• Published 9th Aug 2012
  • 5,195 Views, 163 Comments

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 Eleven- The Battle of the Everfree

Chapter Eleven

The Battle of the Everfree

The deadened sound of clanging metal and crunching leaves travelled a thankfully short distance as Pieter and Forlorn advanced through the forest. The Everfree, living up to its reputation, heightened the sense of tension for the two captains. No other sounds came from the surrounding trees; no wildlife stirred, no wind rustled the foliage.

Approaching a particularly large bush on the verge of the clearing before the castle they made their approach. Forlorn glanced back; between the trees the anxious expressions of the six Bearers of the Elements of Harmony met his gaze. Their golden armour gleaming despite the forest canopy blotting out most of the light, they looked majestic to him, the very symbol of the Equestria he was here to save.

“Are you ready Forlorn?” asked Pieter, sneaking a glance through the bush and double checking his holstered pistols.

“Are you? I’m just here as back up, you’re the one going out there alone.”

“Please, all I have to do is get that sorcerer monologuing, the real issue will be shutting the bastard up my friend” Pieter replied with a snort of laughter.

“That’s another thing, what if he just tries to kill you? What if he sends his followers at you or blasts you with magic? I don’t like it Pieter, I understand we need to draw them out but there must be an easier way.”

“Look magic is not an issue and I have a, gift, of sorts which should get the attention of their leaders. If I have to kill a few of them to get the sorcerer and Chrysalis to take notice then I will be happy to oblige.” Rising to his full height and drawing his zweihander Pieter left Forlorn with a parting smile.

Upon exiting the foliage Pieter looked up at the grand old ruins of what had once been a magnificent castle. It had stood the test of time well in fairness, its spires reached to the sky and sunlight glinted off the still intact coloured glass windows. Lower down the bulk of the castle had not done so well to ward off the forest’s inexorable advance. Vines snaked their way across its visage, criss-crossing and extending across the keep walls. Weeds and mushrooms had spawned from the rubble of the few structures which had degraded in the face of innumerable years.

The sight before him seemed vaguely familiar, memories of him fleeing through a forest as its twisted denizens pursued him flashed in his mind. He had broken out into a clearing just like this one, running in terror the awe of the ancient elven settlement he had entered barely registered until he had found himself in the derelict village’s square.

For now though his enemy lay in front of him, and they had just spotted him. A spiralling swarm of changelings cried out at his arrival, some split off and dived deep into the ruins, no doubt to inform their liege of an intruder’s arrival. The remainder however had eyes only for Pieter. With a screech reminiscent of frenzied harpies they descended.

From the briefing Princess Luna had given him Pieter was not overly concerned by the half-dozen changelings who barrelled towards him, their horns glowing with a turquoise light as they did so. Untrained, weak-willed, physically unremarkable and without any war gear; to Pieter they appeared like nothing more than flying goblins. Their magic was supposed to be limited to stealing the form of another and an area of effect spell they use when dive-bombing ground targets, with Willhelm’s Obsidian Orb of Obfuscation hidden within his breast plate neither abilities particularly intimidated him.

Bursts of green magic erupted around him as the six changelings released the spells they had been charging to Pieter’s mild surprise. Evidently these changelings were capable of a greater breadth of magic than the Princess had thought, it was still irrelevant to the captain but incomplete intelligence on a mission of this magnitude irked him somewhat.

Pieter focused on the squad of six, marvelling at the Orb’s properties as each burst from a changeling horn veered away or disintegrated before him effortlessly. Replying in kind as the enemy came into range Pieter drew the pistol from his left holster and with his right hand levelled it at the leading creature. With a puff of smoke and a sharp crack the shot shattered the changeling’s skull; the corpse tumbled out of formation and caused the five remaining changelings to break off in shock. Their momentum and initiative spent each of the insectoid creatures spread out, circling to surround Pieter while he calmly holstered the spent pistol and gripped his sword in both hands.

Rather than allowing his enemy to coordinate and attack him at once Pieter charged forward, bellowing praise to Sigmar and hoisting his sword into the air. The changeling before him darted backwards, but the creature was neither willing to flee nor match the attack.

