• Published 15th Dec 2020
  • 355 Views, 8 Comments

The Night is Dark and Full of Terrors - Fanatic-Heretic-101



The world shrouded in the eternal night. A regime formed to protect the changed lands of Ponykind. And soldiers who will do what is right to protect citizens from monsters that dwell in the darkness by becoming one with the darkness themselves.

  • ...
1
 8
 355

Chapter 1: "Dancing" in the Moonlight

CLANG! CLANG! CHING! CLANG CHING!

Swords clash amongst the combat training yard, metallic collisions resonating throughout the midnight air all around, Dusk Spectre’s squad practicing with the weapons. Sitting on a wooden bench off to the side of the open arena (a perimeter marked with fixed blocky stones surrounding a circular area of dirt), Dusk observes while leaning forward with fixed attention the light green-coloured Pegasi mare instructor with deep-blue eyes parrying, dodging and striking back at one of Dusk’s companions, a tall black stallion Bat Pony with slit orange eyes and a green mane called Midnight Wraith. Both were equipped with real fine-crafted imperial swords that glimmer silver in the moonlight, both donning the dark lavender and light purple coloured armour that was the signature of Lunar Empire soldiers - their experience and training having advanced enough to warrant the use of real equipment.

CLANG! CHING! CLANG! CLANG!

Across several minutes the instructor displays little effort in defending herself, rarely breaking an otherwise perfect stance and martial form, all the while wearing down Midnight’s stamina with a mixture of slow heavy blows combined with quick light strikes, practically dancing around her opponent until at last a final swing of her sword’s razor-shape blade comes within inches of Midnight’s exposed neck - ending the duel and what would have been his life in a real confrontation.

Gritting his teeth, Midnight sheathes his blade and wipes the sweat from his brow, hot air from his tired lungs filling the night like mist. Allowing a few seconds for her student to recover, the instructor soon makes her advice known, “Midnight Wraith, you must work on pacing yourself. Please learn the difference between when to apply rapid strikes, and the slow big ones. You apply too many of the latter too quickly, and it tires you out too soon.”

“Understood, ma'am. I will continue to improve.”

“Then by all means prove it. Go join the others practicing,” informs the instructor, pointing towards the opposite end of the courtyard where the remainder of Dusk Spectre’s squad were present, all of who were running through standard swing and parry manoeuvres on dummies.

Offering a respectable bow, Midnight Wraith walks off to them, having soon picked his own dummy he proceeds to train with it.

Throughout the entire match Dusk had set his unbreaking focus on it, observing with a critical eye the flow of combat and making mental notes what appeared right and what did not, especially taking into account the superior’s advice for pacing oneself. Watching his companion leave, Dusk’s sight snaps back to the instructor who points her sword directly at him with a raised eyebrow, her words an invitation, “Knowing theory is only half the job, the rest is practical. Let’s see what you offer, Dusk Spectre. Have at me!”

With no hesitation and already wearing his Lunar Empire armour, Dusk seemingly jumps to his feet, approaching the arena as adrenaline begins to flow through his blood even if this was not a real battle. Stepping into the stone ring, he unsheathes his sword and holds it vertically with the correct amount of pressure, circling the arena’s inner edge alongside the instructor who did the same opposite to him, her holding the weapon horizontally.

“Your stance is great as always. I expect nothing less than a challenge from my best student.”

“I hope to not disappoint, ma'am.”

CLANG! CLANG! CHING!

A couple of clashes ensure, nothing more than probing strikes from both individuals to test the other before they resume to circle one another again at a distance, analytically watching. Waiting. “Just the right amount of force. Not too gentle to do weak damage, and not too hard to tire you out quickly. If only my ex could have done the same with his sword.”

CHING! CLANG! CHING!

Hmmmm, don’t overextend the strikes like this, your sides are left exposed,” assesses the instructor, replicating Dusk’s attacks in slow motion vertical and horizontal swings, with the odd jab forwards - an opportunity.

