• Published 5th Sep 2018
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The Golden Age of Apocalypse - Book I - BlueBastard



A Berylverse Story - The ponies investigate an ancient prophecy tied to Sombra's plan to destroy Equestria, all the while Sunset prepares for her coronation. But not all is as it seems when the mystery begins to imply a far darker truth of the past.

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Chapter 25: Under (De)Construction

Golden Age of Apocalypse

Chapter 25—Under (De)Construction

“Mr. Woodland!” called out the guard, knocking on the door. “Mr. Woodland, I’m with the Royal Guard! Are you home? We need to talk!”


It had been almost eighteen hours since the assassin known as Corner Shot had managed to break out of captivity while in transport, killing several guards and causing significant damage to rail service between Las Pegasus and the rest of the country in the process when she somehow managed to make a rail car explode by undisclosed means. Now a realmwide pony hunt was in effect—in secret, with the coronation of another princess coming up, it was decided that the guard try to keep it as much under wraps as possible. While Woodlands’ position as a park ranger meant he should have been notified sooner, the usual red tape in organizing the search had delayed him being called upon for hours.


“Mr. Woodland, are you—" called out the guard again, knocking harder on the door this time and to his surprise finding the door suddenly opening—it had been unlocked. Immediately wary of what that could mean, the guard signaled his compatriots to arm themselves as danger could be lurking in the house. With well-practiced coordination, the guards slowly made their way through the house, making sure each room was clear before the next.


They found Woodland in his bed, his throat slit with a carving knife. But almost as if in some twisted humor, above his bed they saw the words “nothing personal” gouged into the wall. Several knives were also missing from the cutting block in the kitchen, meaning the last pony to pay Woodland a visit had no intention of repaying his hospitality in kind.

In her chambers at Canterlot Castle, Twilight pushed aside the ever-growing pile of government paperwork. She’d initially thought to bring the paperwork with her in order to save time, but now she was having second thoughts about that...as well as third and fourth thoughts.

“If me and the girls ever have to fight an enemy whose primary form of attack is entirely made up of paperwork,” she sighed, “then Equestria may well and truly be doomed!” Her mind, ever hungry for knowledge, demanded that it be fed something actually interesting than going over Ponyville’s new re-zoning policy for the fifth time that day.

That’s when she remembered Razz had happened to give something to her—a rather nondescript collection of hoofwritten pages that the archmagus had said might be prudent to get published in light of recent events. Buried in work, Twilight had promised to get to it, but of course the government papers simply kept growing...then again, she was a freakin’ Princess. If she wanted a break to do something fun, then damn it she had every right to do so! The papers from Razz, set off in a corner, levitated in a warm purple-pink glow before floating over to where Twilight sat—while at the same time a cup and a bottle of some fine elderberry wine also flew over in the same glow. Pouring out the delicious beverage, Twilight got herself comfortable in her chair and began reading.

A STUDY INTO THE NATURE OF DARK MAGIC
BY R. BERYL, ARCHMAGUS OF DARK MAGIC

It is easy to say that there is still as much unknown about magic on Equus as there is known to pony kind. Of the gaps in knowledge, the biggest void is that which concerns the realm of dark magic. History is filled with examples of how dark magic, or as it is lesser known; Black Magic, was sought by those wanting to understand its properties or, more often, bend it to their will, but in both cases it was the magic which got the better of those wielders. Such dangers are an obvious reason as to why the founding laws of Equestria make no uncertain terms that the punishment for dark magic use will be considered an act of treason, with the traitor to be put to death. Of course, given the mental state of out of control dark magic users, it is ironic that the only one who not only survived long enough after being found out, but even willingly was put on trial, ended up having the death sentence overturned by the order of the princesses.

