I don’t own My Little Pony, Hasbro does, etc. Enjoy.
The Longest Journey
Chapter 1 - An Epoch’s Finale
Chapter 4 (coming soon!)
1001 A.E. (After Exile)
With a snort, a gray stallion walked at an unhurried pace through the thinning Everfree Forest. His armor of steel plates that shrouded his sizable muscular form clanked and jingled from the movement. The armor was scratched and scathed; a large portion around his left eye had been torn out. On the earth pony’s face a scar aligned with the twisted metal.
An emerald eye scanned the openings of the less-than-dense thicket. Plains and hills and valleys greeted him, and in the distance an immense orchard of apple trees. His stomach roiled as he took in the sight of the red fruit.
The stallion’s steady walk turned into a lively trot as he made a bee line for the distant buildings beyond the apple orchard. He thought his eyes would glaze over as he took in the juicy apples that hung low from the branches, shinning crimson in the sunlight filtering through the leaves above. Maybe I could take just one, there’s no pony around afterall…
A heavily accented female voice inquired from behind him, “Pardon me sir, might I ask what’re ya doin’ in the middle of mah orchard?”.
He paused in mid-reach with the apple mere inches from his hoof. The stallion rotated his head towards the source, not expecting somepony nearby. The orange mare looked at him with a raised brow.
“Ah… yes, my apologies ma’am, I’ve been traveling for quite some time and I’ve run low on food. I figured one apple missing wouldn’t harm anypony.” He locked eyes with her, slowly bringing his raised hoof back to the earth. He pulled his lips into smile as he turned the rest of his body to face her.
She gave him a stony look for several seconds but her face softened as she began to speak, “Ah well, ah s’pose one apple wouldn’ hurt no pony, go ahead.” She said with a sympathetic smile.
The grin on his face grew wide as he reached for the same apple. The armored stallion knocked it off the branch with a hoof catching it in his mouth by the stem. He took a large chunk out of the fruit with a satisfying crunch.
“Thank you ma’am. Is there a town nearby where I might find a place to spend the night?” he asked after he swallowed the last bite of the red fruit.
“Yessir, Ponyville is a short walk east from here, on the road near the farmhouse, mister…?” Her eyebrow rose as she looked over to the other pony.
“Warden. My name is Warden, if you could perhaps show me the way there, miss…?” He matched her look, minus an eye.
“Applejack. Come along, ah’ll show ya the road.”
Applejack took the lead and they made their way through the orchard. The walk was silent and Warden was pensive as he followed her on the path.
21 B.E. (Before Exile)
“Warden Ironwall, step forward.”
The younger gray colt approached the aging unicorn stallion with steady legs. The elder pony looked down on him with yellow eyes and thin smile. “I would like to congratulate you, for you have passed all our basic and advanced training programs. It is my honor as granted princess Celestia and princess Luna, our leaders, our rulers, and our goddesses, that I present to you your helm.”
The white-coated guard captain levitated a helmet off of the shelf behind him and held it in front of Warden. “Raise your hoof.”
Upon complying, the helmet was released landing bottom up on his outstretched hoof.
“This helmet is an emblem of your duty, not just a practical form of protection for your skull. You are to wear it at all times when you are on duty. All must know what you are when they see you. Go now Warden Ironwall, your shift is posted on the chalkboard in the barracks.”
As he donned the final piece to his set of armor the stone room filled with the noise of clapping hooves. Old friends punched him in the shoulder and cheered at him as he walked the aisle towards the door. The door shut behind him as the cool noon breeze ran over his ear-to-ear grin.
The alabaster moon shown bright through the window in the hall of the night princess. Princess Luna sat on her throne preparing herself for those who would be seeing her this evening. Her attendant, a gold-coated mare with icy blue eyes, approached her bearing a parchment scroll in her mouth.
“This is the list for tonight, yes?” the princess asked as she levitated the scroll out of her servant’s mouth.
The attendant nodded while furrowing her brow. “Yes your Highness, the one named Hod has a group with him. The exterior guards removed several weapons from them though they claimed they were only for personal protection.”
Luna pursed her lips. “Bring an attachment of guards in.”
“Of course your Majesty.” As the mare turned to fetch more defenders, Warden entered the very door she sought.
“Princess Luna! I have heard that you are in need of some of my stallions?”
She jumped in her chair, staring at the guard captain with wide eyes. She took a deep breath and said, “Praetor Warden, how in the name of the heavens did you hear that?”
He chuckled, “Well my Liege, you have not the softest of voices, if you do not mind me saying so.”
“Very amusing Praetor. Now that you are here, however, could you join me for this session? My assistant here has informed me that a group of ponies have had weapons confiscated at the door.”
“I would be delighted to watch over your court my princess.” He turned to the ponies accompanying him, replacing his smile with a grim look, “Stallions, assume posts by the doors. I want two to an entrance and four by my side.”
They wasted no time in obeying his commands. The grand entrance now had a total of six armored unicorns divided equally on either side. The handful of side entrances behind the throne were occupied by a pair of soldiers, while the throne itself was flanked by Praetor Warden and four of his elite guards.
The princess eyed all the soldiers as she hummed to herself. “This should be plenty, I am sure. It is not likely I will need you Praetor, I could handle most threats that can come through that door on my own,” she swiveled her eyes towards him with a small smile, “but you know how much of a virtue caution is.”
“Shall we begin your Majesty?” piped up the golden mare.
“We shall Dayglow.” Luna glanced down at the list. “Bring in the one named Meadowmist.”
Two of the unicorns at the front exited the throne room, returning moments later with a meek looking lime-green earth pony in tow.
“You are the one named Meadowmist?” Luna’s voice echoed in the vast hall.
“Y-yes your M-majesty.” The lanky stallion said shakily.
“What brings you to my court this evening?”
The pony glanced around the room, shivering where he stood. “I-I was wondering w-when the weather p-ponies were going to make a-a rain storm for the f-fields south of S-Stalliongrad, your M-majesty.”
The princess sighed, causing the nervous farmer to shrink back. “The weather schedules are not directly under my control, you will have to consult Princess Celestia during the day, she has the influence you are asking for. I am puzzled as to why you are bringing this to me to begin with.”
“I-I apologize your Majesty, thank y-you for seeing me.” The green pony’s shaking quelled as he was escorted out of the hall by the guards.
Warden had the list now; there were only two more to be seen tonight. “Bring in this Hod fellow. Leave any others out in the lobby.”
The guards nodded in response, and this time fetched a bulky stallion with an earthy coat. A dusty and tattered cloak with a hood concealed his flank and face.
“You are the one named Hod?” recited Luna.
The stallion bowed and spoke in a steady voice, “Yes my princess. I come on a mission.”
“What is this mission?” inquired the midnight ruler. Warden did not allow his eyes to wander from the claimant.
“My retinue and I are seeking your leadership. We wish to serve you, my liege.”
She quickly glanced at Warden, only to find his face unreadable. “What is the nature of you and your... retinue?”
“We are specialists in many fields. Espionage and combat are our primary talents however.”
“And why do you seek me?”
“Because you are the princess of the night your Majesty! It is only fitting that our tasks be overseen and commanded by you.”
Spies would be enormously useful...
The praetor stepped up the dais to Luna’s throne. He brought his face close to her ear and whispered, “Perhaps these ponies could be of use? Our covert department is more than lacking.”
The princess stared at the cloaked pony, yet he did not wither under her gaze. “How do I know I can trust you? How can I be sure you will not betray me?”
“What purpose would that serve us? We would not have the funding or honor we could gain if you were set on killing us!”
The princess leaned her head on a hoof. “I will consider your request. You are dismissed.”
“I am gracious for your time spent. Thank you my liege.”
Warden redirected his focus back to the list as the pony exited the room. “Bring forth the one named Serendipity.”
“...So what do you think the wisest course of action would be, Praetor?”
Warden grunted as he swallowed his mouthful of potato. “Princess Luna please, we are sharing a meal! Call me Warden.”
Celestia smirked behind her cup of tea as the two fumbled around formalities.
“Alright... Warden, what do you propose we do about these ‘Northmen’, as the professor put it?”
The stallion raised an eyebrow at the midnight princess. “You believe Glitterstone? The old stallion is senile at best. Upright, two legged, hairless apes wandering the northern wastes? Apes that can talk for that matter? I would sooner believe that a pegasus or earth pony had magical talent.”
“Well there was that theory proposed by Magister Hrothgar about 3 years ago. He postulated that every living thing has some magical capability, and that it was necessary for life itself.”
He sighed, eyeing another chocolate filled pastry, “Regardless, I do believe there is nothing to fear or consider in the case of these... Northmen. He did not happen to see any with wings, did he?”
“He did not mention wings, no.”
“Then if an army decides to show up on our doorstep, we will have little trouble holding the walls and picking at them from above.”
An assortment of servants hovered around the table as the three ate. The Sun had recently been risen, so the princesses decided they would share a meal before one took over the other’s duties. Luna had requested Warden’s presence as a way to thank him for putting up with the monotony of the court.
One unicorn with a white coat and fiery red eyes brought in a tray bearing small bowls of fruit . She hovered the bowls off the tray and placing them in front of the royalty. Celestia pecked at the berries with a fork, while Luna eyed her bowl skeptically. She gave it a sniff, wrinkling her nose.
“Is something wrong sister?” the larger alicorn asked between bites.
“My fruit smells odd.”
“Well, maybe if you ate more fruit like you are supposed to, it would not smell so strange.” She teased.
“May I see the bowl princess?”
“Luna.” the azure mare corrected as she levitated the bowl over to him. He sniffed the colorful berries as she had, and carefully picked out a raspberry to sample. He chewed, and with a snort spit it out into a napkin.
“These have been poisoned.”
Celestia’s jaw ceased as both the princess’s eyes widened at him. The guards stationed around the room tensed, as if ready to leap at command.
“Stallions! Shut down the kitchen, no pony is to enter or leave this room or there. Find and bring to me all kitchen staff. GO! And you two, stay with the princesses!” Warden roared as the guards rushed into action.
The room was bustling with the rushing bodies of guards, and the frozen, shaking forms of the servants still in the room. The praetor rose from his seat, planting his front hooves firmly on the table. He swung his head towards the group of servants as a snarl grew in his throat. “You four! Line up here in front of me!”
Several slow steps later, the serving ponies stood looking up into the contorted face of the gray stallion. “Alright, do any of you know the name of that mare who brought out the fruit?”
His gaze swept back and fourth, and with each passing, the servant who fell under his stare twitched. The pegasus on the far left piped up, “Y-yes Praetor sir, her name was-”
Warden felt a sharp pain in the base of his neck. The pegasus’ hoof removed itself from his throat, along with the short blade strapped around it. Her hoofcap lay on the floor nearby. He stumbled, his vision going awry as the pegasus made a move to escape. A crack reverberated up his right foreleg as he impacted the stone floor. The last signals from his eyes to his struggling brain were the two princesses backing toward a doorway on the other side of the room, while the assassin plummeted from the air with two guards on top of her.
The stallion’s body decided it was time to awaken. Warden’s eyes opened slowly, rebelling at the bright sunlight with pains slithering back into his skull. The white linens of the infirmary cot were soft on his coat, but the pain in his knee quickly distracted him from the luxury. He twisted his head to look at his now splinted foreleg, only to find a stinging sensation arc across his neck. The gauze wrapped around his throat did not make the mechanical act of moving his head too easy either.
Warden decided it was best to let his head lay where it was. He let a groan escape his lips as he muttered a variety of colorful words to himself. The light clopping of hooves reached his ears as the nurse entered the infirmary room.
“Oh goodness, you are awake. You took quite the fall out there! How are you feeling?” the elderly nurse asked.
“Well Hilda, I was stabbed and it appears that my foreleg is fractured. The joint broke, right? I can tell by how you have set it. Otherwise I am quite fine, although not being able to walk is going to erode my sanity,” he groaned as the old mare gave him a big grin.
“Oh Warden, you were always such a silly colt. I have seen you in this bed or another a dozen times! And yet you still toss witty remarks at me like seed at a bird! Here, Let me fetch you something to eat, you have been out for a few hours, and you never even finished breakfast!” Hilda beamed at the stallion and turned to go get his food from the kitchens.
All Warden could do between now and his little meal was stare at the ceiling. Well, at least they put me in the infirmary, no damned servants to hover around me in here.
He scowled. Damn servants.
After several moments, the stallion had catalogued every crack and bump in the plaster ceiling of the infirmary. He was alone in the room. The empty beds around him told that none of his men had been harmed in the attack or had been seriously injured enough to be bedridden.
He was pulled from his thoughts by the voice of the midnight alicorn standing in the door. The stallion hadn’t heard her come in.
“Princess Luna,” he tried turning his head, resulting in a fiery knife of pain being forced across his throat. “What can I do for you?” he asked through gritted teeth.
“I wanted to tell you that my sister and I are appreciative of your sacrifice today.”
He huffed, “Sacrifice? What have I given up for your lives?”
