• Published 29th Aug 2012
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Eclipse: House of Frostmane's Few - Spectre_Crystaleye



Bellatores Sub Velum. We are the Unknown. We are the Unseen. We are the Warriors beneath the Veil.

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Prologue: "Nightmares and Daydreams"

Eclipse
House of Frostmane’s Few

Witten by W C Yeaman
Edited by Foxwolf Firebane

Prologue

There must always be Heroes.
Stalwart Beacons of Hope for Equestrians facing World-Shattering Evil.
Clad in Gold they Battle before the eyes of All,
Righteous Symbols of all that is Good in our Mighty Country.
We are not They…
For every successful Tyrant that meets the Steel and Magic of Champions,
There go a thousand Threats unheard of by the Innocent Many.
Unheard because We have Silenced them.
We are the Shadows of Vigilance, The Unknown Guardians.
Swiftly and Silently We serve the Will of Day and Night.
We are the Nightmares of the Wicked.
We must never know Fame and cannot be remembered by the World,
To do so is to have Failed Our Mothers of Light and Shadow.
Honor. Valor. Truth. Courage. Righteousness.
Virtues we may still call Ours, shared amongst an Extraordinary Few.
The Forgotten Peacekeepers of Equestria,
We are Eclipse.
-Commandant Frostmane

There were few aromas more intoxicating, more alluring than Ivy Rose’s sweet cherry pie as it rested cooling on the window sill of her Canterlot home. At least not to her husband, the robust white unicorn clad in glistening golden plate barding trotting up the street, anyways. The succulent berry scent frolicked and danced in concert with the mouthwatering smell of hoof-rolled piecrust down the lane to greet him. Like a siren’s song to a sailor’s ear, it caressed and coaxed Captain Stonewall’s nose and guided him to his intricately tooled front door on hooves lighter than air. The only thing out of place on such a perfect afternoon was the faint taste of copper on his pallet, which he couldn’t seem to be rid of.

The soft, captivating tune of a mare and filly singing reached his ears as he quietly cracked the door and slipped inside. As silently as he could muster in his heavy armor, the Captain snuck to the archway that lead to the kitchen and the jovial hymn. He paused at the entrance and gingerly leaned against the frame of the portal to admire the scene before him and take the weight off of his aching legs.

Across the wooden sea of the floor, with their backs to him as they sang to a captivated audience of simmering pots and stove flame, stood the most beautiful ladies he had ever had the privilege to know. His wife, a creamy purple earth pony beneath a luscious mane of deep blue, carefully stirred the concoction brewing in the largest pot whilst she carried the melody, in acapella harmony, with the little filly standing as tall as she could on a step ladder by her side. Lily Vine’s little curly locks were as brilliantly blue as her mother’s and bounced with each note against the sharp contrast of her purest white coat.

In the past, some of his peers had teased him for dating an earth pony before they had met her. A small few particularly pompous aristocrats had even made the mistake of vocalizing pity at the news that his newborn daughter had taken after her mother before they had mysteriously checked into the Canterlot Hospital. The thought that Ivy wasn’t a unicorn had never entered his mind all those years back when he had first laid eyes on her that fateful day at the Cherry Hill Ranch Rodeo. As he gazed at the pair in his cozy kitchen, giggling in glee as they tasted the steamy broth on the wooden spoon, he held no doubt in his mind that they were more magical than all the power he would ever muster in all his days.

“Please forgive my uninvited invasion of thy beautiful abode, fairest maidens.” He finally spoke at length to catch their attention with a soft grin painted upon his lips. “I am but a humble soldier, weary of a long road from distant fields. Ensnared, I was, by thy enchanting beauty and gorgeous melodies adrift on a delicious breeze. I beg simply of time to rest and bask in your heavenly graces.”

“Daddy’s home!!” The little white filly squealed in delight as she leapt from the step-stool and raced into his waiting forelegs.

His wife glided over on graceful hooves wearing a romantic smile and gently slipped his helmet from his brow. His carefully trimmed grey mane, askew by a long day beneath the armor, was brushed straight with a loving caress. “You may stay as long as you wish, my handsome Captain.”

He shared a tender kiss with her while his daughter clung tightly to his breastplate and allowed himself to be lost in the moment of pure bliss. It was these glistening times that the Logistics Commander of the Royal Guard lived for, even despite the sour taste on his tongue and the weary ache in his legs.

