Elements of Harmony
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05-08-2012, 03:32 PM
Bard of Time
Join Date: Jul 2009
Location: The town of Thega-me
Re: Elements of Harmony
Okay, I apologize for missing the date again. But I have good news! I've begun writing at an insane pace again, so I'm going to step up release rates once more! We're going back to the very first rate: one every two days!
Prepare yourself for insanity.
The army began to awaken before dawn. The night's watch had reported nothing from any direction, meaning that the large group of soldiers and massive group of skeletons had gone completely undetected; either that, or the enemy had pulled back to Fortress Apollo to fully prepare for siege. Either way, Moonlight now had little else to do but to move out for the fortress just beyond the ridge.
Rarity checked up on her own soldiers first, of which only one had been lost thus far, then proceeded to help move among the larger group of militiamen and New Dawn warriors. Even now, they were getting in some last-minute practice with their weapons, and Rarity could not help but admire them for their determination. She didn't bother checking up on the contingent of Stalfos knights around a kilometer behind them, as they probably hadn't moved since last night. Rarity couldn't deny their efficiency and value in battle, but she was all the same repulsed by summons designed to resemble human remains.
"Are you feeling well?" someone asked from just behind her, and she turned to face Fafnir. "With that remarkable skill of yours, you're just as important a person, if not more so, than Fenrir or I. It's important that you're feeling as fit as you can."
Rarity nodded with a small smile. "I am as well as one can be in the situation, and I appreciate your concern." She took a precious moment to appraise Fafnir again, though found nothing new in his eyes. Hard as she tried, she found it difficult to think of him as a father. He had been with her mother a time after she was born, making him her stepfather at best, but he often seemed to act less mature than Rarity did, and did not look much older, either. Still, Sweetie Belle seemed to be adapting to him well, so Rarity continued to make every effort to accept the Goldoan.
"That's good to hear." Fafnir said, keeping up the small talk. "We have around thirty minutes before we march on the fortress, so if you haven't already, I'd eat something. Nothing's worse than trying to fight on an empty stomach." Rarity nodded appreciatively, and Fafnir jogged over to the front line where he would be needed. She completed her rounds of surveying the troops, then came to the front of the pack, where the others were waiting.
As she stood with the other Elements, idly picking at a loaf of bread, Blake approached her. “Are you ready? We’ll be heading up the second wave right behind the two dragons, after six hundred of the Stalfos knights slam into them and soften their defenses. Most of our melee fighters will be with our group, as well as another two hundred Stalfos. The remaining four hundred will stay with the Silver Arrows at the base of the ridge, protecting them while they give us cover fire.”
Rarity nodded, already knowing the plan, but glad everyone would be on the same page. It would be much more difficult to keep up communications on this larger battlefield, and everyone needed to know their basic orders ahead of time. Around the group of human soldiers, she could see the Stalfos knights branching off into their divisions, the largest of which formed into ranks directly in front of them. Slightly behind her, she could see Xekora standing alone, eyes closed and frowning in concentration, repeating the orders to the skeletal soldiers through some manner of telepathy.
"Men!" Blake shouted, addressing the whole of the sentient army. "We've come this far. Don't let your fighting spirit dwindle now! We're going to march on that Fortress, destroy our opposition and show Celestia that not only will we not cower to her rule any longer, but we will stand up and fight for our freedom with every drop of blood in our beings!" His words were met with a rowdy cheer from the gathered soldiers. "Now come! March with me, to victory!"
He drew his scimitar and moved forward, perfectly in-step with the Stalfos knights before him and the humans behind. Fluttershy had remained on the back lines with the Silver Arrows, but the remaining five Elements of Harmony all surged forward with the second wave. Rarity was aware of the Icarus charm bouncing around in the pocket within her armor, as ready to burst into action as she was.
The mass of Stalfos knights rushed forward once the group hit the hill before them, and Rarity could see that beyond it, the imposing Fortress Apollo stood sentinel. From atop the tallest center tower, the sun-emblem flag of Eclipse waved in warning. Rarity smirked: soon enough, that sun would be replaced with the sickle-moon of the resistance.
