• 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 38 - Lines Drawn

Chapter 38

With the Crystal Empire awake, and with only a few hours remaining before King Sombra’s troops were upon them, the ponies scrambled to finish preparations to defend their home. The spears forged from the enchanted metal provided by the Crystal Heart were brought out along with the suits of armor, and the front line mares and stallions prepared to clash with the golems were suiting up in the courtyard outside of the palace. All of the ponies too young or old to fight had been hidden away in a secret chamber beneath the building, which would be defended to the last breath if necessary. Homes and stores had been boarded up in hopes that they wouldn’t be looted while the battle was in progress, although it was unlikely that the golems would take anything… other than their loved ones.

Looking down at her city below from the balcony, Princess Cadance gave one final check of the sheathe fastened on her belt, which was concealed by a white robe having been provided to her by her servants as a means of offering some protection since she had refused armor multiples times. She slid the weapon in and out, checking it almost compulsively.

“Honey, I’m really not happy about this,” said her husband in all of his gear but his helmet, “I’m ready to fight, but I just don’t want us to get hurt.”

“We’ll have each other’s backs, as we’ve always had,” she answered lovingly.

The princess leaned in and kissed her partner on the lips, before trotting inside to begin the process of adjusting the city’s thermal barrier. Without the frigid tundra to keep the Crystal Ponies out, the flat and featureless terrain around the city would leave the golem army without cover and at a severe disadvantage. They’d have to charge right into the spears and other defenses the townsponies had prepared for their former master’s robotic troops.

Wasting no time with her out of earshot, Shining Armor put on his helmet addressed his two closest friends Spearhead and Fencer sternly, “I want you to capture that zebra Rosseth alive, and bring him to me. I feel as if Cadance will never lighten up about what happened to him until he’s forced to forgive her, and I’m more than happy to make him do it.”

“And if he won’t come willingly?” Fencer asked.

“Subdue and restrain him then,” Shining answered, “just don’t break his legs or hurt him badly like that. I don’t want things to be made worse. Now go help the Crystal Ponies set up, and keep your eyes peeled for that zebra.”

“Yes sir,” they answered, nodding and heading back into the palace.

Cadance entered the Heart’s room and with a pink spark of energy shooting from her horn, she opened the wide shutter doors at the center of the palace, sunlight bathing the rotating Crystal Heart. Walking up to the artifact with a blank look on her face, she closed her eyes and gently placed her horn inside the energy field around it. Immediately it responded to the request, and the energy emitting from the point of the citadel outside widened from a tight beam to a cone shape, forcing the perimeter of the thermal bubble outwards at a slow but steady pace. Acres of snow-covered land were swallowed up by the advancing warm zone, melting it rather quickly and beginning to expose the dead, rocky terrain underneath.

“We’re ready,” Cadance said, observing her Empire’s boundaries grow temporarily, “I just hope somehow… Techorse can keep that missile from coming. The barrier won’t work as a shield anymore stretched this thin.”

Leaving the Heart’s chamber behind, the alicorn trotted down the hallway for the stairway down. Along the way, she came across a mirror and stopped to check out her reflection. It was a remarkable change from her normal regal wear, a white robe like a kimono wrapped around her, and her crown absent for safekeeping. The long, flowing striped mane she cared for daily was held back in a ponytail with strong hair ties provided by her fashion adviser. Cadance liked her new appearance and gave it an approving smile, wondering if she should use it more often.

“Your majesty, we need to get to the front lines,” urged a nearby unicorn guard, “granted, your new look is rather intimidating. I bet you ‘ll wipe out dozens of those monsters with that sword you’ve got there!”

“I’m here to make sure nopony gets hurt not get a high score,” Cadance answered, giving him a stern look, “my ponies will need my healing and support, not this sword Shining gave me.”

“Y… yes ma’am,” he replied, backing down.

Near the makeshift supply area set up in the courtyard below, the Princesses, Arbiter, Limpwing, Spike and PAL were trying to talk some sense into Ignitus, who was insistent on leaving them to save Midnight.

“You don’t have to do this, Ignitus,” Princess Celestia told her former captain of the guard, “let us come with you, defeating Sombra will not be an easy task.”

“I appreciate it, but the Crystal Empire needs the power of two more alicorns to defeat that army,” answered the detective, “and this isn’t about defeating Sombra. This is about getting my son back.”

