• Published 9th Aug 2012
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Horn and Hammer - Lancer



Warhammer meets MLP. Two forces for good, two opposite ways of life, forced to stand together.

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Chapter Ten- Back in Pursuit

Chapter Ten

Back in Pursuit

Equestria, Canterbury

Luna and Trixie stood by the door of the house they had occupied since the previous day. The weather over Canterbury had gone rogue with no weather ponies to manage the influence of the Everfree. This meant that intermittent cloud cover occasionally covered the pair in shadow as they prepared. The streets were understandably empty in Canterbury; the only other souls in the ravaged town were inside the house, enjoying a swift breakfast before the day began in earnest.

Luna surveyed the pale blue mare before her with a soft, yet critical eye. Trixie had evidently slept little the previous night, unsurprising to Luna considering the ordeal the young mare had gone through but disappointing all the same, she could have aided her slumber if she had slept such was Luna’s duty. Weary purple eyes looked back at the princess, weary but not without a sense of hopefulness.

“So then Trixie, are you ready to depart?” Luna queried.

“Trixie supposes so. She has bid farewell to Twilight and her friends. They were, kind, to Trixie.”

“They are an inspiring group of friends indeed. I assume they asked you to visit them sometime?”

Trixie nodded humbly, smiling slightly at Luna’s correct assumption.

“Truly deserving of their position as bearers, you should take them up on that offer Trixie when all this is over. For now though Canterlot awaits. You remember I offered to help you with teleportation back by your wagon? Well now may not be the time but I suppose if you cast a detection spell upon me you could receive a jump start.”

Some of the light returned to the mare’s eyes at the suggestion, in turn her horn lit up as she began to work the spell. The Princess of the Night smiled warmly at her subject’s marginally renewed spirit and set herself to casting the teleport spell.


Canterlot Palace, Equestria

With a flash of navy blue light and a faint cracking sound, both Luna and Trixie flashed into existence in Canterlot Palace’s courtyard. Trixie immediately gasped, due in part to a sudden dizziness caused by the long range teleport and the effects of her spell cast on the princess moments before. Guards all around the courtyard turned sharply at the abrupt arrival of their princess, a number of them rushed up to Luna, dutifully lining up and saluting as they did so.

“Guards, I need to see my sister immediately. One of you bring her to me . . .” Luna commanded but the order proved unnecessary. Celestia glided down onto the stone of the courtyard the moment the order was given. “Sister!” exclaimed Luna, wide eyes taking in the white alicorn’s, physical changes.

Since she had last seen her sister Celestia had grown as her power had returned. A healthy hue to her cheeks and her once more flowing, pastel mane stood out foremost, the fact that Celestia was of equal height to Luna was not lost on her either.

“Luna!” replied Celestia with equal joy, the two sharing a brief hug as a gesture of greeting.

“Your magic has returned?”

“To an extent yes, the recovery is largely cosmetic for the moment but I am back to being able to lift a cup of tea telekinetically so the sun should not be too far away” replied Celestia, grinning at the stark contrast.

Luna returned her sister’s grin briefly, but it disappeared when the weight of their reality imposed itself. “Sister, Canterbury . . .”

“I know, I met the survivors” Celestia interrupted, a heavy pall suddenly hanging over the two princesses. “I assume you found Trixie there? She had a show scheduled for their market day if I recall.”

Nodding simply Luna did not need to answer. ‘It still amazes me how she can know nearly every pony in Equestria’ she mused.

“Well” began Celestia, “I can only assume you are here to drop her off before continuing your pursuit, how are my student and her friends doing?” she asked with a measure of trepidation.

“Surprisingly well my sister. The horrors of Canterbury were, difficult; to deal with but together they have the strength to overcome any obstacle. Twilight though was forced to defend herself from one of the stragglers of the Chaos foe; she is coping with what she had to do admirably. However time is short and I have other business here today sister.”

Turning to the assembled guards Luna forced herself to look past Celestia’s mortified expression. “Guards, I need my Star Armour, six daggers and six sets of non-enchanted armour. Be quick I have little time to spare.” Three guards snapped off a salute and propelled themselves into the air, heading towards the castle armoury at speed.

