• Published 29th Oct 2015
  • 2,141 Views, 82 Comments

Crystal Heart Solid: The Twin Crysis - MagnetBolt

What if: Instead of replacing Princess Cadance on her wedding day, Chrysalis goes after Shining Armor another way - by infiltrating the Royal Guard!

  • ...

Chapter Five - Legend of the Hidden Temple

Chrysalis was starting to hate the cold even more than she already did. She raised her hoof to shield her eyes against the snow being driven at her like a wall of white, and her horn started to glow as she readied a spell to shield herself. She was quickly losing her patience with the sky raining down four billion tons of white horseapples.

“Stop that!” Daring Do hissed, hitting her horn with a hoof and disrupting the magic. “The glow will give us away. This area is almost entirely open. We’re lucky this storm is coming through to give us some cover.”

“You call this lucky?” Chrysalis shuddered. Even with the tactical suit she could feel the cold creeping into her.

“It’s a half-mile over open terrain to the temple entrance,” Daring Do explained. “If there wasn’t inclement weather they’d have seen us by now.”

“And we’re going to end up getting lost,” Chrysalis frowned. “I can’t see more than a few paces in any direction.”

“Don’t worry. We can’t really get lost,” Daring Do said. “We’re in a valley between two cliff faces. The way the island is shaped, the weather systems always blow in the same direction. As long as you’re walking into the wind, you’re going towards the temple.”

Chrysalis grunted and stomped through the snow, following the pegasus. A howl came over the wind, and she felt a chill run down her spine.

“A windigo?” She whispered.

“There are still some wild ones this far north,” Daring Do said, stopping. “They’re not that dangerous as long as a big pack doesn’t form. Most of them prey on ponies who are alone in the wilderness, slowly wearing away their sanity. A lot of ‘cabin fever’ stories are really because ponies were tormented by them.”

“That’s just… incredibly pleasant,” Chrysalis muttered.

“You should know this. SECT hunts down Windigo packs all the time when they get too large.”

“I’m not part of SECT,” Chrysalis said. “They just loaned me some gear to take care of this. If we don’t get it taken care of by sunrise, the Stalliongrad Guards will launch a frontal attack on the island to try and recover the Princess.”

“That’s…” Daring Do growled. “Those idiots will stumble into the traps, destroy anything of historical value, and cause a bigger mess than the cultists!”

“I’m more worried about Cadance, and what the cultists will do to the hostage if they’re really pressed.” Chrysalis squinted as she spotted something through the snow. “What’s that?”

“That is why I told you to keep your horn dim,” Daring Do said. “The guards have torches and we can see them all the way from here.” She put a hoof to her lips and stalked quietly towards the light, Chrysalis following her for a moment before a sudden gust of wind cut her off with a wall of white, separating her from Daring Do.

Chrysalis stopped, looking around. She could just barely feel Daring Do if she focused and extended her senses out. The windigo was too close, the spirit’s presence disrupting her empathic senses. She’d never actually seen one before, but her mother had warned her about how dangerous they could be, almost the polar opposite of changelings, for both meanings of the word polar, feeding on hatred instead of love.

“Cadance could probably turn it inside out,” Chrysalis muttered. She crept towards the moving lights. They had to be guarding something, and Daring Do had said the temple entrance was this way.

She didn’t have to go far. As she neared the lights, there was a dip in the terrain, the low spot littered with boulders that acted as natural bulwarks against the wind. Or, she realized as she pressed up against one of them, not so natural at all. The stone was obviously shaped, and not natural to the island. It was some kind of black, volcanic rock, in monoliths as big as a pony.

“There’s three of them up there,” Daring Do said, as she pressed up against the stone next to Chrysalis. The disguised changeling peeked around the side. There was a yawning hole in the rock there, more like a mouth than a cave, with fangs carved into it. Even the snow couldn’t quite hide the menace the vaguely skull-like visage exuded. She could see two guards patrolling in a slow circle around the depression, carrying torches, and she could feel two more waiting in the shadows just inside the stone maw.

“Four,” Chrysalis corrected.

“We can probably get around the ones with torches,” Daring Do said.

“But not the ones in the doorway.” The windigo howled. The disharmony spirit was starting to give her a headache. She saw the guards on patrol stop and look up, though, and the headache was replaced with an idea. “I’ve got a plan.”

The two cultists in the doorway had been there for almost an hour, and knew they’d soon have to trade with the ones on patrol, giving the torch-bearers a chance to warm up and recover in the shelter of the temple entrance.

