War Stories

Started by Onyx Quill, 2017 Nov 28, 13:52:12

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Onyx Quill

2017 Nov 28, 13:52:12 Last Edit: 2017 Nov 30, 11:19:44 by Onyx Quill
 First, basic rundown of the Great War and its causes. This plays into the background of Onyx Quill, and several of my other OCs. Feel free to make suggestions in the OOC topic.

    Very basic premise: When ponies left the frozen wastes of the Old World, not all of them left. Many stayed behind and drove the Windigos away by alternate means. They started to rebuild, but still didn't get along. Basically, they were Europe for most of its history. Fighting lots of wars and in general not liking each other. Eventually, they formed countries that combined members of all three tribes. They still didn't like each other, even if it was country vs country instead of race vs race.

    Different names from our world, but still 12 of them.

    January- New Dawn
    February- Heart's Bounty
    March- Renewal
    April- Rain's Journey
    May- Summer's Eve
    June- Sun Solstice
    July- Sun's Fire
    August- Harvest Time
    September- Leaves' Fall
    October- Darkmoon
    November- Winter's Eve
    December- Snowfall

    The Old World calendar uses the founding of the tribes as year 0. Many of whom would eventually throw up their hooves and help found Equestria 600 years later. The founding of Equestria served as year 0 for Equestria until Luna's return.

    1914 = 1314 by Equestrian calendar.


    EEF: Equestrian Expeditionary Force (Allies)
    GAP: Grand Army of Prance (Allies)
    AOH: Army of Hoofland (Allies)
    RHA: Royal Haytalian Army (Allies) pokes @ScarletInk
    IGA: Imperial Germane Army (Axis)
    AOT: Army of Trotria (Axis)

    RHA and AOT were minor players on the Western Front. They fought each other in Haytaly and Trotria for most of the war.

    Nightmare Moon returned and was defeated 2 years after the Great War ended (1317 by Equestrian calendar). That year became the new year 0 of the Equestrian calendar. The Old World kept using their calendar. It's now 1924 there.
    It has been five years since NMM's defeat, and seven since the end of the war. It's year 5 in Equestria.

    Prior to the War
    All dates are according to the Old World calendar.

    Before 1870: For hundreds of years, the ponies of the Old World fought in a series of wars. Against each other, and against the kingdoms of various other creatures. Prance and Germaney fought numerous conflicts for 300 years. Relations between the two countries took a turn for the better after Empress Magnifique took the throne of Prance in 1852. King Grane of Germaney became a friend of the Empress, and the two countries were able to at least partly reconcile.
    Equestria itself mostly stayed out of the Old World wars.
    In 1870 the Centaurs of the Eastern Kingdom, long resentful of the Old World ponies, launched an invasion of Germaney. Germaney is quickly in desperate straits. King Grane begs the Empress of Prance for aid, but she refuses. The war is devastating for Germaney, even though they eventually won.

    1873-1913: After Germaney's victory over the Centaur invaders, the relationship between King Grane of Germaney and Empress Magnifique of Prance took a turn for the worse. Prance didn't aid Germaney against the invasion, and many Germanes were bitter toward the Prench as a result. In a meeting in Hayris, Grane and Magnifique argued bitterly, eventually breaking off their friendship. A faction within Germane nobility, led by Count Von Hufen (remember that name), began pushing King Grane to build up the military even further. They claimed that Germaney stood alone.
    By 1880, the Prench, alarmed by Germaney's growing nationalism and military buildup, began their own military buildup. The arms race was underway. It would have a tragic finish...
    In 1904, Count Von Hufen began pushing King Grane to launch a preemptive invasion of Prance, claiming the Empress was developing illegal magic weapons. (She wasn't. But the Count and his cohorts were). Over the next decade, Von Hufen would push for war with Prance repeatedly, but King Grane served as a counterweight and stopped it. Grane's relationship with Magnifique had been damaged beyond hope of repair, but he still didn't want to slaughter millions of Prench and Germanes. He wasn't an idiot. Tensions continued to build, however. By the end of 1913 it seemed war was inevitable. Both Germaney and Prance appealed to Celestia for her aid in any war. Celestia didn't commit to a particular side, but saw Germaney as the more dangerous and aggressive of the two countries. She pledged to stand against any acts of aggression, and to protect Hoofland, which was a partially autonomous territory of Equestria.

