• Published 15th Dec 2020
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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.

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Chapter 5: Alone in the Dark

Author's Note:

This chapter has some (moderately) detailed descriptions of violence.

Small groups of faint silver rays from the full Moon descend through the Everfree Forest’s canopy at uneven intervals, producing a mystical glow of shadows within the undergrowth of thick foliage that twists and turns like a natural maze. The barely-existent passing of wind breaks up the otherwise stone-like stillness of the branches and bushes to make them sway, the air itself almost afraid to pass through such a wicked place of nature.

In addition to the gentle wind passing through the plants, Dusk Spectre's rustling movements amongst the undergrowth are the only sounds within all of this. The soldier's pace is steady and senses heightened for any sign of danger. His main hand grips the silver sword with battle-ready tightness while his offhand hand holds up the magical light crystal for illumination, the arcane item complimenting the solider’s natural Bat Pony nocturnal sight to grant full visibility.

Dusk’s mind continues to pay attention to roughly how much time has passed since his departure from the others, his travel speed constant not only to conserve energy for fighting but also to estimate how far he has traveled from the clearing in hopes of helping him to pinpoint his location on the map he brought when the time comes to check it.

Every once in awhile Dusk comes across a sizable gap in the Everfree Forest’s canopy allowing a clear line of sight to the Empress’ stars, his focus set on a particular bright celestial body that was the North Star - a tool further useful for navigating the eventual retreat back to the Lunar Castle-

AWOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

Five seconds. They’re close! Very, very close!

If he makes it back……


The Timberwolf howl originates from a frightening distance, an encounter with such cursed monsters imminent because of that howl’s duration being one Dusk remembers Midnight Shroud and Silver Night informed earlier as Timberwolf for “we know where you are and are very close to attacking you.”

Dusk’s heart races, his muscles tense, his breathing rapid. Terror anticipation for what is to come drowns out the rest of his bodily and thought processes to mobilize them all for the fight response, combat readiness becoming him.

Catching another glimpse of the North Star, the trooper briefly crouches to a stop to pull out his map with haste and reveal its feature with the light crystal. Using the North Star and his distance estimate, the soldier determines a rough position of his location on the map that he scans speedily, questionable looking shadows at the edge of his vision forcing Dusk to snap around up, left, right and over his shoulder a few times at the haunting undergrowth for the entire time this happens.

Dusk’s gaze fixates on a specific part of the map not-too-distant away from where he is; a potential clearing like the one he left from. Doubt about said clearing’s existence however rises in the Legionnaire at the same time as conviction to reposition to that location, the rough guesses of the unmapped sections Everfree Forests’ layout being shown having been collected by aerial scout parties who flew over it - no Pony who actually set hoof in it. It does not matter, it is the best nearby place I have and the best chance I have.

Casting aside his doubt, Duks puts the map away, stands up and begins jogging to said possible clearing, anticipating for its open space to allow much greater space for maneuverable dodges and sword swing attacks than the tight undergrowth he is in at the moment.

Further and further the solider rushes towards his objective, the ever growing sound of parting foliage he soon blitzes through playing on paranoia that some of it is the Timberwolves pursuing right behind him, Dusk’s adrenaline building in concentration the longer such thoughts play out...

Several times the wish to look behind to put said thoughts to rest comes up, only for the wishes to collapse away every time due to the non-negotiable speed the Threstal is traveling at to get to the clearing in time - said speed running a high risk of colliding into one of the trees or tripping into the bushes ahead he weaves around if he does not watch where he is going above all else, thus forcing his paranoia-fueled adrenaline to continue building in quantity…... I need to get to the clearing, the Timberwolves are almost here!


Yes! At last his destination is reached.

Erupting out of the treeline into the clearing, Dusk Spectre welcomes the open, flat, ground all around him, the convenience of having it instead of the rugged, cluttered, undergrowth relieving.

