• 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.

  • ...

Chapter Eight - The Fate of Canterbury

Chapter Eight

The Fate of Canterbury

Equestria, one mile north of Canterbury

The sun over Equestria beat a little softer than the ponies of the land were used to. Luna had been forced to take up the mantle of raiser of both Sun and Moon with Celestia’s current condition as it was. On the whole however Luna was still relatively pleased with her first attempt at raising the sun for over one thousand years. She just hoped the strain of bringing forth both Sun and Moon each day would not sap her strength, or ruin her already erratic sleeping pattern.

At least in her eyes the task of defeating these worshippers of Tzeentch should be a relatively simple one, she just had to act as guardian to the Elements until they could be used to defeat the Chaos menace wholesale.

Luna trotted along the path to Canterbury alongside both captains at the head of the group, the two had taken up positions either side of her but neither of them appeared to be talking very much. The unfortunate misinterpretation upon Luna’s arrival had been dealt with swiftly enough but after the last few hours the mood between the two had grown stale. Both were talking to her quite amiably when she addressed them but Captain Forlorn Wind appeared, for the lack of a better word, grumpy.

“So Captain Wind, have you and Captain Von Grunberg here been getting along well, one captain to another?” asked Luna, deciding to test the mood between the two.

“Yes ma’am, we have learnt a great deal about what it means to be a captain in the ranks of our respective nations” came Forlorn’s terse reply. He had dropped back into the standard guard demeanour; to the point and yet curiously vague in their replies while displaying a complete lack of emotion. Luna had headed the pursuit of the Changeling menace for two weeks and had become accustomed to the technique, even if it infuriated her somewhat at times.

She turned her head and smiled briefly at Captain Pieter who looked back with a genuinely cheerful look on his face. “How about you Captain Von Grunberg, what do you think of our beloved Equestria thus far?”

“A truly beautiful country princess, once out of the forest that is” the captain replied jovially. “The ponies of this world have so far all been upstanding citizens and genuinely decent erm, ponies. They are a credit to you princess.”

“Why thank you captain.” Luna smiled at the human’s warm reply; her eye however caught the pegasus captain to her right mumbling wordlessly. ‘So it would appear the good Captain Wind here is the one souring the mood’ she surmised in her head.

Luna would have probed the matter further but with the group so close to Canterbury, they would be rounding the corner in the road any minute now. This would be her first visit to the town since it was established during her banishment to the moon and she was eager to meet the villagers now that her reputation had grown. This was largely due to her recent efforts to help Equestria over the past few weeks. She felt a warm glow of pride within her that she was finally doing something that the rest of Equestria could be proud of.

“It appears we are here” Luna announced, lifting off the ground effortlessly with her wings so that she could see above the forest. Rising higher she could begin to see faint wisps of smoke emanating from beyond the trees, her mind began to race and her heart rate increased. ‘No, the chances of them stumbling upon Canterbury by accident are almost nil.’ She tried to calm herself to little effect. She raised herself high enough to see clear over the tree tops and Luna felt the world fall away beneath her.

The sight of the ruin of Canterbury was burned into her eyes. Buildings were reduced to rubble or defaced in the most obscene ways. Corpses of ponies were strung up, nailed to walls or thrown into piles. Nothing moved within the ash strewn settlement, the unnatural stillness chilled the princess to her core. The complete emotional overload stunned Luna temporarily, unable to cope with what her eyes showed her.

“No, no, it’s not possible!” exclaimed Luna, the strength of her denial spurring her into action. With a flash of blue light she teleported into the heart of the town leaving the group behind in worried confusion.

On the ground Pieter watched the Princess of the Night reacting to the horror before her, instinctively knowing what she saw. Just a shared look with Forlorn brought the full weight of realisation upon them; Forlorn’s eyes betrayed his despair beneath the steel plate of his helmet, Pieter’s held only sad acceptance.

Forlorn was the first of the two to speak. “What if there are still some of them in Canterbury?” he asked reacting to the possibility that some of the Tzeentch worshippers were still inside the town.

“You six stay here!” commanded Pieter as the two captains moved towards the town as fast as they could; Forlorn soaring over the tree tops on powerful wing strokes, Pieter dumping his bag and sprinting along the road.

With just the six friends left they looked to each other with fear etched onto their expressions.

“Ah horseapples, everything’s going wrong girls, what do we do?” asked Applejack.

