• Published 4th Apr 2013
  • 1,260 Views, 32 Comments

Foal - thelittlestpony

History can tell us many things, but what if the truth is not always one of them?

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Chapter 9: A Friend in Need

“My Lord, it is as we feared, the Colthaugh Redoubt has fallen”
“Few My Lord, a caravan of injured and dead approaches, scouts report back less than a dozen”
Please do not call me that Ni'irus, old friend, you know how uncomfortable it makes me feel” Aion looked over to the slowly approaching caravan, flanked by several of his guards and scouts. Rain thrashed down from the black rain-clouds above, midday in the middle of summer was not as it should have been. Breaking himself from his thoughts he turned to his Zebra lieutenant; “Ni'irus, prepare the medical teams, we have a lot of work to do this day”
“Yes My Lord” Leaning closer to the Alicorn he whispered “Aion, friend. I know how you feel about this but I must call you by your title when others are here. Do you know what the Prancians call you?”
Aion hesitated, looking down then shook his head slightly.
“Aion le Magne”
Aion the Great
Aion sighed and turned his eyes to the ground. “A name of such gravity for such a pony, Ni'irus. A pony who knowingly left a garrison in the depths of the enemies realm with little chance but to delay their advance. How can someone so 'great' be so vacuous?”
Without waiting for a response the Alicorn spread his wings and launched himself into the air and drove through the torrential downpour towards the caravan. Healing magic was not his forte, but he knew his presence was comforting to his troops.
Ignoring the hastily arranged escort he glided down to the back of a wagon and stepped aboard. Around him were pony and zebra alike, he counted a half dozen with varying injuries, some unconscious, some awake and murmuring quietly. Some with limbs missing, forelegs with bone exposed cauterised it appeared by a skilled pyromancer to stymie the bleeding until better treatment could be provided. The smell of burned flesh was overpowering.

Beside him a unicorn wept, holding his horn to his cheek, a large wound along the side of his mutilated face bisecting a cut which had driven through the horn and cleaved it clearly in one blow. His eye was covered with a heavy bandage. The likely work of a Manticore. The horn taking the full blow had clearly slowed the attack and was likely the only reason he was still alive.
“Tell me, what is your name?”
The unicorn raised his head so his remaining good eye could see his questioner.
Sire! I..I”
“Calm now, think of me only as a concerned friend, what is your name soldier”
“Stygia, Sire”
“Stygia, my name is Aion, it is a pleasure to meet you.”
“Yes Sire, but we must go back! I cant leave him.. them
The unicorn hesitated, clearly agitated by the topic but the calming presence of the leader of the rebellion gave him the heart to continue. “Yes Sire, my friend. Zehar”
“Tell me about him Stygia, we shall do all we can”
The unicorn stifled a rasping cough, the journey from Colthaugh had clearly been long and if the stench on the wagon was any indicator there was infected wounds to be treated. Several inhabitants shivered and sweated feverishly, unconscious to the conversation that Aion and Stygia were having.

“I met him almost two years ago sire. I had been sent to the Northern forest to scout reported enemy movements with a small group and we came upon a group of zebra who had been attacked. He was one of two survivors of what we were told was seventeen. His whole family were slaughtered before his very eyes.
“After returning to the base at Colthaugh he stayed with me, I trained him, we told each other stories with the soldiers. I guess you could say I took him under my wing.
“He was a good source of morale. He had the will of a soldier but the innocence of a colt. We became very close, I looked upon him as a son, and I hope that he looked upon me as a father. His presence was a constant source of solace to the other soldiers, years of constant fighting can leave a Pony's soul.... hollow

“Yes Stygia, I know I ask much of everyone. And for this I am sorry, please continue and tell me more about Zehar”

“Of course Sire” The unicorn sighed deeply and suppressed his emotions to continue with his story.
“After a year, as of course you know, the Colthaugh garrison had been working hard clearing enemy encampments from the surrounding area. The enemy was disorganised and easy to rout. Of course we took losses, but we had carved out a workable safe haven around the redoubt. We were well defended, we had walls built around the keep, a moat. We felt safe for a long time, we felt we were making a difference to the war and keeping people safe. It was a good time. Well, as good as war can be”

Making no attempt to speak Aion waited silently as the unicorn before him bared his soul to him. It was a story he heard so often but the least he could do is remember those that had fought in his name.

