Prince Regent Shining Armor paced around the room, biting his lip furiously and giving off the impression he wasn’t afraid to slap a mare. To the royal stallion’s left sat ex-tyrant-king Sombra, sucking on a cherry Popsicle. It would be another full minute of Shining pacing like a stallion looking for a fight for the white unicorn to turn to his former enemy and huff angrily.
“This is retarded! It’s stupid and foolish and unnecessary!” He spat out, clenching his teeth at the end.
“Well no one cares what you think Boy Scout.” Discord the Draconequus replied, the spirit of Chaos sitting on his floating lawn chair with his signature large rimmed glasses on and a reflector board in his claws (he was trying to get a good tan).
“But it’s not right!” Shining retorted.
“Yeah well, neither was your pretty little wife going psycho and trying to commit buggy genocide.” Stated the Draconequus rather matter-of-factly.
“She wasn’t in her right mind!”
Discord rolled his eyes. “Neither was I that one time at the Proud Pegasus Brothel, but I don’t complain about paying child support now do I?”
Sombra sighed. “I wish I had to pay child support…”
“Awwww… It’s ok Somby, someday a mare will want to diddle your daddle, you just have to wait for that right one; that or date a floosy.” Discord floated his chair close to the stallion and patted him on the head.
Shining stomped his hooves on the ground, looking very childish in the process. “Will you two get serious?! Cadence is about to make a major mistake!”
“I tell you what’s a major mistake,” Discord started. “Eating meat in public. I mean, it causes a lot of beautiful chaos but my lord the screeching of Canterlot mares makes me want to stab out my ears!”
“I hate both of you…” Shining grumbled, plopping his backside onto the ground, crossing his fore legs, and pouting angrily.
“I think he was talking about you.” Discord said to Sombra, who gasped in sadness at the thought, he also dropped his Popsicle in the process and that made him even sadder.
The three males turned their heads to a large pair of double doors as they opened wide. Princess Celestia, Princess Luna, Chrysalis, and Cadence strode out of the room, a somber expression adorning each of them. Cadence instantly went to Shining and the two embraced lovingly. Luna went to Sombra and humph’ed at the stallion in an uppity manner. Celestia and Chrysalis watched Cadence and Shining from a short distance away, Chrysalis resting her head affectionately on Celestia’s neck.
Shining brought Cadence into a deep kiss. The two stayed like that for a minute before breaking it. “Please, Cadence, tell me you’re not going to go through with this! It’s crazy! You can get help right here in Canterlot!”
Cadence smiled at her husband. “It’s ok Shining, really. I need to do this.” The Alicorn of Love sighed. “I… did some bad things… I’d have done worse if I hadn’t been stopped. This hate I have, I need to overcome it. What better way than this?”
Shining gritted his teeth. “I can think of a million different things! Anything could be better than…”
“Than what Sir Armor?”
The stallion turned his head towards the insectoid voice, and clenched his teeth had into a dark scowl. Queen Carapace of the Changeling Collective didn’t take note of the stallion’s angry expression. She walked regally to the group of ponies, along with one Draconequus and Changeling, and bowed in a half mocking manner. The Changeling smiled at the group, her fangs brimming brightly.
Shining wasn’t impressed. “Anything’s better than her leaving to live with you and your Changelings. She doesn’t need to leave Equestria to solve her… anger issues.”
Carapace snorted. “Wow, Discord was right, you do have a stick up your butt.” The Changeling flicked her tattered orange mane. “This is the best option, Shining Armor. After all, what better way to fix Cadence’s bigotry than to give her twenty ccs of Changeling hospitality?”
“Is twenty ccs even a large amount?” Sombra asked.
Carapace and the others looked at Sombra quizzically. Carapace continued. “It’s the expression that counts Sombra. Cadence will stay with me and get a hoofs-on-experience she’ll never forget!”
Shining grumbled. “What are you getting out of this?” He asked. “What could you possibly gain from this little treatment plan?”
