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- Name: Castle Rock
- Gender: Male
- Race: Earth Pony
- Class: Ranger (Knight/Tracker)
- H/W: 8/6
- Talent: A stylized chess piece in the shape of a tower. (DR: 2)
- Stand Firm
- Martial Defender
- Trick Ammo
- Custom Job
- Supreme Survivor
- Soul Slots:
- Offense - Bear
- Defense - Knight
- Utility - Ogre
- The Mighty, often called Nobles or Warriors, are aligned with the direction North, the concept of Matter and sturdy Foundations, the time of Night, and the Winter. Once an encounter, the Mighty can transform a success into a critical success. This is declared after the success is made.
- Appearance: Entombed inside the IRNHRT Mk II, Castle looks as though he stepped straight out of a newsreel, a coat of polish spread over the scratched and dinged surface of the old war machine, its imperial decals freshly applied. A heat ripple is often visible from the central radiator near his lower back. Beneath the helmet, the passage of time is more evident, revealing a blue-gray stallion with a silvery mane, his face craggy, sad-eyed, and kind, the weight of ages carving out their purchase beneath his eyelids, though they still shine with some ancient of reservoir of spirit.
- Background: Born in the Equestrian northwest, Castle's was a chilly coastal town whose main exports were fresh sturgeon, shellfish, and sub-zero temperatures. Most of the traffic it saw revolved around the trawler business, and it was aboard one of these that Castle was working when the war broke out. The captain received word that their home port had been occupied following Yakyakistan's opening offensive, a retaliation for the overhunting of an ancient species of vulture, evidently sacred to the yaks in their sky burial customs. Diplomatically unable to remain neutral while sharing a defensive pact with Yakyakistan, Griffonstone and the Changeling Monarchical Aggregate entered the war on the eastern front, launching a campaign by sea and air. Equestrian bases in Saddle Arabia were quickly mobilized and by the end of the first 24 hours, bloody fighting had taken place in every time zone of the known world. Castle's trawler sailed through the night, down the west coast to Vanhoover to find it in a state of total panic. Full conscription was in effect and a naval officer promptly arrived to inform the captain his vessel had been commandeered until further notice. Out of work and with no word from his family, Castle enlisted with the Vanhoover Irregulars, a militia unit granted a royal commission with orders to retake as much Equestrian clay as could be managed with limited supplies and no real support to speak of. It took four months across bloody drifts of snow, but the northwestern earth ponies managed to steadily push back the line of occupation, recovering and counter-striking more quickly than the yaks had anticipated they would need to complete their fortifications. Withdrawing to their homelands for the time being and relying on "the winter Khan" to protect them as it historically had, and with conflicts still burning out across the benighted eastern coast, a military convoy train arrived at the provisional northern outpost, flanked by armor on either side. A uniformed mare with a reckless glint in her eye assembled the troops and threw open one of the boxcars, revealing a prototype hydraulic combat encasement, the IRNHRT Mk. II, as she described it, that could stop a yak charge dead in its tracks and still keep a pony's heart beating at 20,000 feet above sea level. That is, if anypony was brave enough to put it on. With that, SHIELDWALL was officially formed and sanctioned by the Equestrian monarchy, a bulwark against imperial enemies wherever they could be found.
- Castle remembers most of the following years through a scratched fiberglass visor, runny with the droplets of thawed snowflakes that contacted the armor's blistering internal heating. They hiked up narrow mountain passes and crushed breaches in wooden palisades, toppling the defenders stationed on them for a proper brawl. The yak's rudimentary equipment, most of it supplied covertly by the griffons (and, if the conspiracies are to be believed, subversive elements in the Saddle Arabian royal family) were a poor match for the Equestrian industrial war machine in full swing, and they were ultimately forced to give ground. When Castle's unit finally retook his home town, he found it a smoking ruin, razed by its bitter occupiers as they fled.
- Many in the shield line fell, and their armor was recommissioned to raw recruits, prisoners and refugees with nothing to return to. Gradually, Castle's position in the line migrated to a place of honor on the farmost left flank, which earned the distinction of having never been routed and for Castle, the nickname "White Rook". This was how he met Snowshovel, a colt nearly his age, who had ridden the rail from the mid-north to join the fighting. They carried each other through the war, trading stories of home, and sharing the news that trickled in from the home front. Snowshovel had left behind a pregnant wife, but despite his constant anxiety over their well-being, never flinched from a dangerous assignment or a risky counter-charge. This ultimately earned him his end, somewhere at the base of Mt. Hornhold, within sight of the Vulture's Nest, where desperate yak defenders triggered an avalanche on the advancing column. Buried beneath three metric tons of rock and snow, as fire and carcass shot rained from above, he made Castle swear he'd find his family when it was all over.
- And so he did, a year after the armistice was signed, find a mare with a striking green mane reminiscent of her namesake, Coral, cradling an infant, and delivered her the news of her husband's fate. In the years that followed he kept his promise as much as he could, buying a home in town to be near the widow and her young daughter when he was on leave. He'd had no idea the stories of SHIELDWALL had made such an impact on those back home, during the fighting, but he could still find propaganda posters, art deco depictions of a line of brilliant shining soldiers facing down a blizzard of yaks with exaggerated features. Much more picturesque than he remembered it, but his unit was briefly a household name among the Equestrian free territory and the brass wanted to bank on that visibility as much as possible. In the years that followed they were deployed to increasingly awkward situations, less because the armor was viable for jungle or desert fighting and more for the reassurance in the public mind that somepony was on top of things. Successive designs of the original Mk II armor were manufactured, though few of the later models seemed to match the endurance and reliability of their progenitor. Following a disastrous attempt to make the Mk. V adapt to confront zebra separatist guerillas in the far south, SHIELDWALL was finally mothballed, and Castle felt it was time to retire.
- He enjoyed some minor celebrity in the years that followed, appearing on game shows and speaking to veteran groups, but there was a new generation reaching adulthood and for the most part, Castle was content to join them in putting the war out of memory. It was a time of unprecedented peace, after all, and he devoted his days to all the civilian pursuits he'd contemplated from his barrack. His auto garage, like other business ventures, went nowhere, and he wound up relying mostly on his pension, sans the funds he funneled towards supporting Coral and her daughter, Coronet's college fund. His only reliable source of income came from lending his name to sponsor a line of expensive arctic gear for young middle class ponies looking to play survivalist. As the years went on, Coral and he grew closer, but ultimately separated by the memory of a brave colt they had both loved.
- Time dragged on and Castle faded almost altogether from memory, watching the nation he'd helped shape deal with the patient negotiations of the day. Perspectives changed, history was smoothed over to sit more comfortably in the public mind, pensions went missing, young politicians looking to score cheap victories ceded territory back to their old enemies along with an apology. He recalls sitting stunned in front of the radio, realizing the place on the border his hometown once sat was now legally yak sovereign territory. Nothing to be done, he told himself. It was up to the new generation to find their way.
- It wasn't until Coronet's (now teenage) daughter, Corduroy, developed a rare genetic disorder, still well without the bounds of medical knowledge, that something snapped. Castle bankrupted himself seeking out new treatments, experimental drug trials, even shamanic healing, to no avail. A sudden feeling of freefall: what had the sacrifices been for, if at the end, he couldn't keep his oldest promise? Sitting in his den, staring at the firelight reflecting off the tarnished surface of his old Mk II (the museum he'd donated it to had returned it, apologetically explaining that there was not enough interest to justify keeping the exhibit), it was hard to accept there was really nothing he could do. At least before receiving a very unexpected visitor.
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