• Published 12th Aug 2013
  • 13,689 Views, 217 Comments

Warring Dusk - AlphatheGriffin17

A happy day soon descends into a war between two peoples. Canterlot is under siege, the princesses are captured and Dusk must take up arms or watch his home fall.

  • ...

Clouds of War

Shadows flickered and danced on the cavern walls from the torches that lit the passage, lengthening the ones of those that walked down it. Sound echoed all around, bouncing off the walls making it seem like a whole army was marching down the corridor, not just the compliment of four. Darkness resided through the bars of prison cells, their guards stood rigidly at attention when they passed.

To anypony else, such a place would be grim. Even by a prison's standards, this would be even more so. Surely nopony of any decent taste or standard would ever even think to reside here. But that would be in the taste of anypony. To Ambassador Parlix of the Changeling Hive and of Queen Chrysalis's Swarm, it was his home and that of all who resided in the hive. One that he was thankful for.

Well, not the prison anyway. Even he had to admit, this place was very grim. Then again, it wasn't meant to be designed for comfort.

Now and again, his eyes would catch something in the darkened cells. A flicker of movement in the light, one that could just as easily been one of the shadows. A face, peering between the bars, either begging with their imploring gaze to be released or glaring after them in silent anger. Those who couldn't live in harmony with them, who hurt others, this was their home now. Until such a time they be released.

He felt some pity rise up inside him for them. He wondered how many of them really deserved to be in here, how long they had to stay. Knowing they would never see the light of day again… what a horrible fate. Of course, considering the one who brought that sun to begin with, he suspected they might be a little grateful for that, if nothing else.

It seemed that his reaction wasn't lost on one of his fellows. "Feeling sentimental, ambassador?"

He glanced back at one who might be considered his equal in the hive caste. Commander Sting was watching him with his usual, hard stare, as if challenging him to dispute him. The scar that ran down his left eye seemed to emphasize this. Despite the many times he'd seen it, Parlix still flinched a little when he saw it.

Still, he'd never let Sting intimidate him. Today would be no exception.

"Merely showing a little concern, commander," he replied evenly. "A concept that may not be entirely familiar to you, I know."

He snorted. "Why would you show concern? These lowlife all deserve to be here and you know it."

"That doesn't mean that this is any less of an undesired fate," he countered.

"It's only a temporary fate though." He looked around the cells. "Soon, some of these will leave them and never have to return again."

"Yes. I know…" That was the worst part too. Waiting for their inevitable fate. Most of them were third offenders and every Changeling in their hive knew what that meant.

They might see the sun again, but it would be the last time they saw anything too.

Sting turned his eyes back to him. "I remind you again that your presence isn't required here. Though we all appreciate your skills on the political field, prisoners are a military concern."

"But foreigners are of diplomatic concern and her highness has expressed interest in seeing them," he replied. "If we know what we're planning, there might be a chance."

"A chance for what?" growled Sting. "For them to scurry back home so they can sound the warning bell? We should take the chance to stop them while we still have it."

"You mean execute them?"

"Don't tell me you value the lives of their kind over our own people."

"No, I simply value life," he countered. "Again, another vast concept for you, I'm sure."

Sting growled low in his throat. "You speak philosophies knowing the state the Swarm is in? While all of us are starving, dying, you concern yourself with the welfare of those who have stood by and done nothing?"

He flinched a little at that. "I am simply keeping myself in touch with the Spirit of Mind, though I'm sure the Spirit of Strength would be pleased at your efforts."

"To Tartarus with the Spirits!" snapped Sting. "Even our Queen knows what we must do and unlike you, she doesn't waste time in second guessing herself."

"While I do respect the choices of our Queen and advise how I can, I do question strongly her choice of actions here."

"You would dare to think our Queen misguided?" challenged Sting.

"Monarch Swift of the Badlands Colony seems to think so, considering the threat he's issued if she goes through with this," he reminded. "Tell me Sting, what will you do if we end up fighting our own kind rather than our supposed foes?"

