• 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 27 - Sombra's Secret Weapons

Chapter 27

Whatever new place Sombra had left him in, it eerily reminded Techorse of his lab back home, only much darker and far less clean. An abandoned observatory located at the back of the castle, the massive, rounded room had a featureless tile floor, and an iron balcony that spiraled up to the top of the ceiling, where a massive brass iris shutter lay closed. On the ground, rusted into place from years of disuse, sat the base of what was previously some kind of telescope, the actual device having been removed, likely by scrap thieves over the years. Dusty slate chalkboards covered in cobwebs had been wiped clean by the king’s magic, and fresh rolls of blueprint paper were now on a handful of wooden tables borrowed from some of the unused castle dining rooms. The king had turned his former stargazing post into a secondary development facility for his new servant, and Techorse watched as his intense magical energy finished installing a smaller version of the forges located in the basement, a pipe from the floor connecting into the back to supply raw materials.

“Ah, finally, your new arcane forge is ready,” he said eagerly, “you may request any part you can imagine, and it will build it. I’m sure you’ll be able to instruct this forge to create those amazing electronics, Techorse. Just place your hoof on it and think of what you want.”

Techorse stared at him for a few seconds, knowing he had no choice but to test the weird device constructed of stone slabs and runes. Stepping up to the machine, he placed his hoof gently on the panel in front of the machine, which sparked to life with light blue energy. Raw materials flowed up through the pipe into the device, and a loud hiss of steam escaped from its halves. When the forge opened up, a single bundle of red wire sat in the middle, which Techorse claimed and placed on the table.

“Amazing,” he said with a bit of surprise, “I’m still going to have to convert these parts into electronics I can use, but… looks like your forges really can make everything I need.”

King Sombra smiled, Techorse noticing for the first time the king’s small sharpened canines, “Perfect. Now then, I have an assignment for you fitting of your talents.”

His aura wrapped around the end of one of the blueprints, unrolling it and clipping it to one of the chalkboards. On it was a massive diagram of what appeared to be some kind of rocket, detailed in description, with component clearly labeled. Techorse scanned over the document, bracing himself for something that really was rocket science!

“What’s this schematic for?” he demanded to know, glaring at the king.

“I’m glad you asked,” he answered, turning to the ruined base of what used to be the telescope.

Techorse grit his teeth when his ears filled with a sharp, grating noise from the base being ripped away by Sombra’s magic. He tossed the wreckage carelessly into the wall, setting off a nearby lever that opened up the aperture at the top of the lab.

“I wish to ascend to the stars,” he declared proudly, pointing up at the hole in the ceiling through which bright moonlight shone, “ever since I was a little colt, I looked up at the sky at night and dreamed about what it might be like beyond our own atmosphere. I couldn’t imagine that technology would ever progress to a point where one could visit the realm outside our planet, but that dream is finally about to come to be. But, I cannot do this without a rocket built by you, Techorse.”

The inventor wrinkled his nose and folded his ears back, “Sombra, this is clearly a design for a ballistic missile. I’m not stupid you know.“

Immediately the king’s face hardened into a scowl, and he gently put his hoof back on the floor, “Ah… so you’re not as gullible as I’ve been told. Very well, Techorse, yes… it’s actually a ballistic missile. You will be helping me convert this observatory into a launching pad for my newest weapon, a weapon only you can build for me.”

“I’m not going to build a missile for you,” Techorse argued.

“Are you in any position to tell me that?” he said teasingly with a turn of his head, “Please do not make this any harder for either of us. You’re in no condition to fight, and I’m in no mood to stain the walls with you.”

“Midnight won’t be your son if you lay a hoof on me,” warned Techorse, “I’m not scared of you Sombra!”

“Midnight is well on his way to joining me at his rightful place by my side,” snapped the king, pushing his hoof into Techorse’s sternum, “and I no longer expect you to fear me, I expect you to serve my son’s new kingdom since you’re his friend. Now, pick up that box behind you and open it… you’ve got work to do!”

Techorse looked behind himself at the ominous box made of carved ivory in the shape of an alicorn, with brass handles at the sides for easy opening. Having been spared his robotic arms, likely to allow him to complete the king’s evil task, Techorse picked up the ornamental container and set it down on the table, a chill running down his spine when Sombra walked up next to him and patted him gently on the shoulder.

“I think you’ll enjoy this project if you cooperate, Techorse.”

He pulled open the handles, exposing a weird red glow from inside the sculpture. When it was fully opened up, a rod of a strange metallic red metal dropped out of the body of the alicorn statue and onto the table. Techorse picked up the curious material with his right robot hand, and inspected it carefully under his muzzle.

