Twilight gets a Puppy
The Crescent Empire.
Episode 2, Part 3
[Crystal Empire Library.]
“Alright. Here's what we have. Moon Dancer snapped looking at the large collection of books spread out and open on the table before her. Most were various history books but a few larger ones were large atlas' showing the Crystal Empire in it's heyday had settlements that dotted Equss pre-unification.
There were a number of clearly doctored histories about the Empire's prowess in combat, but there were enough other books showing that the empire began it's decline a little before the creation of Equestria. The main city of the Crystal Empire was simply renamed the Crystal Empire by some egotistical king or another as a slight to all the colonies that broke off from the Empire as a way to say they were not welcome there.
Because you can't go back to Consantan-opal.
“The Heart is the power source of the Empire. The magic from it is what makes this city, and a good bit of the surrounding farmland, habitable despite being in the middle of a frozen tundra.” Moon Dancer stated.
“Check.” Spike agreed.
“The Crystal Faire is a yearly ritualistic ceremony which draws on the inhabitants of the empire to empower itself some how...” Moon Dancer frowned.” Mana drain perhaps though it doesn't seem to drain their spells in fact it seems to make them stronger.”
“Some sort of emotional feeding like was explained with the Changelings?” Sunburst offered.
“I still say it's a symbiotic resonance.” One of the other researchers added. The others starting to get indignant and about to voice their own theories when Spike cut them all off. The fact they listened proved the smart ones didn't mess with a dragon, even a little one.
Also the Guards liked him for keeping order and listened to the drake more than the researchers.
“Look, we spent an hour arguing about this last time, let's just call it friendship magic and move on. The 'what' is less important than the 'how' at this second. We know the faire is what brings this power out and that channels into the heart itself. And the heart fixes things to make this place livable.” Spike sighed.
“There's also the idea that this is the fabled Rainbow valley of legend...” Another researcher pointed out. ”Which would make the power they produce Rainbow...”
“ STOP! “ Spike growled glaring at the one who had interrupted, shutting him up. “Worry about that later. It all comes down to we need to find the heart.”
“Correct. The current goal should be the location of the heart or how to create one if we can't find it. We have a collection of gods outside, whom if we can find out how, are willing to try and make another heart if we can't find the original.” Moon Dancer offered.
“I've let the Guards outside relay the message to the Element Bearers to keep the Crystal ponies distracted from where the Crystal Heart should be.” Sunburst sighed.” Worst case if we can't find or remake the Heart we try the Element's of Harmony on the shield and hope it works.”
“From what Twilight said the heart is at the center of this trap.” Spike frowned.
At this point Lodestone trotted in, the massive night Guard's heavy hoof falls seeming to shake the building.
“More bad news, we can't evacuate the crystal ponies. I just got a report that a team tried bringing some out and they couldn't bypass the barrier that's closing in. The shield touching them made them disoriented all over again.”Lodestone spoke clearly as he relayed the report. “ And more bad news a number of our guards are suffering from the same effect. Namely the ones that had been infected by the black crystals. So not only do we now run the risk of losing Princess Cadence, we are also going to lose all the civilians and about a dozen of our guards.”
Two unicorn Guards that had been with the research team since the start flinched. Lodestone took note.
“Star Glitter, Grape Shot, take five... write out what you need to. I'll make sure it gets to who ever you want it sent to.”Lodestone spoke before turning his attention back to the researchers.” If you don't get out any way....”
The researchers took the hint and got back to work at a more frantic pace , with a number of worried glances to the two guards who were filling out their own last words.
Spike to had quickly started writing. If the crystals kept the others from getting out, what would happen since Rahs ate that magic?
Twilight and the Princesses needed to know.
Spike paused his writing , before crumbling it up. He would inform the princesses, but Twilight didn't need any more piled on her, from the letters she sent she was already taking the whole thing on her own shoulders. More stress about something that couldn't be helped wasn't going to do anything.
Of course Spike was also worried that none of them might get out if that dark magic worked like the Poison joke did.
[Under the Palace.]
“This is absolutely ridiculous. Who designed this thing with so many stairs?” A guard bitched.