“No, no, help!” cried the changeling in a high pitch, raspy voice as it backpedalled furiously with its hooves.

With a bark of laughter Pieter closed the distance, bringing his swords down. The changeling made no attempt to parry or dodge, flailing madly in response to its impending doom the blade cut clean through an outstretched hoof and buried itself between shoulder and neck. The changeling fell to the ground dead; Pieter planted his boot on the body and hoisted the blade from the carapace of its body.

Something impacted Pieter in the back, the blow was hard and the momentum behind it sent him stumbling forward but his armour took the hit. Spinning round and grabbing the lug of the blade in his left hand Pieter swiped at the changeling behind him, catching the changeling's underbelly where its carapace was thinnest and spilling entrails onto the ground. A gauntleted fist knocked the foe from the sky, landing it on its back where it desperately held its hooves over the wound Pieter knew would be fatal.

Two more changelings came at him together; they stalled as they came into range, veering away from Pieter’s waiting blade. A swing forced the changeling to Pieter’s left to flap its insectile wings, dodging the attack while its fellow countered.

A series of hoof strikes battered at Pieter’s plate armour to be met with a steel clad backhand, dazing the creature before a stab with the zweihander punctured the changeling’s neck, killing it instantly

The final two changelings hissed at the human, their glassy eyes wide and fearful. Pieter raised his guard, smiling viciously at his two remaining enemies. Deciding better of it the two changelings fled vertically, squealing for help as they routed.

“Awww, come back, you will never improve if you run from a fight!” shouted Pieter with unrestrained glee.

Stomping on the head of the disembowelled changeling he put the creature out of its misery, knocking it unconscious. He settled for reloading his spent pistol, watching from afar as the Chaos host sallied from the remnants of the old royal castle. They spilled from its fallen glory like a tidal wave of corruption. Drums beat, the buzz of wings filled the still air and voices hollered and snarled promises of imminent violence. The changeling swarm appeared first, their black bodies spiralling around the castle’s spires, breaking off they formed a homogenous mass. There was no structure or formation, no discipline or leaders caste. The Chaos war host however was as formidable in appearance as ever.

The tribesmen emerged first, bashing shields and weapons together, howling insults as they marched. They were arrayed ten files wide and nearly a full four ranks deep, a loose formation and shaggy nature made their exact number undeterminable. Front and centre a standard bearer, drummer and chosen marauder led the unit towards Pieter.

Behind them came the leaders of the host, the sorcerer walked beside another figure, this one matched the description given to him by Luna the night previous. Chrysalis, because it could be none other than her, walked serenely besides the Tzeentch sorcerer. Her wings were flared and her head held high, gnarled and twisted horn glowing brightly, the light emanating fluctuated through green and blue. On all sides of the two leaders marched the five Chosen of Tzeentch, two in front, one each flank and one to the rear. Unlike the last time Pieter had seen the sorcerer he was now without his helmet.

The sorcerer’s face was pale, blue tinted veins wound their way up his neck and the side of his head, made all the more noticeable due to the fact the man was bald. It was impossible to tell the man’s true size beneath his plate armour but the demonic eyes which stared toward Pieter with an almost malevolent intellect were of much more interest. The glowing red eyes set into the dark blue chest plate were not the only eyes possessed by the figure which were focused on the lone Empire captain, the sorcerer’s own beetle black eyes looked upon him intently with unrestrained glee.

“My, my, my, what have we here? A lonely little Sigmarite bereft of fear” called out the Tzeentch sorcerer in a sing-song rhyme. “A gift from my lord perhaps? Maybe a lone wanderer unafraid of my traps?” Pieter could not place the accent, it had a strong Averland twinge but was mixed in with the gruff tones of the Norscans.

“By Sigmar please stop rhyming, your kind are detestable enough without thinking you have a sense of humour.”

The sorcerer’s face contorted in rage for the briefest of moments before settling back into an eerie grimace. “Fine then heretic, any more requests before you die?”

