• Published 30th Jul 2016
  • 3,145 Views, 69 Comments

The Night Mare's Guard - Shadow Quill

The Changelings haven't been sitting idle the three years they haved been gone. Now they're back and better than ever, with their sights set squarely on the alicorns of Equestria. One dark mare, shrowded in mystery, sits right in the crosshairs.

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15 An Unexpected Turn

The train ride to Canterlot was uneventful, although that might have been due to the complete lack of other passengers in the car. The sun was beginning to set by the time Canterlot became visible in the distance, and I signaled to the Shards that it was time to make our exit. We jumped off the train at the base of the mountain, allowing the engine to continue up the slope towards the city proper. Meanwhile, we made our way towards the base of the mountain, where a secret entrance lay hidden.

“Remind me again why we’re going this way Your Highness.” Carapace asked as she followed behind me.

“We would never get past the Changelings in the city proper, let alone past the guards within the castle,” I explained, “so we’re going to use the same route that my mother used during the first invasion. We can slip through the crystal caverns into the lower levels of the castle and bypass almost all of the defenses. I’m positive that nopony will be covering this way because only my mother and a select few generals know where its entrance is located.”

She hummed in understanding, falling silent as we came up to a large opening in the rock. From the outside it looked like an ordinary cave, but I knew better. Inside this opening was a hidden passage that led up through the crystal caverns and into the deepest levels of the castle dungeons. If we were going to free the princesses and the others, this was our best bet at reaching them undetected.

For several hours we carefully made our way through the tunnels, using the bare minimum of illumination magic to hide our presence. Before long the bare rock gave way to massive quartz crystals of every shape and size imaginable. Several times I had to break off some of the larger sections to clear the way for the others, but other than a few small setbacks, we made it through without issue. I motioned for Carapace to stop with a hoof, creeping up until I spotted the opening that we had been searching for. It was a large iron door, set with a barred window at head height and a massive lock securing it to the surrounding stone. I knew that this thing hadn’t been here the last time we invaded, so it must have been a security measure put in place by the princesses while we were in exile. I motioned for Carapace to move up with the others, and I heard their soft hoofsteps as she fell in at my side.

“So what now?” She whispered, “We can’t get through that door without alerting the entire castle to our location.”

“Perhaps we could pick it?” Stinger muttered before igniting his horn.

A large pick made of green magic appeared in front of the lock and inserted into the hole. Before any of us could react, a flash of while light erupted from the lock’s hole and obliterated the construct, causing Stinger to yelp as the backlash knocked him on his flank.

He grunted before pushing into a sitting position again, “Note to self, don’t do that again.”

Carapace rolled her eyes, “That’s what you get for acting without thinking. Did you really think the princesses would leave a lock like that without making it pick-proof?” She sighed as she turned her attention back to the door, “I wonder sometimes how you’ve survived this long without getting blown up or something.”

“Quiet,” I hissed, “I hear something.”

Silence fell over us and I strained my ears to pick up what I had thought was hoofsteps. After a moment they grew loud enough to know for certain, and it was indeed hoofsteps closing in from the other side of the door. We ducked behind some of the crystals as two voices echoed off the rock, and I smirked when I made out what they were saying.

“I don’t see why we need to guard this stupid thing,” it was a male drone’s voice that grumbled loudly, “nopony knows about this tunnel
except for the Queen and some of her most trusted generals.”

“Quiet Tarsi,” a female’s voice hissed, “you know that the ponies can pull some crazy things when pushed to the edge. Do you want to be the one to tell Her Highness that you let some pony rescue party slip through under our defenses?”

“No,” he replied, “but that doesn’t mean it’s not going to be the most boring post in the entire city. I mean seriously, who in their right mind would come down here when nopony knows that it leads to a secret tunnel?”

I caught Carapace’s eye and nodded once, leading her slowly to the door before crouching down on one side. She slipped in on the other side and lifted a small crystal with her magic up to the opening. She rotated it slowly, narrowing her eyes as she concentrated. After a moment she lowered the stone and indicated with signals that there were just the two guards, and that they were on either side of the door. I nodded and ignited my horn, channeling my magic into two compressed pockets of power. I moved up to the window and looked out to make sure I had a clear shot at both guards. They were looking at the far wall with matching expressions of boredom, so I moved my magic through the bars before thrusting them into the back of both their heads. There was a small pop as the magic erupted into a powerful sleep spell, and the guards fell to the floor with a thump as I levitated the keys from the female’s belt.

Once we secured the doorway and moved the guards out of sight, I led my Shards through the tunnels towards the upper sections. As we moved further I kept my ears peeled for any sign of patrols, although as we made our way higher and higher I was beginning to wonder if mother even bothered with a guard detail for the dungeons. After all, the only ponies I knew were down here had no magic and would be hard pressed to find a way to escape on their own. Well, not without help that is.

