• 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 19 - Entering the Valley

Chapter 19

“Ugh, how much further to go, Midnight?” complained Flaming Ivory, “my guts are killing me here.”

The sickened unicorn's stomach was bothering him, perhaps from having eaten a few too many slices of Cedar's spicy yet sweet gingerbread recipe. She had been happy to get rid of what she considered “leftovers”, an enormous amount of hot sweet bread still remaining after Bear's breakfast. Four very overstuffed ponies ended up leaving the couple's log cabin, although Flaming Ivory suspected his buddy Techorse had been shoving pieces of gingerbread into his saddle's cargo bay given how he wasn't experiencing quite the same level of gastrointestinal distress his friends were.

“I'm as stuffed as you are,” he responded with a painful moan, “we've got a few miles to go before we reach the valley. Maybe six.”

It had been so bad that Midnight Blaze only remembered letting out a gurgled “thanks” when they had left the couple behind. Honey Bear had a hearty laugh over how small their stomachs were, saying how they needed more days of hard work to get used to the meals. Looking behind him, Midnight stared at the least fortunate one, Shadow, who was rather distended.

“I'm gonna puke,” whined Shadow Breeze, looking green around the gills.

As if the amount of food in their bellies wasn't quite enough, Cedar had also insisted that the stallions would simply “starve out there in the cold” if they didn't accept a couple of packed lunches for the road. By a few, she had meant about one dozen double-decker peanut butter, maple, and marshmallow fluff sandwiches on toasted wheat. Again, Techorse had been left in charge of being the team's pack mule, and the inventor had a massive bag of food that smelled of melted peanut butter for about a meter around him.

“I'm not exactly doing my best either,” he admitted, feeling like he was going to fall asleep from the weight inside him, “but I made you guys skip anything remotely resembling a real breakfast to get out here. I made another stupid mistake.”

Shadow Breeze shook his head, “Don't blame yourself, we got piggy.”

“It's not that bad guys,” lied Midnight, “we just need to keep walking it off. Knowing us, we'll be starving by the time we get to the Valley of Shadows.”

Once more, there were no trees or signs of life out in the wilderness, just snowbanks and a cold wind from the north. Midnight was no longer required to use his thermal shield thanks to the cloud cover near the Crystal Empire having dissipated, but now the ponies were putting up with arctic blindness from the rays bouncing off of the pure white snow. Flaming Ivory stopped and put on his pair of sunglasses, shielding his retinas from the blinding light.

“I sure hope with a name like that it's a bit darker!” he joked, “This light's starting to kill me, too!”

“You bet it's darker,” answered the other unicorn, “look up. It's a couple miles out from us.”

Flaming Ivory noticed a darkening of the sky in the distance over a set of mountain ranges void of snow.

“Huh, inviting place,” he said sarcastically, “so that's where King Sombra came from?”

“I guess so,” answered Midnight, sighing, “doesn't look too inviting, does it?”

His friend gave a happy laugh, “Eh well, bet real estate's cheap!”

“Hey, guys,” whimpered Shadow Breeze, “if... Sombra actually did live there, do you think he has neighbors? As in, other evil unicorn ponies who might want us gone?!”

“I'm not sure,” commented Techorse, still barely moving with the bag on his back, “if there were, it would seem like they'd all have tried to take the Crystal Empire back in King Sombra's time. But for some reason, he acted alone. Maybe the other ponies in the Valley of Shadows didn't like him much, either.”

Midnight felt a surge of pain in his lower body, the earlier meal finally proving to be too much. He shuddered on his four legs, feeling his guts squeeze in pain.

“Woah, are you ok?” asked Shadow Breeze, stopping and grabbing his friend to help hold him steady.

Midnight's mind was mocked by the voice for his mistake, “Hmm, quite the appetite you have, Midnight!

“SHUT UP!” snapped the unicorn, scaring off Shadow Breeze, having forgotten he was the only one capable of hearing the voice.

“Midnight, what's wrong with you?” demanded Techorse, turning around and glaring at him.

All these pauses will never do,” sighed the voice lazily, “Turn on your aura, Midnight. I'm going to help you out with your little digestive issue so you can keep moving...

Complying with his ordered, Midnight's horn shined with the familiar turquoise color of his eyes. Instantly, Flaming Ivory felt as if his innards had been coated with a cooling, soothing fluid, like a minty beverage. Shadow Breeze and Techorse too felt the weight of their food vanish via magic within moments, breathing sighs of relief. Finally, Midnight felt his own alimentary canal settle into working order with a soft relaxation of his abdominal walls.

