• Published 8th Jan 2017
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The Lunar Chalice - Spirals95

A magical chalice prized to Princess Luna has resurfaced in the collection of a wealthy Griffon family. To retrieve the enchanted cup, she sends one of her followers and his friends. But some of Equestria's enemies have plans for the chalice.

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Chapter 11 - Shadow Trapped

Chapter 11

Midnight managed to catch up to his friends, who were standing near the base of the Crystal Palace, reading a map that was outstretched in Techorse's robotic arms, a couple of passerby crystal ponies looking in surprise at the mechanical saddle and the supporting limbs coming out of its sides. The three were gathered near the middle of the citadel's base, where the Crystal Heart would soon descend and stay for the remainder of the day.

“Hey guys, sorry about that,” he said to them as he galloped up, “what's the plan?”

Techorse turned a bit so that Midnight could peer over him and get a good look at the map of the Crystal Empire. The radial streets from the citadel extended miles in each direction, and there were all kinds of residential homes, shops, and inns marked clearly. Three black circles of ink were marked around some larger buildings Techorse had taken interest in... banks used to store the empire's mined power crystals.

“We're trying to figure out where we ought to go next,” muttered Techorse, a bit frustrated, “says here on the map there are three major power crystal banks in the city. I doubt we'll find Ross just wandering around the empire's streets, so we need to figure out which bank he's going to hit first so we can wait for him.”

“Why not just go with the biggest one?” asked Midnight Blaze, raising an eyebrow.

“Yeah, but see, Ross ain't a dumb... er, whatever he is Cadance said,” said Flaming Ivory, at a loss for words.

“I think the correct technical term is a zebroid,” Techorse said, finishing for him.

Flaming scoffed Techorse's annoying factoid, “As far as I'm concerned, the correct technical term for him is a pain in the...”

“Stay focused, please,” said Shadow gently with a cough, not wanting to hear it.

“Fine, fine,” said the light gray unicorn, smirking, “anyways, what I was trying to say was... Ross isn't stupid. He probably thinks we're thinking he's gonna hit the big bank first! So we gotta pick one of the other banks first!”

“But what if he knows that we know that he's going to hit the biggest crystal deposit first?” worried Shadow Breeze, “Then he'll hit the biggest one while we're not there!”

Techorse fell for the mental trap, “Yeah, but then if he figures that we'll not go to the biggest one, then change our minds, we'll...”

He paused for a moment, thinking carefully about the logical circle they were trapped in, and worked quickly to dig them out.

“Hey, wait a minute. Just because the bank is the biggest one doesn't mean the supply of crystals stored there is the biggest. Ross is probably going to go for the one with the biggest stock first,” he said as he folded the map and stowed it away inside the saddle along with the arms.

“That's probably a safe bet,” agreed Midnight Blaze, “we ought to go to each of them and ask the locals which bank has the most crystals. Of course, it's going to look pretty awkward asking which bank's the most full...”

“Sounds like you need a diplomat,” Shadow Breeze said, lifting himself into the air with happy flaps of his wings.

“Indeed,” said Flaming Ivory, “you're going to be useful again, Shadow!”

“Thanks Flaming!” he said, deflecting the insult, “But the Crystal Ponies are so nice, I don't think they'll need much more than a please and thank you. I couldn't imagine them saying no.”

“Yeah, hard to imagine Crystal Ponies going hostile,” agreed Techorse, pushing back a laugh, “I had to decline about four free lunches last time I was here. But we're going to have to pick the right ones to talk to, not all the Crystal Ponies help out with the mining operations.”

“I'll figure it out,” assured the pegasus above them, “you guys just work on how we're going to catch the zebra!”

“The technical term is a zebroid!” corrected Flaming Ivory while making his voice sound nasally.

Techorse wrinkled his nose, “Very funny.”

“I'm just teasing,” he said, flicking his fluffy tail, “I'm sure you'll get back at me later, champ!”

