The next day found Shiva far less willing to get up than before. Despite her regaining consciousness, her body refused her mind’s request, and stayed firmly in the small nest she had built for herself and Luke in the suite they had set up in the Crystal Empire’s castle.
“You alright?” Luke asked her in concern. His eyes darted down to her stomach, before she lifted his head to hers.
“Fine,” she replied, gently touching noses with him. “Just… I hope our dogs are taking this alright. After all the time I spent preaching about how we couldn’t trust ponies…” she shook her head. “I don’t know if all of them are ready for this.”
Luke grimaced, but sighed.
“You’re the Alpha,” he insisted. “And the crystal ponies aren’t like the ones who locked us up. If they’ve got problems, we'll figure it out. And hey…” he tilted her head up. “If things don’t go right… they’re only leaving a few ponies, and most of the crystal ponies see us as heroes.” He grinned. “It can’t take too much effort to take this place.”
Shiva chuckled softly, but her eyes still drifted down. Luke followed her gaze, his claw softly touching her stomach. He looked back up to her, and her nod of confirmation sent a wave of emotions across his snout. Panic, joy, fear, love… all of it sorted itself together into a small smile.
“Should we tell them?” he asked. “Maybe have them give you some time?”
Shiva chuckled, and forced herself to rise.
“Dogs were having puppies long before either of us,” she said, stretching her creaking muscles. “And it wouldn’t make a good first impression to have the diamond dog rep in this alliance not show up.”
“It certainly won’t be from punctuality,” Skippy’s voice emanated.
Despite Shiva knowing he was doing it for her own protection, she had to hold back a laugh when Luke nearly leaped out of his fur and threw one of his pillows at the changelings.
“Seriously, Skippy!” he barked. “Learn to knock!”
Skippy deftly dodged the pillow with his own shrug.
“We’ve got an hour to prepare, and like Shiva said, it’s important to make a good first impression,” he insisted, turning back to Shiva. Despite him being in his changeling form, Shiva could still remember those brown eyes that she had grown so fond of back in the diamond dog caverns. “Shiva?”
Shiva nodded, and forced herself to rise. “Let’s get to work,” she said.
Despite Skippy’s advice, Shiva stuck with her normal pearl and ruby studded armor. She felt her power could give off an air of authority well enough without the extra wardrobe change.
Thankfully, Cadence and Scorpia agreed with her, as their regalia didn’t look too much out of place from what they usually wore. Cadence was decked out with a gold chest plate and horseshoes, while Scorpia had dark purple regalia accenting the dark green of her carapace. Together, Shiva had to admit that the three of them looked just as ready to fight as they were to rule.
And it was likely they’d have to do both. As they perched themselves before the door to the rest of the Crystal Empire, they could see the different races outside – diamond dogs, changelings, crystal ponies and Equestrians. Though the crystal ponies mingled freely with the changelings and dogs that had aided them, the Equestrians in the back looked rather scandalized at the other species being around them. The feeling was sadly mutual, and Shiva could already see several diamond dogs arguing with the non-crystal ponies.
“Let’s make this quick before a fight breaks out,” Shiva said.
Scorpia grimaced as she saw what Shiva was talking about. “Skippy,” she ordered. “Get some changelings to work on absorbing any residual anger. The last thing we need is conflict on our first day.”
"Is that... a good idea?" Shining asked. Cadence nudged him.
"Shining," she soothed. "These aren't Chrysalis' drones. You can trust them."
Shining nodded, though his expression didn't change as he watched the changelings moving around outside. Sighing, Cadence summoned a large parchment floating in her magic aura. Though Shiva had trouble deciphering the handwriting, she knew what it was meant to say:
The Crystal Haven Agreement:
A. The Crystal Empire recognizes Outer Haven as a nation.
B. Outer Haven recognizes The Crystal Empire as an independent Nation
C. The Crystal Empire shall grant the land around the Turquoise mountains and the rivers which flow from them.
D. A free trade zone shall be established between Outer Haven and the Crystal Empire
E. Outer Haven and the Crystal Empire Guarantee the others independence any attacks on their soil shall be met by both nations.
Equestria recognizes both the Crystal Empire and Outer Haven and grants the Crystal Empire all former territory north of the Silver River
Shiva, Queen and Alpha Female of Outer Haven.