“You” declared Luna with a hoof at the only unicorn guard present, “Have a room prepared for Miss Trixie, she will be staying here indefinitely. Any costs incurred will be paid through the royal coffers. Have one of the staff assigned to her as well for the time being.”

Trixie looked up at her sudden change in circumstance. Luna looked down on her with a smile, before nodding for her to follow the guard. “Go on Trixie, they will take good care of you, I promise.”

“Thank you princess, Trixie does not know what she would have done without you and the others; Trixie was . . . becoming consumed with hate, enough to do something she may have regretted. What happened at Canterbury . . . Well, Trixie will try to be a better pony from now on.” To Trixie’s continued surprise Luna gave the mare a parting hug before gesturing for her to go.

“Luna, I need to know about Twilight” Celestia said sternly, breaking her sister’s gaze from the departing pale blue unicorn.

With a heavy sigh Luna locked eyes with her sister. “Twilight followed me into Canterbury alone via teleport. I had come across a sleeping human upon arrival and dealt with him according to his crimes. When I heard Twilight Sparkle scream I instantly teleported to her, she had thrown one of the enemy through a building in fear. I held her and comforted her. She is coping sister, her friends have rallied around her and she has all the support she could need, I know you worry but trust me dear sister, she is fine.”

“Still though, without my sources nearby and with this war spilling over into our world, I worry for her Luna, I worry for all of Equestria.”

“Our duty is a heavy one sister, but it is not ours alone to carry. Your subjects are a continual source of inspiration to me Celestia. Never forget that.”

“Our subjects” interrupted Celestia.

“They have not been mine for over a millennium, that is something I have to earn.”

The melancholy mood was broken by the return of the three pegasus guards bearing Luna’s ordered equipment, reaching out with her telekinesis her age old armour returned to her. She had not seen the armour since before she had succumbed to the Nightmare. Dark pearlescent blue metal gleamed in the morning sunlight; each metal plate was as perfectly smooth and unblemished as it had been all those years ago. It felt strange to Luna, she could still remember the feeling of being fully enclosed inside the intricate shifting plates of the armour which were perfectly tailored for free movement. Closing her eyes, her mind wandered back to the last time she had worn it, facing off against Discord and his acolytes with her sister equally armoured beside her, their resolve unbreakable and fury unquenchable.

“Luna, what do you plan to do?” Celestia asked, obviously worried by the armour which was evidently intended to be worn by the Element bearers.

“The plan is largely straightforward, track down Chrysalis and the Tzeentch followers, I then teleport into the Empire camp to bring reinforcements while Pieter provides a distraction. The soldiers and I teleport back and battle is joined. Our enemy rushes into the fight while the Elements are unleashed upon the fully committed foe from relative safety. No escape, no tracking down those who were too far away to be effected by the Elements. We end this once and for all.”

“Wait, Chrysalis is with them?!” asked Celestia in a mixture of anger and surprise.

“We do not know for sure, but it would appear probable. Their ideologies are similar, an alliance would seem likely” replied Luna with a grim tone. She had begun to attach the armour to her, telekinetically latching each piece together until just the featureless helm remained floating beside her.

“Okay, just be careful out there sister. I may not be able to help you in my current state but I know you are equal to this.” Celestia smiled warmly at her sister, giving Luna a heartfelt hug before standing aside.

“Thank you; I will not fail Equestria, not again.”

“Luna, your devotion to the cause is admirable but you simply cannot continue to blame yourself for actions that happened over a thousand years ago.”

“This is not about that!” snapped Luna, her wings flaring.

Celestia stepped forward tentatively, resting a hoof on her sister’s gleaming shoulder plate. “Then what . . .”

“Because I slept through the invasion! I missed the entire damned thing because I was watching the night for so long I slept through the fall of Canterlot when that charlatan somehow bested you. I failed everypony. Again.”

“Sister, I . . .”

“No! No consolation, no speeches. I will make this right Celestia, I owe them too much.” Gathering up the six armour sets, Luna ignited her horn and disappeared in a flash of light.


