• Published 23rd Apr 2014
  • 3,404 Views, 294 Comments

MLDC Next Generation: Know Fear! - Michael_Ravencroft



"Starburst of Equestria, you have the ability to instill great fear!"

  • ...
21
 294
 3,404

You Have Been Chosen

A few hours had already passed since the departure of the Nightingale and Starburst was still anxious. She had explored some of the ship, getting familiar with the layout. A few RGs passed by her, some she saluted and others she simply waved a greeting. Luckily the glamour was still holding up, but there was always the niggling feeling in the back of her head, a slight fear that the charm would wear off at the most inopportune time. Still she didn't let that stop her, this was her dream, and she was going to see it through, come Tartarus or high water.

Starburst eventually made it to the room of the pony she was supposed to meet. Steeling her nerves, Starburst knocked at the door and awaited a response.

"Come in," said a mare's voice.

Starburst turned the nob and opened the door. The inside was fairly spacious. There were two sleeping cots on both sides of the room, a porthole to view the outside, and a retractable table at the center of the room. At the table sat a pegasus mare, her coat and feathers were yellow like gold, but her long mane and tail were a dingy white. Her eyes were piecing blue color, almost as if she were seeing straight through you. The mare, who had her mane in a ponytail, looked up from a map that was laid out and quirked an eyebrow at the newcomer.

"You're not Duke Hazard. Who are you," she asked.

"Oh, I’m Private Daisy Cutter, ma'am!" Starburst saluted the mare. "I was told to come see you regarding the recon for the supply run."

The pegasus mare face hoofed herself, "Duh, now I remember. The Lieutenant sent word that I'd be getting a rookie. I told Duke a thousand times, 'If it smells funny and been on the ground for more than five seconds, don't eat it!’ But hey, what're ya gonna do. Anyway, name's Sunny Skies, Corporal. And you can skip the formality while we're in here."

Starburst quickly lowered her hoof and let her body go lax and less rigid. "So, um, I guess I'll be your wingpony during the recon?"

"Yep, and it should – and I stress should – be a simple milk run. Look," Sunny pointed to a red circle near the outside of Stalliongrad, "we'll land here. From there the others will start unloading the supplies. Meanwhile, the two of us will move quickly and silently down this route to our fellow RGs fighting at the front. Our last intel told us that the griffons are sweeping through Stalliongrad."

Starburst watched as Sunny moved her hoof across the image of the city, showing how the Griffonian forces were advancing.

"Ma'am, I don't understand. Why not just hit them with the airship cannons? We can bomb them from above and drive them out quickly," asked Starburst.

"Unfortunately, there are still some ponies trapped behind enemy lines. We can't just go and aerial bomb the occupied parts of the city, not without killing the innocent ponies waiting for us to rescue them. Besides, we'd be leveling their homes and businesses. They may not have much to come back to when this is over, but it's better than nothing at all."

Starburst hung her head in shame, thinking herself foolish for not taking that into consideration. "Sorry..."

"No big," Sunny patted Star on the back, "besides, we'll get Stalliongrad back. No way am I going back home without freeing the city first!"

Starburst was starting to admire this mare, her determination and pride were infectious, and it only made the young mare want to try even harder. With that said Sunny Skies rolled up the map and tucked it into a container in the corner of the room. The whole time she was doing this, Starburst couldn't help but eye the mare, there was something about her that seemed...familiar, although she couldn't quite put her hoof on it. Sunny must've noticed her stares, because the older mare glanced over her right shoulder and smirked in Starburst's direction.

"See anything you like rookie," asked Sunny.

Starburst's cheeks went red at the implication, "Nonononono! I wasn't staring! Well, I was – but I didn't mean to! I just – UGH!"

Sunny chuckled at the embarrassed mare before her, "Don't worry about it, I'm flattered, really. But, you're too young for me, I mean, I'm twenty-five and you look too green to be eighteen yet."

Guess the glamour charm didn't make me as old as I thought it did, thought Star.

"Y-yeah, you're right. But that honestly wasn't the reason why I was staring. It's just, you remind me of somepony."

Sunny Skies quirked an eyebrow at that, but after a second or two, she understood who it was she reminded her of.

"I know, I probably remind you of my Mom. Her name is Spitfire," she said.

"Spitfire, as in Captain of the Wonderbolts, that Spitfire?!"

Sunny nodded.

"Whoa, I mean, I went to a few of your mom's shows, well, I mean her and the whole team, when I was filly. Strange, I don't remember there being anything about her having a foal?"

"Really, why's that?"

"Well...if I remember correctly, she and her teammate, Fleetfoot, got into a relationship and I heard they were still together," said Star.

Sunny Skies moved to her cot and laid back on it. "Yep, you're right. Spitfire and Fleetfoot are my moms."

"Oh, so they adopted you? One of my friends was adopted."

"Nope, my Mom, Spitfire, gave birth to me."

