• Published 1st Apr 2014
  • 15,416 Views, 1,427 Comments

Puppets of Tragedy - Iridescence T Wind



We all know the story, human from earth goes to Equestria from buying a mystical prop from a mysterious unnamed salesman to attend Comicon. But what you didn't expect was the prop to be a puppeteers crafting kit.

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The Blue Wedding

The explanations and the plan had gone smoothly, and I had gathered quite a fair bit of information with every step of the remaining weeks to the wedding itself. Amber and Melody had withdrawn back to their kingdoms to manage it in preparations for a short war. Melody would stay with her people, as I had gauged that they had suffered enough of war without being drawn so far out of their element. While Canterlot had waterfalls, that was hardly the place for a siren to fight at. Amber would be back in disguise during the wedding with a flock of mercenaries that were stilled on payroll from our first base. They were insistent on Cass staying with me, and while she'd been offered quarters to stay in, after some deliberation, it was decided by her, that we'd share the room.

I rearranged things of course, divided out the room with a few partitions and brought in a second bed. Cass seemed oddly disappointed for some reason, so I tried to cheer her up with a few upgrades to her cybernetics, but I think I might of missed the point somewhere down the line. Blacksmiths had been found and put to good work, and the training had gone smoothly, the few masks I had, grown into a few dozen now that I could get resources again. Yoko had been glad to see my puppet, and was working alongside her to shore up the city from future attacks, as well as deal with Changeling infiltrators where they could be found. A dozen had tried to infiltrate already, and their victims had been safely recovered as well after some interrogation behind closed doors on Yoko's part. The attacks ceased, since then, however. The amount of ponies being replaced by changelings were alarming, but I found the hive, shortly outside the city after scouring the land for their unique magic. Cadence's location had been trickier to find, and it was only with searching quite literally every brick in the dungeons that I found the secret passage leading to the underground giant crystal mines.

Cadence was being treated half decently at least. Enough so that I didn't have to interfere at least. While she was too strong to be kept in a cocoon, threats of violence to her fiancé, and being liberally watched by changelings disguised as rocks had been enough to keep her contained. Certainly not a fighter, by any account, but her specialty of magic was quite literally their food source after all. Most of her spells barely dented her surroundings, and it seemed she couldn't teleport without a line of sight to where she was going. Her one attempt to escape was met harshly by two changelings thrashing her for a moment with clubs made of hardened goo, roughly the consistency of a foam coated club it seemed. At least they fed her enough to keep her from starving, and with enough water and hygiene to keep her healthy if not slightly in malnutrition. The Changelings seemed to constantly keep her near empty on magic as well, however, as after the first day she ceased using magic in attempts to escape, and after the first week she gave up attempts altogether, instead trying to coax responses out of those who were watching her. I had to eventually replace the shadows watching her out of risk of discovery, with small portals of the stuff that the organization XIII used to walk between worlds, as a small black and grey wisp was a lot easier to keep in a crowded with crystals and rock room in the dark, than it was the Shadow Heartless.

The day came without ceremony, a morning where sleep and rest had been given for two days to those I trained before the Ceremony began. I had finished briefing my new heads of command. A surprising batch of ponies, Blueblood, while expected to a degree, had outshone my impressions of him, and come into the role as the Unicorn commander of the currently unnamed regiment, with his seconds in command being Ditzy Do for the Pegasai, and Luna herself, handling the Threstrals that came back into service at the end of their courses. The Earth ponies had no central lead, as they worked together as a team far too well to try and promote one over the other when they were fine keeping the paperwork together with meetings at a minimum to just make sure everyone was up to date with each other and of any issues that arose. Already I could see the micro scale military bureaucracy bullying the hell out of the macro level planning that would become involved, but I was building a regiment, not an army. Yoko had distinctly approved of it for some reason when I informed her of everything.

