The homes and buildings of the Crystal Empire’s capital were indeed a wonder to behold. Made of an unknown type of crystal, it was still altogether unknown how it worked. Truth be told the Crystal Ponies really didn’t care to know. All they cared about was the fact that if you placed a tiny bit of crystal inside the mold of a house in about two weeks the crystal would grow around it and voila, you had a new house in place.
The house of the Crystal Pony Glittering Gemstone was indeed one of the more fancy homes. Standing tall and proud on the city’s grand main street, it was a testament to the magnificent unknown crystal the ponies of the Empire relied on. Its bluish-aquamarine hue complimented the garden it had, full of flowers of the same or other familiar colors. The house itself was so large it had taken a full month to grow. BOOM! And it only took seconds to explode… funny how that works.
The ex-king of the Crystal Empire, Sombra the unicorn, flew from the explosion smoking and in quite a lot of pain (he was also slightly on fire). The black unicorn hit the ground with a thud, bounced, hit the ground again, bounced once more, and finally stopped with a loud thud. The stallion groaned in pain, picking his armored self up and stomping out the fire on his tail.
Cracking his neck, the pony spit out a crystal that was lodged in his teeth. “Is that all you got bitches! Please! I take those kinds of hits for breakfast! I laugh at you and your pathetic attempts at…”
A huge slime green blast of magic exploded from the destroyed building and rammed Sombra right in the everywhere, causing a huge anime worthy explosion every Dragon Ball Z fan knows like the back of their hand. Throwing up bits of building and street, the smoke caused from the blast quickly cleared to reveal a huge crater where Sombra had been.
A moan could be heard as an armored hoof grabbed ahold of the edge of the crater and Sombra pulled himself out, clearly jumbled. “Is that… Is that all you bitches…”
Another magical blast cut him off, once again sending rubble into the sky as the stallion was assaulted with hostile magic. As with last time, however, Sombra would not die.
Sombra painfully crawled out of the crater. “I am… oh Maker… I am going to break off your damn horns and shove them down your…” A third blast of magic tore through the sky at the ex-king. This time, Sombra was prepared. Horn lighting up with black colored magic, Sombra easily deflected the spell. His shield, however, did not quell his rage. “That’s it! You all die!” He shouted as he shot off his own spells at the attackers in the ruins.
When the attacks went through and no retaliation came, Sombra assumed he had hit his foes or they had retreated back. Taking this time to catch his breath, Sombra looked around the broken city he was in.
The capital city of the Crystal Empire was in ruins; an effect of the intense fighting that had taken place recently. Streets were smashed and filled with rubble, houses were now large craters, and much of the city had been burned from the first onslaught. It was certainly a scene one would expect from a city in the middle of a warzone, despite the fact that as of now this had only been the third wave of attackers to try and take the city over the past two days (though in retrospect it could be assumed that only one wave of attackers could be needed to level a city).
Five days… that’s pretty good, considering. Sombra pondered this as he looked up at the sky, slightly blackened and marred from the smoke billowing through it. Five days, five days of the city’s unicorns holding up the defensive barrier that had kept the enemy from reaching the main foundations of the city. Magical barrier… why does that feel so familiar? The amnesia stricken tyrant pondered as well, though he decided to leave it be for more important matters.
After five days of constant attack, the barrier finally broke and the assaulting army cascaded like a deadly waterfall onto the city. Luckily, the five days had been spent preparing, and by the time the barrier fell all of the city’s occupants had been evacuated to the palace and defenses had been shored up. When the fighting had reached the city, the defenders easily pushed back the attacks, resulting in the current two-day long battle that was raging. Though Sombra and all other the Crystal Guards knew that the enemy’s tactic was attrition. That made things difficult, but not impossible.
At least they had been able to send off a distress signal to Equestria. The magical barrier had prevented them from doing so, blocking the magical signal. With the barrier down, a signal had been sent and now all they had to do was wait for reinforcements to arrive (easier said than done). Still, it gave them a goal to strive for and a glimmer of hope, and that was all it took to send morale soaring.
Sombra was so entranced in thought he did not notice as something skulked near him. The thing kept to the dark areas and shadows, sneaking up on its target in the hopes for a quick takedown. When it was finally close enough the thing bent its legs and readied to strike. It counted down in its head, 3… 2… 1… ATTACK!
Sombra jumped in shock as he heard the whack as one of his Changeling foes slammed into a rosy colored magical hexagon-shaped shield. The insectoid equine slid down in a comical way until it slumped to the ground, one leg twitching slightly as it lie unconscious where it fell.
