='The Seven Apprentices' The 7th Saga=
Twilight overlooked a Canterlot map. "After the castle battle, not many ponies still believe the changelings' lie. Now they're focusing on suppressing a rebellion, bad news is they're done playing nice."
"Good news is the Wonderbolts are on our side now," Rainbow Dash pointed out, a tad bit giddy about that.
"And 'in the know' now includes teachers or students at the school for Gifted Unicorns," Lemon Hearts explained. "Fancy Pants is trying to round them up ASAP. So everypony isn't defenseless waiting for an endgame."
"The booby traps are still ruined. The rune being finished is the real danger. Sweetie Belle, how long did Chrysalis' spy network say it would take for Princess Luna and Guard to return?" Twilight asked.
"And with the strings of sabotages, and no longer having a willing pony labor force, they'll have to start turning ponies into zombies, which will be a spark, or something they'll have to do even more carefully. And they've lost their third forepony for the construction project-"
"Kabuto," Sweetie Belle added. "They have names."
"Yes...Kabuto is MIA according to Cadence's song birds...which the changelings are now attacking if spotted. But by my calculations, without a forepony, Princess Luna should arrive with reinforcements before the rune is complete. And Canterlot has been completely silent since we took back Spike and our mysterious allies, so it's likely by now the Guard and Equestria in general is becoming suspicious."
"So now, we just sit tight, and when Princess Luna arrives we all kick flank!" Rainbow Dash grinned. "Maybe we can have a little welcoming party ready for her with changeling pinatas."
"I said hey too," muttered Sweetie Belle. Rarity pat her little sister on back.
"I don't know if we can say we've won," Cadence said. "Chrysalis has been planning this for years, it doesn't feel like her to realize everything is coming crashing down around her and just let herself lose everything...I'm honestly scared what a cornered animal will do."
The Alicorn of Harmony pinned her ears as Twilight Sparkle spoke, "And...if we wait for Princess Luna, then...Chrysalis might use Shining as a shield until she works him to death when Princess Luna's army gets here. We have to rescuing Shining BEFORE! If Chrysalis loses her shield before Princess Luna arrives, maybe Chrysalis will be forced into a situation where she'll have to surrender without anycreature getting hurt."
Sweetie Belle shook her head. "No. Chryssy she won't give up the fight till the end, and she'll make sure everyling doesn't either." Moth whimpered in horror at Sweetie's words. "Like you guys." The filly added under her breath.
"...All the same, we need to save Shining, or he'll be used to drag this on a lot longer. If the queen doesn't have a shield, then Luna can defeat her."
"...Maybe we should give her a way out?" Sweetie asked. "Hear me out!" she said before anyone could tackle her assuming she was slipping into 'Princess Sweet Belle'. "...Chryssy...I think there might be good in her...maybe just a little bit...Maybe that's enough that if offered a peaceful way out of it where she doesn't lose everything, she could change...Maybe we should offer her a what do you call it, Cadence? When two countries decide not to fight anymore?"
"Sweetie I SAW inside her heart," Pinkie Pie said, "I saw her good side's grave."
"...Maybe a little bit of it came back to life?"
"You're suggesting a peace treaty?" Cadence asked.
"Yeah! One of those!"
"...Sweetie...Discord is the king of manipulators, but Chrysalis is the queen. If we did that, we'd need to make sure she couldn't turn it around on us or trick us...or that we won't be invaded again in the future."
"...We've got Twilight, Trixie, you and a bunch of other smart ponies."
Twilight said, "Sweetie, if we send Chrysalis a letter via dragon mail, she might be able to back track it to where we are. She might not be willing or able at this point to sweep door to door for us, but she's not going to waste knowing exactly where we are. Especially if she thinks she could crush the rebellion's spirit by taking us down or can take us with her. And she isn't going to 'play nice' now, she wants me dead remember?"
"If her plan is as in ruins as it seems," Applejack added. "She might not want any of us alive anymore if she just needed us alive for some plan of hers we already ruined..."
Rarity gave a frown. "And Sweetie dear, you just SAID she'd go down fighting and pull her subjects down with her."
"...I just...I just want to know we tried alright? She's not like Nightmare Moon or Fluttershy so that only the Elements can free her...she's not like Discord who's too crazy to listen...maybe she's the one baddie that can be saved without a fight?"
The ponies and dragon all looked at each other. Some couldn't stand Sweetie's sad face, others remembered how horrible fighting truly was, others didn't want to see ponies get hurt when they didn't need to, and some truly wanted a non-violent solution for once, hadn't the heroes of the age of myth managed to save some of their enemies with mere words?
Cadence addressed the herd. "This isn't a simple solution. The kingdom of Equestria may be a diarchy, but my aunties and I always try to give ponies a chance to decide for themselves...lets take a vote. You can either step forwards and tell your reasoning or simply write it down and hand it to me and let your choice go unknown."
-15 Minutes Later-
"And my vote is...against," Cadence finally said. "Because...I'm sorry, but...I've seen the world Chrysalis will create if she wins and I don't think we should risk it...but it was up to a vote. Let's tally them up."
Sweetie Belle, Fluttershy, Pinkie, Rarity, Bon Bon, Lemon Hearts, Applebloom and Twilight and more surprisingly Minuette and Trixie had voted yes. Twinkle Shine, Moon Dancer, Rainbow Dash, Fluttercruel, and Applejack had voted no. Moth, Spike, Lyra, Scootaloo, and Silver Spoon had all chosen to leave their votes unknown, but two had voted for and the other three against. Silver Axe went undecided, saying as a guard he'd go with the will of the people.
"Cadence...I know you're a diplomat but..." Twilight said.
"Let Sweetie Belle write, we do a quick draft and let you, Trixie, me, and the other Gifted Unicorns look for loopholes. She's the only one who Chrysalis might actually listen to."
"I kinda already started it," Sweetie Belle admitted holding up a letter written with her new horn magic.
-20 minutes later-
"Alright," Twilight said taking the letter, "I'll use the memory spell with Rarity, and hopefully luck will be with us twice, and I'll be able to visualize the Wonderbolt stadium. Then Spike sends the letter, and we teleport back, that'll distract the changelings when they go there and waste more time and troops."
"I know this is kinda last moment," Rainbow Dash said, "But if we're worried about being found due to them tracking Spike's mail like we did, won't they just find us when they send a reply? For that matter, WHY THE BUCK HASN'T CHRYSALIS SENT A LETTER TO SPIKE TO TRACK DOWN WHERE HE IS IF SHE STILL HAS A LINK TO HIM?!"
"I've thought of that. The letter requests her response be made publicly from the castle. If she makes no response after a half hour, we consider it rejecting the treaty by default. Spike has already sent a letter to Fancy explaining it so the rebels don't attack her if she tries to surrender...unless she rejects it. Fluttercruel added that as a stipulation."
"Hey, if she doesn't take the peaceful way out, it's the pragmatic way to end it quick."
"If she rejects it, the cease fire is over, but I'm not sure if the rebels will act on it or not."
