• 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 4

What Didn't Happen: After

by Zeg

Interlude – Day Dream – Part 4

Cadance approached where her daughter had been laid out upon the floor near the center of the crystalling chamber. She stopped just a step shy of reaching her, taking a few breaths to calm and compose herself before laying down just behind Flurry and resting her chin gently upon her daughter’s shoulder again.

Flurry stirred at the touch, her eyes opening half way. “Mom?” she asked quietly, her tired voice muffled behind the oxygen mask.

“I’m here, sweetheart,” Cadance said. She ran her feltlock up and down her daughter’s foreleg. “I’m here.”

Flurry let out a huff and then tiredly mumbled, “...mm’sorry.”

“No, sweetheart. Nothing’s your fault,” Cadance said, lifting and shaking her head.

Flurry glanced out of the corner of her eye up at her mother and said, “Should’ve listened to you.” Her face contorted a bit when a couple quiet coughs forced their way out.

“Shh.” Cadance hushed her daughter and rested her chin upon her shoulder again. “You just need to rest a bit, then everything will be alright.”

A very slight grin turned up the corner of Flurry’s mouth.

“Mom?”

“Hmm?”

“You know you’re terrible at lying, right?”

Cadance remained silent, her chin upon her daughter’s shoulder as she stared blankly forward. The tears came seeping back in, blurring her vision.

Flurry turned her head ever so slightly so she could look back at her mother. She lifted a hoof and laid it over on top of Cadance’s as she said, “They need you.”

Cadance shook her head. She tightly closed her eyes as tears forced their way out and rolled down her muzzle. “I’m not leaving you.”

“Mother, listen to me.”

The stern tone of Flurry’s voice shocked Cadance out of her sorrow for a moment, and she lifted her head to listen to what her daughter had to say.

“I saw them... in Snowden. The nests... and more ferals than I could possibly count.” Flurry slowly blinked her eyes as she took a few labored breaths. “They won’t stop, ever. Not until they’ve consumed everything.” She lifted her head just enough so she could look her mother directly in the eyes, and with a determined look she firmly said, “You have to work with the other’s to stop them here and now before it’s too late.” Unfortunately, another coughing fit struck once she finished, this one worse than the last. It took a moment for the coughing to calm down, and by the time it had the inside of the oxygen mask was stained red.

Cadance could barely stand to watch as her daughter wasted away in front of her, powerless to do anything about it. All she could do was hold her and try to comfort her as much as possible.

Flurry let out a long drawn out sigh and laid her head back down against the floor. She drew in a few labored breaths as she tried to calm herself after the coughing fit. “Mom?”

Cadance sniffled and then answered her. “Mhm?”

“You know I’ve always loved you, right?”

“Of course, sweetheart,” she responded in a quivering voice. “And I’ve always loved you.”

“I know,” Flurry said quietly with a smile spreading across her muzzle. “Just... wish I could have done more.”

Flurry’s eyelids slowly blinked a few times and then closed.

The lit band on her fetlock changed color from amber to red.

Cadance stared blankly at the glowing band, still as a statue. She watched a magical aura take hold of the band and pull it open with a click, causing the dim red light to go out. Her eyes followed it as it was carefully removed from Flurry’s fetlock, and then hovered over to the doctor, who laid it upon his hoof. He let out a heavy sigh as he looked down at the band for a moment, then pocketed it.

“I’m so sorry, Princess. I... if there’s anything I can do for you... anything you need—”

“I need to be alone for a moment,” Cadance said, sorrow hanging heavy on her voice.

“Of course,” he said, bowing his head to her. He turned and motioned for the two nurses to follow him, and together they moved away to the side of the room.

Cadance looked down upon her daughter lying lifeless on the floor before her. She gently ran her hoof through her daughter’s mane, her bottom lip quivering as she did so. “No...,” she said in a sobbing whisper. “Please, don’t go.”

Only steps away, Twilight and Spike had sat nearby looking on. Twilight had her face half buried against Spike’s side, tears streaming down her muzzle while quiet sobs escaped from her now and then. Spike had draped his clawed hand over her back, covering her like a scaled blanket, and absent-mindedly rubbed his thumb over her shoulders to comfort her. His expression was more difficult to read than hers, seeming like a swirling storm of sorrow and fury.

“Spike!” The curtains along one side of the crystalling room were suddenly yanked back as Garble called out to him and rushed into the room.

Spike turned his head, glaring back at him.

