• Published 9th Aug 2012
  • 5,188 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 Seven- Consolidation

Chapter Seven


Everfree Forest, Equestria

Arch Lector Markus Holstein looked up briefly from the report he held as footsteps approached. The white tent he was sat in was a surprisingly barren affair. Most Empire generals brought with them a veritable panoply of cooks, servants, gaudy decorations, whores or even worse, wives. In comparison Markus’ tent looked as if it had merely been erected and left to stand as it was. All that furnished the rather small canvas tent was a cross beam upon which hung his runic armour, the desk he sat at which was unadorned except for the scattered paper, a simple basin for washing, a chest which held the entirety of his belongings which Markus deemed necessary to bring on campaign and a padded sleeping mat in the corner.

Through the flap in the tent came a Pistolier, his armour clanking slightly as he stooped under the top of the tent’s opening. The man’s feathered helmet caught in the folds of fabric and intertwined rope which marked the entrance, causing him to struggle slightly to pull the snagged feather through after him. Markus noted this man was the same Pistolier from before who had reported the arrival of the Saarl tribesmen the previous day.

“Erm, father, I apologise for the intrusion so early in the day but Princess Celestia has returned from her stay in Ponyville to come see you, she has a proposition of sorts concerning barricading of the gateway.”

“Very well send the princess in, mind your head on the way out” replied Markus, his head already returned to the report before him. He hated to spend time on lost causes such as that one, the man was young to be sure, but that inadequacy would get him killed well before he wised up. The Pistolier, merely more than a boy, was all nerves and ineptness.

The report he held was another matter entirely. It covered everything from gathered intelligence on the forest, its various flora and fauna as well as maps and a summary of recent world events. The princess had kindly offered to have a summary drawn up so that Markus might better know the world his men were in. The sections on the Griffon Kingdom and their newly formed alliance with the Chanine across the sea to the east looked particularly interesting. Clearly peace was the reserve of the Equestrian continent and not the planet as a whole, even the dragons largely stayed out of the Equestrian’s way by nature of a contract some eight hundred years old.

‘A nation of dragons! This world is bizarre to say the least’ he thought. Markus laid the lengthy report down just as the alicorn’s, porcelain coloured, horned head protruded through the canvas folds. Markus noted that the Pistolier had forgotten convention and failed to hold open the tent flap for the princess.

Celestia tossed her head from left to right slightly to dislodge the fabric from her before straightening to her still diminished forms full height.

“Your magic still eludes you princess?” asked Markus, genuine concern in his eyes as he asked the question.

“Unfortunately so, I never realised how much I relied on my magic until it was taken from me. Alas what happened is done and we move forward. Please though, as one leader to another call me Celestia. I grew tired of formality centuries ago” said Celestia with a weak smile.

“As you wish Celestia. Now, to business” replied Markus.

“Not one for small talk are you Markus?”

“I am afraid not, the damned Saarls were probing our defences last night. They have turned it into a game, seeing how close they can get before we react. Needless to say the turmoil they caused kept me up most of the night.”

“Well on that topic I have a proposition for you” supplied Celestia, tossing her head again to push her pink mane out of her right eye so that she might better see the priest.

Upon seeing her agitation Markus thought to himself ‘clearly it is not just the lack of magic which bothers you Celestia. You fidget like a trooper on the eve of battle.’

The arch lector regarded his counterpart with compassion. He knew how it felt to worry about his nation’s citizenry, unable to prevent a towns sacking for fear of giving the enemy a vital advantage. The situation with Canterbury was evidently having a similar effect. “Go ahead Celestia; any extra help you can offer would be very much appreciated.”

“As you know the town of Ponyville lies not far from here, I could ask my subjects to assist you in building a more secure barricade. The wooden stakes you have dug in would not delay a sustained attack as I am sure you are aware.”

“I would welcome the opportunity; I assume you would like me to speak directly to them though?”

