• Published 8th Jan 2020
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Golden Age of Apocalypse - Book III: Legacies - BlueBastard

Everything is finally ready for Sunset Shimmer to be crowned a ruling princess of Equestria, but not all is as it seems as the Covenant make their move and the history of Equestria itself is called into question as GAOA reaches its explosive end!

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Chapter 10 - Butterfly Effect, Part 2

GAOA Chapter 10—Butterfly Effect, Part 2

Taking care to step around the unconscious bird of fire, Corner Shot couldn’t believe how easy it had been to take out Razz’s pet. Granted, when Chrysoberyl had basically shoved onto her the collapsable blowpipe and a dart with enough sedative to knock out a minotaur, Corner had been skeptical...but she couldn’t argue with the results. The birdbrain hadn’t even noticed the opened door or the long stick until the needled dart had already hit him in the chest.

Corner had no idea how long the sedative would last, though, so she had to make it quick. Fortunately, it wasn’t like the Amulet was exactly hard to find—evidently Razz had thought it just enough protection to post her phoenix in front of the chest containing the stupid trinket. And really, under normal circumstances, she’d have been right.

“Especially since I’ve been reduced to a lowly cat burglar,” grumbled Corner. In truth, she wasn’t even sure why she was doing this, only that the Covenant required it and she’d been taught since she could remember that the Covenant was good, was her family, and that the existing government was evil. But ever since she’d put down Tilled Fields...she found herself questioning everything more and more. But once all the Scions were gathered, along with the Amulet and the Mirror—there was a separate team that was retrieving that with the help of the insider Wonderbolt, Skysmear or whatever—then this Scion destiny thing could be resolved and maybe it could be put behind her.

Then, no sooner had she secured the Amulet inside her small saddlebag which she’d smuggled into the reception, than did she sense something else behind her. She spun around, knives drawn, and looked into three sets of very familiar eyes.

“Nowhere to run this time, bitch!” snarled Adagio, drawing a bead right between Corner’s eyes, with her equally vengeful sisters doing the same. They obviously wanted a rematch after Corner had kicked their asses last time, except now they were in full human form and had even more dangerous weapons.

Of course, this time, Corner had absolutely no reason to stick around. She’d gotten...most of what she came for and without any more teleport knives, Sunset was still out of the Covenant’s reach for now.

“Who said anything about running?” snapped Corner...before promptly hurling herself out the convenient window. The cuts from the glass hurt like hell but she had enough wing control to safely land on the ground below and vanish into the shadows.

“Goddammit!” hissed Adagio, racing to the window and pointing the gun out of it, but Corner was long gone by then.

Alongside her fellow princesses (at least, all but the newest) and a handful of guards and assorted castle staff, Princess Celestia sat uneasily within the confines of the castle saferoom. When it first became apparent that Sunset wasn’t going to make it inside, it took all three of the other alicorns in the room to keep her from going out and getting her daughter personally, as well as going on the warpath against anypony who would dare to try harming her.

“Sunset has incredibly skilled protectors who will not fail her,” Luna had told her.

“Besides, she’s more than capable of taking care of herself,” Twilight added, and Cadance nodded in agreement.

Celestia knew they were right, of course, but didn’t feel any better about sitting in heavily-armored safety while her daughter was still out there in the thick of it.

“With all due respect, Your Highness, you and yours are too important to risk yourselves needlessly,” Divine Right said diplomatically. “Especially with so many Allucinors out there. Could you imagine what would happen if any of them were to get to you?”

Now there was a terrifying prospect, and one that ultimately convinced Celestia that staying put was the right choice. Her ponies needed her to be a leader, after all, and she couldn’t do that while under the effects of one of those things.

However, looking at the image of the throne room outside on the magical projections on the walls, Celestia was starting to wonder how true that really was. The room outside was even more packed than the saferoom, and every one of the ponies outside were clamoring for her removal. The thought was more upsetting than Celestia was willing to admit, even to herself; how had such great unrest gone unnoticed by her? Was she really so out of touch with her ponies?

“C’mon, you know you want to come out of there!” taunted the apparent ringleader, who Celestia recognized as one of the barkeeps at the reception. “Must be gettin’ pretty cramped, considering your huge, blubbery mass! I recommend you give up comfort food!”

