• Published 14th Jan 2015
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A State of Darkness - Wing

An ongoing tale of original characters set in an Equestria with secret branches of the well-known guard corps, A State of Darkness revolves around the Wonderbolt DarkOps unit as it protects Equestria from threats both foreign and domestic.

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A State of Darkness - Installment 9 - Solstice: A State of Light

Author's Note:

And so comes the final installment of the first arc! I want to take a moment to really thank my supporters for their comments regarding this story. I had been out of the writing game for such a long time, and I cannot state enough how awesome it was to receive some of the comments that were sent my way. I also have had the awesome pleasure / insurmountable worry of having cameos for the first time. Anzel's Silent Knight is making an appearance in this chapter - which is really super fitting considering his ethic as a guard. We also have Tea's Autumn Tea coming into the story, which is awesome as Tea has been a true supersupporter of mine.

A golden blaze, laced with streaks of lavender and lilac, soared like a phoenix rising into the frosted heavens. The subsequent detonation produced an expanding spherical shell of warmth that drove the windigos from the bournes of Canterlot. The drifts of snow, tombs of ice, and clouds of grey surrendered to the radiant sun and the inspiring aura of love that rained upon the city.

The descending scent of cinnamon teased my nose before my body fell limp upon Trigger’s magical pedestal. I grunted, seizing as the adrenaline-suppressed pain launched its resurgence upon my chemically spent self. Whatever boundaries I had set for the fields of war, they were all surpassed and taxed for my deeds this time around. Even amidst the bounty of the specific piece of reverie I had shared, the weight of the darkest day was squeezing life from my busted legs and broken wings.

Stirrings swelled as more guards arrived in droves. The unicorns came first – as evidenced by the hum of teleportation that still managed to perk my fading senses – but there were others. In times of sorrow, duty remained; I often thought that it was this direction that made the emotion particularly pronounced. A pony without a home could wander without regret. It was the fear of loss that turned events into tragedies.

Several others had gathered around me as Trigger lowered my platform closer to the ground below. He was mumbling something about flowers, but his words did not convey any meaning to me. I was fixated by the thrill of a theory – one that related significance, drive, and disaster with a convoluted web of logic. And that first phase did not even factor in the effects of time. There were numerous variables and an infinite span of models that I would have to explore to grasp understanding from the disorder of being.

My soreness was subsiding as I made headway through my internal ponderings, and a surreal wave of relaxation lazily meandered about my nerves. I felt like sleeping – like riding whatever beat my soul had been given straight into the captivating embrace of dream. Maybe I would find her there – in the gentle tides – waiting like the blossom she always was. That idea seemed magnificent – until Amora’s words shattered the false serenity. “You’re in shock, Wing.” I dragged my head to face the recently arrived medic as my frame trembled to the sudden perception of an abnormally clammy coat.

“Buck Luna, I’m cold.” My sights shifted between the ponies that had congregated around me. Mozy, with the A0 slung upon her back, had – at some point – left the seats to stand by Trigger’s side. Both held incredibly strange expressions that appeared to be an awkward superposition of astonished and concerned, but despite their looks, something about them just being there helped reset my senses. Senses that helped me notice that Amora had taken her post on my opposite flank, and that based upon the fact that her horn was glowing, she had to be the real reason my discomfort had dissipated.

“With all due respect, sir, I do not condone that statement. Princess Luna is a kind mare who does not deserve to be bucked.” I glanced at a white pegasus stallion with an unusual degree of scrutiny while details of the picture before me came into focus. He bore the nightshade décor and armor of Luna’s House Guard, spoke in a surprisingly collected and formal manner – given the circumstances, and possessed a crisp argent gaze that had undoubtedly seen combat.

“Apolo… Geeze!!” My attempt at a sincere reconciliation transformed into a rapid shout when Amora pitched me onto my stomach. I huffed at the awkward tension that tugged upon my tattered wings and took a brief pause to regain some semblance of composure.

“Buckin’ dammit Ams!” Trigger interjected. “Give the colt a little warning, why don’t ya!?” He retrieved Kix from my sprawled leg as his short outburst garnered the scorn of the protective mare. The pair produced the banter of school-bound children as my attention drifted to the scenery that had blossomed beneath my hovering form.