"I shall teach them to regret challenging us, show them what I will do to protect our hive, as I will show the ponies." He said the last word like it tasted foul on his tongue."

Parlix raised an eye ridge. "I wonder, commander, is this a real concern that you have for our people or are you merely using this as a veil to mask your own desires."

"Desires that are felt by all who share them, that all of us share," he hissed.

"Not all of us," murmured Parlix, earning a snort from Sting. "We know that there is another way and we can use these prisoners to try and find it. They're not that bad."

"Then why have they not helped us? Why has their precious princess not stepped in and come to our aid?" argued Sting. "This is our chance to act, put them in their place. If they see us as monsters, why deny them that?"

Parlix stared at him for a long while. He could have sworn he'd seen his scar burn with the same intensity his eyes were.

"Yes. I can see that you won't be denying them that," he remarked, just as they arrived at the cell they wanted.

The guard there nodded to them and opened the door. Their two escorts entered first, spears at the ready, followed by Sting and lastly Parlix. The three prisoners, all ponies, were already on their hooves, watching the guards warily.

"Queen Chrysalis has deigned to seek an audience with you," Parlix told them. "You may come before her and address your concerns and she will listen."

"And we'll be watching you the whole time," added Sting. "You'd better not try anything, because if I catch even the slightest hint of treachery, my guards will end your lives in a second. I may even do it myself. Are we clear?"

"Perfectly," answered the smallest one, the other two remaining silent. "We shall follow your lead."

"Good." Sting's lip curled, gesturing for them to move. "No talking either. Move it."

The guard behind them gave them a poke with his spear and they started moving back through the passage way. Now the glares they got from other prisoners were quite different, no more imploring gazes. The tension was growing so thick, one could have cut it with a knife.

Parlix took the time to look them over. The one who had spoken seemed the most reasonable, a small unicorn with red fur and a neatly kept mane. He watched his eyes, flickering and darting around the passage, taking it all in with a learned eye. On the occasion his eyes did meet his, he thought he could see something sparking in their depths before he looked away. Whatever it was, it gave him a shiver.

The larger one was visibly tense, a grey-furred Pegasus, one whom Sting was watching very closely. Considering how he had tried to attack him when they were first captured, that was understandable. Their aggression levels seemed to be closely matched, as did a festering dislike and he considered briefly who might emerge if they came to blows.

The third however was most curious for he knew so little about him. He hadn't said anything since they arrived, hadn't removed the hood or robe he wore and seemed to hold some kind of unspoken authority over the other two by just his presence. Even now, he remained silent, his hooves making the only sound, accompanied by the faint flicker of his cloak.

Just as Parlix watched him, his hood shifted in his direction. All that could be seen was darkness in its depths, but even then he felt uneasy. His eyes, if there even were eyes under there, were watching him with the intensity that a predator would use to observe its prey. Suddenly, he found himself dreading what kind of features lay in those dark depths.

Parlix managed to tear his gaze away, but he could still feel a prickling on the back of his neck, like he was still being watched by that pony. He knew he was being foolish, but he moved a little closer to the guard escort and kept his mind fixed on their destination.

They continued on, their path now being lit by both torches and sun shafts, shining off the crystals and gems that lined the walls and giving light to the whole tunnel. A few other Changelings watched them from their single-roomed cells, their eyes never leaving the ponies they escorted, some edging a little closer until the guards pushed them away.

Looking at them, Parlix noted two things: if they were not here, their prisoners would most likely be at their mercy and the hooded one seemed to steer away from the sun shafts when he could and bow his head when he couldn't.

They began to draw closer, Parlix knowing the route like the back of his hoof. The tunnels began to grow higher to the ceiling and the next turn brought them to the throne room, lit by two large sun shafts that reflected off two larger gems emerging from the ground, illuminating the vast court and the throne where their queen resided.

Dozens of soldiers lined the perimeter, all dressed in their blue armour and all poised to act whenever they were required, as were also a few nobles who watched them equally as closely. Still Parlix kept his eyes on Queen Chrysalis, gazing imperiously from her throne, flanked by her guard. They bowed when they reached her, the escorts forcing the prisoners to their knees.

