Nov 6th, 2016
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  1. ¬>You raise your hand before your eyes, shielding them from the harsh golden sunlight to try and get a clearer picture of your surroundings.
  2. >Still blurry.
  3. >Wiping your forehead with the back of your hand, your fingers come away wet; a red and sticky reminder of the warm sensation trickling down into your eyes from your temple.
  4. >A nasty, throbbing laceration that won’t stop bleeding no matter how much you wipe over it with the cloth of your uniform.
  5. >”Fall in! Fall in!”
  6. >The dull call makes its way through the ringing in your ears, prompting you to squint through the pink mist to make out the figures around you.
  7. >A female, armor-clad unicorn is running in front of the quickly assembling formation.
  8. >Ponies, Gryphons, Minotaurs and various other magical races: all armed, all in heavy battle armor.
  9. >All of them minutes away from their death.
  10. >You are Anonymous, and you’re a warrior of Equestria on your last crusade.
  12. >Even though you’re – to your knowledge – the only human in your battalion, and probably in the whole of the Royal Sun’s Army, you don’t even stand out among the multitude of races, species and creatures making up the brunt of its force.
  13. >”Soldiers of the Ninth Solaris Infantry!”
  14. >The galloping unicorn stops, flipping up her visor to reveal a purple coat and a set of chromatically matching irises, the heavy bags beneath her eyes speaking of weeks without a proper rest.
  15. >Apparently she’s casted some kind of spell on herself, amplifying her voice to reach across the battlefield.
  16. >You doubt she’d even have to at this point, as you look around at the meager few still left to make up your battalion.
  17. >Sixty, give or take: some standing tall, some visibly shaking, their eyes frantically darting over the trampled and broken corpses of their friends scattered between you, and yet others calm and collected, a smile on their lips in anticipation of awaiting bloodshed.
  18. >All of them are caked in mud, blood, tears and the horrors of the past days.
  19. >”It’s time!” the magically amplified voice yells out.
  20. >The thick plates of your armor have become heavy, and it takes a great portion of your strength to just force yourself to remain standing upright.
  21. >Dents and heavy scratches are strewn over the once pristine metal finish, its shine long since dulled, its etched-in runes and chants of protection long since withered into unrecognizability.
  22. >Your arms and legs burn with lactic acid, making you question your ability to draw your sword if you had to in this very moment.
  23. >The cuts and bruises on your hands and face are indicators of your struggles during the last hours, with the most prominent one – the one above your brow – still robbing some of your sight.
  24. >The multitude of metal blades, shields and armor plates catching the golden rays of the last of the afternoon sun aren’t helping either.
  25. >Looking further out, you take in the wasteland of the battlefield, and yet further – barely on the edge of your vision – you see it.
  26. >Not quite close enough to be of worrying importance right this minute, but still there.
  27. >Always there.
  28. >The black, unwavering miasma of the dreamscape, set to snuff out you, your friends, your comrades and everything you’ve ever known.
  29. >A thick mist of death and despair, and with it, horrors from beyond reality.
  30. >Nightmares.
  32. >The pony steps to the front of your impromptu formation, visibly straining to keep up the magical energy of her spell.
  33. >After taking a few seconds to collect her thoughts and letting her eyes wander amongst the heaps of broken metal and bodies, she speaks up.
  34. >”Let me commend you on your bravery.”
  35. >Her voice is level and – despite its volume – robbed of all warmth by the magical amplification.
  36. >It carries with it the pain of friends lost, memories burned and the knowledge of the world’s end.
  37. >She picks up again, a cold serenity radiating from her words.
  38. >”Just by being here, just by being able to keep your footing in the face of the horrors we have seen, you’ve already proven your unwavering loyalty. The Goddess of the Sun is watching, and she’s smiling upon you, rest assured of that.”
  39. >Despite the pain in your body, a small smile creeps on your lips.
  40. >The Goddess of the Sun.
  41. >The blinding symbol of peace.
  42. >The living beacon of friendship and love; a mentor to all as much as a radiant form for them to aspire to.
  43. >She fell first.
  44. >When the younger one first turned, it was her who lost to the nightmares.
  45. >She knew that the foe she’d created was beyond her – beyond any single entity – and with her dying breath, she called out into the night.
  46. >For help, for harmony and for a united front made up of all living creatures to surmount the evil that had crept upon them.
  47. >And after witnessing the death of a God, many answered.
  48. >In droves they came, offering peace and assistance from all the corners of all the realms, driven by fear, love, greed or sheer lust for battle.
  49. >It wasn’t until the bitter defeat of the First Solaris Battalion that they realized what they had come for.