I, Raspberry Beryl, am the first pony since the days of King Sombra to openly wield dark magic, let alone in the same overwhelming capacity as he, and for that I was supposed to have been killed. However, I am unique in that while my state has rendered me powerful in the dark arts at the cost of being unable to use virtually any other kind of magic, my special talent as a pony is that I actually am mostly immune to the corruptive effects of constant dark magic use. And that is why even though my powers are the stuff of nightmares, my loyalty is to Equestria and to that end I use my abilities to help protect the nation in a way nopony else ever has before. After all, who better to study the unknowns about dark magic than the mare who has it running through her very veins? My experience with dark magic has given me an understanding first-hoof that helps explain the nature of the enigma that has been such a problem for pony kind.

At this point, Twilight tuned out the rest of the essay. She’d read some florid prose before, but this had to be some of the most purple there was—and given that she was a purple alicorn, that was saying a lot.

I know Razz didn’t have as extensive an education as I did, but still…. She sighed; she was going to have to sit down with her friend and go over the essay as soon as possible. If nothing else, once the other mages took a look at it, they would be afraid to read further – not because they feared the influence of their archmagus infecting them with dark magic, but instead with terminal boredom.


Finishing up her drink, Twilight then focused on the report that Divine had given her an hour ago. And not a minute too soon, glumly thought Twilight, since Corner is on the loose and the fourth Scion is unknown...we might have a real dark magic problem soon enough and the populace is still woefully uninformed about it.

Blue eyes looked across the road, making sure nopony was around to see her. Then, gingerly, she emerged from the thick woods onto the dirt path leading into the town—the black coated pegasus with white and gray mane and tail hairs, a cutie mark of a cloud with two thunderbolts coming out of it like the two top lines of a triangle. The simply named ‘Thunderbolt’ certainly seemed to be uneasy, as if she wasn’t anywhere she was supposed to be. Opening her wings, she was slightly dismayed to see that the magical disguise spell wasn’t entirely perfect and that the middle of her wings still clearly exposed the changeling-chitin made knife racks, which currently had a collection of random kitchen knives roughly secured in them. It certainly made keeping her wings closed uncomfortable, but closed and concealed was better than practically advertising her real identity.

As a skilled Covenant assassin, as well as national Pool star, Corner Shot had more than just knives and lockpicks hidden in her wings. One of the few other things in her ‘swiss army wings’ as she sometimes considered them was a reserve disguise hair clip. It wasn’t as efficient as her normal hair clip, but her normal pool cue clip only had to hide her wings behind a guise of normal feathers—the reserve hairclip was styled to be a simple yellow thunderbolt, but its charm was supposed to be more powerful by giving her full body a different guise. However, in order to escape detection, the charm’s power wasn’t as capable as it could have been, as to avoid magical sensory scans meant to find such things. As a result, there was a time limit to how long it could last on a single charge and because she wasn’t a unicorn, Corner had to use it sparingly. Unfortunately, now that the entire country knew she was at large and insanely dangerous at that, she had to pull out her trump card.

Also didn’t help that Razz still had her pool cue hair clip, either.

Now, she had about maybe twelve hours to meet a Covenant contact she knew was in the next town—Harborsport—before the charm lost all power and let her back in her easily recognizable four-tone mane and pool table green coat. And she honestly didn’t know what to do if that happened.

The Saddleback Mountain Inn certainly wasn’t the most up to date building, having been built out of logs maybe several decades ago when the town was still relatively small. Now that the town had grown farther, the old place certainly looked old and somewhat decrepit.

‘Thunderbolt’ certainly didn’t feel it held the same charm as the Traveler’s Retreat, and the thought sent an inexplicable sense of despair through her.

Can’t ever go back there, she thought sadly, as she stepped into the doors that looked like they probably were only being held together by the remnants of paint still on them.

The inside was just about as cheerful as the exterior. Apparently, what was saved by not having given the outside a new paint job this side of its construction date, was not being reinvested into the interior decoration. Or lighting. If anything, the place looked like a seedy opium den—and in some sense probably was. Corner had been in such places when she was getting her start in the pool scene. She wasn’t too fond of being back in such a place. To her surprise, the establishment did have a small bar area—and she’d stolen enough bits from that older stallion she’d murdered in his bed that she could afford a stiff drink.