Co-signed Luke, King and Alpha Male of Outer Haven.
Princess Scorpia of Vespin Hive
Empress Mí Amore Cadenza IV of the Crystal Empire
Co-signed Prince-Consort Shining Armor, Marshall of the Crystal Empire
Princess Celestia of Equestria, Sol Invictus, Sun Mover, Diarch of Equestria
Co-signed Princess Luna, Stargazer, Lady of the Moon, Diarch of Equestria
“This is going to work out fine,” Cadence assured them. “We’ve got the paperwork; this is all about separate nations getting together and helping a city-state prosper.”
Shiva and Scorpia glanced at each other, before nodding in mutual agreement. With a nod of confirmation to both Shining Armor and Luke, both of whom were garbed in the armor of royal guards, the two pushed open the doors, and every eye fell upon the three princesses – or rather, Shiva thought, two princesses and Alpha – that descended the stairs to greet their subjects.
“Ponies of Equestria,” Cadence greeted, getting a round of cheers from the Equestrians, both crystal and otherwise.
“Changelings of Vespin!” Scorpia declared, getting a round of hissing cheers from the changelings.
“Diamond Dogs of Outer Haven!” Shiva howled, getting a round of howls from her beloved dogs.
“We thank you all for coming out today,” Cadence declared. “Thanks to your combined efforts, Sombra has been banished from the Crystal Empire. The city-state is free from his tyranny!”
Cadence had to stop, as the crystal ponies let out another cheer of relieved glee.
“However, that does beg the question,” Shiva said. “Who’s leading this place?”
“Obviously, Shiva!” one diamond dog said.
“Yeah!” several crystal ponies nodded in agreement. “She saved the Empire in the first place.”
“Wait, hang on!” another Equestrian said. “Princess Cadence helped! She has the crystal heart shaped cutie mark! And the Crystal Empire was a vassal of Equestria before Sombra!”
“Luckily!” Scorpia said quickly before an argument could break out. “We have found a solution that benefits all sides.”
The crowd listened intently.
“The Crystal Empire has been in stasis for a millennium,” Cadence said. “Much of the world has changed from what you know.”
The crystal ponies looked at each other with worry.
“But you have the resources to overcome it,” Shiva added. “The crystals and gems in this empire are a natural gold mine. Any diamond dog work their rocks would kill to live in a place like this."
The Diamond Dogs laughed heartily, despite several Equestrians – Rarity chief among them – huffing in scandalized disbelief.
"That is why, in exchange for our aid,” Shiva continued. “The Princesses of Equestria have agreed to a joint ownership of the Empire. Princess Cadence, Princess Scorpia, and myself will work together to lead the Crystal Empire back to its former glory.”
She braced herself for shouts of protest or fights to start. Partially, she hoped for rousing applause. Instead, what she got was confused silence.
“So,” Twilight’s voice suddenly shouted out. “Who’s the ‘Princess Celestia’ in this relationship? A-And who’s the 'Princess Luna?'”
Several of the ponies nodded, even as the changelings and dogs looked at them with confusion. The true meaning of her words, however, reached Shiva, and she had to keep herself from growling.
“Put aside any ideas you have on how Equestria works,” Shiva said firmly. “This isn’t just about rulers or rank. This is about equality.”
Scorpia nodded and strode forward. “For too long, relationships between our species have been shaky at best,” she admitted. “Diamond Dogs enslaved ponies.”
“Yeah,” Rarity and several other ponies agreed, despite some growls of protest from the dogs.
“The changelings of Chrysalis Hive,” Scorpia admitted. “Tried to turn Equestria into their slaves.”
“Yeah!” the ponies agreed again, though the changelings held their heads high.
“And ponies,” Shiva said darkly. “Imprisoned and tortured both changelings and dogs.”
“Yeah!” several dogs barked in agreement. The ponies all glanced at each other, while the crystal ponies looked at them with horrified confusion.
“But now, it’s time to put this senseless violence behind us,” Cadence insisted. “Together, Shiva and Scorpia’s forces helped my family and friends fight and defeat Chrysalis.”
“Yeah,” every pony, diamond dog and changeling managed to say in agreement.
