• 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 41 - Broken Hearts

With the streets having flooded with golems and the citizens who had chosen not to fight as members of the militia within grabbing range of the advancing horde, Steady Hoof had retreated his operations back into the basement of the Crystal Palace, which was filling up with more injured by the minute. Working with the diligence and tirelessness of a machine, the unicorn doctor scalpel'd, stitched, and bandaged his way through case after case, emptying thousands of bits worth of healing salves and non-magical supplies to close holes, suppress bruises, and in general defend that glorious record of having never lost a patient on the table.

He began to curse silently the existence of the Heart-created armor, because when it finally did manage to shatter from physical damage it tended to poke into the skin and go soft where it was hard to retrieve. The mare below him, groaning from the pain of her helmet being crunched around her head, would likely need some fractures treated after one of the machines picked her up hard and squeezed her like a dog toy. Faerie Tail held the back of the mare's neck gently, aiding the doctor while his nurses ran around and took care of the patients that had already received healing.

“These golems are toying with us,” he grumbled through his surgical mask, flipping a magnification lens over his right eyeball, “you're all alive, but barely.”

Arbiter had rescued this one with Limpwing's help, but removing the mashed helmet without causing further harm would be tricky. Thinking for a moment about how he'd handle the procedure, the doctor selected a marker from a stained cup on the surgical tool table, and started to make markings on the helmet where he'd need to make cuts... if he could make cuts into the super-material.


Princess Cadance had burst into his surgery room, a still knocked out Shining Armor hovering above her head magically. Her look stunk of desperation to the surly emergency doctor, who only gave her a courtesy glance in order to keep working on his current patient.

“Patience, your Highness,” he muttered without moving.

“Steady Hoof, Shining Armor still hasn't woken up!” Faerie Tail said to him, “don't you remember his brave act shielding us all when we were still at the front lines?”

“Yes, and Princess Cadance should have brought him here immediately instead of stalling,” answered Steady sarcastically, finishing his lines, “what, did you try to wake him up yourself for the past hour?”

“I haven't had time to try,” begged the alicorn, placing her husband on the closest empty cot available, “you've got to understand, there were lots of hurt ponies I encountered on the way here... I've been using my healing magic on them first before trying to help my husband. He's breathing, but I just want to know if he'll be okay!”

Steady Hoof finally felt a speck of warmth in his normally icy soul and motioned to Faerie Tail to let the Crystal Pony rest her stuck head on the hospital bed. He lowered his surgeon's mask and got next to Shining Armor, making eye contact with Cadance.

“So, you healed other ponies first before helping Shining, huh? That was probably the most medically professional thing I’ve seen anypony do in a long time,” he said stiffly, yet proudly.

“Can you help him?” the princess asked, “When you have time?”

Steady Hoof inspected Shining Armor's slumped over form by eye and carefully checked his pulse and breathing. He spoke to himself in some kind of unintelligible doctor speak, and then, to the horror of the mares present, slapped Shining Armor comically across the cheek with his right hoof!


Shining gasped and shot up to attention, cheek red with a fresh hoof imprint, “Gaaaah!

Faerie Tail's mouth hung open in shock from the doctor's crude method of waking up the stallion, although she guessed it meant the unicorn hadn't really been hurt at all.

Shining Armor felt his sore face with his scuffed hoof and demanded to know,


“For taking a nap and wasting valuable time I could be spending performing necessary surgery,” Steady Hoof explained with a roll of his eyes, “and on top of that, making your little wifey worried sick!”

“Next time just use an ice cube, you crackpot,” Shining snapped in response, rubbing the red mark.

The surgeon wouldn't hear it, “Don't drain all your magical reserves in one go next time. Now shut up and let me get back to my other patients, and don't even try making another shield for a good week, you'll get inflammation of the horn nerve and require draining... and I'm not going to have time to perform a safe horn tap with all of this war garbage you royalty keep getting Equestria and her allies into.”

Shining wanted to lunge from his bed and pay back the doctor for his slap and fresh lip, but Cadance threw her hooves around him.

“Ignore the doctor,” she said softly after kissing him where he'd been hit, “I'm just glad you're healthy.”

“What's going on in the Empire?” he asked.

“We're... losing,” groaned a nearby stallion from the Crystal Guard, armor smashed up and one eye black, “we've probably destroyed thousands of them sir, but I just got here and they're pushing on the palace now.”

“Would have loved to have heard that earlier,” Steady Hoof said as he cut the helmet loose from the suffering mare, “I sure hope those golems are well aware that interfering with field surgery is a terrible war crime they could be melted down into scrap for!”

“Not sure they care,” Shining Armor responded, “should we evacuate?”

“The Crystal Heart is retracting the thermal barrier already,” Cadance said to them, “it'll defend us and stop them from getting in. Sombra couldn't survive being exposed to the Heart, I doubt they'll do much better.”