We continued for a while longer, keeping to the back ways and keeping our horns dark. We couldn’t afford to let the glow of magic give us away now, we were too close to our goal to let the chance slip through our hooves. I motioned for Carapace and the others to stop once more, peering around the next corner to see if there was anypony we needed to avoid. Instead, my eyes fell upon two Changelings guarding a single iron door in the center of the hall’s right side. I pulled back and motioned for Stinger and Wasp to come closer.

“Alright, we’ve got two guards stationed in front of the door down the hall. My best bet is that we’ve found our targets. Wasp, Stinger, I want you to ready for an ambush. When I give the signal, I want you to take them out without killing them. I’ll act as the distraction so you can get into position.”

They nodded and I moved back to the edge of the wall, “Move out as soon as I have their attention.”

I took a deep breath and straightened my back, putting every ounce of my royal façade into play as I walked around the corner.
The guards reacted immediately upon seeing me, locking their surprised gazes with mine as I walked towards them.

“Your Highness!” The right one yelled, “We weren't expecting you. What are you doing all the way down here?”

“I require some time to speak with the prisoners.” I replied, keeping my voice perfectly level, “You are relieved until I send for you.”

They shared a look of confusion, “I’m sorry Your Majesty, I don’t understand.”

I smirked, “No matter, I didn’t expect you to understand,” I flicked my ears and watched as Stinger and Wasp planted their hooves on top of the guard’s heads and drove them into the floor with a solid thud sound, “I expected you to lose consciousness.”

“Can we cut with the jokes please,” Carapace asked as she fell in beside me, “we’re running on borrowed time as it is.”

I nodded, “True enough. Let us venture forth and rescue our desperate pony prisoners.”

Using the keys I had taken from the other guards, I unlocked the door and pushed it open with my magic. Carapace and Nodus followed me into the chamber, our eyes quickly adjusting to the low light to reveal ten very confused and uncertain ponies.

I turned and called over my shoulder to the other Shards, “Guard the way back as well as the main hallway. I don’t want any unexpected surprises to drop in unannounced.”

“Sir!” They whispered as they split off into two groups.

I turned back to face the ponies, only to have a very pissed Shining Armor plant his muzzle against my own.

“You have some nerve showing your face here bug.” He growled, “I should beat you into a pulp and feed you to your troops.”

“But you won’t,” I countered as I lifted him with my magic and moved him back to the others, “because then you wouldn’t stand a chance of escaping.”

This seemed to throw everypony for a loop, because nopony spoke until Celestia took a step forward, “What kind of game are you playing at Silver Jacket?”

“No game Celestia,” I said, “I have come to break you out of this prison and lead you and yours out of Equestria. I have realized that this is not the path I had envisioned when I took over Equestria, and I would rather free my mother’s prisoners then see this travesty continue.”

Rarity scoffed, “As if we would believe a lying creature like you. What kind of fools do you take us for?”

“I do not expect you to believe me,” I met each of their eyes one by one, “but I am speaking the truth when I say that I want better things for you,” my gaze locked onto Luna, “especially you Luna.”

Celestia stepped in front of her sister in a protective manner, “Watch your tongue insect. Haven’t you done enough damage to my family already?”

I shook my head, “You misunderstand, I meant that I wanted better things for Luna, and it was because of those feelings that we stand here now.” I paused for a moment to let my words sink in, “You don’t get it do you? Why else would I release her from my control and then risk my own life breaking her out of here?”

“Because you like to play games with our minds and get a sick kick out of seeing ponies suffer?” Rainbow Dash offered.

I scowled but schooled my features before answering, “No, it is because of one simple fact. Believe it or not, Luna isn’t the only one who has feelings for the other in our twisted duo.” Gasps and snorts of contempt sounded in equal measure at my words, “Hear me, for I will only say this once.” I locked my gaze with Luna’s and took a step forward, “I could not make you my queen as you were, my mind rejected the idea of being your mate each and every time I so much as looked at your expressionless eyes. I tried, I really did, to move past that metal block, and yet it always came back to the same thing. I might have captured your love, but I hadn’t captured your heart, at least, not after what I had done.”

“You betrayed her love and stole her mind away from her,” Cadence hissed in fury, “she trusted you with her deepest desires and you threw them in her face like they were a joke.”