“Oh, I'm sorry!” sighed a happy Shadow Breeze to Midnight, “I didn't realize you were working on a stomachache spell for us, Midnight. That's really nice of you!”

“Yeah, I can walk again!” cheered Flaming Ivory, rearing up on his hind legs and kicking his front ones, “You're prepared for everything, Midnight!”

“Thanks,” he said softly, the aura around his horn vanishing, “sorry I snapped, I'm just really eager to get the valley.”

“Let's go then,” instructed Techorse with a friendly tone and a warm smile, “we're right with you.”

Now they were able to trot at a full pace, but Midnight was curious as to why the voice was able to help him.

Did you just teach me a new spell?” he thought, hoping to get an answer.

Unsurprisingly, he got a prompt response, “Yes, in the same manner you have been given your map. It's an ancient spell the wealthy would use to expunge their eaten food so they could continue to gorge themselves at feasts. I am disgusted by it, but it has its uses as you can see.

And how do you know that spell?questioned the unicorn mentally.

And once more, it refused to inform him about its origin, “You'll know. I promise your questions shall be answered soon enough!

Without their own internals giving them trouble anymore, Midnight was able to lead his team across the remainder of the frozen wasteland to the entrance of the valley. The snow quickly vanished in the transition, replaced by reddish soil and savanna grasses as the climate grew warmer. True to its name, it was a downhill slope from where the ponies were standing, mountains bracing the sides of the deep valley, which brought in water from the melted snow. Perhaps by some combination of ancient magic long lost to pony knowledge and volcanic activity, the sky remained darker overhead with a thin covering of darker clouds that truly failed to choke out the sun. In fact, despite the menacing name, trees and shrubs were happy to grow in the valley where the soil was less rocky, and a few small animals called it home gladly over the icy terrain outside.

“Huh, thought this 'Valley of Shadows' place would be a bit scarier,” said Flaming Ivory as he took his first few steps on the reddish clay, “didn't think King Sombra liked bunny rabbits.”

“Maybe it was originally called that because of the shadows cast by the rock structures,” suggested Techorse, pointing to a pillar nearby, “my guess is that Sombra corrupted this place when he was around... and it's a lot healthier now that he's gone.”

Midnight agreed happily, “All the more reason to make sure it stays that way. The castle should be a few miles ahead past the cliff faces over to the right there.”

“I'm still not sure how you know about this castle,” said Flaming Ivory, “are you sure you know where you're taking us?”

“You just have to trust me,” answered the other unicorn, not in the mood for another argument.

Despite the possible danger associated with walking past a sheer cliff face, there didn't seem to be another way to the supposed location of the castle, at least according to Midnight. It was already midday, and they were all aware the full moon would provide enough arcanic energy to power Luna's chalice. Even if Rosseth was insane and had no actual way of bringing back King Sombra, he would still have an untold amount of potion making power at his disposal. The party walked with their sides to a sheer wall of stone, crossing a narrow path around a ravine in the valley.

Shadow Breeze carelessly kicked a loose stone off of the cliff face, and held his head over the precipice with an ear out to listen for it pinging off the bottom of the pit. A few moments later, the stone shattering down at the base of the ravine sent a loud sound up to the peagsus, making him cringe in fear.

“That’s a long way down, guys,” he said cautiously.

“Yeah, and you’re the one of us saps who can fly, so don’t sweat it,” muttered Flaming Ivory, hugging the wall of the cliff side pathway along with Techorse and Midnight.

“Hey!” Shadow complained, “I’m just trying to help.”

“Flaming, stop,” warned Techorse, “we can’t get divided now. Rosseth will get the upper hoof!”

Despite Flaming Ivory’s grumbling, he was convinced to leave Shadow Breeze alone again, and they reached the other side of the narrow cliff path. The valley’s terrain had shifted to a number of cairns and small mesas scattered on a flat plateau, a few steam vents dotted about as evidence of geothermal activity. Near these vents, multiple jagged clusters of massive crystals of black and red color pointed to the sky. The plants and animals of the entrance of the valley were gone now, and the cloud cover had started to get much darker.

“We must be getting very close,” said Techorse, examining one of the crystal spires carefully.

“Hey Techorse, what are those?” asked Flaming Ivory, knocking on one of the towers with a hoof.

