• Published 12th Apr 2015
  • 3,608 Views, 104 Comments

What Didn't Happen: After - Zeg



A Princess and a Queen share the same one dream, but on nights separated by over six centuries worth of time. Is the dream a warning of what is yet to come?

  • ...
4
 104
 3,608

What the Future May Bring

What Didn't Happen: After

by Zeg

Chapter I – What the Future May Bring

The air around the city seemed thick with a haze that choked out the daylight until it was nothing more than a dim blue glow. The towers of Canterlot’s palace appeared as barely more than silhouettes looming in the distance beyond the houses. One could hardly make out the details of their own hoof before their face, let alone the details of the buildings nearby.

Even sound seemed to be muffled by the dreariness. One would expect hoof steps upon the cobblestone streets to cause a sharp tapping sound, but the sounds were instead muffled to the point that they were barely audible. So much so, that the two mares that had found themselves in this place had yet to notice one another while they separately wandered the streets. They each looked about at surroundings that they both found somewhat familiar but yet also somewhat foreign. It was Canterlot; that much was obvious, but there was something off about the city.

Their paths eventually brought them close enough that they noticed one another. At first, they both stood there rigid as they stared at one another from across the dimly lit street. The uneasy standoff lasted for a moment before they began to cautiously approach each other.

One of them tried to call out to the other. Her voice came out weak and hollow, hardly even noticeable to herself. She lifted her hoof and touched it lightly to her throat.

The other mare tried to speak as well, her voice just as weak. They could barely hear each other and couldn’t understand each other, not with their voices sounding like they were attempting to hold a conversation under water.

One tried to use her magic to bring some extra light to the area so she could at least see who the other mare was, but found that her magic did not answer her call. A wave of panic threatened to take hold when she suddenly realized that she couldn’t feel her magic.

The other attempted her magic as well. She discovered the same, that her magic wouldn’t answer.

A laugh echoed through the area around the two, clear as if it had been from someone standing right between them. They both looked to the empty spot between them before turning their attention outward to their surroundings. Their ears swiveled about as they glanced around themselves, but all they could perceive was silence and darkness until the blue blinking lights appeared all around them.

The small blue lights hovered in pairs just at the edge of the shadows. The laugh came again, sounding almost like an amused child giggling at someone they had found while playing hide and seek. It came from everywhere around the two mares all at once. It was so clear, in a world where everything else seemed dulled.

The two mares instinctively backed toward each other until they stood side to side in the center of the street. The glowing lights were staring at them. Dozens of glowing blue eyes peered through the darkness, watching their every move while the amused giggling echoed all around them.

The mares’ attention were drawn upward to the towers’ silhouettes by a sound that could only be described as the sound of falling sand. The buildings were beginning to fade, starting at the top of Canterlot’s towers. It was as if the buildings were becoming dust and drifting away on a breeze. The outline of the palace crumbled to nothing first, then the smaller buildings around it. Even the mountain eventually crumbled away, leaving a few buildings around the patch of cobblestone street that the two mares were standing on and nothing else as far as the eye could see.

The beings that the glowing eyes belonged too slowly stepped forward from the shadows, closing in from all sides. Even though they stepped fully into the dim light, all that could be made out of their form was a black silhouette that framed each pair of eyes. They each appeared identical to the rest, all sharing the same profile, glowing eyes, and amused laugh.

The two mares brushed against each other as they huddled closer together in the center of the street, and their eyes finally met when then turned to look at each other. The dim light was just enough for them to make out each other’s faces. They stared at each other, remaining silent for a short moment before they both whispered the same word.

You...

Before either of them had the time to fully comprehend who they had seen, the ground beneath their hooves gave way. What little was left of the world around them scattered into dust and vanished. They descended into the void below, their forms fading into a fine dust as they fell, leaving nothing but a lingering echo of their screams behind.

---

Chrysalis awoke with a start, drawing in a gasp of air. She laid there on her back, staring wide-eyed into the darkness. She drew a forehoof over her face, and felt the cool, damp perspiration that soaked her fur. She lifted her forehoof just slightly and stared at it for a moment even though she could see nothing more than a black silhouette before her muzzle.

