• Published 25th May 2018
  • 2,307 Views, 989 Comments

Little Consequences - Skijarama

Princess Rainbow Dash and her friends have found themselves in the newly restored Crystal Empire, and now struggle against the forces of Queen Chrysalis and the enigmatic King Sombra in an effort to reclaim Canterlot and save Equestria.

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The Liberation of Canterlot

The trip to the cave exit was made mostly in silence, with Pharynx taking point, checking corners to ensure there were no sentries or patrols ready to jump them, and generally just leading the way. Thorax and Squall, on the other hoof, traveled side-by-side a yard or two behind Pharynx. As they went, Squall studied the caves around him with great interest, taking note of several overturned minecarts with their contents spills over the ground, broken railways that had once seen copious amounts of use, and discarded pickaxes next to crystals that jutted from the walls in plentiful amounts. These had been mines, then, once upon a time.

But even more fascinating than the abandoned mines were the two changelings he traveled with. Now that he had gotten a proper chance to really look at them, he could easily spot the differences in their personalities just by watching them. Thorax was hesitant and nervous and wasn’t the best at hiding his fear. His eyes were wide and were constantly darting at every shadow they passed, and his body was shaking. He also kept glancing at Squall as if to make sure he was still with them, looking visibly relieved each time before returning his attention to the tunnels ahead.

Pharynx, on the other hoof, was calm, collected, and alert. Every motion he made was deliberate, every step was precise and professional, and he didn’t waste any time in pressing on. He was clearly a soldier and a good one at that. He didn’t even seem the least bit hindered by the various scrapes and scratches that were peppered all across his carapace, something that Squall wasn’t sure he would be able to claim if their positions were reversed.

“Hold up,” The elder drone in question suddenly spoke up, snapping Squall out of his thoughts and drawing the group to a halt. He shifted to one side, and pointed at a trapdoor that had come into view in the roof of the cave up ahead. An aging wooden ladder covered in patches of moss and mold with a few steps missing led up to it. “There’s the way out. It should open into a cellar, and that cellar is going to have at least a few drones stationed in it.”

Squall frowned, his eyes narrowing. “Then how do we get past them? Do we sneak?” he questioned.

Pharynx shook his head. “No. Chances are they’ll have taken on very mundane forms. Barrels, crates, candlesticks. Even a fly on the wall if they’re skilled and well fed,” he explained before glancing at the door in thought. “Our best bet would be to let me through under a similar disguise. I can figure out where the drones are and take them by surprise. As soon as the commotion starts, follow me up.”

Squall looked over at Thorax, who could only offer him a shrug and a nod to Pharynx. Squall then nodded. “Okay, sounds like as good a plan as any,” he confirmed.

Thorax also nodded, starting to limp for the wall. “Alright. I can’t fight like this, though. I’ll hang back.”

Pharynx seemed relieved, his shoulders visibly dropping. “Good. I was about to tell you to sit it out, anyway. Squall, do me a favor and hold the trap door open just a crack,” he ordered before being enveloped in a swirl of green fire. Squall took a startled step back, his eyes widening in surprise. When the flames dissipated, where Pharynx had used to be, there was now just a common housefly, buzzing around in the air. Said fly then wandered over to hover right next to the trap door, waiting for it to be opened. Squall stared at the fly blankly for a few moments before shaking himself and stepping forward.

They were called changelings, he supposed…

With a few flaps of his large wings, Squall silently ascended to the last step of the ladder. He curled his hooves around the top rung to hold himself there and glanced at the fly that now buzzed impatiently by his ear. He then nudged open the trap door barely even an inch, giving him a limited glimpse of the room beyond. As Pharynx had said, it was a cellar, filled with large wine barrels with stacks of crates in the corners. There were also four, dust-covered support pillars in a square pattern made up of thick stone and covered in cobwebs and dust. This cellar was clearly very unused. He didn’t have long to study the room, as Pharynx flew through the opening, prompting Squall to drop the door silently closed and wait for the fight to begin.

Everything fell silent, and Squall found that his only company was Thorax, who had sat down on his haunches with his back against the cave wall. His eyes were closed and he was taking long, deep breaths. After half a minute had passed in silence, Squall let himself down a step or two on the ladder. “So… Thorax, right?” he began curiously, drawing the drone’s attention.


Squall hesitated, his ears flattening back. “When you saw her last… how was Wind coping with the situation?” he asked, his face falling somewhat. Oh, how he wished he could be with his sister right now...

