Few alive have ever seen the Equestrian military mobilize to face down a threat to their nation. Though technically they still wouldn’t see such a spectacle today, the bustling in the Castle made the denizens of Canterlot believe war was on the horizon. Soldiers ran this way and that trying to get to their battalions and squadrons. Commanders shouted out orders loudly and with no discretion. Stocks of armor and weapons were emptied and equipped, already shined and sharpened to peak condition. It was chaotic by all means (and Discord chuckled in delight of it all). Despite the turmoil, Celestia’s face was still very much the epitome of calm and collected. The Solar Alicorn remained silent as she listened to her sister converse loudly as they walked down the hall.
“Are you positive she is in Ponyville?” The Changeling Queen Carapace asked, flipping her head slightly to get some of her raggedy orange mane out of her face. “The town has no strategic significance.”
“True.” Luna remarked. “No army would take the town for its strategic value… Its morale value, however, is paramount.” Carapace cocked an eyebrow, confused. “If Equestria lost its Elements of Harmony, the blow to the nation’s spirit would cut deeper than any blade could hope to.”
Chrysalis, walking next to Carapace, tilted her. “But Cadence desires the death of Changelings, not the destruction of Equestria’s morale.”
“The Elements are a threat to her.” Luna interjected. “She is ensuring that they cannot be used against her.” The darker Alicorn chuckled to herself. “Such a clever child, for being so young by Alicorn standards. I’d applaud her, if I didn’t wish to, as the commoners say, curb stomp her face into the ground for her deceit.”
The two Changeling Queens shot looks of confusing glances at each other; neither of them ever hearing an Equestrian say that. Celestia remained quiet through out the other mares’ conversation. The Monarch was apprehensive, her mind stuck on Cadence and the horrors she could commit in Ponyville in her current state. Celestia cursed herself in anger. Self-loathing trickled into her mind and poisoned her thoughts. She should have seen what Cadence was becoming; she should have seen everything that was happening! But she didn’t, and now the whole of Ponyville, an innocent town in all of this, was under siege from her deranged niece.
Luna looked to her left to see her sister’s head down, deep in thought. “Sister? Sister!” Celestia’s neck snapped straight and she turned to her sister. “Tia, what is the matter? Are you contriving some plan to bring down Cadence?”
“You speak of her as if she is as great a threat to Equestria as Discord.” Celestia bemoaned.
“She may very well be.” Luna replied. “She’ll spark a war with the Changeling Collective, and we’ll lose a lot of good ponies… too many. I’ll not let her madness cause a mass genocide, I’ll die first.”
Celestia was about to respond but a pegasus stopped her short, speedily flying up to the four tall mares and saluting whilst still in the air. “Your Majesties, our forces are ready to move. All pegasi air units are armored up and ready to move on Ponyville while the Earth ponies and unicorns consolidate here in Canterlot.”
Celestia nodded. “Good. Tell the Commanders we’re are also ready and will leave shortly.”
The pegasus nodded. “Of course ma’am… Though, if you do not think it rude, I must ask why you decided to have a disaster exercise today. Seems a bit odd.”
Celestia smiled her signature smile and patted the stallion on the head. “As Equestria’s defenders we must always be ready to take up arms and protect the country we love, even at the strangest of times.”
The pony nodded. “I see. Yeah, I get that. Alright ma’am, I’ll go relay the message to the Commanders and we’ll move out when you’re ready.” Another salute later and the pegasus was down the hallway.
A disaster exercise, what a brilliant cover-up. Celestia disliked lying to her little ponies, but at the same time she would not allow anyone to know the truth of what was really happening, for Cadence’s sake. She had yet to do anything unredeemable and Celestia was positive Cadence could be brought back. The older Alicorn did not want this situation to mire Cadence's image towards the commoners.
Luna’s ears suddenly perked, as did Celestia’s. “Sister, you felt that no? The Elements are being used, the Bearers must be combating Cadence’s invasion.”
The Solar Alicorn nodded. “Then let us make haste before it is too late.”
Cadence cried out in pain as she felt the bone underneath her flesh contort and finally give way, shattering into several pieces. The Alicorn backed away instantly from Twilight and backpedaled to a safe distance. The two had traded small sparks of magic, nothing serious. But Cadence wanted a quick end, so she could fortify the town into her own little fortress. She went at Twilight head on, only to catch a bone-shattering spell to the left leg.