“Well since you say that-“

CHING! CLANG! CLANG! CLANG!

“Oh you clever bastard,” she teases with a mischievous grin to match Dusk’s, both circling yet again. “You almost had me. I see your lunges have improved.”

“Not good enough though. Almost is not the same as having done it.”

CLANG! CLANG! CLANG!

“Well perhaps you will get that opportunity now. Enough of these courteous maneuvers, time to really battle, not feel like we are at the Grand Galloping Gala dancing.”

“Gladly,” responds Dusk, determined for what was about to occur, twirling his blade to loosen up the final small areas of his muscles still resisting the exercise, now every part of him ready physically and mentally.

Performing the same, the instructor follows up by facing her other students across the courtyard and shouting them over, “Everypony, stop! Come over here and pay attention to what you are about to see, take note.”

Hearing her command, every member of Dusk Spectre’s squad lays down their arms and abandons the dummies, walking to the arena each one positions around its perimeter like spectators. Dusk eyes them all, all fellow Bat Ponies; a bulky brown stallion with orange eyes and a light purple mane (Shadow Star), another more athletic silver stallion with dark blue eyes and a light blue mane (Silver Night), a dark red mare almost as tall as the stallions with yellow eyes and a black mane (Sky Shroud), and Midnight Wraith.

“Maybe this time you can finally defeat her,” expresses Shadow Star clenching his fist, giving an approving nod at Dusk in encouragement.

“Wouldn’t that be something,” replies Sky Shroud, conjuring a smirk at the instructor all in good fun. “The student eventually has to surpass the teacher.”

“Until that happens, I’ll make you all work for it,” replies the Pegasi with a smirk back, twirling her blade again and taking the proper stance, now primed with a stone-cold face set on Dusk.

Taking a deep breath to steady his heart rate, Dusk replicates the correct stance and bites his lip, announcing, “Ready!”

CLANG! CLANG! CHING!

Dusk and the instructor’s swords collide like the sound of thunder claps, violent impacts one after the other in rapid sequence. Opening with a downward diagonal swipe at Dusk, the instructor’s move is perfectly countered by her student who blocks it, retaliating with a horizontal attack only to be met with her blade shooting vertically up in time to block also. Before another moment could pass the teacher jumps back a few feet to give herself breathing room, gripping her sword via the correct way again. Quickly not giving her a chance, Dusk lunges forwards with a jab, the instructor defending by forcing his blade downwards with a flat horizontally-held slam on it with her own weapon, Dusk’s blade harmlessly passing between his superior’s legs, missing. Oh crap!

With the stallion exposed, the mare slashes her sword horizontally at Dusk’s throat, her student throwing his head back and jumping away with mere inches of space to spare from the slash. Gritting his teeth, Dusk repositions into a defensive posture, jabbing his hoof into the dirt. Damnit! She warned me about overextending. That was too close.

Receiving an upwards right diagonal blow this time, Dusk immediately responds to it with a horizontal block, only to have the instructor rapidly and with hard force smash her sword into his in rapid cycles via downward blows one after the other, CLANG! CLANG! CLANG! CLANG! forcing Dusk towards the arena’s edge, and tiring his arm out from resisting the concussive impacts. Before another blow could reach him however, the Bat Pony combat rolls out of the way and around the enemy, leaving her near the arena’s edge now and giving him some room to rest but not long enough.

The weight of his armour had slowed Dusk, those critical few seconds that otherwise would have been used to mentally reassess his options if the attire wasn’t equipped were spent getting off the ground at a slower rate - but still just fast enough to repulse his superior’s lunge by side-stepping it and getting halfway around her back. I need to go on the offensive!

Seizing an opening from the dodge, Dusk carves his blade downwards with excess energy at the back of the mare’s (leather padded protected) knee joint, the strike connecting THUMP! and the desired result ensuing as the Pegasi falls onto that knee in wide-eyed surprise, “Ahhhhh!”