Thorax blinked and looked up at the roof as he thought the question over. After a short time, he got a small smile on his face. “She was doing surprisingly good for somepony her age. I mean, yeah, she was scared, but she still had it in her to laugh and smile and play with Spike. She may have self-esteem and anxiety issues, but she’s a good filly. You’re lucky to have her as a little sister… and she’s lucky to have you.”

Squall blinked a few times, shifting uncomfortably on the ladder. “Really? What makes you say that?” he asked, glancing up at the trap door.

Thorax chuckled weakly. “You kidding? Any time you come up in conversation, she practically sings your praises. She looks up to you so much, and from the stories, she’s told, and from what I’m seeing of you now, she couldn’t ask for a better big brother.”

Squall visibly flushed, a sheepish smile appearing on his face while his wings ruffled in slight embarrassment on his back. “O-oh… she told stories, huh? I think she might exaggerate them a bit…” he said slowly before closing his eyes and slumping against the ladder. “I dunno… I feel like she’s putting me on a pedestal that I really don’t deserve to be on...”

Thorax just smiled, the memory of Fluttershy briefly flickering in his mind. “You want to make sure you’re a good influence, right? That you are everything she needs you to be?” he ventured correctly, drawing Squall’s gaze once again. Thorax’s smile grew. “I know the feeling… and I know that Wind Whisper has the best brother in the world. She wouldn’t be so sweet, understanding and brave if she didn’t. She even saved my life, once. So don’t sell yourself short, eh?”

Squall couldn’t help but wear a small, encouraging smile at that. “...I’ll try not to,” he said in a soft voice.

Before the conversation could go any farther, a muffled crash could be heard from the other side of the trap door. In the same instant, there was the sound of rushing flames and several changelings hissing aggressively. Squall’s wings flared open and his eyes narrowed. “It’s started! Stay here!” he barked before giving those wings a hard flap and shooting up through the trap door, forcing it open with a loud crash.

He saw a changeling drone already on the floor with a lump slowly growing on the back of his head, Pharynx standing over him with his horn still sparking. All around the unconscious changeling were the scattered and broken remains of a large barrel that had been filled with fruits and vegetables. Scattered throughout the room were five other drones, all of whom were already converging on Pharynx’s location with horns aglow and their teeth bared.

Squall reacted by tackling the nearest drone in the side, throwing it off of its path with a shout. A feminine voice rang out from the blow, identifying the drone as a female. She was quick to shove back against him, forcing his advance to come to a halt. Her glowing blue eyes bore into his before she lunged for his throat with her teeth.

Squall ducked back, barely avoiding the teeth as they clamped where his jugular had been. He cringed before slamming his hoof into the outstretched face of his opponent, a loud crack sounding from the blow. The drone cried out and stumbled to the side, dazed. Squall capitalized on this to swiftly duck to her side, turn on his front hooves, and administer a powerful buck to her side. She was sent off her hooves to crash into one of the support pillars before slumping to the ground in a heap, out cold.

Another drone saw this and broke off from its assault on Pharynx to charge Squall instead. A green bolt of magic tore from his horn, catching Squall in the waist just as he was getting his rear hooves back on the floor. The spell exploded on impact, knocking him to the ground with a yell of pain. His assailant pounced for him, teeth bared, ready to put him back into a cocoon. There was already more of that horrid green slime dripping out of his fangs and smattering the floor.

He never reached Squall, though. More magic exploded across the back of his head, causing him to sail past Squall and crumple uselessly onto the ground just past where he lay. The spell had come from Pharynx, who was now encased in a large green dome, the other two drones pummeling at it with hooves and magic. There were cracks appearing in the dome’s surface already, and Pharynx’s face was twitching with strain. Acting fast, Squall charged one of the enemy drones who was on his hind legs. The stance allowed Squall the chance to hook his forelegs under the drone’s armpits and pull up, restraining him.

Pharynx saw this and, with a smirk, dispelled his barrier to fire a blast of magic point-blank into the unrestrained drone’s chest, sending them careening back into one of the wine kegs, where they impacted hard enough to bust it open. A small tsunami of the crimson beverage flooded out, filling the air with its scent. Pharynx then turned to the drone that Squall had and repeated the process, driving a high-powered spell into his belly. He let out a cry of pain before slumping in Squall’s hooves, out cold. Squall dropped him, then returned to all fours, looking into Pharynx’s eyes.

Pharynx just grinned. “I was head of patrol for a reason,” he stated plainly before turning to the trap door. “Thorax, come on. We’re clear.”