Canterbury, Equestria

The scraping of metal on metal was the only sound permeating across the kitchen. Both captains were sat at the table performing maintenance work on their respective swords. Each held their tools with the utmost care, working the files across the blade’s edges. Pieter for once bemoaned his flamberge style zweihander. It may have looked impressive and Sigmar only knew how much he loved it, but a blade of such size and complexity was infuriating to maintain at times.

The bearers were absent, having retired to their room to prepare for the day’s travels. This left Pieter and Forlorn to their own devices and soldiers no matter what planet they were from still had standards to maintain.

Pieter ran his hand across the blades edge, inspecting it closely before turning to his whetstone. Looking up he smiled to see his pony counterpart, file in teeth, sharpening his right hoof blade, the one with which he had slain the manticore. The pony looked strange without his armour; his short cropped mane and long tail were noticeably juxtaposed when said mane was not hidden beneath a helmet.

Conversation had been at a minimum since the mares had left, Forlorn’s mouth full of sharpening equipment not being conductive to a discussion. Seeing the stallion place the file upon the table Pieter opened his mouth to speak, only to be interrupted by the crack of a teleportation spell and the arrival of Princess Luna.

She entered the house with a determined pace to her stride, casting her eye around the room as the six sets of barding floated in behind her. Forlorn gasped at his princess’s drastic change in appearance. From neck to hoof she was completely covered in dark, pearlescent blue armour with the exception of her wings. Each step she took revealed the wafer thin fault lines where her segmented plate armour was connected, barely making a sound as she walked into the room.

“Princess!” gasped Forlorn, awed by Luna’s appearance, sinking to his knees in reverence.

“Rise captain, we have work to do and the bearers have armour to don.”

“As you command” he replied, dropping his hoof blade and marching up the stairs at some pace.

“Very impressive Princess, I have not seen such craftsmanship in anything outside the works of dwarven rune priests” Pieter said, rising to his feet and inspecting the princess’s armour. “This metal is unfamiliar to me; may I ask its nature?”

“Forged from a meteor I called down from amongst the stars more than a millennium ago and crafted by the most skilled metal worker I have ever met. The metal itself is an unknown to me as none exists anywhere on the planet besides the two suits that were made from it. I simply call it my Star Armour.”

Further discussion was ended as the Element Bearers descended the stairs into the kitchen, they gasped in awe much as Forlorn had at the sight of their magnificently armoured princess.

“My my, princess, that’s, well, that’s some impressive armour” said Rarity, stalking up to Luna with a critical eye.

“Well I am flattered to hear that from one such as yourself, but for now you all have armour of your own to don.” Luna floated out the six armour sets to be met by a mixture of suspicious and fearful looks.

Each set of armour floated up to its corresponding bearer. Rainbow Dash took hers eagerly, placing it on the floor and rifling through the contents within the barding’s shell, the others reacted less eagerly.

“Erm princess, is this really necessary? I thought we were just going to be waiting at the back and firing up the Elements when the Chaos worshippers and Chrysalis were lured together?” asked Twilight.

“And this armour is completely wrong for my physique; it looks like it was made for a stallion!” Rarity inspected the armour closely, her horn alight with magic as the barding spun in her magical grasp. She concentrated on scaling down the golden armour’s size using a manipulation spell she would normally utilise for her dress-making. On her command the armour shrunk to the required measurements. With a pleased huff she emptied out the dagger and all four steel hoof boots, using the same spell on each boot and adding a couple of additions as she went, after all a lady should look her best at all times.

A strange silence hung in the air as Rarity worked, after half a minute of spell work she looked up to see the rest of her friends looking at her with a mixture of bemusement and interest. “What?” she asked.

“Rarity, you realise you just bent steel right?” asked Twilight incredulously.

“Yes, and? Armour is really just clothes made from metal is it not?”

“No that’s . . . . it’s completely different, you shouldn’t be able to do that!” replied Twilight, now on the verge of yelling.

Pieter stepped forward, focusing largely on Twilight but keeping all six of the friends in front of him. “Ladies please, we have much to do and time is in short supply. The armour is just a precaution; you will not be involved in the plan past your established role, now please for the love of Sigmar can we get moving?”


