• 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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III. Ponyville, Equestria. September, 1251.

III. Ponyville, Equestria. September, 1251.

Mayor Mare had been in office a long time. She had seen her share of crises. Poor harvests. Botched seasonal preparations. Swarms of who-knows-whats, and giant monsters scaring the townsfolk, and what have you. She was seasoned, for sure. She liked to think that by now, she just knew how to deal with a problem. But this? This was an entirely new kind of problem. This was a problem she had never faced before. This was a problem that was stretching her considerable patience.

Her problem was that nopony would shut up and listen.

She couldn't even pick out anypony's complaints from the crowd. She couldn't tell what anypony, anywhere was saying. It was just one noise: a churning, rolling, panicky, endless noise. It drowned out everything she said. It drowned out everything she shouted. So she gave up. She just stood at the podium, waiting. They'd shut up eventually. They'd wear themselves out. And then they could actually have this meeting.

The helmeted pegasus beside her nudged her shoulder. She glanced at him. He whispered something. Well, maybe he did. His lips were moving, at any rate. She looked back quizzically, and pointed to her ears with a hoof. He sighed, and looked back at the crowd. So did she.

They hadn't gotten ten minutes into the meeting. It started all right: a reading of the princesses' Joint Proclamation of War. They stayed stone silent for that. Then the helmeted pegasus announced that militas were to be raised. They were fine for that, too, surprisingly enough. Then came the order that all foals and elders were to be evacuated to the Southmarch. And that must have been when they finally woke up, because that's when they started shouting. And they've been shouting since. Mayor Mare looked out at the town. Nope. Still shouting. This might go on a while.

Then, suddenly, a whistle. A piercing whistle, high and sharp and loud and long, coming from the rear of the crowd. It split the crowd noise. And it kept on going. One by one, the ponies fell silent and looked back to find the source of this interruption.

It was a tall pony, red and strong. Big Macintosh. He took his hoof from his mouth, and stood up as tall as he could. He spoke in a soft drawl. And though he was quiet, ponies listened. "Shucks, I seen chickens in a thunderstorm with more sense than y'all. So y'all got somethin' to say. So do yer neighbors. And hundreds a' ponies shoutin' and only one pony listenin'? That don't add up, do it?" He shook his head, his mane fluttering in the crisp breeze. "When it's time for the cows to get in the barn, they don't all try to jam in at once, because if two cows try to go through the door at once, well, they just won't fit. So they do it one at a time. Let's be sensible like a cow. We all sit nice and quiet. We let the pretty mayor finish what she has to say. Then, if we got somethin' to say, we take turns and say it. One at a time. Like a cow goin' into a barn." He sat down. The crowd turned to face the mayor. Somewhere in the crowd, a mare began to shout again, but ponies near her shushed her down.

The mayor sighed happily. Every town should have an Apple Family. "Thank you, Big Macintosh--" she said.

"--'welcome--" a quiet voice from the back replied.

"--for that. Yes. As I was saying, foals and elders must evacuate. We are the closest farming town to Canterlot, and our friends in the Guard think it is likely that the gryphon army will attempt to besiege the palace. When they come--if they come--the ponies who need our protection the most simply cannot be here. The Southmarch will remain safe for the time being. Their fields are fertile and they have agreed to host our refugees. We will not forcibly split up any family, but Celestia herself asks that anypony without foal remain in the town, and that only one adult member per family evacuate with their foal. It is the duty of everypony who is able to stay and protect Ponyville. We will begin preparations for evacuation as soon as this meeting is over. You may take whatever you desire, but our cart space is limited. Anything beyond blankets, food, and one memento per household must be carried by yourselves, in a cart you yourself must pull. And keep in mind that this may not be the only evacuation you will undergo. Understand that you may lose anything you leave behind, but understand that anything you take will be your responsibility for the entirety of what may end up being a very long, very tiring journey."

There was a brief silence. The Mayor continued. "I am sure you have many questions. I would like to open the floor to discussion, one at a time. Please come up to the podium one at a time, and make your statement. The Guard here or myself will answer."

A purplish Earth pony with a ruddy mane and ruddier cheeks stood up, unsteadily. She looked back at Macintosh, and mouthed something. He nodded, and the purple pony stumbled forward towards the podium. She leaned up against it, looked across the crowd, and laughed joylessly.