Starburst was now confused.

"Wait, what? So, did they get a donor or something?"

Sunny grinned, "Nope, my other Mom, Fleetfoot, she's my biological mother too."

Starburst was now drawing a complete blank and was racking her brain trying to figure out how two mares could have a child, when all the anatomy books she had read, and the embarrassing talk she had with both her parents, told her that a mare and a stallion were required to make a foal. Sunny could see the metaphorical smoke coming out of Star's ears and decided to have pity on her.

"Okay, let me clarify. Apparently there are clinics that will help mare couples have foals. The ponies there have unicorns who can cast a spell that can temporarily endow another mare with the necessary 'stallion parts' to get her partner pregnant," explained Sunny, air quoting the word stallion parts.

Star thought about it for a minute, letting her mind piece the information together. It didn't take long for her to figure out, if the glowing red that was now her face was any indication. The young pegasus mare stammered incoherently, trying to form words but having them come out as gibberish. Sunny Skies couldn't help but laugh at Star's realization, finding her reaction priceless.

After finally regaining her composure, Starburst spoke more clearly to Sunny. "I've...ahem...heard about mares that use 'that' sort of spell, but for other things. I didn't know that it could actually, get a mare pregnant..."

"Well, the one you're thinking of is a normal version; the one my Moms used was more complicated and required a trained professional. Otherwise they could've just asked a unicorn friend of theirs to cast the spell. Unfortunately, the spell can only allow mares to have fillies, has something to do with genes and chromosomes and some other complicated stuff. But, yeah, here I am, in the flesh."

"Wow, sorry, but I've never met a pony – mean – I'll shut up now before I embarrass myself again."

"Heh, heh, don't worry about it. Fun aside, we better get some shut eye, we might not get much of a chance to once we get there, stock up while you can."

Heeding Sunny's advice, Starburst went to her cot but paused before climbing in. My armor, I can't take it off with her in the room! The glamour can only mask the look as long as it's on me. If I take it off and she sees it looking smaller compared to me, or looks differently than when it was on me, I'll be found out! That leaves only one option...

Sunny Skies watched in confusion as Starburst climbed into her cot, with her full armor on. "I'm sure you've guessed that I'm into mares, but I'm not going to jump you in your sleep."

"What? Oh no, that has nothing to do with it, I swear! I just...I just want to be ready, you know, for when we get there, don't want to waste time getting my armor on in case something happens," said Starburst, chuckling nervously.

Sunny rubbed her chin, after a few tense seconds the older mare smiled in understanding.

"I get it. First deployment jitters, you're armor makes you feel safe, and it's your best friend on the battlefield, I get it, every newbie goes through this. But they eventually learn how much more comfortable to sleep without it. Night, Daisy."

"Night, Sunny."

Starburst managed to find a semi-comfortable position to sleep in and let her eyelids grow heavy. The weight of what was to come didn't quite hit her as hard as she thought. Maybe it was the adrenaline, the anticipation, or maybe it was because she made a friend in Sunny Skies. Whatever the reason, Starburst knew that when she next woke, she'd be in Stalliongrad about to live her dream.


Five Hours Later

*KA-BOOM*

The sound of an explosion woke Starburst from her sleep and made her jump out of her bed.

*KA-BOOM*

Another powerful explosion roared, the force of it rattled her teeth and shook the entire room. Starburst quickly looked around and saw Sunny Skies already suited up in her armor. Her expression was different from the kind and tomcoltish one she had before. Now it was serious, her brow furrowed and eyes glaring with the awakened soldier within her.

"What's going on," shouted Star.

"We're under attack Private, look alive!"

{Alert! All crew members to battle stations! Repeat! All crew members to battle stations! Sustaining heavy cannon fire from below!}

"They can't be serious," cursed Sunny, "C'mon we're heading to the loading bay!"

Starburst followed Sunny's orders. All throughout the ship everypony was scrambling, explosions continued to go off outside the airship. Star knew that all that was needed was for one of those cannons to get in a lucky shot and the whole ship could go down in flames. She tried to push that unpleasant thought as far into the back of her mind as she could, instead trying to focus on where they were going. After navigating the ships hallways, Sunny and Star made it to the loading bay. Medics and Royal Guards were all assembled, formed by ranks as they stood at attention. The Lieutenant, a gruff and older looking earth pony stallion, paced back and forth slowly.

"Listen up, we have a situation! The griffons have gotten ahold of our anti-airship cannons, and as a result they are now firing on us with our own weapons," he said.

"How come we didn't know about those, didn't we get communication about the takeover," asked a guard.

"Communications are spotty with the ground forces, we're not entirely sure what's causing it, but suffice to say we missed the important stuff. This of course changes our mission. If the enemy has advanced that far into Stalliongrad then it means that the situation has only gotten worse, we have to assume that our landing site and route are compromised. We may need to turn back."

