In The Shadows Of Peace

by Veyron

First published

Frienship, harmony and peace traits that most ponies take for granted. But the world is not at all like what ponies believe and it takes a secert group of individuals to keep that fact at bay. This is their story.

Equestria is a land of peace where ponies can follow their dreams, but what does this peace cost. Follow the Wardens into a secret war where the winning side decides the fate of all and where enemies may become friends.

First off I would like to thank Dusk Quill for giving me feed back and writing advice, The Descendant for historical information, and finally Hyacintho Ignis for being my editor and putting up with my less then stellar writing ability. Go give them some love ponies.


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A wise pony once told me that we all want to change the world. But what if the world you live in is perfect, filled with love, peace, and harmony. Most ponies accept this and move on with their lives, not knowing there are those of us who influence their world from the shadows. But if they could see the high price of their peace, it would surely shatter the fisheye lens they see their world through. Yet we still exist... the monsters you made, your protectors, your dirty secret… We are the Wardens.

The sun was just peaking over the city of Canterlot, spreading its warm rays and bidding ponies to start their day. However, a certain lunar princess was less than happy about the demise of her sleep due to an errant beam of sunlight.

“One wouldst think our sister enjoys ruining other ponies sleep.” Luna mumbled to herself as she rolled out of bed and shuffled to her drapes to close them further. As she reached her midnight blue hoof up to the drapes drawstring, a sudden rapping came from her chamber door. ‘A visitor at this hour surely this is a jest,’ Luna thought to herself and brushing it off as a figment of a sleep addled mind, she returned to blocking out her elder sisters solar orb only to hear the rapping once again, though this time it was much louder.

“Twould seem fate would like us to stay apart, sir sleep.” Having voiced her complaint, Luna trotted over to the door and using her magic, flung it open only to have the solar guard on the other side come tumbling in snout first as his hoof found empty air.

“Would thou like to explain why our sleep was interrupted.” Luna commanded of the guard who was sitting on his haunches and rubbing his muzzle with a hoof. Rising to all fours he offered a salute before speaking.

“Forgive me for my intrusion, milady, but Princess Celestia has requested your presence immediately on matters of the utmost importance.”

With an annoyed snort and a flash, Luna was gone, leaving a fully embarrassed guard to the rest of his duties.

A flash of white light signaled Luna’s arrival to her sisters chamber and the beginning of her triad about her interrupted sleep.

“Dear sister thou do know we are awake for all of the night yes… Then why did your sun see it wise to wake us mere hours after we had fallen into a blissful slumber.” Luna was about to continue when she noticed the two other alicorns standing in the room, both of whom she recognized.

“Cadence, Twilight, what are thou’st doing here.” Luna looked at both alicorns with confusion.

“I summoned them both here just as I summoned you my dear sister.” It was princess Celestia who broke the silence first.

“Now I am sure you are all wondering why I have called you all here,” Receiving only nods, Celestia continued, “It has come to my attention that the Diamond Dogs have been harassing the Buffalo tribes for weeks. Now while this would seem like a purely un-equestrian matter, there have also been reports of attempted foalnappings on the outskirts of Appleloosa.”

This time it was Twilight who decided to speak “But don't the Diamond Dogs try to foalnap a pony every week or so.”

“You would be right, my dear student, but the way they are trying and succeeding in the Buffalo tribes case is what is most troubling. I have not seen this type of organisation since-. “

“King Artemis.” Luna finished for her elder sibling.

“That is why I have called a meeting of all the major leaders, the delegation will start in three hours so prep yourselves and do what you need to do, for I fear we are in for the long haul.”

With that, all four Alicorns went their separate ways.

Artemis, now theres a name I have not heard in a millenium, I do miss his parties and his tactical genius. Still, if the Diamond Dogs have a leader half as skilled as Artemis was then we could be looking at a full scale war and no land would be exempt from their greed for slaves and gems. Luna thought to herself as she marched down the dimly lit underground corridor that led from the castle deep into Canterlot mountain.

Still, should I place the Wardens on stand by? It has been a year since they last saw any real conflict, and even then I used them to guard the vault of artifacts, something the Changelings were not after. Reaching the end of the corridor, Luna came to a large iron door with a draconic eye within a shield engraved into its surface. It had been polished to a mirror-like sheen, reflecting the blue torch light of the corridor and throwing odd shadows about, making it feel as it the darkness itself was alive.

At the bottom near the center was a single imprint in the shape of a hoof and placing her right hoof accordingly, Luna watched as the door glowed a dark midnight blue then released a soft click and swung open. Trotting in, Luna was confronted by a small circular room barely big enough to fit six ponies. In the middle of the room was a small pedestal no higher than a newborn foal could stand. Placing her hoof on the pedestal and pressing down caused it to disappear into the floor followed shortly after by the sound of gears whirring as the floor began to descend into the mountain .

It felt like Luna had been descending for eternity before the dark rock walls gave way to the most beautiful grand cavern Luna had ever laid eyes on. No matter how many times she had been down here, it had never failed to take her breath away; how the quartz glowed like the stars against the obsidian walls or how the slate gray sand of the floor mimicked her beloved moon.

But now was not the time for sightseeing; she had her Wardens to find...

Meeting The Crew

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Luna felt as if she had been walking for an eternity when she came to a small hill, deciding it would be best to get a better lay of the land before she began her descent. Finally cresting the hill, Luna was greeted with the site of a small camp in the valley below, its four low, earthen buildings were divided by two dirt paths crossing to form a t-intersection. This little group of buildings looked almost abandoned, but Luna knew better. Even now, she could feel a pair of eyes watching her from high above.

“You can come out, there is no need to fear us!” Luna shouted to the dark cave ceiling above.

After a few minutes of waiting, the silence around Luna was broken by a low whistling that seemed to stir the air around her and as quickly as it came, it was gone with a only a dull thud. There before Luna stood a pony, his black coat easily blending with the walls of the cave as did his mane and tail, both of which were divided by a single streak of yellow. As he turned to face her, she was able to catch a glimpse of his cutie mark; a full moon crossed by a saber and musket. Finally able to see his face, she noted that his eyes were unusual; his pupils were slitted like those of a dragon and his irises was the color of a polished ruby. It was no surprise to her when she then spotted the pair of leathery bat like wings he possessed.

“Warden Vex, tis good to see thee.” Luna said with a smile.

Bowing his head, Vex replied. “The pleasure is all mine, my lady.”

Motioning for her to follow, Vex lead her towards the small camp Luna had seen earlier.

“What brings you down here, my lady?” Vex asked as they closed in on their destination.

“I wish we could say just a friendly visit, but we fear that this would be a lie.”

Nodding in understanding, Vex lead them into one of the buildings and looking around, it was obvious to Luna that this was a sleeping quarter. There were four beds, two of which were currently occupied, one by a unicorn with a dark blue body and an ice blue mane. His cutie mark was a crystal being struck by lightning. On the other bed sat a female bat pony, her coat a steel grey while her long mane and tail were a dark shade of violet. Her cutie mark was a crescent moon being constricted by a snake.

“Luna, allow me to introduce you to Arcanian and Nova.”

The unicorn known as Arcanian offered a small bow while the batpony Nova only energetically waved a hoof.

“We could not help but notice that there are four beds but only three of thee. Where, pray tell, is your fourth member?” Luna asked.

To her surprise, it was Nova who responded. “I believe he said something about trying a new medical procedure. Come to think of it, he did have all of his sharp stabby things with him.”

“Then to the infirmary we go.” Vex stated and with that they were off.