Rainbow face hoofed. "You over-thought my question, Twilight, I meant how are we even sending her a letter if she can't send us one either?"
"Oh...He's just sending it to Celestia, who is obviously being guarded or near Chrysalis. Cadence's birds can use that to see where Celestia might be for our attack later."
"No she isn't." Sweetie Belle said, "Chryssy said she put Princess Celestia away for 'safe keeping', and I think she didn't like what the Princess kept saying to her."
"Oh, that she wasn't being nice, that she wasn't a good pony, that she should stop hurting ponies...and something weird about knowing what she really was after what happened with Fluttercruel...I didn't understand that but Chryssy seemed to."
"Terrific," Trixie groaned.
Rainbow Dash groaned, "And girls, what I meant was, what's KEPT HER from sending Spike a letter before this? If Spike's still able to send a letter to her?"
"Hopefully she doesn't know or can't perform the spell and doesn't have anypony left who can do it for her."
"And there was no need for Celestia to keep around scrolls with the 'just burn to send them to me' enchantment Cadence put on those boxes for Bon Bon," Spike explained. "Since she always sent her letters to me herself."
Cadence said, "Actually the box is just a reception spot, if we didn't have the box on us, the candies would just appear in front of the pony and fall to the ground."
"Point is, Chrysalis doesn't have one of those," Twilight explained. "She probably doesn't know she can send them."
"Okay...but that still leaves the problem we have no way to give Queen Meanie our little peace treaty," Pinkie Pie said.
"Hmm...hey, girls...and one other guy," Spike said, giving a sigh. "21 creatures in a room and I'm still surrounded by girls."
"Sorry Silver Tongue."
"I could turn into a stallion if you wanted," Moth offered. She then got weird looks. "It's not a problem for me...It's a Changeling thing."
"Anyway...simple solution, have one of our teleporters find a Changeling, throw them the scroll saying its for Chrysalis, then teleport out of there and let them take it to the Queen."
"Assuming they don't think it's full of explosive runes," Twinkle Shine said.
"Can we stop bucking overthinking stuff and do something already?!" Fluttercruel suddenly yelled. "I almost got turned to stone and I was moving more than we are!"
"If Auntie is free Chrysalis might be more open to giving up," Cadence suggested.
Twilight looked at Spike.
- Two Teleportations And One Dragon Mail Bounce Later -
"Chrysalis still has BBBFF keeping a force field around Princess Celestia, same kind that's stopping Spike from getting letters to the outside world. Spike can't make a connection to send the letter. We can't locate her."
Spike coughed and grumbled, "Was worth a shot."
"Guess we're stuck doing this the hard way," Lemon Hearts said.
-Thirty Minutes Later-
"Could that possibly have been a bigger waste of our time?" Trixie lamented.
"...It wasn't a waste..." Fluttershy said. "...Regardless of what Chrysalis' response is, we tried to make peace...that's more than they tried."
"That entire vote and discussion just felt like one big great headache for Trixie...or I had too many of those lemon candies, I'm not sure."
"...Then why did you vote for us to us to give peace a shot?" Fluttercruel asked.
"...Because I was given a second chance, it felt hypocritical of me to not at least try to offer it...but that doesn't mean it wasn't a major headache."
You know, it's odd...if Discord had't targeted, Trixie would never have gotten a second chance, let alone be here helping save the world.
Trixie knows she'd have just continued to stew in her bitterness and hatred until it devoured her. Trixie won't say she's glad Discord violated her mentally. But she is glad that she met Twilight and had redeemed herself. That is why I voted to give Chrysalis a chance to be redeemed. If nopony offers a hoof to pull you out of the darkness, you might slip and fall too far from the light to ever escape.
"Guys, Fancy just sent a letter," said Spike, walking over to the two. "Chrysalis is about to give her reply."
"Good...we'll know in a few minutes we'll-"
"Long ago I embraced the beast inside
It is too late now to turn back the tide," came the queen's words, in the Royal Canterlot Voice, singing.
"Fate, I dare you give me all that you've got.
I will not turn back no matter what
In my heart as black as the midnight hour
There can be no light sparked by love's power.
A beast I am now, a beast I shall be
Until oblivion overtakes me.
That is what I am at my very core
My heart will always ignore every lure.
No matter what, my nature will remain...
I will always be a beast none can tame.
Call me a monster or make me a slave
None can change their lot that nature gave.
If I am such a monstrous beast
My birth was when the monster was released
And whatever is done cannot change that
You can't change your nature, that is a fact
A beast I am now, a beast I shall be
Until oblivion overtakes me.
That is what I am at my very core
My heart will always ignore every lure.
No matter what, my nature will remain.
I will always be a beast nothing tames.
Let come what will, the monster will remain
And always be a beast nothing can tame.
There are miracles that cannot be,
And there are stars we cannot see.
There are wishes that cannot be granted,
And there are flowers that won't bloom when planted.
Dreams we cannot reach,
And darkness so deep that hopes won't breach...
The bell's sweet ring has come too late,
to change fate."
Sweetie Belle listened, and her heart broke. "She...she...she didn't..." The filly sank down and started crying. "Why?"
Rarity hugged her little sister, followed by the other Crusaders, her anger at the queen for hurting Sweetie, already couldn't get stronger.
Trixie grumbled. "Well...that settles that."
Fluttershy sighed. "I...I guess...but...that song."
"It was creepy."
"No...okay, yes it was...But I couldn't tell what she meant by it...well, I mean...the tone...I couldn't tell if she was boasting or...is sad."
"It's still creepy."
"...Happy or sad, we need to end this." Twilight Sparkle sighed, "She's said she's not going to stop. So we need to stop her, or there isn't going to be a future for Equestria. And hopefully, we can stop her in a way that stops the rest of her people from taking down as much of Equestria with them as they can."
"Chryssy, I'm sorry I couldn't save you," Sweetie whispered.
= Ultimate Metal Crusaders =
Twilight took a deep breath and looked at her team. "Alright! This is what we're going to do! We burned a lot of time on that! But we'll make do! Half of us are going to sleep, yes, sleep, and the other half will stand guard in case the changelings decide to knock over the board, then THAT half will rest. After that we'll have about an hour or two to get into the castle, find Shining, free him, and have him lower the barrier! We can't get in via teleportation, but now the swarm is scattered across Canterlot and we're not alone.
"Chrysalis is going to be preparing for a last stand against Princess Luna, and if she thinks this is indeed her last stand, her changelings are gonna fight thinking it's the end for them. That means we can't afford time to waste on them. I hate to suggest this, but we're going to have break down into waves again. But in reverse. Those of us good at taking on numbers or delaying the enemy will keep the swarm busy.
"I'll message our allies and tell them what we'll be doing so we can combine our efforts. With the Wonderbolts and the Gifted Unicorns, we'll at least not be a little herd against an entire army. We get Shining back, this coup's time is cut in half or more! We can't expect to just brute force our way through, so we'll have to try going in from both via the castle windows above AND below, we'll go through the sewers, or blast our way down and doing through the crystal mines! We'll also need a group to harass the security of the front gates so they can't be pulled away! I'll figure more details once we're all rested! So half of everypony get some sleep! Once we're all rested, we get Shining Armor back: THIS TIME AS A HERD!"
