• 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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VII. Northwest of Ponyville, Equestria. October, 1251

VII. Northwest of Ponyville, Equestria. October, 1251

Bon Bon shivered. The mud was cold. It was unseasonably chilly, even though the sun hung high in the sky. And they had spent so long, just lying there, on their stomachs, in the mud. The cold, cold mud. The tall grasses--Captain Derpy said they'd block the gryphons' vision--blocked the sun, too. Somehow, they didn't do anything against the wind. But it wouldn't be long now. They could hear voices, low and throaty. Grass rustling. The noise, coming closer. Closer. She felt her heart pounding. Her fur--the part that wasn't caked in mud--was covered in a cold, oily sweat. She tried to swallow. She couldn't. Her mouth was completely dry. She looked to her left. Grass. She looked to her right. More grass.

She whistled, softly, gently, sounding like a far-off bird. To her right, a mint green hoof slid into view. She pressed her own hoof against it. They clattered together. Bon Bon was shaking. So was Lyra.

Suddenly, there was another whistle: high, piercing, and loud. And immediately, as she had practiced, Bon Bon stood up. She didn't want to--she begged her body not to comply--but it had been drilled into her. One long whistle means stand and charge. And so she did. And, she saw, so did everyone else.

It was surreal. A horrible flight of imagination; a late-night what-if. A hundred colorful ponies, running through the grass, closing in on twenty-some bewildered lions pulling carts. Her eardrums pounded; she couldn't hear anything but her own heartbeat. And suddenly, there he was, in the grass: a lion. A real lion, in Gryphonic armor, a bewildered look on his feline face. Right in front of her. Bon Bon slid to a stop. A lion. She stared at him. He stared at her. A pony. A lion.

Immediately, a flash of mint green lept over Bon Bon's right shoulder. Lyra hit the mud, rolled, and sprang to her feet, twisting one-hundred-eighty degrees in the process. She landed right in front of the lion, then pushed off with her front hooves, launching her body backwards at his face, her hind legs cocked beneath her, her face twisted in determination. The lion twisted back reflexively. It didn't help. Lyra's legs snapped back, driving her hooves square into his face. She could feel an instant of resistance, then something snapping, giving way, opening a fault line. She lost her balance coming down, as the lion's body crumpled, and she fell hard on his armor. She coughed weakly; it knocked the breath out of her. She felt the lion's body twitch spastically. She heard him gurgle. She heard the wind blow. She realized that she heard nothing else. She lifted her head and looked around. Everyone, pony or lion, was watching in silent horror.

Suddenly, there was a roar, from all around, as a hundred ponies and twenty-some lions snapped out of their shock. The lions bared their teeth. The ponies pawed the mud and snorted. And in a hundred ragged movements, the two sides leapt at each other.

The lions were strong: powerful, proud, and fierce. They bit. They clawed. They tore. But they were outnumbered. And their armor, designed to deflect a blade or a tooth or a talon, offered little protection against the crushing force of a pony's kick.

Lyra and Bon Bon fought together. As with most of the ponies, they didn't ever approach a lion. Instead, like most of the ponies, they held firm, each refusing to abandon the other. And when a lion charged close, each protected the other with their powerful rear hooves. The lions, for their part, fought the only way they knew how: by picking an enemy and leaping at it, ready to tear out its flesh and its viscera until it died.

In that way the skirmish was fought: the 'attacking' ponies in a ragged, uneven defensive line; the 'defending' lions haphazardly charging in a chaotic offense.

Bon Bon didn't keep count. One lion. Then another. Then another. They didn't stay near her for long; they would charge, and get kicked, and stumble back, and leap at another pony. Occasionally she would hear a pony's voice cry in anguish or alarm, but the lions were clearly getting the worst of the skirmish. By now at least two thirds of them were lying on the ground, either dead or simply unable to get up. And the ponies' line was beginning to curve in around the surviving lions, enveloping them, preventing retreat.

And then she felt something she didn't expect. Pain. Two streaks of pain, starting at her tail and continuing down her back and across her neck. Something brown and white and fast and screeching filled her vision, and was gone. A few ponies yelled in alarm: GRYPHONS! Bon Bon took a stumbling step forward. She could feel blood running down her back, down her neck, down her chest. She was bleeding. So that's what it's like. She felt dizzy, nauseous. Lightheaded. She closed her eyes and swayed. A gryphon slashed across her again, and she fell without resistance.

Immediately, there were three loud whistles, sharp and short. There was a fluttering of wings. And all around, there was a dull sound of bodies crashing into the muddy ground. She rolled her head to look up. All she could see was a few low clouds.

It was dark. Dark for daytime. And the mud was still so cold. She couldn't hear anything. She could barely see anything. She closed her eyes.

