• Published 11th Sep 2013
  • 1,552 Views, 214 Comments

Keeper of the Crystal Heart - Cerulean Voice



An empire arises from the midst of a frozen wasteland. But how is this possible? A group of three young ones will unearth the secret. A sequel to These Flowers Never Bloom.

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Love Conquers All... (part three)

The changelings buzzed around Luna, eyeing their target with glee. She had put up a courageous fight, knocking several of her foes unconscious to the ground. Still, this was the most grueling challenge she had faced yet. I cannot keep this up for much longer, she thought while ducking blows and evading magical beams. Everywhere she turned, one was in her sight. For every foe she defeated, another was there to replace its fallen comrade.

Luna could feel her shield deteriorating. Even Magic had its limitations. If I do not take care, I could end up just how Clover was. Shuddering at the thought, Luna returned her concentration to the fight at hoof. She put out a tremendous burst of speed, rising higher into the air above the changelings. A very quick approximation told her that she had decommissioned at least half of the horde. With this information, she contemplated her chances of emerging from the fight in one piece, or even alive.

It does not look good.

Every kick, every punch, every headbutt she landed—they were taking their toll on her strength. Kindness screamed at her to stop the violence, reducing her left foreleg to nothing more than a burning detriment. Laughter lay dormant. Magic, it seemed, was the only Element willing to help her succeed. With every blow that impacted on her shield, Luna felt it weaken. She was aware of each individual crack, like the shield was a part of her own body.

A most reckless idea came to mind.

Without hesitation, Luna dived. The changeling army, still ascending to catch up to her, split apart as she shot through the middle of them, heading for the rocky ground beneath her. Barely within a breath’s lifespan of hitting the ground, a multitude of boulders, stone and clumps levitated skyward. Luna slipped into the crater she created, sliding into a particularly large hole within. The rocks then floated back over her refuge, creating a sturdy barrier. A few seconds later, Luna dropped her worn-out shield and tapped into Magic once more, breathing heavily.

Celestia.

* * * * *

Celestia.

The call had registered in her mind, clear as if Luna herself had whispered into her ear. Celestia cocked her head slightly in confusion, but showed no other sign that anything abnormal was occurring. Mantissia continued to pace around the group, gloating at them.

“So, do you really wish to fight me? You know I’ll emerge victorious anyway, why fight? My power in indisputable.”

Luna? What is going on? Where are you? Are you safe?

“You wanna take all the love from our families and suck it up like the parasites you are! Give us one reason why we shouldn’t resist you?”

I am fine, for the moment. A little bruised, but I shall live. I am on the outskirts of Unitopia, holding off a changeling army. Probably the same one you warned me about. You all right there?

“You've tricked my brother into taking back a pretender in my place! How could I ever forgive you for placing my whole family, my entire home in danger?”

It does not look good. Our brother, sister-in-law and eldest niece have all been apprehended. The changeling queen is here, and she is immensely powerful. I would probably already be gone, if not for these four mysterious ponies that showed up.

“You've taken my father, my mother, even my sister as prisoners. No doubt you've managed to subdue the entire kingdom too. Everything you do is destructive and self-serving! I will stand and fight, I will defend my family’s honour!”

Oh, Celestia, I am so glad they reached you in time. Have they aided you well? The crystal ponies may be Equestria’s only chance. The youngest wields a powerful trinket, directly linked to some sort of Crystal Heart. She used its power to awaken her friend from an otherwise-fatal magical coma. Her strength may even rival our own.

“Your forces attacked me and my student. We woke up in your lair, ran for our lives; nearly lost them more than once, I might add! And for what? So you can undo everything we've worked so hard to restore? As a founder of Harmony, I refuse to allow this most heinous of crimes against ponykind to go unpunished!”

Such great power, for a little filly. They have certainly proved their worth against the queen so far. They were able to release me from captivity and shake the queen up a lot. Even now they continue to distract her, so we can have this conversation. But I fear for their safety, Luna. We need you here with us. I need you here.

“I will not be defied by the likes of you, Clover the Clever! My children require nourishment, and only the love of everypony in Equestria will end their suffering! What do any of you know about the burden of motherhood? The heartbreak that flows through me, on a daily basis, a mother struggling to provide for her foals? I did not choose this diet, I was made with it. I have no other choice. There is no other way to save them!”