“At the very least, don’t go without this,” Arbiter said, taking something from underneath his dark cape and tossing it to his cousin.

Ignitus caught the object in his aura and held it in front of him. It was a wooden magazine for his

crossbow, loaded with 30 quarrels tipped with the silvery material the Crystal Heart had created.

“These are arrows we made from the leftover metal,” Arbiter said to him, “they should cut right through any of Sombra’s minions… or the tyrant himself if you’re able to get a clear shot.”

The detective pulled out his weapon from underneath the brown trenchcoat occupying his barrel, and ejected the plain iron bolts in exchange for the new silver ones. Drawing back the tension bar, the crossbow was cocked and placed carefully back into concealment with an approving nod from its owner. Then, turning to his beautiful wife, the mare who had captivated him for decades, Ignitus approached her with a look in his eyes that she hadn’t seen in years.

“You have that look on your face,” Faerie said, eyes twinkling, “the one you had when you asked me to marry you.”

“I will be getting Midnight back, Faerie. I promise,” he said, throwing his hooves around her, “I don’t always see eye to eye with him, but he’s my son.”

“Please be careful… I love you.”

“I love you too.”

One last kiss brought the couple closer than ever before, but Ignitus knew he’d need to get a head start before the battle and that the moment couldn’t last forever. Pulling away, he turned to face the mountain pass that led to the Valley of Shadows.

“We’ll distract the golem army so that you can sneak into the pass,” assured Limpwing, smirking, “of course, there might not be an army left to distract once Arbiter and I get to them.”

“Become their worst nightmare, my friends,” Ignitus encouraged them with one final nod, “you’ll see me again soon.”


Just before the detective could gallop off to begin his perilous rescue attempt, Shadow Breeze limped into the area short of breath and finally feeling the full extent of his wounds thanks to his pain medication wearing off. His eyes had a glazed over look, and his bandages were in need of changing.

“Shadow Breeze, you need to go back to bed! No battle for you!” said Faerie Tail while pointing at him.

Not paying attention to anyone else in sight, Shadow fought back, “I’m going with Ignitus. I have to go help save my friends.”

“She’s right, Shadow. You’ve already done enough for the Crystal Empire, my faithful servant.”

Celestia had placed her wing around the pegasus stallion, holding him close in a motherly way. Shadow Breeze hugged her front leg tightly, tears coming to his eyes from the passionate feeling of gratitude in his heart towards his princess.

“You saved me, so please...” he sniffled and pleaded, “I want to go back out there to save my friends! P... please let me!”

“Shadow Breeze, have some common sense, lad!” urged Captain Arbiter, “Your injuries are still far too severe. You cannot even fly right now until your feathers grow back in!”

Ignitus finally gave his own opinion, “No, he’s right, Arbiter. Shadow needs to come with me.”

All eyes were on the red unicorn, “What?”

“Techorse and Flaming Ivory need to see that Shadow Breeze is alive and well,” he explained, making sure he made eye contact with each and every pony present, “they’re likely demoralized beyond any desire to fight back against King Sombra. Worse, I fear that Midnight’s sudden decision to betray Equestria and join the king wasn’t just because I wanted him to join the military. I have a strong feeling there’s been some dark magic involved as well.”

“...and the magic of Friendship can counter it?” Shadow Breeze asked, trying to be helpful.

“Well, I don’t know if it’ll work without Twilight Sparkle around, but… I’ve seen how well you four work together, Shadow, and reuniting you all may be just what we need to rescue Midnight,” Ignitus answered, looking at the ground for a moment.

Shadow Breeze dragged himself over to Ignitus, who helped prop him up a little with his magic, “Of course, I wish you could walk a little better.”

Having followed his patient out of careful concern, Steady Hoof strolled past the princesses without a second thought to their existence and pulled out a syringe filled with more medication. Unquestioned by his peers, the unicorn jammed the needle into Shadow’s barrel and pushed the plunger, filling his bloodstream with the painkillers and making him wiggle from mane to tail in delight.

“There you go,” he grunted, “one for the road, you stubborn mule.”

“Who are you?” asked Arbiter.

“Steady Hoof, your field medic for today,” answered the doctor with his usual monotone voice, “Shadow Breeze can walk now thanks to that batch of drugs. Just don’t let him get hooked on the stuff, okay? He can’t have another until later tonight, if there’s enough left over after this fine mess we’re all about to get into.”

