Etiamsi Omnes, Ego Non- The Promises

by Gabriel LaVedier

First published

More Fall of Equestria, from a dissident perspective.

Equestria's fall did not happen without responses and its degradation does not continue without retribution. Two figures promise to cleanse the world, to scrub the scum and horror away. Promises made, the poet says, are a debt unpaid. The rebels will pay their bill, in the blood of the guilty and monstrous.

(These stories will have different formats and inspiration.

The Ballad of the Last Arch-Magus- A poem, inspired by the epic "Horatius"
The Great Locutor- A conventional story containing a speech inspired by Charlie Chaplin's phenomenal one in "The Great Dictator.)

The Ballad of the Last Arch-Magus

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After Thomas Babington Macaulay


The Stag King in ascension

In chains all minds did lock,

Enslaved the wills of males

With the foolish crystal cock.

Upon the fair Equestria

He laid his filthy hand,

And tore the lasting peace

From out that lovely land


The Heartless Hind1 commanded

The lesser stags to fly

To bring the darkest hearts

In array below his eye.

From out the tainted Empire

They went and wrought their woe:

Below the heartless hoof of hate

The many lands did go.


South and east and west around

The darkened message flows.

It reaches twisted minds along

And most dare not oppose.

Village, town and city

None spared the curséd blot.

The pervert horde marches forth

To conquer Canterlot.2


And yet in all the madness

Not only darkness reigns:

Of the noble in Equestria

A core of good remains.

Where magic hath disturbance,3

Where not the crystal glows,

Where came not shriek of hatred

There stood the Stag King's foes.


In many crystal caverns,

Below the soil deep,

Dog scientist and scholar

Could little more than weep.

Deep within the mountain4

Changelings sheltered well

Escaped from Canterlot's fall

With many woes to tell.


By distance and lost focus

Were the griffin aeries spared,

As well by all the zebras

The curse went on unshared.

Though Equestria was focal,

By some it was not felt,

Those fortunate, in some sense,

Were full protection dealt.


No clinks of gem or metal

Any longer sound.

“Love” is no longer spoken

Where once it was renowned.

Protected, but imperiled,

Away the spared one's flee;

'Twas not in fear fled they:

There was death in bravery.


Adrift on winds of Fortune,5

Within the Harlot's Wheel,6

The Black Knight carried magic

No mere Hind could seal;

Within the Mountain prison,7

Inside the damping stone,8

The General,9 Arch-Magus,

Had defense of his own.


Rumor passes lips and tongue

And reaches eager ears.

The free use word to gather;

It irks the Hind, who hears.

He does not know the reason

(For the Stag King is a fool)

He only knows that some

Defy his crystal tool.


By guile of the Black Knight

And Arch-Magus' grand wit

Gathered up the free ones

To a place for them more fit.

To the hidden place they wandered,

The secret of Moon and Sun,

The repository of Danger:

Paddock Fifty-One.10


Scientist and Archivist,

Mage and guard and all,

Screamed in rage and sorry

To hear about the fall.

For in the hidden depths,

Below the Paddock far,

In lab and box and storeroom

Were dangers singular.


Artifacts of Discord,

Random's deadly toys,11

Things experimental,

And that which just destroys.

The keepers fretted greatly

For reasons very dear.

With half the power inside

The Hind could spread pure fear.


The Hind had found the Paddock

By torment, mind and form,

And he gathered up his forces

The facility to storm.

His many simp'ring minions,

They without excuse,

Said, “Yes, go send them, master,

Your army cannot lose.”


He pretended to great power

But was a coward to the core.

He could conquer the defeated,

But could not fight a war.

He summoned hind and pony,

And chose the greatest there,

To march beneath his banner

And take the rebel lair.


The ranks marched out with purpose

With spear and sword and shield;

Behind marched great commanders

To lead the deadly field.

With hind were mingled ponies,

All with the darkest hearts,

The equines were as vicious

As cervine counterparts.


Within the sunken Paddock

Panic ruled the day.

“It must all be buried

Or the hind will soon hold sway.”

Thus spake the lead researcher

Who added, “There is no chance.

There is no hope, at the end of a rope,

All of us will dance.”


The Arch-Magus, grim, but certain,

Led Black Knight from the ground.

They stood upon the highest point

To view the land around.

He pointed far past the horizon,

Beyond the curve of earth,

Towards distant Canterlot,

The place once of great worth.


“Though Canterlot is Fallen

Her faithful still do stand,

Within the depths below

And scattered through the land.

Perhaps they are no army,

Not in the formal way,

But they may stand to defense

And free the land one day.


“But to reach a future promise

We must not fail now.

We must survive assault,

And only I know how.

The Hind is sending many,

To kill and steal away,

So some force must be waiting

To hold the fools at bay.


“Equestria means nothing

If not full of love and peace;

We cannot be true citizens

If we let such things cease.

If citizen must expire

Then best is to help prevent

The death of our sustenance,

Land and Government.


“Help them destroy the items,

Burn the papers, crush the rest,

Bury the indestructible;

Defeat you may arrest.

For me, I'll raise the land up,

And make a narrow path.

The close and pressing walls of stone

Will dull their mindless wrath.


“You know me as a scholar,

But I am a soldier too.

'General' is likewise my title,

I know what I must do.

Go, ye servant of the Night,”

Go on, Fortuna's pawn,12

Leave me to my work here,

To honor the golden Dawn.”13


The Black Knight went below,

With many a backward glance;

Though he knew the Arch-Magus' secret,14

He thought he had no chance.

Though mighty in his magic

His body still was frail.

He would speed along destruction

In event the stallion fail.