I will be there as fast as I possibly can, Celestia. I promise. I would rather not bring back half an army on my tail, though, if the queen is as deadly as you claim. I shall take out as many as I can in the next five minutes before I join you all. I promise to see you soon!

“No more stalling. You will all bow before me. Equestria will be mine!"

Clock is ticking, Luna. Clock is ticking.

Mantissia’s horn glowed a lethal-looking shade of green. It grew brighter and brighter, until its light saturated the room. The defenders stood resolute, united in their cause, but unsure of the outcome. “Foals, each and every one of you! What is a pony? A miserable little pile of hope. Hope will get you nowhere now!”

Calling all drones! Return to me, at once! We have a battle to win!

As Mantissia’s mental command filtered through her hive-mind, her horn reached its peak. A powerful green blast erupted from it, piercing through the ceiling of the throne room to serve as an enormous, green flare in the twilit sky.

“Valencia! Cirrus!” The ponies started at the mention of their names, for Celestia had spoken with urgency. “Clover, Aura and I will keep Mantissia busy. You two have to locate and liberate the king, the queen and all of the townspeople. We are going to have an impossible fight ahead of us momentarily. There is only one reason she would fire a flare like that into the sky and not at us. She is calling reinforcements.”

“R-reinforcements?” Cirrus stuttered.

“Yes. Now go! Equestria depends on it!” hissed Celestia. Without a moment’s pause more, Valencia and Cirrus galloped off, together heading for the end of the throne room. The queen caught them in her periphery, though. Instead of moving to intercept, she merely laughed.

“Celestia, I’m surprised at you. Sending them off against my army to die? And there I was, under the impression that you cared for their safety.” Mantissia ended her flare and relaxed, strutting slowly toward the alicorn and her partners. “It won’t even matter if they get past any of my sons. The rest of them will be here soon. They’ll have my entire family to contend with. If all of you have had this much trouble with little old me, how do you think they’ll fare against our combined might?”

“Enough!” Celestia yelled, firing her own beam of brilliant golden energy at the queen. Mantissia merely sidestepped, boredom etched upon her face, while the beam blew a chunk out of the wall behind the throne.

“Really, Celestia, you’ll have to be quicker than—oof!

Clover had teleported behind her while Mantissia was distracted by Celestia’s attack. Power already built up, she grabbed the queen in her telekinetic grip and flung her into the throne, knocking both of them over. “This is not—nor will it ever be—your throne, you fiend!” Leaping over the fallen throne, Clover sparked up her horn again… to find her target missing. “Wha—”

Wham!

Clover flew through the air to rest at Aura’s hooves, the victim of a powerful buck. “Ow, I think she’s bruised my hip. No, don’t worry Aura, I’ll be—wince—fine.” She looked back to where she’d flown from, as she felt a gust of wind. Her vision filled with a white pony rushing the queen, enraged. There was no mercy left in Celestia’s gaze. Every strand of her mane, every fiber of fur rippled with the fury of Loyalty.

"You will not harm my friends, Mantissia!"

* * * * *

“Where do you think they’re keeping the royals, Valencia?” Cirrus asked as they galloped along the hallways of the castle. Every so often, a lone changeling guard would surprise them around a corner, but the duo worked in tandem to take down their oppressors. Valencia would run headlong toward the changeling, while Cirrus would zoom around and surprise it from behind.

“Does this look like my castle to you, Cirrus?” the mare retorted. “I've got no flipping idea where any place is. We don’t even know if they’re still in the castle, for that matter. Odds are they are, though. Just stick with me and we’ll find them.” If only by process of elimination, she sighed inwardly. “This place must have a dungeon of some kind. We just need to find it. Come on!” Valencia traipsed through another castle door, emerging into an enormous dining room. Although it was lavishing and regal in all appearance, Valencia had no care for such things.

“There’s another doorway at the rear: I’m guessing it’s a kitchen. Cirrus, you check in there, I’ll guard this door.”

The colt nodded, then zoomed into the smaller room. He checked under benches, in pantries, up in the rafters… Nothing. Cirrus frowned as he made to return to Valencia, but a slight creak caught his ear. Looking around once more, he let out a startled yelp as a unicorn leapt on top of him from inside a pantry door.

"Ooof! Hey, what? Valen—"

A tan hoof slammed over his mouth, forcing him to remain silent. Terror filled Cirrus’ eyes as he caught sight of his assailant. The hoof covering his mouth moved to press threateningly at his throat.