“And what are my lovely ladies brewing this evening? It smells delicious!” He inquired as he hoisted Lily onto his back and trotted over to the stove to drown out the metallic taint from his nostrils.

“Your daughter insisted she help me make your favorite veggie and pepper soup.” Ivy replied behind sparkling azure eyes.

“Mmmm. Wife soup. I must have done good.”

“You done good, Dear.”

“And how about you, little lady? How was school?”

“Oooo! Ohh! Oh!” Was her only reply before she launched from her perch and raced down the hall in an intangible blur of excitement.

The parents shared a chuckle as Ivy took his helmet to the rack by the door and hung it up.

“It’s career day at her school next week. I’m sure the children will be much more ecstatic about a royal guard’s presentation than a florist’s.” She chuckled as she trotted back past him towards the stove and playfully swatted his nose with her tail. “I know Lily would be, anyways.”

“I’m sure I can get someone to cover for me.” He mused with a toothy grin at her as she passed on his way to sit down at the table with a pained groan.

“Training day?” She asked over the chatter of stone bowls.

“No. I don’t know why but I am beat.” He replied, unable to remember what he had done to strain his limbs. He reached down to rub the burning pain in his rear legs when his daughter’s huge jade eyes overtook his vision holding out a piece of drawing paper.

“Is this the piece you did for the school contest?” He asked as he took it in his hooves and poured the image into his soul. Brilliant beyond her age, the colored sketch depicted their family enjoying a picnic under a mystical sunset as Princess Luna carried her veil of twinkling night across the sky.

“Ms. Starlight said it wasn’t fair to give me the blue ribbon ‘cause mine was too good.” Lily explained, obviously holding back some piece of news behind the loose cover of modestly. She looked pleadingly at her mother with a bashful flush on her cheeks to finish her report as she brought the bowls to the table.

“So her class agreed that it should be hung in the school’s trophy case above the main entrance!” The lavender mare explained as her daughter exploded into an earth-shattering smile.

“Wow! That’s incredible, Sweetheart!” He beamed as he scooped her into a tight hug regardless of his aches.

The guard captain felt lighter than air as he shared another moment with his favorite mares. With heart aflutter and a lump growing in his throat behind the insatiable taste of copper coins, he couldn’t help but swell with pride and allow a tear to roll down his cheek. It flicked off if his chiseled jaw and landed squarely on the table, causing his wife and daughter to go deathly silent. Something was out of place.

“Celestia’s Grace! Are you ok, honey?” Ivy gasped with face writhe of concern.

“Yes! These are happy tear…” He cut himself short when he looked down at the liquid on the polished walnut surface.

It was deep crimson.

His bewildered stare of utter confusion at the drop of blood was only broken when his daughter screamed in fright and wrenched herself from his embrace just prior to her mother doing the same. They held each other before him with looks of shocked panic tainting their normally beautiful faces as their eyes filled with horrified tears.

The pain had grown too great to ignore in his legs, and when he looked down at them, he found they were mangled and twisted to grotesque, unnatural angles. Despair gripped his heart and clenched down tight as he witnessed all of the little aches of the day manifest in deep lacerations across his pristine coat. He looked back to the loves of his life as they cried out to him, desperate and helpless to stop it. Suddenly a wave of pain wracked the base of his horn and spun him swiftly towards the blackness of unconsciousness. The last vision in the waning pupil of light was of his dearest wife in an agony of sorrow crying out in futilely as she shielded his daughters sobbing eyes from the sight.

* * *

Gone was the blissful paradise of his unconscious dreams as the disheveled pony groggily awoke. The dark, metallic sour of his own lifeblood wetting his pallet still remained as he forced a blurry, bruised eye open to survey his surroundings. His head felt like the earth beneath the hooves of the Running of the Leaves and it kept his senses dim to the dank, dark hovel that entrapped him. Out of the corner of his vision between narrow beams of bright sunlight filtering in through the shoddy walls, a shadowy figure stirred behind a desk laden with vile instruments of pain.

“Ahh, Captain.” A guttural, scratchy voice pierced through the silence after a long calm. Its tone rang familiar in his ears, dripping with cruel, amused evil in every syllable. “I was beginning to suspect that my last round of… persuasion… had killed you. What a pity that would have been. You still haven’t answered any of my master’s questions.”

<==========})===0 ~~*~~~*~~~~*~~~*~~ 0===({=========>

“It is a simple question.” The coaxing voice hissed over the torque of yet another cruel piece of steel into his flesh.