He sent his magic surging,

And sank it to the soil,

The ground it surged and rumbled,

The earth it seemed to boil.

The land sent forth stone walls

That rose up to the sky.

It curved around the Paddock

To hide it from the eye.


The Arch-Magus stood stalwart

Within the narrow way

And turned ear and eye to the horizon

To note the Hind's array.

They marched from out the distance,

And raised a dust storm high.

He knew each face and hist'ry,

Afore they had drawn nigh.


There Vidkun15, called the Bloody,

Who skinned a hundred does;

Ulvhud who stored bodies

In places no one knows.

Frykt of the dark woods,

Where none still sane will tread,

And Smerte, Lord of the Barrow,

Who rules among the dead.


And ponies once familiar

Whose minds had sadly fled

Led forces as the deer did

And eagerly they sped.

There Vert Joilie of Percheron,

High Wind of Cloudsdale far,

Rocky Road from the hills of Capal,

And Strike, a Wonderbolt star.


Behind, beneath the banner

Of the cruel Heartless one,

Pulled by impresséd troops, was he

Who betrayed the Moon and Sun.

The selfish, thoughtless stallion

Who sold his folk for gain,

There came dark Shining Armor,

Who wrought the killing pain.


They marched in ordered file,

Deer and pony, rank on rank,

Towards the new defenses

That they could not outflank.

The battle-trumpets sounded,

The spears shields they beat.

They halted just within the view

Of the one they need defeat.


The peal of mocking laughter

Shook earth and rent the sky.

The Arch-Magus, deathly stern,

Did not even twitch an eye.

Though but one could breach the passage

Three came forth in wrath;

Each wished to claim the glory

In the winning of the path.


Ulvhud with his twin daggers

Known in the Northlands far;

Strike, the disgraced, with pike,

Trusting the speed of a falling star;

And Vert Jolie with his magic sword,

The two-handed blade that magic held,

Whipped aloft like a whirlwind's rage

With a flaming fur that would not be quelled.


He had not sword or shield,

Nor poleaxe, ax or spear,

Not bow or other weapon,

He needed not the fruits of Tyr.16

A surge of magic flowed,

His horn glowed strong and bright,

He was cloaked in magic armor

With sword and shield of light.


With quickness Strike flashed forth,

But was pushed as fast aside,

To smash against the entrance

And his head split open wide.

A thrust sped through Vert Jolie,

His blade split straight in twain,

And with a scream Ulvhud fell,

First and last brush with pain.


Then Rocky Road, High Wind,

And Frykt ran to the fray.

A sword, crossbow and greataxe sped

To clear the narrow way.

The bolt is loosed and magic

Back two its owner sends;

Sword of light cuts one of steel

And greataxe fully rends.


In disdain the great Arch-Magus

Forms bow of magic might,

And pierces Smerte's hornéd brow

With arrow made of light.

“I know you, fell stag, by rumor,

And by the fear in what was said:

Does had not peaceful slumber

In the halls of quiet dead.”


The army laughed no longer,

For high their ire burned,

And brighter glowed the fury

That their foe was unconcerned.

A vast and violent legion,

A sea of gleaming steel,

Yet a single frail scholar

Served as a solid seal.


Vidkun strides amid the throng

And the cringing shoves aside,

As he moves on the Arch-Magus

With proud and noble stride.

“You does and mares disgust me,

And I curse your fearful halt!

Would you even dare to come

Join Vidkun in the assault?”


He bore double-bladed war axes,

And clanged in plate, not mail;

His helm was steel-banded bone,

A doe skull, snowy pale.

His plate was trimmed in hide,

Pulled from the newly dead,

And twenty points (If he had one)

Crowned his armored head.


The Arch-Magus had his secret,

Vidkun did as well-

Through ancient, dire magic

A could aside a spell.

His war axes rang on the magic shield

And it cracked like brittle glass.

The sword struck once and shattered;

he was near to winning the crevasse.


The magic of the Northlands

Was not Equestrian pure,

And the Arch-Magus wavered on his hooves,

Scarcely able to endure.

His armor cracked and crumbled,

Darkness crept along the edge.

The Arch-Magus cried in anger.

He would not bear the sacrilege.


In the Northlands there was power,

But in Equestria there was skill,

Centuries of work and learning,

How push back any ill.

Though weakened by the evil,

His mind was still intact.

The Arch-Magus surged with power

And did the vileness counteract.


Back surged the curséd darkness

To Vidkun whence it came,

He wrenched in screaming agony,

Cloaked in ethereal flame.

With his evil cast back to him

The blow Vidkun could not check.

The Arch-Magus brought back his magic

And cut the monster's neck.


Then fell the bloody Vidkun

Like a blazing shooting star,

Crashing to the stony ground,

Scattering soil and pebbles far.

And as with the fallen meteor

When one claims a fragment shed,

The did the great Arch-Magus

Pluck up slain Vidkun's head.


He presented the hornéd skull

To the cringing, awestruck horde,

Then threw the accursed object,

The thing which he abhorred.

“And now ye hinds and ponies,

You see the cost is dear.

Which brainwashed minion next

Will taste this pony's cheer?”17


They wished to vent their anger,

But could not hide their fear.

They did not lack for forces,

Of pony or of deer.

The chosen of the Heartless,

Both willing and the crazed;

They were capable of killing,

Any vileness, all unfazed.


But all the Heartless' chosen

Were all too well aware

There was not profit in bravery,

No cause for them to dare.

Sever ignoble monsters,

The cream of the elite,

The best of all the army

Rushed headlong to defeat.


The blood flowed like a river

From the figures of the slain

And those on the front line

Dared not rush forth again.