The boorish, raspy-voiced stallion who seemed just a little intoxicated had been going on like that for the past several minutes now. Making crass jokes and petty insults at her expense, to the apparent amusement of the angry mob he had rallied.

Starting to get annoyed, Celestia cast a spell to project her voice into the throne room and said in her most condescending tone, “With an attitude like that, I don’t see much incentive in coming out there.”

Ooooh, tough mare. I think I struck a nerve!” the barkeep exclaimed, to the chuckles of his crowd.

“Auntie, I advise taking the ‘crazy homeless pony yelling at you’ approach with this one,” suggested Cadance. “Don’t engage.

“I understand, I understand,” Barkeep continued, unaware of their conversation. “You’ve spent milennia always getting your way. This must be sooooo frustrating for you!”

The only thing frustrating me right now is your continued blather, Celestia thought, but heeding her niece’s advice, didn’t voice it. In fact, Celestia had been ready to cut the arcane feed entirely when a group of figures entering the throne room outside caught her attention. They looked like a group of waiters—the ones who had been outside hires to help with the reception—and they were escorting a group of other ponies front and center.

Celestia recognized nearly all of them. There was Riven Oak and all of his supporters. There was also Fancy Pants, Fleur Dis Lee, and a number of other much more sympathetic faces. Despite their differences politically, they were all united by the looks of fear and uncertainty on their faces.

“Well, lookee at who just showed up: the One Percent!” Barkeep happily exclaimed, sauntering over to the group and putting an arm around a profoundly uncomfortable looking Fancy Pants. “Tell me, does giving orders make you feel like a big, tough stallion?” he asked him, his tone verging on baby-speak as it increased in condescension. “Or are you just trying to make up for the fact that mommy didn’t wuv you enough?”

To his credit, Fancy kept a stiff upper lip, but Celestia could see the fear in his eyes even in the low-quality holographic image. “We will not b-be intimidated by the likes of you!”

Yeah?” Barkeep swayed in place for a few moments as he studied Fancy for any signs of weakness. Then he started to laugh, but Celestia didn’t know if that meant he found something. “I don’t need you to be intimidated… I just need you to hold still for a few….”

Trailing off, Barkeep wandered down the line of his supporters until he came to a silver-coated mare (who Celestia recognized as one of the caterers they’d hired) and took the large kitchen knife from her hooves. Then to Celestia’s growing horror, he started to wander back towards the hostage nobles.

Under normal circumstances, Pinkie liked butterflies—probably not as much as Fluttershy did, but it wasn’t as though they were a problematic species for her. She could count the number of times she remembered that Monarchs or others sat on the windowsill in the upstairs loft (in the old timeline) or on the garden bushes (in the new one), and how much she loved watching them flitter and dance about, fluttering by, just like their names.

But those were Earth butterflies. And the ones here? Definitely not.
The ones here had hurt the girl she loved.
Needless to say...Pinkie had a serious beef with them.

Having picked up a pair of short swords from a guard under the influence of one such insect who was busy doing...interesting...things to a plant, she moved on, only pausing to blush slightly. She was sure that when things turned back to normal, the disposal of that guard’s “lover” was going to be the least of his problems. But right now, she had bigger fish to fry—or rather, Allucinors to slice.

Moving like a whirlwind, she used every bit of her martial arts skill and dance routines to move like a bladed dervish, slicing everything in her path. When the Allucinors approached other potential victims, a well-placed throwing knife took care of that. Most of those she saved looked on at her with a mixture of fear and gratitude, unable to reconcile their ancient fear of humans with their current savior, but she didn’t give a damn about that.

Besides, if they put up with her mentor, they’d learn to deal with her in time as well.

Rounding a corner, she came across another pony who had somehow managed to survive the Allucinors as well and had much the same idea she had. Weilding a dual-bladed quarterstaff, the heavily-armored pony moved with surety of purpose and motion, slashing and bashing at the creatures. It was enough to get Pinkie to pause in awe for a second—but only for a second, as she immediately went back to her own attack.

The two combatants tore into the wall of flying creatures, slicing through them like living buzzsaws, leaving the ground slick with ichor as they destroyed countless lives. Finally, after gruelling seconds, the last one fell, smashed against the wall by a well-placed heel kick from Pinkie.