“Together, we freed the Crystal Ponies and defeated Sombra!”
“Yeah!” they agreed.
“We can do so much more when we work together,” Cadence insisted. “So, let the Crystal Empire stand as proof of what we can accomplish, when we ponies open our minds and our hearts to others, rather than close them in fear and suspicion. Let it serve as a symbol that while we may be able to stand strong on our own, we are strongest when we stand together!”
Shiva had to wait a full five minutes for the applause from Cadence’s speech to die down. Further away, she swore she saw Celestia on the outskirts, nodding at them in approval.
“Now,” Shiva said. “We’ll be available in court all day today, answering any questions you may have. If there are Equestrians that wish to make trades of supplies for gems, let us know.”
“This is the beginning of a new era, everyone,” Scorpia said as the others turned to go back into the castle. “Let’s make sure it starts off on a good hoof.”
Shiva, Cadence and Scorpia didn’t get long to make adjustments to the throne room before Shining and Luke came rushing in.
“Well, you told them to come forward if they had questions,” Luke admitted.
“They got questions,” Shining agreed. "A lot of questions."
Cadence sighed, before glancing at her two companions. “You girls ready?”
Shiva glanced at the thrones prepared for them: a single large throne that was likely where Sombra had sat, and two smaller thrones set beside it. With a glare at Cadence, Shiva dragged the two seats forward, before retreating into another room and grabbing a third chair, which she promptly shoved to the middle.
“I said this was about equality,” Shiva said in response to Cadence’s confused expression. “It’s not equality if you get a bigger throne than us.”
Cadence took another look at the throne, and her pink skin paled.
“Good point,” she admitted, settling herself on the chair Shiva had brought forth with a hidden sigh of disappointment. Shiva and Scorpia settled into their own chairs, and nodded at Skippy, who stood between the captains.
“Send em in, Skippy,” Shiva said. “One case at a time.”
Skippy nodded, and as Shining and Luke took their place by their respective mates, the changeling raced back to the double doors, letting in a familiar orange mare.
“Howdy, Alpha Shiva,” Applejack said. “Princess Cadence. Princess Scorpia.”
“Applejack,” Shiva greeted, immediately getting off her throne. “What brings you here?”
“Just an idea that might help ya out,” Applejack replied. “How much do dogs ‘n changelings like apples?”
“Well,” Scorpia admitted. “We’re more used to feeding off emotions than food…”
“Diamond Dogs love apples,” Shiva insisted. “They’re like rubies they can eat.”
Applejack’s grin widened. “Then I have just the deal fer ya,” she said. “Sweet Apple Acres is always looking fer new folks to see our apples too. I figure we can help keep yer dogs ‘n ponies healthy ‘n strong in exchange fer some of our new-fangled contraptions.”
She grinned, only for Shiva’s grin to fade.
“What kind of ‘new-fangled contraptions?’” she asked. “I should remind you; the Crystal Ponies may be behind on the times, but they aren’t cave-ponies.” She touched Applejack’s forehead and transferred memories to her. “Did you know they had devices that ground diamonds into cider? It’s actually kind of fascinating.”
“Oh, uh…” Applejack muttered. “Well… my cider making presses might seem a tad…”
“T-That’s not saying it’s bad,” Shiva said quickly. “Just… don’t judge these guys based on what time period they’re from.”
“Right,” Applejack said. “Right.”
“Let’s… start with the basics,” Shiva offered, turning to Cadence. “How much sounds fair for the apples?” she asked Cadence.
Her eyes sparkling at Shiva’s enthusiasm, Cadence lunged into the conversation, and in less than five minutes, they had worked out an agreement of trading apples for rubies, which Applejack could sell in turn to get money to aid her farm.
“Hoo-wee,” Applejack cried in relief as they finished the deal. “Some ponies were worried ‘bout you, Shiva, but I gotta say…” she tipped her hat. “I’m mighty pleased to be working with ya.”
“The feeling is mutual, my orange friend,” Shiva said happily. “The feeling is mutual.”
As Applejack cantered out with a skip in her step, Cadence looked at Shiva with pride.
“I did not expect you to be that good with ponies,” Shining admitted.
“I’m good with some ponies,” Shiva said. “Ponies that haven’t hurt me.”
