• Published 6th Jul 2018
  • 1,189 Views, 323 Comments

Harmonic Fellowship - Sun Sage



Rarity's made it home, thanks to all the friends she made on Earth. But they weren't the only ones to find Equestria...

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2. Crystal Clear

Author's Note:

Quick note: Season 8 has not happened in this fic's continuity... simply because I haven't seen it yet (I tend to wait for Netflix to post them, and then binge).

Tirek laughed. It was an unpleasant, almost wheezing sound. Given his frail form it was no surprise. Not that Garken would make mention of it, of course. He could not insult his king’s potential ally.

“‘An offer’, is it? The king of the ogres has an offer for the last of the centaur? And does he expect me to take it seriously, when it is delivered by a weaponless slave?”

Garken didn’t react. His clothing, and the scar on his head, marked him clearly enough. “I dare not presume to speak of his expectations, mighty Tirek. I only bring the offer. You may take it, and go from this place. Or you may leave it, and be left here.”

“Hmph. Very well, speak quickly. Your ‘gift’ won’t distract that foul mutt for long.”

Far be it from Garken to disagree, but the bone would take some time to gnaw through, even for Cerberus. Still, he had no desire to delay this part of his task. Something about Tirek made him… angry. He wasn’t allowed to be angry, so he needed to finish this. “My king, the ineffable Briareus,” he stumbled a bit on the name and cursed himself doing so, “extends you an offer to serve under him, in the coming war. Equus will be razed, and the strongest of its denizens will be sacrificed to empower the aetheryte of this world. My king shall create new weapons and vessels with these magnificent power sources, enough to conquer more worlds by the thousands!”

“Ambitious. But unlike you, I am no servant. What does your master think he can offer me to earn my assistance in this grand design?”

“Your freedom, Lord Tirek, and a shard of the empowered aetheryte with which to subjugate this world. It will be yours.”

“Hah! I’m not so foolish as that. My freedom I can obtain on my own. I’ve done it before, and I am patient. I nearly took this world for myself, with only the help of a fool who believed similar lies. Had I been less merciful, you would be greeting me upon my throne, atop the skulls of this world’s former-”

“That is a lie.” Garken’s eyes went wide at his own interruption. No no no! He could not say such things!

“What?!”

“N-nothing, Lord Tirek! I was mistaken, or misheard, or-”

“Release me from this cage and I will show you the depths of your ‘mistake’, slave!”

“I cannot, unless you accept my king’s offer!”

Tirek snarled. “Hah! You think…” his eyes narrowed. “...Very well then. I will accept your king’s offer, his impressive generosity.” His lips curled into a grimace as he mockingly spat the words. “Come closer, ogre… open this cage. Cerberus may be a dumb beast but when he’s this close his aura makes the bars unbreakable, but from the outside they may be…” he trailed off.

Garken scarcely noticed. ‘Impressive generosity.’ ….Generosity… His forearm was itching. He scratched, tore at it. Blood flowed… he could see a blue light, like glittering magic within that blood… “Generosity… you said?” Garken muttered distractedly, still tearing at the scar. What was this warmth?

‘Cleansing me? It will take more than a flesh wound to dig deep enough…’

He coughed… his chest was hurting. Another scar… through his torso… where had it..?

‘You learned… nothing… fighting us. Garken. Every life… is worth mine.’

“...Johnathan…?”

“What? What’s wrong with you?! Open this cage, slave; I accept your offer!” Tirek said, as Garken stumbled and convulsed. The sunglasses hit the rocky floor, and the Oni kicked them away.

Garken took a long, shuddering breath. “I said… you weren’t merciful.” He looked Tirek in the eye, a grin showing off fangs.

“What’s… what’s happened to you? What are you talking about?”

“Mercy is for the strong… you are weak. Afraid. Let your enemies live so they may attack you again. Risk being defeated, laugh at that risk. That is strength. You lack that. You lack even a fool’s false mercy. Your actions were simply… necessitated. You couldn’t kill them without giving away what you’d borrowed. You needed their magic, their living capacity for it. Without that, you are the husk I see before me. You are feeble-”

“And you are feeble-minded! Your king sent a madman to offer me-”

“Do you accept?”

Tirek exhaled slowly, controlling his frustration. “Very well, ogre. Open this cage, and release me. We can escape before Cerberus can catch us, if you’re not too busy foaming at the mouth.”

Garken chuckled, and put his glasses back on. He didn’t notice as the enchanted lenses began repairing the broken chains in his mind. He sighed deeply. He’d succeeded. His king would be pleased. He opened the cage, and felt a surge of aether.