An earth pony mare with a sandy-colored coat walked down one of the central streets of the empire, a subtle mixture of happiness and arrogance on her face as was usual for her as she strolled down the roads to go shopping for herself. Wherever she went in her home city, ponies recognized her, and smiled whenever they saw her face. Sometimes, she was even able to use her status to get a nice discount or the latest deal before all the others.

Today's agenda was to purchase a brand new perfume in hopes of smelling nice for a mister Sharp Loupe, a gentle yet influential crystal mine owner from down the street she had her eyes on ever since she had gotten her new, powerful job with Equestria.

“Good morning senator Gaveler!” said a merry crystal pony selling garden tools in a nearby shop.

“Ah yes, good morning,” she answered, “I hope business is doing well for you!”

“It's doing great,” the shopkeeper said, smiling, “have a nice day now!”

Gaveler winked one of her bright green eyes at the shopkeeper without saying another word, and continued her prideful stroll down towards the perfume shop. Her hairstylist recognized her coming down the street as well, and she pulled her over.

“Hang on, Miss Gaveler,” she ordered, pulling her aside, “you've got something stuck in your hair.”

“Oh my!” answered the senator, pursing her lips, “Why thank you for letting me know.”

“Just a bit of a tangle,” said the unicorn, taking a comb out from behind her left ear, “let me fix it.”

She stood there, getting out the knot from Gaveler's long, orange hair spiked with hot pink. The long mane was held back with a blue ribbon, as was her similarly cut tail. Once the offending chunk of hair was straightened and combed into order, the hairdresser bid her favorite customer goodbye, and sent her on her way.

It's good to be the senator,” she thought to herself, “ever since Equestria brought the vote here, popularity has never been so enriching! Of course, representing my constituents is easy when all they ask is that I keep the crystal banks safe and their sales nice and high!

Gaveler reached her destination, the fragrance store right in the center of town she liked to visit when searching for a new scent to try, and pushed open the door with her hoof. A gentle odor of roses and other flowers drifted outside, and the mare took a deep breathe before sighing in relief. The inside of the shop was lined with bottle after bottle of perfumes, carved from large inert crystals leftover from the mining operations in the empire, each topped with a brass sprayer.

The owner of the store, a light blue pegasus stallion, heard his shop door open and emerged from the back wearing an old trench-warfare styled gas mask, which he removed and set on the front counter of his small store just next to the cash register.

“Oh, Gaveler, good to see you again ma'am!” he said happily, fixing his mane hair with his hoof as the mask had messed it up, “Just got done handling some really strong chemicals, they'll burn your nose off without one of these things.”

“I can imagine,” said the senator, looking at the mask's scary appearance, a bulky hose extending from the front, “now if you don't mind, I'm looking for a new perfume that'll impress a nice stallion.”

“Oooh, finally gonna talk to Sharp huh?” he asked, snickering, “Hope you asked him if he has perfume allergies first before coming here. Hard to talk to a date who's sneezing the whole time.”

“It has to be something subtle, or in simpler terms, something you don't need that mask to make,” continued Gaveler, “what do you have along those lines, Diffuser?”

“I've got a brand new mountain lily one,” he answered, batting his eyebrows before setting a yellow bottle on the table with his wings.

“I said subtle, not boring,” groaned the mare, “it needs to be something he'll go crazy for.”

“So subtle, but not subtle,” sighed Diffuser, rolling his eyes.

“I know that my smart, talented citizen Diffuser can think of something nice,” Gaveler teased, batting her eyelashes, “put your mind to it. If he stays around with me, there'll be something in it for you a bit better than one measly sale.”

Diffuser like the idea of a big reward for landing the senator a new prospect, “Welllll, there is one thing I've got. It's a peppermint spray made from the extract, kind of like a very faded candy, but once you've been around it a while, you just notice a fresh smell like clean linens. I think it might be what you want.”

She was presented with the bottle, a rounded crystal of opaque white and green that was cut in the shape of a spearmint candy, and the mare tried a puff of it on her hoof, smelling the concoction deeply. It was the perfect smell she wanted for her big date, and she laughed gently as she looked back at Diffuser.