“Your leg and your throat. Your stallions captured the assailant without killing her. Considering the violence of the incident, that is quite a feat.”
“Well, I suppose maybe I did something of importance there.” He grinned.
Luna smiled back at him while stepping closer to the bed and seating herself on a cushion she had pulled from nearby. “Thank you Warden. You have done us and your nation an honor.” She paused, chewing her lip as the praetor watched her from the corner of his eye. “You have served me and my sister faithfully for many a year, and yet I know so little of who you really are. Would you mind if I stayed and talked with you?”
“Not at all, princess, what is it you would like to know?
“Tell me about your home, where you came from.”
Warden swallowed, closing his eyes, “Home. My home was far north on the edge of the Griffon Kingdom.” He was then silent.
The princess felt her brow furrow into a look of sympathy. “Do you not wish to tell me about your past?”
He rotated his head as far as his throat allowed, snorting at her, “You asked me if I would like to tell you, and I did not say no. I apologize if I’m... bristly.”
“Your past was not kind, was it?”
“It was alright. My childhood was as good as any colt’s could be. My father was a farmer. He grew pumpkins, huge ones! You could fit the largest workpony you could find in them with room for their wife to spare!” the smile on Warden’s face quickly melted into a frown. “A blight hit us when was sixteen. Our crop was destroyed, and my brother died a year later from dysentery.”
The princess put a hoof to her mouth, “You had a brother?”
“Aye, his name was Ranger. The little fellow loved to explore. He was four years my junior, far too young to die like that.” The praetor felt himself choke up. He took deep breathes to break down the lump in his throat as the princess watched, her own eyes becoming shiny with tears.
“My mother and father decided it was time we made a journey to Stalliongrad and rebuild our lives. My mother did not make it there. She drowned in a stream because my father was not able to save her in time. I even told her not to go near it, the waters were too fast and I knew she was not a strong swimmer. After we buried her, we chose to head to the Palace of the Sisters, for it was closer and we had few supplies to run on.”
Luna could only sit in silence looking at the stallion lying before her. He looked her in the eye and huffed with a smile, “Your eyes are just like hers were; big and turquoise like the oceans in all those paintings out in the halls. Almost liquid themselves with a glorious intelligence swimming beneath the surface.”
“Warden! You are going to make me cry!” she almost giggled at him. When she had recomposed herself, she urged him to go on.
He smiled at her, yet it was ineffective at hiding all of his sorrow. “My father and I reached the palace soon after. We begged on the streets, no one would hire him or I. He starved right in front of me. I woke up one gray morning to find my father dead on the ground. I was defeated, I did not bother asking for money anymore. I just sat on the corner against a building, a blue-bricked one, I remember that. Always the same building. I sat and I watched the world pass me by as my stomach devoured itself. On the cusp of death, the praetor at the time found me nearing the edge, and he brought me in and put me into training. Steamhoof was his name. He was a great stallion, treating me as good as if I were his son. He never coddled me though, always worked me like a dog, and I was fine with that. I had found a reason to live again, so here I am now. I have since replaced the old bastard, and still I have seen the face of death too many times in service of you two.”
Luna watched his lips cease moving as his tale came to an end, stunned by his history. “Twelve years in service to us, and we never even knew.”
“Amazing, is it not? I suppose I owe you princesses something. Without you, there would have been no praetor to save me.”
“You owe us nothing. Steamhoof was a good stallion, it is a shame he had to die so abruptly.”
“I agree, I never took the chance to thank him for all he had done for me.”
They both sat in silence, during which Hilda returned with his meal. He thanked the old nurse with a big smile as he began on his food.
“You know Luna, when I retire, I think I will start a pumpkin farm. I will grow them bigger than any that papa ever grew. Heh heh, he will be rolling in his grave!” Warden chuckled between bites of his bread.
Her smile was weak from imagining the dread he must feel. “If I may ask, why were you put up in the infirmary and not your quarters?”
He swallowed, nodding his head in response, “Ah yes, I told my men and the nurses long before hand that during the event of my injuries, I be sent here so I may spend time with my stallions should they also be injured. I hate being in my quarters when I do not have to be.”
“How noble of you.” The princess rose to her feet, stretching her wings out. “Well Warden, I must be off to sleep, my sister took over my duties hours ago. Rest well now, and listen to the nurse, I have heard you tend to be rebellious when you are in the injury ward.”
“Oh I will be fine, thank you for stopping by my liege.” He smiled warmly up at her.
“Luna.” She said, flashing him a grin as she left the room.
Warden shook his head, bringing himself back to reality. A dull ache pulsed in his knee. “Looks like we’re gonna have a storm soon.”
Applejack’s pace slowed as she craned her neck to look at him, “Oh yeah? Ah think ah see clear blue skies up there.”
“My knee aches. I broke it when I was younger, got in a little scuffle you see. Turns out that it’s useful for predicting the weather.” He grunted.
“Musta’ been a change in the weather schedule I reckon.”
An aging Warden hobbled down the corridor as the echoes of his plated hooves bounced around the walls. At its end were the double doors to Princess Luna’s private rooms. The doors themselves are ornately carved with a heavenly vista of suns and star bursts surrounding an intricately detailed crescent moon. Two of his finest unicorns kept vigil over the hall, seemingly monolithic in comparison to their surroundings.
“Good evening Lord Praetor.” Said the guard on the left.
“Evening soldiers, all is well I hope?”
“Yes, Lord Praetor. Not a soul has walked this hall, except for servants of course. We inspected each that entered.”
“And what did you find?”
“Two cleaning mares tonight, sheets, pillows and such. Nothing harmful, though the old hags seemed taken aback by the search.” The guard grinned.
Warden grinned, “Excellent, carry on then, and get something to eat when your shifts end, the cooks received a shipment of apples from the western front, those big crispy ones that Celestia loves.”
In unison the guards responded, “Yes Praetor, sir!”
Lord Praetor Warden pushed one of the doors open, admitting himself to Luna’s antechamber. Her attendant occupied the desk which was stacked high with scrolls and parchments. Her ears flicked at the sound of hooves and she looked up, giving the stallion a baggy-eyed smile.
“Hello Praetor, are you here to see the princess?”
“As a matter of fact I am, how is she?”
“She is sulking.” She looked at the doors leading to the private rooms as her smile dipped. “Is that why you are here?”
“Indeed it is. She is still awake I hope?
“I believe so, go look for yourself.” As he began to step towards the door, Dayglow’s voice halted him, “Praetor, could you please cheer her up? From what little I have seen of her social life, you seem to be her closest friend.”
A small smile formed on his lips, “I will try.”
The door creaked as he pushed it slowly. He peeked in her room, spotting her cosmic form on the immense bed. Stepping in, he took his time eyeing the room’s incredible detail. Plaster molds of an inspiring night sky decorated the ceiling, painted in golds, silvers, and deep hues of blue and purple. The round room had a balcony with glass doors off to the right, and a circular, low lying bed opposite the door. Midnight blue carpet was applied tastefully where hoof traffic would be at its highest and mountainous bookcases lined the western wall, stuffed with volumes innumerable. The princess herself was curled into a ball of stars and ocean shades, taking up little space on a bed that could fit ten ponies larger than himself.
Luna stirred as she heard him walk towards her, his uneven clop on the floors giving away his identity. “Warden, what do you want?” she groaned as she lifted her head towards him.
“Ah, I suppose you do not want me here now, I apologize your Majesty. I will be off then.”
Wait for it....
“Hmm?” A triumphant smile tugged at the corner of his mouth.
“I am sorry, please come sit with me.”
He obeyed, planting his rump on the edge of the bed. “I heard you had an... episode in court this evening.”
Her eyes were downcast as she spoke, “That I did.”
“Would you mind telling me why you became so livid, as the guard put it?”
The princess held her head high, pouting her lips, “This arrogant unicorn thought he could speak to me in such a distasteful manner! He called my night frightening! Cold! Does he not realize how necessary it is that it be dark!”
Warden arched an eyebrow at her. “This is why you were upset? Come now Luna, you need to act more mature at court.”
“I shall act however I please! I am the princess of the night! You are subordinate to me, you cannot tell me how to act!”
Noting the fire in her eyes, the condescending anger welling up in his own mind quickly fizzled. “My apologies, my princess, I spoke out of turn.”
Gritting her teeth, Luna rose from her tangled nest of sheets. She stepped gracefully over to the balcony doors, gazing up at the sky. The light of dawn was barely bleeding up over the horizon as the sun approached is waking hour. She laughed.
“You have always had an odd sense of humor my princess.”
She looked back at him, her face shadowed by the growing morning light, “Oh Warden, I apologize for yelling at you. I am acting like a foal.”
“I understand. I would feel the same way if somepony spoke to me in such a manner.”
“Oh I know you would, you have a temper that rivals even my own.”
The stallion returned his princess’s smile, “Feeling better?”
Luna’s smile shrank barely enough to escape notice, “ I suppose. I only yearn for appreciation like my sister has from our ponies.”
“Understandable, we all want to be loved, right?”
The princess closed her eyes, “Indeed. Warden, I would like you to look up somepony to replace you as Praetor.”
“What? Are you retiring me?” His eyes narrowed at her, confusion splattering across his mind.
“From that position yes. I am reassigning you. You have spent the past twenty one years protecting and serving both me and my sister with a professionalism and care that either of us had been given by previous praetors. The incident with the poison three years ago awoke us to that realization. Because of this, with my sister’s agreement, I am requesting that you give up the title of Lord Praetor in exchange for Royal Cohort of the Moon. You are to be my personal guard and companion. What say you?”
The stallion’s mouth worked, but no words came out.
“I never thought I could leave you speechless, Warden.” Luna said with a smile.
“I... this is an honor, my princess-”
“You can call me Luna at all times you know, you seem to do it sparingly. There is no reason to hold back now.”
“Yes... Luna, I will gladly accept this title. I will serve you until my time has come.”
Her mouth stretched into an excited grin, “I name you Warden, Cohort of the Night. Serve me well cohort.”
“It is an honor, my ruler and master, Princess Luna. I now beg of you to answer this question for me,” he said with as serious a face as he could hold. “Would you honor me with a game of stones this evening?”
She gave him an equally business-like stare, “That is a tall request for anypony to make. Give me a moment to consider.”
Warden’s snort caused the princess to break her false composure and giggle like a filly. She levitated a the board off of one of her many shelves over to the bed, placing it in front of him. She sat as the the bag of polished river stones hovered over to them, dumping its contents on the board. Twenty black and twenty white smooth, flat stones were separated deftly by the princess.
“Black I assume?” the stallion asked.
They arranged their pieces out on the black and white checkered board, one stone per square, with two rows of squared filled on each player’s side.
“You may go first my liege.”
Half an hour of intense strategy and a less than polite comment or two later, Warden slumped on the edge of the bed.
“Oh heavens above, I am afraid I have taught you too much about strategy.” He groaned as Luna’s teeth practically gleamed in her smile.
“You did good my cohort. Maybe you will win next time?” she teased.
“Yeah yeah yeah. Well princess, I must be heading off to bed, I have never before felt such a drain from being overwhelmingly defeated in my own territory, and the sun is starting to rise. I believe I have become nocturnal, like you.” He said with an amused look.
Luna rose off the bed, walking with him to the doors, “Thank you for stopping by Warden. It means far more to me than you can ever know.” The smile she gave him was vast with emotion.
“It is my job to see to it that you are happy and well my princess.” He bent himself down on one knee and kissed her hoof.
Luna felt her face warm as she pulled her hoof back, “Please Warden, call me Luna. You know better.”
He smiled warmly at her, “Alright, are you going to be okay for now?”
“I think so. I just need to think about many things.”
He raised a disbelieving eyebrow, “Are you sure?”
“Yes, go to bed Warden. You need sleep more than I.”
“Good night, Luna.”
“Good night, my cohort.” She felt the joy his presence had brought her drain away, replaced again by the memories of her hateful subjects.
“And here we are mister Warden. Take that road there and you’ll be on your way to Ponyville.” Applejack said with a big smile.
“Thank you ma’am, I appreciate the help.”
“Hey, if’n ya don’t mind my askin’, what’s with all the metal? Are ya some kinda soldier er somethin’?”
He was silent a moment, then responded, “I am Princess Luna’s personal guard. She’s… given me a vacation, so I spent my time travelling Equestria and beyond. I’ve probably seen every sight there is twice.”
“Oh wow, a worldly stallion, are ya?”
Warden gave her a small smile, “I suppose you could say that.”
“Well it’s been a pleasure meetin’ ya, mister Warden. Have a nice day now!” She smiled, turning back to the farmhouse.
Pleasent fella, isn’t he? A little cold though.
“Well Celestia, morning comes.” Warden reminded the alabaster alicorn as she sat on the balcony, watching the moon dive for the horizon.
“Indeed it does Warden. How about you fetch my sister for me, the moon needs to rest.” She said, unable to keep her voice perfectly stable.
“Something troubles you, what is it?”