The royal soldiers standing guard at the fortress all snapped to attention a moment later, not prepared for a sudden charge of skeletons, and hastily began a defense. Their archers opened fire upon them, but the arrows did next-to-nothing to the living bones. The few mages they had on hand had much more luck, a a single spell of fire or lightning would turn several to ashes. Still, when sheer numbers overwhelmed their long range, and the Stalfos began chipping away at the walls with their scimitars, the soldiers of Eclipse had little choice but to engage them up close.
If things could have been said to be going smoothly before, they stopped shortly thereafter. When the Eclipse-born soldiers crashed into the mass of Stalfos, the bones began to crumble from the impact. The enemy was far stronger than the previous attack force, let alone the mass-produced army of skeletons. Soon the force of six hundred was on the path to being decimated.
"We were right." Blake said solemnly. "These men are barely human anymore, with the massive dose of that drug they've been given. Celestia doesn't intend for these men to live either way, because even if they beat us, they'll just die off from madness soon after anyway. Morale probably doesn't mean anything to them anymore, either."
Rarity gulped. Their battle had just gotten a lot more complicated. Or perhaps it had gotten simpler, she thought. She turned to her companion with a curious look on her face. "If these men have lost their humanity and most of their minds, how closely do you think they'll be able to follow orders? Perhaps we can trick them, lead them into an otherwise obvious trap?"
Blake returned her curious glance, considering the idea, then turned around and jogged back a ways. "Xekora!" he shouted over the distant din of battle, "Change of orders! Tell your Stalfos to begin a gradual retreat, but keep the enemy engaged! Lead them all into the open!"
Rarity did not hear a response from the dark historian, but could see that the Stalfos were obeying this new strategy. The remaining skeletons, less than half of the original company of six hundred, began to back up in retreat, and the unnaturally powerful soldiers of Eclipse followed unfalteringly. Several hundred silver-clad knights moved into the barren fields, weapons slicing apart the dwindling troupe of Stalfos. Rarity could sense the tension of the soldiers behind her, of the bows drawn and ready to fire.
Just as the Stalfos below had been all but destroyed, leaving a considerable number of Eclipse knights out of action as well, the order to fire was shouted throughout the company behind the Elements. A storm of arrows momentarily blocked out the light of sunrise, accompanied by several bolts of lightning or blasts of fire. The soldiers below almost didn't see it coming at all, and were helpless as they were bombarded by the deadly hail.
"Now! Charge, while they're stunned!" Blake shouted, quickly slipping the Leo charm around his neck. The young Lord rushed forward, sword blazing in the early daylight, the rest of the second wave right behind him. Rarity remained alongside the other Elements, Twilight with her element-less magic in both palms, and all the golden weapons glinting beautifully in the waxing light.
The Eclipse soldiers were helpless against the sudden rush of steel, and the outer barrier crumpled under the initial impact. However, they showed no fear or regard for their own lives, and fought back brutally as soon as they realized they were under direct attack. Rarity backpedaled slightly to let the more experienced fighters keep up the front of the group, but even close to the center she found herself almost constantly engaged. She parried several hits from their blades, while launching bursts of light magic into their ranks to cut down their numbers.
An axe strike descended on her from overhead, and she deftly slid it aside, then slammed a palm full of light into the soldier's chest. He stumbled back, and another swordsman was right there to take his place. She parried several fast strikes, then managed to get around his blade and slice across his chest. He remained before her, stunned, until a spearsman dragged him aside to get a shot at Rarity.
With the slightly superior range of his weapon, Rarity could not get close enough to deliver a solid hit, and could only block and dodge his persistent jabs. With the tip of her rapier, she consistently slapped away each hit, the heavy-headed spear kicking up clumps of dirt from the ground below. The soldier was getting impatient, his strikes more erratic and hard to predict, and one of them missed Rarity's face by only an inch. With no room to back up, she was helpless to do anything but keep frantically avoiding his lunges, which gradually came closer and closer to home.