“Now, see? That wasn't so hard, was it? Just put it on my tab.”

The bottle was quickly swept up into her purse, disappearing into the red bag. Diffuser ran up the price of the bottle on his register and set the receipt aside for when Gaveler would send him his check later in the month. He knew he was going to be getting his bits from her, she always paid him whatever price he asked so long as she got to pay it later!

“Sure thing,” he answered finally, knowing the sale was secure, “good luck! That Sharp's a lucky stallion!”

“Luck has nothing to do with it,” answered the older mare, smiling back at him.

Sharp Loupe poured himself a nice glass of spring water as he sat outside of his favorite bookstore, his most recent purchase open in front of him at one of the tables provided by the shop. An earth pony stallion with a tan coat hidden by a fine suit and a white mane with orange stripes, the young mine owner minded his own business with his book and his drink. Occasionally he would glance up from the fiction novel to watch the other ponies go by, and then he'd return to the work once he got bored with ponywatching.

“Oh Shaaaarp!” sang a merry voice all too familiar.

“Hmm?” he answered, looking up from his book.

“A very good morning to you, Sharp Loupe,” said Senator Gaveler, standing in front of him, fluffing her hair with a hoof, “how's the book?”

Sharp had been receiving friendly visits from her over the course of the past month or two, sometimes getting a nice gift from the mare, like a new book or a bottle of his favorite drink. He had been cautious about the gifts, suspecting she wanted some kind of political favor since he owned such a vast and productive mining operation. The stallion hoped he could get her off his back if she expected some kind of a favor.

“It's very nice, thanks,” he answered, smiling in an effort to be friendly to her.

“So what kind is it?” she asked, leaning in closer while batting her eyelashes, “Action? Mystery....”

Gaveler leaned closer and made clean eye contact with Sharp's big orange eyes, “Romance?

“It's the middle one, mystery,” he answered, ignoring her advances, “a brand new book by a pony who lives outside the empire, goes by the name Wishful.”

With her moves on him apparently not dropping the hint enough, Gaveler sighed and smacked her lips.

“Sharp, what I'm trying to say here is, I've been meaning to ask you something for a while.”

Totally oblivious, Sharp closed his book and gave his full attention, “Oh, sure senator, I'm sorry.”

“Oh please, we're the same age, call me Gaveler,” chuckled the mare, waving a hoof in front of her face as if fanning herself in embarrassment, “now, onto my question... would you like to accompany me on a little outing?”

From her purse came two red-colored tickets lined with silver, each with the same time stamped on them. They were passes to one of the greatest restaurants in the empire, The Champagne Palace, one of the hardest ones to get reservations for with usually over a month's wait. Sharp saw the tickets, and finally understood why the senator had been visiting him and talking to him so much. It wasn't a political favor she was after... she wanted him!

“Oh... oh my,” he said, blushing, “those are tickets to The Champagne Palace...

“I was wondering if perhaps you'd like to eat supper with me next week,” said Gaveler in a gentle way, “I've watched you work so hard to maintain that business of yours, and, well... I was hoping you might want a nice break.”

“Sheesh, I am so sorry, Gaveler,” answered Sharp, standing up, “all those times you visited and hung out with me, I thought you were going to ask me to fund your next campaign or... something a bit more sketchy. Forgive me!”

The mare's ears fell back, “Heavens... no, I... oh dear. I should have thought about the consequences of giving gifts to somepony in your position. Did you think... I was bribing you?”

Sharp sat back down, his business suit in a mess now, “I did... I just thought there'd be no other reason for a senator to be giving me gifts. Getting caught making a deal like that would ruin me.”

Gaveler thought she was going to cry, having messed up everything just by trying to be nice. All of that confidence she had was gone, and she slowly put the tickets back into her purse while trying not to sob.

“Well, ok... I'm sorry,” she said slowly, “I suppose I'll go now. I didn't mean to upset you.”