"Rise," she commanded. "State your purpose."

"Your highness, the prisoners as you requested," announced Parlix.

"Thank you ambassador, commander," she replied graciously. "Give our guests a little room. I wish to speak with them."

Parlix exchanged a look with Sting, who nodded for his guards to make a little space. It wasn't like they were going to try anything here though.

"Good." She turned a studying gaze to them. "I understand that you requested an audience with me. Who here speaks for you?"

"I-I do, your highness," declared the smaller one. "M-my name is Doctor Test Tube, m-my colleague is Hard Edge. W-we have ventured h-here to-"

"What about him?" she asked of the hooded one. "Does he not have a name or is he just a figment of my imagination?"

Tube glanced at him. "He… prefers not to be named, highness b-but I speak for him."

She watched him for a while longer, deliberating. "Very well then. Speak."

"Thank you, gracious one." He cleared his throat. "I-in our travels, we have learned of the um intent that you have towards Canterlot and… a little more besides. We know you intend to i-invade the lands ruled b-by Celestia and Luna."

"And what of it? Do you seek to broker a peace?" She chuckled derisively. "Celestia would send you three to attempt negotiation? Or are you spies? Poor ones, admittedly, but why should I not have you put to death for trespass?"

"W-we come of our own accord, merciful highness and w-we are not spies," he assured. "We seek to aid you in your um efforts."

This brought about some disbelieving murmurs from the nobles and surprise from both Parlix and Sting. Chrysalis laughed once more.

"You want to help us? Why should I believe that?"

"Simply put, we have no l-love for our former home. Indeed, they would seek to imprison us a-and capture us," he explained.

She looked to Parlix and Sting. "Can either of you validate this?"

"I can confirm this, your highness," spoke up Sting. "A message from Canterlot was issued to several other hives and colonies, telling us to be on the look-out for a party of two, possibly three, that answer to their description. They said they should be arrested on sight."

Parlix looked over at him. "I wasn't informed of this, commander."

"It wasn't your concern, ambassador," he replied.

He would have responded, but Chrysalis spoke again. "I see. And what is it that you would offer to bring to the table?"

"F-first hoof knowledge, for one. Edge here was a f-former member of the Canterlot Guard. I-if our knowledge is accurate, that would b-be of g-great aid concerning one p-part of the invasion."

"Yeah," grunted Edge. "You need to know 'bout the guards and how to take 'em down, I'm your stallion."

His voice grew more reverent as he continued. "I myself can offer special advancements in science, weapons like no other you have seen and that I would see tested in the coming battles. They would perform admirably, I'm sure."

"I see." She leaned forward, intrigued. "And if I were to accept your offer, what is it that you would want in return?"

He started to falter again. "W-well, highness, simply um… we only desire, that is we want… this may seem to be quite forward to request this but…"

Parlix started to wonder how long he'd continue to delay the issue. Chrysalis waited with a growing impatience and the nobles started muttering again. He was going to try and get a word in, to try and convince them otherwise and open negotiation.

Then, the hooded one spoke at last.

"Cease thine prattling Tube, lest we be here for the day's remainder." Immediately, Tube was silent and scurried away to allow him to pass.

It was a rasping, cold voice he spoke with, that seemed to cut through the air like a blade, despite his strange dialect. There was no fear in his stride, no hesitation, but there was purpose. All eyes were on him when he approached.

"So, the mute speaks," she remarked. "Would you be so kind as to speak your name too?"

"Mine identity is not thy concern, only mine intention," he said dismissively. "When Canterlot is taken, I must be allowed entrance to the ancient vault there, so that I might retrieve my armour and weapon that reside there."

"Mind your tone in the presence of the queen," growled Sting.

He ignored him and carried on. "The only other thing we desire is something that thou hast in thy possession."

"And what might that be?" Chrysalis asked, her tone betraying nothing.

"Thine daughter, Princess Samore."

