• Published 21st Jul 2019
  • 3,269 Views, 234 Comments

Halo, Equestrian Covenant - Shady Steps

Twilight Sparkle and her Covenant forces fight a bloody battle against the Human transgressors as a dark thing stirs deep below.

  • ...

Chapter Four

September 19th 2552 Night

Harsh bright light dug into the jungle around the Covenant force as they marched forward. The sources of light could be predicted from the way they moved, jerking around the treeline from place to place the Unggoy tried their best to illuminate everything around them but mostly ended up panicking themselves from the strange shapes a dozen or so rapidly moving lights create.

Slow, careful, swaying from side to side. The sangheili marched with a resolved calm that seemed to prevent a full blown rout of the Unggoy before they had even reached a battle.

Faint outlines, lights just at the very edge of a Unicorns ability to see, the Kig Yar used a spectrum of light they found very easy to see but was almost invisible to Twilight and reportedly very hard for a human to see, however there was a statistically significant increase in Kig Yar casualties when using such light against Humans, so the heretic race might have better eyesight then they had any right too.

The dirt path meandered through the jungle, a blue light at about ankle hight jutting out of the ground at regular intervals to make travel safe at night for the long ascended gods who had made Halo. There was no doubt that the Humans would be aware of the Covenant force on the island, it should also be doubtless that there was no way off the island, they would be found eventually.

Even protected with shields and active camouflage the long march through the jungle quickly sapped at Twilight's nerve in the way marching to battle did to all thinking creatures. Fear settled in and the stark reality that she was actually here, this was actually real struck her. Twilight was a political tool and a public servant, apprentice to one of the great Princesses. She had been trained to a fashion, years ago she had visited a range and learned how to use the plasma pistol now floating in her magic. Before even that she had been drilled on what to do in an assassination attempt and how to listen to her guards in an emergancy.

Never had she learned how to kill, nor how easy it was to convince herself of its necessity. Zeal left her at last, the white hot fury that could galvanize a good person to kill, scream and demand blood. The strength that had built and ruined nations.


It was an odd sound, clashing with the cacophony from the controlled nature about them, one of the Unggoy had jolted upright and slowly fell forward. For a moment nothing happened, perhaps it was not even a moment but a fraction of a second drawn out in Twilights mind, but it ended.

The jungle was filled with the steady sound of cracks as projectile weapons were discharged, surprisingly the first to react where the Unggoy, diving forward into the soft earth and shooting maddly into the treeline. Next the treeline exploded as cloaked griffons darted into the dense jungle, the rearguard pushed forward, dazzling round blue shields flickering to life as Kig Yar moved into formation and began to advance towards the weapons fire.

Sangheili darted to the sides of the path sending tight blasts of superheated plasma sailing into the darkness as they pushed forward to the Unggoy and the twin scouts began to strafe along the path spraying the jungle with white hot plasma and offering cover for the dismounted troops behind them.

Twilight blinked and suddenly she was on her back gasping for air, flaring blue light filling her vision and her active camouflage ruined. Rolling onto her side Twilight looked around at the madness about her, Kig Yar pushed past and began to fire into the now burning treeline, the entire world brightly lit in orange with flashes of blue and green.

She ran, darted into the jungle away from the firefight, her eyes burning and her legs felt heavy and stiff. She somehow still had a solid arcane grip on her pistol as she charged rapidly away from the danger and into the quiet jungle no destination in mind.

“Oh fuck!” The Unicorn did not register the speaker even as the two of them collided and rolled to a painful stop, shots rang out around her and the world was lit moment to moment in a dull yellow, flashes of perception as Twilight kicked out and pushed herself upright. Something punched her in the back of her head and the mare threw herself to the side.

Screaming and cursing filled the night, in a moment of brilliance or stupidity Twilight fed pure magic into her horn allowing a controlled burn that burned brighter than a star blinding her, and hopefully, her assailants. Screaming then a weight on her back and a sharp pain on the back of her neck. Without thought Twilight threw her weight to the side and rolled trying to dislodge her attacker and blink the stars from her eyes as the light from her horn turned from a flair to the warm glow of a normal light spell.

