grade unicorn, but typically don't risk Clover Field due to how much a combination of their fortitude and how much arcane originated fire a dragon will typically spill out before it dies in the forms of preference of fire and that their magical nature naturally influences their size and the protection of their scales in correlation with their greed."

"I get the feeling its more complicated than that?" I prodded.

"There are hundreds of races across Equis, Puppet Master." Starswirl dismissed, "I could talk about them all day. From outstanding outliers like the villains of my age, to artifacts that could explode with much the wrath as my dear apprentice did if let. What difference would it make?"

"So... from what you're telling me then," I concluded, "The lack of armor and vulnerability of the guard is in its own way a suicidal form of armor against would be invaders in of itself...? Good lord, talk about securing your reign with a throne made of explosives."

Who would target the gut for a stabbing after all, if the thing you stabbed would explode. The more I looked the worst things went. I was going to need to do a lot of revamping of Equestrian strategy to get something sane out of all this. I swear.

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