Cadence felt her magic slowly repair the beaten bone, weaving its sinews back into proper placement. When that was finished, she looked again to Twilight. The purple mare looked ready to continue the fight. Her horn flared purple with intense magic, most likely helped along by the pony’s Element. Cadence would need to end this decisively if she wanted any chance of victory, unsure of how prolonged combat might affect Twilight’s magic.
“Contemplating something Cadence?” Twilight asked, her soft tone much different from her hardened face. “I really hope it’s surrender, I don’t want this fight to escalate any more.”
“I will not surrender Twilight, I have to fight to save you all from Chrysalis.” The Alicorn straightened herself, her leg fixed. “I’ll save you all!”
“How self-righteous…” Discord hymned, the Draconequus resting upon a nearby rooftop.
Ignoring the mishmash creature, Twilight lit her horn up brighter. “Fine, we do this your way.”
“Shut up Discord!” Shouted Rainbow Dash.
Twilight shot a strong bolt of magic at Cadence, which was easily countered by a shield from the Alicorn. Cadence lowered the shield and fired off a streak of lightning. Twilight jumped out of the way while firing three bolts at Cadence. The mare’s Alicorn opponent unfurled her wings at shot upward, dodging the bolts and gaining some high ground.
“Twilight, please, just stop! This doesn’t have to be hard!”
“I’m not going to surrender to you, not when you’re attacking my home and trying to hurt ponies!”
The purple unicorn was not soldier and she knew it well enough. Twilight knew no combat magic except for the simple spirit bolt attack, something every unicorn knew. Sure, Twilight had faced a lot of violent challenges, like the Changelings, and the hydra, and Nightmare Moon, and the Diamond Dogs, and that one manticore, and Trixie, and that one mare from accounting... Wow, Twilight pondered, I really do lots of violent stuff don’t I? It’s actually kinda disturbing really... Regardless, fighting wasn’t Twilight’s plan. She just needed to exhaust Cadence so the Elements could fix whatever was wrong with her. That shouldn’t be too hard right? After all, it’s not like Cadence wanted to kill her…
Twilight fell with a thud as a stunner spell hit her in the shoulder. Luckily, a quick counter spell prevented Twilight from becoming unconscious. Hopping to her hooves quickly, Twilight looked around for Cadence. The mare was nowhere to be found.
“Twilight behind you!” Yelled Pinkie Pie.
Twilight turned too little too late and felt Cadence backhand her with a magically charged hoof. Twilight hit the ground hard and skidded painfully for a meter or two. The mare fired off more magical bolts to deter Cadence, but it was to no avail. None hit, and a spell countered any that were close. Twilight was about to get back up when a hoof rammed into her breast and pinned her down. Looking up, the purple mare saw Cadence’s haunting eyes staring back at her.
“Twilight honestly, I’m a goddess. You have no combat training and no spells that cause real harm. Any endeavor to stop me is fruitless, so just stop.” Cadence remarked as she pressed harder when she felt Twilight try to break free. Truthfully, Cadence didn’t want to see how powerful Twilight could be if she put her mind to it.
Twilight grunted, trying to unwedge herself from Cadence’s hold. “I’m not giving up Cadence! In fact…” The mare’s eyes suddenly changed, degrading into two circles of pure white light. Her horn lit up and a pillar of purple fire shot straight up, hitting Cadence square in the face. The Alicorn screamed and backed away, flailing her head about maddeningly to try and disperse the flames.
Twilight returned to her hooves. “Girls! Now! While she’s distracted!”
The other Bearers up ran next to Twilight. Reaching into themselves, they pulled forth the traits that represented their Elements. Soon, all of the little gems were glowing brightly in a rainbow of orange, pink, light and dark blue, purple, and red. The six mares lifted off the ground as magic swirled around them and saturated the air. Cadence widened her eyes in shock as her attention returned to Twilight, already she could see sparks of rainbow around the six. Twilight’s eyes opened to reveal themselves still pure white and glowing. Magic filled her diadem and readied itself to fire off.
“Don’t worry Cadence, this’ll help save you!”
“Not if I have anything to say about it!” Lightning Dust shouted as she rushed downward, slamming into Rainbow Dash with her back legs and ramming the mare into the ground. Dash yelled out in pain as she felt several bones crack. The opal mare on top of her smiled and chuckled darkly. “What’s wrong Dashie? Not feeling all that good?”