"Why?" she said, half-slurring her words. "Why are we supposed to stay and fight? Fight with what? With what? We're just gonna....gonna kick 'em? Or somethin'? I can't kick a gryphon, man. They fly and soar and all sortsa shit. And man they got beaks and knives and they're real bitches. Even the guys. No man. No way in hell. I'm not sendin' my little Pinchy to walk around God knows where with her deadbeat father so I can be here when the gryphons come knockin'. Eff that noise, man. Pinchy and me are goin', even if we gotta walk till we see zebras. Peace." She wobbled away from the podium, tripping over her hooves occasionally.

The mayor shook her head disapprovingly. Crisis or not, it was far too early in the morning for Berry Punch to be in such a state. And she certainly didn't like starting off the discussion on that kind of note. A discussion of logistics would be so much more productive.

She motioned to the helmeted pegasus, who took the floor. "Ahem. We understand that you must consider your own interests to be imperative, but we beseech each of you to also consider that there are greater duties to fulfill." He spoke in a clipped monotone that only frustrated the Mayor. She spent her career learning how to connect with ponies. This certainly wasn't--oh, but he was still speaking. "The present crisis is certainly most disturbing, but the strategy we have analyzed as being most effacious in terms of diminishing the ability of the gryphonic army to maintain a secure logistical situation is a policy of decentralized resistance at the local level. This will enable the Crown to prepare a conventional methodology of directly challenging the invader through force of arms, finally expelling them from our beloved homeland. Now that your concerns are laid to rest, I would like to begin explaining how we will implement a policy of discipline and training for your town's nascent militia--"

The Mayor gently pushed him aside, as he snorted in irritation. "Er, thank you, Captain. As he said, the best hope of protecting our homes is for everybody to join in. We can't make you, but we can't fight the gryphons if everyone leaves. Next, please."

A green unicorn stood up on her hind hooves, waving her front hoof excitedly. The mayor pointed at her, then stepped aside. The unicorn came bounding up, then stood at the podium. "Hi! Hey honey, look, I'm at the podium, isn't that *nuts?* Ha. Oh man. Anyway. So we're supposed to stay and fight, right? But..." she rolled her tongue in her mouth as she considered her words. "They're not gonna be nice to us if we do that. I mean, this is a war, right? They'll hurt us, right? And..." she paused to consider the right word, her countenance growing more and more disturbed. "kill us, right? They'll kill us. Ponies get killed in war. I don't want to get killed. I don't want anypony to get killed." She looked at a pony in the crowd, by where she had been standing moments ago. "I don't want anypony to get killed. We should go. Away. Where it's peaceful, like it is now. There isn't war everywhere, is there? There's just war here. So no. We need to go. Because nopony should be killed. Especially...yeah. Nopony." She walked back, her hooves dragging a bit. The mayor watched her, as she returned to the tan pony with a blue-and-pink mane she had been talking to. They rested their heads on each others' shoulders.

"This is hopeless," the helmeted pegasus said to the mayor in a low tone. "I came here to give orders. I gave them. If your ponies just want to whimper about how they don't want there to be a war, I can't help them. I told them what they need to know, and they're still whimpering like fillies who broke a window playing ball. I have to talk to five towns and eight villages today. I can't afford to listen to any more whining. The militia training guide is in your office. If any of your ponies come to their damned senses, let them read it. Seeing as they don't listen to reason, I don't see any point in explaining it to them myself." And before the mayor could respond, he turned and walked offstage.

Mayor Mare sighed, and returned to the podium. This might be a long meeting.

In the crowd, a blonde-and-grey unicorn filly talked to her pegasus mother. "But, momma. What are they talking about? Why is everypony so upset? What's happening?"

"Well, muffin," her mother replied, looking fondly at her daughter with her good eye. We're going. Bad people are coming. Mean people who want to hurt us. We're going where it's safe."

"Oh," the filly said, nuzzling close to her mother. "I understand. Mean people. Like the ponies who were mean to you when you were a filly. Because of your special eyes."

The mother looked down, sadly. "No, muffin. Worse than them. These are very, very mean people."

Dinky looked up. "But, momma. Didn't the mean ponies hurt you? They did mean things to you."