“A hippogryph maybe?” another suggested.
“Met a foal or chick or whatever a hippogryph kid is called a good while back during a out post posting. Little thing was obsessed with the stairs the outpost had going up to the watch tower.” the second Guard explained.” Cute, but weird.
“More like it's a deterrent.” Twilight added. “There's layers of magic around the middle which is why I told you all to walk. Try to fly down and set off traps, who ever made this probably set it up to annoy and deter any one looking to descend while he had his own quicker way to get down here. A way I don't have time to look into.”
“We're almost at the bottom.” Comet Trail interrupted. “ Looks like there's a door down here.”
The group moved off the stairs heading over to the door as Twilight scanned it.
“It's not obviously trapped, but it is enchanted heavily.” Twilight frowned.” Illusion, and transmutation. Traps are normally evocation or enchantment. Odd.”
“Bedrock, open it.” Comet Trail told the earth pony of the group. “Everyone else get ready. Miss Sparkle, Rahs, get back behind us.”
“Woof.” Rahs grumbled.
“ Right, he is the magic eater here.” Twilight grumbled.
“Don't worry about it, Bedrocks got the highest magic resistance of us and his armors reinforced if it's a physical issue. If any thing affects him Rahs can break it so long as he isn't caught up in it. That would hit your whole family, wouldn't it?”
“Well, yes, but...” Twilight began.
“No buts Miss Sparkle, we're here for a job, so let us do it.” Bedrock grunted reaching out to shove on the door latch with a hoof.
The door however had other ideas and zipped away from him, skittering along the wall to the other side of the room.
“The buck?” Bedrock asked as they all looked at the door that was now behind them.
[Entrance to the Crystal Mines of the north.]
“Nothing.” Shining Armor cursed throwing down the paperwork from the office they had found.
Shipping receipts, slave work orders and solider patrols. Nothing at all about the heart or the trap.
The scouts he sent into the mines also found nothing, at least nothing they would talk about. Shining had seen the rage on a few of the teams faces, and horror on the others. All he got when he pressed was a sickened Guard muttering about, mass graves and crystal bones that looked gnawed on. He let it drop after that.
The research station they had visited first was an old weather outpost on the west side. While there was nothing of note there either, the entire place was designed with pegasi in mind.
Something about this bothered Shining Armor as he had yet to see anything but earth ponies in the Empire. The weather station however had clearly been designed with fliers in mind and there were even a few items like old preening kits in some of the lockers they found that stated this was a pegasi run facility. None of the crystal ponies he had met had wings so who used the place?
[ Crystal Faire ]
“Ain't fully sure this is working.” Applejack muttered, her hoof running over the necklace pressing against her chest. The others had decided that putting the Elements on, just in case, was the best option at this point.
“I disagree. We have gathered quite a sizable crowd for this. Some of them have even started to recall what they were before the Empire vanished.” Rarity pointed out her horn glowing as she put together another hat for the stall she was working on.
“Yeah and one of them recalled he was in Sombra's Guard and tried to punish the rest for gathering without his leaders orders.” Rainbow Dash growled.
“Well with him being taken down so quickly, more of the others have come out of hiding. “Fluttershy offered. “It seems the Heart Guard are starting to be well liked already.”
“Still, fer a Empire there have to be far more than the maybe two or three hundred ponies we've seen.” Applejack muttered.
“Frankly that is likely for the best. It is hard enough to keep every one away from a non existent center piece. “Rarity let out a sigh, working on another hat.” The Crystal Heart is the first thing most of them remember, even if they don't recall why.”
“This is very stressful.” Fluttershy let out a sigh. “I'm glad all the Guards are here, I can't imagine trying to do this ourselves.”
“Setting up a whole faire to restore an Empire with just us? Yeah that would be pretty dumb.” Rainbow Dash agreed.”Ehh maybe Pinkie could do it. I mean Rarity some how managed to set up a hattery.”
“Haberdashery dear.” Rarity corrected.
“Isn't that a type of cabbage?” Rainbow Dash questioned.
