• 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 40 - Broken Promises

Chapter 40

“I really, really dislike urban combat!” shouted Princess Luna over the din of magic bolts and metal clashing in the streets of the Crystal Empire.

Small fires burned throughout the city already as the golems clumsily knocked over gas lanterns and exploded their fuel lines, costing them individual units but creating chaos for their enemies. Ponies who had chosen not to attempt to go to battle soon found themselves trying to avoid being kidnapped while also putting out fires, sorrow on their faces from the damage to their formerly beautiful homes. A local bakery was completely ablaze from their own supply line bursting, and Luna moved in to help. The golem responsible for the damage stood nearby, smoke wafting from its cannon. In an attempt to get the mare in charge of the bread house to go with it, the machine had resorted to arson.

“What are we going to do?” cried the baker, tears and sweat running down her face, “Sombra's going to get me for sure now!”

Luna's magic cored out the trooper with a piercing blow from her horn, leaving it flayed open on the ground just meters away from the terrified owner.

“You're not safe here!” the alicorn told the earth pony, “You need to evacuate at once with the others to Steamcastle!”

“I... I can't leave, this bakery is all I have!” she cried out, “I've got to put out the fires!”

Her heart moved, the alicorn nodded and projected a rounded containing barrier with a surface pattern like the night sky over the entire building. The seal was perfect to the ground, and the fire soon died from oxygen starvation.

Luna dispelled the bubble and ordered the mare to leave, “Your home is safe now, but you must go to the palace!”

“Thank you!” she whispered, already running away from the battle.

“This is the least I can do to repay your city,” her savior mumbled, “all this... for my chalice.”

Spike and PAL found themselves on a street flanked on both sides by shops and buildings that hindered their movement. Even with PAL's ability to jump long distances, his rockets needed time to recharge, and every where they ran there was another golem waiting for them with a clenched fist or a loaded weapon. PAL's salvaged cannon tore through the leg of another soldier taking potshots at them from across the road in front of a mattress store, its scrapped body falling backward into the doorway. Unfortunately, that last shot seemed to short out the wiring and prevented it from triggering again, so PAL discarded it over his shoulder and shook his head in disbelief.

“These buildings have to be slowing these guys down,” Spike said, throat dry from his constant fire breathing, “we're fighting them one at a time!”

“There's at least four other targets around,” his mount responded, head swiveling to try and get a visual, “I can hear their footsteps.”

The young dragon suggested, “We can get away from them, right?”

PAL's back armor exploded with a sickening screech of ablative metal doing its job, magic ordinance rippling across him and knocking Spike clean off of his back. Horror overwhelmed his magic-influenced processor as PAL watched his buddy bounce across the cobblestone roads and let out a painful cry while coming to rest.

Spike got himself off the ground in time to watch PAL turn around to face the enemies, smoke rising from the set of fresh craters. His hearing had mislead him to believe the golems were not tracking them, instead three of them had flanked the robot and shot him in the back. The dragon's tail hurt like crazy, unlikely to be broken, but he could see a few purple scales lying around on the ground which had been broken to protect his body... just like the armor on his companion.

PAL didn't get to see him recover from the hit, and his orange lit eyes narrowed with mechanical irises until they turned a deep red, “You monsters.”

Maybe the golems standing in a line had realized their mistake, or maybe they were just attempting to finish the job. Either way, they panic fired their magic bolters again in hopes of bringing down the robot and dragon duo.

PAL, WAIT!” shouted Spike, holding out a claw, “Don't do anything nuts!”

Far too late for that to stop him, PAL ignited his rockets again and jumped high into the air in a perfect arc, thirty feet above the center golem of the platoon.


PAL unleashed a horrifying electronic yell which disturbed Spike deeply.

The projectiles shot at him were ignored like flies by the machine, executing a perfect jump on top of the middle golem in the line. His footpads smashed through its shoulders and crushed it flat in a fountain of sparks. Then he grabbed the other two standing next to it by their helmet-like heads and smashed them together with a force that would make a minotaur insanely jealous. With nothing left to control them, the two dropped to the ground.

Spike felt a bit traumatized... but knew he'd seen worse.

Also of importance to him was that he felt his throat itch like it never had before, “I wish I had something to drink.”

Pal had finally cooled off, eyes going orange again and wondering why his legs were stuck in Shadowsteel debris.

