One of the Queen’s servants brought her a map, and on that map was something very intriguing… A massive chunk of the map was marked as “Grimm-Infested”, and seemed to cover a large portion of the city, everything past a mountain to the south-east… The trip around the mountain was easy, turning into a flock of birds, the entire pack of changelings got a good look at the ruined city below… Massive towers of stone and rusting metal, food stalking the streets, once or twice one would hear the sound of a human weapon, but it was always far off, and toward the populated city.
“Down, we will search the ground…” Chrysalis telepathically said to her drones, following her in a massive flying-V, as any other flock would. They dove down as one, changing shape again, this time into a pack of dogs, to hide among the rubble. The first day was spent resting in the ruins… The Queen had taken shelter on the top floor of a ruined tower, giving her an impressive view of the ruins, and the distant form of the populated city, just visible over the hills and distant wall.
That night, a pair of drones were exploring the roads when they saw, on the side of the road, what looked like a stairwell going down into the ground… It had been bolted shut with plates of metal that looked worn and scratched, covered in claw-marks and dents. They approached, and knocked, it didn’t budge, but it did make a hollow bang. One of the two raised his horn and shot a beam of yellowish-green magic that ate through the metal like an acid. The plate fell away, and with a hollow boom, it revealed a tunnel going down into darkness… The Queen was informed, and the next day, she, and several others, trotted down the shadowy corridor, magic lighting their way…
It went down for what felt like an eternity, but at last, they found themselves at a door, welded shut. Another ray of magic had cut this door free too, and it revealed a great and empty darkness beyond. Chrysalis trotted forward into that great darkness, and a few meters away from the door, nearly tripped and fell on a ledge. She channelled more power into her horn, illuminating what quickly revealed itself to be a massive cavern, the ceiling held up by massive metal pillars, and the entire cavern filled with structures just as massive as the ones on the surface. These ones too had fallen into disrepair, and the smell of ancient decay, at least three or four decades old, lingered in the air, like a dusty blanket of bone, smothering all other scents.
Finally, after looking down for a few minutes, taking in the cavern in its entirety, and the hundreds of little black shapes below, like swarming magical ants, like little pockets of savoury food, Chrysalis turned, “Builder-drones, to me! This will be our new hive!”
A middle-aged stallion was trotting down the roads of Dodge City. His basket of oranges was fresh, and he could smell their sweet sents in his nostrils. It was late, but most ponies were still awake, he wanted to get home and hoped to surprise his children… It wasn’t every day he could afford to bake his orange-cake.
The streets were misty, and something about the night put him on edge, the sky was darker than normal… Wanting to get home quicker, he ducked into an alley… That was when a tinking of metal on stone echoed down the streets, and he nearly dropped the basket in shock… It was just a can, the wind must have knocked it to the ground…
Right as he turned to continue walking forward, he stopped, letting out a choked whinny. The cloaked figure before him let out a misty breath… “Very sorry, heh heh…” He began, stalling, trying to think of a way to get past the creepy figure, but not wanting to be rude, lest the figure takes it as an insult. “You came out of nowhere.”
The figure stood… Its shape was a little odd, at least to the pony’s eyes… It didn’t look quite like a normal pony. It started to talk in a raspy, withered voice, drawing the words out, “Is he friend, or is he foe… The pony wonders.” The stallion started to back away, a little confused and scared of the hooded figure even more now… Under its robe, he started to get glimpses of red, black, and white fur, around a skinny and withered shape. “I can assure you, I am no… Friend…” He drew forward a bit and revealed a monkey-like face and a clawed forehoof, the stallion wanted to run… It clearly wasn’t a pony, and it wasn’t friendly… But he didn’t know how to get away from it, trapped in the alley as he was… Should he call for help? Should he run? Should he fight? The figure continued talking as the pony pondered this, “I am lord Tirek!”
The pony’s horn ached, his body growing tense, and mind fogging as the tingling of a spell being cast from his own horn, but not one he was casting himself, flooded his mind, “And I will take what should have been mine, long ago…” This Tirek finished, as the stallion’s body started to go numb. A few moments later, there was no feeling left in his body, and he collapsed, dropping his basket and falling to the floor… He looked up through clouded eyes to see the figure’s eyes glow a horrifying yellow, and bulk larger than he did previously, before the pony passed out.