One strike flew straight towards her face, and she had no time to dodge, but something from her right deflected the shot off course. She had just enough time to see that it had been an expertly placed arrow, before another stuck itself firmly in her opponent's head. She twisted around, and saw a familiar grey-haired boy in a dark cloak smiling back, giant longbow in hand. He gave her a quick salute before reaching back for another arrow, and opening fire upon the mass of half-minded Eclipse soldiers.
Tug's come back...
Rarity thought, experiencing some marginal relief.
We'll need a tactician as good as him to finish this war, and another expert fighter never hurt anyone, except his enemies.
High above, the arrows and magic attacks from atop the hilltop still sailed, striking down the Eclipse soldiers where they stood, though the archers from within the fortress still kept up their own barrage. Both sides were whittling down, and Rarity knew that if no decisive move was made, both armies would be decimated.
A mighty roar echoed in stereo behind them, and the two Goldoan dragons charged forward on either side of the remaining company, a fresh group of Stalfos knights behind them. T
hey must have been fighting hand to hand before, with their normal weapons, until their adrenaline was high enough to be a real menace.
Rarity rationalized. The pair unleashed two jets of flame upon the remaining Eclipse knights, and the soldiers of Moonlight made a general retreat as their opponents were set ablaze. Several men from the troops of Moonlight lay unmoving on the ground, but far more Eclipse soldiers were among them, and their numbers grew as the Stalfos and dragons rounded up the stragglers.
Fortress Apollo was not won yet. The archers, mages and remaining knights still held strong behind the walls, giving sporadic fire into the fields, for the most part missing Fenrir and Fafnir, and only striking down a few Stalfos. Though their fire was ineffective at that range, they would do far more damage if Moonlight drew any closer. Once the core force of knights had fallen completely, the whole force fell back out of range, to safely plan their next move. They would not be followed, as that would leave their opponents as easy targets.
Medics scrambled to reach the retreating troops, healing wounds that otherwise would have killed them. Fafnir had sustained an unpleasant-looking gash across his arm, but it was quickly taken care of. Rarity moved over to the other leaders, to confer about their next move. With so few Stalfos left, they would have to make some alterations to their original plan.
"We simply don't have the manpower left to storm the fortress head-on." Prince Belenth stated, leaning on his lance with a look of frustration on his face. "We've only two hundred Stalfos left, thanks to those bloodthirstily super-soldiers the Queen created for us. But since we've come this far, a sneak attack is next to impossible."
"Not as impossible as you seem to think." a voice corrected from behind Rarity, and Tug strode into view. His black Order cloak had been switched out for a mottled green and grey one, so she doubted anyone would recognize him as a member of the ambiguous and dangerous organization. He continued: "If I may make a suggestion, a sneak attack of sorts is definitely a possibility."
Prince Belenth cast a condescending look at the young ranger. "I'm sorry, but who are you? I don't even recall seeing you in training, or our previous battle."
“You would do well to listen to, and respect, this boy.” Vomora stated, folding his arms. “It was because of him that the siege of New Dawn did not end the revolution before it began. His skills with a bow are also unmatched by any I have seen.”
Tug nodded, then gave a slight bow. “My name is Tug. I had to leave temporarily on some pre-arranged business after that first battle, but I’d like to assist you in any way I can to finish this conflict.
“Now, as I said, a sneak attack of sorts is still possible, if we’re careful. There is a back entrance to this fortress, and if we distract the remaining soldiers up top, a small party could sneak around and get inside. From there, they could potentially sneak around and kill them all. The remainder of those skeleton guys you have should probably be enough to provide a diversionary force, and the Elements of Harmony would be perfect for the job of infiltration, plus a few others.”
Belenth begrudgingly gave Tug his attention. "And I suppose you'll be the one to lead this attack, am I wrong?"
Tug nodded. "That's right, I did plan on accompanying this group, considering I know where we're going. If you're untrusting of me, you're more than welcome to come along too."
"I will," Belenth confirmed, "as well as the six Elements and yourself. Colonel Lyra and Lord Blake will also accompany us. The remainder of command will direct the diversionary force of Stalfos knights, drawing out their destruction as long as possible to give us more time."