Pieter unslung the bag from his back in response, reaching inside he pulled its contents out and held it aloft for all to see. The contents in question being the severed head of the Chosen he had killed the day before, still entombed within its plate helm. “Yes, I was thinking of beginning a collection. I have the head of a Chosen, now I think a sorcerer would be a good addition; tell me your name heretic so that I may add it to my saga.” Dropping the head and giving it a kick Pieter smiled cheerily at the horde of enemies arrayed before him.

“Insolent swine!” yelled Chrysalis from beside the sorcerer, stepping from out of the protection of the five Chosen and advancing beyond the Chaos forces lines. The sorcerer matched her response, rushing up and placing a gauntleted hand on her flank to calm her.

“Patience dear, patience.” The Chaos sorcerer turned to address Pieter. “I shall answer your final request then little soldier; my name is Varnak, Herald of Change and servant of Tzeentch. Now you can die, just like I said yes?” Varnak raised his hand, extending the palm towards Pieter, it glowed briefly before a stream of flickering blue flame spouted forth, rushing towards Pieter with all the seeming inevitability of a rock slide.

The sensation of heat washed over Pieter but without the accompanying flames. The air crackled around him and the runes his armour bore glowed faintly in response. He could not help but gasp at the sight before him. Blue and green tinted flames wrapped themselves around him, barely a step away from immolating him. Patterns swirled in the flickering flames, dancing in and out of existence; they spoke of corrupted fury and imminent destruction while the flames roared around him. Within seconds the experience was over, the source of the fire was cut off and the magic dispersed.

Pieter was revealed, apparently calm and steady though his heart beat with the fury of a thousand drums. Stepping forward he heard the crunch of glass and indeed the area around him was turned to rapidly cooling glass, cracked and smoking slightly. Putting on his most infuriating smile, Pieter matched the stare of Varnak.

“Intriguing, explain little Sigmarite.”

“Magic rock, but that is not why I am here. I am here for you sorcerer, a lot of good men have died these past few days, I intend to avenge them. I also want to know why, you could not have predicted our arrival or the arrival of the fleeing Saarls that surprised us, even by your kinds standards this cannot have been part of a plan. It’s too . . . perfect.” Pieter spat the last word, eyes narrowing at the widening smiles of Varnak and Chrysalis.

“Aww, does the soldier not understand the ways of Tzeentch? Hardly surprising, who are you to question the ways of a god!?” Varnak halted for a moment, composing himself before he continued. “My apologies’, dealing with the ignorant brings out the worst in me at times. What is your name soldier? It is only polite that I address you properly.”

“Captain Pieter von Grunberg.” Pieter straightened his posture, planting his zweihander in the ground and resting both gauntleted hands on the sword’s pommel. ‘Come on Luna any time around now would be good, they are all here and their guard is down.’

“Excellent! Well then Pieter, it is a fair question and your fate is already sealed so why not tell you how your death came to pass?

“I act as a conduit for Tzeentch, Tzeentch commands and I make it so. He gave me and the poor deceased Balewick the knowledge of the Greater Gateway spell. But yet that was not all he told us; he knew you would come, he made you come, he brought down the Saarls upon you and he helped me find Chrysalis. He did all this through nothing more than a whisper in the minds of men, well and my queen of course.” Varnak ran the back of his hand softly down the changeling queen’s cheek, caressing her with almost loving affection and earning a peck on the lips from Chrysalis in return.

Pieter almost stumbled backwards to the sound of crunching glass, catching himself before he lost composure. Disgust was etched across his face and his mind reeled from the display. “Eurgh, really? I know your kind for the sick, depraved bastards you are but that is just wrong! That is damned twisted even by your standards; it is a horse for Sigmar’s sake!” Pieter shouted, levelling his armoured finger at Chrysalis.

“Quiet! You blind little fool, you and your kind are nothing more than a punch line to a joke a thousand years in the making. He has plans for you, oh such plans; Tzeentch plays with your worthless little lives, shaping them constantly to his ends. I was blind like you once, serving those fools in the Light Order. Tzeentch came to me in the night, showed me true meaning in the world and I pledged myself to him without a second thought.” Varnak was spiting his words at Pieter with vicious intent, the Chosen advanced to make up a line either side of the sorcerer and weapons were drawn. Varnak continued his diatribe unabated and practically glowing with fury.