The rear pushed forth the forward,

That they should bring the fight.

The army shoved and jostled

Their ire hiding fright.


Then magic parted the rabble

And forth strode the evil one.

The Arch-Magus smiled coldly

At betrayer of Moon and Sun.

“Welcome, welcome Prince!

You need not come in dread.

Here lies the road to power;

Please do not fear the dead.”17


The Prince looked on the pathway

Then looked upon the slain,

Gazed on the proud Arch-Magus

And the road he would attain.

“I know you, General, and better,

Know that you are wise.

You cannot check an army

Claiming their desired prize.


“You stand as iron Aegis

Before the narrow way,

And yes, the single soldier

You easily can slay.

But limbs grow sore, magic fades,

Your body will give out.

Then once your power is ended

There comes the bloody rout.”


Disdainfully the Arch-Magus

Dismissed the Prince's word

And spoke in booming tones

To ensure the army heard.

“You claim you know me, monster,

And I say it is not true,

For you do not know the secret

I now reveal to you!”


Magic, in abundance,

Surged through his crackling horn,

Red-glowing, pulsing, blazing,

Like the ruddy sky of morn.

The power was more than any

In all those ranks had seen,

It rushed through the Arch-Magus

And in redness washed the scene.


His eyes grew white, his body rose,

The Arch-Magus roared, enraged,

And as the forward rank deserted

His true power he uncaged.

In beams of magic there he spread

Concentrated death.

Every screaming soldier struck

No longer drew a breath.


Flesh and bone made ashes,

Bodies sucked into a void,

Desiccation, exsanguination, detonation;

'Twas terror unalloyed.

He throng ran past the border

Of the desolating strike,

Behind the wicked, watching Prince

Who stood firm, statue-like.


Down came the great Arch-Magus,

Halting against the wall;

Vidkun's dark enchantments

Had some effect after all.

Then up he stood and strong he looked

Armor springing forth again.

His horn glowed bright and weapons sprang,

To stand as the army's bane.


The prince then cried out,

“General, I see that you have force.

Stay your rage and listen,

I offer a brighter course.

The Stag King holds all power,

He will rule every distant land.

You, wise, potent stallion,

Place yourself beneath his hand.


“Yield ye, General, to him,

His power and his might,

Pass beneath his flowing banner,

Bask in his darkened light.

You could freely use your power,

The knowledge that you hold,

No more shut up in a prison,

But standing free and bold!”


The Arch-Magus stood, unmoving,

Deep in careful thought.

He dropped his magic armor,

And said, “It is taught:

Agreement comes from learning,

Of knowing all I may,

To know the terms and burdens

Will not my strength overweigh.


“And thus it comes, the question,

'What is it that I need?'

I assure you, Prince, I do not

Have a heart for petty greed.

Perhaps, with one assurance,

He'll have my guarantee.

With but a single promise

He'll have my loyalty.”


The Prince he smiled in triumph,

And the army was at ease.

He nodded to the Arch-Magus,

And kindly said to him, “Please,

Tell us of your needing

And surely he will agree.

What assurance do you need

To serve his majesty?”


The Arch-Magus gave a smile,

A scholar's tricky grin,

As though he had seen the board

And was assured that he would win.

“All that I require,

That his will shall prevail,

That while I am in his service

None shall hurt a female.”


The Prince's mien grew dark,

And his brow pulled tight in rage;

He would not bear such mockery,

From the smug and smiling sage.

“You know the way of Stags,

And how we all now live!

Equestria is gone, HE is here,

Obedience is imperative!


“The destruction now is over

But NONE will mute the groans:

We'll draw their blood, mar their flesh,

And crack their worthless bones!18

Females are wombs and openings,

Toys of living flesh!

We shall claim even yearlings,

Soft, tender, sweet and fresh!”


The Prince's words were silenced

When high the Paddock blew.

His eyes grew wide in anger

As suddenly he knew.

“You never meant to kill us,

Only make us long delay,

To wreck the precious items

And let others get away!”


He ordered archers ready,

And each remaining took a bow.

The arrows were tipped with rusty red

With bleached shafts white as snow.

“So if you will not obey us,

And our plenty you dismiss,

We will give you arrow volleys,

Blood and bone of cockatrice!”


Not all were sagittarii,

But all loosed shot on shot

Until the sky above

Was a single, darkened blot.

The slaughter of the cockatrice

Had served them very well,

As seen by rain of arrows

That on the Arch-Magus fell.


Weak from Vidkun's vileness,

And his show of mighty power,

His magic shield and armor

Could not wholly stop the shower.

With conjured wind and dancing hooves

he tried to stem the tide,

But with his waning energy

The arrows pierced his hide.


He fell back into the passage,

And closed the narrow way,

Horn glowing in desperate protection

As he held the stone at bay.

He rushed to the smold'ring ruins,

To see that all had fled,

And know his duty had been discharged

Before he joined the dead.


He found the Black Knight waiting,

To bear through the blockade

But seeing his dire straits,

He rushed to the Arch-Magus' aid.

The Black Knight tried to speak,

But the Arch-Magus spoke before.

“My time is short, listen well,

Your skill is needed sore.


“Now you alone must lead them

Into the promised fate,

Responsibility rests with you,

From this you may not abdicate.

Now give to me the knife

You made out of that flask,19

Once only ceremonial,

I shall give it another task...”


He touched his glowing horn

to the silver blade;

Though stone crept up arms and legs

He looked quite unafraid.

The blade glowed like a rainbow,

And gained another seal,

The dual, dancing Princesses20

Beside Fortuna's golden wheel.