With the sentries dispatched, Pharynx, Thorax, and Squall were free to resume their trek through the castle. It was like it had been in the caves, with Pharynx in the lead and checking corners, Squall, and Thorax side by side in the rear. The sounds of the battle raging outside were audible, now, and the tremors of large spells being set off could be felt in the floor beneath their hooves every so often. They would routinely pass by windows, giving them the chance to look out and see how things were progressing. The ponies had gained considerable ground, and the changeling resistance was swiftly falling into tatters. Pharynx smirked as he saw this.

“I see Trachea isn’t up yet,” he stated proudly, his wings flicked one his back. Squall shot him a questioning look, to which his smile faded. “Trachea. Another drone. He was left in charge of organizing the drones here while the Queen's gone, by the looks of it. He’d be my choice, too, honestly. The drone is a genius. His main weakness is he just loves to hear himself talk…”

“I see… so the battle is pretty much over?” Squall mused, glancing out the window again. He was just in time to watch a jet of pale yellow magic rocket from a pony position into a small cluster of drones that were on a dive-bomb course. The spell exploded in a cloud of white smoke, sending the changelings falling uselessly into the streets.

Thorax shook his head. “I wouldn’t count the drones out just yet. They can get really creative when in a pinch,” he said, receiving a knowing look for Pharynx.

“Like turning into a fly to dodge an attack? Or into a grizzly bear to break a grapple?”

“Yeah, like that.”

They watched the battle for a few more moments before pressing on into the castle. Thankfully, the interior was almost completely devoid of guards, most of the swarm having left the castle to try and fight off the pony army. Any time there was another changeling, it was a lone sentry patrolling and halls, and Pharynx was always able to sneak ahead and dispatch them without much fuss. He usually did this by taking a page out of Thorax’s book and choking them into unconsciousness as a large constrictor snake. As disturbing an image as that always was, though, there was something else about all of this that was making Squall’s skin crawl.

As they got closer and closer to the throne room, more and more cocoons were visible resting on the floor, against the walls, or dangling from the ceiling. The castle was starting to look more and more alien the closer and closer they got to the seat of equestrian power. He recognized many of the ponies in the cocoons as being fellow members of the royal guard, and he had to force himself to keep moving every time they passed one that he counted as a friend. The princesses had to come first, he knew that.

At long last, the shattered remains of the doors to the throne room came into sight, with no fewer than ten drones standing in front of it, ready to subdue anything dumb enough to attempt a direct assault. As soon as the guards were spotted, Thorax, Pharynx, and Squall ducked back around the corner to assess the situation.

Pharynx took another peek to verify what they had seen before sighing. “Ten of them… even with the element of surprise, that’s too much,” he growled through clenched teeth. “And I’m starting to run out of power. I can’t do much more fighting at this level. Not enough to take out that many.”

Squall grit his teeth, his brow furrowing in thought. “Maybe a distraction?” he suggested carefully, although both Thorax and Pharynx shook their heads.

“No, that wouldn’t work out very well. We changeling are way too familiar with that tactic. One or two would be sent off to find the source of whatever the distraction was, the rest would stay behind. And with our shapeshifting abilities, you can bet that the ones sent to search would find us first,” Pharynx explained before swearing violently under his breath. “Dangit! We’re so close!”

Thorax’s eyes narrowed, and his lips pulled into a thin line as he considered their options. After a couple seconds, he looked over at Squall intensely. His eyes adjusted and refocused a few times before he let out a quiet sight. He then gulped heavily and faced Squall head-on. “I might have an idea… I feel really dirty doing it, though,” he said plainly.

Squall and Pharynx looked at him just in time to see him be consumed by a swirl of green flames. When they passed, Wind Whisper stood in his place, looking up at Squall with wide eyes and a bright smile. Squall gasped and Pharynx narrowed his eyes.

The three of them were still for several seconds, with Squall mouthing like a fish as he tried to find the right response. “W-wind…” he finally choked out, lowering himself to his belly. He was about to reach out and yank his little sister into the tightest hug he could when he remembered. It was still just Thorax, wearing a disguise, as changelings seemed to be predisposed to do. Still, his brief moment of being fooled was all that Thorax needed. He quickly shifted back into his normal form to conserve power.

“Sorry,” he said quickly before sitting down on his haunches and opening his mouth. The rapid-fire shapeshifting was starting to give Squall whiplash. He shook his head a few times to clear his thoughts before looking on at Thorax curiously. Pink wisps of glowing light appeared in the air near his mouth, flowing into it and down his throat, which was repeatedly and reflexively swallowing. It was a slightly unnerving sight, to be sure, and Squall couldn’t help but cringe somewhat in revulsion. But, eventually, Thorax ended his meal.