The other denizens of the bar gave her curious looks as she made her way to the bar, each one of them looking as decrepit as the place itself. Taking a seat—and boy was that seat uncomfortable—at the bar, she flagged down the barkeep. He looked just as seedy as the inn, with five o’clock shadow, a bad mustache, and more than a few scars on his face.

“What’ll it be? A room? A drink?” The stallion smiled in a way Corner didn’t like. “Maybe some, uh... ‘company’?”

“If the quality of the ‘company’ here is the same as everything else, I’ll pass,” Corner said, slapping a few bits down on the counter. “A drink will suffice. Got any Pocardi Black Crystal rum? 36 BL?”

A place like this wouldn’t have a drink of that quality, of course, but that wasn’t the point. The barkeep gave her a knowing nod and simply filled a filthy mug from the tap.

“Find solace in the shadows,” the barkeep recited, as he had no doubt rehearsed.

“The sun makes them long and plentiful,” Corner replied, completing the coded exchange before taking a sip of the grossly cheap alcohol in her mug and getting straight to business. “I need to see—”

“Our leader, I know, I know,” Barkeep drawled with a slimy grin. “I was told you’d be coming.”

Rather than proceed to help her, though, the barkeep continued about his work wiping down the bar top with a filthy rag. Corner Shot waited as long as her patience would allow, which was to say no more than a few seconds.

“We gonna get moving soon? Time is kinda short here.”

But to Corner’s growing annoyance, the barkeep made no move to help her. He just kept wiping down the bar.

“Relax. Have yer drink. We’ve got time—guards know better than to poke their noses around in here. Even after the mess you made of their li’l choo-choo train.” He then proceeded to pantomime pulling a train whistle, going “whoo-whoooooo” before indulging in an exaggerated explosion sound effect.

“Yup, way I hear it, you been makin’ quite a few messes lately,” the annoying barkeep continued. “Pony with as much heat as you got on ya might draw the wrong eyes to the boss’ abode, if you don’ mind my sayin’ so.”

“I do, in fact, mind your sayin’ so,” Corner growled, getting pretty sick and tired of playing games with some low-level go-between. “Obviously you know who I really am, which means you know how much I outrank you. Take me to Father Lux, or I might just have to pull some of that rank.”

At that, Barkeep only laughed. “Missy, you been hangin’ around the sun tyrant’s lackeys too long: you’ve started thinkin’ like they do. Ranks don’t mean nothin’ in the Covenant. Faith is where true power is.”

“Are you seriously lecturing me about faith? Knowing who I am?” Corner was glaring daggers at the barkeep now, and seeing his indifferent grin, decided it was time to employ some very real ones.

Corner grabbed him by the mane with one hoof and drew one of her stolen kitchen knives from her wing-sheath with the other and held it to the grinning barkeep’s throat. At the same time, a chorus of chairs squeaking against the wood floors sounded, followed swiftly by a dozen more blades being drawn. Corner didn’t have to look to know that every other patron of the Saddleback Mountain was now standing behind her, armed and ready to intervene.

“I told ya to relax, missy! Don’t want nobody to get hurt now!” The barkeep exclaimed with the same shit-eating grin.

Glancing back at the bar full of thugs ready and waiting for her next move, Corner considered her options and wasn’t happy with what she found. She figured she could take about half of them before they overwhelmed her, and with how little room to maneuver there was in the establishment, she didn’t like her odds. Not to mention a fight was bound to draw more guards to her anyway, and she’d still be without a direction to head.

So Corner released her grip on Barkeep and slowly returned the knife to its ill-fitting sheath.

“Thatta girl, knew ya had a good head on yer shoulders!” Barkeep exclaimed, tapping the side of his own head for good measure. “And don’t you fret none! Yer faith will be rewarded in due time! Now, I can see yer gettin’ impatient, so I’ll jus’ get right on down to brass tacks, shall I?”

“About damn time,” Corner said, taking another sip of whatever murky shit was in her mug.

“See, I got myself a little problem that is perfectly suited for one of yer, uh… skillset,” Barkeep started.

Corner nodded. “Oooh, I see. So who do you want dead?”