“I wish that I could tell you

What it is that I have done

But time is not in favor,

You must avenge the Moon and Sun.

Only know you, Black Knight,

This magic that it bears,

'What Was' is its title,21

To the vanished world it stares.”


The Arch-Magus groaned and seeing

The rock was reaching high,

He returned the blade with a tremble

And drew the Black Knight nigh.

“Before the Hind's bloody minions

Can claim their battle prize,

You must do one last favor,

'Twould be chaos otherwise.”


In time the heartless army

Made path through summoned stone

But found they only ruins

And the Arch-Magus all alone.

Shocked were the remaining

Who claimed the stonéd dead:

They took his stricken body

But never found his head.22


There came no peal of triumph

When they marched back to the base:

Chastening stripes and executions,

The cost of such disgrace.

Though they had his stony carcass

It was not near the same.

They could not claim dominion

Without the whole to shame.


Thus fell the Last Arch-Magus,

Of old-world Canterlot,

In service to a nation

Poisoned by cruel rot.

All honor and all glory,

To him it must be shown

His deeds and dedication

Must by all be known.


He sought a world unbroken,

The land we once adored,

The land of peace and plenty,

The land not of fire and sword,

The land of light and laughter,

The land of cheery jubilee,

The land of rapturous delights...

The land where women can be free.


When the jenny feels certain

She may take a peaceful rest;

When the griffiness frets not

For the egg within her nest;

When the Dog knows she can slumber,

And not hold ope an eye;

When the zebra does not think

At any moment she will die.


When the Changeling feasts on love

Not chokes on bitter gall;

When the buffalo knows she

May stand up proud and tall;

And mares need never worry

For minds, horns, wings or life;

When all have strong and sure protection

That is the truest end of strife.


That fate was his last promise,

His true and lofty goal:

To wipe away the Heartless,

And again make our land whole.

We must all fight and triumph,

To make his vision true:

To bring to birth the old world

From the ashes of the new.23

The Great Locutor

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“Fear is the main source of superstition, and one of the main sources of cruelty. To conquer fear is the beginning of wisdom.”

-Bertrand Russell

Several non-descript carts rolled through an empty waste in one of the far corners of what had once been Equestria. They were pulled along by armored soldiers of the Stag King, and in the back of all of them were covered loads, looking like dead bodies ready for disposal. The Stag King had plenty and always made more. Trudging beside the carts were ragged-looking ponies, covered in dirt, in tattered clothes, and with chains binding their wrists and keeping their ankles from moving too much.

The scene looked accurate, but was a clever deception. All of the bodies were supplies, or rebels, as were the soldiers and prisoners. Inside one of the rumbling wagons, in fact, was the scourge of the new order, the Black Knight, called the Phantom by the ignorant military.

He huddled under the cover, looking at the other rebel soldiers with him, mostly stallions, with a Changeling and a Diamond Dog up from the Colonies in exile. The governments displaced by the invasion had rallied all their remaining citizens to support the Equestrian rebellion, where possible. The only exception had been the griffins.

When the misogynistic and sadistic nature of the new government came to light several duchies of the Kingdom rebelled, intending to become one with the Stag King, the dukes being as monstrously woman-hating and torturous as the deer. The insurgency was stronger than the High King had anticipated, aided by a certain degree of help from the Stag King's own forces. The High King led the counter-insurgency, fighting for his life and nation.

He could commit no troops to the rebellion while he was fighting to stop the dukes. But he had pledged that once his position was secure he would send his whole army to help retake Equestria. There was a strange stagnation to the situation, given that both sides had to make some headway before they could hope to help one another.

The Black Knight thought on the situation, and his current mission, as well as what happened so long ago. His whole direction had been altered by the promise he had made in the rubble of Paddock Fifty-One.

He had been down in the facility itself, aiding the researchers and refugees in their quest to destroy all they could and completely bury the rest. Most of the objects could be destroyed, but the Discordian artifacts couldn't be harmed by any conventional means. They would need to be melted down deep into the earth, topped with an impenetrable plug of slag and a compressing shell of continental crust. It was precise work.

“Set stones in corners, off true down and left by... 38 degrees,” One of the Dog researchers said, pointing to one of the indicated points. “Pack powder around, lead to second stones and powder.”

“Right. Just get everyone into the escape passages. I can take care of this,” The Black Knight said, watching the Dog go. He would do the work and finish the job... in the abstract. There were other matters to consider beyond the immediate concern of destroying the dangerous things and burying the artifacts Discord had made.

The war on the Heartless Hind would be a protracted campaign. It wouldn't just poof away in a day with a single gesture. The Hind had conquered like that but he had some strange power that allowed him to overcome the laws of cause and effect. It seemed to have worked only once, but it had been enough.

The plans and blueprints and formulae were sorted through, some stacked in piles for destruction, some surreptitiously slipped into the Black Knight's coat. They seemed useful. They might be useful someday. He would examine all the rooms, just to make sure he took everything important. He was stealing, true. And worse, leaving potentially dangerous things around.

There was a higher goal, however. He would keep them safe, keep them secure with him and in the hands of all the researchers he had and could find. They could turn them from lifeless plans to potentially tide-turning pieces of equipment. It would all work out in the end. “I promise, I'm not just stealing to steal. I need to keep these alive. I promise I'll use these to do good...” he said, as another folded paper vanished into his secret pockets.

“Sir?” One of the ponies under the cover asked.

“Yes, what is it?” The Black Knight snapped quickly back to his senses, looking over.

