• 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 7 - A Secret Meeting

Chapter 7

Now that the duke's home had once again been secured, law enforcement showed up to take away three of the mercenaries, who had been beaten down by the gardeners with their shovels and rakes, their wings bound with rope to keep them from escaping. Techorse had brought his friends back to the rose garden, where they found the duchess and her husband talking to the police.

“Oh, it's Princess Luna's friends,” she said, turning away from the griffon officers, “you're alive and well I see.”

“Of course we are lady,” laughed Flaming Ivory, “wouldn't be Luna's best otherwise. Not even a scratch on us!”

Taking notice of the slight injuries on the ponies, the duchess crossed her arms, “Seems to me you had quite the fight, actually.”

“Eh, par for the course, but we pulled out ahead in the end,” admitted Flaming Ivory.

“Not really, we lost the chalice to a zebra who was crafting some kind of potion in your home,” explained Techorse, disappointed, “he was the one who hired the mercenaries.”

“We're very sorry about the loss of Luna's prized chalice,” said the duke, “but we'll make it up to you by rewarding you all for saving Stargazer's Peak from those brutes! Just name it.”

“Thanks, but we've got to go after the chalice thief,” explained Techorse, turning down the favor.

“I understand, but if there's anything else we can do for you, just let us know, ok?” answered the royal griffon.

Typesetter approached Techorse and company, “I guess this is goodbye then?”

“Looks like it,” answered Shadow, “thanks for helping us out, Typesetter.”

Techorse got an idea, and turned back to the duke, “Maybe there's one thing you could do for me.”

“What's that?” he asked, “Say the word, Techorse.”

“Well, my friend Typesetter here is an aspiring author. Do you think maybe you could help him establish himself more as a writer?” asked the inventor as he pointed at the gray coated pegasus.

The duke looked at Typesetter, who was smiling nervously, “Hmmm, well now, I guess in all my years of being duke, I've never actually had a book written about my famous rose garden! I'll help you out like Techorse asked by commissioning a new book on my estate, and then we'll get it published. Sound good Typesetter?”

“Yes! Thank you sir,” answered the pegasus gratefully.

He turned to Techorse and threw himself around the stallion, embracing him in a hug, “You guys are the best!”

“Hey, it's the least we can do after your help. Don't forget to say thanks to the girls at the theater though, they helped a bit too.”

“We'll make sure the theater gets extra patronage this year,” assured the duchess, “is there anything else?”

“Just a ride out of here back for Canterlot,” Midnight Blaze requested, “we've got to tell Princess Luna we've lost the cup.”

“There should be another train leaving soon,” said Typesetter, “I'll get a message out to Princess Luna by courier. I hope she's not too mad.”

“She won't be,” Techorse sighed, “of course, she'll be miserable. I don't want to get everyone down, but based on all that potion equipment, I'd say the zebra we encountered is trying to use the chalice's potion affecting abilities to craft something evil.”

One of the police officers stood up from talking to the tied up mercenaries and walked over to the duke. He had overheard Techorse's statement on the possibility of an evil brew in progress, and felt like it would be a good time to share the information he had learned from his captive suspects.

“Excuse me, Duke Percher, Duchess Downy,” he interrupted, “we've finished questioning the mercenaries, and I believe I have an answer for Mr. Techorse. Since they're not getting paid their bonus for keeping you locked up, they were happy to share everything about their boss.”

“Excellent,” responded Duke Percher, chuckling, “what did you find out?”

“Their boss wanted the chalice for some kind of experiment he wanted to perform within the Crystal Empire,” said the cop, concern in his avian eyes, “I don't know what they meant by that, but that's a fragile pony community.”

Techorse smiled, “Great! Now we know where he's headed.”

“In that case, you'll need to hurry up and catch your train, we don't have a connection to the Empire,” urged Duke Percher, “good luck, friends, and say hi to Princess Luna for us if you see her again!”

The ponies exited the duke's estate through the front gate and started walking back through town for the station. About halfway through the walk, Typesetter caught up with them, flying down from above to wish them farewell.