Barkeep smiled and pointed to his head again, seeming amused at Corner’s ability to put two and two together before motioning for her to lean in closer so he could whisper, “We got us a sheep that’s strayed from the flock, if’n ya know what I mean. Feller’s been with the Covenant for decades, and thinks he can jus’ up and leave. I guess you could say he lost his faith.” Then for the first time since Corner stepped into this shithole, Barkeep’s grin vanished in a puff of smoke, and his countenance grew dark. “And as you well know, the Covenant does not abide the faithless.”

Corner understood. “Where is he?”

“Feller got himself a cozy li’l farm just outside of town here. I’ll get ya the address. Way I hear it, he’s plannin’ on leavin’ tonight. Thinks we ain’t wise to his plans. Wisen him up, missy.”

Corner nodded. Dealing with a traitor to her cause may be just the thing she needed to turn around her thoroughly lousy day. “What’s he look like?”

At that Barkeep’s grin returned, and there was something about it that was… different than it was before. Suffice to say, it set Corner ill at ease.

“Oh, don’t you fret none, Miss Shot. Somethin’ tells me you’ll know him when ya see him!”

Barkeep had been right about one thing, Corner mused. The farmstead that her quarry called home was cozy looking. Sat atop a hill far off the beaten path, the farmhouse overlooked a field of corn stretching on for a good seven acres. Down the path from the farmhouse was the barn, which Corner immediately noted was unusually quiet. Evidently whoever lived here had sold off whatever livestock he had, which only made sense. He wouldn’t bring them if he was trying to beat a hasty retreat.

Corner approached the house and knocked on the door. Seconds passed. A minute. All the while, Corner was wracked by some anxiety she couldn’t explain. Something significant was going to happen here, or so some feeling deep in her bones told her. Corner shook the feeling away and knocked on the door again, and when another minute passed with no movement in the house, she reached for the lockpicks in her swiss-army wings.

Soon Corner was inside the house, and wasted no time in searching. She spotted a framed photo on the wall of two fillies between the ages of eight and ten. Corner turned away from it—she didn’t need to know about the family this guy would be leaving behind when she was through. Fearing her quarry might have skipped town earlier than expected, Corner checked the master bedroom. Two suitcases were partially packed, but still very much present. They hadn’t left town yet.

Movement out the window into the backyard caught Corner’s eye, and Corner looked out to see a figure in the back garden, tending to a patch of sunflowers.

Soon Corner was outside, making her way swiftly and silently to the sunflower patch. Her finely toned senses could pick up the stallion watering the flowers. She navigated between green stalks until she got a better look at the figure nourishing them. He had a coat of green that was just a few shades lighter than her own, and something about it seemed intimately familiar.

Corner moved silently closer with a lifetime’s training behind her, yet the stallion’s ears perked at her approach anyway. As his head started to turn her way time seemed to slow, and Corner’s killer instinct to throw one of the half-dozen knives from their sheath was combated when she and the stallion locked eyes, and all at once memories started flooding back, and with them, feelings; feelings as unnecessary as they were paralyzing. The old, black-maned face looking back at her was one she knew well, and that anxiety returned when she realized this was what Barkeep had meant when he said she’d know her quarry when she saw him.

Corner could never forget the stern yellow eyes of her mentor, or his hard square jaw. His own wings twitched in a familiar way when he looked at her, and Corner belatedly realized that in her stupor, she was scratching her wings in her own specific, unique way.

Evidently her mentor spotted it immediately, for even though she was still wearing her magical disguise hair clip, the old stallion greeted her. “Hello, Corner.”

“Father Tilled Fields….”

“Just Tilled Fields now, or so you’ve probably heard,” the old stallion said with a sigh. “I should have known they would send you.”

The sound of the smooth, ever stoic gravel that was Fields’ voice caused even more memories to flood through Corner unbidden. Unwanted. Hours of gruelling training alongside fillies and colts she considered brothers and sisters; Covenant assassins-to-be. The harsh words of encouragement from Father Tilled Fields, and the pride hidden within those words as Corner rose to the top among her peers. The few moments of peace she had with their Father, when he looked at her with genuine affection.