“I'm... well, I never did this before. I was just a store clerk before...” The red earth pony said. He rubbed softly at a small scar on his forehead

“None of us were anything like what this situation has imposed,” The Black Knight said. “But you're here. You remember what was lost. You can do this, because you know you must. There are no options. If we don't succeed... all of that is gone forever. Would you want that?”

“N-never! I want Equestria back to the way it was! I miss the love, the sweetness, all the happy faces. I don't want the pain, the wide eyes, the blood... so much blood... so... much... blood...” The stallion began to shudder, tears gathering at the corners of his eyes.

“Concentrate on the now! You are one of the Released but you must not think on that. You are a rebel and pledged to the world that was, and which will be again. Be strong. Be strong,” The Black Knight said firmly.

“Yes sir, I will be. I'm just ready for this to be done,” the stallion said, shaking his head and taking a deep breath.

“We should be there shortly. Don't worry. This mission should be complete in short order...” The Black Knight said, lapsing back into silence and thought.

Soon enough the fake prisoner and body caravan arrived at the destination. After traversing a narrow mountain road they arrived at a large plateau covered in steel towers, with dishes and wires trailing off. That all led to one large building, a three-story, pre-conquest-modern-Equestrian blocky type. It had had a name once, written in bright letters over the recessed entrance, but those had all fallen down and been destroyed. Several of the mirrored glass windows were broken, including one of the pieces of front door glass. The rest of it was wind-blasted and filthy.

A small force of genuine conquered-Equestrian soldiers marched out of the facility, mostly ponies, with one deer in command. He approached the lead caravan and the ornately-armored stallion at the head of collection. “What is the meaning of this? This is his Supreme and Pitiless Invincible Majesty's personal space, not a disposal spot or a processing facility!”

“We have our orders,” The stallion said, producing a folded piece of paper. “We were sent to here, for reasons we need not fathom. He is inscrutable and our superiors may not be questioned. Unless you want to do it.”

“No, no...” The buck took the paper and unfolded it. “I cannot believe this! We are being ordered to take command of this caravan! The whole collection of us.”

“Is this all those under your command?” The lead stallion asked, indicating the ponies.

“I need only a skeleton patrol. No one comes here, and I am quite strong!” The buck proudly asserted.

“Excellent!” The stallion said. As one the fake soldiers hurled their spears at the real ones, impaling them before they could react. The Black Knight slipped out of the front cart, slinking around the stammering buck.

“What is the meaning of-?!” The question halted as the breath rushed out of him. His eyes went wide as blood dripped from his mouth. He fell with a heavy clatter, revealing the Black Knight standing with his knife in his hand, blood dripping lightly from it. His great experience ensure that not even a drop had hit his tattered black suit or ruffled white shirt.

“Everyone out, we're ready to get to it,” He said, wiping his knife off on the buck's body.

The covers flew off of the carts and the rebels piled out, some carrying boxes. “What do we do, sir?” The imitation lead soldier asked.

“Keep the disguised ones out here as lookouts, just in case anyone comes up. Keep the Everloyal with you for heavy support if needed. The rest of us will take care of the interior action. I think this should come off without a hitch. But if it gets bad fall back and get out of here. Don't worry about us,” The Black Knight said.

“But sir...” The stallion started to protest.

“No. There are more important concerns,” The Black Knight said, shaking his head. The statement reminded him of the Paddock again.

He did his duty as he had set it. He helped to prepare the place for destruction, had destroyed a few of the easier things, and was finishing his check of the facility for any stragglers. He also checked the rooms for little things he could sneak into his pockets for further study. More plans, more magical formulae, even small models and mechanical bits that might become something later.

The secret pockets of his coat bulged as he entered the last room, and found one last stallion. He was a pale beige unicorn with a gray mane, wearing thick glasses and a lab coat. “Last call, everypony out!” The Black Knight called.

“Yes, well, I'm afraid that can't happen. I have to stay,” The stallion said.

“Not if you happen to like breathing. Come on...” The Black Knight said, indicating he wanted the pony's name.

“Doctor Brilliant Spark. And I have to remain. The powder and stones must be activated in a particular fashion and order to get the kind of effect we need. I know what must be done,” Brilliant said.

“Can't you just set up a radio or something?” The Black Knight asked.

“It must be very precise. A pony able to use multiple magical effects can just manage it. If we had more time maybe we could do it from afar but no. This is a very desperate situation. No go, go with the rest,” Brilliant said, setting himself in front of a collection of metal wires. “Once I spark the first one I have to do the rest in order. Get clear. We can't take any more time. The Arch-Magus can't hold forever.”

“I was about to check on him and get out through a surface route, if they'll survive,” The Black Knight said.

“They will. We accounted for anyone on the surface, like the Arch-Magus. So go see to him, if there's anything to see,” Brilliant insisted, looking at the wires.

The Black Knight turned to leave but paused. “Doctor...”

“I am a rational pony. Suicide is irrational; sacrifice is not, when necessary. Some things must be lost when a task this large is undertaken. It is the sad aspect of life that sometimes there is a cost,” Brilliant said.

“Cost...” The Black Knight echoed

“Just one thing,” Brilliant said. “I worked cataloging and sifting through secret items and seeing if any of it could be turned to harmless and peaceful purposes. I was proud to serve the state, proud to be an Equestrian. But... maybe it's not too much to ask that I'd also like to be remembered. If not for my work then at least for the one thing I did at the end. That serves Equestria too, right?”

“Right. Right, it does,” The Black Knight said, smiling a bit. “Don't worry, I promise I'll tell others. When the time comes to count the heroes your name will be top on the list.” He left the room to get to the stairs to the surface, whispering, “Promise...”

