• Published 19th Sep 2016
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A Warhorse In Equestria - Revenant Reaper



A 14th century veteran war charger, having perished upon the field of battle, is given a second chance at life in a strange new world. But can a mare who knows nothing but conflict adapt to a land of peaceful pastel ponies, or will it prove too much?

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A Knight's Vow

Northern France. 1346

The two armies faced each other across a veritable no man's land of churned mud and grass, the site of many a previous battle.

On the one side in disciplined formations lay the English army under the command of his Majesty Prince Edward of Wales. To the rear, the archers and artillerymen with longbows at the ready. To the fore, the steadfast infantry standing in row upon row of sword, spear, and mace; blocks of pikemen among them to repel the inevitable enemy cavalry charge. And to the wings lay the crown jewel of any army; the cavalrymen and armour clad knights of the realm, mounted upon their trusted steeds and brandishing steel lances and swords. On the opposite side, the French army were arranged in much the same fashion; a small hillock providing a distinct terrain advantage upon which their own archers and crossbowmen would surely seek to capitalise.

Atop his own steed and surrounded by mounted knights of the realm, Edward spied his adversary and opposing commander across the field. Standing tall amongst his fellow Frenchmen at the hillock's crest was the aristocrat known as Philip of Valois; a proud and noble leader tasked with evicting the English forces from this particular corner of his glorious nation. Almost seeming to lock eyes with the Black Prince in spite of being far across the field, he quickly mounted his own horse and turned to stare out at the English army across the plain.

The air was filled with tense silence as both sides waited with bated breath; the only sounds to be heard being the faint clink of armour plate and the impatient trotting of hooves as the knights and cavalrymen reined in their mounts. Among one such cluster of English knights errant, one such horse - a mare - shifted nervously in place; the armour plates that covered her weighing down upon her body just as heavily as the pre-battle tension weighing down upon her mind.

Her name was Midnight, a given considering her dark colouration, and she was to be the replacement mount for the knight who now sat on her saddle with his visor down and lance held at the ready. Midnight was no stranger to battle, this would be her twenty-first since arriving in France via Normandy after all, and nor did she fear death anymore. No, her fears were centred around the man mounted firmly upon her back; for he would be her third knight since the beginning of this campaign.

Her first had been a rather portly fellow who needed a replacement for his steed, a courser, which had suffered from a debilitating illness. He had visited the Wiltshire farm upon which she worked, pulling wagons and ploughing the fields, and seemed to have taken a liking to her powerful, muscular frame. Being a somewhat ignorant sort, he failed to realise that the 'stallion built like an ox' was in fact a mare. The farmer from whom he had bought her didn't bother to correct him, nor did any one else who didn't wish to be on the receiving end of his lethal temper.

Midnight's baptism of fire had come in Normandy, where the petrified mare clad in heavy armour and bellowing overweight noble had cannoned through French lines twice; cutting a bloody swathe through all opposition. Truly, the battlefield was such a violent contrast with the sedate pace of the farm. But as time went on, the adrenaline rush of charging through enemy ranks quickly became an addiction; to run like the wind and rend asunder all who stood in her wake.

Though she disliked the fat man's boisterous manner, she was grateful to him for introducing her to a world she would never have known. He had died during a skirmish about a month later; somehow falling off her back and rolling into a brook where his heavy armour and considerable bulk weighed the knight down, causing him to drown.

The second had been a lanky, rather reedy fellow with a cleft chin and a paranoid manner. Midnight couldn't remember his name, but she did remember the excessive overlapping armour plates he insisted on wearing over his own suit of armour to protect him from missile fire, and how they weighed her down so badly. Any other horse would probably have collapsed under the strain, but Midnight bore the brunt as any warrior should and continued to push herself harder still.

It was somewhat ironic that the knight in question had the misfortune to take a crossbow bolt to the eye through his visor during a charge; one of the few places not covered by his precious extra armour. She had carried him throughout the battle and hadn't even realised he was dead up until her return to allied lines, whereupon his squires had rolled the corpse off of her back.

After that she had acquired an unlucky reputation among the soldiers and stablehands. They called her the 'Black Widow', for any who mounted the dark-coated mare in battle were destined to die. None of the knights searching for a replacement steed would think of looking at her twice, and she couldn't blame them for their paranoia. All Midnight wanted to do was to be on the field of battle again, what she was meant to do, not languishing in some musty old, windswept stables.

Then, one day, her fortunes changed.

His name was Sir Galland of Shropshire, and he had come to find a replacement steed for the one he had lost in his previous battle. Dismissing the stablehands' warnings as 'superstitious nonsense', he ignored the rumours surrounding her and had taken Midnight as his own. For the first time in weeks she was elated. Finally she would return to the field; finally she would fulfil her purpose in life. On that very day, she vowed to never lose another knight again; to protect him with her very life. Should she fail, she was prepared to sell her self dearly.