“You speak as if this will be a disaster,” Princess Luna said, raising an eyebrow, “we’re sure to beat these golems now that we have our new arms and armor!”

“The Crystal Ponies have no formal military training,” the doctor said, facing Luna and showing her no respect, “they get hurt tripping over their own hooves. We’ve going to need the medicine, so you do your job as leader, and I’ll do mine as surgeon, understood?”

“You have a lot of nerve, doctor,” Arbiter growled at him, “just make sure you stay behind us where your surgery won’t be disturbed.”

The two stallions locked eyes, making the tension palpable.

“I can’t spend any more time here,” Ignitus interrupted, “we’re leaving now. I promise you, by night we’ll be back with Midnight and the others!”

Just before going, he gave his wife one final peck on the forehead, “I love you honey. We’ll be together again soon.”

“Be careful, dear!”

With Shadow all wound up on medicine, it was much easier for the pegasus to follow Ignitus towards the mountain path leading the Valley of Shadows. This left the others behind to prepare for the battle ahead.

“Well, what are we standing around here for?” Limpwing complained, “Let’s get the lead out and help the Crystal Ponies finish getting ready!”

Rosseth could now see the Crystal Empire ahead, a much larger than normal dome of light inside the cold fog and ice. Marching alongside his troops in the snow would have chilled him to the core, so the golems carried him along in a heated cart that left a trail of smoke in the air from the wood it burned to keep the cabin habitable. From the window, he could see the approaching city, and ordered the golems to stop. Jumping out from the cart, the zebra hybrid felt the sting of the sharp drop in temperature when his hooves hit the snow. But it didn’t really seem to bother him one bit as he walked ahead and took a quick gaze at the Empire’s barrier.

“They’ve stretched out their thermal shielding way too thin,” he said, holding a hoof over his eyes, “it’ll be possible to walk right through it.”

Turning around, he addressed the green-eyed leader of the golems, “Give the order to split our forces as Sombra commanded. Send one thousand troops around the northern perimeter and attack Steamcastle from the west. By the time they’re done, they won’t have anyplace to flee and will be trapped by a pincer on both sides of the Crystal Empire. Then, we’ll cage them all up and deliver them to his Highness.”

The green eyed golem began making hand motions to the other golems, and one thousand of the magical automatons split off in a perfect formation and began a full fun to flank the Crystal Empire under the cover of the winter storms. Since the pony occupants were all facing east in anticipation of the main attack, it was unlikely that they would see it coming.

“The rest of us are going to march to the city’s boundary and begin our assault,” Rosseth ordered, “do not harm any of the Crystal Ponies… or it’s very likely King Sombra will have you melted down for scrap metal! His slaves must be kept alive.”

Turning around and pushing forward without the warmth of his cart, Rosseth knew he was putting up a great facade of being cold and vicious, but it was just to keep Lighthearted safe. The zebra could feel King Sombra’s presence in the air, the link between him and the shadow lord still remained from when his chunk of severed horn had started communicating with him. Now he had a choice, come home a champion over the Crystal Empire, or don’t come back at all.

“I’m coming for you, Princess Cadance,” he growled with a personal hatred in his voice.

With only a few hours remaining for his plan to fully bring the Crystal Empire under his control again, King Sombra has dressed up in his finest robe, having shook off his Shadowsteel plate armor for a more regal outfit, a blue cape frilled with white around his neck, and a thin silver crown on his head that fit over his horn… which felt rather unusual to the king. In addition to the regal attire, there was something else different about the day that made him feel a sense of accomplishment he hadn’t felt in a long time. All of his cards had been played properly, but his luck had been superior as well.

Not only had he successfully manipulated a former enemy of Princess Cadance into completing the Lunar Ritual required to summon him, he had also had the insane fortune of discovering his closest heir. On top of all of that glorious luck, his heir’s best friend was just the engineer he had hoped for to make his ultimate weapon a grim reality. It was time to check on his new missile, and have Techorse prep it for its test mission.

Opening the door to the laboratory room, however, Sombra found himself in a completely different area than he had expected, startling him. The large room was built out of dark stone that stretched along the floor, a recessed area in the center occupying a hole that spanned half the room. Blue flamed torches lined the walls, along with banners bearing his and Midnight’s cutie marks. Four tall dark crystals stood at the corners of the square pit, and magical conduits carved into the floor lead into the back of the room. The wall in that direction was made of pure clear ballistic-proof glass, which Sombra galloped to in order to take a look at what was on the other side.

