• 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 23 - A King Returns

Chapter 23

A massive pile of fallen rocks and ceiling tile buried the torn and faded red carpet on the floor of the darkened castle. Dust and debris floated around, the usual leftovers from a collapsed floor in an ancient ruined palace. From the impromptu collection of stone, Flaming Ivory pushed his way out of the pile, dirt and bruises all over his neck and face.

“All right,” he muttered as loudly as he could, “if you’re alive, groan in pain.”

His friends answered with their aching voices, the ponies moving the rubble away so that they could get out. Miraculously they had all survived the fall, the ceiling of the castle’s main hallway was nearly sixty feet tall from the hard, unforgiving floor to the makeshift sunroof created by the magical accident in the laboratory. Pillars of stone supported the side walls for several meters until hitting pitch darkness, but Flaming Ivory could tell the room was quite long.

“Well, guess that’s that then,” sighed the unicorn, shrugging off the fall, “Ross’s science project failed, and the chalice is somewhere in this rock pile.”

Techorse walked out of the stone fragments, battered as well, and peered down the hallway, “Where’s Ross?”

“He’s probably still under the rock,” answered Shadow Breeze, flapping his wings rapidly to get all the dust out, “we’re going to have to dig him out.”

“Well if we’re going to drag him back to Cadance kicking and screaming, let’s start digging,” Midnight Blaze agreed, activating his magic to grab the first rock.

Please, allow me! It is my own abode after all.

The ponies froze, having heard the curious voice in the darkness. It didn’t belong to Rosseth, nor any of them, and they were struck with curiosity, except for Midnight. He recognized the voice immediately, and his blood ran cold with fear.

It was the voice that had been with him the entire journey.

Red magical energy surrounded the stones, Techorse and company jumping out of the way to avoid getting picked up with the destroyed floor as it magically lifted to the high ceiling. Each piece fitted in like a puzzle, and within seconds the entire ceiling had been rebuilt magically. Bright flashes of flame and fire shot from the long hallway, igniting torches and illuminating the room, the stallions covered their eyes quickly as their pupils shrunk from the sudden burst of light.

Now with the hallway well lit, Techorse slowly lowered his hoof from his face and got a good look at what was in front of him.

“What…?”

Rosseth lay on the floor, grumbling about his injuries, but the zebra’s survival so close to the magical blast was hardly the surprise that had Techorse shocked. Just behind him, stood a tall, imposing unicorn stallion with a dark gray coat, a thick and handsome black mane slicked back behind a circlet crown, and heavy armor plating underneath a long red and white royal cloak. Against the depictions of him in books and propaganda, King Sombra bore a handsome face and softer green eyes, although his horn remained curved and tipped with a magma color, and he was still breathing out a purplish haze with each exhale… but even that was growing fainter with each breath.

It smiled at him, his small fangs pushing forward, “You look like you’ve seen a ghost, Techorse.”

“King Sombra,” growled the inventor, bracing and drawing his laser cannons, “I can’t believe it but, I guess Ross’s plan actually worked.”

“Absolutely,” answered the king, shutting his eyes and nodding gracefully, “Rosseth is a very smart, talented zebra who understands what it means to be seen as an outsider. Your underestimation of his skill was foolish at best, Techorse.”

Rosseth managed to stand up on his hooves and laugh happily at his own accomplishment, “Ah! Your Majesty! I… I did it!”

Sombra dismissed him, “Yes, you did… and I will be happy to reward you handsomely, after I’ve taken care of a few things….”

Shadow Breeze started to shake like a leaf, hiding behind Flaming Ivory even as the musician rolled his eyes in disbelief. King Sombra stepped forward, his size and presence being made known with his armor clanking with each motion of his legs, the cape swishing behind him without aid of air flow.

“Now, each of you has something I want,” he said, his manly voice calm yet ominous, “and I will be a far more gracious stallion if you give it to me without resistance. Of course, I can already see one of you has his weapons drawn. Do you really think you stand a chance?”

“Ha ha, Tech’s lasers go right through armor like a knife through hot butter,” teased Flaming Ivory, “all your smack talk is gonna get you burnt, Sombra!”

The unicorn’s haughtiness stopped, and he felt his mane hair stand up a little when the king reacted with delight rather than anger, “Oh, lasers? That sounds a bit ahead of my time, but… that’s exploding light, correct? What a… wise choice of weapon against the shadows. I’m going to enjoy this, but since my armor won’t help me...”