She could feel the mattress of her bed beneath her, and the bed sheets tangled around her back legs. She was in her bedroom, exactly where she had gone to sleep earlier. She rested the back of her foreleg across her closed eyes and let a quiet moan escape from her as the tension in her body melted away. The fear that had gripped her the moment she had awoken faded, leaving only an unsettled feeling behind.

Unfortunately, that unsettled feeling refused to leave her as easily. She couldn’t help but think about the nightmare, running the events through her mind again and again. What was particularly puzzling was who she had seen. She hadn’t dreamed of her ever, as far as she could remember. Why now after so many years?

Chrysalis rolled to her side, and with a mild amount of concentration she activated a spell. Crystals mounted by silver scroll hooks along the walls flickered as the light levels in the room rose. The solid crystal walls of the room briefly shimmered with deep blue and violet hues from the infusion of light and then settled down to a gentle blue green. Chrysalis pulled her legs out from underneath the covers, sliding off her four-poster bed’s mattress to land on all fours. She stood there slowly blinking her eyes and staring down at the floor for a moment before she raised her head and took a few steps to stand before a free standing full height mirror.

She looked up and down at her reflection, that of a dust grey unicorn with a long, straight mane of sea green. Her body had seemed to prefer the form ever since the invasion of the Crystal Empire. She pondered briefly on how long it had been since she had last used her true form, or even when she had last attempted to change at all.

Chrysalis lifted a bristle brush from the nearby dresser in her magic. She ran it through her mane, attempting to work the tangles out that had formed when she had likely been thrashing about in her sleep. She then turned one quarter turn to the side as she ran the brush along her side through her fur coat. Her eyes lingered for a moment on the reflection of her flank, and the absence of a mark. When she had used this guise long ago she had always had a cutie mark that appeared as a cluster of three blue crystals. She found the mark’s absence over the last few years to be bothersome, but she had more important tasks to tend to than worrying over whether her mark would ever return.

As she passed the brush back to her dresser, she laid it next to the small crystal clock sitting there and took note of the time. It was just past five o’clock in the morning. While she would have liked to have gotten a few more hours of sleep, she knew her mind was already too active to attempt to go back to bed. She opted to make an early start on her day instead of wasting her time staring at her bed’s canopy for the next few hours. She could possibly even get a little bit of quiet time to herself, given the early hour.

Chrysalis chose to leave her crown behind on her dresser as she turned to leave her room. She wouldn’t need it where she was planning on going. As she quietly stepped outside her room into a crystal corridor, she glanced to her left and slowly arched her brow. The guard posted there had yet to notice her presence. She recalled that the guard was a relatively new addition to her personal changeling guard force, though one could only visually tell such by the onix carapace-like plate armor the guard was wearing. The guard had chosen a pegasus form for herself, one with golden fur and a mane with similar but slightly darker shades of the same. And, as often happened with new recruits, she was stuck with one of the less desirable posts of watching an empty hallway in the middle of the night. Obviously, she had yet to fully adjust to the schedule, as she was currently leaning on her pike for support and struggling to keep her head up and her eyes open while she wobbled slightly back and forth.

Chrysalis kept a watchful eye on the recruit as she closed the door to her bedroom with sufficient enough force to make a noisy click that echoed through the hall. The sound caused the recruit to flinch to attention and her eyes to snap wide open. Chrysalis noticed a very brief moment terror when the recruit’s eyes met her’s that was very quickly hidden behind a trained, stoic expression.

“U-uh,” the recruit stammered before clearing her throat. “Good morning, your Grace,” she quickly said, giving a quick bow of her head before standing at full attention again.

“An early one,” Chrysalis said with a nod and a barely noticeable smirk. “I suppose all has been rather quiet this evening?” Chrysalis noticed the slight tension in the corners of the recruit’s eyes, and saw the recruit’s ears reflexively flinch back for a split second. She chuckled lightly and smiled before saying, “Relax, I won’t tell... this time.”

“You’re far too kind,” the recruit said, breathing a sigh of relief as she bowed her head again. “It won’t happen again, I promise.”

“Very well,” Chrysalis said as she turned to walk down the corridor, however she paused and looked back when the recruit took a quick step forward and spoke up.

