• Published 11th Mar 2019
  • 1,345 Views, 146 Comments

Graveyard Shift - TDR

Princess Luna forms her own group to deal with the threats to Equestria.

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A Story in Stone

Graveyard Shift

A story in stone

There's an old saying in war. Cut off the head of the snake, and the body dies.

It's usually to make a point about a leaderless army being sure to fail, and to aim for the leaders.

What most forget is that there's additions to the old saying.

The first is that to remove the head of the snake, you have to get close to the most dangerous part of the snake.

Another thing and this is perhaps more important.

The severed head of a snake, can still bite.

Nine hundred years ago the Gryphon Empire invaded Equestria under orders of Emperor Bockscar. The Emperor had noticed Equestria's flagging monarch and the nation was not yet recovered from fighting off the remenets of Nightmare Moon's army. The nation was tired, bloodied, and according to the Emperor, ripe for the harvest.

The Emperor was the sort that believed predators should rule, ponies were herbivores that made them prey.

In the mad rush that followed the initial invasion, the Gryphon Empire's forces pushed the ponies all the way back to the Maneterhorn with Canterlot right on top. They then set up shop right at the base of it.

That was as far as they got.

See the Emperor forgot several major things. First and fore most of which is that ponies use magic. Griffons despite being better fliers, did not have the same abilities that ponies did. Sure a Griffon could make a storm cloud and work a weather system, but pegasi could build massive controlled storm systems and direct them to sweep the land clear of anything below with tornadoes and lightning or any other type of weather they wanted. They could then ride those storm clouds like battleships in the sky against any one they chose.

Earth ponies, despite not seeming as threatening, could shrug off wounds that would cripple most other creatures. Their control of the land was enough that the term 'salt the earth' began in Equestria. If the earth ponies didn't want something to grow in an area, it didn't, ever, until they let it again. Not to mention their strength was horrifying if properly directed, like towards an invading army.

And the less said about the madness of fighting against unicorn spell slingers the better. Forget simple energy bolts of fireballs. Magical armor that couldn't be broken, spells that turned weapons and armor to rust, spells that hurt and injured without killing. Unicorns were the ultimate force dividers. Even a claw full of them could do enough damage that half a force would need to tend the other half of their force as some magic ailment or another ripped apart ranks.

They might seem weak and passive, but that was until you riled them up.

And all of this was nothing, when you compared it to their leader. And lets face it, nothing pissed off the Goddess of the Sun faster than her little ponies suffering because of some egotistical feather duster.

I've heard there is a very interestingly named crater where the mountain holding the Emperor's fortress used to be.

Of course I never saw that part.

My part in all this ended with three claw marks on Celestia's neck. Barely scrapes in truth, because she reacted far quicker than she should have and dodged.

The invasion was in truth a very large distraction. The goal was to use it to sneak some griffons into Canterlot as refugees. Then they could work out how to kill the Princess.

Cut off the head of the snake.

Military logic.

Warrant officer Memphis Belle.
Staff Sargent Manfred von Fokker.
Specialist Enola Gay.
And First General Lockheed.

We were the blades, the ones sent in to end the threat, griffons who had rushed up the ranks through skill and cunning. Two females and two males posing as those fleeing the empire's incursion.

There were a few other griffons about ones who lived in Equestria, making the cover viable.

The plan was perfect, we arrived well before the main forces and hid in a quarter of the capitol.

It was there that things went bad. We were right before the head of the snake.

The Specialist was taken into custody early on by The Guard for questioning.

We never saw her again.

Belle and Fokker were attacked by panicked ponies. A lynch mob was formed and they and a few other griffons were killed in the middle of the street by panicked civilians.

So it was, that alone I went after Princess Celestia. Getting past the guards was not that difficult. Most were already exhausted in dealing with the riots and from lack of sleep with the Empire's forces so close.

I didn't take out any Guards due to the high chance of alerting others with bodies or missing patrols. Slipping up to the Princesses balcony I moved in well after her lights were out I expected her to be asleep.

She was not. I managed one decent attack before she could react to an assassin. My clawed gauntlet cut her neck, three lines, the red staining her pure white fur.

Her counter attack blew me out of her window and set my gear on fire. I rolled with the blow keeping calm as I ditched my gear, only offering a flap or two to make sure I coasted past the city limits to fall over the side of the mountain.

Looking back I could see Guard already in pursuit and I pushed myself to fall faster, seeking to vanish in the forest at the mountains base.

I made it and immediately stuck to the ground and shadows, my wings tender from the fire that danced over my body and sore from my decent, but I was other wise unharmed.

I quickly fled as a game of cat and mouse started and persisted for hours in those woods. The Guard trackers were very good and I had a whole mountain to get around before I would be safe behind Gryphon lines.

I would have been fine perhaps. I couldn't fly without those in the air seeing me, but I could move through the forests and stay ahead of the hunting teams easily, ponies seemed to have no concept of stealth.

My luck however ran out not long before morning.

Slipping through the bushes I stumbled on a clutch of eggs in a nest on the ground, and by stumbled, I put my claw down right in the middle, crushing the eggs .

