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GATE: and so the Iron Pact Fought

Aaron Fox

SB's Minor Junker Descendant and Hunter of Nazis
Author
While I've been working on what @Kiyone4ever had suggested, I've found this neat little fantasy city generator and it has given me some interesting ideas for cities that the Empire holds:



One of these might come up in the snippet as an Imperial city that surrenders outright to the Iron Pact or the JSDF/US Coalition. ;)
 

Aaron Fox

SB's Minor Junker Descendant and Hunter of Nazis
Author
Nice, By the way, Somehow, Manifest Destiny has been relabeled on TV Tropes Recommendation page as 'and so the Iron Pact Fought'.
That's odd because I tried to make a wikipage like it was said on their 'how to' page and it became a hot mess... looks like it didn't reverse as I wanted. :\
 
TV Tropes Page is Up

Aaron Fox

SB's Minor Junker Descendant and Hunter of Nazis
Author

Aaron Fox

SB's Minor Junker Descendant and Hunter of Nazis
Author
Well everyone, this is what @Kiyone4ever's suggestion ended up creating. Yes, it's a little short but this is what I have right now as something 'solid'...
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Castle of Friendship – Ponyville, Equestria; Brumaire (October) 2nd, 1005 Post-Nightmare Moon


Celestia Li Sunriser -Daughter of the Great Mother Faust; Goddess of the Sun, Law and Order, and Education; The Dealmaker; The Great Mentor; The Sun Incarnate; Sol Invictus; the Co-Conqueror of Discord; one of the two last students of Starswirl the Bearded; Co-Ruler of Equestria- simply sat at the head of the meeting table that the Castle of Friendship had created alongside her sister Luna -Second Daughter of the Great Mother Faust; Goddess of the Moon, Knowledge, Magic, and the Arts; The Starfallen; Army Destroyer; one of the two last students of Starswirl the Bearded; Co-Ruler of Equestria- in this important meeting. The Equis Pact hadn’t had a meeting like this in centuries, not since the rump-state that was the Caribou Empire had a revolution that transformed it into the Caribou Republic… but the situation in the Holy Empire of Alnus was something that had to be talked about and the aftereffects planned for. The meeting had already gone on for four hours, and most of it was getting what their nations’ respective intelligence networks have gained onto the table.

“So,” the Hissho delegate sighed, “the Sadalrians have finally had a serious lapse in judgement and thought that upsetting two great alliances without knowing what they are up against was a good idea. It is like their failures in the invasion of Equis didn’t sink in.” The Hissho delegate -one Tsutsui Cualli, heir to the Tsutsui clan and the Shogunate of Hissh- is probably one of the more direct delegates of the Pact… but the Hissho have always been direct when an enemy is involved.

“That’s what our spies that are attached to our traders have been telling us,” the representative of the Kingdom of Abyssinia disclosed, “the Holy Empire of Alnus has been losing on all fronts since the initial invasion into the two Gates. The two groups of ‘men in green’ have been not only annihilating any of the Sadalrian armies they’ve encountered but also been dedicating themselves with immense infrastructure projects and capturing key towns and cities. From what little information my network can give me, Aquincum is going to be overrun within months if this keeps up…” Capper Callista is the current crown prince of the Kingdom of Abyssinia… and the head of the kingdom’s intelligence services. This, understandably, had everyone in the room a bit unsettled by the prince, but it was in times like these that his network was undeniably useful. “… and that doesn’t include what the ‘Men in Green’ from Alnus Hill are doing. While they’ve been more conservative in their movements, what little data I can get indicates that they’ll be at the gates of Potentia in a similar timeframe.” Everyone in the room was shocked at the speed, and for good reason…

“They’re fast,” the Minitour Federation delegate -one Lazaros Kairis, representative of the Minitour state of Mooria- commented, “… too fast. Even our forces wouldn’t be able to go through the legions that quickly, not without burning through our armies and supplies at an unsustainable rate…” Everyone nodded in agreement with Lazaros’s comment, as the ‘men in green’ on the Holy Hills of Alnus have been pushing out from their beachheads at such a speed that simply boggled the mind, specifically how they managed to keep up with such a tempo without burning through men and material like fuel oil. Aquincum is one of the three vital port cities -being a major water transportation hub- within the Empire, taking one would greatly hinder the Empire’s ability to shift forces and resources. “Still, given what Princess Luna has given us from her… unique… information network, they’re ire is with the Empire, not us.”

“Still, we can’t simply assume that Lazaros,” the Griffon delegate -Elector-Count Griff graf Suntalon of the Kingdom of Griffonstone- argued, “They might come after us next. It took the Elector Council over a century to become part of this pact and it took even longer for the various duchies and kingdoms to unite against the Holy Storm Empire.” The history of the griffons was, to say, a bit complicated. Nestled in mountains and valleys on the border of the Holy Storm Empire -ruled by the Storm King- to the north-east, the former Cariboo Empire in the west, Equestria in the south, the Dragon Kingdoms to the east, and the mysterious Nagarus Sultanate to the north-west, the Griffon kingdoms and duchies were in the center of much conflict over the centuries. This created a deep sense of paranoia and militarism, something that even the unifier of the Griffon kingdoms -one King Glaucus of the Flock of Griffonstone- couldn’t degrade after the Griffon kingdoms’ fifth war with the Holy Storm Empire. “We know nothing about them; thus, we can’t trust them.”

Lazaros simply rolled his eyes at Griff’s extreme paranoia… but understood where he was coming from, as the Minitour Federation was south of the Cariboo Empire. It was thanks to the numerous alliances specifically designed to keep the Cariboo Empire out that morphed into the foundation of the Federation, but the individualistic streak of the various states was hard to overcome. “What other choice do we have Griff?” Lazaros asked, “I mean all of us weren’t happy with King Thorax taking over the Changeling Hive after he deposed Queen Chrysalis, hell we were all like you when the word came out!” Griff simply nodded as he remembered the heightened tensions between the Equis Pact and the Changelings. “Yet they’re now allies with all of us because we did one thing, gave them a chance.” King Thorax’s representative -his brother Pharynx- simply nodded in acceptance.

“… and that chance is why the Changelings have been prospering at all,” Pharynx commented, “yet we are in a situation where we can fall into the same problem as when my brother usurped Chrysalis. If we don’t give these ‘Men in Green’ a chance now, we probably never will, the Holy Empire of Alnus sought to that.” Everyone nodded in agreement -even begrudgingly- with Pharynx’s line of thought. The Holy Empire of Alnus had ‘poisoned the well’ when it came to other human civilizations on this world. Even the Sultanate of Agrabah -despite it’s rather progressive (when compared to the Holy Empire of Alnus) attitudes with the various beings that inhabit this world- wasn’t completely trusted by the various nations of the Equis Pact, all thanks to the Holy Empire of Alnus.

Tsutsui Cualli simply sighed at this argument, as it went in circles. The Hissho have always equated trust to blood, and many of the most stringent contracts were signed in it and breaking them would have dire consequences… even more dire than breaking a ‘Pinkie Promise’. It is this mentality about trust that has always caused problems with the other nations. If these ‘Men in Green’ are willing to shed blood to gain the trust of others, then they are worthy of being trusted in the eyes of the Hissho and their pantheon. That doesn’t mean that the Tsutsui clan is going to gamble on that particular aspect of Hissho culture, as for months the Tsutsui clan has been praying to the gods for insight on this matter, and so far they have been given the equivalent of a message stating that they’re in the middle of a council meeting.

“Enough!” Luna said in the in/famous Royal Canterlot Voice before going back to her regular voice, “This argument is simply going around in circles. So far those from the lands that the ‘Men in Green’ are from have made sure that they didn’t abuse our generosity and yet here we are arguing their trustworthiness!” Griff made a slight humph as he rolled his eyes while Princess Luna went on her rant. “There is such a thing as too much paranoia… and right now most of us are displaying it in full.” Cualli mentally smiled, as Luna made the point that he was going to make.

Griff simply sighed, rubbing his talons on his temple. “If there is anything that I agree with the Starfallen, it is the fact that so far these ‘people’ haven’t abused Equestrian generosity in the slightest… but it still doesn’t mean that I trust them,” Griff answered, “This meeting has been going on for too long, I motion that we have a recess before continuing on. We’re tired and hungry, and all this information has been flaying our nerves…” Griff wasn’t wrong about that. The information that everyone has put onto the table -both literally and metaphorically- has been gnawing at the nerves of everyone in the room.

“I second that motion,” Cualli stated, “It would also allow me to console with my pantheon, to see what they have for us.”

“I third the motion,” Pharynx said, “All this anxiety and fear has started to make me sick; we should have a lengthy recess to clear our minds and emotions before we can move on, they’re pretty high as it is.” Everyone else agreed as they couldn’t really argue against those observations. Celestia quickly called for a two-hour recess to clear minds, get dinner, and try to destress before the next round of talks…
 

Kiyone4ever

Member
Author
I foresee the newest members of the Pact sending in an infiltration team to try and get more direct intelligence on the off-worlders. Also, a mission to Rondel to see what the human magical community makes of all this if anything. Finally, is Sunset Shimmer on either of the involved Earths or a THIRD Earth. (Insert Thundercats joke here.) If on one of those involved, what is the word from that side.
 

Aaron Fox

SB's Minor Junker Descendant and Hunter of Nazis
Author
I foresee the newest members of the Pact sending in an infiltration team to try and get more direct intelligence on the off-worlders.
Given that it'll take months to get spies into the Empire due to the virtue of not having steam ships or even things like Clippers... that isn't going to happen anytime soon. However, despite the Equis Pact's best efforts, a certain queen is already there, trying to find a way to get help for something more personal than her hive... telling more would spoil. ;)
Also, a mission to Rondel to see what the human magical community makes of all this if anything.
I was thinking the next snippet would pertain to the Council of Colleges sending a certain sister and others trained by Cato (among others) to investigate the Holy Hills...
Finally, is Sunset Shimmer on either of the involved Earths or a THIRD Earth. (Insert Thundercats joke here.) If on one of those involved, what is the word from that side.
Sunset found a third Earth when going through the mirror. If it was to Iron Pact!Earth, the various paranormal groups would have noticed and sent teams on a mission to search and contain. GATE Earth would have noticed too, only due to the conspiracy theorists and the fact that Sunset wouldn't even exist in the records. Then again, there is that 'normalcy' field that the portal generates...
 
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Aaron Fox

SB's Minor Junker Descendant and Hunter of Nazis
Author
Alright, with that out of the way, can I get some constructive criticism or questions because I'm willing to answer questions and take (constructive) criticism. Right now I'm working on kickstarting a certain older step-sister's portion of the plot with her joining with a bunch of mages trained by Cato and some adventurers, which would lead to the meeting between these teams of adventurers and mages and the Iron Pact-US/Japanese coalition with said older step-sister meeting our warrior bunny friends.

Another bit I'm working on pertains to (former) Queen Chrysalis herself being discovered in a mysterious temple north of the Holy Hills of Alnus by Alpenkorps soldiers, leading to the deployment of Wolfenstein's paranormal division into the campaign area. The reasons why she is there and some of the reasons why she chose the path she did will twine into the Old One plot and give us something of a taste of how far the Sadarian gods are willing to go as a whole to obtain power.
 

