Fire, washing over the forest, screaming, constant, anguished screams. Houses overrun with soldiers, pulling mares, colts and fillies along with them as they burnt down around them. Those who struggled were quickly brought into line; those who fought back were put down. More screaming, crying, and begging.
All these Ponies, dragged from their homes in the middle of the night, the houses torched as they left, the forest still ablaze. A constant haze in the air, the smell of fear and fire. A filly on the floor, crying over the still warm body of its dead mother. A soldier laughing as he watches the scene, brown, curly mane thrown over one eye, his hooves a-wash with blood. The filly was lifted from where it lay, brought to the soldier as it called out for its family, no hope for it now. A snap and the filly was gone, lifeless body hitting the ground. The soldier grinned.
Another let out a rasping chuckle as he grabbed a mare by the mane with his teeth, tears streaming down her face.
“Well? It’s oh so very rude to keep the Mother from seeing her child.”
Narvane awoke with a startled gasp, his grey, mottled coat now sweat drenched. He glanced around, taking in his surroundings for a good minute before allowing himself to slump back against his pillow, panting. He raised a hoof to his brow, held it there for a long while before shoving the covers to his bed aside, sliding out whilst being careful not to disturb the mare occupying the other side.
Just another dream was the thought that ran through the stallion’s head as he descended the stairs leading from his sparse bedroom to the rest of his home. He kept that thought in mind as he opened a window, letting himself climb up into a chair after as his green eyes slowly adjusting to the dark of the place, no sense in putting a light on at this hour, no sense in waking anyone up. Narvane sighed, shaking his head, allowing strands of his brown, slowly whiting hair to cover one eye, the other focused on the wooden door that led to the outside world. The wind, cool on his sweat coated fur.
Outside...heh, could go for a walk, clear my head...
The stallion shook his head at that idea, no point in wasting another night lost in thought after a bad dream, a long ago time. No, he was content to remain in his chair and wait for the sun to peak over the hills and forests surrounding the place he and his mare called home, before joining her in bed once more, no reason for her to worry about nightmares. What was the point, after all? Was there something that could be done? No, Narvane sighed once more, before clambering from the chair to wander. Down another flight of stairs he went to the basement, now a room of memorabilia it had once served the much more practical purpose of being a jail cell, not that the older Pony had any use for such things. The walls now displayed papers, a small flag with the symbol of Canterlot and the Princess, a sun on a red background.
Another shake of the head as he moved past this, heading towards a display case towards the far end of the room. A suit of armour, bronzed but still well maintained sat within it, a silver sword resting at the hoof-guards.
All those years ago and I still keep it...No sense in dwelling on the past, but... Narvane shook his mane, shifting the hair off of his eye as he gazed at the unused suit. Why he continued to do so was a mystery to him after all the years that had passed since that night, that dark night. The stallion shuddered at the thought, his dream, a memory brought back to him for a brief moment. Had he regretted what had been done? Done in Celestia’s name all that time ago? What point was there, he wondered as he had often done on this sort of night, unable to sleep soundly, lost in the past. Narvane lowered his head. The past was but the past, there was no chance for him to do anything about that, just to press on.
He moved back to the stairs and slowly ascended, careful not to make a noise as he shut the door to the basement. A book lay on a table, between the chairs and the door outside, still dark out. With a shrug and another, drawn out sight, the Pony allowed himself to lift up the cover of it and read.
A journal, the book was, the pages still well kept yet they almost seemed to creak when turned.
Summer Sun Celebration, a day of joy and wonder, followed by a peaceful night! The perfect time for this to go down, Candell has managed to get us all the night off guarding the Princess, so no harm in going down to one of the towns in the Everfree! The plan seems to be as follows: One, claim our swords and gear from the palace, expedition into the woods, we’ll say, past the construction site on the edge, no one will question it, Guards from Canterlot, patrolling the most dangerous part of the lands. Not even Celestia will know what happens! This’ll show them for cutting our pay, a night of lootin’ and thieving, will make a change from standing around the castle till all hours, can bring in a decent amount of money for a change, maybe even have some fun with the populace, sword’s been sharpened, after all...
Narvane shut the journal, it was the same page every night and probably why it always opened there. He’d read it so many times now yet, still it didn’t feel right, still the feeling in his stomach grew, eating at him. The stallion couldn’t tell his mare, he put the book out after she went to bed and hid it again after. She wouldn’t understand.
I don’t want her to leave... He shook his head as he picked the book up, holding it between his teeth and heading across the room again, tucking the journal into a slot between the floor and a bookcase.
