• 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 Game of Darkness - Installment 23 - A Fallen Horse, Part One

“I know these aren’t really the words that you want to hear, Amora, but you need to calm down.” Defiant Hooves stood beside the fuming mare while the other pegasi of DarkOps circled above. Conrad’s trump card had yet to be played; in fact, his speech had not yet even begun to serenade the Manehattan sky when the medic turned her attention to the south – towards those who she knew would understand.

“He just let him go up there alone!” she bit back with an icy temperament that shot down the orange flier’s sentiment. “The whole point of having his group here was to provide backup for Wing, so why would Trigger just let him trot right into a situation that is an obvious trap?” Her blue eyes had settled upon the Albatross with a fervor that no amount of convincing would dislodge. She was going to get on that ship no matter the cost. She was going to make sure that she would never have to go through what happened in Canterlot ever again.

“You’ve known him longer than anypony, so it makes sense that you’d want to be at his side right now. We all feel that way; but you have to trust Wing’s judgement, and you have to respect Trigger’s role as a field commander. Yes, the Mavericks’ Wild got assigned to escort duty; however, it’s far more likely that Trigger wrangled them in with different purposes in mind.

“Hypothetically speaking, if I were calling the shots for this operation and had those three at my disposal, I’d want Magic Barrier in a position where his defensive prowess could be maximally distributed across any potential field of battle. Even if Wing’s guess about you all getting access to the ship turned out to be wrong, being pinned to his side in the clouds would have only done wonders for protecting the pegasus and mitigating an immediate threat. It’s worth noting, though, that having that kind of caliber upfront could have also made it look as if we came to provoke a fight in the presence of two clashing griffon powers.

“Likewise, Twyst isn’t exactly renowned for controlling his anger. The stallion is better nowadays, but when Trigger first started bringing him around, well you were there for that nonsense, Ams. What he does bring to the table are sharp wits and quick moves, which are nice assets to have if a certain tactician wants to push information or line up a rapid strike. I think the real question you should be asking yourself is why did Trigger accept you as his fourth. Why didn’t he just brush off Luna’s request, or why didn’t he simply try to yank his original out of retirement?

“The answer to the latter question is easy. He didn’t want to drag her back in after she had finally gotten settled into civilian life. The former question carries some degree of complexity along for the ride, though. There was no way DarkOps was getting bounced from this mission. Her Highness knew that we’d show up anyway, given the stakes, and Trigger was certainly aware of this. In every sense, attaching you to the Mavericks’ Wild was a completely superficial move. Of course, I'm lying for a little dramatic effect; it's a superficial move in every sense but one.

“That stallion has known you as long as you’ve known him, Amora. I know it isn’t much to give when you’re upset, but it’s the best hypothesis I can come up with. He did it because he knew you’d do this.”

Amora kept still for a few moments after Defiant’s explanation roved through her thoughts. She gulped down a rising tide of sorrow that struggled to push its way from the pit of her stomach to eyes that yearned for those sweet, watering tears. “There isn’t time for that now,” she told herself before gently grazing his folded wing with her side. “Thank you, Defy. You always seem to know the perfect things to say to me.”

The serenity shared by the duo proved to be brief once Conrad’s taunting sermon fell upon both pony and griffon ears. With every syllable she heard, Amora found herself falling victim to the same pressure that had pushed the stallions of the Mavericks’ Wild to attempt teleporting onto the deck of the Albatross. “Something is wrong,” she spoke with a rushed breath before D.H. slipped one of his forelegs around the medic. “I can’t teleport to him, but I don’t understand how that’s possible.”

Wick’s red-rimmed gaze was already prepared to meet the tilting head of his orange-coated counterpart. For several minutes, he had watched in silence as Defiant’s care for the mare showed through every generous reassurance and touch, and he knew exactly what question was chomping at the proverbial bit just to escape a muzzle. “Not yet. We can’t take on a whole ship like that on our own. If they engage the other griffons, we’re going in according to plan.”

Overhead, the brassy whines of the megaphones continued to captivate the city with oscillating states of interest and agitation. The Republic’s ambassador proceeded with his grand oration – delivering to equinity a worldview that had been shaped by the largely unknown burdens of fear and conflict. “Now, Duke, since I know that hideous ship across the way is yours, I’ll let your vermin kind in on the secret I’ve been keeping. I have your son, and unless my good pony professor friend gives me what I want, I’m going to return several favors by hanging this little shit to death.”

Astonishment clutched the startled ponies of DarkOps, for the reaper’s scythe had descended quickly and without warning. The announced method of the looming execution sent a visible ripple down the length of Amora’s spine, and even Wick found that his flicking ears were betraying the anxiety that the rest of his form kept carefully contained. With that declaration, the rules of engagement had been upended. Whatever plan Trigger and Wing had concocted, it was certainly in tatters. They had a new responsibility now – one that would have to be summarily fulfilled if Equestria were to stem the broils of a griffon war.

The active microphone picked up the collapsing of the cell walls and the cheers that followed. There was little time to be spared – if any – but Wick had to wait until there was some confirmation that Gänse’s threat was far from idle. When the wails of agony sent waves of soldiers pouring from the northern edge of the airship’s hull, the pegasus had all he needed. The only things keeping Equestrian forces in check were the immunity articles buried within the Treaty of Baltimare. The moment the hostilities spilled beyond the confines of the visiting vessels, the ponies were cleared to go.

