• Published 9th Jan 2017
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The Atlantean-Dominion War - The Atlantean



Crimson Dawn enlists in the Atlantean Reserve Emergency Army (AREA) to defend Atlantis from the Dominion of Apollo.

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52. A Changeling's Blossom

Queen Echo stroked her forehead. She hated the daily reports that came with her position. Wishing her report-taker hadn’t gone to impersonate Solitaire, she waved the next Changeling to her throne.

“Yes, yes, very well,” she said after he finished. “Next.”

A guard burst through the door before the five thousand, four hundred fifty-seventh report was said. Everyone turned to look, and he bowed low before galloping to the throne. “My Queen! The upper entrance has collapsed!”

“Just leave it,” Echo replied. “That thing was bound to fall apart anyway.”

The guard bowed again and left. Echo sighed, gesturing for the Changeling in front of her report.

“My Queen, we have successfully replaced half of the regiments, including their commander,” he said. “However, three more ponies have been unaccounted for: Warrant Dawn, Nurse Lieutenant Thorn, and Princess Mirage of the Emberforge Valley Hive. Ranger Dust is also still missing.”

“As it goes, Dawn and Mirage work extremely well together. Thorn is a medic, so she is honor-bound to not injure. She is not a threat; in fact, she may even be an asset if we can catch her. Keep an eye out for Dawn and Mirage, and look for the Ranger. They will most likely try to find their comrades once they fit the pieces together.”

Another few hundred reports later, Echo finally left her throne. She walked to her balcony over the thousands of cocooned ponies. Finally, years after conception, her plan was bearing fruition. The Rangers were out of the way. Atlanta was deprived of two veteran regiments, and no doubt more would follow as they came looking. Soon, she would be reunited with her daughter. Atlanta would pay dearly for foalnapping the Whispering Hive’s only heir.

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Mirage incinerated another guard that ventured too close to the place her group had entered the hive. This time, she took his weapon - an Atlantean repeater - and gave it to Coal Dust. “Rose can defend herself with magic. You can’t,” was all she said. He accepted it without complaint.

“You know, Mirage, the lightning spell is quite loud,” Crimson commented.

“Do you have a better suggestion?”

“Could you use a fireball?”

“No. Takes to long to charge, and you have to get it ridiculously hot if you don’t want nightmares about it.”

“Oh. anyway, we need a plan. They’ll eventually figure out we’re here.”

“But they have everyone. You’re talking about us four taking on an entire hive. The odds are most definitely not in our favor,” Coal Dust protested.

“Not if we stay undetected. Use your heads, people.”

“I am using my head.”

“Oh, for Harmony’s sake, try to think about how to win!”

Rose shook her head. Mirage turned back from guard duty and grimaced. Coal Dust shrugged.

“Can we wing it?”

Again, everyone was silent.

“We should stay together, no matter the plan,” Mirage finally said. “We’re better as a team, and we’re less likely to lose someone if we stick together.”

“I agree,” Rose nodded.

After another moment of silence, Coal Dust asked, “What happens if we take out Queen Echo?”

“Well, it depends. Does she have any royal offspring?” Crimson asked in reply.

“Not that I know of. And I snuck around the palace for a week.”

Mirage smiled. “Then they wouldn’t have a leader. They’re open to a new royal lineage.”

“And you’re the only other Changeling capable of starting one within a few hundred miles.” Crimson was starting to grin devilishly himself.

“One question: who was Echo’s mother?” Rose asked.

“I remember my mother mentioning a Princess Echo about ten years back. She was - and still is - extremely protective of her family. Echo’s mother tried to plead her case to Chrysalis for not being able to pay tribute or something, and Echo felt her mental connection with the hive activate while reading a book. She was nearing her first… time then,” Mirage answered.

“So her mom’s dead.”

“Yes.”

“I don’t think we should just kill Echo, so is it possible to knock her unconscious for the time we need?” Coal Dust asked. “I’m just not a killer.”

“Neither am I,” Rose said, cocking a pistol from Crimson’s saddlebag. “But I’ll do it if I have to.” Crimson did a double take on the pistol, then closed his open saddlebag. Rose giggled at his reaction.

“Well, it’s better than nothing,” Mirage said. She blasted another guard without even looking at him. The suddenness of the spell and her nonchalant expression surprised everyone. She began to walk down the hall toward the large cavern of cocoons, head held high. With nothing better to do, they followed her.

Once they reached the balcony again, Mirage said, “Alright, I have the best vision, so I’ll be lookout. There’s three guys down there, managing the one with Treetop. A few patrols of two are wandering the perimeter. I see a door on the other end of the room - use that as your entrance to the hive. Wait… I see her. Just above that door I mentioned. She’s in plain sight.” Mirage grabbed Crimson’s rifle and looked down the sights. “I can hit her. Just give me a second and-”

Crimson pulled the rifle down. “What are you doing?” he hissed.

“I can take her out!” Mirage whisper-shouted back.

“But what if she actually has a daughter? You’ll alienate the whole damn hive, not to mention reveal our presence here if you miss!” Crimson yanked the gun back into his control. “You may be a princess, Mirage, but let’s get this straight: I’m in charge. You may technically be an officer and I an NCO, but Treetop has always delegated the authority to me. And I say that you don’t shoot. So if you want to get us all captured or killed, go ahead, but I won’t wait for you on the way out.” He shoved the gun into the Changeling Princess’ face.