The mother of the eggs was not happy and put up quite a racket, drawing my pursuers as she attacked me.

At the time I had no idea what the blasted thing was. Some ground bird or another, something that needed to be silenced.

I killed the bird without a glance at it and quickly laid down on my belly to hide. I took the moment to look down curiously at what I had killed, holding it up in my claw only for the red eyed corpse of the strangely reptilian bird to stare back at me.

The Gryphon Empire did not have Cockatrices.

It was perhaps one of the most terrifying things I have ever experienced. I couldn't advert my eyes and very rapidly I couldn't move anything, and I very quickly felt cold and stiff, until I was frozen as stone staring down at the corpse of a cockatrice in my hand with the same curious expression on my beak.

A snake's head can still bite.

The guards found me not long after that, the scent of blood from the beast more than enough to draw their attention.

My cold stone body was brought back to Canterlot and presented to Celestia. The wound I had delivered her already faded to barely a scar.

I was supposed to stand trial, or be ransomed off back to the Empire in a prisoner exchange.

For the time being I was dumped in a locked store room and left there. Between bouts of actual sleep I counted the spider webs, made names for all the bugs and mice scuttling across the floor and did my best to keep my mind occupied.

And after a time ponies began to bring things into the room. At first it was little more than some extra tables or chairs, soon it was Holiday decorations, a spare throne or two, old furniture. My cell was being reduced to a an storage room.

I didn't know the war had come to a fiery end as the Princess dropped a bit of the sun on the Emperor, I didn't know hundreds of years had passed in my fits of sleep and wakefulness. I didn't even know the Princess had completely forgotten about me.

I did know that one of the mice I had named Chewy was responsible for at least half the next generation of mice in the castle.

Eventually a number of ponies came into the room and looked the place over. Upon finding me they took a good bit of interest. They brought out a number of old furnishings and I was soon loaded onto a dolly myself and pushed out of the storeroom and out of the castle itself. The city had seemingly exploded in size, towering buildings, more ponies than I had ever seen before even in the refugee camps walked the streets around me as I was carted away from the palace.

It seemed a library had been built and a number of old artifacts from the castle were being brought in to decorate. I found myself set into an odd corner of the new building, a perfect fit for a odd corner between two support pillars. Some one found it amusing to put a book in my upturned claw so instead of the cockatrice that had long ago been removed before it rotted, I was now looking at a semi open book.

While it was a delight to actually read something after what felt like centuries, the fact I was in the open air in a public space was far more a marvel. My position overlooked a brightly colored rug and piles of pillows along with small bookshelves packed full of colorful books.

My curiosity on what sort of place I had wound was soon explained as a mare surrounded by a gaggle of foals took up the space on the carpet and the pillows and the mare started to read to the foals.
This took place most days around the same time which I learned was about three in the afternoon. Some days no foals showed up, some days no reader did. But those days were rare.

Time progressed and I found that occasionally I was dressed up either as a book character or as whatever holiday mascot was relevant at the time.

It went on this way for years.

The Gryphon empire collapsed and fell into warring feudal states before being united by King Grover. This lasted fourteen generations before it fell back into ruin ruled by a collection of Barons only seeking their own personal power.

There was probably more to it than that, but between scant newspapers i could read over a parents shoulder or conversations over heard this was all I could peace together.

My country, that I had fought for, and it seems died for, had fallen not to some enemy storming the gate, but to petty bickering among ourselves. Were we truly that weak of a species that we couldn't even hold an empire together with out some stronger force holding us together. I lamented on this for some time, unsure what my place in the world would be anymore even if I was freed.

Time passed and I watched the foals that came in grow age and then occasionally return with a foal of their own. At one point a teacher came up with the idea to let the foals read me a story. To give them an audience that wouldn't judge.

I found it rather amusing in truth. The little foals and once or twice a griffon chick, read to me until they were comfortable with it and then went along their merry way. Occasionally I had one read to me longer as it was more comfortable to them as they wanted me to know how a story or book series ended. A little purple unicorn I met was quite adamant about that. Granted she was reading much higher levels than the other foals so I got to hear stories a little more in depth than, 'one fish, two fish'. This Daring Doo sounded interesting.

Still I think my favorite thing was the time I was chick-napped and carried about Equestria by a pack of library interns who took my picture at various landmarks 'enjoying' myself, before returning me with the stack of photos in a scrap book titled, 'my vacation'. How they convinced those pretty Griffon hens to pose with me like 'that' I will never know, nor will I forget.

At this point in my life I had given up being free and was content to simply watch the world pass, it wasn't my ideal Gryphon Empire, but back then there was not much of a retirement and old soldier could aspire too. There were no aches and pains in stone, no hunger of thirst. So long as there was something to occupy my mind it really wasn't that bad. I would rather be free, but , there were worse fates.

With that mindset I simply accepted it and hoped it remained mildly interesting at least.

It seems however, I thought that too soon, as the next day there was a strange dark alicorn in the library looking at me.

Mildly interesting, I said MILDLY interesting.

Author's Note:

Yes i had to use that title.