A loud blast sounded, and most of Sombra’s plating, save for the guards around his hooves blew off, each disappearing in a puff of sinister dark smoke as it hit the walls of the room. More of the king’s gray coat was visible, and his cape appeared to be clasped around his neck similar to another pony Techorse knew….

“Ah, it feels so good to be corporeal again,” chuckled the shadowy royal, “being a phantom can really taint one’s beauty.”

His green eyes moved over Midnight, a twinkle shining in the king’s eye as if to send a message.

“Enjoy it while it lasts,” taunted Flaming Ivory, his eyes glowing orange, “you’re about to face the music!”

“Seriously Flaming?” complained Shadow Breeze, “That was awful.”

“Well, shall we get on with it then?” asked the king, “I’m going to enjoy your efforts to vanquish me!”

The four stallions stood near each other, facing Sombra, with Rosseth looking on from the back with a wicked grin on his face, eager to watch his new ally take down the pesky ponies who had dogged him the whole way to the castle.

“And once you’re out of the way, Cadance will be next!”

Techorse’s guns opened up, spraying bolts of energy into Sombra, who vanished in a vast mist of darkness. The blasts of light dissipated into the fog, failing to explode. It moved around like a whirlwind, absorbing the shots harmlessly, traveling for the center of the hallway lined with tan stone. Sombra then broke the shadowy cover, dropping out and opening up with his own blasts from his horn. Magic energy spat forward in the form of fragmented blasts that resembled hot coals, peppering Techorse with fire and flame. With the excessive heat burning around him, along with the waste heat from firing his weapons, the saddle gave out a sad cry before shutting down to cool, the cannons pointing to the floor helplessly.

“Don’t worry Tech, I’ve got this!” shouted Flaming Ivory, jumping forward, eyes ablaze.

A long string of orange musical notes flowed from his horn at Sombra, striking the ground just before him with a massive chord of noise. He backed off, ceasing the attack on Techorse to turn his attention to Flaming Ivory.

“Ah, musical magic! What kind of musician are you, anyways, having figured out how to weaponize it?” he laughed, another bar of energy just narrowly missing him by inches.

Sombra’s horn accumulated a strong black mist, shortly thereafter launching his own ghostly staff of music at Flaming Ivory’s neon orange magic. The two bars of music collided and dissipated in a blinding flash of light, yet not a single audible effect was heard from the collision.

Flaming Ivory bared his bottom teeth, “My biggest enemy… noise cancellation.”

“Perhaps my love of the classics has taught me how to fight back against an explosive F Sharp, huh?” mocked Sombra, only to be smashed in the barrel by a long blob of cyan plasma.

The burning energy knocked him to the ground, startling Rosseth, who was certain the monarch wouldn’t take even a single hit in the entire battle. Instead, Midnight Blaze, horn still smoldering while he panted heavily, had managed to land a powerful energy blast right into his side. Sombra got back up quickly, and glared over at the sapphire unicorn with a sickening look of joy on his face.

“Very good, Midnight Blaze, but I am not interested in fighting you. We will talk later,” he said, his horn glowing red.

Without thinking to move out of the way, a long beam of red energy struck out, zig-zagging back and forth. Midnight Blaze’s eyes tracked the magical attack, and he attempted to leap out of the way just a bit too late, the energy striking him dead center. The unicorn’s mortal cries were heard for a split second as he vanished in a rapidly shrinking ball of red light.

“NO!!!” screamed Shadow Breeze along with his friends, his eyes widening in horror, “Midnight!”

His legs shook with heavy anxiety, but something inside the timid pegasus snapped wide open at the sight of Midnight being taken so suddenly. Tears streamed across his face, and his voice creaked in terror, but a long tendril of shadow energy came forth from his amulet and started to swirl in a ball of shadow magic growing rapidly in front of him. Techorse and Flaming Ivory looked at each other and backed up a bit as the lightning in the room changed from half of it being blocked out.

Even King Sombra began to get a little hot under the collar as he watched the amulet use his own preferred magic type to do something terrifying. Yelling like a lunatic, Shadow Breeze was standing on his hind hooves, his front ones bent in weakness as he struggled to carry a gigantic shadow bomb eight times the size of the tiny stallion underneath. The long, dark fuse ignited, Shadow Breeze’s brown eyes burning with a hint of yellow.

“AAAAAHH!” shrieked the pegasus like a schoolmare, flying up into the air and throwing the massive sphere of explosives at King Sombra.

The giant bomb planted into the floor in front of him, ruining the floor as it burrowed into the stone with a loud crunch. Its fuse hissed as the summoned object burned close towards detonation, leaving Sombra and Rosseth flabbergasted at the size.