“I haven't said no yet.”

Her face lit up, “Oh?”

“Well now that I know you were being nice to me for real... I kind of enjoyed it,” he answered.

She squealed and hugged him, “Thank you! It's a date.”

“Come on Gaveler, don't make a scene,” laughed Sharp.

A unicorn came along and banged her hooves on their table, “Hey! Techorse is here! Didn't you two see everypony else going to watch?”

“Techorse?” asked Gaveler, raising an eyebrow.

“Yeah, he's here on a mission from Princess Luna, and he's got his buddies with him,” she answered, nodding eagerly, “he's the guy who helped during the invasion!”

“Oh, yes, now I know what you're talking about,” said Sharp, “let's go meet him! I'm sure he's got a good reason for being here.”

Gaveler felt like the moment was being ruined. Her moment. Even if one of Luna's friends was in town, he shouldn't be distracting her new stallion from their date planning. She carefully concealed her annoyance with a smile, and walked with Sharp side by side until they reached a crowd of crystal ponies surrounding the four stallions.

“Hey, hey, no pictures!” shouted Flaming Ivory as he was blinded by a camera.

“Mr. Techorse, Mr. Techorse!” asked an earth pony stallion wearing a reporter's hat, “Why are you in the Crystal Empire?”

“We're looking for Princess Luna's chalice,” he answered, going slowly enough for the other pony to take notes, “it's been stolen by a zebra who's loose in the empire right now!”

“Scandal! Outrage!” declared the fast-talking reporter, “So any good leads on this perpetrator? Need any help finding him?”

“We've got the guards helping us, but if you see a zebra, let us know, we need all the help we can get,” responded the stallion, nodding.

“Oh! Mr. Techorse!” sang a happy go luck pegasus mare, “Could you please show us your big, strong, robot arms we've heard about before?”

Techorse laughed, “They're not big or strong...”

“We just want to see your machine saddle work, oh I bet it's cool!” she squealed.

“Come on Tech,” teased Flaming Ivory, 'elbowing' Techorse with his front leg, “give the mare what she wants!”

He rolled his eyes, and quickly spotted a nearby flower growing from out of a lonely crack in the pavement. So, he walked over, and the doors on his saddle opened with a mechanical whir, giving way to the jointed, thin metal limbs as they reached out. Techorse picked the flower with one of the hands, and gave it to the pegasus mare, who put in underneath one of her hair ribbons and screamed in joy.

“All right, all right, a picture of the lady and Techorse!” said the reporter, stepping up, going back for the camera around his neck.

Since he was an earth pony, he had to stand up on his hind legs and struggle to operate the bulky camera around his neck with his hooves. Midnight saw his plight, and frowned, before getting an idea and walking up to the reporter quickly, drawing out a small sapphire gem with his magic. The gemstone was pushed onto the reporter's head, and he dropped to all fours before complaining at the unicorn's antics.

“Hey, hey, what are you doing!” he said quickly, “Stop touching me!”

“Trust me, this'll help you,” assured Midnight, before seeing a flash come from the gem.

With a quick motion, he magically adhered the gemstone to the camera, which was now slaved to the reporter's thoughts.

“Try moving your camera just by thinking about moving it, as if you had robot arms like Techorse,” instructed Midnight.

“Well ok, don't see what that's gonna do...”

To his surprise, the gemstone glowed, and the camera was lifted up in front of his face. Out of shock, the reporter released the magic link by accident, and the camera dropped back around his neck, the strap tugging on him.

“Hey! This is crazy,” he said, trying it again, this time lifting the camera up to his eyes and snapping a photo of Techorse and his fan mare, “What is this thing?”

“It's a mindstone,” he answered, “I don't really need to explain how it works, but I'm hoping to make them out of crystals from here instead of gems some day. They're a bit pricey though.”

“This is such a good idea, I... I gotta do a story on it sometime,” the reporter said, laughing out of happiness, “This'll be big!”

“You really think so?” said Midnight, elated.