“They’re dark energy crystals,” said Midnight Blaze with a blank expression on his face.

His friends all looked at him as if he were crazy. Even Midnight knew he was talking from a source he didn’t actually know. Yet something compelled him to share the secret of the Valley of Shadows.

“What?” asked Techorse, “Midnight… how do you know that?”

“I can sense the dark magic in them,” he answered, “there’s so very little of it though per cubic inch of matter. Simply put, these energy crystals are not as efficient as those in the empire. That is why...”


The top of the crystal exploded in a shower of black shards as a bolt of energy struck it violently. Midnight snapped out of his trance as his friends dove for cover behind the crystal barricade, more magical shots flying past them.

“Take cover!” shouted Techorse.

Volleys of magical ordinance slammed into the crystal wall, smashing chunk of it off. But as soon as it had started, the attack was over, and the offensive spells fell silent.

“What was that?” whispered Shadow Breeze.

“What else? More of Rosseth’s illusions,” answered Midnight, “he must have left some behind to try and stop us.”

“How many do you think there are?” asked Techorse.

“Not sure,” answered Flaming Ivory, shaking his head, “and I ain’t poking my head out of cover to find out!”

Techorse’s saddle opened slowly, him careful not to have his servos make too much noise, and he picked up a nearby stone gently with his robot arms before casually tossing the reddish pebble away from the group. As soon as the rock hit the ground, it was consumed by a vaporizing blast of energy.

“We’re pinned,” said the inventor, stating the obvious.

“There’s gotta be a way we can see around without giving them a good shot at us,” Flaming Ivory said angrily.

Midnight Blaze concentrated for a moment, his horn pouring out magical energy, until a flat surface of reflective magic formed in front of him. Using it as a mirror, he floated the energy out just overhead the crystal, and then summoned a second surface carefully in front of him. He then connected the two tilted panes of magic with a thin tube of energy.

Shadow Breeze’s eyes grew wide, “What is that?”

“Magic periscope,” explained the unicorn.

“There’s no such spell,” said Flaming Ivory in disbelief.

Weeeeell, ok,” chuckled Midnight, rolling his eyes, “it’s two magic mirrors and a containment field, but it’s going to have to work.”

Techorse peered into the opening of the projected device, seeing in the hazy reflection of the sparkling aura a group of four illusions clustered together a good distance away from them next to one of the steam vents in the ground. The smirking zebra copies had their amulets locked onto the crystal, just waiting for the ponies to step out and be rewarded with a blast to the body.

“Ok, there’s four of them,” Techorse explained tactically, “they’re kind of far away, but they’re standing right next to each other, so a blast will take them all out at once.”

“That’s easy, just launch a pair of missiles and blow ‘em up!” laughed Flaming Ivory, “You’ve got this, Techie!”

His saddle opened up again, the missile racks emerging with one final pair of explosives. Techorse sighed, looking at his remaining ammunition.

“These are my last ones,” he said sadly, “after that I’m down to my laser cannons.”

“Eugh,” groaned Flaming Ivory, “that’s not good.”

“That’s ok, we need to keep moving, and they’ll knock out all those illusions,” the stallion said, “I just thought maybe later Rosseth would have something planned I might need them for.”

“We can’t take the risk of having you expend the last of your ammo on these stupid illusions,” Midnight added, “we’ll have to find some other way to deal with them.”

“Well what do you suggest?” asked Shadow Breeze.

“Chuck one of your shadow bombs at them,” answered the unicorn, “use the periscope here to aim.”

The timid pegasus folded his wings, and blushed, “I… can’t throw that far, Midnight.”

“Welp, we’re stuck behind this crystal then until they nab us,” sighed Flaming Ivory, “nice knowing you guys.”

Techorse drew his laser cannons, and stood up quickly, “Here’s what we’ll do. I’m going to jump out and distract them. You guys run around and use the crystals for cover. Once you are in range, take them down!”

Shadow Breeze gasped, “But Tech, you’ll get creamed!”

“I want to save my last pair of missiles, so I’ve got to be the one to do this,” he said in an overly dramatic fashion while taking off the bag of food on his back, “and if even three of us get to the castle Midnight’s talking about, we’ll be able to stop Rosseth and save the chalice.”

Midnight tried to protest, “Wait, Techorse, let’s think about...”

