• 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 3

What Didn't Happen: After

by Zeg

Interlude – Day Dream – Part 3

Twilight passed through the crystalling chamber’s curtains and stepped out onto the street just outside.

Ember was standing just a short distance away, her eyes scanning the skies as she watched the shield overhead. It only took a few seconds for her to notice Twilight, and she took a few steps closer and leaned down so they could talk face to face. “I don’t want to sound like I’m all gloom and doom, but I don’t see how we’re going to be able to deal with this many of them.”

Twilight let out a heavy sigh. “It gets worse. Nopony ever arrived from Snowden.” She continued to walk out on the street, despite the shocked gasp that escaped from Ember, and simply said, “I’m heading to Snowden to look for Flurry.”

“Are you sure she’s still... out there?” Ember asked, seeming unsure of her words.

“Yes, and I’m going to find her,” Twilight said matter-of-factly. She turned to look back at the spire, taking a few steps back as she craned her neck back to look at the shield overhead. She tried her best to concentrate on her task, to look as if she wasn’t worried, but the honest truth was she had barely held back her own tears after seeing how shaken Cadance had been. She had been struggling to keep her mind from imagining horrible things that could be happening to her niece since then. She couldn’t even imagine the troubled thoughts that must have been going through Cadance’s mind, and all after she had tried so hard convince her daughter to stay where it was safe.

Twilight shook her head and focused on the task before her. Worrying about what might have happened was not going to help anyone. All she could do now was bring Flurry home as quickly as possible, and to do that she needed to find a way to Snowden immediately. She couldn’t clearly recall a location in Snowden since she hadn’t often visited the small town. This meant that even though the town was easily within teleport range for her, she couldn’t use a memory teleport to get there. However, since the town wasn't that far, she could cast a line of sight teleport to bypass the changeling swarm.

The problem was the swarm blocking the view. Still, all Twilight needed was a quick glimpse. Perhaps if she had a better vantage point. Her eyes locked onto one of the twin towers of the Crystal Spire and an idea sprung to mind. “I won’t be gone long.”

She didn’t wait for a response from Ember before casting a teleport to bring herself up to the observation platform of the spire’s western tower. From her new vantage point, she could look out across the entirety of the west side of the Crystal Empire, all the way to the edge of the shield protecting it. Normally she would have had a clear view of the countryside beyond and would have easily been able to see Snowden, but that view was blocked by the dense swarm of feral changelings. And unfortunately for her, even from this higher vantage point it was still impossible to see past them.

I need to get outside of the shield. The swarm actually appeared thickest along the western side of the shield between her and her destination where they were focusing their attack. When she glanced upward, she realized that there were far fewer above the shield. If only she could find a spot where there were no changelings, she could slip out.

As her mind was piecing together her plan, she happened to notice a few clouds high above the city on the other side of the shield. That’s it! Without a second thought, Twilight focused on another quick teleport that brought her just above the clouds. She quickly landed and huddled down on one of the clouds, doing her best to hide from view while inching closer to the cloud's edge. She was now well above the city and outside of the shield. The feral swarm seemed focused on clawing and scratching at the shield down below and, so far, hadn’t noticed her presence.

Twilight squinted her eyes as she looked westward. While she now had a mostly clear line of sight to Snowden, it was still difficult to make out the town through the heavy snow coming from the blizzard that was over it. However, she did manage to spot one snow-covered surface through the haze. It wasn’t much, but it would have to do. She cast her teleport spell one more time, targeting the platform she had seen.

Twilight let out a surprised yelp as her back hooves slipped out from under her the moment she landed from the teleport. She managed to catch herself with her forelegs, hooking them over the peak of the roof she had just landed on and just barely avoided sliding off into the street below. She shivered, noticing the intense cold that was very quickly seeping through her feathers and fur and sapping the warmth from her body. The hackles on the back of her neck stood up; she could feel intense magic behind the cold. Familiar magic.