“Wait up!” he said, “I wanted to thank you guys again for getting me a book deal with the duke.”

“Aw, you're welcome,” responded Techorse, “you've earned it.”

“Can I still keep the copy of your book?” teased Flaming Ivory.

“Of course!” answered the writer, happy to have a reader, “I hope you guys come back here again someday. News of today's going to spread like crazy, and you'll probably be heroes here.”

“Hey, maybe we'll take a vacation here some time,” said Shadow Breeze, “might be fun.”

“Good to hear guys,” finished the author, “I won't keep you any longer, don't want you to miss your train!”

“Take care Typesetter,” said Shadow Breeze.

The pegasus, eager to get started on his new book, left the team to return to his bookstore. With just a few minutes to spare, the ponies were the last ones on the train headed back for Canterlot, in hopes of finding another train headed for the Crystal Empire.

“I'm glad you could make it here so quickly,” Princess Luna said with a dry strain in her voice, “this is about your son of course, detective.”

Ignitus, his scowl unmoving from his face, stood in front of the princess's thrown and answered, “What about Midnight your Highness? Don't tell me he chickened out of the mission you had for him.”

The alicorn was startled by Ignitus's blunt, mean spirited assumption about his own offspring, and she was speechless for a moment before answering,

“Oh no, Midnight did indeed go on the mission. I've merely just had a night where I couldn't contact him through his dreams, Ignitus.”

“Well it's not unlike my son for him to stay up all night building things,” answered the trench coat clad pony, turning up his front hoof and shaking his head in disbelief, “he's probably just doing his usual avoidance of working on bettering himself.”

“Ignitus, if we could remain on topic...” asked Luna politely, standing up from her throne, “this is not about Midnight's personal choices. This is about his safety, and possibly Equestria's.”

“Well, what do you want me to do? I already try to kick his flank, it doesn't work.”

Princess Luna stepped forward, forcing Ignitus to take a step back. She was beginning to show signs of anger, which her guards nearby could sense. They geared up to kick Ignitus out of the room if necessary, and intentionally shuffled their spears around a bit to audibly inform the unicorn he was treading on eggshells.

“I wish for you to join the investigation concerning the chalice,” ordered the princess, making sharp eye contact, “you are our best detective, and I have a terrible feeling about my friends whom I've sent to retrieve it. There is strong evidence I am not the only one seeking to claim the cup now.”

“Do you have any leads on it besides Stargazer's Peak?” asked Ignitus, removing a pad of paper and a quill from inside his trench coat with a red aura of energy from his horn, “I'll be happy to stake out the last known location myself and report back.”

“I think it is best we wait for Techorse and your son to return,” Luna said as she turned to face one of the windows in the throne room, “I have received word they are arriving back this afternoon by train again, and I do not think they have the chalice. Tell me where they are headed next, and we'll follow them there. If the cup is indeed missing, this will be very serious.”

“As you wish,” grunted Ignitus, returning the writing materials to the inside of his coat, “I'll head down to the train station and wait for them.”

The unicorn turned around, and started to march out of the room, grumbling about his misfortune. Now he had to keep up with his “deficient” son by the princess's orders.

“Ignitus?” she asked, a new tone in her voice.

This made him stop, and his ears perk up a bit. He did not turn around, but he felt something new in Princess Luna's voice, a sense of fear he hadn't felt from any of the princesses in the history of his career.

“Thank you,” came the soft voice.

Sighing, Ignitus huffed out of the throne room, the door quickly shut behind him by the royal guard.

As was to be expected, without a team of trained mercenaries after them, the train ride home was not at risk of being sabotaged. The four ponies sat back at the same table they had chosen the last time, and were mostly staring at each other, trying not to talk about their failure to retrieve the chalice. They were only under an hour away from the Canterlot station again, and were trying to

Who was that zebra?” thought Techorse, his chin resting on the table and his eyes heavy, “And what does he want with the chalice? It was stupid of us to let that lab equipment get blown up, I could have analyzed it...