Aaron Fox

SB's Minor Junker Descendant and Hunter of Nazis
Author
Well, here is a prototype for the first part of the Adventures of Arpeggio, personally not enough politicking but it does read decently... but still I need constructive criticism! [funny]I need it! I THRIVE on it! [/funny]
Council of Colleges Inner Sanctum, Rondel; September 3rd, 6729

For all but the most accomplished of mages and spirit wielders, to be even standing in the inner sanctum of the Council of Colleges is the highest honor that one can have in their lifetime. Yet, for the small group of mages and spirit wielders, it didn’t feel like an honor. There have been a handful of times that the Council of Colleges had called in mages and spirit wielders during a time of war, and all of them were special missions. What the assembled didn’t know was that Grand Magus Tiberius Nasennius Calpurnianus knew that the war between the two groups of ‘Men in Green’ and the Empire was going incredibly poorly for the Empire, as their military might was so awe-inspiring that they simply erased entire cohorts from existence.

Arpeggio El Lalena noted the people that came into the sanctum with her. All of them are either students of her old teacher Cato or the best of the best adventurers that gold can buy… and if the Council of Colleges is willing to pay extortionate amounts of gold to pay for all the adventurers, then it must be important. The council quickly stated that they should be seated while the attendants came with the small feast, for this meeting is going to be a long one.

That, in of itself, was somewhat unusual because time is a commodity that most that practitioners of magic didn’t have in abundance. It also meant that this is a serious matter, one that took precedence over the various experiments in understanding the universe and energy that is mana…

“I, along the others of the Council of Colleges, thank you for coming to your summons so quickly,” Tiberius began, “we of the Council know that all of you have lives and research that require your uttermost attention, but the current situation that the Empire finds itself in takes far greater precedence than your research and your lives.” Murmurs about what Tiberius was talking about were quietly sounding around the guest table as Tiberius continued. “The Holy Hills have been taken by two groups only known as the ‘Men in Green’, and the ‘Men in Green’ have been annihilating whatever Imperial and local legions that have stood in their way. So far they have been slowly encroaching Imperial lands in every conceivable direction… including the direction of Rondel.” That got everyone talking. If the Empire was slowly getting overwhelmed by these new enemies, then they might consider the semi-independent city-state of Rondel to be part of the Empire and give its citizens the same treatment.

“That is troubling,” the dwarf adventurer -and leader of the Highlanders of Norduhn Guild- Gimbli Brúlinger said with a frown adorning his slightly-bearded face, “given the state of the Empire and that Rondel is only one of many semi-independent states within the Empire alongside the apparent through ruthlessness that these new enemies have shown in annihilating whatever forces are set against them, we practically have no chance at surviving a military encounter against these ‘Men in Green’.” The Council simply nodded their head as Gimbli analyzed what has and hadn’t been said about the situation. “With that in mind, something has been frankly scaring the Avernus out of you…” Gimbli is one of the ur examples of a dwarven adventurer that has the smarts and guile to live into his seventh century of life, and it was his analytical and deduction skills that made the Highlanders of Norduhn Guild into one of the most powerful adventurer guilds on the continent. Gimbli had an impeccable track record of setting up the right team with the right set of skills to where they were needed… although Arpeggio had only known Gimbli’s ability through his reputation but to see it in action was something else.

“There is something that has been, as you put, ‘scaring the Avernus’ out of this council,” Tiberius answered solemnly, “and that is the fact that three soul stones went black the day after the armies of the tributary and ‘allied’ states were defeated in Alnus Province.” Everyone’s eyes nearly popped out of their skulls with that information. Mages of great power have always undertaken a ritual to bind themselves to a mana-resonating crystal known as a ‘Soul Stone’. These stones are vital for ensuring that the strong mages wouldn’t go down the path of Plagueis the Mad or his myriad of copycats that appeared over the centuries. The stone in its normal state would have a blood red color but for a stone to become black meant that the mage connected to it was annihilated. “If the invaders can take out three of the most powerful mages of the continent despite their support…”

“Then we don’t have a chance in Avernus,” Arpeggio completed, “Even I know where this is going: you want all of us to go to these ‘Men in Green’ persuade them that Rondel isn’t an enemy and try to get as much information about them as possible.” Tiberius chuckled a little at Arpeggio’s conclusion, commenting that she was definitely a student of Cato. “Given that you’ve hired adventurers from two of the best guilds on the continent, you have assumed that it this isn’t going to be easy at best, likely to be something that would require some of the most serious muscle on the continent to ensure that you get even partial information to you.”

“So that is why Cato said you’re one of his most promising students!” the hobbit adventurer Tavia Twofoot -from the Longfellow Guild- said as she chuckled, “and let it be one of Cato’s students to lay out the possibilities. Given the immense piles of gold that you’ve given as a deposit to two of the most powerful adventurer guilds on the continent with every student of Cato getting an immense sum as a down payment, you think that this would be the most dangerous job that any of us have ever undertaken.” Every student of Cato simply stared at Tavia with that remark. “If more of my clients had been this forthcoming despite not saying a word, I would take more jobs from the Council than some of my usual clientele.” Hobbits have a reputation for being shrewd individuals, they wouldn’t been able to be economically unfeasible to conquer if they weren’t, but also were known to know how their luck is running almost instinctively. To make such a comment like that would indicate that she and her guild tended to attract less scrupulous clients that would try to screw her over… and has a good feeling that good luck would be on the job.

“We’ll keep that in mind for the future,” Tiberius commented as he tried to get the meeting to return into bounds, “but first you must understand the full gravity of the situation and the job you are about to embark on.” Tiberius and the others of the council then began outlining the detail of the entire job, answering questions along the way…
 

Aaron Fox

SB's Minor Junker Descendant and Hunter of Nazis
Author
Well, telling you folks that my original plan was to post a snippet that has Arpeggio and her team met up with the Men in Green a few months later and meet up with a very big, very long surprise... thanks @Kiyone4ever for sparking my insperation on how to do with others in the council of colleges. ;)
 

Aaron Fox

SB's Minor Junker Descendant and Hunter of Nazis
Author
Arpeggio and company meeting the Men in Green part 1, an initial small snippet:
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Outer Edge of Alnus Province; October 2nd, 6729

Arpeggio frowned as the wagon train had slowly made it across the great highway that crossed the province, noting the lack of destroyed wagons and skeletal remains of dead soldiers or civilians. Everyone else in the train noticed it too, which is incredibly unnerving to say the least. The team of adventurers and mages had been talking to the various refugees from the lands in and around Alnus Province, and the information provided was perplexing. The Imperial Legions had ordered the towns, villages, and small cities in and bordering Alnus Province to evacuate and leave no food or resources behind.

Yet, the Men in Green had penetrated further into the Empire in the half a year than was thought possible. That information was acquired via some of the refugees from the hamlet known as Coda. The two groups bumped into each other in the village and a fight almost ensued before the two centurions managed to calm things down. Then, despite the fact that they were citizens of their enemy, assisted the hamlet and the nearby fae elf hamlet to escape the wrath of a great fire dragon… which they later killed with minimal loss of life! The elves, with no place to go, went with one of the groups of Men in Green, the few refugees that didn’t have anywhere to go went with the second group… and the refugees that went with the second group of Men in Green included her old teacher Cato and her step-sister! What was her old mentor and sister thinking going with the invaders! Given how much Cato knows about the current politics of the Empire, they are probably being tortured for information if not…

That line of thought was shattered when a whirl-hum sound passed overhead.

“What in Hardy’s name is that?” Gimbli exclaimed as he looked above, trying to find whatever that passed above them. The others started looking around them as well, believing that the convoy would be under attack in short notice.

“I don’t know,” the gargoyle priestess Giji Brooke replied, “but whatever it was, I say we find somewhere to hide before it comes back again. For all we know, it might be the Men in Green’s version of air cavalry on recognoscere duties… but that assumes that the Men in Green have anything like Imperial doctrine.” Giji wasn’t wrong in assuming that the Men in Green don’t have anything like Imperial military doctrine. “Right now, we can’t assume anything...”

As the caravan went up the hill, they saw one of the now-abandoned towns that weren’t so abandoned. The Men in Green had set up a castra of operations near the town, constructing what looked like a castra on one of the nearby hills with machines that the people within the convoy couldn’t believe despite seeing it in their own eyes. What looked like merchants and new townspeople walked on the paved streets, bringing the town to life. Near the town was a large facility similar to the various riverine docks in the Empire, just on a far larger scale… but instead of a riverboat, there was a giant metal monster and a long line of metal wagons -some of which were rather flat and had what clearly looked like building materials and more machines- being unloaded as the caravan came to the stop.

“… is everyone seeing what I’m seeing?” Tavia asked rhetorically, “Because I’m having trouble believing what I’m seeing…” Even Arpeggio had to agree with Tavia with that. The metal monster had been releasing steam, but on a far grander scale than anyone could imagine. The idea and principles for creating a method to move things with steam isn’t a new concept, the very idea is absolutely ancient compared to pretty much the majority of modern science and magic. The major problem with the concept was the fact that the materials required needed such strength and made in such quantities that it would be impossible to create despite the literal legions of alchemists trying their damnedest to do so. Yet these ‘Men in Green’ not only have such materials but managed to perfect that concept. Fascinating… if it wasn’t for the implications of such.

“I think we’ve got company!” the spirit wielder Butu cried, pointing towards what looked like two contuberiums of men running up the hill, “… and apparently they’re concerned about something!”

“Attention! Stop where you are!” one of the men ordered at the top of his lungs in Saldarian with a very heavy accent, “You’re in an occupied area! State your intentions!” That put everyone into a loop, as most forces would simply kill the entire caravan for trespassing unless led by a very humane commander, as many armies don’t have the time or resources to simply detain various caravans during a major campaign, especially one half as quick as these Men in Green are.

The entire caravan was on guard, already fearing the worst.

“I am Gimbli Brúlinger, and this is the caravan from Rondel, the City of Mages, that my compatriots are escorting,” Gimbli answered back politely, “We’ve been hired by this group of mages and spirit wielders to escort them in their quest to see the ‘Men in Green’, to verify the numerous rumors and tales.” The one that spoke looked a little puzzled, like he never heard of Rondel. “We seek the ‘Men in Green’ and… we have apparently stumbled upon you… so… take us to your leader?” Gimbli uncharacteristically muttered the question, not knowing the response. The man that spoke simply sighed, like he knew that Gimbli was uncharacteristically shy and it wasn’t the first time someone asked that.

“Ernsthaft, Noch eine Gruppe? Das ist jetzt schon die zweiundzwanzigste diesen Monat, wobei es neu ist das Magier unter ihnen sind.” the man said in his native language -which was… oddly straight forward yet poetic- before switching to Saldarian, “Alright, we’ll escort you to the base commander, follow us.” The man motioned the caravan to follow towards the town’s Curia Hall right next to the town’s forum…
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First, say thanks to Fanfiction writer TheOmniat for the more accurate German. He's been a lifesaver in that regard. :)

Second, the thing that flew over them is the Iron Pact's version of the OV-1 turboprop recon/light attack aircraft, just laden with IR imaging equipment similar to the OTL OV-1D variant.