Now slowing to a walk, Dusk’s breathing takes its time to decline from a rapid rate to a more controlled steady one, exhaustion minimal due to effective pacing. Recovery comes ever more easier now that clear night skies bathes the Threstal, the access to clear air a blessing in contrast to the thick mixture from the shrubs-

Dusk’s body freezes in place upon reaching the centre of the clearing and at the sight before him, a cold hardness manifesting in his stomach, his eyes widening while also looking up at what towers over him; a mighty stone cliff leading to a plateau above. Oh no….. The cliff having been missed from the scouting parties flying far above it, its existence on the map not recorded….

The seriousness of having such a landmark standing opposed to the soldier soon sets in, his mind contemplating what options are available, ….That cliff is too smooth, too steep and too high to climb. I could try flying up there. But with all this equipment…- The Bat Pony pauses to glance down at his full body armour, primary sword and short secondary short, then behind his shoulder at the Everfree Forest he came from - in the direction of the monsters coming from it for him. -and the fatigue I will have after fighting the Timberwolves…..I won’t be able to fly to its full height.

Dusk runs a palm through his mane, grinding his teeth together. ...Abandoning my equipment is out of the question. Even if the less weight does let me reach the top of the cliff, I will be armourless in the Everfree Forest…..and Empress knows what else I could come across in this place without it…

Turning his back on the cliff, the solider stands facing the shrouded depths of the forest all around him, his weapon hand stabbing his sword’s blade into the dirt under hoof. The only way out is the way I came in….

The gleaming silver hue of his sword at the corner of his vision eventually brings Dusk’s attention to it, the stunning shine of it reflecting the greater stunning shine of Her Majesty’s full Moon that the Bat Pony turns to look behind him and up at; the celestial orb’s glow so beautiful, its unpolluted light rays of purity travelling through the deep void of space that surrounds it everywhere, the Moon’s gentle light like a lighthouse amidst that abyssal black ocean of unknown.

Aching awe of such beauty fills Dusk, his heart beating with appreciation so much that his eyes become watery. Empress….

Grasping with both hands his sword’s pommel that contains the carved platinum insignia of the Lunar Empire, Dusk continues to hold the weapon vertically into the ground as he takes a knee with it. The full Moon stands higher, more grandiose, at his back than even the mighty cliff face that traps him…..the mortal soldier taking a pray as he stares with fear/courage into the void of dark-magic-tainted trees and unholy monsters, “...Oh God-Empress, Nightmare Moon, hear my words. I plea for your blessing, I plea for your strength. Please spare this faithful subject from the-“

A piercing bright-green pair of infuriated eyes appears within the void, demonic slits settting on the lone trooper, Dusk’s faith remaining unflinching, his gaze not looking away from the Timberwolf’s

“Please spare this faithful subject from the nightmares of the night, for you are the night incarnate that protects us all. Please offer this faithful subject the-“

Many pairs of equally frightening eyes manifest within the darkness, all focused solely on Dusk, all burning like the hottest flames of Tartarus. Suddenly the eyes begin to rush closer all at once, the distant sight of foliage being trampled and shoved aside displaying the Timberwolves’ ferocity. Yet still Dusk continues.

“Please offer this faithful subject the power to resist the horrors in the shadows, including the horrors hiding in his soul’s shadow. And please, God Empress of the Night,-“

Their bodies come into view now; savage animals of plant-matter and wicked arcane power that were never meant to be. Their spiky shoulders and legs compliments the sharpness of their fangs that snarl vendettively, their need for vengeance incalculable.

“And please, God-Empress of the Night, Nightmare Moon, please allow this faithful subject’s actions to not be in vain. I beg of you for my friends and the civilians with them to return to your loving embrace unharmed.”

Standing up, Dusk Spectre rips the sword from the ground and takes a battle posture, his slit eyes glowing their cyan colour, his vampiric-like fangs on full display in enragement, his bat wings outstretched.

“For the night is dark and full of terrors.”


The first Timberwolf bursts out of the undergrowth straight towards the Legionnaire, its firm thighs and calves pumping away during the rapid charge before tensely crouching for a leap at its prey.

