Chapter 3- It Gets Worse
Flash strode down the corridor as the amber rays of the rising sun cascaded through the windows. He'd grown used to waking up at the crack of dawn in the last month. After all, guard duty had gone from a terrifying thought to a complacent routine
He had to admit, being in the guard was far easier than he had originally imagined. The basic training was surprisingly simple. They had essentially only spent about two weeks teaching the bare bones of guard duty. The main lessons were on proper marching rank and form, chain of command protocol, patrol patterns, and of course basic combat technique. Of course, Flash had already known most of this from his previous career; when he was still just a colt, Swift had stressed teaching him how to spot a patrol route and how to fight. After all, they were major tools of a thief.
True to his talent of acting, Flash had of course buried that past life in the last month in a new persona.Flash Hoof the thief from Canterlot was gone. Flash Sentry the guardsman from Manehattan was born. He had spent some time developing a new cover identity and sticking with it.
The first week or so was the hardest for Flash. One thing he had to get over was his obsession for taking everything that wasn't nailed down to the floor. After all, he had spent the last decade and a half scraping by with his brother, desperately clinging to the meager spoils available in the lower districts. Now here he was, in the high quarter itself, surrounded by more riches he had dreamed of ripe for the taking. It had taken him all of his willpower to break the habit and resist the urge to steal.
Another problem was that he had been burdened by extensive worry that some form of paper work would be needed during his entry to the guard. For days, he kept on edge, expecting someone to ask for proof of his identity or origin. Luckily for him, however, people weren't asking many questions right now. A threat had been made against the city of Canterlot by an unknown force, sending everyone on high alert. Guard shifts were doubled, extra occupancy had been garrisoned into the city, and a large barrier had been thrown over the entirety of Canterlot.
It so happened that this threat in particular was worth minding, given the Captain was due to have a wedding soon. Flash had still never met the mysterious Captain of the Guard, but he had heard grand stories about him. He was certainly a VIP, but his significance paled in comparison to the fact that all three princesses were conveniently in the same city at once. Add in that many of the elite of Equestria had come to see the royal wedding and the risk of a successful attack was simply to great.
There was good news and bad news about the high alert. The bad news was that Flash was exhausted from the busy schedule of patrols that had vastly increased. His hooves ached and his eyes sagged sleepily when he wasn't actively trying to keep them open. He had hardly a free hour this entire week in routine composed entirely of sleeping, eating, and marching on patrol.
The good news was that while security had been stepped up for an invasion, security had also declined in certain areas that were not as significant as the perimeter. Ironically, the dungeon was nearly deserted relative to the usual garrison stationed there. Flash finally found a window of time to get in. No one wanted to work the morning shift, so it was always the weakest. He could sneak through the dungeon unseen with ease. It was quite the risk to snoop around in the dungeon, but the payoff was worth it.
Even in his brief time as a guard, Flash had never stopped looking for Swift. It had been months since he had to leave his brother behind, and untrue to his word, Swift had not found Flash. However, Flash was more concerned by the fact that he had not seen or heard any sign of Swift in all of that time. He had simply vanished, from what the public and criminal realms knew. Flash knew it was a long shot to think Swift might be in the dungeon under an unknown alias, but he had to try. This was his dear brother.
Luckily, this arrangement had gone well so far. Everything was aligned to give Flash a quick, clean shot to get in, look for Swift, and get out. Everything was going well for once.
Then she happened.
Distracted in all of his thoughts, Flash didn't hear the sound of hooves hitting the floor rapidly. as he turned the corner, he and the mare both collided. Flash was knocked back a bit, but mostly held his footing. The mare on the other hand fell onto the stone of the corridor.
She was a unicorn with a deep lavender coat. Her mane was styled long with bangs, colored a deep purple save for one stray pink strand. Keeping with the rest of her appearance, she had large violet eyes. His eyes had even subconsciously been drawn to her admittedly shapely body. If Flash were in a better state of mind, he undoubtedly would have thought of her as an attractive mare. But as tired as he was, with a window quickly closing, he only saw another manipulative canterlot elite type.
Just like Emerald, he reminded himself. He stuck out a hoof to offer help up to the mystery mare. "Can I help you, miss?" he said, in a formal, business like tone.