Mirage looked ready to boil over with rage, but eventually calmed down. “Yes, sir,” she stressed.

“Good. Anypony else want to go awry?” Crimson asked as he put the rifle in its place, nestled readily in his saddlebags. Rose and Coal Dust shook their heads. “Alright then. Mirage, keep a lookout. Rose, Dust, you two come with me.” He led them back the way they came and around the bend, where they would hurry quietly down a spiral ramp that bottomed at the cocoon chamber’s floor.

As they left, Mirage huffed. Now that the guns were gone, all she had was her magic, her flight, and her sword to defend herself. Really, that was all she needed. Setting up a spell to warn her of any incoming guards and another on the moving trio to translate Changeling language for them, she scanned the cavern.

The three reached the bottom of the ramp without issue. Crimson ducked behind a wall and hefted his rifle. Two Changelings were on the other side of the wall, chatting as they passed the door to the ramp.

Did you hear what the Queen wants to do?

Yeah. Invade Nautinia? She must be insane!

Well, that one stallion from a couple weeks ago did say that Atlanta is keeping Princess Blossom prisoner in her palace dungeon.

You mean the one the Queen simply killed outright?

Yup. I saw his uniform; it didn’t look Atlantean. The Dominion probably used some espionage to get her that information.

I don’t even know what the plan is anymore. Either way, it’s insane, but we gotta do what the Queen wants us to do. In any case, at least the Princess is still alive.

You said it.

Crimson couldn’t believe his ears. Atlanta would never do such a thing - it just wasn’t in her character! This had to be deception. With a silencing spell from Rose, he shot both of the Changelings in the head to prevent detection.

They carefully navigated the maze of cocoons. Guards were everywhere. Mirage guided them with a communications spell, halting them at certain points and turning them around at others. After four circles, seventeen turn-arounds, and twelve very close calls, they made it to the other side. Crimson opened the door and slipped through, then waved his companions.

Rose and Dust stood next to Crimson as he ventured to a small overlook nestled next to the hive palace. What they saw was beyond any underground construction in history, even compared to the Rangers’ headquarters.

“By Harmony,” Rose breathed.

The palace had been built to the side of an enormous underground city. Its walls weren’t that tall, allowing them to see all the way to the glowstone-lit rock wall miles away. A massive suburban area surrounded the palace in a large semicircle, its orderly streets and two-floor homes resembling miniature pagodas mixed with the walled adobe architecture of southern Equestria. Beyond the suburbs, a glittering jewel of a city beckoned for them to visit. Magic spotlights created a night-sky picture on the unnaturally smooth ceiling. Business was conducted in a brightly lit marketplace. Spiraling towers appeared to just barely touch the sky, when in reality they supported the roof. And in the center of it all was a huge pillar of liquid fire, casting beautiful shadows across the city with its dancing flames.

“That is the most beautiful city I have ever seen,” Crimson agreed.

------------------------------------

Prince Flawless Ice shoved the door to his palace dungeon aside. The guard on duty jerked at the noise, but otherwise remained emotionless. The one behind the check-in desk told a different story, however.

“Prince, what may I do for you?”

“You brought in a prisoner earlier today, one from western Atlantis. I wish to see her,” the Earth pony curtly replied.

“I can’t,” the guard protested. “Your father’s orders.”

Flawless pulled the guard close enough to make him instinctively pull his own head away. “Well, here are mine: you will show me to the prisoner. You will not give me a guard. You will not give me a key. You will not let the prisoner out of her cell. And finally, you will not tell my father about this, or I will have your head.” He bore his icy glare on the unflinching guard. “This goes for you as well.”

“Y-yes, m-m-my p-prince,” the desk guard stammered. He shook his head up and down, eager to get out of that fear-instilling stare.

“Good.” Flawless let the guard go, and he staggered backward, eyes wide and sweat streaking down his face.

“Block four, cell six,” the guard said. “I assume you know the way.”

“Yes, in fact I do.” Flawless strode down the hall and took a few turns. He held a cloth to his nose so he could breathe. This was not the cleanest place in the world, certainly dirtier than both Canterlot and Nautinia’s combined. The fact that Amyfalone’s castle dungeon received new guests on a regular basis didn’t help. Grime-covered ponies slept on itchy cots. After a few minutes, he found his destination.

The black Swiss-cheese pony curled up inside the cell didn’t move at first. Then she lifted her head and shrank toward the far end. Flawless instantly felt a pang of sympathy for her. She was beaten, bruised, had a horn lock, and her translucent green wings were tied to her body. There was also a high likelihood of rape, judging by her reaction to his approach.

“I’m not going to hurt you,” he said as gently as he could. “Can you tell me your name?”

She didn’t answer, her frightened eyes darting from him to the lock.

“I don’t have a key. I can’t get in there.” The prince jingled the door and upturned his pockets. Then he flipped them again.

She stayed where she was, but said something, her broken voice as soft as a princess’ and as youthful as a child’s.

“Can you say that again? I couldn’t quite catch that.”

She spoke only a tiny bit louder than last time. Flawless had to strain his ears, but he did recognize a single word.

“That’s a pretty name, Blossom.”

Author's Note:

This was another mid-afternoon writing spree. I'm definitely in the mood now.

Feedback appreciated.

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