“We should go help, they might need us. After all we are the only ones who can use the Elements, and we can’t just stay here and do nothing!” Rainbow Dash replied fiercely. Her wings beat quickly as she hovered in agitation, the fear that gripped her earlier turning quickly to bravado.

“Erm, but Pieter told us to stay here” replied the timid yellow pegasus whose body language very much indicated that she was all for staying put as well.

“So what, he’s a human, he can’t tell us what to do”

“Erm well Captain Wind . . .”

“Well we’re not guards either so he can’t order us!”

“Rainbow Dash” interjected Twilight, striding up to her agitated friend. “If they need us then I’m sure Princess Luna will call for us, until then we are staying here.”

“And how’s she going to do that?”

“Thou shalt die by my hoof!”

“Princess!” shouted Twilight in return, knowing that her response would go unheard. In a moment of madness she decided she had no option. Twilight teleported into Canterbury with a flash of purple and the yells of her friends left in her wake.

Rematerialising somewhere near a restaurant she had once eaten at she scanned her surroundings frantically; Twilight quickly wished she had not. The bodies of pastel coloured ponies lay scattered all around her, some mutilated beyond any recognition. Her head became cloudy, overcome by the stench and horror she threw up over the cobbled stones she stood upon.

Her vision began to clear but the nauseous feeling remained. Shaking her head in an effort to clear it she realised she was standing in the blood of the fallen ponies. With a scream she leapt onto a nearby bench, specks of blood latching onto her hooves and tail. The crack of Pieter’s pistols rang out to the north but Twilight paid them no heed.

“No, no, no, oh Celestia please no!” Quickly drawing upon a spell she had seen Rarity perform she cleansed the grime from her coat, sobbing quietly as she did so. Fighting to keep herself under control she forced herself to concentrate on finding the princess.

Twilight stood in the sitting area of Honeyluck’s Sweet Eatery, which was located three streets away from the town’s centre. The restaurant itself had been a beautiful little building; a thatched roof lay across the top in the same style as those of Ponyville. The walls were made from a pastel yellow sandstone rock which had looked to be a similar colour to Fluttershy’s coat; the walls now though were daubed in blood. The many tables and stools which had been set up outside had been torn apart by the Chaos worshippers for other uses and so the outside area was largely occupied by the bodies of the dead, except for the entrance to the building.

Twilight gagged on bile again as she saw something which she knew would haunt her for the rest of her life. The charred remains of a pony, a unicorn by the looks of it, were impaled on a spit held in place by a crudely constructed frame made from tables and stools. To her revulsion she saw the marks where the meat had been cut from the body.

“They ate a pony” the words sounded alien to her, as if there was no possible way such a statement could be true. The scent of the cooked meat reached her, reinforcing the reality of the situation before her. Fighting hard not to break down on the spot, Twilight turned away. She fell onto her haunches, her back legs given way due to shock.

The sound of metal clanging in the distance barely registered, but then the sound of clanging metal and scraping came again, much nearer now, and it was coming from behind the lone purple unicorn.

Twilight turned to see a human emerge from the remains of the restaurant. The man had long matted black hair and a mangy beard which dangled to his torso. Across his body was a mixture of thick chainmail and small armour plates, bolted on in the shape of an eye. The marauder stumbled forward, his left hand grasping an empty mug, his right a notched short sword. The human’s beady eyes focused on Twilight, heavily dilated though they were. With a harsh laugh the man advanced on the lone unicorn.

Crippled by fear and shock Twilight could barely move, and the man was seconds from her. The rotting odour of his breath laced with the smell of ale, shook her from her stupor. A raging torrent of emotion welled up within Twilight; anger, hatred, fear and despair. Acting on base instinct she grabbed the man with her magic before his clumsy sword stroke could connect. With an incoherent scream she threw the tribesman though the restaurant wall, the massive amount of force behind the telekinetic push causing half the building to fall to the ground in a spray of dust and debris.

Twilight’s forelegs gave way, leaving her perched unceremoniously on a bench amidst a sea of corpses. She barely heard the arrival of Princess Luna and Forlorn Wind. The midnight blue alicorn dropped down softly beside Twilight, her already bloodied hoof guards landing on the blood soaked cobble stones with a clink.