“Well, if you’re just going to stand there and gawk, I hope you’ll let me indulge in a final drink,” Fields said, removing his familiar tin flask from a pouch on his side and took a swig of whatever was inside. He then offered his flask to her. “Care to join me?”

Corner decided that whatever was in there was probably better than what she’d had at the Saddleback Mountain, and took her old mentor up on his offer, if only so she could wash out the bad taste. It only brought back more memories, as Corner recalled Father Fields allowing her a sip from the very same flask during her teenage years. This time the memory only served to make her angry, and she scowled at what had once been her Father.

“If you’re going to kill me, I only ask that you not harm my family,” Fields said. Even pleading, he was calm and stoic. “They know nothing of my life in the Covenant. They pose no threat.”

“Just tell me why,” she intoned. “After everything you’ve done, why would you betray the cause?!”

“I’m not betraying the cause. I still have no more love for the sun tyrant than you do. But it’s because of everything I’ve done for the cause that I no longer want any part of it.”

“What are you talking about?! You’ve done so much good, not just for the cause, but for us! For me!” Corner fought the lump in her throat as she continued. “You gave me a family, a purpose! Are you really saying you regret all that?!”

Corner spread her wings, baring her teeth and her blades, but Fields only looked at her sadly, like a thing to be pitied.

“I don’t regret building you up, Corner. You or your siblings. I only regret what I built you into.”

Taking a shaky step closer to him, Corner asked, “And what did you build me into, Father?”

“A weapon. A blade for them to wield as they see fit, taking life indiscriminately.”

“Indiscriminately?! Everyone I’ve killed was a cog in the sun tyrant’s machine,” Corner said, thrusting a trembling hoof towards him. “You taught me that! You!”

“Exactly my point,” Fields sighed. “I haven’t equipped you with the means to think for yourself: To ask questions, and for that I am sorry.” His voice remained stoic as ever, but for the first time since she’d known him, Corner thought she saw moisture in his eyes. “I’ve failed you, my child.”

Corner’s ear then flicked as she heard voices on the wind: a mare and two small fillies approaching the farmstead.

Fields frowned. “Hmm. They’re home early.”

The old stallion then looked at her and waited, and Corner finally realized what was really going on: she was being tested. Two paths lay before her, one to a life where she could be free to do and think as she pleased, and the other….

Corner remembered what she’d learned the night she fought Raspberry Beryl and her entourage, and realized that like it or not, her choice was already made for her. So reaching out, she did what she’d always dreamed of doing as a filly and pulled her Father into a soft, tender embrace.

“I’m sorry too,” she said. And then Corner Shot started to squeeze. As Tilled Fields started to choke and gasp at the tightening of her forelegs around his neck, Corner whispered as comfortingly as she could into his ear. “It’s okay… you don’t have to blame yourself for what I am. The truth is, my destiny was sealed from the moment I was born.”

Tilled Fields desperate struggles paused, and Corner knew he had figured it out. “Yes, I am heir to our dark lord’s legacy. His blood runs through my veins.” Corner tightened her grip further, and kept tightening until her muscles hurt. “So you see? There was nothing more you could have done for me.”

Finally, Tilled Fields gave his last gasping breath, and Corner tenderly lowered him to the earth he had worked so hard cultivating. “Thank you,” she said, looking at how peaceful his stern face was now. In truth, she envied it. Learning of her true bloodline should have only strengthened her resolve, but somehow, she found herself more torn than ever.

She heard the voices of Fields’ fillies call out to him, and envied them too, so full of innocence. A shame that innocence won’t last, Corner thought, looking at the body of her mentor. No one’s ever does.

So turning away from her dead mentor, Corner left the sunflower patch, putting the farmstead behind her. She didn’t want to be in earshot when the body was found.

Corner Shot found Barkeep sitting on the steps outside the Saddleback Mountain Inn, apparently taking a smoke break. His familiar slimy grin appeared when he saw her coming, and he got up and did a spidery little jig as she approached.

“Woowee lookit who’s back already!” Barkeep exclaimed. “Didja do the deed?”