With her back unprotected Dusk applies a thrust, but having expected that his foe falls forwards and escapes the finishing blow. Rapidly rolling away to escape the first overhang strike down on her, the instructor is able to get onto her back and hold up her blade just in time to connect with Dusk’s second overhang strike CLANG! fatigue affecting them both now alongside frustration, their burning narrowed gazes locked on one another like their swords pressing firmly together - and throughout all of this Dusk’s companions watch on in suspense, holding their breaths.

For a drawn out time the two combatants press their weapons into each other’s, their swords remaining crossed in stalemate, the opposing forces canceling out like one of their Night Goddess’ stars resisting its collapse. Attrition had now become the deciding factor for victory, a wearing down of strength to see who would break first and lose. Beads of sweat glide down both the teacher’s and the student’s foreheads, the latter kneeling over the prior, their bodies tense and muscles firm in trying to hold out longer than the other. At times a few inches were gained by one only to be pushed back by the other, and vice-versa - a situation that would have to collapse at some point. Ahhhhhh, come on don’t break before her! I’m so close!

Burning heat swells in Dusk’s arms, his body struggling to maintain form under such stress. Sinking his fangs into his tongue, the needle pointed tips draw drops of hot blood that he feels, spurring his resolve on longer. Becoming more desperate with each second Dusk prepares to throw his body weight forwards for a breakthrough, but having to change his legs’ positions for that caught the instructor’s attention who instantly determined what the legs shifting implied and matches the added force from her student by arching herself violently up, resulting in an even worse statement for them both - Dusk’s legs now being strained and the instructor’s abs, more of their bodies working and exhausting even more energy. Damn, I almost had her!

In the end it was in vain.

Eventually breaking despite his internal monologue shouting to continue holding, Dusk’s body gives into the overwhelming strain and in defeat he drops the sword, yelling in mixed relief/regretful defeat- only to be met with his superior who did the exact same in equal timing.

Falling onto his back atop the dirt ground next to his teacher, like their swords falling next to one another, both Ponies’ chests rise and descend in quick motions, their lungs working hard to cast away fatigue and replenish themselves with energy. And there they laid beneath the radiant rays of the full Moon, and the sparkle of uncountable stars, a nighttime breeze blowing through their manes - a beautiful view and nice sensation that they both quietly accepted, helping them to feel better, almost as if it was a reward for their struggle.

This tranquil silence was eventually broken by Dusk who, not taking his sight off the divine silver orb in the sky like his opponent did not, admitted with respect and acceptance, “...Draw.”

Receiving an equal toned reply, “...Draw.”

CLAP!.....CLAP!.......CLAP!.......CLAP!

The sudden sound of slow clapping draws everypony’s attention to its origins. Having just caught a glimpse of his companions’ thrilled looks that were on the verge of cheering because of Dusk at least drawing with the instructor, Dusk notices them all turning serious, their bodies immediately straightening and bowing forwards to whoever had approached with the clapping. Looking in the same direction as the others, Dusk’s eyes immediately widen while he scrambles to stand, replicating the same bowing gesture as everypony else with quick pats over his armour to dust it down, the Pegasi next to him performing the same. “Your imperial highness?”

“Well well well, I see that one of my Children of the Night is quite the combatant. Congratulations, Legionnaire, even if it was a draw,” humours Nightmare Moon with a fanged grin, her regal tone mischievous but with a hint of good nature to it.

Stopping before her troops, the God-Empress presents herself in a deep purple dress with silver streaks running around it in a spiral, the clothing clinging to her tall sleek body. The ends of the dress trail just above her hooves in a swaying motion due to the breeze, flowing like her starry ethereal mane and tail. She wore an exquisite glistening crown made from the purest of silver with a large striking sapphire in the centre carved in the shape of her Lunar Empire’s sigil. Her natural purple eyeshadow compliments the dress like the blue glow of her turquoise eyes compliments the crown’s sapphire, and all the while a pleasant fragrance of lavender stems from the Alicorn - divinity incarnate.