  50. >All of them – baring teeth and weapons, storming forwards with battle cries carrying to the horizons – had come for their end.
  51. >Many fell.
  52. >Others left or turned traitor, the poisonous and corrupting presence of the shadows too much for them to bear.
  53. >When the dust settled, only a fraction of the glory of the Solaris Army remained.
  55. >You blink, forcing yourself to push down painful memories and focus on the present again.
  56. >The glowing hot disk of the sun is starting the creep down below the horizon, streaking the ground with long cobwebs of shadows in the red light.
  57. >The wind is picking up, carrying with it the scent of ash and the coppery stale taste of blood that won’t leave your mouth, no matter how much you swallow, no matter how much you spit.
  58. >The commanding pony at the front of your group turns, gazing upon the slow nightfall.
  59. >”All of you are heroes.” she whispers.
  60. >And for a few minutes, a tranquil harmony settles among the remainder of your battle formation, as sixty souls watch the dying of the light in perfect, unbroken silence.
  61. >You wipe away the warm sensation trickling down your cheeks with the back of your hand, soaking in the last moments of sunshine you will ever get to see.
  62. >After every light, there must be dark.
  63. >You just wish you’d be able to stay in the light a little longer.
  65. >”Anonymous”, the pony calls out as the sun finally settles, her hoof pointed at you.
  66. >”Step forward.”
  67. >You swallow and look around, feeling the gazes on your face as you slowly begin to creep through the ranks.
  68. >With night falling, the ever-shifting presence of the nightmares seems to grow closer and closer by the second now.
  69. >Your motions are mechanical and speak of the damage your body has suffered; a series of carefully measured steps until you finally stop face to face with the purple unicorn, too tired to make an effort to stand up straight.
  70. >As her eyes meet yours, you feel the embrace of her magic enveloping you in a warm, soothing light, dulling the pain on your forehead and clearing up your vision.
  71. >Touching your skin in confusion, you feel the wounds on your body closing, taking with them pain and fatigue.
  72. >Restoration magic.
  73. >While undeniably useful in situations such as this, because of the unusually high drain of the user’s energy, you’ve rarely ever witnessed, let alone received it.
  74. >No doubt the pony had just spent most, if not all of her reserves.
  75. >On you.
  76. >But why?
  77. >You look at her questioningly, when she unclips a shiny metal badge from her armor without any grand movements, levitating it up and if front of you for everyone to see.
  78. >It’s a golden, gem-beset image of the first star, the number nine engraved below it.
  79. >”Before we set out for our battle…”
  80. >The pony’s tired smile wavers, as she locks the embroidered emblem to your armor with the last of her magic, pinning it in place with a glowing runic seal manifesting on top of it.
  81. >”…our last battle”, she corrects, “rest your eyes upon the final bearer of the light.”
  82. >The harsh, unnatural light from her horn flickers then fades out of existence, and you can feel the blood rushing to your face as your fellow soldiers now look to you with curious eyes.
  83. >The last of the glow on your chest dies away, leaving behind the sparkling badge permanently molded into your breastplate.
  84. >You inhale sharply, now realizing what all this meant.
  85. >”Soldiers of the Ninth!”
  86. >Her call to attention is sudden, an explosive outburst clean of any of the previous serenity; unamplified, yet loud enough to reach everyone.
  87. >”Behold your Champion of the Sun!”
  88. >Sixty armored fists clash onto their owner’s ironclad chests, a thundering salute towards their Goddesses’ chosen warrior.
  89. >”Upon him rests the fate of a world. Seek him out, fight with him, and know that you’re fighting with the will of the Elder Sister herself!”
  90. >The roar of voices echoes over the battlefield, carrying with it the remaining hopes and dreams of an entire kingdom.
  91. >The shadows at the edge of your vision draw closer; strange figures – twisted and perverted afterimages of reality – now clearly emerging from the twirling miasma.
  92. >”We can choose to die in vain today, to be crushed and broken for nothing. Or we can die for something.”
  93. >You stand silent, unable to find words sufficiently expressing your surprise amongst the myriad of calls and voices.
  94. >”Fight with nothing to lose, nothing held back”, the unicorn turns to you in a stage whisper.
  95. >”Now go. Lead them to their fate.”
  96. >You can only nod.
  97. >Edged on by her words, you turn towards the foes, gripping the hilt of your sword with newfound valor as you slowly begin marching.
  98. >In your back, the metallic clashing of an entire battle group stomping in unison is accompanied by a sole chant rising above the noise.
  99. >As you break into a slow jog, the last thing you hear is the soft voice of a mare singing of the end of the world.
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