A figure was standing upright just a few paces away, a glowing plasma rifle in its hands pointed at her face, a warning sigil at the edge of her vision warned of her shields imminent overload. Bright blue plasma filled Twilight's vision as the plasma rifle discharged sending a pulse of superheated plasma bolts right at her head, But Twilight was no longer there.

Her body burned as she forced magic from her fat and bone into a complicated spell and in an instant she was displaced. The grey world between worlds was well known to any who had the opportunity to travel the stars, the other members of the Covenant called it slipspace, a dimension that allowed them to bypass great distance with relative speed. But it was known as Tartarus to the ancient unicorn, a place to deposit criminals and where failed sorcerers found themselves trapped for eternity.

In an instant Twilight was back and standing behind the plasma rifle armed human, to the common observer Twilight had simply been in one place and was now in another but the Unicorn knew the truth, she had been in both places at the same time.

“Drop! Drop it now!” Twilight screamed and pointed the plasma pistol she by some miracle still had, only later would she realise her barely coherent words were in Equestrian. But the figure complied to the universal language of screaming while holding a deadly weapon, it dropped the plasma rifle it had been operating to the ground and lifted its arms in the air.

“Easy, easy” The figure had a familiar voice, calm and thoughtful. “Ensign, stay very still.” Twilight kept her weapon trained on the standing man, Jacob Keyes as she trotted forward keeping an eye on the two Human's, she spotted another Human limp on the ground, the figure Twilight had ran right into. The women on the ground had a white and blue coat Twilight did not recognise, it was not armour or a uniform and had a dozen or so pockets dotted about it.

The clearing was a mess, twisted and splintered wood from the Human projectile weapons and smoldering welts of plasma from her own panicked weapon discharges, Twilight did not remember activating her weapon.

“Okay now, Ensign, slowly get up, no sudden movements you got that son? Let's not give the alien a reason to shoot” Twilight moved back to keep both the prone human and the standing Captain in her sight, the battle in the distance still rang out. Human and Covenant weapon discharges filling the night, the once loud creatures of the island where now silent and nowhere to be seen.

The ensign did as he was told, getting to his feet and making his way to the Captain, he was breathing heavily and one of his teeth had been ripped out in the fight causing slick bright blood to roll over the dark skin of his chin and soak into his uniform.

“What now?” The Human asked as he reached his Captain.

“Now you drop the ammunition you have on the floor!” Twilight fed magic into her horn and pulled the plasma rifle and two fallen human weapons towards her, as the ensign choked in surprise. If the Captain was surprised by her command of the Human language he gave no indication. The ensign looked at Jacob Keyes, who offered a slight nod, then slowly pulled his pocket open and dropped three metal containers drop to the ground.

“Now her, check to see if she is alive” Twilight pulled the ammunition towards herself too, allowing it to join the items floating just behind her. Turning and walking calmly to the limp Human he put two of his fingers on her neck, then nodded. She had grey hair that ended at her jawline, CC-409871 was displayed on her jacket.

“She’s alive, hit her head when you charged her. I don’t want to move her without a stretcher from the lifeboat, it could cause permanent damage.” Twilight nodded and paused to get her bearings, screeching in the distance, her guards had noticed her disappearance, the sound caused the ensign to snap his head about.

“What the fuck is that?” The lack of weapons discharge also indicated that, for better or worse, the firefight had finished. Twilight took a deep breath to settle herself and fed yet more power into her horn, with more time she could avoid relying upon the magic within her body and instead draw it from the world around her. coating the limp women's body in a deep purple glow and causing Jacob Keyes to stand up sharply the Unicorn lifted her in a stiff cocoon of magic, not even her hair moving within the glow.

“I will apply medical attention to this female when you are on board my ship, I will treat you fairly.”