The coppery stench of blood was in the air as a tan earth pony with an auburn mane and tail and a broken medical cross for a cutie mark stood over a long deceased changeling. Busying himself, he was making cuts and incisions into different parts of its exoskeleton. Hearing the sound of a door opening, he quickly covered his latest project with a sheet and stepped out of his operating room.

The first thing that Luna noticed about this stallion was not his cutie mark, but his eyes. They were thunderstorm grey in color and held a certain mad quality to them. His smile was sickeningly sweet, as if he would much rather cut you open then meet you.

“My lady Luna, this is Stitches, our field medic.”

With a bit of hesitancy, Luna offered the strange pony her hoof. “It is a pleasure.”

Taking her hoof and placing a kiss on it, Stitches offered his reply. “Oh no my dear princess, the pleasure belongs to me.”

Quickly pulling her hoof away, Luna cleared her throat to address all those within the room. “Come, my wardens, we have much to discuss. Vex, is there an area in which we can hold these proceedings?”

“The mess hall is the best place to hold briefings.”

“Very well then, lead on.”

“And so, that is the current political stance Equestria has on the matter.” Luna stated, having finished recounting the information she had learned. She looked from face to face, the four wardens each wearing a blank look.

Vex was the first to speak. “What would you have us do?”

“Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to help the Buffalo tribes by destroying any slave camps you find as well as rescuing as many slave as you can. Should the Diamond Dogs want a war, then you will be our vanguard force. Should you be caught, Equestria will deny your existence and leave you to your fate. Now, what do you need of me?”

After taking a moment to process this information, Vex responded. “If we are to be effective at this task, we will need more than four ponies. We will also need a crew for the Eclipse, preferably griffons. Finally, any new weapons technology that has come out must be put in our armory for our use on this mission.”

“We will have our night guard round up a crew and reinforcements as well as weapons.” Looking confused, Luna added. “Thou still hast the Eclipse?”

“But of course. Besides, it was the first airship you had built after your return, was it not?” With Luna nodding in affirmation, Vex continued. “So then how could we get rid of such a fine ship? And do not worry, we kept her in great shape.”

Looking pleased, Luna rose to all fours and smiled. “Well thou seems to have it all under control, will thou be able to leave in the morrow?” With Vex nodding in reply, Luna continued. “Then we shall be off to attend a meeting of the nations and leave thou to thy work.”

And with that, Luna took wing and headed for the way she came in.

Getting ready

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It had been a couple hours since Luna had left for the meeting and in that time the Wardens were able to prepare and were now finishing up.

“Nova!” Vex shouted as he ran his hoof down his check list.

Poking her head around the corner of the armory, she replied. “Vex, all weapons are accounted for. The official count comes to twenty Sharps rifles, two hundred and thirty Two-band Enfields, and enough ammo to conquer Canterlot twice over.” Finishing with an exaggerated salute, Nova ducked her head back into the armory.

Smiling to himself and shaking his head, Vex returned to his checklist. So far they had enough medical supplies to last for six months, the reinforcements Luna had promised had arrived, all of them town watch ponies and finally the complement of one hundred griffin sailors had arrived and were preparing the Eclipse for launch. The sound of approaching hooves pulled Vex away from his current task and craning his head back, he found Arcanian standing there with a neutral expression on his face.

“You’re worried for Nova, aren't you.” Arcanian trotted past Vex and farther down the hallway.

Taking a moment to collect his thoughts Vex fell in behind Arcanian. “Yes, Nova has never seen combat and she is the youngest on this team.”

“If she has so much promise, then why did you pick her? We both know that this team is just a band of outcasts and noponies who were deemed too dangerous to live in normal society.”

Two years ago

The lunar court stands empty once again, save for a young bat pony and a tall dark alicorn.

“Vex, how long has it been since we found you living in the alleyways of Canterlot?”

“Six milady, it has been six months and I am still ever so grateful for your hospitality.”

Turning to look at her moon through one of the many large windows, Luna continued. “We have a boon to ask of thee.” Turning to look at Vex, Luna saw that she had his full attention. “While we love our dear sister, we can not say the same for her policies regarding armed military units and the lack of a true war council. It is for that exact reason that we are restarting the Warden program.” Luna turned to face Vex “It would be up to you and you alone to recruit others to this unit. We will provide aid and supply when needed but know this, to Equestria you do not exist. Should you be captured, we will deny any knowledge of you and your missions, are we clear?”

Nodding his head and bowing, Vex took his leave.

“Hello, Vex you awake in there?” Arcanian waved a hoof in front of Vex’s face. “You’re going to miss your ride.”

Shaking his head and getting his thoughts back to a semi-normal flow, Vex answered his concerned friend. “I’m fine, Arcanian, and to answer your last question, I choose Nova because of her skill with poisons and the fact that she demonstrated this on her senior officer in the Nocturnal guard corps.” Trotting towards a large crevice in the back of the cavern Vex continued. “Now let us go see our ship.”

To say the Eclipse was large for an airship of her class would be an understatement. Even since Luna’s return, no other airship had been built to surpass the Eclipse in size or looks. Her sleek hall of iron tapering into a jagged point at her bow, the enclosed command deck that for all the world looked like the dorsal fin of a shark and finally, the hallmark of all airships, her balloon or the lack there of.

Trotting closer, Vex was met by a older griffin in a white shirt with it’s sleeves rolled up, his body was a light grey due to his age and his head was off white in color.

“Oi, you must be Vex, me names Rivet If ye were wondering.” Taking Vex’s hoof in his claw, Rivet gave it a hearty shake. “ Anyway, yer ship is ready, the last bit of cargo has been loaded on and the Watch ponies have been settled in, we are ready to go when ye be.”

Taking a moment to look at the assembled faces looking at him from all directions, Vex decided that this crew needed to know what was about to happen. Stepping up to a small box, Vex used it to hoist himself up so all could see him.

“Now I know that many of you had to leave your family, your friends and homes behind. I know that you were told to leave them in the dark as to why you had to go and I know that some of you may not return.” Looking at each face, Vex saw more than a guard, a Warden, or a sailor. He saw a living breathing being; one that had hopes and dreams and a life. Steeling his resolve, Vex continued. “While what we do here today may never be known, take pride in the fact that today, we set out to make this world safer for our children and grandchildren and for those who only wish to live their lives in peace. As for our enemies, they sealed their fate the moment they drew their first breath.” Vex stepped down to a round of thunderous applause.

“Do you think they know how bad this might get?” Nova said as she trotted up to Vex.

“I hope not, for their sake and for ours.”

Drawing a line in the sand.

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Luna arrived at the meeting hall to find Cadence and Twilight already waiting for her. However, both failed to notice Luna’s arrival as they were in the middle of a very heated debate.

“But I do not think that is the right course of action, Twilight” Cadence said.

“Why not? I mean, we solved the changeling problem with diplomacy, why not do the same now?”

“Twi, that was different. The Changelings were starving and sick and they needed a helping hoof. The Diamond Dogs however are not sick and dying, in fact I would say that they are in pretty good shape. So what makes you think they need any helps from us?”

Luna had heard enough of the argument to know that neither side would back down, so in the interest of showing a united front to the rest of the diplomats, Luna decided to interrupt.

“While both of thee have outstanding points we must insist on haste as we do believe we are expected.”

Both Cadence and Twilight gave a start and turned to face Luna, who happened to have a faint smile on her face.

“Now shall we?”

The meeting hall was a fine example of Equestrian architecture; from it’s large marble columns to its vaulted ceiling and large stained glass windows. The hall had a very intimidating quality to it and Princess Celestia stood in the center of the room, surrounded by a half circle of six diplomats from six nations. Luna took note that the Zebrican diplomat and the Griffin and Buffalo diplomats were all in close proximity to each other while the diplomats for the Dragonians and Minotaur Republic had distanced themselves from the rest of the group.