The unicorn seemed both frantic and frustrated, as she got back to her hooves."You can start by looking where you're going," she said, her sardonic attitude evident.
Flash rolled his eyes, now equally frustrated. What'd I tell you, Flash. Typical Canterlot prima donna. He turned to continue his walk to the dungeon. "Of course, miss. By all means, do call if you need anything else," Flash said as the sarcasm was thick with every word.
The mare huffed in surprise. "How rude! I have half a mind to complain to the Captain of the Guard about your manners," She said indignantly.
Flash was taken aback for a moment by that. She knew the Captain of the Guard? How could he have been so foolish! He couldn't afford to mouth off to people who were this high on the social ladder, especially after he had worked so hard to bury his true identity. In all honesty, his outburst had been very out of his character, even when acting as himself rather than his guardsman persona. However, lack of sleep and stress had made him edgy, and in his defense, she had started all of this.
"I don't have time for this," Flash said, hoping to call the mare's bluff. He turned and trotted away with in he opposite direction from her as he faintly heard her grumbling under her breath. Flash continued on his way until he realized where the mare was going. The door she was cantering towards so happened to be where the captain and Princess Cadence's wedding rehearsal was going on. She seriously was going to complain to the captain.
Oh, damn. She wasn't kidding. "Miss!" Flash called after her. "You can't go in there. The wedding rehearsal is going on! Miss!"
It was to no avail, as the mare showed no signs of stopping. She kept her brisk stride, focused on the door. Thoroughly frightened for his cover being blown, Flash tried to catch up to her. If he was lucky, maybe he could beg her forgiveness and appease the mare enough to leave her complaint alone.
This was a fruitless pursuit, however. Just as he caught up to her enough to be in grovelling range, she Flung the large doors open. Flash's heart leapt into his throat as he saw the scene before him. If he thought he was in it deep before, any hope of getting out of this well was gone. The room was not only occupied by a white, oddly familiar looking stallion with electric blue hair that likely was the captain, but both Princess Celestia and Princess Cadence were also standing there. There were also five ordinary mares, but they didn't seem too important relatively. After all, what would they matter when he was about to get embarassed in front of his highest commanding officer, but also two of the most powerful people in all of Equestria.
His mind started to think about what Swift would have done in this situation, but it was a short thought. The truth is, Swift would have never gotten himself into this. When that failed, he tried thinking about what Swift would have said in the situation. The likely answer was something along the lines of, "Dammit, Flash! Why didn't you run when you had the chance? Surely it would have been a safer option than this." That didn't help him much either. He readied himself for a desperate getaway in the imminent occurence of the unicorn blowing his cover.
"I'm not going to stand next to her!" the mare shouted indignantly "And neither should you!"
The air was sucked completely out of the room. Everyone in the ceremony stood for a moment, shocked by the sudden outburst. Even Flash's jaw hang loose for a second before he breathed an inaudible sigh of relief.
The bride looked at her fiance for an explanation. Caught between a rock and a hard place, he made an embarassed smile. "I'm sorry... I don't know why she's acting like this..." he said apologetically.
Princess Cadence seemed annoyed as she scowled at the unicorn. "Maybe we should just ignore her."
"You have to listen to me!" The unicorn said, stamping her hoof indignantly.
One of the five ordinary mares- a yellow pegasus- meekly asked, "Oh goodness! Are you ok?"
"I'm fine," the pestered purple mare stated contrary to her tone.
"Are you sure about that?" an earth pony wearing a large cowpony hat asked in a deadpan voice. The unicorn, showing the same manners as she had with Flash, used a telekinesis field to pull her hat down over the other mare's face.
"I've got something to say!" she shouted. She raised her hoof and pointed directly at the bride-to-be. "She's evil!"
The whole room was filled with shocked whispers and surprised murmurs as Princess Cadence seemed grievously wounded by the comment. The purple unicorn seemed like she was just getting warmed up as she began to advance closer to the bride, forcing her to back away. "She's been horrible to my friends, she'd obviously done something to her bridesmaids, and if that wasn't enough, I saw her put a spell on my brother that made her eyes go all-" she said, motioning to her eyes rolling uncontrollably. The room was dead silent for a few tense seconds before Princess Cadence burst into tears.
"Why are you doing this to me?" she sobbed before running for the door.