I raised a hoof to placate the mare, “And I was wrong. I understand now why I could never do what I had set out to accomplish. My feelings for you made it impossible to move beyond that moment and the love you were producing was like a hollow shell. I knew your true love as Silver Shield. I had your heart in my hooves and I threw it away and for what? Some gilded throne in the Crystal Empire with a puppet for a queen? An empty love that could never fill the hole in my chest like it once did? Do you take me for a fool? How could a creature like me, one who needs love to survive like you need water, not realize when his own feelings are mirroring those he wished to feel from others?”
I took a breath as I closed my eyes, “I have come to free you from this cage and to take you away, where my mother will never find you again so you can be free once more. I know I can never ask for your forgiveness, at least not after what I’ve done, but at least trust me enough to let me protect you. Without magic you are helpless, and as such without my help you will never escape this castle.”

I opened my eyes and locked my gaze with Luna’s, “Please, in the name of the love we once shared, trust me to free and protect you, so that you can start over away from all of this.”

For a moment silence rang through the cell like a gong, and for an instant hope swelled in my chest. But then it shattered like glass as the faces before me hardened like stone.

“You expect us to abandon our subjects, to throw everything away and run for our own lives?” Celestia marched up to me with an expression of pure fury, “I would never do something so selfish and cowardly, not in a million lifetimes. Take your offers of freedom and leave. We will never abandon hope so long as we draw breath.”

“But don’t you see,” I reasoned, “there is no hope for you, not as you are. You could plot and scheme for a hundred years and never come up with a way to beat Chrysalis. She has all your magic at her command and an army to back her up. You have no chance and no hope of defeating her, even with my help you might still get caught escaping and then we’re all going to die. I’m risking my life to free you so that you have the chance to fight for your subjects. Live to fight another day and comeback when you stand a chance of winning.”

“How do we even know you’re telling the truth about me and you?” Luna asked, her eyes lidded with suspicion as she walked up to take her sister’s place, “For all we know this is another of Chrysalis’ games and you are simply the messenger.”

I paused for a moment, trying to think of a way to prove what I meant was the truth. Finally, an idea lit up inside my mind. My horn glowed and I slip a glob of resin into my telekinetic grip. Luna’s eyes widened as I shaped the goop into a sword and let it harden into a razor’s edge. Shining Armor and Celestia charged at me, but I stopped them with my magic before they could get to us. I turned my gaze back to Luna and moved the sword up to her. She eyed the weapon warily, and I nodded towards it to encourage her. Her eyes narrowed in suspicion as she reached down and gripped the hilt in her teeth, watching my every move as my horn stopped glowing.

Celestia and Shining Armor watched in confusion as I tilted my chin up and to the side, indicating my neck with one hoof, “To prove my worth I am giving you my life. If I am ever to expect you to trust your lives to me, I must be willing to do the same for you. If you wish it, you may strike me down where I stand, I will not stop you. After all that I’ve done I deserve a much harsher punishment than death.”
I closed my eyes and took a deep breath, “If you will trust me to lead you away from this pace and out of Equestria, then break the sword upon the ground. If I cannot be redeemed, then remove my head right here and now, while there is still time to escape on your own.”

“You cannot seriously expect her to do something like this,” Twilight said as her friends murmured their agreement, “what will this prove?”

“That my feelings for her are real and that I would do anything to protect her.” I opened my eyes and turned to look over my shoulder, “Colonel.”

Carapace saluted as she stepped forward, “Yes sir?”

“If Luna kills me, you are to follow her commands and do whatever it takes to see them safely out of the capital. Should this be my final order, I will trust their lives to you should they wish your assistance.”

She nodded, although her expression was anything but sure, “Y-Yes sir.”

I turned back to Luna, whose eyes were wide with shock as she met my gaze. I closed my eyes and waited for her decision. I tuned into her emotions and tried to figure out what she was thinking, although it was like jumping into a whirlpool with a rock tied to my tail. For several long minutes I waited, until her emotions calmed and were replaced by a rock hard resolve. The sound of shattering resin reached my ears, and I opened my eyes to see Luna spitting the hilt to one side.

“You can lead us out of this prison,” she spoke softly and without emotion, “but you will never again hold my trust.”

I nodded, “Very well. Come, we must go while there is still time. We have lingered here long enough as it is.”

We exited the cell as a group and raced down the hallways, heading back the way we had come as the remaining Shards fell in behind us. However, as we rounded a corner not too far from the cavern entrance, I was stopped dead in my tracks as raw terror raced through my veins. There, standing in front of us, was a squad of ten Changelings with Chrysalis at their head. Her expression was one of quit contemplation as she walked forward slowly, the Amulet of Autolycus swinging slowly around her neck.

“Well this certainly is a surprise,” she hummed to herself, “I was expecting some ponies trying to free their princesses. What is the meaning of this Silver Jacket? Are you trying to play some kind of game with my little toys?”