So the lines have already been drawn. Luna thought to herself while she trotted to her seat with Cadence and Twilight.

“Ah good, you’re here, now we can begin.” Celestia said in a hushed voice to Luna. Clearing her throat and waiting for those assembled to direct their attention to her, Celestia began the addressing the assembled delegates. “ I, Princess Celestia of Equestria, do hereby call this emergency meeting of nations to order. Ambassador Thunderhooves, you have the floor.”

The Buffalo diplomat that had been sitting quietly to Luna’s left rose to his hooves. He was average for a Buffalo; a tan hide, black horns and a bit of body jewelry.

“Thank you, Celestia. My fellow ambassadors, I come before you to ask for your assistance in a matter most grave. I am speaking of the assault on my people perpetrated by none other than the Diamond Dogs.” Hearing his species mentioned, the Diamond Dog ambassador looked up and gave a toothy grin as Thunderhooves continued. “Even now, as we speak, my people live in fear; in fear of who will taken next, in fear of who will not come home and in fear of being left to die.” Finally finished, Thunderhooves sat back down.

Standing again, Celestia gave her attention to Thunderhooves. “Thank you ambassador, do you have any more news on the welfare of your nation?”

“I do milady. Last night another raid happened, many of our warriors were killed and Little Strongheart was taken from us.”

Well, that certainly complicates things. Luna mused and looking over, she noticed that the Griffin and Zebra ambassadors were quietly conversing before the Griffin stood up.

“I, Ironbeak, will speak for my people as well as for the Zebrican people. We hereby pledge our support monetarily and militarily till the end of this crisis or till such time as assistance is no longer needed.”

“Thank you Ironbeak, you may be seated” Celestia turned to the Dragon and Minotaur ambassadors. “Surely one of you has something to say.”

“I do my lady.” Came the deep voice of the Dragon. “The Minotaur ambassador and I have come to an agreement; we will remain neutral. This is not our fight and nor is it yours. While we feel sympathy for our Buffalo friends we can not in good conscious get involved.”

“Very well. Ambassador Blackpaw, do you have anything to say?”

The Diamond Dog ambassador stood, showing off his dark brown fur and black paws. “The land that the Buffalo tribes currently reside on belong to the Diamond Dog nation, they have been ours since the time of King Artemis.”

“Very well. I will now give Equestria’s position on this matter. While we do not condone the actions that the Diamond Dogs have taken, we can not offer our full support militarily… however, we are willing to offer aid financially and we are willing to take your refugees into our borders for protection.” Looking around, Celestia decided to call the meeting to a close. “I hereby adjourn this meeting, may each of you have a safe trip home.”

As the last ambassador left, Celestia turned to the three other Princesses. “Let’s hope that this situation does not get any worse.”

“Yes dear sister, let’s hope.”

Somewhere in the Red Stone mountain range

“My liege, Ambassador Blackpaw is back and brings news that the Zebras, Griffins and Equestrians have sided with the Buffalo.”

“And what of the Minotaurs and Dragons?”

“They wish to remain neutral.”

“Leave me.”

“Yes my master.”

“So they think they can beat me? Fools. Every one of them in this world belongs to us and they are only meant to be slaves. We will burn their cities till they are nothing but ash, we will hunt down and publicly execute their heroes and we will make their leaders watch as the ones they swore to protect scream out in agony while they themselves are bound and forced to realize that they have failed.”The large bipedal figure stalked towards a lone crimson throne.

“... Only then will we offer them death. Once they are gone, the Diamond Dog nation will reign supreme. Now it is time to sound the drums of war, now is the hour that this world will fall to its knees and beg for mercy… mercy that will never come, just as it never had for me, just as it never had for many.”

On The Way

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It had been a couple of hours since the Eclipse had left Canterlot and most of her crew had long ago retired for the night. Everyone that is, except the lone bat pony who stood watch at the bow of the ship. Looking out to the horizon, Vex couldn't help but think about all the times he had wished for a mission of this caliber, but now that he was here, all he could feel was a sense of dread and foreboding as if the wind itself was resonating with danger. Turning from the bow and shaking off the chill of the early morning air, Vex decided it would be best for him to get some shut eye before they reached the badlands.

Vex’s cabin was a pretty plain affair as far as airships go, the wall panelling was of a dark oak variety that was polished to a bright sheen, a small desk and a folding cot both of which were built into the wall. On the desk sat some of his most valued possessions; the first set was a light tan duster and black stetson hat, the last to reminders of his old life. The second set however, were sings of his new life; two dark cobalt blue revolvers sat crossed on his desk, their polished black grips glinted menacingly in the lantern light of the cabin.

Taking one last look around, Vex slid in to his cot and let sleep whisk him away.

Rivet liked being at the helm, it made his feel in control. However, he didn’t like being at the helm whenever a low flying bank of clouds rolled in. Today was the latter.

“Blasted glorified cotton swabs...” Rivet cursed to himself as he tried to find a break in the mass of clouds.

Making his way out of the command deck, Rivet was hit with an acrid odor and his heart rose in his chest when he realized that it wasn’t clouds they had flown into but smoke. The kind of smoke one smells when a house burns to the ground. Making his way back into the command deck, Rivet looked for the silver cord that rang the alarm bell. Upon spotting it, he gave it a firm tug and covered his ears as a shrill whistle filled the ship.

Vex heard it first in his dream; a whistle that was out of place and that was growing louder by the second. Finally reaching the edge of sleep, Vex opened his eyes and took the time to wake up. Vex could hear the sounds of the ponies and griffons scrambling around above deck and he could also hear the sound of cannons being loaded which sent alarm bells off in his head.

Getting up and grabbing his duster and revolvers, Vex rushed up to the maine deck to a scene of organized chaos. Looking to his left, he saw Nova helping some of the younger ponies load their muskets while Arcanian was pulling boxes of ammo out from the powder storage. Looking right, Vex spotted Stitches preparing his medical kit or at least making sure all of the sharp things were sharp.

Hearing the sound of hooves, Vex tuned to see Nova standing behind him with a rifle in her hooves.

“Here boss, I saved one of the Sharps rifles for you seeing as you dislike the muzzle loaders so much.”

Taking the rifle from Nova, Vex began to examine it, the stock and base were made from the same dark wood while the rest was a dull iron color. Giving it an approving nod, Vex slung the rifle over his shoulder and turned to address Nova.

“So what has everypony on high alert, Nova?”

Cocking her head to her side, Nova answered. “You don't smell the smoke in the air?”

Now that she mentioned it, Vex realized that he had smelt it the moment he had stepped on deck. He had smelt it but he’d pushed it to the back of his mind as nothing.

“What do you think is causing it?” Vex asked

Lifting her hoof up and pointing to a small camp of some kind, Nova answered again. “That.”

Focusing on the camp, Vex could see little flickers of light, almost like candles but Vex knew better; those were flames and by the looks of it, the fire had been started not too long ago.

What they saw when they finally reached the camp made some of the younger watch ponies wretch up their breakfast. The camp was in ruins; the tents were shredded and burnt, the ground was scorched and marked with drying blood and all around the smell of death hung in the air.

“Keep your eyes open for any clues or survivors.” Vex ordered.

Slowly making his way farther into the camp, Vex came across the body of a young Buffalo, his throat had been slit and he had been left to bleed out. Wondering why he had been killed, Vex took a closer look and found that this Buffalo had been rather scrawny and maybe even sick.

So you take those that can work and are healthy and leave the rest to die.’ Vex thought to himself.

“Sir, you might want to come and see this!” One of the watch ponies shouted to Vex.