Speaking of Yoko, the reacquistion of the GLaDOS mask had allowed me to actually outfit the troops, and with a lack of decent blacksmiths, I had acquired enough to handle the weapons and enchanting aspects of it, but I had abused GLaDOS for her ability to rapidly manufacture by use of incinerators and lasers to get the armor done in time for the test runs and proper fitting.

The remaining month had come and gone in a surprisingly short time, between my busy days and the ticking of the clock of war. During the two weeks leading up to the wedding, the shield bubble was risen, on part of a changeling slipping up and being caught by Luna no less. Celestia was aware of the imposters around her, but took no action but to follow the script as was given to her by me. As the day of the invasion grew to less than twenty four hours away, I was given several invitations of which I, and Starswirl refused, stating in our own responses that we were busy with testing a new spell to pay any attention to the events before the wedding. Celestia only narrowly tipping the edges of her hand when she didn't contradict us, much to the poorly veiled rage of Chrysalis. An advance was made during the night before the wedding, however... As I sat awake that night, checking through props of what I had managed to build for myself during the time up to it, and checking my laptop for tokens that I could call upon. Most of it stored as per usual in the now three decks of cards I carried in my coats new interior pockets.

I had taken first watch, as was per usual now with Cass and me sharing a room, Cass would take up the watch when I needed it later on in the night, and finish her sleep once I was awake again for the early morning combat drills. While I had found the later useful, Cass had been invaluable as a measure of keeping myself calm as the weeks trickled by, Starswirls quarters were heavily warded, and while he had made the offer, I had left the temptation of my quarters unguraded by his magic, as to save on both his strength and tempt the changelings into making a foolish action to cull their numbers down a small bit before the invasion started. This was one of those nights, it seemed. As two more Lings ended up in the badlands, weeks away on hoof to the castle, and several days away by air from the castle.

They had grown fairly more clever over the last few weeks, this time having tried to enter as a fly through the keyhole and a newt climbing the side of the tower along the bricks mortar. Their magic still was a dead give away as much as a glowstick was in a pitch black room, but I was surprised by the size they could manage. Changelings didn't seem to sleep either, as Chrysalis spent all her nights fully awake and scheming it seemed. They'd stopped with the attempts of targetting Cass after two of them wound up hospitalized by cybernetics breaking their chitin until it resembled a dried up plains in the middle of an extreme draught, apparently favoring me for my less immediately crippling approach, which was fine for me.

I was learning a lot between their attempts at stealth, and the training sessions of the regiment I held pride for. They were now trained for combating both singular and overwhelming numbers, and while they had a few mental breaks along the way, they had outgrown and shown pride as an Equestrian that went beyond that of rulers but to themselves and each other as well. I had a small bit of personal satisfaction knowing that I had essentially given a big middle finger to Celestias enforced mindset as well from behind her back.

In the morning, I watched with distant distaste as the train rolled into Canterlot and Shining Armor greeted his sister, I could practically hear the lines of dialogue from the episode itself even with my personal avoidance of it, and I decided to give the mane six a wide berth, as I spotted Rainbow Dash looking around, far more alert, and back to normal than I would of thought be possible. Fluttershy looked a little worse for wear, but the Mane Six was back together it seemed. Out of curiosity, I turned on my ability to see magic, and had to force myself not to hurl at what I saw. The chains that held them together were by far the biggest I'd ever seen. Golden ropes big enough to hang a suspension bridge with connected them to each other, the chains all but drowned in the same golden strands that kept Luna in check, but in a far more massive density. Celestias own chains attaching them to one another had been nearly completely coated by the Elements of Harmony effect. I gritted my teeth and tuned myself down to as little as I could sense, and while the chains dimmed and faded from view, those ropes remained as bright as staring at the sun until I turned it off altogether. It was little wonder that they were 'friends' with each other despite having nearly zero shared interests. What reserves I had about interfering with this episode had been hundreds of times reinforced by the sight of that alone, and I decided to just get things in order until Twilight was separated from her friends.