“I’ve… I’ve honestly never seen a Shadow Grenade cast this large before,” marveled Sombra, who found himself being mocked by Shadow, hovering above him with his wings spread out and his left eye twitching.

“HA HA!” laughed Shadow Breeze maniacally, smiling like a lunatic, “Guys, I did it! When that goes off it’ll get rid of Sombra and everything else in the room!”

“And where are we, Shadow Breeze?” asked Flaming Ivory sternly, the concept making the pegasus land on the floor and think about his actions.

The graphite peagsus folded his wings in embarrassment as the realization struck him, “Oh… yeah. The same room.”

Rosseth stepped up to the magical bomb, and licked the frog of his hoof sloppily, ramming it into the burning rope. It defused with a sad crackle, then disintegrated into a fine mist of shadow across the floor.

“I’m sorry,” said Shadow meekly, “I was really scared.”

Techorse felt his saddle come back to life, the laser cannons perking back up, “It’s ok Shadow. I’m a bit scared too, honestly.”

Sombra pushed Rosseth away with a wall of green magical energy, the zebra backed off reluctantly but understood his place. The king had no desire to be rudely interrupted while fighting. He returned to the three remaining ponies, a more cold expression.

“You’re all wasting time,” he said, “I’ve enjoyed seeing the kinds of strategies you have to offer, but you cannot hope to win against the power of the shadows. This is your last chance to give up, before each of you are dispatched.”

Techorse felt the laser cannons slide back into his saddle, and recalled something quite important given the situation. He hadn’t used his last pair of missiles to destroy the chalice, and now that Sombra was unarmored he’d be fairly weak to them. All he had to do was make sure his enemy didn’t see the launch coming. The battle saddle’s doors remained open, and Techorse made sure his last reloads clicked into place on the launchers.

“It doesn’t have to end this way, King Sombra,” he said, “you can come peacefully.”

“Come peacefully? And have that sun-moving nag turn me into a fine powder later? Techorse, I am enjoying being alive far too much,” scoffed the ruler.

“Princess Celestia has been a much better leader since you last saw her,” assured Techorse, “I would know. I met her during a really bad time for Equestria… and she was good to me!”

“I know that,” he answered, “I know everything about you and your friends, Techorse. Midnight told me.”

“Wait… what?” coughed Flaming Ivory.

“I could explain, but it would not do you much good,” said Sombra, maintaining a smirk and shutting his eyes, “unless of course you intend to...”

The loud WOOSH of rocket motors igniting followed by an angry pair of missiles came from Techorse’s saddle, the king having been distracted enough to give him time to launch without being seen. His eyes opened to the pair of rockets headed straight for him with intent to destroy, their owner staring into him with a taste for justice radiating from him. Sombra put all four hooves firmly on the ground, and curled his lips into a patient smile.

“Well played, Techorse.”


A column of fire erupted from where Sombra stood, the explosion turning out to be way larger than Techorse had anticipated, pushing him back and making his mane and tail flap in the sudden air movement. He mashed his eyes shut, the hot and burning wall of fire blinding him, soon replaced with a cool silence as the missiles’ warheads died out.

With the fight being over, he slowly opened his eyes… to the beautiful streets of Canterlot, which startled him. Sure, there was a smoldering crater a few meters away where the evil king had once stood, but now he was clearly back in the city instead of in the castle.

“I guess we won?” he thought aloud, the empty missile launchers retreating into the saddle with the sound of motors.

That didn’t seem right to him, and he sighed, “Or more likely he teleported me to Canterlot… maybe I really am just gullible.”

“What… WHAT HAVE YOU DONE?!

Techorse turned around and saw a mare, a cyan earth pony with freckles pointing at the burning hole with tears in her eyes.

“You just… blew that guy up! He’s gone!”

“That was King Sombra,” said Techorse calmly, “I didn’t think...”

“King Sombra?! You really ARE a mad scientist,” screamed the mare, “that was just a pickpocket! A thief, but harmless!”

Techorse glanced over the smoldering crater, and saw a small purse resting at the edge of the smoking hole in the ground, along with a soft brown cap that certainly could belong to a petty thief. Had he really just taken things too far?

A squad of royal guards showed up, quickly surrounding the inventor and moving the accusing+ mare away. Techorse watched around him, the citizens of Canterlot angrily pointing at him and shouting terrible things.

“Your machines are too dangerous!”

“All you can do is use weapons to win!”

“You’re just violent! A threat to us all!”

The stallions clad in dark red armor, much different from the usual guards he was used to seeing at the palace, towered over him. Techorse looked around, panicking.

