• Published 12th Apr 2015
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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?

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Interlude – Day Dream – Part 2

What Didn't Happen: After

by Zeg

Interlude – Day Dream – Part 2

Twilight blink-blinked her eyes and lightly shook her head to chase away the haziness that had settled over her mind once again. Time had seemed to pass like a quick blur since she had rushed out of her castle and taken to the skies to head northward. She took a moment to glance down at the land passing beneath her, and realized that she didn’t immediately recognize the area. She’d caught herself not paying attention to her surroundings once again. She wondered why her mind seemed so distracted.

She suddenly became acutely aware of the burning sensation in her flight muscles. It seemed she had pushed herself a bit too hard in her desperate rush to reach the Frozen North. Her wings were begging her to stop and rest, but she needed to stay airborne if Spike was going to see her.

As luck would have it, right then she heard a loud roar that drew her attention eastward. “Oh, thank goodness,” she said through a heavy sigh when she spotted the silhouette of three large dragons headed in her direction. She soared on what updrafts she could find to stay aloft, allowing them to catch up to her. The three silhouettes approached at a quick pace, managing to reach her in less than a minute.

Spike coasted up just below Twilight between the two other slightly larger dragons. While he may have been the smallest of the three overall, his wingspan was still easily twenty times that of Twilight’s, and he was easily over ten times as long as her from snout to tail. Their much larger wings and greater endurance would allow the elder dragons to reach the Frozen North much faster than Twilight could have ever hoped to on her own.

Twilight delicately landed on Spike’s back, hooking her forelegs over his left shoulder. She let out a groan as she folded her sore wings against her sides.

“Going our way?” Spike asked, eyeing Twilight with one of his large draconic eyes and giving her a big toothy grin. He and his two companions flapped their large wings a few times and they quickly picked up quite a bit of speed as the wind began to whistle past them.

“Yeah, thank you, Spike,” Twilight called out over the wind. “Felt like my wings were about to fall off.”

“Can’t have that,” Spike said, and Twilight felt a rumble as he quietly chuckled. However his grin slipped away shortly afterwards. “You should rest as much as you can before we get there. You’ll probably need it.”

Twilight nodded her head. She then leaned back slightly and looked out to her right at the light blue dragon that was following with them, who smiled when she noticed Twilight looking at her. “Ember, it’s good to see you,” Twilight called out to her.

“You too,” Ember called back. “Just wish there was a better reason for this reunion.”

“Yeah, me too,” Twilight said as she looked down, though it had only been loud enough for her and Spike to hear. She then looked to her left at the dark red dragon with them. He seemed keenly focused on the horizon before them, though after a few seconds he noticed Twilight’s gaze and turned his head to look her way. Twilight smiled and bowed her head. “Garble, thanks for helping out.”

“My pleasure, Princess,” Garble said, flashing her a toothy grin full of some of the most jagged teeth in all of Equestria. He turned his attention back to the horizon and deeply furrowed his brow as he slammed a balled fist into his other palm, making a sound almost like a thunderclap. “Can’t wait to squash some bugs.”

Spike quickly pointed a claw at him. “Only if necessary, Garb,” he said in a warning tone.

“Yeah yeah, I know,” he said, rolling his eyes and dismissively waving one of his hands. “But these things have had it coming for a while. Just how long are we going to keep letting them kill stuff without killing them back?”

Twilight felt the heavy exhale from Spike before he spoke. “We’ll probably figure that out today.”

Garble focused on the horizon ahead, slamming his fist into his palm once more and cracking his knuckles for good measure.

Twilight looked out at the horizon ahead of them as well and sadly shook her head. “Honestly, I think Garble has a point.”

Spike’s eye focused on her again, and his eyebrow ridge raised slightly.

When Twilight noticed him looking at her, she said, “We’re beyond any possibility of reasoning with them now.” She closed her eyes as she rested her chin between her forelegs on Spike’s shoulder. “I wasted too much time,” she said.

Spike reached up and gently nudged Twilight with the back of one of his fingers. When she glanced over at him he gave her a stern look and slightly shook his head. “None of that.”

“They’ve been randomly attacking and killing Equestrians for years now, and I’m the one who kept asking for more time,” Twilight said, pressing one of her hooves against her chest.

“And I agreed with it,” Spike responded, pointing at himself with one of his claws. He glanced back out at the horizon ahead of them. “We all did. A peaceful solution is always better than violence. If you want to blame someone, blame the ferals. You didn’t do anything wrong.”