I double checked everything as they continued on their blinding way. The doors to the Elements of Harmony now had a keyhole designed for Twilights own personal magical signature alongside Celestias, which allowed Twilight to actually open the damn vault holding them had they made it through both waves of changelings that Chrysalis would throw at them. Prince Blueblood was already up and martialing troops to performing last minute checkups and making sure each squad knew what it was supposed to do. Cass would be awake for the wedding itself, but under guard against would be kidnappers until then. Starswirl was heading to Luna's room, as her freshly trained Threstral division remained in the shadows with their new 'toys' as to keep the surprise as long as they could baring a direct assault. Her room had been further warded against spells in secret, as well as given a spell to trigger a false positive should magic be the reason for Lunas non-existent presence during the majority of the evening. The path to the vault was currently swarmed with Changelings expecting a fight, but I had ambush positions prepared, that was changing moment to moment as they moved.

Since my attendance was made mandatory for the wedding, I decided the best course of action for me and Cass was to sit in the main hall with all the nobles and family of the Sparkles at least an hour beforehand and in disguise as a currently vacated noble. A Sir Wilhelm and his wife Lady Feather Feather had left me their spots in the pegasus gallery of the ballroom as they themselves had been visiting a foreign dignitary during the events of the wedding. Our body doubles would be seen following Starswirl into Lunas tower during the wedding, following suit with my utter dismissal of Chrysalis's piss poor attempts to act as Cadence. To her eyes, I was just a rude vagabond and peasant playing the role of villain with a few cheap card tricks to dispose of whoever she had thrown at me. I had made it a point to only use the robes gate, Grevious's unarmed dominance, and my cards to keep her goons at bay as to hide my full arsenal from her knowledge. I grabbed breakfast from out of town to ignore the painfully obvious attempt at putting sleep inducing drugs in the night guards food supply, and with the rest of the sweep, informed the guards to play at being drowsy and then fake an unconscious bout a short bit before the wedding.

Early afternoon marked the point where Twilight broke down, and I watched with some disinterest as Queen Chrysalis had her own minor gloating spree, as Twilight hit the ground in the caverns beneath. The problems with this master plan was that I had been given an extended period of time to find Cadence, and as a result Twilight easily re-entered my line of sight as Chrysalis did her evil gloating before fading away as Twilight attacked the mistreated real Cadence. I decided to give them a helping hand, assigning a mask and puppet to the location before getting it through a portal. My mind busy with getting into the stands as the dark cave came to the dolls senses from the entrance to the cavern. Chrysalis's gloating came with orders shortly after Mr.Freeze entered, the flower Trio that would be guarding the exit would be in place well after Mr.Freeze entered the mines from the basement dungeons secret tunnels.

I took delight upon upon the surprised changelings faces as nobodies and heartless ambushed their rocky forms, and when they emerged to break free of their attackers grabbing onto them, Mr.Freeze began his namesake of turning them into bug-popsicles Rough crystals giving way like fragile glass, as a metal boot kicked their way through them, I could hear cadence's singing get interrupted as the two were coming down a minecart track by cart. Twilight pulling on the brakes as the thing came to a screeching halt as Mr.Freeze stood impassively, the cart ceasing its movements mere moments before it would colldie with him.

"Viktor?" Cadence asked, and Viktor Freeze nodded.

"It is I, here to repay the debt I owe you for our happy ending Miss Cadenza."

"Wait, you two know each other?" Twilight asked, and both Cadence and Viktor Freeze nodded to each other.

"How do we know you're really him, and not a changeling though?" Cadence asked, she was haggard, but still sharp even after several weeks.

"At one point in time, I kidnapped Miss Cadence here, for aid for my wife, Nora." Viktor spoke with only the slightest amounts of warmth, "You helped me and in return, I gave you a letter containing...?" He said the last word as a question, gesturing for Cadence to respond in kind. I already knew they weren't changelings, but what I knew they probably both couldn't and shouldn't.

"Wedding Bands. Figured you would test us too, right?" Cadence nodded, "It's him. How did you know we were down here?"