Twilight leaped from the roof, flapping her wings a few times and then landing in knee-deep snow in the street below. She blinked her eyes and shielded her face from the snow blowing in the wind with a wing. The visibility was absolutely horrible. She could barely see more than a few houses away down the street. Finding Flurry in the blizzard was going to be a challenge, to say the least, and it was going to get more difficult the more time she took. If she spent too much time out in the open exposed to the frigid winds, she’d end up freezing to death. She wondered how anyone would survive such intense cold for any longer than a few minutes without catching frostbite. Why would Flurry cast the spell on the town and risk the lives of the ponies that lived there?

“One thing at a time,” she said quietly to herself. She could ask questions after she found her niece. She turned in place to look around to get her bearings, and as she turned around she drew in a surprised gasp. Her shielding magic instinctively activated to encase herself in a protective violet bubble, and her horn glowed a brilliant white at the tip as she readied her magic to defend herself.

However, the feral changeling she had found standing right behind her didn’t move. It only stood there, looking at her with a vacant expression on its insectoid face. In fact, it wasn’t moving at all.

Twilight let the stun spell she had prepared dissipate, but she kept her shield active as she tentatively approached the changeling. It was definitely one of the corrupted ferals that had been terrorizing Equestrians in recent years. Its muzzle had mandibles that jutted out of either side, and a pair of long, sharp fangs protruded from behind its upper lip. Its body was a bit larger around than a pony’s and covered by a shiny black carapace, and its head was sunk back into its body to the point that it seemed to have no visible neck. It looked more like a giant beetle with a sorta-pony-shaped head than a pony. As she took a few steps around it, it didn’t move to watch her. It had snow covering the back of its carapace, and ice had formed along its six spindly legs and its antennae. It was frozen solid.

Twilight let out a shaky breath that she hadn’t realized she’d been holding and finally allowed her shield to dissipate. Her eyes shifted to the side to look further down the street and widened a bit when she noticed that this wasn’t the only changeling standing frozen in the street like a statue. There were easily more than a dozen of them in the short distance that she could see.

That’s why. It now made a bit more sense why Flurry would have cast her spell on the town if this had been what had greeted her, but what about the ponies? It would have frozen them just the same. Still, Twilight saw no sign of a single pony anywhere, only ferals.

Twilight shivered and tucked her wings closer to her sides. The cold was starting to get to her, and she could feel her muscles getting stiff as she trudged through the snow down the street. She had to find a way to locate Flurry and any other survivors before the cold became too much for her, but where would she even begin to look? All she saw around her on the street were frozen changelings.

Wait. Twilight glanced back down the street behind her. All of the changelings were facing the same direction, down the street she was on. Many of them actually appeared like they had been frozen mid-stride. She was fairly certain that the street she was on lead deeper into the town.

Twilight took off at a gallop down the street, despite the stiffness in her muscles and snow-covered ground trying to slow her advance. She found more and more frozen changelings as she made her way deeper into the town, all of them facing the direction she was headed. They must have all been following something, or someone.

It wasn’t long before the street came to an open area. It was difficult to see due to the blowing snow, but it was likely a plaza or park near the center of the town. There were snow covered trees planted in rows, benches half buried in the snow, and near the center of the open area was a frozen fountain. Something glowed with a golden light near it.

Twilight squinted her eyes, trying to see through the blizzard haze as she trotted closer to the fountain. There were frozen changelings scattered about, almost as if they’d been forcefully tossed around randomly. Twilight’s ears twitched when she noticed the hackles on her neck standing up again. There was magic close by, same as what she had felt when she had arrived in Snowden but stronger. Flurry’s magic. Twilight’s pace hastened as she cantered around the fountain hoping that she would find who she had been looking for.

“Flurry!” Twilight called out when she spotted her. She was laying there on her side next to the fountain, half covered by the snow. Her horn was struggling to stay alight as she attempted to maintain her spell. Twilight rushed to Flurry’s side, kneeled down in the snow next to her and used her magic to brush the snow away. “It’s alright, I’m here. I’m going to get you out of here.”

Flurry took a few uneven breaths and forced her eyes open as she shakily raised her head. “A-aunty?” she called out, her voice sounding weak and raspy.

“Yes, I’m here.” Twilight moved to help Flurry sit up, putting her foreleg around her shoulder. As soon as her hoof touch against the side of Flurry’s neck, her niece cried out in pain, causing Twilight to quickly retract her hoof. She glanced at her hoof, making sure she hadn’t somehow gotten a shard of ice frozen to her fur, and that was when she noticed something that made her feel a chill run down her spine despite the frigid temperatures around her. She saw a glistening smear of dark red on the side of her hoof.