Sombra exhaled heavily, turning his head to see his savior: Prince Regent Shining Armor. The white stallion trotted up to the black one, smiling confidently. “And that’s a hundred and ten for me.”
Sombra snorted. “I let you have that one.”
Shining laughed, nodded “Sure, and I’m dating a hydra.”
“Careful what you say, you never know how right you may be.”
“What’s that suppose to mean?”
“Cadence has a powerful slap…”
Shining shook his head at the stallion. “Could you possibly be any more of a sissy?”
Suddenly five Changelings jumped from the smoke of Glittering Gemstone’s destroyed house and attacked Shining. The stallion had only enough time to turn before they were on him. ZAP!!! The Changeling’s fell as black lightning coursed through their bodies and dropped them.
Shining turned to see a grinning Sombra, blowing the residue smoke from his horn. “I’m sorry, you were talking? Hundred and fourteen, by the way.”
Shining’s eyes rolled. “Lucky break.” An explosion tore through the sky and the resounding shockwaves shook the ground beneath the stallions. Shining’s eyes shot quickly from the ground to Sombra. “I think it’s a good time to leave.”
“Agreed.” Sombra nodded, turning and fleeing towards the Palace at an amazing pace for a pony wrapped in armor.
Shining took another look at his beaten and battered city before spinning around and following his ex-nemesis. It only took Shining, who was wearing lighter armor, a second or two to catch up with his compatriot.
As the two hurried to the Palace, Sombra took this moment to voice his opinion. “So, I guess your Aunt-in-law's bed bug really is a traitor, if this is any indication.”
Shining shook his head, panting even as he did so. “No, I don’t think so. If Chrysalis did want the Collective to invade the Crystal Empire she’d be here, not Canterlot. The Crystal Empire might be a part of Equestria, but we have autonomous militaries. Celestia has no idea how strong the Empire’s defenses are, likewise we have no clue how strong Equestria is. The only reason I have a clue was because I was Royal Guard Captain.”
“Strange way to govern.” Sombra commented.
“Security reasons. This way, if either territory fell and not the other, it wouldn’t affect the survivor, who could then supply a counterattack.” Shining inhaled deeply, needing a lot of air to talk and run at once.
“Hmm… Makes sense in that regard.” Sombra admitted.
“Yeah,” Shining agreed. “Now we just have to figure out why these Changelings are attacking, it’s got to be something big if their willing to brave the ice around the Empire.”
Sombra gasped. “What if their Queen thinks we kidnapped Chrysalis and now she’s brought her army here to hold the city hostage in an attempt to get Chrysalis back!”
“That’s stupid, Changeling Queens rarely give a second glance towards the mechanisms of other hives.” Shining inhaled deeply to keep up his stride. “She’s probably here to suck up all our love, like most Changelings do.”
Sombra was about to counter but the two arrived at the arched pavilion that held the Crystal Heart and its podium. The Heart had been unsure what to do, having never faced Changelings in such number and with the tactics this army had. It was well aware that if it blasted the current wave away another would take its place. With no other option, the Heart had erected the barrier and became exhausted holding it up. Now, it simply protected the Palace and the ponies (guards and citizens alike) inside.
Shining looked around at the courtyard that sat under the Palace; it was filled with guards, barriers both magical and physical, as well as supplies for when needed. The Prince Regent couldn’t help but smile at the fact that other than a few scrapes and bruises, his Crystal Guard was wholly uninjured. That was the diamond in the rough about fighting Changelings: they don’t kill their foes (hard to suck love from a corpse).
Shining turned to see his Lieutenant, Dazzling Amethyst, as she trotted up to him. The stallion could see the bloody bandages underneath the mare’s armor. “Amethyst, what’s the situation?”
“Other than getting our gemstone butts kicked?” The pony mocked calmly. “Well, all remaining guards have finally fallen back to the Palace. We lost no guards to Changeling capture, but a lot are out of the fight due to injuries. Not sure how long we can hold out. Things are looking grim sir.”
Shining smiled heartily. “Good, we’re at rock bottom. That means we can only go up from here.” The stallion looked at his guards, his words had brought all their wary eyes to him. “And I’m not sure if the Changelings know who their dealing with. Well, I’m ready to show them! They’re fighting the Crystal Guard of the Crystal Empire! The baddest sons of parasprites this side of the world! Do Changelings feel fear? I don’t know, but it’s a damn fine time to teach them! Buck up guards, we’ll kick these bug brains all the way back to their holes! TEN HUT MARES! We got bug butt to kick!”