“Do you require an escort?”

Chrysalis considered the offer for a moment, but then shook her head. “Another time, perhaps.” The recruit’s expression fell slightly, but she bowed her head politely all the same as she stepped back to her post.

Chrysalis continued on her way, steadily walking the full distance of the corridor to the large open double doors at the end. The corridor itself was lit from within with more glowing crystals that hung by silver scroll hooks, similar in design to the lighting crystals in the bedroom but each over twice the size and quite a bit brighter. There were no visible windows, and other than the rows of solid crystal columns on either side that stretched to the arched ceiling overhead, there was little else of interest in the corridor for one to look at. For a palace, it was rather small and modest.

Chrysalis descended the few stairs just outside the palace doorway and stopped briefly at the bottom as she glanced upward. Hanging close by overhead was the largest crystal of the Crystal Caverns casting its gentle glow over the entire area. It hung at the heart of what had become the small subterranean city known as Sanctuary. The city had been established in the caves beneath Canterlot only a few short years earlier, and now hundreds of changelings and even a small number of ponies called this city their home. The architecture of the dwellings appeared very similar to what one would find within the Crystal Empire, besides the fact that many of the buildings were built into the sides of the cavern walls. Chrysalis and her changelings had been able to magically carve out and shape the buildings that made up their new home thanks to a rediscovery of long forgotten crystal manipulation methods spurred by the return of the Crystal Empire.

At this early hour, there was no noticeable activity within the cavern. Chrysalis continued on her way down one of the empty streets that led away from the heart of Sanctuary and passed through a cave that spiraled around at a gradual upward slope. She walked by a number of darkened homes and storefronts on her way until her journey eventually led her to the surface. She exited the side of Canterlot Mountain on a cobble street that ran parallel just along the outside of one of the palace walls.

Chrysalis’s ears twitched, and she resisted the urge to glance over her shoulder as she walked the path along the outside of the palace grounds. Canterlot’s palace was quite a bit larger than her own, large enough that it took a few minutes for her to walk to the nearest gate. All the while, she fought the urge to look back, keeping her gaze forward and pretending she hadn’t noticed she was being shadowed.

One of two Nightguard waiting at the gate acknowledged her presence. “Queen Chrysalis,” he said as he quickly bowed his head in respect to her. “We weren’t expecting you. Is something the matter?”

Chrysalis shook her head. “No, I simply wanted to be somewhere quiet to clear my mind, and thought I might visit the archives this morning.”

“Of course,” the guard said as he stepped to the side. He quickly tapped his pike’s shaft twice against the ground, causing it to glow and make a metallic sliding sound as it collapsed down upon itself to a third of its original length before he swiftly stowed it on the side of his armor. He gestured toward the palace grounds with one hoof, allowing Chrysalis to pass before falling in a step beside and behind to escort her. “Are you sure there isn’t something amiss? I could summon the princesses.”

“That won’t be necessary. And besides” — Chrysalis arched one eyebrow as she cast her glance skyward out of the corner of her eyes — “one of them already knows that I’m here.”

The guard quickly scanned the skies with his eyes, but it was doubtful that he saw anything. The watcher was a master of the shadows after all.

Some moments later, Chrysalis and the guard arrived just outside the Canterlot Archives. The guard trotted ahead a few steps as they approached the double doors and pulled one of them open. “If you need anything, I’ll be close by,” he said.

“Thank you,” Chrysalis said, giving the guard a smile as she walked inside. The door was gently closed behind her, and she walked forward toward the moonlit table that set just beneath the glass dome that capped the center of the room. She used her magic to light the three sticks on the candelabra sitting on the table, and then glanced down at the closed book sitting exactly where she had left it the last time she had visited this secluded part of the palace. She brushed a hoof over the cover, wiping a clean trail through the layer of dust that had settled upon it. The archives didn’t see many visitors, even from palace staff, due to the secretive nature of what some of the tomes and manuscripts contained. It had been weeks or perhaps even over a couple months since the last time Chrysalis had been there herself, which very well may have been the last time anyone had set hoof in the room.