Without a word Luna raised the body of each pony within sight into the air and lifted them over the thatched roofs of the houses towards the town’s centre. Igniting her horn once more she washed most of the blood out of the cobblestones with a cleansing spell. Finally, she approached the softly crying Twilight, extending a hoof around the smaller unicorn who reciprocated the gesture desperately.

Forlorn looked on from the side-lines as the two mares shared in their grief while the clash of steel rang out again from the north. He knew Pieter must be fighting some foe; but for now, nothing in Equestria could tear him away from the grieving pair before him. Forlorn’s sacred duty to protect the princesses and their subjects was foremost in his mind.

The thudding of Pieter’s boots echoed around the towns as each step clashed with the cobble stones. He slowed his pace to a walk, the eerie silence putting him on guard as he entered Canterbury proper. The first bodies began to appear, strewn unceremoniously on the path where they had fallen.

Pieter cast his expert eye across the scene; most of the dead were facing the same way and were crossing open ground when they fell. That suggested they were fleeing, obviously from what he had seen these ponies were quicker than humans so that suggested a surprise attack, probably at night. He knelt by a corpse, surveying the wounds dispassionately. The body was that of a pale green earth pony mare with a much darker hued mane. Slashes across her back suggested wild hacking by bladed weapons in a downward motion, definitely the work of pursuing Marauders.

Pieter ran events over in his mind, drawing a pistol he began to make his way through the slaughter in search of the princess. ‘So, night attack launched from tree cover would be the likeliest option. The lack of pegasus bodies shows that the majority of them escaped. The rest who had to escape on foot were left to the mercy of the sorcerer and his followers, no plan, no soldiers, no defence, just a town of peaceful ponies caught off guard.’ Pieter sighed to himself, the smell of burnt meat and smoke from the smouldering ashes of the surrounding buildings was one he was unfortunately familiar with. Karl Franz’s army left scenes such as these behind after every enemy tribe was pinned and destroyed. ‘This silence is most perturbing though, I would have expected scavenger birds at the very least, but this town is completely dead. Never mind, there appears to be a trio of butterfly’s . . . . and a giant axe . . . ’

Pieter looked on with a slightly bemused expression as he witnessed the halberd head come down swiftly, neatly chopping a butterfly in two. A harsh cackle of laughter rang out as the wielder of the weapon rushed out from behind a street corner madly pursuing the two remaining butterfly. The man wore completely enclosed plate armour which was a writhing mixture of blue and purple colour swirling at random across the metal surface. His helmet had two blades protruding vertically from the top in a fashion similar to horns, and the face of the helmet held just two eye slits for features, they were however wide enough to reveal the warrior's eyes.

Pieter reached for his second pistol, he had heard tales of men such as this, and they were no mere Warriors of Chaos. This was a Chosen of Tzeentch.

The Chosen’s eye’s locked with Pieter’s own and Pieter nearly took a step back at what he saw. The man’s (if he could still be called such a thing) eye’s held nothing but insanity. Bloodshot eyes with tiny blue pinpricks for pupils glared at Pieter with unrestrained glee. The Chosen began to advance, his head snapping from side to side while laughing manically, as clearer sign of madness as Pieter had seen in all his experience as a soldier.

With both pistols raised Pieter took his first shot, aimed directly at the Chosen’s head. It was an easy shot and the Tzeentch worshipper made no attempt to evade, but to Pieter’s dismay the shot somehow missed as the armour of the chosen coalesced once more with a vibrant mix of blue and purple colour. Narrowing his eyes in frustration Pieter holstered his spent pistol with his right hand before drawing out his zweihander, switching hands so that he used his right again he lined up the next shot at the Chosen’s chest this time. With a crack the pistol fired straight and true and once more the shot veered off, striking a glancing blow on the Chosen’s left pauldrons but with minimal effect.

Pieter laughed to himself, “Of course you have a ward, because shooting you in the head would have been too damned easy. Come on then you great, mad bastard, let’s see your god protect you from decapitation” he taunted.

The Chosen closed the last few paces with a charge, swinging the halberd as he went. Pieter in turn matched the attack, bringing his great sword across in a heavy parry. The two weapons clashed loudly, bouncing off each other, the impacts jarring both warriors’ arms and forcing them apart. The saner captain had been ready for the blow and recovered first, feigning a strike to the right he sidestepped left, bringing down his sword in a crushing blow from the left. With unnatural speed the Chosen leapt backwards, countering immediately with a jab from the halberds spear head which caught the off guard Empire soldier in the chest.