Garble flinched a step back at the hard look. His eyes flicked over to the middle of the room, finding Flurry’s lifeless form laying out upon the floor, and then widened slightly before he covered his face with a palm. “I-I... oh geez,” he stammered a bit. However he shook his head and looked back to Spike and continued. “Sorry, but I-I think there’s really something wrong with the shield, Boss. There’s a bunch of flickering and—”

Just then, there was a loud cracking sound like thunder shattering a thousand panes of glass. Garble spun around and scrambled back to the curtain, pulling it back and looking up at the sky outside.

“Breach!” he yelled, just as he launched himself from the ground into the air.

Twilight looked from where Garbel had left back to Cadance, who was still cradling her daughter’s still form in her forehooves. All this time, she had been maintaining a link with the shielding spell outside to supply it magic, but now the gentle blue glow of her horn was flickering and dimming, threatening to go out.

“It’s too much for her,” Twilight said as she sprung to her hooves and lit her horn. She reached out with her magic, trying to cover as wide an area as possible over the city to search for and find the break in the shield. It only took a second for her magic to find it, and she immediately began to try to form a magical stitch over the tear in the shield’s matrix. Through her magic, she could feel the ferals clawing their way past the tear and pouring through, first just a few at a time but then increasing to dozens every few seconds. Despite her attempts to mend the rip, it was still widening. She quickly changed her focus from mending the tear to blocking the breach with a shield of her own to stop them completely, but even that was only going to buy minutes at best as the area around the breach continued to erode away.

Spike had rushed over to the room’s entrance and was looking out beyond the curtain up at the shield dome overhead. “Twilight!?” Spike called to her, sounding alarmed when he spotted another large crack forming.

“They’re going to get through. Go help them!” she called back to him.

Spike moved at an impressive speed for his size. His clawed feet dug at the crystal floor beneath him as he lunged forward and the curtain was shredded to ribbons in his haste to push it aside and get airborne. The thundering sound of his wings beating at the air reverberated through the crystalling room, along with an angry, screeching roar as he sped off into the sky.

Twilight strained against the force of hundreds attempting to claw their way past her shield. She could feel the fluctuations where her magic contacted Cadance's shield. The main shield’s integrity was failing all across the dome, it’s magic spent from the constant onslaught from the thousands of ferals trying to tear it down, and Cadance was no longer able to supply the necessary magic to replenish it. Twilight wouldn’t be able to maintain her shield, repair the main shield’s matrix, and supply the necessary power to reinforce the shield’s magic all at once.

The shield was going to fall.

“I’m sorry,” Twilight said through her clenched teeth.

There was a sudden surge of energy, a mix of cold and warmth, that washed over the entirety of the shield matrix and reinforce it. A second surge quickly followed that added a repulsion pulse to the outer layer of the shield, and Twilight felt a huge mental burden lifted when all at once the swarm outside was forced back. She took advantage of the brief moment of respite, dropping her own shield and stitching the break in the main shield’s matrix back together just before the swarm recovered and continued their assault.

Celestia and Luna had arrived, and not a single second too soon. Twilight slumped back on her haunches, letting out an exhausted breath. “Oh thank goodness,” she said wearily. She was just finishing up a few final integrity tests of the shield’s surface when Celestia and Luna appeared amid a bright flash just above the street outside. They touched down side by side, rushing toward the crystalling room at a full gallop. It wasn’t until they passed the tattered remains of the curtain and clearly saw what was inside that they both came to a skidding stop.

They both shared the same bewildered look as they looked on where Cadance was holding her daughter’s still body in her hooves.

Luna was the first to look to Twilight and ask, “What has happened here?”

Twilight slowly stood and approached them. The rush from the adrenaline that had been surging through her was quickly wearing off, only to be replaced by the feeling of a sickening knot in her stomach. Tears began to build up in the corners of her eyes again. She stopped a few steps away from them, her eyes cast downward until she managed to fight past her hesitation and look them in the eyes. “Flurry... was bitten. She didn’t make it.”

Both sister’s let out a startled gasp.

“No,” Celestia said just above a whisper. She looked over to where Cadance was quietly holding Flurry’s body, and quickly made her way to her. “Oh... Cadance,” she said as she laid down next to her, covering her with a wing.

Luna looked on as tears began to stream down the side of her face. Twilight took a few steps closer to her and, once they were standing next to each other, they both embraced each other with a wing. Together, they sat in silence for a moment.

“I can’t believe this has happened,” Luna finally said, sadly shaking her head. “How could this even happen? The swarm was still hours away.”

Twilight shook her head. “They were already here when we arrived.” She deeply furrowed her brow. A question had been gnawing at the back of her mind ever since she had gone to rescue Flurry and any other survivors from Snowden only to find no other ponies in sight. Just where were all the other survivors? Flurry had said nothing about there even being other survivors. But, she had mentioned the ferals, and even nests, right before she passed.