Ain't she a beaut? ;)

At first, I don't know what to use as the steam locomotive. Now I had several options, but due to the conditions on Falmart, I narrowed it to two different US locomotives, the 4-8-8-4 Big Boy and the 2-6-6-6 Allegheny/Blue Ridge locomotives. In the end, I was leaning towards Big Boy due to the fact that it regularly ran on the Great Plains routes during its heyday in addition to conquering Sherman Hill.

An 'Allegheny'/'Blue Ridge' H-8 locomotive, for reference


A 4-8-8-4 'Big Boy' for reference​

Yeah, something of a train fan and some steam locomotives being used wouldn't be out of the ordinary, given that they're less finicky than Diesel-Electrics and as long as they have water, they can practically run on anything that can burn... while still being comprehensible to those of Falmart.

That and have a good old steam whistle blowing...

 

Aaron Fox

SB's Minor Junker Descendant and Hunter of Nazis
Author
Ladies and gentlemen, fans and fellow writers (including @Kiyone4ever)... right now chapter 6 is almost at 10k words and I'm not even finished yet. That includes a very work in progress working prototype for a bit on the Old One plot line. With that said, reworking the Council bit and getting into the Adventures of Arpeggio is going to put me way over the 10k word 'readable' limit as it were (and right now the story is 51,371 words at the time of this post).

... and I want to have a scene where a Bavarian Prince and his squad of Alpenkorps troops doing their patrol while yodeling Bergvagabunden (lit. Moutain Vagabond) as well!

Oh, and sidenote, when researching the Alpenkorps, I discovered that Prince Heinrich of Bavaria -a notable lieutenant of the Alpenkorps that died in the Romanian Campaign in 1916- was the enthusiastic godfather of one Heinrich Luitpold Himmler. [cue record scratch] Even I didn't see that one coming...

... but back to the topic at hand. I'm thinking of breaking the 10k word limit seriously just this once, but it might lead to some sort of escalation of future chapters... and right now I can't really decide!

Oh, and I now have a job so expect updates to slow to a crawl...
 

Aaron Fox

SB's Minor Junker Descendant and Hunter of Nazis
Author
Well ladies and gents, this is a very rough prototype for another episode of the Old One plot... it's very rough, very odd, and over 1,270 words long so far. Hope you guys like, especially you @Kiyone4ever. ;)

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Mountains North of the Holy Hill of Remus; Several Months after Being Overthrown

Former queen Chrysalis Pernout nor Jynrya heaved herself as she climbed over the ledge, slowly getting closer to her goal. The road here had been rough and filled with disappointment. Her initial takeover of Equestria to extract a significant fraction of Equestria’s pool of positive emotion energy and leave, all to keep the changelings from literally starving to death -thanks to Hardy’s poisoning the changelings- and help heal her true mother, the goddess Jynrya (with the former -and thoroughly dead- Queen Cicada being the surrogate). Her kidnapping of the Elements was one-part revenge and one part getting Faust to help her to heal the changelings and her true mother. Both failed. Hard.

Although, Chrysalis had to admit, Thorax would make a very good changeling king… being her incredibly intelligent and capable son.

That is why she risked her life -practically starving herself in the process- to get here. Everything she had done had failed. She was literally out of options and almost out of hope.

The only hope she has now is Crescent Wing, the ancient Chozo that is the custodian of this world. If anyone can help her now, it would be the incredibly wise and intelligent sentient bird.

Yet, she had spent so much energy in getting here, Chrysalis frowned as she walked towards the great statues that guarded the temple’s entrance when she heard… singing… several beings singing something that was alien to her ears…

“Wenn wir erklimmen sonnige Höhen, Klettern dem Gipfelkranz zu!”

She had to admit; it was pleasant music despite its alien-ness.

“In unsern Herzen brennt eine Sehnsucht, Die lässt uns nimmer in Ruh.”

That was when she noticed that the singing was getting closer.

“Strahlende Berge, sonnige Höhen, Bergvagabunden sind wir!”

That was when Chrysalis noticed that she was incredibly lightheaded and cursed to herself, she probably had some unknown injury that she missed during the climb up to this remote location. It was then that Chrysalis fell to the ground, her body unable to keep up with the strain. She knew that she had a few more paces to the temple entrance but her body simply hit its limit in its current state. That was when she saw the beings that were singing coming around the corner…

“Hauptmann! Wir haben hier einen kritischen Fall! Holt SOFORT einen Sanitäter her und ruft den Med-Evac! Im Namen des Herrn ... VERDAMMT, hat sie den Anstieg etwa in diesem Zustand hinter sich gebracht?” a voice said in a language she couldn’t understand, the rest she couldn’t hear because Chrysalis was fading in and out of consciousness.

The one thing she noticed was the fact that they were helping her… a complete stranger to them and yet they were clearly more worried about her health than the possibility of her being an enemy. Unlike the legions of the Empire, they were dressed in colors that looked like some sort of camouflage with a helmet that was unlike anything she saw before. Who are these humans and… why are they here?

__________________________________________

Prince Adolf of the House of Wittelsbach always hiked with a smile alongside his squad, but what he was seeing before him wiped the smile off his face completely, replacing it with a worried look on his face. Right here was an unknown being that is clearly pushing herself (a possibility, given the features it possessed) to the point of death. Thankfully the Sanitäter had been prompt in getting her onto a stretcher and trying to keep her from passing out. He had already called in a medevac, and all he can do now is investigate the area and wait for the heli-ambulance. She would probably be dead if they had to get one from Fort Portal, but by sheer luck, one was already out in a valley two dozen kilometers north of this mountain plateau.

That was when he saw something that wasn’t there the last time anyone patrolled the mountain trail.

“Um, is it me or am I seeing a Black 12?” Adolf asked one of his subordinates as he looked towards the mountain, seeing two statues that weren’t there yesterday, “Because it damn looks like it.” The ‘Black’ code is a series of coded messages developed by Wolfenstein and disseminated to the military; they were there to ensure that few people knew what any squad had discovered and reduce the potential of someone stumbling upon it and killing themselves through something unknown or unexpected. Enough people die to a psi-memory already, and anything worthy to get a ‘Black Number’ attached to it can make the worst psi-memories look like a picnic in comparison.

“… you’ve got to be kidding me,” Rudolf Himmler answered back, “it is a Black 12. You better get HQ on the horn and tell them to send a Wolfenstein investigation team in ASAP.” That was when Rudolf walked towards the statues in question. “If I had to guess, these statues are guarding something.”

“Going off your grandfather’s fascination with the occult again?” Adolf asked as he sent the flash message, “If I didn’t know you so well, I would have thought that you believed in that stuff.” One of the sad things about the Himmler family was the fact that their name became synonymous with the occult. Heinrich Himmler, reeling from the death of his godfather Prince Heinrich and later the Great War of Resistance, joined an occult group a year after the end of the Great War of Resistance… the same cult he would later torture a few centimeters from death after they started spouting about killing the Jews. Heinrich would later start his own cult after his release from prison, while he was climbing the ranks of the Federal Police.

“Given how much he liked to rattle on about how he became the man he was?” Rudolf answered, “He might have a point with some of his stories. He always told me and my siblings about the time a statuette in the guise of the Virgin Mary that only he could see appeared in his prison cell when he was jailed for mass torture. It was always watching him, pushing him to find his real self. Everyone thought he was suffering from a mental break, but the psychologists couldn’t find anything wrong.” Rudolf looked around, trying to find something. “He started his cult to find that statuette and what secrets it hid. Tobin’s Spirit Guide is essentially a document of everything they found while finding that statuette.”

“… that is scary,” Adolf commented, “you’re thinking that what the mysterious statuette is at work with the statues here?”

“Pretty much,” Rudolf answered, “and given that our mysterious patient pushed herself almost to death to get here, it means some serious business to her…”

“Serious enough to die for?” Adolf asked politely.

“Yes,” Rudolf answered, “it has to be. Whatever machinations that are happening here, we’re probably right smack dab in the center of it all. That much I know.” That was when Rudolf touched something and caused a reaction. “… we better get back.” The two quickly raced back towards a nearby boulder, hiding behind it for protection. A series of lines started to appear between the two statues. The lines twist and turned in an ornate glyph-like language before the two statues moved, opening a door in the process.

To say it was a frightening sight would be like calling a nuclear device a really big bomb.

“Um, sir,” Rudolf started, “you better tell HQ that we really need that Wolfenstein team. We’ve got what looks like a Black 12C on our hands…” Adolf didn’t need to be told twice...
 
Chapter 6: Context of the Unknown

Aaron Fox

SB's Minor Junker Descendant and Hunter of Nazis
Author
Ladies and gents, I'm telling this chapter that it is finished because it is almost 12k words long. Almost 12k words in length.

That would bring readability issues, to say the least as it really skirts the line.

(___________________________)
Chapter 6: Context of the Unknown
Never interrupt an enemy while he is making a mistake. -Commonly attributed to Napoleon Bonaparte since 1836​

Artyom, Russia – Gate Earth; September 30th, 2017 – 04:30 Hours Local Time
Captain Nikolai Malashenko frowned as he walked through the town of Artyom. To see the people so depressed and so downtrodden… so hooked on narcotics and drink that they would throw their lives away to end it all… to see families destroyed

It was too much for him to bear. He and his comrades have been trying to give many people here the one thing they truly needed: hope. Hope for a future. Hope for family. Hope to live. It is without that hope that humanity’s life is short and brutal. It is hope that governments create to make people’s lives mean something.

… yet, here, they assume that there is no hope. A situation that the Union will change.

“Sir?” Nikolai’s second in command -one Korneyev Yaroslav Vladimirovich, Slava to his friends- asked as he jogged towards Nikolai, “What’s wrong?” Nikolai simply looked around with sadness miring his face.

Everything,” Nikolai answered in a distasteful tone, “Everything and then some.” Nikolai looked at a family whose vehicle just broken down. “Our glorious Premier’s counterpart here has drained all the people’s hope. Made them effectively lose their will to live.” That was when Nikolai directed Vladimirovich to look at the family. “Slava, call in my command vehicle and have them report to my position as soon as they’re able…”

“Understood captain!” Yaroslav answered, “This is Yaroslav, captain wants his BTR-90K to our position immediately!” Yaroslav heard complaints on the other end of the radio. “I don’t fucking care if your orders are to say at camp! If Nikolai wants to help civilians, not even men like Lenin or divines like God can stop him!” Yaroslav heard even more complaints about operational security when the conversation was interrupted.

“This is Sokol One,” Nikolai’s CO stated over the radio, “What is the problem here?”

“Sorry Colonel Orlovsky,” Yaroslav apologized, “Captain Malashenko has asked me to get his command vehicle to help out some civilians whose car broke down. The lieutenant has been arguing about operational security and orders…” Orlovsky coughed to silence everyone on the line.

“This is Sokol One, I’m giving permission for Malashenko to use his vehicle to help civilians. However, I do not want to hear that arguments about operational security and helping the civilians happening on any channel,” Colonel Orlovsky ordered, “We have been given permission to help the civilians any way we can by our Premier. I do not want to hear that an argument like this happens again. Sokol One out.”

“This Dimitri, we’re on our way. ETA: three minutes.”


“Thank you, Colonel,” Yaroslav complimented, “We’ll try to help the civilians as much as we can. Sokol Six-One, out.” That was when Yaroslav ran up to Nikolai. “Captain, our command vehicle will arrive in three minutes.”