I took a deep breath to calm my nerves, “No mother. I am taking them with me, out of Equestria where you cannot hurt them anymore.”

She smirked, “That is quite the little joke Silver, but playtime is over. Return my prisoners to me and I will let you walk away without punishment.”

I planted myself in front of the ponies, the Shards moving to flank me as I lowered my head in challenge, “No. This ends now. Step aside so that we can leave and I will promise you will never see me again.”

Her expression morphed into one of slight shock, “You’re serious about this aren’t you? Why Silver? Why would you betray me and your kind for them? Ponies are nothing more than food for us to feed on. They are little more than livestock that we can control and do with as we please. Why would you stoop so low as to throw your lot in with their kind?”

“Because I know what it feels like to express love instead of simply feeding off of it.” I growled.

Her cackling laughter echoed off the walls as her troops joined in, “Love is food to a Changeling. We do not have the ability to feel love for ourselves. That is why we must feed off ponies in order to survive. You truly are a fool if you believe nonsense like that.”

I stepped forward, “You’re wrong mother. I have felt love, and you will never know that pain I felt when I betrayed Luna. Her love was like the sweetest sugar when we were together, and then I burnt it to a crisp when I turned the kingdom and her magic over to you. I will no longer stand for the injustice you have committed against the ponies. I will no longer stand by as you destroy the lives of an entire race for your own amusement.”

I stood as tall as I could and looked her dead in the eyes, “I will no longer stand as a Changeling King, and I will no longer stand as your son.”

As her eyes widened she managed to stutter out, “What, what are you doing?”

My horn lit up as my magic enveloped my crown, “Something that I should have done a long time ago.”

With a mighty crack I snapped my crown off at the base, biting my lip to hold in my cry of agony as splintering pain enveloped my head and neck. I powered through watering eyes as mother watched with utter shock, and threw the offending article to the ground.

“Today, I make my own choices about who I stand with.” I cried as I reared on my hind legs, “Today, I choose to stand for justice!”

With a roar of fury I brought my hooves down on my crown with all of my strength, shattering it into a million pieces as a brilliant flash of light erupted from the obliterated chitin and crystal. I stood there panting as green ichor ran down the sides of my face and between my eyes, doing my best to stand strong as pain pulsed up and down my spine.

For a moment nopony moved, although what happened next was something that nopony could have seen coming. A golden fire erupted from my hooves, and I hissed with pain as a brilliant burning sensation shot up my legs. I looked down and saw the fire begin to move up my body, and I cried out in agony as the pain multiplied tenfold. The volume and pitch of my scream rose higher and higher as the fire worked its way up my body, until I was screeching like a mare at the top of my lungs. I felt like I was going to die as the fire moved up my barrel and enveloped my wings, and I gasped just long enough to resume screaming as it moved up my neck.

Time and space lost all meaning to me. All there was to my universe was the pain. As the gold flames moved up past my eyes I was nearly blinded as the magic tore through my lids and penetrated into my mind. Yet the bliss of unconsciousness evaded me as the glow faded to normal, and I staggered as I tried to remain on my hooves. Through my stuttering breaths I heard everypony gasp, and I wondered for a moment what in the wide world of Equis had happened to me.

I opened my eyes and tried to keep my spinning vision on my hooves, although as my eyes cleared I noticed something odd. My hooves were slate grey, and more importantly, lacking in certain holes I knew should be there. I slowly lifted my head and looked behind me, taking in first the utterly flabbergasted expressions of both pony and Changeling alike, and then looking downward to take in my body. My eyes widened as I spotted more slate grey fur and a set of large feathered wings, along with an ice blue tail that shimmered slowly in an ethereal wind. A flash of near-white caught my eye and I used my horn to pull my mane into my line of sight. It too was a striking ice blue, and shifted slowly just like my tail did in a non-existent wind. My gaze traveled over my body once more, and I saw that my flank was marked by a pair of crossed swords overlaid by a gold set of scales. For a moment I thought I had transformed using my magic after I broke my horn, but when I tried to shift back my eyes widened when nothing happened. I concentrated and tried again, only to get the same result.

I turned so that I could look at the others behind me, my eyes wide with shock, “It would seem I’m no longer a Changeling.”

Author's Note:

Wait, what!?!?!?! *spit-take* Are you serious?!?! Who wrote this into the damn script?!
Umm, that would be you, you are the author after all.
But I had no idea he'd turn into that if he broke his crown! What kind of magic horseapples is this?!
My guess would be the magic of friendship or something like that.
*pinches nose with fingers* I need a drink after this one.
Anyway, I guess you know the drill by now.
See you all next chapter,
Shadow Quill, Messenger of the Moon.