“...Three days ago, it happened.. It started as any other day, wake up, relieve the night guard. Organise the four man scout team to check the area.. An hour later we were under attack from a column of Minotaur, we were unprepared, we were living under a false sense of security from our year of near silence.
“The earth pony and zebra phalanx were quick to organise and man the gates as they were being battered, it would not hold long. I took to the tower with the other unicorns and attempted to force them into a retreat with a wall of flame... They seemed possessed, every one we killed another seemed to immediately take its place. We just didn't understand what was happening. Zehar kept close to me as he always did with his spear and plate armour waiting for commands. It was comforting having him near where I could protect him. As suddenly as the attack started it petered out and the Minotaur retreated to the forest line...
“An hour passed and the enemies seemed to be waiting for something, our phalanx did not shift from their position at the gates and the commander gave the order to tend the wounded. We had lost several unicorn to spears thrown from behind the wall but for the most part the Minotaur had taken the brunt of losses.
“Shouting started from the rear of the camp among the medical tents... Trolls.”

“Trolls this far south Stygia? Are you sure?
“Yes Sire” Taking a laboured breath and allowing a solitary tear to escape his good eye he continued with his recollection. “They undermined the rear walls as we were occupied with the attack”

Aion's face flashed with concern. Attacks were often random and mindless, nothing more than a swarm of brainless creatures bent on destruction and caring not how their objective was achieved. The revelation that they were becoming organised enough to take even the strongest fortification was a worrying prospect, they already outnumbered the Pony, Zebra and Griffin forces by ten to one by most accounts.

“Please continue Stygia, and please call me Aion”

“Yes Sire... Aion... There was confusion around the camp and the commander immediately sent the remaining unicorn from the battlements to the medical tents. As we moved to the rear of the camp the Minotaur forces redoubled their attack on the main gates. Without us unicorns throwing fire down the gates quickly buckled and fell. The earth ponies and zebra fought like lions as we unicorns battled the Trolls at the rear of the camp and pushed them back. We had taken heavy losses and I was one of only three remaining unicorn by the time we had collapsed the tunnel and returned to the melee at the main gates.
“The earth ponies and zebra alike had taken heavy losses, their column though fought in their organised rank and pushed the Minotaur back to the gates as myself and the other unicorn returned to our place upon the walls. We were exhausted, we had been fighting for nearly three hours without pause but were quickly cutting down the enemy numbers, it seemed we were going to hold out.. but... the Minotaur had not committed their full force at that point. A shout came from a Griffin that more were coming, I had exhausted my magic by that point as had the other unicorns so we moved to the rear of the phalanx and readied spears. It was a horrible sight, the earth ponies and zebras fought and cut down enemies whilst taking heavy losses of their own. The exhaustion of the battle wearing them down and causing the front rows to become disorganised, the Minotaur seemed to just keep coming with no end until there was only two rows left. Myself and Zehar among the last.”

The unicorn paused again and dropped his head to the floor of the wagon breathing heavily, as if exhausted by reliving the event in his mind. Aion waited patiently as the wagon drew closer to the encampment. Shouts could be heard readying medics and preparing guards and scouts to check the surrounding area.

“There were not many of us left by then, Aion. But we were not going to give up. There was no more than twenty of us still alive and fighting but we had cut down the enemy number so much that it would be a close run thing. They pushed us back and broke our ranks, our remaining troops became disorganised. I turned to where Zehar was... A Minotaur had thrown a spear and caught his rear leg. I rushed over as fast as I could but... I... I was too late. The creature had removed his spear and thrust it to his chest as I arrived and cut it down.
“I will never forget his face... He was crying as he took his last breaths and I could not save him

Aion lifted his head and raised a hoof to the shoulder of the unicorn before him. Stygia seemed lost, the colour had left his face and he was stone faced as tears escaped him.