Almost everypony cheered.
There was a silver lining to the black cloud, the truth of things hadn't escaped beyond Canterlot, she still had changelings in key positions in Equestria's bases, and all the other runes were ready.
But the booby traps she had set for battle with Luna had been destroyed: she hadn't minded at the time, the rune was going to be done before Luna arrived, but now even with the central rune over 90% done, they had disasters to deal with. They should simply begin entrancing ponies and finish what remained of the rune...the problem was...with the trouble the ponies were causing, they were going to have to subdue Canterlot's population before they could finish. And Luna would have arrived by them. Assuming Fate didn't decide to throw more problems in her way.
This was not good. "Maua, I'm sick of this. This time everything was just perfect, the plan was going fine...then fate had to twist things to go her way. What do you think Maua? Threaten to have Shining use his force-field the way they originally ruined my people with on the defenseless normal ponies of Canterlot unless Luna backs off?...Maybe I should do it anyway, and have the changelings finish the rune. Or for spite. What do you think of that Maua?...Then they'd begin to destroy the other runes as reprisal with the farce gone? Knowing fate, it wouldn't even kill anypony and just give Luna the excuse to destroy Canterlot and me along with it. Considering Canterlot has been silent for several days, the guard will eventually begin to realize something is wrong and retake their bases, if I kill all my hostages, we'll be facing the entirety of the Equestrian military soon anyway. Is it a big joke Maua? We came so close, I took a race who was convinced they couldn't win a fight with a three-legged blind hundred year old Earth Pony with asthma, and with me they managed to undermine and pull the rug out from under the invincible Equestria. Its soldiers trained to kill nullified, most experienced guards sent to the edges of nowhere and ordered to be silent, their bases under the command of my changelings. HA! Who needs brute force when you can outsmart your enemy? And we still out number the soldiers Luna has with her.
"Too bad numbers don't mean a thing, when it's a goddess you're fighting. You know Maua? I think I could still win. I really do. After the damage she took and has been flying without rest. The ponies win against worse odds all the time, why can't we? Who I kidding?"
I lifted a wine a glass and filled it to the brim, and downed it in one gulp, and repeated the process several times, then threw the expensive piece of melted sand across the room, shattering it. It echoed across the empty room when I should have been meeting with my generals for this first and last battle against Princess Luna and her army against mine, my cunning against her brute force. But only I truly understood how pointless it was.
I had Digger Wasp in charge of Canterlot security and a high ranking, well respected general in the Guard hanging from my puppet strings. I had Shining Armor under my control. I was a Princess. And that's not even counting my infiltrators! Against Celestia's cunning had been my ultimate challenge. But all I needed was to keep this kingdom in the dark for a few days! Then the rune would be complete and it wouldn't matter when the facade fell apart! And yet a spoiled prince who my Guards should have been captured by now was the one that I apparently should have been worrying about! How could that have happened, Maua? How could one little pony throw everything off course?!...Of course, he was just a pawn of fate. We all were.
If I had more inner strength, I'd have been able to keep her from using my body to fling ALL the Guards, not just those I'm close to.
(Dusk's Notes: You already did the impossible, I've never heard of anything under so much changeling mind magic resisting like you did.)
I understood the truth, since the moment that feather brat kidnapped Sweetie, when she ruined my game with Twilight and my one surviving property. I didn't want to see it, but that pain in chest, it told me, and what I couldn't accept.
"I could still win...if fate was actually playing fair Maua. But we know fate, don't we Maua? She wants revenge. It was my destiny to die when I was born, then it was my destiny to die the night...the night we left home...then it was my destiny to die a faceless, nameless, expendable slave that would rot away and be forgotten, then to lay a broken wreck at Cocoon's hooves, then it was my destiny to be used a host body for Cocoon...THEN it was my destiny to be thrown across the landscape, recover, only to have defeat snatched from the jaws of victory, and left to slowly starve to death in my own castle with a hoofful of my subjects, the rest left to the 'mercy' of ponies who didn't see them as thinking creatures. When I took back my destiny that time, I knew fate would finally stop pretending to play fair Maua. I knew it would someday, I just hoped I'd have reached our goal before her hooves could drag me back down.
"Maua, if I rally my troops, if we make every preparation, if I strengthened myself to my peak, if I exploit every weakness in their tactics we've learned...fate won't let us win. 'The ponies must always win.' It's fate's first and final declaration Maua. Maybe Tiamat and a hundred dragons would show up. Maybe that bastard Discord would escape and wipe us out before turning his attention to the ponies only to be petrified again. Even if I absorbed the hive's love and fought him head on, the bearers would somehow find the Elements and petrify us both. Maybe I'd choke on a cherry. Maybe a dozen ponies would spontaneously become Alicorns...making my uphill battle a ritual execution. Yes Maua, this is how fate punishes those who dare defy her plans. I'm simply not allowed to win. Fate'll never allow it, even if she has to rip a hole in the universe and have an alien battle ship fall on me she won't allow it...She won't let anyling defy her script Maua. We're doomed. I'm...sorry I dragged you into this, I'm so sorry. You and Sweet Belle would have gotten along so well." I dragged myself from the throne and looked at the sky, tinted by my property's force field, of course Shining made no reaction to anything I was doing, I had sealed off his self-determination again. It didn't matter. I'll lose him just before the end, fate wouldn't allow anything else.
I swore I heard Cocoon laughing at me from Tartarus: 'See? I told you we should have just hidden and never seen the light of day.' I still hate that fat slug so much. If there were a way to kill a soul, it'd almost be worth it to go to Tartarus just to have the chance. Heh...Well, at least I'll have one victory...regardless of how today ends, that's two satisfactions I will have: I proved myself that worthless slug's better in ever conceivable way, and my Changelings left their mark on history. Nopony will forget today. I'd rather be remembered as defeated monster than forgotten as the Queen of race that died cowering away in the depths of the planet.
I look at the letter little Sweetie Belle sent me after she was kidnapped. They must have brainwashed her. Sweetie liked me, she'd never turn on me willingly, right? Sweetie I'm sorry.
"So Maua, what do you think the clouds look like today? I think that one looks like my cutie mark, just like that first cloud we saw together, remember? Yes the weather was nice that day."
"YOUR MAJESTY!" Goliath Beetle banged down the doors, "I must insist! Our orders! What are our orders?! The situation changes by the minute, the Night Alicorn is nearer by the minute! We fear that Canterlot's complete silence will make the ponies and the guard outside the city suspicious! How are we to prepare?!"
"...Your brother continued to fail to protect his queen Goliath, but he never once panicked, or was unable to make his own decisions. He refused to quit. He'd rather die standing before he panicked and ran with his tail between his legs, that is something you should learn from him."
"Y-Yes Your Majesty!"