“Understood Slava,” Nikolai thanked before he turned to the civilians, “Don’t worry, we’ll get you home in a few minutes.” Nikolai frowned at the fear that the small family of four were showing, especially the two children. “Why are you so afraid little ones?”

“Why are you helping us?” the youngest said. That question wounded Nikolai… had the alternate version of their Premier turned everyone so cynical to the point that they assume that a genuinely helpful hand is to gain a favor of some kind?

“Because little ones,” Nikolai answered with a smile, “it is the right thing to do.” The family’s faces didn’t change much. “You know, you remind me of my first born, Polya. Whenever she was sad or angry she would be so cynical of things… but when she is happy, she could brighten up the entire room with just her beautiful smile…”

The conversation that the two soldiers and the family had gone on for three minutes, and within those three minutes everyone got to know each other. Yaroslav and Nikolai told stories of their lives both at home and abroad as part of his world’s UN Peacekeeper Corps while the family told them of what few happy memories that they had. That was when the BTR-90K rolled up.

“Captain!” the driver, Dimitri, exclaimed in joy, “Telling these civies about home?”

“Da, lieutenant,” Nikolai answered with a hearty laugh, “I see that you’ve got the car retrieval kit too!” The back of the BTR-90K had a hitch for the various cars in the Soviet arsenal.

“I thought it might be prudent that we do more than simply get them home Captain,” Dimitri answered, “We’ve also got Boris on board too!” Nikolai’s eyes widened a bit, Boris is one of the best mechanics in Nikolai’s unit. If he can’t find the problem, then practically no one can.

“That is taking the initiative Dimitri!” Nikolai chuckled, “Now let’s get these civilians and their vehicle home and see why their vehicle broke down.” Most of the reduced crew of the BTR-90 quickly jumped out and started getting everything ready as Yaroslav and Nikolai got the civilians aboard the BTR. That was when the hairs on the back of Nikolai’s neck started to stand up.

“Captain?” Yaroslav asked inquisitively.

“We better keep our wits about Slava,” Nikolai ordered, “I’ve got a feeling that we’ve wrangled ourselves into something.” Nikolai frowned as he looked around the street. “It might be nothing, but we better prepare if it isn’t. Get Lydia to arm the cannon, coax, and grenade launcher just in case.”

“Understood Captain,” Yaroslav stated in understanding as he entered the BTR.

“Is the vehicle ready?” Nikolai asked politely.

“Yes, captain!” Boris answered, “We’re ready to move at any time!”

Nikolai smiled, “Good, let’s get these civilians home.” Everyone acknowledged and entered the BTR…

A few minutes later, in the residential block of Artyom
“Nice little apartment,” Nikolai commented as he helped the family move what few groceries into their apartment, “Reminds me of my great uncle’s when he was still alive.”

“It might not be much, but it is home,” the father -a former intelligence archivist by the name of Andreyushkin Nikodim Mikhailovich- answered as he put the groceries down on the kitchen counter, “I inherited it from my father, god bless his soul, and we’ve managed.” Everything has been going quite smoothly, and the family had opened up on the way to their apartment, telling their own stories about their lives.

“That’s good,” Nikolai complemented, “Family is one of the few things that hope brings, in my experience.” Nikolai’s face was soon mired in a frown. “I remember when my grandfather Alexandr died. He had only seen my firstborn for the first time only the day before… and simply collapsed at the family home in Moscow. We discovered that he died happy, as he got to see little Polya and held her in his arms. He left my little brother Urvan with the family home while I inherited the family cabin outside of Vladivostok…” That was when they both heard gunfire. “What is happening?”

“Looks like this world’s Spetznaz!” was the reply over the radio, “Probable target is likely the family we’ve just helped.”

Nikodim cursed loudly as he opened a panel in the nearby wall. “I knew that Putin wouldn’t let me live,” Nikodim cursed as he loaded one of the AK-74u carbines he hid in the hidden gun rack and passed it to Nikolai, “I left the service to be with my family and he allowed me after doing one final mission, looks like he’s making sure that there are no loose ends.”

“Oh, you’ve got to be fucking kidding me,” Nikolai complained as he readied his AK-74u, “The more I hear about your Vladimir Putin, the more I want him dead.” Nikolai quickly got to his radio. “Sokol 1, this is Sokol 6-1: we’re being attacked by enemy Spetznaz, we need support over!”

“This is Sokol 1, say again.”

“Sokol 6-1 to Sokol 1: we’re being attacked by enemy Spetznaz. Probable target is the civilians we’ve helped. Need immediate backup!” Nikolai practically screamed into his radio as a few bullets whizzed by, “Make that confirmed target being the civilians we’ve helped!”

“Understood Sokol 6-1. Reinforcements are on the way. Lieutenant Romanov will be arriving shortly with his airborne infantry.”

“Thank god!” Nikolai praised in relief, “It’s dependable Romanov coming to save us!” Nikolai had worked with Lieutenant Demian Romanov before, worked hard and played harder. Known to be incredibly efficient while prepared for the worst-case scenario. “Just hope that physics will allow him to do so…”

----------

“Oh, you’ve got to be kidding me!” Han Bo cursed as he and his three-man group of guards and assistants grabbed their combat gear, “How did they find out about us I’ll never know…” Han Bo was assigned by his superior to ‘test the waters’ with one of Putin’s special intelligence archivists. All he had to do was set things up for his escape into China and then sent to America where a joint US-Chinese debriefing would take place. Yet Putin’s personal attack dogs within the Spetznaz have now started to attack the building they’re in.

“Sir, those unknown communists are opening fire,” one of the bodyguards said, “What should we do?” Han Bo frowned, knowing that this is a delicate situation. Orders were to not reveal themselves to the unknown communists, but on the other hand the Spetznaz have already moved in for the kill on their VIP and his family…

“We’ll help them,” Han Bo ordered, “If we stay quiet, we might get caught in the crossfire or lose our only chance to get into the full extent of Operation Deep Fifty. We need that information, and we can’t get it from a body bag.” The bodyguards were pensive, as their superior is right. You couldn’t get information from a body bag… and this had been the most solid lead on Operation Deep Fifty that they had. A dozen operatives and their associates had died to get what little information the rest of the world had on the intelligence operation.

“Understood sir,” Huang Shuyi answered as she loaded her QCW-05 SMG, “what unit of Spetznaz are we dealing with and plan accordingly.” The other two bodyguards looked at her like she was slightly unhinged, given how clam she was… but then again, she was assigned to this mission because of her talents and is a rising star within the Ministry of State Security as one of the few who always got the VIP(s) back safely.

“We’re probably dealing with those from Directorate V,” the third bodyguard -a man by the name of Cai Zhihao– answered, “… and that means we’re going to have a nasty fight on our hands… and our weapons aren’t going to cut it.” Huang Shuyi frowned at that information.

“Bring everything,” Han Bo ordered, “We’re likely going to have one shot and one shot only to see what Putin had in store for the world, and this man is the key.” Everyone understood what Han Bo was telling them. Whatever this Operation Deep Fifty is, it is so important that Putin would remove anyone that knows about it, even fragments, from existence. Andreyushkin Nikodim Mikhailovich is the key to understanding it all.

The rest of the impromptu squad quickly loaded everything they could and carefully self-destructed what they couldn’t… then burst into combat.
----------
“Chinese Second Division!” Nikolai heard over the symphony of gunfire, “Friendly! Friendly!”

Nikolai cursed his luck, he is now dealing with spooks, and not just any spooks but Chinese spooks. If they were anything like their counterparts back home, they’ll be pretty damn impressive. To have them reveal themselves like this meant that Nikodim is far more important than initially believed.

“Alright, just get over here and help us!” Nikolai ordered as the four spooks ran towards Nikodim’s apartment as an explosion sounded across the street, “Romanov, where are you!?! They’ve just disabled my command vehicle!” Whatever these Spetznaz were carrying only damaged the drive train of the BTR-90K… but that meant that they’ve got heavy weaponry and what Nikolai had can’t stand up to heavy weaponry for long.

“Pilot, I don’t care if you have to push the engines beyond the red line, just get us there!” Romanov ordered the pilot on the radio, “I know that’s breaking protocol but if we don’t then we might not have anyone to save!” Nikolai sighed a little at the conversation, knowing about Romanov’s willingness to break protocol to save people. “Nikolai, ETA is currently sixty seconds! Just hang on a little longer.”

Nikolai winced as a bullet barely missed his helmeted head. “We’ll try to hold out Romanov!” Nikolai exclaimed through the radio, “But whomever these guys are, they’re fucking determined!”

“Understood Nikolai,” Romanov replied, “We’ll make every attempt to get there as soon as we’re able.” Nikolai sighed as bullets flew around… knowing full well that this would be the longest sixty seconds that he would ever witness.

Nikolai cursed as he checked the magazine of his local AK, only five bullets left… and there were only five magazines between Nikolai and Nikodim, and Nikolai’s crew weren’t in much better shape either. As even AK-07s had their limits.

That was when Nikolai heard the humming of a Hind, and the door opening… and what came out surprised Nikolai half to death: Cyber Spetznaz. Four of them jumped from the Hind, fully armed and ready and literally landing either next to or right on top of the enemy Spetznaz. The rest of the squad parkoured their way down, firing as they went.

There is a common theme to what happens when soldiers with high cyberization fought against those with low or nill cyberization, and that is a massacre. Reaction time is god -or at least one of them- in combat, and the ability to fine tune one’s reaction time to the situation is an invaluable asset. Add in the support of the Hind, and pretty much no one -other than Big Boss, The Boss, or the rising star that is the ‘Junker Boss’, but all three are extreme outliers- will keep fighting. Either they die, surrender, or retreat. In this case? The few that survived managed to retreat, most likely going to tell of their failure and the cause of that failure.

“Damn,” what appeared to be the leader of the Chinese spooks said, “Those guys really cleaned up those Division V Spetznaz rather well. I’m Han Bo, the leader of the local intelligence cell for the People’s Republic of China’s Second Division.” Nikolai sighed a sigh of relief. “We were here to persuade Nikodim to help us in answering a few things and help smuggle him out before Putin decides to tie up loose ends…”

“Thanks for the assist, Han Bo,” Nikolai responded suspiciously, he knew that most spooks would have cover names to reduce retaliation by terrorist organizations or to protect the soldiers themselves, “We were just helping Mr. Andreyushkin getting his family home and getting the groceries in. The… wait, did you say Division Vympel?” Han Bo looked at Nikolai in confusion. “As in internal security?” Han Bo simply nodded yes… causing Nikolai to mutter a rather colorful string of curses. “How far does is this madman willing to go?”

“From what little we’ve seen, he’s of the school of ‘tying up loose ends by any available means’ ever since his failed Active Measures program in the US and Europe,” Han Bo answered, “Various agents and associates have been turning up dead for the last year with various levels of collateral.” Nikolai seethed in rage, good agents and associates are hard to find and cultivate… and to simply kill them because a program went sour is wasteful at best. Add to that this Putin wouldn’t care who got caught in the crossfire… Nikolai quickly got his rage under control as the Hind landed nearby just as two light attack helicopters flew overhead.

“Nikolai, I leave you for an hour and your luck has you fighting Spetznaz,” Romanov laughed as he exited the Hind, “The Cybers have gone out to ensure that the perimeter is secured… and I see that you had a fight on your hands.” Romanov saw the disabled BTR-90K, its transmission and power plant damaged beyond repair but otherwise still capable. “You were lucky that I was on perimeter patrol when you called in. Anyone else wouldn’t be able to arrive in time.”