    The coming of the Storm
    1914: In New Dawn (January) of that year, King Grane offered to meet with Magnifique, in the interest of smoothing over tensions. He went to Hayris. On the 28th, he was set to meet with the Empress when an assassin, who it was believed was working for Prench intelligence, attacked him with a powerful magic spell. When the smoke cleared, all that remained of King Grane was a pile of ash. The outrage in Germaney was swift and strong.
    Under the pretense of maintaining order, Von Hufen took control of the government on 2nd of Heart's Bounty. He vowed to investigate the King's death, and make those responsible pay. Spoiler alert: he blamed the Prench and promised to punish Prance. Von Hufen finally had his war. He accused Celestia of being complicit in the plot. Angering a sun goddess PROBABLY isn't the best idea. Grane might not have been an idiot, but Von Hufen kinda was by this point.
    On the 3rd of Renewal (March), the Germane army crossed the border into Hoofland. This drew Celestia's forces into the war, but it would take time to deploy them. The battle for Hoofland lasted five weeks, as the AOH put up stiffer resistance than Germaney anticipated. The Battle of Jum saw the EEF's first action on the western front. They could only commit a single division at the time, about 15,000 troops. This was an army "vanguard" division, meant to be quickly deployed to any potential trouble spot. The Germane army at Jum outnumbered them nearly 8 to 1, but the Vanguard managed to hold its ground long enough for the battered remnants of Hoofland's army to withdraw to high ground around Leapers. The EEF Vanguard division was almost completely wiped out in the process. "Remember the Vanguard!" became a rallying cry for the EEF in the war's early days.
    In early Summer's Eve (May), The Germanes finally crossed the border into Prance. The Battle of the Borderlands was a grave defeat for Prance. They suffered high casualties and failed to stop the Germane invasion at the border. They began a retreat back toward Hayris. The retreat lasted for nearly a month, with delaying actions that slowed the Germane army's advance.
    On 6/4/1914, the Prench and EEF began a desperate, last-ditch stand at the Battle of the Mane. The Germanes had over-extended their supply and communication lines, and there were gaps between some of their forces. The Battle of the Mane was a decisive victory for the EEF and GAP. It forced the Germanes to withdraw and shore up their lines farther from Hayris. Over the next months, both sides tried to renew the initiative, with neither side making much headway. Eventually, the armies dug in. Trench warfare began. As winter 1914 set in, both sides made plans for the coming year.
 To Be Continued.
 The war is based, VERY loosely, on our WWI, as I'm sure most of you realized. First couple of years play out a lot like WWI in our world. In 1916-17, things REALLY diverge though.

 Give ideas, criticisms, questions here
When you've walked my road and you've seen what I've seen,
You won't try to talk about your magic friends.
You'll know dang well why I have this glint in my eye.
And I won't cry beneath anypony's hoof again.
-Onyx Quill ((Inspired by "Mal's Song." https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1_btQs2Movo))

Onyx Quill

2017 Nov 28, 13:59:52 #1 Last Edit: 2017 Nov 30, 00:55:26 by Onyx Quill

By early 1915, the 310-mile trench line of the Western Front had been established. Stalemate had set in. Both sides would launch offensives over 1915. None of them accomplished much, but all were very costly in lives.
    At the Battle of Neuve Cheval, the EEF broke through the Germane lines on the morning of 3/3, but were unable to exploit their success. The EEF was still a rather small force, compared to the vast armies of Prance and Germaney. Their soldiers were well-trained and very capable, but there simply weren't enough of them yet.
    The Prench followed up the EEF's modest success at Neuve Cheval with an offensive days later in the Maremeau region. It succeeded in retaking the town of Maremeau, but faltered once the Prench moved beyond range of their artillery support.
    The Germane Army launched an offensive around the city of Arias, near the Prance/Germaney border east of Maredun. This attack gained ground initially, but stalled under strong counter-attacks from the GAP, and EEF forces under temporary Prench command.