Trotting over and joining the group, Vex caught sight of what they were looking at. Tied to a post was a white mare; her face was bruised and swollen while her chest and legs were cut and bleeding. Believing she was dead, Vex turned to the group of ponies and shooed them to other tasks. Vex was about to leave as well when a raspy voice caught his attention.

“Please... dont leave me.”

Vex looked back to see the mare looking straight into his eyes, silently pleading for him to stay with her. Cutting her free from the post, Vex held her while she shivered from fear and exhaustion.

“Dont worry you’re safe now.” Vex assured her. “Stitches! I need you down here now!”

Vex let her cry into his chest as his field medic made his way towards them.

Checking In

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It had been a week since the Eclipse and her crew had left the smoldering remains of the small Buffalo camp behind and two days since they had entered the badlands. Vex decided to go check on their passenger for the third time that week. The ship’s infirmary was dark and smelt of antiseptics and blood, the air was damp and heavy and the work space was crowded with all sorts of tools from bone saws to rib spreaders and the occasional mallet left lying about. Taking a moment to look at the organized chaos that Stitches called his work place, Vex decided to call out for the brown stallion.

“Stitches, you in here?” Vex listened and was about to call again when a loud crashing sound and some cursing met his ears.

“What do you want Vex, I am in the middle of an experiment.” Stitches said as he came sliding out from behind one of the many partitions that made up the patients area.

Taking a look at his friend, Vex noticed that he was wearing a surgical mask and a blue apron which was currently covered in blood and bits of bone. Deciding he did not want to continue his current train of thought, Vex refocused on why he had come down here.

“How is our tag along Stiches?” Vex asked as he made his way towards one of the partitions that held the white mare they had rescued.

“She is still out cold but she is healing and making progress. You should know that whoever did this to her, they took their sweet time to cause this much blunt trauma.”

“So the beat her to a pulp because they could?” Vex asked as he eyed the bandages that covered the mares chest, head and legs.

“It would seem that way. She put up on hay of a fight though.” Stitches said as he fumbled with a small set of scalpels.

Turning to look at Stitches, Vex decided to get him to clarify.

“What do you mean?”

“I mean that when I was examining her I found that her hooves were chipped and had traces of blood on them that did not belong to her. Now if you will excuse me I have an experiment to get back to.” With that, Stitches went back to his little area leaving Vex with his thoughts.
What are we going to do with you? We can’t really drop you off out here in the badlands and I don’t think it would be wise of us to take you with us.

Vex was startled out of his reverie by the overhead call system they had installed at the last minute.

“Vex, Luna has a message for you waiting in your chambers.”

Vex almost had his second heart attack of the day when he entered his room. Sitting there on his bed was Luna or at least a projection of her.

“Ah... and here we thought that thou was to keep us waiting.” Luan said as she idly examined her hoof while barely hiding a smile.

“Forgive me, my lady, there were some minor last minute details to see to.” Vex replied with a short bow.

“So your report mentioned, it worries us though that the Buffalo feel so threatened that they try to hide as close to our borders as they can.”

“It would seem that even that is not enough, my lady.”

“So it would seem… Oh and Vex my sister recently lost contact with a small patrol of her guards that were checking in on the Buffalo camps around our border, so please keep your eyes open for them.” Luna’s projection flickered then disappeared, leaving Vex alone in his room with nothing but the gentle humming of the Eclipse’s engines to keep him company as he sat down to chart their progress once more.

This place was hell for Little Strongheart. One could not see more than a foot in front of you, the tunnels smelled of death and disease, everyone was starving and the guards were inclined to either ignore you or try to kill you and eat you in front of the other slaves. She had lost track of how long she had been down here... days, weeks, months. In the end all that really mattered was staying alive and keeping one’s head down was a good way to do just that.

“Hey Strongheart, you got any rations left?

“No, Shale, I don’t, now quit asking before one of the dogs decides to shut you up for good.”

“Please these mutts don’t scare me.”

Strongheart could feel the presence of the dog behind her even before she heard Shale cry out in pain.

“Not scared of mutts are you?” Came the gravelly voice of Shale’s assailant. “I’ll show you true fear.”

The dog took Shale by the scruff and tossed him against the far wall where Shale’s head made contact with the smooth wall, resulting in a bone jarring crack that echoed through the cavern, beckoning everyone to see what was happening. Two more dogs joined in, one holding Shale upright while the other laid into him with some massive blows. Strongheart kept watching even though her heart sank with each pained whimper Shale let out. Finally, the dogs seemed to tire but not before one of them grabbed Shale’s foreleg and slowly applied pressure.

“How much can you take little pony?” The dog spat out.

The dog gave one final twist and received a loud snap and a scream of agony for his efforts. Strongheart took a look at her friend, his lime green coat was now dark, dirty and covered in his blood, one of his deep brown eyes was swollen shut and his left hoof was bent at a wrong angle. The only sign of life from him was his labored breathing. With nothing else to do, Little Strongheart scooped up her friend and carried hip back to their shared cell where she began to clean his wounds and silently pray that help would arrive soon.

The Gathering Storm

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Vex had spent hours plotting their course when the alarm bell sounded. Dragging himself over to the intercom system, Vex decided to see what all the fuss was about.

“Rivet, what happened? Are we under attack?”

Vex listened until he heard a burst of static and a voice come over the intercom.

“We aint under attack Vex… Not yet at least, But we have arrived at the buffalo camp and well… Just see for yer self.”

Vex grabbed his revolvers, sliding them into his holsters. Grabbing his duster and Stetson, Vex stormed out of his room and up to the deck. The scene that greeted him was much more controlled than last time. Taking time to survey his surroundings, Vex spotted his fellow Wardens. “Arcanian, what is going on out here?”

“Well, it seems Luna was correct about the camp. However I do not think we will be getting many clues from it.”

Trotting up to the railing, Vex scanned the camp… Or at least what was left of it. The Diamond Dogs had been thorough, leaving only scorched earth and charred bodies.

“Let’s get down there and see if we can’t find where they are heading.” Vex ordered while a single thought dance through his head. I hope I am making the right call.


The constant bickering of diplomats had become so grating to Luna that she had to leave yet another meeting or risk a full mental breakdown.
How, pray tell, can such beings live in harmony when they can’t even agree on the color of the sky. Luna thought to herself as she marched deeper into the castle. Now I see why Artemis never invited those types to his parties. But still it troubles us to think that even if we are on the same side we still cannot agree on a course of action. Vex, I hope you and your Wardens can solve this issue quickly.

Entering her chambers and sitting at her desk, Luna began to plan tonight’s star arrangement. She was putting on the finishing touches when she felt a familiar presence, one that was most certainly unwelcome.

“Chrysalis, thou has ten seconds to explain thy presence before we turn thee to dust.”

“Luna my dear, you words wound me, I only wish to talk.” Chrysalis said as she glided out from one of the many shadows that hugged the walls of Luna’s bed chamber.

“Thou wishes to talk. Surely thou art jesting.”

“Luna I do not wish to argue, I only wish to offer my hive’s help in this Diamond Dog problem.”

“Thy help is unneeded as our dear sister has forbade any military action.”

“Really? That didn’t seem to stop you from sending out… oh what are they called”- Chrysalis put a holed hoof up to her chin-. “Ah yes, the Wardens, she did not stop you from sending them out. Though I wonder, does Celestia know about them; does she know that against her wishes that you reinstated the Warden program?”

“Thou would not dare tell her.” Luna replied with a growl.

“Oh and what is in it for me? Because all you seemed concerned about is your precious little ponies. While every day my Changelings are taken by those inbred mutts.” Taking a moment, Chrysalis recomposed herself.

