• 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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XII - Forestland west of Fillydelphia. December, 1251.

XII - Forestland west of Fillydelphia. December, 1251.

Scootaloo trudged forward through the frost-covered grass, her hooves scraping against the frozen dirt. She hadn't eaten anything in a day. She hadn't had a full meal in a week. And her clothes were as threadbare as her malnourished fur. She wrapped her wings tighter against her body. Her throat and lungs stung with the cold. At first, she thought the war was cool. Then, she thought the war was awful. Now, she tried not to think. It was easier to keep going if you turned your mind off.

Beside her, Apple Bloom stumbled and slumped to the ground. Sweetie Belle nudged her with a shoulder. "C'mon, Apple Bloom! We only got another few miles to go. You can make it!"

The earth pony filly struggled to stand up, her knees threatening to buckle underneath her, and at last managed to get back on her feet to the encouragement of her friends. She took another step, and another, and then collapsed again, this time letting her head hit the ground with an audible crack. She raised her head again, tried to push herself off the ground, then dropped her head back to the ground. "I...can't do it. I just can't."

"You have to! You have to! You can't give up," Sweetie Belle pleaded.

Applebloom didn't move. She spoke quietly and calmly, matching her speaking to her breathing. "It ain't a matter of givin' up...I promised Big Mac...I'd ride these legs till...they wouldn't ride no more...now they won't...I ain't given up...but I can't go on."

Scootaloo sidled up next to Apple Bloom, and glared at Sweetie Belle. "Well? What are you waiting for?"

Sweetie looked confused. "I don't--what are you--"

"It isn't gonna help her any if you just stand there! Help me lift her up. We'll have to carry her until she's stronger."

Sweetie looked at the ground. "Scoot...I can barely walk any more too. I can't carry half a pony three miles."

"So? You think I feel any better? C'mon. We can't leave her."

Sweetie Belle looked behind. Nopony was there; they had fallen behind the group. She looked ahead. The old, grassy trail through the forest curved, making it impossible to see how far back they were.

"Oh--okay, Scoot. I'll help. But I don't know if--"

"Stop thinking, Sweetie. And help me."

Sweetie nodded. The two fillies got low to the ground, and pressed their shoulders under Apple Bloom. Together they lifted her up off the ground, and together they staggered forward.

"You're really heavy, Apple Bloom," Sweetie Belle said.

Apple Bloom spoke a few words with each shallow breath. "Am not...you're just a weak...lil' unicorn...'sides, if anyone's heavy...its you...what with all..the food you steal..."

"I don't steal food," Sweetie said cautiously.

"Yeah you do," Scootaloo said. "We both know it. It's all right. I eat some of it out of your bag at night."

Apple Bloom laughed weakly. "No wonder...y'all are stronger right now..."

"Anyway," Scootaloo continued, "This isn't so bad, is it? I mean, it's warmer, being all pressed together."

Sweetie Belle didn't say anything. She started to trip over a rock, but caught herself. Just then, a large red pony came trotting round the bend. When he saw them, he broke into a gallop.

Big Mac came up beside them, hooves clopping against the frozen earth. "Shucks, I told the Captain we shoulda put you girls in a cart. I knew y'all weren't to be trusted with measurin' your own strength. All right, Apple Bloom, on my back." With that, he picked her up by the scruff of the neck with his teeth, and then plopped her on his shoulders. She slumped forward, front legs wrapped around his neck.

"You two girls okay for the next couple miles?"

Scootaloo nodded. So did Sweetie Belle, but a bit hesitantly. He looked back at them for a second, then turned and began walking slowly. They walked alongside him.



-------------



The bivouac site was quiet, per usual. Ponies huddled around fires and tried to fight the cold, the biting, penetrating cold, the cold that swept through the night, through the camp, through the coats, through the skin, through the flesh, through the soul, the cold that hurt body and mind, that felt like the sun had left and would never return, the cold that felt like the slow, static death of the frozen world.

Derpy scootched close to her newly built fire. The dull numbness in her nose and ears and limbs began to melt, leaving a stinging frostbitten pain. Mac came up beside her and sat down.

She looked up at him. "Are the fillies all right?"

"Eeyup. Got 'em in front of a fire. Gave 'em some of the extra blankets we pilfered this morning. They'll be okay."

"You were right about the cart, Mac. They're too young to keep up," she said, a bit quieter.

"Eeyup."

They sat together, quietly. After a few minutes, he began speaking, still looking at the fire. "We can stick 'em in a cart, but they ain't the only ones who fell behind today. They're just the only ones I could carry."

"I know. Davenport's been doing headcounts. We lost another 7 ponies today, whether dead or deserted." She paused. "Either one's the same thing out here, really."