    During this time, Field Marshall Stormy Brook, commander of the EEF, was planning his own independent offensive. This was to take place not far from Neuve Cheval at the city of Moos, and would make use of tactics that had opened the breach in Germane lines.  Brook launched his offensive on 8/22.
    After some initial success, the Battle of Moos quickly turned bad for the EEF. It was the first combat action for many of the New Army divisions. What they lacked in experience, they paid for in blood. An unexpected bad turn in the weather made advancing nearly impossible, and some advance EEF units were cut off after taking the forward Germane trenches. Some units suffered almost 80% casualties. The debacle cost EEF Commander-in-Chief Stormy Brook his job. He was replaced by Orchardgrass Hay. Hailing from a minor Canterlot noble family, Hay spoke fluent Prench and Germane. She had served for years in the Combat Magic Research Corps, and proven herself an excellent staff officer as the EEF raised vast numbers of troops in 1914-1915. Hay's first and most pressing duty would be to smooth over relations with the EEF's Prench allies. Stormy Brook had always regarded the Prench Army with contempt, and the war effort had suffered because of his unwillingness to work with Prench command.

   The battles of 1915 had changed little except the body count. Territorial gains were measured in yards.
    As winter set in over the Western Front, Axis and Allies alike geared up for major operations in 1916.

    In Heart's Bounty (February), the Germane Imperial Army launched its offensive at Maredun in Prance. The city was the birthplace of Magnifique, and a pillar of Prench culture and pride. The Empress ordered her forces to hold the city at all costs. The battle quickly bogged down into one of attrition. The Prench army fought courageously, but it became clear they wouldn't be able to withstand the Germane assault for very long. Some Prench Generals pleaded with the Empress to allow the abandonment of the city and the withdrawal to better defensive ground, but she refused. Instead, she pressured General Orchardgrass Hay, Supreme Commander of the EEF, to prepare an offensive in order to relieve pressure on the Prench army. Hay was reluctant. Her army had grown in size greatly, and her troops were committed and brave, but few were battle-tested. Nevertheless, she had little choice but to begin plans for an offensive in conjunction with the Prench. This would take place in the Poulain region of Prance, along the Selle river. Where the EEF and GAP met.
    First of Sun's Fire (July) 1916. The EEF and GAP launched their combined offensive along the Selle river, where the two armies meet. First day results were mixed. South of the river, the experienced Prench troops made rapid gains and took thousands of Germane prisoners. Just north of the river, the EEF committed its battle-tested divisions to capture the Bridemont plateau. They succeeded, with the 1st Canterlot Division (where Onyx served) managing to capture Bridemont Redoubt. The most heavily fortified point on the plateau. It was a remarkable feat of arms. The other divisions of Star Swirl Corps, bolstered by the success of 1st Division, managed to take their objectives. By nightfall, the EEF occupied the entirety of the vital Bridemont Plateau. In terms of ground gained ,the success is modest: a kilometer at most. But the EEF is now able to dig in on much more suitable ground for defense.
    North, in Luna Corps sector, the story was very different. And tragic. The less experienced troops there made little headway, and suffered terrible casualties.
    Overall, the EEF suffered 27,000 casualties (killed, wounded, and captured) on the first day alone. About 2/3 of those were in Luna Corps sector.
    The Battle of the Selle continued for four months. By the end, the EEF had suffered 350,000 total casualties. Killed, wounded, and captured. The Prench had a further 150,000. The Germane army suffered half a million casualties, including over 100,000 killed. This made the Battle of the Selle the bloodiest battle in pony history. The EEF and Prench eventually managed to capture nearly all of their objectives, including the vital city of Passendell, which fell to EEF forces in late Leaves' Fall (September) and the battle served as a tipping point in the Allies favor. Neither side could afford another Selle.
    In Winter's Eve (November), the Germane army did a strategic withdrawal to the Von Hufen line, in order to stop the mauling they'd been taking around the Selle river. Also to gear up for a desperate (read: ill-conceived) offensive of their own.