“Thank you, Empress,” replies Dusk in nervous excitement, holding the bow and his flattery in as best he can but a faint blush was making it impossible.

Noticing the soldier's blush and hearing his less than stoic answer, Nightmare Moon squints her gaze at Dusk who she makes eye contact with from the latter hesitantly looking up at her, the cute intimidation in her Bat Pony’s look making Nightmare Moon grin wider like a trickster - oh how she enjoys invoking such reactions in her subjects. “Arise, soldiers,” commands Nightmare Moon, the order bringing everypony to stand up with formal postures, their adjustment to her unexpected visit slowly occurring.

“Pardon our surprise, your majesty, but what are you doing here?” Inquires Shadow Star.

“I came to watch my dear Legionnaires practice their craft, and such a craft is far more entertaining than statecraft I assure you. As much as I find time to train in combat myself, I wish I could do it more often like you all.”

“Really?”

“Indeed. Politics was always a...tedious role for me, as Princess Luna I often left that area for my sister to handle. Let us just say that administration can become so very boring, at times even more so than when I was on the Moon,” the night alicorn confesses, still displaying a warm smile and chuckling some more only to have her look soon turn into a spicy suggestive glare while eyeing all of those present. “As such, I decided to spend my free time coming here to watch my troops train. After all, seeing Ponies in uniform work can be a very...relaxing activity. And I’m not disappointed at what I have seen, that ferocious fighting in you all is exactly why we won the Civil War.”

“...We are honoured, your majesty,” admits Sky Shroud, giving a small bow.

Casting the suggestive look away, Nightmare Moon returns to a more firm expression but one displaying full encouragement alongside her tone, “That same ferocious fighting is also the reason why I have confidence you will perform your new task well.”

“What new task is that?” Asks Dusk, noticing Nightmare Moon’s sight had fixed on him as she spoke.

“It appears tis your squad’s turn for patrol duty through the Everfree Forest. Or have you forgotten?

“...Forgive me, Empress, but I have not heard about any incidents of fatal monster attacks there in awhile. It sort of...lost its significance to me, seeing it as not as big an issue as it used to be.”

“And you would be a fool to think that.” Narrowing her eyes, Nightmare Moon turns her head to the right, towards the courtyard’s wall, and to the direction that was the nearest way to the distant Everfree Forest, her fist clenching, her voice angered, “Despite our efforts, the monsters there continue to act bold and probe the forest’s border far more so since the eternal night began - we must remain constantly vigilant or else those fatal encounters will become commonplace again, and I will NOT have those creatures harm my subjects.”

Slowly looking to the heavens and at the silver sphere that was her Moon above the world, Nightmare Moon takes in the view of it and the uncountable stars amongst it. Admiring the cosmic canvas that is her life’s greatest achievement of making the eternal night real, such imagery soothes her. Loosening her clenching fist, she shuts her eyes and takes a deep breath preceded by turning around, opening her eyes again and looking at everypony, “Monsters prowl at night, Legionnaires, but we are the night; we will be the monsters’ monsters.”

“We will not disappoint you, Nightmare Moon!” shouts Shadow Star, invoking burning determination in everyone of his fellows like lighting a fire in the cold, everypony performing the salute of the Lunar Empire.

“Thirty minutes should suffice for them all to rest and to gather their required equipment, your majesty,” explains the instructor.

“Excellent. Now….I must return to my own duties, however I wish you all the best.” POOF! And with that Nightmare Moon bursts into her ethereal mist form, the essence flying away as quiet as a whisper in the night in an almost slithering motion through the air - no wonder she had snuck so quietly up on everypony who she had been watching from the shadows.

Viewing the departure of the Alicorn until she was fully gone, Dusk turns to his fellow squad members and incites in the subordinates fevered enthusiasm, “Ready yourselves, fellow Legionnaires! We have the Empress’ blessing, let’s not squander it!”