• Published 9th Feb 2012
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Upheaval: Breaking Point - Visiden Visidane

A desperate war, old enemies returning and past mistakes come together to alter Equestria forever.

  • ...

Misplaced Objects

Upheaval: Breaking Point

Chapter 1: Misplaced Objects

"Come along, Spike! I'm sensing more gems over there!"

For Spike, who had been spending all afternoon digging holes and dragging a cartload of gems through the woods, that melodious voice was both a drink of water and a quick break rolled into one. "I'm coming, Rarity!" he answered. He stretched his shoulders, and pulled the cart onward. The clinking of gems bouncing as the wheels rolled over the uneven ground sounded tempting. His mouth watered, but he didn't dare touch a single bauble. Rarity was making a dress for another bigwig pony who wanted to look like dragon bait, and he had the honor of contributing a few hours of mostly unpaid, backbreaking labor towards that goal.

"Right here, Spike," Rarity said, pointing to the clearing before them. "It's a large cluster this time."

"One large cluster of gems coming right up!" Spike replied. He tore through the soft ground with practiced ease. One shallow hole later, a cache of finely cut gems sparkled in the sunlight.

"Excellent!" Rarity said. "This should be more than enough. Thank you again for helping me."

"No problem, Rarity," Spike answered. He beamed as he loaded the gems unto the cart. 'Mostly unpaid' was right. The appreciation of the most beautiful pony in Equestria and a gem from the pile were more than enough payment for all his hard work. "May I add that it is always my pleasure to be able to…Rarity?"

Rarity's horn was glowing, a sign that she had detected another cluster of gems nearby. Instead of running towards her new find, she stood still with a puzzled look on her face. "Rarity, are you alright?" he asked her. When she didn't reply, he reached up and tapped her with a claw. She gasped and looked at him. "What's wrong? Is it another cluster of gems?"

Rarity looked around, dazed. After a moment of silence, she replied. "Yes and…no. I'm sensing something, but…I don't know. I've never picked up anything like this with my magic before. These aren't just some gems."
Spike shrugged. "Well, it must be a really special bunch of gems! We should get them. They'd taste real goo-- I mean they might really look good on a dress!"

"You're right," Rarity answered. "This could be the dress to put my star at the center of the fashion world!" She galloped deeper into the woods. "Hurry, Spike, this way!"

"Hey, wait!" Spike called after her. "This cart is heavy, you know!"

They were deep into the woods by the time Spike had caught up with Rarity. She was staring at a small cave entrance by an outcropping of rock. Her horn was still glowing as she looked forlornly at the hole. "Ugh, I hate caves," she said. "And this one looks like a tight fit. I'll be covered in dirt if I crawl through that!"

"Never fear, Spike is here!" he announced. Here was yet another chance for him to show off. The entrance was just the right size for him.

Rarity looked at him with a grateful smile. "Oh, would you, Spike? The gems are just inside that cave. If you could go in and get them, I'd be so grateful!"

Spike hurried inside, lest his swelling ego got him stuck halfway through the opening. Fortunately, the cave was actually much bigger past the entrance. A pile of rocks, likely from a cave-in, had partially covered the entrance. Without them, a pony could easily crawl into this place. The gems should be nearby. They better not be part of another dragon's pile. He wasn't touching another one of those. Ever.

"Spike?" Rarity called. "Are they in there?"

The answer was more and more a no. The cave was nothing more than an empty single chamber big enough to fit maybe four ponies. The uneven stone floor was damp. The only light source in the cave came from the entrance, making it difficult to get a good look at anything.

Spike spotted a single, dimly glowing, turquoise sphere, the size of a large apple lay by one corner. ‘There!’ he thought. From a distance, it looked perfectly smooth and facet-less. He hurried over to get it. That beauty would surely get him a lot of points with Rarity. Maybe even a kiss!

In an instant, he was face-first on the floor. He stood up, rubbed his aching nose, and looked at what had tripped him up. It appeared to be a white piece of wood, maybe some kind of tree root. He took a closer look.

And screamed.

"Spike?" Rarity called. "Are you alright in there?"

Spike edged away from what had tripped him. It wasn't a tree root at all. It was a bone. The foreleg of a pony skeleton splayed across the cave's floor. The bones were clean and dry. They must have been there for ages. The skeleton was still wearing the ragged remains of what clothing it had in life.

What had happened here? Was this a tomb? Spike shook his head. The skeleton didn't look like it was placed neatly here; it looked more like some poor pony crawled into this cave a long time ago, then died.

A chill crawled up Spike's spine. For a moment, he was frozen in place, unsure of what to do.

"Spike?" Rarity called out again.

Spike forced himself to look away from the skeleton. He went over to the gem and grabbed it. At once, he shuddered at the feel of the stone. It was perfectly smooth, as he had expected. Its unusual warmth made his scales tingly. Regardless, he left the cave and presented the gem to Rarity.