“The Covenent are fucking psychic now?” the ensign glared at Twilight and the floating woman at her side.

“Quiet now son, this is the wrong place for a conversation” He slowly walked forward his hands still held up, he kept his eyes down as he carefully navigated the jungle floor heading towards the Covenant position.

“You too, get moving, if you run I shoot” Twilight glared at the ensign as a pit grew in her gut, palpable fear she dearly wished she was hiding well.

“Okay! Okay I’m walking” the two humans moved together navigating with the light from Twilight's horn. It took far longer than it should have to reach the path again, she must have ran for longer than she thought. When Twilight and her captives broke the treeline the Unicorn found herself in a burnt clearing, fire had cleared a wide space from just a few minutes of, leaves and brush had been singed leaving a scar in the land exposed to the starlight.

Looking around there was no sign of the scout’s nor of any Kig Yar, in places the fire still raged but it seemed that the plant life was damp enough to be largely resistant to flame so long as it was not being peppered with plasma.

From overhead came a loud screech and her conscious captives heads snapped up as one of her griffons, the ornate an ancient rifle in her talons identifying her as Twilights Champion Honour Guard, dived towards the small group. Hitting the ground hard her Honour Guard rushed to meet her charge before pressing her body to the ground before Twilight utterly indifferent to the shocked cries of the Humans.

“Inquisitor, I beg for your forgiveness”

“Why? What have you done?” Twilight glanced around her senses dulled with the weakness that came after adrenaline.

“While your guard eagerly joined battle with the Human decoy you turned away and tracked the Human Shipmaster. In our haste to taste blood and bring honour to our kind we forced you to risk yourself needlessly.” Her champion pressed deeper into the damp ash and mud, pressing her face down at Twilight's hooves.

“N-nevermind that, Of course you are forgiven!” Twilight shouted pulling her champions head from the ground with arcane force and looking directly into the reflective domed helmet endemic of a Griffon Champion. “I need a report, how many casualties did we suffer? Did you capture any Humans? Where is N'tho and Tath?”

“Right here Inquisitor” N'tho loped towards Twilight heavily favoring his left leg “Tath has pursued one of the humans deeper into the Forerunner Temple” As he spoke Twilight felt her gaze drift to her two concious human captives, the ensign was staring wide eyed at the prostrate griffon while Jacob Keyes was looking at N’tho, one hand on his chin and the other in a pocket.

Her magic flaring Twilight grasped the strange object the Captain had been touching and pulled it from his pocket and grip.

“Is this a weapon!” she barked in Sangheili at the Human waiting for a response that would give him away.

“Pardon?” Keyes rubbed his hand glancing at the Griffon who had pulled herself up and rounded on the human before turning to Twilight and spreading his arms calmly “I know you can understand me”

“I said, is this a weapon?” Twilight barked in english and stomped her hoof in anger, more though the Captain avoiding confirming her suspicions then having to repeat herself.

“Oh, no its a pipe, I didn't mean to startle you” Twilight put the pipe in her front breast pocket while offering her best glare at the Captain and turned to N’tho who had watched the exchange with a quizzical expression.

“You shall be given command here, regroup with Tath, if you can recover the human do so but do not spend a single life in the attempt, I will send more supplies down shortly.” Twilight sent a communication ping at her Pilot.

“Major Dash, prepare the dropship for prisoner transport and inform Shipmaster 'Sralcamee that my mission was successful, I will be returning to orbit soon.” Her pegusi offered a conformation but Twilight was trotting forward.

“Did you capture any of the Humans?” she looked to N’tho as her guards fell into formation around the group, much to the discomfort of the ensign.

“Yes. Two perished in the crossfire but the rest were pressed into the earth when they exhausted the ammunition of their primitive weapons, no attempt was made to replenish the weapons only to seek shelter from our collective fire” N’tho chuckled as he loped forwards tapping his right leg.