Murmurs could be heard among the troops, they had come all this way to give aid to their fellow Royal Guards and now they had to turn back?!

"I'm sorry Sir, but I think I speak for everypony here when I say that is not acceptable," said Sunny.

All the RGs and Medics turned to look at Sunny Skies; their Lieutenant raised a curious eyebrow.

"Pray tell, how would we go about it?"

"An Air Drop, Sir."

"'Air Drop?!"

"Yes Sir, we drop the supplies at the designated site. I and one other pegasus will accompany the supplies to the ground and protect it until you and others can rendezvous with us. We'll use a TactCrystal to mark our position," explained Sunny.

"You realize that the only other pegasus on this boat is Private Daisy Cutter there? This is sounding like a suicide mission Corporal; I can't order somepony to do this. It has to be her decision."

All eyes were on Starburst now. She could feel the pressure being put on her to make a decision. Star could tell that this plan wasn't entirely sound, the original plan had a higher chance of survival, with Sunny's, that chance became less than a sliver. Starburst then looked up to Sunny Skies, her eyes locking with hers and feeling the fierce determination rise within her. She had come all this way to prove she had what it took to be a Royal Guard, to back out now would make everything she had done be for nothing. Starburst stood at attention and saluted the Lieutenant.

"Sir, I volunteer for the suicide mission, SIR!"

Almost everypony's mouths were agape at what she said. Sunny merely smiled her gratitude while the Lieutenant smirked.

"Ah, hay, the route we were going on had a 47% chance of us getting killed anyhow. Let's set'em up and roll'em out!"

"SIR, YES SIR!" The Royal Guards shouted as one.

"Swift, tell the bridge we're initiating an aerial drop! Thumper, get some ponies on the cannons, see if we can draw the enemy’s fire! Well c'mon you apes, you wanna live forever!?"

"HOORAH!"

If everypony was scrambling before, they were hustling now. The RGs worked fast to get the supply crates fitted with parachutes while the Nightingale maneuvered swiftly to avoid any direct hits. The cannons on the starboard and port sides fired off one round after the other at the ground below, aiming at the muzzle flashes of the anti-airship cannons below. Starburst and Sunny Skies were busy getting outfitted. Sunny had equipped a couple of blade bracers; each one housed a ten inch steel blade. Star opted to carry a dagger; she would've used the blade bracers as well, but was unsure if they would interfere with the glamour charm.

The packages were ready; the loading door slowly opened up and revealed a night sky, lit up with the thunderous explosions of cannon ordinance. Star and Sunny stood at the edge of the platform, looking down at Stalliongrad. The city was large, spanning hundreds of miles in each direction, easily dwarfing Canterlot and coming in as a close second to Manehattan. Star had seen pictures of Stalliongrad once before, and had wanted to see the city one day, but now some of it was burning, and other parts had gone pitch black.

"You ready Cutter?"

"Oh I'm ready, are you Sunny?"

"I was born ready, how about you?!"

"I couldn't be more read!"

There was a brief silence between them.

"We're procrastinating out of fear, aren't we," asked Sunny Skies.

"Oh most definitely," agreed Starburst.

Sunny Skies sighed, "Well, regardless of what happens, I'm glad to have met you, Daisy Cutter, and there's no pony I'd rather do this with." The golden-yellow mare extended her hoof to the young mare before her.

Starburst grinned and hoof bumped Sunny, "Back you, Sunny Skies."

Both mares looked over the edge one last time to steel their nerves.

"It's a good day to die, Cutter!"

"What –!?"

"RELEASE!!!"

At her order the load was released, the heavy crates quickly left the airship and descended down. Both Star and Sunny dove off in pursuit of the crates. All around them explosions went off left and right. The whole time both mares kept their wings tucked tightly against their bodies, allowing gravity to take hold of them as they angled out to align themselves with the falling supplies. Starburst could feel the g-forces rack her body as they continued their dive. The city was growing closer and closer with each passing second, the cannon fire continued to burst all around them, it would only take one of those to blow her or Sunny out of the sky and Star didn't feel like getting shot down.

The two pegasi finally caught up with the crates, Sunny looked up and then down, determining the best time to deploy the chute. It was when one of the cannon shots strayed too close did she deem it time to deploy. Star quickly hit the button on crate and the parachute released before them. Both pegasi kicked off the crate and began their flare, unfurling their wings and allowing the air to help in reducing their speed. The two of them grabbed either side of the crates, holding it still and aiming the combine load to land in a roughly defendable area. The sky then gave way to towering structures of stone and mortar; there was a heat that wafted through the air, no doubt from the fires that raged unattended.

"Get ready, Private, this is going to be rough," warned Sunny.

Star watched as the ground approached rapidly. She braced herself the best she could while flapping her wings as fast and hard as she could. Combined, the two mares were able to make the crates stop with little jostling. Both Sunny and Star panted hard, their hearts beating fast and furiously, threatening to burst out of their chests at any moment. After taking in gulps of air, the two of them quickly looked up and watched as the Nightingale started to move away from the city.