“I'm sorry” The Alicorn raised his hoof and grasped the mane of the unicorn. “I am so sorry Stygia. You have dealt with so much. I hope you can forgive me

“NO... please don't” he shot in response.
“I... I don't understand Stygia...”
“Please don't be sorry Aion... Sire. Let me finish” The unicorn raised his head again looking with his remaining eye to Aion. He could almost feel the eye burrowing in to his soul. A look of a desperate pony.

“As the attack continued our scout party returned, a Manticore leading them having bolts of fire shot at it from our returning unicorn. The three earth ponies accompanying him had spears drawn and were chasing also. The Manticore was faster than them and swept through the gates and before I could do anything it was upon me. Its clawed paw thrashed at my face, I didn't realise what had happened but as I fell a spear pierced its skull and it dropped by my side. Our returning comrades leapt into the fray and cut down the remaining Minotaur in short order. Their fresh muscles combined with the magical support destroying the enemies and saving us.... What was left of us... It felt like a miracle that any had survived at all.

“The scouts brought grave news, enemy reinforcements to the north numbering in the hundreds. We could not stay as they were only a few short hours away. We moved as fast as we could, scooping any supplies we could and loading any injured in to this wagon. One of the scouts gave me this”

Lifting his horn from his cheek and cradling it in his hoofs like a foal he looked back to Aion. “I... could not bury him Sire. We left them all there, to be carrion for the vultures... More than eighty of us, my friends, my family... Please, please do not be sorry. I could not take it if their sacrifice had no meaning, no purpose. Please..”

Aion paused and looked back to the unicorns piercing glassy eye and nodded slowly. “They shall never be forgotten Stygia. Their lives had a meaning that you may never comprehend.” Aion paused again taking a deep breath and holding back his own emotion to show his new friend his strength. The strength and conviction he was supposed to embody to his troops. “And your sacrifice also Stygia, you will be remembered for as long as there is still a pony still alive, I assure you of this.. Now, I must ask something very important of you...”
Anything, Sire”
Aion flashed a glance to the horn the unicorn was holding then raised his gaze to meet his eye. “Tell me Stygia. Have you ever seen a Dragon?”

“Sorrel, it's time to get up”

It was still early in the morning, Fluttershy was an early riser and the sun had barely breached the horizon which could be seen out of the window of the converted study-bedroom in the cottage now that Fluttershy had drawn the curtains.
Sorrel stirred, not usually one to wake of his own accord he mumbled imperceptibly back at the mare approaching the bed whilst covering his head with his duvet.

“Come on Sorrel, not this again”
Moooomm, just five more minutes”
“You know how Twilight is Sorrel, you don't want to be late”

Moving on to his back and pulling the covers back down to reveal his violet eyes and stifling a yawn he sighed and looked back to Fluttershy.

“Morning Mom”
“Good morning sleepy head” Fluttershy whispered as she leaned to kiss him on the forehead. “Did you finish reading that book Twilight gave to you?”
“Yes Mom”
“Good, now get up you lazy so and so! And get your things together!”

For a couple of years now his routine had been the same on Mondays and Thursdays; get up early and walk over to the library for lessons. Twilight had been teaching him, giving an education outside of Miss Cherilee's usual curriculum. Still attending on the other weekdays with the other young ponies and socialising like a normal member of society, but advancing quickly due to the attention he was given from his mentor during their study days.
Not that he always enjoyed the lessons though. It seemed to him that Twilight just wanted to read books and discuss what they were about, often books that Sorrel had to force himself to read. Not always text books but sometimes novels with hidden meanings, they would discuss and argue over what the author had intended to portray, often disagreeing but always respecting each others opinions. It was enjoyable at times though as Spike and Twilight offered a differing and sometimes refreshing viewpoint that he would not always think himself.
Aside from these extended discussions Twilight often tested his magic ability, with little success. Sorrel understood quite early that Twilight had taken it upon herself to do anything within her power to coax his magical ability out. His lack of horn was always in his mind though as the best he could manage was magical sparks between the crooked remains.