And then promptly wretched, almost crumpling to the floor while his stomach audibly groaned in protest to the sneakily acquired meal. He put a hoof to his belly and took a few moments to catch his breath. “Guuuh… oh, that doesn’t taste so good compared to the real thing…” he mumbled queasily before standing back up and grinning apologetically at Squall, who looked back at him with an expression that demanded a very good explanation. “Sorry. But for my idea to work, I need the boost.”

Pharynx took a few cautious steps forward, analyzing Thorax with concern and confusion. “What are you planning, Thorax?” he asked, scrutinizing his younger brother. His eyes settled on Thorax’s shattered shoulder, and he was barely able to repress a wince. “You’re not exactly in any condition to fight, even with a fresh snack.”

Thorax shook his head, wearing a cheeky little smile on his face. “I’m not fighting,” he began in an almost taunting voice before again being consumed in a swirl green flames. When they parted, this time there wasn’t a small green thestral, but a tall and imposing changeling queen in his place. Chrysalis tilted her head from side to side, a few satisfying pops and cracks sound from her neck before she grinned down at them. “I’m distracting them.”

Squall blinked in surprise, having not seen Chrysalis before. Pharynx, on the other hoof, narrowed his eyes in severe disapproval and what almost looked like offense. “Thorax… you…” he spluttered incoherently like he couldn’t even find the words to describe what he was thinking. He inwardly fumed for a moment before letting it out in a long, heavy sigh and shaking his head. “You know what? Forget it. Do what you’re gonna do.”

Thorax nodded eagerly, the long locks of his fake mane dangling in front of his eyes and briefly distracting him. He shook himself, cleared his throat, and stood tall. He then turned and began to fly for the throne room doors, a serious look on his face.

Squall and Pharynx watched him go as he flew down the corridor, the drones spotting him and immediately dropping into low bows. “My queen! We didn't know you had returned!” one of them stammered out in a fearful, raspy voice. ‘Chrysalis’ touched down before him with a scoff of contempt.

“Save me your excuses and pay attention! What are you all even doing here?! Have you even bothered to look outside?!” she demanded, stomping the ground with a hoof. The drones all flinched back fearfully.

“Y-yes, your majesty, but Trachea ordered us to-”

“Trachea,” ‘Chrysalis’ snarled in the back of her throat, tilting her head to one side as. “The fool has gotten himself detained from the fighting. Get back out there and keep those ponies from advancing! I will remain here and guard the princesses!”

The drones all bowed once again, loudly chanting ‘Yes, my queen’ in unison, before as one rocketing down the hallway for the castle entrance. ‘Chrysalis’ watched them go for several seconds before turning back to look at Pharynx and Squall. She then vanished in a rush of green flames, and Thorax was restored. He gave an enormous, dorky grin and waved at them. “We’re clear!” he called to them happily.

Pharynx growled under his breath. “When you are healed, I am going to pummel you,” he said to himself before starting into a gallop for the throne room. Squall shrugged absently before following after him. Pharynx just went past Thorax to enter the room, while Squall came to a stop by the younger drone.

“I’m kinda impressed. How did you know they’d fall for that, though? Do they not know there’s a traitor running around?” he asked curiously.

Thorax shook his head. “Oh no, they know there are traitors here alright. But it is one of the worst types of offense to take the form of the queen, or anything resembling a queen. It’s considered an act of insubordination and treason of such a high caliber that even traitors of the worst kind have been completely unwilling to do it. It’s tremendously insulting to the hive as a whole.”

Squall blinked. “And… you just abused that?”

Thorax just nodded. “Uh-huh.”

Squall tilted his head at the strange creature before him. A small ‘huh’ slipped out of his throat before he and Thorax went into the throne room together. The doors didn’t need opening, as they had been more or less destroyed by Chrysalis at the end of Rainbow and Twilight’s attempted rescue mission. Squall’s eyes widened in shock as he beheld the scene. Rubble was still strewn about everywhere, there was an enormous hole melted into the side of the wall leading out into the city, the floor had a large hole melted into it, and there were even more of those grotesque cocoons suspended everywhere on the walls and from the ceiling.

Of specific note, of course, were the cocoons holding the princesses overhead. Pharynx was buzzing around them with his horn glowing, quickly disassembling the enchantments that Chrysalis had put on them. They were larger than the rest and were softly glowing with green light. Squall could just see the princesses’ bodies silhouetted inside, and his gaze locked onto the suspended form of Princess Luna.

After a moment, the light faded from the cocoons, and Pharynx wasted no time in tearing them from the roof with his teeth. All three of them fell, one after another, to the ground below. First was Celestia, and then Luna, and lastly, Cadance.