"...Fate sentenced us that regardless of any choice we make, she will throw whatever impossibility she must at us to insure the ponies remain the world's masters." I look my general in those disgusting changeling eyes of his, made more so by his cowardice, "One last gamble. One last move. I will turn fate's will AGAINST HER! And none shall control my destiny ever again! Yes Maua it's risky, but if this is fate's game, I'll end it on MY terms! Goliath Beetle, rally the troops, tell them that the time to defeat destiny has come!"
"And...and we'll finally have a place where we can be in our true forms, and feel the sun on our faces?"
"Yes...I have brought you all this far my changelings...prepare yourselves, this will be our final battle." 'And the final performance of Queen Chrysalis.'
"Twilight, the changeling guards are building themselves up along Canterlot's walls," Rainbow Dash reported.
"They're preparing to fight Princess Luna. Good news for us, that means less at the castle."
"Assuming Chrysalis and Shining are still in the castle," Trixie said.
Sweetie Belle shook her head, "Chryssy's been working on her plan to own that castle longer than we've been alive. She won't leave it as long as she's breathing. And she won't let Shining Armor of her sight."
"She did before," Trixie said.
"That's because she was trying to get me back."
"Sadly we still have no idea where Princess Celestia is, she could be in the crystal mine for all we know."
"Nu-uh, Chryssy's magic sent her up."
"Great, one of the towers, and we'll never be able to search all of them in the time we have," Twilight Sparkle sighed. "Which is why she did it, we could get into the mines easier than those."
"Chryssy was upset that The Princess wasn't changing her mind or turning into a changeling."
"That's a relief at least." Twilight momentarily whispered, "Teacher, I'm sorry. So we have the strike time synchronized? Good. This isn't a movie and we aren't going to get any reshoots. So everypony, be ready, even if this doesn't manage to finish this, it'll bring it much closer to the end."
"Can't we just clobber the witch, THEN save your brother?" Fluttercruel asked.
"We can't just blindly rush Chrysalis' might," Moth stated, gravely.
"Yeah yeah, she beat The Princess, but she tricked her."
"NO! Listen!" Moth said, then gave a sigh. "You know how Chrysalis became Queen? She killed and ate our previous Queen, Cocoon."
Twilight frowned. "She assassinated her?"
"No. She fought her. I wasn't born until after, but I've heard the stories. Cocoon wasn't a competent ruler, but she wouldn't have stayed queen if she was weak. Kabuto bragged about the modifications Cocoon had him do to her to make her able to become a living weapon that Kabuto said 'could kill a dragon'. Chrysalis still killed her. The Changeling Queen HAS to be powerful or she wouldn't stay Queen. You saw what she was like in the fight at the castle when we rescued Sweetie Belle. She didn't just stay back as her guards protected her. She fought and could any of us beat her head on?"
Twilight thought about it. "No. Screwball, Soarin', Fleetfoot, and me all tried and none of us could. Tartarus...I zapped her twice in the chest and once in the head and she still survived. The only reason she didn't impale me on her horn was Trixie shot her with lightning from above."
"Hate tah say it, but that witch is built like a battleship," Applejack hyperboled.
"Well, at least we know spiritual attacks hurt her," Twilight replied. "And we've still got mine and Trixie's strongest spells, Cadence, and Dash's Sonic Rainboom if we could give her a chance to use it."
(Interviewer's Notes: (Pegasus) Really wish we hadn't lost the notes for that big fight.)
"She's not the only one we need to worry about," said Moth. "Hercules Beetle isn't on Chrysalis' level, but he's not as high ranked as he is without being dangerous. We put a lot of value on strength and skill, so it's only natural that higher rank means more strength. Hercules has a reputation ever since he failed Cocoon as having become a 'living wall' between invaders and our queen."
"Can you give any details?" Twilight asked.
"I was a gatherer, not a soldier, it wasn't something I needed or wanted to know. Digger Wasp and Kabuto were apparently bad news too, so we're lucky they seem gone for now."
"Does Chrysalis have any weakness?"
"She's a changeling, an exceptionally powerful Changeling, but still a Changeling. The other gathers told me she's a love guzzler."
"Love guzzler: means anyling with a high love intake, but normally a higher power level. Chrysalis burns through love quite quickly. That's another reason freeing Shining is important. Once cut off from her battery, Chrysalis' supercharge should go away if we force her to burn through her reserves."
"How strong is Chrysalis without it?"
"...She didn't have one when she killed Cocoon, but she's not nearly as strong as The Princesses. Could you beat a dragon?"
"Twilight beat an Ursa Minor," said Trixie. "And now Trixie is on par with her, so I imagine between the two of us we could manage that, if just barely."
"Then you might be a match for her. You've just got to wear her down. She has to share other Changeling weaknesses when she's not supercharged, so blunt force over sharp attacks would be best."
"Ah noticed while Ah was tryin' tah fight her control," Applejack said. "She never seemed tah like being called an amateur, made her real mad real fast. And Ah think Ah figured out a couple other truths she ain't gonna like hearing."
Twilight had said this was going to be the showdown, and if there was anything anypony wanted to get off their chest or share, they should do it now.
Silver Spoon asked, "Sweetie Belle...are you sure you want to help this way?" She put a hoof on the white filly's shoulder. "After...after what the queen did to you. It's alright if you don't want to. You can help Miss Bon Bon and Miss Minuette if you want instead."
"...First off, I tried to help Bon Bon cook a little already and I ended up almost catching the floor on fire."
"...Don't you mean the ceiling? You were using an oven."
"I wish I meant the ceiling...and apparently mom's style of cooking doesn't work well with magic candy."
"Sweetie Belle, what I'm saying is...what happened to you was awful...you shouldn't...you shouldn't have to be near those, creatures, again. You can help and stay OUT of danger too."
"I don't want to see ponies OR changelings get hurt...we're gonna be keeping changelings out of the big fight, so that means less fighting, and that means less creatures hurt."
"Girls," Spike said, to the assembled CMC, the herd having broken down into its subgroups. "I know you're...excited about being a part of things but...I'm a dragon, I'm a lot tougher than I look. But you girls...look, you've been saying to me and Silver Spoon how we need to accept that we're still young. But what about you? Is taking part in this really something foals should do? This isn't a game. I've taken risks with your girls before, believe me I have the bruises to prove it (and I'm a dragon, so that's saying something), but you're going INTO danger. That's a different story. I know I'm not one to talk, but you girls think you're invincible but you're not. Think how your sisters will feel if something happens, these changelings aren't going to play NICE."
"...Chryssy doesn't want me dead. I know she doesn't. That'll give us some protection..."
"That doesn't mean they can't suck you dry! They don't need to brainwash you for that!"
"But Chryssy doesn't want me sucked dry. If I'm sucked dry I'd mean nothing to her."
Spike shook his head violently, "It's not JUST YOU Sweetie! It's about ALL of you! Applebloom! Scootaloo! Silver Spoon! Just because they want to give YOU to the queen undamaged doesn't mean a thing to the rest of us! Believe me! A dragon doesn't care if he crushes a mountain as long as the jewel he's after is in one piece!"
"...Then I'll protect them if they want to come."
"...The magic Chryssy taught me."