"The Puppet Master works in Mysterious ways. I am here to repay my debt to you, Miss Cadence. As you saved my wife, I shall aid you in saving your husband." Mr.Freeze intoned, "Shall we pay your imposter an nIce visit?"

Mr.Freeze took the role of Cadences wedding flower throw as he froze the mind controled flower girl trio ponies, and my attention returned to the present fully. Cass and I were in the Pegasus Gallery, the wide wedding ballroom with the view of the middle of the room obscured by a massive chandelier hanging from it. The gallery was a series of fancy formal stands built into the near top of the room and along the ceiling, as a series of stone outcroppings and alcoves where fancy tables had been set up for the more Ariel oriented guests like Griffons and Pegasai could enjoy, well out of reach for those who walked. They were more akin to what one would expect from a theater seat in an old fashion opera play, than what I would expect from a stone castle, but they were comfortable enough, and had a few major benefits that I approved of. Most ponies, outside of those who knew about them would ignore them, as their stone railings didn't really stand out unless you were on the opposite end of the room, in which case you'd likely on see them on your peripheral vision if you were staring straight ahead. The second thing was, a habit I had learned from several books, nobody ever looked up. Unless they were planning on flying. Even then, the vast majority of the attention was drawn to those on the ground level, rather than looking up at the stands, and those who did look up, were often distracted by the giant chunk of crystal that was the chandelier. The third benefit was derived from the chandelier itself and the fact that we had a mid-row stand so that the guard opposite of us had their line of sight blocked, and I effectively had line of sight of both the entrance to the ballroom and the wedding ceremony, but could lean back to better obscure myself should I need to.

Cass sat by my side, acting the dutiful wife, as we watched, her role would be to support me in getting ponies out of here when the fight broke out, and escort them to the safety of the Lunar tower while I distracted Chrysalis. Our disguises were left intact as we followed the protocol of the crowd as the wedding began to commence, and just as mentally practiced, on the final call for objections the wheels for change began to churn into motion. Passively I noted the yellow curtains worth of cloth that adorned the ceiling as well. A fair bit more interesting, I'd have to ask Celestia where they got this much... was this silk? Nice.

A cold smile adorned both my face and Mr.Freezes as they barged in. Twilight yelling, "Stop!" at full volume, cutting through even the crowd as they began to gasp. I noted the irritation in the rest of the Mane Six, until they noticed who was behind their seemingly wayward purple 'friend'. Shining Armor was the only one to not react, too far gone into the hypnosis to be aware of anything at this juncture, and even now I could see around the shield the swarm of changelings reacting to their Queens irritation.

"Ugh, why does she have to be so possessive of her brother?" Chrysalis complained, a bit pissed off, before noting Celestia staring at her, and reiterated with crocodile tears and false sorrow in her voice, "Oh why does she have to ruin my special day?"

"Because!" Cadence shouted back at her, coming fully into view to the gasps of the crowd and shock of the rest of the Mane Six, "It is not your special day, its mine!"

"What?! But how did you escape my bridesmaids!?" Chrysalis retorted, dropping the pretense like an idiot. At this sort of stage of the game, it would of been wiser to double down on it to cause infighting, but apparently that wasn't her instinct.

Both Twilight and the real cadence looked to Mr.Freeze who informed the crowd, "We told them to take a chill pill, and cool off."

That earned a few respectable groans from the crowd, and I snorted from the stands at their reactions. the fake Cadence was less impressed or groaning, "Heh, Clever. But you're still too late."

Applejack decided to drop the ball, "I don't understand... How could there be two of 'em?"

"She's a changeling, she takes the form of somepony you love, and gains power by feeding off your love for them!" Cadence explained, marching forward.

At that point, Chrysalis dropped all pretense of disguise as she revealed herself, coating herself in a giant green pillar of fire as she transformed dramatically. I noted to myself that it was all theatrics, as the pillar itself had far too little energy to do anything significant, as she just dropped the spell for disguising herself as obnoxiously as a magical girl transformation.