“Oh, I am worried about her. She has been in such a mood these past few days. You could not even cheer her up!” she sighed at the view of the landscape below.
“Do not worry princess, I believe she will be alright in time.”
“I do hope you are right, Warden. ”
Making his way to Luna’s rooms, he found the same two guards standing watch. He greeted them and her assistant as he pushed through both sets of doors into Luna’s private quarters.
“Luna, your sister told me to come get you. It is time to lower the moon.”
She was silent for a moment, and she turned her head slightly. “No.” she replied in a firm whisper.
Warden froze. “Luna, come now. The moon needs to set so the sun can rise.”
She sniffed, tears threatening to fall. “N-no.” He could see her lip quivering in the moonlight.
“NO!” She turned fully now, facing him. The mare’s face was warped by her snarls and wild eyes.
“Luna, stop this madness! You have a duty!” Warden shook at his core. This cannot be happening!
“SILENCE WARDEN, I DID NOT GIVE YOU PERMISSION TO SPEAK.” Her royal Canterlot voice bellowed across the room, pushing him back slightly.
That wretch! “How dare you talk to me like that!” Warden roared at her.
“YOU WILL BE SIL-”
“NO, I WILL NOT! I will not allow you to act like this! GUARDS! CELESTIA! SOMEPONY!”
The doors burst open at his command as the pair of guards he had spoken to earlier galloped in, only to be met by an eye-widening sight.
“What is the problem sire?” one of the unicorns asked in a less than steady voice.
“Restrain the princess, she is out of control!”
Both the soldier’s jaws hung slack as Luna turned to them, her body enamored with black wisps of eldritch magic.
“I DARE YOU, MORTALS.” She spoke in her booming voice, a wicked grin growing on her lips.
The guards were frozen in place, caught between the horror that roared in front of them and the furious snarls of their old commander on their left.
“GO GET CELESTIA THEN, IF YOU TWO PILES OF DUNG ARE JUST GOING TO STAND TH-!” he screamed, but was cut off by a pressure wave knocking him and the two soldiers back. The guards smashed through the doors forcing the wood to splinter under the force of their impact. Warden’s face connected with her vertical mirror, causing a large fragment of glass to cut into his left eye, slicing the orb.
He grunted, hauling himself to his knee as blood mixed with the white vitreous fluid that flowed from his eye.
“Luna… Stop this…” the stallion groaned as his voice was snuffed out by the whirling maelstrom and the pain burning through his body. His stomach churned and a lump expanded in his throat.
The room seethed with ebon magics, permeating the walls and floors with darkness and celestial might. The cohort’s skin tingled as his vision began to fail him.
The moon’s path reversed, travelling slowly back up towards the zenith. The very thing he had thought could never happen was playing out right before his dying eyes. The room was darkening, his last good eye was succumbing to the pain.
“Luna… I love...” he could barely manage to utter before his body began to shut down. He could not bring himself to try and stand once more; he was done and he knew it. He went limp as the darkness overtook his consciousness. The incapacitated stallion’s body writhed and flailed with astral energies that inundated the space around Luna. Then he was still.
Moisture collected in the curves of his eyes as he recollected the bitter memory. A resentful Warden sniffed and looked ahead at the hill he was approaching. Over that hill should be Ponyville, as Applejack had told him. Warden sped his walk to a cantering jog, then to as swift run as his knee would let him. He made it to the hill in a manner of minutes and was greeted by a shallow valley inhabited by a couple hundred wooden homes. He could hear the bustle of ponies and the cries of playing fillies and colts even from this distance. Far away and shrouded in the atmosphere, the knight could barely make out Canterlot, his ultimate destination. Pace yourself Warden, he thought. The view of the little town gave him reason to pause. It was so peaceful, so sheltered and far from the raging hellscape that were the lands outside of Equestria’s boundaries. And just beyond it, my goal. I’m coming Luna.
The stallion walked down the dirty path into town with food and sleep on his mind. It was midday, but fatigue held the earth pony and he had not had a substantial meal in two days. He quickly found his way to the Hoofprint Inn, greeting the innkeeper politely and purchasing a room for a single night. After being given the room key, Warden climbed the stairs up to the rooms and found his door. The exhausted warrior entered and set bags down, beginning the laborious but familiar task of removing his armor and piling it neatly next to the bed. His stomach then roared at him, demanding food. Knowing sleep could never come on an empty stomach, he retrieved his bags while leaving the room and descended the stairs. Exiting the inn, he scanned the area in search of an eatery. A short walk lead him to a small café with half of the outdoor tables filled by patrons. Warden sat himself at an empty table, and was almost immediately greeted by a waiter.
“Good afternoon, sir. What may I get for you today?” the waiter asked.
Thinking a moment, Warden responded, “A grass burger, and some hay fries please.”
“Alright, your food will be here in a minute sir.”
Nodding at the waiter, he took the time to observe the ponies around him. The table nearest him was occupied by a couple of mares, one of which was talking loudly with a fanciful accent. She had a white coat with a curled violet mane, while the other had light golden fur with a pink mane and turquoise eyes.
Shaking his head, Warden looked up to see the waiter coming with his food. He set it down at Warden’s table as the gray stallion rubbed his hooves together. Taking a bite of his burger and chewing slowly, he listened to the loud white pony at the table nearby.
“Oh Fluttershy! I need to attend the Galloping Gala! Last time was a crushing failure, yes, but there’s always a second chance! There could be other ravishing young noble stallions!” a squeal of excitement left the white mare’s lips.
“But what if the same thing happens again, Rarity?” Fluttershy asked.
“Then… I don’t know! But darling, I must go! I need my prince charming right this instant!” With a dramatic sigh, Rarity took a sip of her drink, while Fluttershy shook her head.
The gala, perfect! Luna will probably be there, being a princess and all. He continued his meal, imagining what the meeting would be like. He had waited ten lifetimes for it.
His aching eyes opened. This is not Luna’s room...
Warden tried to get up, looking around the room hastily. A sharp pain made his skull feel like it was shattering. He fell back onto the bed, grunting as the spike of agony twisted in his eye socket.
“Relax there, you cannot be floundering about like that!” An older Hilda said.
His head was throbbing, “What happened? Where’s Luna? Why does my head hurt?” Alarm rushed through his mind, “My eye… What happened to my eye?! Why can I not see?”
“Relax Warden, your eye was cut by a shard of glass,” She inhaled, glancing at the floor, “You are blind in your left eye now, I am sorry. Princess Celestia will explain the rest when she returns to check on you.” She brought the tray she was carrying over to the table next to his bed. On it was a glass of water and an assortment of breads and cheeses.
“I am blind?!”
“Unless you call not being able to see with your eye something else, then yes, you are blind.” His curling lips alerted her to his temper. “I know this is one of your worse injuries Warden, but think about it, when you decide to get married, you can impress your wife with the tale of how you battled one of the princesses!”
Even with the fog of anger rolling in his head, he couldn’t help but chuckle at the her.
“Eat, you need your strength. Whatever Princess Luna did really sucked the life out of you!”
“A-alright, thank you. May I be alone please?”
“Of course, I will be outside. Ring that bell if you need me.” Hilda said as she pointed at small brass bell with a handle lying on the nightstand next to the bed.
Warden’s body relaxed as he let the tension flow out of his muscles. He looked around with his good eye, each movement causing a sharp pain in his head. He was in his quarters, a stone’s throw from Luna’s. Damn it, why did they not put me in the infirmary!
He dredged through his memories, trying to remember what happened. He remembered fear, fear and pain. He remembered yelling her name, telling her to stop... What was she doing?
She was trying to keep the moon from setting! Oh no, did she succeed? A quick glance at the window showed sunlight peering through.
Guess not. Oh Luna, he thought, I tried to make you see, I am so sorry, I am so sorry I failed you. I lied, I told you I would keep you safe, I told you I could protect you…
A knock on the door followed by a request for entering made him aware Celestia had returned. He beckoned her in and her white head poked in the doorway. Spotting him, she smiled weakly and entered, walking to his bedside.
“Oh Warden…” She cooed, looking him up and down.
His upper half wasn’t covered by the white sheet, plainly displaying his wounds. His left eye was bandaged and his mouth hung slack, his rage having cooled to defeat and hopelessness that oozed from his face.
“I am sorry Celestia… I failed your sister, I failed you.” He said feebly.
“No Warden, it was not your fault she felt that way. I believe there was nothing you or I could do about it.” Celestia sighed, and closed her eyes.
“You know that is a lie, I could have done something. I needed to try harder to make her feel appreciated.” He exhaled. “Where is she now?”
Celestia was silent for a minute, then spoke softly. “I sent her to the moon, using the elements of harmony. She’s a monster now. Something… happened to her. Her magic changed her I think, she is not the Luna you and I remember. But she is gone now.” Celestia shut her eyes, taking a deep breath. “I am sorry Warden, I had to do it. I did not want to, but she left me no choice.” She managed to say, failing to keep her voice steady.
“The moon? well, It had to be done, you could not keep her here.”
They sat silently for several minutes trading looks. Finally he spoke, “I know what it is like to lose a sibling. When I was young, my brother died of disease. You will move on in good time. It will never stop hurting, but you will learn to override it.”
She gave him a tired smile that lasted only a moment on her face. “I think you should retire, Warden.” She said, looking him in his good eye.
His eyes widened, “But princess! I-I do not know what I would do with myself! I was born to serve here!”
Celestia clenched her eyes shut. “Warden, please, I do not need you to make this any harder for me than it already is. Please, retire. Go start a family, go explore the world, I do not know! I think you and I both need to occupy ourselves.”
Warden was silent with his gaze fixed on a painted scene of mountains hanging across the room. “Alright. If and when Luna returns, however, I will return.”
Celestia gave him a solemn look. “You and I both know that will be too long from now.”
The princess stood up from her cushion, and left the room.
Finishing up his meal, Warden pulled a small sack of bits from his saddle bags and left it on the table with the empty basket that had held his burger. The stallion rose from his seat and proceeded back towards the inn.
It was late afternoon according to the sun lowering in the sky. Entering the inn, Warden greeted the jovial innkeeper as he climbed the stairs to the rooms. Turning the corner led him to his room where the stallion closed the door behind him and sat on the bed with a sigh. He undid his saddle bags and placed them on the floor next to the bundle of armor.
Warden was motionless on the bed with his hooves in his lap and a one-eyed gaze focused on the open window. He inhaled and exhaled noisily.
It’s been one thousand years, he thought.
Warden had pondered his longevity a couple times while he walked the face of Equestria.
Perhaps Luna’s magic did something to me. It doesn’t seem very likely that I’m alive just because I want to be.
He looked up at the descending sun. He decided that he would follow it into the realm of dreams. The weary warrior pulled back the covers of his bed and slipped into place, sheathing himself in fresh linens. Sleep came easily soon after.
Celestia returned to Warden’s quarters three days later. The alicorn had planned on seeing him off since he had recovered fairly swiftly. She knocked, but there was no answer. Entering the room she found it empty, devoid of his personal positions and sterile of any personality.
A piece of parchment was left on his dresser, rolled up and sealed with his cutie mark; a knight’s shield bearing a blue tower. Walking to the dresser, she levitated the note with her magic and unraveled it.
Dearest Princess Celestia,
As you can see, I have left. I have taken with me all that I need, anything left over is yours to keep. I suppose it is a form of payment for allowing me to serve you and your sister the majority of my short life. It has been beyond an honor, something divine in my eyes even, to have served you two. I would have never chosen another path in my life than what I have walked with you, and I thank you, oh by the heavens above do I thank you. Should she ever return, you will surely see me walk in ready to resume my duty. Enjoy the remainder of your life, I will try to myself.
With love and sincerity,
P.S. Look in the top middle drawer of my dresser. That is yours to keep.
Furrowing her brow, she opened the aforementioned drawer. Lying inside was a small painting. Levitating it up, it was a portrait of Luna leaning on her balcony rail, looking up at the stars and the moon. She had no crown of royal accessories, and her mane was ruffled up. She flipped the canvas over, and scrawled in messy ink on the wood frame was a little note.
You are just like the rest, just as beautiful, just as loving. And yet you are like no other.
Her face split apart with a sad smile as she left to bring the painting and the note back to her quarters.
The End of Chapter 1
Chapter 4 (coming soon!)
I don't own My Little Pony, Hasbro does, etc. Enjoy.
The Longest Journey
Chapter 2 - Under the Gray-Clouded Winter Skies
Chapter 4 (coming soon!)
The morning dawned as Warden rolled off out of bed onto his legs, his knee complaining at the sudden weight it was supporting. The old stallion went through a series of stretches to loosen the tight muscles in his limbs and back. He bit the pillow he had slept with and threw it onto the floor so that it landed in the center of the room. The knight’s legs folded under him as he sat on the pillow, closing his eyes and sitting as still as a stone. Warden’s breathing slowed, as did his heartbeat.