“Of course Markus, I’m sure they would very much like to meet friendly aliens from another planet, after I have personally reassured them though obviously. That would be fine by you I presume?”

“I look forward to meeting you subjects Celestia” said Markus rising to his feet as he spoke.

“Excellent, I have asked the mayor to gather the citizens of Ponyville four hours from now. In the mean time we have preparations to discuss.”

“Indeed this summary you had delivered raised a great many questions; may I ask some of your time to discuss it later on?”

“Of course you may, I would be happy to discuss this world with you but for now we have a speech to prepare” said Celestia, walking up to Markus’ desk to begin working towards a plan together.

“Just quickly though, do you and your sister really control the sun and moon?” asked Markus, his curiosity getting the better of him.

“Yes Markus, we do.”

“By Sigmar even gods cannot do such things, and you are immortal it says here” he continued, waving the report as he talked to exemplify his wonder.

Celestia laughed at his astonishment before indicating to a blank scroll with her horn. “In time Markus, we have work to do.”

Everfree Forest, Equestria

The group of seven ponies and the lone human continued their trek through the Everfree Forest, Pieter was in the lead surveying the foliage around him as he tracked the movement of the Chaos warband which had preceded them. It was easy going for the captain, the worshippers of Chaos were hardly a stealthy lot when on the march and the mass of tracks and broken flora was evidence of this.

The ponies had spent much of the morning talking amiably amongst them, only occasionally complaining about having to spend nearly a full day on the move over the course of the last two days.

Rainbow Dash turned away from her friends, flying forward she hovered beside the human with an inquisitive expression on her face. The rest of the Element bearers noticed her abrupt switch in attention but quickly returned to their current topic of conversation.

“So Cheerilee is helping out on the farm? Hardly seems like the place for a teacher to be. I would have thought she would have preferred looking after Spike at Twilight’s library rather than bucking apples?” said Rarity. They had been discussing their contingency plans for while they would be away for a good twenty minutes now, which was most likely the reason for Rainbow abandoning the conversation.

Applejack thought about Rarity’s question before replying. “Yeh well Big Mac got Caramel to help out too while ah’m away. He said he’d asked the rest of his friends but only Caramel was free. I dunno, maybe Cheerilee just wants to get out from behind that desk for once, ah can’t imagine teaching is the most active profession there is.”

“Well with two ponies helping out I’m sure the work will get done in plenty of time” added Twilight with a smile.

The five mares quikly found themselves pulled to Rainbow and Pieter’s conversation ahead of them. Forlorn had excused himself for a few minutes and the questions they could hear their cyan friend asking quickly drew their attention and caused them to quicken pace to catch up.

“So what about you Pieter, we’ve all been talking about our homes, what’s your's like?” asked Rainbow Dash.

Captain Pieter was silent for a moment as he mentally decided on how to answer. With a shrug he decided to answer in some depth. “Well my family are minor landowners. My name, von Grunberg, means of Grunberg, which essentially means we hailed from the town of Grunberg in the Reikland. Still own half of the surrounding land actually so I had a comfortable upbringing, plenty of servants and workers to take care of things for me. My mother always made sure I was well catered for and well educated. Of course this gave me a lot of spare time and it’s essentially a part of the von Grunberg heritage that the men of the family become soldiers. So naturally I trained to hunt and fight as soon as I was able to, and I loved it. That made up the majority of my upbringing really. Grunberg itself though was a beautiful town; I have not been there in at least two years though.”

Pieter paused for a moment and sighed before continuing. “But anyway with the Reik’s tributary running through the town, the Drakwald forest in the distance to the north, and the Grey Mountains to the south it truly was a beautifully scenic area too. I used to love spending the day at an ale house with a few friends by the banks of the Reik and watch the sun drift across the sky. By night we would chase girls and wreak havoc for the landlord. I could get away with anything being a von Grunberg, we owned half of the town anyway” Pieter chuckled, smiling widely as he reminisced.

“Sounds great” offered Twilight trotting forward to enter the conversation, her interest piqued.