The other guards gave their captain and prince a ‘HOORAH’ and readied themselves for the next Changeling attempt to break in. Sombra watched the guards move with renewed purpose, their spirits lifted from the hearty jargon. “Impressive.” He told Shining.
Shining chuckled. “Yeah, well, Cadence always said I was the shouter, I seem to be proving her right huh?”
“I’m sure she’d be proud.”
“Yeah.” Shining agreed. “Now, we need a way to end this quickly. I’m positive we can hold out until reinforcements arrive, but I’d rather push these Changelings off my yard personally.”
“You have a plan?” Sombra asked, Shining’s tone hinting he had a one.
Shining nodded. “Another reason I doubt this is Chrysalis’s doing, she sent me a letter that told me a spell that can disrupt the drones motor skills. I couldn’t use it before-hoof due to the spread out formation of the Changelings.”
“How do we know it works?”
“I tried it out.”
“How’d you…” Sombra stopped himself. “Actually, I’d rather not know. Right, what do we need to do?”
“I hope you don’t mind getting pushed back.” Shining said plainly. “We’ve got to get all the Changelings close so it hits all of them.”
“Well crap, that’s easy as hell.” Sombra walked past Shining towards two Crystal Pony nurses tending to injured guards. “You two!” He shouted and the crystal mares turned to the stallion. Sombra made sure he had their attention. “Good. Now… make hot love!”
“SOMBRA!!!” Shining yelled in shock as he ran up to his comrade-in-arms. “Don’t say things like that!” Smiling nervously, the Prince Regent apologized to the nurses. “I’m so sorry, ignore that order.”
Sombra turned to Shining. “What are you doing? We need an irresistible amount of love to draw all the Changelings towards this location.”
“That doesn’t mean you go asking two mares to have sex.” Shining scolded quietly. “You don’t even know if their lesbians.”
Sombra nodded. “Good point.” He turned to the mares. “Hey, you two lesbians?”
“SOMBRA!” Shining shouted again. “You can’t just ask mares if their lesbians!”
“Oh don’t worry sir, we both are.” One of the nurses replied.
Sombra lifted a hoof towards the nurses. “See? It’s perfectly ok. They both like innies and not outies. ” Sombra flexed his eyebrows up and down, trying to reinforce his double entendre.
Shining gritted his teeth heavily. “That. Doesn’t. Make it. Okay!”
The black stallion snorted. “Prude.”
“I-I am not!”
“Really? Cause that’s the way it seems.”
“I AM NOT! You wouldn’t even believe the nasty stuff I’ve done with Cadence! Hell, one time there was this apple pie and Cadence stuffed it right in…”
“WHOA!” Sombra stuck out his tongue out in disgust. “Don’t tell me crap like that!”
Shining’s mouth was agape. “What?! You were just talking about how much of a prude I was!”
“Uh, yeah, but that doesn’t mean I want to hear your nasty sex stories. That’s disgusting Shining, keep that information in the bedroom.”
Shining’s mouth returned to being agape, a bird could perch inside and not need worry about consequence. “WHAT?!!!”
Sombra nodded. “You heard me, keep that stuff to yourself.”
Shining’s face contorted into anger and the stallion looked like his sister during that Pinkie Sense episode: ready to blow. “You… You are so insufferable sometimes! A complete fool! I can’t believe there’s a stallion so annoying as you! Maker… YOU. ARE. A CHILD!!!!”
Shining huffed heavily; trying to retrieve the precious air he had lost yelling at Sombra. That’s when the white stallion noticed a tear about to release itself from Sombra’s ducts. This melted away Shining’s anger and he sighed. “Sombra… I… I’m an idiot…”
“Yeah… you are.” Sombra nodded. “Hug it out?”
“Yeah.” Shining agreed. The two stallions embraced in a brotherly, totally not gay way (Sombra even made sure to call ‘no homo’ after they connected). “Feel better?”
Sombra nodded. “I do… I do.”
Dazzling Amethyst, who had decided to stay out of the whole ordeal, gasped in shock. “Sirs, look!”
The stallions turned and saw thousands of Changelings pawing at the barrier and trying to get to them. It was evident the Crystal Heart was struggling to hold the barrier against such an extensive (if unorganized) attack.