"And when your mana's gone? Using freaky black magic? And Sweetie, what IF the changelings catch you? We aren't any value to them! You think they'll play nice just because we're YOUR friends? I'm sorry, it doesn't work that way."
"Enough!" Scootaloo yelled. "It's Sweetie's choice if she wants to do this, it's our choice if we want to risk ourselves. And Applejack and Twilight already had this talk with me and Applebloom. We both decided we're going to do this then. We know they're not going to play nice...but just because we're foals doesn't mean we have to play nice either."
"...Sunnytown wasn't a cake walk, Spike. Those ponies didn't play nice. At all. They'd killed Ruby by burnin' her tah death...and they were gonna kill meh and make meh one of 'em...but yah know what? Ah'd gladly go back there if somepony Ah cared about were in trouble...and right now, all of Canterlot is...including mah cousins. Ah don't know where Ellis is and Ah pray he's alive from gettin' flung by Shining's spell. But that leaves two cousins Ah don't know where they are. Apple Fritter and Peachy Sweet were in the kitchen with AJ, but they couldn't find 'em after the Changelings took over. So only thin' Ah can guess is they're in the castle somewhere. And the only way Ah know if they're safe is if we stop the Changelings...And besides, if we don't stop the Changelings? Ah don't want 'em tah be in danger if Luna and Chrysalis go at it either."
"What about you Silver Spoon?" Spike asked.
Silver Tongue said suddenly looming over the smaller silver pony. "If I thought I could keep her here, out of harm's way, if I didn't think you little imps wouldn't just break her out to go headlong into danger, I'd order her to stay here. In spite of the armor, I am no longer a guard, I retired, I'm a father. That doesn't mean I'm going to act like this isn't my problem, I didn't join the Guard for the perks, I joined it because I wanted to protect ponies. That's who I am. But what it does mean is this: my first loyalty isn't to the princesses, but the little princess right in front of me. Silver Spoon, for teaching you to make friends again, to reach out and touch the world again, your friends will always have my gratitude. Just don't even expect my forgiveness for them making you one who'd put yourself in danger like this."
"...Daddy...I don't think they taught me that..." Silver looked back at her Cutie Mark.
"I was a Guard, I went through years of discipline and training. I had it drilled into me what the consequences were of my actions, for myself and others, both my friends and my enemies."
"...I earned my mark helping you at that charity, do you remember?...I liked doing that...but Diamond never cared to listen to me talk about it...so I buried it and let myself be the nice little spoiled filly...But today...after helping save Spike...I realized I like not caring about me for a change...I liked clapping for Granny Smith in class...I like that feeling of making somepony else happy without thinking 'what's in it for me'...It feels like a part of me...And I don't want to bury it again."
"If anything happens to you, all of you is going to end up buried, Silver Spoon. That's the reality foals can't, and must not be forced to see. But here we are. I am your father, if I let you go, and anything happens to you, I'm responsible for it, I'm responsible for you, do you think your mother will ever forgive me?"
"No. But do you think if I didn't go with the others and something happened to them, I'd ever forgive myself?...I still feel like I could have stopped Diamond from running away somehow daddy if I'd just been there for her...and that was a friend that the last time I saw her she'd hurt me...Sweetie and the others are friends I don't know what I'd do without."
"I'm the adult. It's my responsibility to protect those weaker than me. Not yours."
"...Maybe some day I want it to be mine...I don't know what I want to be when I grow up yet, but...right now, I know that to me, helping ponies just feels right, that's what this whole stupid mess has taught me...Daddy...you became a guard because you wanted to protect ponies, not the other way around...would you ever forgive yourself if you stayed behind while Mr. and Mrs. Rich went into something dangerous and something happened to them?"
"I was a guard, I made that choice to become one..." Silver Tongue sighed. He struck Silver Spoon. Then it took her a moment to realize he hadn't, he had stopped a tiny bit before touching her, she had fallen backwards in surprise. "You're still just a filly, you say you finally know that, but you don't understand it. I'm sorry Silver Spoon, I failed you again."
"...Daddy...I want to be a foal...I really do...but I can't be a foal while an invasion is happening...And if the Changelings aren't stopped, I might never get the chance...we might never get the chance...I don't want to fight Changelings head on. I never intended to...We're good at planning. Back when we rescued Spike, we didn't take those Changeling guards head on, we outsmarted them. Alone, we aren't very tough. But together...we're smart. We might seem like a bunch of crazy foals...and well...we kind of are...but when we're serious, I think we can be a big help...When this is over, we'll go back to being foals. But right now...we need to help stop the Changelings...if we don't, we might not have a future to risk...And momma might not be safe either."
"..." Silver Tongue sighed and walked away to be near Cadence to go over his part in the strike.
"He really really cares about you," Sweete Belle said.
"...I know...that's probably why the monster who turns ponies against what means the most to them had him try to kill me...Daddy loves me...I know that now…I just want this to be over so I can go back to showing him how much I love him back."
"Don't worry, ya will." Said Applebloom putting a hoof on Silver Spoon's shoulder. "We're gonna make it through."
"'Cause kids are invincible?" Spike asked drolly.
"No! Because we're the Cutie Mark Crusaders, we look out for each other, and we ARE little imps!" Applebloom grinned in a way that was almost a little scary, "And we're gonna show them changelings how impish we can really be!"
'Those fillies all have such good hearts.Pity, they had SO MUCH potential! Oh well. Easy come, easy go. I have my REAL PRIZE right here.'
"You're an Apple, that's for sure...but you're right, we watch each other's back," Spike said, giving a small smile. "So if you see any fire coming? Get behind me."
"Don't have to tell me twice!" Applebloom said.
"Hey, aren't Pegasi immune to lightning or something?" Scootaloo asked.
"You don't know?" Silver Spoon asked.
"My parents...kinda forgot to talk about it."
"Not immune, they're resistant, especially when their magic is awake," Spike said. "Which yours is now. But you're still a filly, so it'd take a lot less to kill you than a grown up."
"But I can still take a lightning bolt better than you guys, right?"
"...Then if one of us absolutely has to take a lightning bolt, I'll try and make it me, okay?"
"So uh...where does the lightning bolts come from?" Applebloom asked.
"I uh...just wanted to say how I could help too," Scootaloo was forced to admit.
"Yah can still fly, so there's that. And Ah'm real strong."
"And Chryssy awakened my magic," Sweetie said, using her telekinesis.
"Yeah, yeah we covered that already," Scootaloo said. "Let's stop spinning our wheels and get goin'!"
Four hooves and one claw together, "Cutie Mark Crusaders Heroes! Yay!"
"There you are, Twilight!" The purple Element of Magic looked up from her notes to find herself surrounded by ponies, but not her fellow Elements. She was face to face with four of her former classmates, the gifted unicorns forming a circle around her..."Moondancer is having a little get-together in the west castle courtyard. You wanna come?" Twinkle Shine spoke.
Twilight looked confused at each of her fellow unicorn mare and magic student. "W-what? What are you talking about?"
Twinkle Shine rolled her eyes with an annoyed sigh. "You don't remember at all do you?"
"Lyra even says she remembers seeing you running past her and Amethyst Star like it was the end of the world."
