• Published 9th Jan 2017
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The Atlantean-Dominion War - The Atlantean

Crimson Dawn enlists in the Atlantean Reserve Emergency Army (AREA) to defend Atlantis from the Dominion of Apollo.

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60. What Are You Doing In My Swamp?

Sergeant Rolling Plains, better known as Sarge, flicked the muck off of his hooves as he crawled out of the marshy soil, resting only when he passed the mushy mess most of his AREA segment marched--or more appropriately, sloshed--through. So far, there wasn’t a sign of enemy activity, and he could see why. Not only did the swamplands reek of rotting trees and drowning quicksand, they deployed them in abundance. Nopony lived here, as far as anyone knew, but it was apparently a good source of an unrefined version of the liquid used to fuel the Summercrest Project.

All the more reason to hate this place, Sarge thought. The Navy likes it.

The trees were thinly spread, but their extensive root systems stretched almost parallel to the ground and were islands of stable soil in a sea of quicksand and brackish water. The ponies around Sarge took advantage of them whenever they could, camping on their roots and resting in their shade from the mid-morning sun. These instinctual measures did little to comfort anyone, though, as oppressive heat beat through their coats and humidity thicker than Haven Cove’s tropical climate kept sweat clinging to their skins. Not even Sarge was exempt from a sweat-soaking and dips into marshwater that never cooled.

He was contemplating his misfortune in being assigned here when a corporal sloshed way into his vision. “Sir, there’s a small hut not far up the road,” he reported, pausing slightly at the uncertainty of calling the path he’d likely made himself a road. “Local family, sir. Friendly.”

“Take me to them.”

“Aye, sir. Follow me.” He led Sarge through the swamp, stopping several times as he racked his memory for quicksand. Twice, he had to backtrack a few steps, but the hut soon emerged from behind the trees. An elderly stallion sat on a bench swing hung from its raised front porch, a sturdier floor underneath him. Sarge climbed the wooden lip, flung mud from his legs, and focused on the local.

“You in the Army?” the stallion asked.

“Not the Army,” Sarge admitted, “but the Atlantean Reserve Emergency Army. It’s a different entity, and much more successful.”

“Ah,” the stallion nodded. “The Army wasn’t any good anyway. Too poorly trained and stripped down in favor of naval forces.”

“But we can’t be everywhere at once. Even with the Queen’s planned merger to place the Army under AREA’s jurisdiction, we just don’t have the numbers. Is there anything you can do to help?”

The stallion swung on his bench swing for a minute as he gathered his thoughts. The swing creaked from age and the tops of the trees around whistled in the wind they blocked from reaching the ground. Slowly, the rest of Sarge’s detachment gathered around to camp for the night, hanging hammocks from branches rather than erecting tents.

“I’m too old to fight, as you can see,” the stallion said. “My fighting days are long done. But if you ever need a place to rest, don’t hesitate to stop by.” He closed his eyes and leaned back for a second, exposing a small gold medal tucked under his jacket.

“Forgive me for asking, sir, but where did you get that medal?” Sarge asked.

The stallion opened his jacket, showing half a dozen different medals and awards. “This one?” he asked, gesturing to the most prominent medal. It was pinned to the jacket near the top and bore a decorative purple and gold embroidery.

Sarge nodded affirmance.

“This is a hand-me-down from my grandfather and his grandfather before him about six times, from my dozen-great grandfather. He fought in the Revolution at Emberforge.”

It took a second for Sarge to realize the significance. History had a tendency to repeat itself, and this war was no different. “Emberforge,” he breathed. “The Emberforge Stand. It’s one of the most famous battles of the time. Even the Doms recognize it as a great fight, and they thought of us as weak-willed farmers!”

The stallion smiled. “And so they do, because it was a great battle. My dozen-great grandfather, Mythic Spirit, was there. That battle solidified our independence, but it also showed us that ponies weren’t the only ones willing to fight. Thestrals fought and died there and were buried heroes. In fact, as I recall, the entire Neptune thestral line died there minus their youngest, whom they left in his care. She later revived her family line and honored their sacrifice with a monument to stand the test of time.”