“N.. no! Wait! I didn’t mean to, I was attacking Sombra to save my friends!” he wailed, his greatest horror coming true, “I’m… not a violent colt, I promise!”

“Take him to the back alley,” ordered one of the guards, a dark haze around his eyes, “put him against the wall. You know what to do.”

The brutes snapped the straps off of Tech’s saddle, discarding the machinery in a nearby waste bin, and dragged the green stallion away by force, him protesting with terror in his voice.

“I didn’t mean to hurt anypony!” he wailed, seeming to believe he really had taken innocent life, “I’ll give up making weapons, I promise!”

He was dragged into a dark, dreary alleyway lined with miserable faded bricks, gloomy for Canterlot at least. The faceless, armored stallions threw him into the back, three stone walls surrounding him with no way out. With no place to run, Techorse’s ears sunk back and his eyes ran with tears. All there was around him were the unforgiving bricks, and the equally unforgiving stallions who stood in front of him, their eyes and expressions obscured by their dark helmets.

“No… please!”

Mechanical sounds of armor moving reached his ears, as loaded crossbows emerged from the sides of the guards, aimed right for him.

WAIT! I’M SORRY!!!

A hail of crossbow bolts flew into the back of the alleyway.

Techorse’s painful and terrified scream rang out through Canterlot, followed by the tragic, much softer noise of an earth pony hitting the cold concrete.

Just a few meters away, Sombra, Rosseth, and Midnight Blaze sat in a thin bubble of red energy, watching the gruesome events unfold. Midnight yelled, banging his hooves against the force field, but his legs were chained with magical energy to the floor of the bubble.

“Sombra, you’ll pay for this!” he shouted, turning and growling at the king like a rabid dog, “I’ll do a hundred times what the Heart did to you!”

“Easy, Midnight Blaze,” said the ruler teasingly, “I’m only acting out of self defense. You all attacked me, and while I can forgive you, I cannot say the same for your friends. They must pay the price.”

“And what a fitting price Techorse paid,” snickered Rosseth, “that is not gonna be an open casket service!”

“You’re starting to bother even myself, Rosseth,” sighed Sombra.

“Please stop this,” begged Midnight, shedding his own tears, “take me instead, Sombra!”

“I already have you, Midnight, and I’m not going to hurt you, I promise,” he answered, “now, let’s finish punishing your insubordinate companions.”

The scenery around them swirled away into a dark void, quickly replaced with the setting of a dense jungle, Flaming Ivory pushing through the heavy trees of the dense forest, a trusty machete clutched in his orange aura as he hacked through the vines stopping him.

“Lousy Sombra, we hit him with one spell and he banishes me to this jungle,” he groaned, continuing to cut through, “this is probably the same one we saw in the valley too, lazy moron.”

He chopped through another set of plants effortlessly and entered a serene lake area with a few cattails poking out from the surface, frogs and insects abound. Flaming felt a little bit thirsty, and lowered his neck to the waterline, taking a nice refreshing sip of cold lake water.

“Much better,” he said, wiping his mouth of the extra water.

A rather large green insect, something of a hybrid between a beetle and a flying ant, hovered nearby, spooking the musician.

“Hey!” he shouted, jumping back and swatting at the bug with his hoof, “Get outta here! I hate bugs!”

It left him alone as requested, dodging his hoof and flying off with the loud buzz of wings beating. The sounds of the lake had gone quiet otherwise, a warning he should have heeded.

“Ugh...” he groaned, “bugs...”

The bushes near the lake vibrated suddenly, Flaming Ivory looked around at the plants rustling. Out of the bushes flew dozens of the same giant insect, forming a cloud over him.

“OH CELESTIA WHY?!?” he screamed as the beetles all dove on top of him.

Flaming Ivory got out a very short lived cry as the bugs covered every last square inch of his body, cut out with a soft gurgle.

“That’s horrible...” whispered a defeated Midnight Blaze, “Flaming… I’m sorry.”

“Flaming Ivory was scared of bugs? What a wimp,” scoffed King Sombra, “Perhaps Shadow Breeze will have something more interesting for us.”

Again, the jungle zoomed out of view of the red energy sphere, this time replaced by the inside of what appeared to be another grand castle. Shadow Breeze was sitting at a very long boardroom table in the stone confines of the fortress, but this castle had many pleasant marble statues carved in the shape of great warriors. He had been training to be a diplomat for a long time, and was being given the opportunity to establish peace with a foreign nation. These strange people looked like somewhat hunched over wolves, albeit with somewhat friendly faces and reasonably sized teeth. The Queen of the land, a white-furred she-wolf with pleasant blue eyes, sat on the other side of the table.