"Well, the hard parts over, now all we need to do is –"

Sunny was cut off midsentence by the loud gasp of Starburst. She quickly looked skywards and gasped in horror. A blazing shot of cannon ordinance whizzed through the night and struck the bridge of the Nightingale. The bridge of the airship exploded, causing the balloon attached above it to ignite and further increase the explosion's magnitude. The two mares watched as the remnants of the ship cascaded down in a rain shower of fiery destruction. Starburst couldn't stand up; she fell back on her haunches, her mind unable to fully process what she had just seen. The Nightingale, its crew, the Royal Guards, and the Medics, all of them were gone in mere minutes after the two of them had jumped off. Star didn't even realize that Sunny had walked up next to her and placed a hoof on her withers in comfort.

"Say a prayer, Daisy. A lot of our brothers and sisters didn't get the chance to."

Star new of death, it was hard to escape it. Old relatives, grandparents, pets, they all died at some point, and even some young ponies like her, usually due to a bad accident, or some debilitating disease. But this, these ponies, whom she only known for a few hours, had so quickly and so violently been killed before her eyes. Their dreams and hopes brought to an end. Their family and friends, their lovers, they'd never get to see them again. Star's eyes stung with tears as sadness gripped her heart, grinding her teeth and squinting out of anger.

"Alright, let's hunker down someplace and activate the crystal."

"Sunny, the Nightingale is gone...no pony's going to come and give us backup," said Star.

"No, somepony will. The TactCrystal sends a magical energy signal that can be picked up by any Equestrian devices that are scanning right now. I have no doubt that a lot of ponies and griffons saw the Nightingale go down, which means they may've also seen us dropping out from it," said Sunny.

"So what now, what do we do now?"

"We hide, we keep watch over the supplies, and we fulfill our mission. Let’s make sure that their deaths weren't in vain. I know you're angry, sad, and scared right now rookie, but right now I need you to mare up and watch my back." Sunny then draped her foreleg around Star, bringing her into a half hug. "I'll keep you safe, no matter what; I promise you'll see your family again."

Starburst leaned into the hug, finding comfort and solace in the older mares embrace. "Thank you."

"C'mon, let's hide."


2 Hours Later...

When Star left Canterlot, it was six o'clock. Five hours from there to when she awoke, it was eleven o'clock. Fast forward to now, it was at least one in the morning. Although that's what the clock read in the building they were in, it felt like the day had already begun. The orangey hue of the sky, compliments of the fire, made it appear as if it were day and severally messed with Starburst's internal clock. Every now and again she'd catch herself dozing off, sometimes she she'd slap her cheeks to keep her awake, but she quickly gave that up when her cheeks began to throb in pain. She then resorted to nipping at her foreleg, but again, she stopped when she saw she was drawing blood.

Despite Sunny Skies' numerous offers to let her catch a few winks, Starburst refused. She didn't want to be asleep should something happen, or if an enemy were to sneak up on them while she was out. Dying peacefully was one thing, but dying in your sleep, knowing that you could've prevented it was something she was not ready to let happen.

The two of them had taken refuge in an abandoned building a few feet from the crates of supplies. The crate was hidden behind some rubble, using the parachute to cover it up to make it look like it was part of the rubble, making it hard to see unless you had their vantage point, or an aerial one. The area was an enclosed park, buildings on either side, with four ways in. One from the building they currently occupied, the second from the structure across from them, and the third and fourth were to their left and right. Entrances used for pedestrians to cross one side of the block to the other.

For some ponies, going through everything that Star has seen, such things would make other ponies reconsider ever joining Royal Guard, maybe even quit all together. But not Starburst, she knew that along with the honor and glory you must also take the gritty and the dirty. And right now, it didn't get any grittier or dirtier than where she was right now. Quitting after everything she had gone through would not only insult the ponies who died today, it would tarnish her honor as a mare, and a Princess.

"Hey, Daisy."

Star was snapped from her reverie and glanced over at Sunny Skies.

"What's up?"

"Just wondering, what was your life like, you know, back home in Canterlot?"

"Well...it's nothing grand. My life was great; I have a Dad who used to be a Royal Guard stationed at the Crystal Empire. A little brother, a unicorn, he's really into magic and books, I mean, I swear every time I see him he has his nose in one. And then there's my cousin, he's in the Guard; he taught me everything I know, and then some. Only..."

"Only what?"

"Apparently he had it rough during his academy days, and even during his service. I never knew anything about it, and...I feel terrible that I couldn't do anything to help him..."

"You're cousin, how old is he," asked Sunny.

"He's twenty-five – scratch that, he'd be twenty-six now."

"Well that means you were only a filly, maybe he didn't want to burden you with all his troubles, maybe you were the reason he kept on going, his inspiration not to look uncool in front of his cousin."