He let the numbers fill his mind, replacing the noisy background thoughts with the silence of focus. His breath became his world, and he became his breath. The meditative pony sat in the void, letting his lungs fill and empty until not even they were subject to his attention. He sat unmoving as if he were frozen in a block of ice, but after mere seconds the void began to collapse around him. Frustration replaced the calm as his senses reawakened to the outside world. He flared his nostrils with a snort, but kept his eyes closed. Resigning his efforts, he went through the finishing thought as instructed by the meditation guide he had picked up in Trottingham a few weeks prior.
Three... Two... One... I am done and am returning to awareness.
The stallion opened his eyes and looked at the saddlebags leaning against the bed. Reaching over with his good foreleg, he pulled them over and sifted through their contents until he found a thin book titled, The Secrets to Relaxing the Body and Mind. Warden licked his lips as he flicked through the pages, searching for the meditation section.
“Don’t fret if you can’t maintain the peaceful state for more than a few moments! It takes practice and time, just keep at it!”
Warden sighed as he returned the book to its pocket. He thought after a thousand or so years, consulting a book on something as simple as sitting and breathing wouldn’t be necessary. Grunting, he rose from the pillow to begin his preparations; he had a long day ahead of him. Packing up the gear and donning his armor took little time, so he was off sooner than expected. The innkeeper, a matronly mare with an ocean blue coat and sea foam eyes, gave him a parting gift of mixed nuts and berries.
“A stallion in uniform can’t go off on his quests with an empty stomach,” she had said with a less than innocent smile. Warden’s face heated up at the generous offer, but he accepted it graciously. It wasn’t the first time a mare, or even a stallion for that matter, had given him a look like that. However, it still made Warden blush furiously when an older pony did, despite being over a millennium in age himself.
The walk out of town was quick. Warden found himself on the highway within half an hour with a gentle cool breeze to help alleviate the sun’s heat. The road to Canterlot was far and winding, but he could see the destination easily from here. The flat valley in which Ponyville was situated quickly gave way to the soft rolling foothills that preceded the mountain upon which the city was perched.
Life has been an adventure alright. They better have a bucking cup of tea ready for me when I get there.
Far north, beyond the bounds of Equestria’s borders and at the very tip of the Griffin Kingdom’s territory, stood Final-Wing’s barrow. The tomb was an impressive mound of dirt that surged 100 feet into the air, creating an artificial hilltop upon which gnarled, leafless trees crept like spidery veins. The early winter morning sky was gray, with a thick fog rolling in over the hill like an immense mold growing over the decaying land. The first snows had yet to fall, but the chill of winter had already made its presence well known to the northerly lands.
“Are you entirely sure this is a bright idea, Vigdis?” a younger Warden asked his griffin partner.
“What, Are you afraid little pony? There’s nothing in there but bones and treasure, now come on! It’s cold and I wanna get this over with!” she exclaimed with a flick of her golden wings.
She quickened her eager pace towards the hill, leaving an exasperated Warden shaking his head in tow. They ascended the moss-cloaked mound, the dead grass crunched and crumbled under their falling feet and twigs snapped as they brushed by dead trees. Atop the false hill there was a depression about twenty feet wide, with a carved stone door large enough to barely allow a pony of Warden’s size to enter.
“There it is, our way in,” spoke the stallion in a hushed tone.
“Let’s see if the priests left it locked” Replied the griffin in a matching voice.
The two crept over to the portal, inspecting it for any signs of what may be a means of opening it. Warden glanced up from the door, peering around him at the surrounding trees. The fog had all but encapsulated them now; his vision couldn’t penetrate the thick cloud more than a few feet beyond the rim of the bowl they were in.
“Help me pull this,” Vigdis said as Warden turned his attention back to the door.
She latched her talons around a large handle that had been covered with a layer of dirt and mossy growth. She freed it from its stuck position, giving Warden the chance to grip it with his teeth. The two pulled with all their might, but the door wouldn’t budge. The stallion’s relaxed his jaw, spitting bits of acrid soil out of his mouth.
“Well, now what?” he asked.
She didn’t reply, instead she eyed the handle from a variety of angles. “Maybe if we...” she began as she grabbed the handle and pushed it in a sideways motion. The door groaned under its own weight as it slid an inch to the left. Warden quickly bit down on the handle to help her, sliding the door farther and father until the opening was wide enough for them to fit through.
“That’ll do it. Ladies first, dear Vigdis,” he said, pointing a hoof at the door with a smug grin on his face.
She huffed at the pony, folding her golden tipped wings as she crawled into tight space. He followed, barely able to squeeze his large form into the less than large hole. A small tunnel followed, which opened up into a dark room. Vigdis removed a torched from her pack and struck it on the ground in front of her. The brilliant fire ignited, illuminating the room. Its circular shape had only two entrances, the one they had entered in and a larger tunnel that could easily be walked through on the opposite end. The walls were smooth with reliefs depicting battles and ancient griffin legends. Warden lit his own torch and walked slowly around the perimeter of the room, taking in the sight of all the pictographs.
“Hey Vigdis, how come griffins bury their dead? I thought they did something involving the sky?”
The treasure hunter smiled. “The most common belief amongst my kind is that the first griffins emerged from the earth alongside the cicadas and took to the air. Like the cicadas, we bury our dead to give back to the earth and replenish the soil of nutrients.”
“Interesting, and this tomb? Tell me of its owner.”
“King Final-Wing was an eccentric griffin, to say the least. He believed that far north in the taiga there was a society that called themselves the Northmen.” Warden twitched. That name sounded familiar, but he couldn’t remember exactly where he had heard it before. “He also believed that these Northmen held an artifact of incredible power, known as Hlidskjalf. Roughly translated, it means throne of the heathens. The legend yells that he who sits upon the throne shall bask in the light of some Northmen god, and be granted immortality and power beyond imagining. The king found the idea lucrative, so he dedicated much of the nation’s resources towards finding it.”
“Did he ever end up finding it?” Warden asked.
“Nope, although his efforts did uncover quite a bit of historical knowledge. He had inadvertently caused something of a cultural boom with all the treasures and artifacts being dug up in search of this heathen throne.” Vigdis replied with a bit of a laugh.
Several minutes of searching yielded some broken pottery and nothing of use in the reliefs. The musty, dank air made Warden scrunch his nose while Vigdis didn’t seem too bothered by it. The two adventurers made their way down the second tunnel, which was crudely carved out and in no way decorated like the antechamber. The only sound was the stallion’s clopping hooves and crackling of the hot torches. The darkness ahead and behind them felt like it was sucking away at the light, causing Warden to groan.
“Y’all right back there pony?” Vigdis called over her shoulder.
“Yeah, I hate caves though.”
“Well we’re almost-” she was cut off by a rumbling sound behind them.
“Oh heavens above, what the buck was that!”
“Relax, it’s just a-”
“Just a what, feather head?”
Vigdis stopped in her tracks. “Hey, you needed the money, this is what the job entails! So relax and let’s keep moving.”
Warden grumbled as they continued down the passageway. Minutes later, they had reached its end, which opened up into a smaller, square room. Their firelight cast shadows across the space, revealing more reliefs upon the walls and a rectangular stone sarcophagus in the center of the chamber. Jars and urns littered the ground around the edges of the room, and a single urn sat atop the sarcophagus.
Warden scowled at the sight. “So, we’re stuck in this hole, only to find a bunch of flaming jars?”
“We’re not stuck! and it’s what’s inside the jars that counts, pony. ” She smirked as she picked one up, and let it fall to the floor. It shattered with a loud crack, letting handfuls of ancient gold coins poured out. The two went to work opening urns, and smashing the ones that wouldn’t. Their bags filled with coins, small gold idols, and supremely carved gemstones. Warden collected all the precious goods his bags would hold, all the while he had a nagging feeling that he was being watched.
“It’s hard to believe this place hasn’t been touched by anypony before us,” Warden remarked, breaking the silence.
“The tomb was rather well hidden, this place is supposedly cursed too, my kind are a superstitious lot.”
“And for good reasons.”
An airy voice resonated around the room, coming from no particular place. The two froze. “Oh heavens damn it-” he growled as the lid on the sarcophagus began to vibrate, then exploded off, flying into the air in three chunks and shattering on the chamber walls. The adventurers cowered on opposite sides of the room to feebly try and protect themselves from falling debris.
“You would dare desecrate my tomb? I will devour you mortals!”
The crumbling skeleton of King Final-Wing crawled out of the sarcophagus in front of Warden, spreading its fleshless wings with an ethereal roar. Acting on his royally trained impulse, Warden lashed out quickly with his left hoof, catching the undead horror in its dusty beak. A chunk of it broke off with the strike as the stunned skeleton reared back.
From behind, Vigdis flew out over the fight, diving down to tackle the dead king. It dodged, leaping towards Warden with wicked claws of bone. The stallion tripped over an urn trying to avoid the horror, and ended up caught by its talons. The claws scratched at his metal plate, sliding off the old metal harmlessly. They found the gaps between the plates around his neck and shoulder, however, and slithered through, tearing at his flesh. He screamed as every nerve in his upper body fired.
Vigdis latched onto the skeleton’s wings as she jumped into the fray. She pulled on them and pecked and bit at the back of its neck, trying to sever its head. The king bucked her off with surprising strength, but it gave Warden an opportunity to strike back. His rear end was free, so he swiveled in the griffin’s grasp with a yell and bucked hard with his back legs. The claws that held him firm ripped his skin apart and cut bloody gashes all along his shoulders and back, but the impact of the kick shattered the right shoulder of the king, sending it flying back into its sarcophagus.
It clambered to its feet as Warden struggled weakly to move as his lifeblood poured out of him. King Final-Wing turned his bleached skull towards Vigdis and let loose a banshee wail.
“I have become death, feed me daughter!”
The griffon flew up to the high ceiling of the chamber, but the king followed by skittering up the walls much as a spider would. The two traded slashes and bites, but the living griffin could not harm the skeletal monstrosity. With its only arm, it dragged her flailing body to the ground, gnawing on her limbs. Her cries echoed in the room, rousing Warden from his agonized stupor.
Papa didn’t die just so I could get eaten in some hole in the ground.
“King Final-Wing... I know where the throne is,” he managed to croak out.
The skeleton’s beak ceased, blood and flesh dripping from its edges. “You know of Hlidkjalf?”
It raced over to the Wardens place on the ground, pinning his neck down with its only arm. “Where is the throne, horse?”
The stallion squeezed his eyes shut as the nightmare moved its face ever closer to his.
Well, here goes nothing. I’ll miss you, Luna... -Gotta’ focus! Alright, I can do this.
He took a deep breath, but let it go. Nope, can’t do it. I’m dead.
“Where is it!” the king screamed in his face.
Warden cried and rammed his hoof into the undead king’s as hard as he could. Its skull shattered where the impact landed, and the griffin recoiled as it screamed in horror. The stallion blinked at the opportunity his frightened reflex created. Despite the spikes of pain burrowing in his shoulders and sides, the stallion pulled himself to his feet. Adrenaline drove him now as he galloped at the monster and delivered a final hoof to what remained of the skull, pulverizing it with a dry crunch. The bones fell to pieces and clattered to the chamber floor as a ghastly wheeze faded away from hearing.
“Oh heavens above, oh heavens!” Warden groaned as he fell onto his rump, tears streaming down his face from the pain in his shoulders. “Oh bloody heavens, Vigdis! Vigdis?”
He clambered over to the griffin who lay beside the shattered sarcophagus. She lay unmoving. Warden checked her over for wounds and put his ear to her chest. Her left arm was severely broken and mangled while her head oozed blood from her right temple. There was no heartbeat. She did not breathe.
“Ah buck,” Warden looked over her body as he sniffled and gasped for air. “You saved me, I’d be dead without you. I’m sorry I couldn’t return the favor.”
Warden sat in silence, but he did not know for how long. His vigil was bathed in the light of the two torches, lying discarded on the ground. At last, wiping away his tears, the stallion put a hoof to his forehead and touched her own before rising on unsteady legs and leaving the crypt. He prayed that she find solace as he made the journey back to the nearest town, a trail of blood marking the path back to her corpse.
Warden had traveled across most of the nations of the world, and yet the sight of the Equestrian capitol filled him with an awe and desire to reach it unlike any other. This was due to the fact that in no other place in all the land was there a princess of the night waiting for him to return.
I have gone on too long, why aren’t I dead?
Once more, the theories and ideas rolled through his mind, fumbling ignorantly with ill-gotten knowledge the desperate need to understand. There was only one solution that could temporarily rest the stallion’s thoughts. It must be magic. Luna’s magic. What else could it be?
His steps on the road were dusty and dry; rain had not fallen in weeks. The sun was brilliant and hot overhead, but his thoughts kept him from noticing it. Warden let out a tired sigh. The scars ached as he ruminated on all the lives he had influenced and all the death he has seen. From his knee to his eye, running down his torn shoulders and across his throat. With all the armor he wore, he found it bitterly ironic that he managed to get injured in all the places it didn’t cover.
Perhaps I’ll get a new set, I need to retire these old plates anyway.
