• 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 30 - Cadance's Hope

Chapter 30

Heavy metal footpads left a small divot in the pavement just inside the thermal barrier as a tall, humanoid character landed from flight, the small tag-along on his shoulder bracing from the shock. Yet no one seemed to be around to chastise this visitor for damaging the streets so carelessly.

“Oh dear, I believe I’ve damaged the road,” said the tall, metallic guest.

Spike, still hanging on for dear life, climbed back on board the six-foot machine’s shoulder, “What, did you run out of fuel at the last second there, PAL?”

Techorse, of course, had a robot to assist him in his laboratory work and over the years the machine had developed something of a personality from absorbing Equestria’s magic. Towering over ponies and having a body form that resembled an ancient servant golem built to assist wealthy Minotaurs, it was hard to believe the giant was indeed gentle, and being one of the other non-ponies around, Spike and the six-foot tall metal machine made fast friends.

PAL shook his right leg and spoke in a warm synthesized voice, “I think that’s correct, Spike, I used the last of the fuel for my rocket boots just as we crossed the Empire’s borders. If I cannot find master Techorse, we’re going to have to take the train back I’m afraid.”

“Don’t worry about it, the Crystal Ponies love me! It’ll be easy to bum a train ticket off of them,” chuckled the young dragon, sliding down the leg and landing on the ground, “so why do you think Princess Celestia wrote and asked us to come, anyways? All it said was that Tech needed help.”

“If my analysis was correct, that note was written quite hastily... for the princess anyways,” he answered, his metallic jawline articulating his speech while his orange glowing eyes followed Spike, “there’s probably been some trouble.”

Looking into the distance, Spike could see the Crystal Palace’s midsection opening up, the Crystal Heart beginning to emit light to brighten the late morning. An overcast day was unusual inside the thermal barrier, and that was cause enough for concern. But even worse was the strange lack of activity even on the outskirts of the empire.

“I guess we’ll find out once we talk to Cadance, huh?” the dragon asked rhetorically, “usually by now the crystal ponies are mobbing me, but there’s nopony around!”

“It is highly unusual,” the machine agreed, “let’s get to the palace. Perhaps Princess Cadance will have an answer for us.”

Sleepless, anxious, and feeling as if everything was crumbling around her, Cadance couldn’t move from on top of her bedsheets, completely destroyed from her tossing and turning. Since the first raid, two more teams of a dozen golems had entered the Crystal Empire, easily defeating her guards and carting off more of her citizens. She recalled the panicked look in their eyes, the looks of betrayal and horror as their worst nightmare had come back to claim them. Some of them were beginning to start families now, the first foals after their release from stasis and already they would be thrust into another standoff with the King of Shadows.

And it was all her fault.

She had been the one to cast the curse on Ignitus when he refused to cooperate. She ruined Rosseth’s life all those years ago with her incompetence. She had failed to secure the border, and had allowed the Crystal Empire to remain complacent, certain that the Heart had destroyed Sombra once and for all.

“Ma’am!” called out one of the crystal guards from just outside her chambers, “You may want to see this.”

Slowly, she got up from her position, and without giving a second thought to her fraying mane or the bags under her eyes, she followed her armor-clad soldier out to the balcony. When she looked down out over her empire, her worst fears had been confirmed. Most every resident of the land was standing down in a massive crowd beneath the palace, their cries and panic audible from several stories up.

What do we doooo?!

Sombra’s back, he’s going to destroy us!

They took my sister away!

“They need their leader,” the guard said flatly, “your Highness… please.”

Cadance observed her subjects below, the terror and chaos that was in their eyes as they screamed. Some of them even carried cardboard signs saying that Sombra's return would spell doom for the Crystal Empire once more. For the moment, she forgot about her own problems, and decided to aid her citizens in their time of need.

“I’m not going to shout from up here,” she answered slowly, “they deserve better from me.”

Spreading her wings, the princess jumped from the ledge, gliding down into the crowd below. She found herself surrounded by screaming, terrified ponies asking questions she couldn't understand over each other. Looking around over the shoving and screaming, she saw her husband, casting a large barrier to prevent the crystal ponies from rushing inside the palace for protection. Captain Arbiter and Limpwing were also working on crowd control, trying to keep back anyone who managed to get around the large fuchsia shield. Ignitus and Faerie Tail seemed to be absent, fortunately for them.

“Easy, we're doing all we can!” Arbiter shouted, pushing back an earth pony stallion with a hoof, “Calm down!”

The riot was getting worse, as the ponies pounded on the shield cracks began to form at the edges. Shining Armor became worried that he wouldn't be able to hold on and he'd be trampled underhoof by the swarm.

“Think Cadance... what kind of a spell can I use to calm the crowd,” muttered the slender mare.

Limpwing felt her eyes squint, some kind of bright light source was slowly lowering itself down to the ground, threatening to blind anyone staring at it. The Crystal Heart had descended to the ground floor, and was rotating at several thousand revolutions per second, forming a perfect ball of light. Without warning, it emitted a loud blast and a shockwave of glowing energy, deafening every last pony in the square and forcing them to shut their eyes. Shining Armor's shield shattered, but the noise was canceled out by the Heart's magic. It was silent and peaceful now, and when vision had returned to every last mare and stallion, their coats and manes glowed and sparkled with radiant energy.

