• Published 16th Sep 2018
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Timberwolves: Guardians of the Everfree - Keystone Gray

A research paper on the timberwolves, exploring their creation, purpose, and their connection to the Everfree Forest.

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7. The Mausoleum of Guardians, by Princess Luna

The Mausoleum of Guardians

By Princess Luna

"Ton ayd a pagra es ton ayd kinyu. Blesa leka rosoto quo quiva kikrah."

Kahl Alpiyn

Spring of 1010 Before Reunification

The Everfree would not regrow on its own, so deep the damage was, and so the forest required every ounce of aid to survive. It had been more than a year since the conclusion of the Dark War, and our two nations had begun to rebuild. Patches of darkened detritus were cleared by deer and unicorn patrols, and earth ponies replanted trees where the dark armies had cut through the forest. Pegasi watered the lands with great storms that raged for weeks on end.

The timberwolves paid rapt attention, learning from us. They were a blank slate then, a story yet to be written, and their assistance was immeasurable. As they traveled through places that teemed with life, they fed on it, gathering life energies. As they traveled with us to the deadened wastes, they dispersed their power, returning it. Over time, the soul of the forest was equalized anew, and thus the saplings we planted flourished with vigor.

The Dierkahl capitol city was an ancient and most respectful conversion of the land. The outer walls consisted entirely of naturally planted trees, each grown so close together that one could not slip through. Should one attempt to scale this fortification, the trees also formed a natural upper barrier of branches, each so thick as to impede any and all assault. Enchantments further protected the trees from damage or corruption, and lessons learned from the Dark War were imparted upon the bark and roots by way of alchemy. Animals had taken refuge in these trees to save themselves from the nightmare horde, and thus the city was teeming with more life now than it ever had before.

In this Spring, King Alpine had requested my presence to discuss restoration planning. I approached the tall, gilded gates of Thicket with my retinue and their own timberwolves, and with Nyx'it at my side. We were seen by the Dierguard at the gate, who hailed and graciously welcomed us, the gates drawing open.

These gates were affixed to two tall redwood trees, each two hundred years old at that time, both reaching up to join the canopy above. Within the city, structures clung just beneath the canopy, each home linked together by adjoining rope bridges. Tall spiral staircases coiled upwards around the trees to meet the homes. Glowing lamp orbs hung from branches throughout the city, each lamp charged with a potion which gave soft light that did not burn. In unison, all of these lamps provided a most impressive illumination throughout the city.

The city's streets were made of well trodden dirt paths, the thoroughfares weaving between the natural trees of the region. The deer, forever conservationists, would never wantonly remove a tree - except to excise the taint of dark magic, or to serve a greater ecological purpose. For in the hallowed words of King Alpine, "we deer are blessed with the responsibility of life, and every tree is a home for all. What right do we hold to live among them, then tell a bird that they may not?"

As I had discovered in my diplomatic missions, the tone in the city was always one of hushed reverence prior to the war, for the place had long been considered holy by the deer. But in these fresh spring days, there was an electricity of fresh optimism that could be felt with every step. Deer and pony clamored alike to their duties with excitement. We had a brisk new lease on life, for the realization dawned upon us that our wartime struggle had an after.

As I entered the city, wagon trains loaded near the gates, each preparing to take saplings that would grow to become the tall old growth trees that still stand today. Young timberwolves traveled with their creators, each one standing close to a deer or a pony. As the first generation, their forms were adult, though they were still as young as pups, and so they had not yet grown out of their puppy-like admiration and observation of their handlers. To sustain them in their journeys during the daylight hours, baskets were hung from each wagon, each filled with fruit. As I passed, I watched a deer playfully admonish his timberwolf as it dug its nose into a basket of blackberries too early, staining its snout black as it chewed.

As the forest healed, so grew the relationship between our races. Before, we merely tolerated one another, our borders once a vague and confusing line fraught with uneasy tension. But on this day, we were one, forming a friendship most natural. I felt at home among the deer, and especially among King Alpine, the model of their kind. For like me, the deer appreciate nature for the delicate equilibrium it is: an eternal dance of light and dark, filled with danger and blessings in equal measure.

In short order, I came to the Palace of Kahls. King Alpine greeted me in the main rotunda within the great tree. From there, we politicked: dining, sharing stories of our recent lives, discussing trivialities. Such small talk, sharing of company, and niceties are always present in politics, of course - but in those days after the war, such niceties were no longer taken for granted. We had come so close to oblivion together, and every moment of peace, kindness, and love was to be cherished.