Jumping backwards and using his wings, with a single shuttering flap that sounds like the air breaking, Dusk dashes out of reach of the beast’s attack, causing the Timberwolf to stumble to a semi-fall/stand upon hitting the ground again.

Not giving his opponent time to prepare for another action, the stallion jumps forwards with another big wing flap so strong it throws dust up and sounds like a whip cracking.

SNAP!

Ramming his sword straight into the Timberwolf’s chest, Dusk’s single strike holds so much force and precision that the shattering of the animal’s wooden body parts there sounds off just moments before the rest of the wooden limbs break also.

POOF!

The Timberwolf collapsing with a burst of harmless emerald energy into a lifeless mass of motionless leaves, branches and logs - dead - before it could roar in pain. One down!

Quickly taking another defensive posture, the trooper spots within the undergrowth the ethereal green eyes of two more Timberwolves advancing to attack from the left and right simultaneously, moments before they too pierce into the clearing, the left one closer than the Timberwolf to the right.

Get down! Thinking on his feet, Dusk crouches just in time to barely evade the left Timberwolf’s leap which overshoots him, while managing to hold his weapon’s blade up and skewer the monster’s stomach as it falls onto it and over him.

SNAP!

Heaving the Timberwolf over himself with the considerable help of its forward momentum, Dusk’s move results in the beast crashing to the ground but the sword lunges itself into its victim during the act and is torn away from the soldier just as the Timberwolf on Dusk’s right arrives.

Oh fuck! Wide-eyed shock forms on the Threstal’s face as he half shoots up straight from the crouching positions and throws himself back in hopes of escaping the new Timberwolf’s far-reaching jump but to no avail-

CRUNCH!

“Ahhhhhhh!” Screams Dusk, pain registering at his left shoulder, the Timberwolf’s jaw biting down hard into it with countless small sharpened stakes for teeth that just pierce the armoured shoulder pad there, Dusk’s skin now punctured but (due to the armour) not too deeply.

Using its superior weight advantage and the Bat Pony’s already backwards moving motion, the Timberwolf slams Dusk onto the ground across his back, pinning him there with its jaws lodged in place, stuck in the armour.

SLAM!

“Gahh!” A sharp winded exhale shoots from the stallion’s lungs upon impact, glaring Bat Pony and Timberwolf’s eyes locking face-to-face with the latter jerking its head around like a rabid dog to pull its lodged teeth out of its prey’s armour, tearing at the plating. At the same time the creature’s hind legs slam down on Dusk’s legs to further restrain him, the armour down there helping to absorb the impacts but still not completely blocking the pain. “Ahhhh!-“

Enough! Before his arms could be pinned, Dusk shoves his hand down to his waist with his non-injured arm and rips the secondary short sword from its sheath, proceeding to rapidly stab the weapon into the Timberwolf’s eye and neck several times by ferocity-fueled adrenaline and revenge. STAB! “Get-“ STAB! “off-“ STAB! “of-“ STAB! “me!-“ STAB! “Die-“ STAB! “you-“ STAB! “filth!-“ STAB!

POOF!

Like its packmate before it this Timberwolf also dies in an arcane burst of harmless green energy, freeing its foe from its pin. Throwing aside the now dead pile of plant matter covering him, Dusk clenches his teeth in an effort to ignore the stinging pain at his bleeding shoulder that is forced to adapt to the combat strain on it for survival.

Getting to his feet as fast as possible, Dusk makes a run for the first Timberwolf that thankfully stayed paralysed across the ground, twitching and making soft whimpers in pain from having the Legionnaire's sword still lodged in its body.

Spotting the many more rapidly approaching Timberwolves from their devil green gazes in the Everfree Forest’s darkness and wanting to put his opponent out of misery, Dusk bites down on the secondary short sword’s hilt and holds it horizontally in his mouth for rapid access. Tearing his primary sword out of the wounded Timberwolf, the trooper brings his full strength down with an overhead vertical swing of the weapon at the monster’s neck.

