• Published 30th Sep 2015
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Cruel Beauty - ObabScribbler



Deep in the catacombs beneath the Crystal Castle, Cadence and Shining Armour discover something that brings Luna running.

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4. Awakening

The whole castle seemed to shudder.

“Where is she!?”

Twilight slewed to a stop in front of the door. She tugged on the giant ring that comprised its handle with her magic but fell against it instead when the corridor shuddered again. Pushing down the thought that she might just have cracked a rib on the elaborate thing, she redoubled her efforts and yanked open the door.

She immediately wished she hadn’t.

“Whoa!”

She only just ducked in time as a blast of magical fire erupted from within.

“Tell me where she is!”

“Mystic! Calm down!” Cadence’s voice emanated from somewhere in the room.

“I don’t even know you! Who are you? Where is my princess?”

There was another blast of blue fire. Cadence let out a shriek. Twilight scrambled to her hooves and dashed inside.

“Cadence!”

She was on the floor, encased in a bubble of her own aura – clearly her own version of her husband’s shield spell. One of her wings was singed black. She looked up at Twilight’s cry. “Twilight, no! Stay back! He’s not in his right mi–”

“Another untrue alicorn?” The tall stallion standing over Cadence whirled, his extraordinarily long horn glowing with azure fire that lit the room, revealing the unconscious guards on the floor. “From whence do you falsehoods arise?”

“What?” Twilight did not understand.

She ducked and rolled when he aimed a third blast at her, coming up to the left of the door and spreading her wings. Long hours under Rainbow’s tutelage gave her the manoeuvrability to circle the chandelier, telekinetically wrench it free and upend it over the stallion like a cage. Her raw alicorn power allowed her to drive the candlestick prongs deep into the marble floor, forcing him to his knees.

“Usurpers!” he gritted. His horn glowed brighter. Twilight felt his magic push back against hers. It was stronger than expected. She poured more magic into her telekinesis. “Where are the true princesses? This is their castle! What have you done with them?”

“Do you – ngg – mean Princess Celestia and Princess Luna?” Twilight shouted above the throb of their warring spells.

“Yes! Where are they? Where!” His whole body pulsed blue. “Is!” Twilight frantically shoved more magic into her hold but the chandelier let out a resounding crack. “My!” It flew apart in a shower of molten metal. “Princess!?”

Twilight yelped at the touch of hot metal. Her face and left forehoof stung. She hadn’t been quick enough to throw up a shield.

“Twilight! Aahhh!”

A bookcase slammed into the stallion, followed by the bed and the nightstand. In seconds he was covered in furniture in an attempt to hold him down.

“Go!” Cadence panted, her belly swinging beneath her as she struggled to her hooves. Her voice shook with pain. “Get –”

The furniture pile exploded.

“I will not stand for this betrayal!”

Twilight landed in front of Cadence, shielding them both. The broken furniture hammered down on them, then lifted to hammer down again. Cadence sat back on her haunches, breathing shallowly. Twilight chanced a glance behind her, hoping against hope it was just from exertion and nothing to do with the baby. It was still too early for a healthy foal to be delivered. If anything were to happen to –

“Usurpers!”

The stallion unleashed a primal flare of magic on Twilight’s shield. It was unshaped and unfettered, slamming her defences once, twice, three times. It felt like being up against Tirek all over again, though that was ridiculous. He was just one unicorn. Nonetheless, she felt his onslaught begin to take its toll. Her shield bowed inwards. She brought it in closer, so as not to spread her aura too thin, but it made no difference.

“False alicorns!” the stallion screamed, wild-eyed. “Did you murder them? What did you do to my-?”

“Get away from them!” shouted a voice from the doorway.

Twilight had been hoping for Princess Celestia or Luna. Their magical strength would have been a welcome back-up

Unfortunately, that was not who had arrived.

“Shining, stay back!” Twilight’s voice was muffled by her tightened shield spell but she knew from his flicking ears that he had heard her.

“I won’t let you touch my wife or my baby sister!” Shining Armour snarled, head lowered like he was going to ram the taller stallion. “If you’ve hurt them, I don’t care who you are or what you mean to Princess Luna, I will end you!”

“Shining … no …” Cadence panted. “Get … Auntie …”

“Bold words for one who would support false impressions of their true majesties,” the tall stallion boomed. His mane fluffed as he sent a wave of sparkling blue energy straight at Shining Armour.

“No!” Twilight and Cadence shrieked as one.