“Stonewall.” The battered unicorn answered as he glared up through swollen eyes. “Captain. Royal Guard serial number six-eight-zero-three.”

Inquisitor Zal ‘Brek was a hard creature to weary, but even he tired of the same answer he had received for every question posed to the stubborn pony over the course of the week. A quiet snarl betrayed his frustration as he removed the tool and set it carefully beside its kin on a pain-soaked tray before standing to stretch his lithe form. The sun had long set and its rays no longer accented the dim light of the torches flickering off of the draconian biped’s brilliant, though soiled, emerald scales. His long, slender, horned reptilian visage fought to stifle a yawn as his joints cracked and popped beneath the corded sinew of his war-honed muscles. Unlike the warriors that carried him from the filthy primitive cage he slept in each night, the interrogator wore no armor or adornments save for a silk cloth over his loins secured by a belt laden with tools and a short sword. Stonewall took a small shred of satisfaction when the tall being flopped into his chair and rubbed his aching temples.

“It pains me to admit, but you are a credit to your otherwise worthlessly soft species.” Zal ‘Brek spoke at length to break a long silence of haggard breathing and dripping fluids.

The battered captain was going to spit a reply, but a commotion outside the shanty door robbed him of the opportunity. It flew open to present an unexpected sight to both him and the Inquisitor, who wasted no time throwing himself to a submissive knee before his chair.

“Indeed. A true testament to his very name.” A deep, melodic voice rich with wisdom and an otherworldly clairvoyance agreed from the gnarled lips of a very different draconian stepping through the doorway.

“Master, I…” The emerald reptile began to explain before he was silenced with an outstretched palm of absolute authority.

“Be seated and be at peace, Inquisitor ‘Brek.” The elder creature commanded. The disciplined servant complied instantly, though his façade remained troubled at his lack of progress for his master.

Ancient beyond natural order. That could be the most fitting description in Stonewall’s mind as he took in the imposing sight of the being filling the room before him. Clad in scales of ruby red, faded somewhat by time’s ravages, his antiqued hide still lay tautly over his old, gnarled frame. Charms and tokens from a thousand campaigns dangled from the boughs of the majestic wizard’s staff and adorned the many folds of his extravagant blue mages robes. Each limping step he took, with the aid of the unnatural oak staff, caused a cacophony of jingling. Beneath an impressive array of horns, adorned in all manner of jewels and gold, lay a surprisingly concerned grimace. From the depths of this cracked and weathered face a single deep orange eye looked him over, its partner long replaced by an empty socket and a score of scars. Perhaps the most striking difference was his leathery cape, which the unicorn quickly realized was actually a pair of tattered wings folded neatly around his shoulders and secured with a pair of hooked talons acting as a broach. He was the first of the already unusual bipeds the captain had seen with this trait.

“I must first apologize for the necessity of depriving you of this.” The ancient dragonkin explained as he gestured to a sickeningly familiar charm on his staff. All at once the source his relentless headache was made clear and he fought his queasy stomach to retain what little contents remained.

It was his own severed horn.

“As a humble student of magic, the decision to deprive a being so rich in natural arcane gifts his ability to connect to it was not an easy one.” Stonewall had expected the farce of a sympathetic protagonist as an interrogation technique. He had not expected, however, to hear an unmistakably genuine condolence free of any seedy undertones.

“Who… who are you?” The destroyed equine mustered at length on a ragged breath.

“I am Arch-Magi Fek ‘Tawny One-Eye.” The old lizard answered matter-of-factly. “And you are a troublesomely loyal Equestrian who seems bent on making my poor inquisitor molt months before his season.”

“Sorry to… inconvenience you, Sir.” Stonewall spat with the widest smirk he could conjure at the pair.

“On the contrary, Captain. Your resilience is fascinating and I always strive to challenge my soldiers.”

“Why… me?”

“Because I have a scheduling conflict that only the head of Celestia’s Logistics Command can square for me.”

“You’ll… get nothin’ from me, Sir.” The captain groaned defiantly.

“So you have made abundantly clear. Your mate and daughter would be proud of your dedication.”

Mention of his family ripped the breath from his lungs in a rush of fear and then mounting rage. “You stay away from them!” He threatened as he fought weakly against the chains that bound him to his chair.