Mr.Freeze fired at it, but a barrier lit up into existence, flipping the shot around, and he froze into a pillar of ice instead. Neat. I posed two minions behind the imposter who did that, and readied myself as the events unfurled further.

"Nyahahaha." Queen Chrysalis laughed far too prematurely and stepping forward, her back to Celestia "Right you are, Princess, and as Queen of the changelings it is up to me to find food for my subjects." She was positively gloating, as she continued trotting towards Cadence with an arrogant strut, "Equestria has far more love than any place I've ever encountered, and my fellow changelings will be able to devour so much of it that we will gain more power than we have ever dreamed of!" She was in Cadences face, forcing her to take a step back or get head based by the Changeling Queens proximity.

"You'll never get the chance! Shining Armor's protective spell will keep them from ever reaching us!"

Godesses and gods above I wanted to punch her in the face as she gloated, "Oh, I doubt that, isn't that right dear?" as her horn lit up and Shining armor gave a brief affirmative.

Cadence tried to head for her fiancé, but was interrupted by Chrysalis relighting her horn, "Nuh, uh, uh, don't want to go back to the caves now do you?"

She started to go off into her monologue and I tuned her off as she went on and on about how evil she was. Everything was ready, locations programmed to clear the path for the Elements of Harmony just to see what would happen if they did strike the changelings with them, would it be a repeat of the episode, but with rainbows? Or would they get redeemed? I was curious. Celestias duel was a pathetic beam clash, as I realized the reason she lost the duel was that she was stuck trying to regulate herself as not to blast everyone in the room into ash, rather than the love of one pony for their wife somehow beating out the sun incarnate. I watched as Chrysalis absorbed the hanging chandelier into the base of a cocoon and put Celestia into it with the help of her drones as they revealed themselves, and the Elements of Harmony fled the room. Cadence stuck by her feet in more of the strange green goo that they exuded. It was at this point, as the shields were down, and the guards of the city were starting to be overwhelmed that I acted as Chrysalis moved to stand out dramatically over the balcony to oversee her invasion.

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Bedecked in black robes, the agent of chaos descended. A quiet hush falling over the room as he landed near silently atop a playing card the size of a table. A white masked figure grinning an impossible grin with flames of blue fire marking the pupils of its eyes. The Emperor of two races, known villain to the people of Canterlot, and a storyteller. The changelings overseeing the crowd began to react, but to the hushed surprise of the crowd they were strangeled by strange grey alien beings, whom wrapped their entire bodies around the changelings, strangling them as their mouths with lips made of zippers grinned an impossibly empty smile and a strange symbol upon their forehead that reminded them of a heart ripped apart and fused with the symbol of a bishop of a house of playing cards, if massively distorted.

Silently the black robed figure ran towards the queen, his feet not making a noise, the soft cloth of homemade shoes covering strange feet that weren't hooves. They noted as he jumped that he had done so far too soon, as he would land a few yards away from the invading queen only to have the assumption dashed as another card formed in front of him, first one, then a second, before he leapt, and their hearts caught in their throats at what they saw.

They saw the Puppet Master drop kick the Queen of the changelings off the side of the balcony, both going falling out of view. A few seconds later the sounds of air ripping itself apart as creatures from impossible worlds began to come into existence, a giant turtle, a man of shadow in the shape of a tree with flaming eyebrows, outside they could see a giant clock, arranged on limbs like a spider come into view from seemingly nowhere, and with the shattering of ice, the mysterious creature with a ray of frost told the crowd, "Come with me if you want to live."

The crowd left, with the man, for what else could they do? War had descended onto Canterlot, and so too had Chaos. In its place it had left three ponies, two of them alicorns to figure out the matter.