Pieter stumbled backwards from the force of the thrust but his runic armour easily absorbed the blow. Chastising himself for his mistake Pieter attempted to plan out his next move; his adversary however seized his chance and pressed the attack.

A flurry of blows drove Pieter back, each swing gaining more momentum than the last. Pieter continued to back step out of the way, parrying a strike that came too close he saw the Chosen’s stance change to make a heavier attack. With a roar the Tzeentch warrior threw all his strength into a horizontal decapitating strike. Having predicted the attack Pieter swiftly ducked underneath and hooked the flamberge style blade behind his counterpart’s left leg. Moving his left hand he grabbed the Lug for better purchase, cutting into flesh slightly as he found the gap in the Chosen’s plate armour.

Shouting wordlessly with a heave Pieter pulled the leg up off the ground, toppling the wall of steel before him. Maintaining the swords upwards momentum and switching his grip so that both hands now grasped the handle, he raised the weapon above his head, poised to land the killing blow. Pieter followed the falling figure with a precise strike aimed at the Chosen’s vulnerable neck.

With a clatter of metal on stone the Chaos warrior impacted the ground hard. Without time to dodge the captain’s follow up blow the Chosen desperately braced the halberd pole against the sword strike. Predictably the shaft snapped instantly under the crushing weight of the blade which cut cleanly through the warrior’s neck, sending sparks flying as the Zweihander struck the cobbles beneath.

Pieter stumbled backwards breathing heavily, shouting praise to Sigmar he kicked the Chosen’s head away from the body, the bladed horns of the helmet rattling against the stone path as it rolled. Glancing around for any others he was pleased to note that there were no more Chaos followers nearby. However he could not say that he was alone, turning on the spot he saw four mares running down the path towards the town, a more immediate concern was the light blue, rainbow maned pegasus hovering above him, her expression a strange mixture of both awe and horror.

Slipping his giant sword back into the straps across his back, Pieter turned to confront Rainbow Dash. “What in Sigmar’s name are you doing here? I told all of you to stay put!”

“You cut its head off” Rainbow stated bluntly, ignoring Pieter’s statement.

With a frustrated exhale Pieter jumped into the air, grabbing Rainbow Dash by the tail and clamping her wings before she could react.

“Hey get off of me, what the hay do you think you’re doing?” she protested.

“Shut up and close your eyes” Pieter ordered as he began to steer the pony out of the town before she noticed the bodies at the end of the street. He had expected the pegasus to be relatively light with her being able to fly with such small wings, but she was more than able to keep the human struggling as he shouted at her friends to stay where they were. Pieter’s efforts though were to no avail.

Almost simultaneously Rainbow Dash and the other four mares caught sight of the bodies in the street. Screams of horror pierced the air as the captain thought to himself, ‘well is that not just perfect, now I have five emotionally traumatised ponies to look after.’ Releasing the pegasus and holding his head in his hands Pieter growled angrily. “Taal’s teeth why can’t any of this go according to plan?!” he shouted.

Everfree Forest, Equestria

The area around the gateway was once again a hive of activity. Besides the usual one war machine crew, one Empire regiment and one Equestrian regiment on guard, a veritable horde of pony volunteers were hard at work. Celestia had ordered a granite shipment from Stalliongrad to be diverted to Ponyville and the denizens of the town were hard at work pulling the stone into the forest where it could be shaped into the solid wall which would shut out the Saarls indefinitely.

A constant stream of brightly coloured, pastel ponies trekked through the forest, carts pulled along behind them laden with stone. Many bore silent, determined expressions; some spoke to their friends nearby quiet and fearful, others spoke in harsh and angry tones.

Markus surveyed their efforts with a quiet pride; he had not expected the timid ponies of Equestria to answer his call to such an extent. But perhaps the sacking of Canterbury had revealed some deeper, steely will within; certainly the sombre song a few minutes ago reflected their new found spirit. Markus took note that the Equestrians effort appeared to increase threefold when they sang. He could not help but watch them go about their business; they truly were a fascinating race.

“Are my little ponies making a good impression on you then Markus?” asked Celestia, landing beside him almost completely silent. Her mane was regaining some of its ethereal quality as it once had when Markus first met her. She was noticeably taller too; evidently the stricken sorcerer’s magical feedback was beginning to wear off.