He had already jumped out from behind cover, laser cannons blazing forth energy bolts, receiving return fire from the enemy as he ducked and dodged. One of the cannons swiveled left and kept firing while Techorse ran in a parallel line to make himself harder to hit. The clones broke formation to spread out abreast, creating a wall of energy shots that started to become harder and harder for him to dodge, while making it much easier for them to avoid the yellow bolts coming towards them.

“Come on, we’ve got to move,” instructed Midnight, pushing Flaming and Shadow out from behind the crystal, “if we hurry we can flank them before Techorse gets himself hurt!”

Tech’s lasers continued to spray wildly at the clones, making them mix their attacks with evasive maneuvers, as a single hit would likely shatter them. One of the illusions stepped forward, and a snaking beam of electric energy shot out, striking Techorse in the side and electrocuting him horribly. Blue strings of ions danced across his coat, and a small explosion blew out the top panel of his saddle from the electrical feedback shorting out something of importance. The earth pony collapsed on the floor of the valley, red dust smearing his belly coat and legs. He stood up slowly on his legs, a spray of sparks flying from his dying robotic saddle. His friends were dashing for the closest crystal, moving behind the group of illusions.

“Come on guys, you can do this,” he said, a beam of magic missing him narrowly to the left of his face.

By moving quickly from formation to formation while the illusions weren’t watching, Midnight managed to move the other two stallions closer to their target without being seen.

“Shadow, get ready to drop a bomb right between them!” he ordered, “Techorse has them distracted now, he’ll...”

The ponies watched in horror as the illusions fired in unison on Techorse, the beams striking him in the chest and flipping him onto his back in a spray of light blue sparks. He lay motionless on the ground, his saddle giving one last pitiful whine as the motors gave out and the reactor inside cooled its fusion core off.

“N… no!” Midnight choked, “TECH!!!

Shadow Breeze felt tears build up in his eyes, having just watched his buddy get mowed down in front of him. He wanted to say something, anything, but no words were coming out.


The other two stallions dropped their sorrow for a moment. They could hear a noise like a saw cutting through iron, and slowly looked over their withers to see Flaming Ivory, his eyes glowing bright orange and his horn sparking like flint. It grew in intensity, and Midnight slowly backed off with Shadow, their ears drooping. Rosseth’s illusions felt the rage intensifying behind them, and turned around just in time to catch a glimpse of a massive orange ray of pure music-infused energy incinerating them where they stood, leaving nothing but four burning craters in the ground, flecks of magical energy in the shape of musical notes dancing in the air before vanishing.

Flaming Ivory’s horn powered down, his lungs struggling to keep up with his demand for air. Forgetting about how much energy he had just expended, he galloped over to Techorse, dropping to his knees and propping his friend up with his hooves. His eyes were shut, and the air around him smelled like burnt fur.

“Tech!” he shouted, “Please, answer me!”

Techorse’s eyes slowly opened up, “Did you get them?”

“Yeah...” answered Flaming Ivory tearfully, Midnight and Shadow now standing next to him, “we got them.”

Techorse removed himself from Flaming Ivory’s grasp and stood up, perfectly well. The engine inside his saddle came back to life, a few sparks flying from the doors but very little damage otherwise.

“Man, that hurt. Good thing Rosseth’s just trying to slow us down, huh?”

“Techorse, did you just play dead?” asked Midnight, stumped.

“It was the only thing I really could do,” he answered, “I knew you guys could do it, but with my saddle out from that electricity, I was in trouble.”

Techorse suddenly felt a heavy pain in his chest as Flaming Ivory clocked him right across the front with a hoof, knocking him to the ground. While he regained his footing again, the unicorn angrily pointed a hoof at him, tears streaming down his face.

“Don’t you ever do that again, Techorse! You scared me! I thought you were gone.”

In an almost opposite act, Flaming threw himself around Techorse and hugged him tightly, trying to dry his tears. Shadow Breeze added himself to the group hug, glad his friend was still alive as well, but Midnight hung back, mulling things over in his mind. He felt strange, as if he had always known he was meant to be a part of the team in front of him, like they were all connected in a way.

Midnight,” came the voice, shattering his daydreaming, “you’ve helped win another solid victory. But you must keep moving. Help heal the green stallion, and bring them to the palace.

The unicorn sighed, just wanting the nagging specter to go away, and helped break up the hug to keep them on the path. It was hard to tell from the dark clouds blocking the view of the sun, but it was already beginning to set.

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