The contoured armoured plates fit snugly against her like a second skin once more; Sir Galland's heraldry replacing the old set that decorated her frame. After a scant few days of getting acquainted with drills and practice runs, Midnight felt like she had worked with him all her life; the synergy between them far greater than any she had ever felt before. He was to be her third master of the field, and one way or the other, he would be her last.

A week later by her count, fresh orders had come in; they were to march towards Crecy and reinforce the army currently gathering there for a decisive battle against the French for control of the region. It took the best part of a fortnight to reach the English encampment, battling the elements and making do with an inadequately supplied caravan all the way. After a night's rest, battle plans were drawn up, and the following morn saw a sea of armour, equines, and steel as far as the eye could see; all marching forward with a single purpose until a similar force could be sighted on an opposing hillock.

This leads us back to the present situation, with both sides drawn up and ready for battle.

Midnight fidgeted on her hooves, pre-battle jitters making her antsy. She could practically smell the anticipation, the fear, the violent undercurrent that hung heavily in the still air like early morning mist. She longed for battle once more; to eat up the ground with her galloping strides, to feel the adrenaline as she and her rider closed ranks with the enemy. Unfortunately all Midnight could do was wait; but thankfully for her, it wouldn't be for long.

She didn't know where the first cry originated from, only that it was reciprocated in kind. Soon the air was filled with the roar of fighting men, bellowing their war cries as they prepared to move forward. The wave of euphoria soon reached her own unit of knights, and their anticipation reached its climax. Almost as one, Midnight reared back on her hind legs and brayed out a cry of her own while Sir Galland gripped her reins with one gauntlet; the other hefting his lance to the heavens above, while all around them knights and steeds joined in their ode to glory.

As the last horse set down upon the soil once more, they began to gallop en masse; a swarm of thundering hooves and shining steel that tore across the uneven ground, seeking to smite their common foe. The skies darkened with a cloud of arrows arcing down towards the unit, and like a flock of birds avoiding a predator, they quickly changed direction; the whistling death impacting harmlessly upon soft ground in their wake.

From in front Midnight could see an approaching herd similar to her own, clouds of dust and dirt billowing in their wake. French mounted knights no doubt. It had been some time since she had last faced them, and it would certainly prove interesting to see how they fared. Long strides ate up the ground, turning it into a churning sea of grass and dirt. Within seconds the lead elements were upon each other; metal clashed, blows traded, and Sir Galland was plucked from her back by a French lance. While most mounts would canter off to escape the field however, Midnight did not; for she had made a vow and intended to fulfil it, no matter what.

Where once there had been two proud units of opposing mounted knights there now was a veritable melee, and Midnight wasted no time in getting involved. Seeing a French knight stood over Sir Galland, his sword raised high over his head to deliver the killing blow, she burst into action. Just as he was poised to strike, a solid buck severely dented the Frenchman's armour and caused him to pin wheel several yards away.

A thankful Sir Galland staggered to his feet, drawing his short sword as he braced to deflect the blow from another dismounted French knight while his fellows fought all around him. Seeing one of her fellow mounts disembowelled by a French knight on foot, Midnight immediately charged him with a whinny of anger. Hearing a thundering of hooves approaching from behind, the knight's head whipped around just in time to witness Midnight rearing back on her hind legs before bringing her forehooves crashing down upon his helmet; crushing both it and his skull like tin foil.

Pain assaulted Midnight's left flank as a stray crossbow bolt penetrated her armour; embedding itself deeply into her hindquarters. She hadn't even realised how close to the enemy's frontline she had been, and hesitation cost her again as flying metal dented and buckled the armour on her barrel. Lowering her head, the mare rammed her opponent and knocking the wind out of him, before viciously stomping him into the ground.

A distinct yell of pain caused her to snap out of her assault, and after shooting a look over her withers to locate the source, Midnight's eyes widened in horrified realisation. There were two of them with Sir Galland sandwiched between; one holding his attention while the other struck a cowardly blow from behind. Through a gap in his armour, a longsword had driven deep into Sir Galland's side; blood seeping from the wound he clutched while swiping ineffectively with his own blade in an attempt to keep them at bay.

Midnight saw red. The Frenchmen had no honour, no chivalry; they sought to break her vow.

She would give them no quarter.

Taking off at a full gallop, she focused on nought but her target. Everything else dimmed in her peripheral vision while she weaved through a maelstrom of clashing blades, homing in on the man she vowed to protect. A scant few yards away, Midnight brayed an anguished cry as she body checked the nearest assailant into next week; pain scything through her right hind leg as the second French knight sliced cleanly through the exposed flesh there.

A fumbled buck put him down while Sir Galland finished him off, but the damage had already been done. They were both wounded, and she could barely canter let alone carry him on her back. There were a lot more Frenchmen then there were English near by, and while the knights on both sides had largely cleared the field, small groups of enemy infantry had already begun to advance upon their position. It was clear they were overwhelmed, and yet even though she could likely get away under her own power, Midnight still did not retreat.