    In Snowfall (December) Germaney launched its Winter Offensive on the Western Front. They achieved surprise, and managed to break through EEF lines, overrunning their front and push into the EEF rear. The EEF forces withdrew several kilometers, but their withdrawal was not a rout. They fought a series of delaying actions and managed to slow the Germane advance. All the while, the EEF and Prench were moving reserves toward the front to seal the breaches and make decisive counter-attacks. A vital holding action was fought at the tip of the Germane advance in a forest called the "Wood of Shadows." Elements of the 1st Canterlot Division held up against the Germane army on a vital ridge for nearly a week. Under-supplied, surrounded on three sides, out of food for the last two and a half days, and dangerously low on ammunition, they held on until more EEF forces arrived to push the enemy back (Onyx fought here, too. As a sergeant,  he was vital in keeping his unit from breaking under the strain and in arranging defensive positions). The EEF and GAP counter-attacks began, which rapidly retook lost ground. By the end of the year, they'd pushed the IGA back from the vital railway town of Passendell. The tide of war was at last turning against Germaney.

 To Be Continued
When you've walked my road and you've seen what I've seen,
You won't try to talk about your magic friends.
You'll know dang well why I have this glint in my eye.
And I won't cry beneath anypony's hoof again.
-Onyx Quill ((Inspired by "Mal's Song." https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1_btQs2Movo))

Onyx Quill

2017 Nov 28, 14:02:07 #2 Last Edit: 2017 Nov 30, 00:48:06 by Onyx Quill
    1917: Through early New Dawn (January), the GAP and EEF continue rolling back the Germane Winter Offensive gains. In Heart's Bounty (February) the Germane Usurper, becoming more and more irrational and impulsive as he sensed the war slipping away, launched another offensive in Hoofland. This quickly turned into a disaster. The EEF learned of the coming attack ten days in advance. The evacuated forward areas that Germaney planned to hit with their barrage and arranged them on better defensive ground. Consequently, the Germanes met little to no resistance at first as they advanced. But once they were out of range of their own artillery support, the EEF artillery, positioned on the rear slopes of ridges, wreaked a horrible toll. By the end of the first day, the Germane army had suffered nearly 40,000 casualties. They continued the attacks for a further ten days, making little headway against the EEF and AOH. The Germane Army, in a bad state of morale ever since the Winter Offensive's failure, finally boiled over into mutiny. Germane troops, mostly in Hoofland, refused to follow further orders to attack.
    Orchardgrass Hay and Prench commanders began, in secret, to plan a bold operation to break through the formidable Von Hufen line and end the war.

    When the offensive was launched on 3/2/1917, total surprise was achieved. EEF forces, making superb use of new offensive tactics, broke through the Von Hufen line at the vital town of Brabant in Hoofland within two hours, suffering relatively light losses. Aircraft bombardment, and the advance of hundreds of magic-controlled golems, replaced a forewarning artillery barrage. The Germanes had felt a direct attack on Brabant was highly unlikely, as it was situated on high ground and heavily fortified, so they had left the defenses there sparsely garrisoned.
    The EEF poured forces through the breach and into Germane rear areas, throwing the defenders into utter chaos. The gains made on the first day were greater than those made through the entirety of the Selle battle. Even worse for Germaney, many of their forces in Hoofland were in open mutiny, and surrendered with no, or at most token resistance. The EEF advance continued unchecked for three days before the IGA managed to rally enough loyal forces for a desperate counter-attack. This stopped the EEF advance for a time, but it was clear that the IGA's position in Hoofland was untenable. On the 7th of Renewal, the Prench Army launched a series of its own attacks all along their front with the Germanes. These met with less dramatic success, as the IGA had concentrated its best units to face the Prench. But the Prench still made significant gains and inflicted large casualties on the Germanes.
    The Endgame had arrived.
    Germane Army commanders, acting against orders from the Count to hold their ground at all costs, began a general withdrawal back to the Rein River (Rhine. Only Horse-ified. Ain't I clever? :) ).
    On 3/18, another massive plot-twist made things even more confusing. King Grane marched into the Germane parliament session. Much to everypony's surprise, since he'd been assassinated three years ago. As it turned out, the assassin had been secretly working for the Count. Instead of killing the King, she'd merely sealed him in a pocket dimension. After her escape from Hayris, she'd spent the last 3 years on the run from the Count's secret police, who wanted to kill her and tie up a loose end. She'd evaded them at every turn and eventually made her way to Equestria, where she told Celestia about what the Count had REALLY done. Celestia personally rescued King Grane from his imprisonment. The major government officials in Marelin, desperate to end the war before Germaney itself was invaded, pledged loyalty to the King again. Grane signed an Armistice with the Allies on 3/22. The Count, however, maintained control over large portions of the army. He withdrew his forces over the Rein and planned an invasion of the Germane heartland. His Generals, however, flatly refused to attack their own country. They instead dug in on the east side of the Rein. The Count declared the Hengst region in Germaney's far west to be an independent country. The war wasn't over. The EEF and GAP arrived at the Rein River in early Rain's Journey (April). After a week, they manage to gain a hoofhold on the east banks and push into the Hengst Valley.