“However the Humans displayed rather impressive marksmanship. I hope your battle was satisfactory? The first Equestrian at war in over a thousand years and they capture a Human shipmaster!” Twilight looked around, thankfully casualties were surprisingly few, wounds more than deaths.

“Trust me N’tho I am as surprised as you are” three humans, two males and a female. Were kneeling, with Unggoy standing behind them waving plasma pistols about and mocking them. Twilight made her way over, doing her best to ignore one of the Sangheili minors collecting the dead and updating a datapad in his hand. Twilight trotted forwards and one of the bigger Unggoy barked and snapped to salute as the nine other surviving Unggoy formed a relatively straight line.

“Humans ready for transport boss!” he puffed out his chest with pride as he spoke. The three humans had some shallow wounds, bruises, lacerations and one of them was holding her hand close to her chest the fingers bent terribly.

“Inquisitor, and I am a civilian, you don’t salute me” The Unggoy paused for a moment then he set his back straighter and saluted even harder.

“Sorry boss I am not the Inquisitor I think she is in space.” Twilight looked at the Unggoy for a moment trying to work out if he was brave enough to be mocking her before pulling the three humans up onto there feet and pushing them towards the Captain and ensign.

It was time to get back into orbit.

Returning to the beach with the living Humans was a somber affair, her convocation of griffons seemed to have been shamed. Twilight could not help but feel guilty given that she had chosen to flee from the battle in a fit of madness. Feeling eyes burning into the back of her head Twilight turned to look at the Human Captain who was rubbing the nail on the back of his thumb over his bottom lip with a thoughtful expression on his face.

Twilight would have to watch him.

The flight back to Sacred Inquisitor was far less cramped than the one preceding it. With three ships to spread her Griffon guards out in the mare had the opportunity to, if nothing else, avoid being constantly overpowered by the scent of Griffon.

She did however have to deal with the scent of Human and blood, the five of them were sat in the corner of the dropship being watched by two of her vigilant guards. In her haste too collect the Human command crew she had neglected to plan exactly how to transfer the prisoners safely, she would gloss over that fact in her report.

“Inquisitor, this is Thel 'Vadamee.” Turning away from the humans and casting a simple sound dampening spell Twilight activated her holographic display. Having the Supreme admiral contact her was a very rare thing, this was also one of the few encrypted communications being broadcast over the fleet network.

Whatever it was Thel wanted it kept quiet, Twilight sent a response.

“Supreme Admiral, I am returning to the Sacred Inquisitor now, is there anything I can do for you?”

“I am currently issuing a complaint of force misappropriation to the high council and the Patriarchs against the Prophet of Stewardship. Reclamation protocol is in effect but given the abject failure of the Prophet to prevent the Humans from landing on the ring. In fact the Prophet is the cause of this mess, it is imperative that I am placed back into supreme command of this expedition, if that is impossible the Prophet should be restricted from redeploying forces from other commands.” Twilight bit her lip, getting High Charity involved could backfire on the Supreme Admiral, but the Prophet had indeed proven himself incompitent.

“Do you want me to complain to the Equestrian councillors? Or do you simply want my endorsement of your command?”

“Should you take it upon yourself to address the honorable Equestrian quarter of the Council I would be elated but I am only asking for your endorsement of my ability, I will need it in the next hour.” Tapping her hoof on the ground Twilight glanced around the room and found herself locking eyes with the Human Captain. He was sat down with a soft smile as he watched Twilight it was quiet, the moment in flight where a pilot allowed the momentum of the ship to carry it across the void with no need for readjustments, the Unicorn redoubled her sound dampening.

“I will write my endorsement and you shall have it 'Vadamee.”

“Excellent, thank you Twilight Sparkle.”

Dropping into the Sacred Inquisitor’s hanger was a surprisingly somber experience, a great deal of the crew had been killed in the skirmish over the ring, enough time had passed for the most prominent damage to be fixed and the dead collected, it would however take weeks to seal and explore some of the forward decks.