That one thought brought a simple but horrifying question to the forefront of Twilight’s mind. Had there been any other survivors? There was only one way so many changelings could have been in Snowden without there being any casualties and without any sort of warning.

“The swarm we found to the far west didn’t attack Snowden. It’s probably still out there.”

The other’s in the room slowly looked to her.

Twilight stared blankly forward as her mind pieced together the scenario in her mind. “Snowden had already been taken. They were waiting in Snowden, hoping we’d send forces there for an evacuation so they could wipe them out, leaving the main city defenseless.” Twilight glanced over to where Cadance was holding Flurry’s still form. “And we sent Flurry, alone.”

“But... how?” Celestia asked.

“How do I know this?” Twilight said, voicing Celestia’s question. “When I was there, I saw hundreds of ferals frozen in the streets by Flurry’s blizzard, but not a single pony. And when I found Flurry, she warned me that it had been an ambush, and said nothing about helping any survivors. If they had just attacked the town, there would have been victims in the streets.” She let out a heavy sigh and shook her head. “They must have infiltrated Snowden at some point without us noticing. Flurry was trying to hold them there. That’s why she didn’t run. She found something there and stayed to maintain the blizzard as long as she could to slow them down and give us a chance. There were just... too many of them.”

A solemn silence fell over the group again for a time until it was broken by a nearly inaudible whisper.

“Cadance?” Celestia’s ears perked up as she looked down at her.

“I said... this wasn’t an accident,” Cadance said plainly. She slowly drew the back of her foreleg along the length of her daughter’s mane as she said, “They planned this.” Anger began to build in her voice as she said, “They set a trap for my little girl.”

Twilight stood and approached Cadance, tentatively reaching a hoof out to her as she said, “I’m so sorry, Cadance.”

Cadance stood and walked past her, seeming to refuse to acknowledge that she was even there.

Twilight’s ears fell back as she watched Cadance simply pass her by. Did Cadance actually blame her for losing her daughter? Twilight tried to think of something, anything she could say, but no words of comfort or compassion felt sufficient. She hung her head as more tears threatened to fall.

The sound of Cadance breathing heavily caught Twilight’s attention, causing her to lift her head and ears. Cadance had lit her horn, but something about the magical aura it was giving off didn’t feel right. Twilight sense a building surge of unorganized thaumic energy in the air that kept steadily getting stronger. It was only a few seconds later that Twilight noticed that the aura had spread to encompass all of Cadance’s body, and only then did she realize what was happening.

“Cadance, wait!” Twilight called out as she reached a hoof toward her.

Before Twilight could reach her, Cadance let loose a blood-curdling scream along with a massive discharge of raw magical power. The energy arched from her body in bolts, connecting with the room’s wall. The entire crystal spire lit up with crackling energy that chaotically arced to the shield dome over the city, energizing the entire shield’s surface at once.

It wasn’t a spell of any sort. It was simply a mother’s sorrow-filled rage distilled into a raw surge of power directed at those that had taken her daughter away.

After only a few seconds, Cadance collapsed to the floor in a heap, leaving wispy trails of smoke rising from her mane and tale and the scent of singed hair filling the air. However, she almost immediately began fighting to force herself to stand again while her horn sparked and sputtered in an attempt to draw more power from her being.

“Cadance, stop!” Twilight cried out as she dashed forward. She wrapped Cadance in her wings, embracing her tightly as she begged her, “Stop. Please, don’t do this.”

“They can’t be allowed to get away with this!” Cadance screamed angrily toward the sky.

“They won’t!” Twilight guided Cadance’s gaze back down to hers with her hooves and looked her directly in the eyes. “They won’t,” she repeated.

Cadance stared back into Twilight’s eyes. Her heavy breathing slowly changed to sobbing. She laid her face against Twilight’s chest and began to openly cry. “Why did they do this? What do they want?” she asked in a quivering voice.

Twilight said nothing, only embracing Cadance to comfort her, as she knew that words of comfort would do little to help. It was long past the time for action. Twilight glanced over at the artifact silently spinning above its resting place at the center of the room. “I know what they want... why they would go so far to attack this place despite the risks,” she said quietly.

Luna glanced to where Twilight was looking, and then back. “The Crystal Heart?”

Twilight nodded. “We have no choice. We have to stop them here. If we fail here and they take the Heart they’ll have more power than they’ve ever had, and they’ll never be stopped. We either stop them here, or this gets a lot worse than it already is for Equis.”

The sounds of large wings whipping through the air echoed through the chamber, drawing the attention of the princesses to the chamber’s entrance. Just outside the spire, the three dragons came in for a landing on the street and made their way into the room, with Spike just ahead of the other two. Twilight took notice of the thin coating of green ooze that was dripping off of his right claws.

