• Published 6th Aug 2014
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The Royal Apples: Into the Land of Neverwere - Radical Gopher



Mac finds himself uncertain as to his role as the new Prince of Equestria.

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Chapter 13

Spike studied the music sheet. “It’s been quiet for almost fifteen minutes now. Do you think they’ve all left the castle?”

“The first wave... maybe. But we’re a long way from frightening off somepony like King Sombra or Chrysalis.” Big Mac thoughtfully rubbed the back of his neck. “Ah don’t want ta rush in quite yet, but somehow Ah have a feeling this may be our best opportunity. The elements ain’t difficult ta find if ya look for ‘em in the right place. Unfortunately, that right place is fairly obvious.”

“Meaning the throne room.”

Everypony turned and looked at Pinkie Pie. “What? It’s kind of the best place, isn’t it? I mean, that’s where I’d put them.”

“Eeeyup. And we can’t afford ta let HIM get his claws on ‘em.”

“So how do youse want to proceed?” asked Babs.

“Thanks ta Arual, Ah probably know this place better than any pony here, so Ah’d be the best one ta lead a wild goose chase. With Spike operatin’ the calliope, Ah can lead ‘em inta pretty much every trap they haven’t found yet and keep ‘em away from the throne room.”

“Meanwhile,” Trixie said, “the six of us would retrieve the Elements of Harmony.”

“But if Prince Macintosh isn’t there to show us how they work, what good would that be?” murmured Fluttershy.

“That’s somethin’ y’all have ta figure out for yerselves. That’s the only way ta get the magic ta work the way it should.

“Isn’t there any kind of clue you could give us?” asked Rarity.

“The only thing Ah can tell ya is somethin’ ma world’s Twilight knew goin’ in ta the castle, and that’s the followin’: ‘The sixth element will appear when the first five are revealed.”

“Well, that’s pretty cryptic,” observed Rainbow Dash

“Maybe not,” said Trixie. “It does give me an idea.”

The alicorn trotted over to a sconce imbedded in a nearby wall. Reaching up he pulled it down. A section of wall dropped away revealing a passageway that sloped upward. “This will take ya straight ta the throne room. Y’all will find a recessed stone at the end of the passage that opens the wall there.”

The ponies looked at each other for a moment, then abruptly gathered around Big Mac and gave him a group hug. “Stay safe... cousin,” muttered Babs.

“Where’s my hug,” grumbled Spike to himself. He stiffened when Rarity unexpectedly came over and gave him a kiss on the cheek and ruffled his crest. His face turned crimson and he smiled, a bedazzled look in his eyes.

“You too,” Rarity whispered. “Be safe.”

“The six ponies went into the passage, Trixie in the lead.

“Good luck. See ya on the other side o’ the rainbow,” the alicorn said as he closed the secret door behind them. He then turned back towards Spike. The adolescent dragon was gazing off into space, his eyes glazed.

“Ya alright?”

“Yeah... I’m great,” he muttered dreamily, holding one hand to his cheek.

Big Mac chuckled to himself. The more things changed, the more they stayed the same. “If y’all done pinin’ fer yer true love, we’ve got work ta do.”

“What... oh, yeah... sure,” the dragon replied pulling himself out of his stupor. “One question... How am I going to know which traps you want me to trigger? I assume you’re going to be galloping all over the castle.

In response, the alicorn gently touched his horn to Spike’s crest. There was a brief spark of electricity. “Whoa... what was that?”

“That was me makin’ a connection between the two o’ us,” Big Mac said, his voice echoing eerily in the dragon’s head.

“You mean I can read your mind?”

The stallion shook his head. “No, but Ah can send ya messages, letting ya know where Ah am and which traps Ah want ya ta set off. Unfortunately, it’s one way only.”

“Cool. Between the two of us, You-know-who and his lackeys won’t know what hit them.”

“That’s the idea,” Big Mac grinned.

**********

Sombra’s small legion consisted of about two dozen pegasi, all dressed in black armor and sporting gray fur with white manes and tails. This last was due to a glamour he’d placed on the armor. If there was one thing the witch king disliked, it was a lack of uniformity amongst his guards. They followed him, four abreast, as he began a systematic search of the castle. His plan was simplicity itself. Search out the library, where he would undoubtedly find blueprints of the fortress, then explore, it room by room, until he discovered where the Elements of Harmony were hidden. Once he had them in hoof that alleged alicorn prince would be helpless against his master.

They were heading in the general direction of the throne room when Sombra suddenly heard an odd sound behind him. He halted and turned only to see a large, green sphere of energy rolling down the passageway straight towards him. It looked, and oddly sounded like a bowling ball, except a hundred times as big. The unicorn called a warning to his guards and dove out of the way. Unfortunately, being in formation his guards had no time to turn or avoid the threat. Seconds later the sphere collided with them, knocking them all aside like ten pins. An instant after passing, the “bowling ball” vanished with an audible pop.