Markus did not jump at her arrival; he was not expecting the princess, much less that she would drop down behind him as quiet as an assassin, but still he had thrown himself against the darkest horrors of the Old World, a discreet princess was hardly going to draw a reaction. Turning to face the alicorn Markus nodded a greeting which Celestia reciprocated. “Indeed, they are stout of heart and strong of back. At this rate they should have the door assembled by late tomorrow, a remarkable feat in such a short time.”

“Yes they are quite industrious are they not” agreed the princess with unrestrained pride. “You must be happy that your men can stand down from their round the clock watch as well, I’m sure a decent night’s sleep with the occasional trip into Ponyville would be most welcome for them.”

“In manageable groups, yes. I was planning on acquiring a few barrels of ale, if your subjects produce it, as a distraction for the array of problems that assail us.”

“I’m afraid ale is a more acquired taste Markus, our palettes are more suited to ciders and the like, but alcohol has never been very widespread in Equestria. It caused too many problems.”

“But it is available to procure?” Markus inquired.

“Of course, Sweet Apple Acres produces very low strength cider around this time. They could be persuaded to mix up a few barrels of stronger cider if I requested it. But anyway, I came here to say goodbye Markus. I must return to Canterlot, with Luna accompanying the Elements there must be a princess in the capital to watch over the nation, hopefully the rest will aid the recovery of my magic as well” said Celestia, looking out alongside Markus towards the relay of ponies delivering building supplies.

“I can respect that; your people need you there most, not here overseeing a minor town for days.”

“Yes well, in the meantime the Royal Guard shall remain here at your disposal for the remainder of the situation. Look after them Markus, they are well trained but have not had much in the way of experience.”

Markus glanced briefly at the statuesque figures of the twenty pegasus guards stood beside Markus’ retinue on watch. He had watched them drilling during their free time and Sergeant Breeze appeared to be exceptionally professional. They were actually fairly impressive to watch, not a match for his troops to be sure but then they did not have the decade or so of experience that his state troops did. “I think they would acquit themselves very respectively in combat Celestia. I shall set up some sparring sessions with my troops so that they are better suited to our fighting style” Markus suggested.

“Very well, try to keep injuries to a minimum though please Markus” Celestia replied with a small smile. “Anyway I must go, my ponies need me” concluded the princess with a bow.

Markus returned the gesture, bidding farewell he watched the Princess of the Sun lift off the ground with mighty strokes from her expansive wings. Without a backwards glance Celestia soared into the skies towards Canterlot.

Canterbury, Equestria

Captain’s Forlorn Wind and Pieter Von Grunberg walked together by the edge of the Everfree Forest, after Luna had suggested the two of them perform a patrol to ensure no other Chaos followers were lying in wait by the treeline they had both simultaneously accepted, much to Forlorn’s chagrin.

Conversation between the two had been minimal to say the least; for the most part Forlorn just followed Pieter as he put his hunting skills to use surveying the trees. Pieter for his part appeared content enough to get on with the task before him; however he kept glancing across at his fellow captain every so often.

“This treeline appears fine to me, nothing to indicate a potential trap has been laid. I think it best we head back to the house and bed down for the night. The Chaos worshippers have pulled back into the forest, assuming they bedded down in the town last night then that means they will be nearly a day ahead of us, that is a lot of ground to make up” said Pieter.

Forlorn merely nodded his agreement and the two set off back towards Canterbury. Pieter shot him a disgruntled look which the pegasus captain merely ignored.

“By Sigmar, what is your problem all of a sudden?” demanded Pieter stopping in his tracks.

“What problem?” replied Forlorn with a neutral tone which only served to antagonise Pieter further.

“Suddenly you stop talking to me, never using more than three words at a time when you have to.”

“Can we just get back to the house, I’m hungry” replied Forlorn dismissively.

“No, what changed? Sweet Shallya Forlorn, one day we are trading stories as friends, the next you actively ignore me and focus solely on whatever excuse you can find to get away from me.”

“Nothing’s changed Captain Grunberg”

Pieter strode forward, physically imposing himself between Forlorn and Canterbury. With a growl of frustration the Pegasus merely stood still, looking up at his counterpart with annoyance. Pieter stood his ground, arms folded in a gesture of solidity.