Gaveler, having had enough of Techorse and his friends' distractions, pushed forward with Sharp.

“Excuse me,” she interrupted rudely, pushing the reporter aside, “yes, hello, which one of you is Techorse again?”

“Me,” answered the green stallion, smiling as his saddle retracted the arms and closed tight, “how can I help you?”

“I'm senator Gaveler, our empire's representative outside of the royal family,” answered the mare, bowing gently, “I understand you're very busy so I'm going to have to ask everypony else here to leave you to your work.”

“Awww!” came responses from the crowd.

“I really appreciate the help, senator,” thanked Techorse, “but we've got a little time, we're mostly going to be laying a trap for the zebra we're after.”

That particular zebra was watching from a nearby rooftop, having climbed up stealthily in order to watch for his opponents. Rosseth looked at the four ponies facing the large group of residents, and wondered how he could slow Techorse down long enough for him to take the crystals he needed. Looking around, he spotted the amulet around Shadow Breeze's neck. A small wisp of shadow energy flickered from the gemstone, and Rosseth's knowledge of artifacts led him to believe his adversary could control shadow magic, just as his gave him illusions and electricity.

“Maybe that amulet Shadow Breeze has could be used to stop him,” pondered the half-zebra aloud, “I've just got to get the crystal ponies aware of its dark powers, and then they'll do the rest for me!”

He quietly descended from the roof with a careful jump, and found a mare in the very back of the crowd who wasn't able to hear much due to her shorter height. Tapping her on the shoulder with a striped hoof, the young adult spun around to see him.

“Oh hey, a zebra!” she said, the usual crystal friendliness coming through.

“Yes yes, I'm a zebra,” he said, rolling his eyes while smiling.

She giggled, “So what's up, stranger?”

Rosseth asked in the most polite of manners, “Well, I've noticed you're all trying to see Techorse and his friends. One of them is named Shadow Breeze, and he can do cool tricks with his amulet. I'd like to see them. Do you think you could go to the head of the crowd and ask for me?”

“Oh yes,” answered the mare, “I've been stuck back here anyways, so maybe it'll be fun. Wait a second.”

She pushed through the other ponies, shoving her way to the front, where she saw the four stallions. One of them was indeed wearing a bright red ruby amulet, and she walked up to him.

“Hey mister, are you Shadow Breeze?” she asked.

“Yes,” he smiled, “is there something I can do for you?”

“Yeah, actually, I wanna see some of the tricks you can do with your amulet!” she answered, jumping up and down, “I've heard they're cool.”

“Sure!” he answered, grinning, “Watch this.

Without thinking, Shadow Breeze let his amulet activate, and long tendril of shadow energy came out, silencing the crowd as it formed a shadow puppet in the air of a tree shedding individual leaves. Many of the crystal ponies, to the horror of Shadow, started to scream at the sight, and he rapidly shut off his trick, letting the shadow energy snake back into the gem. Techorse and Flaming Ivory frowned at the mass terror and panic that had spread through the crowd, and the reporter snapped a quick photo of the 'horror' before beginning to shake in fear.

“Oh my goodness, what happened?” he asked, looking at the terrified ponies.

“Dark magic!” shrieked one of the mares, “He... he's with...”

“Why? WHY!?” screamed another pony.

Gaveler had a little bit more sense than her fellow crystal ponies, but she knew why they were panicking. The shadow art had reminded them of a much worse time in their lives, and dark magic was very much against the law. An idea came to her mind, which made her smirk sinisterly before she pointed with a hoof at Shadow Breeze.

“Seize that stallion at once! Arrest him for the illegal use of dark magic and causing public disturbance!”

“What?!” cried Shadow Breeze, cowering as several crystal pony stallions marched forward, hatred in their eyes, “I didn't mean to do anything! How was I supposed to know you hated shadows?!”

Heh heh, now those stupid stallions won't get in the way of my plans with Sharp!” thought Gaveler, before chuckling as Shadow Breeze was pinned down by the stallions and propped up.