Star thought it over for a minute, she'd never considered that. She did remember times when he would take time out of the day to play with her, or to look after her and Nighty when her parents had something important to do.

"So, what about your mom?"

Star's gaze turned downcast, "My Mom...she's… she's really smart, pretty much a genius. She's even great at magic; it's more or less her special talent..."

"You don't sound like you're too fond of her."

"She never really liked the idea of me joining the Royal Guard, even though she said she'd support me in my decision, deep down, I knew she didn't want me to succeed in getting in...A couple of days before I left, I had a fight with my parents, I think I hurt my Mom...I mean, I know I'm not the perfect daughter she hoped for, I can't help it that I was born a pegasus! I just wish that...that she could see who I am and be proud either way...!"

Sunny Skies gave her companion a sympathetic look. "In a way, we're similar. My Moms never really understood why I wanted to join the Royal Guard. They're a part of the fastest and most highly decorated flight team in Equestria. And I've inherited that speed, agility, and fast reflexes. But it didn't feel like my talents weren't being put to good use just doing air shows and races. My Mom, Spitfire, was head of the Wonderbolts Academy, so she knows a thing or two about having a sense of responsibility. My other Mom, Fleetfoot, she needed more convincing before she came around. But the point is she did come around. Don't write off your mom just yet, if she's anything like mine, she'll love you either way."

I just hope I live long enough to find out...

Sunny's ear flicked, her body tensed as her eyes scanned over the area. Star quickly joined her in surveying, her heart nearly stopped when she saw them. Two griffon soldiers were entering from the west opening. They were garbed in dark gray armor, metal gauntlets with razor sharp claw attachments that clicked against the stone pathway. They each had a sword strapped to their backs, a full chest plate, and protective helmets.

"Not much room to get in a decisive blow, best bet is to strike at their jugulars, it's the most exposed, but they know that and they won't make it easy," whispered Sunny.

"We're seriously going to fight them," whispered Star.

"Not unless they see the supplies, if they leave and don't see them, we won't, but if they do, we have to strike fast or else they'll call for reinforcements. You see that," Sunny pointed at a crystal that was embedded into a collar griffons wore around their necks, "that's a TeleCrystal; they can use it to call out their position and communicate between their fellow griffons. If we can get those collars, we'll be one step ahead of them, if we're lucky, we can get those to somepony on our side so can intercept their communications."

"Sounds like a plan," said Starburst as she gulped.

The griffons continued to walk around the mini-park, seeming agitated by their search.

"Damn it, why do we have to go searching this area," groaned the brown feathered griffon.

"Because, they shot down that airship," answered his partner with purple feathers.

"Yeah, but it went down in flames, way over there! There'd be nothing left but burning carcasses and twisted metal."

"Reports say right before they blew it up, something dropped out of it, and that's what we're looking for."

"Big deal, I say, we leave. Grab a crossbow or two. Smoke some scared little ponies out of their hidey-holes and use’em for target practice,” he said with a wicked grin.

"Yeah, you want to be the one to tell Commander Steel Wing how we screwed around while the thing we were supposed to be searching for got picked by the enemy?"

The brown feathered griffon thought it over, his face contorting as some unpleasant images appeared in his head.

"Let's keep looking," he groaned.

Starburst cursed under her breath, not that she wanted them to do all that stuff, but at least they would've given up and left. Now it looked like combat was all but inevitable. Star unsheathed the dagger from her left shoulder strap, keeping it nestled in the crook of her right foreleg. They kept getting closer and closer to the supplies and with each passing moment so too did the tension rise. Sunny already had the blades of her bracers extended, ready to strike at a moment’s notice. They were getting closer to the mound of rumble they hid it behind, if they bumped into it now they'd surely be able to tell that the parachute covering it was only that, a parachute.

"Ready...steady....and –!"

"STAY YOUR WEAPONS!"

Star and Sunny turned around, in the doorway were two more griffons, both leering at them from and poised for battle.

"GO!!!"

Sunny leapt out the window, followed suit by Starburst. Sunny Skies aimed for the brown feathered griffon, catching him off guard, she sunk the two blades of her bracers straight into his throat. The griffon soldier reared back on his hind legs, and flailed with his forelegs, trying desperately to tear off Sunny. But she didn't release him; instead she crouched lower and forced the remainder of the ten inch blades into his throat. Sunny quickly withdrew, flapping her wings to give her leverage as she pulled back and dislodged her weapons. The moment she did, blood sprayed profusely from the two open wounds, the griffon merely fell to the ground, drowning in pool of his own crimson life essence.

For Starburst, it wasn't so easy. She was ready for the kill; she'd played the scenario almost a thousand times in her head. Fly straight ahead, cock back the right hoof, and the slash across the throat. It was a perfect, swift, and skillful kill tactic, it couldn't fail. However, when she reached her target and prepared to deliver the death blow, the griffon saw her at the last second, his face filled with horror as she saw her approach with the glinting dagger. The horror filled expression, the one you make when you see your death coming, but can do nothing to stop it. It was this look that made Starburst hesitate. Yes this was her enemy, yes they had killed hundreds, and tortured thousands more, but when it was all said and done, could she really take the life of another?