“Thank you, Romanov,” Nikolai cried in elation, “We were almost ready to start throwing rocks at the bastards!” Then Nikolai saw one of his comrades come out of the apartment with the family. “Get Mr. Andreyushkin and his family to base… if Putin wants them dead, we better get them out of the line of fire.” Nikolai’s subordinates quickly got the family into the Hind alongside the wounded. “Romanov, this is Han Bo and his team, they’re from the local Chinese intelligence service. We would have died before you arrived if it weren’t for them.” Romanov quickly shook Han Bo’s hand.

“Ah, thanks for saving Nikolai, Han Bo,” Romanov chuckled, “It’s been considered a running gag that Nikolai here has some of the schizophrenic luck in the entire military. Now, why are you even here?” Romanov’s visage turned grim as he asked the question, sending a few shivers down the Chinese agents’ spines.

“Well,” Han Bo replied, “We’ve been getting intelligence about a project called ‘Operation Deep Fifty’, and despite our best efforts the various agencies haven’t had any luck on finding its contents, Mr. Andreyushkin is the biggest lead on the project.” Nikolai and Romanov looked at each other like it just has gotten worse

“Nikodim! Get whatever information you’ve stashed during your time as an archivist! The GRU and these fellows from the Second Division would like to know what you’ve got on Putin,” Nikolai asked politely.

“I was about to do that,” Nikodim answered as he went into his apartment, then came out hauling hard drives and memory sticks.

“Alright then,” Romanov yawned, “Alfa team, we’re taking a VIP and his family back to base, search and destroy any and all enemy Spetznaz in the area to ensure safe transport.”

“Understood Lieutenant!”

“This is so going to cause a headache when we get back to base…” Romanov complained as he got the rest of Nikolai’s crew and the local Chinese intelligence operatives into the Hind…

Over Sadera, Zeppelin Vaterland IV LZ-420 – 800 meters above sea level; October 1st, 2017 – 06:30 Hours
Kapitän Abraham Einhorn looked before him in the command gondola at the sight he and his crew are now witnessing. The capital of the Holy Empire of Alnus -Sadera- now stood below them. A city of millions bustling about as the zeppelin came overhead, not knowing that an amazing sight would be coming overhead.

The Zeppelin Vaterland IV had been transferred from long-range cargo and passenger service to the land beyond the Portal -which has been identified as Falmart- for a special mission: to make contact with Equestria and its allies. Apparently -and this had been confirmed by Wolfenstein operatives stationed in Fort Portal- one of Equestria’s rulers can communicate to others via dreams… and that has been something of a godsend for the Iron Pact as there are still a fair number of enslaved individuals still unaccounted for. Apparently due to their hardiness they were going to be sent to the Empire’s colony off their continent before a storm mysteriously caused the ship to run aground near one of their major cities.

The surviving slavers were quickly imprisoned and sent to do hard labor for at least a decade… and the enslaved Iron Pact citizens were sent to a place called ‘Ponyville’. The less said about those slavers, the better.

“We’re now above the outskirts of the city of Sadera Kapitän,” Abraham’s XO -one George Wilhelm Wickler- stated. So far, the Vaterland IV had been cruising rather well, and it was at the perfect altitude to make an old fashioned ‘Zeppelin Spectacle’… without the dragon riders trying to wreck the majesty that is a Zeppelin.

“Very good,” Abraham responded with a smile, “Steady as he goes then.” The command gondola crew responded with ‘jawohl’ as they continued their duties.

“So… this is what flying in a zeppelin feels like,” the Equestrian Pegasus Comet Tail said in awe as he entered the gondola, “I’ve seen and flew in hot air balloons, but this is something else.” Abraham mentally chuckled, as this sort of reaction is common for those who haven’t ridden or seen a zeppelin before. “Then there was that march that was playing while we were lifting off… and despite that it was a march it was so whimsical and genuinely felt like you were flying in the clouds. Few pieces of music can achieve that feeling…” Thankfully Comet Tail is an expert navigator -despite having training with equipment that is, at best, early industrial- and has been rather helpful with plotting a course to Equestria.

“I understand,” Abraham laughed, “as far as I know, everyone has that sort of feeling when flying in a zeppelin. The feeling has been studied by psychologists the world over and we still don’t know precisely why that feeling is so prevalent.” Abraham then looked towards George. “Any military response to the spectacle?”

“None so far, and from what the observation gondolas have been seeing, it looks like everyone is dropping what they’re doing and coming to see the spectacle,” George answered, “I think they’re too shocked to make a military response…”

-----
Piña Co Lada frowned at her current situation. Her father has been more focused on petty politics than defending the nation, her brother Diablo is trying to create some grand plan with practically no information to go on, and Zorzal has been on a sex-spree while the Empire is at its darkest hour. Her current situation? Waiting for the remaining elements of her Rose Knights to come to the capital so she can move out and start getting information of these new and powerful foes themselves, and not through Piña’s somewhat shaky network of informants and spies. She could never match the network that her grandfather -Emperor Aulus Antistius Iulianus- or -to a lesser extent- the old information network of her father… but right now it is needed despite its frailty and unreliability.

“Princess Piña!” Hamilton Uno Ror – Piña’s trusted aide, and despite her small stature a rather good fighter- exclaimed, “The runner from Lady Beefeater’s Cohort has given us more information on the border between the rest of the Empire and the Holy Hills…”

“Please tell me we have some good news for a change Hamilton?” Piña asked with a scowl on her face, “The last few runners only gave us bad or worse news.” Piña’s informants within the legions were troubling to say the least. So far, the enemy has been holding up on their respective hills while sending raiders of immense power to annihilate entire garrison castra with such ease and surprise that only a handful of legionaries or auxiliaries got out alive.

“Just more bad news I’m afraid,” Hamilton answered, “The Empire lost another castra on the border sometime last week. The runner had taken the canals to get here within a week.” Piña sighed at the information and took a needle with a colored wax rear tip and put it on her special copy of the map of the continent that she had on the adjoining wall. The red-tipped needles were placed on locations of destroyed castra, the blue-tipped needles where the two invading forces were spotted, and the yellow-tipped needles were rumor, but the runners couldn’t confirm what actually happened.

“DAMN IT!” Piña cursed loudly as she pounded the table, tin figurines falling over, “How can these invaders be able to do this?” Piña rattled her brain as she tried to figure it out. “This doesn’t make sense!” She quickly battered the desire to start pulling hairs out as she looked at the situation that is being presented to her.

“Lady Co Lada…” Hamilton spoke up, “the runner that came in has information on the how. We’ve finally got a survivor that is able to tell us what happened to the castra.” Piña was elated to say the least, as the invaders had always struck so hard and fast that there wasn’t much to go on. “From what the survivor can tell us, they always struck at night, came in like ghosts barely visible to sight, used some sort of magic to destroy the castra’s large towers, and that was before the metal dragons started flying in, annihilating everything with great explosive and fire magics unlike anything the world has ever seen outside the Solar Invictus! Most of those who survived were quickly eliminated by these ‘ghost soldiers’ before they vanished without a trace.” Piña’s heart sank as she heard Hamilton summarize the information. That… was bad. The ability to destroy castra with impunity is rare in of itself, only the Diarchs of the Kingdom of Equestria are the only obvious ones with that ability, given that they’re gods… but to have it done so regularly… the implications are disturbing to say the least.

That was when Piña heard a commotion going outside, and looking away from her maps, she saw people exiting their homes and places of work and looking into the sky.

Piña quickly exited her study and looked into the sky herself and saw something that she couldn’t comprehend. The shape in the sky was a shape that shared many similarities to an Unician cigar, but in a near-white grey. It was flying higher than any dragon rider was willing to go, at least any sane one. It was also massive… so massive that it made certain, implications on at least one of the invaders’ abilities.

“Hamilton,” Piña commanded, “we need your best runners, our new rallying point would be the Citadel City of Italica.” She continued to look into the sky in fear. “I fear that’ll be where the invaders will be hitting next…”

“I understand my lady,” Hamilton answered, “I’ll send my best messengers on this task.” Hamilton quickly left, working on the messages as quickly as she could without garbling the messages…

Fort Portal, Primary Entertainment Center; October 1st, 2017 – 12:40 Hours
Azibal and her contubernium had been in muted awe when Centurion Neumann had gotten them into what the legionaries of the Iron Pact called the ‘Primary Entertainment Center’. Inside, the building had what is called a ‘movie theater’ (which is similar to theaters that she and her contubernium are familiar with, just with moving pictures instead of people), a ‘computer center’ (which confused the netherworld out of Azibal and her contubernium), a ‘gymnasium’ that included what is called an ‘Olympic sized pool’, and things that Azibal and her contubernium didn’t know even existed. Yet, the most awe-inspiring part was when they were introduced to the campus’s library.

For what amounts to be a frontier castra, the library here is only surpassed by the ones in the larger cities, the capital, or Rondel.

Azibal and her contubernium had been learning the various languages of that the legionaries of the ‘Iron Pact’, and now they were going to use it to research the Iron Pact itself. What they didn’t count on was the fact that there was just so many books available to them right off the bat… and that they used a classification system that somewhat baffled them. However, that didn’t deter them, and after getting a ‘crash course in the Dewey Decimal System’ the contubernium got to work reading. Learning. Studying.

Adonyah was nose deep in a book with the title The Analysis of Sun Tzu’s Art of War with the titular ancient treatise nearby, writing notes what the nations of the Iron Pact have learned through their analysis of the ancient treatise as well as the ancient treatise itself.

Then there was Sisa and she was nose deep in another treatise, this time simply titled On War by one ‘Carl von Clausewitz’. The few legionaries that helped Azibal and her contubernium in finding the treatise and the books on its analysis called the book ‘the Western Art of War’.

Shiba and Jesibel were reading stacks upon stacks of history books, thousands upon thousands of pages of history laid out before the two, going through the history of pre-written history to what the Iron Pact considered the present. Histories of conflicts and empires laid before them… and was a lot to read and analyze.

Adoniah was looking through various books on what is called ‘science’ within the Iron Pact. While most of them were introductions to the various fields of ‘science’, they were none the less vital to explain their capabilities. … and what Adoniah had shared with Azibal was mind-bogglingly through, even more through than the immense tomes that the various Grand-Mages of Rondel had created and shared with the world.

The final duo -Nikkal and Adonya- of the contubernium were looking over the various myths and what the legionaries called ‘fiction’, which is mind-bogglingly extensive, to say the least. Yes, the Empire and its vassals are capable of doing such feats but that is mostly seen in the field of theater, not writing… but then again, not even the Empire could produce so many books. The sheer resources needed to do so would be immense

Azibal slumped as she watched several legionaries from the Iron Pact working or playing on their ‘laptops’. Azibal had already did a lot of work on consolidating and analyzing what the rest of contubernium had but so far only those more knowledgeable in various aspects can make any sort of sense about them.

… and what little she could understand is a little frightening and oddly enough humbling.