“There should be a pump around here for a drink of water, I could use the coolant too,” he said factually while turning around, as if he hadn't just gone berserk, “shall we find one, Spike?”

“PAL, forget the drink... whatever that was that you just did, don't do that again please,” Spike asked him nervously, “it's just not you.”

“I... I know that was rather harsh,” answered the biped, stepping off of the golem, “but don't worry, I'm sure it was just a defense routine I came up with in my sleep. I'll just take it out of memory, all right?”

As soon as he took his first step towards the public water fountain, Spike heard a scary creaking noise similar to a rusty gate. PAL's silver colored knee joints were buckling and leaking a thin black smoke, and he wasn't moving as fast as normal.

“Oh no... you broke your legs in that crazy jump!” he groaned.

“Nonsense,” PAL dismissed, waving his hand sideways, “it's just low on oil.”

The creaking became splintering, and PAL tottered for a bit until he came crashing down on his side, running the already damaged left shoulder and forcing him to shift onto his back. Spike ran to him and placed his hands on his torso.

“Ah, I stand corrected. Or, more accurately, lie here helplessly corrected.”

“I'm sorry PAL,” Spike said, burying his face in his arms, “I should have told you I was okay sooner!”

“This is my fault,” the butler groaned, pulling himself up to a seated position and forcing Spike to stop weeping on him, “I chose to follow my gut instead of thinking. Ironic, isn't it?”

“You were trying to protect me. You were being a good friend,” Spike answered, drying his eyes and smiling back, “and hey, we know all about friendship around here!”

PAL's eyes scanned over the crushed ruins of his foes, “I wish they knew the things we did. Chances are King Sombra will repair them and they'll never think about it again.”

Spike stood still, and then his green eyes lit up suddenly, “Hey... wait a minute. That's it! That's how we're going to stop the rest of the army!”

“I'm not following, Spike.”

“Just trust me on this,” he answered, grabbing him by the pointer finger, “but we gotta get going.”

The robot smiled and picked up his reclaimed magic cannon, this time using it as a cane to walk in a hunched over manner. Spike patiently stayed at his side instead of on his shoulder, eager to put his plan into action, but wanting to make sure they avoided another scrape. Between them, one was missing armor, one was missing scales, but they both had smiles on their faces.

“Man, we're not really cut out for this battle stuff,” joked the dragon, “it's so much more fun in the comic books.”

“Selling yourself short again, Spike?” came the laughing reply, “Typical!”

Kilometers away on the other side of the Empire, the elite fifth of Midnight's golems had positioned themselves in front of Steamcastle, ready to bring the fortress down and cut off the escape of the Crystal Ponies. The castle's four main turrets on the corners of the square buildings were each topped with two enclosed emplacements sporting twin barrels for unicorns to launch spells from. Tall walls connected the towers together, and the interior of the castle was dome-like with a handful of chimneys releasing water vapor from the steam engines inside that kept the defensive structure powered and warm.

Leading the force about to invade the impressive strongpoint was a singular golem with a red eye and a different setup. Perhaps the opposite of the green-eyed commander, this one was less built for leadership by Sombra, and more for firepower. The left arm was completely replaced with a six-barrel magical cannon tipped with golden patterns that ran down each one. Its armor was a shade darker than the other purple-eyed automatons surrounding it, and it stood in front of its team, carefully scanning over Steamcastle with hatred. The two turrets closer to them were locked on their team of a few hundred.

Midnight and Sombra's magical hologram opened a screen in the air right in front of this golem, which stood tall at the appearance of its masters, but failed to take its red eye off of its intended target.

“Red Commander,” Sombra said, “commence your attack on Steamcastle immediately. There are no more than forty defenders, hardly enough to even operate the four main cannons facing you. Destroy their pitiful artillery then disable steam engines! Leave the ponies inside alive for me.”

It seemed to obey by walking straight through the viewport, disrupting the long range projection magic. Following his lead, the rest of the troops charged for the castle, opening fire right away at the turrets. Purple energy burned into the tops of the towers, inside the unicorns manning the arcane equipment struggled to fight back.

“Take them down!” shouted Raider, the mare commanding Steamcastle, “aim for the center of their group and open fire!”

The two unicorns sitting in front of the cannons responded by casting a strong beam of magic into a nearby crystal connected to the magic projectors at the base of the cannons by a series of tubes. The entire room was mounted on a turntable to provide full coverage of the castle's territory. Outside, the short brass barrels heated to a blue, releasing four beams of light that lashed out into the center of the horde. No amount of magic resistance was able to prevent a hundred of them from instantly being blown apart into elementary particles, and anything else nearby was thrown dozens of feet into the air.