“But then again who would blame you. After all, Changelings are just parasites that need to be eradicated completely.”

“Chrysalis I-.”

“Do not offer me your petty sympathies Luna! All I am asking for is a change to help end this nightmare for my kind.”

“Fine, what would you like to put forward?”

“I have a group of changeling Jägers waiting at Greystone Gorge, they will be expecting your Wardens in three days’ time.”

With her final bit said, Chrysalis melded into the shadow and disappeared, leaving Luna to her thoughts. She is right, our sister would hunt down our Wardens if she knew that we had restarted the program. She never really was fond of using ponies as expendable chess pieces, maybe because it is easy to become attached to them, like how we have become attached to our Wardens. I only hope that events do not turn out like they did last time.
With a heavy sigh, Luna decided to sleep for the rest of the afternoon.

Vex and his team had sifted through the camp for hours and had still come up empty hoofed. Vex knew they needed to call off the search with night fast approaching and with a good chunk of the crew unable to see at night, it would make this task nearly impossible.

“Alright, listen up everypony, we are camping here for the night and will resume our trip at first light.” Vex was greeted with murmurs of agreement as the ponies and griffons of the Eclipse picked their sleeping areas and pitched their tents.

“So you going to catch some shut eye or you going for a night flight?” Nova said as she trotted up beside Vex.

“I believe a night flight is in order, after all it has been quite some time since I have stretched my wings.” With that Vex took to the air.

“Hey wait for me.” Nova said with a laugh as she followed Vex into the evening sky.

Vex had lost track of time when they saw the first salvos of cannon fire off in the distance.

“Vex was that cannon fire? Is it directed at us?”

“No it was not directed at us Nova. But somepony is starting a fight.”

“We need to get the crew and go help.”

“My thoughts exactly Nova.”

Two bat ponies streaked through the night towards the silhouette of an airship in the distance.

Somewhere in the Red Stone mountain range

“Master, the attack has started like you requested.”

“Good and what of the new slaves, how are they faring?”

“There was an incident in one of the minor clan’s caves. It seems one of the slaves thought wise to be brave, he was seriously wounded.”

“It matters not, there are plenty to replace him. Move him to isolation and let him die of his wounds.”

“As you wish, my master.”

The Gathering Storm: Part II Split the sky

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Vex’s hooves pounded rhythmically into the rain soaked soil. The light from the moon filtering through the treetops and the sound of crickets in the distance were his only guides.
I don’t know how long I can keep this up. What am I going to do, I’m out of ammo and I lost my saber in the city. Just as his thought finished, a lance of searing pain shot up his leg and into his shoulder.
“Buck!” Vex cursed to himself as he struggled to keep ahead of his hunters.
I hope Nova’s group is faring better than I am. Looking over his shoulder, Vex took in the sight of his damaged wing; the hole that went through its bat like membrane was still leaking a fair amount of blood onto the forest floor. It was a lucky shot from a mutt who had evaded the first combat team Vex had sent into the besieged city.
Another jolt of lancing pain shot up into his shoulder, this time Vex collapsed into a heap of tumbling limbs that came to rest in a small ditch. Propping himself up against the earthen walls, Vex listened for his hunters. At first he heard the faint sound of breathing, then the chirps and calls of the crickets went quiet. With the pain distracting him, Vex failed to notice the approach of a Diamond Dog until he felt the cold steel of a revolver pressed to his head and the sound of a hammer being cocked back.

20 hours ago

The Eclipse steamed at full speed towards the burning city; her crew filled with a sense of growing unease. For many, this would be the first time they had seen combat, but for a select few, this would be just another notch in the bed post.
“Arcanian, what do you have for me?” Vex shouted over the din of the steam driven turbine.
The dark blue unicorn looked up. “One enemy airship is on station and is currently bombarding the city.” Taking another look over the railing, Arcanian continued. “That’s the least of our worries as it looks like that ship has already dropped off her raiding parties and is only providing support.”
This was not something Vex wanted to hear. An airship was one thing, but an engagement in a heavily populated urban area was something he wanted to avoid but it would seem that fate had other plans.
“Alright, here’s what we are going to do.”

Vex and three other ponies cautiously trotted down another abandoned street. It would seem that the residents of this small town in the badlands had been smart enough to take cover as soon as they had come under attack. Holding up a hoof, Vex signalled his group to stop as he went to check on a small square building who had survived the onslaught. Rearing up on his hind legs and unslinging his rifle from his back, Vex began to inspect the outside. The building was unremarkable; its wood siding and large plate glass windows let him know that this was a place of business or an eating establishment. Vex tried to peer through the windows but the layer of ash on them made this impossible.
With his rifle raised, Vex stalked towards the only entrance he could find which were a set of ornately carved double doors. With his back to the door, Vex delivered a mighty kick sending the door flying open in a shower of glass and splinters. The three militia ponies Vex had brought with him immediately rushed through the breach, ready to end the life of anything foolish enough to open fire on them. After what seemed like an eternity of silence, Vex heard three knocks that signalled the all clear and shortly after entered the building himself shortly after. Looking around, Vex was surprised to see that this was in fact a restaurant and it was still in good condition.
Wow, even the food left on the tables is still warm. That thought sent alarm bells blaring in Vex’s head as he leveled his rifle at the door of the only room they had not searched.
“We know you are in there! Come out with your hooves or claws in the air.” Vex nodded for two of the militia ponies to take up positions near the door.
“You have ten seconds to comply! If you do not, we will be force to drag you out by any means necessary.”
Vex swiveled his ears forward at the sound of a lock being turned which was followed by the door swinging open. The four ponies that had locked themselves in slowly made their way out and each had a look of relief on their face as they saw the group of ponies who had ordered them out of the hiding place.
“Thank Celestia.” A dark brown earth pony stallion said, his eyes firmly locked on to Vex’s own and upon further inspection Vex noticed a tag with the name Barley written on it.
“What happened here…? Where are the all the other ponies who live on this street?” Vex asked as he lowered his weapon.
“The dogs came and took them… T-they have my wife and daughter. They said they were taking all those they found to some camp in the center of town.” Barley replied.
“We have a camp set up on the outskirts of town, head there and you will receive food and medical attention.” Vex said as he ushered Barley and his group out of the building.
“Bow Shock, send word to Nova and Arcanian’s groups and tell them to meet us near the center of town.”
With a salute, the off white Pegasus known as Bow Shock took to the air.
“We are going to need all the help we can get.”

The camp was rather small for the amount of ponies and other creatures that called this city home.
“Most of the residents must have fled as soon as the first salvo hit.” Nova said as she and Vex watched as Diamond Dog skirmishers loaded ponies and griffins onto their airship.
“Well this complicates things just a bit.” Vex said with a sigh.
“What do you mean boss?” Nova looked at Vex with a mix of curiosity and concern.
“We can no longer use the Eclipse’s guns without putting innocent lives at risk.” Vex shifted his weight to retrieve a small map from his duster’s pocket.
“Ok new plan! Nova, I want you to take your fire team and surround the camp.” With a nod, Nova took off to relay Vex’s orders.
Reaching back into his pocket, Vex found his small communication device; a small crystal wrapped in copper wire with a small button on one end.
“Arcanian, we have a change of plans so listen closely.”