The Empire invaded one of the most powerful nations within the ‘Iron Pact’ known as Germany -also called the ‘Second German Empire’ and Imperial Germany- and its early history is incredibly similar to those of the tribe of the Warrior Bunnies. Started out as a bunch of fiefdoms, tribes, kingdoms, and micro-empires that eventually were part of something like the Holy Empire of Alnus, but with similar levels of factionalism to the Warrior Bunnies. In addition to military endeavors, the various German States also engaged in untold amounts of competitions in economic, cultural, and scientific fields, unintentionally (or intentionally, Azibal figured) creating the bedrock for a unified German culture.

Yet the Empire invaded their capital when they thought it was ripe for conquest… who then called upon all its allies while simultaneously crushing the invaders. The Empire didn’t step on the griffon’s tail, it has woken a nesting Great Dragon from its slumber. That must be sent back to the Empire as soon as possible, likely to Princess Piña. The only real place where Azibal could get it to Piña would be her uncle’s daughter, Myui Formal in Italica. If the forces that now reside on Alnus hill are anything like the ‘Iron Pact’…

Azibal shuddered as she tried to keep her thoughts about it from going crazy and outright Ragnarök-ish. No need to go down that line of thought… would be rather counterproductive for her mission.

still… it would be a fitting end to the Empire if their gods would allow it…

Azibal shook her head again, trying to keep those thoughts from popping up again. While the empire had done horrible things to practically everyone, they’re practically the only group who doesn’t want constant warfare erupting practically every other month.

“… Azibal,” Nikkal said as she pushed Azibal’s shoulder, “are you listening to me?” Azibal shook herself out of her mental stupor and looked at Nikkal.

“Sorry,” Azibal apologized, “you’ve kind of got me deep in thought. What little I could understand is… overwhelming to say the least.” Azibal scratched her head. “So, what has got you all flustered Nikkal?”

Well, Azibal,” Nikkal answered, “I’ve been going through what they call ‘fantasy’ and ‘mythology’… and… well… it has to be seen to be believed.” Nikkal plopped an absolutely thick book right in front of her. “They practically have every species that we know of on Falmart and Equis as creatures of myth… with some that we have only heard from rumor or gained from Imperial raids from the south and the east.” Pictures of creatures that the Empire had only gained through the slave markets of the free cities near the Sultanate of Agrabah were shown, as well as creatures that were only known through rumor from those cities. The Sultanate of Agrabah had always been a major thorn in the Empire’s backside, as it controls the trade routes to the extremely rich Qin Empire in the southeast. “This… shouldn’t be possible…” The more Azibal went through the book, the more confusion took hold. How could these people have rather accurate descriptions for numerous races when they never had them on their world in the first place?

“This… this is impossible,” Azibal muttered as she looked through the pages, “They don’t have magic and yet they have examples of every magical race we know of!” Azibal sighed in confusion before an idea popped into her head. “… Nikkal, remember the rumors about those Astro-projection experiments that the current Grand Magus of Magic was doing before he took the position?”

“Yeah,” Nikkal answered, “from what little I could understand from the rumors, he was trying to utilize mental and soul magic to ‘project’ his soul to another location. He discontinued the research because it caused him to ‘ride’ onto other people, which caused discomfort for everyone involved.” Then Nikkal went wide-eyed. “You mean…”

“Yes,” Azibal answered, “I think we’ll need to send a letter to the Grand Magus and maybe a copy of this book. Someone has been using his research improperly for their own gain.” Azibal frowned. “Piña is also the only child of the Emperor that the Grand Magus would even listen to… which would help us immensely if he already hasn’t assembled a team to look into who occupies two of the Holy Hills.”

Nikkal simply sighed at that. “A long night Azibal?” Nikkal asked.

“A very long night…” Azibal answered.

Castle of Friendship – Ponyville, Equestria; Brumaire (October) 2nd, 1005 Post-Nightmare Moon
Celestia Li Sunriser -Daughter of the Great Mother Faust; Goddess of the Sun, Law and Order, and Education; The Dealmaker; The Great Mentor; The Sun Incarnate; Sol Invictus; the Co-Conqueror of Discord; one of the two last students of Starswirl the Bearded; Co-Ruler of Equestria- simply sat at the head of the meeting table that the Castle of Friendship had created alongside her sister Luna -Second Daughter of the Great Mother Faust; Goddess of the Moon, Knowledge, Magic, and the Arts; The Starfallen; Army Destroyer; one of the two last students of Starswirl the Bearded; Co-Ruler of Equestria- in this important meeting. The Equis Pact hadn’t had a meeting like this in centuries, not since the rump-state that was the Caribou Empire had a revolution that transformed it into the Caribou Republic… but the situation in the Holy Empire of Alnus was something that had to be talked about and the aftereffects planned for. The meeting had already gone on for four hours, and most of it was getting what their nations’ respective intelligence networks have gained onto the table.

“So,” the Hissho delegate sighed, “the Sadalrians have finally had a serious lapse in judgment and thought that upsetting two great alliances without knowing what they are up against was a good idea. It is like their failures in the invasion of Equis didn’t sink in.” The Hissho delegate -one Tsutsui Cualli, heir to the Tsutsui clan and the Shogunate of Hissh- is probably one of the more direct delegates of the Pact… but the Hissho have always been direct when an enemy is involved.

“That’s what our spies that are attached to our traders have been telling us,” the representative of the Kingdom of Abyssinia disclosed, “the Holy Empire of Alnus has been losing on all fronts since the initial invasion into the two Gates. The two groups of ‘men in green’ have been not only annihilating any of the Sadalrian armies they’ve encountered but also been dedicating themselves with immense infrastructure projects and capturing key towns and cities. From what little information my network can give me, Aquincum is going to be overrun within months if this keeps up…” Capper Callista is the current crown prince of the Kingdom of Abyssinia… and the head of the kingdom’s intelligence services. This, understandably, had everyone in the room a bit unsettled by the prince, but it was in times like these that his network was undeniably useful. “… and that doesn’t include what the ‘Men in Green’ from Alnus Hill are doing. While they’ve been more conservative in their movements, what little data I can get indicates that they’ll be at the gates of Potentia in a similar timeframe.” Everyone in the room was shocked at the speed, and for good reason…

“They’re fast,” the Minitour Federation delegate -one Lazaros Kairis, representative of the Minitour state of Mooria- commented, “… too fast. Even our forces wouldn’t be able to go through the legions that quickly, not without burning through our armies and supplies at an unsustainable rate…” Everyone nodded in agreement with Lazaros’s comment, as the ‘men in green’ on the Holy Hills of Alnus have been pushing out from their beachheads at such a speed that simply boggled the mind, specifically how they managed to keep up with such a tempo without burning through men and material like fuel oil. Aquincum is one of the three vital port cities -being a major water transportation hub- within the Empire, taking one would greatly hinder the Empire’s ability to shift forces and resources. “Still, given what Princess Luna has given us from her… unique… information network, they’re ire is with the Empire, not us.”

“Still, we can’t simply assume that Lazaros,” the Griffon delegate -Elector-Count Griff graf Suntalon of the Kingdom of Griffonstone- argued, “They might come after us next. It took the Elector Council over a century to become part of this pact and it took even longer for the various duchies and kingdoms to unite against the Holy Storm Empire.” The history of the griffons was, to say, a bit complicated. Nestled in mountains and valleys on the border of the Holy Storm Empire -ruled by the Storm King- to the north-east, the former Cariboo Empire in the west, Equestria in the south, the Dragon Kingdoms to the east, and the mysterious Nagarus Sultanate to the north-west, the Griffon kingdoms and duchies were in the center of much conflict over the centuries. This created a deep sense of paranoia and militarism, something that even the unifier of the Griffon kingdoms -one King Glaucus of the Flock of Griffonstone- couldn’t degrade after the Griffon kingdoms’ fifth war with the Holy Storm Empire. “We know nothing about them; thus, we can’t trust them.”

Lazaros simply rolled his eyes at Griff’s extreme paranoia… but understood where he was coming from, as the Minitour Federation was south of the Cariboo Empire. It was thanks to the numerous alliances specifically designed to keep the Cariboo Empire out that morphed into the foundation of the Federation, but the individualistic streak of the various states was hard to overcome. “What other choice do we have Griff?” Lazaros asked, “I mean all of us weren’t happy with King Thorax taking over the Changeling Hive after he deposed Queen Chrysalis, hell we were all like you when the word came out!” Griff simply nodded as he remembered the heightened tensions between the Equis Pact and the Changelings. “Yet they’re now allies with all of us because we did one thing, gave them a chance.” King Thorax’s representative -his brother Pharynx- simply nodded in acceptance.

“… and that chance is why the Changelings have been prospering at all,” Pharynx commented, “yet we are in a situation where we can fall into the same problem as when my brother usurped Chrysalis. If we don’t give these ‘Men in Green’ a chance now, we probably never will, the Holy Empire of Alnus sought to that.” Everyone nodded in agreement -even begrudgingly- with Pharynx’s line of thought. The Holy Empire of Alnus had ‘poisoned the well’ when it came to other human civilizations on this world. Even the Sultanate of Agrabah -despite it’s rather progressive (when compared to the Holy Empire of Alnus) attitudes with the various beings that inhabit this world- wasn’t completely trusted by the various nations of the Equis Pact, all thanks to the Holy Empire of Alnus.

Tsutsui Cualli simply sighed at this argument, as it went in circles. The Hissho have always equated trust to blood, and many of the most stringent contracts were signed in it and breaking them would have dire consequences… even more dire than breaking a ‘Pinkie Promise’. It is this mentality about trust that has always caused problems with the other nations. If these ‘Men in Green’ are willing to shed blood to gain the trust of others, then they are worthy of being trusted in the eyes of the Hissho and their pantheon. That doesn’t mean that the Tsutsui clan is going to gamble on that particular aspect of Hissho culture, as for months the Tsutsui clan has been praying to the gods for insight on this matter, and so far they have been given the equivalent of a message stating that they’re in the middle of a council meeting.

“Enough!” Luna said in the in/famous Royal Canterlot Voice before going back to her regular voice, “This argument is simply going around in circles. So far those from the lands that the ‘Men in Green’ are from have made sure that they didn’t abuse our generosity and yet here we are arguing their trustworthiness!” Griff made a slight humph as he rolled his eyes while Princess Luna went on her rant. “There is such a thing as too much paranoia… and right now most of us are displaying it in full.” Cualli mentally smiled, as Luna made the point that he was going to make.

Griff simply sighed, rubbing his talons on his temple. “If there is anything that I agree with the Starfallen, it is the fact that so far these ‘people’ haven’t abused Equestrian generosity in the slightest… but it still doesn’t mean that I trust them,” Griff answered, “This meeting has been going on for too long, I motion that we have a recess before continuing on. We’re tired and hungry, and all this information has been flaying our nerves…” Griff wasn’t wrong about that. The information that everyone has put onto the table -both literally and metaphorically- has been gnawing at the nerves of everyone in the room.

“I second that motion,” Cualli stated, “It would also allow me to console with my pantheon, to see what they have for us.”

