• 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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62. Whispers in the Highlands

General Moonshine Silvercrest pricked her ears to the north. She thought she’d heard gunfire, but her advance unit was ten miles ahead--too far for her to hear it. It was also mid-morning, which meant her entire army was rested and alert.

Against possible Dom attack, Silvercrest’s army employed a layered defense. The farthest out were the pickets. They covered all flanks of both the advance force and the main army, and acted as couriers and runners when needed. Then the advance force and rearguard covered the front and back. If the situation degenerated still, the main camp would be the final fallback point, much like a castle’s keep. The last place to go unguarded would be the hospital, and the Doms would have to take that over every Atlantean’s cold, dead body. That wasn’t policy. It was practice.

As she looked around for the source of the noise, she heard her second-in-command, a blue Earth pony stallion named Epicenter, approach. He’d been the leading earthquake scientist in Atlantis, but when Pacifica was retaken and the horrors revealed, he brandished his great-times-seven-grandfather’s officer’s sword and donned the uniform. Most ponies had some connection to the Atlantean Revolution, and Epicenter was no different. Rising through the ranks with skill and wisdom passed down through the generations, he quickly earned his current rank of Colonel and position as Executive Officer of the Atlantean Reserve Emergency Army--First Corps.

“General, a runner from the Third Delta reports a ‘massive Dominion force’ blocking the road. They believe that we could be surrounded at any moment, and are retreating to our position. I’ve already ordered the Fifth Tideless to keep the road clear as best they can and deployed all other regiments in epicenter formation,” he said, referring to a circular pattern that was most effective at defending an open area like the camp (the term was interchangeable with point formation). He’d actually designed it based off of an earthquake’s destructive waves, which dissipated as they radiated out similarly to a thinning battle line.

“We need more information about our predicament. Make sure that happens. If we are indeed being encircled, move south, back the way we came. There’s a stream we can use to halt them. But if we go--” she glanced skyward, where a thundercloud was building against the Whispering Mountains, ready to pour enough rain to flood the unprepared highland waters. “We must move quickly. That stream is a good four hours away, and that looks like a big storm.”

The sharp crack of a distant gunshot pierced the air, and both turned their ears to the north. A moment later, another came, then another. It soon escalated into an endless wave that washed over the hills and through the sparse highland forest. When it reached a dull roar, Silvercrest noticed smoke curling to form a hemisphere around her army.

“Pull back,” she said. “They’re trying to surround us. Pull back! Leave the camp.”

Epicenter saw a similar problem before she finished the order and bolted to the outlying regiments. Under his command, the corps quickly moved to retreat, but he could tell that they were already dejected. Telling them why they had to move didn’t help either. They were running. They faced the enemy and retreated.


The Fifth Tideless reached the mountain stream Silvercrest had remembered ahead of the rest of First Corps. They weren’t the first. As soon as they cleared the trees, a hailstorm of bullets mowed them down like a weed hacker. Their rear elements dove back, but the highland trunks proved too sparse to provide decent cover. Only a minute had already passed and the entire regiment was down.

Back at the main force, Silvercrest heard the shots and realized her mistake. In calling for a retreat, she assumed that her rear was clear all the way back. She’d forgotten about Doms being behind her rearguard at just enough distance to remain undetected.

“Epicenter, fall into point formation!” she called. “We’re surrounded!”

The Earth pony sprung into action before she finished. In seconds, dirt flew to build hasty earthworks, while cannon was mounted at intervals. Every gun was already loaded, every post manned, every officer smudging their shiny rank pieces. Silvercrest rubbed some extra mud on hers with one hoof as a precaution while the other held her officer’s pistol steady. Her wings, used to delicate procedures, subconsciously unsheathed her short sword and rubbed it against the dirt, simultaneously tapping the pistol trigger lightly. Epicenter finally came to her with the readiness report just as she finished.

“General, we have enough supplies for a week, since we keep a reserve in the wagons. Ammunition is at five hundred per, and the chain of command is stable. Runners are ready,” Epicenter finally reported, breathing heavily. “Damn, the air is really thin up here. Really gets to you.”

“Winter, too. Oh, it’s going to get chilly,” the general agreed. She looked back to the north. “And we left most of our stuff, too. Harmony damn it.”

Thunder boomed in the distance. The two turned west, where the storm had ballooned since first meeting the Doms that day, building up against the highest peaks. It began to unleash its energy in a dark cumulation of weather and magic, swirling like a hurricane with the white torrents of snow usually associated with a blizzard descending onto rocky outcroppings and lone pines. The eye of the storm was completely invisible from this angle, but it could be found based on the rotating anvil clouds towering above the entire system.

“A Whispering Highlands snowstorm. Harmony damn it, indeed,” Epicenter echoed.

Author's Note:

Well, this is a short one, but this story's been on the backburner for a while now. I just now returned to work on it after all sorts of other activities.

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