The witch king looked down the hallway to see the grinning face of an orange and green male zebra. The creature rose onto its back legs and used its forelegs to make an obscene and very insulting gesture before galloping off to the left. Sombra fired a magical blast with his horn, but missed, turning part of the doorframe to black chrystal.

“Don’t just lie there you fools,” he yelled at his guards. “After him!” All but two of the pegasi leapt to their hooves and either charged or flew off in pursuit. The two remaining guards, who were unconscious, were unceremoniously shoved over to one side of the hall by the unicorn before he too galloped away following his soldiers.

As he raced off Big Mac stepped out from behind one of the old tapestries. Moving quickly and quietly, he trotted over to the guards, scooped them up with his magic and walked briskly over to a nearby window. He dumped the pegasi into the moat just outside. The cold water shocked them back to consciousness. They paddled around for a moment or two, confused, before suddenly slapping at the water and climbing over each other in a desperate sprint for the far bank. Scrambling out, they both began dancing and rolling around in the dirt, trying to dislodge the dozen or so fiddler crabs that had latched onto their wings, tails, and other extremities. Prince Macintosh calmly watched them for a moment, then returned to the task at hand.

The captain of Sombra’s guard hung back waiting for the king to catch up with him. “Who was that, sire? We’ve been warned to be alert for a red-furred stallion dressed as an alicorn as well as his ‘harem,’ but nothing was said about a zebra.”

“An ally perhaps, or just an interloper trying to find the secrets of this castle for himself. It doesn’t matter. When you catch him... he dies, understood?”

“Yes, sire.” The pegasus surged ahead to join the rest of the guard, but came to an unexpected stop as he rounded a corner. The hallway had come to a stop, ending in what appeared to be a blank wall.

“Where is he?” the captain demanded.

“We don’t know, sir. We were close enough behind him that we know he didn’t duck into any of the rooms along the passageway, but when we rounded this corner, he was just... gone.”

“He couldn’t have vanished. Check the walls for a hidden door or panel of some kind.”

“Yes, sir!” Seven of them began checking every square inch of the wall. After a few moments one stallion signaled the Captain.

“What have you got?”

Without a word, the guard pressed the corner of one stone. A door suddenly and silently slid open, revealing a darkened chamber beyond. “I think this leads into one of the towers, sir.”

Sombra cantered up, joining the Captain. He gestured to some unlit torches lining one wall of the corridor. These immediately burst into flame. Several pegasi reached for them and, trotting slowly on three legs carefully passed through the door. After a moment or two the other guards followed. The witch king held himself back, waiting for an all clear from the Captain.

The ponies looked around the chamber. It was composed of circular wood paneling with no windows or obvious doors and was about forty feet across. A ceiling of wooden beams could be seen about fifteen feet above them. No stairs or openings could be seen leading upwards.

“What is this place?” one soldier muttered.

“Don’t know,” whispered a second. “It ain’t a guard room or dungeon. There ain’t no furniture here... maybe it’s supposed to be a store room.”

“Maybe,” the captain said cautiously. He turned to look at Sombra. “Sire?”

Without warning an iron door slammed down, blocking the only exit and separating the King from the guards.

“It could be a trap,” offered one of the pegasi. The captain responded by slapping his hoof over his face and groaning. There was a slight, but definite drop as the whole floor shifted. A moment later a vibration began to build. There was a sensation of movement and the entire room began shuddering, faster and faster. The ponies could all feel the air around them begin to move in a centrifugal pattern. Within seconds they were sliding across the floor.

The captain found himself pinned against the chamber’s wall, pressed flat with his wings spread against the force. He found he could only look around by moving his eyes. Every pony in his squad was plastered against the wall. The floor dropped away leaving them suspended like insane silhouettes on wallpaper.

“Hey...” yelled one guard, a foolish smile on his face. “This isn’t so bad. I think I was on a ride like this at Corny Island in Manehatten.”

“Cyclone... You are an IDIOT!” yelled another.

“I’m getting dizzy,” whined a pegasus on the wall opposite the captain.

“It’ll be okay,” hollered Cyclone. “Just as long as no pony gets sick”

“BLEEERGGHHH!”

“....Or has a weak bladder!”

“SHUT UP CYCLONE.... BEFORE I DRAG MYSELF OVER THERE AND STRANGLE YOU!” the Captain bellowed. He could barely be heard over the yells of the other pegasi.

The room continued to spin for another minute, then a panel suddenly opened behind two of the guards, sucking them out of the room before they had a chance to even blink. Seconds later, another panel opened and three more guards vanished. They continued disappearing individually or in groups of two or three. Cyclone vanished, then several moments later the wall behind the Captain disappeared. He found himself blasted up a spiral tunnel and out through a turreted roof hatch.