Still, we spoke of more serious topics. On this visit, we spoke too of the Guardians we lost.

We were continually aware that we had sent mere youth and innocents to war on our behalf. Despite its necessity, we still considered this with guilt. Alpine believed it was a debt we must repay if we were to retain any honor with our survival, and with this I agreed. The success of our timberwolves against Sombra's horde was not total; many timberwolves died, some being too rushed, too weak, too ill formed to withstand the dark specters and their evil. We considered these lost creatures as kin, for they had been a mirror image of our souls. They were the very embodiment of our will to survive.

After the war, our soldiers traveled out into the battlefields to find those timberwolves who had not returned, who had chased their duties to their last spark. Even a year on, we were still locating their remains - their crystals were burnt out, absorbed, overrun, with some golems even buried beneath the mud that had flung wildly in the maelstrom of war. Yet their vessels remained, a remnant of their sacrifice, just as with the bones of the wolves before them. We found them all.

The skulls of our Guardians were each created from scratch by a loving carpenter. Even when the timberwolves began to breed amongst themselves, the skulls they crafted were each unique, the result of many hours of toil by its wild mother. Even when they were killed, even as their soul was burned out of them, their skull lived on in form, itself a symbol of their memory.

With a wistful smile, King Alpine suggested the Mausoleum of Guardians.

We had long discussed the different forms of honors we could bestow upon our saviors. A mere statue would be insufficient. A simple graveyard was beyond the traditions of the deer, who preferred tomb interment or cremation. They deserved something more, something that would last an eternity... something that could be visited even today, a thousand years on, to pay respects to the sacrifices made.

Alpine explained that the palace held host to a grand subterranean greenhouse, suggesting it be the place of recognition. Similar greenhouses were common in Thicket and in other deer settlements. As a cultural cornerstone of their kind, places like these are where communities would store their alchemical reagents. The greenhouse of the palace however was massive, once intended to house the personal stores of the Kings and Queens of the Dierkahl.

We finished our meal and began a tour of this space. It was a short walk down a flight of stairs into a tall hall, accessible from the Kahl's private estate. The greenhouse was not unlike the grand entrance halls common in pony palaces, though it spanned nearly a half mile in length. We walked this chasm in its entirety, each suggesting different changes that could be made. I came to a realization as well: that this space was a preserve of sorts. Indeed, many deer were already withdrawing the flowers and herbs within, intending to distribute them out to the savaged land.

In the coming year, our nations combined the expenses of construction.

Upon completion, we again toured it, Nyx'it again at my side. The entrance was no longer connected to the Kahl family's private quarters; instead, it was accessible from the main palace foyer. Beyond the gilded gate, one enters a domed building made of stone, one much akin to the town halls of contemporary pony villages. This entailed a smaller rotunda than the palace foyer, this one a dozen paces in length. As we entered, our hoofsteps and Nyx'it's claws echoed through the entrance hall.

At the center of this structure stood a fountain, with a tall willow tree growing from its center: a marvel of deer and earth pony ingenuity, carefully guided into the shape of the extinct Everfree wolf, leaping forth.

At the base, an inscription could be read in a plaque of gold, bearing this inscription:

"Ches es quar nyali onnot fi sacrae na fi shodei chel sho-la savari,
Ton sparka fi horza, iy driva fleyt fi loh fau kahl.
Nyali leka etern grett, nyu blesa chaie na fi vel."

Beyond this living sculpture laid the central staircase, bowing down and outward, twelve paces at its base. Here, we beheld the Mausoleum proper. Its length had been doubled to a mile. Its walls had been expanded outward twice their original width. The ceiling was raised and vaulted, vines hanging from above, and toward the far end was a raised platform for the funeral ceremonies that were to be held.

Above, the long skylight gave way to the forest, sky, sun, and moon. Rather than glass, the open ceiling was protected by thick, interlacing vines, which served to allow light but protect from large objects falling in from above. To protect the room from moisture, those vines were enchanted to constrict in rainfall, and wild plants with reflexive fronds were grown along the opening to ventilate air downward. Chemical lamps hung from the walls, all resting between the open brick bays, converting the heat of the space into light. The bays ran the length of the chamber, stacked triple, in long rows that ran parallel with raised walkways. At regular intervals, stairways joined those raised sections with one another.