‘Damn it Luna, anytime now would be appreciated. Fairly certain the bestiality comment offended him.’

Chrysalis’ expression twisted in concentration for a moment and her changelings responded, reforming from a loose mass of black bodies and buzzing wings to two distinct units each nearly one hundred strong. The changeling regiments advanced overhead, taking up position between Pieter and the sun, casting him in their shadow.

The arrival of reinforcements was possibly one of the greatest moments of Pieter’s life, largely because it meant his life was not about to end.

A blinding flash of azure light and a crack reminiscent to the blast of cannon filled the immediate area behind Pieter. Turning slightly he sighed in relief to see Luna and the task force arrayed behind him, at their head stood Luna and Markus, both of them wearing their armour. Luna’s face was now obscured by her helmet, only her horn protruded from the flat sheet of metal that extended across her face making her appear more like a faceless statue than a princess of Equestria.

Behind the two leaders came the rank and file troops. The entire regiment of Greatswords stood ten files wide with Gerhart taking up the centre beside the regiment’s standard bearer. Above them hovered twenty Pegasus guards, their hoof blades extended and Sergeant Gale front and centre. ‘Good, Greatswords to hold the line and pegasi to hold the skies, well to keep the changelings from swarming hopefully, do not much fancy their odds in a protracted fight.’

“What!?” screamed Varnak, momentarily taken aback by the sudden change in circumstances. “Attack, kill them!” the Chaos hosts, along with the newly inducted changelings, were spurred to action by the sorcerers’ words, and they advanced.

The Empire leaders, along with Princess Luna, retreated to the relative safety of their respective race’s regiments. Luna took to the skies, casting wards all the while. Markus and Pieter stood at the Greatswords centre, the unit reformed with practiced ease to allow the two additions. At the rear stood Willhelm and his apprentice Kurt, both wizards were working spells with their staffs, shimmering light exuded from their bodies in waves and it crept across both races regiments.

A bolt of energy erupted from the chaos lines as Varnak unleashed the first move of the battle. The spell careered towards the Empire lines only to be broken apart by the combined efforts of Luna and Willhelm. Sparks flew from the sundered spell producing a crackling sound akin to that of fireworks. In response Willhelm released his own spell, which had been surreptitiously woven into the surrounding troops previously. His spell was of a more subtle sort and its effects were imperceptible at first; reactions sharpened, the mind focused, weapons and armour suddenly felt as light as a feather, the Speed of Light augment took hold.

Further flashes of magical energy streamed overhead as Luna and Varnak engaged each other, Luna seeking to keep the sorcerer’s attention from the line soldiers. Black globules erupted from her horn; they smashed into the flickering blue flames of the sorcerer, shattering the effectiveness of the spell.

Beneath the foreboding light show the two infantry forces clashed. The Greatswords fought defensively, the speed lent to them by Willhelm’s spell giving them more than enough ability to keep the tribesmen at bay. The fact they could wield their giant swords with greater speed than a marauder could swing his own one handed weapon was testament to the White Wizard’s work.

Pieter shouldered his sword, his right hand drawing a pistol from its holster. He ignored the marauders, they were no threat to him, beside him Gerhart and Markus battered at the tribesmen striking down any who came near. The real threat was pushing its way through the loose ranks of the Chaos worshippers; the Chosen engaged the Empire leaders.

The crack of Pieter’s pistol barely registered over the din of battle, Equestrians and changelings battled overhead and men roared insults to each other. The closest Chosen was almost knocked backwards by the power of the shot; his raised shield failed to stop the metal ball but robbed it of its killing power. Closing the distance quickly the Chosen charged the short gap between him and Pieter, fatefully lowering his shield. This was all Pieter needed, having already drawn his second pistol the next round pierced the Tzeentch Chosen’s helmet, killing him instantly.

‘Good, those Elements should be firing any time now, just a little longer.’ Smiling grimly, Pieter got to work.