The Arch-Magi could only laugh in amusement at the reaction, shaking his head as he marveled at the display of defiance. “Oh calm yourself, Captain. I assure you, they are quite untouched. My agents were given the strictest of orders to leave them be and they would dare not disobey me.”

The bedraggled unicorn shared a glare with his captor then. Amber eyes, blurred from the pain of his missing horn, locked into that one blazing orange window of the dragonkin’s soul in a fierce meeting of the minds. Long he searched as he bored into that fiery chasm to its very deepest depths, seeking a falsity in his words. To his reluctant sigh of relief, he could not find one.

Fek ‘Tawny’s gnarled lips curled into a smile, not of victory, but instead of pure admiration at the iron will locked beneath the frail body of a pony. “It would do me no service to lie, Captain. Nor would I disgrace my ancestors by bringing pain to innocent bystanders. Such cowardice is the desperate and fleeting technique of lesser creatures squabbling in the mud to exact control over one another.”

Stonewall relaxed his futile battle with his bonds and settled back into his uncomfortable chair, “It would seem that you’re at an impasse, One-eye. I’ll not betray my Princess.”

“Yes, I can see now that your sense of honor and duty far exceed your life’s threshold. However, that does not change the fact that I require answers to a series of very prudent questions.” The old reptilian rubbed his forehead as he considered his final option. “Perhaps we can come to an agreement that will negate the need to destroy your integrity and pride, hmm?”

The captain was not exactly sure what the wily wizard was hinting at, but he noted with some dread that the Inquisitor seemed to pale at the very mention of the alternative.

“Master, no.” Zal pleaded in the closest tone to concern that Stonewall had ever heard from the beast in the last week. “Surly I can break him without that. I have never failed to deliver results. Please reconsider…”

Fek ‘Tawny silenced him once again with an outstretched palm, though this time it came to rest on the emerald draconian’s shoulder to make way for a calming voice, “You have performed your duty admirably, Zal ‘Brek. However, I sense I am short on time and his will is beyond our usual methods to surpass.”

“Master, I…”

“The order is given, Inquisitor. Fetch the brazier.”

Emerald scales blurred into obedient action around them as he gathered materials. A wooden chair, free from the pain wrought filth strewn about the rest of the shack was placed across from the royal guard. Next, a tall, empty iron brazier was set atop a winding staff and arranged between the two chairs. Fek ‘Tawny, meanwhile, took the time to carefully set his staff aside, pausing to remove the twisted white horn dangling from it before he slipped into the seat with an aged groan. Comfortably at rest, the Arch-Magi allowed his great and tattered leathery wings to unfurl and stretch before coming to drape unceremoniously at his sides. Stonewall had a feeling he knew the nature of the ritual about to be performed, and he allowed a smug grin to creep onto his lips that lasted only until he noticed the wizard grinning back.

“I know of the wards that the Daystar Princess has placed over your resolute mind, Captain.” He chuckled in bated confidence. “Three, to be exact. Powerful and sophisticated, but not unbreakable.”

“How… did you…?”

“Do you not think I planned for this possibility? I did not select you at random, Captain Stonewall. I had only hoped that your willpower had not fit your name quite so… flawlessly.”

“All is prepared, Master.” Zal ‘Brek interrupted as he gently poured oil into the plate between them and slithered off to the side to fetch something from his desk. He came back and stood at a disciplined attention beside the old red draconian with a rough file and a saw in either hand.

“Then we shall begin.” The old magi spoke as he cast a simple prestidigitation to ignite the oil and breathe life into a gentle orange flame between them.

Stonewall gulped down a dreadful lump in his throat. He watched the wizard took up the file and ground away part of his severed horn, while muttering in an incomprehensible language. The dust sparkled and hissed as the flames consumed it, flaring up hungrily before settling into a now bluish hue. He then traded the rest of the horn to his subordinate in exchange for the fine-toothed saw and quickly set to work slicing the end from a rather elegant horn of his own, just above his brow. The guard captain noted with both satisfaction and admiration that it seemed to pain him physically to perform the act. Once removed, it too was filed to dust and fed to the starving fire. Like a beast of the wilds it viciously engorged and swallowed whole the ingredient before settling into a contented lavender flicker.

Ice to the soul. The captain felt the deathly chill run down his spine and he knew that one of the wards had been shattered.