“Recharge! Fire again!”, Raider ordered while a shower of yellow sparks filled the room from the golem's shots damaging their setup, “We've got to keep these guys from coming through!”

Red Commander stepped forward, ignoring the fact that half his force had been eradicated in the blink of an eye, and braced on his knees, raising his left arm. The gatling styled weapon launched a long volley of pellets right at the barrels of the left castle turret, filling it with horrible levels of energy. Both guns were smashed apart, throwing their unicorn operates backwards and on top of their leader. A magical tube frayed off of the gun and thrashed about like a wounded snake.

“Get off of me you two!” the lead mare screeched, “Can't you hornless idiots do anything right?!”

Metal hands emerged from where the twisted, broken guns poked out of the castle. The golems had climbed up the walls and were clawing their way into the castle. Infuriated, the general pushed her unconscious stallions off herself and cast a narrow ray of lightning into the mess, knocking several golems off the widening hole and down to the ground below. But even that wouldn't stop the advancing horde, most of the enemy army was within the minimum range of the castle's weapons. Once the hole was as wide as the golems were, the Red Commander pushed his way up and ignored the gunnery officer's screaming and lightning magic, letting it bounce off its armor like a tennis ball on a brick wall.

Refusing to panic, Raider clenched her jaw tightly as the rounded room filled with golems. The red-eyed one walked up to her, and stared deep into her soul with stony silence.

“You're the leader, aren't you?” she said, backed up against a wall, “Are you here to take me to King Sombra to be his horseshoe polisher? Well go ahead, you worthless pile of scrap metal! You're just a pawn of his like all your friends.”

Red Commander raised his left arm and unleashed a short burst of energy, silencing Steamcastle's leader. Moving on into the depths of the castle coldly in order to knock out the steam engines within, the other golems stood in shock, unable to process the cruelty. One of the soldiers moved forward and cradled Raider's unconscious body, sensing the fading life force within. With his commander off doing who knew what, it took charge and led the others to safety with the ponies as captives.

From the command room, King Sombra felt the disturbance, and wondered if he had failed to keep his promise to Princess Celestia.

“Commander Red has strayed way too far from his orders,” he muttered to Midnight, “he may have just done something horrible to one of the Crystal Ponies that will leave them... less than capable of service to us..”

“You built Red Commander with stronger armor and weapons to be able to defeat the heavier weapons at Steamcastle,” reminded the unicorn, “did you cast his aggression routines to be too strong?”

Suddenly, the hologram of Steamcastle shattered into a thousand pieces, a virtual plume of smoke and fire rising into the air.

“Way too strong,” Midnight growled.

WHAT?!” Sombra yelled with a demonic twist in his voice, “BRING UP THE COMMAND SCREEN AGAIN, MIDNIGHT!”

When the viewing screen opened up again, they saw nothing but a burning Steamcastle, the dome roof blown open and the towers collapsed in. The surviving few dozen golems had placed the occupants in a few cages, most of them in very bad condition. Raider was being held stable by a few of her friends and even two of the golems, but the fear in their eyes made it clear that she wouldn't last much longer without medical help.

COOMAAAANDER!” boomed Sombra, “I said DISABLE the castle. NOT DESTROY IT!”

The machine stood silent, pointing to the ponies in the cages as if it had followed orders simply by leaving them physically in one piece.

“Yes I can see that the Crystal Guards are all accounted for,” the king of shadows grumbled, “but you've given the Crystal Ponies reason to fight harder by nearly killing Major Raider. I told you to leave her and the others alive you...”

Red Commander, having already tasted blood, started walking for the Crystal Empire, raising his gun to continue the fight. The rectangular screen chased him down, stopping in front of him again.

“Are you listening to us?! Do not move on to the Crystal Empire! Stay here and cut off any ponies trying to escape from the city,” Midnight ordered, “I can tell you want to keep fighting, but you're under our command, you need to...”

Ignoring the stallions, the machine raised its gun and fired into the hologram, tearing it to shreds and rendering static on the other side.

Midnight shook with anger, “For the love of... we've created a psychopath with a gatling magic bolter.”

“I cannot deactivate the golem either,” Sombra said as his horn glowed red, “he's removed his control rune.”