A bed of black ambrosias filled the middle of the field in a shape that roughly resembled my atomic cutie mark. Each flower sat within sparkling shields of lavender that radiated energy in visible crescents. There were dozens of such pairings, each yielding testament to a promise I had made to a certain mare long before this discord began. Tears swelled in my eyes at the mere remembrance of that glorious moment – the niche in time when I told her that I would never let a soul harm my flower. It looks like you went and saved me again, Ambrosia. And to think that I almost forgot that the darkest day is also the solstice. Things can only get brighter…

The emotional spectacle attracted the attention and concern of the lunar sentinel. “I do not think that all of the shouting is doing much for the patient,” he remarked tranquilly after performing a closer inspection of my mien. I peeked momentarily at the waves of navy and royal blue that composed his mane before my concentration returned to the luminescent garden. It had not been my top focus, but the stallion’s statement was correct. I had had enough noise and bickering for one day; I was tired of it all.

“I’m sorry,” Amora replied, resting her hoof upon my neck. “I’m just frustrated. That castfire was laced with healing-resistant charms, which is making everything difficult. I’ve managed to stop the bleeding for now, but you have some broken and fractured bones that I am prohibited from instantly fixing. Since you damaged that filly’s horn, we can’t just force her to remove the blocks.” She brushed the beige bandages wrapped about my legs and sighed. “It’s just gauze and cloth at the moment. We’ll have to do it the conventional way, so I’m going to have to admit you.”

“Princess Luna already ordered a floor at Canterlot General to be reserved for the wounded,” the pegasus added. “I have been instructed to escort the casualties of the Wonderbolt DOC to the facility and stand watch as needed. My unit has also been tasked with assuming custody of those responsible for today’s attacks. Unfortunately, there is no protocol for such an engagement; the princess had faith that someone from this … unusual … unit would have orders for me.”

Trigger audibly drew a breath into his lungs, and I could tell that the stallion was either preparing to haze the newcomer or lash out in response to the sudden imposition. “You’re First Sergeant Silent Knight, correct?” I asked, cutting my onyx unicorn off at the proverbial pass. “My name is Wing, and I’m one of the colonels of this regiment.” From the slight state of surprise that flourished on the colt’s face, I figured that my deduction had been correct. “We keep tabs on those close to the royals. Protocol, you see?”

My gesture undoubtedly resounded with the soldier despite the persistently raspy and diminished condition of my voice. Use of the word ‘protocol’ erased the expression of alarm right off his muzzle. Indeed, I had read some reports detailing a by-the-book character called Silent Knight, which seemed to fit the current bill to the bit – and usually outlined various recipes for calamity. However, Luna repeatedly added merits and praises to his record, at least to the pages that inevitably reached my desk, and that was enough for me.

“Trigger, Mozy, give his unit support on the prisoner transfer. Since it seems as though Ams is all that’s keeping me together here, I’m relieving myself of duty to let her do what has to be done. Our orders were S&D, but I’m guessing Trigs had a reason for not killing the ringleaders over there. While I appreciate your concern, Sergeant, I don’t need you posted at my side.

“There is plenty to do here, so I want you working closely with these two. Trigger’s decisions need to be enforced, no matter how gruff, intolerable or tough he sounds. When it comes to the captives, I want his commands executed to the T. Get that issue settled, but remember that we lost lives here. Their remains need to be tended, and those of us living need to be comforted. Above all, we serve the common pony. Just keep that in focus.”

“Yes, sir!” Silent Knight gave me an affirmative nod as Amora carefully prepared a teleportation incantation for two. A brief wrinkle of hesitation held the stallion’s tongue before the desire to add an assessment overcame the hierarchical clout. “If I may, Colonel, it’s refreshing to meet an officer who maintains such an outlook.”

I smiled as the medic’s magical light coiled around my worn hide. “Let’s just say I had a really phenomenal sergeant as a guide when I was first granted an officer’s commission…”

Trigger exhaled slowly and examined the solemn stadium grounds as he adjusted his Coltston hat. He, Mozy, and a collection of other guardponies had spent the rest of the daylight hours gathering the remains of the fallen. Fourteen members of the Canterlot patrol had been slain, and he did not wish to think about the letters that would have to be written to the next of kin.

There were civilian casualties too, although thankfully not nearly as many fatalities. Nonetheless, the death total from the two sites was greater than the zero Trigger had wanted to see. “At least we got one back,” he mumbled to the adjacent Mozy and Silent Knight. Unexpectedly, they had found one of the injured troopers clinging to the last bit of life she had. “From a spark grows a flame…”

“Thank you,” Silent Knight responded while staring into the dwindling twilight sky. He contemplated continuing, transiently debating whether or not it was appropriate to reveal personal details to an officer of a different unit. “My father always trained me to be a good soldier. He pushed me to be the best of the best, but he never prepared me for the aftermath. There is more to life than just being a guard, and it’s during moments such as this that I’m grateful to be around others.”