BANG! BANG! BANG! Sounded across the forest, a bear-monster had wandered into camp, and with a shout of “Ursa!”, The faunus got their guns and started shooting… The kick of her pistol made her hands numb, but Cozy enjoyed it, with this little device she had the power to destroy a living creature. She took aim, pointing the barrel right at the eye of the bear, and pulled the trigger one last time… A pellet of metal whizzed through the air and punctured the bear’s eye, it collapsed and dissolved into smoke.
“Great shot!” One of the White Fang members commented.
Cozy could hardly see out of the mask, it was honestly annoying, but it made her fit in, so she wore it… The clothing, on the other hand, was nice, warm, padded. “Golly, that thing was scary, thanks… Couldn’t have done it without you…” She said, bring polite, but, to some extent, meaning it… She wouldn’t have survived the first monster she came across if it weren’t for these faunus… She would, in time, rise the ranks of this White Fang organisation, at the very least, that was her plan. But plans change, and she would need to change too, she needed magic. She had talked about magic to her companions, but they seemed to think it didn’t exist, even if their aura was a blatant use of magic.
She put her pistol on her belt, and returned to the center of camp… The story of how her mind was damaged by a human’s semblance, and how she found herself in the woods without any memory at all, had spread around the camp and had earned her much pity. She didn’t like the pity, but she would use it to her advantage.
As she was drinking a bowl of soup, watching the others… In the distance, a trio of people, humans, she thought, as they didn’t have any obvious animal parts, and they were wearing strange clothing, approached. One was carrying a pair of swords, the other two, if they had weapons, weren’t showing them… Instead, they carried briefcases on their backs.
“Uhh, Adam!” She shouted, getting the attention of the leader.
Adam heard the girl, and walked out of his tent… He was not a nice person, and not easy to manipulate, Cozy learned this quicky, but, his anger could be used, he would come if called, if only to yell at the person for interrupting him. She heard a growl from his tent, then a “What could be so important to interrupt-” The moment he saw the trio approaching, he stood up a bit straighter, and shouted, “What are you doing back here!”
“Adam…” The woman in the red dress purred, “We could have gone to anyone for help, but we chose you…” She continued, “Our offer still stands.”
“I’ve already told you to leave.”
Cozy was curious, what did this woman want? One of the two accompanying the leader of this trio drew a pair of pistols at the same time Adam drew his sword. “Our plan will be beneficial for both of us…” The woman continued.
“I’ll say it one last time, leave…”
The woman smirked, “Or one of us…” She threw down her swords and raised an arm, fire swirling around it in a clearly magical way, a way that intrigued Cozy… Adam growled, and charged, at the same time the woman launched a blast of fire. The faunus man dodged to the side and moved to slash the woman, who created a blade of glass in her other hand, blocking Adam’s sword. The green-haired girl looked as if she was about to join the fight when the woman gestured to her with her fire-wreathed hand. “Stop.”
Adam kept up the attack slashing again and again, but the woman blocked each strike with her glass blade. “Stop it! Both of you!” Cozy yelled, shooting her pistol into the air.
Her tone shocked all four of the people present, and the boy with the silver hair turned and said, “What do you want, kid…”
Cozy growled, “Have all of you lost your minds!” She screeched, “Look, Adam,” Her voice returned to its sickeningly sweet tone, “How, effective, has your little organization been lately, you aren’t sweeping the humans away with a grand army, are you? You are just a pack of thugs, robbing stores and getting picked off by monsters…” She turned, “And you, I have no idea what a group of humans would want with us, but you’re powerful!” She stared at the swirling fire around the woman’s arm, “And clearly, you’re offering that power, and isn’t power something that everyone needs…” She purred.
The woman smirked, “It looks like the child is smarter than you, Adam…” She snapped her fingers and unleashed a blast of fire behind her… Her two allies picked up their cases, planting them on the ground and revealing dust, and money… Lots of it.