West of the Griffin Kingdom were the lands of Germaneigh, a nation whose control was traded between the native wolves and pony emigrants from Equestria over the course of a four hundred year war. Outside of the princess’ borders, they were unable to live in the sancticty of her harmonic protection. The heavily forested hills and mountains of the region were soaked with the blood of millions of fallen soldiers. On a cliff overlooking the eastern hills of the territory perched Citadel Equus.
“Underlord Warden, are the stallions ready to move out?” an old dirt brown stallion asked his ancient subordinate.
Warden looked out over the walls of the citadel, watching as his soldiers made the final preparations for the expedition out to claim Ulrug Pass. The strategic advantage that it would provide was immense, for the pass was the only viable way for large amounts of individuals to move through the mountain range known as the spine, dividing Germaneigh in half.
“They’re about ready sire, we should be moving out before noon if all goes well.”
“Excellent, we need this outpost if we want to begin thinking of moving beyond the spine. Well done Warden,” the elder stallion smiled.
“Thank you Steeltooth, sir. I will see to it personally that we make it to the pass as hastily as we can.”
“Good, be off then Underlord.”
“Aye my lord.”
Down on the ground, the workponies were finishing loading up the carts with the gear and supplies the trek would need. Stallions were saddling up, organizing the twenty carts behind the mass of chainmailed soldiers. Warden strode across the muddy ground towards the pony he sought. The skies were gray with impending rain and the wind blew briskly as the weather front settled on their location.
“Spaulder! Are the stallions ready? The overlord wants us out!” the underlord shouted over the bustle of the stallions at the plate armored form of his field captain.
“Aye sir! We await your command!” Captain Spaulder yelled as he closed the space between the two, bringing his hoof to his heart.
“Alright, I want to be out on the road within half an hour,” Warden gave him a grim look as his captain nodded and left to pass on his orders.
“Why am I still doing this horseshit,” Warden grunted to himself as he turned to survey his readying stallions.
Because I need money, of course! Because all I’m good for is pointing idiot soldiers in the right direction! Because I know which is the helmet and which is the ass-plate!
The evergreen forest through which the expedition caravan passed had thinned considerably near the mountains. It provided an excellent vantage point for occupiers, and any invaders would be hard pressed to try and slip in without being caught. The weather had been dreadful for the past week; storm after storm of chilly rain and biting winds sucked the stallions’ morale down like water down a drain. The sight of the mountains brought them much relief from their suffering though. The natural barrier blocked the easterly winds that carried the cold front, so the weather on their side of the mountains was pleasantly clear.
Warden brought the party to a halt as they came up on the pass. Turning to Spaulder, he issued his orders, “Have the scouts move up and see if the pass is clear. I don’t like surprises.”
“Aye sir!” with that, the lightly armored scout pegasi were off.
For ten minutes the caravan waited silently. Weeks of traveling were about to pay off or lead to their certain doom.
Half an hour.
“The task was bloody simple enough! Where the buck are they? Captain, come-!” Warden was unable to finish as a deathly howl cut through the still air, echoing through the trees and boulders of the forest.
“Why did I volunteer for this?” Warden groaned as a rumbling grew louder and louder.
Out from the mountain pass burst thousands, no, millions of wolf soldiers armed to the teeth with weapons in their primitive claws and coated in wood and even bronze armor. The mountainside was alive with the charging bodies as non-combat members of the caravan panicked and fled. The soldiers stood ready, waiting for their leader to order them.
“Retreat! Everypony retreat!” the underlord yelled over the roar of the assault.
The soldiers didn’t hesitate in running as fast as they could from the incoming horde. Warden himself galloped as swiftly as his knee would let him, his shoulders burning under the intense exertion. The wolves were ever faster, closing the distance between he and his stallions within a few minutes. The raging throng of furry beasts collided with the herd of soldiers as the bloody battle ensued. The wolves’ capability of gripping weapons in their claws gave them an enormous advantage over the ponies on top of their sheer numbers.
Warden maintained speed as his routing stallions got cut down like offending weeds in a garden; blood soaked the earth like fresh rainfall. The cries of battle shook the old stallion as he tried to block it out, but failed as each scream rang clear in his ears. An unnoticed tree root snagged the underlord’s leg, sending him toppling forward down into a sinkhole. Warden bounced off of rock and dirt, falling deeper into the pit between the immense boulders of the forest. His head smacked into a small stone as he finally reached the bottom, knocking him out instantly.
The sound of crickets echoed throughout the dark pit. The light above from the silver moon barely had enough strength to reach Warden, but it gave him the ability to see his surroundings. The shaft of the pit opened up into a cavernous room roughly thirty feet across, with stone walls that were fractured with the invading roots of trees that grasped boulders like immense wooden hands. The stallion lay still, listening for any sounds coming from above. Nothing but the gentle wind whispered to him down from the surface. He tried to move, but gasped as his right foreleg failed to obey his brain’s commands, and instead sent a jolt of pain scouring through his veins.
“Oh heavens damn it! Why always the right one!” Warden groaned as he let his body go limp. His eyes wandered as his vision grew fuzzy and landed on the opposite end of the hole he was in. Lying on its side between a pair of body-sized rocks was a smaller stone that was was indistinct at first glance. Letting his pain subside, he regained focused, and saw that this stone was roughly cylindrical in shape, with a flattened edge on the side facing him. Upon this surface were unusual glyphs carved into the stone. They were made of no more than four vertical and diagonal strokes, but never any horizontal lines.
Now what the buck is that? This seems familiar... I don’t even care anymore.
With a sigh, Warden let his head rest on the ground. He turned himself so he could lay on his side, letting his injured arm sit on the ground. The hole was silent. Silent like a grave. I’m dead, aren’t I?
From the surface came a caw. Warden looked up, the moon filling the little space he could see. The crow’s silhouette darted overhead, eclipsing the moon momentarily.
Well, the scavengers have shown up. For all my ‘bravery’ and ‘prowess’ as an ‘adventurer,’ I never thought I’d die in a hole.
“The path of mortals, so narrow and brutal!” came the crying voice from above.
“What the buck?” Warden watched as the oily black crow perched itself on a rocky overhang near the lip of the hole.
“Only the bravest of them all will find true valor!”
The stallion could only gape up at the bird. Birds can’t talk, let alone sing! Well, like a pony anyway. “Hey bird! Go get help!” he yelled up at the raven feebly. Warden knew he was wasting his time, but it was better than nothing.
“On the horizon, the last rays of light! A breeze from the other side before he dies!”
“Go away if you’re not gonna’ help me!” he snarled up at the infernal bird.
“Far beyond the dark stream, we will meet again! Across the wilderness and we will be home! Gather your strength, do not be afraid! Far beyond the dark stream, we will meet again!” and with that, the crow was off, the sound of its beating wings caressing the stallion’s ears.
Warden let his head drop to the ground, cringing as it impacted a little harder than necessary. “Oh buck me.”
The hours ticked by as the stallion drifted in and out of fitful sleep. As he dreamed, the sound of distant voices swarmed in around him. Shaking himself from his most recent nap, the knight held himself still as the gruff sounds of speech came from the surface above.
“...But mother-” said a masculine source.
“Silence child!” came a matronly voice in response.
“But he is a horse! We can’t help his kind!”
Warden turned his eyes up to the daytime sky. The light burned his eyes and he shut them quickly, giving them time to adjust. I must’ve slept longer than I thought. What the hay is going on up there?
“It is this ignorant thinking that you young ones have that is destroying our people, you stupid pup! Fetch the rope, go down and get him!”
Moments later, the end of a length or rope smacked the stallion in the side. Up above, a dark, furry shape scampered down into the hole, repelling off the walls as it slid down closer and closer. Warden’s heartbeat raced as the figure went lower and lower. The wolf turned as it reached the bottom, looking him in his good eye with an icy blue gaze.
“Are you hurt, horse?” he said flatly.
“My knee,” Warden replied as the wolf helped him up off the ground. Indeed the stallion’s was swollen and red. The wolf grimaced at it as he tossed the infirm soldier over his shoulder.
“Hang on horse, we’re going up.”
“Call me Warden,” he mumbled into the wolf’s shoulder.
The wolf answered with a grunt as their ascent began.
Nearing the top, the wolf scrambled up onto the ledge, hauling the pony with him. After being unceremoniously dumped on the ground, a dozen canine figures surrounded him. They leaned over the foreign creature with their myriad colored eyes seemingly glowing in their sockets. Many sniffed at him with beared teeth, others simply looked on impassively. To his right the crowd split open as a wolf with an elderly silver coat and a wooden walking stick slowly shuffled over.
She knelt down next to the pony with younger male’s help and spoke, “What is your name, little pony?”
“Warden,” he swallowed as he warily eyed all the hairy beasts around him. “You’re gonna’ eat me, aren’t you?”
The motherly old wolf laughed at him, “Don’t be silly little colt, you have nothing to fear. Show me where you are injured.”
Her tender voice eased the stallion’s nerves as he motioned with his eyes to his broken knee. The old wolf’s claws glided down his foreleg, coming to a stop above the injured joint.
“Vurr rel norrur tur vela nurr,” The she-wolf whispered softly, her voice imitating a gentle summer breeze. A wild array of strange sensations wormed through his arm as his pain receded, and right before his eyes the swelling shrank into nothingness.
“How... not even the princesses could do that!” the pony marveled as he moved the once shattered knee.
The matron laughed softly, “No one is omnipotent, young Warden. Even your rulers cannot do many of the things we can.”
Warden rose, allowing the wolf mother to use him as a support so she herself could stand. The rest of the pack had since sat nearby on dry patches of rock and grass, maintaining a watch over the surrounding area.
“I... thank you. What can I do to repay you? Ah, I never even learned your name!” Warden felt any distrust in the matron vanish.
With a chuckle, the old mother replied, “I am old, young Warden. Any who remembered my name are long dead now.”
“I can Imagine what that must feel like.”
“I’m sure you can, young Warden. You’ve lived a hard life, haven’t you? You have many years ahead still, you reek of times long gone,” the wolf’s face hardened, “I do not believe in this war, in this struggle for something we can all share. You will long outlive it though, little horse. When it comes time that you die, even the books in the old cities will have forgotten we had ever fought over this land.”
The stallion looked at her blankly. “What? How did you know? I don’t understand!”
“Be at peace with the forest and the mountains and the hills, you will hear and know all that the land feels. Be off, Warden, my sons and daughters need to feed,” the old matron turned slowly, hobbling off with her walking stick as the pack regrouped. They disappeared into a stand of trees not far from the pit he had been dragged out of.
Warden simply watched, perplexed by the matron’s suddenness of leaving and awareness of his age. He sighed, shaking his head and turning towards the sun. It was late morning, the sun rose in the east. He turned, facing his back to the great ball of fire in the sky and walked west back towards the citadel.
The golden ivory gates of Canterlot gleamed majestically in the late afternoon sun. Their tall and monolithic visage was enough to awe any visitor not used to the sight, and to turn any armed force foolhardy enough to try and break in. Despite their impressive and imposing nature, they still managed to capture the elegance that only Canterlot could possess.
The gates themselves were wide open. Various carts for merchants and hawkers lined the road into the city on either side, and a dense throng of ponies cluttered the streets. A stream of goods flowed in and out of the city, fueling the thriving garden-palace. Warden pushed his way through the horde of citizens as he slogged his way towards the palace, where the gala would be held this evening.
I’m comin’ Luna, I didn’t forget about you.
End of Chapter 2
Chapter 4 (coming soon!)
I don't own My Little Pony, Hasbro does, etc. Enjoy.
The Longest Journey
Chapter 3 - The Long Road’s Toll
Chapter 4 (coming soon!)
Warden’s shoulders ground painfully in their sockets as he came upon the gates to Canterlot. His steps still remained quick, and often he fidgeted when the mob of ponies forced him to stand in place. The day’s walk antagonized old aches that riddled his body like holes in cheese, and yet the stallion continued his path to the end.
The sun neared its resting place on the horizon, and with its setting the gala was to begin. The walk had given Warden plenty of time to ponder and decide upon how he would get into the social function. The knight had spent a portion of his time considering his options, until he formulated a means to enter the palace: he would simply ask to see Princess Luna, saying he bore an important message committed to memory. He didn’t actually have a message, so the hope of the guards trusting his word was pinnacle to this whole plan. If worse came to worse, the stallion figured he would be have to muscle his way in, or try to convince the guards to let him see the princess regardless.
Best to keep things simple.
The knight passed through the golden-ivory gates, penetrating the vast sea of ponies that inundated the mountain-top capitol. Even this late in the day, the throngs of shoppers and socialites encapsulated him in the less than wide streets, giving his pace a more lethargic feel than he was comfortable with. A millennium was too long a wait for him to take the time and enjoy the sights of this city.
He groaned under his breath as he weaved through the crowds towards the palace. His knee complained about the effort of this extended travel, but the old knight promised himself he would sit once he reached the palace. This city was unfamiliar to him; it looked nothing like what the Palace of the Sisters did, and yet it had all the grandeur the old capitol possessed during its life.