“Wow, this was a hell of a workout,” she gasped, drawing breath in quick, ragged gulps of air. Her hair was slick with both ichor and sweat, and her clothing was coated in the same. She felt exhausted, but she couldn’t give up now. “You okay?”

The pony next to her set down the staff and removed his helmet, revealing an aged earth stallion with a plum coat, short, soft brown mane and warm brown eyes. While he did look like he’d had more than a few years on him, he also had that look that, as Adagio was fond of saying, “beware the old man who’s able to keep up with the young man’s game of war”. This was clearly no amateur, and given his black armor, probably not a standard guard, either.

“You’re one of those humans, huh?” the stallion asked, as short of breath as she was. “Gotta say, you know how to fight. But I guess that’s the norm for your kind, right?”

“Not any more than yours,” Pinkie told him, “but I have a job to do.” She offered him a hoof—or rather, a fist—to bump. “Pinkie Pie.”

He bumped in return. “Like the Knight of Laughter, huh? Will wonders never cease. Well, you can call me Smokechaser. I’m a...unique case, shall we say.”

Pinkie saw another batch of Allucinors floating down the hall and heard the screams of panicked innocents. “If you can help me take these bugs down, you can be as unique as you want!” she chirped, steeling herself for more combat.

“I hear you there, mare,” Smokechaser said in turn, grabbing his staff. “Let’s get back to work.”

“Yer time as the all-powerful rulers of this nation is over, princess,” Barkeep said as he paced around the hostage nobles holding the knife, once again addressing those in the saferoom. “Soon the Scions will be together and our Lord Sombra shall return! Now, I have every faith—it’s kind of my thing—that our Lord will be able to deal with all of you with his newfound power when he returns, but I figure that doesn’t mean I can’t do my part to help… clean house a little before that. I may not be one of his Scions, but I think I can safely say I am his most faithful. That is why I have tasked myself with making sure the throne to Equestria is vacant for his return!”

“You’re insane!” Fleur’s thick Prench accent rang out, the supermodel-esque mare glaring at the barkeep with impassioned fury. “You can’t actually think a boorish drunk like yourself can kill one of the high princesses with a mere kitchen knife, or are you truly that delusional?”

Barkeep leered at her for a moment before responding, “You look like you struggle with simple concepts. I guess that’s the One Percent for ya! Listening is hard to do with yer head so far up yer hindquarters, huh? So, let me reiterate: I want King Sombra to return to an empty throne so that he can hunt you alicorns down at his leisure.”

He then grabbed Fleur around the barrel and grabbed her chin with his free hoof, puppeteering the struggling unicorn’s mouth as he affected a facsimile of a feminine voice (a true feat considering his dry masculine rasp). “‘But Barkeep,’ you’re probably asking. ‘How are you going to do that?’” Fleur finally managed to shove him off of her, but he persistently stuck to her. “Well, m’dear, I’m going to make our fair princesses an offer: Leave Equestria. I don’t care where they go. The Badlands. Tartarus. Maybe disappear entirely like dear old Mom.”

Turning to speak directly to the saferoom door now, Barkeep said, “That’s right, this country is no longer your open bar, princesses. It’s closing time! You don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here!” Then almost as an afterthought, he added, “Oh, and every minute you don’t leave, I’ll clean up some of the mess you made,” he said, gesturing to the hostage nobles gathered before him. He then pressed the knife to a suddenly very terrified-looking Fleur’s throat. “Starting with this one! Clock’s started. Sixty… fifty-nine….”

Sunset felt useless. Helpless.


Right now, her troops—no, her cousins—were fighting against rebel ponies and alien butterflies that had robbed her ability to reason. It was fair enough to say that she’d been mindraped. Others were throwing themselves against the problem and all she could do here, for all her vaunted power, was to let others deal with it. Others who didn’t have her power, or durability or anything of the sort.

She hated it, and it gnawed at her skull. She looked around at her family, both literally and metaphorically, and as much as she wanted to protect them...she couldn’t. With every bit of the power she had at her command...she couldn’t protect them.

She couldn’t even protect herself.

She couldn’t even save Tavi.