“What… is this?”

“That is a special material refined from the dark crystals of the valley,” explained the king, “when it is broken open, it releases a tasteless, odorless dust into the air that sends any pony hapless enough to breathe it into the deepest bouts of fear and terror imaginable. This compound was one of the many ways I was able to conquer the Crystal Ponies before, and by keeping a steady supply of it in the air, I was able to maintain control with it as well.”

“It feels like some kind of isotope,” muttered Techorse, “Based on what it does, I think I’ll call it ‘Afraidium’.”

King Sombra rolled his eyes, “You truly are a nerd, aren’t you? Well, as you might have figured out by now, that material is what you will place in the missile. Previously I had to spend so much energy using magic to distribute its dust over the empire, but with your technology, I’ll have a weapon capable of doing it in one blast!”

Having always feared one of his devices might terrorize Equestria, Techorse choked, “I can’t build it!”

“Yes you can,” growled Sombra, “you have everything you need. Don’t fail me, Techorse, or you know what will happen.”

“If you get rid of me, you won’t get your missile either!” Techorse reminded him, “So you can’t make me! I won’t build a missile you plan on hitting the Crystal Empire with!”

For a couple of moments, they both stood still as stones, until Sombra worried Techorse with a fit of laughter at his expense.

“Oh ho ho! That’s so funny, Tech,” laughed the dark king heartily, “you thought I was actually going to use the missile on the Crystal Empire?”

Techorse frowned, “Yeah… isn’t that why you want me to build it?”

He shook his head and dried a tear from his eye, “No, no… my silly pony, have you not learned anything about me? I do not rule through force, but through fear. When the Crystal Empire learns that I have a weapon capable of hitting them from this range and with no way to prevent it… they’ll surrender. We’re merely using this missile as a threat… a means of forcing them to bow.”

The green stallion walked back over to the designs with a look of disgust on his face. The missile would be easy for him to build within a few days, and stalling for time until he and his friends could be rescued was just what they needed. If he played along and built the weapon, there was a chance they’d survive their ordeal.

“All right, Sombra, I’ll build your Afraidium missile,” Techorse answered, sighing, “but your design uses a lot of fuel… and that stuff is pretty explosive if it leaks.”

“I’m aware of the risks,” he said, “and I appreciate your trust, as do your friends. Will we be seeing you tonight at dinner? Midnight demanded you be treated as friends, so you are welcome at our table tonight.”

“It’s three in the morning.”

He ignored him and headed for the main staircase, “Just be there, and wash off any oil you get on yourself from your labor.”

Techorse shook his head, and turned to the forge to begin producing the parts necessary to build the missile, the beast was at least three stories high, and Sombra had left a ton of holes in his rough design on the blueprint.

With him beginning work on the weapon, Sombra congratulated himself on another successful deception while he trotted down the spiraling staircase.

You really are so gullible, Techorse,” he thought with pity for the inventor, “all I had to do was promise not to use the weapon, and you agreed to build it without considering I might be lying. How naive. Now I’ll be able to make your fears come true! But first, to win over the support of your buddies as well...

“We’re never going to see our families again!” cried Shadow Breeze, burying his face in his hooves.

Flaming Ivory and Shadow had been shoved into a guest room in a corner of Sombra’s castle. It wasn’t very elaborate, but it was still somewhat well decorated after his restorative magic had covered the place, with bright red wallpaper and golden floorboards. The two ponies staying inside were sitting on one of the two queen-sized beds draped in yellow comforters, and Flaming Ivory was doing his best to console Shadow.

“Come on man, keep it together!” he urged, “Sombra hasn’t done us in yet. We just have to play along until Techorse figures out a way to get us out of here.”

“I… I guess, but in the meantime we’re going to be helping him hurt the Crystal Ponies,” he said, still sniffing in some mucus, “I can’t live with that!”

“Don’t worry, they won’t blame you,” answered the musician, “it’s not like we have any choice, right?”

The big whitewashed doors to the room suddenly slammed open, King Sombra standing in the doorway with a cross expression on his face.

DON’T HURT MEEEE!” begged Shadow, diving over the side of the bed and hiding.

King Sombra’s black, flowing mane settled into place, and his armor gently clinked while he entered the room, slowly transitioning from an angry expression to a subtle smirk.

“Please try to relax Shadow Breeze, I have things for both of you,” he said calmly, “and I absolutely have no intention of causing you any more harm… Midnight has forbidden it!”

Shadow Breeze popped up his head from behind the bed, “Really?”