It was this question that gave the griffon ample time to reach out with his right claw and catch Star by her throat. He then pushed forward and slammed Starburst onto the ground, back first. The impact knocked the air out of her lungs; she almost passed out right that second, if it weren't for the pain of having her throat crushed from the griffon. The terrified look in his eyes was gone now, replaced by murderous intent. The griffon continued to squeeze tighter around Star's throat, making her flail as she swiped the dagger back and forth. The blade nicked the griffon across his cheek, the red gash bled, stinging like Tartarus. The scarred griffon used almost all his strength now, Star felt like she was about to pass out, her throat about to collapse at any second.

Suddenly two golden blades sprouted out the griffon's neck. He let out a pained, gurgling noise as he attempted to scream in pain. Star felt his grip loosen; her eyes looked further up and saw Sunny Skies, standing on his back, her blades piercing the griffon's neck. Starburst rolled out from under the griffon and quickly stood up. She then watched as Sunny made a jerking motion and stretched her forelegs outwards, the resulting motion allowed the blades to sever the rest of the way through, completely decapitating her enemy. Sunny then jumped off and allowed the beheaded body to fall to the ground.

She huffed and panted, looking up at the window where the other two griffons were still lurking in wait. Star made her way closer to Sunny, only to get slapped across the face. It wasn't too hard a slap, but it still stung considering what she had just been through.

"Sunny?"

"You idiot! Never hesitate when going for the kill! These aren't dummies that bleed sand when you cut them! This is real, flesh and blood, combat! You kill or you die, those are your only options, got it," asked Sunny, her tone was aggressive, yet held great authority.

"Yes Ma'am!"

"Good, let's fly!"

Without another moment to spare, Sunny and Starburst unfurled their wings and took off into the sky. It wasn't long before they heard the shouting of the griffon soldiers and clanking of their armor as they gave pursuit.

"Wait, we can't just leave the supplies behind like that!" Star shouted.

"Don't worry; I left the TactCrystal on the crate. Eventually they'll find it, but for now we have to lead these plot-holes away from the crate!"

Star and Sunny continued to fly through the ruined half of Stalliongrad. As they flew, Star caught glimpses of the carnage that had passed through there before her arrival. Buildings were ransacked or set ablaze, the bodies of mares, stallions, and even defenseless foals, were strewn across the road, hanged from light poles, desecrated or mutilated in various forms and fashions. The young mare felt like she was going to throw up during flight. This isn't a war, it's out right slaughter!

"DAISY, LOOK OUT!!!"

Starburst watched as a griffon came charging at her with a spear, ready to impale her. At that moment she heard a whistling sound, almost like an arrow was shooting by them. It was then that her eyes caught sight of something gold and metallic find its home in the right eye socket of the incoming griffon. The attacker quickly went limp, dropping the spear, and dropping out the air altogether. Star looked over to Sunny, her left bracer's blade was gone, but after she pressed a button, a new blade popped out.

"They can be used as projectiles, I have about nine left, so stay sharp!"

The two mares continued to be pursued as they weaved through dilapidated structures, and dodged a near endless array of spears and arrows being either thrown or shot. As the duo rounded the corner down another road, they were blindsided by two griffons who tackled them. They held onto their prey tightly as all four of them crash landed onto the unforgiving cobblestone road.

Starburst was not going to repeat what happened before. As soon as she felt that their tumbling was over, she sprang to her hooves and drew out the dagger. Star then unleashed a flurry of slashes at the griffon who had brought her down. The griffon solider was taken aback by the speed and ferocity that Starburst showed, his only option was defense. The young mare then thrust out with the blade, missing the soldier by just a few inches. This was his chance, an opening. The griffon lashed out with his claws, trying to catch Starburst in her chest plate. Luckily she pulled back, but the griffon's claws made contact with her armor, scrapping against it and making a horrible screeching sound. Her eyes widened, when the griffon continued his attack, shreds of magical energy lapped off his claws. The griffon jumped back, watching the last remnants of the energy trickle away.

Star knew what he had struck, somehow his claws scratched at the glamour charm that enveloped her body.

"So, you got some fancy magic armor do ya?! Well it's not going to help! Our armor is laced with special metals that repel magic attacks, and our gauntlets were designed specifically to rip apart shields, barriers, and warding magic!"

Oh no, if he lands another blow like that –! "SUNNY!"
Starburst called out for her partner, but was dismayed to see that she was currently locked in mortal combat with the griffon who had assailed her earlier. Without warning, the soldier flew towards Starburst. He swiped at her with his claws, tearing some of the glamour in the process. Star quickly went on the defensive; she couldn't risk her identity being revealed now, not in front of these two, and especially not in front of Sunny Skies. The griffon continued his onslaught, Starburst did her best to dodge the attacks, but with each successful hit a little more of the glamour was torn away.