All three cocoons splattered open upon impact with the ground, their contents spilling everywhere and filling the air with an extremely disgusting aroma. Squall’s nose wrinkled and his ears folded back against his head, and the fumes made his eyes squint. But, soon enough, the princesses began to awaken. Luna was the first to rise, slowly rising to a sitting position and looking around at the throne room with drowsy eyes. She shook herself a few times, sending slime flying in every direction. After a few seconds of taking in her surroundings, her gaze settled on Squall, Thorax, and Pharynx before her.

Thorax waved sheepishly, Squall dipped into a deep bow, and Pharynx just gave a small nod of his head. Her first instinct was to lash out at the changelings, and her horn did spark into life, but she hesitated.

“The changelings rely heavily on swarm tactics and misdirection to confuse their enemies and gain the upper hoof. Fewer changelings means a smaller swarm. A smaller swarm means fewer bugs to cause misdirection or confusion. I can send a message to Manehattan, Cloudsdale and the Wonderbolts with Spike’s Dragonfire, and get those cities to send forces to Canterlot. They can take back the city and bust you, mom and Cadance out of those gross cocoon things.”

“It isn’t a bad plan… but you must be careful, Rainbow Dash. We know very little for sure about these creatures or their full potential; I would not advise recklessness.”

“Don’t worry; I’ve got a pretty good source of intel.”

Luna slowly smiled as it occurred to her. “I think I understand now what she meant by ‘good source of intel,’ she mumbled before her expression hardened. “Quickly now, what is the situation. What have we missed?”

Thorax was taken aback by the sudden question, blinking and recoiling. “Uh… huh?”

“You are an ally, are you not? I would assume so, given that you are not trying to force me back into a cocoon as we speak. Now tell me, what is the situation?!” Luna furthered, stamping a hoof for emphasis.

It was at this time that Celestia and Cadance both finally managed to rise to their hooves. Cadance spoke first as she wiped some slime away from her eyes with a hoof. “Ugh… Luna? Auntie Celestia? what’s going on? Are you two okay?”

Celestia nodded grimly, some excess slime sliding from her horn to splatter against the floor by her hooves. “I am fine… Lulu?” she asked, turning to her younger sister.

Luna turned and smiled at her. “I am well, sister. Everything is going according to plan,” she said before turning back to Thorax. “Now, changeling, tell me; what is your name?”

Thorax finally got his faculties back with that question, dropping into a bow. “O-oh! Sorry! M-my name is Thorax. The other changeling is my elder brood mate, Pharynx.”

“We came here from the Crystal Empire,” Pharynx continued, taking note of how Celestia looked surprised, Cadance looked confused, and Luna didn’t react at all. “As of right now, the Empire is under siege from the bulk of the changeling swarm, and a giant shadowy monster is apparently attempting to slow them down. From what I know, Princess Rainbow Dash is doing her best to hold down the fort and keep the changelings out. I cannot say for sure how long this will last, though.”

At the mention of her daughter’s name, Celestia’s eyes widened and her wings flared open. “Rainbow Dash! What has happened?! Is she alright?!” she demanded, taking a few urgent steps forward.

Luna was quick to come to her side, putting a hoof on her shoulder to calm her. “Ease yourself, Tia. Rainbow Dash escaped the initial assault on the city,” she said soothingly before turning her attention to the drones. “Although I get the feeling she won’t be safe for long if what you have told us is true.”

Celestia narrowed her eyes. “Rainbow Dash is besieged in the Crystal Empire…? We must get to her, now!” she shouted, her horn sparking to life and preparing a mass teleport. Luna’s eyes widened.

“Sister, wait! Not yet!’she exclaimed, putting a hoof to Celestia’s horn and cutting off the flow of magic. Celestia recoiled and glared at Luna in confusion.

“Why not?! My daughter is in danger! I will not sit idly by and let her come to harm!”

“Nor am I saying you should, but we are all weakened from those cocoons!” Luna argued before shaking her head. “And the enemy leader has a great deal of our power coursing through her veins. Even together, I fear that, in our state, we would not be victorious.”

Celestia’s eyes widened with realization. “I see…” she whispered before setting her jaw. “Then we can’t waste any more time. Cadance, see if you can find Shining Armor in any of these cocoons, then meet us in Canterlot Tower. The rest of you, follow me.”

And with that, Celestia broke into a brisk canter out of the throne room, everypony scrambling to do as she had instructed.

It was almost time for the sun to rise. They just needed one more thing…

Something that rested peacefully undisturbed in a magically secured vault in Canterlot Tower.

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