    Helheim: EEF intelligence discovered early in the war that Germaney was developing horrifying new magic weapons on the island of Helheim, sometimes called the Island of the Dead. (Not creepy at all...) They began planning an attack on the island as early as 1916, setting aside shipping and logistic support for the task. However, any plans to attack the island had to be put on hold for the year when the Battle of the Selle kicked off. By Rain's Journey 1917, Celestia realized she couldn't afford to put off the offensive against Helheim any longer. A joint EEF-GAP force landed on the island on the 5th of Summer's Eve (May) 1917. They initially met very little resistance. The first major engagement with the Count's loyal forces happened on 5/12 as the Allies pushed north. Elements of the 5th Royal Fusiliers (Who'd fought at the Selle and in the Winter Offensive) met a force of Germane alchemically-enhanced soldiers. The Germanes on the island had little in the way of supplies, but were extremely fanatical due to brainwashing. Mages working for the Count had removed the Schonheitsfleck (Cutie Marks) of loyal troops and replaced them with an arcane sigil. This would allow the dead troops to be re-animated. (It was kinda like what Starlight did to her village as far as brainwashing, only on a much larger scale).

 Still More to Come...

 I Have maps drawn up. I'll post them once I get some more detail done.
When you've walked my road and you've seen what I've seen,
You won't try to talk about your magic friends.
You'll know dang well why I have this glint in my eye.
And I won't cry beneath anypony's hoof again.
-Onyx Quill ((Inspired by "Mal's Song." https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1_btQs2Movo))

Onyx Quill

                                      The Last Ten Minutes: A Tale of the Trenches

    1st of Sun's Fire, 1916 by the Old World Calendar
    In a Trench Near Bridemont-on-Selle, Poulain Region, Prance
    Diamond Dog Sector, Star Swirl Corps Zone

    "Ten minutes, ponies! Ten minutes!"
    The captain's voice was barely audible over the bang of exploding shells and the shrapnel slapping the dirt outside the trench. Hundreds of soldiers, the troops of 1st Canterlot Light Infantry Battalion, 5th Royal Fusiliers, crowded in the narrow lanes of the trench. Nearly all of them were from Canterlot or the surrounding area. They came from many trots of life. Some were factory workers, others shop owners, street sweepers, clerks, students, carriage drivers, or . Some had even lived on the wrong side of the law. Mixed with them were nobles from Canterlot's upper class districts. These were the tiniest fraction of the strength the Equestrian Expeditionary Force would bring to bear, today. The Grand Combined Offensive, as it was being called, was supposed to break the back of the hard-pressed Germane Imperial Army. The EEF would use nine divisions in the first wave alone. Nearly 65,000 troops from all over Equestrian territory. 