"Cause you're evil!" The mare called out triumphantly. "And if I don't stop you you're going to ruin my brother's life!" The mare did an about face before running into the captain himself, looking down with a frustrated scowl.
"Do you want to know why my eyes went all-" he asked, imitating the motion the mare had done with her eyeballs. "Because ever since I started having to preform my protection spell, I've been getting terrible migraines. Cadence hasn't been casting spells on me. She's been using her magic to heal me. And she decided to replace her bridesmaids because she found out the only reason they wanted to be in the wedding was so they could meet Canterlot royalty. And if she hasn't been on her best behavior with your friends, it's because with me being so busy, she's had to make all the decisions about the wedding."
"I was just trying to-" the unicorn started to rebut until the captain cut her off.
"She's completely stressed out because it is really important to her that our big day be perfect! Something that obviously wasn't important to you!" The captain trotted past the mare, walking forward to the exit. Flash had already moved away from the doorway as soon as the focus was shifted away from him, sticking close to a corner to avoid attention.
"Now if you'll excuse me," the captain continued, "I have to go comfort my bride. And you can forget about being my best mare. In fact, if I were you, I wouldn't bother showing up to the wedding at all." The captain exited the chamber, trotting away down the hall.
The other five mares' reactions ranged from awkwardly slinking away to angrily looking at the mare.
"Come on ya'll," the mare with the hat from earlier said. "Let's go check on the princess." The five exited simultaneously, avoiding eye contact with the unicorn.
As Princess Celestia walked past her, the purple mare tried to explain herself. "I... I just-"
"You have a lot to think about," the monarch said coldly. The mare's expression looked as though she had just been stabbed through her heart, her mouth open in silent shock as the princess exited, shutting the double doors behind her. The only two left in the room were the mare and Flash, who had seemingly remained undetected by the unicorn in his hiding spot in the corner.
"Maybe I was being overprotective," she said to herself. "I could have gained a sister, but instead I've lost a brother." She laid down on the stairs leading up to the wedding alter. As
Flash saw small tears spring to her eyes, he heard her start to sing somberly to herself.
"He was my big brother best friend forever. And now we'll never do anything together."
Wow. That is rough. I mean, she started it, but still. Flash felt a strange sense of compassion in the pit of his stomach for this mare. Maybe it was simple pity from seeing someone lay their emotions out in front of him, but the sensation still remained. He internally debated revealing his hiding spot and walking over to comfort her against his better judgement, but before he could get the chance, he saw Princess Cadence walk up to her and gently, forgivingly smile at the crying unicorn.
Flash was almost touched for a moment, thinking maybe this was his cue to exit, but as he reached for the door, he realized something. The double door's were the room's only entrance. How had Cadence gotten in without him noticing? Something wasn't adding up.
"I'm sorry," the purple unicorn said. Suddenly Cadence's calm, forgiving demeanor twisted into a scornful glare.
"You will be."
Suddenly, Flash saw Cadence cast a ring of green fire around the unwitting mare. He watched in stunned horror as the ring sank the pony into the floor until she disappeared. For a moment he didn't believe his eyes, trying desperately to rationalize what he had just seen. However, his thoughts soon turned to panic as an identical ring suddenly formed around him.
"What's this?" the princess said in an amused tone. "An interloper who saw too much for his own good? I'll have to fix that."
The floor began to absorb Flash also, his hooves vanishing into the stone. He tried to scream, but his voice was muted completely as he felt himself getting lower and lower. He caught one last glimpse of Cadence looking directly at him with a twisted smile before darkness encapsulated him.
The next thing he saw was the faint glow of crystals surrounding him. He looked around, desperate to get his bearings as his eyes adjusted. It took him a moment to realize where he was.
He was trapped in one of the caves under Canterlot Castle.
Panic gripped Flash as he started to lose control. Ok, Ok. Just calm down. There's gotta be a way out of here. I just have to think this through. After all, it can't get any worse, right?
That's when he suddenly heard hoovesteps behind him. As he turned around, he first saw the dim shimmer of a purple light, accompanied by the buzzing sound produced by a horn casting magic. After a second, he started to make out the face of another pony. She was the exact same mare he had run into in the hall. The same unicorn he had seen sink into the floor of the castle.
"You!" she shouted, frustrated to once again see this stallion. Flash sighed.
I stand corrected. It just got worse.