Hidden within the undergrowth the six bearers of the Elements of Harmony and Captain Forlorn Wind watched the battle commence with varying levels of apprehension. The action on the ground was obscured by the ordered ranks of the Greatswords, from Forlorn and Rainbow’s elevated position they could make out the regiment reforming to compensate for the loss of a soldier. The aerial battle was completely hidden from the ponies’ sight; its effects however were not. Periodically changeling bodies tumbled to the ground, some alive, some not so fortunate. The sound of clashing steel and screaming voices was omnipresent, interrupted occasionally by a spell’s detonation as the magical contest raged.

Twilight stood beside her friends, they watched the carnage of the melee ensue with barely a word said between them. “We ready for this girls?” she asked, ensuring her voice was calm and reigning in the waver she could tell was threatening to encroach.


“Yooooou betcha!”

“A lady is always ready.”

“Let’s kick some flank.”


Fluttershy’s response was barely heard by Twilight, due mostly to the fact she was cowering behind Applejack and that she was quiet anyway under normal circumstances.

“Fluttershy, are you ok?” inquired Twilight.

The timid pegasus buried her head in her hooves for the moment, struggling with an internal conflict. A tentative hoof rested on her shoulder, causing the flowing pink mane to shudder but Fluttershy otherwise remained as before. A gentle shake brought the hooves from her eyes, the sight of Twilight’s concerned face greeted her.

“Come on Fluttershy, we need you, Equestria needs you.”

“I, I can’t!”

“You have to, ponies could die Fluttershy! Pieter is out there, they need you, please.”

The rest of their friends were gathered round, ears pinned back by the sounds of fighting beyond the trees. The faces of so many pleading expressions brought Fluttershy to her feet, if somewhat shakily. The jewellery around her neck felt unbelievably heavy, her head sagged.


The yell came not from one of the mares but from Forlorn. His gaze had never left the raging battle and every fallen figure had caused his heart to jump in his chest, he could not look away for fear of seeing one of his own guards fall. The sight of three of them going down in quick succession was too much to bear.

He turned to face the six bearers, each of them wearing the physical forms of the Elements. With a fury in his eyes that none of them had seen before he yelled, “End this, end this now!” Rearing onto his hind legs his fore hooves tapped the hoofswords controls’ causing them to shoot out with the whisper of metal on sheathes. His wings extended and with a powerful thrust he accelerated into the air. Maintaining momentum, twitching his wings, Forlorn pulled into a half loop followed by a half roll to bring him level and on target. He knew he was supposed to stay with the Element bearers but last he saw they were readying to fire them, right now his guards needed him and if their formation collapsed then the changelings would swarm the Greatswords too.

Wind whipped around him and the loose branches of the Everfree’s trees splintered on impact with his war barding. Flying free of the forest he rocketed upwards into the mass of changelings, barely registering the static ground based combat. Hoofblades outstretched he twirled gracefully into the melee, sickly green changeling blood splattered his armour as his deadly blades eviscerated any enemy unfortunate to get in his way.


The yell caught Forlorn off guard; all he could really see was the rushing black mass of changelings around him. A second similar yell came from above Forlorn and he swiftly accelerated towards the sound, hacking madly at any changelings who came into range. Bursting free of the maelstrom of black carapace he found the four squads of guards. They worked together two squads of four, two of five. They flew in the caduceus formation, two squads working together, weaving in and out of each other to cover each unit’s rear as they scythed through the changeling swarm. Forlorn caught Sergeant Gale’s eye or rather as much of his eye as he could make out beneath the helmet’s slit, His friend nodded a grateful greeting before turning back to the battle at hoof. Captain Forlorn joined a four pony squad, taking the lead and slicing through the changelings with all the majesty of a shining spear.

Back on the ground and almost simultaneously the engagement was quickly reaching its climax. From Willhelm’s point of view the Greatswords were performing admirably, as one would expect of the greatest state troops available to the Empire. With the augmentations placed upon them by Willhelm, they were easily as fast as the best the Chaos host had to offer. Said best, the Chosen, were occupied fighting Markus, Gerhart and Pieter who were keeping the Chosen away from the line infantry.