Twilight tried again to help Flurry up, very carefully using her magic this time to avoid touching Flurry’s injury. She didn’t want to look, terrified of what she thought she might find, but after only a few seconds of hesitation, she leaned her head over so she could look at the wound on Flurry’s neck. There were puncture wounds less than a hoofwidth apart seeping blood, and a ring of dark bruises around her neck.

Flurry hooked her forehooves over Twilight’s shoulder, and her entire body shook as she used what physical strength she had left to pull herself up and look Twilight in the eyes. “It’s n-not safe here. It was... an ambush.” As soon as Flurry got the words out, she was stricken by a coughing fit. She slumped against Twilight’s chest as the coughs wracked her entire body. A few red drops had fallen from her mouth and speckled the snow by the time the coughing subsided.

“It’s okay, I’ve got you,” Twilight said as she wrapped her forelegs and wings around Flurry. She began to gather her magic, her horn glowing as she closed her eyes and concentrated on bringing an image of the Crystal Spire’s crystalling room to mind. “I’m taking you home, right now.” And with a bright flash, they were whisked away by her spell.

---

Twilight appeared near the center of the crystalling room amid a flash of light and a blast of frigid air and snow flurries. “I need help! She’s been bitten!” she called out while unfolding her wings and gently laying Flurry out on the floor in front of her. Twilight’s call for help caused a nearby guard to spring into action, sending him sprinting up stairs that lead into the spire as he relayed the call for help.

Cadance stood from where she had been sitting next to Spike, and her steps became more rushed as she approached. The look on her face slowly morphed from shock to horror when she got a good look at the bloody wound on the side of her daughter’s neck. “Wha... what happened to her?”

Twilight finished gently laying Flurry on the floor, then turned to Cadance. “I found her like this near the center of Snowden.”

“M-mom?” Flurry’s raspy voice cause her mother to draw in a sharp gasp. Flurry drew in a breath as if she were about to speak, but instead her face contorted in pain as she tried and failed to suppress another coughing fit. The few coughs that did escape from her speckled the floor near her muzzle with blood.

Cadance laid down next to Flurry and tenderly laid her chin upon her daughter’s shoulder. She began to gently rub her fetlock along her daughter’s foreleg to comfort her, all the while fighting back tears as she said, “It’s alright sweetie. You’re home now. Help will be here soon. Just lie still.”

Just then, the sound of hooves quickly galloping down the nearby stairs filled the chamber. Cadance lifted her head and saw that the guard pony had returned with three others following after him. “Hurry, please!” she begged them.

The three new arrivals were crystal ponies, one of them a crystal unicorn. The unicorn was clad in a white doctors lab coat and collared shirt, while the other two with him were wearing similar coats over light blue nurse scrubs.

They wasted no time when they reached Flurry’s side. One of the nurses quickly pulled a long silver tube from her side pouch, and without a word, she tossed it to the doctor who caught it with his magic. He took one quick glance at the top end of the tube, twisted a dial, then pushed the other end of the tube against the side of Flurry’s neck near the wound. The device made a high pitched sound like a puff of air forcefully escaping through a tiny hole, then the doctor discarded the cylinder, letting it clatter to the floor.

“Get her vitals,” the doctor commanded to the other nurse, who was already fidgeting with some sort of band that she was trying to affix around Flurry’s fetlock.

“Almost got it,” the nurse replied. She pushed the band together around Flurry’s foreleg until there was a solid click, then took a step back. “There.”

The center of the band lit up with a green light, and a similar shimmering light cascaded over Flurry’s body. A few seconds later many holographic projections began to flicker into view hovering just above her. There were half a dozen different transparent three-dimensional images of internal organs cast in a light blue light, the image of a beating heart central among them. After a few seconds, text began to appear scrolling in small boxes that hovered next to many of the images, and quite a few spots across the images changed colors to dark blue, purple, and even red. The band around Flurry’s leg let out a quick chirp and changed to a deep amber hue.