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Commander Blueblood had trained for this moment, the moment the war would occur, it was to be the first of many battles that they were training for. He knew, as he shouted commands out to the squads, by portals they arrived, through a strange hallway of what could only be described as a primordial sea of energy, and just as they were told, they were now catching the Changelings off guard. A line of fire was established, and as they spotted their trainers forces settling onto the field, a border was being established as well. The Bladed poles were making work of the magical but otherwise unarmed changelings. While shields were restraining those who decided to shift into a more combat oriented forms, of giant strange bees with bladed arms. The Pegasai were quickly claiming air superiority through the two months of hell that they had all endured, their strange halberds extending and retracting along their lengths as they needed it, each swing taking out at least one changeling charging at them, and if they landed, making a far larger number of them in a swing than before.

A mild shudder of satisfaction ran through him, this was the defense of Canterlot, he could see the Shadow Heartless that had trained his group against swarm tactics now using those very same tactics against the changelings, inflicting mass injuries for mass injuries, as they lead the way for a particular brand of six ponies, "This way!" He shouted, "Guard the Elements of Harmony!" His men fell into formation, trained efficient formations taking the lack of skill and replacing it with a unity unlike any other in this known world. Skill doesn't matter, if you can overwhelm the enemy in numbers, but when your numbers have skill, you are truly blessed. He thought to himself.

"Is that Prince Blueblood!?" The Element of Generosity whom tried to flirt with him what seemed like a life time ago exclaimed in surprise.

He shouted back, "The very same! Now get moving! We can't keep them at bay forever!" The swarm of shadows dispersed to distract the following horde of changelings as they double timed it towards the vault. The Puppet Master entrusting the care of these six crucial ponies to him, it showed a degree of trust that made his heart roar. Distantly he heard a blast of energy, and turning towards the noise he spotted a distant explosion in the air, as a black robed figure that had grown so familiar to him clashed with one of similar color schemes but with tints of blue in the distance. Just as quickly he turned back to the path ahead, he had a job, and some lousy bugs weren't going to even make him flinch. He would do the Puppet Master proud, he swore it!

The changelings were abuzz with zealous levels of aggression it seemed, as they rained down where they could from above, being countered with a quick burst of shield spells, enough to divert without suffering the drain of outright negation. While the streets would be repaired, the drain of trying to be perfect would run down the regiments reserves of magic in a flash if they tried pure brute force. Cleverness and intelligence could triumph against the might of numbers. The fighting was a blur, action and reaction on his part. Leading a parry of hooves to launch a changeling over the shoulder, and into another. Turning the tide as metallic beetles, the Puppet Masters aid for their region. Magic ceased to be an issue and now they might of well been fighting magicless unicorns. He noted that, while untrained, the Mane Six were holding their own in battle as well, unarmed at that. Even the timid looking Fluttershy was more getting them to hit each other than her.

Prince Blueblood let out a massive laugh, feeling the mix of exhilaration and craze. A snorted peal of laughter joined him unexpectedly, "What are you laughing about silly?" Pinkie Pie, he recalled, asked of him, her endless supply of party canons was truly the real oddity, no?

He couldn't help but answer honestly as a shield bashed another Changeling down, "I've never felt so alive!" ducking beneath his comrades halberd as it extended in his view, and the weapons flattened side made short work of the changeling that had snuck up behind him.

"Sir!" it took him a moment to recognize the voice of Ditzy above him, "Mind your six!"

"Mind yours!" He shouted gleefully back, the enlarged tower shield their troops were issued, ramming a changeling out of the air and into the streets below the main bridge to the vaults. He couldn't help but wonder, between the blows and his crazed grin, just what sort of fun the Puppet Master was having. His troops rallied with him, their morale at an all time high, and the changelings looked to one another uneasily, as they reached the steps.

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The opponent in front of me was unpredictable for a midget. The black robed figure walked calmly towards her, a strange key shaped club in one hand and the other sparking with a white glove covering the hand. An arrangement of cards danced around him, their interior side blank as I prepped a spell with mine crooked horn. Oh how I had wanted to avoid this. The idiot that was the Puppet Master had struck her hive agents out of the nearby region when they had first attempted to kidnap him, which she admitted was a mistake. But the negotiators she had sent afterwards vanished off the surface of the earth as well every time she tried. I parried the upswinged blow that he started with his face barely visible as the sparks rang off between key-club and mine own conjured rapier.