Insidious tentacles of green light came into view, snaking their way over the battlefield towards Willhelm. This was something new to Willhelm, the magical signature felt malevolent but unlike the Chaos magic of the Old World. Drawing more energy from Kurt he cast Banishment on the half dozen tentacles. Aiming his staff at the closest of them, he felt the build-up of magic, the familiar rush of power that accompanied the building light in the staff’s tip. It released in a blinding stream of pure white light, the first tendril shattered with the sound of breaking glass. Willhelm then turned the staff on the other five advancing tendrils, shattering each in turn with ease. Their purpose however only became obvious when it was already too late.

Willhelm felt the touch of the tainted magic as it gripped him, again the magic felt evil but unknown. Without time to dispel or counter, Willhelm accepted what was to come and hoped the spell he was casting would save him from whatever fate awaited.

His vision was filled with a sickly turquoise light which seemed to wrap around him in a cocoon. A bright flash nearly blinded him but he shielded his eyes from the dazzling light. When it subsided Willhelm acted as planned, his own blinding flash of light erupted from his staff, white flames spiralled outwards wreathing the immediate area in fire.

Drawing his sword, Willhelm lowered his staff and assessed his position. It was immediately clear that he was alone and had been spirited away from the battle, not far since he could hear the clamour coming from behind him. For the moment though the sight before him held his rapt attention. He was stood before a shattered window; the vista looked out onto the ruins of the castle previously hidden from sight. It was a sprawling necropolis elven-like in its architecture; majestic spiralling towers coated in vines stretched skywards, the brilliance of the sun highlighting their diminished glory. On ground level the less sturdy structures had fallen in heaps, the plants of the forest reclaiming lost territory. Strips of green land, once possibly gardens and roads were now overgrown in a chaotic mass of flora fighting the slowest of battles to reach the warm embrace of the sun.

It was, to Willhelm, hauntingly beautiful.

“Human” called out a singsong voice unfamiliar to Willhelm. It came from behind him and he reacted immediately spinning on the spot, robes whirling around him and both sword and staff were brought into a guard position.

The creature before him was one he had seen before although only fleetingly. The briefing Princess Luna had provided was indeed brief, but mention was made of the changeling queen named Chrysalis. The image in his mind’s eye was nothing like the reality. The warped and gnarled features stood out most on her horn and legs, the holes in her legs were most disconcerting but Willhelm had faced much fiercer looking opponents than her. Now he was closer he could recognise the strange magic from earlier as being that of Chrysalis’, the influence of Tzeentch sorcery was evident now, clearly she was newly initiated to the Chaos god’s magical stimulus. There were two changelings hovering beside her and all three snarled with unrestrained glee.

Willhelm acted quickly, a Pha’s Protection spell created a shield of white light between him and his enemy. Next he placed defensive wards on himself, he could feel Chrysalis working to undo his spells but by feeding dangerous levels of power into them he could override her interference. Blasts of turquoise magic passed through his shield of light, they were fired blindly and wildly, not even remotely a threat to a seasoned battle wizard.

“Come out human, I only wish to talk” jeered Chrysalis from the other side of the barrier.

“Strange how I do not believe you heretic” Willhelm called out.

“Please, I’d like to make you an offer. It’s a good deal and I’m already beginning to reap the benefits from mine. Varnak will tell you all about it after he has finished with that petulant Captain Pieter, you and he have a lot in common you know, he was a magistrate of the Light Order and so are you. He served a false god and the putrid lie of supposed civilisation, so do you. Oh and the poor dear lost Balewick to your actions so I think you owe him an apology, I know I did what I could but I don’t think that kind of activity makes up for the loss.”

The hum of magic shook the castle they were standing in but its source was coming from outside the castle itself. Willhelm bit back his retort in favour of focusing on this new power, one he had glimpsed before in its bearers back on the first day in Equestria. Chrysalis had evidently felt it too since she was also silent. ‘So the Elements are firing, about time.’ The White Wizard smiled to himself pleasantly surprised by the alliances’ impending success.

The Pha’s Protection spell dispersed to reveal the queen and her two minions. Shock and fear were written across her features, the presence of Willhelm going unnoticed briefly as she was swept up in the moment.

