• Published 5th Nov 2011
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Equestria: Total War - emkajii

War comes to Equestria: with despair, with starvation, with sacrifice and with heroism.

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XI. Mt. Kali'gryph, Kingdom of Gryphonia. November, 1251.

XI. Mt. Kali'gryph, Kingdom of Gryphonia. November, 1251.

Broken feathers everywhere. Her fur matted and filthy. And razor-sharp talons. Gilda sat in front of her shattered mirror, resting her head in her claws. She didn't look as bad as little Frankie did, but by her father she never thought she'd be in such a state. And it wasn't just cosmetic. She was thin, thinner than she'd ever been. She was weaker, too, which surprised her; she figured she'd have gotten much stronger over her training. She didn't. She just learned how to better use what strength she had. The fighting style of a Talon, after all, wasn't to overpower the enemy; it was to strike first, to disable the enemy, and to draw back. Pure muscle was as superfluous as shiny fur.

Frankie suddenly burst open her door, singing her name. "Gilll-daaa, Rodric needs youuu~~~" As the door swung open, the raggedy little gryphon fell into an effortless front tumble as she came through the threshold, then sprang onto her feet with a half-twist. "Ha ha, you finally stopped locking your door! I wondered how many locks you'd go through! You made me look clumsy!"

Gilda smiled. "Kid, you couldn't look clumsy if you tried. What's he need from me? I gotta head out for more food or something?" She looked back in her mirror shard, and with her claws started picking out loose feathers.

"Nooo, no no no. We got a prisoner! They found her sneaking around the mountain or something," Frankie chirped, as she pranced over to Gilda's bedroll. She suddenly collapsed on it, as if someone had pulled out the pins holding her bones together, and then rolled onto her back. "They've been trying to make her talk for hours and they've got nothin'! Nothin' at all, if you can believe it! Roddy figured maybe your time with the ponies was gonna be worth somethin' if you could maybe get in her head, see what makes her tick. But I gotta say, I don't think there's anythin' tickin' in there!"

Gilda turned in her chair to face Frankie. "All right, kid, bu--HEY! GET THE HECK OUT OF THERE!"

Frankie suddenly sprung up, extending her wings, and did a midair somersault before settling down next to the bedroll.

"Seriously, Frankie. The stuff in our rooms is all any of us got. Do the others let you hang out in their beds?"

"Nope! They beat me up something fierce when I try! But I figured since you're such a bad Talon you'd let me, y'know?"

Gilda sighed. "Yeah, sure. Whatever. Where's Rodric now, anyway?"

"Mutton closet. Or what used to be, back when we had mutton. You know the place."

Gilda nodded, then got up and headed out of her dingy little rock-walled room. She headed out of the rest quarters and into a maze of twisty little passages, all alike, finally emerging into a largish hallway with an unnecessarily high ceiling. Before her stood a large, somewhat ragged but undeniably regal-looking gryphon.

She approached slowly, and bowed deeply. "Lord Rodric. I stand ready."

He rolled his eyes. "Knock it off, Twistbeak. We got stuff to do."

She popped back up, smirking. "Yeah, Roddy, the kid told me. A prisoner you can't crack? What, did your skinny little arms get tired after the first few punches?"

He made a show of acting insulted, to the point where Gilda suspected he actually was. "C'mon, Gild. You know me better than that. I can pull information outta anyone, man, anyone. I could get the pony queen herself to tell me which of 'er guards she screws within five minutes."

"Yeah, sure, and I bet you think you'd be first in line to replace 'em. So what's the story then. A tough one?"

"Well, sort of, but it's more like...well, you'll see. Anyway, I figured we'd try a psych angle, but I don't know the first thing about those stupid little horses. I mean, I try goading 'em, and I try shaming 'em, and they just stare at you like you're speaking Zebra or somethin'. Nothin' works but pain."

Gilda chuckled. "That's because you don't know the first thing about ponies, Roddy. A pony isn't a gryphon; it doesn't care about honor or rank."

"No honor? No wonder they're so awful. So what is a pony, miss scribe?"

"A miserable little pile of friendship. You either have to be their friend and gain their trust, or make it clear you're going to hurt somebody else they love and trust. That's it. So. Friendship's probably out if you've been beating the hell out of her; anypony that would get sent to infiltrate the capital would see through a good-cop/bad-cop routine. So what, or who, does she love?"

Rodric raised his eyebrows. "Gilda, I don't even know if this pony's capable of love. You'll see. Head on in there, and good luck." He winked. "And I'll tear your goddamned wings out if you fail, lionbait."

Gilda let it slide, and headed to the thick wooden door to the mutton room. She pulled it open, and entered the torchlit chamber.