The energy hit Shining Armour’s formidable shield and dissipated like a bucket of water thrown at a wall. He galloped forward, using his shield like a battering ram to turn aside the attacks thrown at him. The taller stallion swept his horn up, the trailing plume of blue hardening into a shield of his own. The clang that resounded from the two shields meeting left Twilight’s ears ringing.

Panic clenched her stomach into a knot. If she and Cadence combined had struggled to combat the stallion, her brother stood no chance. Like all ponies in the Sparkle family, Shining Armour was magically gifted, but he was still just a unicorn.

Shield crashed against shield again, throwing off blue and pink sparks. A thin strip of light blazed to life above them, reshaping itself into a sword of pure magical energy. The pink blade arched down, forcing the tall stallion to leap aside or be skewered. He kept leaping backwards for a few moments, until he reared up and a blade-topped pike snaked into being beside him. The skirmish flung the two ponies around the room, cleaving through what was left of the furniture and leaving scorch marks on the walls, floor and ceiling.

Shining Armour yelled. A spray of red hit the air.

“Shining!” Twilight screamed.

He fell back, his flank bleeding. The pike had bisected his cutie mark. Shining Armour redoubled his efforts, driving the taller stallion back to the wall and pinning him down until such a rapid hail of blows that his sword was little more than a glittery blur.

Shadowy figures clamoured at the door as guards piled into the room, only to pull back at the sight of their former captain apparently attacking the mysterious stranger he had brought here from his own empire.

Twilight touched Cadence’s shoulder and teleported them both to the corridor outside the room. “Hurry! Make sure she’s safe!” she yelled at a unicorn guard bearing the Night Guard insignia. Then she ‘ported back inside, arriving in mid-air with a copycat version of her brother’s shield and sword. “Shining!”

Too late, she realised her own stupidity. Shining Armour glanced up at her cry. It was only for a fraction of a second, but it was enough.

“Raaaagh!”

The tall stallion pulled the energy of his shield and pike inwards. It flared white hot, then detonated out in a pulse of magic so bright and strong, Twilight was blinded as she was thrown back against the far wall. She heard dozens of voices cry out but could concentrate on nothing but the pain of her now almost certainly broken ribs. She fell to the floor with a groan and lay there, her whole body vibrating inside and out, unable to move. Knowing to just lay there was a bad idea, she made the monumental effort of prising her eyes open.

“Shi … ning …”

Somepony turned her onto her back. She felt something sharp against her throat.

“Where is my princess?” the tall stallion growled hoarsely. “What have you done with her, you -?”

“Mystic! Stand down at once!”

The Royal Canterlot Voice rang through the wrecked chamber. The point of the stallion’s horn jerked against Twilight’s throat as if in surprise.

“My p-princess?”

“What in the name of Harmony are you doing!?” Princess Luna demanded. “Take your horn from my friend’s neck! You are not some common brawler!”

Twilight heard his hooves stagger back as if he had been struck, though she heard no impact of hoof against flesh. “M-my princess … I thought …”

“I can guess from your enraged, misguided and wholly ridiculous rantings what you thought!” Luna said fiercely. Her beating wings set her down by twilight’s side. “Step away from her. Now!”

He did so and Twilight felt the cold press of silver shoes slip under her.

“Twilight, are you injured?”

“My … ribs …”

Soft magic bathed her chest. “They are broken. We must take you to the castle physicians at once. You there! Guard! Transport Princess Twilight to Doctor Boneheart with all haste!”

“Princess Twilight?” the tall stallion said in such a broken, childlike tone of confusion that Twilight could barely believe he was the same pony who had been snarling at her mere minutes ago.

“Mystic … you have been asleep for a … a very long time,” Luna said, her own volume dropping to a less deafening decibel. “Things have … changed somewhat.”

“You’re alive,” he said in that same broken tone.

Twilight was lifted away in some pony else’s aura, but she had ears and eyes only for her attacker and the Night Princess.

“I thought Sombra … I thought maybe he had …”

“He did not. Not to me. But … very nearly to you.”

“To me?”

Luna sighed and bowed her head. “We have much to talk about. I had wished that I would be reunited with you under much different circumstances than these.” She paused. “Much different.”

Twilight passed beyond the ruined doors and out of earshot.


Twilight awoke to the tan fabric of the medical tent roof. She was on her back, which she had always hated since getting her wings. Immediately she rolled onto her side, which brought her nearly nose-to-nose with Nurse Redheart.