“I third the motion,” Pharynx said, “All this anxiety and fear has started to make me sick; we should have a lengthy recess to clear our minds and emotions before we can move on, they’re pretty high as it is.” Everyone else agreed as they couldn’t really argue against those observations. Celestia quickly called for a two-hour recess to clear minds, get dinner, and try to destress before the next round of talks…

Council of Colleges Inner Sanctum, Rondel; September 3rd, 6729

For all but the most accomplished of mages and spirit wielders, to be even standing in the inner sanctum of the Council of Colleges is the highest honor that one can have in their lifetime. Yet, for the small group of mages and spirit wielders, it didn’t feel like an honor. There have been a handful of times that the Council of Colleges had called in mages and spirit wielders during a time of war, and all of them were special missions. What the assembled didn’t know was that Grand Magus Tiberius Nasennius Calpurnianus knew that the war between the two groups of ‘Men in Green’ and the Empire was going incredibly poorly for the Empire, as their military might was so awe inspiring that they simply erased entire cohorts from existence.

Arpeggio El Lalena noted the people that came into the sanctum with her. All of them are either students of her old teacher Cato or the best of the best adventurers that gold can buy… and if the Council of Colleges is willing to pay extortionate amounts of gold to pay for all the adventurers, then it must be important. The council quickly stated that they should be seated while the attendants came with the small feast, for this meeting is going to be a long one.

That, in of itself, was somewhat unusual because time is a commodity that most that practitioners of magic didn’t have in abundance. It also meant that this is a serious matter, one that took precedence over the various experiments in understanding the universe and energy that is mana…

“I, along the others of the Council of Colleges, thank you for coming to your summons so quickly,” Tiberius began, “we of the Council know that all of you have lives and research that require your uttermost attention, but the current situation that the Empire finds itself in takes far greater precedence than your research and your lives.” Murmurs about what Tiberius was talking about were quietly sounding around the guest table as Tiberius continued. “The Holy Hills have been taken by two groups only known as the ‘Men in Green’, and the ‘Men in Green’ have been annihilating whatever Imperial and local legions that have stood in their way. So far they have been slowly encroaching Imperial lands in every conceivable direction… including the direction of Rondel.” That got everyone talking. If the Empire was slowly getting overwhelmed by these new enemies, then they might consider the semi-independent city-state of Rondel to be part of the Empire and give its citizens the same treatment.

“A quest and a question, tis all the same!” Councilor Galen started in his… unique… riddles, “For the answers we seek we must play a game! A Great Crisis, where wise men are fools and fools are wise men, to find the answers you seek you must seek the right questions. The art is in solving my riddle without being riddled!” Arpeggio simply sighed at Galen, she had been her student and assistant -in Galen’s mind, there is no real difference- for her first few years in Rondel and while it was annoying at first, he considered it something akin to training the mind. Given that being powerful and being an eccentric go in hand as a rule of thumb…

“So… Councilor,” Arpeggio started, “our quest is not just a quest, but a mission of information gathering. The current situation in the Empire is that the ‘wise’ leaders are acting like fools while the ‘foolish’ leaders are acting like wise leaders, which has caused a crisis within the Empire. The right questions will allow us to find the information we seek and make this entire quest easier… am I right?” Galen gave a kitsune-like smile in response, acknowledging that Arpeggio was pretty good on the denari.

“Leave it to a student of Cato solves an infamous Galen Riddle,” Gimbli Brúlinger -head of the famous Highlanders of Norduhn Guild- chuckled happily, “… and tell us why we all are getting quintuple hazard pay for the quest. You don’t know a single balrog shit about these ‘Men in Green’ and have asked for two teams of adventurers tailor made for information gathering and aggressive extraction for the job.” Gimbli is from the Dwarven Kingdom of Norduhn to the south of the Empire and is well known for his extensive time -for a dwarf- as an adventurer. It was this extensive -several centuries- time as an adventurer that made him extremely valuable, especially since he was the head of the Highlanders of Norduhn, which is famous as one of the top three guilds in all of Falmart. Their impeccable record spoke for itself, and their pricetag. “This is going to be fun, even if we succeed in navigating through to the boring route.” Everyone chuckled as he said that.

“I was an assistant for him for a few years, it sort of rubs off on you after a while,” Arpeggio commented, “If he wants to test your riddle prowess, you’ll find that what he just said is one of his simpler ones.” Everyone looked at Arpeggio like she grew a second head, given that the riddle they just heard was one of the odder -and thus harder- ones they’ve witnessed.

“While this line of questioning is going to give interesting tidbits for one of the persons we’re assigned to escort,” a female hobbit adventurer named Tavia Twofoot interrupted with a chuckle, “We’re here to discuss what our quest is going to be like. Our objectives, the locations of said objectives, so on and so forth.” Tavia Twofoot is the head of the Longfellow Guild, known to be very paranoid about the quests they take, and for good reason. The Longfellow Guild had garnered a reputation for attracting all sorts of illegal quests and dishing out retribution that is allowed by Imperial law. “I haven’t been one of the best adventurers on the continent by not knowing what my guild is getting into.”

Tiberius sighed. “We have been receiving news from both our informants and from reports from the legions that two forces have made a beachhead on two of the Holy Hills, Alnus and Remus. These ‘Men in Green’ have annihilated the armies of numerous vassal kingdoms and have slowly expanded from the hills, annihilating whatever forces that the Empire has in their wake,” Tiberius explained, “So far, they have been focusing only on military targets and limiting the damage to the towns and villages in their path. What we’ve been getting is… both intimidating and fear-inducing. Given that Rondel is the center of all magical learning in the Empire and one of the groups of ‘Men in Green’ have been reported heading in this direction…”

“You guys fear that they’ll start doing the same thing to Rondel and its inhabitants as the legions,” Tavia finished, “Given the reputation of Mages, that’s very long-term of you.” The Council tried to keep themselves from rolling their eyes overtly at that latter statement. “Believe me, what I’ve been hearing from the rumor grapevine is pretty harrowing from a defensive standpoint. The ‘Men in Green’ have basically been doing whatever they wanted, annihilating the legions with ease while not being seen. Their supposed magics are so powerful that they boggle the mind of every mage I’ve met, saying that it couldn’t be done.” Everyone simply nodded as they understood Tavia.

“It is,” Gimbli commented grumpily, “and it doesn’t sit well with me.” Then he thought for a moment. “However, if we can get your envoys to the ‘Men in Green’ and get them to understand that not all within the Empire shares its views, then we all win… and since our escort records speaks for themselves, it’ll be amusing injuries at most.” Everyone chuckled with that.

“Still,” Tavia commented, “we don’t know what these ‘Men in Green’ would be like. All we know is severely limited and only by what the Empire decides to tell us.” Tavia sighed. “That makes thinking ahead all but impossible.”

“Given that three soul stones have been thoroughly snuffed out,” a third councilor -Grand Magus Titus Sestius Solus, Keeper of the Soul Stones- commented in a mournful tone, “All within heartbeats of each other. All that is left of the stones is scattered sludge.” Each and every powerful mage in the Empire and within the various allied territories had been forced to partake in a special ritual designed to bond their very soul to a special crystal as a safety measure. If the stone ‘dies’, then that means the mage in question is dead and how the stone reacts upon ‘death’ gives an indication of how the mage died. If the stone is destroyed, then the mage it is bonded to dies. It was a specific and most capable solution to rogue mages after the terror of Plagueis the Mad and a handful of his copycats. The stones themselves were placed in a special vault, made of solid mithril and adamantium with similarly made doors, with special protections designed to ensure that no one can kill the strongest mages in one fell swoop. “Given their power and their abilities…”

“You’ve got to be kidding me…” Gimbli commented with a frown, knowing that everyone would know what that implied.

The conference continued onward on that somber note…

Outer Edge of Alnus Province; October 2nd, 6729
Arpeggio frowned as the wagon train had slowly made it across the great highway that crossed the province, noting the lack of destroyed wagons and skeletal remains of dead soldiers or civilians. Everyone else in the train noticed it too, which is incredibly unnerving to say the least. The team of adventurers and mages had been talking to the various refugees from the lands in and around Alnus Province, and the information provided was perplexing. The Imperial Legions had ordered the towns, villages, and small cities in and bordering Alnus Province to evacuate and leave no food or resources behind.

Yet, the Men in Green had penetrated further into the Empire in the half a year than was thought possible. That information was acquired via some of the refugees from the hamlet known as Coda. The two groups bumped into each other in the village and a fight almost ensued before the two centurions managed to calm things down. Then, even though they were citizens of their enemy, assisted the hamlet and the nearby fae elf hamlet to escape the wrath of a great fire dragon… which they later killed with minimal loss of life! The elves, with no place to go, went with one of the groups of Men in Green, the few refugees that didn’t have anywhere to go went with the second group… and the refugees that went with the second group of Men in Green included her old teacher Cato and her step-sister! What was her old mentor and sister thinking going with the invaders! Given how much Cato knows about the current politics of the Empire, they are probably being tortured for information if not…

That line of thought was shattered when a whirl-hum sound passed overhead.

“What in Hardy’s name is that?” Gimbli exclaimed as he looked above, trying to find whatever that passed above them. The others started looking around them as well, believing that the convoy would be under attack in short notice.

“I don’t know,” the gargoyle priestess Giji Brooke replied, “but whatever it was, I say we find somewhere to hide before it comes back again. For all we know, it might be the Men in Green’s version of air cavalry on recognoscere duties… but that assumes that the Men in Green have anything like Imperial doctrine.” Giji wasn’t wrong in assuming that the Men in Green don’t have anything like Imperial military doctrine. “Right now, we can’t assume anything...”

As the caravan went up the hill, they saw one of the now-abandoned towns that wasn’t so abandoned. The Men in Green had set up a castra of operations near the town, constructing what looked like a castra on one of the nearby hills with machines that the people within the convoy couldn’t believe despite seeing it in their own eyes. What looked like merchants and new townspeople walked on the paved streets, bringing the town to life. Near the town was a large facility similar to the various riverine docks in the Empire, just on a far larger scale… but instead of a riverboat, there was a giant metal monster and a long line of metal wagons -some of which were rather flat and had what clearly looked like building materials and more machines- being unloaded as the caravan came to the stop.

“… is everyone seeing what I’m seeing?” Tavia asked rhetorically, “Because I’m having trouble believing what I’m seeing…” Even Arpeggio had to agree with Tavia with that. The metal monster had been releasing steam, but on a far grander scale than anyone could imagine. The idea and principles for creating a method to move things with steam isn’t a new concept, the very idea is absolutely ancient compared to pretty much most of modern science and magic. The major problem with the concept was the fact that the materials required needed such strength and made in such quantities that it would be impossible to create despite the literal legions of alchemists trying their damnedest to do so. Yet these ‘Men in Green’ not only have such materials but managed to perfect that concept. Fascinating… if it wasn’t for the implications of such.

“I think we’ve got company!” the spirit wielder Butu cried, pointing towards what looked like two contuberiums of men running up the hill, “… and apparently they’re concerned about something!”

“Attention! Stop where you are!” one of the men ordered at the top of his lungs in Saldarian with a very heavy accent, “You’re in an occupied area! State your intentions!” That put everyone into a loop, as most forces would simply kill the entire caravan for trespassing unless led by a very humane commander, as many armies don’t have the time or resources to simply detain various caravans during a major campaign, especially one half as quick as these Men in Green are.

The entire caravan was on guard, already fearing the worst.