Everfree Forest, Equestria

Willhelm Rekthofen’s mind was alight with thoughts. Above him, a swirling stream of white light danced majestically. Magic here was almost ridiculously easy to control; he could even feel his mind tapping into the other Winds of Magic, not just the Wind of Hysh. Such a thing should have been impossible to every being excepting the most powerful of magic users; Slann mage priests or the highest strata of the arch mages of Ulthuan for example. But then magic here felt more like a pool than a stratified wind. Perhaps it was a blurring of the lines, the calmer source of magic allowing one to probe further than one would in the Old World, it was less volatile.

He was sat off to the edge of the clearing, behind the gateway’s single entryway. The sight played havoc with his perception. He could see the stone blockade in its entirety, a faint haze around where the gateway’s event horizon was but other than that one would never know that two worlds were linked together in this clearing. Willhelm shook his head in an attempt to move his thoughts away from the portal. The very idea of the two dimensional portal existing in a three dimensional world was plain wrong, let alone ignoring the concept of the gateway stretching through space, time and magical dimensions.

Annoyed by his minds insistence on contemplating the unknowable, Willhelm began siphoning off the white glow of magic he held above him. It was a localised Pha’s Protection spell and so was almost effortless to cast in this world. With a flick of his wrist he separated the spell into two, stretching the two sources of light into flat discs. A second flick split the discs into four; he smiled at the ease with which the complex manipulation of spells came to him.

A gasp of awe came from behind him. Taken off guard, he dispelled the spell and quickly turned to address where the noise came from.

“Who is out there!” he called. Reminding himself the only beings he was likely to find would be Ponyville residents. Willhelm left his staff by the log he had sat upon.

Silence met his answer, a few birds chirping some distance away but other than that there appeared to be nothing. Knowing full well he had heard someone gasp, he cast a simple illumination spell on the darkened undergrowth of the forest.

“Eeep!”

Striding forward Willhelm found the source of the noise hidden within a bush, their bright pastel coats illuminated easily by the shining flares behind them.

“Found you ponies” Willhelm chuckled. Three small ponies looked up at him in embarrassment. A pegasus, unicorn and earth pony were clustered together, their bright eyes looking up at him in a mixture of awe and apprehension.

Shuffling forward they disentangled themselves from the bush, twigs and leaves snapping off as they wriggled free. The pegasus was a burnt orange colour with a deep purple mane and tail. Next to her was a white unicorn with a two-tone, curly, pink mane. The final little pony had a pale yellow coat, red mane with large accompanying bow and a newspaper clutched within its mouth. They were all evidently young fillies and judging by their expressions were not supposed to be out this far in the forest alone.

“Now then, just what are you three doing out here alone?” He asked jovially, dropping into a crouch so that he would not tower over the three fillies.

His upbeat tone and disarming stance drew out a measure of confidence from the young pegasus who replied, “We read about you guys in the paper and we had to see who you really were, the pictures don’t really show you all that well.” A tentative smile spread across her face as she gestured for the yellow pony to offer up the newspaper still held in her mouth.

Taking the rolled up paper in his hands, Willhelm unfurled it to read its contents. The front cover was emblazoned with a giant picture of the Empire camp and above it a title read ‘Alien Warriors Arrive in Equestria!’ Looking closer at the picture the White Wizard picked out the moment captured clearly. It was from yesterday’s skirmish, the effort to move the blockade into place. With remarkable clarity he could pick out the two sections of the Halberdiers arrayed around the stone block with some of the Equestrian guards hovering overhead, around them other soldiers were milling about in preparation.

“Such an extraordinary quality of image” he said, admiring the Equestrians ability to spread information quickly and in such quality. “How was it captured?”

The earth pony, her mouth now free of the paper, replied “why it’s done with a camera o’course, some pegasus must have taken the picture too from the distance up it was taken.”

“And what pray tell is a camera young one?”

“Er, it’s this device which uses light to imprint a picture on film ah think” supplied the young pony hesitantly.