“Oh!”

“Hey there,” Redheart smiled. “Morning, sleepyhead.”

“Huh?” Twilight tried to sit up. “Ow!”

“You have quite the nasty bump. Wait right there.”

Redheart quickly crossed the tent to a small portable freezer, from which she extracted a tray of ice-cubes. With a deftness that bespoke long practise, she upended these into an icebag and screwed on the lid. This she brought over to the cot and pressed against Twilight’s head. The relief was icy but blissful.

“You have a concussion,” Redheart informed her. “Nothing too serious, though you have been unconscious for the last few minutes. Good thing for you that unicorn fellow teleported you right into this tent, since you were on the whole other wise of the meadow.”

“Mystic … teleported me?” Twilight pressed held the icebag closer.

“Is that his name?” Redheart grabbed a clipboard and jotted something down by hoof, her pencil scribbling so fast that Twilight couldn’t be sure her vision wasn’t still blurry. “Tall chap with white mane and tail? Different coloured eyes? Rather nice posterior?”

Twilight coughed violently.

“What? I can admire a nice rump.” Redheart smiled wolfishly and tore off some paper. “Here.”

“What’s this?”

“You give it to your handler.”

“My what?”

“The pony whose care I’m going to release you into. These are instructions for what you are and aren’t allowed to do for the rest of the day because of your concussion. The first one is ‘be alone’.”

“Oh.” Twilight frowned. “You know, I’ve read several different medical texbooks that say –”

“Twi!” A blur of orange pushed open the tent flaps and hurried inside. “Are you all right? The whole fete is buzzin’ that you got hurt!”

“What?” Twilight jerked her head up and immediately regretted it. “Ow…”

“What happened, sugarcube?” Applejack’s gaze was soft with concern.

“Princess Luna gave me a coconut.”

“Huh?”

“Ugh … never mind. It was an accident. Applejack, will you please be my handler?”

“Your what?”

“Otherwise I’m not allowed to leave this tent.”

“Who’s stoppin’ you?”

“Hi there.” Redheart stuck out a hoof.

One explanation later and Twilight was leaning against Applejack as they exited the tent.

“Thanks.”

“No problem, Twi, but are you sure you should be up an’ movin’ around so soon after a head injury?”

“I’ll be fine. No slurred speech, no loss of power in any part of my body, no difficulties understanding what anypony is saying, no drowsiness, and the headache is because I have a bump the size of a duck egg on the side of my skull.”

“Yowch.”

“The ice pack helps. Luckily I know a freezing spell so I can keep refreezing the bag and stop them from melting in this warm weather.”

“Hmmm.” The rumble in Applejack’s throat indicated she was not wholly placated by this. Any further protest she might have made, however, was interrupted by a shadow falling across them and a large pony stepping into their path.

“Twilight Sparkle.”

Twilight froze instinctively. She loosened her muscles with effort but her smile was as watery as the ice cubes next to her temple. “Mystic …”

“Are you all right?” he asked, what seemed like actual distress in his tone.

“I’m fine,” she said, only a little stiffly. “Mostly.”

“I’m her handler for the rest of the day,” Applejack added. “I had to sign a release form an’ everythin’.”

“I was waiting to check upon your health,” Mystic told them. “Nurse Redheart was to inform me when awoke, but it would seem you have, ah, beaten me to the punch, Miss Applejack.” He blinked. “I believe that is the correct vernacular, yes?”

“Eyup.”

Realisation that Mystic could have been her handler for the day flashed through Twilight. She found herself wrapping her supporting wing tighter around Applejack, provoking a sidelong look that totally bypassed her determinedly forward gaze.

“Well, I’m fine!” she warbled like a songbird trying to reach a particularly difficult high note. “All fine! So you can just go back to Princess Luna now because I’m totally, completely and absolutely fine! Ah … actually, where is Princess Luna?”

“She was embarrassed that she had caused you injury. I believe friend Rarity is comforting her and assuring her that it was an accident.”

“Oh.” Twilight frowned. “I’d better go show her I’m okay, then.”

“I can teleport –”

“No thanks!” She coughed into her hoof. “I mean … I’d rather walk, thanks.”

“Very well. I will escort you.”

“O-oh.” There was no way to say no – not without causing some kind of social ruckus, and Twilight had promised Luna she would try today. She had promised to try her best, despite everything that had happened. Twilight closed her eyes, pushing aside the memory of Mystic’s horntip at her throat. “All right then. Let’s get going.”