• 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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Un/Conditional Love

“Father!” Platinum cried, releasing her spell on Celestia to focus on the king. “Father, get up, please. Please, Father, wake up. You have to get up.” Platinum shook Levitatus with a hoof as she sat down near his face. Lifting his head up, she gasped, painfully aware of just what the blast had done to him.

Such was the power of the residual energy still coursing through Levitatus that the shockwaves extended to her own body. A vicious tingling spread through her insides, rippling through her organs, her blood. Platinum yelped at the sensation and reflexively dropped her father’s head. The tingling ceased, but there was a new sense making itself aware to her.

The smell. The king did not simply crackle. He smelled… burnt. Mantissia’s final parting shot had more than rendered him unconscious. Such was the unparalleled amount of energy she’d unleashed, that the king hadn’t just been stunned. He’d been cooked alive, from the inside out.

The smell of her father made Princess Platinum physically sick. Unable to take it, she backed away, crying, into the waiting hooves of her mother. Portia fared no better—the queen was in hysterics, having just witnessed the death of her husband. Celestia looked upon the broken family with the greatest remorse.

That shot was meant for me, brother. Why did you protect me? Although unlikely, I might have survived it… maybe. Celestia continued to gaze upon the mares, at least until she felt the presence of the younger princess at her hooves. Aura looked up to her, shedding her own tears. Crystal tears. Without words, Celestia pulled her into a comforting embrace, her least-damaged wing draped around the princess.

Cirrus looked around. Everypony in the room—even the changelings who’d not yet been rendered unconscious—had stopped to stare at the scene. There had never been a more chilling silence. A sudden stirring nearby captured his attention briefly. Luna had regained consciousness, though she appeared to be in quite dire straits. How is she still alive? Cirrus wondered while he cautiously trotted over to her.

Edge had no other concern for anypony except Platinum. Knowing his secret would be exposed, and that he would immediately be discharged from the royal guard, Edge walked over to Platinum and placed a tender hoof on her shoulder. With a look from the queen—too distraught to object—Edge held his beloved close.

“I’m so, so sorry, Platinum. I wish there was something we could have done. Something I could have done.”

Hic “It’s okay, Edge. He hic made his ch-choice.” Her body racked with sobs, Platinum continued to pour her heart out to Edge. “I just… he j-just can’t be…” The rest was lost as she began to wail. Everywhere around the room, changelings were covering their ears and falling to the ground. The immense amount of negative emotions filling the room played havoc with their senses as they found themselves writhing and rolling on the ground, all bodily control lost.

Every unicorn in the room had gathered to form a wide perimeter around the royals, Celestia, Luna and the crystal ones. The atmosphere could have been swam in. Tears fell in multitudes as the citizens of Unitopia mourned the selfless loss of their first—and greatest—king.

Valencia placed her own head in her hooves. No… how could it end like this? We were so close to victory. We had the power, we had the support of everypony here... why has this happened? Turning to the culprit, Valencia felt, for the first time since the fell winter, the true essence of hate.

Mantissia had reverted to her original form. The changeling queen looked worse for wear than even Celestia. She lay next to the throne; the ultimate seat of power she’d been so desperate to attain, it had driven her to cold-blooded murder. Far from her fearsome, draconic form, she looked more fragile than a broken glass window. The queen could barely lift her own head to analyse the situation.

“So that’s it, then?” Everypony looked up, for Valencia had taken a position before the defeated usurper. “This is the end result of everything you’ve planned for years? And what do you have to show for it? What does anypony have to show for it, besides hatred, darkness and despair? You’ve slain the leader of an entire race of ponies. What now, huh? How can you possibly expect anypony to even consider loving your race now?”

Mantissia gurgled as the waves of hatred flowing from Valencia cut her deep.

The Earth pony persisted. “You’ve dug your own grave. Yours, and your children’s.”

Portia took advantage of the distractions to approach her husband’s lifeless corpse. She lowered her own head to nuzzle Levitatus’ face, ignoring the unsettling odour. “My love… how could this happen to you? Why did you always have to be the hero?” She wept openly, stroking his once luscious mane. It felt frizzled to the touch, though mercifully she was not overcome with residual energy as Platinum had been.

…“Mother?”

Portia glanced up at her youngest as Aura also approached her deceased father.

“Daddy’s… dead, isn’t he?” Slowly, her mother nodded. Looking back at her father’s body, Aura’s tears continued to flow. “Daddy…” she whimpered, laying her own head down on his body in turn.