Corner Shot was having none of it, and slammed him against the side of the Inn, pinning him there with her hooves and her glare.

“What kind of twisted game are you playing here, asshole?!”

Barkeep laughed, and Corner called on her training not to recoil at his breath. “Ain’t playin’ no games, no ma’am!”

“Oh really? So I suppose you just conveniently forgot to tell me who my target was?!” Corner spat. “Maybe he isn’t the only turncoat I should deal with!”

Barkeep patted one of the hooves pinning him to the wall in a way that was maybe meant to be reassuring. “Missy, I get the desire to shoot the messenger, I really do. But I was only doing what was instructed of me.”

Reluctantly, Corner let the spider of a stallion go. “And who was it that told you to spend the day yanking my chain?”

At that, Barkeep pointed to his own head again and said, “C’mon, you were doin’ such a good job with this before!”

It all came together for Corner then. “So Neon Lux put you up to this, huh?”

“Bing bing bing!” Barkeep exclaimed in reply.

“What the hell for?”

Barkeep leaned forward to whisper conspiratorially. “Like I told ya earlier: Faith is everything in the Covenant. None of us’d even be here without it! Father Neon Lux just wanted to make sure you hadn’t lost yours.” Barkeep giggled almost girlishly. “After all, you did fail yer mission, right? The one where you were supposed to recruit Razzmatazz Somepony? I didn’t see her with ya when you came in.”

Corner scowled and spread her wings, and Barkeep raised his hooves placatingly. “Hey hey hey, we all gotta have as much faith in each other as we do in our Dark Lord’s will, right? And now that you’ve proved you still have faith in Him, we can all continue to have faith in you!”

Barkeep then turned to face the street and shouted to the bustling ponies passing by, “AIN’T FAITH A MARVELOUS THING???”

For their part, the passersby only gave him curious looks and muttered things under their breath before carrying on with their day, but Barkeep’s enthusiasm was undeterred, giggling insanely.

Corner simply gave him a lidded look. “You done? I’d kinda like to get going before this disguise enchantment wears off.”

“Of course ya do!” Barkeep said, picking up a set of saddlebags and placing them on his back. “Well, no time like the present right? Now c’mon, Father Neon Lux is waiting!”

With some downtime that she had while the group had begun the basic planning for Sunset’s coronation, it gave Raspberry some time to read the next chapter of The Rose with the Broken Neck. The chapters were beginning to thin out as she reached towards the end of the book, and as she did so, she wondered if the poor girl that had been the crux of the story would live to see the end.

Admittedly, this had all occurred hundreds of years ago, but even still, Razz hoped that the Rose would have returned to Italy safe and sound.

The chances of that happening, however, she knew to be pretty much a folly.

===

DAY 162:

My spies in Equestria tell me that Everfree is gathering its forces, that Celestia and Luna are gearing up for war. Their aim is to oust me from my rightful throne, and though I am not surprised, it is nonetheless pathetic, in my opinion.

All because of a small, unimportant village? Starlight, or Light Star, or whatever the name of it was? It was on my lands – my territory! The damnable Equestrians, trying to take lands from me, even going so far as to put up a blatantly false sign stating that the village was fifteen leagues from the border. What, do they think me addlepated? Stupid? A foolish, doddering idiot like their mother was? At least Faust would have seen reason!

These foals who fancy themselves warrior queens need more than a bit of growing up to do. Regardless, my forces have been trained to the fullest, and my generals assure me that they are ready. Every able-bodied pony from the age of ten and up is within my forces, and while there are some complaints by the peasantry that they will starve, that is hardly a major consideration. I will tend to the survivors once the war is over.

And it will be over soon, not only due to the forces I have at my disposal, but other methods I have prepared as well.

The first is my newest personal weapon, the product of years of painstaking research. My armorers have created a new mystical focus – an amulet – that refracts and amplifies the magic of any unicorn using it significantly. Just putting it in the hooves of a lesser unicorn will cause said caster’s magic to grow a thousandfold. But under my use? I will break the Sisters, and I will do so before their armies. Even from where I stand, I can feel the amulet, calling me from the secret armory I have it placed in. It sings to my blood and my power sings back, creating a beautiful duet that I will use to crush Everfree the moment they step out of line.