As if fate was testing that theory, Skippy let in the next case; Rarity.
“Princesses,” Rarity declared in a sweeping bow.
“Hello, Rarity,” Cadence said happily, only to find Shiva vanished from her side. When Cadence looked around for her, she found Shiva firmly on the throne next to Scorpia, her happy expression switched like a light for a more suspicious and slightly miffed expression. Luke was barely hiding a grin beside her.
“Element of Generosity,” Shiva growled.
Scorpia pursed her lips, trying not to laugh. Shining sighed, glaring at her with a deadpan expression of resignation.
“Um… well,” Rarity said, blinking in shock at Shiva’s attitude. “I-I run a boutique shop in Ponyville, and I’m always in high demand for gems.”
“We already worked out a deal with Applejack,” Shiva said firmly. “You can buy the gems we give her.”
“Oh,” Rarity stammered, put off by Shiva’s blunt reply. “Well… alright. But… I also have to admit… y-your diamond dogs can be…”
“Can be what?” Shiva growled.
“Shiva, be nice,” Scorpia said firmly.
“Please,” Cadence asked, before turning back to Rarity. “Don’t mind her; keep going.”
Rarity still watched Shiva carefully before continuing.
“I just have to… admit,” Rarity said with a breathless chuckle. “That the diamond dogs are incredible miners and diggers. I did spend a brief amount of time… with them…” she chuckled again. “And they were rather effective at coaxing gems and jewels from the earth. Would it be possible for some to aid me in finding gems?”
Shiva sat forward. “Would they be compensated and given benefits?” she asked.
“Of course,” Rarity said quickly, but the words were barely out of her mouth before Shiva continued.
“And the gems from Applejack won’t be sufficient?” Shiva asked.
“W-Well…” Rarity admitted. “Applejack and I are rather close. It doesn’t seem quite as fair to charge her full price for anything…”
“If my diamond dogs are going into pony territory,” Shiva said firmly. “I want assurance that they’re not going to be treated badly because of their race.”
That deal took far longer to haggle out. By the time a deal had been reached for the dogs to be carefully watched by Scorpia’s changelings, and compensated generously for their efforts, Rarity had all but bolted for the door.
Cadence turned to Shiva like a disappointed mother, but Shiva stood straight up in response.
“That mare has always looked on my dogs with suspicion,” she growled. “And now she’s only acting nice so she can…”
“That’s no excuse to treat her like that,” Cadence countered. “You said yourself that this was about equality. And that was not equal treatment.”
“It was fair treatment,” Luke growled. “How she treated us…”
“All of you,” Scorpia said firmly. “Enough.” She got between them. “This is a learning curve; it’s all about learning to deal with each other.”
“But Shiva did so well with Applejack,” Cadence said sadly.
“Because Applejack doesn’t look on me and just see a filthy diamond dog,” Shiva said firmly.
Cadence opened her mouth to argue, but decided against it at the last minute.
“Can you… just promise me you’ll hide your feelings a little better with the next case?” Cadence asked, walking to her throne. “A princess shouldn’t look biased.”
“I’m not a princess,” Shiva noted. “But I’ll try.”
Cadence sighed. “Thank you,” she said, before turning to Shining Armor. “Next,” she called.
Shining nodded, and he and Luke let in… Shiva groaned as Twilight walked in.
“So, since diamond dogs are aligned with ponies,” Twilight said, a pad of parchment and quill floating alongside her. “Could I ask Shiva some questions about her magic?”
Scorpia pursed her lips, while Cadence gave a small chuckle. Shiva, however, stared at Twilight. Not even with anger or suspicion; just… staring. Though she let no idea of her emotions get through, Twilight’s imagination went into overdrive, and it wasn’t long before her ears were flattened, and she was backing up with a tucked tail.
“Sparkle,” Shiva said slowly. “You are from Ponyville. This is the Crystal Empire’s first day.” She glanced at Skippy. “How many crystal ponies and diamond dogs are out there right now?”
Skippy peeked out. “The line’s stretching all the way to the border,” he said.
“So,” Shiva said firmly. “Do I really sound like I’m at a good place to be interrogated?”