Celestia, while saddened by the loss of her brother, found herself more immediately worried about her sister. I shall mourn Levitatus later, but for now, Luna needs my support. She lowered herself—painfully, no longer having the royals’ spells to bolster her—down to examine Luna. She examined her body, checking for injuries. A nasty burn coated her chest, spreading to her sides and up to the roots of her wing-bones. The blast had been nowhere near as powerful as the king’s fatal spark, though.

“Sister, how are you feeling?” Celestia continued to check her over, even as Luna tried to stand.

“I live, Celestia. Not gonna lie though, it hurts like you would not believe. Then again,” she amended, glancing over Celestia’s own battle-torn body, “perhaps you know exactly how I am feeling.” She took a deep breath, willing the pain to vacate her system. She rose to her hooves, unsteady, yet successfully. “How is everypony else?”

“They seem fine. Shaken from the ordeal, but physically and mentally sound, still." Celestia glanced around at the crowd of unicorns. Never had she seen so many in one place before. It was only then that she became uncomfortably aware of the fact that almost everypony in the throne room was now staring at her and Luna.

“Well, Luna, I suppose now would be as good a time as any to introduce ourselves.”

* * * * *

"Citizens of Unitopia!" Luna bellowed. The room fell silent, all eyes on her. "My sister and I believe that we owe you all an introduction, as well as an explanation of recent events. So, to all of you here now, bearing witness, here we are: Alicorn sisters, Celestia—” she waved a hoof “—and Luna. We are the two most powerful ponies to ever exist. At least, we were, for a time. But we will elaborate on that a little further in a few moments. For now, my sister will explain this situation to you all.” Luna turned to Celestia, waving her forwards to face the crowd. Her sister smiled, and began to recount the events of the previous forty-eight hours...

Finalising her speech, Celestia smiled at Aura. “Now, Aura, would you kindly step over to the center of the room here?” Celestia requested. Nodding, Aura did as she was told, the last of her crystal tears falling to the floor. “Everypony, behold your Crystal Princess. Behold her cutie-mark. Behold the pendant adorning her neck. But most of all, behold the greatest powers that exist in this world: the powers of Harmony and love!”

Celestia and Luna each took a position on either side of Aura. Nodding together, they touched their horns to Aura’s, the three connected. At once, all six elemental jewels began to glow, as well as Aura’s Crystal Pendant. “Everypony,” Celestia said, “I ask that you join us in wishing your king well, through the love that you bear his princesses and his queen. Let Aura feel the power of your love, and watch her put it to use.”

* * * * *

Back in the heart of the icy tundra, from within the shielded crystal city, the Crystal Heart began to rotate rapidly. Immense waves of power flooded out of it, stretching to all corners of the world.

* * * * *

The Crystal Pendant glowed. Waves of glorious light washed over everypony, turning them all shimmery for a solid moment. Never before or since was the throne room of Unitopia awash with such radiance. As the citizens, the princesses, Queen Portia, the alicorns, Valencia and Cirrus concentrated, something remarkable happened…

The sound of rushing wind filled the room, loud as a pegasi-generated tornado. Great amounts of love—in the form of energy—left everypony’s heart, to be absorbed by the Crystal Pendant. Vibrating violently around Aura’s neck, the gem inside shined with the light of ten suns. Adding their strength to the pendant were the Elements of Harmony, resonating with the gem and each other. The power saturation in the room would be talked about for generations.

“Aura.”

The princess looked up at the musical sound of Luna’s calm, kind voice.

“Take our power, all of our love. Use it well.”

Nodding, Aura focused on directing all of the converging energy into a convalescent beam of pure power. Her eyes—along with Celestia’s and Luna’s—turned completely white while she surrendered to the guiding power of the Crystal Pendant and the Elements of Harmony. The pendant finally expelled the built-up power with tremendous force, directly at King Levitatus’ body.

An incredibly loud, purely light-based rainbow explosion of power rocked the entire city to its foundations.

When the light had finally dissipated, Aura watched a miracle before her eyes: King Levitatus coughed briefly, then made to stand up. Disbelief crossed the face of every unicorn in the room as their king—risen from the dead—finished getting to his hooves and turned around to greet all of his subjects.

“Hello, everypony. Did I miss anything?”

* * * * *

"Changeling Queen Mantissia!"

Mantissia, bound by magically tightened hoofcuffs, and a magic suppression ring around her horn, made her way slowly to the square that had been erected in the center of Unitopia. Onlookers—as well as other captive changelings—watched her intently as she passed. Many jeered at her and waved their hooves. Some threw fruit, although members of the Royal Guard leading and flanking her caught it and sent it flying back to its origin.