“Changeling scum. What have you done with my king and the rest of the guard?” the unicorn demanded.

“H-hey, wait, I’m not a changeling!” Cirrus struggled against the grip. “I’m looking for the king too!”

The hoof only pressed toward his throat harder.

Cirrus squirmed and tried to prise the unicorn's hoof from his throat. “R-really, I’m not... lying to you! Why would—would I be looking for him if I was... gah... with those monsters? They already know where he is!”

The unicorn glared at him. “I suppose that pony in the dining room outside here can verify your identity?” Cirrus nodded vigorously. “Well, you come with me. One wrong move…” he threatened, as he released his hoof from Cirrus’ neck.

Cirrus brought his own hooves to his neck and rubbed them with a small wince. “Okay, I get the point. Here, I’ll introduce you. Maybe we can work together.”

Cirrus trotted slowly back into the dining room, to see the back of Valencia as she stood guard. “Hey, Valencia. No king in the kitchen, I’m afraid, but I did find somepony else. Or rather, he found me.” Cirrus grinned sheepishly as Valencia turned to face him, immediately narrowing her eyes at the unicorn.

“Two questions: who are you, and why should we trust you?”

The unicorn bristled. “Firstly, my name is Edge, from house Stalwart. Secondly, I could have killed this colt in the kitchen earlier, but I didn't. Are your questions sufficiently answered?” Valencia kept her eyes narrowed, but nodded slowly. “Now I would ask the same of you. Speak!”

Cirrus piped up before Valencia could reprimand his attitude. “She’s Valencia Orange, from the Earth pony farms. I’m Cirrus Spectrum, from Cloudsdale. We’re here trying to rescue the royal family and anypony else we might find. Will you help us find the king?”

Edge examined the pair of crystal ponies. “How did you come to be so… shiny?"

“That’s not the important issue here,” Valencia said. “We’ll tell you later. So, will you help us?”

“All right, all right. Fine. How may I assist you, Lady Valencia?”

“Firstly, if you’re really a friend, you can tell us where the changelings would likely be keeping their captives. I assume you work in this castle?” Valencia asked.

“Yes, I’m a guard. Or rather, I was a guard. There’s no way I’ll be allowed to continue serving after what I did. But anyway—”

“What you did?” interrupted Cirrus. “What was so bad that you can’t be a guard anymore?”

Edge glared at the colt, clearing his throat. “Because while the other guards stood and fought against the changeling ambush, I fled and hid. Is that reason enough to expect a discharge from the service?” Cirrus shrank down at Edge’s glare.

“Well—”

"Anyway," resumed Edge, “I believe the king—and possibly his family—are being held in one of the towers. There’s a powerful containment spell that I can feel coming from a location higher than this room. I just didn't want to go it alone for fear I’d be apprehended. I didn't really mean to ditch them, but I knew I’d be captured. They came on far too strong, far too fast…” he trailed off, lowering his head.

Valencia approached the remorseful guard. “Look, there was nothing you could have done. Don’t beat yourself up too much over it.” she placing a hoof over his back. “Besides, you’re here now, helping us, instead of captive with the others. I’d say you did the right thing, in the end.” She looked into his eyes. “Now come on. We've got some royals to rescue!”

Cirrus punched the air. “Awww yeah! Come on, let’s get ‘em! Sock it to those changelings!” Cirrus bolted to the dining room door. “Well?” he insisted as he waited for the others to catch up. “Let’s go already!”

* * * * *

Celestia’s power leakage was enough to make Aura’s own crystal fur bristle. Wow, she’s such a powerful pony. Just like Luna. But the queen still stands there and makes fun of us, like she’s playing a game with us. Has she really drank that much love already? Did we get here too late?

Aura’s thoughts were interrupted by a tremendous ching. Celestia locked her own straight, grooved horn with Mantissia’s twisted, deformed one.

As they struggled, Celestia dug her hooves into the velvet carpet as best she could. Mantissia leaned forward, desperate to overpower her adversary. She raised a leg, bringing her knee hard into Celestia’s chest. The alicorn grunted, but did not succumb to the blow. Her huge white wings stretched past her face, the tips of their feathers poking Mantissia in her large, emerald eyes.