Night had fallen and Vex was hunkered down in a window of a building overlooking the camp. His breath was steady as he lined up his sights on the dog who looked like he was the one giving orders.
Any minute now. Soon after that thought crossed Vex’s mind, a bright blue light illuminated the dark evening sky. With a slow, steady pull of his rifle’s trigger, Vex sent a small ball of lead straight into his target’s neck, sending the poor dog flying off of the platform he had been standing on and down onto the cold unforgiving ground. Shortly after his shot, Vex heard the reports of his team’s rifles as they filled the air with smoke and littered the ground with bodies. Vex watched as Nova and her team crept out of the woods, pausing to take an occasional shot at any dog foolish enough to break cover.
This is going well… Almost too well. Just then, Vex caught movement in the corner of his eye but just as he was about to investigate, the roar of a steam engine coming to life grabbed his attention. Turning to look, Vex saw the large airship ripping its anchors from the ground and lifting into the air before disappearing into the clouds.
Buck. Just as Vex was about to take wing to catch the airship, his radio crackled to life.
“Oi Vex, its Rivet and ye are going to be having company soon!”
“Buck!” Vex cursed to himself as he leapt from his perch.
“Nova, Arcanian, take you squads and scatter! This order also applies to all units on the channel! Run back to the evac point the ship will meet you there!”
Vex skidded around a corner only to come face to face with a small group of well-armed Diamond Dogs.
Buck me sideways. Vex thought as he searched for a way out, his eyes finally came to rest on a grove of trees that led into a forest.
Maybe I can lose them in there. Vex thought as he dashed for the tree line with his hunters in tow.

The Gathering Storm: Part III On The Hunt.

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Vex failed to notice the approach of a Diamond Dog until he felt the cold steel of a revolver pressed to his head and the sound of a hammer being cocked back.
So this is how it ends? Vex thought as he screwed his eyes shut and prayed that it would be quick. Vex heard a pop and then a yelp followed by the sound of something heavy hitting the forest floor. Vex kept his eyes shut as more pops rang out, each of which was followed by a yelp almost as if they were having a conversation in alien language. It took a few minutes to register the entire forest had gone still except for the sound of approaching hooves. Opening his eyes, Vex spotted Nova sauntering towards him with a cocky grin on her face.
“Looks like somepony owes me now.” Nova said with a giggle.
Rolling his eyes, Vex stood back up only to come crashing back down.
“Boss you don’t look so good… Maybe we should go see Stitches.” Nova motioned to two of the Pegasi in her squad to help her take Vex back to the Eclipse.

Once they had landed on the Eclipse, Vex had been ushered to the infirmary where Stitches had immediately gone to work cleaning and patching up the wounds Vex had received.
“You’re lucky those mutts weren’t the best shots because this could have been a lot worse.” Stitches commented as he closed the wound in Vex’s wing membrane.
Vex gritted his teeth as his friend continued to work. “How’s our stowaway?” Vex asked in an attempt to get his mind off the fact that a needle was piercing his skin.
“Hmmm… Oh she woke up while you were off playing soldier… I had to sedate her so she would not hurt herself in a foolish escape attempt.” Stitches said as he put the last line of thread in place and tied it shut.
“There, that should hold but you’re not going to like what I’m about to say.”
Vex looked at Stitches with a wary gaze. “Go on.”
“Well you twisted your hoof really bad, so you can’t go running on it for a bit and because you have stitches in your wing, you can’t fly around either.”
“Perfect, so I am basically bedridden for how long?”
“Two, maybe three days.” Stitches said with an innocent smile and a mad gleam in his eyes.
Letting out a sigh of defeat, Vex let his head fall back into the pillow of the infirmary cot and just as he was about to fall asleep the intercom came to life.
“Vex, you have a message waiting for you in your cabin.”
Handing him a pair of crutches, Stitches sent Vex on his way.

After a “fun” walk to his cabin, Vex had learned that he was going to loath the next few days. Opening the door to his cabin, Vex was greeted by the sight of Princess Luna sitting on his bed once again.
“We have read your report and wish to ask what happened to the ship you had encountered.”
Bowing his head, Vex prepared to deliver the bad news. “We lost them once we came under attack.”
“We see... and were they able to take anypony?”
“Yes, they were.” Vex said, barely hiding his shame.
“Very well then… We have a new assignment for thee.”
“Yes milady?”
“We need thee to go to Greystone gorge where you will meet with a group of changelings who will help you on the rest of your mission.”
“Of course milady.”
In a flash of light, Luna disappeared leaving a fuming Vex behind.
“The crew will not like this.”

It had been days since Shale’s beating and he had not improved much. No matter what Little Strongheart tried, her friend only seemed to get worse.
“Oh Shale, what did they do to you.” She cried softly as her friend whimpered in pain for what seemed to be the hundredth time that day. Strongheart went to clean her friend’s wounds once again when she heard the sound of a ship docking.
Great. She thought to herself. They’re bringing in more workers the replace the ones they lost.
She could hear the voice of the dogs as they tried to break the will of the new arrivals.
“No pony knows where you are; to them you are dead!” one of the dogs shouted.
“I won’t work for you!” Another voice shouted out eliciting surprised gasps from those who had been in the mines for ages.
“Then you will be the first example.” The dog said as he charged at the unicorn that had dared to speak.
The unicorn tried to light up his horn but it was too late as the dog sunk his teeth into the unicorn’s neck, choking the life out of him for all to see. Finally the unicorn stopped struggling as the light left his eyes and his body went limp. The others who were around him quaked in fear as the rest of the dogs restrained them in chains and lead them to their cells.

Somewhere in the Red Stone mountain range

“Master, the Siege Master has reported in.”
“Oh? and what does he have to say?”
“He said that the operation was cut short after he and his men were engaged by a force of ponies and griffins who were not flying a nation’s flag.”
“Hmmmm, so it would seem a third party has joined the game… How interesting.”
“What do you want me to do with the Siege Master?”
“Have him hanged from the spire for all to see and appoint a new Siege Master and make sure this one will not fail me or else you will be joining your brother in the dungeon.”
The little dog scampered off as the larger dog stared out over his kingdom, lost in thought.
So there are those willing to stand against me and defy me at every turn… Well then I will just have to teach them what happens when you play with fire.

Down time.

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“I don’t like this Vex, how do we know that this isn’t a trap?”

“We don’t Nova, so we will have to be on guard once we reach the meeting place.”

Vex stood on the Eclipse’s bridge looking out at the rain that was lazily falling from the grey clouds above. He had been up here since his meeting with Luna had finished and like he had thought, his crew did not like the new orders he had been given. As Vex continued to stare into space, Stitches came bounding up the stairs with a look of mad excitement in his eyes.

“Vex, she’s awake!”

“Who?” Vex’s face was a perfect picture of confusion.

“That mare we rescued is awake now.”
With a small smile, Vex motioned for Stitches to lead the way. “Let’s go have a look.”

Waking up somewhere strange was hard. waking up somewhere strange with a crazy earth pony staring at you was even worse and Pvt. Bailey was not sure how more she could take. Hearing the sound of hooves approaching, Bailey turned to see a bat pony approaching her. He was unusual for a bat pony seeing as his coat was an onyx color while his eyes were a stunning ruby red.

“My name is Vex and this is Stiches.” The bat pony known as Vex motioned over to the tan earth pony.

“W-who are you ponies?” Bailey croaked out.

“There will be time to explain later but for now let Stitches take a look at you.”

“W-will I get to go home?” Bailey was stunned to see an almost apologetic look cross Vex’s face.

“I am sorry but we cannot risk letting you go… At least not yet.” And as silently as he had come in, Vex left, leaving the white mare with many more questions.

Vex sat on the deck as he waited for the mare to find him and inquire more about who he was and who the others were. It wasn’t long before he heard uneven hoof steps as the white mare took a seat next to him.

“My name is Bailey by the way.” She stated as she stared off into the evening sky.

“That is a lovely name.” Vex let the drizzle lightly soak his coat and wash away all the grime and filth of his last battle.