The grey stallion had reached the palace in under an hour. He found a bench placed neatly outside the primary entrance that granted him a view of all the nobleponies attending the gala. The crowd of nobles seemingly vibrated outside the set of gold gates that led into the inner sanctum of the palace grounds.
He sat on the bench and observed the nobleponies as the gates opened, admitting them to the inner sanctum of the palace. They streamed in with an unintelligible murmur of conversation and excited cheers. Warden sighed, shaking his head at the mob. He watched as they eagerly swarmed the courtyard, and for the first time in many years, he wondered why today was any different than yesterday.
He looked over himself. Sure, his body did not look wrinkly and aged like that of an elder, but he was mangled and scarred by a nomadic life of violence and unrest.
Well, when I get past whatever idiots stand in my way, I can finally bucking relax.
He smiled sincerely at the thought for the first time in many years. The joy of the realization that he was so close to the end washed over him, bathing him in a warmth he had not felt since eons long gone. At the same time, nausea skittered lightly in his stomach as the prospect of failing or rejection made him shift in his seat.
The ranger felt his smile shrink as he watched a liveried servant take tickets from the nobles as the walked in the gates. He figured it would be problematic for him to go to the front and ask to see the princess.
There’s gotta be a side entrance for servants. I am a servant after all.
The knight nodded at the thought as he rose from his seat. The horde of fancily dressed ponies absorbed him as he walked leisurely into its midst. He followed the stream of bodies, his beaten and worn armor standing out against the colorful array of dresses and suits. His dilapidated armor made him stick out like a sore thumb in the crowd. Many of the nobles eyed him warily, unsure of what to think of this battered individual. Warden gave one particularly snide looking stallion a flat stare, causing him to look away and hurry through the crowd.
The mass of ponies trickled into the courtyard beyond the gate, at which point the stallion made sure to detach himself. He went off to the left, circling around in search of another entrance. Having orbited the palace to the point where he was out of sight of the majority of the party-goers, he found an unloading station for what appeared to be crates of food. Laborers carried the containers of food through a doorway with a unicorn guard on either side. One of them spotted him as he approached and stood alert.
“You there, halt!” the guard called out.
Warden walked up to the sentinels. “I come bearing a message for Princess Luna, I require access to her at once.”
The guard raised his eyebrow. “Oh yeah? The princesses aren’t taking any letters tonight, and what’s with the armor? Are you some kind of actor?”
“It’s mine, it’s a dangerous world after all. Is there anyway you can let me in to see them?”
“We can’t let you enter. Go home before you cause any trouble.”
“You sure about that? There is absolutely nothing I can do to make you step aside?” Warden shook his saddlebags with a hoof, causing them to jingle lightly.
The guard on the left stared at him through narrow eyes, while his partner huffed at the knight. “You heard us, get out of here.”
Not even a bribe? At least their Praetor teaches them right.
Warden gaped at the two guards before shaking his head and turning away. He walked slowly away as ideas formulated in his head. Barely two steps later, he stopped and sighed. He didn’t want to, but the stallion knew what he would inevitably have to do. Possibilities tumbled in his head for a brief moment before he admitted to himself that there was no other way he could think of getting in.
He took a step back, that was all he needed to get close enough.
“Hey! I tho-” the guard on the left began, but was interrupted by a pair of metal clad hooves colliding with his face. The force of the kick lifted him up off his front legs, sending him careening into the door frame behind him. The guard slumped to the ground while his partner sprung at Warden with a flurry of hooves.
The guard struck out with his front hooves, catching the older stallion in the face and neck. Warden blocked out the blows as he initiated a bull rush. With his larger size he easily overwhelmed the guard, trampling him underfoot. Warden finished off the guard with a final kick to the head, rendering him unconscious. Out of the corner of his eye, he noticed the laborers cowering behind the carts, eyeing him in terror.
“If any of you run off and scream, I won’t be very happy,” Warden said with a dead stare. He backed into the storage room the guards were assigned to, keeping his eye on the frightened ponies.
The knight turned into the room now, moving past crates of food and supplies for the kitchen staff. Knowing the magnitude of the Grand Galloping Gala, Warden was surprised by lack of servants he thought would be bustling through here. He was faced with two doors, with no clue where either one went. Warden stood, staring at both exits, unsure which to pick.
“Oh what the hell,” he mumbled as he darted into the door on the left. The stallion hobbled down the two-pony wide hallway, following the mouth watering aromas that seemed to replace the very air he breathed. The warm light from the kitchens seeped out of the open doorway into the relatively dark corridor. Warden stalked his way to the entrance, keeping his body inches from the wall. He crept closer and closer to the doorway, watching the shadows of the kitchen staff dance on the wall as they cooked. His ears perked at the sound of hoofsteps. He glanced back down the hall, only to find two armored pegasi cantering in from the storage room.
“There he is!” yelled one of guards.
They shot down the hall, with four more pouring into the corridor from outside. Warden snorted and rounded the corner into the kitchens. Busy staff that were engrossed in their work looked up at the sudden commotion. Some froze in place and others bolted with a scream as their already active workplace was now ablaze with the energy of a criminal escaping the law. Ingredients and completed hors d'oeuvres platters flew through the air as the stampede of armored stallions raged its way past the chefs.
The head chef looked on in horror as she witnessed her kitchen being ravaged in front of her very eyes. “No! My food! My work!”
The sister rulers of Equestria stood at the base of a grand staircase, greeting the river of nobleponies rushing into the hall. The princesses of night and day kept regal smiles and a friendly atmosphere about them -- well, Luna tried to, anyway.
Glancing sideways at her sibling, the midnight mare muttered, “There sure are many of them.”
Celestia laughed heartily, “Well of course dear sister, this is the event of the year. It’s not so bad, maybe you will make a new friend or two?”
“I’d much rather be reading,” she managed to squeeze out between a false smile as an elegantly dressed noblemare walked by.
“But, Sister, you’d miss the food!”
“Oh, Tia, you know my one true weakness!” she giggled at her solar sibling.
The air of the hall changed as the commander of the guard, accompanied by several of his stallions stormed in from the main entrance.
“Princess Celestia, Princess Luna! I apologize for this intrusion, but somepony has broken into the palace through the kitchen’s storage room!” the commander announced to the confused sisters. He was a tall crimson stallion with the build of a tank and a pristine set of silver armor, pronouncing his rank and separating him from the guards. The nobleponies gasped with fear and intrigue. The muttering and whispers of the guests filled the air as the commander turned to his stallions.
“East door! That’s the only way out of the kitchens, go now!”
Warden burst through the kitchen doors into a small dining room where heaps of food and drink were stacked. A pair of waitresses jumped at the sudden racket, dropping food trays and their contents back onto the table. The door to the main hall was on the far side of the room, causing a surge of adrenaline to rush through him as he raced around the table. The guards took flight over the room, shooting up into the air and diving down with the intent of tackling their target.
As quick as hope blossomed in his mind, it died with the opening of the very doors he sought. In marched a horde of guards lead by a silver-clad stallion.
“Stop right there, I don’t want to fight you bud,” the commander said.
The pegasi above halted their dive and landed behind him, completing the circle the guards formed around him.
Warden groaned at the number of armored forms around him, “Ah buck. Alright, I just want to see Princess Luna. I know I kicked the hell out of two of your stallions out there, but they just wouldn’t let me in.”
The commander’s nostrils flared as he gritted his teeth, “Assaulting two guards while breaking and entering into the royal palace is highly illegal. You’re under arrest!”
“Oh no, I’m not going down in that hole, go talk to the princess! She’ll be mighty pissed if she figures out you’re locking me up!
Aggression left the commander’s face and was replaced by a stony calm. “Bind him and give him a cell.”
The circle contracted around Warden as the guards moved in. The doors to the kitchen burst open, revealing a red-faced master chef.
“Who the bucking hell do you all think you are, charging through my kitchens while I’m preparing all this bloody food for the party!” the wily older mare shrieked at the huddled group of armored stallions.
With a burst of speed, Warden galloped directly at the commander. The guards jerked their attention back away from the chef, some unable to prepare in time. The knight slid through the wall of stallions, snaking between the first two layers like threading a needle. Rushing towards the final line of guards, he let loose a dispiriting roar. The guards wavered at the sound, giving Warden the chance to quickly charge through the opening. The soldier bashed aside an unlucky straggler that got in his way, but one was quick enough to jump and try to pin him from behind. Warden bucked the offending guard, sending him tumbling to the ground. Free from his fetters, the wayward ranger raced towards the door.
A chorus of screams shattered Luna’s eardrums as nobles compressed themselves into the corners of the hall, away from the dining room door. Luna and Celestia, standing alertly on the staircase landing, watched as a beaten up pony galloped unsteadily out into the center of the room, looking around wildly.
“What is the meaning of this madness!” Celestia’s voice boomed through the room, attracting the eye of the interloper and all the other ponies.
“Luna! Celestia! It’s me, Wa-” he cried as a pegasus barreled into him with several more in tow.
“Keep him down and don’t let him lose this time you incompetent foals!” the red stallion barked as he followed his guards into the room.
Luna felt the tingle of a memory skitter through her mind.
That voice, where have I heard his voice before?
“Cease my ponies! Let this stallion speak!”
“B-but your highness! He has broken into the palace and injured several of my guards, he needs to be locked up now!” the silver clad commander protested.
“Do as I say! I am your princess, just like my sister, you are subject to my orders as well! Now release him!” Luna ordered. Celestia gave her a sideways glance as she took control of the situation.
“Sister, is this wise?” the sun princess gave her a concerned look.
“I have to know who he his, I know I recognize his voice!” the midnight mare turned back to the guards, “Bring him forward!”
Obeying her command, they dragged the exhausted intruder towards the foot of the landing. They set him down, giving him the chance to struggle to his feet. He cast an eye up at the alicorns looking down on him, fixating his gaze on Luna’s ocean eyes.
Her mind bubbled with uncontrolled thoughts, all dominated by the hungry curiosity that enthralled her as she watched this banged up old pony stagger to a standing position.
“You have intruded upon our festivities, brought harm to our servants, and frightened our guests, I demand to know who you are at once!” the lunar princess thundered.
After gaining a steady footing, the bruised and bloodied knight lifted a hoof to his helm, pushing it off his head as the ache in his knee begged him to cease.
“I am Warden Ironwall, Cohort of the Night. I have returned to serve you, Princess Luna, as was the obligation made one thousand and one years ago.”
Whispers bounced off the walls as the nobleponies drew closer to the battered soldier. Celestia remained stiff where she stood, her face betraying none of the shock that crackled in her head. On the other hand, Luna’s jaw was dangling on its hinges, her emotions painted across her wide-eyed face like a mural. The guards glanced at one another, unsure of what exactly they were hearing.
“W-Warden? Is that really you?” the moon princess asked softly, her eyes glistening.
“Indeed it is, I told you I would be loyal until they day I die. I have travelled across all of the world, from the highest mountains down to the dirtiest of holes our civilization can call home. I have seen innocent ponies die, as well as the not so innocent. I have been the one to kill those helpless ponies, and not just ponies! Griffins and wolves and bears alike! All I have fought and killed, and yet all have taken the time to help me and guide me on this journey I have made. I have given and taken more than what I am worth, and here I am now, at your feet once more. All I can ask of you is that you take me up in your service once more, if not as your counselor, then as your friend.”
The nobleponies quickly returned to their muttering and whispers as the lunar princess gawked, but then recomposed herself.
“But Warden, you never left my service to begin with, it was I who left. It would only be fair that you resume your duties, wouldn’t you agree sister?” Luna said, giving her sister a wide grin.
“I do believe that is fair, yes,” Celestia concurred with a regal smile.
The anxiety melted off of his face as the stallion beamed up at the two. “Thank you so much, your majesties. It is an honor to serve under your command. Now, uh, can I get a bath somewhere?”
The lunar princess grinned at him. “But of course! Commander Red Tide? Would you lead Warden to one of my guest rooms? Have the maids clean him up and send him back to me when they are through.”
“B-but-” Red Tide stammered.
“Are you questioning my decision, Commander?” Luna said, giving him a grave stare.
He looked at Celestia, but his pleading eyes were met with a gentle nod towards her sister.
“Well?” the lunar princess pressed on.
“Y-yes your majesty, I apologize for not immediately obeying,” he said, prostrating himself.
The party goers returned to their chatter, dispersing back out into the room while the guards returned to their posts. The crimson stallion turned towards Warden, bearing his teeth in a snarl that he kept out of sight of the princesses. “Come with me.”
The knight followed with a stony face. Deep in his core, however, the waters of relief and fatigue washed over him. Without a second thought, he trudged after the silver-clad commander, struggling to put one hoof in front of the other.