Derpy smiled sadly. "Sweetheart. They bullied me, just like those girls at school bullied you. They only wanted to hurt me a little to make themselves feel better. These people are worse. They want to really hurt us, really badly."

Dinky wouldn't be dissuaded. "No, momma, it is the same. Because you left Cloudsdale because of the mean ponies, and then you came here to Ponyville where ponies were nice and you met daddy and had me and it was the best thing you ever did!"

Derpy ruffled her daughter's hair. "Yes, Dinky. It was the best thing I ever did."

And she thought, No, Dinky. The ponies weren't nice here, either. They were even crueller, actually. At least in Cloudsdale, I could fit in by flying well, even if the colts would tease me and kick me and bite me later. In Ponyville I was even more of a freak. Problems just follow you when you run.

She looked up at the podium. Somepony else was talking about how everypony should run away. She looked at Dinky, who was drawing something in the dust. And she looked back at the podium, and back at Dinky. Moving to Ponyville was good for her, but not because running away had worked. It was because she learned that running away didn't work. Ever. It was because she realized she was either going to be a punching bag, or be a pony, and if she wanted to be a pony she'd have to make it clear that she wasn't going to be treated like a punching bag any more.

She looked at Dinky. She was so young. So beautiful. So smart. But so young. So helpless. She pictured her daughter thirty pounds lighter, her skin barely covering her ribs. She pictured her exhausted, thirsty, choking on clouds of dust on a crowded road hundreds of miles from home. She pictured her...no. She couldn't picture that. She wouldn't.

She looked back at the podium. And she felt something she hadn't felt in a very, very long time. She felt anger. Not irritation, like she had felt when that blue showpony had been making fun of Ponyville. No. She felt anger. Hot, trembling anger. The anger of a filly who wouldn't be called "stupideyes" any more. The anger of a mother who wouldn't let her daughter be sentenced to suffering or worse by a bunch of grown-up foals who never had to learn how to protect what they loved. She felt anger, and she wasn't going to sit here and feel it by herself. She turned to Dinky, and whispered, "Muffin, Mommy is going to go up and talk. She is going to sound very angry. She is not angry at you. She is angry because these ponies are not going to protect you, and she loves you too much to let them do that. Don't be upset, please."

Dinky looked up and smiled broadly. "Okay momma. I love you too. Do a good job!" Derpy smiled back, tears in her crossed eyes. And then she wiped her eyes clean, and then she stood up.

She stood up, and began walking towards the podium. Nopony had called on her. Somepony was still speaking, in fact--Cloudkicker, it looked like. Derpy didn't know what Cloudkicker was saying. She didn't particularly care. Cloudkicker looked over at Derpy, then fell silent. Wait, what was she doing coming up? Derpy almost never spoke. Derpy barely even speaks to me on her mail route, and we're friends. In her surprise, she stepped back. Derpy confidently took her place. She squinted her eyes; the podium faced east and it was still morning. Her vision blurred and then re-settled as she looked through her other eye, and then back to her good one. She paused a second, then threw away her doubts. Sure, she didn't know what she was going to say to them, but by God she was going to say it anyway.

A voice came from somewhere in the crowd. "Hey, Derpy wants to talk. This should be good! I bet she'll say we should give the gryphons muffins!" A few ponies laughed.

Derpy pawed the ground and snorted. No. No more jokes. No more jokes, ever. They were going to listen to her now. And they were going to do what she said. She began.

"I've heard a lot of things from a lot of ponies just now. A lot of things that I would expect out of foals. I heard ponies say, 'we never asked for this war.' I heard them say, 'we only want to live in peace.' I heard them say, 'let others fight while we run and find peace.' Yes. I've heard many, many things." She gestured at some ponies in the crowd as she talked. Her voice was firm. It carried disdain. It carried...command? She could barely believe herself. She had never talked like this. She paused to assess the crowd. Nopony spoke. Good.

"Hmph. Guess what? I never asked for this eye." She pointed to her left eye, which was currently pointed at a cloud. "I never asked to be scorned for it. I never asked to be an outcast everywhere I went. No. I only wanted to live in peace. I wanted to live in the peace ponies should live in. The peace every pony deserves. And believe me, to find that peace, I was willing to run. From my family, from my home. I wasn't born here in Ponyville, no, I was born in Cloudsdale. But I ran away from the ponies there who made my life a living torment. And it was a torment. In Cloudsdale I was beaten. I was kicked. I was mocked. So I ran. I ran here, to Ponyville."