Sombra cocked an eyebrow. “What the…”
One of the nurses gasped. “Sirs! It must your borderline gay bromance! It attracted the Changelings!” Sombra and Shining promptly took a step away from each other.
Shaking off the awkward, Shining charged his horn. “This is perfect! We can stop the Changelings now!” Shining spun around and ran for the Crystal Heart.
Sombra stayed behind, looking at the floor in stressed contemplation. Finally, he turned to the nurse. “We do not have a bromance. I mean we have a close friendship, but I wouldn’t go that far…” He suddenly got annoyed. “And it’s certainly not borderline gay!”
Shining ignored the yelling stallion as he reached the Crystal Heart and charged magic through it. “Ok…” He started. “I know I’m not Cadence but I need to protect the Empire, and I need you to burst out this spell!”
The Crystal Heart glowed in response to Shining’s request, as if the heart-shaped crystalline object was speaking back to the stallion. Its glow had a red tint to it, so the assumption could be made that it might be disagreeing with the Prince Regent.
“Please.” Shining retorted. “It’ll work! Just charge the spell through your magic! Just like how you stopped King Sombra!” (Shining was glad the mentioned stallion was too busy proving his heterosexuality).
The Crystal Heart paused for a moment, its glow extinguished. Shining bit his lower lip, fearing the Heart was not going to assist him with his plan. The stallion’s fears vanished as the Heart glowed a bright white, readying to accept any foreign magic and meld it with its own.
“Thank you!” Shining shouted happily. The unicorn’s horn released its magic and sent it forth, enveloping the Heart and giving it a pale yellow color. The Heart focused the magic and shrunk its size until the yellow glow was nothing but a small dot in the center of the crystal.
Shining felt himself be pushed back by the sheer might of the magical blast the Heart sent out. Skidding a foot or so, the stallion found his footing again and looked around, the spell had worked! The huge Changeling presence banging against the protective barrier was electrocuted, yellow electricity coursing through them. Shining was a little unsure of what the spell actually did but Chrysalis had explained in her letter that it interrupted the Changeling’s pheromone receptors. Without those receptors, the Changeling horde couldn’t get constant updated orders from their Queen or commanding officer. They were alone in thought now, and therefore disorganized and confused.
Shining smiled as the Changelings fell to the ground, still conscious but wholly confused about what was happening and how to deal with it. Personally, the ex-royal guard captain would have liked a spell that finished off the Changelings, but he knew Chrysalis would never give him such a spell and he accepted that. This worked just as well.
“CHARGE!!!” The Prince Regent shouted to his guards. “DRIVE THEM OUT OF OUR HOME!!!”
The uplifted and readied Crystal Guard rushed their enemies and rammed into them hard. The affected Changelings had no clue what to do as they were run over by the guards. Many simply fled, not wishing to face such ready opponents without the advantage of the hive mind.
Some decided otherwise, and turned to face their attackers. Shining’s horn ignited as he ran through the battlefield and formed a magical kite shield on his right fore leg. The Prince halted, brought his shield arm across his chest, and thrust forward in a swooping arc, shield bashing an attacking Changeling and sending it flying. The stallion could see Sombra and Amethyst across the ruined street, leading the other charge.
Amethyst dodged an attacked and struck back at her Changeling attacker. The Crystal Lieutenant fell back as more Changelings rammed at her, trying to take her down. She had to fall back and join a group of guards to repel them.
Sombra, a veteran unicorn warrior, had no such problems. He head-butted a Changeling drone and punched another with his left hoof. One jumped onto his back and he bucked wildly to remove it. When the equine bug wouldn’t dislodge he grabbed it with black magic and flung it into a group of its fellows.
This caused the stallion to barely have enough to leap out of the way of a chunk of rubble that was thrown at him. Recomposing himself as he got back up, Sombra’s eyes widened as another chunk flew at him. Igniting his magic, the stallion caught the rubble piece and tossed it high into the air, it went so high all lost sight of it. Without that out of the way, Sombra charged the Changeling mages that were tossing chunks of building at him.
Shining smiled confidently: the Crystal Guard was winning! It wouldn’t be too long before the Changelings were pushed back completely from the city. Changeling after Changeling turned and ran, with less and less gaining the courage to counterattack. Shining felt elated as the adrenaline and a high outlook filled his being. They were going to win! They were going to beat the Changelings back and save the city! They were…!