Garble took a couple quick steps to catch up and walk alongside Spike as they entered. “I’m just saying, whatever that was, it just fried hundreds of them in seconds, but there’s still a ton of them out there to deal with.”

“Quiet,” Spike said, shooting him a hard look. He then turned his attention to Twilight and knelt down beside her, resting his left palm against her back. “Was that... her?” he asked, his eyes darting to Cadance momentarily.

Twilight silently nodded.

“She can do something like that?” Garble asked, sounding a bit surprised. “Can she—”

“No!” Twilight quickly said. She hugged Cadance a bit tighter as she said, “We can’t ask her to do it again. It could kill her.”

Ember squinted at Garble, then walked up next to him and hit on his shoulder hard enough to stagger him.

“Ow!” Garble said as he grabbed his shoulder and snarled back at her. “What was that for?”

“She just lost her daughter, rocks-for-brains!” Ember responded, pointing a clawed finger at the end of his snout.

Garble snorted and pushed her hand aside. “Yeah, I know.” He slammed a balled fist into an open palm and said, “We should be doing whatever we can to pay them back for it.”

“Enough!” Spike snapped at them, silencing them both immediately. He stared back at them both with a hard look, a low rumble emanating from his throat for a few seconds. “Cadance is the main reason why anyone is still even alive in this city,” he said as he pointed to her. “If she hadn’t held the swarm back with her shield until we got here, there wouldn’t be a Crystal Empire right now. She’s done enough. We’ll figure something else out.”

“What happened to the ferals that got in?” Twilight asked, looking up to him.

Spike let out a low growl and gnashed his teeth together. He clenched his right hand, causing some of the green ooze to drip off of his claws onto the floor. “Dealt with. There weren’t that many.”

“That’s good. Thank you, all of you,” Twilight said, looking back at the three dragons. She then looked back at the Crystal Heart, and let out a long sigh. Cadance’s actions may have bought them a reprieve, but she knew it wouldn’t last. Already she could feel minor fluctuations in the magical aura of the shield covering the city from the few ferals that had already started probing the shield again. “They’ll attack in force again soon. Cadance is exhausted, and the rest of us can only maintain her shield for so long before it’ll wear us down too. They’re not going away, so our only choice is to fight them.”

“Us against tens of thousands,” Luna said to no one in particular. The odds were overwhelming, even for the most powerful beings in all of Equestria, and they were at a disadvantage being on the defensive, requiring them to expend a substantial portion of their power just on protecting the city and the lives within it.

Twilight sadly shook her head. “I’m sorry. This is my fault.”

Celestia looked to Twilight with a disappointed frown. “Twilight, do not take all of this upon yourself.”

Twilight just simply stared blankly forward. “If I hadn’t kept asking for more time, we wouldn’t be in this mess. And Flurry...,” she trailed off to a whisper as a troubled look overtook her.

“No, Twilight,” Celestia forcefully said as she quickly stood to her full height and approached. “None of us could have predicted something like this,” she said, extending a wing outward toward the sky beyond the torn curtains. She slowly folded her wing back as she continued. “You taking the blame isn’t going to help us. We have no other choices left to us now. We’ll have to face this swarm together with our combined power and pray they don’t overwhelm us.”

Twilight continued to blankly stare forward for a few seconds longer as Celestia’s words echoed through her mind. Two words in particular seemed to draw an idea to the forefront. “Combined power,” Twilight said just above a whisper. She blinked and looked up to the Crystal Heart. She knew what she could do to stop them. What she had to do.

Twilight glanced up to Celestia, looking her straight in the eyes. “I should face them alone.”

A bewildered look flashed across Celestia’s face for but a second and was quickly replaced with anger. “Twilight Sparkle—”

“Before you argue with me, hear me out.”

Whatever it was that Celestia had been about to say, she decided to stay silent and listen instead, though she didn’t seem any less upset.

“If we go out there, we’ll likely just be attacked and overwhelmed individually. They’re a hive mind, they can all focus on any one of us at any time while ignoring the others. They could change who they’re attacking faster than we can work together to protect each other. However, I can force them to fight against our combined power all at once.

“I’m the only one who has ever wielded our combined power before, but I was able to do it and I stood up to Tirek. We all know how destructive he was.” Twilight glanced between Luna and Celestia, and while the two sisters remained silent, she could tell they were both considering her words carefully. “This is our best chance.”

While Celestia remained silent, Luna let out a light sigh and looked to her sister. “She’s right, Celestia,” she said, conceding to Twilight’s point. “It is our best chance. Our world’s best chance.”