Chrysalis glanced to her right, peering into the pitch black shadow between two rows of bookshelves that the light seemed unable to reach. She stared at it for a moment before finally saying, “You can come out now.” For a moment afterward it appeared there was actually no one there, but then the faint sound of hooves walking upon the archive floors filled the room. The shadowy area seemed to recede, giving way to the candle's light as Princess Luna stepped forward. Chrysalis grinned, showing her front teeth just slightly as she playfully asked, “Did you think I wouldn’t notice you skulking about in the shadows?”

Luna scoffed, turning her head to the side. “A princess does not skulk about.”

“Well, whatever you call... whatever it is you’ve been doing. I’m sure that was you watching me earlier as well.”

“Perceptive as ever,” Luna said as she approached the table.

Chrysalis took a seat at the table and glanced up to the much taller princess as she stood to the side. She was every bit as tall as her elder sister, and at first glance seemed every bit her elder sister’s opposite. One who didn’t know better would likely view the dark alicorn as a cold-hearted being in opposition to Celestia’s warm nature, but Chrysalis knew there was much more to the younger of the two sister princesses besides her outward appearance. Beneath the surface could be found a very caring, and sometimes even mischievous, princess. Chrysalis had been lucky enough to be one of the few to find Luna’s hidden side in the few years since Sanctuary had been founded. She let out a thoughtful hum and put on a sly smirk. “Sounds to me like you’re shucking your responsibilities so you can play stalker,” she said as she waggled a hoof in Luna’s direction.

Luna clucked her tongue and shook her head. “You know very well that I do not sit around on my rump all night tending to court. And I was not stalking you, I was observing.” Though she attempted to keep a serious outward demeanor, the half smirk tugging at the corner of her mouth was giving her away.

“I suppose you felt the need to come console me then...,” Chrysalis said, but then she noticed Luna giving her a puzzled glance. “Because of the nightmare?” she offered, shrugging her shoulders.

“Nightmare?” Luna asked, tilting her head slightly.

“Honestly? You didn’t notice?” Chrysalis now also appeared puzzled. While Luna couldn’t attend to every dreamer’s dream at once, it was unheard of for a nightmare to go completely unnoticed by the Princess of the Night. She had to focus her attention on the most severe of nightmares on any given night and allow the rest to simply run their course, but to miss one completely was simply not like her. “I was sure that would be your reason for following me,” Chrysalis said quietly.

“I will admit, when I noticed you I was curious as to why you would be awake at this hour. However, it has been an uneventful night in the dreamscape.” Luna stepped around to the opposite side of the table to take a seat. She leaned in, resting her crossed forelegs upon the table. “I speak the truth when I say I sensed no nightmare from you.”

A short moment of silence settled upon the room before Chrysalis asked, “You’re certain?”

Luna slowly nodded before asking, “What did you see?”

Chrysalis sat back in her chair, taking in a deep breath and slowly letting it out as she gathered her thoughts. “I saw our world... vanishing right before my eyes.” She slowly closed her eyes. “Everything,” she quietly said as she recalled the troubling images from the nightmare. She then quickly shook her head and sat back up, leaning in toward the table as she locked her gaze with Luna’s. “And that isn’t all. You remember Princess Twilight Sparkle, I’m sure.” She waited until Luna nodded before continuing. “Well, I saw her there as well. And we were both surrounded by changelings. Many of them.”

Luna’s expression darkened as her brow furrowed deeply. “That sounds somewhat troubling. What do you think it means?”

“Honestly, I’m not sure. If you’d not said anything I would have simply waved it off as some odd dream, but if you didn’t sense it....” Chrysalis glanced off to the side at the table top as she trailed off into her own thoughts.

“A vision,” Luna said quietly.

“I haven’t had one in so very long, I nearly forgot what it was like.” Chrysalis’s eyes slowly blinked as she recalled various visions she had seen over her lifetime. The outcome had never been completely clear in any of them and the details were always vague or obscured, but there were always clues that led to some event that had yet to happen. “I fear this could mean that someone within the Coven may have noticed that I no longer have the power to control them. I only wish I’d been able to see their face, but all I could make out where shadows.”

“You believe one of your own kind would make a move against you?”