It took the pegasus captain what seemed like an eternity before he could stabilize his flight, just in time to plow face first into an open pasture and slide through a run-down, rail fence. When he uncrossed his eyes, he found himself buried up to his muzzle in some farmer’s pig pen. Judging from what he knew of the area, it had to be at least fifteen miles from the castle.

An earth pony wearing a straw hat cantered up to the fence. “You okay there fella?”

“Fine,” the captain waved a hoof weakly over his head. “I’m just gonna take a little nap here if that’s alright with you.” He then passed out.

**********

Following the passageway, it took almost no time at all for the six mares, led by Trixie, to find their way into the ancient throne room.

“Will you just look at this place?” Rarity muttered to the others as they looked around. “It’s bad enough that the rotunda is split wide open and the tapestries are shredded, but it doesn’t look like anyone’s swept or dusted in here for a couple hundred of years.”

“Closer to a millennium,” observed Babs. “Ain’t youse ever studied Equestrian history?”

“Fashion history, yes, but little of the mundane sort.”

The police pony gestured across the chamber with her forehoof. “This is where Princess Celestia fought Nightmare Moon, then banished her from Equestria.”

“I remember the story,” said Fluttershy. “Prince Macintosh said that on his world, Nightmare Moon was really Celestia’s sister... Luna. She was so broken hearted over having to send her own sibling away, she just abandoned the castle and moved her court to Canterlot.”

“I’ve heard part of that,” remarked Rarity, “but nothing about the Nightmare being her sister.”

“Heavy!” replied Rainbow Dash. “So she just left the Elements of Harmony here... unguarded?”

“They might not have been completely unprotected,” said Trixie. “With all the stories of the Lost Castle of the Two Pony Sisters being haunted, there might have been some kind of magical guardian hanging about.”

“Now you sound like you’re describing a Daring Do adventure. If there were such a thing... how come he didn’t take care of the Queen of Holes and King Somnambulist?” asked Rainbow.

“Maybe they didn’t alert the guardian?” Trixie offered.

“The question is, how do we find the Elements and not wake up this guardian ourselves,” said Babs.

“Oh I know, I know!” grinned Pinkie Pie as she bounced up and down.

“Alright, how?” asked the cyan pegasus.

“We distract him by throwing him a party.”

“Pinkie, darling, a party isn’t the solution to every problem,” chided Rarity. “What good would it do?"

“Don’t know... but it couldn’t hurt,” the party pony grinned.

“I think we should save the party for later,” Fluttershy added.

“AAAWWWW!”

“Hey guys,” called Rainbow. “Check this out.” They all trotted over to a small alcove where the pegasus was standing.

“My word... muttered Rarity. Standing before them were half a dozen ornate trophy cases, each with five glass shelves. On the shelves rested almost a hundred miniature, highly detailed statuettes. Each was contained in a chrystal sphere resembling a snow globe, but without the water or faux snow. The smallest stood about an inch high while the largest stood about seven and a half inches. All were carved from marble and were perfectly proportioned to each other. There were ponies, unicorns, pegasi, griffons, minataurs, one dragon, much larger than the rest and a variety of other species. There were even two alicorns, standing together in the same globe.

“These look like Princess Celestia and Nightmare Moon,” said Trixie.

“How about this crazy looking one...” giggled Pinkie. “It looks like a snake with a pony head, mismatched arms, legs, wings, horns... just about anything you can think of.” The party pony looked over at her friend. “Fluttershy, you’re good with animals. What is that?”

“I don’t know,” the yellow pegasus whispered. “It might be a chimera.”

“Whatever it is, this is one wild collection,” observed Rainbow. “I wonder how it got here. It doesn’t match any of the other furniture.

“Alright everypony,” Babs announced. “Enough sight-seeing. Prince Macintosh thinks the Elements are somewhere in here. It’s time we got searching.”

The six mares began examining every nook and corner they could think of, searching for some clue as to the lost elements. Several long minutes passed, but with no luck. They were interrupted in their search when the sky outside the window suddenly took on a sparkling, greenish glow. Every pony paused and looked. The entire castle was surrounded by a green sphere, like a fishbowl had been upended over it. Through it they could see a number of changelings buzzing around in frustration, accompanied by Chrysalis.

“What is this?” asked Babs.

“A shield spell,” said Rarity.

“And a very powerful one,” Trixie added. “Looks like our prince is giving us time to search. We’d better step it up some.”

Everypony nodded and they quickly renewed their search. Trixie went up on the dais where the two wrecked thrones stood and looked around. She suddenly paused, focusing on an ornate, stylized compass rose that rested at the foot of the platform. Oddly enough, she could swear it was pointing perfectly north. If the castle had been built more than a thousand years ago, then the compass markings should be several degrees off, if one took magnetic drift into account.

“Girls... I think I’ve found something.”

To be continued...