“Most impressive, may I borrow this ponies? But where are my manners, first I think introductions are in order. My name is Willhelm Rekthofen, Magistrate of the Light Order.” Willhelm straightened his legs, standing up to his full height. Not so much as part of the introduction but mostly because his knees were stiff and at his age it was best not to exacerbate his body’s problems.

“Hiya mister Willhelm, mah name’s Applebloom and these are mah friends; Sweetie belle and Scootaloo” The beaming filly supplied, indicating each of her friends respectively.

“Greetings, now correct me if I am wrong but this forest is some way from your town and I suspect that you came here of your own accord yes?” inquired Willhelm with a knowing look.

The three youths suddenly lost their upbeat demeanour, shuffling nervously under the wizard’s gaze. They nodded slowly, not deigning the question with a verbal reply, likely out of embarrassment or shame.

“I thought so. Well I think it would be best if you returned home, this forest is by your ruler’s admission a dangerous place at times. However for now we will need to organise an escort and I myself have business in Ponyville so what better a time for our expedition’s first physical encounter with the town than through you three leading us there hmmm?”

“Will we get into trouble?” asked Sweetie Belle sheepishly, nervously twiddling her fore hooves.

Willhelm, smiling once more, lent over to pat the little unicorn on the head softly. “I think we could agree to keep this a secret as long as you act as diplomats for when we approach the town. Does that sound fair little ponies?”

Each of them nodded vigorously, then looking to each other an idea came to their minds.

“Cutie Mark Crusader diplomats, yay!”

“Wow.” Willhelm fiddled with his ears in an effort to reduce the ringing. “Such volume from such little ponies” he said, laughing at the giddy antics of the three fillies. “Come, I shall have to confer with Arch Lector Holstein once he has finished taking mass.”

Walking sedately through the camp he led the three ponies to the other side of the clearing where Markus was busy leading prayer for a congregation of soldiers. Over the brief course of the walk the three friends entertained the wizard with an explanation of just what a Cutie Mark Crusader was. Stopping short he asked that they wait by a small group of Halberdiers while he talked to Markus in private.

The three ponies looked across at the six soldiers, half of which were holding their heads in a daze from their celebrations the night before. The more aware members of the group happily made space for the fillies on Willhelm’s request.

Turning away from the motley group and heading towards the congregation he vaguely heard the ponies talking with the bemused Halberdiers.

“Hey, are you guys cooking? Can I help?” asked Sweetie Belle eagerly.

“They cannot understand you, just be patient little ones” Willhelm cut in, turning towards the clearing edge he approached the assembly.

Willhelm waited to the side as Markus finished the ceremony. He was not a devout Sigmarite by any means and his role as a magistrate did not lend itself to much active worship of deities but nonetheless, Sigmar was one of the few gods who the wizard would occasionally pay tribute to.

The looks of contentedness in the faces of the faithful always reassured Willhelm. The sense of belonging to something more important than one’s self, of which one can find acceptance and purpose, was one of the reasons the White Wizard spent so much time on campaign amongst likeminded individuals. It was better than being caught in the maelstrom which was the Light Order’s internal and intercollege politicking. The prospect of a simple honest battle, where the fate of the Empire was at stake, held a much greater appeal than the petty squabbling and manoeuvring of the upper strata in his order.

“Willhelm?” asked Markus standing before the wizard who was clearly elsewhere in his mind’s eye.

With a start the magistrate found that the congregation was over and that his old friend now stood before him, clad in only his ceremonial robe with war hammer slung across his broad shoulders. “Sorry Markus, my mind was elsewhere.”

“It would appear so my friend, you seemed to have replaced your staff with a scroll” Markus jested.

“Ah yes, this newspaper, I took it from three young children, ponies obviously, they will need an escort to their town but I thought you may make use of this.” Handing Markus the paper, Willhelm raised his right hand and pointing it towards the opposite side of the camp, called his staff back to him in a glow of white magic.

“That’s new” remarked Markus with a raised eyebrow.

“Indeed, it appears I am becoming used to the calmer magical climate here. Such an effort in the Old World would have me laid down in a darkened room with a damp cloth over my head for the trouble” Willhelm joked.