A quick glance at the open window revealed that the hills were bordered red, the sun was rising.
At least someone is still doing their duty... A final, long sigh before Narvane pulled himself upstairs, back to bed where only a memory would wait.
A soft yawn escaped past Chalice’s mouth as the awoke, the sun beaming in through the window. She smiled softly, glancing to her right to spot the familiar, brown-maned form of Narvane snoring gently beside her, facing away as he always did. The mare let herself chuckle briefly before leaning over to plant a soft kiss to the back of the stallion’s head, he mumbled but did not wake.
Chalice let herself stay in the warm confines of bed for another minute, though it was probably more along the lines of five, before pushing the covers off of herself and getting to all four feet, or hooves in this case. She shook her head, golden mane covering her face. She blinked; it had been a while since she’d slept with her hair down.
Well, she’d have to tie that back, no need for an unneeded mess! She shook her head, shifting her messy mane off to one side as she slowly, casually clopped her way down the stairs to the main room, closing the door behind her. A lazy glance around revealed once again, that nothing had been touched during the night, the only thing that had apparently changed was a small pile of letters just inside the door, breakfast first, though! She lightly padded her way to the area the two called a kitchen, just a counter-top with a few cupboards.
A look over at the large grandfather clock next to, wait, was the window open when she had gone to bed? Ah well, Narvane had probably just forgotten to close it during the night. A quick smile danced over her features as she raised herself up onto her hind legs for a second, gripping a jar between her teeth that sat up inside an oddly door less cupboard, not without some difficulty, mind and placed it down on the counter-top. The kitchen was always well stocked, never without something to eat despite the remote location Narvane had insisted upon. Chalice rolled her eyes briefly as she opened the jar, pulling out several strands of grass then several more, might as well treat the grumpy stallion.
A quick moment later two grass filled sandwiches sat on clean plates on the table, she took another look over at the clock, just turning midday and Narvane should be up soon. She stepped over to the door, leaving the plates there for a time as she retrieved the post. It was always there when she was up, the Pegasi were good like that, spot on time. She deposited the small pile onto the counter-top, nudging through the pile for anything note-worthy. A check, several adverts for something called a “Swiffer”, silly name for a product and...What’s that? Chalice blinked, a wrapped scroll, sealed by melted wax in the shape of...now that looked familiar!
“Hon! Are you awake?” she called up to the bedroom, after quickly opening the door, of course. The reply came in a series of grumbles and a quick curse. She smirked, might as well keep this letter a surprise till after he’d eaten, would make a nice change of pace from the norm. That said, she’d not checked it, it might as well be for her, but no, knowing his past in the Guard it’ll be for Narvane.
A moment later, the stallion himself dragged himself down the stairs; aging hair draped over one eye. It was a familiar sight to Chalice now, no matter what time her mate went to bed, he would always be up after her, sometimes sleeping in till one before allowing her to drag him from bed. Unless she had decided she wished to go for a walk earlier, he’d just snore the days away.
“What? Is the kitchen on fire?” He spoke groggily, always did this “early” on.
Chalice smile softly, sweetly at the stallion. “No, dear, I’ve made us some breakfast; an early start won’t hurt you.”
Narvane only grumbled, Chalice rolled her eyes. He could be sweet when he wanted to, really could, it was his sweet streak that had made her fall for him all those years ago, back before he had been given an honourable discharge from the Guard, a wound during battle had left him prone to collapsing, so he had said. All those years ago, makes it sound as if the two were getting on! Chalice smiled once again at her mate as he dug into his sandwich, hers lay untouched as she thought.
No, the two weren’t that old, just around middle aged. Narvane looked older than he was, always had done. Years on the front fighting in the forests would do that to you she supposed.
“Well, don’t let it go to waste.”
Chalice blinked herself out of her thoughts, a laugh on her lips as she noticed that Narvane had managed to get some grass caught between his teeth. She pointed it out.
“I wasn’t planning to, love. Just lost in thought”. A slight sigh followed.
Narvane was watching her curiously, “Well that’s a new occurrence.” Only a joke, Chalice knew from the tone of his voice. She gave him a slight smile before tucking into her own food. The scroll could wait till later, they’d eat then walk around the surrounding forest, she had decided. The past could surely wait a little longer.
Guard Captain Facade “Candell” Thunder quietly observed his squad from atop one of the many high walls of Canterlot, just the same old routine as all the others. A trot to one side of the courtyard, maybe some sparring, nothing as exciting as the old days. Well, not for long anyways. A quick, vicious grin stretched out across the Guard’s features, half obstructed by the plumed, golden helm he wore. A status sign really, it hadn’t seen any real combat since his promotions.