“I'll be ready to move the rest of the Crystal Ponies and their kids when we must,” Faerie Tail said, “but we must have a plan if we're going to leave.”

“We'll head for Steamcastle and bunker down there if we have to,” Shining Armor replied, “but as long as we've got the Heart, we're fine.”

Green Commander's day had gone from bad enough to downright horrible. Not only were three fourths of his troops destroyed in exchange for the capture of only a good half of the populace, but now even the buildings were starting to become a hazard. Some of the Crystal Ponies had booby trapped their own homes or shops with heavy piles of boulders or exploding energy crystals, making finding the cowering civilians dangerous. Of course, if they weren't cowering, they were coming after him with those spears crafted by the Crystal Heart, although the golem suspected the majority of those had been broken or lost over the past hour of fighting. Most of the Crystal Militia had been tackled and safely caged outside of the city limits, but there were hundreds more hiding in the palace and behind it. Now, with a remaining force of only a thousand or so units left backing him up, they needed to subdue the Heart itself or risk failure.

A good hundred of the machines made a line in front of the tall palace and elevated their guns at the central area of the tower, opening fire with a volley of bolts that chipped away at the outer surface of the crystalline castle. Some of the Crystal Guard took shots at the troops from behind the legs of the tower, but their spears and magic beams went mostly ignored, the golems determined to break through the door that protected the Crystal Heart.

Inside the Heart's chamber, Princess Celestia and the others felt the rippling of explosions on the outside of the room, dust and debris fell from the ceiling on the ponies' heads.

“They're trying to break through and destroy the Crystal Heart!” she said loudly over the blasts, “I'm not sure how long the walls of the palace can withstand this kind of firepower!”

The armored doors to the room started to open up, blasts from the golems leaking in and causing chaos inside.

“Hey! Why's the door opening?” Limpwing yelled, “We're going to get exposed to that firepower!”

Princess Luna looked at the Crystal Heart, its rotation increasing in speed and white flecks of arcane power sparking up from inside of it. With a bit of intuition, she quickly figured out what was about to happen.

“I will support the Heart! It shall not fall!” Luna yelled over the top of her sibling, casting a ray of energy into the Heart's core.

Hoping that his princess knew what she was doing, Arbiter stepped back with Limpwing as the Heart's energy changed from a blue glue to a dark one.

Midnight watched as the hologram of the Crystal Palace started to open up to expose the Crystal Heart, the images of his golems below pounding away at the opening doors.

“Not much longer now,” he said, his enthusiasm clearly beginning to fade as the potion worked on him further.

King Sombra was not convinced, “I'm afraid this is far from over, Midnight Blaze. Even though we’ve captured most of their fighters, we’ve lost half our forces and the sisters have yet to be defeated. Have we made contact with Rosseth as of late? What's his current status?”

The prince spotted something that clearly looked like the zebra hybrid standing behind the lines of golems, and opened up a pathway to him with the usual spell. A viewport in front of the startled Rosseth opened, showing him his king and prince again.

“Rosseth,” King Sombra ordered, “the golems are quite single-minded despite their strength and are playing right into the Crystal Heart's typical defense mechanism. You must infiltrate the Crystal Palace and disable it so that we can guarantee the missile will have nothing to stop it.”

Rosseth remained silent, looking up at the two, and nodded gently. He took off in a sprint for the Crystal Palace without even acknowledging the order properly.

You had better obey my orders,” King Sombra spoke telepathically through his dark aura.

For some peculiar reason, it felt as if his message had been received without any indication that Rosseth was afraid of it. Had he forgotten so easily that Lighthearted would pay with her head if he deserted?

“I'm not sure why Rosseth didn't say anything to us, but he's obeying his orders. I just saw his hologram enter the palace,” Midnight said, ending his doubts.

“Perhaps our dear zebra is just tired of the golems' ineptitude,” the king joked, hoping there was nothing funny going on.

The door had finished opening, exposing the Crystal Heart to the outside world again, this time infused with some of Princess Luna's magical energies. As expected by the princesses and their two friends the hail of fire entered the room and began wreaking havoc inside. Chunks of stone and crystal were blown apart from the ceiling and walls. Determined to help the intelligent artifact survive the bombardment, Princess Luna concentrated on contributing as much of her power as possible. The Heart distributed the energy as a rapidly-expanding panel of purple energy across the front of the opening in front of it. It acted as an impromptu shield, absorbing each hit with a rippling like stones hitting a pond.

“If you're going to fight back, do so!” Luna pleaded of it.

Outside, the golems watched as the Heart's outline glowed bright white, which went ignored in favor of continuing to fire away mindlessly. Then, in a spectacular counterattack, a wide and sweeping ray of white light brighter than a magnesium flare shot to the far left of the group, burrowing into the ground with a horrifying screeching sound. The ray of light tore to the right, burning through the group of golems and blasting each of them apart as if they were made of nothing more than paper. In the blink of an eye, Green Commander found himself down to only half of his original force, a pile of burnt parts remained of his bombardment team.