"Oh my," Rarity gasped. "That looks absolutely gorgeous! It's going to be the crowning jewel on my masterpiece. Wait, imagine it on a tiara! Or on a scepter!" Upon touching the sphere, however, her excitement changed to puzzled wonder. "It's warm.”

"Weird, huh?" Spike asked.

"Not just warm. It's magical. Can you feel it? It's positively humming! What was in that cave, Spike?"

"Well, there was a skeleton, and--!"

"A skeleton!” Rarity yelped. “Why didn't you tell me? This thing could be cursed!"

"Not with the curses again!" Spike groaned. "I thought you'd like it!"

"And I do," Rarity answered. "But…I know, why don't you have Twilight have examine it first? She might know what it is. If it's safe, you can bring it to me."

"Well, that's true," Spike said. "Twilight would have an idea what this is."

"Spike, I have no idea what this is."

Twilight Sparkle held the sphere up with her telekinesis, staring at it with fascination as it caught the light in her house. The gem was definitely magical. It hummed softly the moment she picked it up with magic. Having it near her made her feel tingly all over, especially around her horn. She set it down on a table before levitating several books from their shelves. "Look up 'Magical Artifacts'," she said. "Maybe we can find a reference."

Spike was already flipping through the pages of the book. He seldom felt enthusiastic about any of Twilight's research, but the sooner he could confirm that the sphere was flashy, but harmless, the sooner he could give it to Rarity. He took note of where the gift wrapping was stored in the house. He was probably going to need some soon. To his disappointment, nothing in the book even remotely resembled the gem. "See anything?" he asked.

"No," Twilight answered. She set down "Arcane Gems" and picked up another book. "What else did you see in that cave?"

"Nothing else. Just the skeleton and that thing."

"No clothes or other items?"

"Just some rags from whatever it was wearing. It looked like it'd been there for a long, long time."

"What did the rags look like?"

"Uh…like rags?"

Twilight rolled her eyes. "I mean the color or patterns. Something that might clue us in on who or what that pony was."

"Um…" Spike scratched his head. "I don't remember. Now that you mentioned it, I did leave that cave pretty quickly. I might have missed some stuff."

Twilight tapped her jaw with a hoof for a while before replying. "It's settled then. Tomorrow, we're going to give that cave a thorough search and that poor pony a proper burial."

"I don't know, Twilight. Maybe we should leave it alone. There's something really scary about that place. While I was in there, I felt like…like…"

"Like you shouldn't be there?" Twilight asked.

"No, Like it shouldn't be there, like that pony was some stranger that just decided to wander into our home!"

Twilight's brows furrowed. "That's weird, but also more reason to check it out. If we don't find anything, we should visit the Grand Library in Canterlot. Or we could just ask Princess Celestia about this thing."

"If you say so, Twilight." Spike yawned. "I'm going to bed. Dragging that cart is hard work!"

Twilight patted her assistant on the head. "Good night, Spike." She set another book aside and gave the sphere one last look before heading for bed.

The next day, Spike was wandering the woods once more. He wasn't looking for gems this time, and it wasn't Rarity he was walking with. Both contributed to the lack of spring in his step. He would have gone faster with the cart. He wasn't exactly thrilled to see the skeleton again either.

"Are you sure that it's this way, Spike?" Twilight asked. She walked behind him, carrying a bag with a few reference books.

"Yes, I'm sure!" Spike snapped. It was the third time that Twilight had asked him that question and it had grated on him the first time.

"It's just that we've been walking for a long time now-” Twilight glanced at her surroundings. “-and...I...think we just went in a circle.”

"It's around here somewhere!" Spike said. "I remember going this way! There's that stand of trees, and those bushes, and-!" His eyes narrowed. The landmarks were all there. The cave should be nearby. His eyes finally landed on a particularly rocky spot. "There it is!" he exclaimed.

The two of them hurried to the spot. "I don't see any cave, Spike." Twilight said.

"It should be around here!" Spike said. "A hole doesn't just get up and walk away…here it is! No wonder it was so hard to find, it's gotten smaller!"

"Smaller?" Twilight asked. "How?"

"Looks like some of the rocks fell over and blocked even more of it. It's going to be a tight squeeze, even for me," Spike said.

Twilight raised her snout slightly. "Don't worry about it. You said that the cave is big enough inside, right?"

"Yeah." Spike sized Twilight up. "You should fit in easily."

"Alright. I'll just teleport in while you squeeze through."

Spike gave a thumbs up. "Gotcha."

Twilight's horn glowed as it gathered magical energy. Spike was about to squeeze into the hole, when an unfamiliar buzz made him pause. That wasn't a sound he normally associated with Twilight's teleportations. He looked behind him and saw the crackling aura of blue-white magical energy surrounding her. "Twilight, what are you doing?" he asked in alarm.

"I don't know," Twilight cried out. "I just cast a teleportation spell!"

"The gem!" Spike yelled. "It's the gem! Get rid of it!"