“In either case we need to keep an ear open and try figure where the heart was stored. Ask around, see if any one recalls that much. Git as much info as yah can, we'll have a runner pass it on tah Spike an his team. “ Applejack frowned.
“Right.” The others agree splitting off to make sure the events run smoothly.
Far above them a shadowy cloud clawed at the top of the shield.
[Under the palace]
“YAAAAAH!!!!” Bedrock screamed out before Rahs yanked him away from the doorway.
The door itself had led them on a merry chase around the room before Rahs managed to sink his claws into the frame of the door holding the struggling thing in place. Twilight added to that by striking the gem at the top of the door with a bolt of black magic which made the door stop moving.
It also got her glares from everyone present, especially Rahs.
Bedrock again moved to open the door, the door opening to a simple rock wall, though Bedrock froze, staring at it and after a moment or two he started screaming.
Even as Rahs yanked him back he felt the pony sag in his grip as he collapsed, the massive earth pony crashing to the ground like a limp rag. Rahs whirled on the door seeing absolutely nothing but the rock wall before the door slammed shut on it's own.
“He's alive, elevated pulse, sweating and he's burning up. Scans show all green otherwise. I think he fainted.” the unicorn medic offered. “My magics not back up to full yet, so i'm not completely sure.”
“Transmutation was the animate object. That must be the illusion effect.” Twilight considered.
The purple mare went over to the door and pulled it open. She too froze as she stared at a blank wall.
“Shit.. Does your sister have any impulse control at all?” Comet Trail cursed.
Rahs simply shrugged, Twilight was in a rush to solve this puzzle and all her focus was on it. She always got a bit haphazard when she was rushed.
“Umm, her horn's glowing....” another Guard pointed out.
“GET BEHIND THE STAIRS AND GET A SHIELD UP!!” Comet Trail bellowed as the black magic around Twilight's horn grew even brighter, her eyes widened and she started prancing in place.
Rahs ignored the order and walked up cuffing his sister in the back of the head again. Her head rocked forward, horn hitting the rock wall in the door frame as the spell discharged.
Out side the Faire goers were treated to a earth shattering kaboom as a black beam of light lanced out of the side of the Crystal Palace, chunks of the wall striking the inside of the shield on the other side of the city.
The Heart Guard and the crystal ponies all stared at the spot for a few minutes before slowing starting to go back to what they were doing a little nervous about the beam. Many of the crystal ponies went back to hide in their homes, though those that were already hiding heard the noise and poked their head out to look, getting drawn into the faire, increasing the numbers of those present.
The Heart Guards went on a higher alert and some pony was sent to contact Shining Armor.
The Element Bearers stared at the palace with a frown before Rainbow Dash broke the silence.
“Twenty bits say that was Twilight.”
“Sucker bet Dash. Twenty it was Twilight and something surprised her.” Applejack countered.
“I'll match that, though I say she saw a snake.” Fluttershy added.
“I would say Rahs did something to make her mad.” Rarity suggested, “Put me down for that.”
“Huh. How about that there's a staircase outside the palace.” A guard muttered. Didn't the Heart Guard do a fly over?”
“Magic probably.” Comet Trail shuddered glancing over to Twilight who was cussing out her brother, then back to the new 'door' in the side of the palace. “ I'm more freaked out that we went down, and are now higher up the palace than we started.”
“So what now?” another Guard grumbled.
“Alright, Lighthook you stay here with Bedrock. I hate to split the group, but I doubt we can convince Twilight to stop for a moment. Rahs is just going to have to be a bit under protected. Starscream, Swift shot, you're with me. We're down our tank and healer, so we need to be careful. And take this slow......” Comet trail let the statement die as he noticed the other Guards looking behind him.
“They already went out didn't they?” Comet Trail sighed.
“Yes sir.” a gray furred and blue and red maned pegasus chuckled.
“Lets go.” the three guards rushed out after the Sparkles.
It had been about four minutes since the others left and Lighthook had tried a number of small spells to get Bedrock to wake up with no success.
Lighthook sighed looking over the large earth pony he was left with , frowning as he considered trying to wake him up by dousing him with water.