“You know I am part of the guard.” Bailey mentioned. “My unit was tasked with helping the Buffalo tribes near our borders... You can see how well that worked out.”

“I am sorry for your loss.” Vex stated in a sympathetic tone. “I need you to promise me something.” Vex waited for Bailey to nod before he continued. “No matter what happens and what you see, none of it leaves this ship… To you and the rest of the world, we don’t exists.” Bailey nodded in understanding as she listened to Vex. “Now I am going to take you to meet the rest of the crew; please keep an open mind as our pasts are not the best.” With that said, Vex lead Baily down into the ship and towards the Warden’s meeting room.

The meeting room was at the bottom of the ship and was the most secure room on board with defensive spells designed by none other than Princess Luna. Seated around a large oak table were three other ponies that Bailey had briefly seen when she had awoke; there was a grey bat pony mare with a long flowing mane then there was the blue unicorn stallion whose eyes held a cold edge to them, as if every life to him was merely pawn in a deadly game. Finally, there and then there was the crazy tan earth pony that had been the one to sedate her the first time she had woken up.

“Bailey, these are my Wardens.” Vex took a seat with the others. “The bat pony to my left is Nova, the blue unicorn next to her is Arcanian and the tan earth pony to my left is Stitches.” Each of the respective ponies gave her a nod of acknowledgement. “Now you will get to ask about how we got here and who we are but remember, none of this leaves the room.”

Bailey nodded as she stared at the rag tag group of ponies before her. “S-so what were you all before you were Wardens?”

Stitches was the first to answer. “I was a doctor at a hospice, but it would seem that performing experiments on living patients is a good way to lose your medical license.” He smirked at the fear in Bailey's eyes. “Don’t worry dear I only do that to the dead now.”

Bailey was sick to her stomach as she turned to the bat pony mare next to the crazed stallion. “W-what about you?”

Nova gave off a toothy smile. “I was a night guard for a while…. That was until my commanders started to doubt my abilities with poison and so to show them what I could do, I gave a live demonstration, with both of them as the lab rats.”

Bailey was starting to see a pattern in the ponies sitting at the table. “W-what about you?” She squeaked as she pointed a hoof in Arcanian.

“I was a battle mage until I decided that for my final test I would fight my instructors to the death.” He offered a shrug as if taking those lives had been no big deal to him.

Finally, Bailey turned her head towards Vex. “Who did you kill to get here?”

Vex smiled, showing off his fangs as he stared into her eyes. “I killed a few, but I was mostly a drifter going from town to town, looking for fights to get into and ways to make quick cash.” Vex sighed. “This unit was started as a way to get rid of those ponies who could not fit into society and who are considered expendable.”

Just then the overhead speakers crackled to life. “Vex, we are nearing the location Luna gave us and we have spotted our new allies....”

The enemy of my enemy.

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“Ye have got to be kidding.” Rivet stated as he gawked at the large group of assembled changelings.

“Unfortunately, this is no joke.” Vex sighed as he hobbled up next to the flabbergasted griffon.

“Luna wants us to bring them along and so that is what I plan to do…. However I will not trust them. So please have the crew watch them.”

Rivet nodded as Vex left the bridge to head out and meet their new friends.

Vex, Nova and Arcanian along with a few ponies and griffons made up the shore party. Vex carefully approached the small squad of changelings as he looked them over from head to toe. They looked like normal changelings with their shiny black chitin and the webbed fins on their heads as well as those beady blue eyes that made ones stomach turn. However it was there steel plated armor and the rifles strung across their backs that made them stand out.

“So you must be Vex.” The lead changeling barked as he looked Vex over with one blue eye and its scarred milky white brother.

“I am... and you are?” Vex watched him intently with his ruby eyes.

“Jericho, Captain Jericho.” The changeling stated as he idly examined his hoof. “And these are my Jagers.” He motioned behind him at the rest of his squad.

Vex raised an eyebrow in surprise at the well armed changelings who, by all measures, should have never been able to make and buy the amount of hardware they had.

“You seem surprised, Vex.” Jericho smirked knowingly.

“I thought Celestia had imposed sanctions on your kind.” Vex moved his body so that his cobalt blue revolvers were ready to be drawn in an instant.

“Relax Vex, These are only leftovers from my queens little mistake.” Jericho and his changelings bowed their heads to Vex and his crew.

Vex looked on stunned as Jericho laid a small rifle at Vex’s hooves and upon further inspection Vex noticed that unlike what he and his crew were armed with, this rifle had no ramming rod or any visible place for the ignition powder. Vex also noticed that it had a lever underneath its trigger and that it had a sort of underbarrel that had a seam near its tip.

“They call it a repeater, we picked them up off of a small Diamond Dog patrol just outside of sunset valley.” Jericho explained as Vex turned the weapon over in his hooves as he took in its details.

“Seems like a fine weapon indeed.” Vex remarked idly as his eyes roamed over the gun one last time before he slung it over his back.

“So what is our next stop?” Jericho cocked his head to the side as his changelings helped load their supplies onto the Eclipse.

“Well, we are following a ship that was involved in an attack on a city not too far from here.” Vex looked out over the horizon as the sun began to set, throwing hues of gold and pink across the sky. “Last we saw of them they were heading west towards the Red Stone mountain range.”

“That is D-dog territory.” Jericho pointed out. “And you know we’ll be severely outnumbered.”

“I know but what choice do we have?” Vex sighed. “With each passing day they grow stronger and the chances of finding anypony they took keep dropping.”

Jericho nodded and looked towards the west. “Then time is of the essence, but we must also be cautious. A dead rescue team will not be very helpful for those trapped in those mines.”

“I agree, thats why we will only travel under the cover of the night.” Vex turned to look at his new ally.

Jericho gave him a sidelong glance before he replied. “I think that is a wise move, but we will have to make our presence known eventually.”

“All in due time, Jericho” Vex smirked as he trotted up the gangplank and back onto his ship.

As Luna’s moon hung high in the sky, the Eclipse stalked through the valleys of the Red Stone range like a hunter stalking its prey. Her deck was completely void of life and no lights shone from the bridge or the crew quarters.

“Lad, how long are we to be in the dark?” Rivet asked in a hushed whisper to the batpony next to him who blended in scarily well with the shadows in the room.

“Until we find a place to stop and rest for the day.” Vex replied calmly as his eyes scanned the horizon for the airship they had been chasing. He cast one last look over the darkened horizon and the mountains hidden in their own shadows before he slipped below deck.

The Eclipse stalked through the night like a shark that had gotten a fleeting taste of blood. Below decks, the crew went about their normal routines only pausing momentarily to look out a window to see if they could spot their target. Vex’s eyes scanned over the towering rock faces of the mountains surrounding them when a faint flash of light pulled his vision back to a spot he had passed over.

Gotcha! He thought with a smirk as he donned his duster and headed up to the bridge to speak with Rivit and Jericho. Time to see what those changelings can do.

Slowly but surely, the Eclipse pulled into the shadow of a nearby mountain as her crew watched with bated breath as the ship that had attacked them sat menacingly over a lone peak. Vex stood out on one of the railings as the cogs in his mind began to formulate a plan to get them into the caves of the mountain. He glanced one last time at the enemy airship and decided on the most important detail. At dawn's first light, we will attack.

Breach Part 1

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Vex glided up to the airship that was currently tethered to the peak of a weather worn mountain. On her deck two Diamond Dogs in worn steel armor walked back and forth as they patrolled the resting ship. A shrouded figure slipped onto the deck and made his way to the captain’s cabin while making sure that he avoided the patrolling guard dogs.
Come on Vex just get in grab what you need and then let your team deal with the ship. Vex thought to himself as he made his way to his target. He eventually found himself in front of a large ornate set of doors nestled into the aft section of the deck. Could they have made it any more obvious? Vex mused as he picked the lock and slipped into the dimly lit room. Vex crept forward as his eyes scanned the room until they came to rest on a desk that was piled with papers and books. "Bingo!" He rifled through the files until he came to a slave intake report and a small map of the inside of the mountain. He smiled to himself and slipped back into the waning darkness of the night.