Smoke rose into the sky from the cold-iron mills, blotting out Celestia’s light… The island would rival the pony-city Fillydelphia, and the diamond dogs would get back the ancient land that was taken from them… Thousands of the largest and strongest of the diamond dogs marched through the streets, armed with cold-iron bidents, and armoured with cold-iron plate mail. The metal didn’t destroy magic, like the Changeling’s dark-stone, but it was certainly magic resistant, but that made it hard to produce, and it had taken decades to build this army, and decades still to recover from the losses from the dog’s pyrrhic victory over the Arisian Hippogriffs…
Apefang the White, as he was called as a child for his monkey-like face that stood out among his diamond dog kin, stood atop his tower, overlooking his island-kingdom. Airships circled the shore, wood and iron weaved together, powered by magical engines that spewed acrid fumes into the air, no doubt returning from another raid, laden with gemstones to fuel the demands of his kingdom’s industry.
His tower was made from hewn black stone, carved into sharp and grand shapes, arches and buttresses arced off in magnificent ways… It was a mirror to the tower built in the far north, in the middle of the Crystal Empire… The twin to Sombra’s spire, back when he and the diamond dogs were allied in the first crystal war. The two towers, one in the north, one in the south, armies descending to destroy the foes of the two great kings… But that was aeons ago, and Apefang wasn’t alive back then to see the glory days of the diamond dogs, but that great empire he would restore.
There came a knock on his door, “Enter…” He said. The door was bulky and metal… Gears clicked, chains rattled, and his door slid open. The clinking of four legs on the cold stone floor told him who had entered, he had no need to turn. “Tempest, how did the most recent raid go…”
“Very good, sir, but it seems that the griffons are starting to increase the guards on their shipments to Abyssinia, last attack we encountered a few dragons alongside their ships,” The purple pony responded, voice devoid of emotion.
The Storm King sat silent for a second, “Go, command the violet fleet, we will be assaulting Abyssinia…”
“We’ll need their industry, and we can’t afford to wait longer, our raids haven’t gone unnoticed, and we can’t let them make allies with the Griffons or Dragons… Or worse, the Ponies…”
“Yes sir…” Tempest finished, turning and moving out of the tower.
An hour later, he watched as airships rose from their gantries and turned to the north-east. Flying the twin-fanged banner of Storm Kingdom…
A gilded chariot bearing a symbol of the sun flew over the clouds, it was a long journey, days, and the pegasi had to stop several times… But Celestia didn’t want to take the trip herself, as easy as it would have been… She needed to keep up her appearances, and doing things herself made her guards feel weak. Her chariot pullers took pride in their job, and she wouldn’t take that away from them, even if it would have been much quicker.
The Hidden City was… Well… Hidden. And they flew over the jungle, searching the ground for any sign of the reclusive kingdom… Even a tiny border village would do. That’s when Celestia’s eyes saw a tiny orange shape moving across the
ground, looking up at her, “Land…” She said to her chariot pullers, who obliged, and swooped down. They were over a large meadow, not far from the Peaks of Peril, which marked the westernmost border of the Hidden Kingdom.
The chariot came in for a landing, bending the flowers and grasses below… Finally, it skidded to a halt on the cliffside. Celestia dismounted her chariot and walked to greet the orange-maned kirin that was standing before her. “Hello there, kirin, I would like directions to the capital of your kingdom…”
The kirin was silent for a second, “Umm… Hello, I am Princess Celestia, ruler of Ponykind, the Morningstar, as I was known to the Griffons and Diamond dogs…” She paused, still silence, “What’s your name?”
The kirin then laughed, “Hahaha, Hi! I’m Autumn Blaze, I’m from the town of Orchi, over that way,” She talked quickly, pointing a hoof, “You won’t find much help over there I’m afraid, they’re all real quiet… It’s an honour to meet you, you’re as big as the town’s leader, unfortunately, I don’t know where the capital is, I’ve lived my entire life around here, it’s been years since I’ve had someone to talk to, I hope you don’t mind, ooh! Do you like tea, I can brew some up for you, it’s a long way from the pony-lands, I don’t quite know how far, but it must be very far. You have wings, and a horn, it’s all pointy, not like mine, that’s cool, I bet you can use a pointy horn for a lot more than this ol’ thing, looks like your friends are tired, should I get them some tea too, ooh, they also have wings, like birds… I wish I had wings, like those, they must be soooo warm…”
The kirin continued on like this for minutes, but Celestia simply sat there, letting the talkative little creature babble her heart out… It would be nice to spend some time out here, she thought, as she looked around the beautiful fields, but she really needed to see the Empress, so she waited for the Kirin to finish her babbling before walking off in the direction of her village, leaving her guards behind.