    In the midst of that sea of ponies stood Corporal Onyx Quill. At age 19, he was one of the youngest NCOs in the battalion. The twelve ponies around him made up number two squad, first platoon of C Company. Two Unicorns, two pegasi, and eight earth ponies.
    He knew all of them. Their strengths, weaknesses, hopes and dreams. He'd offered advice and reassurance during the trials of trench life. As he looked over them now, he couldn't help but wonder what the day held for each of them. How many would make the ultimate sacrifice?
    Lance Corporal Gray Hoof stood to his left. The first friend Onyx had made after joining the army over a year earlier, Gray had stood by his side through good and bad times. They'd looked out for each other and become true brothers in arms. Gray had run a restaurant in Canterlot with his husband and son before the war, and joined up in the wave of patriotic fever a few months after Equestria had declared war on Germaney.
    To his right was Shimmering Dawn, a unicorn and his other Lance Corporal. She'd led a troubled life. Her father was a minor noble, but her mother was a commoner. A shop clerk who'd caught her father's eye before he moved on to somepony else. Her mother had died when she was young, and her noble father had taken her in. More to avoid scandal than out of any real concern for Dawn's well-being. Her noble relatives had treated her like an outsider at every turn. Dawn's stepmother despised her, and her siblings hadn't been much better. One of her sisters, Onyx couldn't recall the name, had been good to her. But she'd left the family to become a student at Celestia's school, then disappeared from Dawn's life. During off times, Dawn loved painting and drawing. She was quite a gifted young artist and stayed positive despite her rough life.
    Private Clay Sculptor stood next to Dawn. His face showed the fear more than most. Clay came from
a working class family, and enjoyed making figurines and sculptures. He preferred to work with stone, but used the mud of the trenches too. He'd gotten extra money and food in the trenches by making humorous figurines from mud, then trading them for whatever he could get. He'd acquired a great many mostly-useless items doing so.
    He and Private Tipsy Laird talked in nervous tones. Tipsy had been with C Company since training back at Fort Hurricane. He was quiet, and kept to himself most of the time. He enjoyed trying to make new desserts out of army rations. Every once in awhile, a soldier who thought they had a cast iron stomach would try one of Tipsy's concoctions. They usually regretted it.
    Graceful Stride, another Private, stared intently at the wall of the trench. He'd been a dancer and athlete in civilian life. A relative newcomer, he'd joined C Company after the Battle of Amel earlier in the year as a replacement soldier.
    Standing behind Gray Hoof was the unicorn Dewshine, another replacement soldier. From a minor noble family, she'd joined the army before the war and worked as a clerk. After the war began, she'd been transferred to supply services. She'd wanted to serve on the front line, and finally gotten the chance. Onyx considered her a very promising young soldier. She'd shown initiative and leadership qualities in training.
    Next to Dewshine, a pegasus stallion stretched his wings nervously. Daybreak Racer was his name. He'd spent the early part of the war serving with a weather battalion, but transferred to the regular infantry. He was from Cloudsdale originally, but moved to Canterlot a few years before the war. He'd been a fast flyer, and won several prestigious races.
    Joyous Breeze was the other pegasus in Onyx's squad. She wasn't as strong a flyer as Daybreak, but she'd worked hard in training and proven herself in battle during Amel.
    Pinstripe, another earther, leaned against the wall of the trench and adjusted his equipment. He'd come from a very poor family. His father had disappeared before he was born, leaving his mother to care for Pinstripe and his five siblings alone. As a result, he'd resorted to petty crime at times. Out of desperation more than thrill. He'd served time in Canterlot jails for shoplifting, pick-pocketing, and various other minor offenses. He was a tough, hard-edged sort who saw his squad mates as family.
    The last of Onyx's troops was Ocean Leaves. An earth pony who'd been born in Baltimare but moved to Canterlot when he was young. He was the oldest member of the squad at nearly forty. In civilian life, he'd been a shop clerk for many years. He'd joined the army several years before the war began and worked mostly in clerical positions, being transferred to front line service after the costly battles of 1915.
    They were all afraid, Onyx could tell. For most of them, the attack today would be their first combat action. They would be jumping straight into the fire during the biggest military operation in Equestrian history.

 One heck of a way to start off... Onyx thought to himself. His mind went back to one of the many talks he'd had with the platoon Sergeant, Jade Jester. When Onyx had been promoted to Corporal and given command of a squad, she'd insisted he get to know everything he could about the troops under his command.
It was important, Jade had told him, to know how each soldier thinks. What makes them tick.
    "Never look at these troops as 'just cannon fodder', Onyx Quill."
    As with nearly all of Jade's advice, he'd taken it to heart.