Twilight went back to resting her chin upon Spike’s shoulder. Technically, Spike was right. She hadn’t done anything to provoke the wrath of a large feral swarm that she knew of. Up until this day, their attacks had seemed random and aimless, much like animals that were simply hunting for prey when hungry. For them to all suddenly descend upon a single location together had, at first, seemed out of the ordinary. “I’m not even sure they consciously realize what they’re doing. The Crystal Empire is one of the most well defended cities in Equestria, and it's in the middle of the Frozen North. They picked the hardest target they could.”

Twilight felt a deep rumble from within Spike right before he said, “Yeah, that is kinda strange.”

“No, not strange,” Twilight said as she shook her head. Her comment quickly got the attention of all three of the dragons. “I’ve been thinking about it, and it makes sense why they would take that risk if they’re simply acting on instinct alone. Cursed changelings desire emotional energy, and love is the most powerful emotion there is. What if they could get a physical, condensed source of what they wanted the most?”

Ember’s eyes widened slightly. “You think they’re after the Crystal Heart.”

“Too much lovey-doveiness in one spot got their attention, huh?” Garble said as he scratched his claws against the rough scales on his chin.

Spike let out an annoyed sounding grunt. “If that’s what they’re after, they aren’t going to leave until they get it, are they?”

Twilight sadly shook her head. “No.”

“A thousand changelings,” Spike grumbled as he stared blankly out at the horizon.

Garble loudly cracked his knuckles again. “Bring it on.”

“Don’t be too eager to tango with these things,” Spike warned as he once again shook a pointed finger at Garble. “We got scales to protect us but we’re not immune. Enough bites make it through and your insides turn to mush.”

Garble seemed unfazed by the threat of danger. He puffed up his chest and said, “I say we see how well they deal with dragon fire. Have us a bug roast.” He snorted streams of black smoke from his nostrils for good measure.

Twilight lifted her head, looking toward Garble. “First thing is to make sure the citizens are safe beneath the shield.” When she saw Garble nod once to confirm that he understood, she looked forward and said, “Hopefully the evacuation is going well.”

“We’re making pretty good time,” Spike said. He gestured forward with a pointed claw and said, “There’s the southern ridge. Should see the city once we get over that.”

Twilight had managed to cover nearly half the distance between her castle and the Frozen North on her own in a little under an hour, but now that she was riding with Spike they were very quickly covering the remaining half of the trip in a fraction of the time. The white caps of the Frozen North’s southern mountain ridge were already in sight.

Twilight could feel the sudden forward lurch when Spike forcefully flapped his wings to fly faster. She had to squint her eyes against the rushing wind and hold tight with her forehooves hooked over his shoulder. They covered the remaining distance to the mountain range in only a few minutes, and she felt the temperature suddenly drop the moment they passed over the mountain peaks and entered the Frozen North. The sun’s light dimmed as they passed under the thick cover of gray clouds hovering just beyond the mountain range.

Dragon’s were known for living in the warmer climates near the southern border of Equestria, and didn’t do well with intense cold. Luckily, they wouldn’t have to fly far before they would reach the land protected by the Crystal Heart’s magic where the air temperatures were much milder. Still, Twilight did notice Spike’s burst of speed starting to wane as they pressed onward through the cold air.

After flying for a few minutes more, some infrequent breaks in the cloud cover provided enough sunlight for Twilight to spot the city through the haze. The shield was already up, but she noticed something that she hadn’t expected to see. Cadance’s shield should have been a shimmering light blue, but this one looked dull black. “Something’s not right,” she called out, squinting her eyes and trying to using pegasus magic to focus her sight. She noticed that not only did the shield look black, but there was a faint cloud of... something... around it.

Garble used one of his clawed hands to shield his eyes from the cold, hazy air as he looked ahead. “Yeah, what’s up with the shield? Is it supposed to be black like that?”

As they got closer to the city, the clouds overhead thinned and gave way to more sunlight. The land below them went from snow covered to a lush green in a matter of seconds as they reached the area protected by the Crystal Heart’s magic. The way was finally clear, and they could all clearly see the swarm of feral changings covering the protective shield over the city.

For a few seconds, Twilight didn’t trust her own eyes. She quickly rubbed her eyes with her forehooves before looking out at the city once more. Was it a trick? Was she really seeing the city’s shield literally covered in changelings? There was only supposed to be a swarm of a thousand, but this was so far beyond that number that it didn’t seem possible. She honestly wondered if anyone else saw the same thing. “... Spike?” she quietly asked, leaving an unasked question lingering.