Sunset felt herself shrink into a ball feeling the sting of tears coming to her face. Why? Why, when she finally reached the pinnacle of everything she’d once wanted to achieve, when she’d finally gained the love of not one, but two families, was it all falling apart?

She looked at her sister, feeling lost. No doubt Twily felt the same—they’d lost someone they loved dearly and they had no idea if she was even still alive.

She felt her mother’s arms encircle her, and as Sunset turned back into her human form to take advantage of the embrace, she didn’t feel like she deserved it at all. Everyone, everypony, everywhoever—had been put in danger because of her, a so-called princess.

Alicorn of Earth?

No. Right now she felt like the Alicorn of Wishful Thinking.

“Fifty-five… fifty-four….” Barkeep continued counting as all of those gathered in the saferoom looked on with horror.

Celestia exchanged a look with Luna, and it was all the latter needed to know exactly what the former was going to do.

“Celly, don’t!” Luna hissed.

“I’m sorry Luna, but innocent lives are at stake,” Celestia said. “This is no longer up for discussion.”

Divine Right stepped forward, “But, Your Highness….” He stopped. “Auntie….”

Celestia looked at her nephew. “I already know what you’re going to say, Div, but you’re wrong. Some things are more important than me and mine.” She looked at him fondly. “You were so fond of saying that it was our, ahem, ‘divine right’ to rule our ponies fairly and honestly. Can I truthfully do that if I’m here while they’re out there suffering?”

He sighed. “I hate it when you’re right.”

She reached down and kissed him on the forehead, a motherly gesture. “No, you’re not.” She looked at those in the room: family and friends alike, not just her subjects. “I do this, because I must,” she told them. “I do this because I am the Princess.”

Saying nothing more, Celestia’s horn lit up and the huge doors to the saferoom began to open. She stepped out into the throne room, where the crowd of angry ponies looked so much bigger than it did on the arcane hologram. For his part, Barkeep was frozen in place with the knife still to Fleur’s throat with a look of genuine surprise on his face.

“Huh. I honestly wasn’t expecting you to come out so quickly,” he admitted. “I thought I’d at least get to go through a couple of bodies before you came to your senses.”

“I am not going to let anypony die for me,” she said resolutely. “But make no mistake: I am not abandoning Equestria to King Sombra either.”

Sensing movement just beside her, Celestia glanced over and saw Luna at her side. Cadance and Twilight quickly followed, determined looks filling each of their faces. It brought Celestia some comfort, because despite how well she hid it, Celestia was as scared as she was heartbroken. These were her little ponies; it was her responsibility to protect them. Yet here they stood, ready to kill each other all because of her. Because she hadn’t been a good enough leader.

Barkeep looked at each of the alicorns in turn, momentary worry filling his features at the sight of them before the more familiar insanity returned.

“Aaah, okay. I think I know where yer head’s at right now,” he said with a knowing grin. “You think you can take me out before I open up this pretty little bottle.” He applied more pressure to Fleur’s throat, and Celestia saw a drop of blood start to trickle down the blade. “Try it if you like. Of course, after you kill me, the rest of this crowd will probably immediately rush you while my boys in the service industry clean up the rest of your pet nobles. Not like that would be a problem for you, of course. Between all of you, they probably don’t stand a chance!”

“No,” Celestia said firmly. “I will not hurt any of these ponies.”

Surprisingly, Barkeep started to look annoyed, and for the first time that shit-eating grin began to falter. “C’mon, we both know how badly you want to! Let’s see a little of that tyrannical wrath!”

The terrifying part was, some dark, terrible part of Celestia did want to unleash that wrath. To make this violent psychopath experience the full power of the sun.

It would be so easy, the voice inside Celestia’s head said. Indeed, after a millenia, having to hold back her power in all cases except those where no other choice could have been made, to simply smite without abandon to underscore her position would have solved so many, many problems. It would have shut the nobility up...but she was a Princess. Not an authoritarian. The creature she’d seen in her darkest nightmares—the thing calling itself Daybreaker—would not come into the light here.

There was always another way.

“You want to speak of tyrants?” said Celestia raising an eyebrow, “then let’s talk about your favorite pony: King Sombra. You claim to be the most faithful of his followers, acting as if that somehow gives you the right to dictate terms to the actual head of state. But I was actually alive to see the horrors that Sombra inflicted upon innocent ponies.”