Shining spat out some spittle as he felt the telekinetic wave smash into him, sending him flying back. The stallion slammed into the ground, slid, went airborne a little, hit the ground again, airborne again, and finally hit and skid. The Prince Regent curled into a little ball; the pain was intense!
“SHINING!” Sombra and Amethyst shouted together as they watched the stallion cringe. This was a mistake: another wave of magic hit them and all the other guards, resulting in the same reaction as Shining had.
Sombra face-planted into a rock. The stallion yelped and shot up, his face red from impact. “OUCH! Who the hell did that?!”
“I’m glad you asked, equine.”
Sombra and the guards, as well as a recovering Shining Armor, turned to the voice and found themselves met with an extremely tall and slender Changeling: a Queen. She looked like Chrysalis, though a few differences facial features could be seen that would separate the two. The most obvious was her hair and eyes: they were a dark orange instead of green. The new Queen took a step towards the defeated guards, smiling darkly. Got the same fanged teeth, all non-Changelings mentally commented.
“A clever thing you did.” The Queen replied, her voice of a deeper kind but still feminine enough. “But still not enough, once I decided to join the… party.” Her sick smile dripped with greenish saliva goo, disgusting most of the guards. “Now, you will surrender to me, Queen…”
“Let me guess, Pupa?” Sombra interjected mockingly.
The Queen grimaced, clearly annoyed. “No, Pupa is an arrogant prick. I am Queen Carapace! Leader of the seventh grand hive of the Collective!”
Sombra became sarcastically elated. “Oh, really? Well, nice to meet you! My name’s Imabitch!”
“I’m a bitch?” Queen Carapace questioned slowly.
Sombra fell down laughing, rolling and holding his sides. “Holy crap it worked! It actually worked! Oh geez, you’re stupid.”
The Queen gave a blank look of disgust and lit up her horn, enveloping Sombra in a magical aura and sending him flying upward. The stallion came barreling down, smashing into the street with a loud crash. “Worth it…” He said weakly.
By this time, Shining had gotten back up and was now facing down the Queen. “There’s no way I’m going to let you take this Kingdom!”
The Queen laughed. “HA! How do you plan to stop me, little stallion? I actually wish to hear it!”
Shining inhaled deeply. “The safe way…” He said calmly. The stallion ignited his horn and shot a blast forward at the Changeling, who promptly raised her own protection shield. She soon discovered, however, that Shining’s magic was not an attack. The Prince’s magic wrapped the Queen in a magical bubble, sealed tightly.
Shining huffed from exertion. “I’m going to suffocate you until you fall! It’ll be hard to be a problem while knocked out on the ground!”
“YOU THINK THIS WILL HOLD ME?!” The Queen shouted. She dropped her shield and began blasting away at the shield, to no avail. Shining’s bubble held strong and didn’t even faze as the Changeling beat against it.
Shining chuckled. “I’ve got the best shield spell in the history of Equestria, Discord himself couldn’t break that shield as long as I stay focused. And considering your Changelings are still running around clueless, there isn’t anything to stop me from…”
And then a chunk of rubble fell on Shining, knocking him unconscious. Sombra, who had recovered from being slammed on the ground, instantly recognized the rubble and slunk some feet away, eyes wide.
The magical bubble dissipated and the Queen was free. She smiled sadistically. “Well, isn’t that stroke of good karma?”
Shining groaned as he opened his eyes. Sombra and Amethyst were staring down at him, concerned looks in their eyes. The stallion sat up and shook off some groggy feeling.
“Ugh, what happened?”
“Rubble fell on you.” Sombra stated plainly. “Knocked you out. Could have killed you, seems like the spell you were casting lessened the impact though.”
“What about the Changeling Queen?”
A chuckle came from some feet away. “Oh, I’m still here equine, and I’m in control now.”
Shining’s eyes corrected themselves and he looked around, the Changelings had regrouped and now held the city hostage. Shining cursed under his breath and turned to the Queen. “Alright, now what?”
“Simple equine.” The Queen replied. “You and your kind will return was has been taken from the Collective.” She paced around. “You had no right, and yet you did anyway. It sickens me, you foolish, chaotic things.” She trotted towards Shining. “Now, you return what has been lost, what you took.” She leaned into Shining’s face, frowning at him adamantly. “You WILL return Chrysalis.”
Sombra sniffed once and leaned in next to Shining. "In case you’re wondering, yes, sometimes it can be hard to always be right. However, it is a burden I bear with diligence and enthusiasm."
“Maker damn you Sombra.” Shining grumbled.