She opened them. Lyra was standing over her. So was Nurse Redheart. Both of them exhaled in relief, in gratitude. "Oh my God, Bon Bon," Lyra began, "I was so worried, we had to put you on a cart but we couldn't get you back here until oh my God I'm sorry we did everything we could for you but you weren't the only one but you'll be okay now and--" Redheart put a hoof around Lyra, and gently shushed her.

Bon Bon tried to lift her head. She couldn't. She tried to breathe. She barely could. It was so cold. "The..." she whispered, in a dry rasp. "The gryphons ambushed us." She coughed weakly.

Lyra tried to smile. She hoped Bon Bon would notice the smile and not the tears. "Yeah honey. But we ambushed them. The pegasus ponies were in the clouds. They pounced on the gryphons as soon as we saw them. We won the battle. We took a bunch of prisoners, and a few supply carts. And then we brought you back here!"

"'ats good," Bon Bon choked out. "We can go home now."

Lyra looked at Redheart. Redheart nodded, and walked away.

"Listen, honey," Lyra began nervously. Her voice was cracked and faltering. Bon Bon didn't notice that, either. "You're...really beat up. You lost a lot of blood back there. A lot. Redheart says you're in shock."

"I'm okay. It's just...this mud is so cold."

"You're in camp, sweetie." Tears streamed down Lyra's face. "You're under blankets. We're taking care of you. I'm taking care of you."

Bon Bon stared blankly ahead. "Oh. 'Ats good. Still cold though." She coughed. "I need water."

Lyra nodded, sniffling. "All right. The nurse said you'd need water. That's good. Here." Using her horn, she floated the pitcher next to the bed up to Bon Bon's mouth. Bon Bon lifted her head a few inches, and began to drink.

She drank the whole pitcher. And she laid her head back down, and closed her eyes again.

Lyra looked around the tent sadly. She knew there were no more blankets to give. But it was chilly out, and Redheart had said that keeping Bon Bon warm was the best way of keeping her alive. She undid her own rough, dirty cloak, and floated it over Bon Bon's sleeping body. That might help.


Derpy walked the length of the battlefield. Well, it was sort of a battlefield: it was a field, and there had been a battle in it. It didn't look like much, though. She always pictured a "battlefield" as a big, square field, trimmed and green, with magnificent armies parading around. Maybe a castle in the background. This was some reeds and mud that had been trampled down. It was a bit disappointing. She knew war was bad. But she thought it was supposed to be majestic. It wasn't majestic. It was just...a muddy brawl. Majesty would have given dignity to the deaths. This was just murder.

She stopped, suddenly. A pony. It was Aloe, lying there in the grass, looking pathetically up at her, her mane wet and muddied. Derpy immediately called out, "Medics! I've got an injured pony!" A few dozen yards away, a pony called an affirmative response. The pegasus leaned down, smiling gently: "It's okay, Aloe," she cooed. "We'll fix you up."

There was no response. Suddenly, Derpy felt very, very sick. She gently touched the spa pony's head. It fell to the right, eye still fixed dead forward. The entire left half of her skull was now a mangled mass of brain and bone and blood and hair.

"Yes, Captain?" Lemon Hearts, a young yellow medic pony asked, as she walked into the clearing.

"I'm...sorry, medic. I was wrong," Derpy said quietly, slowly. "We need to put her with the ones to bury."

Lemon Hearts nodded, then looked at Aloe's body. "Oh...oh. Oh. Yeah. Oh. Okay. Captain. Okay."

Derpy had read you were supposed to close a pony's eyes when they were dead like that. That it was respectful. Made them look peaceful. She did that for Rose, who had bled out after having a leg torn off. But...when a pony was missing half her face, half her head...she can't look peaceful. She can just look dead. Mangled and dead. She reached down and pulled off Aloe's cloak, then laid it gently over her upper body. That would have to do. She shook her head sadly. Poor Aloe. She had hoped, before the battle, that seeing her dead ponies would make it easier to issue the order regarding surrendered enemies. No. It didn't.

She walked back towards the banner, where the prisoners were bound. Twenty of them; seventeen lions and three gryphons. All the other lions were dead, and most of the gryphons, though a handful of gryphons had managed to avoid the pinning ambush and flown away.

Big Mac was there to greet her. "Captain," he saluted. "Who'll we assign to guard 'em?"

Derpy signaled him to come closer, and shook her head. She spoke quietly but firmly. "Nopony. We can't afford to keep prisoners."

Mac raised an eyebrow. "We're just lettin' em go?"

Derpy shook her head again. "I'm sorry. It's awful, but we can't afford that either."

Mac's eyes grew wide. "Oh, no. No, Captain. They surrendered. I couldn't live with myself."