The doors to Princess Luna’s personal rooms stood imposing at the end of the wide hallway. Four dark, armored unicorns with purple plates and slitted eyes stood watch, their serpentine scrutiny liberating any who might hide in the shadows from a stealthy approach. Commander Red Tide showed Warden the way to the moon mare’s entrance, giving him a sneer and telling the guards that he was to be attended to. They nodded silently, opening the black lacquered wooden portal to the inner sanctum of the night princess. They showed him into an antechamber, which acted as a hub between a guest chamber on either side, and another pair of black doors, behind which was Luna’s personal room.
At a desk in the center of this nexus was a silver coated unicorn with a pair of golden eyes and a turquoise mane. She looked up at him through half-moon glasses, quickly inspecting him with her eyes.
“And who might you be? Somepony of importance if you find yourself here, hm?” she said, nibbling her lip as her gaze traveled all over him.
“I suppose you could say that, my name is Warden. Luna sent me here to get cleaned up,” he responded with a nod.
“You are awfully filthy, I must say. She was wise in sending you here,” she said, standing up and stepping gracefully around her desk towards him. “You may call me Sun Drop, I’m Princess Luna’s personal assistant. Come with me, we will use one of the guest baths.”
She batted her eye lashes at him, swiveling her body towards the door on the right. The attendant’s flank rolled with each step, drawing Warden’s eye downward. Her cutie mark became obvious to the knight, a pen lying on a piece of parchment, as it moved with the rest of her haunch. Her body was voluptuous; with wider hips curving into a narrow waist, that widened out again into slightly narrower shoulders. The mare’s flank had a rounded and supple build, but a flick of her tail drew the stallion from his observations. Looking up, he saw her glancing back at him from the corner of her eye with a devious grin on her face.
Sun Drop unlatched the door with her magic, letting the two into the empty guest room. A rush of lavender air engulfed Warden, compelling him to inhale the sweet scent. The intricate mural of the night sky adorning the ceiling grabbed the knight’s attention. Its rendition of the constellation Freya, a mare who had toyed with hearts of legend, beckoned him towards the curvaceous bed on the far side of the room.
A silky voice drew him away. “The bathroom,” she called, “is this way, Warden.”
Hearing his name, that stallion’s ears flicked alertly and his gaze jumped back to the waiting mare. His eyes followed the curves of her back and legs as she whirled towards the bath, inviting him in. His steps followed hers into the bathroom, where a massive in-ground pool ruled the space. The steaming water lapped gently against the edges, as its heat rolled over him, making his armor feel uncomfortably moist.
“These baths are filled constantly from a hot spring inside the mountain. Some of our previous guests couldn’t take the heat,” she winked at Warden, “but I think the hot water will help us relax your aching muscles.” The golden eyed mare cooed, licking her lips.
“You know, it’s been a long while since I’ve had a good bath,” Warden said as he began to unstrap the leather binding his armor. Sun Drop lowered her gaze and grinned, closing the curtains behind her.
The exhausted soldier relaxed his body on the luxurious bedsheets. His ragged breathing echoed Sun Drop’s as silence prevailed where the noise of lust once held sway. Warden kept his eyes skyward, picking out stars and naming the constellations on the ceiling in his head.The constellation Tyr cast his scrutinizing stare down onto the wet ponies, making him shiver despite the heat of passion he had been enthralled with. Still, the penetrating gaze of the cosmic judge was more bearable than the mare’s wily eyes. His stomach churned like the restless ocean, while his mind reeled at the experience he kept replaying in his head.
A sigh escaped his lips as the gears of initiative began to turn. Warden hauled his tired body out of bed, rubbing his eyes and licking his dry lips. Sun Drop watched him fetch his armor from the bath, sitting up on her elbows without a word. In minutes, the knight had donned his armor while the seductress looked on wordlessly. With all but his helmet on, Warden paused. He grasped the final piece between his hooves, running his eyes over the jagged and torn metal surface. With a quick glance back up at heavenly panorama, the gray wanderer gave an imperceptible nod to the celestial judge. He began to remove his armor, stowing away the pieces of platemail in his bag and tossing the pack over his shoulder.
Turning to the door, he glanced back over his shoulder at the silver mare. “I should be going now, the princess is expecting me back.”
“I suppose that is wise, I’ve enjoyed your company, Warden.” She moaned his name, causing a lump to grow in his throat. He huffed, pushing open the door and leaving behind the musky apartment.
End of Chapter 3
Chapter 4 (coming soon!)
I would like to thank both of my wonderful editors, CartoonGeld and TheManWithTwoNames, without them this piece of literature would not be possible, or it would be awful in the very least.They have put hours of arduous work into polishing the rough image I have forged for you to enjoy.
And while you guys are at it, go read TheManWithTwoNames’ stories:
I hope you guys like Discord, he sure does.
I don't own My Little Pony, Hasbro does, etc. Enjoy.
The Longest Journey
Chapter 4 - The Unwise Elder
Chapter 5 (coming soonish!)
The door closed behind Warden, sealing both the seducer and the scent of his recklessness away. The slick feel of perspiration tainted the cleansing he had received nearly half an hour prior. He reached for a towel lying on a counter, sopping up the pungent moisture from his face. No matter how hard he rubbed and wiped, the intangible reek idiocy and second-thoughts remained. He dropped the towel back on the counter, unsatisfied with filthiness of his consciousness despite the cleanliness of his body.
Heavens above you’re overreacting, Warden. You needed this!
Warden noticed the guard observing him, an exasperated look painted on his face.
“Don’t give me that look, I don’t need you judging me. I did nothing wrong!” Warden snarled at the lunar guard.
“Ah, yes sire. I will have a chambermare pick up that towel at once.” The guard rolled his eyes as he trotted over to the bath hall door.
The knight walked over to the wooden double doors, his steps wavering and unsteady.
What does it matter? I got what I want, a little fun!
Warden stood immobile in front of the doors. The past hour flashed through his head, accompanied by a knot twisting in his stomach and a lump in his throat. He had let out all the tension that had built up over the course of his life, but in a way that only compounded new stresses.
What does it matter?
Warden pushed through the double doors, walking into the corridor beyond. The clopping of his plated hooves echoed throughout the silent hall, with only the guard ponies and himself to hear it. The knight’s chest was a whirlpool of fire and ice; the burning need to to do something wholesome battled with the cold, bleak desire to simply sit on the floor and think. Warden sighed as he rounded the corner, obscuring the wooden double doors from sight.
All was silent, save for his hoofsteps. His shadows danced mockingly in the flickering light of the lamps that illuminated the corridor, laughing at him with twisted smiles. The thumping of his heart seemed to bounce off the walls, filling his world with the quick and rhythmic pulse of his being. The knight’s march slowed into a crawl as he approached the next corner in the passage. Around that corner was the door to the grand hall, and in that hall was the one pony who trusted him most.
What’s wrong with me... why did I do that? And with her secretary of all ponies!
The knight snorted.
I just needed a little fun, that’s all. I’m nopony’s lover, who am I hurting?
Warden realized that he had stopped in the middle of the hall, shaking where he stood.
“By the moon and stars, snap out of it!” He shook his head with a snarl. With a deep breath, Warden continued onward with his journey, only to bump into his destination as she rounded the corner.
“Oh! I apologize Warden! I was just coming to see if you were alright,” Luna said as she collected herself.
“Ah yes, it’s quite alright, Princess. I’m sorry for taking so long, it’s been a long time since I’ve taken a, uh, a good bath,” he replied, his heart racing.
“It’s good to know that you’re settling back in nicely. I do hope you will be staying here with my sister and I, yes?” she asked.He struggled not to wilt under her benevolent eyes.
“Yes, yes I had planned on staying. I’ve been travelling far too long just to just stop for a visit.”
“Yes, I would like to speak to you about that. My sister has allowed me to turn in early from that... gala,” she said with an almost disgusted edge to her tone. “Let’s have some tea.”
Princess Luna’s private room was no less lavish than her guest rooms, however the chaotic piles of books, maps, and various charts lended the space a more personal feel than the others. An astrolabe rested on a desk, alongside several pieces of parchment and a set of quills, while a stack of reference books sat on the floor not far from there. Her bed was an unmade mess of books and twisted sheets, which was only added to as she flicked her royal garments off onto it with a contented sigh.
She beckoned him out onto the balcony, cool night air lazily flowing into the room. A small table with a pair of cushions was set up under the night sky, giving the cosmic theatre’s audience a place to sit and enjoy their tea. A chambermaid brought the princess and her cohort a platter with cups and a kettle, after which she bowed and exited the balcony.
“You’ve come back after one thousand years, Warden,” Luna began as she poured them both a cup of tea. “I don’t think you understand how wonderful this is! My old guard, my oldest of friends!”
“Ah, yes! Yes, it is very relieving to finally be home, Princess.”
“Please, call me Luna, you know better than to use all that formality with me in private.” She gave him a sly smile which faded as she sank deeper into thought.
Warden swallowed at that, nausea lightly stepping around in his stomach.
“So, how have you been since you’ve, ah... returned?” he asked, aware of how sensitive the subject of her exile may be.
“It was difficult at first, I will admit. Much has changed in one thousand years, so understandably it took some time for me to reacclimate to this new world.” She cleared her throat with a sip of tea. “There is the work and ruling aspect of it, of course, but it is just so wonderful to be amongst my subjects again! And so many of them love my night as well! It is good to be back, and it is even more splendid to have my most loyal of subjects here with me again.”
“I’m glad to hear that things are returning to normal,” Warden said, forcing a smile.
“As am I, It is most joyous to have my cohort with me once more!” Luna smiled from ear to ear, while a chill ran up his spine.
“Your nights have been beautiful recently. All the years with you away have left the sky so dull,” Warden said, filling the noiseless air. A blush crept up on Luna’s face, but the moonlight wasn’t bright enough for Warden to see it.
“It is good to see that some do appreciate my night. I was blind to that so long ago...” she trailed off.
“And you see it now, that’s all that matters. Past mistakes are what teach us,” the stallion remarked.
“Indeed.” Silence reigned once more as the princess and the knight basked the in glow of a trillion far off suns. The sounds of the gala could be heard even up on the balcony, laughter and classical music reaching up to make the night all but completely quiet.
“Warden Ironwall,” Luna said softly, her gaze still fixated on the skies.
“Ironwall. Why is that your name when you were born a farmer?” She turned to him, an inquiring look in her eyes.
A small smile grew on his lips. “Well, my father was one of three brothers. His father and his two brothers were all in service as mobile guards, travelling between the cities and observing the local security. They aided when needed, but otherwise they simply watched and took notes. My uncles were killed in a riot, causing my grandfather to retire and for my father to abandon his job for something a bit calmer.”
“Really now? I had not heard the name Ironwall until I met you, and I tried to know all the ponies who served under my sister and I!”
“Heh, you can’t know all your servants by name, Luna.”
“I suppose not,” she admitted with a short giggle. “Your uncles and grandfather were wandering soldiers, more or less. I assume you shared a similar fate whilst I was gone?”
“That I did, I think I’ve seen every sight the world has to offer at least twice,” he said.
“I can tell, I’ve never seen such a young stallion like yourself look so beaten up and tired,” she grinned playfully at him.
“I’m at least a millenium old, not exactly young,” he laughed. “But I’m exhausted, it’s so good to finally be able to sit and relax for once. I sure feel like an old stallion, even if I don’t look like one.”
Luna’s beaming face shifted to one of intrigue. “Indeed, that has left me wondering. You are an earth pony, Warden, how in Equestria are you still among the living?”
“I don’t have an answer for you, but if I were to guess, then magic. Maybe some wizard enchanted me when I wasn’t looking?” he replied with a wry grin.
“And what makes you say that?” Luna raised her brow with a slight grin.
“I can’t think of anything else it could be.”
“Hmm, it looks like I will have to take some time and examine you. Ponies don’t simply obtain supernatural longevity for no reason.” She furrowed her brow at him, inspecting him like an engineer would a recently finished piece of machinery. He watched her eyes rove over him carefully, trying desperately not to let his resolve crumble under the scrutiny.
“As you wish, Luna. As you can imagine, I’m rather interested as to why I’m still alive, as well.” A silence passed between them, a silence that she spent lost in thought, while he fidgeted in his seat.
“Well, you can take all the time you need to settle in. Will you be joining me for the night court once more? We’re not holding it tonight, obviously.”
“Yes, I would gladly.” Warden took a sip of his tea. His mind wandered, the memory of Sun Drop cropping up once more in the knight’s thoughts. Nausea sneaked into his gut, forcing him to put down the cup with a wry look.
“You look rather ill, is everything alright, Warden?,” the princess asked, her brow raised in concern.
“Ah, yes, I’m fine. My stomach is a little unsettled after today’s events, that’s all. It’s been a long while since I’ve had such strenuous exercise!” He forced out a laugh from his quickly drying mouth.
“Well alright, if you need anything you know I will help you, and of course the servants can fetch you anything you want. I’ll be sure to let Sun Drop know that she is to take special care of you. I trust that she can make you feel very much at home here.” Luna said, trying to sound reassuring.
“Yes, thank you, Princess. It’s late and I feel I should sleep,” the knight spoke as he rose from his cushion.