“I wasn’t…” Twilight caught herself. “No,” she admitted. “No, Princess…”
“Alpha,” Luke corrected with a growl.
“A-Alpha Shiva…” Twilight mumbled.
Cadence glared at Shiva before offering a sympathetic look to Twilight.
“How about you come back at a later time?” Cadence offered. “We’re going to try and get the ponies and diamond dogs settled here, so now’s probably not a good time.”
Twilight moped like a child denied candy. “Okay,” she mumbled, turning tail and walking out.
Before Cadence could say anything, Shiva glared at Skippy.
“Now, is the next case out there actually someone from the Crystal Empire?”
“Eh…” Shining Armor started to say, before Pinkie Pie burst through.
“Congratulations, you three!” Pinkie cheered with delight. “This calls for a…”
“PINKIE, WE ARE TRYING TO WORK!” Scorpia, Cadence and Shiva barked as one.
Pinkie froze in mid-air. “Oh,” she mumbled, dropping to the ground. “Well…”
Their voices were more than enough incentive for the others, and before Pinkie could get over her shock, a crystal pony barged through, followed by an equally angry diamond dog.
“I can’t wait any longer,” the pony said. “Princesses…”
“And Alpha,” Shiva growled, though she couldn’t keep the grin off her face. Finally, someone from her new home. Someone that likely had something real to talk about aside from…
“This diamond dog is stealing gems right off my home,” the crystal pony said firmly.
“I was not!” the diamond dog barked petulantly.
Shiva’s smile dropped off her face. “What?”
“This diamond dog,” the crystal pony said. “Has been stealing gems off my house, and tried to pay for them with glass beads.”
“They sparkle like gems!” the diamond dog barked. “It’s fair!”
Shiva blinked at them. “Are you...?” she didn’t even finish the sentence. Standing up, she let her pack link flare to life, twining around the diamond dog and the pony, before sending a link to Scorpia and Cadence. Narrowing her eyes, she looked into their memories and saw…
The diamond dog – Duke, she recognized - yanking gems off of one of the gem studded houses, followed by the crystal pony – Check Mate, was his name – yelling at him.
When Shiva lowered the pack link, her eyes were heavy with disappointment.
“Duke,” she said softly. “When we made this alliance, did you really think that gave you the right to do whatever you wanted?”
Duke’s ears flattened at her disappointed tone. “Well…” he mumbled. “I paid with glass beads.”
“These ponies,” Shiva said slowly. “Are not. Cave-ponies! They had a working society and are more than capable of being bartered with, but not with worthless items. That’s what this is all about; getting along, not taking advantage of them.”
Duke looked down with a whimper. “But… they put us in cages,” he said weakly.
“These ponies didn’t,” Shiva said firmly. “They were in cages themselves.” She sighed. “Now, I want you to give Check Mate back his gems, and I want you to spread the word around; just because the ponies have to live with us now does not give us the right to take advantage of them! Then, if you still want the gems, you ask him what he’ll accept.” She turned to Check Mate. “And it better be reasonable, Check Mate. If Duke comes back telling me you told him to get gems from dragons, I’m going to be very unhappy with you. And you can ask Chrysalis and Sombra what happens when you make me unhappy!”
Check Mate and Duke both winced, backing up before bowing their heads.
“Okay,” they both said.
“Okay?” Shiva clarified.
She sighed. “Alright,” she said, motioning to the door.
When she glanced over, she noticed Cadence hiding a smile. “What?” she asked.
“I suppose I thought Duke was going to get it easier,” Cadence noted, looking down with a sigh. “Shows how much I still have to learn.”
“I expect the same from both of you,” Shiva said firmly. “These guys are all our subjects, and we need to make sure they’re treating each other fairly.”
“Not to worry, Shiva,” Cadence said, Shining avoiding a grimace. “I didn’t spend my juvenile years as a foal sitter for nothing.” She nodded to Skippy. “Bring in the next one.”
The next one was a much more confident looking pony dragging another dog behind him.
“This dog refused to accept perfectly acceptable dog food for a pile of sapphires,” he insisted.
Shining opened his mouth to respond… only for a THUD of a skull colliding with a wall cutting him off. Everyone turned to Shiva, who resisted banging her head against a wall a second time to assume a more regal posture.