Tirek inhaled deeply, drawing at Garken’s own well of aether. Foolish. I am but a slave with no strength to steal.

He didn’t register it when a fist, empty of all thought, emotion, and reason, struck Lord Tirek’s face, shattering bones and sending the centaur staggering. Warriors can strike their foes in such a manner. I envy them.

Tirek snarled, reaching towards Garken again. Hands intercepted his thin arms, breaking them without effort. He is too weak for the opponent he faces. I understand. I too am weak. ...And mercy is for the strong…

Hours later, the dejected warslave left Tartarus alone. He was covered in blood and failure; and his king’s would-be ally was gone forever. He would be punished most severely for this. And yet… he couldn’t help but dwell on the last look on the face of Lord Tirek. It was a smile of relief… he was free of his prison at long last.

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

Equus’ aether field had been a subject of some concern. Aiden had wondered if perhaps it wouldn’t be compatible with an Esper’s magic; that might have explained why no humans had awoken during their time here. Fifteen hundreds years was a long time by some standards, but evolution was not one of them. He found it difficult to believe that so many could awaken in this day and age, but none back then.

Then again, maybe they needed the aether field of their homeworld to awaken. That was another hypothesis… because Equus’ aether field was presenting no problems whatsoever. In fact, taking in the slightly odd but pleasant magic around him was all but effortless. It was almost the same as back home, with the notable difference of a part of him wanting to sing for some reason. He clamped down on that part. He could dance, sure. Sing? Not so much.

“Bit for your thoughts, darling?”

He chuckled, looking over at Rarity. They were both standing, after they’d taken a short coffee break in the flower garden, as Rarity had taken to calling it. Sitting was fine for portal hopping since Aiden didn’t really touch the terrain as he went. Each portal hugged the ground but didn’t quite deposit them there for the fraction of a second before coming back to his verse through the next. As such, no snow on their backsides. Still, they were both a bit cramped from the ship… and whatever the Hell they’d gone through that had had them both clinging to each other, every muscle tensed, in the void between galaxies.

It wasn’t just emptiness… was it?

“...Two bits?”

He blinked, realizing he still spacing out. ...He was still… “Gah! Sorry, Rarity. Okay, we’re stopping a minute.”

Now she looked concerned. “Are you alright?”

No ‘darling’... yeah, she’s worried. He nodded. “I’m okay. The aether field here is distracting. It’s… at first I thought it was fine, but now I’m not so sure.”

She blinked in confusion, and then smiled. “More calming than you’re used to?”

“Huh… yeah, actually. Back home it’s… it’s more…” he made circles with his hands, trying to find a word for it.

“Determined… perhaps heroic?” she supplied.

He chuckled. “Pretty sure you’re both those things, too, and not because of Earth’s magic.”

“Yes, but Earth’s field tends in that direction, I think. It’s the best of its people. Here it’s the same… or so I believe. I do feel the need to remind you I rarely thought about such things before coming to Earth. Twilight could explain this better.”

“Maybe, but I’m more interested in hearing your take on it.” He covered the short distance between them and sat down. “Sorry, I know you want to keep going, but just a couple minutes? Might help sort my thoughts a bit. I was getting fuzzy headed.”

She sat down next to him, nuzzled him, and smiled. He’d really grown attached to that particular show of affection. “It’s fine, darling. From what I can tell, you were still moving us faster than back on Earth.”

“Blame Baltimore. With all the trapped souls freed from here, my strength flows more easily. Perception increased, too. I’m probably twenty percent faster over long distances-”

Rarity chuckled.

“...What? Anyway, you were saying?”

“Mmm, yes. It’s just… here the field tends more towards… inspiration, at least to me. It’s harmony and warmth.” She considered the matter a moment, dwelling on what she knew of Harmony. “Put another way.... on Earth... it’s horns and drums… a call to battle and adventure. On Equus it’s strings, leading one to artistry… and love. Both worlds certainly have all of those things, and thank goodness for that, but… the tendencies of their fields are, to me, a bit different and that’s how I would describe them.”

“So what you’re saying is… on Earth… we were more likely to be comrades in arms, adventuring and fighting great battles together. And here… we’re… more likely to fall in love?” He couldn’t quite keep the joking tone out of his voice, as if trying to play it off.

He hadn’t fooled her in the slightest, as her grin attested. “Not quite the love I was referring to, more a general sense but… you say that as though you haven’t already?”

“Hah!” he replied, returning her grin. “I’ll show you love!”

“Good!”

They both blinked, and then laughed. “...Seriously though,” he said.