“As you wish, Warden Ironwall. Tomorrow night I intend on listening to the stories I’m sure you have to tell,” Luna stated as she stood with him, a warm smile on her lips. “Speak to my attendant, she will show you your room. You’ll find your packs there and everything prepared for you.”
The stallion’s eye twitched at hearing that name. “Thank you, Luna. I appreciate your hospitality.”
“Oh it’s nothing, you are my oldest friend after all!” she laughed, embracing the old knight.
He followed his princess to the nexus doors, bidding her a good night as he let himself out.
From her desk piled high with papers and log books, Sun Drop looked up at the scarred warrior. A hungry grin dominated her expression, but she only got a tired look in response.
“What’s wrong big boy? Did I tire you out?” she inquired, her voice low and smooth.
“Don’t toy with me. Which room is mine?”
Her smile shifted to a disappointed frown. “The same room you... bathed in. Your things are in there.”
“Thank you,” he said curtly, moving towards the door.
“Goodnight, soldier.” Her grin returned, making Warden emit a throaty sigh.
Closing his door and obscuring Sun Drop from sight, he lumbered lazily over to his bed, the memory of what he had done in it once more asserting itself. The exhausted wanderer collapsed onto the soft, round mattress, letting it absorb his aching body.
I’m a fool.
Warden rolled onto his back, gazing up at the starry ceiling with its constellations glaring down on him.
Papa, you wouldn’t be proud of me.
His eyes surrendered to the fatigue that gripped him, letting sleep come swiftly.
A gentle breeze blew over Celestia and Warden as they watched the sun ascend over the distant mountains, its primordial flame illuminating the world and all its people. The knight handled his cup less than gracefully with his mouth, drinking in the hot tea and letting it warm his throat and gut. He set the it down, hoping the liquid would quell discomfort in his stomach and mind. Silence ruled the two as they reacclimated to one another’s presence.
Warden glanced at Celestia, before letting his gaze rest once more on the horizon. “It is good to be home.”
“It’s good to have you back.” She smiled at him warmly. “I can imagine you’ve had an exciting life.”
“That’s one way to put it, it had its ups and downs for sure. But you know what? It’s good to finally have an amazing bed to sleep on,” he said, smirking at the idea. “It sure beats sleeping on the ground or a pile of boughs any day.”
Celestia let out a jovial laugh at the remark. “I’m sure you have many stories to tell, I would like to hear those at some point, if you don’t mind. You’ve been out and about in the world, it would be interesting to know what you’ve occupied yourself with all these years.”
The aged stallion sighed with pleasure, momentarily lost in the memories. “You sure missed out on a lot, Celestia. Why I didn’t spend all that time sitting around and relaxing still eludes me, though.”
“You wouldn’t have been entertained by that for very long, Warden. You always kept yourself working when you were here!” She laughed at the fond memory.
“Perhaps, but back then I didn’t really understand the idea of delegation,” he chuckled. “Now I realize ponies can do things for me! Go figure!”
“A long life has blessed you with wisdom. You never struck me as the sagely kind before you left.” The alicorn laughed lightly at her own joke, taking another sip of her tea.
“I suppose so, it’s been a long life indeed.” He emptied his cup and set it down on its little plate.
“Indeed.” They both nodded in understanding, still maintaining their gaze on the horizon, the sun having almost cleared it now.
“It’s good to see her again,” Warden said, breaking the silence.
“My sister was practically vibrating with joy when she came to me after lowering the moon earlier this morning, few things make her that excited. I can safely guess that she is glad to see you,” Celestia smiled, finishing off her cup and placing it gently back on the plate.
Warden’s stomach twisted into a knot, but he still grinned back at her. “I’m her oldest friend, I hoped she’d have been at least be mildly interested in my return.”
“Her old friend, we all thought you were dead! I can’t imagine why you’d think she’d be anything less than thrilled to see you,” the princess said, turning her gaze to him.
“I... have made mistakes. Recent ones, in fact. I don’t know how she would feel if she were to discover them.” The knight barely whispered as he hung his head.
“We all make mistakes, they are a portion of the components that make us our own selves. She and I have lived far too long to let mortal misjudgements and accidents grate us. Well, her not as much as I, anyway.”
“Perhaps. I am not one to talk of these things, usually.”
She eyed him, a knowing look on her face, “Then why did you bring it up?”
The warmth of the early morning sun seemed to grow in strength, causing a bead of sweat to roll down the back of Warden’s neck. Celestia watched him with the face a sympathetic mother would give to a child who had been bullied in the schoolyard.
“I’ve lived too long with some of these burdens, and I only make more for myself. To be honest, home is not what I thought it would be.” Warden whispered at the end.
“You know my sister and I will do everything within our power to make you feel welcomed. Just because you were one of hundreds of guards back then, that doesn’t mean I didn’t watch you grow. It is not wise to keep your bad feelings inside. You need to let them out, you need to talk.” Celestia reached across the little table and gently placed her hoof on his drooping shoulder. Warden looked up at the goddess offering him her ear, receiving a soothing smile as a reward. He swallowed, looking back down at his teacup.
“You’re right. I... I think I’d like to tell you what’s bothering me,” he quietly admitted.
“I will listen,” Celestia cooed, warming her composure for the flustered knight.
“Last night I...” he trailed off.
“You what, Warden? You don’t have to be afraid, you can tell me.” She softly encouraged him.
He inhaled before continuing. “I had... relations with Luna’s night attendant.”
The princess blinked in surprise. “Well, that was the last thing I expected to hear from you.”
“Oh I’ve done other awful things, war and violence and such.” He shifted his dry tongue in his mouth. “But this is eroding my sanity, and I just don’t know why.”
“I think you know why. My little ponies will do what they will, it is in their nature to have a little fun.” Celestia smirked at him before putting on a more serious air. “You have committed no crime against the law, but you seemed to have wronged yourself in your own eyes.”
“Not myself,” Warden uttered, heat rising in his face.
“Then who?” The solar sister looked him in the eye, only to see a tired, defeated look staring back.
He said nothing.
“Warden--” she started, but seeing the once proud knight hang his head dejectedly made her pause.
“Say no more, this subject does not sit well with me. I came home, searching for completion, for an answer as to why I am here. I only have more questions and these emotions I don’t fully understand. Thank you for listening.” Warden bit his lip, unable to look her in the eye in his moment of weakness.
Celestia straightened in her seat. “You are always welcome, I will be your ear if you need it.”
“As will I, should you ever. A thousand years has taught me to be a good listener when I have to.”
“Then why did you cut me off just then?” She said with a silly grin.
Warden gave her a deadpan look before they both sputtered into laughter.
“I have duties to attend to,” she said, letting her laughter peter out. “It was good to speak with you, Warden. Why don’t you take a walk around the barracks and training yards? I can imagine you’re eager to see how the guard has maintained itself since your departure.”
“Not a bad idea, hopefully everything will be to my liking,” he nodded, rising from his seat.
“Perhaps they will be,” Celestia smiled, looking to him with warmth in her face, “Think about what troubles you, the answer is in there, you will understand in time.”
“I know you’re right. Enjoy your day, my princess.”
He bowed to her, and strolled off towards the guardhouse.
The soldier’s courtyard was a wide expanse of paved stone and training paraphernalia. A thick and towering structure loomed over the grounds, casting its shadow over where guards would practice the use of their weapons and their bodies. Pony-shaped wooden dummies lined one end of the area, some being beaten on mercilessly by training soldiers, while a rack of weapons ranging from spears to blades one would attach to their hoof plates stood off near the barracks.
One group of stallions was sitting on some crates, polishing their armor and bantering heartily under the shade their home provided. As Warden approached, one looked up and gestured to him. The others noticed his armor, but were unsure of how to react to the strangely dressed individual stepping calmly towards them. They were silent as Warden stopped in front of them, eyeing them over quickly.
“I am the night’s cohort, Warden Ironwall. I was just taking a walk through the barracks here. Your commanding officer wouldn’t happen to be around, would he?”
The guard who had spotted him first narrowed his eyes at the newcomer, “Night’s Cohort, huh? What’s that exactly?”
“I am the personal protector, servant, and counselor of Princess Luna.”
“Is that so?” a voice came from behind him.
It was none other than the commander, looking at him with a poignant glare and flared nostrils.
“I was looking for you, Red Tide was it?”
“What do you want, criminal?” the crimson stallion clad in silver armor sneered.
“I came to see if I could inspect the guard and its equipment,” Warden stated, his face remaining neutral.
“Inspect my guards? I’ve seen you fight, but what do you know about training stallions?” Red Tide blurted, spraying a mist of spittle.
“I’ve spent the last thousand years fighting wars and training soldiers all across the land. I watched war evolve and fall into obscurity,” he took a step forward, bringing his face close to the commander’s. “I have a talent for war. That is how I became praetor all those years ago, long before your father’s father’s father was even conceived.”
Red Tide stared, then burst into laughter. “Oh this is rich, great! Just who the buck do you think you are, coming into my citadel, inspecting my guards and acting like you’re some sort of god?”
“I’ve said it before, I am the cohort of the night, Warden. If you have so much trouble believing who and what I am, go ask one of the princesses. Now, may I please take a look at your soldiers?” he asked with exasperation.
“Yes, fine. Stallions! Inspection! Now!” Red Tide called into the barracks somewhat reluctantly.
In strikingly little time, guards marched out of the structure in single file, fully armored and ready for combat. They stood in line, alert and ready for whatever awaited them.
Warden paced up and down the line, numbering around fifty guards. His eye leapt from chinks in their armor, to those who stood with poor stance. He noted the build of each soldier, and how the armor had changed, to his surprise, very little since his days as praetor. The knight stopped in front of one particularly large stallion, about as large as he, and looked him in the eye.
All Warden did was stare, seconds ticked by, his one good eye boring into the soldier’s face like a mining drill. The guard remained steadfast, looking past him as if he weren’t there.
Only the guard’s face flinched, he otherwise remained immobile.
“Very good. What is your name, boy?” Warden inquired.
“Shining Seas, sir!”
“Shining Seas...” Warden trailed off, still looking in Shining’s eyes. “What was the last thing you’ve killed, soldier?”
“I have not killed, sir,” he answered his voice faltering slightly.
The ex-praetor pulled back, humming to himself.
“None of you have killed a living, thinking individual, have you? Raise a hoof if you have,” he shouted out to the line.
None of them raised a hoof.
“Huh, I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised. There hasn’t been a decent war in what, three hundred years?”
“Three hundred and seventy two years,” Red Tide muttered in the background.
Warden turned to the commander, passing him by. “The guards look good, in shape, though I’m puzzled as to why there are so many off duty at once. That’s your concern though, not mine. I’m off, Red Tide, enjoy your day.”
“Yes... You too, Cohort,” the commander practically spit his name.
Warden left the courtyard with a dark smirk on his face.
“A nap would be nice now, perhaps some lunch.”
A gentle hum resonated softly throughout the interior of a hoary cave. Small motes of frost fell from icicles that hung off the ceiling, and the metal lined walls of the cavern warmed ever so slightly as the breath of life swam through its star-forged skin. The panels that adorned the two lower thirds of the room were without detail; they seemed to serve no purpose other than to make the floor and walls flat.
The square room lacked decor or furniture of any kind, save the ornately forged throne that lay in its center. Cyan crystals studded the reflective surface, emitting an ethereal glow that dimly illuminated the room. The metallic surface of the throne shone like chrome, with a wavy texture not unlike the surface of a lake. Heat slithered throughout the throne’s core, warming the exterior frost until it crumbled off in sheets.
Upon this throne sat a strange figure, shrouded in a cloak of furs. The emaciated creature had the hides of northern beasts draped across his bony shoulders, protecting thin arms and twig-like legs from the cold. His withered hands were clad in warm leather gloves, and oversized tattered boots covered shriveled, cold feet. Over the beings pale and wrinkled head, was a fur hood with two holes in the top. Out of these holes poked antlers not unlike those of a buck, lightly crusted with a rimey frost. This dusting tumbled off as the figure jerked to life, eyes opening and awareness flooding his mind. The creature gasped, sucking icy air into his neglected old lungs. He exhaled, a thick fog rolling out from his hair covered lips.
“It is supposed to be dead,” the thin man said, his voice deep and rough like gravel churning in the flow of a stream, “Hlidskjalf, show me where darkness still resides.”
Around the throne, the metal floors fell away, only to be replaced by a miniaturization of the world’s topography. The chair seemed to zoom through the air, penetrating cloud cover and crossing vast distances over the world in a mere moment. The withered man’s perspective fell over Canterlot, slowly flying in closer. Over the streets of the ivory city, the view spotted a scarred and beaten stallion, garbed in old armor.
“This is where darkness lay? In a tired old horse?” he barked.
The old man stroked his long beard.
“I was just getting used to the quiet, too,” he sighed, “well, let’s see what becomes of him.”
End of Chapter 4
Chapter 5 (coming soonish)