I would admit, my choice of weapon was at a disadvantage when it came to parrying the metal club. Had mine been a regular rapier, even of steel, it would of likely snapped on the spot, but magic was a fair bit more cheating. Flicking it off to the side I disarmed him, only for another such blade of a different flowery design to pop into his hands in a show of sparks, countering my thrust with a returning downward stroke, intercepting and turning it below him. With forward aggressiveness, I withdrew the point of my rapier and stabbed it forward again, aiming for a feint followed by a rapid second blow aimed for the throat. To my frustration while he parried the feint, his hand dropped the second blade he had formed, and annoyingly my follow up blows were countered by a bright blue spiked shield, which he pushed into me, denying me my reach. The telltale sparks forced me to back off as an explosion soon followed in the wake of the dodge, only for the shield to replace itself with a book, the Puppet Master muttering a word drowned by the aftermath of the boom. A sphere of distorted energy flying from his hands and homing in on me. I threw my rapier at it, forming a new one into my grip to see the effect, as it caught into the bubble, the rapier was sent down into the ground, breaking and shattering as its pommel was flattened to the shape of paper.

I hissed, if this was going to be a game of spells he was on. Five harpoons with chains forming behind them formed, as I shot them forward. While unlikely to hit, they would impede him if he was hit, and my follow up was already coming forward as I directed energy from my swarms effort, to my own workings. A few drones collapsed of exhaustion, but five became twenty, then a hundred in short order, as they fired a forest of bladed harpoons and chains, a veritable forest of the magic. There was a blast, and a pillar of flames erupted, two flaming chakrams taking the place of the book as he threw them at me. Idiot. I tossed a rapier as I stepped to the side, pinning them to a wall before he could emulate my own tactics against me. As I returned my gaze to him, I noted he was gone from where he was previously, and my instinct had me carrying myself changing directions abruptly as a scythe swung down to where I had been floating moments before. Irritatingly, it had clipped me, and now I saw another strange marker above me, a black 98 floating above my head with a white outline around it. Confused, I barely had time to register it as a beam of energy consumed me, flickering my wards against damage, I saw the counter rapidly counting down. Alarmed, I moved out of the blast, and was engulfed in another chain of explosions distorting my senses.

Growling I had to extend my vision to nearby drones to find him, the distorting feeling of the shared senses was still uncomfortable. I could multitask if given the chance to sit down, but no more than five or six could share their senses with me depending on the day I was having before I'd gain a headache. It was an advantage, however, As I swept below the explosion, and came stabbing upwards at him from below. Without even looking he parried the rapier, near taking my head off as the sweeping scythe pushed aside my rapier by the handle of his weapon, and the blade near collided with me. I carried myself with the blow, my wards flickering alarmingly as the counter continued to go down. My irritation was growing, how as this child of a creature stronger than Celestia? My next stab broke the scythe, and with it the counter vanished to my relief, but it was short lived as a strange instrument, some sort of hybrid between a Cello and a Guitar, was made in the same symbols of the monsters harassing my troops.

"Dance, water, dance!" he cheered, and I stabbed him, only for the tip of my rapier to vanish into a... Bubble? Elementals formed of water appeared as well as a clock counting down to something and I rolled my eyes annoyed at him. Was he all gimmicks? I gathered magic into my horn, tapping my personal reserves as I blew out an area of effect blast to increase the temperature rapidly, turning water to steam at the cost of some minor damage to my own wards. That seemed to put him off as I backed away to fire beams at him. Clearly melee wasn't the way to g-. I dodged a rapid fire array of energy needles as he held some strange artistic rendition of magical hand crossbows by the sheer virtue of stopping my own flight and falling a few dozen feet. He vanished in a teleportation, now hanging upside-down as he continued to take rapid fire shots at me, and I screamed in rage.