She looked up to address the crowd of ponies, “I understand that you are not happy with my leadership, following the war with Tirek and then the aftermath of the early Winter I inadvertently caused in my grief. For that, you’re right to resent me, and I am truly sorry for all you have suffered. For all my power, I am but a pony much the same as the rest of you. But to all of you I ask—do you really want a leader whose own self-proclaimed faithful holds innocent ponies at knife point to ransom their lives for a king who isn’t even around? I have made mistakes as a leader, that much I understand more than I have in a long time. But as your princess, I will address these issues so that I can be a better leader for all of you.”

“‘Innocents?’” Barkeep exclaimed, more and more of his smile evaporating. “You call the ponies who hoard all the wealth to themselves while the rest of us starve are innocent?!

“They’re more innocent than your tyrant king.” She then glared back down at Barkeep. “A stallion so vile and self-absorbed that he damned an entire civilization to a thousand years of isolation, trapped out of time, simply to spite the ponies that had overcome him? At what time did Sombra ever do anything that was not primarily in his own self-interest with little concern or care for the well being of his subjects?”

“Spoken like a true fool,” said Barkeep, looking at Celestia like one would regard a foolish child. “At least King Sombra understood strength and how to use it, as well as being honest. Isn’t that one of those Harmonic Elements or whatever, Honesty? Sure, he isn’t the easiest to understand, but you knew where you stood with him—with you, it’s all this faux ‘friendship’ crap and making good with other species. Funny how one of the few times you ever actually used your full power is to vanquish him—a power you couldn’t even use on your own traitorous sister!”

“What happened to me is nothing compared to what Sombra embraced,” said Luna, not wanting to step over Celestia’s words but feeling the need to defend herself, even if she pretty much had embraced evil at the time.

“And when Nightmare Moon did come back, as you can see my sister Princess Luna was restored by the very friendship you scoff at,” said Celestia. “What happened to Sombra on his return? I think a bad case of atomization, no? Not much of a ruler who rules with strength if he turned out to be weaker than the power of friendship you so callously disregard.”

“Ugh, spare me! You may have most of this pathetic country fooled with your ‘friendship’ crap, but we all know better don’t we, boys and girls?!” retorted Barkeep. However, the crowd of angry commoner ponies was a different story, the murmuring being audible and some even lowering their weapons. That did not sit well with Barkeep, who wheeled around on them angrily. “Oh, don’t tell me you pansies are going to actually believe these bloated tyrant whorses! Or did you forget the reasons you all came in here in the first place, that big ol winter storm that we all suffered? It was her fault, after all!” He jabbed a hoof in Celestia’s direction.

“Yes, it was unfortunate that my grief led to the Winter and for that I feel I may never be able to make up for what it caused,” said Celestia, “but I am willing to admit my faults. You can’t even admit Sombra was an illegitimate child born out of wedlock. Which, for the record, he was. I would know, I was around back then after all.”

Just then, a commotion could be heard from the entryway to the throne room, and there appeared Whiskey, still in her kitsune form, flanked by two Hooves, and a small company of guards they’d been able to wrangle up.

“All of you,” intoned Whiskey, “drop your weapons and surrender, now!”

“Ha!” chortled Barkeep, “Like we’d ever listen to a Sombraforsaken dustpan like you!” He stopped laughing when he looked around and saw that he was the only pony in the group who hadn’t backed down. Evidently, he’d been right about all of these morons and their lack of faith—they’d bought right back into the solar tyrant’s lies. He sighed, then put his hooves up—he knew when it was time to fold.

However, as the guards surged forward to secure the situation, he turned back to face Celestia, that crazed grin back on his muzzle.

“Don’t be thinkin’ this is the end, your highness. It never mattered what happened here—now the truth is out and there ain’t nothin you can do to stop the loyal followers of Sombra. Especially now that we have two more Scions!”

Making her way through the castle halls, Pinkie moved with the grace and finesse of a professional dancer with more experience than she had years of life. Everywhere she moved, the glowing blue Allucinors felt her wrath as she exacted her vengeance upon their kind. Killing butterflies should not have been so satisfying.

Just behind her, Smokechaser trailed behind, huffing and puffing, but aside from the occasional grumble that he wasn’t as young as he used to be, managed to keep up with her.