"End of the..."
"When you last laid eyes on me, Minuette, and Lemon Hearts as fellow students instead of teammates? Two years ago?"
"W-what did we talk about? Wait, Lemon Hearts and Minuette were with you?"
Minuette cleared her throat. "Yes. I believe we were," the pony with a talent for time said, repositioning herself, Twinkleshine, and Lemon Hearts so Twinkle Shine was in the center, Lemon Hearts to her left, and Minuette herself to her right. "Does this, wait." she moved Lemon Hearts over a couple of inches and took a small step to the left. "There. Does this look familiar now?"
Twilight looked at them, like she was trying to remember a dream. "I..."
Twinkle Shine sighed, "I guess you really were more interested in books than friends."
Twilight startled. "Wait! I remember now! That...that was...That was after I read about the origin of Nightmare Moon and was running back to my room for more information...and that was when I sent my letter to Princess Celestia, and she told me to stop reading dusty old books, and told me to go to Ponyville to oversee the preparations for the Summer Sun Celebration in Ponyville, she included that I was to make some friends, but I wasn't really...interested...in...that..."
Twinkle Shine looked a bit sad. "I know you might not have been able to attend anyway but..."
"I was kinda in the middle of trying to save the world," Twilight meekly defended.
"And the time before that? And the time before that?" Lemon Hearts asked.
"Twilight...If you'd come to any of those last ones...you could have met Sunset The Pegasus," Twinkle Shine muttered sadly. "I wanted you to meet her because she was trying to get used to Canterlot and meet ponies there that wouldn't look down on her because she wasn't a unicorn, but you almost never left the school and she wasn't a student."
"Cadence's third hoof maiden," said Minuette with the same sad tone as Twinkle Shine. "And our friend."
"...Could I meet her-"
"She's gone, Twilight."
"Gone? What do you..." Twilight 's eyes widened in horror at the look in Twinkle Shine and Minuette's eyes...it wasn't sadness, it was loss. "You mean she's..."
The two hoof maidens nodded.
"Now I'll never have the chance."
"All ANY OF US ever wanted Twilight was for you to come out of your shell," Moon Dancer said. "Spike did, why couldn't you?"
"I always saw myself as too busy, friends just seemed like nonsense. A distraction. Something that just ate up time that I could be with my books instead."
"And now?" Twinkle Shine asked seriously. "Looking back on it?"
"...I might have still not tried to socialize, I just...never tried to connect with ponies outside my family, even before I became Celestia's student."
The hoofmaidens all looked at each other.
"Pay up," Moon Dancer said.
The other unicorns gave the unicorn a few bits.
"W-what?" Twilight asked confused, in so many minutes.
Minuette confessed, "We kinda had a tiny tinny bet going on whether or not you didn't socialize because you thought you were better than us."
"And only one of you thought I wasn't?!"
Twinkle Shine waved her hooves. "I'm sorry! Our opinions have changed a lot since then, but we never called the bet off! We all kinda forgot about it, given all the weirdness your brother kept attracting. I'm surprised Moon Dancer didn't."
"When you were away with Cadence, and Amethyst Star moved away, I remembered you girls a lot, that bet was part of it."
Twinkle Shine nuzzled her, "Thanks, it's nice to know you think about us." She looked back at the purple unicorn, "Twilight, the point is, is that we ALL would have happily accepted you as a friend. Not because you were Celestia's student, but because we wanted to get to know you."
"That day...it wasn't just the day I left Ponyville, was it? It was...the day you girls left on Cadence's world tour."
"Three of us did." Twinkle Shine said, "Lemon Hearts and Moon Dancer stayed in Canterlot."
"You wanted me to be your friend right up until you left for two years."
"And kinda started the moment we got back...well, we tried, but we couldn't really leave Canterlot with a wedding to plan...even before this happened..."
"Twilight," Moon Dancer said, "We know you already have your own herd. And the six of you are connected in...in a way we can't be...the night you saved the world from a thousand year old legend, you can't replicate a bond like that. I don't know the specifics, but if Fluttercruel and Trixie are Bearers too like they said, you have to have the same kind of bond with them."
"Fighting Nightmare Whisper I guess..."
"But that just proves the point...it's not an easy bond to replicate...I can't say I wouldn't have just panicked and run away when I saw Nightmare Moon. But Twilight...what I'm trying to say is..."
"Would you like to get to know each of us too?" Twinkle Shine asked. "Not as classmates, or anything, just as ponies. And yes, I know we're saving the world together right now, but that's not what I mean...I mean when the queen gets hers and everything is said and done...can we please just be friends?"
"...if I've learned anything these last two years, ponies don't just choose to become friends, becoming friends happens, we can try, we can put effort into it, but whether ponies become friends or not, doesn't just instantly happen. Even if it was only a day, I still needed time to bond with the others...so yes, I'd love to put the effort into getting to know each of you too!...there's no rule that says I have to be friends with just other Elements. And I would have done my hardest to become friends with Trixie with or without a second Element of Magic, in a way it might have made things EASIER, Moon Dancer." She hugged Moon Dancer. "And that goes for each of you. Twinkle Shine. Lemon Hearts. Minuette. I'd like to be a part of your herd too."
"FINALLY!" Lemon Hearts exasperated.
"About time," Minuette said.
Minuette put just hoof over her chest and did a slow breath out. "I guess in the end, I should be just happy that you DID finally come out of your shell. Congratulations Twilight!...Just wait till you hear all the juicy gossip we have on Cadence and Shining."
Twilight grinned. "Tell me more."
"...Um...girls?" Trixie asked, looking a bit awkward as she approached the others.
"Yes, Trixie?" asked Rarity, looking over to the mare. "...What's wrong?"
"Well...nothing particularly...it's just that...well..." Trixie said, looking down. "...I..." she then mubbled something.
"What was that?"
"Um...well...Trixie missed you girls..."
"TRIXIE MISSED YOU GIRLS!" she finally forced herself to spit out...in a copy of the Royal Canterlot Voice. Trixie blinked, looking at everypony in the room staring. Fluttershy had dived for cover behind Rainbow Dash. "Carry on with your individual moments...Trixie is having hers."
"Awwww!" Pinkie Diane hugged Trixie, "I missed you too! I miss all my friends when they're away, and-oops! Now that you're just-"
"No Pinkie, it's fine." Trixie sighed, actually ENJOYING the hug, "Trixie is done needing everything to be about her."
"No no no no," Pinkie Diane continued, "All my friends are special in THEIR way, and I think we've covered that only a bijillion times by now."
"And more importantly, I'm happy to hear that you missed my company, Trixie isn't, isn't used to that. Trixie truly missed your company as well. "
"Shuck Trix', you're always welcome." AJ patted her on the shoulder, "If ya wanted ta visit Ponyville ya coulda just dropped by or us ta visit Hoofington, ya just coulda said so."
"Trixie is...not used to having friends to invite, and isn't used to the idea of returning to places she has been before besides her...where she was born."
"Dear I'm...well, may I ask inspired this?" Rarity asked feeling awkward.