“No, no! this isn’t possible, the bearers aren’t here, no! Flee my minions, flee.” A thick green shield erupted around Chrysalis, encasing her completely but leaving the changelings on either side of her outside. The sickly hue of the shield cast the dilapidated interior of the castle in a malevolent light. Willhelm could sense she was building a teleport spell, he had dispelled Twilight Sparkle’s attempt when they had met all those days ago, but this was something else. The power built like water against a dam, unbreachable to Willhelm and his attempts to break the cocoon were infuriatingly slow too.

Unseen by the human, both the changelings in the room fled through a cracked window, breaking off and heading further into the forest, now acting on their queen’s last orders.

The magical power continued to build, Chrysalis’ magic reinforced by Tzeentch’s gifts causing her to glow within her shell. In a pop she disappeared from sight, taking the protective shell with her to wherever she had fled to.

Willhelm rushed forward, his enemy gone he ran for a window on the opposing side of the chamber he was in. He reached the window just in time to watch the battle end. A brilliant white aura emanated from within the edges of the forest, its source obscured. Mere seconds later a rainbow blasted forth, it shot into the Chaos ranks with the inexorability of a Steam Tank.

Chosen and tribesmen alike turned to stone upon contact with the ray. Varnak’s defences were for naught as well, the sparkling purple dome he cast doing nothing to impede the spectrum of light’s advance. His body was revealed, frozen in a grimace and with both palms outstretched towards the sky in supplication.

With the ground forces turned to stone the ray spread out and flew upwards, spearing through the ranks of the fleeing changelings. Each affected changeling dropped from the sky unceremoniously as the statues they had become smashed into the ground. The roaring cheers of the Empire soldiers followed, their numbers largely preserved and their leaders joining the chorus of victory.

The thudding of changeling bodies continued to hammer the ground, relieved Pegasus Guards milled about or landed to find their fallen comrades. Of the twenty pegasi who had arrived, five were very evidently dead, several others nursed minor wounds. Willhelm could not help but wonder how the Equestrians were going to cope with their first taste of real combat. He had seen them training of course, they were well disciplined and trained, but it was no secret that they lacked experience.

Yet another teleportation spell appeared in an azure flash and a loud crack. This time Princess Luna appeared before Willhelm, green blood splattered her armour but she paid it no heed. Her horn glowed and the faceless helm was removed to reveal a very conflicted alicorn. Her eyes darted around the room as if checking for something she lost. Luna looked past Willhelm, rattling off several minor spells while she searched.

“She is gone princess” said Willhelm, looking out over stone figures below.

A low growl was Luna’s response, her hooves clopped lightly on the stone floor and she took up position beside Willhelm. The alicorn was obviously attempting to restrain her anger, rather successfully judging by the seething rage etched into her usually elegant features.

“Princess Luna, today is a great victory for both our peoples. The Chaos war host is defeated, their god’s influence in your world curtailed, we may not have killed them all but Chrysalis cannot be as much of a threat alone can she? One such as her cannot last long alone.”

“She’s insidious, vengeful and powerful. Now Chrysalis has the backing of a god, this is not over, she will return. Yet again I have failed my ponies when I promised to defend them from this threat.” Luna was breathing heavily, the weight of her failures pressing down on her. They were especially prominent in this place, this mausoleum to her greatest mistake. Judging by the sheer amount of raw power Chrysalis spent on that teleport she could be on the other side of the Earth realistically, another failed claim to add to the list.

“Is it over?” asked a quivering Fluttershy, the glows in the eyes of all six of them receding to nothing.

“I think so, the Elements just seek them out by instinct don’t they Twilight?” replied Rainbow Dash.

“Honestly Rainbow, I don’t know how they work. The only two other known bearers are the princesses and they’ve never exactly explained them either.” Taking the lead Twilight set off through the shrubbery, the others followed, taking comfort from each other’s presence.

They had not seen the majority of the battle, short as it was. Aside from the falling changelings and the occasional guard nothing would have been visible at all.

Flying up to Twilight came Fluttershy, twiddling her hooves nervously and looking away from her friend. Murmuring sheepishly under her breath she asked, “Erm, Twilight, why are we walking towards the castle. I can’t go out there! There are bodies out there!”

“I have to make sure everyone’s okay, pony and human. Our friends are out there and it’s not like we haven’t dealt with this before over the last couple of days. It may be bad but we can’t hide from our fears.”