“Hey, hooves off Shadow!” said Flaming Ivory angrily, his eyes beginning to glow orange, “He didn't do anything to hurt you guys!”

“Ah but he did, you see, you've reminded us of our suffering,” explained Gaveler, “even common shadow magic is illegal, as it is an art of our captor.”

“But I'm not trying to hurt ponies,” begged Shadow Breeze, “please don't hurt me!”

“Well I think we can go easier on you seeing as you were only trying to entertain, but you'll still be in prison for a while,” she said, “take him away, and lock him up until we can get a trial for him.”

“Senator, I'm warning you,” said Techorse sternly, his sense of justice apparent, “if you do this to Shadow Breeze, you're going to put everypony in danger. If we don't have him here, it'll be harder for us to stop that zebra.”

The mare who had suggested the shadow puppet show suddenly felt her throat run dry, “Uh oh...”

“Sorry Techorse,” laughed Gaveler haughtily, “it's the law. You're welcome to visit your little friend whenever you want. In the meantime, we'll be happy to aid you with your zebra hunt.”

Sharp had felt some horror from seeing the shadow magic, but he felt sorry for the kindly pegasus being dragged off by the stallions. Gaveler came up to him and smiled, leading him away already from the dispersing crowd, and wondered if she was doing the right thing.

The remaining three ponies stood there, anger on their faces. One timid mare approached them, the one Rosseth had talked to, tears running down her face as she walked up to Techorse.

“Mr. Techorse, I think I did something really bad,” she said, about to cry, “the zebra you were talking about? He told me to ask Shadow to do tricks. I didn't realize his tricks were going to be shadows.”

Flaming Ivory shouted, and a column of orange energy filled with musical note shaped sparks shot into the sky, emptying his anger through his magic. After the blast left his horn, his eyes returned to their usual brown, and he fumed to himself.

“That pain in the flank Ross tricked you!” he growled, “And he's gotten Shadow put in the slammer! I'll rip his stripes off one at a time when I get my hooves on him!”

“I'm sorry!” bawled the mare, spooked by Flaming Ivory's anger, “I didn't mean it!”

“We don't blame you,” assured Techorse, “Ross is up to no good, though. If you see him again, let us know. In the meantime, we'll try to deal with Gaveler and get her to let Shadow out of jail.”

“Ok!” answered the mare, standing up and wiping her tears away, “I'm sorry for crying, I just got a bit scared by the shadows... and your friend going ballistic.”

“Ugh, sorry,” answered Flaming Ivory, “maybe Shadow's right about that whole powder keg thing.”

“I'm going to go looking for that zebra again, see you later,” she said.

The pegasus mare smiled and left the three stallions to figure out what to do.

“You know what, this is all that Gaveler's fault,” growled Flaming Ivory, “she's a jerk and a total creep.”

Midnight Blaze smirked, “Well she is a politician...”

“We need to just catch up with her and explain what's going on,” ordered Techorse.

“You already explained what's going on,” said Midnight, “if she didn't believe you the first time, what will another try do for us?”

Flaming Ivory, of course, wanted to do things the aggressive way.

“Well, I say we dig up the biggest dirt we can find on her and make her get Shadow Breeze out of prison,” he said, slamming his hoof on the ground.

“Blackmail? What are we, Discord?” joked Techorse.

“Maybe Flaming is right, but we don't need to dig up any dirt, because we already have it!” said Midnight, grinning.

“Of course I'm right!” said Flaming, before awkwardly continuing, “But wait... what dirt do we have already?”

“She's thrown Techorse's friend into jail... if she doesn't let him out, we'll just let Cadance know and she'll deal with the senator,” answered Midnight, snickering, “she doesn't know we're friends with her, too.”

“You're right, Midnight,” said Techorse confidently, “I'm sure Cadance wouldn't be too happy about this. Let's see if Gaveler's wiling to let this go first, though.”

Knowing the direction she had left in, the stallions left in pursuit of the senator. Shadow Breeze would be free whether she liked it or not!

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