“Are you really just a civilian?” the grizzled stallion asked as he swatted aside a stray Allucinor—the last one in this hallway as far as Pinkie could tell. “You’re pretty good.”

“What I am is… complicated,” Pinkie said, and Smokechaser seemed content to leave it at that.

Of course, that may have been because something more pressing caught his eye. “Dammit….”

Pinkie followed where he indicated and managed to catch a glimpse of another group of Allucinors fluttering out a nearby window.

“If those things make it into the city…” Smokechaser started, but Pinkie already knew how that was going to end.

“Let’s go!” she exclaimed, but before either of them could get very far, a new voice called out.

“Asst. Director Smokechaser!”

Pinkie and her cohort turned and saw a blonde-maned white unicorn stallion cantering toward them at a brisk pace. Something about him seemed vaguely familiar to Pinkie, and she couldn’t help but feel an instant dislike as soon as she heard his upper class voice.

Smokechaser immediately stood at attention and saluted upon seeing him. “Director Blueblood, sir!”

“At ease. I need you to come with me. We need all hooves on deck,” he said. “A huge mob of ponies has broken into the throne room, and apparently they have high profile hostages!”

Smokechaser nodded, but spared a brief glance Pinkie’s way.

“It’s fine. I can handle the Allucinors on my own,” Pinkie said. Without saying anything more, her comrade for the past while sped off after Blueblood and Pinkie used every ounce of her newfound unnatural speed to race out into the gardens where what she hoped was the last of the Allucinor stragglers had flown to.

She spotted them in no time, lazily fluttering across the grounds towards the far wall, beyond which the city of Canterlot proper lay unsuspecting of the danger. They had already thrown pretty high, well out of reach of her shortswords, and she’d already used the last of the throwing knives she’d found. Resolving for none of these things to ever draw near Sunset again, Pinkie crouched low, felt her magical power gather around her, and leapt into the air.

For a brief moment, Pinkie seemed to float in place alongside her prey, and she felt as light and nimble as a butterfly herself. Then she spun in place, her swords swiftly and accurately slicing through every last Allucinor in the sky before gravity at last pulled her back down and she landed on one knee, the grass and hedges billowing around her from the power she radiated. The diced Allucinors drifted down around her a few moments later.

All too easy, Pinkie thought as she stood to her full height. It was then that another voice—one she recognized as the Megan’s—called out in her mind, Behind you!

Without hesitation, Pinkie whirled around just in time to knock aside a thrown dagger with her offhanded blade… but not in time to stop the second dagger from penetrating her dominant arm. Despite the sudden, sharp pain, Pinkie didn’t make a sound as she sheathed one of her swords so she could calmly pull the dagger out. She then looked up at where the attack had come from.

A pegasus mare with a felt green coat and a red, white, black, and yellow mane and tail stared at her with what appeared to be honest surprise.

“Huh…. Usually my sneak attacks have more lethal results,” the pony said. “You human things are fast!

With her shortsword in one hand and the mare’s own dagger in the other, Pinkie adopted a ready stance. Unfortunately, it was considerably more effort than normal to keep the sword raised, as the wound in her arm started bleeding more and more.

“Okay, whoever you are, I’ve had a trying day, and right now you’re not looking too hot yourself,” the pegasus said with a twitch of her wings. Pinkie realized upon a second glance that they were made of some sort of black alloy, and she could see the handles of more knives tucked away inside. “What do you say we just skip the fighting and get to the part where I get away? No reason for us both to get hurt when the end result will be the same regardless.”

Of course, the prosthetic wings weren’t the only thing Pinkie noticed at a second glance: she’d seen this mare before.

“You attacked Sunny,” Pinkie said, her tone growing dark.

A look of understanding came over the mare’s face in an instant, and with a resigned sigh, she said, “Okay. Guess we’re doing this then.” Flicking both of her chitinous wings upwards, a pair of knives came twirling out, passing each other midair before the mare reared up and caught each one in a hoof. “Just let the record show that I tried to be reasonable.”

Then with a beat of her artificial wings, the mare lunged forward, while moving almost too fast for the eye to track, Pinkie followed suit.

Author's Note:

Just a friendly heads up but just so everyone knows GAOA will be going on break until April 1st.

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