“Fine, you really want to know why I’m pissed off?” asked Forlorn angrily. Pieter’s statuesque pose was enough of a signal to confirm the Empire captain wanted to know. “It’s because you got everything easy, your entire life is a kick in the teeth to me. You have two parents who watch over you and give you everything you could ever want. You got to spend every moment doing whatever you wanted, with your big group of friends ruling over the town your family virtually owns. You received the best training, the best equipment, the best commission without having to spend a bit of your own money. Then you join the army, and naturally you distinguish yourself well enough to be taken into the retinue of one of the most powerful men in the country. Every moment of your life is spent under the best conditions in a world where by your own admission; corruption, death, famine, disease and war runs rampant.”

Breathing out heavily Forlorn continued to stare into Pieter’s eyes through the slits in his War Barding’s helmet. Sub consciously taking to the skies so that he was level with Pieter, Forlorn continued. “Compare that to me, my mother dies giving birth to me, whenever my father looks at me he sees his lost wife. He named me Forlorn you know, what kind of a name is that? I grew up just wanting to make him happy; to make him proud, but no, all that time spent training with a stick in the garden or working on my physical strength and I still had to beg him to spare me a few minutes just for a little advice. He worked all the time just to make ends meet, so we never got to spend proper time together. I was so focused on becoming a guard I never made any friends, I never got to enjoy my youth like you did, you think I ever had a marefriend? No! And here you are with everything I wish I could have and in every single way, after I tried my damnedest at every opportunity, you are still better than me” spat the raging pegasus, on the cusp of fully fledged shouting now.

Pieter remained calm in the face of the furious Royal Guard barely a hands width from his face. With a sigh he took a step back. “Ok, I understand. I am sorry but sometimes the world just works that way, it’s not my fault I got lucky. So many others are born into a life of austerity and hopelessness, it was just chance that gave me the life I have today.” Pieter sat down looking towards the town so that he was both facing the town and Forlorn at once.

Patting around his belt he found a flask and took a drink from it before continuing. “Look, I like you Forlorn; you are a dedicated captain and a loyal soldier. If born a human in my world you would likely have pushed your way through the ranks as you have here. The fact you have come so far by your own merit is commendable; in the Empire usually, fortune favours those born into fortune I am afraid.”

Forlorn sat beside Pieter, his head hung slightly. With a snort he looked up at the human, “And you’re modest as well.”

The two held each other’s gaze for a moment before they shared a laugh. Holding up the flask Pieter offered it to the pony beside him. Forlorn took it in his hooves and took a gulp, his face scrunched up in reaction to the drink causing Pieter to laugh again.

“Urgh, by Celestia what is that?”

“Ha, that is rum; drink up it will put hairs on your chest.”

“I’m covered in hair” deadpanned the pegasus, smiling slightly nonetheless.

The two sat there without a word for a minute before Pieter broke the silence. “How did your mother die?”

“Heart condition, they didn’t know until she started having the heart attack, but by then it was too late.”

“I’m sorry” said Pieter softly.

Forlorn replied with another swig of the flask, his face remaining composed this time. “Don’t be. I was jealous that’s all. You’re a good man Pieter. I shouldn’t begrudge you because of your upbringing and I’m sorry I didn’t come when you were fighting. I heard the crack of those pistol things and the clash of steel but I abandoned you. I failed you.”

“Were you with the princess or the Elements?” Pieter asked simply.

“Yes . . .”

“Then you were doing your duty, which was the right thing to do, whatever the consequences.”

Passing back the flask of rum after another drink, Forlorn rose to his feet. “Well, I wasn’t lying when I said I was hungry. Come on, I still can’t believe Princess Luna is cooking a meal for me, best not keep her waiting” said Forlorn with a chuckle.

With that the two captains started back towards the house on the edge of Canterbury, previous animosity left behind.

Canterbury, Equestria

The mood within the group was understandably sour. Luna had done her best to ensure the majority of the corpses in the town were placed neatly in the town square and were covered up as a mark of respect, still, she dreaded to think how many bodies were still to be uncovered as they had died cowering in their homes. The few Chaos followers they had encountered had been burned on the town’s outskirts. Just three had remained in the town for some unknown reason, she would ensure to ask Captain Von Grunberg just why that was but for now she had more important matters to attend to.