They were still quiet. They weren't even moving. Derpy felt a charge of energy. This was a side of her she hadn't shown any of them. Not in years.

"But I still had this eye. And I learned that I could run from a pony, but I couldn't run from my eye. Ponies here were just as cruel. I learned that I had to learn to fight. It was hard. It was painful. But I only had to fight one time. Just once. And when I did, fifteen years of torment were over. In a day." It was strange. They were just words to her. Just words she thought and felt every day, said plainly. But the crowd hung on them. She could feel them listening.

She walked away from the podium, pacing slowly, still talking. "When I came here, I learned you can't run from what fate's given you. Fate gave me this eye. And fate? Fate gave us this war. Run to the Southmarch, and you'll still have this war. Run to the Southwest Desert, and you'll still have this war. Run all you like, from here until you drop of exhaustion, and you will still have this war." She spoke sharply. She knew she sounded like she was nearly hysterical, but she had never felt more in control. And still they listened.

"Run from the gryphons now, and that's what we'll be. Runners. Nothing more. And runners never...stop...running. Run and there will be no peace. Run and there will be no safety. There will only be running, from now until the day your children drop dead in a dusty ditch. There will only be running, from now until the day you die broken and bleeding. There will only be running. There will never be peace. Do you want peace?" She let the question hang. "If yes, then face this war. Accept this war. Steel yourself to suffering. Steel yourself to hardship. Steel yourselves to death, because the gryphons will not relent unless you force them. I ask you again, do you want peace?" A few ponies nodded.

"Then follow me. Train with me. March with me. Fight with me, because peace cannot be won except through our will and our hooves. I ask you again, do you want peace?" Some ponies were standing. "If you want peace, there is only one way to get it. You must earn it. You must earn it with your sweat and with your tears and even with your blood. You must earn it. Ponies! Follow me, and I promise you, we will earn it! I ask you again, do you want peace?" She was shouting. Ponies were standing, nodding, absorbing every word. She could feel them absorbing her words, her emotions. "Ponies! Do you want peace? Then follow me! Fight for it! Fight to protect your homes. Fight to protect your foals! Fight for Ponyville. Fight for Equestria! Fight like you'll die if you don't. Fight with me! Fight with me! Ponies! Fight! With! Me!"

She stopped, panting. The crowd was on its feet, staring open-mouthed at her. Even the mayor. But there was silence. A long silence. Derpy swallowed uneasily.

Then Carrot Top stepped out of the crowd. She stood up next to Derpy. "I'll fight," she said. "Who else?" There was a pause. Cloudkicker, still standing off to the side on the stage, raised a hoof. "Me too." Bon-bon stepped forward. Lyra followed. They stood up on stage next to Derpy, too. Big Macintosh pushed his way through the crowd. He got on stage. And then the dam burst. The entire crowd began to swarm the stage. Carrot Top nudged Derpy, then gestured nervously at the crowd.

Derpy spoke again, with the same iron voice. "Good. Meet me at..." she glanced at Big Mac. "Sweet Apple Acres. Three hours after the meeting is over. We'll begin preparing then. For now, let's figure out how to keep the foals safe. Mayor?"

Mayor Mare shook off her stupor. Politics was certainly surprising, all right. You never knew what would happen next. She took the podium, and began outlining the provisional plan for evacuation. This time ponies listened.


The office was cluttered with documents. Derpy looked around. Maybe it was always this cluttered? No, the mayor wasn't the type of pony to be disorganized. And most of these were scrolls with the Royal Seal on them. Half were unopened.

"Ms. Hooves, you made quite a speech. I hope you understand what that means." The mayor sat behind her desk, looking quite grave.

"Um, not really, Mayor." She spoke softly again, like usual. "I just told them they needed to fight. They do. We all do, really. We can't run forever. Like I did as a filly."

"You told them to follow you. And they agreed." She adjusted her glasses. "That's important, Ms. Hooves."

"Yeah. I did. I was kind of in the moment. I didn't mean to overstep my authority. If you wanted--"

"--no, Ms. Hooves. This is a war, and I'm an administrator. They rely on me to keep the buildings painted and the roads clean. But Ponyville needs someone they can follow. Follow to hell, Ms. Hooves."