“Yes it was, but the drinking and whoring was pretty much the only thing to do to be honest” seeing the confused expression on the ponies faces, Pieter quickly moved on before they could question his last sentence. “But anyway my training always came first; I loved it as much as the time I spent with my old friends. My uncle was a huntsmen and I learnt the art from him. My father was an officer so I got a commission easily and he had his retainer, a retired Greatsword by the name of Hessle teach me swordsmanship. My natural aptitude and determination got me a commission in Altdorf, the Empire’s capital. Pretty much since then I have fought alongside Father Holstein for the last twelve years or so.”

“This war has gone on for twelve years?” asked Rainbow Dash.

“The war is eternal; there is always an enemy to defend the Empire from. I gladly throw myself against the tide of evil; indeed it is the duty of all sons of Sigmar to fight evil so that others may live in peace.”

With that sombre note Pieter looked around to see all six of the mares were listening avidly to him, even Captain Forlorn who had returned, hovered beside Rainbow Dash in rapt attention.

“What about you Captain Wind? I must admit I am curious as to how a soldier of Equestria comes to be” Pieter quickly queried, anxious to pass on control of the conversation so that he could escape the look of dismay on the faces of the colourful and emotive ponies.

Forlorn was taken aback by the sudden question but saw through the subtext and nodded quickly. “Well my dad was a sergeant in the Trottingham Guard and he raised me on his own. He was always a grim and steadfast stallion, I always wanted to follow in his hoofsteps and join the Guard really. We never were too well off for money, he made a meagre wage as a sergeant and refused to become a captain so we scraped by. I did a lot of odd jobs growing up to make things easier on him and I always spent our free time together pestering him to teach me how to be a guard. I didn’t really have that many friends or hobbies outside that really. Trottingham was a nice enough city but I never took the time to enjoy it as a foal so its charm was kind of lost on me. Eventually once I was of age I joined the Guard and passed at the top of my class. It helped that my dad’s friend Summer Gale was my instructor; he pushed me to give it my all. I kept pushing and rising through the ranks and somehow became the youngest captain in the Trottingham Royal Guard for fifty years. But yeh, that’s pretty much it, bit of a short story but there wasn’t much to my home to be honest just a small house in the suburbs and a foal obsessed with being a Guard” said Forlorn with a hint of pride.

“Wow you two really came to be captains from the opposite end of the spectrum huh?” added Twilight.

“It would indeed appear so” agreed Pieter, looking forward into the depths of the forest. He cocked his head to the side as if he was listening for something.

“Yeh it’s weird that. Hey which one of you has the map? I was wondering when we got out of this damned monotonous forest. Everything looks the same to me” muttered Forlorn Wind as he sensed a change in atmosphere.

Pieter dropped into a crouch, gesturing for the group to be quiet and still. Everyone, both human and pony stayed still or hovered silently. Pieter stayed where he was for a full minute, mouth open slightly and eyes closed to better heighten his hearing. Satisfied he straightened to his full height before turning to the others.

“What’s wrong” asked Forlorn, his hoofs lingering on the buttons of his retractable hoof blades.

“The forest is completely silent, no birds or anything. That would indicate a malign presence of some sort but the warband is fleeing so it would not make sense for them to be waiting in ambush for so long. Follow me but be alert. Captain Wind, could you take the rear please?” With that the ponies took up positions wearily and they set off again into the woods at a slower pace.

Once again signalling for stillness he stalked into the undergrowth, both his pistols primed and raised. Within a minute Captain Pieter had found the source of the forests unease. A twisted and melted corpse of a manticore lay melded into the forest floor. The scorch marks on the beast’s bare flesh appeared magical and malevolent in nature. Interestingly though, as he searched the surrounding area he found more and more manticore tracks. Enough to suggest three or four manticore had been here, likely four in total. ‘No wonder those manticore were so enraged, one of their pack was melted into the ground’ thought Pieter.