Trixie sighed. "Trixie...the first time I saw you since I left outside of a meeting with Twilight... half of you almost...and I almost died myself...I was afraid I'd never see you I don't want to take our friendship for granted ever again."
"Feels nice having friends after being by your lonesome for so long doesn't it?" Rainbow Dash asked.
"Yes it does," Trixie said, daring to nuzzle Rainbow Dash. The pegasus didn't pull away.
"And I'm guessing sharing your feelings instead of keeping up the Great and Powerful facade in front of the crowds and off stage feels strange," Rainbow Dash added.
"Trixie isn't sure of her real feelings sometimes. The cheer of the crowds, they were proof Trixie existed, and well...we've been over this before too haven't we?"
"Believe me, sometimes you gotta learn a lesson more than once," Rainbow Dash said.
"Trixie, fer the record, we gotcha, heck, all of mah friends put their lives on hold just so they could keep me company when Ah was deliverin' a tree to Appleloosa. We weren't together fer any reason other than just bein' there together!"
"I think it's wonderful," Fluttershy said finally coming out, "You're finally willing to admit your feelings Trixie! It just shows you really care about us! You've grown up Trixie, it's something to be proud of!"
"Glad to hear you want to hang out more," Fluttercruel added. "Me, mom, and Pink were planning to invite you to see one of those big epic fantasy movies when one comes. I wanted to invite you to a horror movie with me and Rainbow, but Pink said you probably wouldn't like it."
"She knows me well," Trixie said.
"I know all my friends well!" Pinkie Diane said, again, Trixie made no protest.
"I'm not afraid."
"Afraid of what dear?" Rarity asked.
"I'm not afraid that I'm dying."
"Well, we are about to go into battle and-"
"Not what I meant. When, when I began to change after Twilight helped me, I began to feel scared: that I was ceasing to exist, that I'd die, and there would just be a different pony there to take my place who happened to have my memories."
Pinkie sighed, "Trixie, I can't say how, but I do know that feeling."
"What you just said right now...Trixie didn't mind being called part of 'all your friends.' But Trixie isn't afraid she's dying either. Maybe I died already and didn't notice."
"No way sugarcube," Applejack said, "Trust me, who ya are, and who ya were, is STILL who ya are! Ya did a lotta selfish things, and ya learned ta be a better pony, but Ah swear on mah ma and pa's graves, it's all part of the same road!"
"Dear, ponies have been debating for centuries, if whether you replaced a dress' emeralds with rubies, then replace the ruffles with ribbons, then dye it a new color, then redo the stitch work, then replace each thread over years of repair, if it is still that same dress or not. If you can look back on what you did, and recognize that pony as yourself, then you know you haven't died, you've just grown older and wiser, same as everypony."
"And if you say 'What were you thinking?!' to your past self, that just means you're a lot smarter now," Pinkie added cheerfully.
"Then Trixie...I really don't have to be afraid of dying and not being afraid."
Trixie did not protest the hug.
"If we win the day, Gypsy The Great And Good is coming out in a couple weeks...Trixie would love to see that with as many of you who'd want to go."
"That story wouldn't happen to be based on an ancestor of yours would it?"
"Trixie honestly has no idea...But given her family's rhyming names, it would not surprise her. My teacher suggested my stage name -after- meeting my family....Rarity, Applejack, Rainbow Dash...in case Trixie ever forgot to say it: I'm sorry for rubbing your faces in it when we first met."
"Are you still going on about that?" Rarity asked.
"Darlin', Ah think we're all past that now," AJ said.
"Ah, if ya did that ta me, I wouldn't have minded, it was just a show right?" Pinkie Pie said.
"If you'd done it to me I'd...probably have ran away crying...but I'd have forgiven you!" Fluttershy added. "...I definitely would have."
"...You're a saint Fluttershy," Trixie said.
"Apology accepted," Rainbow Dash said, "And seriously Trix', ya wanna hang out or have us visit, nothin's stoppin' either, just drop us a line."
"I understand. Thank you. And girls, Trixie is happy to know you consider her a friend, not simply Twilight's friend."
"Hey!" Trixie felt a weight on her back. She turned around to see:
"Spike? How did you-" She saw that orange filly above her smirking.
"What are friends for? Not liking being just a 'friend of a friend?' Now I'm creeped out at not hating to admit that I can relate."
"And I can relate to that." Trixie nuzzled the dragon.
"Dears, I..." Lemon Hearts looked at her familiars. "I don't know if you'll all survive this fight."
She sat down and pet one of the Baby Angry Lemons. "I've never liked ponies who would just use their familiars as disposable things...that just seemed to go against the idea of making a living thing...I am grateful for every risk you've taken for me...I'm grateful to my original Angry Mother Lemon for sacrificing herself...But now we're heading for the end of this fight...the big fight...I'm scared...So...it's up to you, Angry Lemons...I'm not going to order you to fight with me this time. It's up to you."
The Lemons looked up at her in confusion.
"I know...its odd being told you have a choice. Familiars aren't used to being allowed to decide whether or not they want to do something their master desires...but I'm your creator...your mother...I'd be a bad one to force you into this fight...So, what do you want to do?"
The faceless fruits looked at each each, and at Angry Papa Lemon, before finally turning around and all gathered around Lemon Hearts and hugging her.
"Thank you," Lemon Hearts whispered, "I couldn't ask for greater loyalty. I love you too. And I've been preparing an extra special surprise ever since we got holed up here, I was actually already working on it a little before but didn't have a big reason to finish...I think you'll like her."
"Yes princess," Lyra knelt before her.
"Please get up get, and just call me Cadence...Lyra, I'll happily have you as one of my bride's maids when I have my wedding. And I'm eternally grateful for the help your family has given and for helping save us at the wedding hall. And I promise you that as long as I have a say, Moth will be protected and able to remain with you and Bon Bon as long as she and you desire."
Bon Bon and Moth looked her way.
"I am not saying ordinary ponies can't do extraordinary things, you've ALREADY done so, you've helped in two rescues, three counting my own, even if not all of them went as planned. But Lyra, you're a musician, not a warrior, I know the Elements are the same, but they've had experience your family hasn't had. Lemon Hearts, Moon, Minny, and Twinkle are all Gifted Unicorns. And while you do have some powerful spells and are no less unique, you don't have their power or training. Moth has admitted she was a gatherer, not a warrior, and Bon Bon is a cook, not a soldier."
"Please, if you're going to say it, don't go in circles, Princess...please."
"Lyra I don't want you to risk yourself. Isn't it true you have a foal waiting for you back in Ponyville? What if you didn't come back, or only came back without being able to love her anymore?"
"We're already sending foals out among love-eating-" She looked at Moth, "I mean, against invaders who have had the same training as royal guards, two of those foals don't even have their cutie marks, and one who didn't have theirs when this started. And you're going to say a unicorn whose proven her magic can pack a punch is better off not getting more involved?"
"The fillies are a special case."
"She has a point Lyra, those fillies do have a talent to make disasters, now they can make them for the changelings," Bon Bon sadly admitted.
"Whose side are you on?"