A heavy silence hung on the air between them until finally, Celestia looked to Twilight and spoke. “I’ll agree to this on one condition,” she said as she stepped a few steps closer. She reached out her foreleg and gently laid her fetlock upon Twilight’s shoulder. The frustration that had been apparent on her face just a moment ago was gone, replaced now with worry. “You must come back to us alive.”

Twilight sat up a little taller and nodded her head once. “I will.” There was no hesitation in her voice as she said the words.

Celestia turned her head and looked out beyond the chamber’s entrance. “And what of the shield? How are we to maintain it without our magic while you’re fighting them?”

“It should hold long enough. I plan to draw them away. Once the shield is no longer under attack, it won’t need reinforcement.” Twilight looked out to the shield as well as she continued. “I don’t want to be anywhere near the city when I use our combined power. If I hit the city by accident, even with the shield protecting it, I could cause a lot more damage than them.”

Luna furrowed her brow slightly as she looked out to the shield for a few seconds, and then turned her attention back to Twilight. “How exactly are you going to draw them away from here?”

Twilight nodded toward the Crystal Heart. “With that. It’s the only reason why they’re here. If I take it with me, they’ll follow. They’re not interested in the city. If they had just wanted to attack a largely populated area, literally any of the other cities in Equestria would have been an easier target.”

Cadance had been very quiet over the last few minutes while she remained huddled within Twilight’s wings. She lifted her head slightly, setting back so she could look up into Twilight’s eyes. Her tear-soaked face looked drained, both physically and emotionally. “You’ll put an end to all of this?” she quietly asked.

“I promise,” Twilight said. She took both of Cadance’s forehooves in her own, and looking directly back in her eyes she said, “They will not walk away from this.”

Cadance blinked her eyes as tears started to build up again. A single sob escaped from her as she said, “I’m sorry you have to do this in my place.”

Twilight leaned forward, wrapping her wings and forelegs around Cadance once again. “Shhh, no. No, it’s okay,” she said, gently stroking Cadance’s back with her fetlock.

The moment passed, and Cadance seemed to regain at least a small measure of calmness as she leaned back and dried her eyes on the back of her foreleg.

“Just let me take care of this now,” Twilight said.

Cadance nodded. She stood and took a few steps back, positioning herself to Twilight’s side. At the same moment, Celestia and Luna moved so that the three princesses were all standing around Twilight, each of them standing at the point of an unseen triangle with Twilight standing at the center. Celestia and Luna waited until they got a nod from Cadance, confirming that she was ready to perform the transference spell, and then all three of them closed their eyes and bowed their head.

Each of their horns began to glow, dimly at first and then slowly becoming brighter as all three of them slowly raised their heads as one. All of them opened their eyes in perfect union with each other, revealing a bright glowing light that seemed to be shining from within them. A solid beam of magical energy shot forth from each of their horns all at once, each beam carrying the color of their magical aura and converging together into a swirling mass of energy hovering just above Twilight. The magic swelled for a few seconds longer, growing to a point that it was many times the size of Twilight herself, and then suddenly a surge of power shot directly downward from the mass.

Twilight felt the power from the other three princesses entering her being. It was nearly overwhelming, a flood of alicorn magic that together was far beyond her own. Within a few seconds, the entire mass of energy had worked its way into her body, and the three princesses around her all fell back to their haunches, each of them appearing exhausted as their marks faded away.

Twilight let out a few heavy breaths of air as she adjusted to the increased level of magic coursing through her. Her senses were extremely heightened. Without even using any magic at all she could feel the strength left in the shield protecting the city, and the fluctuations that rippled through it as each claw from the ferals outside scraped against it. With a quick burst of blue magic, she sent out a pulse of energy that would strengthen the shield. “That should last long enough,” she said as she turned and looked to the Crystal Heart. She lifted it with her magic, hovering it carefully over to her side. She looked to the other princesses, looking each one of them in the eyes before saying, “I’ll finish this as quickly as I can.”

Twilight turned away to leave the room, taking a few steps toward the ruined curtains that hung at the entrance. She stopped and looked up at Spike as she was passing by him. The look she was giving him told him that she had something she wanted to say to him that only he should hear, so he leaned down to hear what it was that she wanted to say.

“I hope it isn’t necessary but, if the worst happens” — she glanced back over her shoulder briefly before looking back up to Spike — “protect them for me.”

Spike clenched his jaw tightly but said nothing, and only nodded once in response.

“Thank you,” she said with a fleeting smile.

She continued onward, passing beyond the tattered curtains and leaving the crystalling chamber with the Crystal Heart in tow.