SNAP!-

POOF!

A clean decapitation that kills the savage in an instant, Dusk spitting on its “corpse”. Go back to Tartarus-

They’re still coming?! Snapping back towards the non-ending assault from the Everfree, another pair of Timberwolves pierces the clearing but unlike the last pair this one does not bother with flanking, instead making a direct rush for the Bat.

FLAP! FLAP! FLAP!

In a sequence of quick and strong wing flaps, Dusk kicks up loose dirt on the forest ground that blows at the Timberwolves, the majority of it landing in the eyes and nostrils of the right one who staggers to a stop, wheezing and blinded.

Having separated one Timberwolf from the other, the solider takes the opening for a vertical swing down on the remaining one still attacking. Committing to the move, the swing’s momentum soon prevents it from stopping until completion, much to Dusk’s short-lived shock as the Timberwolf manages to weave out of the blade’s way at the last moment to sink its jaws into the Bat’s calf.

“Ahhhhh!” Screams Dusk, a similar puncturing injury occurring at his leg like it did at his shoulder, the sudden jerk backwards the Timberwolf then does forcing its opponent down on one knee. Block it quickly!-

Spitting out his secondary short sword, Dusk catches it mid fall and drives it into the Timberwolf’s open maw of a mouth that is withdrawn from the calf and lunging towards its enemy’s throat.

CRUNCH!

Stabbing into the Timberwolf’s upper jaw, Dusk lodges the weapon in there to prevent the beast's mouth from clamping shut, having just done so within a breath away from his throat being bitten.

Not letting up, the stallion uses the armoured plating surrounding his fist to punch the Timberwolf right on the snout, Gahh! Bludging the Timberwolf’s sensitive nose and forcing the animal to rear its head back in pain - Dusk mentally yelling from the punch’s injury to himself, the hardness of the Timberwolf’s body enough to bruise his knuckles. Finish it!

Using the newly created space for it, the Legionnaire takes his main sword’s hilt with both hands to shove the weapon through the Timberwolf’s chest a few times until it is done, yelling why doing so, “Ahhhhhh!”

POOF!

Dusk not realising the Timberwolf had died after the first strike, the follow up ones overkill. You brought this on yourself.-

“Bastards!” The stallion grimaces, rushing to stand as two more Timberwolves arrive to reinforce the now recovered Timberwolf that his earlier wing flaps had blinded - three in total to fight now alongside no shortage of more coming from the shadows. There’s too many, take off now!

Crouching down then lunging his body upwards FLAP! Dusk leaps into the air in collaboration with another air-cracking pump of energy from his wings, escaping just in time to barely avoid the outstretched claws of the jumping Timberwolves that fail to grab ahold of his legs.

Flying into the sky before stopping to hover in place at forest canopy level, Dusk pants harsh breaths while sweating. His heart beats maddeningly with a grip still iron around his main weapon in one hand and the secondary weapon in the other (that he snatched from the Timberwolf’s corpse while crouching for takeoff), duel wielding both.

By the Empress….. The full extent of this Timberwolf pack becomes known soon after the Bat Pony hovers out of their reach - twelve demonic beasts of nature eventually making their way into the clearing and circling beneath him like sharks beneath the ocean to a swimmer on its surface. Dusk having just fled from being overwhelmed.

Staring down at his foes, the solider watches them with intensity for a minute, trying to identify the alpha amongst them, a potential prime target for future attacks-

There you are…. Realises Dusk, spotting a group of three Timberwolves snapping their jaws at the others who stray out of position, one of them the alpha and the other two the second-in-command betas.

Clenching both swords tightly, Dusk grits his teeth, pondering while not looking away from the enemy leaders, Should I go for it?.....

The close proximity of each Timberwolf never changes, their body language on the verge of retaliation for any move against them, their numbers too high. Losing his firm grips, Dusk now holds his weapons more comfortably, cursing, Dammit. It is too dangerous, it is not worth it.