“Yes, now please, come on out to the tea room, I have your gifts!”

“Gifts?” asked Flaming Ivory angrily, “Wait just a minute, pal, if you think you’re gonna butter us up with bribes after making us experience our own worst nightmares, you’ve got another think coming!”

“Easy Flaming Ivory, I understand your anger with me, but now that I’ve had time to talk with my new son… I see such great potential in both of you,” Sombra said with a defusing tone, “I’ll explain if you’ll come with me.”

“Yes sir,” said Shadow Breeze, carefully following him out of the room.

Flaming Ivory, ever the skeptic, grumbled something to himself and caught up with them in the castle’s tea room. Much like the hallways in Canterlot castle, there were multiple stained glass windows, but none of them were very well illuminated thanks to it being night. The unicorn looked at the art carefully, noticing that they seemed to tell some kind of a story. A group of castles that looked remarkably similar to the one they were in now were clustered near what was obviously a depiction of the crystal empire. In the next pane, an arc of white extended from the Crystal Palace to the group of castles, and from the triangular shards of glass colored in, Flaming could tell something was blasting them to pieces. In the last panel, a single pony made from black glass stood on top of his ruined home, facing the empire.

“This can’t possibly mean what I think it does...”

“Means what, Flaming?” asked Shadow Breeze, sitting at the massive black marble table in the center of the room.

A golem had served the three of them a fresh tray of fine pastries with a blend of tea only Sombra seemed to recognize (or like for that matter, as it was extremely bitter and had a weird citrus aftertaste that almost was like shampoo).

“I don’t get it, now all of a sudden you’re being nice to us,” said Flaming, pushing around his teacup in hopes of not having to drink anymore of the liquid, “what did Midnight say, anyways?”

“That’s not important,” answered Sombra sternly, slamming his hoof on the table.

Shadow Breeze jumped in his skin, becoming timid again, which made Sombra reconsider his actions. Putting his hoof down on his chair again, he cleared his throat in embarrassment.

“Oh um, what I meant to say was… that’s not important right now. We’ve already agreed that you will be treated as servants and not slaves, but without proper equipment… you cannot do your jobs well. So no expense was spared in acquiring these gifts for you!”

A wisp of green energy shot from Sombra’s horn, making a sound like fingers snapping. The golem returned, with two boxes wrapped in gift paper like birthday presents. One was very long and tall with polka dot paper on it, and the other was more modest with a plain blue wrapping. Flaming Ivory was presented with the larger box, which took up way more than his fair share of the table.

Concerned but not wanting to offend Sombra for very good reasons, Flaming unwrapped the first corner of the gift with his hoof, only for his eyes to grow wide. He eagerly tore away at the rest of the wrapping paper, bits flying off everywheres while Sombra watched with a sinister grin.

“Oh… my… gosh! IT’S AN OMNICHORD 30-Z!

Sure enough, the massive keyboard, still in its box from the factory, was now in front of Flaming Ivory. The knobs and pedals from his magazine were depicted on the art of the white cardboard box, and in a red bubble was a promise that it was the biggest and best electric keyboard in Equestria!

“It’s all yours, Flaming Ivory,” Sombra said in a fatherly tone of voice, “I know how very much you wanted this keyboard based on that simply… charming magazine you had in your belongings… and since you are my son’s composer now, you are going to need it!”

Shadow Breeze took his turn and opened his box, gasping happily at the contents. He jumped off of the table, and just like many pegasus ponies liked to do, he flew around quickly in a circle, creating a small tornado while he put on the present. When he exited the whirlwind, the stallion was clad in a brand new silk suit, black with a subtle blue weave in it, a fancy white dress shirt underneath, and cuff links made from actual platinum. Around his neck was a brand new piece of replacement jewelry, a necklace made from gold and rubies that rivaled his old amulet for beauty.

“Now you look like a real diplomat,” the king said, sighing happily, “please try to understand that I couldn’t give you back my Shadow Amulet. I made it so many years ago, and it has meaning to me.”

“That’s ok,” Shadow Breeze said, all smiles and no tears now from the feeling of fresh silk against his body, “these are so comfy! Thank you!!”

Sombra shook his head at how the two stallions looked like little foals at Hearth’s Warming, opening up their gifts. Now they’d be eager to serve him and Midnight!

“You two are very welcome,” he said, nodding his head, “they were very easy items to obtain from the Crystal Empire, and if you are both loyal subjects to me, there will be a lot more presents coming in the near future!”