The glass overlooked the missile silo, which had also been radically changed. The very bottom of the room was about the same, with the machinery and equipment at the bottom of the missile. Sombra noticed that the fueling line had been left attached by Techorse, a clear violation of orders to have the missile well-fueled and ready to launch ahead of time. Working his eyes back up to the talk of his room, many bridges made of stone hung over the sides of the tube-shaped room, the same torches and banners seeming to stretch forever from the top of the open silo to the floor. Magical motors had been left attached to the bridges, allowing them to swing when the missile was to be launched. Something had come through and remodeled both rooms, shifting the floors of the castle and providing a deep shaft over the terror weapon.

“Do you like it, father?”

King Sombra slowly turned around, Midnight’s eyes glowing purple in the front of the chamber. The unicorn stepped into the main area, his face becoming illuminated by the hanging torches. A smug look occupied his face, and his transformation into a full Shadow Pony looked to be complete.

“You’ve remodeled my castle,” Sombra said, rather impressed with the changes, “all in this time?”

After thinking about why, his eyes relaxed, “Ahhh, you must have enjoyed your ‘gift’ from me. I hope the crystal mares have taught you everything you need to know about being a king.”

Midnight shook his head, “Your mares were a nice token, but ultimately not the point of me being your son. They are a distraction from my main goal.”

Sombra felt challenged by the statement, but cleared his throat and answered, “Ah. You’re the marrying type, then. My apologies, Midnight. I should have considered that perhaps as my successor, you would have had different worldly desires.”

His son bared his fangs in a toothy grin, “Heh, I forgive you. You’ve been more of a father to me than my previous one, after all. That’s why I wanted to build this new golem command center, to offer you a little present in the form of an upgrade to your castle. The magical devices I’ve built into this room run your commands through the conduits into the floor, out into the radar antennae Techorse has built into the missile launch silo. Now I can command your golem army through this very room! And that’s not all...”

Midnight walked forward towards the deep pit in the center of the room, Sombra watching him carefully. When he went to take his first hoofstep off the apparent precipice, a magical lattice of blue energy shot out from the four dark crystals in the center of the room, creating a forcefield that held Midnight up. Sombra, amazed by the work of arcane craftsmanship, stepped onto the holographic surface. Each of the dark crystals began to project images of the golems he had created, rows upon rows of units approaching a rapidly growing 3 dimensional model of the Crystal Empire. The details were very fine, even Rosseth was well-represented with a moping zebra image walking along the floor.

“This… this is your greatest masterpiece yet,” King Sombra marveled, “with this, we can give commands to the troops without expending our energy on spells necessary to communicate?”

“Indeed,” Midnight said, “watch this!”

His horn glowed, and a square of light shot out from the closest crystal, which rapidly grew to the size of a billboard in front of the two stallions. An image of Rosseth and his legion of golems approaching the city appeared, gaining their attention as the same portal formed in the air near them, bridging the connection between the two groups.

“Rosseth!” Midnight addressed him, “are you prepared to attack the city?”

The zebra was a bit startled by the sudden appearance of a floating screen containing the images of Midnight and Sombra, but answered back affirmatively.

“Yes, Midnight! We are just outside of the city. Should we begin the push for the Crystal Palace?”

Midnight waved his hoof sideways dramatically, “Move your troops into position, then begin the assault on the Crystal Empire!”

“Are we to destroy the palace?”

“No!” snapped Sombra, taking over, “Listen to me, zebra. You need to force the Crystal Ponies to cower within the city limits! After your troops have crushed their western fortress on all the Crystal Ponies have entered the city, retreat, and Techorse will launch the missile. I want them to suffer for their arrogance, but I want them alive as my slaves.”

Midnight gave him a side-eye, and then fought for control over the conversation, “Rosseth, you do what you must. If some of the Crystal Ponies get hurt for standing in your way, you do it in order to win! I don’t need Techorse’s filthy technology to win a fight.”

The golems in the background of the hybrid gave each other looks of mechanical regret, but straightened up when they caught Midnight’s gaze. Sombra was unhappy with his son’s impudence, but could not disagree with the need for a victory.

“Midnight, you are not king yet,” Sombra said before looking back to his general, “for now Rosseth, win this battle. But we will be using the missile, so obey my orders! Remember your oath… to protect her.”

