posted by NocturnalMirage
The last solstice
Chapter 31: Fading light - Part 3
“I'll go see what happened!” Nocturnal Mirage a dit after the first explosion. “You stay here!”
Driven par a sudden, unexplainable urge, the cobalt stallion rushed outside the room, leaving Celestia behind. As soon as he opened the door he knew something was terribly wrong. Royal guards in heavy armors were running around the spacious hallway, their hooves clashing against the marble floor and the thick walls reverberating the sound of their steps. Higher ranking stallions were shouting commands randomly and most of the guards looked perplexed and confused.
“Hey, you!” a muscular pegasus called out on a firm voice. “Yes, you! Don't just stand there! Grab your weapon and defend the Castle! We're under attack!”
Mirage recognized the sergeant's prefix on the shoulder of his golden armor, but before he could respond, the stallion threw him a spear. Mirage caught it in the air with an instinctive déplacer and held it par his side. He attempted to explain he had different orders, but an entire squad of royal guards appeared at the other end of the domed corridor, marching toward the gates with determined, steely faces. The dark blue earth poney had no choice but to follow the living mass and go with the flow, before he was treaded under in the rush. There was no point of resisting and soon he found himself in the middle of the squad. Although he has never been in such battle, the situation wasn't entirely new to him. Mirage remembered his training with Sombra back in the day, when he wasn't a power-hungry tyrant. The unicorn showed him a few effective moves of the Crystalline martial arts which could come in handy during a fight. Due to some rather unexpected turns in his life, Mirage had to face some dangerous creatures, while he was roaming around Eqeustria aimlessly, but he did not consider himself as a fighter. He knew how to protect himself, but defending an entire château was completely different. Yet, he had no other option at the moment.
The squadron moved up to the haut, retour au début of the walls to face the vanguard of the changeling army. Despite his best efforts to explain his unique situation, that he was a personal guard of the solar Princess, the officers in charge did not take the time to listen to his words and assigned him to operate one of the catapults. Mirage was well aware of the device, he had been watching his mother, Summer Pride design war machines for Sombra's mad campaign. Since there was no need to develop such technologies in over a millenia, the structure of the catapult was plus ou less the same. A resigned, angry grunt escaped his chest as he took his place beside the machine. The defenders of the Great château have easily crushed the first wave of changelings within minutes, but a strange sense of coldness began to overwhelm the cobalt earth poney as he gazed upon the bodies of the fallen attackers. Sounds of cheering and celebrating traveled with the soft breeze from every direction, until somepony spotted the vast changeling army on the horizon. It was like a an infinite swarm of locusts, blocking out the sunlight and flooding the landscape as far as the eye could see.
“Evacuate the city! They will be here in less than an hour!” somepony commanded firmly, and Mirage recognized the unmistakable voice of Luna.
She casted a dainty shadow on the royal guards as she slit through the air above them. Her words made the stallions spring into action, the pegasi guards flew out of the château in a closed triangular formation and the wingless ponies marched toward downtown in the same organized fashion. Mirage was left behind to protect the château with only three companies. Until now, the changelings weren't considered as a serious threat, most of the royal guards thought this was one of their “regular” provocative actions, not a serious act of war, since they did not manage to achieve any victories in Canterlot since Princess Cadence's wedding. But when Luna landed in the middle of the large parade-ground, she made all the doubts disappear.
“Attention everypony!” she called out on a steely voice. “The changlings have launched a full scale attack without declaration of war! We must protect Equestria's loyal subjects from this evil! But alas, there's not enough time to complete the evacuation."
"I've tried to reach the Elements of Harmony, but some kind of interference is blocking the communication through the magical flow. I've sent out messengers, but they won't get here in time to help us! Therefore, I need 100 volunteers to march ahead and greet the enemy forces! We might be able to buy plus time for the civilians if we hold them off as long as we can. Without us, they are defenseless!”
The Princess of the Night paused for a bit and looked around. All eyes were locked on her as she continued.
“Do not have illusions! We are greatly outnumbered and I cannot order any of toi to sacrifice your lives. But if we surprise the enemy par a quick counterattack, we might give a chance for the civilians! Knowing the risk, is there anypony who réponses to the call of those in need? Anypony who volunteers, take a step forward.”
Deadly silence settled on crowd and nothing moved, like if time have stopped. Anxious whispers were audible from all around the parade-ground. Luna stood there as an unwavering, solid statue, the figure of permanency, the homing beacon of all souls. She gazed at the royal guards, but most eyes fell. The Moon goddess waited patiently, but could not believe there was not a single volunteer.
“Nopony?” she asked quietly.
After a while, the crowd began to déplacer and opened a way to a young pegasus stallion with orange manteau and sea-blue mane.
“I volunteer!” the pegasus exclaimed resolutely, standing bolt upright.
Luna nodded and signaled him to déplacer forward.
“What is your name, guardian? ”she smiled warmly, when the stallion approached her.
