• Published 12th Mar 2024
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An Oath to Hashtor - Sterling the pegasus

A Ponyhammer: 40,000 story. Lieutenant Stormhoof of the Lamenters finds himself stranded on a feudal world. Away from his chapter, he is placed in charge of the defence of this world against the xenos that threaten it.

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Chapter Four

Stormhoof was surprised at how readily the ponies of Altheheim had accepted the word of the Emperor. For at least nine millenia, the ponies of this planet had been searching for answers-who had sent them here? Where had their technologies-their Knights, their weapons and armour come from?
They even had ships-Stormhoof had informed them when they had shown him that they were light cargo shuttles-Arvus Lighters. They had about six of them still in operation, all of which had not run out of fuel as nobody on the planet had known how to pilot one for the last few thousand years.
Now they finally had their answer. The superstitious populace was easy to sway when he informed them that He had sent their forefathers. An unfortunate side of this was that if the ponies had not seen him as a holy figure before, they certainly did now. In their eyes, he was a blessed angel sent by the Emperor to spread his enlightenment and protection to their ponies, and it unsettled him.

The contingent from house Hastilude had shown him the way to their vox-beacon at the top of the tower. It had been calling out one message across the stars for the last ten millennia, on a now long defunct vox-channel that had not seen active use since then. In the voice of a long-dead ghost of a soldier, it simply said “Planetary garrison established, awaiting further orders.”
Now, with some persuasion from the elders of the house, Stormhoof had been allowed to finally change the message. Switching it to a channel often used by the Lamenters, the marine spoke into the microphone; “This is Lieutenant Stormhoof of the Lamenters. I have survived a crash-landing on this planet, dubbed ‘Hashtor’ by its pony occupants. If there are any of the Imperium’s soldiers out there, I am requesting a pickup to return to my chapter. Repeat Message.”
Tuning his helmet to receive updates from the powerful vox-beacon, Stormhoof stood, and waited for a response.

The Lieutenant stayed there, spending a day and night, waiting for a response before he was hailed by Flowerprance. “My Lord.”
The Lieutenant removed his helmet and turned to face her slight frame as she came up the last of the stairs. She was one of the few who had not started treating him like an angel, and he liked her spirit. “Speak, Baroness.”
She was the head of this lance of House Hastilude, all the other knights that called this fortress home were vassals under her. She continued trotting towards him. “We are hearing reports of strange noises, and lights in the darkness of the forests to the south.”
“The forests from whence I came. I can hear it in your voice, and you are correct. I have been followed here.”
“My apologies Lord, but I must protect my ponies. Tell me. What is it?”
Stormhoof stopped. Remembering the floodlights he had seen in the void. “The enemy.”
Flowerprance’s face grew grim. “I see. The forest is too dense for our knights to travel through swiftly, and so I must go myself to investigate. I will bring a contingent of Chevaliers with me.”

“I assume you are telling me this, because you wish for me to travel with you.”
She nodded “Yes Lord, if you would not mind. Nobody knows any off-planet enemy as well as you do, and it would do well for the guardsponies to see you in action.”
He gave her a slight smile. “Very well.”

The best of Hashtor’s ground troops were known as the Chevaliers. Despite their age, their carapace suits were more well-protective than most guard regiment armour he had seen, although he noted that while once their suits had been void capable, over the millenia their frayed cloth segments had been patched up so many times that they would likely never be able to be worn in the vacuum of space again. These Chevaliers were both expert sword and marksponies-their hoof-to-hoof training was a little lacklustre, but Stormhoof had been informed that they did not need to train with their hooves, as it was un-chivalrous behaviour. Upon whether or not such codes were respected on the battlefields of the 41st millennium, the Lamenter did not feel the need to comment.

Then there were their regular forces. Militia recruited from local towns. These were clad in gothic style hoof-wrought, metal, yet still flexible armour, and the amount of protective gear worn by individuals was seemingly random.
The marine Lieutenant was glad that he would not have to deal with these Militia men-at least, not yet.
He moved in front of the Chevaliers, inspecting their ranks. As he clopped past each one they all turned and saluted him with their armoured hooves to their open faceplates. He studied each of their muzzles through his cracked, red eye-lens, searching for signs of fear or doubt in their eyes. Everywhere he looked, the faces of the Chevaliers were proud and stalwart. Reaching the end of their number, he nodded, and returned to his position in front of them, next to Flowerprance. “Very good.” He remarked.

She smiled, looking up at him. “I am glad that my Chevaliers will suffice.”
“They will do more than that, ponies are fascinating. They are both the most fearful, and fearless species in the galaxy. I have spent 392 years fighting alongside them, and their deeds never cease to amaze me. To be a pony in this universe is not easy, to be a warrior is even less so. I have been made into a weapon, but a pony can be so much more.”
Flowerprance felt a little uncertain at his words, this galaxy her warriors would be stepping into seemed less and less hospitable by the day. She was always one for progress, but would this departure from their bubble prove to be too much for her ponies?