Visibly squirming with indecision Fluttershy nervously stuck by Twilight’s side, her eyes shying away from what was to come. The rest of the group seemed to be largely in agreement with Twilight’s words, or at least were reassured by them. The clearing neared and the men and guards alike were milling around, tending to others or celebrating in some circumstances. They were passing the last bush, the sun beginning to glint off of their golden armour.

“Oooh, hey does this mean a victory party?” Pinkie Pie bounced happily at the rear, the armour she wore doing nothing to diminish her bounds. She was evidently still in a near euphoric state from using her Element but the joy permeating her demeanour was, unsettling, to say the least.

Applejack was the first to clear the foliage, the view of the battlefield giving her pause “urgh Pinkie, ah don’t think anypony is gonna want to party sugar.”

The others emerged shortly after, plant matter breaking off on their armour plating. The sight before them was morbidly fascinating. With the Greatswords reformed further away, the area where the fight had taken place was revealed. A sea of stone statues faced them, the faces of said figures set in fierce snarls or caught mid yell. Bodies littered the floor in and around the stone humans. Each corpse was that of a Chaos worshipper but they were nearly too far away for the wounds they had suffered to be visible, nearly unseen, but not quite. The occasional severed limb, or in one case torso split down the centre, were prominent enough to be seen.

Steering the group away Twilight headed for the Royal Guard unit, arrayed beside the Greatswords. Many of them were stood around the bodies of fallen guards and as the group of friends approached the scene came into better focus. Many sported wounds, mostly burns, and were being seen to by the medically trained members of the unit. Others were being placed side by side while cloth could be found to cover them, five bodies in total, their armour burned through in places where changeling magic had hit them. ‘Strange, changelings could never perform that kind of magic before; perhaps it came as part of their bargain with that Chaos god Tzeentch?’ thought Twilight.

The group let out a relieved sigh when Captain Forlorn Wind emerged from behind a trio of pegasi. His armour was splattered with the blood of changelings but he looked otherwise healthy enough. Luna appeared in a flash with the human magister too and the six friends quickened their pace to join their princess.

Princess Luna turned to greet them, a sad but genuine smile spread across her face. “Ah, my friends, I am joyful to see you. You did well today; the plan was a success, mostly.” Her features darkened for a second before she continued. “But today we earned a great victory for Equestria and for our human friends also.”

“What do you mean mostly Luna?” inquired Twilight.

“Chrysalis escaped.”

“Well, at least she won’t be troubling Equestria for any time soon” commented Rarity with a flick of her tail.

Luna’s pensive silence went unnoticed by the others and they turned inwards to talk amongst themselves, with the exception of Fluttershy. She trotted up to the Princess of the Night, still giving off an aura of unease as she had in the forest. “Princess, I was wondering, well since I know all our hurt ponies will be cared for what will happen to the changelings? And the bad humans too? I mean we can help them can’t we?”

“My dear Fluttershy, they’re dead. The Elements purified their souls of evil, but its cost killed them.”

“What!” screeched Fluttershy, stumbling backwards and falling onto her rump.

“Well yes, their souls can pass on to the next plane of existence in peace now.”

“No, no, no, no! The Elements of Harmony don’t kill.”

“They did not kill me or Discord, but both he and I are extremely powerful immortals. It purified my soul, restored harmony but I lived through it, it drained me severely but it could not kill me. Discord is chaos incarnate, way more powerful than any being I have known. His very nature is unstoppable; I must confess I am not sure if he even can be killed.”

Fluttershy recoiled into a ball; sobbing slightly while Luna talked. Her whispers were barely audible but nonetheless they were. “I killed them, I killed them.”

In the background the Empire officers commended their troops; every one of them bore the praise proudly and with modesty. Even Counts Champion Gerhart Manhelm felt some pride, he was still furious that the Elements had robbed him of his death however. Two Chosen had had him at their mercy and were turned to stone before they could complete the deed. Morr, the god of Death, always eluded him; he came for Gerhart’s friends and family but seemed content to leave the Greatsworder be, even when Gerhart threw himself at Morr’s mercy. What he would not give to be purged by the Elements of Harmony, one could only guess.