There, in the middle of the room, a lavender Earth pony with a white and purple mane hung upside down. Gilda cocked her head. The pony floated completely unsupported. Gilda walked up, slowly. She cleared her throat. The pony twisted mid-air to look at her. She wore a vacant smile, and her glassy eyes rolled around her head independently of each other.

"So...they tell me you're not being cooperative. Maybe I can help you," Gilda ventured.

Ha ha ha ha another friend. A voice like giggling sleighbells rang in her head. I'm glad to meet you in person. At least I think we haven't met yet. Or maybe we won't meet until next month. I know we meet by then.

Gilda looked around, confused.

No that doesn't make sense silly, of course we're meeting now. I see you now. With my real eyes. But you aren't going to try to hurt me like the others did, so I think you're the one to talk to.

She cocked her head again. The training was finally getting to her. She had cracked up.

No ha ha ha you're not crazy. Nobody's crazy you know. Crazy is when you think things that don't make sense. Everything makes sense to the people who think it. Crazy is what people say when they can't see what other people have seen to make them think what they do. Your friend wants to talk.

Gilda hesitated, then looked back at the door. A voice called, as if cued, "See? This is just bizarre, man. Some sort of psych ops agent?"

Gilda turned back to the pony. No ha ha ha he doesn't know anything. Everything he knows is true but he doesn't know anything on his own so that doesn't matter does it?

Gilda shook her head violently, her eyes shut, and then looked at the pony and spoke. "Are--are you real?"

To me I am. People see me and I touch things and they move so I'm probably real. And I know I'm real but lots of ponies don't know lots of things and so they know things I know aren't true but what they know is just as true as what I know and they always say I can't be real so maybe I'm not if you're them. The pony kept slowly twisting midair, while keeping at least one rolling eye on Gilda. A thin line of drool fell out of her mouth.

Gilda stared as the pony rotated. "Jesus," she said at last. "I don't know what Celestia did to you, but it made you nuts."

Celestia didn't do anything to me. She knows to leave me alone. But she didn't leave Discord alone. That was sad. I don't like being sad. Nopony does. You made lots of ponies sad, Gilda. Why did you do that?

"Knock it off. I'm asking the questions here," she snapped.

I don't like you. You don't think before you speak. It makes your words a surprise unless I've seen them earlier, but right now I can't remember this conversation so I'm always surprised. I don't like being surprised.

"Yeah, well, I'm full of surprises. So what were you doing here?"

I was here because I remembered being here now. So I came here because it's a bad idea not to be where you are.

"That doesn't make sense. Like, at all." She shrugged. "Look, if you're actually nuts, you're not useful to us and we'll kill you. If you're pretending to be nuts, then drop the act, talk to me, and I'll ensure you'll stay alive."

The pony swung one eye down to the ground. The other raised to take its place. Her unearthly grin stayed fixed. I told you already I'm not crazy. No, that was now. I'm not crazy. I just see things you don't. But it's okay. You can do things I can't too. That's why I'm here.

Gilda turned around. "Yeah, you're nuts. Celestia probably just sent you here to get rid of you. I'm out. See ya at the execution, chuckles."

You're not going to leave the room. I told you Celestia knows to leave me alone. Pay attention. And I know you're avoiding thinking so you can surprise me, but thinking will make you smarter. Look at me. I'm floating at a three-quarters angle in front of you while speaking without talking. And I know everything. You should be curious about me. If you thought you would be.

Gilda turned back. "Yeah. You're right. You're damned weird. I know I should leave and tell Rodric to execute you, but--"

You want to know what I know.

"--okay, sorta, yeah. I have no idea what you are--"

Ha ha me neither.

"--but this is too nuts to just sweep away."

I knew you'd come around. Well, no, I didn't know that. It was a good guess.

"You said you knew everything, nutbar."

Not all at the same time silly. That wouldn't even make sense.

"...whatever. You got a name?"

Lots! I like 'Screwball.' It's funny.

"Okay, sure. So. Screwball. What do you want? Other than to 'be where you are,' which, by the way, is totally useless."

I want you to help me. You will. I don't know why right now, and I don't know if asking you is a good idea, but I did, so I will.

"Yeah, and I want the crazy magic pony to start making sense, but she won't, so she won't. That how we play the game?"

No that was redundant. And I'm not crazy. You need to pay attention. You can't help me if you don't pay attention.

"Help you do what? And no, I'm not making an offer, and I gotta say I'm probably not ever going to."

Of course not. I will ask you. And I want you to help me escape, because I need to be free and if I free myself your friends won't help us do the next thing you're going to help me do."

"I see how this works. The thing I'm going to help you do, which you remembered, but which hasn't happened yet, but which you've current forgotten about. That right?"

No. I couldn't forget this part.

"Okay. Shoot, Screwy."

First, I need my hat back.

After that, you and your friends are going to help me kill Celestia.

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