Stormhoof, Flowerprance and the Chevaliers had been walking at a brisk trot for days, tracing the path the Lamenter had taken. The trudging of the soldiers’ horseshoes on the dirt roads was broken up only by the thumping of Stormhoof’s boots, and the mechanical stomping of the Atheon walker that had been sent to accompany them. The walker was a curious vehicle. It was of a pattern of Sentinel now lost to the Imperium, in fact, these walkers were as ancient as the suits of armour the Chevaliers wore. Artificers were trained in repairing vehicles from a young age on these machines. Once they had shown they were capable enough, they graduated to the maintenance of the Armiger knights, and after that, Questoris. This was the way it had been for millenia, and Stormhoof had to admit that if the knights were still as operational as their Scions claimed-the tradition was at the very least a practical one. Every town they passed through, the ponies were delighted to hear the word of the Emperor, and to see that truly the Angel they had seen days before was on their side. Surprisingly, Flowerprance received just as much attention if not more so than Stormhoof. Everywhere she walked the ponies lauded over her, and the two of them became cause for much celebration. Flowerprance was hailed as intelligent for siding with the Angel and accepting his word. Meanwhile, the Lamenter was seen as kind and beneficent for coming to them from above to battle their enemies.

The group stopped. There was smoke on the horizon-more than the amount that would come out of a chimney. Stormhoof stiffened, Flowerprance sensed his tensing before he took off, galloping at breakneck speed towards the direction of the cottage he had stayed at several days before.
The Chevaliers looked at each other, bewildered, a few looking to Flowerprance with the same expressions. She met their gaze, a determined look. “Well? Double time stallions, let us show this Space Marine what the Hashtoran Chevaliers are made of!”

Stormhoof knelt next to the ruins of the house beside the body of the farmer. He had been torn open by a crude weapon-a blunt one-his guts spilling out from under his barrel. His lasrifle was on the ground, next to him, and in the treeline lay a series of bodies that originated from the Ork breed xenos. He had died fighting. That was all that could be asked of him.
The Orks had brought with them a small, purple-painted shuttle that featured a large searchlight on the front. Crudely bolted to the side was a huge mechanical arm that haphazardly held a long-barreled weapon-a thunderhawk’s turbo-laser destructor. The gun looked as though it had been torn off of a vessel, and the Lamenter had no doubt in his mind it had been taken from his crashed thunderhawk. Stormhoof turned, sensing movement from the rubble. He drew his sword, spinning to face the source of the noise-and stopped. There was a faint knocking coming from beneath the floorboards-boards that had since then burned away to reveal a metal hatch, large enough for a pony to fit inside. Stormhoof moved over swiftly, sword still engulfed in his magic, and ripped the hatch off of its hinges revealing the little filly inside, clutching her wood-carved knight. She was not crying.

“You’re here!” She exclaimed, hugging his foreleg after climbing up the ladder. Stormhoof saw that inside the hole there had only been enough space for her, not for her father as well. A newfound respect for the stallion dawned in the Lamenter.
He did not know how to comfort anyone-let alone a foal. She had seen her dead father. Stormhoof knew it. She did not cry-although looked like she had been for hours. The Lieutenant stayed with her until Flowerprance and the Chevaliers arrived.

He had done this. The Orks and their scrapper vessel had been attracted to the planet by his thunderhawk crashing. They had followed his path through the forest and had come here, looking for a fight. Although several of them were dead, Stormhoof knew that there were others out there. The rage bit at the back of his mind. The rest of them had to die, and he knew that he had to kill them. His face contorted and he snarled. No more ponies would be killed because of his failure. Horus had to be slain, he was out there, somewhere. And Sanguinius was coming to end him.
“My Lord!”
The blackness lifted, reduced to a dull thrumming at the back of his head. Stormhoof turned, Flowerprance was crouched next to the little filly, who had pulled her into a hug. She was afraid. Afraid of him.
“M-my…Apologies.” He managed to push out, before sighing. “I was…lost in thought.”
“What are these…creatures?”
“These are Orks. a vile and barbaric race. They exist only to fight, they scavenge weapons and vehicles from fighting forces and twist them into crude parodies of what they once were. They are an ancient enemy, a foe that we have been fighting since the Dark Age of Technology. They are…stubborn beasts, but simple-minded. Preferring brute-strength and higher numbers over tactical thinking…They must have been attracted to the system by our war, and by extension have been brought here to scavenge pieces from the crashed ship I came in.”
Flowerprance was silent for a moment.
“More are coming.”
“Then we had better get moving.” She stood up, and directed two of her Chevaliers to take the little filly back to Altheheim.
“What will happen to her?”
“You care about her, don’t you?”
“She is a pony, it is my sworn duty to protect her.”
“It is more than that, perhaps you have more emotion than you give yourself credit for.”
He paused, eyeing Flowerprance, as the Scion wondered for a moment if she had overstepped her boundaries.
Finally, his face cracked into a slim smile. “My Genesire would have enjoyed hearing you say that.”