The doctor’s ears fell back a bit as he read the text scrolling by and his eyes darted from image to image. He looked down when his ears picked up on the quiet sounds of crying. He seemed to hesitate for a few seconds before very gently saying, “Princess Cadance, I need you to take a step back, please.”

Cadance only silently stared back at him, refusing to move away. It wasn’t until Twilight’s hoof touched her shoulder that she broke her gaze and looked back at her.

“Cadance,” Twilight said just above a whisper. “Let them work. Let them save her.”

Cadance looked between Twilight and the doctor, and back to her daughter. She managed to nod once as she reluctantly allowed Twilight to guide her away. They only made it a few steps before her legs gave out and Twilight had to catch her to keep her from collapsing to the floor.

“I shouldn’t have let her go out there,” Cadance said through a pitiful sounding moan and loud sob.

Twilight hugged Cadance close, folding her wings around her. Tears started to build up in her own eyes as she listened to Cadance cry. She blinked her eyes to try and clear her vision and looked over to where the doctor and nurses were busily working. She wished that there was more that she could do, more than just sit by and watch.

“Get an oxygen mask on her,” the doctor clearly stated, and one of the nurses went to work fitting a clear mask that had a small silver cylinder attached to it over Flurry’s muzzle. After spending more time looking over the holographic readouts, the doctor’s shoulders heaved as he let out a visible sigh. He turned to speak to the other nurse, something quiet enough that Twilight hadn’t been able to catch it. The nurse’s ears fell back slightly before she nodded, and then she fetched another silver tube from her side pouch. The doctor took the device in his magic and, much like the first, he adjusted a dial at one end before pressing the other end against Flurry’s neck to administer the injection. Seconds later Flurry visibly relaxed.

The doctor quietly studied the images for a moment longer, then his eyes met with Twilight’s. He glanced down and tapped the bracelet on Flurry’s fetlock and the images flickered and vanished, leaving only the dim amber glow from the bracelet itself. He stood and approached where Twilight and Cadance were sitting.

Twilight felt a horrible feeling welling up in the pit of her stomach. Over the years, she had gotten very good at reading others, picking up on small hints from body language to discern what they might be thinking or feeling. She was sensing from the way the doctor carried himself with his head slightly lowered and from his reluctance to maintain eye contact that he did not have good news to deliver.

For just once she hoped she was wrong.

The doctor stopped only a few steps away and quietly cleared his throat. When Cadance lifted her head and looked at him, the tear-soaked fur beneath her eyes and the pained expression on her face gave him pause, but he fought past the moment of hesitation to speak anyway. “The venom has done a lot of damage. I’m seeing internal bleeding all throughout her body. I’ve given her something to ease the pain, and the oxygen will help her breath but... she only has minutes left.”

“... no. No no, please,” Cadance pleaded, barely able to find her voice. “You... gave her the antidote.”

“I’m sorry, Princess,” the doctor said, bowing his head. “If we had gotten to her much sooner—” He let out a heavy sigh and shook his head, then lifted it to look Cadance in the eyes. “The damage was already done. You... need to say your goodbyes.”

Cadance started back in wide-eyed disbelief. It wasn’t until Twilight placed her hoof on her shoulder that she snapped out of it.

“Cadance...,” Twilight began quietly, but whatever it was she was about to say died before it left her lips.

Cadance took a few deep breaths and closed her eyes before glancing over to where her daughter was laying out on the floor. She silently nodded her head before she stood and began to walk over to her.

Twilight remained behind, letting her hoof gently slide off of Cadance’s shoulder as she walked away. Her vision blurred as tears once again started building up. She’d been trying to keep her composure for Cadance’s sake, but the sorrow welling up inside her would soon become too overwhelming.

She felt a large clawed hand gently resting against her back, and looked up to her side to see Spike looking down at her. The scales just beneath his eyes were damp.

The sobs that Twilight had been fighting to contain finally escaped her as she buried her muzzle against Spikes side. “Why,” Twilight quietly said through her sobs. “Why couldn’t I have found her sooner?”

Twilight felt a deep rumble from within Spike. She glanced up at him, finding his gaze fixed on where Flurry was laying out upon the floor. His giant jaw worked back and forth as he ground his teeth together.

“They’re not getting away with this,” he said in a low growl.