Twilight had taken the time to write a simple letter of recommendation to Thel 'Vadamee for him to include in his complaint to High Charity she did dearly hope the belligerent Sangheili would be granted full control of this operation, this situation required the calm commitment of the dutiful Sangheili rather then the excitable zeal of the San'Shyuum, doubly so given the lack of practical military qualification of the Prophet of Stewardship.

What few figures could be seen in the expansive hanger where performing maintenance on damaged light craft or bringing in the ‘decoys’ as Twilight had ordered and sending them to be stored in one of the forward holds. The so called ‘decoys’ where large boxy structures about twelve feet tall and five feet across, a human display was prominent on one side and thick ice covered one side of the box, Humans did not deploy decoy swarms but they did eject sleeping crew into space it the ship was going to be lost.

She would have to catalogue every Human Stasis chamber tomorrow, they would all have the name and occupation of the person inside so Twilight could quickly find out what humans would have the most valuable information and who she could leave frozen, given that the Human ship was fleeing there was a good chance any human that had not been awoken was a high value person from the planet who was being evacuated.

“Take them to the brig, three meals and a four hundred metre walk once a day.” Twilight turned to the five humans and the griffon escorts. “I will repair this one” Twilight nodded at the human floating in her magic by her side.

Her guard nodded and went to fulfil her orders, only her Champion Honour Guard followed dutifully behind Twilight.

The humans were led away as Twilight trotted to one of the many component fabrication rooms dotted about the ship. It was rare that any but a Huragok would make use of the rooms but Covenant ships of the line did not make use of the many medical facilities that were present on an Equestrian ship.

Setting the human down on an empty workspace as her Champion stood next to the door, the rest of the guard had gone to deposit the prisoners. Twilight began to synthesize some standard medical gel, the mare was likely the foremost medical expert in the fleet despite the study of medicine not being even a tangential focus. The sad fact was that any Unicorn of considerable ability was often a medical practitioner out of necessity, the youth of a powerful unicorn was one of fractures, burns, lacerations and magical burnout as the unstable forces where given focus and the unicorn learned control.

Human physiology was distinct from anything Twilight knew, closer to a Jiralhanae or Kig-Yar. In fact even Sangheili bore a closer biological resemblance to the Human’s then any creature from Equestria. Still as Twilight's magic applied the generalized medical gel to the broken skin on the back of the Human women’s head the mare checked for any obvious problems, no damage to the skull, there was no bleeding or damage to the spine.

Lastly Twilight checked for brain activity and found a tremendous amount, the psychology of alien races was often a futile field of study given the obvious bias any species had when addressing the thoughts of another. However there had never been a thinking creature encountered that could resist the necessity of sleep and the distinct patterns of decreased brain activity it brought with it, so this Human was dreaming.

Or she was awake.

Twilight could not help herself, once the thought occurred to her she gasped loudly and tried to step away and with a suddenness that paralized Twilight the human threw herself forward and grasped the pistol magnetically clasped to the unicorns side.

Author's Note:

This story got a surprisingly mixed reception, sadly the people who took the time to dislike did not tell me exactly why so I suppose I will just carry on as normal. I do want to thank the people who took the time to offer spelling and grammar corrections in comments and PM's.

An interesting thing to note is that the evacuation capacity of the Pillar of Autumn is 630 in lifepods 300 in Pelican and Albatross transports and 216 in drop pods, this means that with 100% efficiency 1146 people can be evacuated from the Pillar of Autumn.

If Pelicans and lifepods where to be over capacity this number can be increased to around 1300, however Longsword Interceptors could reasonably carry a large number of people (however certainly not comfortably) if each Longsword where to carry 50 passengers (well beyond what its rated for) roughly 1550 people could be evacuated from the  Pillar of Autumn. This means around 750 people were never going to get off of the Pillar of Autumn no matter what.

We know that some cryopods where ejected but the sheer amount that would have been dropped into space is staggering and its a big surprise that no one ran the numbers here.