Candell observed his squad once more, the grandest he saw fit to choose from the garrison. His mission was of the up-most importance after all, it wasn’t every day you got to capture a homicidal criminal. The Princess had been very clear when she discovered that he knew where the Pony was hidden, capture and bring him back, alive, or it’d be the Captain’s job at risk, he’d with-held information after all. No matter, though. Facade shook his head, helm and the chainmail stretching down from his neck to the rest of his armour chinking softly. The letter he’d sent was a claim of a friendly visit, a chat, perhaps a hug after all this time apart. Narvane wouldn’t believe it of course but the thrill of the hunt was what made it all the more sweet. In three days time, Guard Captain Candell would be promoted, General sounded nice, a new medal and praise.
“Sir? We’ve yet to go over the route.”
A quiet voice but one the towering soldier recognized, “Timmy” Timid, a fast runner, damn near the best in all of Canterlot and at a stretch, Equestria. A look out of the corner of one grey eye revealed that the Scout wore nought but a satchel, better to travel light, his Cutie Mark shown, two winged sandals. He never had a true name, orphan filly taken from the mysterious town-fire many years ago. Timid, was what the squad had named him due to his evident lack of fighting abilities; he would much prefer to just run.
Candell grunted, shifting his weight onto a front hoof as he craned his neck around to peer at the other Pony, he’d of preferred to speak of how they were to reach the recluses location when on the move, not here or down below with the troops, less chance of being heard by any outside forces. His special orders all but required that, it wasn’t a common thing for the Captain of the Guard to order a fire within a forest, no matter how quickly the journey would be when it was a charred bulk. Not that anyone would question it, either; the mad-pony who lived there would have probably set them off.
On that plus, the mountains around the location would keep Narvane where he was, the fire rendering him unable to leave.
“We’ll get to that go tell the men that they can simmer down for now. Get some rest, some food, I don’t care, just be sure you’re all here at sundown, more training.”
A decisive nod followed this. Timid gave a small one in return before heading off, good, more time to think. Another grin crept over the Captain’s blue furred features. Had he not requested otherwise, Celestia would of just send a group of her Pegasi-guard to deal with this situation, he’d assured her that as a long-ago friend of the culprit in question he’d have a far easier job in procuring his cooperation. No need for violence or a struggle and if there was one thing the Princess understood, it was friendship.
Candell let himself snort, glancing down at the now disbanded training group below. Probably off to sleep or get drunk, those that staggered would get it worse tonight but that still didn’t stop them.
Slowly, almost methodically the armoured Pony made his way across the battlement wall towards the tower that served as the way down to the training grounds below. Some blade practice never hurt anyone, even if he wasn’t officially going to be using force; you never know what a crazed killer could do. Hopefully his old friend had been keeping in shape, twenty years is a long time for a person to go without a decent fight.
A fire, the chase if Narvane was stupid enough to run into an inferno. Candell had seen it happen before, Ponies charging at flames in their panic. Hopefully his old friend, now what was it he was called at birth...Aha, Final Scroll, that was it. A ridiculous name for a foolish Pony.
The Guard shook his head, off track once more. Hopefully, Narvane would not be as stupid as to run into his death. If he stood and fought, Candell won. If he ran, he still won. There was no way he could fail this.
Stepping silently through and down the tower to the grounds below, a looks of self satisfaction crossed the well-built Pony’s face.
“I’m coming to get you, friend. Ready or not, here we come.”
The Captain of the Canterlot Guard laughed a bitter, harsh sound from the training grounds.
“The past is drawing in on you, sooner than I'm sure you’d like.”
“Really Candell. Enough is enough.”
“It won’t be enough until their all gone, Scroll. Don’t you see that? Now they’ve seen us! Are you in, or out on this? Don’t disappoint me.”
“Disappointing you is hardly on my list of worries at the current moment. Listen, we have the loot, had our fun now let’s go!”
“You’re honestly doing this now? After all this? Don’t make me do to you what I did to Harplyric. That was enough of a shame. We can’t let them go and do something silly like inform the Princess, now can we?”
“There’s a good soldier, now burn the barn and the last of them with it.”
With distant screams still ringing in their ears, the group of seven left the village to burn. One Soldier held a filly, snug asleep despite the heat and sound. The fire would be out come morning, the village would be naught but soot and ash. All evidence of the crime gone, only the memory of it would remain.
Doubt and regret may cling to the hearts of many a Pony but is there ever a true time for redemption, is there ever a chance for it? Perhaps and perhaps not, it still remains to be seen.