His face remained stoic as Trigger pressed his hoof to the rear of the nightshade helmet. “Ya can’t train for everything, but your unit really stepped up today. I probably shouldn’t even say this, but we’re all on the same team, so buck it. DarkOps exists because even elite guards just cannot cope with the realities we sometimes have to conquer.

“We don’t have manuals for the bucking shit we deal with. Everything is done on a case-by-case basis, which is why the team is a clusterfuck of scientists, slick fliers, and some damn useful unicorns. I’ll be honest. As much as I dig Luna, when ya first flew in – decked out in this House Guard crap – I thought we’d be reamed by bureaucracy and bullshit. Now I’m glad Wing spoke first because your squad would’ve made me look like an ass. Although, if ya tell anypony that, I’ll deny it and kick your balls into next week.”

Silent’s feathers ruffled to Trigger’s bizarre mode of approval. To some extent, the pegasus understood. A lot of units held a great deal of attachment and pride when it came to their assignments, and it was fairly common for individuals not to like any encroachment from members of other squads. The memory of his own subordinate getting into a scuffle with Celestia’s House Guard came to mind, which made it challenging to imagine the complexities cranking through Trigger’s head – especially when he considered the ordeal the unicorn had endured. “I appreciate your compliments,” the sergeant finally answered with his typically composed tone. “I believe we are stronger by coming together as one.”

“Yeah,” Trigger responded curtly before stillness stole his voice. “I just wonder what’s going to happen now,” he resumed after lingering in the silence. “Wing somehow managed to pull a miracle out his ass. Those shields down there each have the power to outlive the decay of alicorn magic, and while all those mushy feels of his dispelled the windigos, there is still going to be some pain here. There will still be feelings of malevolence.

“Though, I was impressed that your underlings got my reasoning for keeping the buckers alive. I expected a bunch of resistance coming my way, but no pony gave me a lick of shit. We’re going to need her to contain the other roving cells so this crap doesn’t happen again. And if her friends are dead, then she’ll have nothing left to live for. They’re harmless now, but we’ve got to keep worrying about the ones on the lam.”

“We’ll just have to wait for the shots to be called,” Mozy commented upon leaning into Trigger’s side. “Wing will be on the mend for a while, and Wick took a beating at the market. Defiant got his fair share too, and the rest of us are all pretty tired.” With a touch of spirit lining her yellow irides, she glanced at the stallions and cracked a sheepish smile. “We’ve all got a lot of healing to do, so why don’t we get out of here and grab some drinks?”

“Matcha House off Fourth and Stone.” Trigger’s statement drew a perplexed look from the mare – not just from the casual delivery, but also from the selection of locale. “Yes, it’s a bucking tea house, but I just so happen to know one of the employees. She keeps a stash of Sweet Apple Red just for me and makes this special shit that will have most on their asses after a sip.” He turned his muzzle back towards Silent Knight and grinned. “Bring your fillies and colts too, S.K. They’ve all earned it after that handling of reinforcement detail. First round’s on me.”

The Sandcolt’s grains had descended upon my weary eyes seconds following the completion of Amora’s treatments. She, along with a team of doctors, had spent hours tediously attending to my injuries. My wings had to be reset, and although the process had been painless thanks to the top-notch medic, the sequence of unpleasant motions left nothing to the imagination. And the sounds… were things destined to be repressed and forgotten.

My legs brought their own complications to the stretcher. Special potions and stitches were necessary, and it was obvious – from staring at the condition of Amora’s cobalt cores – that she was exhausted at the end of it all. Even as I started to drift off to sleep, spells of her design were keeping me comfortable by soothing my overburdened nervous system.

The realm of reverie was far more kind to me than reality, for vistas of my past condensed into an alluring sunset date atop a cloud. She had once told me that her job as a traveling baker had taken her all over Equestria – particularly by rail. There was just no place left for her to go, but no pony had ever thought to give her the sky.

She often fainted when surprised, and this evening was no different. Her pinkish muzzle buried into my coat as relaxed breaths seeped into the cooling nighttime air. I kept my legs draped around this gorgeous flower, my lilac mare. I had a vow to uphold, and an everlasting hug was a wonderful price to pay.