“... I see them,” Spike answered, unable to take his eyes off the city ahead of them.

“How are they already here? I thought we had more time.” Twilight happened to glance a bit to the west of the main city, where she noticed a localized blizzard raging only a short distance away on top of the small town of Snowden. “What is happening?” she asked in a hushed voice. Her mind began to race, attempting to invent some sort of explanation for what she was seeing. Flurry’s blizzard should have been well west of Snowden, not on top of it. Twilight shivered when stray thoughts of what could have gone wrong began to pop into her mind, but she very quickly pushed the thoughts aside. They had a larger problem ahead of them.

“There’s so many of them,” Ember said, staring wide-eyed at the large swarm that was clinging to the shield. “There must be tens of thousands... or more.”

“Yeah, so....” Garble paused, grinding his teeth together as he reached up and raked his claws against the scales on his chin. He glanced over at the rest of the group and asked, “How are we getting in?”

Pushing through a dense swarm of ferals and hoping that no one got bitten would be a haphazard solution at best. So far, the swarm didn’t appear to notice them, but they were quickly approaching and likely wouldn’t go unnoticed for much longer. Twilight then realized that they were easily close enough for a short range teleport. “I think I can get us through. Everyone get as close as you can.”

Spike grumbled something unintelligible under his breath. “Alright, stack up!” he called out to the other two dragons.
“Em, under. Garb, over. Get as close as you can.” Ember and Garble did as they were told, flying in closer until they were soaring together in a closely packed stack of dragons.

“What, exactly, are we doing?” Garble asked.

“Just hang onto your tail, Garb,” Spike said. He turned his head to glance at Twilight and asked, “You sure you got all of us?”

Twilight furrowed her brow, giving him a look that seemed to say that she knew what she was doing and that he should know better than to ask that question. Her horn started to glow the instant she closed her eyes, and in her mind, she tried to picture the street that ran south of the city’s crystal spire.

Twilight’s concentration hit a snag when Garble suddenly spoke up. “Um, might want to hurry. They noticed us.” He was quickly shushed by Spike.

Great. She didn’t like being rushed, but her ears were already picking up on the distant buzzing of what she imagined was a large cloud of deadly pony sized insects. She exhaled heavily as she tried once more to quickly blank her mind and imagine the destination.

She would have preferred more than a few seconds time to teleport herself and three elder dragons, but her ears told her that a few seconds was all she was going to get if she didn’t want to risk their safety. She reached out with the spell, grasping at the destination in her mind. The moment she felt a tenuous link to the other side, she mentally let go of their current location, allowing the teleport to pull them through to the other side.

The instant they popped out of the bright flash above the city street, Twilight felt a sudden shift in her momentum. Her eyes shot open as she grasped at Spike’s shoulder to avoid being tossed off. All three of the dragons flared and flapped their wings as they struggled to keep from tumbling through the air. Ember was the first to land on the street, and Spike landed just a second later. A loud screech filled the air as their claws dug at the flat crystal beneath them to bring themselves to a stop.

Garble wasn’t as lucky. Being the top of the dragon stack, he had been tossed out of the teleport with a bit more force than the others. In his vain attempt to slow himself down, his wild flapping managed to fly him directly into the chimney of one of the nearby houses. The impact caused a small explosion of crystal shards to rain down on the street. He flipped end over end afterward, landing on his back in the grass just beyond the house with a loud thud that could be felt in the area around them.

Twilight let out a gasp and then scrambled to jump down from Spike’s shoulder. She quickly galloped over to where Garble was sprawled out on the ground, reaching his side just as he began to push himself to sit up. “Oh, Garble! I’m so sorry! I had to rush the teleport spell.” Her ears fell back when Garble started coughing and beating one of his fists against his chest. “Are you alright?”

“I think I swallowed half of—cough—that chimney,” Garble said in a strained voice, hitting his chest a couple more times before letting out a deep, reverberating belch.

Twilight quickly retreated a few steps, covering her nose with her wing as a gust of warm, damp dragon breath washed over her.

Garble smacked his lips a couple times and grimaced. “Can’t say that crystal chimney is my favorite.”

Spike walked up next to them, holding out one of his hands which Garble took and allowed himself to be pulled up. Spike patted him on the shoulder and asked, “You good, Garb?”