She was still giggling. “That really is how I see it. The field anyway… also that you’re in love with me. Not that I blame you, of course.”

“Pfft.”

“And it’s to your credit that you can fall in love with an alien, given your past.”

“Hah, show’s what you know. We’re on Equus; I’m the alien now.”

“So that would mean it’s my turn to fall in love with you? Since you did with me, on your world.” The grin she wore was heart-stoppingly beautiful… and completely false in its innocence.

“As if you haven’t already,” he replied, lightly booping her nose with two fingers before standing back up and gathering power again. He felt a lot better, for obvious reasons, and his heart was pounding in a good way. If this was what this world’s aether field could do, he’d be fine with it. Inspiration, huh? I could get used to this...

“Hah!” she said, mimicking his reaction. “We’ll just see who’s in love with whom! Onward to the Crystal Capital, to find what Mi Amore Cadenza has to say on the subject!”

“Oh. It. Is. ON!” he replied, opening a portal, and then another as they sprang forward across the icy mountains. Neither of them felt even a hint of the cold.

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

It wasn’t long before they reached the outskirts of the city. By unspoken agreement, they would be walking from there, and Rarity would be wearing a cloak and a minor glamour to hide her identity. She couldn’t even be sure how long she’d been missing, but wanted to get to the palace before giving away her return. It gave them a chance to get their bearings in the city before risking getting mobbed. And Aiden had to admit it was really something to see up close. From a distance, he’d had to restrain himself from making an ‘it’s only a model’ reference as he’d caught glances between portal hops. It just looked too fanciful to be real. Now though…

“Those are just… floating up there, aren’t they?” he asked, referring to the three crystals above the road leading into the city proper. Said road was bordered by two short, crystal spires that would have been impressive in their own right.

“They are…” Rarity said, a bit breathlessly, stopping to collect herself.

Aiden understood why, of course. This wasn’t home for her, but it was a huge step. He knew enough about Princess Cadance and Shining Armor to know they were close to Rarity, and so this was a much bigger deal than just landing and meeting a dragon. He smiled at her. “Shall we go?”

“Yes… yes, let’s, darling. I was just… savoring the moment.”

The walk through town towards the… simply unbelievable palace in the center… was difficult for Aiden to make sense of. There were ponies everywhere, and they weren’t shy about staring. That was fully to be expected, but what he didn’t expect was the lack of any other real reaction. No one was screaming, or even seeming worried. He supposed in a world of dragons, chimeras, and manticores (to name a few) a human wasn’t too scary. He was glad of that. Feeling like an outsider was going to be inevitable, and indeed had already started, but at least…

“Mister, are you a minotaur?”

Aiden blinked, and looked down. His heart seized up a bit as his gaze fell on what could he could only describe as ‘cute incarnate’. A little filly, perhaps only a foot tall at the withers, was staring up at him with a questioning expression. Glittering golden hair framed a light purple furred face, and huge, purple eyes with hints of facets like gemstones. The translator had repeated her question in his earbud, matching her pitch and tone perfectly.

Do… not… hug… strange… filly… Mustn’t scare locals…

“Well? Answer her, darling.” Rarity said, the very picture of suppressed mirth. He couldn’t help but notice several nearby ponies watching this display. He’d barely recognized that they’d passed close to a park where several other youngsters were playing; the palace had been taking most of his attention. They’d all stopped to watch this brave filly talk to the odd newcomer.

“Ah, oh! Err… no, little one; I’m not a minotaur. I’m a human. I’m from far away.”

“Hu-man?” she asked, tilting her head slightly with the odd pronunciation. She said it quite well though.

Hnngh… “Yes, that’s right. My name’s Aiden.” He crouched down a little closer to her level, stepping back before doing so. “What’s yours?”

“Sapphire Song.”

He held out a hand. “It’s nice to meet you, Sapphire Song.”

She looked at the hand a moment, and slowly placed a tiny hoof on it. He grasped gently, and shook it. She giggled.

“Song, let the nice people be on their way.”

“Okay, momma,” the filly replied to a mare that was sitting on a bench nearby, watching her daughter with a calm smile. Aiden gave the mother a polite nod, which was returned, and they continued on their way. He could hear the children… foals?... laughing and playing behind them.

He couldn’t stop smiling, and yet… “Not that I mind, but wasn’t that mother a bit too trusting?”

“Well, it’s a crowded street in the middle of the day, with the city guard roaming around and flying overhead. Besides, you give off a clear aura of wonder and curiosity, not danger.”