But it is the second weapon, revealed to me today that is of far more value than the amulet. The product of Mangle-leg’s countless hours of loyal toiling and slaving away to create something worthy of her liegelord, and I can honestly say she has outdone herself. After nearly two weeks, she has successfully grafted parts of the changeling queen to the Rose, blending them and fusing them into one being. As I look at the Rose now, she is even more hideous than before, far more by her gruesome human standards and certainly by that of pony mares. Her mind under Mangle-leg’s complete control thanks to the Compulsion, she sits there on the ground, vacant-eyed, her hand playing with the black chitinous foreleg that replaced her other one.

At first I ask Mangle-leg what she has done; the Rose is completely useless to me as such. Then Mangle-leg smiles and tells the Rose to change.

And she does.

In the space of a second, a flash of verdant magic burns around her and what was this monstrosity a second ago becomes a rather dull-looking blue pony with a brownish-yellow mane. Mangle orders her to change several more times and the Rose complies, becoming a green pegasus; a gray earth pony; an orange unicorn; a lilac batpony; then a griffin, a minotaur and finally, Princess Celestia herself.

I know that the Rose hasn’t seen any of those other forms; she barely knows anything other than ponies exist. How? I ask Mangle, and my studious friend has the answer.

“Essential memory, my lord,” she tells me. “The changelings must prey on all the world’s beings and so must know how to change into one at a moment’s notice, so they must all share the same memories within their hive mind. That makes her the perfect weapon, so long as we keep her under heavy dosage of Compulsion.” I ask how much, and she tells me, “To create the average nzambi, I only need a single dose. To turn the living into a willing slave, I need a double dose. But for her?” She looks at me gravely and admits, “Nearly fifty doses, my liege.”

I tell her I understand and that she must begin production immediately. I then give her the authorization to do whatever it takes to create the doses we need to keep the Rose under our hooves. She is a weapon far too powerful to fall under the alicorns’ spells and unlike that fool Sable, she is far more cunning. Were she to slip the leash it could create a potential enemy that not even I could stop.

Mangle nods and departs, leaving me with the Rose and enough doses to keep her under control for the remainder of the day. She assures me she will have enough stock on hoof tomorrow to last me the remainder of the week, until she can get her assistants to begin work on producing the Compulsion in large enough amounts.


I am then left alone with the Rose. I speak to her, and her empty eyes look at me, but for a second, I see hatred in them, reflected through Celestia’s eyes. And even though she is that pink-maned unicorn at the moment, I wonder if the hatred I see is from the Rose, or from the last memories of the changeling queen. Perhaps it is from both, or perhaps they are so unified now that it makes little difference whether it is one or the other.

I administer another dose of the Compulsion and the hatred vanishes into nothingness. “Yes,” I hear in Celestia’s voice, waiting for a command.

I order her to present herself to me and she does so. I then take my need, having her change from Celestia, to Luna and even once to Faust. I have her cycle through the unicorns as I attend to my needs, letting me spend myself on her. And all the while, she says nothing, laying there as if a statue. While I admit, I much prefer my partners to be active, I will accept this immobilization for now.

After all, in the day, she will be my most fearsome weapon and at night any mare I desire.

My thoughts turn to my friend Mangle-leg. I must speak to her and ask her what reward she desires for this. She has outdone herself and thus deserves a sobriquet.

Never let it be said I do not take care of my subjects, after all.


===

The book, normally held aloft in Razz’s dark magic, fell onto the bed covers with an unceremonious muffled thump.

What Sombra and that Mangle-leg had apparently done was a crime against...Razz couldn’t even come up with a term for the collective which that thing would offend. And what was worse is that the words from Aged Codex on the note she’d originally gotten with the book had been prophetic—that poor girl experiencing death would have been a mercy compared to the horror she’d been cruelly twisted into.

And Sombra had proven to be the complete opposite of merciful.

Author's Note:

As if you people thought Sombra couldn't get any worse...

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