With one Element suddenly inactive, the magic present merely seconds ago faded and the mares fell to the ground with a loud thud. Unable to react quickly enough, mercs ran at the Elements and pinned them down, stealing their Elements gems. Bringing forth hoof-cuffs, Twilight and the others found themselves captured and at the mercy of the mercenaries.
Cadence picked herself off the ground and nodded at her troops. “Good work. Now take the Elements and lock them away in the town hall once we’ve secured it.”
Lightning Dust took her eyes off Rainbow Dash for a second to focus on Cadence. “What about the rest of Ponyville’s militia? They’ve fallen back and are probably regrouping now.”
Cadence frowned at the merc captain. “Do I honestly have to tell you what to do? Find them and capture them! It isn’t that hard!”
Lightning gave the slightest look of contempt to Cadence before motioning to her soldiers. “You heard her, go find the militia and take them out… gently.” A large amount of the mercs nodded and ran off to fight their enemies. Lightning shoved her hoof harder into Rainbow Dash’s back, rewarding her with a whimper from the mare. “We’ll talk soon enough, you and I. Then, I can make you pay for what you did to me.” Once last kick and Lightning Dust left the speedster lying on the ground in pain while two mercs moved in to cuff her.
Ignoring Lightning’s rough treatment of Rainbow, Cadence turned to Twilight with a saddened look. “I’m sorry it has to be like this Twilight, but I have to stop Chrysalis.”
Twilight huffed at her old foal-sitter. “You keep saying that, and it just sounds more ridiculous each time. There is no plot Cadence, no great plan! Chrysalis isn’t trying anything; she just loves Celestia and is trying to be happy with her! That’s it! You’ve lost yourself in some crazy revenge scheme!”
“That’s not true!” Cadence yelled defiantly, though her voice faltered slightly. “I’m… I’m doing what is right! Changelings are evil! Their only goal in life is to cause pain! I’m going to make sure they can’t!”
“Do you even hear yourself?” Discord added in. “Sounds like somebody’s trying to convince herself…”
Cadence let loose a magical bolt at the Draconequus, which he promptly dodged by flashing away in a white light. “Shut up! You’re just as bad if not worse then the Changelings!”
“Oh great… I’m next on her list of stuff she wants to kill, lovely.” The chaotic spirit rolled his eyes as he reappeared elsewhere.
Cadence gritted her teeth. She looked again to Twilight, who returned her gaze with a look of defiance. “Just… take her away and lock her up somewhere. I’m done trying to convince her for now. She’ll see the truth sooner or later.” The mercs holding Twilight nodded and hauled her off to be locked up.
Cadence sat down and rubbed her temples. “Stupid mare… I’m doing what’s best for her… what’s for the country! Once Chrysalis is defeated, then she’ll see… they’ll all see.”
Discord chuckled from his new resting place in a nearby tree. “That you’re insane? I concur on that. It must be so hard for you to see your resolve to melt away like that.”
“Why can’t you just die?” Cadence shot at the Draconequus.
“Cause that plot device isn’t until season six or a major motion picture.” Discord commented, summoning an apple into his claw and then eating the core but nothing else.
Cadence grumbled at Discord’s ramblings and shook her head. “This whole thing is getting out of hoof! Now even Twilight is deep in the thrall of that damnable bug! I need to stop Chrysalis soon before it’s too late.”
“Oh I assure you Cadence, it’s much too late.”
Cadence’s eyes widened at the familiar voice and her head jolted to spin around and look behind her. Queen Carapace stood alone on a rooftop, smiling confidently. Cadence growled in anger. “Carapace, what are you doing here?!”
“To stop you obviously.” The Queen replied.
“Is that so?!” Cadence shot back, noting the fact Carapace completely alone. “You and what army?!”
Discord instantly slapped his paw to his face and made a depressed groan. “Why? Why would you say that? That is literally asking to be proven wrong!”
As if on cue, dozens of Royal Pegasi Guards swooped down onto the rooftops of Ponyville’s buildings. Pulling out crossbows, they aimed at Cadence and any mercs they could get a spot on. Celestia, Luna, and Chrysalis flew in and landed next to Carapace.
“It is over Cadence.” Luna snarled. “Stand down or you’ll regret it.”
“Please Cadence,” Celestia begged. “We just want to help.”
“I actually kind of want to kill her.” Carapace interjected.
“You’re not helping.” Chrysalis remarked.
Cadence looked out in fear as she and her forces where completely surrounded. The mare gulped but stood her ground, readying herself. Deep down the Alicorn knew, one way or the other, this was the beginning of the end.