I suddenly cooed to the feel of a hoof scratching the space between the bases of my wings. It was one of my favorite spots to receive a back rub, and I soon closed my mind’s oculus to the euphoria that drowned me in delight. Awareness of the outside world leached into my lethargic state, and confusion flooded the void. The sensation remained – along with the saccharine scent of cinnamon that floated to my nose – and the consequences of that realization came swiftly.

Was it actually possible? Had she really ventured all that way just to see me? Did she cease her travels yet again to grace me with her presence? I released a satisfied hum at the thought and took a gentle breath. I did not need to look to know the truth. My amazing Ambrosia had come for me. Like always, she reciprocated my protection with a defense and love that surpassed all hope. “Amby… I’m awake.”

“Well, look at what the rabble dragged into the shop this evening.” A white unicorn set her emerald sights upon the band led by Trigger. Her rosewood mane was tied into a bun by a thin black ribbon, and her gemstone irides possessed an unusual aurum flair that circumscribed the mare’s pupils. She stepped from behind the counter, which was essentially a mahogany bar top devoid of all the standard alcoholic accessories, and immediately moved to embrace the cowcolt. “Sweety, it’s been a long day.”

The stallion set a foreleg upon the mare’s back – much to the chagrin of Mozy, who immediately made a comment about the two obviously being in some sort of relationship. Trigger huffed in retaliation and countered. “Don’t be bucking ridiculous. First, she’s already spoken for, and I’m courting another pony, myself. Although, don’t get me wrong. I’d have some dynamite fun with her if we weren’t both off the market. Just don’t get ahead of your shit, Mozy. This is Autumn Tea; we’re just friends, and yes, it has been a long day…”

Both Silent Knight and Mozy blinked at Trigger’s assertions and the stifled giggle from Tea that followed. Behind the stunned pair, a gathering of Silent’s subordinates waited to take their seats in the establishment, and most felt as though they had missed out on some inside joke between the onyx unicorn and the tender. “I’m glad you’re okay, Trigsy,” Tea added in a hushed demeanor. “You’re sure all packing the place tonight, but I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. This isn’t the usual watering hole for guards, but I’ll do my best to thank ‘em for their service.”

“That’s what I was hoping to hear. I want my usual, of course, and how about you get these runts a round of Artillery Punches on me? Give them all the true Matcha House experience.”

Trigger set his fifth emptied glass on the countertop as Tea stared at him with a mischievous grin on her muzzle. “I’m not going to get drunk, Tea. I have plenty of tolerance.” He scanned the ensemble of boisterous, toppled, and intoxicated sentries. “But it looks like those spicy specials of yours did quite a few numbers tonight.”

“I haven’t claimed him yet.” She gestured at the neighboring Silent Knight and swung her hoof in Mozy’s direction. “And that protégé of Wing’s seems to be holding her liquor just fine.”

“Damn right I am,” Mozy quipped with a slight drawl etched upon her melody. She smiled and nudged Trigger’s shoulder the instant after he had received his sixth Sweet Apple Red. “Now, you brought us all here, Trigs. Why don’t you raise that drink of yours and give these new friends of ours a toast they’ll never bucking forget.”

The stallion lifted his crystal towards the ceiling. He did not stand up. He did not turn around. He just spoke with a clear, loud, and fervent voice. “Ya survived war! Ya saw the shadows for the first time in your lives, and ya claimed the only currency that matters – life. Ya did your sergeant proud. Ya did your country proud. You’re a unit above the rest, and I’ll suck it up and call ya my comrades without the slightest bit of regret. Don’t forget what happened, but don’t fucking dwell on it. There is no going back; there is only moving forward. And that is what we will do…”

With the exceptions of Trigger, Autumn Tea, and Silent Knight, the group of ponies cheered, sang, and chugged down their drinks. The Wonderbolt magus lowered his leg and sat quietly until a question from Silent Knight jarred his cognizance. “What else is out there?”

“Sure ya want to know that, Sergeant? There’s a lot I could say if ya felt inclined.” Trigger took a sip of his apple-kissed beverage before waving off any developing response. “Actually, I think I have the perfect one for ya. It might make that protocol-centric mind of yours explode, but I definitely think you’ll enjoy the result. There’s no forgetting the shadows, Silent Knight, but perhaps this story will be an educational experience. So… fucking once upon a time…”

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