The childlike, eager glow burnt away quickly as Flaming Ivory felt the truth sink in. The keyboard cost over 6 thousand bits… and Sombra didn’t exactly have a store nearby. Or any modern money for that matter unless he was hawking his castle’s artifacts without him knowing it.

“You… you stole this didn’t you?” accused Flaming Ivory, glaring at Sombra.

“Well, let me put it this way,” Sombra cackled, “a very lucky music store owner will be collecting triple its price in insurance money now… and, well, given the choice between hoofing over that suit or her only daughter, that tailor made the right choice!”

Shadow Breeze felt a lump form in his throat, and felt like he was now just as guilty as if he had stolen it himself!

“It was this or lose her daughter? How awful!” he cried, trying to shed the fancy threads, “Take it back!”

Yeeeeah, I really can’t accept stolen goods either,” said Flaming Ivory, pushing the box back towards Sombra, “I mean, you gotta have a grand piano in this castle, right? I’ll just use that.”

The king grumbled and turned his back on them, “Such thanklessness! Here I decided to have my troops spare those shop owners and their families, something I’d never do unless I was trying to take your side, and you two are telling me what I did was wrong?”

“You basically just told me that because you stole from some ponies instead of kidnapping them, you did the right thing,” explained Flaming Ivory, his face showing heavy disbelief.

SILENCE!” roared Sombra, spinning around and magically doubling his size.

Shadow Breeze grabbed Flaming Ivory again and shook like a leaf, “He.. he didn’t mean it!”

“You two will be thankful I merely took their goods for your benefit, and use them to do your jobs for Midnight!” he continued, slowly shrinking back to his normal size, “When you are called for dinner in a few hours, you are to show appreciation for your new gifts, UNDERSTAND?!

“Y… yes!” screamed Shadow Breeze, “I understand!”

“Good,” answered Sombra, standing up from the table, “I’ve got one more thing to do this evening before then. I’d recommend you take a look at the instructions for that new piano, Flaming Ivory, and Shadow Breeze… please try not to soil those new clothes, you coward.”

“H.. hey!” he said, feeling bullied.

But the king ignored him and left with a swish of his royal red cape. Flaming Ivory turned to Shadow Breeze, and shook his head with a loud groan.

“Come on Shadow, you can’t be afraid of him. Midnight would let him have it if he even plucked one feather from ya! Think about how you almost got him with that giant shadow bomb!”

“Yeah… I guess I did,” he answered, “but I would have gotten us too… guess for now we’re just going to have to play along until we get a chance to escape, huh?”

“Yup, and trust me, I’ve got a plan, but we’re gonna need Techie like I said,” he answered confidently, “we just need to time it right.”

Shadow Breeze nodded, gaining a little hope that they might be free from Sombra if they played their cards right.

The cold, unforgiving courtyard of the castle, not yet repaired by Sombra’s magic, sat in silence with weeds growing between the broken-up stone that used to form the floor of the space. Here, the ponies rounded up by the golems sat tied together like cattle, many of them crying their eyes out under the cold gaze of the war machines, who kept their weapons pointed at them. Warm Brass sat next to Lighthearted, who refused to cry with the other young adults. This wasn’t the first time they had been kept by Sombra, and she was already familiar with what he might want with her… as disgusting as that might be. What bothered her though, was that a red tarp sat covering some kind of a tall structure next to them, gently fluttering in the icy air around them.

“Whatever’s under that tarp is for us,” she whispered to Warm, “And I don’t think we’re going to like it.”

“I don’t care,” cried the confectioner, “I… I just want to make sure my foal makes it. I’m expecting!”

“Congratulations,” said Lighthearted, winking, “and don’t worry. We’re going to get everypony here to safety, I’m not scared of Sombra.”

“Wh.. why not?” she asked, eyes large.

“Well, because… eh maybe you don’t want to know,” she answered, rolling her eyes, “let’s just say that there’s a guy I hate way more than him right now.”

IT’S HIM!” screamed one of the mares, the bound up ponies starting to yell and cry in terror.

King Sombra entered the courtyard, accompanied by two more golems, one of them being the green-eyed captain. Lighthearted took note of the fact that he looked like how he did when he first invaded, very corporeal and awkwardly handsome for a tyrant, with his flowing black mane, smooth graphite coat, and green eyes. His horn still looked rather sinister though, and that’s all she needed to know it was her old enemy.

“Hello again, my former… help,” he said, grasping for words, “I’m so glad I could have you at my old home for once. It’s good to get out of one’s country for a while, is it not?”

“P… please don’t make us go back,” whimpered a stallion, “I can’t take being scared all the time again!”