Carapace chuckled. “Other than having some playful revenge for trying to kill me? It is also part of my punishment for attacking the Crystal Empire, to allow an arguably hostile outsider into my Hive. That, and Celestia made me an offer I just could not, in good faith to my species, pass up.” The Changeling swung her left fore leg out and then brought it in for a fancy bow. “I assure you, Sir Armor, your wife will be safe. She is in good hooves.”
Shining snorted. “I doubt it…” The unicorn turned to his wife. “Won’t you at least take Shape Shift with you? I’d feel better if you had a bodyguard like him at your side.”
“No.” Carapace stepped in. “I’ll not have a drone from a foreign hive in my domain. And I’ll not have any equine other than Cadence accompanying me. These terms are not negotiable. Especially since I put my neck on the line for Cadence, vouching for a pardon from the Collective Council is no easy thing.”
“Shining,” Cadence said mournfully. “It’s alright. I deserve to be in prison for what I’ve done. If I’m not going to be punished like that, than this is an acceptable substitute. Besides, I’m an Alicorn, I can take care of myself when the need arises.”
Carapace pouted at that. “Yes… but know I’m not happy about you running around with your magic still intact, even if that special inhibitor ring lessens it considerably.” The Changeling eyed the faintly glowing ring locked onto the base of Cadence’s horn.
“One of my nonnegotiable terms.” Celestia interjected with calm but powerful authority. “I hope you can understand.”
“Of course.” Carapace hissed.
A Pegasus guard flew in from one of the windows. Landing and saluting, the light opal mare stood erect for her Princess. “Princess Celestia, all of the provisions for Lady Cadence’s sojourn to the Collective are ready and awaiting to be used.”
Celestia smiled and nodded. “Very good Private.”
The mare saluted. “Thank you Princess.”
It was then that Cadence recognized the voice of the guard. The ex-princess turned to the mare. “Lightning Dust?”
The ex-Wonderbolt hopeful turned to Cadence and nodded. “Hello Cadence.” The mentioned Alicorn felt her stomach twist as she looked into the eyes of Lightning Dust.
Celestia looked between the two of them. “It seems as if you two have something to discuss. Well, Carapace and I have some final preparation logistics to finish up, so Lightning Dust if you’d please be so kind as to guide Cadence to the armory.” The Pegasus mare nodded at her Princess.
“I will go with Celestia.” Chrysalis added in, turning to follow her lover and Carapace as they left for the throne room.
“Sombra and I have some things to settle.” Luna said.
“This time you shall not win!” The black stallion shouted.
“HA!” Luna laughed as the two left together. “You are simply jealous that I am fabulous and can play a foal’s card game better than you!” The Lunar Princess shut the door to behind them.
Shining stayed close to his wife. “Well I’m going with Cadence to the armory so I can…”
The stallion gagged and was cut short as Discord pulled him close. “Oooo~! Now that your wife’s going to live with the bugs, you and I can really bond as friends! Let’s start right now, to get your mind off the loss. Oooo~! Let’s go bar hopping!” Despite the stallion’s protests Discord and Shining Armor disappeared in a flash of white for a night of fun that would end with Shining getting rewarded his first arrest warrant.
Cadence watched as Discord’s flash dissipated. She stared at the spot for a minute until Lightning Dust coughed and snapped her out of her daze. The ex-mercenary bowed slightly. “This way to the armory Lady Cadence.”
Cadence nodded subconsciously. “Right… Lead the way.”
Lightning smiled and began trotting away down one of the many hallways. Cadence waited for a minute before following her.
The Canterlot Castle armory for the Royal Solar Guard of Equestria was abuzz with activity as soldiers went about their daily business, whether that was shining their equipment, training, or preparing for deployment. Cadence and Lightning Dust were in a room near the back, where Cadence’s equipment for her visit to the Collective had been stored.
Her equipment was the standard kit for desert treks. A heavy brownish cloak with a hood to keep out sand and protect one from the Sun. Several canteens and other standard survival tools were also in the bunch along with some magically created nutrient paste. Due to Cadence’s importance but because of the situation’s issues, Cadence was granted a set of simple looking brownish leather armor with leather leg plates and even some leather plates for her upper legs. Cadence realized upon picking the armor up that it was dragon skin, meaning it could still take a lot of punishment while appearing like below average armor.