The queen backed off, howling in agony. Celestia seized her opportunity and levitated Mantissia aggressively into the ceiling. There was a sickening crunch, a shard of the queen’s outer carapace detaching itself from her right side. The chitin piece fell to the floor while Celestia reversed the direction of her magical grip. Mantissia slammed into the floor, emitting a grating cry of pain.

“I warned you, Mantissia,” Celestia threatened, while the queen lay injured a short distance away. “When I was captive in that pod, I told you I would forsake mercy and deal justice upon you if you didn't give up. Do it now, and your life may very well be spared. Continue this destructive crusade, and you will be destroyed!” Celestia’s eyes glowed as she brought her full power to light. A powerful breeze flowed through the throne room, buffeting Clover and Aura. The unicorns huddled together while Celestia radiated with golden light. “This is your final chance, Mantissia. Step down, and you will survive this morning.”

The changeling queen glared at her oppressor, teeth clenched in the act of pain suppression. She spat out a few drops of green blood, while more leaked from her side. Her carapace was multi-layered, but the separation from that fragment of outer shell was no tiny thorn in her side. She flitted once more to her feet, leaning slightly to the left.

“You think this fight is over, Celestia. You’re truly confident that you've got me pinned down in defeat. But yet again, you show your ignorance of the power of love.”

All divisions, your power is mine. Send it through the mind-lines to me.

“Love cannot be quantified. It cannot be contained. In its purest form, love is the most potent power source this world offers.”

Yes, more. More! More, my sweets, send it all!

“For you see, there is no being who understands this more than I. Now, I shall prove it to you!"

Mantissia reared up in defiance. As she did so, all of her pain evaporated. She cackled while she absorbed the stored love from one hundred changeling foals. Tainted energy pooled around her as her body swelled. Still cackling madly, Mantissia drank more and more love; the power lengthening her horn, filling in her holes, healing her wounds. Aura and Clover could only stare, shocked and awed. Celestia held her ground, though she’d taken a solitary step back.

The newly-transformed Mantissia towered over Celestia. Her emerald eyes blazed with the intensity of an enchanted flame. Her elongated fangs pointed beyond her jawline. No longer did she hold the appearance of an overgrown insectoid. Celestia could now only liken her to… a dragon.

As the mega-changeling approached her target, the two unicorns rushed to Celestia's side, each conjuring a barrier around Unitopia’s defender. Celestia cast her own defensive spell on Clover and Aura. These actions served only to produce more laughter from the over-sized queen.

“Your pathetic little shields will not help you now!” she rasped, her voice much harsher and deeper than before. “For daring to stand in my way, daring to threaten me with extermination, you shall face your own judgement! The inhabitants of this world will come to love me, whether they want to or not. Such a shame that none of you will live to see it!”

She pounced.

Author's Note:

“You think this fight is over, Celestia. You’re truly confident that you've got me pinned down in defeat. But yet again, you show your ignorance of the power of love.”
All divisions, your power is mine. Send it through the mind-lines to me.
“Love cannot be quantified. It cannot be contained. In its purest form, love is the most potent power source this world offers.”
Yes, more. More! More, my sweets, send it all!
“For you see, there is no being who understands this more than I. Now, I’ll prove it to you!!!”

Mantissia reared up in defiance. As she did so, all of her pain evaporated. She cackled while she absorbed the stored love from over one hundred changeling foals. Tainted energy pooled around her as her body swelled. Still cackling madly, Mantissia drank more and more love; the power lengthening her horn, filling in her holes, healing her wounds. Aura and Clover could only stare, shocked and awed. Celestia held her ground, though she’d taken a solitary step back.

The newly-transformed Mantissia towered over Celestia. Her emerald eyes blazed with the intensity of an enchanted flame. Her elongated fangs pointed beyond her jawline. No longer did she hold the appearance of an overgrown insectoid. Celestia could now only liken her to… a dragon.

As the mega-changeling approached her target, the two unicorns rushed to Celestia's side, each conjuring a barrier around Unitopia’s defender. Celestia cast her own defensive spell on Clover and Aura. These actions served only to produce more laughter from the over-sized queen.

“Your pathetic little shields will not help you now!” she rasped, her voice much harsher and deeper than before. “For daring to stand in my way, daring to threaten me with extermination, you shall face your own judgment! The inhabitants of this world will come to love me, whether they want to or not. Such a shame that none of you will live to see it!”

She pounced.

This scene was inspired by this awesome piece of animation.

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