“In the best interests of my current plans, thankfully there will be no more constant terror curses… I’ve learned it was that very magic that turned me into a specter, and I plan on staying flesh and blood,” Sombra explained clearly.

“Oh thank goodness...”

Sombra shoved his hoof down hard into the stallion’s neck, pinning him to the ground. The mares around him begged for the king’s mercy, but he refused to move his hoof from his windpipe and enjoyed his sounds of choking for air.

“But don’t think this means you aren’t still all my property,” he said, his eyes glowing red, “all of you are very much my slaves again, and you will work for me and my adopted son Midnight Blaze day in and out. The cooks among you will begin preparing our supper immediately, and I expect all the rest of you to do your jobs as well.”

“I won’t be a slave again!” defied Lighthearted, standing up, pulling Warm Brass up too by the rope between them, “None of us have to listen to him, with him being afraid he’ll become a ghost again from his fear magic, he has nothing he can use to stop us!”

The golems raised their guns at her, but their king dismissed them with a wave of his hoof. He released his leg from the neck of the earth pony he was standing on, and walked up to Lighthearted, almost amused that she had bothered to stand up to him.

“Ahh, and you are… Lighthearted, aren’t you?” he asked.

She was embarrassed he knew her name, “Yeah… that’s me, you demon.”

“For such a name you’re rather catty, aren’t you?” Sombra said, teasing her by running his hoof across her cheek, “I remember all the trouble you used to cause me back in the old days. But you always had such wonderful beauty… I would gladly have traded a good sum of wealth to make you my mistress, to have you serve me cakes at night.”

“You couldn’t afford me,” she grumbled, “now where’s Ross?”

“Ross?” asked Sombra, tilting his head and nearly losing his small crown in the process, “Oh! Yes, my trusted ‘general’ Rosseth. I suppose you’ve met him?”

“I’m looking for him, yes,” Lighthearted answered with a crabby tone of voice.

“Well, since you won’t work,” Sombra chuckled, knowing she had probably been offended by him, “I guess I’ll just have to make you his newest prize. Oh that lucky, lucky zebra!”

Lighthearted felt like swinging her hoof into Sombra’s face, but knowing how much of a danger that would be to her fellow Crystal Ponies, she resisted. At least his disgusting transference of her as property to Rosseth would let her get close to him and exact her revenge.

“Fine,” she said, “Ross will be thrilled to… have me.”

“Indeed he will,” teased the king, looking forward to seeing the look on Rosseth’s face when he was awarded a ‘pet’, “as for the others...”

“We won’t work either!” declared another stallion, “Slavery isn’t an option for us!”

King Sombra was enjoying the newfound resistance, perhaps a little bit too much, as his calm voice spooked the Crystal Ponies more than his anger now.

“I understand,” he said, moving for the tarp.

“You… you do?” asked the stallion, worried about why Sombra hadn’t already attacked him.

“Of course,” the unicorn responded, putting his hoof on one corner of the red cloth, “and I came prepared for that answer. I have another way out of my castle besides service...”

He yanked away the tarp suddenly, and the screams of terror resumed as a freshly-built guillotine was revealed from underneath the cover. Lighthearted felt her rage boil from the sight of the vile angled blade, suspended by a thread in the deadly machine’s frame. She remembered how he had left another one of these devices on the balcony of the Crystal Palace that millennium ago, how the dangling, threatening blade kept them from lifting their shackled heads as they broken energy crystals. But it had only been a symbol of fear… would he really use it today?

“Now do you all understand?” Sombra said loudly, “Any who defy me will be destroyed, by magic or another means! Serve me, or give up your head!”

“Please, no!” came cries from the crowd, and, “Mercy!”

“Then get to your work,” ordered Sombra, “my soldiers will help you get started. Take them away!”

The machines led the crying, terrified ponies to their posts, but a select group of young mares were left behind, including Lighthearted, who had Warm Brass torn away from her.

“I have a very special place for you, ladies,” he said with a very knowing look on his face, “you’ll be getting special treatment and instructions later. My son will be needing your services soon.”

Lighthearted felt herself get picked up by the golem from earlier, and she growled one more time at Sombra,

“You know something? You’re being given another chance at life, and you’re throwing it away.”

“As did you for coming here,” he answered, shaking his head, “my golems told me you demanded to see Rosseth, and that’s what you’ll get, Lighthearted. Enjoy being his personal servant.”

The machine took her away as well, Sombra looking all proud of himself. Lighthearted made sure he was out of view before smirking. If Rosseth had brought him back, there was definitely a way he could get rid of him again!

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