"What's that put us at?"

"132, but over a third of that are ponies we've picked up in the past few weeks. At this rate we won't be able to call ourselves the Ponyville Militia much longer. Though...I was thinking about a name change, anyway. It's not like we sit around saying we're defending our home town like most of those other militias do."

"Shouldn't we, though? With respect, a'course. That's why the ponies signed up. To protect their homes."

Derpy shook her head. "Mac, please, not you too. We can't just sit at home and wait for fifty thousand gryphons and lions to show up at our door. We've got to fight them where they are, every day. We all do. If everypony fought, they couldn't possibly stand against us."

Mac spoke cautiously. "That's what the army's for, Captain. They won a battle, hear tell."

Derpy's expression hardened as she stared into the fire. "No. It's what we're all for. The army's job is fight them in battles. Everypony else's job is to make it so they can't fight. That's what we're doing. What we need to do. What everypony needs to do."

They watched the flames dance.

"I'm going to start recruiting, Mac. You're right; ponies think a militia is for home defense. We're going to be an army. We're not going to change what we do. We're just going to change the way we sell it. A pony might think she can go home because the militia left Ponyville. A pony isn't going to walk away from an army lightly."

Silence, again.

"Captain, you ain't losin' ponies because they're homesick. You're losin' 'em 'cause they're starving and freezing. All the duties in the world can't keep a pony from dyin'."

"I know, Mac," she said, a bit impatiently. He was so...distant. So critical. Like even he was unhappy with her. Not her leadership. Her. She pushed away the thought. "Obviously I've noticed the situation. Obviously..."

She trailed off as she pulled a map out of her worn mailbag. "Look. Here. Valley Foal, twenty miles northwest of Fillydelphia. We're going to make winter camp here. I've sent pegasus couriers, the ones who can still fly, to all the nearby militias. We're going to try to combine under my leadership. I figure we should be able to get about a thousand ponies, all told."

"Valley Foal? Those ponyfolk won't take kindly to a thousand ponies showing up on their doorsteps askin' for food and shelter."

Derpy's eyes narrowed. "They're collaborators, Mac. Everyone around Fillydelphia is. They didn't put up any resistance at all."

"They're still ponies. They just didn't want to get their homes razed like Stalliongrad...or Ponyville did."

There was silence. She looked at him.

"No, Mac. Please, listen to me." She touched his shoulder with a hoof. "Everything we're going through. That's what ponies do. They're not ponies. They're gryphons with hooves."

Mac looked away. "I don't like it."

Derpy grabbed his face with a hoof, and gently pulled it towards her. He didn't resist. "Mac. Please. Please. This militia is falling apart. If I don't do something, we're going to starve or freeze or scatter, and the gryphons will win. Please. Please. I'm carrying this myself. All of this. I know we have to do things that don't feel good but we have to do them."

He said nothing. His eyes refused to meet hers. She continued. "I know it's not pretty. The prisoners. The night raids. Turning away the sick and starving who come to us. All of it. We have to do it. And I can't keep taking all the responsibility. I can't do this alone. Please, Mac. I trust you and I know you're a good pony. I need you to say I'm doing the right thing here. I need you with me--on board with me. I need you, Mac. Please."

He effortlessly batted her hoof off his face, and then turned to look back towards the camp. And then he looked back at her, finally making eye contact.

"All right, Captain. You're right. We gotta do something. But I still don't like it."

"Mac, no, please," she said, her voice pleading. "I can't do this by myself. I can't be the only one who has it all on her conscience; I can't be the only one giving orders to do bad things and having everyone say, 'no, I don't like it, I don't agree, but I will because you're captain.' I need somepony to say they're with me. Not because I'm the Captain but because... because... because I'm me and I'm a good pony who does the best she can." A tear ran down her cheeks and froze to her fur.

Mac looked at her, his expression difficult to read. "I support you because you're the Captain. And you're the Captain because you're a good pony. Now, I told you, I agree we have to do something. But I don't like what it is we have to do. And I won't pretend to like it because you're the one saying it."

"But--why not? Why can't it be that way?" she spat out, then immediately regretted it.

Mac's face softened. "Captain, you're a good pony, and I like you because I think you do good things, but...it don't work the other way around, if that's what you're askin'. Look, I'm gonna go check on the girls."

He stood up, and walked away from the fire. She watched him as he left, then looked back at the flames flickering in front of her.

It didn't work that way with most ponies, no. But she wished it did with her.



---------------



Bon Bon limped after Lyra, calling after her in her Manehattan twang. "Y'can't leave! Y'can't leave me alone here!"

Lyra shook her head with resolve. "I'm not. I'm going home, where I belong. If you want to leave me and keep starving with Derpy in this forest, then yeah, go ahead. Go right ahead. But I'm going home."