“There are a few that I would definitely be suspicious of,” Chrysalis mumbled as she lifted a hoof and rubbed under her chin. Her ability to demand unconditional loyalty of other changelings had waned in the recent years. Whether the changes in her body were the cause or merely a symptom, she could not know, but it didn’t change the fact that all members of the Coven were no longer under her direct control. “I’d thought I’d hidden it well enough, but I suppose my lack of control over the hive mind was bound to be discovered eventually.”

“Could another take control?”

Chrysalis quickly glanced up to Luna from her thoughtful, sidelong gaze. “As long as Graphite remains loyal you have nothing to fear from the changelings of Sanctuary.” Chrysalis watched Luna closely, noticing the small changes in her expression and the short moments when her eyes would trail off to the side and then back. The gears in the princess’s mind were turning, sizing up the possible threats to her kingdom. At that moment, Chrysalis thought it prudent to dissuade Luna from considering the changelings living beneath her own hooves as one of those possible threats. “I trust Graphite with my own life. He would not betray me or Equestria, and his influence will be enough to keep another from the Coven from attempting to take over here.” Chrysalis leaned back in her chair and crossed her forelegs across her chest. Her eyes wandered from side to side while her thoughts wandered from possibility to possibility. She once again lifted one hoof and brought it up just under her muzzle to tap it against her chin. “It would be more likely that they would fight amongst each other first in some bid to consolidate more power elsewhere, and even if one did somehow rise above the rest, they are not like I was.” Chrysalis glanced up toward Luna as she waved her hoof to the side. “Control over the hive mind as a whole was an ability only I possessed, and even then, it was too difficult to maintain alone when our numbers grew to be too vast. That was the entire purpose of the Coven. I controlled them, and through them, maintained control over the entire hive mind indirectly. Any single one of them could only hope to control a small fraction of the entire changeling population and they cannot influence each other. They would have to... convince... other Coven members to join them.”

Luna gave a single curt nod before leaning back from the table. “Regardless, we should discuss this with my sister in the morning.”

“Yes, and the Crystal Empire should be warned as well. If there is a hive bent on dominating the others, it will first look to a source of energy. The Crystal Empire’s city is far to the north on its own, making it a much more likely target than anywhere else within Equestria.”

“Agreed. I’ll have word sent to Princess Cadenza.”

Silence settled upon the room for a moment. Chrysalis blankly stared forward at the table top, struggling with the many troubled thoughts that were all vying for her attention. “I think I’d like to be left alone with my thoughts for a while, if you don’t mind,” she said quietly.

“Very well,” Luna said as she stood from her seat. She came around the table and paused by Chrysalis’s side. She gently laid a hoof upon Chrysalis’s shoulder and said, “My Nightguard can find me for you, should you wish to speak about this any further.”

Chrysalis looked up to Luna and returned the smile that the princess was giving her with one of her own. Luna silently bowed her head before stepping away toward the archive’s doorway. The sound of Luna’s hoofsteps ceases the very moment Chrysalis lost sight of her, which caused Chrysalis to glance back toward the doorway over her shoulder. She found nothing but an empty walkway between the many bookshelves that led to the still closed doors.

Chrysalis glanced forward and sat back in her seat, allowing herself to return to her thoughts. She and the sister princesses of Canterlot had gone to great lengths to dispel what misgivings the equine citizens had toward changelings since Sanctuary had been founded. However, Chrysalis could only vouch for the actions of those who choose willingly to follow her and obey Equestrian law. There were far more changelings outside of Equestria’s borders than within, changelings who were not free to make their own choices like those of Sanctuary. Even a failed invasion attempt from another hive could be disastrous for her followers, serving to destroy what little trust they had gained.

Chrysalis let out a long, tired sounding sigh. “So much for a peaceful morning.”

---

Twilight jerked her head up from the desk that she had been asleep at. She quickly glanced around herself to get her bearings, and breathed a sigh of relief when she realized she was home in her office.