An aura of magic emanated from Twilight's bag. Before she could reach for it, another surge of magical energy exploded. The force hurled Spike against the outcropping of rock, as it enveloped her. There was a loud hum and a flash of light. After that, everything fell silent.

And Twilight Sparkle had disappeared.

"Twilight?" Spike asked as he looked around. He scrambled into the cave, in case she had indeed teleported there. Only the cave's silence greeted him. He climbed up the outcropping to get a better view. He didn't see anypony. "Twilight?" he called out. There was no response from anywhere. "Twilight!" he shouted. Still no response. Alone, he fell on his tail, covered his face, and sobbed.

The moment the flash of light dazzled her vision, Twilight Sparkle found herself falling. It was as if she had been standing on a rug that somepony pulled from beneath her, except she kept on falling instead of hitting the floor. She was in a teleportation spell; a badly-miscast, out-of-control teleportation spell. Her vision was still painfully dazzled when she hit the ground. At least, she hit something. The ground was surprisingly fleshy. It quickly shifted from beneath her as if it were trying to shake her loose.

"Terrato's blood-smeared hooves, get this thing off me!" somepony yelled. The voice sounded like it belonged to a mare. It also sounded like it was coming beneath her. As her vision cleared, she did her best to scramble away. Before she could do so, the thing heaved violently, hurling her to the very hard, very cold ground.

"It's a pony!" somepony else shouted. This one came from above. "Those crazy wolven are chucking ponies around now!"

"The wolven didn't chuck this one anywhere, Scarlet, I saw her materialize above Pyre Valor," a third voice spoke.

Twilight got to her hooves unsteadily. She was flanked by two ponies. To her right was an earth pony; a big, brown stallion with a cropped, corn-yellow mane. He wore some gray-plated barding around his chest, neck, and flanks like the royal guards did. He appraised her coldly with heavy-lidded, light blue eyes.

An angry white unicorn stood to Twilight's left. Her wild, black mess of a mane covered her head and shoulders, spilling across a thickly padded coat that protected most of her neck and torso.

The flapping of wings above meant that there was a pegasus hovering there. Twilight didn't look up, however, the sight of the unicorn was too menacing to ignore. She backed away slightly, unsure of whether to talk or run.

After a moment of silence, the stallion spoke again. "Pyre, look at her flank," he said.

The pegasus laughed. "Well you're quick to look at that direction, Blademane! Didn't take you for a flank-stallion!"

"Quiet!" the unicorn snapped. Her eyebrows furrowed deeper when her brown eyes focused on Twilight's cutie mark. Her nostrils flared when she recognized it. "Chosen!" she snarled. "Blademane!"

"Wait! Wha-!" Twilight cried out. Before she could move, the brown stallion charged and knocked her over. She struck the ground side-first. Before she could recover, he pinned her in place with his heavy, metal-shod front hooves.

"If I see that horn glow, you'll be pulling pieces of it from where the sun doesn't shine, chosen," the stallion said, his baritone voice menacing.

"What is going on?" Twilight groaned weakly. The stallion's weight was slowly crushing her shoulders. "Who are you ponies?"

The unicorn slammed a hoof against Twilight's face. The vision in her left eye went black for a few seconds. Searing pain followed, then a swelling numbness. Tears sprang from her eyes and she tasted something metallic. "You'll speak when spoken to, chosen," the unicorn hissed, "and we'll be the ones to ask the questions!"

"Can I skin her flank before we kill her?" the pegasus asked. "That star symbol thing would look fetching on my barding!"

"Nopony is skinning anypony," said a fourth voice from behind Twilight. "Let her up, Blademane."

The crushing pressure eased. Twilight tried to get up, but only managed to struggle to her knees. Blademane went to stand next to the irate unicorn. She turned her gaze towards the newcomer. Against the unicorn's enraged hostility, the earth pony's cold brutality, and the pegasus's casual threats, the newcomer seemed to offer some refuge.

A pony-shaped mass of black metal walked towards them. Even royal guards were skimpily clothed compared to this pony. Only the eyes, nostrils, and mouth, served as signs that there was something alive under all that metal. A caparison completed the set by hiding his legs. The small, exposed bits of his coat showed that he was a gray earth pony. His tail indicated that he had curly, black hair. He was a little smaller than the brown stallion, but his presence made him tower over all of them.

The unicorn stepped forward, her face a warring mixture of protest and resignation. "Vanguard, she's a chosen! Look at her flank!"

The heavily-armored pony answered in a deep, growling tone. He sounded more like a wolf than a pony. "I can see the big, elaborate star on her flank, vice-captain. The wolven haven't gouged my eyes out."

"The captain's a flank-stallion too!" the pegasus crowed. "Oh, day of revelations!"

The unicorn focused her angry stare above them.

Twilight quivered a little when the black-armored stallion turned his intense stare on her. "You've broken some of Princess Celestia's very important laws to come here, chosen," he said softly. "I hope, for your sake, that you can bear the consequences."