“Cadence?” she growled.
“Already on it,” Cadence replied, giving the crystal pony her best ‘disappointed mother’ glare. “Did you really think that was going to work?” Cadence demanded.
The crystal pony’s confident expression fell like an anvil, and in seconds, he was on the floor, pleading for them to forgive him. Cadence rolled her eyes before motioning for him to stop.
“This is about equality, my little pony,” Cadence said firmly. “Get up, and apologize to Liz. Then see what she'd accept as proper payment. But,” she added, giving a glare to the diamond dog. "It better be reasonable."
The diamond dog quickly nodded. The pony got up with another sniffle, apologized to the dog, and they both left, Shining shaking his head with a sigh.
And on it went; case after case, usually of diamond dogs and ponies getting into trouble with each other. Shiva was half-sure Scorpia was hiding a smug look; not a single changeling came to them with any problems, a fact that seemed to irritate Shining when the only case that came forward was a couple of Equestrians harassing a changeling for apparently... being a changeling.
“I’m starting to wonder if we should employ some of my changelings to keep the peace,” Scorpia noted, after the fiftieth case of diamond dogs and ponies accusing each other of either not accepting blatantly bad items or just being ‘jerks.’
“I don’t know about that,” Shining said. “Many Equestrians don’t trust changelings. And we've got plenty of former royal guards in the CEF.”
Cadence hummed. “What if we put a few of these guards in with these changeling peace keepers. To make sure they behave themselves.”
“If you’re making a peace keeping force,” Shiva said. “Then add some of my Spear Dogs into it. My dogs won’t accept ponies telling them what to do unless it’s with my consent.”
Thankfully, they also got a few Equestrians that wanted to discuss trade and barter, a few ponies curious about new taxes, and plenty of diamond dogs worried about land distribution. Annoyingly, Twilight kept showing up hopefully, until even Cadence got tired of her trying to sneak in.
By the time they finally got to adjourn the court, Shiva felt dead on her paws, and raced away before Twilight could try to catch her. Thankfully, Luke headed the purple mare off, and as an argument blew up between Luke, Shining and Twilight, Shiva was able to slip away into the castle.
“Is it always going to be like that?” Shiva asked with a sigh.
“That? No,” Cadence teased, sidling up next to her. “Sometimes, there will be bad days.” She put a wing around Shiva when the dog groaned. “I’m just teasing. Once everyone gets settled, we’ll only really have to worry about trading.” She grinned. “You’ll have plenty of time to look after your new pups.”
Shiva turned to her, ears flared in shock, but Cadence just smiled and winked.
“You’re going to be a wonderful mother,” Cadence assured her. “I just know it.”
Shiva glanced down at her stomach, running a claw over it and feeling for the squirms of life within her womb.
Part of her wasn’t happy she had to deal with Twilight and the ponies and everything. But as she looked down, she found her resolve strengthening.
If dealing with the ponies is the best way to ensure a good life for my puppies, Shiva thought. Then I’ll have to make it work.
Besides, I’ve made things work so far. It’s not like there’s some way I can go back to before I got dumped into this magic land.
Meanwhile, in Equestria, Celestia paced before a giant purple mirror. Luna watched her with worry.
“Is it nearly time, my sister?” she asked.
Celestia gave the mirror a sad look. “I do not know if she will come back,” Celestia admitted. “In all honestly… I do not know if her seeing me will only make the wounds between us fester further.” She looked down morosely. “Perhaps it is better if she is given the chance to rejoin her home… without me hovering over her.”
Luna put a wing over her. “You did the best you could with Sunset Shimmer,” she insisted. “Never forget that.”
Despite her sister’s comforting words, Celestia still looked at the mirror like Shiva herself was going to come through and punish her for her mistakes.
“Ask Cadence to look over it at the crystal empire,” Celestia said, walking away. “I thought I was ready for Sunset's anger... but I do not think I am anymore."
Luna winced. “Sister,” she said. “Shiva is there. Do you not suppose Sunset will find an ally in her, and..."
Celestia sighed. “I wish neither of them detested us," she admitted. “But Shiva still holds distrust in her heart for us. Sunset will have a hard time convincing her of anything." Then she teleported away with a flash of golden light.