She rub the sleep from her eyes and glanced over her dimly lit work area. To her right was a stack of written notes and a mostly empty inkwell that sat beneath a hovering quill, and to the right of that were broken shards of crystal. She glanced across the desk, finding her uncompleted staff, Dusk, still resting across the wooden rack where she had left it before she had fallen asleep earlier that evening. She looked the staff over, first from the left end that had a single deep violet crystal set within the silver filigree, then to the empty filigree that mirrored it at the opposite end of the white shaft. She then looked to her left at the pages of the open journal laying there. Upon one page she found the centuries old diagram of the celestial weapon that she had been working from for weeks now. The two crystal components depicted at the ends of the staff appeared as identical replicas of one another. Actually finding an acceptable matching crystal to the one already seated in the staff had been the final and most frustrating challenge of completing it.

Twilight stood and took a step away from her desk to stretch out her legs and wings. She glanced to a nearby window and saw a hint of deep blue just along the eastern horizon that faded into a star filled night sky. Her magic opened the glass panel double doors that led out onto the balcony just off of her office, and she breathed in a deep breath as she stepped outside. She stopped at the balcony rail, resting one of her forehooves and her chin upon it.

She remained there for a time, unmoving other than the gentle brush of a breeze through her mane now and then, simply watching over Ponyville from the balcony as the dawn drew closer. Her eyes drifted here and there as she looked out across the city that sprawled out across the countryside, but her focus was actually on memories dredged up by the dream she had just awoken from.

It had been a troubling dream, as nightmares usually are, but had left her with a strangely-nostalgic feeling. Perhaps it was who she had seen in the dream that had stirred the old memories from centuries ago. She hadn’t seen her in hundreds of years.

Things had changed since then. Ponyville had grown even more, becoming like an extension of Canterlot sprawling out at the foot of the mountain and even taking on many of the capital's architectural characteristics. Twilight closed her eyes for a moment and tried to call up memories of how the city looked long ago. Her memories drifted back to a time centuries ago when she had first met her would be student, and even further back still to the very early years of her rule. She smiled as she recalled memories of a time before her castle existed, a time when the tallest building in the small rural community was the town hall, and a time when the most common building found in Ponyville was a thatch roof cottage.

That time had been just over six centuries ago, when she had yet to claim her title and was still a young unicorn studying under Celestia. She slowly opened her eyes to look out over Ponyville again and watched as the first rays of the dawn stretched out from the horizon to touch the still sleeping city.

The morning was fast approaching, which meant Twilight would soon have to tend to her schedule for the day. She walked back into her office, stopping at her desk to lift Dusk in her magic. She turned it over once as she looked it over and then, with a quick thought, sent it to the pocket dimension where it would wait for her to call upon it again. She tidied up her work area, stacking the notes a bit more neatly and discarding the fragments of crystal in a nearby waste basket. She glanced back over to the journal, letting her eyes linger on the diagram. She wished that she could spend the day trying to complete Dusk, but knew that her regal duties came first. She slowly lifted the back cover of the journal, allowing the remaining blank pages at the end to flip by until the cover finally fell shut with a quiet thud.

Twilight furrowed her brow at the journal. Her eyes had caught something as the pages had flipped by, but she knew nothing should have been written there. She quickly lifted the back cover to look and found that the final page of the journal did indeed have something on it. Twilight tilted her head and quickly realized that the writing was upside down. Her magic grasped the journal and spun it around on the desk. She quickly lifted a forehoof and began to trace it across the page as she read the runes upon it.

It was a very complicated spell. Twilight silently mouthed the words as she interpreted the runes to the spell, turning the page when she made it to the end only to find the next two pages to be full as well. The pieces slowly fell in place as her mind unlocked what the spell’s purpose was, and her eyes grew wider when she finally understood what she was reading.

It was a time spell. It was not the same as the time tunneling spell that she had developed long ago. This one was very different, but yet not altogether unknown to her. She had been on the receiving end of this particular type of magic once before, when her future self had used it upon her. She also recalled that it hadn’t been a pleasant experience.

Twilight’s eyes drifted to the next page. There she found coordinates, each set written in a notation that she recognized that indicated a temporal location at a specific date and time, though only one set of coordinates immediately made sense to her. And then, just below that near the bottom of the page was something else written in what she recognized to be her own writing style. It was a simple sentence which she quietly read out loud to herself.

“Bring Dusk and the Elements.”