“The Crystal Heart...” whispered one of the nearby pegasus mares.

“Is it trying to say it will protect us again?” asked another.

A voice of confidence spoke, “As long as we have the heart, Sombra cannot attack us!”

Feeling as if the horrible PR situation was coming to an end, Princess Cadance let out a much-deserved sigh of relief. Her subjects panicking was the last thing she needed during this crisis where four of her friends had gone missing overnight.

Hey, something's coming!

Cadance looked around, her tired eyes moving up to catch her relatives descending from the sky, as if things couldn't get any more complicated. The imperial natives moved quickly out of the way to make room as Princess Celestia and Luna landed gracefully in the courtyard outside the palace, their long wingspans folding at their sides.

“Aunt Celestia!” said the younger princess, pushing her way past the still-sparkling residents, “Oh thank you, thank you for being here!”

She embraced her mother figure tightly, Celestia wrapping her front leg around her niece, “We came as soon as we could, Cadance. Luna sensed that Midnight Blaze was in danger, and from the looks of things, I'd say there's indeed a situation on our hooves.”

“Yup, looks like King Sombra's back,” said Limpwing bluntly, backing off sheepishly when everypony else's eyes drilled into her skull.

“What?” Princes Luna gasped, “King Sombra?! But... that's impossible, your Crystal Heart made short work of him! Please do not say my chalice was involved with any of this.“

Princess Cadance felt her mane hair stand up on the back of her neck, and the pressure of guilt building up in her barrel. All of her deeds to cover up her horrid shame over the past few days were coming to a boil. She could feel the disappointment and hatred from her subjects, and she wondered why the Crystal Heart deemed her worthy of her stewardship. It was time to confess.

She stepped back from the hug, “Auntie... do you remember little Rosseth?”

“Oh, that darling zebra child?” cooed the alicorn, her smile giving away her love for the young one, “I do, it was your first challenging assignment as the Princess of Love.”

Loudly enough that every pony around could hear her, “I failed that challenge, you know. His parents split up because I wasn't good enough, and now... he's used his potion making skills to bring Sombra back from a fragment of his horn.”

Turning around with eyes blurring, she looked over her subjects and the startled expression of her loving husband. Her subjects refused to talk, their ears and eyes down as they thought over what she was saying to them.

“That's right, everypony!” continued Cadance, a tear rolling down her cheek, “I failed. I wasn't able to save a marriage so that a young colt didn't have to jump between his parents. Now you all have to suffer because of my incompetence!”

The suffering princess faced the Sisters again, “I've lost the chalice, Techorse, and his friends, too! So many others have been kidnapped, and so many have lost their homes or loved ones to these horrible golems running around. This is all my fault.”

It seemed like there weren't many ideas to console the princess, but a young unicorn stallion with an amber colored coat finally stepped up from the crowd and approached the downtrodden alicorn. He had a look in his orange eyes that could best be described as a mixture of anger and hope.

But maybe he was just tired of the emotional energy sailing around, “Princess Cadance, you have to stop this. You didn't do any of this, it was that zebra you mentioned! So what if you couldn't fix his life, he's the one taking revenge on us! Blame him, not yourself!”


Princess Celestia agreed with him, “Cadance, this stallion is right. Rosseth made the poor decision to bring back Sombra out of anger towards you. Please do not blame yourself for this.”

“But I've put everypony in danger!”

“And together, we can all get out of it,” Shining Armor announced, approaching his wife, “sweetheart, we can fix this... we've always found a way.”

“I say we praise our Princess Cadance for her loyalty to us, despite the attacks she's stayed here to help!” shouted the brave stallion, attempting to raise morale, “She's healed the injured and has done her best to maintain order! Who agrees with me?”

Thunderous applause erupted from the crystal ponies, leading the unicorn to smirk at his princess and her husband. The Crystal Ponies cheered for their leader, settling down into a nice set of fractured conversations and beginning to scatter once they were done. This gave Cadance's husband an opportunity to question the cocky stallion in front of him who had cheered up his wife.

“Who are you, anyways?” Shining Armor asked, raising an eyebrow.

“The unicorn you said couldn't join the Crystal Guard last week,” he answered, flipping his long, brown mane, “the name's Refiner. Remember me?”

“I remember the attitude that made you scare off the recruiter, yeah,” Shining Armor answered, rolling his eyes, “all right, I'll think about getting your application through. But you're still going to have to pass the physical test.”

“Fair enough.”

The crowd started to coagulate again,


Another healthy round of cheering from the seemingly mob-minded ponies sounded throughout the square.

“Spike? Spike's here?!” asked Cadance, drying her tears.

“I sent him a letter requesting he come here to help,” Princess Celestia said, winking, “I thought maybe the crystal ponies might be cheered up by him.”

PAL stepped into the crowd of ponies, Spike riding safely on his shoulders so that the lovey-dovey fan mares couldn't grab onto him and lay their affections. The robot also enjoyed the tickling sensation of gems bouncing off of his hull as the ponies tried to give Spike gifts. Several cameras were being set up to take photos of the young celebrity, and Shining Armor had to motion for the guards to stop them so that there'd be no more blinding flashes of light.