The priest’s lip twitched as the slightest indication of a smile while he read through the article. Looking up after finishing he studied the picture before carrying on the conversation. “Well at least the picture does not show me burning that Norscan, even though they made reference to the skirmish yesterday. That engagement took our total casualties up to nine men so far: Conrad, four Greatswords, one Pistolier and three Halberdiers. We also have three walking wounded and two still under care but stable.”

“Markus?” said Willhelm, wondering if the latter statement served a purpose past simple intelligence sharing.

“It is nothing old friend. Come; let us see to these young Equestrians.”

The two walked the short distance to the camp currently occupied by the Crusaders and the soldiers they were with. The smell of burning food caught the pair’s noses as they saw Sweetie Belle industriously mixing a black liquid within the pot which was suspended over the camp fire.

“Trooper, I was gone for but a moment and the pony has sabotaged your food already?” asked Willhelm tauntingly.

Clambering to attention, the less stable of the six moved with significantly less composure, but almost as quick in their haste to look presentable.

“My lords, there was only water in the pot, we gave her nothing to burn but a spoon with which to stir!” explained the foremost soldier.

“Are you suggesting the pony burnt water?” asked Markus.

“I swear by Sigmar father.” The soldiers invoking of their god’s name going some way to pacify Markus.

Stepping forward, Willhelm cleared his throat. “Markus, this is Scootaloo, Sweetie Belle and Applebloom. Ponies, this is Arch Lector Markus Holstein.”

Viewing the innocent looking Sweetie Belle with suspicion Markus decided to drop the issue of the apparently burnt water. “So, I am given to understand you young ones require an escort home?”

Willhelm acted as an interpreter since the Halberdiers and Markus had been within the portals spell crippling radius.

The three fillies jumped to their hooves in response, “Cutie Mark Crusader Diplomats!” they shouted, lining up before Markus and beaming with pride.

“Crusaders? What exactly is this crusade of yours?” he asked, his interest piqued.

“We’re crusading for our cutie marks!” replied Applebloom.

“Ah yes, the markings on your flanks which donate your specialities” Markus recalled, drawing from the report Princess Celestia had left him. His statement was confirmed by the frantic nodding of the fillies. “We are on something of a crusade ourselves little ones.”

“Ooooh what for? Can we help?” asked Scootaloo, wings blurring as she did so.

“I doubt it little pegasus, but your offer is appreciated nonetheless. The path to Ponyville is an uneventful one, I’ll have some members of my personal retinue go with you, they should be a sufficient escort and Willhelm here of course” offered Markus, remembering Willhelm’s desire to inspect the local library and to master the translation spell used by Twilight Sparkle on the day of their first contact.

Willhelm, having finished translating for the time being, turned towards the wagons in order to begin preparations and collect his apprentice. Before he could move off he felt a hand on his shoulder, turning slightly he saw Markus looking towards him, leaning in slightly as he spoke.

“Could you return before the sun passes its zenith? I was planning on holding a council regarding our situation as of today my friend.”

“Of course Markus, I was hoping to make a day of it in the library but there’s always tomorrow.”

With a parting nod the two went their separate ways.


Everfree Forest, Equestria

“Are we there yet?” Rarity whined, huffing and dragging her steel shod hooves as she walked.

“Geez Rarity, you act like you aint walked before” huffed Applejack from behind.

The group had been on the move almost constantly since morning breakfast and Rarity’s incessant complaining had been driving Pieter to despair, not that he was the only one though. In fairness the group was as subdued in manner as they had been yesterday, the fact they were talking at all however at least showed progress. Subdued enough at least to not question the new sack tied to his pack.

Pieter was more concerned with a certain lavender unicorn for the moment, the white one could wait. Slowing his pace slightly he allowed Rarity, Applejack and Pinkie to surge ahead of him. Dropping into step with Twilight he took in her drooping head and flattened ears, classic signs of a distressed horse. Considering the context of her situation, Pieter could assume these ponies were no different.

“Are you well Twilight?” he asked, giving the downtrodden mare a sympathetic look.