Despite their dire straits, Sir Galland could not help but feel a surge of pride. How many others could boast such a loyal and determined steed? The mare was a force to be reckoned with; a knight in equine form. She had stuck close to him the entire fight, saving his life twice now, and wreaking havoc upon their foes. And now here they stood; side by side, horse and human, as allies against a common foe. Truly, he could not ask for a finer comrade in arms. For a long moment her expressive muddy amber eyes seemed to lock with his own, conveying what he already knew; that this was the end for them both. Midnight's narrowing gaze then returned to the incoming soldiers, her head bowing as if in decision.

At some ungiven signal, the mare reared up on her unsteady hind legs and whinnied a battle cry. As momentum carried her back to the ground, she took off in a loping run; head lowered as nigh 1400 pounds of raw muscle, sinew, and armour charged into French lines. Infantrymen were trampled or bowled over as Midnight cast them violently aside like broken toys. Several tried to strike her down, but they were either too slow or their blows bounced off of her dented armour plates. Seeing his steed was carving a corridor of destruction through the enemy's ordered formations as if she were God's own wrath, Sir Galland offered a brief prayer to the Almighty for her safety before hobbling back towards friendly lines.

Pain lanced through her injured hind leg as she thundered forth, but Midnight ignored it as best she could. If she could not carry her knight to safety away from the enemy, then she would make damn sure that none could get to him. She was deep now, too far into their formations to back out. The only way was forward, but she was running out of momentum; the physical impact of each French soldier she hit coupled with crashing adrenaline and fatigue brought on by her many wounds causing her charge to falter. And yet she continued on; for to stop would be death, to retreat would be futile. There was only forwards; onwards to the next foe, blood and carnage trailing her wake.

Even so, she would not be able to run forever. Midnight knew in her heart that she would not survive this day, but she pushed on nonetheless; for she had made her vow, and keep it she would. For as long as she breathed, the mare would do everything in her power to keep him safe; and if that meant her life, then so be it. For every second she fought brought her knight more time, and she would make sure that when hers finally came, she would not go quietly.

As it turned out, It wasn't until she was several hundred yards deep into the French lines that Midnight's luck finally ran out.

She had just trampled through a hastily mobilising unit of pikemen when the staggering mare felt the lance of cold steel pierce the gap between the Flanchard attached to her saddle and the Crupper protecting her hindquarters. A second thrust from a spear pushed deeper into her bowels and caused the mare let loose a scream of agony as she desperately tried to lash out at her attacker, even while more Frenchmen assailed her thoroughly surrounded form. Heart thumping wildly in her chest, Midnight continued to fight as if possessed, even as her life-force continued to ebb and stain the green sods of turf below in the ensuing melee.

All warriors have their limits however, and this particular equine was no different. Feeling woozy, Midnight's movements were growing increasingly sluggish as she began to bleed out; the loss of blood proving too much for the mare as she finally slumped to the bloodied ground. Barely conscious, she could just make out the surrounding soldiers in the haze that increasingly clouded her greying vision.

Come to finish her off, had they? Let them come. She would show them that even on the precipice of death, an English horse was not to be trifled with.

Before any could get near however, the ground shook to the thundering of hooves coming from behind the dying mare. Midnight was dimly aware of the clash of steel as mounted English knights ploughed through the disintegrating French lines around her; fresh skirmishes between opposing infantry breaking out as the enemy was slowly being pushed back little by little. Resting her tired head upon the war torn earth, Midnight couldn't help but feel a sense of elation as her life faded away to the blackness of death's embrace. She had kept her vow and fulfilled her duty as her knight's steed; only regretting that she no longer had the strength to serve him in battle again.


{()}


Sir Galland strode forth over the carnage of the field, mindful of the fallen as he sought out the one comrade he had not accounted for once the battle had concluded in England's favour. There were others present too of course; serfs and soldiers alike combing through the dead either for ill gotten gain or to ensure that they were recovered so that carrion birds would not feast upon them before they could receive a proper burial. The knight ignored them all however as he retraced his steps from barely half a day before, passing the point where he had been violently dismounted and following the trail of destruction left by his noble steed.

He found her surrounded by the crumpled bodies of French soldiers in a pattern almost like a morbid flower; several displaying blunt force trauma that could only come from the impact of an angry equine's hooves. The mare almost seemed peaceful, asleep even as she lay resting on her folded legs while her muzzle lay on the churned grass with eyes closed. Reaching out a gloved hand, Sir Galland gave Midnight's still body an affectionate stroke along an exposed portion of her muzzle before standing back up.

Even though he had not known the horse for long, he couldn't help but feel a sense of loss. Never before had he seen such strength, courage, and loyalty in an animal; truly the mare really was a knight in equine form until the very end. Once he had paid his respects to his fallen steed, Sir Galland began the short journey back to where the rest of the English army was encamped while recuperating for the next great battle. Later that night, he would offer a prayer to God for the safekeeping of the mare's soul. Little did he know however that a strange bluish-green hue would envelop the recently deceased equine's body when none were looking, causing it to vanish in a flash of light.

Nor would he know that though Midnight's life on Earth had come to an end, her story was only just beginning.