“Hey, stop throwing the gems!” Spike teased, shaking his hands at them, “you're gonna dent my friend's armor!”

“Actually this is quite pleasant,” giggled the machine, an emerald ricocheting off his right arm as he turned to address the fans, “if you're looking to give gifts, can you please leave them in an orderly pile?”

As the Crystal Ponies complied and started to pile up things for Spike in front of the two, Princess Celestia approached the robot and dragon duo.

“Thank you for coming on short notice,” she said.

“No problem,” said Spike casually, “so why did you need us here?”

“Well if you must know,” Princess Luna answered for her sister, still feeling bad about it all, “my chalice was taken by a zebra named Rosseth, and it was used to resurrect King Sombra.”

Spike bit his right claw in shock, but PAL simply narrowed his eyes and demanded answers, “What's the status of master Techorse and his friends?”

“We don't know, but we can assume they've been captured, or worse,” Captain Arbiter interrupted, his good eye looking up at the machine, “now they have shadowsteel golems running around with magic cannons, kidnapping ponies in raids and destroying homes. My sword can barely cut through the kind of armor they're coated in, and magic just bounces off.”

“Don't suppose you happened to bring any of Techie's big guns with you, did you?” Limpwing asked the servant.

“No, I didn't think to bring any laser weaponry, too heavy for the flight,” PAL answered, placing a hand on the side of his head, “surely there must be an easier way to defeat that armor, though. Do you have any salvage I could analyze for the data?”

“We're keeping one of the destroyed golems in the palace basement,” Shining Armor nodded, “you can take a look over it, Bud.”

“PAL, it's PAL,” corrected the machine.

The captain cleared his throat, “Right, sorry.”

“Oh Spike, The Brave and Glorious, what are you going to do to help us defeat Sombra!” beamed a mare who happened to get past the Crystal Guards.

The dragon, feeling sure of himself, looked at the back of his fingernails haughtily, “Well, I'll do the work, of course, but I'm going to need plenty of help from my friends here to get the job done. King Sombra won't stand a chance as long as we've got the Crystal Heart.”

“Don't get overconfident, Spike,” spat Captain Arbiter, nearly growling like a dog, “the Crystal Ponies might see you as a hero, but these golems will make short work out of you if you're not careful.”

“Easy on the threats please, Arbiter,” warned Princess Celestia sternly.

The pegasus stood down, “Very well. I've made my point.”

“We should probably get to work on analyzing the armor scheme of the golem, then,” PAL suggested, “at least until we can figure out how to rescue the others.”

While they were making plans, a purple pegasus mare clad in light armor descended, hovering just in front of Shining Armor, short of breath.

“Captain Shining, there's something you need to know,” she said, panting, her wings also fluttering to keep her in the air.

“What is it corporal?” he asked.

She kept hyperventilating, “There's a pony... just crossed the barrier, wearing a necklace of some kind... think he's one of ours. Collapsed on the ground, couldn't carry him.”

“That's Shadow Breeze!” Cadance said, her eyes growing wide when she thought about the amulet he wore, “We need to go help him!”

“But what about figuring out how to stop these crazy machines?” Limpwing asked.

PAL agreed, “We should assist Shadow first before anything else.”

The corporal pointed the way ahead, and the princesses followed along with their robot and the two captains. Of course, because Spike was on top of his friend's shoulder, the rest of the Crystal Empire went with them, and essentially all of the city followed the three princesses and their dragon hero. Princess Cadance maintained hope in her heart that perhaps Shadow Breeze would have information that could lead to the rescue of the other three stallions who went out after Rosseth.

Faerie Tail gently opened her soft eyes, having slept like a foal the night before. The other slot in the bed lay empty, with the sheet removed.

Her rekindled husband was suspiciously absent.

“Ignitus?” she asked, moving her head up, “Honey?”

Getting up, the storyteller tried to figure out where the love of her life could have possibly gone. Something was wrong, with how close he had held her the night before, how they had worked so closely together to defend the border. She had never felt more alive than her attack against the golems, and was beginning to wonder if perhaps there was a way they could compromise all that much better. Thankfully, Ignitus seemed to be close by, standing by a huge glass window that faced the east side of the kingdom. The light shining through made the crystal interior of the palace sparkle in the morning, helping to show off the handsomeness of the detectives muscular figure and well kept mane.

“Good morning, Faerie,” he said without looking back, “did you sleep well?”

“Better than ever before,” she answered, walking up to stand at his side, “I'm so glad to have you back. Everything's been perfect.”

“I believe Midnight is in danger, sugar. The entire city just moved with the royal family to investigate the border,” Ignitus answered gravely, “I'm guessing this has something to do with the boys.”

His wife felt her heart drop, “You don't mean...”

He looked back, eyes filled with the fire of concern, “I do. We need to go investigate, and I want you with me.”

Nodding, Faerie Tail went to get her warm coat while struggling not to dread the situation.

Please be alive, Midnight!” she thought desperately, her mother's instinct unleashed.

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