"Step onto the dais."

With hoofcuffs removed, but magic suppressor still locked on, Mantissia flitted up over the steps and landed on the raised platform. Everywhere she stared, she met the hate-filled eyes of ponies. It caused her enough physical pain that she could not have fled, even without any handicapping measures. She held her head high though, as she stood before King Levitatus himself.

"Queen Mantissia. You are brought here before this crowd today, to be held accountable for your recent involvement in a destabilising movement against Equestria. You are, today, hereby charged with:

Destruction of property

Leading an army in a coup

Plotting treason and regicide

Unlawful imprisonment of no fewer than five hundred ponies

Adultery

and

Murder."

How ironic that I stand here now and hear a murder charge, read against me by the very subject of the murder, Mantissia wondered to herself.

"To these charges against you: how do you plead?" King Levitatus asked.

“Guilty.” The queen’s expression was flat, emotionless.

"Queen Mantissia, for your plea of guilt, you face the death penalty." The crowd suddenly grew wild and riotous. “Order in the square! Order!" Levitatus commanded, but the ponies ignored him, his voice far too low to be heard over the neighs and whinnies of the crowd.

"Order! we say! Order!" Celestia and Luna lent their abnormally loud voices to the king’s, almost deafening the unruly crowd. Shocked into silence, the crowd settled down and sat on their haunches.

“While it is true that simply the crimes of treason and regicide carry the death penalty… certain events have been brought to light by my advisor and personal guardian, Celestia.” The king smiled at his sister, receiving a grin in return. “Celestia, if you may?”

Celestia took the stand and faced the crowd.

"Long before you ponies—or even I—were thought of, a being named Vorjhan held dominion over this world," she bellowed, loud enough to be heard by all, but not to deafen this time. "Vorjhan was the physical manifestation of the force of chaos, and he created many incredible, but horrific and dangerous creatures, simply at his own whims, for his own entertainment. One of these creations was the race of Changelings." The crowd murmured to themselves, wondering what the relevance was.

"Queen Mantissia here," Celestia continued, "Was the first changeling ever born into this world. It is my sister and I’s belief that she be allowed to tell you her story, in the hope that you may see some justification for her actions. After all, everypony who commits any crime has the right to a defense." Celestia stepped down from the stand, facing the queen.

"Fillies and gentle-colts, I ask now that you listen to her story in silence, without interruption, so you may hear every word of her testimony."

Celestia gave the queen a neutral look as she retreated to Levitatus’ right side. Mantissia swallowed some bile as she faced the angry—but now co-operative—crowd.

Mantissia delivered her testimony, the same story that she had shared with Celestia while she held her captive in the love extraction pod. At first, the faces of the ponies were unmoved and stony. But as she went on, drawing nearer to her conclusion, some of the faces slackened, taking on a more sad look. Others glanced around at her captive children, forced to do the only thing they’d ever known to survive.

Once Mantissia’s testimony had been delivered, Luna took to the stand. "Now that you have heard the testimony of the accused, we ask you to make a decision. You will decide Mantissia’s fate this day. You have three choices:

“One—her punishment is reflected by her crimes and she is put to death.

Two—her punishment involves eternal banishment from Equestria, along with all of her children.

Three—her punishment is decided by the Crystal Princess.

“Now that you have your choices, we ask: what is your vote? A call of aye for death?"

Less than a third of the crowd raised their voices with an “aye.” Mantissia’s shoulders visibly sagged in relief.

"Now I implore ye: a call of aye for banishment?"

Slightly more than a quarter of the crowd chanted an “aye.”

"Your final choice: a call of aye for punishment via Crystal Princess’ discretion?"

Over two-fifths of the crowd screamed their agreeing “aye.”

"The matter is settled, then," Luna declared. "Mantissia and her children’s fate shall be decided by Princess Aura: a filly with first-hoof experiences at the mercy, or lack thereof, of the changelings in the past." Luna smiled at her new niece. "Crystal Princess Aura, please take the stand."

As Aura climbed up onto the dais opposite her once-oppressor, she couldn’t help but allow a shiver to slip through her composure. Mantissia’s emerald eyes bored into her own, but they were no longer filled with greed or malice. Taking a deep breath, Aura turned to face the crowd, shining in the sunlight.

“Mantissia, Queen and Mother of the Changelings, today I pass your judgement.”

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