Flaming Ivory was not buried in depressive thoughts like his best friend, instead choosing to bury himself in Typesetter's book, ignoring the fact that Shadow Breeze was peeking over him to read as well. Shadow Breeze started to shrink back in fear as they both read the passage in the novel.

“The hapless explorer was brought before the snake pony queen, and he feared heavily for his life when he noticed the carvings on the ancient temple she called home featured glyphs of innocent, four legged ponies like himself being led to chopping blocks... the snake ponies above them feasting on the remains.”

“Oh man, this is going to get grisly,” said Flaming Ivory dryly, “poor guy.”

Shadow Breeze couldn't imagine the horror of being chopped up like that, and the timid pegasus sunk in his seat on the train. His friend with the book looked at the worried expression on his face, and took pity.

He smiled and pointed at where he was in the story, “Hey Shadow, come on, there's still half the book to go. If he was gonna get barbecued, the book would be over!”

“That's true,” agreed Shadow Breeze, returning to a more comfortable posture, “I'm sorry Flaming, ever since I've gotten close to finishing my diplomacy education, I've started worrying about the job. I keep thinking I'll make a mistake in front of another nation, and get 'chopped up' myself.”

Midnight Blaze disagreed with the fear, “That'll never happen, Shadow Breeze.”

Are you so sure?

The sapphire blue unicorn groaned and dropped his head to the table, covering his head with his hooves like he had a migraine of some kind. Midnight was getting quite fed up with the voice in his head.

“Woah, what's wrong?” asked Shadow Breeze, placing his hooves on the table.

Midnight removed his trimmed hooves from his head and lied, “Nothing, just have a splitting headache. I must have gotten hit harder than I thought.”

“I'm sorry about that,” comforted the pegasus, “if it makes you feel any better, I'm happy you think I'll do well as a diplomat. You're a good friend.”

“Th... thanks!” stuttered Midnight Blaze, surprised at the accepting words.

Techorse pulled his head off the table himself and smiled at the progress everyone was making towards becoming a circle of friends. Even though he'd lost the chalice and would likely end up disappointing Luna, he was letting it go to try and enjoy the time he was spending with his relatively new buddies. So much had changed for him over the past two years, and it was good to have other stallions to talk to.

“So what ends up happening to the explorer?” he asked, looking at Flaming Ivory.

“Well, let's find out, shall we?” answered the musician with a wink.

A ski resort sat on a somewhat less frozen mountain than the rest of the north, several kilometers out from the main path that led to the Crystal Empire. The mostly wooden building sat near the top of the gradual sloped landmark, pine trees growing all around in a thick hedge, with the paths for skiing cut out from the forest. The mechanical lifts sat dormant, as it was the off-season for the resort, and a lot of the snow had melted away, revealing patches of green grass. Smoke lifted from the chimney of the rustic winter resort, indication that there were guests. But these guests had broken open the locks on the building in order to meet in secret.

Towards the front of the rounded building was a conference room, its fireplace burning brightly to keep the occupants seated inside warm. Three ponies huddled around the back of a massive cherry wood table in hopes of warming up faster sat silently as they waited for their contact to arrive. One was a black-coated pegasus stallion with a white mane that was curled into a ponytail on his head, a thin hint of mustache over his muzzle. The next was a mare who had with her a strange metal cylinder, red in color with the word 'fragile' marked on the side in white lettering. Finally, their boss, a unicorn stallion with a light blue coat and sunglasses over his eyes was staring at the door, waiting for it to open.

“He'll be here, right Dredge?” asked the mare, a bit nervous, the fire they had set would likely attract attention eventually, and get them arrested for trespassing.

“If he doesn't want to lose his prize there, he will be,” answered the unicorn in a thick city accent, “and we've got Switch here to help bargain too. Thanks for coming.”

The pegasus nodded, and turned his attention to the door as well. Soon enough the door to the room did open, and in entered Rosseth, a sly smile on his face as he usually had. As he walked up to the table, the mare noticed that one of the two saddlebags on his sides was full, the other empty.