He snorted. “I don’t know that they can read me like you can… wait, what about guards?” He looked up, and sure enough… several pegasi flew by overhead, seemingly on patrol routes. There were distant enough that he didn’t feel personally scrutinized by them, but they were certainly close enough to swoop in if needed. “Huh, guess I’ll have to bear in mind the whole ‘flying pony’ thing.”

Rarity giggled. “Surely you’ve faced flying opponents back on Earth?”

“Sure, but not a third of the population. Besides, I don’t think thinking of them as opponents is the best idea.”

“True… although you might consider it with Rainbow Dash, lest you leave yourself open to various pranks.”

“Noted.”

She turned away from him as they continued their trek, to accost a random pony reading a newspaper. It was odd to Aiden how easily the pony held the pages with hooves, despite seeing Rarity do the same. It wasn’t a bad odd, and he remembered her explanation well enough, but odd just the same.

“Excuse me, sir, might I see the front page for just a moment?”

“Certainly, miss.”

After a brief look, she nodded, “Thank you very much!”

“No problem at all. ...Find what you needed?”

“I did, thank you again!”

“You’re welcome,” he said as they continued onward.

“So, how long’s it been? You don’t look spooked so it can’t be too bad.”

“Nearly three months. I’ve lost some time somewhere, either during the trip to Earth or when we came here. Either way, not as bad as I feared it could be.”

It had been a concern, actually. They both knew enough about physics to boggle at the notion of travelling between galaxies. If the engines of the ship, and the teleportation of the Command Crystal, worked as plainly as they appeared to, no problem (albeit astounding to them). However, if some manner of time or perception manipulation had been involved…

There was perceptual alteration… no way we were in our right minds during that trip; it’s all a blur and I don’t know how long it was. Didn’t get a chance to look at the clock before everything started overloading… There were more important readings demanding our attention.

“Agreed,” he said. “And with that worry out of the way… we’re here.”

The palace itself included a domed, exterior space underneath, rising on four corners which each included an ingress into the towering structure. They weren’t guarded, though as the pair approached one, a trio of pegasi guards swooped in to land nearby.

“What business do you have in the Crystal Palace, travelers?” the middle guard asked in a polite tone. He was an aqua shade with a silvery grey mane and tail.

Rarity smiled, letting the glamour drop as she gave a short curtsy. Three sets of eyes went wide. “Captain Gale Force, a pleasure to see you again! You might recall we danced at the Royal Wedding?”

“L-lady Rarity?!” he sputtered, flabbergasted. “Is… is it really you?”

“Accept no imitations, my good Captain! How is your lovely wife?”

“She’s… well. I… Miss Rarity you’ve been missing for months, and you just… and who is this… being?”

Aiden chuckled.

“I’m aware of how long I’ve been gone, Captain. And this is Knight Lieutenant Aiden Alexander Windborne, of Earth’s Esper Corps. He is a dear friend who helped me find my way back home.”

“Captain.” Aiden said politely, saluting.

Gale Force looked stunned for an instant, but then returned the salute, as did his subordinates. “Knight Lieutenant. I’m not familiar with your people, and from that fact alone I’m sure you both have quite a story to tell. Let me be the first to extend the hospitality of the Crystal Empire, and welcome you to the palace. You’re both quite welcome to stay and await the return of the royal family.”

“Oh… they’re not here?” Rarity asked, sounding crestfallen.

“I’m afraid not, but they should be back this evening. In fact, they were visiting Her Highness, Princess Sparkle, in Ponyville. As you can no doubt imagine, your friend has been a bit out of sorts, and Cadance… err… her highness… has been quite concerned, to say nothing of Shining Armor.”

“Oh I’ve no doubt, the poor dear! I assure you it was quite unintended! I’m looking forward to returning there as soon as possible! Honestly if not for the distance we’d have gone there directly from our crash site.”

“Crash site…? Wait, was that… did you…?”

“Crash land a spaceship on Equus, some distance to the west? Yes, darling, we did.”

“I… don’t know why I’m surprised, given I’m talking to an Element Bearer."

Rarity laughed, and made an ‘oh, stop!’ gesture with one hoof. “So… as pleasant as this conversation is… might we get settled in to wait for Cadance and Shining Armor?”

Gale Force blinked, and shook his head as though clearing it. “Ah, yes of course! Right this way!” He turned and led them into the palace.

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

The room could best be described as ‘sumptuous’. Despite the crystalline walls, ceiling, and floor, the room felt warm and inviting thanks to rich carpeting and a cheery fire in the hearth. A four poster bed (and another, smaller bed that had been levitated in for… Aiden if he got his way about it) scarcely took up a tenth of the space, alongside several chairs and a comfortable sofa. Tea had been provided, alongside some sort of cream cheese pastries. Neither would have been Aiden’s first choice but they were surprisingly good.