Neither of them had the correct senses to detect the spell cast between them. Even a unicorn would have had difficulty with it, given the exotic (for a pony) magic used to form it. However, there was something else that spotted it and chased after the ball of concentrated resentment and hate like a dog going after a treat.

The windigo howled as it surged into the mouth of the temple, ignoring the two ponies for a moment as it chased after what seemed like a meal to the simple spirit. A meal that popped like a soap bubble the moment it tried to feed.

And left a very hungry and now annoyed windigo on one side of the cultists, and the storm on the other side.

The cultists looked at the windigo for a moment, then each other, then back to the windigo just as it roared and charged. For their part, they decided that the storm wasn’t really all that bad, and started running.

“Okay, I admit that was pretty good,” Daring Do said. “I didn’t know there was a spell that could lure a windigo like that.”

“Mm. Not exactly a spell,” Chrysalis muttered. Projecting false emotions was as easy as breathing for a changeling, just rarely used. “I guess you could say it’s part of my special talent.” That was close enough. Ponies didn’t ask questions as long as cutie mark talents were involved.

“Luring monsters?” Daring Do raised an eyebrow.

“Monsters are probably involved,” Chrysalis said, the edges of her mouth curling into a smirk. She gestured at the cave around them. “So, I assume this is the temple?”

“Yes,” Daring Do nodded, walking in. As Chrysalis was starting to follow her, she held out a hoof to stop her. “Wait there. I need to search this area for traps. Most of them had been disarmed before I arrived, but with the Nightmare cultists on alert, they might have reactivated them.”

“Are you sure?” Chrysalis asked, frowning. In reply, Daring Do picked up a hoof-sized rock and threw it ahead of them, hitting a discolored part of the floor. There was a click like a lock releasing, and spears shot out of the walls, snapping shut like jaws.

“I’m pretty sure,” Daring Do said.

Chrysalis nodded quietly. The pegasus started going over the floor and walls, looking for more triggers.

“So I’m guessing you don’t know much about this place?” Daring Do asked as she carefully brushed dust from a mosaic. She didn’t wait for Chrysalis to confirm it. “This was actually built right around the time Nightmare Moon was banished. From what I can tell, it seems like construction started pre-banishment and wasn’t finished until afterwards.”

“Does that mean something in particular?”

“Ugh. You soldiers are all so hopeless.” Daring Do produced a small crowbar and carefully pried up a tile, revealing a mechanism behind it that she jammed. Chrysalis wasn’t sure where she had kept the tool. “It’s like you go to basic training and come back after forgetting all about what you learned in school.”

“I was… home schooled,” Chrysalis said. It was pretty much the truth.

“Well that explains a lot,” Daring Do muttered. “The point is, this place was sealed off in preparation for her return, and in this inaccessible location, there weren’t any looters to clear it out. A perfect archaeology site.”

“...And it means whatever they were protecting for this ‘Nightmare Moon’ pony is still around.” Chrysalis frowned. “Miller said the cultists implied they had some way to actually kill an alicorn. I can’t think they’re not related.”

“That would make… way too much sense,” Daring Do stopped moving, thinking. “Nightmare Moon would have a vested interest in that.”

“Who is she, anyway? Some demon from Tartarus?”

Daring Do turned halfway to give Chrysalis a look that said more than words ever could. “Are you serious? How have you never heard of her?”

“I’m not from around here.” Daring Do’s expression didn’t change. “When I say here, I mean Equestria. I only moved here a few years ago.”

“Well, I guess that explains a few things,” Daring Do sighed. “The story isn’t very well-known outside of Equestria, and Nightmare Night is really more of a foal’s holiday.” She walked over to the mosaic she’d defaced (carefully, so she could put it back together later once the traps it had concealed weren’t endangering anypony).

“A thousand years ago, give or take a century, Celestia and her sister Luna ruled over Equestria. According to the official story, Luna went insane, started calling herself Nightmare Moon, and tried to destroy the world, so Celestia had to banish her to the moon forever.

“The cultists, on the other hoof, say that Celestia became a power-hungry tyrant.” She pointed to a section of the mosaic that had a white pony trampling others with an army behind her. “She tried to force her sister out of power and caused a civil war. Nightmare Moon lost, but will return someday to right the wrongs that her sister inflicted on her followers.”

“So which is true?” Chrysalis tilted her head.