As he continued to the library he looked around the small town, it was still quite early but the smells from Sugarcube corner were still overpowering causing his stomach to protest his lack of breakfast. Pinky always got up early to make cupcakes and muffins and the bakery smells caused him to slow in his walk, a warming respite to the coolness of the morning. He was almost tempted to pay a visit to a certain pink pony, but decided against it on account of skipping breakfast without telling his mother.

Turning back on himself Sorrel saw Spike following him from the direction of his own home, Spike used to come to the cottage to keep him company for the walk to the library but had done so less as he got older so it was strange that he should have done so today.

“Lesson is off bro, Twilight had to head to Canterlot early this morning, she sent me to tell you but you had already gone”
“Oh.. well, not the first time she has been called away, I best head to Miss Cherilees class today then”

Spike, still slightly out of breath from his running allowed his face to turn to a grin. “Well I didn't exactly say that did I?”
“Well.. What are you suggesting exactly?” he replied frowning back at the Dragon.
“I don't know. You aren't expected in class so maybe we can do something? I did all my chores last night so have a free day today, how about we go to the Carousel Boutique and see if we can help with anything? Worst comes to worst you can always ask Sweetie Belle to sing you a song” Spike moved beside Sorrel and nudged him with his elbow and laughed at the blushing pony.
“OK!, I mean right, yes. Ahem, why not”
“Doesn't take much to persuade you to go visit a certain young mare does it?”
“Come on”

The pair turned in the direction of the gaudy shop at the other end of town and moved off. Spike grinning to himself as Sorrel did his utmost to compose himself. He had grown quite attached to Sweetie Belle, although he never admitted it. They continued in silence as Sorrel thought on what he was going to say to the young mare. She was a couple of years older than him, her cutie mark had appeared whilst singing a lullaby to him shortly after his arrival in the forest, and beautiful to him it was too. An outline of a heart with a treble clef at its centre. Certainly apt. His own blank flank was sometimes the cause of mocking from others his age but that had never seemed to matter to her.

“Rarity? Sweetie?”
Sorrel broke from his daydream as Spike called from the shop door for the two sisters. A short walk often seemed faster when he had things on his mind.
There was a little shuffling at the back of the shop as Sweetie raised her head above a pile of fabric she was working on. “Oh hi Spike, Sorrel. Is Rarity with you? We are so behind on this order, I don’t know what she is playing at!”
“So you are helping her to finish an order? Well where is she? Shouldn't she be, you know. Working?” Spike replied with a confused grimace.
“Yes! I don't understand why she slept at your house last night either Sorrel, she knows I cant work all day on this!”
“She didn't stay at my house last night, she left not long after RD”
“She said she had some work she needed to do so she left after dinner”

Sweetie Belle left her work and rushed around to the two still standing at the doorway and raised her hoofs to Sorrels shoulders and looked him in the eyes. Glancing back and forth from the two with a clear panic she continued. “Well, where is she?! She would never neglect her work! We have to find her, please! Where could she be!”

Blushing slightly from the closeness of Sweetie Belle's touch Sorrel raised a hoof of his own to hers. “Of course, lets go”

Comments ( 2 )

So I have been pretty busy the last couple weeks and haven't really had the chance to do any more writing but I have plenty time this week so will get a couple chapters out by next weekend. So apologies if my updates are too slow :fluttercry:

Story Title: Foal
Author: thelittlestpony
Reviewed by: Sirius_Face
One of the elements of good alternative universe stories is when something new or original gets introduced into an existing body of fiction, pushing readers of an established fandom to stop and think about this new element being introduced into the world they are fans of. Foal is one of those stories that bring a new and compelling idea, but it is held back by basic and sometimes serious mistakes of writing.
Full Review
Score: 4/10

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