“It is ok, I found the cause of the forests agitation!” called out Pieter, returning confidently though the bushes. “A manticore lies over there. It must have made an attempt on one of the sorcerers because it has been twisted almost beyond recognition by dark magic. The taint from the magic is what’s disturbing the forest.”

“You speak as though the forest can feel” mocked Forlorn.

“Oh forests as ancient as this one do, they soak up ambient magic. They can feel when something corrupted is among them. Trust me, I have been hunted through a forest by creatures of Chaos before, I know the signs of their corruption.”

“Huh, that explains a lot actually” agreed Rainbow Dash, rubbing her muzzle with a hoof as she pondered the implications.

“No wonder everypony gets a weird feeling when they’re in here; this forest is alive with magic.”

Pieter led the group on a wide, arching route to avoid the ponies having to witness the warped and tainted carcass of the former manticore. While the horses of his world were incapable of vomiting, he did not want to test if the ponies in this world shared that biological trait. After circumventing that particular horror they came back across the Chaos followers trail. From map readings Twilight worked out they were somewhere between two and three hours from the Canterbury road. The groups pace quickened as a result of the realisation that they would soon leave the dark and dreary forest.

Ponyville, Equestria

The assembled crowd in the town hall made up some three hundred or so ponies of all colours and races. Over half of Ponyville had turned up to hear the princess, and the much rumoured other creature speak before them on this day. The other half likely were busy at work or otherwise occupied, but with just a few hours’ notice such a turnout was impressive.

Mayor Mare had gone to great lengths to get the town hall organised in time. It was still undergoing the finishing touches of its refurbishment but the rush to get it prepared for such a momentous event had fixed many of the building problems, temporary though some of the renovations may be.

Celestia and Markus stood behind the curtain as the mayor addressed the townsponies. They had spent two of the four hours since that morning working on their speeches. The other two hours had been spent organising and planning the building of a more permanent and resilient barricade. They also discussed less relevant topics; such as the rise of the Chanine dogs to the east and the culture of the dragons in Equestria.

“So then Markus are you ready?” asked Celestia.

“Of course Celestia, I have made speeches to tens of thousands of starving, desperate and angry soldiers. A few hundred happy and peaceful ponies should not be a problem” replied Markus, his lips curling briefly into a smile.

“Then I expect great things from you Markus.” Celestia smiled in return, tossing her head to move her light pink mane out of her face once more.

With that Celestia and Markus heard their cue and walked on stage. The reaction of the ponies was more or less what they expected. Many cheered the arrival of their beloved princess. Some gasped at Celestia’s lessened form, others muttered under their breath at the hulking bipedal beside the alicorn princess. Markus was dressed in his usual ceremonial garb which he wore underneath his armour normally. A rich, red robe adorned his body; the golden twin tailed comets in the corner by the hems of the robe, along with the golden trim made Markus look like a wizard rather than a warrior priest. Across his back was Markus’ war hammer, as a sign of his office and his faith he was loathe to leave it behind. Celestia had acquiesced without much complaint.

With a smile and a nod from the princess, ponies began to settle down. Celestia raised her wings as a call for silence before beginning her address. “Citizens of Ponyville, it warms my heart to see so many of you here and on such short notice. I am here today to ask for your help, friends from another world have arrived here in our beloved Equestria. They came here as part of an army seeking to fight a great evil, that evil has made its way here and they have come through after it.

Celestia knew she was exaggerating somewhat, the Empire forces did originally come through the gateway to escape the large tribe of Saarls. Markus’ commitment to help Equestria fight these followers of Tzeentch however, reassured Celestia that she could make such a claim.

“What I need from you, my little ponies, is to help these humans build a door of sorts, to block the portal they came through for the time being.” Muttering erupted throughout the crowd once more but Celestia cleared her throat to continue. “These humans, led by their valiant general Markus Holstein who is here with me today, are trapped in our world. More of their enemy have taken up position on the other side of the gateway, and so Markus Holstein has come here to speak with you all.”