Still hovering in the air, the trooper sheaths his swords and replaces them with the painkiller potion from his waist satchel bag. The sparkling nature of the blue fluid is made more obvious within the moonlight at Dusk’s back POP! the Bat Pony removing the flask’s cork and taking a big gulp of the liquid down, its bitter taste a small price to pay for the more tolerable stinging burning at his bleeding shoulder and leg calf.

Placing the flask back to replace it with a shimmering orange one and medical cloth from the same bag, Dusk groans as he pours some of the potion onto the cloth, trying to motivate himself. Just do it, it won’t last long…..-

“Gahhh!” Dusk hand then squeezes the soaked cloth above his wounded shoulder, the magical disinfectant dribbling onto the injury to incinerate any chance of infection forming there and safeguarding it further. Come on, just one more time…..- “Ngahhh!” The same action occurring at the hurt calf.

With damage now treated as best as it can be given the situation, Dusk puts the disinfectant away with the painkiller and takes one final look down at the still circling Timberwolves, seeing small specks of his blood dripping down to them, his expression contemptible. Let’s try not to get injured again… Before his sight moves to the stars, spotting the North Star once more and turning in the north-west direction at the horizon - to the safety of the Lunar Castle. …..I cannot fly that full distance without stopping to rest, but hopefully I can put enough distance between myself and these creatures…..Hopefully...

FLAP! FLAP! FLAP! FLAP! FLAPS!

And with that Dusk flies away like a shadow in the sky, the Timberwolves vanishing into the dark forest after him, the dripping specks of blood from their prey a perfect trail they prowl after….


Straining tightness forms at Dusk’s wing joints, each flap he performs placing larger exhaustion on the soldier who now takes forced breaths of air after flying for so long, his overworked lungs demanding a break, sweat dripping down his forehead.

There. Unable to fly any further, Dusk mentally marks a spot on the Everfree Forest below him and takes a final flap, sighing as he holds out his wings to glide to the ground. Tucking in said wings upon reaching the canopy, the Thestral tumbles through the branches unceremoniously before throwing his wings up again like a short-lived parachute to catch himself from hitting the ground hard.

Rolling into the fall, the stallion comes to a stop against the trunk of a tree, his mane messy with tweaks and leaves. Grabbing the soft dirt under his palm, Dusk sighs again at the sensation of the soil, the feeling of standing on it once more to rest reassuring, his pulse and breathing already easing. “F-finally…” he pants.

Several noiseless minutes pass by, the alluring need to close his eyes for a nap tempting Dusk in that time, cast aside by the occasional light slap in the face or head shake the Bat Pony does to himself. “I cannot sleep. Not yet. Not in this place…”

On and on it goes, the absence of danger combined with the fatigue from fighting and flying persuades the stallion’s body to be at ease, despite his mind’s protests that continue to resist the urge to rest fully. Stay awake, Dusk...

Every strange looking shadow in the dark, every notice of foliage moving due to the soundless wind, every part of the environment plays on Dusk’s mind that periodically triggers with alertness that helps starve off the sleep also, in those moments his hand ready to reach for his sword or body ready to stand again. Stay…awake....

But soon it becomes too much to hold back…..

Stay…. The exhaustion. The strange comfort of the tree trunk he rests on. The beautiful sight of stars in the night sky above. The chemical afterglow of adrenaline that was flooding his veins. All of it too much to hold back…

Stay….awake?.... Closing his eyes, Dusk’s sinks into light rest, his bruised, blooded, messy and drained body overpowering his willpower to say otherwise. The Legionnaire enters much needed soft slumber, a moderate amount of disturbance able to awaken him but nothing else…………...-

Thirty minutes.

It will total thirty minutes for Dusk to recover like this, until the most terrifying parody of an alarm clock brings him to consciousness again, a sound hammering him to focus again and not forget where he was, to not forget the monster’s pursuing him.

AWOOOOOOOOOOOOOOL!

Monsters that now found him again….