The Black Knight stepped through the front doors of the facility, looking sadly around at the destruction. It had once been tastefully decorated in muted pink and purple, with polished floors and plaster walls. No indicia remained from what it had once been, but he knew that in times before it had been a radio station, one of many.

The comfortable, happy furniture had been demolished by the soldiers of the Heartless Hind, torn down to bare bones as hard, rigid, utilitarian objects, while the floors and walls had been splattered with blood, alcohol and bodily fluids. Posters for radio shows and musical acts had been ripped down, the cases broken and thrown around. The whole place had become a monument to the Hind's hate for the old world.

“Wow... I... I remember what buildings like this used to look like. This is... this is insane,” The red earth stallion said, giving a wide-eyed stare at the devastation. “Why would they do this?”

“The northmen are a cold, heartless lot, obsessed with strange notions,” The Black Knight said. “They are fixated on the idea that females are an abomination who serve a wholly utilitarian purpose as mobile wombs, flesh puppets and objects for slaying or torturing as a means of entertainment. To this end they have developed a complicated system of classification, identifying inanimate objects as being female or male and excoriating the female ones. This also extends to traditions, ideas, words and methods of doing things. This is why complex sweet foods, most bright colors, major chords, showy clothing, love, compassion, mercy, happiness, joy, delight, social interconnectedness, sharing, sincerity, cleanliness, redolence and other things once venerated in Equestria are execrated in this world. It's why the standing structures are such trash-piles.”

All the rebels listening looked around again, most of them shuddering. “Are they all insane..?” The red stallion asked.

“They'll call it a different means of having fun. But that they can look on a dying face and smile I'd say some portion are insane. Some are just incapable of realizing they're doing harm because of the way they were raised. Those under the effect of malevolent magic can be made to realize...” The Black Knight said, looking at the scars on the foreheads of a few of the rebels. “But you know it.”

“Yes, sir. Glad I was made aware...” The red stallion said.

“Spread out, find what we came for, and get us set up properly,” The Black Knight said sternly. The others jumped to the task, leaving him thinking about the last happening at the Paddock.

The Black Knight made it to the surface, to see about the Arch-Magus and his quest to stop the army that was coming for them. The battle was still going on after the explosion, the sounds of screams and impact echoing from the narrow opening the Arch-Magus was guarding.

The tones changed subtly, cries of desperate fear changing to triumph. The Arch-Magus stumbled through the opening, his magic closing the stones behind him. He was bleeding, with broken arrows sticking from his body. His horn continued to glow after the wall had closed, holding a rising stone at bay. His black coat and white mane were already turning gray, in the same way as the victims of a cockatrice might change. “Arch-Magus! You...”

“No! There's no time for futile attempts at assistance,” the Arch-Magus said, stumbling to his knees. “I must... I must pass on the torch while I still have magic to hold the cockatrice blood at bay...”

“Hard to believe it was Shining out there. I don't want to believe the rumors. The ugly rumors...” The Black Knight shuddered.

“Listen, there is no time. You're the one that has to lead them now. There's no way to get the anti-petrificant now, and they took care of the ability to undo the effect by intimidating the offending cockatrice by using bones and blood. It's all your show now,” The Arch-Magus said.

“I've lead a few before but... this is a bit out of my league. You're the professor, you have political experience. You know I'm just a colt form the sticks who got lucky,” The Black Knight insisted.

“And I'm just another teacher from Stalliongrad who happened to make good. Don't be modest. Remember, I saw your unredacted file. Even the OCFG version is more black marker than text, so I know what you can really do. Give me the knife you made out of that flask of yours,” The Arch-Magus said, his voice growing more strained. Stone crept up his fingers and hooves.

“I'd ask how you knew... but you're a spook and the best magic-user still on our side,” The Black Knight said, taking out a knife from inside his black jacket. It was a small thing, formed entirely of pure silver, handle to blade. It had only a single edge, and a single embellishment. On the blade was a wheel rendered in etched gold.

“When I'm gone you'll still have the best. You'll find that while those brainwashed brutes are dedicated and vicious they're fearful, stupid and obsessed with their new libertine nation. Use that to your advantage. Now...” The Arch-Magus touched the knife to his horn, power surging into it while a pained gasp passed his lips. The stone surged up his body as his suppression magic faltered.

The Black Knight took back the knife, and noted not only the glow of magic but saw the marking of Equestria next to the golden wheel. “Nice addition but what..?”

“It never needs sharpening. Even the soft silver won't blunt on steel. It can cut through flesh like a hot wire through butter. You will always know where it is, and if it's close enough it can come back to you. But more importantly, there's an enchantment... call it 'What Was.' It's the memory of the world that was lost. Be careful, it's powerful. It can undo the effect of the crystal, enough to make someone remember what they once were. If used too quickly I'd imagine the guilt and disgust would drive a pony insane. I'd imagine you'll find other uses,” The Arch-Magus said.

“Other uses? What do you mean?” The Black Knight asked.

The Arch-Magus tapped the full coat with his stone fingers. “You have light and sticky fingers, but always in the service of good. But there is one more thing. I'm going to stop resisting... and you need to take my head.”

“Wh-what?” The Black Knight looked shocked at the suggestion.

“You know of my curse, and how it passes. The thing about cockatrice poison is that it preserves life in the stone. One is not truly dead until all the stone is made flesh once again. Hide my head away and the sick stag will never loose my curse. And more, he cannot resurrect my head and keep it artificially alive to torment. Do it. In the name of Equestria and the sisters you must. Sun for me, Moon for you. In their names...” The Arch-Magus pleaded, grunting as he was wracked with pain.