    ((More to come later))
When you've walked my road and you've seen what I've seen,
You won't try to talk about your magic friends.
You'll know dang well why I have this glint in my eye.
And I won't cry beneath anypony's hoof again.
-Onyx Quill ((Inspired by "Mal's Song." https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1_btQs2Movo))

Onyx Quill

    The Captain barked out again.
    "Eight minutes! Eight minutes! Check your equipment!" 
    The waiting is almost over...
    Onyx unslung his rifle and sat the stock against the fire step. Almost robotically, he opened the bolt with a metallic "click" and inspected the firing mechanism. Every lecture he'd gotten about the workings of his rifle played through his mind...
    This is an Equestrian Mark III Short Trench Rifle! It fires 7.62mm rounds from a ten round magazine! It's a bolt action weapon, which means that between each shot, you must manually pull back the bolt to eject the spent cartridge .
    He lifted the rifle up and checked the bolt to make sure it was oiled well, and wouldn't jam in combat. He'd spent over an hour the previous night, and another early this morning, cleaning the weapon. It wouldn't let him down today. He checked the rest of his kit. Tunic and overcoat properly set on his frame. Bandolier containing 120 rounds of spare ammunition in twenty 'strip' clips. These were designed to keep the rounds together for ease of loading into the Mark III's magazine. Each held five rounds. One M4 "Lemon" bomb. Entrenching tool with wire cutting attachment. A trench club he'd made by hammering hobnails into an ax handle. His field pack contained an assault ration consisting of several pieces of hard, sugary chocolate that was high in caffeine and quite bitter. These were to be eaten just after the Company had secured the first line of trenches. A quick burst of energy for the terror ahead. There were also three cans of beans and a two-day supply of tea, dried fruit, and coffee. Overall, his kit weighted about fifty pounds. And that was packing light by army standards. As the spearhead of the attack, they had to move fast.

    He took his brodie helmet from its resting spot on his shoulder and strapped it on. Then gripped his weapon with purpose.

    "Five minutes!" The Captain called out.

    Dewshine came up to him with uncertainty in her eyes. Her greenish-blue coat was mostly hidden beneath the army tunic. A shock of her gold mane peeked out from under her helmet.
    "Corporal?" She said in a foal-like, uncertain voice.
    "Yes Private?" Onyx replied sharply.
    "You fought at Amel, right?" Dewshine asked.
    "I did."
    "What's it like? You know, going over?"
    "Stay focused, Private. Keep your mind on what you need to do." Onyx answered tersely. Dew wasn't deterred.
    "Were you afraid...?"
    Onyx took a moment to consider his response. Being afraid was natural and unavoidable, but Dew couldn't let it stop her.
    "Yes. Yes I was. But I remembered something my father told me once."
    Dew looked at him wonderingly.
    "I was afraid of reading a story I'd written to an audience of about fifty ponies. He told me to be brave. Young and stupid like I was, I asked: 'what's brave...?'" Onyx paused briefly, with a thoughtful look in his eyes.
    "He told me: 'brave is when you're scared to do something, but you do it anyway. Because you need to.'" He looked hard at Dewshine, and placed a hoof on her shoulder. "You'll be brave today, Private. I know you have it in you."
    This seemed to comfort the scared young soldier, and give her a little peace.
    "I... I'll be fine, Corporal. My shield won't break." These last words with a clear voice, and a hint of fire. Onyx nodded approvingly.
    "Good. We're counting on you."
    Another corporal, from B company, came down the trench with a large earthenware jug. There was a flurry of fumbling among the browncoats. They pulled out mess tins, which the Corporal filled with strong cider. A little liquid courage to deal with the fear. He worked his way along the line, holding the jug in shaking hooves.
    Onyx's mess tin stayed in its holder. The B Company Corporal raised the jug and nodded toward it when he came by.
    "No thank you, Corporal." Onyx said politely.
    "You sure about that, friend?" He replied with an impish smile "Might be the last chance you ever get, after all!"
    Onyx tapped his temple and grinned.
    "Have to keep the head clear. Can't lead a squad if I'm plastered!"
    The Corporal shrugged before shuffling off to other soldiers.
    "Aww, why not? Might be the only way Germy has a chance!"
    Onyx ignored this last comment. The artillery barrage from nearly 5,000 Equestrian guns had hurled hundreds of thousands of shells at the Germanes in the last six hours. The enemy lines were totally obscured by a massive cloud of dust and smoke that towered hundreds of feet in the air. But he knew that no matter how much high explosive the Equestrian guns threw at the Germanes, they would never destroy every bunker. There would still be autogun posts firing at the advancing Equestrians.
    A light breeze from the east wafted the dust over the EEF lines. Browncoats coughed and covered their muzzles with tunic sleeves. Their lungs burned from smoke, and eyes watered. The sun's heat seemed to sear skin beneath Onyx's black fur, but on a day when he was about to lead his troops into Tartarus itself, a little discomfort was less than nothing.
    "Two minutes! Two minutes!" Came the Captain's voice. Onyx started barking out last-second instructions to his squad.
    "Number two squad! Eyes up! Attention! Three groups of four! Tactical columns! Tipsy, Grace, and Pinstripe: you're with Gray Hoof! Daybreak, Ocean, and Joyous: you're with Shimmering Dawn! Clay, Dewshine, and Emerald: with me! Spread out, move fast, and stay clear of open ground! Run from cover to cover and get to their first line!" He paused briefly. "Keep the mud out of your weapons! Keep those actions clear!. Remember your training and stick with your element leader!"