Closing the gap again, I made to feint for a stab, and he went to block with his guns, but at the last moment, I let the magic surge, turning rapier into a saber and slashed a vicious wound into the side of his neck instead of stabbing at him. There was a momentary look of surprise, before his head fell, then his body with it. Finally, I could get this pest done with. Dismissing my saber, I began my ascent upwards, only to notice that the body had changed. A broken mask of white, and a cut wooden mannequin missing its head was what lay on the ground now, rapidly fading away into nothing.

"Oh you have got to be kidding me." I cursed, as I turned my attentions back towards the castle, and summoned my saber again. Just as Thirteen more Puppet Masters appeared in an even circle around me. Each one equipped with a different weapon that he had just used, and each one with an identical arsenal to the other, in every other respect. A few of the weapons I hadn't seen yet, daggers in the formation of claws, and one had lasers protruding from their hands at a short distance as if blades. One oddly was tossing dice, and if they were anything like the cards, I didn't want to deal with it.

"Pro tip, if you think you killed the super villain, and it was easy, you probably didn't kill him." all of the dopplegangers announced at once, in fairly creepy unison.

A flare of senses confirmed that none of them were feeling a thing, and I resisted the urge to hiss, instead coldly stating, "When I find you, I will kill you."

No reaction, I slowly raised my blade and entered a combat stance, before deciding to engage in the oldest and noblest of combat techniques. As I made to make a strike at the air, my horn lit up, and smoke rapidly exploded into the area. I dove, as several metal weapons clashed with where I had been less than a moment ago, and I fled to ground level. Down here at least, there would be civilians to use as shields. That seemed to get a measure of irritation going on all of their faces as I dove past a mare with an actual Cello being harassed by Changelings. This fight would turn into a matter of attrition that I couldn't possibly lose, after all, I had an entire army backing me up. Once he ran out of energy, he'd have to face dramatic losses. Those clones and this army must of cost him a ton of mana, after all. And once he was expended, she'd move in for the kill.

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Calmly I took a sip from the tea and casually stole an apple fritter from the desert table of the now mostly abandoned main ballroom. Chrysalis was a damned coward, when she realized that she was fighting a doll she had tried her damnest to go to ground, however for all of her brilliance, she seemed to not get that I could follow her magic everywhere she went. She might of well been a damned beacon with how much magic she was taking from her hive. I did grin, however at the dopplegangers as they did their work in the distance. It had taken me a fair bit to realize that my own token counted as a mask, and as a result, I could duplicate myself. While the implications of that, was massive, it did unfortunately come at the cost that they emulated how I was currently, and any injuries or wounds that I'd take in would affect future duplicates of myself as well. However, the upside was that I could be in both many places at once, and that the gear I was wearing also copied over, meant that my prop problems was somewhat reduced.

I noted a downside in that the token made clones were a fair bit weaker overall, when it came to their props, which I guess made sense in a way, since they were duplicates of recreations, which magic tended to have a tenuous relationship with at the best of times. Still working together, they faired well enough, and my attention was more on keeping Chrysalis busy while I cleared up the rest of her army. Nox's mechanical beetles had drained a significant amount of the Changeling Queens army from the central lines of Canterlot Castle and its surrounding defenses, and was now slowly working counter clockwise throughout the city to drain the changelings. Sadly, their magic was odd in the fact that they had near no capacity for magic to steal, and what magic they had was more akin to a few sips from a sparkling water from a glass, than getting a reusable water bottle that filled itself with energy drink if the metaphor made any sense. There was energy to steal, but no capacity to go with it, which made it a one and done, or a very light snack when I had started raking in the stolen love of Equestria. But what it also did was make the city guards jobs infinitely easier, and as my other drones began to clear up their districts to cover in the attack, I was given more time to process and deal with Chrysalis before the Elements of Harmony arrived.

Two of my puppets were now free to act, and I decided to mix it up a bit as Chrysalis dived into a guard formation to prevent me from firing spells off after her. Soon we'd see change. I knew it. But something inside me felt uneasy. Why? What was off?

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