Sitting on her haunches and strapping on the first leg plate, Cadence brought her gaze to Lightning Dust. The mare was in the corner, clunking her armor against the wall in a bored fashion. Cadence sighed deeply. “Lightning Dust, what’s going on? Why are you here? Not only that but I saw a lot of the mercenaries from your company here as well.”
Lightning Dust looked at Cadence, the standard guard look of indifference on her face. “Your Aunt’s big on forgiveness Cadence. She had us all hauled here to Canterlot and interrogated. When she got all the information she needed, she gave us a choice. She said that she did not blame us for what happened and was shamed that her subjects had to sell themselves as swords to make a living. So she gave us the choice to work as guards or leave. Guess what me and the company chose?”
Cadence cocked an eyebrow. “That’s it? She just let you become guards-ponies?”
Lightning shrugged. “Well, we don’t get any of the important jobs and we are on probation and constantly watched, but it’s certainly better than being jobless in Canterlot right?”
“Yes… Much better.” Cadence remarked as she strapped on the last of her armor and placed the provided saddlebags onto her back and legs. A blue bandana with regal golden embroidery from Shining Armor was with the equipment. She stuck that in her saddlebag to use later. Finally she threw her cloak over herself.
“Ready?” Lightning Dust asked.
“Yeah, I am.” Cadence answered. “And Lightning Dust? I’m sorry for what I…”
The mentioned mare put up a hoof, stopping Cadence. “I know ma’am, and I have to say I just don’t care anymore. Anger and revenge haven’t really gotten me anywhere, no point in doing that crap again.”
Cadence nodded. “Yes… No point at all.”
The two mares made their way out of the armory. Cadence looked around at the former mercenaries as she passed them by. Each one looked at her the same way Lightning did. They didn’t care about what happened and as far as any were concerned, the Alicorn of Love and them had a clean slate with each other.
As Cadence exited the armory, she didn’t know if that fact gave her some solace about what happened or made her sick to her stomach.
Night had fallen over Canterlot and a group of Alicorns and Changelings had gathered in front of the gates of Canterlot Castle. Celestia, Chrysalis, Cadence, and Carapace all stood at the gates in a small pack. Luna and Sombra were playing a foal’s card game, Discord and Shining were being chased by the fuzz, and Shape Shift was running errands for Chrysalis. So it was that only these four were there for Cadence’s departure.
Celestia sighed as she looked at her niece next to Carapace, the Alicorn of Love done up in a cloak with armor underneath. “Cadence… Though I did not voice it with Shining around I too wish you would not go through with this.”
Cadence smiled. “Thanks for your concern Aunt Celestia, but I want to try to get over this and I think this way might be the fastest way to do it.”
“I’ll take good care of her.” Carapace interjected. “Wouldn’t want her to die and then bring the might of Equestria down on my head.” She gave Celestia a glare as she said her last sentence in her usual mocking manner. The Solar Diarch responded with a glare of her own.
Ignoring the two glaring leaders, Cadence stepped up to Chrysalis. She exhaled deeply. “Chrysalis, I’m sorry for trying to kill you and ruin your life… I’ve been a fool.” It sounded terrible out loud, but it was what Cadence wanted to say. Maybe it didn’t matter that it sounded blunt, maybe all that mattered was that it was said.
Chrysalis waved a hoof at Cadence. “Think nothing of it, love and tolerate right? Just be careful Cadence, I’d really like to play tennis with you again.”
The Alicorn of Love smiled at the suggestion and nodded. “Yeah, me too…” She turned away from Chrysalis and toward Carapace. “Ok… I’m ready to leave.”
Carapace smiled a toothy grin. “Excellent! Let’s be on our way then! I’ve got soldiers at front gates of Canterlot ready to escort us to my Hive. Let us go!” The Changeling began to trot away, humming a tune to herself.
Cadence took one last look at her Aunt, Chrysalis, and the Castle. She smiled mournfully at them, before turning and following Carapace. She looked up at the sky as she caught up to the Changeling Queen. It was a full moon and the stars were out as well, all in all a beautiful night. Cadence sighed; she knew that this walk was the end of one struggle and the beginning of another.