Rosseth gritted his teeth, “Y... yes sir. My apologies lord Midnight, I must follow the king.”

The screen dismissed itself by shattering into a vanishing spray of polygons. Midnight turned to Sombra, the same cheeky smirk on his face.

“Speaking of being the king, I have a request.”

Sombra sighed, “Go on.”

“I’d like to move up my coronation to… now,” he answered, “I think I’ve learned all I must about Dark Magic, and how to be a true Shadow Pony. Why wait until midnight, when we’ll be easily able to conquer the Crystal Empire within just two or three hours?”

King Sombra stood firm, still a good foot over his chosen son, “You are being impatient. I sense great power in you, Midnight, and this device is proof of your skills. I want the Crystal Empire safely within our control before I choose to officially make you my Prince of Shadows.”

Midnight stomped his hoof, the holographic floor sparking to life, “WHY?! I’ve built you this room, superior to your observation deck in every way! I’ve taken your side, and agreed to help you take over the Crystal Empire. By stalling my coronation, you’re running the risk of Techorse and Flaming Ivory figuring out a way to stop you!”

“What?!” Sombra barked back, “Techorse and Flaming Ivory?”

“Yes! Those two are up to no good,” Midnight grumbled, “they’re going to...”


The unicorn heard his own voice, and the purple tendrils of dark magic’s grasp faded from his eyes. King Sombra observed the effect curiously, tilting his head slightly.

“Go on, Midnight Blaze.”

He heard his own voice again in his head pleading for sanity,

Midnight, listen! Your friends love you! Do not rat them out about the potion, they’re the reason you can hear ME... yourself! What you used to be before this Dark Magic consumed you!

The sapphire stallion sputtered for a moment, “They… uh… well… they’re too smart, father. I fear they have a plan to stop us.”

“And what will speeding up the coronation process do to stop that?” Sombra argued.

Midnight ignored his inner voice again, and came up with the perfect way to manipulate Sombra into getting what he wanted, “If I’m crowned, they will no longer be able to use the power of Equestrian Friendship to weaken us. As a prince instead of their friend, I’ll be able to use the full extent of my Dark Magic to stop them.”

“Equestrian Friendship…” Sombra muttered.

“Yes, the power that enabled Spike the Dragon to retrieve the Crystal Heart and defeat you,” Midnight answered, “grant me coronation soon… and I’ll be able to counter even that threat.”

“Very well,” Sombra answered after a moment of deep thought, “we will crown you in two hours. Anything to maximize our chances of victory.”

Midnight closed his eyes and smiled, “Good… Techorse, Midnight, get in here!”

Having sensed them spying again from the doorway, the unicorn’s aura ripped the two stallions from the doorway and dragged them screaming onto the holographic battle grid. Flaming Ivory looked up at the surly King Sombra and smiled out of embarrassment if not fear.

“Oh… hey guys!” he chuckled, “What’s up?”

“I see you are right,” Sombra said to Midnight, “as I have decreed, two hours, and you will be my Prince.”

“Sombra, even if you do crown Midnight, you’ll never stop those who want to be free!” Techorse warned him from his pinned position on the floor.

“Techorse, I’ve never been afraid of cowards claiming they want freedom,” Sombra answered, “and I’m certainly not afraid of you or any of your plans involving friendship. There’s no bond that could be formed today that can defeat me now.”

“So what are you gonna do to us?” Flaming Ivory asked, “We heard you accuse us, unfairly I gotta say, of trying to ruin your plans!”

“We’re going to keep you right here,” King Sombra cackled, his horn glowing red.

A cage of magical energy formed around the two stallions, suspending them in the middle as if they were in zero gravity. Sombra electrified the interior, shocking the poor stallions with several volts and temporarily disabling Techorse’s battle saddle. Midnight felt a twinge of pity for his friends… but the side that craved power forced him to enjoy the spectacle.

“Now you can’t do anything to challenge my rule,” Sombra said, “this is how I should have done it from the start, but now that I’m sure Midnight no longer views you as his friends, you’re the same as the other slaves.”

Midnight Blaze’s eyes shot wide open. King Sombra had promised to spare Techorse and Flaming Ivory since he had called them his friends before, demoting them only to the status of servants. Asking for coronation to end the power of friendship had ruined that.

Oh no… I just traded them for a crown!

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