His ears perked up a hearing something from above. Looking up he spotted a shadowy figure trotting down the spiraled stairs, the heavy thud of armored hooves echoing in the now silent chamber.
Narrowing his eyes he caught a glimpse of the figure, his eyes going wide at the armor the figure wore, this wasn't a Guard.
Lighthook grabbed his weapon, a billhook, leveling it at the descending figure, placing himself between the stairs and the fallen earth pony. Before he could issue the command for the figure to halt and identify himself, his billhook glowed in black energy and came alive. The steel bent and twisted like a snake, wrapping around his head and neck, the blade striking at his horn to keep him from casting spells. The shaft of the weapon grew tighter as he flailed until he was stolen from the waking world, collapsing in a heap as the animate weapon choked him out.
The descending figure didn't even look at the fallen guards, only focusing on the door frame and the hole in the wall it was around.
After a moment of pondering, King Sombra stepped out of the hole and followed the Sparkles and their remaining Guards.
Something woke with a growl.
There were trespassers.
Three felt familiar, but three others did not.
There was also something wrong with two of them.
One would be forced to leave, they were not allowed here, the other two would be examined to determine why they felt odd, his reaction would be based on that.
The other three.....
He hadn't eaten in a long time.
[ Crystal Library]
“Nothing at all on where it's stored“ a researcher cursed. “What good are books that don't tell you anything?!”
“Well, we learned who to blame for the creation of the flugal horn.” another added.
“Less bitching and more reading.” Moon Dancer shouted.
There was a general grumbling from everyone, then a loud crack and a shattering sound that resembled glass breaking.
The Guards were quickly on high alert and every pony, and dragon looked up from their books.
“I didn't do it!” Sunburst protested.
“Do what?” Moon Dancer asked.
“What ever broke, not me.” Sunburst smirked at his little joke.
Spike simply stared at him.
“Hey that was funny.” Sunburst sighed.
“No it wasn't. That was a dad joke and I'm pretty sure I'm not with foal..... “Moon Dancer considered a moment. “Maybe I should double check....”
Spike continued to stare
“Okay maybe it wasn't that funny, but the mood needed to be lightened with something..... “Sunburst sighed, before noticing Spike wasn't staring at him, but behind him.
The unicorn stallion turned to look behind him, Moon Dancer also following the little drake's gaze.
Behind them, on the center display shelves of the room, the massive black crystal buffalo was shaking off the black crystal covering it as it started to move.
[Outside the Barrier]
The smoke monster paused.
It felt something.
It was unsure what it was it felt, but the drive to destroy was only increased.
It recalled it's purpose.
Somethings could get in the barrier that could also get out.
It was to make sure they stayed in.
Alive was optional.
Dead was preferred.
[ In the, slightly more snow than before, seriously does this white crap ever stop falling, field.]
The gods had been discussing things.
The news sent by Spike that the evacuation could not be preformed had disheartened Luna, even more so when it was found that a portion of the Guards sent in would not be returning. Both from Luna and Celestia's forces.
Those were personal visits to family members that the rulers never wanted to make.
Distracted as they were, all of them took note of Iinii when he gasped and took a step back, the first real movement the giant buffalo god had made since any one else got here.
Turning as one, the gods all looked up at the shield.
A dark form was pulling together from a billowing cloud of smoke that had been swirling atop of the shield.
At first it was hard to tell what it was, though very slowly a solid form emerged.
The creature was hunched over, four limbs jutting from the still forming main body. The limbs ended in massive wicked black claws, claws which immediately sank into the shield sending, a spider web of cracks across it from each puncture.
A massive body formed, atop the legs. Scales the color of blood glistened in the sunlight, plates of some sort of metal shone brighter than the dulled scales in the light. Patches of what looked like metal covered the creature, though on closer examination it was less worn and more bolted to the creatures flesh. The magic resistant mithril prevented natural healing and kept the creature in constant anguish. A pain it had learned to enjoy when it inevitably went mad. Black crystalline shards burst out of the spine of the creature like a row of spikes on the back like most dragons. A long serpentine tail lashed out, striking against the shield as well.