“Shadow Breeze of Equestria,” she said, filing her nails, “why are you here today, bothering me, Accalia the queen of the Lightfang Clan?”

“Well, your Highness,” the happy pegasus said as he pushed forward a scroll, “I’d like to propose a trade route. We’d like to have some of your blue granite supplies in exchange for something else you might need.”

The queen’s guards, four of the strongest black-furred soldiers Shadow had ever seen, held mighty iron great swords in their front paws, bronze armor on their chests, and wore sandals on their digitigrade feet. Yet for some reason their size and muscular might just didn’t bother the pegasus one bit.

“What could I possibly need from Equestria?” the queen sighed, “You don’t export a single thing we could possible use.”

“I… I can think of something, I’m sure,” Shadow Breeze answered, a little saddened.

She lost her patience, setting the file down and addressing him directly, “Look, we’re just not interested in an alliance, and frankly… I believe you being here is trespassing and a violation of our sacred reverence to this castle.”

“But we have...”

“What?” she growled, baring her fangs, “There is nothing you have we want! You ponies make shovels while we make swords. You make jewelry while we make steel. You eat plants while we eat… meat.”

The queen’s sinister growls frightened Shadow Breeze, “Tell me, Shadow Breeze… does Equestria have any meat?”

“N… No m’am,” he whimpered.

Her red-painted nails dug into the table while she smiled wickedly, “Oh but I think you do… I’d love to see it. Guards, show him what I mean. Then send their precious princess a declaration of WAR!

“Wait! NO!” cried Shadow Breeze, standing up from the table, “I’m sorry! I didn’t mean to insult you!”

The four guards were already on top of him, and the screaming pegasus was dragged over to a nearby stage constructed out of stone, where he was shackled. A massive piece of granite hovered above, tied to the ceiling by a rope.

“Goodbye Mr. Breeze,” said the queen teasingly, waving with her fingers, “your nation will soon provide plenty of meat for the Lightfang Clan!”

Nooooooo!

Shadow Breeze screamed in terror as the guard slashed the rope holding the stone above him. His yells were suddenly cut short, the same as his friends and the laughter of the wolf people echoed throughout the castle.

“Why?” he cried softly, “They’re all dead because of you! What did they do to deserve all this?!”

King Sombra lifted up Midnight Blaze’s head with a hoof, “Dead?”

Stepping aside, the bubble faded out of existence, restoring the surrounding area. To Midnight’s surprise, they were all now back in the castle, and his three friends were alive. However, each of them lay on the floor, foaming at the mouth, with a green haze over their eyes and red rings of energy coursing over their corneas.

“They’re okay?!” shouted Midnight and Rosseth, one disappointed and the other very happy.

The king sighed, “Yes, of course they’re alive and well. My strategy for victory for the past millennium, thank you, has been to exploit the greatest fear of every pony. What good is a dead slave, Midnight Blaze? They have paid for their arrogance against me now, and will be on their hooves again shortly.”

“You… you made them all experience the feeling of dying in the worst possible ways, just to yank them back out again,” said Midnight, terrified, “I… that’s the worst thing I can imagine you could do to somepony. No wonder the princesses wanted to eradicate you.”

Techorse felt himself snap back to reality, sensing his own body again and feeling relieved at the fact he still had a blood supply that stayed in him where it belonged! Likewise Flaming Ivory was glad to have flesh, and Shadow Breeze was more than eager to learn that he hadn’t been turned into a breakfast sausage from a negotiation gone wrong. Despite the relief and happiness to be alive, when the three stallions stood up, they were still feeling heavy dread in their hearts and could barely stumble over near Sombra.

“Sombra… we surrender,” said Shadow Breeze, crying again, “please go easy on us!”

“I am finished with you three,” he said, “but now, I must address Midnight.”

The king turned to the blue unicorn slowly, his friends helpless to do anything. Midnight Blaze stood up strong, straight and tall, accepting any punishment Sombra had for him. The scenarios all ran through his mind, though his worst fear was something he had accepted a while ago, Sombra would find some way to spin it into a lethal nightmare… he just knew it.

“There’s something I’ve been meaning to say to you since this all began,” he said sternly.

Midnight refused to move, having just been forced to witness his friends meeting horrible fates in a magical simulation, he was ready for anything. The king’s eyes burned into his own, seemingly scanning his very soul.

Sombra stood there, cape fluttering for a few moments, before his eyes softened and he… hugged him in the warmest embrace he’d felt in a while.

“Welcome home, my son!”

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