The completion of the spell seemed to have taxed the old serpent, and there was a moment’s pause between the steps filled only with the flutter of oil-fueled flame. When the chanting began again, it was followed by the second pair of components. Blood was easily gathered from the battered stallion on a beautifully tooled dagger’s blade before being handed off to the wizard. That one glowing inferno of an eye stared into his as he mumbled the spell and slowly drug the crimsoned blade through a clenched fist. After the two fluids had properly mingled, they were squeezed into the fire, causing it to snarl and nearly die out before slowly returning as a green ember.

Fire to the mind. A searing pain at the base of his skull assured him of the second ward’s defeat.

Stonewall thought there would be a third component, and he waited with no shortage of dread to discover what it would be. Instead, he watched the old lizard grumble those incomprehensible words into the flame, with a growing exhaustion etched on his face and woven into his voice. The jade fire danced and furrowed to the incantation and began to entrance the captain in its soothing display.

He tried to shake away the calm with eyes squeezed shut, but the tranquil green warmth called to him with irresistible sweetness. With his mind soaking in the gentle radiance as it washed his pains away, he couldn’t notice the wizard opposite him falling into a similar lull. Then all at once, the world went white.

***

“What? Where am I” Stonewall asked, eyes trying desperately to blink into adjustment with the unending white all around. He found himself lying on an unseen surface, and to his surprise completely healed. He stood on healthy legs for the first time in a week and attempted to catch his bearings when a familiar voice caught his ear.

“We are in the Mens Pontus, the mind-bridge between our two selves.” The wizard answered as he approached, his taloned feet echoing against unseen walls.

Realizing he was healthy, the guard captain scowled as he prepared a charge. “I’ll have your head for this…” He was cut off and disarmed with a simple laugh.

“Oh please, Captain,” One-Eye laughed, “Save your energy. You can no sooner harm me than I can you in this state.”

Stonewall calmed at the idea… An idea that for some unexplained reason, he already knew.

“There is no way to break the Ward of Free Will, so instead I had to sacrifice to step around it.” Fek ‘Tawny answered the question the captain had yet to send to his tongue.

“This isn’t a telepathic probe.” The stallion reasoned more to himself than the draconian. “We are linked to one another.”

“Permanently, I am afraid. Your death will be a difficult bridge to cross.” The wizard sighed as he mused matter-of-factly about the inevitable consequences. “A shame too, you have such an encyclopedic mind. It is no wonder you achieved your rank and position so soon after your field work on the frontier.”

“Facts and figures have a way of keeping fresh in my mind.” The pony answered as they both glanced at the mark on his flank of a chiseled stone tablet. “It is my special talent, after all.” Already, the sharp mind of the analytical stallion began to delve deeper into the similarly broad ocean of the Arch-Magi’s. A vast sea of history had been witnessed by that old eye, which was separated from its twin by a true dragon years ago, he discovered. Wars in far off lands that he had never heard of against beings he would never have imagined existed. A wife and clutchlings long since dead by cruel misfortune blackened a corner of his mind closest to his heart. Of all the patterns, none were clearer to Stonewall in his delving than the old wizard’s lust for arcane power and the lengths he had gone to attain it. With the concept of having a hand to play for the first time since his abduction strengthening his resolve, he allowed himself to hope for the chance of rescue. This information was vital to the defense of his kingdom.

“No one is coming for you, Captain.” The dragonkin spoke in reply to the surface thought.

“Princess Celestia…”

“…Would not risk sparking open war with my people by ordering an attack by the royal guard.” Fek cut him off with a diabolical grin. “Even if she could find us this deep in the Everfree, she would never be so politically foolish and aggressive in such times of peace. Draconian blood on the golden armor of Canterlot’s finest? You’re not worth that risk and you know it.”

The clever wizard’s words cut him to the bone, because he knew in his heart of hearts that it was true. So perfect had his capture been executed, so subtle in its every facet that there was no way she could even know where to begin looking. And even if she somehow found him, the old one-eyed lizard was right. She would never sign off an order to charge in, banners waving and spears swinging to rescue one pony at the risk of endangering the entire nation.

Arch-Magi Fek ‘Tawny One-Eye beamed in final victory as he soaked in the despair of his new other half. He drummed his bony old fingertips together in wicked anticipation as he watched the equine slowly pale and sulk into the arms of unerring fate.

“Now, Captain Stonewall, “He started at length, “Tell me about the six mares living in... Ponyville, is it? The Wielders of the Elements of Harmony.”

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