“Ams, you’ll support Wing if he needs it, but our top priority is to extract that hostage. Under no circumstances can we allow a foreign dignitary to be executed in our airspace. Defiant, carry Amora in; Mozy, you’re with me. Try to minimalize casualties if you can. The Republic will not respond well to our involvement, and unfortunately, I think plausible deniability just got punted to the curb. We'll have to earn fallout credits the hard way.”

“Come now, Colonel,” Twyst’s voice caught the group right when Wick was about to ascend. The unicorn had materialized through the lime-green tongues of teleportation-backed thaumic fire, and he had promptly settled into a broad, imposing stance upon the waterfront road. “Bitching around the war isn’t going to make it go away. We can’t avoid what’s already here.” The stallion absentmindedly levitated a wrought iron scythe as a conniving smile took shape. “What we can do is make sure that it ends today, regardless of how many asshats need to be cut down. I can feel Trigger surging; he’s up to something big, which means we don’t have a lot of time. I can’t jump onto the ship directly, and climbing that piece of shit elevator contraption would just take too long. I'm going to need a lift.”

Screams of dread meandered back to the Albatross from those griffons who had sought the glory of battle. Trigger’s veil of night expanded before the line in a violent, cracking burst that drove both the forces of the Eagle and Talon away from the brink of mutual oblivion. The enormous dreamshell climbed into the heavens, where its massive midnight arcs masked even Celestia’s light, and its roots shot beneath Conrad’s vessel with a velocity that left onlookers astounded.

The chorus of shouts spread to the interior of the Republican battleship as the glare of the day surrendered to the creeping, eerie glow of the magic of reverie. Embers of panic stoked a torrent of fire that coursed its way through every occupied corridor and room until the strain erupted through the top of the craft. A wide, branching trunk of lighting shot skyward after Conrad’s shaken crew had discharged its superweapon into the leading ridge of Trigger’s incredible assault.

While impressive, the power of 10000 weather-wielders did not even manage to make a scratch upon the ensnaring envelope. Even if there had been a hope that they could have halted the barrier’s advance, the crew had fallen prey to their emotions a bit too late. The event horizon of the trap had already crossed the ship, and the scent of ink was becoming far more apparent with every passing second. Simply put, my rules of physics were being thrown aside for something far more lively: Trigger’s rules of the imagination.

Confusion played its rhapsody through the faces of the disentangled griffon force. Most of them peered into the developing void with captivating expressions that projected their innermost ingrained phobias through their stern demeanors. The hourglass grains stopped falling for them at that moment, for the moonlit sonata of reverie had struck like an argent dagger through each of their minds. For me however, the fanfare had just begun.

Resolve’s hilt brushed against my reaching forehoof before I yanked the blade from its improvised stand. Years had passed since I had last felt its aura pulse through my essence – since I had last felt a drive empowered by the wildest fibers of my mystical dreams. It was my pen to forge a new world – one that had been born in the baptism of the unfinished, and one that would ink my score with Conrad.

I sprang forward, darting around the mass of congregated creatures, and hurled my razor through the chains and rope that hideously toyed with the noble’s life. The links fell like rain over the blitzing Azure Sky, who had appeared beneath me with an equally unsettling speed. She had shoved her commander away from the prisoner, and her talons quickly followed her resolute will to tear through the binds that had restricted the lord’s hind legs.

My sights swept over the motions of the staggering Conrad en route to the crimson gaze of his revolting lieutenant. It was a stare that spoke what no words could as concisely imply; she had decided – in that instant – that the actions of her captain did not speak for the crew. She pitched upwards, gripped the noble tightly, and bolted for the shrinking aperture to the south without bothering to even remove the gag.

Tides of mutiny smashed the weathered troops, splitting the metaphorical stones into islands that either supported Azure Sky’s decision or stood with the discord of Lichlos. Crossbows pinged to life, sending bolts in the direction of the captive and his savior, before sabers defending the lieutenant came to bear upon their frames.

Take him out! The searing thought shot through my mind as I spun into an aileron roll, turned towards the griffon’s midsection, and swung my sword at the flabbergasted strategist. The master planner’s scheme was crumbling before his eyes, and if I could capitalize on the seeds of chaos, then perhaps… Greed had long been woven into the emerald ring that slid to meet my strike – that soundlessly rejected the notion that I would uncover a swift surrender. Against the backdrop of rowdy troops, the reverberating note of our colliding blades popped like the joining of two crashing cymbals. We had finally met within the bournes of reverie, paired by the impish will of our renegade duet, to decide the immediate course of a relentless nightmare.

Author's Note:

Ahh, we're finally at this point. I spent a great deal of time debating whether or not I should split the installment into multiple parts, and in the end, I decided that it made sense to do so despite the fact that the chapter is a little short word count wise when compared to the others. When I reached the ending of the the last scene, it just felt like a natural break point to me, one that capitalizes on the growing intensity of the work. Hence, y'all get a two parter! Woot!

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