A massive set of wings burst from it's back, the smokey miasma between the outstretched digits replacing what webbing might have once been there naturally. The spined head formed, two jutting black crystal horns that curved back over the serpent like neck and a draconic muzzle filled with sharp teeth dominated the main features of the head, many of the teeth seemingly replaced with black crystal as well.
The eyes were glassed over, black ovals of void.
The creature roared, ebon and green flame flickering around it's muzzle as the cry echoed off the mountains, starting avalanches and rock slides on nearly all the surrounding peaks.
Bleu barely seemed to move, though suddenly there was a massive form looming over all the gods. The now gargantuan blue dragon towered over them. Where Bleu's sons were perhaps the size of a moderate castle or keep, Bleu at full size could look down on Canterlot, the city not the castle.
The red scaled smoke dragon in the distance was only a little bit smaller than she was.
Lightning crackled along her form as she ground her fangs, the sound like glaciers meeting.
“ A dragon?” Martle questioned.
“Dreadnought.” Iinii corrected staring at the monster atop the shield.
“A what?” Ascepius questioned.
“An abomination, created when the darkest of magics are turned on a dragon. It is then augmented with armor plate and countless ward spells. A number of demi gods and at least two gods were lost to such things in the War of the Night. It is why there is no longer a god of Rams, and why Fledge is the second god of Harpies.” Celestia stated with a shudder. “The witch wolves were bad enough, but these... To think one remained....”
“We had no say in the corruption of these. Nor the juggernauts.” Luna frowned. “But the magic that twisted them into existence was ours. Drawn from the nightmare and made to suit what Solomon wished.”
“It's Kayete.” Bleu snarled.
Iinii blinked and Celestia and Lockheed winced.
“My condolences Bleu.” Iinii stated not taking his eyes of the twisted form of Bleu's former mate.
[Inside the shield]
The roar drew Shining Armor's attention faster than anything else. His team had just scouted the most likely location for the heart, a mages tower at the southern point of the empire.
Like the weather office, everything in the building seemed designed to be used by unicorns, though like the pegasi he had seen none in the empire yet.
Also there was no Crystal Heart.
Granted that was neither here nor there, a massive dragon was currently hammering at the top of the shield Cadence was using to keep the barrier back from swallowing the city.
As he galloped back towards the palace he watched in horror as the shield flickered and faded, the barrier rushing forward, as the gargantuan dragon dove in. The shields flickered weakly back to life a moment later, the barrier having claimed all the outer farms and some of the buildings at the edge of the city as it encroached.
The black monstrosity however didn't seem to care about that and winged it's way towards the palace, it's massive form ripping the roofs off houses with just it's wing pressure, it's breath lighting the homes ablaze with black and green flame.
Shining Armor's panic rose as the massive creature continued on towards where his wife and siblings were.
At this point Shining did something he had never managed before.
With a flash of light and a faint pop, Shining Armor teleported, leaving the guards behind.
[ Inside the palace throne room.]
Pinkie Pie was freaking out.
She hadn't had panicked this much since that time she forgot Limestone's birthday until the last minute.
Princess Cadence had dozed off on the throne.
The flugal horn was no longer effective.
Right now the Princess was dripping went and shivering a little, the bucket of ice cold water Pinkie had used had worked. The bucket of water was the last trick she had though, noise no longer worked and the ice bucket barely did along with some shaking.
“I'm sorry Pinkie, I guess I dozed off a moment.” Cadence yawned.
That the Princess hadn't heard the super scary roar, nor even noticed the deep hole in the floor they found when they came back from the kitchen was even more worrying.
Pinkie was wracking her brain trying to come up with something else to keep the Princess awake.
There was a soft ding. A chime like a deus ex machina plot point coming to bear at the last second, either that or the bell she had set on the timer.
Okay it was the timer.
Pinkie Pie turned looking to her alchemy lab, and the steam rising from a coffee pot that was slowly starting to fill.
A thick scent wafted through the air, one that the pink princess opened her eyes wide from the moment she caught a wiff.
“What is that!?” Cadence asked, sounding more awake than she had since Pinkie got there.
“Coffee's done.” Pinkie Pie cheered.