Garble flexed his neck back and forth and rolled his shoulders a few times, causing some loud bone popping sounds. He grinned and said, “Yeah, no problem, Boss.”

Spike smirked back at him and then glanced at the shattered remains of the chimney that had been separated from the house it belonged to. There wasn’t much chimney left, but that seemed to be the extent of the damage. “Well, at least you didn’t knock the entire house down.”

Twilight let out a small sigh, relieved that she hadn’t caused Garble any permanent harm. With the brief moment of anxiety passed, she noticed the low light levels and the bluish hue coloring everything around them. It was like a blue tinted evening sunset, but it was currently midday. It wasn’t until Twilight glance up that she realized most of the sun’s light was being blocked by the swarm covering the shield, and a good portion of the light they did have was coming from the shield itself.

The sound of hooves galloping on the crystal street grabbed the group’s attention. An armor-clad crystal pony came to a skidding stop just in front of them, panting heavily as he tried to speak. “Lord Spike, Princess Twilight, thank goodness you’re all here. Princess Cadance needs your help. Please, come quickly.” He didn’t wait for an answer before turning and galloping back down the street toward the Crystal Spire.

Twilight took off at a gallop behind the guard, and the dragons all followed up behind her. As they approached the spire, a loud cracking sound like fracturing glass drew their attention upward. There were arcs of blue energy skittering across the shield overhead, quickly knitting together and repairing a long fracture in the shield.

“I really hope they aren’t getting in,” Garble said as he stared at the shield overhead.

Spike furrowed his brow at the strained shield. “Em, Garb, you two stay out here and keep an eye on the shield. Cadance is good, but she’s holding back a legion right now. If there’s a breach, deal with it.”

Ember gave Spike a quick nod.

Garble slammed his balled fist against his chest. “You got it, Boss.”

While Garble and Ember took up their watch posts just outside the Crystal Spire, Twilight quickly followed the guard pony beyond the curtains at the base of the spire into the crystalling chamber. Spike followed behind them, pushing the curtains aside and ducking his head as he entered.

The chamber walls were awash with a light blue light that seemed to spin about the room. Cadance sat facing away from them, looking up at the Crystal Heart suspended at the center of the chamber as its facets reflected the brilliant glow of magical light coming off her horn. She glanced back over her shoulder when she heard hoofsteps quickly approaching her. The fur beneath her eyes was soaked with tears.

“Oh, Twilight!” Cadance called out in a quivering voice. She stood and quickly cantered to Twilight, embracing her with her forelegs and wings while sobs escaped her.

“I’m here, Cadance,” Twilight said, gently nuzzling the side of her neck. She could feel Cadance’s body quivering from the strain she was under from maintaining the spell, and sensed fluctuations in her magical aura.

Cadance sat back slightly, taking a couple breaths before saying, “Please, I need your help.” Twilight immediately began to focus her magic, but was stopped when Cadance placed one of her hooves against her chest and said, “No, not with the shield.”

Twilight furrowed her brow. Cadance obviously needed help keeping the shield stable, so what else could possibly be more important?

Cadance drew in a sharp breath through a sob. “It’s Flurry. She hasn’t come back yet.”

Twilight’s ears fell back. “She’s still out there?” she asked in a hushed voice.

“I don’t know!” Cadance cried. “Not a single pony ever arrived from Snowden. There’s a blizzard right on top of the town and no one knows why! The swarm hit us out of nowhere, I barely got the shield in place in time, and—”

“Okay, shh.” Twilight hugged Cadance tightly, letting her sob into her shoulder. She ran one of her hooves over Cadance’s mane as she said, “It’s going to be okay.” While she didn’t know that for sure, the last thing they needed right now was for Cadance to panic and lose focus on maintaining her spell.

“She might be trapped out there, all alone. Or....” Cadance trailed off into more sobs.

Twilight sat back and looked Cadance directly in the eyes. “I’ll find her. I’ll bring her back. The blizzard is proof that she’s still out there. You have to stay calm and focus. Thousands of lives are depending on you right now. Let me worry about finding Flurry.”

Cadance took a deep, shaky breath, and nodded.

Twilight gave Cadance one last hug and then cantered over next to Spike. He leaned his head down next to her when she waved her hoof for him to get closer. “Keep an eye on her, and keep her calm. That shield has to hold.”

Spike nodded and quietly said, “Alright, I got it. Be careful out there.”

Twilight quickly nodded and then rushed out of the room through the curtains.