The six Elements were in no shape to carry on the journey and they sat around a fire huddled together for comfort while speaking little. The two captains were patrolling together by the treeline on the town’s outskirts to make sure no more of the sorcerer’s followers were nearby. That left Luna alone to deal with the shattered remains of the town. Before her banishment under the influence of the Nightmare she and her sister had fought for days on end, she still remembered the sight of a city burnt to the ground by her corrupted will. The memory of it still haunted her.

They had set up for the day in one of the few untouched houses that remained, the six girls were talking quietly around the fireplace, their conversation inaudible to Luna at the distance she was from them. Luna herself was busy preparing the house for the night, beds were teleported into rooms from surrounding houses and she had managed to get a basic vegetable stew going on the kitchens cooker.

Luna considered trying to talk to the six mares by the fire, to try and reassure them that things were going to be ok. It felt pointless though, Twilight Sparkle had killed a man today, through fear to be sure, but Luna did not have the first clue as to how she should approach the issue. She was not angry at all; she herself had killed a sleeping human with her own hooves after seeing the carnage wrought on the peaceful little town. The problem was that Twilight had done the right thing, but the princess had no idea as to how she could explain that to her without exacerbating the conflict she knew Twilight felt.

Indecision gripped the princess; unsure of what she should be doing she left the house to get some fresh air. It was night once more in Equestria and the starry sky brought the princess a measure of peace. By her estimates she had about ten minutes before the captains came back and the vegetable stew needed checking on so a quick walk under the open sky felt most welcome.

A thought occurred to Luna as she walked down the eerily quiet road, they had never checked for survivors. She had just assumed any ponies still here would have come out upon her arrival. With minimal effort Luna snapped off a detect spell gearing it towards ponies. Her horn glowed with a wan blue light as her vision became affected by the spell. She looked behind her to see the six pulses of blue which indicated the six Element bearers. Turning back around she took to the skies in order to better survey the town. Perching on a low hanging cloud Luna looked down upon the town. Flapping her left wing once slowly span the cloud clockwise, increasing the power input she once again saw the six mares highlighted by blue light. A few streets away a blue light pulsed, switching the spell to detect humans as well she saw a second appear, Captains Forlorn and Pieter then.

Interestingly a third area was lit up, only a single pulsing blue orb, but enough to raise the princess' spirits. Taking wing she glided down softly onto the town square, mindful to land far enough away from the covered forms of Canterbury’s citizenry. She stood facing the end of the square; behind her was the town hall, an unremarkable building with flat walls, four windows per wall and a domed roof with a weathercock on top. She strode through the abandoned market stalls that littered the centre of the square, each of them barren since Market Day was tomorrow. Before Luna lie the unidentified blue light, the single survivor.

The princess quickened her pace; leaping over a toppled stall she noticed the light was coming from an overturned cart. Her bright Moon shed enough light for her to make out the cart’s features. She approached it from the front, it had been toppled to the left and the door to the cart had been on the side which was now pinned against the squares, cobble stone surface. The cart itself was a pale yellow colour with a red roof. It was completely constructed from wood and each corner had half-moons painted on them.

Laying her hoof on the upturned cart she softly called out to the pale blue light, careful not to frighten whomever was inside. “Hello is there anypony in here. Do not fear, I am Princess Luna, you are safe now” she said in hushed tones.

A rustling sound came from inside the cart, the faint sound of tinkling metal chimed out and Luna could very faintly hear the sound of somepony sniffing. “It’s ok; you are going to be ok. Now I have to right the wagon to get to the door. So brace yourself against the floor, do you understand?”

“Y-yes” came the sheepish reply, it was a mare’s voice.

Enveloping the cart with her magic, Luna carefully raised it off the ground and slowly rotated to the sound of crashing as objects inside the cart fell onto the floor. Lowering it Luna moved around to face the door which she opened tentatively with her magic. “There we go, are you injured?” she asked, stepping into the cart properly. The light from the Moon failed to illuminate the inside so she lit her horn slowly, not wishing to blind the poor mare before her eyes could adjust.

Lying on the bed, wrapped in a blanket was a blue unicorn mare with a mane of pale blue and white, two violet eyes warily studied Luna as she stepped up to the foot of the bed. Dropping to a sitting position so that she was level with the petrified mare Luna put on a calming smile, with a hoof she gently patted the mare’s head, easing her shaking somewhat.

“Do you have a name?” queried Luna.

“Trixie” came the hesitant reply.

“Well then Trixie, I and some friends are staying nearby; we have food, warmth, shelter and safety. Would you like to come with us?”