Derpy bit her lip. If she ordered it, she 'couldn't live with herself' either. But they couldn't afford to keep prisoners, and the way a pony fought, enemies were more likely to be crippled before they were killed. And they couldn't let them go. She sighed. "We have to, Lieutenant. We have to. If we let them go, they'll be burning down farmhouses and killing ponies again tomorrow. And if they captured any of us they'd kill us immediately; we're not soldiers in their eyes like Celestia's forces are. We're criminals to them. They'd kill us if we surrendered to them."

Mac shook his head. "I can't do it, Captain. And you shouldn't. If word gets out you kill prisoners, none of 'em will surrender. They'll fight till they die."

"Then I won't have to kill any more will I!" she said, far more loudly than she meant to. A few ponies turned their heads. So did the prisoners.

"You could...maim 'em. Blind 'em or cut off their wings or somethin' so they can't fight. But you don't have to kill 'em," Big Mac said, searching for a way out. "I don't know. Maybe trade 'em for somethin' with the Gryphons. Somethin'!"

Derpy rubbed her eyes with a hoof, then looked at him pleadingly. "Big Mac, please. Please understand. I can't mutilate prisoners after every battle. I'd be a monster. And they won't trade with us. And...this will be clean. Like you said. They won't surrender again. And I won't have to do this again. Ever again."

Mac swallowed, hard. His eyes glistened. "I won't do it. You can do it. It's your right. But...I didn't think you would."

The disappointed look on his face made Derpy feel far, far worse than even the prospect of being a murderer did. "I'm sorry, Mac. I'm sorry. I don't ask you to agree. Or even to understand. Just...believe me that I don't want to. Please."

Mac shook his head. "When I don't want to do somethin' I don't do it." He turned, sharply, and began walking away.

Why...how could he say...a flash of anger rose in her. "I don't have that luxury!" she snapped back at him. He didn't react. She tried again. "And neither do you!" He didn't even slow down. She groaned, anger subsiding, despair swelling.


The ponies raised their voices together, the harmonies swirling in the night air. Torches ringed the group, sitting in a wide circle. At the center, forty-some corpses lay shrouded in cheap cloth. Some of the cloth, covering the smaller figures, was dyed in Equestrian gold-and-white. Most of the bodies were wrapped in simple rough fabric.

The hymn, old and beautiful, came to an end. Derpy stood, slowly. Some of the ponies watched her. Most looked down, or away. Many just stared forlornly at one corpse or another, looking at their friend or sister or lover for the last time.

Derpy began to speak.

"Ponies. Word of the war came to us several weeks ago. Yet only today do those words have meaning. Between us lie some of our beloved friends and our sacred family. And between us lie many of the enemy, whose friends and whose family will be denied the chance to do what we do tonight: say farewell to those who have left. As our dead died for us, so their dead died for them. And so we repay sacrifice with memory. In their honor, as well as in the honor of our own dead, do we say: Justice be done."

Justice be done, the crowd responded.

"We did not ask for this war. We did not choose to fight it. But the responsibility has fallen on each and every pony regardless. We are those of Ponyville who have chosen to bear that responsibility. And between us lie those of Ponyville who have embraced that responsibility fully and finally. We must not falter now. We must not abandon our posts. For these ponies cannot, now or ever. In their honor, do we say: Duty be done."

Duty be done, the crowd responded.

"We mourn the dead, as we give solemn thanks that they lived. And as we say farewell, it is with gratitude. For though we mourn, we mourn so that others may not have to. We mourn our friends so that mothers throughout Equestria will not mourn their foals. We mourn our friends so that all future generations of ponies will not mourn their freedom. Our friends have offered their lives to pay the unjust and unfair debt our enemy has imposed on our innocent. In their honor, do we say: Mercy be done."

Mercy be done, the crowd responded.

"Though none of us wishes to die, we take solace in the fact that not one of our friends died as a coward. Not one pony died fleeing. Not one pony died hiding. They met their fates bravely and willingly. They died not as victims. They died as heroes. May we be so brave, for it is only through willingness to lie down our lives that we can preserve them. In their honor, do we say: Valor be done."

Valor be done, the crowd responded.

"And may we always remember why they have died. They were no conquerers, hoping to grow fat off the food of another. They were no mercenaries, hoping to grow rich off the gold of another. They were ponies, hoping only that they might return to their peaceful lives. Together with them, we have suffered. On the field of battle, they suffered especially. They have now returned to peace. Now, it is we who must continue to suffer. We suffer so we all might return to peace. In their honor, do we say: Peace be done."

Peace be done, the crowd responded.

And with one intertwining voice, the ponies again began to sing.

As they sang, Derpy looked to the side, at Big Mac, a gleam of hope in her crossed eyes. He shook his head sadly. She fixed her good eye straight ahead, and sang a bit louder.

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