Luna released her aid to the artifact, gasping for breath and nearly collapsing to the floor. An entire day of fighting followed up with a powerful cast had drained her completely.

“Luna!” shouted her sister, rushing over and grabbing her barrel with her left wing.

“I need to keep fighting,” she answered, “the Crystal Empire needs me.”

“You've done enough for now,” Celestia answered.

Princess Cadance had of course felt the blast from the foundation of the building, and entered the room with her husband behind her. The doors to the room were starting to shut again, and the Crystal heart's rotation slowed down as it took time to recharge. Outside, the thermal barrier had started to flicker from the energy drain.

“Is everypony okay?” Cadance asked, “What's going on?”

“Princess Luna managed to repel most of the remaining invaders with the help of the Crystal Heart,” Limpwing answered, “We'll be safe for a while until the golems manage to regroup and push again.”

Arbiter chuckled and added, “I would have loved to have seen the looks on their faces, if they had them that is...”

“It doesn't matter,” Shining Armor said, “we've stopped them here, but King Sombra's castle is going to keep making those golems and sending them here until we get overrun. Most of the spears the Heart gave us have been used up or lost. Ignitus needs to take out those factories or we won't be able to stop them all. There's nothing else we can do but hang on.“

“Actually, Shining Armor, there's something we can do,” Spike said confidently, riding into the room on PAL's shoulders.

The ponies in the room looked at the mangled state of the robot, who managed to give his usual mechanical smile despite his wrecked knee motors and ruined torso plating. Princess Cadance gave the machine a look of pity, but PAL just laughed it off and held his best “thumbs up” to her.

“I see those looks,” he said, “save your worries for later. Spike and I have a plan.”

“All right, we're listening,” Captain Arbiter said.

“Yes, please Spike, go on!” Celestia encouraged with a nod.

The young dragon hopped off of his friend and landed on the floor with his fist into the tile, cracking it. After looking at the damage in disbelief, he shrugged his shoulders and laughed nervously.

“Well, I got to thinking... maybe the golems are being forced to obey Sombra.”

Shining Armor scowled, “Are you nuts? Those things don't think...”

“Hear me out, Shining,” insisted the dragon, “there's not much difference between PAL and those golems out there besides the stuff they're made of. It's all just parts and some magic, right?”

“Golems are indeed magical constructs made from base materials and magical instructions carefully encoded with enchantments,” Cadance said in a monotone voice before explaining, “or at least, that's what Twilight told me when she read a book on them and couldn't put it down.”

“Right, well, I think the magic all around us influences those guys so they can think on their own, too,” the dragon explained, “while we were out fighting them, they seemed to act more alive if they were distracted... but then something would make them freak out and attack. I bet there's something making them act that way.”

None of the ponies seemed to be following Spike's logic, perhaps the adrenaline of being fired at had removed their attention to detail.

PAL limped forward at this point and tried to explain further, “What Spike is trying to say is, the golems may have some sort of magic component that makes them aggressive. If we were to remove it somehow, they would stop fighting and become peaceful.”

“If that is the case, what should we do to remove those?” Princess Celestia asked.

“Simple, we write our own spell to fry the piece controlling them!” Spike answered, putting his fists at his side triumphantly.

“Writing your own spell and 'simple' can't be used in the same sentence,” Shining Armor answered rudely, “even the greatest wizards such as Starswirl the Bearded would take years to come up with anything new, and that's not even including time for testing or safety.”

“Now wait a minute,” Limpwing interrupted, shoving Shining Armor out of the way with a swift slap of her wing, “writing something new would take forever, but nothing's stopping us from just doing the opposite of whatever Sombra did to create the aggression enchantment.”

“And how am I supposed to know what the counterspell is for that?” argued the stallion, shoving back against her, “it's not like I can just...”

He stopped with a blank expression on his face, only able to stare coldly. Cadance turned to look at what her husband was fixated on, and her own expression lit up with surprise. Rosseth was standing in the doorway, having clearly trespassed and gotten past the rest of their defenses.

“Rosseth,” Shining Armor called out, “you’d better be here to surrender.”

Something’s wrong,” Celestia thought, noticing how dead the zebra’s expression looked.

He walked into the room and looked around without saying a word, amulet dangling from his neck and making a jingling sound while he walked. Shining Armor did not take too kindly to being ignored, especially to someone he personally believed was a huge threat to the safety of his wife.

“You’d better stop whatever this is you’re doing and get on the ground,” he snapped at him, “you’re going to be sorry if you don’t listen to me!”

“Shining, please!” Cadance begged, “Ross, come here! We can talk about this!”