Rarity was slightly uneasy about sneaking behind enemy lines with such a small group, but knew that the whole campaign had, and would continue to, carry such risks. She tightened her sheath as confirmation of this plan, and the others were quickly gathered up to initiate the attack as soon as possible. Fluttershy was a bit nervous as well, but the others all seemed to agree that this was the best course of action. Leaving Vomora and Octavia to gather the rest of the army for the diversion, the group of ten began moving in a wide arc around the fields, with Tug at the head.
“We’ll have to swing around quite a ways if we want to avoid being detected.” Tug explained, though it was largely unnecessary. “The diversion should begin when we are about halfway there, so most of the enemy troops will be good and distracted once we clear that ridge up ahead, and it should be a clear shot to the rear entrance. If there’s any guards patrolling back there, I’ll take them out before they suspect a thing.”
“I think we’ll do best if we stay in one group as long as we can, then in smaller, compact groups.” Blake suggested. “Two groups of five, or three of three to four. Either way, we’ll be much better off than if we all spread out alone.”
“Three would be best, yes.” Tug agreed. “due to the layout of the fortress, three would be able to wreak the most damage in the shortest amount of time. Blake and Belenth can both lead a group, while I lead the last. Twilight and Lyra, you should split up between the two, so that all three have an expert long-range specialist. The rest of you can divide yourselves up as you see fit, just make sure you have someone that you trust your back to in your group. We are going to be surrounded by enemies before long, after all.”
Rarity moved over to Blake on instinct, and both Twilight and Fluttershy fell into step with them. Naturally, Rainbow Dash and Applejack stayed in the same group, staying right behind Tug. Pinkie and Lyra moved over to Belenth, and all three groups stopped in their tracks when they reached the edge of the slight hill.
Tug poked his head around the bend, and held up a hand to keep the others still. A few seconds passed, and he moved back into cover. “They’ve just given the signal for the Stalfos to charge. We’re right on time. Give them a minute or two to fully draw the enemy’s fire, then we’ll make our move.” He remained motionless for what seemed like a long time, while the distant sounds of battle began to escalate as the two already weakened armies collided.
“Go.” He stated simply, then began to dash across the remaining distance, all while staying low to the ground. The new cloak he wore seemed to blend into the half-dead grass around him, and Rarity had to keep a close eye on him to know where he was. Almost at once, the rest of the strike force leapt up and rushed across the field, staying in their groups. Rarity’s breath came in short gasps, but she kept up the pace with the others.
As they passed the battlefield by, Rarity could catch brief glimpses of the action. The now much smaller wall of Stalfos knights collided with the front gates, working with their scimitars and bare fists to break down the doors, while being fired upon from above. The archers atop the hill provided cover fire, met with additional barrages from the fortress, and neither was able to accomplish much at a distance. The Stalfos contingent was already weakened by the previous round, and could not continue to stand a fighting chance for much longer.
The strike teams swung around the back of the fortress, an imposing grey wall that separated them from victory, and hugged the edges as they continued to make their way to the back entrance. Rarity could see the small staircase that would lead inside, and three soldiers who had not seen them. Tug motioned for everyone to halt, then drew his longbow and released a trio of arrows within the span of a few seconds. Each found its mark and struck down the three guards, silencing them before they could raise an alarm.
Tug dashed over and retrieved the three arrows, only pausing briefly to wipe them clean on the grass, then joined the others at the doors. Rarity exchanged a quick look and nod with Rainbow Dash, and the two used a combination of wind and light magic to break open all the locks on the doors, the same as they had when imprisoned in the Castle of Dawn. Applejack and Pinkie pried the doors open wide, and the teams all stepped in as one, then began to diverge through the halls. Blake led his group of four to the left of the entrance, sword drawn and ready to combat any remaining knights patrolling the halls. Twilight's hands flared with her magenta energy, and Fluttershy had nocked an arrow in her shorter bow.
Nodding in determination to herself, Rarity set her sword alight with a spell of her own, and hurried to keep in step with the rest of her team.
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