The mines were silent for the first time in a long time and for that Little Strongheart was thankful. She had grown used to the sound of despair that seemed to permeate the mine. She stared up at the ceiling and wondered if anyone had even realized that she was missing. Come now, we cannot dwell on such thoughts. She sighed as she looked over at an empty bunk that had once held her only friend here. He, like the rest of those who had become ill or weak, had been taken away and Strongheart feared she would never know his fate. She rolled over on her side one last time as she tried to get some rest.

The wind howled against the side of the mountain while two ponies clad in black dangled from ropes as they descended towards a small opening in the side of the rock face. On the ledge of the opening there sat two Diamond Dogs who were halfheartedly guarding the hole. They bickered back and forth, unaware of the danger they were in. Silently both ponies slipped over the edge, pushing both of the Dogs off to be dashed against the rocks far below.
“Hopefully they didn’t need to check in for a while.” Vex commented dryly as he removed the black bandana from around his face.
“Like we would ever be that lucky.” Arcanian snorted as he took the tight black jumpsuit he was wearing.
Vex rolled his eyes and checked over his pistol and sword holsters.
“You know your revolvers aren’t going to do us much good if we’re trying to be sneaky.” Arcanian observed as he stashed a small jagged blade in his mane.
Vex snorted and began to make his way through the dark tunnel passage that they had landed in. As they neared the end of the tunnel both ponies could make out the sound of voices and the clinking of plates and cups.
“Wait!” Vex hissed as he drew up along the wall of the tunnel.
He looked around the corner and cursed as he spotted a group of guards eating their dinner and shooting the breeze.
“They aren’t going to move for a long time.” Vex sighed and looked back at Arcanian, who was deep in thought.
Arcanian’s horn glowed a soft blue color as spikes of a darker blue shot up from the floor and impaled the guards. “There.” He huffed as sweat began to form tiny beads on his forehead. “Just don’t ask me to do that again for a little while.”
Vex nodded and lead his comrade down further into the mountain, where the only light came from the flickering torches that lined the passage. As they walked, Vex checked both of his sides to make sure his sword and pistols were still in their holsters. Vex’s nose started to twitch as they got closer and closer to even ground.
“What is that smell?” Vex whispered as he pulled a black bandana over his mouth and nose.
Arcanian gave a small grunt and kept walking on without breaking his stride. As they rounded the corner, Vex saw a sight that he thought would make him lose his lunch right then and there. Piled as high as the ceiling of the small room were nothing but bodies of those who had been slaves in the mines. Vex quickly trotted into the next room and stared off into space as his body began to calm itself.
“T-that was horrendous.” Vex spat as Arcanian cantered into the room.
“Vex, we need to move if we are going to prevent more bodies from joining that pile.”
Vex nodded and the two slunk their way through twisting tunnels deep under the mountain. High above, in the airship they had just left, sat a team of ponies and griffins that were ready to strike as soon as the order was given.

Taking The Ship.

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The air was still and the tension was so thick one could cut it with a knife. The ponies and griffons that sat above the diamond dog airship shifted uncomfortably as they waited for the signal from Vex and Arcanian who were busy sneaking through the bowels of the mines below them. Nova sat polishing a set of engraved sterling daggers as she waited.

“This is taking too long.” A pony next to her whispered as he shouldered his musket onto his back.

Nova rolled her eyes and put her daggers back into their sheaths. “Vex knows what he is doing, besides do you want to deal with a mountain full of angry mutts?” She asked with a brow raised.

The other pony simply looked down and away. That’s what I thought. She snorted as she returned to gazing at the enemy ship below. While she seemed calm on the outside, Nova was racked with worry as two of her friends descended deeper and deeper into enemy territory. She looked out over the assembled strike force and noticed for the first time that the Changelings had also set up positions above the enemy ship. Their long barreled muskets were perfect for precision fire and, using this to their advantage, many had hunkered here waiting to rain hell down on the ship below. Nova squinted her eyes hoping to see a faint sign of anything that would show her that her friends were okay and that she could start her own assault, because as much as she was loathing to admit a small part of her was itching to feel the rush of battle.

“This is taking too long.” A voice from next to her whined making her jump.

“Stitches, what have I told you about sneaking up on me.” She hissed as she tried to get her heart rate under control.

“Aww, but it’s fun.” The earth pony responded as he wiped a scalpel clean on his tan coat.
Nova shook her head and looked back at the enemy ship as she prayed that her friends had made it and were ready to unleash hell on this mountain.

On the other side of the cloud bank sat a group of changelings as they eyed the ship below warily. They knew that the coming fight would be more than what most of them have ever seen and they also knew that their new allies would be watching them like hawks.
“I hate waiting.” Jericho sighed as he lounged on the cloud, his rifle lying across him so that it wouldn’t plummet to the deck below and alert whatever guard force was still there. Why didn’t they just blast their way in? It would have been much quicker. Jericho huffed as he looked at his assembled Jaegers who were either busy making sure that all of their stuff was in working order or were lounging like their captain was.

Slowly the sun made its way towards the western edge of the sky. Up in the clouds the tension was like a spring ready to snap and many of the assorted creatures of the strike force had set to staring at the horizon or at their target below. Nova was fighting to stay awake as the hours dragged on. Come on guys, what’s taking so long? Just as nova was turning to head back to the Eclipse a bright flash lit up the sky. Crap, it's time. Nova returned to her group as the first salvo of rifle fire split the peace of the cool dusk sky and soon the world around the Diamond dog airship was thrown into chaos as Ponies, Changelings, and Griffins clashed with the guard dogs on the deck of the ship. Nova landed with a thud and immediately cut down two dogs with her daggers as they tried to impale her with their spears.

On the other side of the ship Jericho waded through a wall of hulking dogs who he cut down with ease as he shifted between attackers at lightning speed, his Cavalry sword reflecting the setting sun as it danced with its wielder. Jericho smirked as he watched his Changelings effortlessly push the dogs back to the center of the ship where his allies were waiting to surround them. This is going much smoother than planned. Jericho thought as he stopped where he was and watched as the Diamond dogs cowered in a circle as they found themselves surrounded. He stood tall as Nova strode forth and confronted the dogs in front of her.

“You have lost, put down your weapons and surrender to us.” Her voice boomed as she stared down the dog who looked like the most likely to be in charge. “Come quietly and you will not be harmed.” Her tone softened as she stalked closer.

Jericho watched with caution and then horror as the lead dog’s eyes scanned the ponies before he pulled out a small match and dropped it onto a fuse that had been hidden from the attackers. He hadn’t been the only one to notice it now though as many of those on deck took to the sky and rocketed their way to what they hoped was a safe distance. Jericho followed close behind and turned around in time to see the ship he had been standing on not even a minute ago engulf itself in flames before it exploded into a shower of burning wood and metal. Now where the airship had once been was a dark cloud of ash and smoke.

“Did everyone make it off?” He shouted as he flew through the ranks of his jaegers making sure all were accounted for. When he reached the end, Jericho breathed a sigh of relief as all of his Changelings were accounted for.

Nova was doing much of the same thing Jericho had done as she weaved between the ponies under her command as they rested on the same cloud that the Eclipse was docked behind. So far she only had wounded, and no dead or missing, which made her feel a little better but not by much.

Vex is not gonna be happy.