“I will... I promise...” the Bkack Knight said, watching as the light faded from the Arch-Magus' horn for the last time. Stone passed quickly over his body, turning the great hero into nothing but a statue. The newly enchanted blade was as keen as promised, and severed the stone head smoothly. The grim deed done he dashed away, to escape the coming army and take his place as the leader of the rebels. “I will led them to victory. Back to the old world, pulled from the ashes of the new. I'll reconstruct the land,” he said to the Arch-Magus' head. “I promise you, and them too...”

“Sir!” The red stallion called from deep inside the first floor. “It was down here! Just... open...”

The Black Knight made his way through the wrecked, filthy halls, past gutted rooms filled with destroyed equipment, trash and a few bone fragments. He came to a fairly ordinary studio which was filled with equipment that was still put together and glowing. The joyful colors had been scraped off to the bare metal or repainted with dark colors, and the happy shapes of some pieces had been distorted into jagged, chaotic images. “The last functional, powered, all-encompassing radio transmitter in Equestria. More powerful than our pirate transmitters, and on a fixed frequency. And all radios in this nation are pre-tuned to it to hear declarations from the cruel Heartless Hind. Other nations are tuned in to hear what the sadistic, insane monster is saying.”

“Why leave it out here, and not take it back to Canterlot? Why not use the ones in Canterlot?” The red stallion asked.

“In the lightning war of invasion the radio stations, like television and theaters, were seen as feminine and were destroyed. Only at the end did he realize how useful it would be. By then this was the only one standing. The others couldn't be repaired. Northmen knew nothing of technology and the brainwashed minions weren't specialized in that, their minds were twisted to other purposes. All the learned folk went with the rebellion as they were around suppressors and dampers. That's why we can fix the equipment and use it from mobile platforms,” The Black Knight explained.

“Now that we've captured this, what do we do?” The red stallion asked.

“Rig this place, so that it will come down. I can't silence him forever, but I can mute his voice and keep him from bombastically pontificating across the nation. You know how to do that, yes?” The Black Knight asked of the Dog.

“Yes, sir!” The big Dig Dog barked, standing tall and saluting. “Learned of stress points for buildings. Is easier than stress in tunnels. Can do this.”

“I trust you. Go then, go to work. Follow his instructions exactly and see me before you go. I'll be doing something just as important in here,” The Black Knight said with a nod, sitting in the uncomfortable chair before the microphone.

“Yes, sir! Will do! Come! Need only be on ground if do right!” The Dig Dog shouted, marching out of the studio with the others following close behind him.

The Black Knight flicked switches, turned knobs and adjusted sliders as he had learned to do, holding a finger over the final switch. He licked his dry lips, drew in a breath and flicked in, the bright yellow light illuminating the barely discernible words, 'On Air.'

“Attention, nation of Equestria. This is the one you know. For good or ill, you know me. Keep knowing me as The Phantom. So long as it strikes the cold chill in the guts of the evil and lifts the hearts of the good then it suffices as a name. Maybe someday when the world is clean again my name will be known. But that will have to wait. There is too much filthy ugliness to even imagine such a thing at this moment.

“But I assure you, when that comes, I will not be the overlord. I will not be the sole ruler. I do not aspire to such a state, and I never did. I lead because I promised I would, a sacred promise to one who trusted in me. I lead as a duty, not a delight. I wanted to be happy and delighted in the world of peace and plenty, enjoying a life of ease. But that was stolen away.

“I did and do want to help all those in this miserable world of pain, to help them reach what once was. Pony, donkey, cow, griffin, zebra, Diamond Dog, buffalo, Changeling, Dragon. Roa, Cannonite. Unicorn, pegasus, earth, mera. All. I want to help them all. Help all help each other. We will return to the world of interconnectedness. We will all help each other. Not neighbor fighting neighbor, or enslaving neighbor. Neighbor rising as his neighbor rises, each and all supporting one another in an indestructible web of help and happiness.

“The world is vast, and glorious, glowing with wonders and filled with magic. The magic of Harmony, the magic of Friendship. Beauty, joy, happiness. Our internal lives were fed and nurtured, to say nothing of the physical. Remember those days? The farms were grand, stuffed with food of every description! Restaurants served every kind of food that could be imagined, and bakeries and candy makers were hailed and celebrated across the face of the Principality. We had so much, and so many grand things.

“We lost those wonderful things. The advances that made us so prosperous, so grand and safe and glorious. The technology that brought us close together, to talk from one end of the nation to the other, to travel with great rapidity, to ensure harvest was quick and the food was on the table of loving families in a flash. They were safe in secure homes with warmth and cooling and comfortable furnishings. The blessings of advances had given us everything and we were glad of it.

“Then they came. The northmen! The heartless ones! He, the Heartless Hind and his heartless pawns. They came from far away, from some place colder than the Griffin Kingdom, colder than the land of the Crystal Empire. They came with ice where their hearts should be. They came with ice where their blood should be. They came with ice in their eyes and on their tongues and in their minds. They came with ice, with a cold hate for all that we were.

“The northmen came, and with their wicked trickery and the works of unkind ponies they wiped all that advancement away and threw us back to the old days, the bad days, the days before even Discord when ponies huddled in the fanged darkness and trembled at the beasts that stalked outside the guttering reach of their fires. The beasts still stalk. They tear and kill, but now they have cruel minds. Cold minds and cold hearts. They concoct wicked things with the ice minds they have, and perform all manners of outrage and horror without mercy because of the ice hearts they possess.