“I am Gimbli Brúlinger, and this is the caravan from Rondel, the City of Mages, that my compatriots are escorting,” Gimbli answered back politely, “We’ve been hired by this group of mages and spirit wielders to escort them in their quest to see the ‘Men in Green’, to verify the numerous rumors and tales.” The one that spoke looked a little puzzled, like he never heard of Rondel. “We seek the ‘Men in Green’ and… we have apparently stumbled upon you… so… take us to your leader?” Gimbli uncharacteristically muttered the question, not knowing the response. The man that spoke simply sighed, like he knew that Gimbli was uncharacteristically shy and it wasn’t the first time someone asked that.

“Ernsthaft, Noch eine Gruppe? Das ist jetzt schon die zweiundzwanzigste diesen Monat, wobei es neu ist das Magier unter ihnen sind.” the man said in his native language -which was… oddly straight forward yet poetic- before switching to Saldarian, “Aright, we’ll escort you to the base commander, follow us.” The man motioned the caravan to follow towards the town’s Curia Hall right next to the town’s forum…

Arverni Curia Hall, a short while later

The Curia Hall was abuzz of activity, various magistrates and other civil servants were doing their jobs, making sure that things went smoothly and thus ensuring order. Arpeggio looked at everything with a critical eye and what she was seeing was jaw dropping. Machines that made perfect copies of legal documentation -a small voice in her head going into panic mode due to the fact that transcriptions is her livelihood, as being an assistant can only do so much- for various regulations, various colored lines showing the way to direction to the various rooms, and so much more…

Everyone was surprised at the sheer number of scribes that the Men in Green employed. Each scribe was doing something to ensure that whatever bureaucracy they had was running smoothly. Not only that, they were coordinating with others through an unknown method. Sending legionaries to wherever they were needed. One word that was constantly repeated is ‘Sanitäter’, and what Arpeggio could garner from what little she heard was that these ‘Sanitäter’ were some sort of legion-doctors… and they were helping people around town!

An action that is incredibly weird to say the least. Arpeggio wondered if the Empire’s inability to even hurt these legionaries in combat has these ‘Sanitäter’ be used as trustworthy medical staff in the occupied territories?

That had to be asked later, when there is more time to get more context… right now the entire convoy was being led to forum-courtyard where all sorts of charts and desks and things that Arpeggio couldn’t understand were laid about as legionaries and scribes scuttled about, giving updates to what was happening in their area. The large table at the center had some sort of animated figurines moving across its surface, likely showing troop movements. That was incredibly rare in the Empire, and just as expensive, as it requires very special (and very expensive) crystals to even hope to make it work while you must have a special (and even more expensive) map for every campaign area.

At the head of the table was a woman in a slightly more ornate version of the clothing that the various legionaries were using. She had a lean build but had an aura of immense authority surrounding her. That was when she looked up and saw Arpeggio and her group.

“Ah, you must be the group of specials that was called in,” the woman said, “Corazón Santiago, Colonel of the United States Army and part of the forces of the Iron Pact.” She then took a quick glance at the table before continuing. “Sorry about that, we’ve been fighting Imperial troops that have taken to guerrilla tactics and bandits over the last week. You’ve kind of caught us at a bad time I’m afraid, as we’ve got reports of a major bandit group a few minutes ago.” Arpeggio was surprised, as it took quite some time -usually hours- to get information in the field of battle. Yet these invaders can get information within minutes and acted upon it just as fast.

“I’m Arpeggio El Lalena, alchemist and materials mage and former student of Cato El Altestan,” Arpeggio began, “and I’m part of a caravan seeking the ‘Men in Green’. We’ve chased rumors for months… and yet we simply stumble upon them this close to the borders of Alnus and Italica provinces… we figured that it would be a few more months before we would meet you.” Santiago simply sighed.

“That is interesting,” Santiago said politely, “understandable, but interesting. Sadly, you wouldn’t be able to go to the two forts yet.” Everyone from Arpeggio’s caravan was confused. “Health and safety reasons. We can’t allow a situation that could potentially cause an epidemic. In addition, all of you are going to need documentation for your passports.” Arpeggio’s caravan became dumbfounded on that.

“Why would we need documents?” Gimbli asked, “Given our mission and our abilities…”

“Those don’t matter,” Santiago frowned, “those documents will be the only thing between you and incarceration, especially right now.” Santiago then took a short gander at the table. “We’ve been getting far too many bandits for it to be simply ripple effects of demolishing the local forces…” Everyone in Arpeggio’s caravan knew what that meant; mercenaries, or more specifically mercenaries paid to be bandits.

“That…” Butu commented, “… would explain a lot, given that as we got closer to Alnus Province, we’ve been seeing more and more bandit activity, far more than what would realistically happen in a war where the Empire is losing.” Butu wasn’t wrong, to say the least.

“Alright then, what do we need to do to start?” Arpeggio asked. Santiago simply smiled…

Mountains North of the Holy Hill of Remus; Several Months after Being Overthrown

Former queen Chrysalis Pernout nor Jynrya heaved herself as she climbed over the ledge, slowly getting closer to her goal. The road here had been rough and filled with disappointment. Her initial takeover of Equestria to extract a significant fraction of Equestria’s pool of positive emotion energy and leave, all to keep the changelings from literally starving to death -thanks to Hardy’s poisoning the changelings- and help heal her true mother, the goddess Jynrya (with the former -and thoroughly dead- Queen Cicada being the surrogate). Her kidnapping of the Elements was one-part revenge and one part getting Faust to help her to heal the changelings and her true mother. Both failed. Hard.

Although, Chrysalis had to admit, Thorax would make a very good changeling king… being her incredibly intelligent and capable son.

That is why she risked her life -practically starving herself in the process- to get here. Everything she had done had failed. She was literally out of options and almost out of hope.

The only hope she has now is Crescent Wing, the ancient Chozo that is the custodian of this world. If anyone can help her now, it would be the incredibly wise and intelligent sentient bird.

Yet, she had spent so much energy in getting here, Chrysalis frowned as she walked towards the great statues that guarded the temple’s entrance when she heard… singing… several beings singing something that was alien to her ears

“Wenn wir erklimmen sonnige Höhen, Klettern dem Gipfelkranz zu!”

She had to admit; it was pleasant music despite its alien-ness.

“In unsern Herzen brennt eine Sehnsucht, Die lässt uns nimmer in Ruh.”

That was when she noticed that the singing was getting closer.

“Strahlende Berge, sonnige Höhen, Bergvagabunden sind wir!”

That was when Chrysalis noticed that she was incredibly lightheaded and cursed to herself, she probably had some unknown injury that she missed during the climb up to this remote location. It was then that Chrysalis fell to the ground, her body unable to keep up with the strain. She knew that she had a few more paces to the temple entrance but her body simply hit its limit in its current state. That was when she saw the beings that were singing coming around the corner…

“Hauptmann! Wir haben hier einen kritischen Fall! Holt SOFORT einen Sanitäter her und ruft den Med-Evac! Im Namen des Herrn ... VERDAMMT, hat sie den Anstieg etwa in diesem Zustand hinter sich gebracht?” a voice said in a language she couldn’t understand, the rest she couldn’t hear because Chrysalis was fading in and out of consciousness.

The one thing she noticed was the fact that they were helping her… a complete stranger to them and yet they were clearly more worried about her health than the possibility of her being an enemy. Unlike the legions of the Empire, they were dressed in colors that looked like some sort of camouflage with a helmet that was unlike anything she saw before. Who are these humans and… why are they here?
______________________
Prince Adolf of the House of Wittelsbach always hiked with a smile alongside his squad, but what he was seeing before him wiped the smile off his face completely, replacing it with a worried look on his face. Right here was an unknown being that is clearly pushing herself (a possibility, given the features it possessed) to the point of death. Thankfully the Sanitäter had been prompt in getting her onto a stretcher and trying to keep her from passing out. He had already called in a medevac, and all he can do now is investigate the area and wait for the heli-ambulance. She would probably be dead if they had to get one from Fort Portal, but by sheer luck one was already out in a valley two dozen kilometers north of this mountain plateau.

That was when he saw something that wasn’t there the last time anyone patrolled the mountain trail.

“Um, is it me or am I seeing a Black 12?” Adolf asked one of his subordinates as he looked towards the mountain, seeing two statues that weren’t there yesterday, “Because it damn looks like it.” The ‘Black’ code is a series of coded messages developed by Wolfenstein and disseminated to the military; they were there to ensure that few people knew what any squad had discovered and reduce the potential of someone stumbling upon it and killing themselves through something unknown or unexpected. Enough people die to a psi-memory already, and anything worthy to get a ‘Black Number’ attached to it can make the worst psi-memories look like a picnic in comparison.

“… you’ve got to be kidding me,” Rudolf Himmler answered back, “it is a Black 12. You better get HQ on the horn and tell them to send a Wolfenstein investigation team in ASAP.” That was when Rudolf walked towards the statues in question. “If I had to guess, these statues are guarding something.”

“Going off your grandfather’s fascination of the occult again?” Adolf asked as he sent the flash message, “If I didn’t know you so well, I would have thought that you believed in that stuff.” One of the sad things about the Himmler family was the fact that their name became synonymous with the occult. Heinrich Himmler, reeling from the death of his godfather Prince Heinrich and later the Great War of Resistance, joined an occult group a year after the end of the Great War of Resistance… the same cult he would later torture a few centimeters from death after they started spouting about killing the Jews. Heinrich would later start his own cult after his release, while he was climbing the ranks of the Federal Police.

“Given how much he liked to rattle on about how he became the man he was?” Rudolf answered, “He might have a point with some of his stories. He always told me and my siblings about the time a statuette in the guise of the Virgin Mary that only he could see appeared in his prison cell when he was jailed for mass torture. It was always watching him, pushing him to find his real self. Everyone thought he was suffering from a mental break, but the psychologists couldn’t find anything wrong.” Rudolf looked around, trying to find something. “He started his cult to find that statuette and what secrets it hid. Tobin’s Spirit Guide is essentially a document of everything they found while finding that statuette.”

“… that is scary,” Adolf commented, “you’re thinking that what the mysterious statuette is at work with the statues here?”

“Pretty much,” Rudolf answered, “and given that our mysterious patient pushed herself almost to death to get here, it means some serious business to her…”

“Serious enough to die for?” Adolf asked politely.

“Yes,” Rudolf answered, “it has to be. Whatever machinations that are happening here, we’re probably right smack dab in the center of it all. That much I know.” That was when Rudolf touched something and caused a reaction. “… we better get back.” The two quickly raced back towards a nearby boulder, hiding behind it for protection. A series of lines started to appear between the two statues. The lines twist and turned in an ornate glyph-like language before the two statues moved, opening a door in the process.

To say it was a frightening sight would be like calling a nuclear device a really big bomb.

“Um, sir,” Rudolf started, “you better tell HQ that we really need that Wolfenstein team. We’ve got what looks like a Black 12C on our hands…” Adolf didn’t need to be told twice…
 

Aaron Fox

SB's Minor Junker Descendant and Hunter of Nazis
Author
Alright, everyone, how is this chapter for you guys? I know I tried to keep it within 10k but... well... there was a lot in the chapter that had to be in there or people would get confused.

Still, I am open to creative criticism, and I'm writing the next chapter as we speak. Some of my plans include a zeppelin landing near Canterlot, some Wolfenstein shenanigans, an 'Elsewhere' episode focusing on GATE!Putin, Arpeggio and her caravan riding a train to the Holy Hills, and the military being forced by their constituents to get more forces to Falmart while other nations wanting a foot in the door...
 

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