“Probably neither of them,” Daring Do said. “There aren’t a lot of written records from the centuries around the Banishment, and most accounts were written centuries later by ponies who had only heard the stories passed down from generation to generation. A place like this, perfectly preserved? It could have given us a clue to the real story.”

Chrysalis held up a hoof as they came to an intersection. She pressed against the wall and leaned around the corner, firing off a sleeping spell at the guard she’d sensed.

“Safe now,” She said. Daring Do looked down the hallway and shook her head.

“How did you know he was there? I didn’t hear anything.”

“Trade secret,” Chrysalis smirked. “It’s sort of a passive spell. I could sense him once we were close enough.”

“Not a bad trick to know.” Daring Do flew down the corridor, checking the cultist and disarming him.

“So what’s with all the Griffonian stuff, anyway?” Chrysalis asked, as she watched Daring Do cut the crossbow’s string, rendering it useless. “Weapons, an airship, but no griffons.”

“I don’t know for sure,” Daring Do said. “The team here was getting their funding mostly from private sources, but it was all coming from Canterlot.”

“I saw the crates,” Chrysalis nodded.

“Yeah. I mean, it’s not that unusual, really. Some members of the nobility like to be patrons for discoveries like this. Especially Blueblood, if you can believe it. Some of them also like to sit on things and keep them secret until they can reveal things and take credit for the entire discovery, so I wasn’t all that worried with the way they were hush-hush about what they’d found.”

“What did they find? You said there was an artifact.”

“Oh yeah,” Daring Do shuddered. “Probably the find of the century, and exactly the type of thing SECT would want kept under wraps. An intact Lunar Warstrider.”


“Sorry, sometimes I forget they stuffed a rookie into that uniform,” Daring Do teased. “A warstrider is an old weapon, sort of a Golem, but as big as a house.”

“A Golem?”

Daring Do gave her an annoyed look. “A magically animated construct. Didn’t they teach you anything in the guard?”

“Mostly they taught me how to march and look busy when the drill sergeant was around.”

Daring Do laughed at that. “Of course. I should have known. Anyway, the warstrider wasn’t active. It was in amazing condition despite its age, practically brand new. If I had to guess, I’d say it was built here and never fully activated.”

“Could it kill an alicorn?” Chrysalis asked, afraid of the answer.

“No. Definitely not. Even if it was fully activated, it’s more like an army condensed into one weapon. It’s dangerous, sure. But a crossbow is dangerous too, and that wouldn’t kill Celestia.”

“Then why…” Chrysalis mumbled, then shook her head. “I don’t even know why I’m trying to make sense of it. They’re cultists. They’re probably insane by definition, and given what they’re doing now, they’re proving it.”

“I’m sure they have a plan that makes sense to them,” Daring Do shrugged. “Trust me, sometimes you just stop asking why somepony wants to turn themselves into a giant snake. It never really solves any problems.”

“...turn themselves into a giant snake?”

“Don’t ask. It was a strange week.”

“I won’t,” Chrysalis assured her. She started walking further down the corridor.

“Wait, I haven’t checked that way for-” Chrysalis’ hoof sunk a quarter inch into the floor. There was a click.

“Horseapples,” Chrysalis swore. The walls and ceiling started to shake, dust raining down. Chrysalis looked up while one of the blocks in the ceiling crashed down next to her, frozen in place.

“Move it!” Daring Do yelled, snapping Chrysalis out of her temporary paralysis. Chrysalis ran for it, barreling forwards and hoping she didn’t set off any other traps as the corridor roared behind her, filling with falling rocks.

The changeling skidded to a halt as the commotion stopped. There was no sign of the pegasus.

“Daring Do?” She asked, quietly, hoping she didn’t get the archaeologist crushed like a bug.

“Great!” Daring Do yelled, from somewhere on the other side of the blockage. “I’m totally cut off this way. I’ll have to find some way around. It’s not safe for you to stay there, either.”

“More traps?” Chrysalis asked.

“The noise. Everypony in the temple will have heard that. I don’t think either of us wants to be here when a few dozen cultists show up.”

“I see your point,” Chrysalis admitted.

“Look, you’re on the main path to the lower temple,” Daring Do said. “Just keep going down and you should eventually get there. If you get lost, the place is a labyrinth.”

“That’s encouraging.”

“No, I mean, a labyrinth. Literally. All the paths lead to the center. Just put a hoof on a wall and follow it and you should eventually get there. It’s common in temples and represents a journey to enlightenment- and I don’t have time to explain the symbolism. Keep an eye open for secret passages.”