   "One minute!" The Captain yelled. Even his voice trembled now.
   "Form up! On your element leader! Get ready!" Onyx yelled out. There was a quick flurry of activity as twelve soldiers gathered around the Lance Corporals. Graceful stride drew in a stuttering breath, and seemed to be fighting the urge to vomit. Gray Hoof looked to Onyx with his sly smile.
   "One hay of a way to get your Friday started, eh Faceplant?" He said with a chuckle, using the nickname he'd given Onyx on his very first day of basic training. After the young mountain colt had fallen on his face trying to come to a halt after a run. Onyx nodded.
   "Should be interesting." He replied in his typical deadpan.

    "Thirty seconds, ponies! Sun and moon be with us!"
    Onyx turned to face his squad one last time, looking at each of their faces. Committing them to memory. They were afraid, but also  determined. He felt a swell of pride and yelled out to them.
    "Number two squad, listen up! Good luck! Stay together!" He paused, then added "I'll see you at the rally point!"
    He turned back around. Placing a hoof on the scaling ladder, he looked up through the smoke at the morning sky. He breathed deeply of the hot air, his muscles tensing for the job ahead. To his right, he saw the platoon leader, Sergeant Jade Jester, studying him. He nodded to her
    You got this. She seemed to be saying.
    Looking to the Captain, Winter Storm, Onyx saw the whistle in his mouth. He was looking down at his watch. 
    Here we go...
   A last look at the mid-morning sky. There was a break in the dust and smoke, allowing its brilliant blue to shine down. It struck Onyx that this might be the last time he got to look at it. He pushed all intruding thoughts aside and focused, with single-minded determination, on the immediate future. He was more than just a soldier, now. He was a combat leader. He'd come so far from that naive, headstrong colt who'd faceplanted on his first day at Fort Hurricane
    The whistle blew.
    "Let's go! Up the ladders! Go! Go! Go!" He shouted, and pulled himself quickly up and over the top. 
    All along the front, thousands of ponies went up the ladders, over the parapets, and into the jaws of Tartarus...
When you've walked my road and you've seen what I've seen,
You won't try to talk about your magic friends.
You'll know dang well why I have this glint in my eye.
And I won't cry beneath anypony's hoof again.
-Onyx Quill ((Inspired by "Mal's Song." https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1_btQs2Movo))

Onyx Quill

 Excerpt from the Journal of Corporal Onyx Quill, C Company, 5th Royal Fusiliers

 Saturday, 8th Sun's Fire, 1916

 Well, I'm still here. Somehow. The First of Sun's Fire. If I live to be 1000, I'll never forget that horrid day...
When you've walked my road and you've seen what I've seen,
You won't try to talk about your magic friends.
You'll know dang well why I have this glint in my eye.
And I won't cry beneath anypony's hoof again.
-Onyx Quill ((Inspired by "Mal's Song." https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1_btQs2Movo))

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