With that introduction Markus stepped forward into line with Celestia. With a smile to the alicorn princess he began to address the assembled crowd. “Greetings, I am Markus Holstein, Arch Lector for the Empire of Mankind. I am here today because my soldiers and I need your help. As your benevolent princess has stated we are in need of a workforce to construct a stone barricade. We also require food and water, but on that account Princess Celestia has kindly offered to reimburse all those who come to our aid.”

“Now I only think it is fair that you all know who you will be working alongside. We are all soldiers of the Empire, serving under Emperor Karl Franz. I myself am a Priest of Sigmar, Sigmar being the warrior god who founded our nation over two thousand years ago. Since then we have fought endless wars in a world where evil lurks in every corner, through strength of arms and faith in the gods we have survived to this day. I tell you this candidly, not to scare you, but as a show of honesty. You deserve the truth and so I shall tell each of you the horrors we face, and why, with just a meagre amount of your support we can keep your Equestria safe.”

Markus went on to explain the threat to Equestria, to the men of the Empire and indeed the planet itself. He outlined the plans for a giant, wheeled, stone blockade that could be wedged in place in front of the gateway and removed when needed as well as a list of necessary provisions. The Equestrians remained uncertain throughout his speech; some were unable to cope with the horrors of the Old World and left silently. Others pressed closer, eager to lend their services to this alien being who gained their trust through his show of honesty. Overall the speech recieved a mixed reception but at its conclusion some one hundred ponies offered their hoofs and that of their friends.

Markus was pleased with the speeches impact. In his mind he had been worried that speaking so plainly may just scare the timid and peaceful, the presence of their princess however did wonders to reassure them of their safety and the importance of the cause. Striding off the stage to allow the mayor to begin organising the labour force, he came across two pegasus guards who were searching the building, looks of anguish on both of their faces.

“What happened” Markus asked quickly, immediately sensing something was wrong by the abrupt change in atmosphere.

The two guards were unsure how to react by the priests address, Celestia had placed them at his disposal but then they were not human soldiers. With an awkward glance to each other they shakily snapped off a salute before one of the identical pair spoke. “Sir, some fifty pegasi have arrived on the outskirts of Ponyville. They say they’re from Canterbury, humans have attacked the village, and they slaughtered any that couldn’t fly or be carried. Where is the princess, we need her?!”

“Your princess is still on stage, go to her quickly.” With that Markus stood back to allow the two guardsponies pasts. He watched dispassionately as Princess Celestia received the news, he had received such reports far too often to react. In any case an emotional outburst was best saved for when the enemy could be confronted and so he observed the alicorn as she bore the news of her slaughtered subjects.

The princess visibly reeled from the report, shuddering in a mixture of despair and disgust. Markus expected Celestia to cry out, to shed a tear or hang her head in desolation. Princess Celestia however, was enraged.

“Nooooo!” she stomped the ground with her metal clad hoof guard, cracking the wooden beam like a twig. A faint white glow caught her horn briefly as her magic failed her and she galloped towards Markus as her subjects looked on with equal parts fear and awe. “Markus, Canterbury has been raized to the ground. I cannot allow this massacre to stand. We must hunt down these Tzeentch followers immediately!"

“You have no choice Celestia, we have sent out the Elements, there is nothing more we can do” replied Markus evenly, his arms gesturing for the Princess of the Sun to lower her tone to avoid panicking the townsponies.

“We must do something; I cannot stand by and do nothing!” Celestia bit back, her anger becoming palpable.

“Yes, you will calm yourself and address your subjects. It is best they hear it from you than through rumour and hearsay. Then you should tend to the needs of the refugees, they will need your reassurance more than ever.” Markus’ neutral tone going some way to calm the irate princess.

In Markus’ head he added; ‘and then the number of volunteers will double, then your ponies gain a symbol to fight for. Martyrdom can be a beautiful item of faith to draw on; the ponies you have lost today may very well be the ponies who give the living the strength to carry on.’