Finally, with one powerful swipe, the griffon tore away at the last bits of the glamour charm. Both the griffons, and Sunny Skies, stopped and watched as the body of the pegasus mare changed. She was smaller, only came up to Sunny's chest. She had specially made violet, custom armor that was only made for the royals of Equestria. The two griffons seemed confused by the appearance of Starburst's true form, but Sunny Skies was a different story. She could tell that Sunny knew exactly who she was, which made the expression on her face all the more grave.

Quickly, Sunny took this opportunity to attack the griffon she was fighting. With two slashes of her blades she downed the brute, and then made her way to the second. Sunny fired two blades into the exposed gaps in the griffon's foreleg armor. Starburst took the initiative and brought the blade of her dagger straight across his throat.

"What's going on here," asked Sunny.

Star turned to the pegasus mare before her, her eyes now filled with shame and sadness, "Sunny...I'm sorry…I –”

“You’re Princess Starburst…what…what in Tartarus are you doing here!!?” Sunny shouted.

“Sunny…it’s hard to explain…”

“I don’t believe this! I’ve been dragging the daughter of High Princess Twilight and High Prince Flash Sentry all through Stalliongrad, and fighting griffons! Oh Celestia and Luna, oh Faust above, I’m so going to get thrown in a dungeon for this!” Sunny Skies shook her head and slapped her cheeks, trying to regain her composure. “Okay, new priority: We’re getting you out of enemy territory now before they figure out –!”

Sunny stopped when she heard the flapping of many wings coming towards them. Starburst and Sunny Skies turned towards the sound and watched as at least a dozen griffon soldiers descended onto the street, each one glaring at the two mares with homicidal rage and vengeance upon seeing the dead bodies of their comrades. Sunny took a defensive stance, keeping Starburst behind her and extending her wings to obscure their view of the young Princess.

“Princess listen to me,” whispered Sunny, “If I’m right, flying down that road behind me will get you to the front line, try and get noticed by our troops and get to safety. I’ll hold them here as long as I can.”

“No, I’m fighting alongside you,” hissed Star.

“With all due respect, Princess, you’re an idiot! If they get ahold of you, we can pretty much kiss Stalliongrad goodbye! If they haven’t figured out who you are, then that’s better for us right now! So fly and don’t look back!”

Sunny Skies then pulled something from her mane; it was a ruby, a particular one that Starburst had seen before.

“Is that a fire ruby!?”

“NOW!!!”

Sunny Skies tossed the fire ruby at the squad of griffons. When the crystal hit the ground it erupted into a powerful explosion. Blowing three of the griffons away and sending a few others onto their backs. Sunny then launched herself at the disoriented soldiers, quickly slaying the ones that were on their backs. The other griffons, after regaining their senses, roared and charged Sunny.

Starburst wanted to stay and fight, but one glaring stare from Sunny made her think otherwise. Forcing herself to turn the other way, Starburst unfurled her wings and flew off in the direction that Sunny Skies had told her, doing as she told her and not looking back.


Starburst had been flying for what felt like hours, she had to stop on a building rooftop to catch her breath. As much training as she had done, the combined stress and fatigue of the situation was starting to catch up with her body. Star gazed out across the city, the front line still looked far away. She hated herself, leaving behind a Royal Guard like that, her partner and comrade. Her eyes stung with tears as thoughts of what was happening to Sunny Skies entered her mind. Could Sunny fight off that many griffons, even after what she had just done with the fire ruby? Did they call in reinforcements? Starburst didn’t want to think about, but her mind wouldn’t stop imagining the worst.

I can’t believe I just left her there! We could’ve fought them off together! Starburst then noticed something odd. Her right hoof was trembling, how could this be? I’m afraid…? How…how can I be afraid!? Just because I’m alone and behind enemy lines! That’s no reason for me to be……afraid.

Starburst stamped her hoof repeatedly, trying to stop the shaking. Just then she felt five thuds behind her, Star didn’t need to turn around to know exactly who and what they belonged to. She could feel their eyes roaming over her body.

“Well looky what we got here fellas. A little filly pretending to be one of those high and mighty Royal Guards,” said one of the griffons.

“She’s got a nice flank, that’s for sure,” said another.

Starburst slowly reached for her dagger, unsheathing it and gripping the hilt the crook of her right hoof. Star then let out a fierce cry as she spun around to attack her enemies. Her attack was cut short, as one of the soldiers rushed towards her and backhanded her across the muzzle sending Starburst spiraling to the ground. Starburst’s head was spinning, pain radiating from her right cheek, and tasting a bit of blood in her mouth. That’s when Star went stiff as a board, feeling the presence of the griffon looming over her.