Close to the entrance, many bays were empty. But at the end of the hall a mile on, these recessions held the skulls, golems, and core seeds of the many timberwolves we lost. We were utterly silent as we crossed the space. As I came to the bays of golems, I observed the skulls, each unique from the last. There were several deer in robes of green and gold traveling the hall, each druid tending to the resting golems, treating their wood for longevity. Their dead were well cared for, explained Alpine.

At least one thousand perished in the Dark War. I read some of the names as I passed. Vlei-root. Vannavida. Tratat'it. Beneath each was a poem or writing by their creator. Alpine stopped before one such bay. He reached out with a hoof, reverent and tentative, pointing for my attention. To any other onlooker, this golem might seem as humble as all others. But I recognized this timberwolf immediately as Liyt na fi Kahl.

This was King Alpine's own timberwolf, who tragically perished in the first charge. I looked upon Alpine, who was often so stoic as to never let his feelings show. But in this holy place, his facade cracked and his guard lowered. I could see him tremble. As he turned away, I followed his gaze. There, not far from us, stood another pony.

Her name was Underwing, a blue pegasus filly who I recognized. She was a delicate thing, perhaps only seventeen years of age then. She hailed from one of the villages which had been swallowed whole in the beginning of the invasion, spared through happenstance, for she had traveled to a relative's home some miles west of her home village. Under the guidance of Dierguard scouts, Underwing and her aunt had retreated to the Castle of the Two Sisters. Her parents had never been found.

Underwing, being a mere fifteen years old when the war came, lacked any skills for fighting or survival. Her time at Two Sisters had thus been spent learning. She was quite bright for her age, picking up a fondness for carpentry as many did.

But rather than fall apart by her losses and her circumstance, Underwing grew quite strong and determined, gaining a name for herself by participating in complex fortification projects at such a young age. When the time came to build our timberwolf Guardians, she volunteered immediately, creating Vorku Saegrata, or Sun's Tree in Common Ponish. Saegrata was a large hickory timberwolf, joining the vanguard of the first charge, standing shoulder to shoulder with Liyt na fi Kahl and Nyx'it. Sadly, as with Liyt na fi Kahl, Saegrata had not survived, her seed vessel merely too small to inhabit the large form created for her.

In the year since the war, Underwing moved from Two Sisters to Thicket, driven to help the deer with their restorations. When the Mausoleum's inner doors were opened this day, she and all others who had lost a Guardian had been especially welcomed, and before her laid the remains of Saegrata. Nyx'it and I halted at her side. She did not turn as we approached.

Her body language told me all I needed to know. This was the first time Underwing had seen Saegrata since she went missing in the battlefields.

Nyx'it stirred uncomfortably. She must have known the significance of this holy place. She sat straighter, her dark features more still. Never once did she bark or grumble with impatience in the Mausoleum, as she sometimes did when we stood still in her younger years. Her ears folded back, her head lowered, her eyes dimmed, and she looked... respectful. She looked to me, perhaps to gauge my expression, or perhaps waiting for me to say something. Nyx'it was so desperate to learn back then.

Silence took us as Alpine raised his hoof to Underwing's shoulder. Her strength broke at the touch. I could hardly hear her words entirely, so distraught as she was. So young, Underwing said. Too young. And with this I agree; no being so young should be sent to die.

King Alpine spoke, uttering the words that would become the Final Prayer of Conveyance.

"Our hearts weep for her death and cheer for her life. For Saegrata, here in her home of Thicket and the Everfree, we do both. We honor her. Saegrata began as but a humble seed. Through our love, she grew into a Guardian of the Everfree. We thank her for her sacrifice, and she will never be forgotten."

Underwing nodded. There was nary a sound but the echoing steps of hooves throughout the hall. She wept then. Delicately, respectfully, she touched skull within the recession. She sat for several long minutes, whispering to her friend too softly for us to hear. Then, she thanked Saegrata one more time, kissing her brow.

That mare would go on to live out the rest of her days in Thicket, raising three more timberwolves to replenish the lost. She'd use her craft to help ponies rebuild their homes and roads to the east, literally laying the groundwork for what would eventually become Celestia's eastward exodus from the Everfree two centuries later. Though many of Underwing's friends and family were taken from her, she persevered. She was not unlike the timberwolves, in her way. Underwing was a good mare who never let her tragic beginnings slow her, and I count myself among those proud to have known her. Her strong willed spirit transferred well onto the timberwolves she raised.

The Mausoleum still stands today. Those who raise preternatural timberwolves are often encouraged to attend services with their companions, for we wish for our Guardians to know that we still remember what they've done for us. This behavior of mourning is as much their tradition and right as ours.