Celestia stopped and fought to quell the raging emotion inside her, with a shake of her head and a ruffle of her wings she regained her regal composure. “You are right Markus, my ponies need me. If you could, I would appreciate your company when we meet the survivors.” Her eyes locked with the Warrior Priest’s but the meaning behind the gaze was unreadable and so Markus simply nodded.

The weakened form of the Princess of the Sun returned to the stage. Markus moved out of sight, this was an Equestrian crisis, it would be remembered by the ponies of Ponyville as the day Celestia guided them through their fear. Markus had no place at such an intimate event and so he sunk into the shadows as the Equestrians shared in their grief.

Canterbury road, Equestria

“Finally!” gasped Rarity, thankful to be out of the dark of the forest and revelling in the glorious sunlight.

The group broke from the tree cover at a trot, eager to be out of the sea of brown and green trees. Both Forlorn Wind and Rainbow Dash took wing, eager to make the most of the unbroken air currents and the freedom from the constraints of the forest. Laughing audibly the two pegasi bumped hooves before twirling away to soar alone on the winds.

Pieter strode out into the open countryside of Equestria, the change was drastic from his perspective. The forest was impossibly dense, consistently so, but they broke from its dark embrace suddenly without the forest thinning at all. ‘Must just be how things work here’ reasoned Pieter.

To the north was a mountainous region, relatively small compared to that of the Grey Mountains back in the Old World. They shared the same grey ridges however and the sharp, jutting edges made him think of home for a few moments. Looking across the map he had taken from Twilight he found that the mountains were aptly named, Razorback Ridge. Tracing the road south he saw that somewhere along its winding stone path lay Canterbury, the distance however was a mystery to him. Just past Canterbury lay a river and to the west was an expanse of open farmland, stretching as far east as Pieter could see was the ominous sight of the Everfree Forest.

“Twilight Sparkle, you said you had a way of contacting Princess Luna did you not?” asked Pieter. The ponies had taken an involuntary break by the roadside and Pieter was happy to let them do so. However the time could also be spent waiting for the arrival of the Princess of the Night so it made sense to cover two situations at once.

“Oh yeh sorry Captain Pieter, I forgot.” With that Twilight built up a spell, causing her horn to glow bright purple before releasing the spell skywards. The flare hung among the clouds for a split second before bursting into several more sparks which flashed brightly despite the shining sun’s presence.

Content that everything that could be done was underway Pieter made to join the group of Equestrians who were preparing a quick meal. Just as he sat down and began to pick through his pack for some bread, a navy blue flash high in the air heralded the arrival of Princess Luna.

Princess Luna appeared high in the sky, next to her floated an ornate chest, the chest that held the Elements of Harmony. Across her back she wore plain and unadorned saddlebags along with her usual royal garb. She flapped her wings to counter the sudden effect of gravity and gently dropped down amongst the sitting group.

“Hello my friends, I see you have made good time through the forest. I have only been waiting for an hour or so. How were your travels so far? Did I miss anything?” she asked in a jovial tone.

“No it was great princess, well apart from the manticores, and Pieter punching Fluttershy in the face” Pinkie Pie replied instantly, bouncing on all four hooves as she greeted Luna.

“Pinkie!” yelled Twilight and Applejack, looks of horror on their faces at the princess’s reaction. The other members of the group looked at Pinkie Pie in shock at her massive oversimplification of the past day’s events. Luna’s suddenly angry demeanour turned to bafflement at the other’s outburst, she settled for an air of expectancy in lieu of a forthcoming explanation.

Twilight laughed nervously at the awkwardness of the situation, Luna’s continued glancing at Pieter was beginning to worry her somewhat. “So erm, I really think we should hit the road, right guys? We can explain everything on the way.” Twilight quickly pushed her friends to their hooves motioning for them to head south immediately. With them out of earshot and with just herself, the two captains and the princess at the rear they began to explain the trials and tribulations of the journey through the Everfree.