“Hey guys, it’s been awhile since we had ourselves some ‘filly fun’, what do ya say boys?”

“Fine with us, just make sure you save some for us!”

Star’s eyes went wide, knowing what he meant by that. She felt utterly powerless in this moment, all the training she had done, all the drills Valiant Heart did with her, the times she ran herself ragged working at Sweet Apple Acres with Del, it was all for nothing. Star had shut her eyes, tears starting to stream as she awaited the eventual pain of what the griffon was going to do to her. Star could feel the griffon’s breath on her neck, sniffing, taking in her scent. The young mare dared to crack open an eye and saw her dagger lying just a few inches from her, the blade reflected the night sky above. Something in the reflection caught her eye, there was a twinkling glint. Star looked up and saw a bright yellow star twinkling, she didn’t know why, but there was something about this glowing light that ignited a fire within Starburst.

She quickly grabbed the dagger, clenching the hilt between her teeth. Starburst then twirled in place and brought the blade of the dagger clean across the griffon’s throat. The soldier lurched backwards, gurgling as his mouth filled with blood. The griffon kept stepping backwards, clasping his claws around his throat, trying to stop the gushing blood. It didn’t take long before he fell on his back, dead. The griffons looked upon their fallen comrade in shock. They then turned their gazes upon Star, ready to make her pay for what she had done. But when they did, they did not expect what they what saw.

Starburst had spit out the dagger. She then flared out her wings to their full length, as she narrowed her gaze. The orangey glow of the distant fires melded with her coat, making the young mare appear more fearsome than she already looked. The griffons started to feel an intense pressure coming from Starburst, it was oppressive, it something they had never felt coming from a pony before, not even from their fiercest warriors.

“I am Princess Starburst!” Star advanced a step, and the griffons took a step back at the same time. “I am third in line for the throne of the great kingdom of Equestria! I do not cower, to likes of you pathetic, savage beasts! I will NOT fear you! You will fear ME!!!” She roared at the top of her lungs.

At that moment something happened. The yellow star twinkling in the night sky started to grow brighter and brighter. The griffon’s attention was then drawn to the star, making the Princess look behind her. The same yellow star that had reignited the fight inside of her was now growing bigger, as a matter of fact, it was getting closer. The yellow star streaked across the night sky, blazing a path as it sailed over the city. Starburst knew she needed to run, but that thought came too late. The yellow star struck Starburst, engulfing her in a giant sphere of bright yellow light. The griffon soldiers stared in confusion and fright at what was happening before them.

Star had shut her eyes at the last minute, thinking that the end was here. When she opened them, she found herself surrounded by golden-yellow energy. Star’s eyes then caught sight of something floating with her inside the sphere. It was a yellow ring, with a strange insignia carved onto it. The ring faced Starburst, glowing with the same power that flowed around her.

[Starburst of Equestria, you have the ability to instill great fear. You have been chosen.]

“‘Chosen’, chosen for what,” she asked the ring.

[You have been chosen to bring justice to your world, to wield the power of the yellow light of Fear. Do you accept this power?]

Starburst didn’t know what to do. This talking ring was offering her power, the power to fight back, maybe the power she needed to turn this situation around. Should she take hold of this ring, and the power it offered? It only took her a matter of seconds to reach her answer. Starburst slowly raised her right foreleg and stretched it towards the floating ring in front her.

“I accept!”

[Welcome to the Fear Lantern Corps.]

The ring turned around and slipped itself over Star’s right foreleg. Starburst then felt a surge of power course through her veins, charging every cell, every molecule within her body. The yellow light then lashed out at Starburst’s armor, breaking it down and reconstructing it. A black mesh like material formed over her body. The armor pieces then latched to her body. Her hind legs and forelegs had yellow boots and bracers, with silver studs on the sides. Her chest plate had the same insignia as the ring, with eight feathers fanning out from it. Her wings took on a golden metallic appearance, sheening in the light of energy sphere. Star’s purple eyes then changed color to that of the energy that swirled about. And finally a helmet formed around her head, with a face plate to obscure her identity.

The sphere then broke apart, revealing the new Starburst. The griffons didn’t know what to make of it, and neither did Star as she expected her new uniform.

“ATTACK; KILL THAT PEGASUS BEFORE SHE TRIES SOMETHNG!!!”

The griffon soldiers all took flight and prepared to pounce on Starburst. The young mare looked up and, as if by instinct, she brought up her right hoof. The ring started to glow with intense power. She then swiped her hoof in an arc in front of her. At that same time a cutlass sword, formed from yellow light, materialized before her. The sword construct then followed her movement and cut down all four of griffons in a single motion.

Star’s eyes went wide at the sight of what she had done. All four severed griffon bodies fell onto the roof in a bloody mess of parts. She then watched as the construct sword turned into particles of light, disappearing into thin air. Starburst then looked down at the ring.

“What…what are you?”

Author's Note:

To Be Continued...