Rosseth turned and started moving towards the royal couple, still refusing to say anything, or even blink his eyes. Princess Celestia felt a nervous twitch go up her spine from how uncanny the zebra was behaving.

“There’s something peculiar about Rosseth,” Arbiter said to the princess, confirming she wasn’t the only one curious, “he’s not showing off with his usual bravado.”

Shining was really beginning to lose his patience, “Don’t you have anything to say?”

His enemy’s eyes were locked firmly on the Crystal Heart, rotating in place in the center of the room. It was like he was in a trance state, unable to move his focus from the beauty of the object. He squeezed between the crystal royals and stood directly in front of it, looking up like a mesmerized child.

“I take it you’ve never seen the Crystal Heart before?” asked Spike, “Well I don’t mean to brag but, I’m kind of proud of how I rescued it. So take it in, Ross!”

Spike’s eyes suddenly filled with painful blue light as “Rosseth” transformed into a bolt of electricity and shot in the very core of the Crystal Heart before anyone in the room could react. The attack happened so quickly that all Cadance could do was scream in horror while her nation’s source of power cracked down the middle. Then, an explosion filled the room, nearly turning everyone’s insides into the consistency of gelatin from the shockwave and the force of them being thrown hard against the walls. The princesses all lost their crowns at once, anything left of Shining’s remaining armor plating was blown away, and Spike considered himself lucky he wasn’t stripped bare of scales.

“What just happened?” Limpwing demanded, embedded in the wall upside down but no worse for wear otherwise.

Recovering from the impact, Cadance sat up against the wall of the room and rubbed her head. She saw the state of the Crystal Heart now, cut neatly in two on the floor of the power room. Dread surged through her mind, and her vocal chords failed to produce words. There was devastation and anger in the minds and looks of each pony in the room, it just registering then that they had more or less lost the battle with that one act.

“That was one of Rosseth’s copies,” Arbiter grunted, flipping his eyepatch back down over his bad eye, “and it would seem it sacrificed itself to destroy the Crystal Heart.”

“How could I have been so careless,” Shining Armor moaned, “I let my guard down!”

“Well wait, the Crystal Heart will regenerate itself, right?” panicked Spike, running up to the two broken halves on the floor, each one dull and gray, “We can just fix it, right?!”

Princess Cadance felt a lump in her throat, “It will but… by the time it does… Sombra will have already won. We’ve got nothing to protect ourselves against that weapon he made Techorse build. It’s… it’s over.”

“Then we need to move the rest of the Crystal Ponies to Steamcastle, away from the Empire!” Shining said, not giving up, “we’ll hold out until after the missile hits, and maybe figure out Spike’s way of converting the golems to our side. Then we can come back and everything will be back to normal.”

“I agree with Shining Armor’s plan,” Celestia said, “we must save the Crystal Ponies by escaping to the west.”

“We’re with you!” said Spike and PAL.

The others started to leave the chamber, only Cadance remained kneeled in front of the broken Heart. Shining looked back into the doorway at his beautiful spouse, ears drooping from guilt.

“Cadance, come on, dear… we have to go.”

She managed to peel herself away and approach him, but quickly kissed her husband on the forehead. Shining knew that meant she wasn’t going to be listening to him.

“I need to lock the Crystal Heart up and protect it while it heals,” she answered, smiling, “I’m the Crystal Princess, it’s caretaker. The golems won’t come here now that it’s been disabled. I’ll be okay.”

“But what about the missile?” Shining begged her to be reasonable, “If it hits, you’ll be under Sombra’s control!”

“If I can fix the Crystal Heart he’ll never succeed,” she answered, kissing him again, “I love you but… you have to trust me!”

Without giving him a choice, Cadance pushed him back with her magic and shut the door. Then, she returned to the Crystal Heart and placed the pieces together with her hooves. An arc of white lightning pushed the two halves apart again. The alicorn looked at the halves glumly and sobbed quietly in the silence of the room.

With the Crystal Heart destroyed, King Sombra breathed a sigh of heavy relief, “The Crystal Heart has been vanquished. Rosseth was more clever than I had thought.”

Midnight Blaze agreed, “That’s true. Now we should deal the finishing blow. Let’s prepare the missile for launch.”

King Sombra’s eyes flashed red, “Let’s. But first, we must address something important.”

His horn sent a pulse into the nearest corner of the hologram system, deactivating it. The floor closed up over the pit containing the magical projectors, creating a carpeted and solid place to stand. Midnight made eye contact with the king, his ancestor, his mentor, and his new father. So much had happened over the past few days so quickly, and power beyond belief was being offered to him. But in the ever-increasing back of his mind, Midnight felt horrible and wanted nothing to do with dark magic.

Sombra’s statement left him with little choice in the matter however,

“It’s time. The moment of your coronation has arrived, Midnight Blaze.”

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