“Flash Sentry, 6th Crystalline Division, your Highness!” the orange poney replied. “Just been transferred to Canterlot for Level 5 training.”
“Your bravery is commendable, Flash Sentry.” Luna said. “But toi are too young, I cannot let toi join.”
“With all due respect, your Majesty... The changelings doesn't care about my age... they are here to destroy us once and for all! Please, let me fight!” Sentry begged passionately.
“So be it.” the cobalt alicorn caved in. “Is there anypony else?”
“What am I doing?” another stallion asked himself as he took a step forward.
“You?!” Luna recoiled in surprise. “No, toi have a different assignment, Nocturnal Mirage! toi must protect my sister at all costs!”
“That is what I'm doing, Princess.” Mirage replied somberly. “If the changelings claim the Castle, we're done for.”
“And toi have to keep Celestia safe! If we fail, toi must escape with her to save our kind!” Luna objected vehemently.
“This is all I have left now!” Mirage declared firmly, extending his hooves, pointing at the Castle.
“You truly l’amour her, don't you?” the nocturnal Princess asked in disbelief.
“Yes. Yes I do. And that's a pretty strong reason for me to fight.” the royal blue earth poney remarked.
He felt joy and relief when he a dit those words. For such a long time he's been trying to deny it, being uncertain about his mixed feelings. But now that he revealed his emotions, it became the solid, manifested truth.
“Still, it's only the two of you...” Luna began, but a royal guard stepped forward.
“Spearhead, 1st squadron, I volunteer!”
“I volunteer!” a unicorn stallion shouted and stepped beside Spearhead.
“I volunteer!” another pegasus called out.
“Count me in!”
“Let's give those bastards a warm welcome!”
A minute later, one hundred royal guards stood in a line beside Luna, since they only needed the first push, donné par Flash Sentry and Mirage. The crowd was cheering for the Rebelle volunteers as they slowly walked out through the front gates, led par the Princess of the Night herself. They prepared their souls for the confrontation. Possibly the last fight of their lives.
“Princess, what should we do?!” the pegasus stallion urged with begging eyes.
“I...” Celestia began.
Then something happened. The eyes of the royal guards met, when the white alicorn froze down, standing immovably, gazing into nothingness. Even her mane and tail stopped swirling and turned gray.
“Come on, why do toi ask her for help?! She's completely nuts!” the other pegasus declared harshly and turned around to leave.
His partner looked at the sun goddess once plus and lowered his head in disappointment. He was about to close the door with a heavy resigned sigh, when there was some kind of discharge. A white flash blinded them for a seconde and Celestia lifted her head up with a rapid motion. Her mane regained its colors, sparkling in orange, red and rose hues and whirled around her body. When the guards looked upon her again, she was an entirely different mare. Her alabaster features toughened and the spark of bravery and enthusiasm flashed in her purple eyes.
“The battle is not Lost yet!” Celestia declared peremptorily.
“I can't believe it!” the first stallion gasped. “She's back! PRINCESS CELESTIA IS BACK!”
“Princess Celestia?” the solar goddess asked abstractedly, tasting the name. “Yes... that's what they used to call me... Princess Celestia...”
“Princess... if I may say so... your hooves would be plus reminiscent of your old strength, if they were holding your sword.” the pegasus guard a dit quietly.
par hearing the words of the stallion, Celestia glanced at the other side of the office. The golden sword hung on the wall, flashing confidentially in the fading light. The white alicorn took a step closer to it and gently stroked the metal. The bare touch of the sword sent a cool shiver down her spine and her manteau bristled up.
“Amon Ra...” Celestia read the ancient symbols carved into the hilt. “It's been a long time...”
She grabbed the sword with a strong, determined motion and swung it in the air a few times.
“Gentlecolts! Follow me! The enemy is dying to meet our blades!” Celestia exclaimed loudly, her voice charging up with strength and confidence.
The two amazed royal guard looked at each other once again and a wide grin expanded on their faces.
The endless army of the changelings has already claimed the front yard and the parade-ground of Canterlot Castle. The royal guards sustained heavy losses, the floor was slippery from the blood of the fallen, yet they fought desperately at the main gates to keep the enemy out of the château itself. But despite their best efforts, the defense was mere minutes away from collapsing altogether. The protectors barricaded the only entrance, but the crude, quickly built lash-up could not resist the high pressure for too long. The changelings have surrounded the château entirely, yet their superior numbers could not prevail, their assaults were crushed against the mighty walls. Their only chance for victory was to break through the main gate, for every areal and magical attack was repelled vehemently par the defenders. Even the staff took their part of the battle, par pouring boiling tar on the attackers from the higher windows. The royal guards fought in shifts, one squad was always resting. They have donné up all hope, when the wooden gate was smashed to pieces par a battering-ram. The invaders were about to swarm the inner sections of the Castle.
Then something unforeseen has happened...