The two shadow ponies stared blankly at the figure of Red Commander marching straight for the Crystal Empire. The other golems were happy to obey their orders and stood around patiently, some moving to try and help make up for the injuries dealt out by their ruthless general. But King Sombra could sense Raider's life force flickering like a candle about to snuff out.

I'm sorry, Celestia,” he thought with bitter disappointment.

“Come on Arbiter, you're falling behind!” Limpwing prodded, throwing her last kunai into a golem trying to take aim at the stallion.

“I'm still close!” he answered back with an angry horizontal swipe that bisected one of his opponents, the sound of metal tearing through metal grating in his ears, “only behind by one!”

A nearby militia pony was seized suddenly by the closing adversaries, removing yet another combatant. Arbiter and Limpwing could feel the golems closing in around them in the city streets, with little room for escape. Behind them, the Crystal Palace loomed with its spire putting out energy to maintain the thermal barrier. A projectile

“We're surrounded!” Arbiter declared, smirking, “That's a shame for them.”

Limpwing pulled some of her knives from her previous targets and kept them spread out in her wings, standing right next the caped stallion, “So I guess we're going to go down fighting then? Don't mind if it's next to you.”

“We cannot let them get past us to the Crystal Palace,” Arbiter said as he deflected a projectile with the edge of his blade, “they're likely trying to destroy the Crystal Heart!”

“There's too many of them for just the two of us to handle,” Limpwing answered after throwing a blade into a golem's breastplate, “not unless you've got some kind of an idea for taking them all down at once.”

A flying shadow passed overhead, getting the two to look up. Celestia had six bright orbs of yellow magic near her, eyes glowing white and tracking several of the golems below. Each of the spheres locked onto a separate target and streaked down, pummeling the victim it struck into the pavement. Luna strafed the group to her sister's left with powerful pulses of dark colored energy, a flashing beam that shredded the golems where they stood. Not wanting to lose any further numbers to the alicorns, the golems turned their weapons skyward and began blasting away, which gave Arbiter and Limpwing the time they needed to charge forward and chop at them while they were distracted.

Unfortunately, the machines were better shots than anticipated, and Celestia felt her left wing get clipped in the joint, forcing her to crash land on a nearby roof. Luna felt her own wings get hit, but glided to safety on the same rooftop with only a few burns on her appendages.

“Your Highness!” shouted Arbiter, growing angry.

He performed his usual trick of leaping over the top of the golems and slashing backwards, leaving the three responsible for hurting the princesses headless. The two alicorns gracefully stepped down from the roof and onto the street below, wings now too tender to fly.

“Are you injured?” Arbiter asked of them.

“It's only bruising, we'll be fine,” Princess Luna answered, “we'll be able to fly again with a bit of rest.”

More troops poured into the city square, running buildings with their firepower and forcing the ponies to fight back to back against them. It felt like they were cutting down enemies by the dozen, but more of them were starting to ignore the royalty and their servants, making a straight path for the Crystal Palace. Celestia's horn flashed white, and a bubble of energy surrounded the four, purple bolts splashing harmlessly against it.

“We need to stop mindlessly fighting and think carefully,” the ruler of Equestria said, “this barrier will give us enough time to come up with a plan. Have you noticed that these golems are mostly ignoring us now?”

“Yes, and I'm worried they're making a push for the Crystal Heart,” Limpwing answered, “or, well... that's what Arby here thinks.”

“Arbiter, what makes you suspect that's their intended target?” Luna asked.

The one-eyed stallion sheathed his sword momentarily and laid out his thoughts, “It's simple, ma'am. King Sombra wants the Crystal Heart destroyed so that he may launch the missile he forced Techorse to build likely at the point of a sword. He's probably built the missile to plunge the Crystal Empire into darkness forever, and the Crystal Heart is the only shield capable of stopping it.”

“...and with the thermal shield being expanded like this, I bet the Heart's vulnerable!” Limpwing said, disgusted, “any chance you can poof us back into the Palace?”

“We can do that,” answered Princess Luna, “but there are simply too many of them. As much as I am afraid to say it... the fate of the Crystal Empire may be in Ignitus's hooves.”

Together, Celestia and Luna combined their magical abilities and whisked the four of them away to the Crystal Heart's chamber. The golems in the square watched the ponies vanish from underneath their shield, and pointlessly pounded away at the protective barrier until it collapsed in a flash of yellow light.

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