Trixie nodded in reply and shakily got to her hooves. Luna lead the way out of the wrecked cart, with Trixie following up behind closely.

“If you like I have a spell that could calm your nerves; it could make you feel a lot better much quicker?” Luna asked.

With an almost imperceptible nod the frightened mare agreed. Luna lit up her horn once more and immediately Trixie’s shaking legs steadied themselves and her head looked up from the floor. Not wanting to undo the spell immediately Luna cast a quick teleportation spell before Trixie saw the rows of bodies on the other side of the square.

Reappearing outside the house Trixie immediately gasped, looking around in wonder.

“Is that your first time teleporting?” Luna asked.

“Yes, I’ve been trying to learn that spell for ages; I never could get the hang of it.”

“Well maybe I could help you some time, but first let’s get you inside” replied Luna with a warm smile.

Opening the door Luna stepped in first followed by a tentative Trixie. The room’s eight other occupants turned around, six of them gaped at the new arrival.

“Trixie?” gasped Twilight.

Equestria, Everfree Forest, the Castle of the Two Pony Sisters

Varnak, the self-proclaimed Herald of Tzeentch, continued to lead the march through the dark forest around him. His mind was full of whispers and voices; they told him a prize of great value lay ahead. Varnak never questioned the voices for they were the will of Tzeentch, the Changer of Ways. Looking around he saw his ever faithful Chosen were still with him, albeit one short. Trying to recall events from the last few days was tricky for Varnak. His gifts while extensive came with their own risks, on many occasions he would lose consciousness only to come to, days, even weeks later, his followers exhausted and his mind blank. But it was times such as those Varnak cherished in reality, he always awoke to find his enemies strewn around him dead, a valuable prize in his possession or some nefarious deed completed.

Now all he knew in his corrupted and warped mind was that ahead lay a potential ally, a being of power comparable to his own, a being with a natural affinity to the Lord of Change, something his master was most eager to connect with.

“Such beautiful schemes!” he shouted, uncaring at the looks he received from the tribesmen who followed him. Some of them were absent too; no doubt unworthy of being in his presence so the loss was insignificant. The dense undergrowth did little to impede his progress; his finely wrought Chaos Armour crushing foliage like a Steam Tank would goblins.

Through the clearing trees Varnak looked upon the destination the voices had steered him towards. A ruined castle stood before him, clearly ancient in design. The battlements were worn, the crenelated walls missing stones here and there while vines crept along them, seeking to claim the land which once belonged to the forest.

Buzzing around the castle, with insectoid wings and black carapace bodies were dozens of changelings. Many of them turned to face the figures of Varnak and his followers walking towards the castle slowly. The castle suddenly became a hive of activity, more and more of the changelings gathered in the air. The sound of their wings as they began to advance reminded Varnak for a fleeting moment of the dense cloud of flies that accompanied the Nurgle war host when on the march.

Breaking from the swirling black mass a larger figure landed before Varnak, this one was taller and more gracefully built than its compatriots; with a larger wingspan, sickly green hair protruding from its head and strange chiselled horn. The creature glared at the faceless helmet Varnak wore. A series of hissing noises came from its mouth which was incomprehensible to the Chaos sorcerer.

Chrysalis tilted her head slightly at the unmoving mass of purple and blue metal before her. Lighting up her horn briefly she morphed to copy Varnak’s form before addressing him. “What is your purpose here” she demanded, the same spell that allowed her to mimic his image allowing her to mimic the coarse Norse language he spoke.

The Tzeentch sorcerer walked up to his cloned image, surveying it with interest. The voices in his head screamed at him in elation. He had found his prize, such a pure example of the beauty of change before him was indeed worth the effort. “Ah yes, such a perfect creature, such a perfect find. Please, take your original form. You can hear the voices yes? I know you can, I see it in your eyes, you hunger to understand them, to share in the pleasure they can offer you.” Varnak caressed the head of Chrysalis, who had returned to her true form, her eyes locked on him as he read her like a book.

“You can hear the whispers?” She asked, awe lacing her voice.

“Oh yes, they led me to you, they give me power, knowledge and joy. They can do the same for you; oh for a creature as perfect as you they can offer you unlimited power" replied Varnak, enunciating each syllable of unlimited for added affect.

Chrysalis simply smiled in return, a fanged smile. The two beings led the way into the castle, their respective followers at their backs.