“The Marelington Squadron,” Sarge remembered.

“Indeed. But I’m sure you know Mythic Spirit’s story.”

“I just know he died protecting our wounded with nothing more than a club he held in his tired, weakening magic.”

“Oh, it’s so much more than that. He first fought on the front lines a support element, using his magic to supplement any of our boys who went down. As we were forced to retreat, he continued to do that, but he began to lift our wounded back with us. Others followed his example, and we reached the secondary and even tertiary lines without losing a single pony who hadn’t been killed. But we had no fourth line. The Doms eventually broke past that third line, that final line, and swarmed into our camp. That’s where we had our hospital tent. Mythic Spirit took one look at it and galloped five miles to the camp. He was the only one to do so, but he single-hoofedly defended the field hospital for over and hour before the Doms finally took him down. By then, unengaged units came in and pushed the Doms back out. Mythic Spirit became the ‘legend of Emberforge’, the Doms called him, as he fought like a hundred stallions.

“There are reports of a field nurse fought alongside him, and that she not only used her own magic, but also boosted his, and even sprouted wings and flew. Alas, her existence was never proven, as a nurse or an alicorn, and so the official report says Mythic was alone. I know better. He knew better. He said she was there, but nopony ever knew she existed.”

“Then how did she do it? Did she clean everypony’s memory?”

“That’s exactly how she disappeared from the battle despite fighting there. She erased her existence from her friends and foes with a single spell.”

“How do you know she did it, then?” a curious lieutenant asked. He and several other officers had converged on the two to hear the story.

“She did not erase Mythic Spirit’s memory of her, and eventually fell in love and married him. That is how I know.”

“So you’re related to an alicorn?”

“Distant, but true.”

Sarge grinned. “It doesn’t matter, Lieutenant. Sir, how would you like for your family to defend our country once again?”

“I’m pushing sixty, soldier. I don’t know what I can really do.”

“Intelligence. Infrastructure. From what I hear, we need some stuff here to fuel some new Navy projects, and we’ll need a base to get it. We also need anything you can do to hold this swamp and get accurate intel about enemy movements in the future.”

“I’ll get my son on the heavy lifting. I can be an administrator, but that’s about it now.”

“Wonderful. When can you get started?”

“Tomorrow morning. My son comes home from Griffonstone then. He usually brings his friends with him, so we’ll have a small force spread through the area. The Doms won’t take this swamp if we have anything to say about it.”

“Thank you, sir.” Sarge turned around and saw the congregation of ponies setting up the night’s camp. “Well, then. We move out in the morning. Head for the Winterwall Forest.”

“Sir, that’s a hundred miles to the east!” a lieutenant exclaimed. “It isn’t in our campaign area.”

“I know,” Sarge replied. “And there’s a damn good chance the Doms do, too. We finally got a report from the Second Coastal earlier, and they think the Doms have been infesting the entire country for at least a few years before this war started. Think! We could have Doms in the higher command. Queen Atlanta switched out her old high general for Continuum, what? Five years ago?”

“Eight,” a captain supplied.

“Yeah. The war’s been on for nearly three years. That means that any Doms in the higher command structure have had five years to solidify their positions. We act in coordination with General Silvercrest and Colonel Treetop from now on. If Atlanta explicitly gives us an order, we’ll obey it, but she has to give it directly. No letters. Don’t follow anything from the higher command except Atlanta’s direct orders, because it could be a ruse to get us out of the way. Understood?”

“Yes, sir,” the officers chorused.

“Good.” Sarge heaved his shoulders. “This is gonna be a long war if we can’t trust our own generals.”

Author's Note:

Title has nothing to do with what happens. It just sounded fun.

This chapter was hard to write, mostly because I had no idea what to write. Most of the gap between the last chapter and this one was filled with working on My Little Destroyermen, video games, exams, and other stories. I have made a general plan for the next few chapters, though, so I "should" be able to do them relatively easily.

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