"But there isn't a home! They burned it, everypony said so. Please, it'll get better. I know it will."

"Only because Miss Crosseyes decided to play war! I'll rebuild the entire town by myself if I have to, but I'm going home."

Bon Bon shook her head sadly, her scarred face frowning. "...d'ya love me? Still, I mean?"

"What kind of question is that?"

"Lyra. D'ya love me."

"Yeah, of course I do."

"Even though I'm scarred. Even though I limp like an old mare. Even though I'm bony and weak and my mane is patchy. You still love me."

Lyra looked aside. "...yeah."

Bon Bon took a step closer. "Then why you leaving me? I told you. This militia, it's our home now. I nearly died for it. I can't walk away."

"Home? And lemme guess, Crosseyes is your mother, now?"

"Don't you call her that. She's the only reason we're still alive."

"No! God, you're as bad as she is! She's the only reason half of us are dead!"

"Lyra. I'm staying. I wantchu to stay. I joined up because I love ya and want to protect ya. You joined up because y'loved me and didn't want me to go alone. You stayed by my side when I was injured because y'loved me and didn't want me to suffer. I stayed by yours when you caught fever because I love ya and don't want ya to suffer. Please. We've been through so much together. So much because of us. Please don't tell me it's dead." She kissed Lyra on the cheek, gently. "Look, sugar. I'm going back to our tent. I wantcha to follow me. But if you don't, I...understand. I won't say goodbye. I'll just say...I still love you, no matter whatcha pick."

And Bon Bon turned, and as good as her word, she walked back without a glance over her shoulder.

Lyra sighed. She didn't know if she loved Bon Bon any more. She didn't know what she felt. About anything. If she felt anything about anything besides hunger and cold and exhaustion.

But whether out of love or duty or friendship or respect for years of quiet devotion or fear of dying alone on the long trail back home, she found she couldn't leave. Not tonight. She slung her bag over her neck, and headed back to the tents.



---------------



First Proclamation to the Equestrian Army of Free Ponies

General Derpy Hooves

Given at Valley Foal, Dec. 1251


These have been times to try ponies' souls. In the breeze of summer, in the glow of the sun, all may proclaim their love for their homes. Yet in the desolation of a snowless winter, in the bite of an unleashed wind, we are forced to weigh just how dearly we value Equestria. A pony may be judged by what she values, and a pony who values Celestia and freedom to be cheap trinkets to be discarded at the first inconvenience is a pony who does not deserved to be called by that name. You who stand before me are those ponies who have sworn with your failing bodies and your untarnished will that your Princess and your homes are worth fighting for: worth fighting the gryphons, worth fighting their willing slaves, worth fighting the winter--worth fighting to the death.

But yet we are at a time of crisis. We have little food. We have little warmth. Our fur is unwashed and louse-ridden. Our blankets are falling off in tatters. We can clothe ourselves only in perserverence, can warm ourselves only with dedication, and can secure food to nourish ourselves only through daily acts of selfless heroism. Our bodies have never been weaker.

And we have never been stronger.

Our fight against the gryphons has never been one of numbers; there are five ponies for every subject of the Gryphon King. And while few of his slaves can be made to join his army, each and every pony can fight. Our numbers mean nothing, for in the thaw of spring thousands will swell our ranks. No, numbers are not our fight. Our fight has always been one of dedication--whether we can muster the will and the courage necessary to stand and defy an army of tyrants. And in this frozen crucible, our souls have been shattered and reforged, free of doubt and free of fear. We are few in number, but make no mistake: we are now an army, as fearsome as any in Equestria's proud history. We will survive this winter. And come spring, we will emerge ready to deny the gryphons Equestrian food, Equestrian houses, and Equestrian land.

The gryphons sit happily in Fillydelphia now. They grow fat, enjoying our cakes and fruit. They grow drunk, enjoying our sarsaparilla and hot chocolate. They grow complacent, enjoying the servile ponies who tell them Equestria would sooner lay down its freedom than its lives. They will emerge from their hibernation of the soul unready for struggle. And at that instant, we shall repay them a hundredfold for each pain we have have suffered.

We are cold. We are hungry. But though it is dark, a new sun is rising. A sun raised not by a Princess in a castle, but by a hundred thousand hooves working in concert across a country. And this sun will bathe Equestria not only in light, nor only in warmth, but in freedom. We shall be the first to raise it. And we shall be remembered, for centuries upon centuries, as the first and greatest of our generation. For it is we who will bequeath that sun not only to our friends and neighbors, but to our children, and to their children, and to their children, and to theirs, and to all ponies to come, now and forevermore.

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