Loud gasps and hisses filled the throne room at this bold declaration, several of the guards moving further forward, their weapons readied. Parlix was shocked, Chrysalis was surprised, but Sting was beside himself.

"What outrage is this?!" Sting roared, marching towards him. "I will teach you to be so foolish, pony!"

The hooded one turned and Sting froze. "Consider thy next move carefully, Commander Sting. It may well be thou last."

"Is that a threat?" he hissed.

"Threats are for those whose only weapons are words. That was a promise," he vowed.

Sting glared at him, but he seemed hesitant to act. The commander wasn't one to think twice, certainly not where a battle was concerned. Whatever Parlix had felt when he'd seen the pony for the first time, Sting must have felt it too.

"Peace, commander." Chryaslis kept her tone even when she spoke again. "And what if I should refuse your terms?"

"If so, then I shall not hesitate to take her by other means," he answered with absolute conviction.

"How bold," she chuckled. "My soldiers are many and my army is vast. Do you really think you could fight them all?"

"No. I am certain I could defeat them all."

"That's it!" Sting charged at the pony, raising the blade attached to the leg on his armour, meaning to cut his throat open.

Parlix wasn't sure what happened next, but the pony not only dodged the attack, but twisted the commander's arm and forced him in a lock, a blood-red magical aura appearing around his throat. They were surrounded by spears, but while the other two leaped back, he remained completely still.

"That was a foolish mistake. Make any other move and thou shalt be the first. Thy soldiers will soon follow."

His tone was unmistakable. That wasn't a taunt or a threat. It was a statement of fact and Parlix was inclined to believe him.

Time seemed to stand still. All eyes moved between Chrysalis and the pony. Surely, thought Parlix, Chrysalis wouldn't even consider giving away her own daughter so that these three would do as they pleased with her, especially after all that had transpired.

When he looked to his queen however, he saw that she was smiling. There was a hint of admiration in her face, her laughter echoing around the room again.

She rose from her throne and approached him slowly. "You have spirit, pony. I admire that, very much indeed. I assumed that you were all spineless cowards."

His stance didn't change. "You agree to mine terms then?"

"But of course. However, I shall need my commander alive if I am to successfully dorect my forces," she said casually.

"Naturally." He released Sting at once. "I would advise thee to sharpen thy blade. From what I could see, it is quite dull."

Sting shook with rage. "Highness, you cannot be considering to ally with them!"

"I find myself agreeing with Commander Sting, Highness," ventured Parlix. "Perhaps if we all remain calm and approach this with cooler heads…"

"If you wished to work with cooler heads, ambassador, you shouldn't have joined the Swarm," replied Chrysalis.

"But Highness…"

"Contrary to what you may think, ambassador, my mind is set on this invasion for the good of our people as well you know and I will not be dissuaded otherwise," she said firmly.

"I refuse to align myself with the likes of them!" declared Sting.

"My dear commander, you must see the bigger picture," she said calmly. "What we do will be for the good of all Changelings everywhere. Surely you have heard the expression of the enemy of our enemy?"

"That doesn't make them my friend," he growled.

"I assure you commander, your drive is one that burns in all of our soldiers, in all of our kind," she went on. "You wish to make our enemies pay, do you not?"

"More than anything."

"What better way to strike at the heart of the ponies than to let them know that it was three of their own kind that betrayed them?"

Sting appeared to consider, never taking his eyes off the hooded pony. Finally, he nodded slowly.

"By your will, my queen," he said, backing away.

"Excellent." She looked to the guards. "Come, put away your weapons. You're making our guests uneasy."

They appeared to hesitate, but returned to their original positions, watching warily while Chrysalis approached the hooded one. He dipped his hood to her and she smiled down at him.

"Thou hast made a wise decision, thy royal highness," he said.

"I'm certain I have," she replied confidently. "Now, let us begin our discussion. There is much to talk about and I look forward to working with you."

As Chrysalis and the three ponies walked off towards her private conference room and select members of the court followed, Parlix caught the last sentence from the hooded one, quiet and menacing.

"Thou shouldn't be."

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