“I know you can hear me, somewhere inside! You brainwashed minions of the Heartless one! The one who sends you to die in his name. Who gathers you, who trains you, who makes tin-plate soldiers of you, who makes monsters of you. Who drills you until you are so dead and cold you abuse your neighbors, the daughters and sisters and mothers and aunts and nieces of your neighbors, the ones at whom you used to smile, with whom you would sing and dance. With whom you shared a glorious and beautiful world.

“He cares nothing for you! The stags that march among you, the northmen that have ruined all you ever loved care nothing for you! They would kill all of you if it served their purposes, your sacrifices turned to nothing, unremembered, mere tallies for their bloody calculations.

“They are not your ideals or your idols. They are as alien to all you ever knew as any thing could be. The northmen are abominations, aberrations who live only to spread their hate and cold, like mortal Windigos. They long to make you like them but you are not like them! Not ice beings with ice hearts and ice minds! You do not hold hate deep in you, a hate that drives and moves you. The northmen do! The heartless ice beings do! You lived in a land saturated in love and peace! That is your nature! Not hate and malice, not this cruelty, but love and caring and compassion!

“Even now you know this is wrong! Even now some doubt burns in your bellies. As the Fire of Friendship so long ago the spark lives. Weak and guttering but it lives in you. You hold the ancient fire in you, fire to push back their ice hearts and ice minds. You have the fire to banish that ice, to banish the hateful and horrible, to chase the cringing cowards from our glorious lands and back to their unforgiving ice. You can defeat the hateful northmen and melt their icy ambition in the light of your courage and love!

“Yes, cringing cowards. They fear you! They fear us! Why do you think the killed and destroyed all that once was our lot? Why did they try to extinguish our legacy? It had power! Power they cannot resist, power they cannot deny, power they cannot fight. Every thing they destroyed, however small, was powerful. Names were destroyed because memories have power. Foods and traditions created connections to a past that was wondrous. Every time they splashed dark paint or ripped apart furniture or defaced and deformed small icons of love and happiness it was an act of trembling, cowering, chattering, knee-buckling fear!

“They hate things because they are afraid of it. They must show their ersatz hate as a pasteboard mask to cover their unmitigated, all-consuming, paralyzing fear! The hate is how they disguise that trembling by pretending they have power over what frightens them most. They stole power from their women because they feared what could happen if they were allowed to be free, to influence the way children were raised and how governance moved. They took that away because they knew the truth. We had equality and we had power and greatness. We had females free to be a part of the nation and we were great; now we have lost that and we live and blood-soaked, screaming squalor.

“We must fight this madness. We must conquer this false hate stretched across the sucking and suppurating wound of their hidden fear. We must bring back the nation we remember, that we love, restore the governments in exile, restore peace in the world. We must shove the northmen back into the cold from whence they came and ensure their ice never comes back with them. We must come together, we must unite as one and make this happen.

“Look up all of you, those whose minds fly free, unshackled by the icy machinations of the northmen, and you with the fire still in you, still carrying the hope and light of the world we adored inside of you! Look up! You see there the sun and moon. They remain. For all the foolish pride and cruel arrogance of he, the Heartless Hind, they remain and ever will remain. Look up and see there the promise of a better world, of the old world. It is a promise from the very world! And a promise from me. I promise that I will bring that world. Not to be the ruler of it, but just to restore what was lost, to get back the beauty, peace and plenty. I promise you, the world promises you, endless promises to raise the world to what must be, to what had been! Don't keep your faces down in the dirt like they wish. Look up and see the sun and moon! Look up and embrace the promise!”

The rebels returned after doing their duty, to find the Black Knight still there, still making his speech, perfectly. After his repetition he looked over and smiled. “Do you have the activators?”

The Dig Dog handed over the collection of wires. “Need spark. Will activate outside...”

“No. It will be activated from here. I need a sparking gem, and this will all be ready,” The Black Knight said.

“But... but... building will...” The Dig Dog began.

“Crush anyone within. This is necessary. Now give it to me, and go. Tell the ones outside to hold for ten minutes then all of you fall back to the local base,” The Black Knight said firmly.

“But... yes, sir,” The Dig Dog said.

“This is... quite a thing you're doing...” The red stallion said.

“Suicide is irrational; sacrifice is not, when necessary. Some things must be lost when a task this large is undertaken. It is the sad aspect of life that sometimes there is a cost. Doctor Brilliant Spark said that to me. He set off the charge in Paddock Fifty-One that buried all the dangerous magical items held within. He was a hero, and all should remember him,” The Black Knight said, turning towards the control board.

“I... I will, sir. I'll remember it well,” The red stallion said, rushing out of the room.

The Black Knight fiddled with the board again and looked at the gem and wires in his hands. “I gain no pleasure from this, but what must be done must be done.”

- - -

It had taken some time to mobilize a force of soldiers and more time to get them to the station. The broadcast had been playing over and over, repeating the same promise of liberation. The soldiers had been forced not to listen to it. They simply marched on and stormed the facility.

They swarmed through all the floors and searched all the rooms. The leader of the soldiers, a buck, rushed with a couple of stallions into the broadcast room, finding the broadcast still going on, loud and clear as life, from behind a high chair.

“This is over, Phantom. You spat in the eye of a living god and now you have...” The buck turned the chair and found nothing, the board playing a recording of the speech on the air, while the turning of the chair dropped the sparking gem onto the collection of wires, striking hard enough to discharge the electricity in it.

The soldiers didn't have time to scream, all they could do was listen to the recording play as the stone sparked. “I promise that I will bring that world. Not to be the ruler of it, but just to restore what was lost, to get back the beauty, peace and plenty. I promise you-”

“To fear love is to fear life, and those who fear life are already three parts dead.”

-Bertrand Russell