“So look who shows up,” criticized Dredge, standing up, “you're a few hours late, better have a good reason, zebra.”

“I had a run in with Princess Luna's very best,” the zebra explained calmly, “one of them even had the Shadow Amulet, a member of the same series of amulets mine came from. It seems I'm not the only one out for artifacts anymore, so we'll need to make this quick.”

“This deal's not going to come cheap, Rosseth, we could have just as easily turned this in to Celestia for the big bits,” explained the boss as he turned to the mare, “show him, Doll.”

The mare complied, placing the cylinder on the table and opening it with her front hooves. Out came a small metal briefcase, which seemed to be leaking small amounts of black, wispy smoke. She opened the case, showing only the contents to the zebra, who nodded in acknowledgment. Doll closed the briefcase again, and slid it towards Rosseth, letting it sit at the edge of the table.

“You know,” he said calmly and with a subtle smile as he looked up at Dredge, “you're selling out your own kind.”

“Heh, says you. It's just a decoration now,” snickered the white haired pegasus next to Dredge.

Rosseth felt angry, but simply said in a patronizing manner, “The amount you want to charge me? I think you know this isn't a decoration, and what's going to happen in the upcoming week.”

“Hey enough talk,” warned the gang leader, “you know the price we asked for. Give us what we're owed.”

The zebra's lips curled in delight, “Of course...”

Without warning, Rosseth's amulet fired off a massive burst of electricity, zapping the white haired pegasus nearby, his scream echoing in the room. Doll screeched and backed off from the table, while the boss stood up to deal with the deal breaker.

The unicorn's horn glowed white as he fired off several short ranged bolts at Rosseth, each blast of energy impacting the zebra's head and lower neck. But the image of the zebra shattered as it it weren't really there at all, Rosseth had created another illusion and had used the distraction to roll under the table and get behind Dredge. The zebra swung with his front hoof, knocking him down and sending his sunglasses flying. Doll backed up and stopped when she felt the warmth of the fireplace on her flank, the earth pony nearly burning herself trying to get away.

Rosseth took notice of her trying to escape, and since Dredge was busy getting up, he shot a pair of whip-like filaments of blue energy from his artifact, which ensnared Doll and pinned her to the opening of the fireplace, her tail nearly getting licked by the fire.

Dredge finally stood up and turned around, rage plastered all over his face as he dove to beat Rosseth to a pulp. The zebra simply jumped backwards, right next to one of the windows overlooking the cliff face, and waited for the unicorn to come after him again. Just as Dredge reached his position, Rosseth jumped out of the way, and right as the stallion's nose touched the window, fired a strong blast of energy from the amulet. The projectile smashed into Dredge, sending him through the window, and the stallion disappeared from sight with a fading scream, followed by silence.

Doll cried out in fear, her companions gone, and started to scream bloody murder as Rosseth approached her, a smile that indicated he wanted to deal with her next. Unable to move her hooves, the earth pony mare's face ran with tears as she waited for the zebra to do her in... or worse.

“Please... don't!” she begged of him.

“Relax, unlike them you didn't try to hurt me, so I won't hurt you,” he said serenely, as if his acts of violence were nothing.

He then looked back at the small silver briefcase before turning to her again, “Now if I were you, I'd be thankful I'm taking your merchandise. The police will likely be here shortly, and you'd be in much deeper trouble if they caught you with that.”

Rosseth walked to the table, and placed the briefcase into his empty saddlebag, fattening it nicely. He turned for the door when he heard Doll choke and cry out to him again.

“You're just going to leave me here? What if the fire goes out, I'll freeze!”

The zebra simply looked over his shoulder, and said back calmly, “I wouldn't let a nice mare freeze out here, even if you are a traitor. Those bonds will vanish after an hour or so even if the authorities don't decide to show up, but either way, it'll give you plenty of time to reflect on how you've sold your kind out.”

After delivering the self righteous statement to the sobbing earth pony, Rosseth exited the resort and left Doll to her fate.

Here I come, Crystal Empire... enjoy yourselves while you still can!

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