“Secret passages?”

“Places like this are always lousy with them. There’s usually a trick to getting them open. This is a Nightmare Moon temple, so look for shadowy corners and moon symbols. That tends to be a safe bet.”

“Thanks,” Chrysalis said. “Get yourself somewhere safe. If it gets bad, go outside or find somewhere to hide and I’ll try and get you out of here too after I rescue Cadance.”

“Sure. Or I’ll rescue both of you. Hey, if I save the Princess, does that mean I have to marry her? Because technically, I’m already betrothed to this one seapony princess, and I sort of skipped out on it-”

“Let me guess, snakes were involved.”

“Nah, I just wasn’t ready to give it all up and live underwater for the rest of my life.”

“Just don’t get captured again,” Chrysalis said as she started down the corridor.

A changeling’s natural habitat was damp, underground passages, twisty and difficult to navigate. The temple was starting to make Chrysalis feel almost nostalgic.

Of course, that only put her more on edge. When Chrysalis had been very young, her life had been quite different from the easy life she had in Canterlot. Even basic training with the Guard hadn’t matched learning how to stalk prey as a nymph or being abandoned in the Badlands and forced to fend for herself for a few weeks just to show how much she needed to rely on the changelings around her, and how to survive when she couldn’t.

Consequently, the scrying sensor stuck out like a sore pedipalp.

She watched it from around the corner, muttering to herself and trying to decypher the spell. It was unicorn magic, but there were some areas where unicorn and changeling magic overlapped pretty strongly, and sensing spells was one such area. The main difference between the two was a matter of tradition and technique rather than base principles.

This scrying sensor, for example, was a spell glyph drawn on the wall, using ink along with a trace of blood and tears, probably from the pony who had cast the spell. She could tell that it was largely automatic, just designed to raise an alarm if somepony unauthorized walked past the sensor. Pretty basic stuff, but basic also meant reliable. Just severing the spell circuit would probably set it off.

Basic, did, however, mean it didn’t include any complex detection methods.

Being a member of the Midnight Club came with some great benefits. You got to socialize with ponies in high places, you learned secret hoofshakes that would open a lot of doors, and you even got a really cool decoder ring for the secret bi-monthly newsletter.

However, it did mean that you sometimes had to do something in return, like voting for certain elected officials or passing messages along to other Club members. Or, if you owed a lot of favors, you could end up spending a moon or three at the end of nowhere, standing around and guarding a temple entrance.

Hayseed owed a lot of ponies a lot of money. He had expended a lot of favors after joining the club, which was why he was patrolling alone. He did like the crossbow and uniform, though. They made him look really intimidating, at least in his own mind.

His ears perked up as he heard something strange in the corridor ahead of him. He trotted up. It wasn’t the alarm going off. It sounded more like a bell.

“Hello?” He asked, walking past the sensor. Had some kind of animal gotten into the temple? He walked around a corner, wishing he had a torch. It sure was dark down in the middle of the earth.

Bells rang out again behind him, just a faint sound. He followed it, not quite sure where he was going. He ended up in a dead-end corridor, staring at a wall and a small shrine to one of the many brave soldiers who had fallen in the Lunar Rebellion. If he had been a better cultist, he might have known the name, but Hayseed was really just in it for the thrill and easy loans.

The shadows loomed up behind him.

“Guess it was nothing. This guard duty is so boring I’m hearing things. At least I was able to use the money I got to get my marefriend a ring,” Hayseed said to himself. “I’ll propose to her as soon as I get back from this mess.”

The shadows behind him hesitated.

“Of course, at that point, the world will have been taken over by a force of terrible darkness. It’s a good thing I’m on the winning side!”

Somepony tapped him on the shoulder. He turned around just in time to get knocked out.

“When you wake up, tell your girlfriend that she should find a stallion with a brain,” Chrysalis hissed, as she stripped the pony, looking for something she could use. She found it around his neck - a pendant with a small charm put on it, exactly the kind of thing that could get her past the magical sensor.

She looked at the discarded robe. And the pony she’d knocked out. Maybe there was one more thing she could take from him.

Author's Note:

No, she's not taking that.

You dirty, dirty person.

So with NaNoWriMo, my writing here has slowed down a bit. I'll try to keep chapters coming, but I make no real promises until December. We're also just past the halfway point, by my reckoning.

Join our Patreon to remove these adverts!
Join our Patreon to remove these adverts!