“Yes, I guess so. These past few days have been hard on everypony, it’s just too much too quickly and I’m finding it hard to take it all in.” Twilight huffed to herself; a part of her wished she could just ignore this whole affair. To be teleported back to Ponyville or Canterlot and shut herself away from the world. But the desire to stand by her friends and to defend Equestria kept her going and leant her some strength on the weary march.

“I have seen that look before” chimed in Pieter. “You know you ponies have ridiculously emotive expressions?”

“And what do you see captain?” replied Twilight, looking up at the human with a pained expression.

“You want to run, but you also want to fight. Mostly I see a young girl in a situation beyond her, your friends feel the same way, on their own I do not doubt they would run. Even Rainbow Dash shows her doubts, and she hides behind her confidence very well.”

“Yeh, this is just so completely new to us. Pieter, can I ask you . . . . . I mean I’m not sure if this is normal but the human from yesterday; shouldn’t I be feeling shame for having done that? I feel awful over what happened in Canterbury. But when I turn my mind to the man, I just feel numb.”

“Twilight, our enemy are not like you and I. Every part of them, right down to their soul is corrupted by the taint of Chaos. They give themselves over to the Dark Gods and their gods demand that they in return destroy everything that they are not. They are a people with just one aim, to destroy us and everything we stand for. Killing them is a mercy.”

Hardening his expression Pieter continued. “You live in a utopia, killing is not a part of the way of life here, but in the Old World it is. Many of us relish it, if the cause is righteous of course.” Pieter observed the unicorn closely as he talked, taking in the body language of the pony. So far his words were striking a chord with her, but without the response he was searching for. “Do you want to hear about my first kill?” he asked, unsure if he had gone too far.

Twilight did not respond right away, glancing up she saw Pieter looking at her with a strangely passionate expression. ‘Why would he tell me that? Did he go through something similar to me? Well if it can help me understand what in Equestria is going on inside my head, can it really hurt to say no?’ Twilight nodded in assent.

“Well I was sixteen at the time, my friends and I were drinking in the Grossler’s Pass, a tavern in the centre of Grunberg. One of my friends; Ostlich, was particularly taken with a barmaid and they had been conversing throughout the night. Sometime later another group of men came into tavern. They had clearly been drinking heavily judging from their levity and composure. Things were calm for the first hour, one of theirs made a pass at the barmaid and Ostlich replied in turn when she came to our table. Their man stamped up to Ostlich, he levelled his finger at him and demanded he back down. Ostlich rose from his chair and demanded the same. I was barely paying attention at this point, the first I knew something was wrong was when Ostlich was thrown across me with a dagger embedded in his stomach. “

A sharp gasping sound caught his attention, Pieter was not even aware that he had all eight ponies’ attention. Shaken from his reverie but committed to the story, he continued. “The man pulled it from Ostlich’s stomach, blood gurgled from the wound and he meant to strike again. Ostlich fell unconscious in seconds, I thought he died. When my mind cleared and I could think again I was stood over the other man’s body, the knife which had pierced Ostlich buried in the other man. The man I killed had been seeing that barmaid, his name was Victor Hislev, and to this day I feel no remorse for his death. My friend survived through chance alone, a Sister of Shallya happened to be staying in the tavern and she saved his life. He tried to kill my friend, Twilight; he would have if I had not acted.” Pieter stared into Twilight’s eyes, her expression the picture of conflict.

Applejack nodded solemnly, “Ah get it, I’d do anything to protect mine and mah own.”

A murmur of agreement spread from the group even though Fluttershy remained silent. A flash of a smile spread across Twilight’s face.

Luna stepped up beside the armour clad unicorn, her wing extending to pat Twilight on the back. “The reason you feel numb Twilight is because you did nothing wrong, but a part of you expects it to feel wrong.”

“Thank you Pieter, I think that helped . . . . Hey is that a spire up there?” asked Twilight.

Forlorn and Rainbow Dash accelerated upwards, shooting into the tree tops to check the path ahead. Descending back down to the ground in a shower of leafs and snapped twigs, the two pegasi confirmed what lay ahead. If the swarms of changelings were anything to go by, then the day was about to become much more interesting.