They were expecting the royal couple within the hour, and Aiden had set aside the translator to recharge. He hadn’t used it much but Rarity hadn’t had it plugged in while packed. Fortunately they had several solar batteries alongside a small aether charge converter.

They’d settled on the sofa together before the fire, which felt quite familiar. He couldn’t quite close his eyes and pretend to be back at Fort Friendship, if nothing else for the difference in the aether field. Still, this was close, and welcome for it. Although…

“Rarity?”

“...Yes, darling?”

“Why didn’t we go straight to Ponyville? I mean, okay terrain might be a challenge and it’s far enough I’d have to stop and rest for a night once or twice, but we could have done it.”

“Ahh… I actually didn’t know the range of your teleport hopping, or how well you’d be able to do it here, so making for the closest pony city made sense. We could have gone to Yakyakistan even. Difficult or not, I don’t doubt they’d help if we asked. Eventually. Probably.”

Aiden chuckled. “Fair enough. About five hundred miles at a stretch, by the way, before I need a long break. I start to get really loopy from too much repetition after that, and that’s bad. Anyway I don’t mind the grand tour, and I guess it’s my fault for not saying something sooner. I’m sure you must be anxious to get home though. We can set out anytime you want.”

She cocked an eyebrow at him. “By now, I’d be surprised if Cadance didn’t know we were here. Captain Gale Force will have sent a courier to rendezvous with the Crystal Express and let them all know. We can’t just skip out on them. And once Cadance is here, she can get word to everypony even more quickly than we can travel. I really don’t mind. I’m excited to get home, yes, but… this is home, too, in a way.” She smiled softly at Aiden, and he felt his heart melt a bit. “I… mean no offense whatsoever, but… I want to get home to Ponyville not simply appearing there from a portal, slipping quietly past everypony and showing up at my own doorstep. They deserve to know I’m back, not simply be shocked when I show up. I don’t want to sneak up on Sweetie Belle, or Twilight, or Spike, or any of them. I…”

Aiden grinned. “You want to make an entrance. You want to show up on the train, and have them all waiting.”

“Is that so wrong?!” she demanded dramatically, throwing her hooves in the air.

He laughed, and hugged her. “Not at all… and like you said, it gives them to chance to be at their best when you arrive, too. You won’t walk up to Spike right as he places flowers on your grave while crying or something.”

“Oh dear, no! No no, do not put that horrible image in my head! You can’t just… oh…”

Aiden felt it, too, and they gently pushed away from one another. There was… a presence approaching. Rapidly. There was also a sound, like a singer happily carrying a single, glorious note for longer than mortal limitations should have ever allowed.

He hated to admit it, but he’d become accustomed to the ‘song’ of Rarity’s magic. It was clearer now than it had been before Baltimore, what with his senses improving, but it was still like a pleasant background noise that he’d gotten used to. It was beautiful, strong, and inspiring; much like the mare it belonged to.

And now… another approached. Rarity whispered, “Cadance… my word… I’d never felt… is this how… oh my…”

“...What you said.” Aiden muttered. Rarity's cheeks were flushed, and he suspected his were as well.

The door flung itself open in a burst of teal magic before the tallest pony Aiden had yet seen appeared in a blur of pink and purple. Mostly pink, though with a fair bit of yellow in her mane and the teal glow still suffusing her horn. Aiden felt his breath catch in his throat. She was stunning, and it wasn’t merely physical beauty. Her aura was simply… he couldn’t describe it. Rarity’s magic rivaled his own in terms of capacity and scope, if her focus was obviously quite different. This pony, while not exceptionally stronger, simply shone with magic in a way that exceeded them both. And he knew. This is an alicorn. This is a Princess of Equestria. He fought the urge to stand and bow, or salute, or something. Anything.

And then she made a noise that probably startled every nearby bat and dog, and crossed the room to engulf Rarity in a massive hug that included forelegs and wings. She was chattering away (and with the translator across the room on the charger, Aiden couldn’t understand a word of it), and the effect was rather dizzying.

It would explain Aiden’s choice of words as he tried to get his bearings. “Well… who’s… who’s a pretty pink pony princess?”

The two froze in their embrace, as Rarity looked in shock at Aiden, over Cadance’s shoulder. She was stifling a grin, and Aiden soon learned why.

The princess’s head turned, as though on a swivel, and she grinned devilishly at Aiden, horn still glowing.

She then spoke, “Oooh. Is it me? I hope it’s me.”

In flawless English.

...Well… shit.

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