"Oh. Wow. Uh, I don't know if I can do that." Derpy smiled awkwardly.

"You just did. You took a crowd of farmers and artisans who were begging to flee, and you got them to agree to stand and fight an army of gryphons. It'll wear off, though. Any speech does. They're not soldiers. They need someone who can turn them into soldiers."

"I can talk to them whenever you want. I liked doing that. It was different. It felt good."

"You can talk to them whenever you want. You're their leader now. You're it. I'll be heading the refugee train; that's more suited to my skill set. As for you? You have two hundred ponies who now expect that you can teach them to beat a gryphon army. To beat maybe 20,000 lions. Maybe 8,000 gryphons...to beat them with 200 ponies, none of whom have fought except in schoolyards. That's what they expect, Ms. Hooves."

"I...oh dear. Oh no. No, no. No. I'm a mailmare, Mayor. I--"

"--you're a leader, Ms. Hooves. A natural one. You don't know war? Neither do your ponies. But you do know how to inspire them. You'll be able to do even better if you prepare your speeches ahead of time. You know, write them down. You can write, can't you?" Derpy nodded, and pointed to her mailbag, hanging on the coatrack. The mayor smiled and nodded back. "Of course, of course, my apologies. You just never know. But yes, speeches will be worth a lot in the early days. Inspiration comes first. Then discipline."

Derpy looked at all the scrolls on the mayor's desk. "But...I don't know how to make them disciplined. I can deliver mail. I can bake, sort of. And I guess I can give a speech. But that's it!"

"You have a foal, right? Dinky, I believe. She's a lovely young filly. You've raised her quite well, and all by yourself?" The mayor raised an eyebrow.

Derpy smiled broadly. "Oh, she's been wonderful to raise, Mayor. Wonderful. A handful at times, but she has such a sweet heart. And so smart..."

"This militia of yours. They're your foals, for now. There are better ways to think of them, but foals will work for now. You're their mother. You must teach them to be good ponies who stand up for themselves, who get along with their brothers and sisters, and who listen to their mother."

Derpy nodded thoughtfully. The mayor continued, and pushed a book towards Derpy. It was a thick book, bound cheaply. It smelled like wet ink. "Read this, Ms. Hooves. It's the guide that was issued to this town on forming a militia. Read it every day, whenever you can. Start at the beginning. If you have a problem you haven't read about yet, there's an index in the back."

Derpy nodded. The mayor smiled sadly.

"Take care of your militia. Your foals. Feeding them will take work. So will getting from place to place. So will training them. If I've learned anything about leadership, it's to write down everything. Get ponies to help you organize it; it'll be easier if you can dictate to two ponies than if you have to write and file everything yourself. And whenever you have a spare moment, read the book."

Derpy nodded again. The ponies looked at each other for a while, then Derpy stood up. "Thank you, Mayor. I, uh, I need to get to Sweet Apple Acres. I told them I'd meet them there."

"Of course," the mayor said gently. "But what of your own foal? The one you gave birth to. You can't bring her with you."

Derpy nodded sadly. "I've worked it out. Carrot Top will take care of her. Dinky already thinks of her as an aunt anyway, so it won't be too hard on her. I know Carrot said she'd fight with me, but she won't. She'll go with you and take care of Dinky."

The mayor looked empathetic. More than empathetic. As if she was only now feeling a pain she had been setting aside. "All right. I'll take as good care of her as I can. Thank you, Ms. Hooves."

Derpy gently picked up the book in her mouth, and carried it to her mailbag. As she guided it in, the mayor spoke again. "Derpy?"

Derpy nudged the bag close with her nose. She looked back at the mayor. The mayor never called her by her first name. "Yes...um, Margaret?"

Mayor Mare forced a smile. "Never give up, Derpy. Please. Never, ever give up. Promise me. Not as your employer or as your mayor. As a friend and an equal."

Derpy tossed her the bag over her shoulder, just as she did before setting out every morning.

"I promise, Margaret. I promise."

And with that, she walked out the door, and onto the dirt road. It was morning. The air had a chill to it, but the sun was warm. It would be a fine day. She trotted down the path. She had a family to meet.

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