"You think I can't look after myself?"
"Lyra, what's happened in the fights you've been in?"
"Applejack's on our side now."
"And the fight before that? When we tried to help Rainbow and Pinkie?"
"I just got swarmed, that's all. Bon Bon I can protect you! And Moth: all your talk about how our love is giving you a steady stream while they've lost theirs! I won't make the same mistakes!"
"...I'll admit Lyra, I can do more without having to worry about running out...but I won't have any advantage at the beginning of the battle, Lyra...they'd not only still be fully charged, they're warriors, I'm not...It'd only be after they burned out it'd give me an advantage because then they'd tire and I wouldn't...but then...if you're there, which you'd have to be...but...Princess, permission to speak freely?"
"...I do think we could help...but maybe not as direct warriors...I don't think we're useless here...I just think we shouldn't be on the front lines."
"No," Lyra whispered, "I'm...Bon Bon, remember that nightmare I told you about? That I was a Canterlot pony, I came to Ponyville, only to get cursed by Nightmare Moon, unable to leave Ponyville, everypony forgot I existed, nopony recognized me, then forgot about me once I was out of sight, any trace of me just vanishing, then I got worse from Discord,...then I died, my cutie mark having vanished, all alone, forgetting myself in the end too...all because the help I gave would vanish if I was remembered...I get we're all forgotten some day but, our actions are left, but...OUR FRIENDS are supposed to always remember us! I..." Lyra looked scared, her eyes misting, "I don't want to be...I HELPED SAVE YOU PRINCESS! Doesn't that mean I'm good enough?"
"You took them by surprise, then we ran, we didn't fight them Lyra," Bon Bon said.
"I had a nightmare a lot like that once," Moth admitted.
"Lyra...if you're going in there with the express purpose of leaving a mark, that's even more reason NOT TO. Somepony looking to do something important is going to be reckless. A great thing shouldn't be for it's own sake."
"Princess...I promise...my sound magic isn't as strong as yours...I know...but please, I can still fight at a distance, all these ponies around here want to take risks, can't you let me? Please?"
Cadence looked at the unicorn in front of her closely. "Lyra...Why do you feel you need to do this? If it is to be remembered, you already will be...I'm immortal, and my memory will never fade. I swear as long as I live, I will never forget you. If it's to protect your family, why do you feel you need to fight for that?"
"Because...In my nightmare...I was willing to give up the chance to be remembered so all the good I did would remain...I don't just want to be remembered because of that nightmare...I want to do good because that nightmare shows me how good I could really be...how selfless I could be...I don't just want to sit on the sidelines this time...I want to help make a difference and keep doing it...whether I'll be remembered for it or not."
Bon Bon said, "Lyra, I swear, I won't forget you, even if I live to be a thousand, and if the world itself is rewritten, I won't forget you. Not ever."
Cadence put on her Princess Cadenza face, "And you think you'll be BETTER GOOD on the front lines among more experienced fighters and spell users, putting yourself in that danger, adding to those numbers, than helping Bon Bon and protecting her while she works?"
"...Moth could be a bigger help as the Changelings start getting worn down...but to do it, she'd need me there...And...I can fight long range...Bon Bon needs to stay near a kitchen to make her candy, and I'm a better fighter than she is...if one of us needs to power up Moth, it needs to be me...And we need all the help that we can get."
Cadence seemed to have a look of realization. "You know one of you needs to help keep Moth strong and you'd rather it be you than Bon Bon. That's part of it, isn't it?"
"Yes...the other part is I don't have a support role here...being a fighter is the only way I can think to help. I can't make magic candy, I'm not a healer. I can't power anyone but Moth up with my music if it works that way...fighting is all I know I can do."
"Lyra...so you still accept me as part of our family?" Moth asked.
Lyra turned to her. "Yes...I admit, it shook me at first...But you've not acted any different than the pony I've known all this time...even if it turns out you're not Bon Bon's biological sister...I don't think you're any less a sister to me or her...you're still the Moth I've known. I don't care what you are, Moth...you're family."
Moth's eyes filled with tears. "T-Thank you, Lyra...I love you too..." she said, then chuckled a little. "I...I don't feel sick showing that anymore...I haven't in a while now...it feels good."
Lyra hugged her. "I'm glad."
Cadence looked at Lyra closely. "How good of a musician are you?"
"Very...or so I'm told. I'm good enough to play some of Octavia's works. And I'm well-known."
Cadence gave a thoughtful, serious look. A part of her calling out, guiding her. "If I taught you a song and its corresponding spell that would let you be in a support and noncombat, but still important role, one I myself would fill if it weren't for being needed on the front lines, would you take it?"
"...Yes...if it will let me help."
Cadence nodded and followed the instinct that seemed written into her very being. She touched her horn to one of Lyra's shoulders, then the other, then horn. Lyra felt something between a rush of energy and sudden inspiration.
"Then Lyra Heartstrings, I, Princess Mi Amore Cadenza Equestria...soon to be Sparkle, the 14th, Concept of Music, knight you as my Champion of Music," Cadence said, then created a beautiful white and pink harp out of her magic. "Now...I will teach you one of my songs. This song is meant to increase the Harmony between the ponies on our side, but not the enemy. With this song, I ask you to galvanize our side of this battle from a safe distance. Do you accept this duty?"
Lyra was dumbstruck for a moment, then nodded and bowed. "Yes, Princess...you play the harp?"
"In a way of speaking, I am the harp...now listen closely and do what I do."
Lyra summoned her own magically generated harp. She followed the notes of the Princess of Harmony and Music. At first it was difficult, then she fell into tune and followed perfectly. The second time through she was playing closely behind Cadence...the third was a duet between the Goddess of Music and her chosen Champion. The notes resonating and enhancing the harmony between everypony in the room.
Bon Bon and Moth stared in awe. "Lyra...that was beautiful." the Earth Pony replied.
Lyra smiled, looking to her family and hugging them. "Thanks. I promise I'll be careful out there...Moth, make sure to hang back until you see the Changelings begin to wear themselves down, alright?"
Moth nodded. "I will."
Bon Bon looked serious. "Both of you, Pinkie Promise me you'll watch yourselves, not rush into danger out there, alright?"
"Cross our hearts, hope to fly, stick a cupcake in our eyes."
Bon Bon nodded. "Then I'll do what I'm best at...but Lyra...if you do something rash and impulsive, I'll never forgive you."
"Believe me...I won't."
Cadence smiled, then floated her own harp to Lyra as the hug broke up. "Take it."
Lyra stared at the instrument. "Me?"
"You're my Champion...even if I don't understand fully what that means...I think it's right you have a physical representation of my blessing...it will boost your magic music further...prove that I was right to choose you, Lyra."
Lyra gave a bow as she took the harp. "...I will, Princess."
Moth and Bon Bon bowed, both resolving to do all they could.
'Shining, please, just wait a tiny bit longer, Twilight and I will be there very soon. We'll get you back, and we'll save Equestria together. This nightmare will finally be over...and we'll finally have our Canterlot Wedding. You and I, Shining. And all our friends and family!