• 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 11 - Insane in the Refrain

GAOA Chapter 11— Insane in the Refrain

The first thing that Octavia could say she sensed after the blinding flash of light was her hitting a cold stone floor. The second thing was the light metallic clanging as the knife which had hit Tavi clattered to the ground.

“Ungh, fuck,” swore Tavi, raising herself off the floor with her hands. It didn’t help that because of that flash, her eyes were not adjusted for the extremely dim lighting of wherever she was. Based on what her hands were feeling, it was some kind of subterranean rock.

Wait...rock? Wasn’t she...no, she’d thrown herself in front of Sunset to save her from that knife-throwing pegasus. Except she should have been on the ground at Canterlot Palace, bleeding and probably screaming from the pain. A pain that was, strangely enough, not there.

As her eyes slowly adjusted, Tavi looked down and saw the knife edge catching what little light there was in the cave. Sitting up, she picked up the knife. It was vaguely feather-shaped, which made sense given a pegasus had thrown it, but the insulting thing was that it was obvious the knife’s edge was extremely dull. This thing couldn’t have cut a stick of butter. But why would a pegasi assassin be using non-lethal knives?

Then there’d been the flash after Tavi had been hit. Given her extremely limited experience with Sunset’s native species, Tavi still understood teleportation well enough that she figured out the knife’s purpose—it hadn’t been to kill Sunset, but instead send her here.

But where was here?

Just then, another bright light—this time localized and much less piercing, lit up.

“Hey, it’s one of those humans.”

Even though she was squinting, Tavi was able to make out the outlines of two ponies—unicorns. And one of them she immediately recognized as a familiar silhouette, though obviously the owner was very different.

“R-razz? Is that you?”

“Yeah, it’s me and Lockbox,” said Razz, stepping closer so Tavi could see better. “That bitch Corner Shot must have used enchanted teleport knives, but why’d she go after you?”

“It was Sunset she was targeting. I jumped in to protect her, and, well…”

“So it is true, then?” asked Lockbox of Razz. “Your theory about who the fourth Scion was correct.”

“Either that or the Covenant came to the same conclusion I did about the matter.”

“I don’t understand,” said Tavi, “what about Scions?”

“Descendants of King Sombra, basically four ponies who are supposed to bring about his quote-unquote revenge on Equestria. We only know of three: me, Lock, and Corner.” Razz sighed before continuing, “But it’s possible Sunset is the fourth, based on information that would take too long to explain and, well, it’s awfully convenient we don’t know her true heritage given she was adopted.”

“Twice,” added Tavi who couldn’t help but smirk a little. Then she noticed that even though there were two unicorns, only one of them was using a light spell. “Razz, why aren’t you adding more light in here?”

“Because of my handicap, I can only use dark magic.”

“That doesn’t explain.”

“Dark, evil, opposite of actual light like what Lockbox is using.”

“Still not understanding what you mean, Razz.”

Lockbox giggled. “You’re going to have to show her,” she remarked, extinguishing her own horn.

With a groan, Razz lit up her own horn to reveal...blacklight.

“I’d be great as equipment for forensics,” sighed Razz, embarrassed. “But yeah, just another one of the absolutely riotous problems I have given every drop of blood in my body is literally enchanted to prevent me from doing normal unicorn things.”

“Hey, maybe you can get a part time job at one of those raves thrown by DJ P0N-3!” laughed Lockbox, restoring her own light as Razz put hers out.

“But, real talk now—we gotta get outta here.”

“Where even is here?” asked Tavi, standing up. She was happy there was enough room to do that much, given she towered over the two diminutive unicorns. But from the light of Lockbox’s horn, it was clear they were in some kind of sealed cavern room.

“I have a hunch,” said Razz, “and it’s not good.”

Just then, one of the rock walls dissolved and in came a pair of ponies with cloaks, hoods drawn.

“Scions,” one intoned; he was trying to sound both threatening but at the same time couldn’t quite keep the awe from his voice – the awe of a Sombra worshipper. “If you—"

He didn’t get any farther before he found himself blasted against the wall, trapped in crystal. The other one didn’t even have time to react before he was slammed against the other wall by raging chains, the red and black hues clashing with the purple and green miasma of their mistress’' horns.

“Take your door-to-door religion and fuck off!” Lock shouted..

Just then, two more ponies entered, but these were lightning fast and this time, it was Razz and Lock who couldn’t react in time. Instead, it was Tavi’s turn to be a victim once more as she was suddenly held down to the ground by two pegasus mares, each holding a feather knife—these being the razor-sharp real deal—to her throat.

“Surrender or the furless monkey dies!” spat one of them.

“Great, Corner Shot has equally bitchy sisters,” remarked Razz.

“Perhaps,” one of the pegasi taunted, “but we’re also effective.”

“And stupid,” Razz called out, playing her trap card. She focused on her necklace, and a second later, had changed into her human form. Before the two assassins could react, she immediately flung fireballs in their direction, blasting them aside.

“What the hell?” Lock asked, completely shocked.

“Look, now is not the time for this,” Razz told her, offering her hand to Tavi. “You okay?”

“Yeah, thanks.”

That, however, didn’t last long as several blasts of energy filled the area they were at as a bunch of unicorns mercilessly hit the trio, knocking them unconscious.

“Okay, they’re down,” one of the unicorns said, looking over Razz as her unconscious form automatically switched back from human to unicorn. “Have to admit, this one is worthy of Sombra’s blood—I don’t think I would have had the gumption to change into a weak ape thingy, but it turned out to catch us unawares.”

“My, my, they’re certainly feisty, aren’t they?” came another voice, this time of one who had a very high opinion of himself. The stallion who Lock had smashed into the wall had since gotten up and was bowing to the newcomer. The other stallion was still pinned to the wall and thus could do nothing but watch. The newcomer walked into the room, pulling his hood back to reveal a garishly neon green mane and a black coat, with hot pink eyes.

“Hobble them,” he ordered the troops. “And this time have your spells ready. I won’t tolerate a third failure.” He looked at the trio, just as Lock began to stir once more. “A valorous attempt, but it will not change your fate.”

“What, did you escape from a rave or something?” asked Lock incredulously. Razz, who was also coming to and over heard the exchange, knew she really shouldn’t but was feeling particularly impish at that moment...so she lit her horn up in blacklight. Lock laughed.

“I fail to see what is so funny,” said the stallion, more annoyed than anything, but he recomposed himself. “Still, to be in the presence of two of Sombra’s descendants worthy of their heritage, it is an honor.”

“Glad to see somepony hates Corner like we do,” mused Razz, quickly figuring out that this pony knew Corner was also a Scion but had decided to mention she was...not worthy by omission.

“Hrm, yes, but she will rejoin us in time,” the mysterious pony said, turning to fully face Razz. “But please, let me introduce myself—I am Father Neon Lux, one of your vaunted ancestor’s greatest and most faithful followers.” He bowed, and then extended a hoof like he expected Razz would even want to touch him.

She instead stared at him in disbelief. “You do know I want nothing to do with him.”

The used cart salesman smile Lux wore faltered slightly. “Surely, the fact you use dark magic openly suggests otherwise.”

“Apparently you didn’t notice that I was just using light magic just now? I’m a mare of all trades,” Razz sneered. “Funny how you Covenant freaks figured out I was Emerald Joy some time ago but you still don’t know about that part of my powers. But if you do respect us—or at least me—so much, maybe see about letting us go?”

Lux sighed, lowering his hoof. “I had been hoping my advisors were wrong, but it appears that you do still stray from the path Sombra laid out for you.” He then gestured to the guardstallion with a lethal-looking sword held against Octavia’s throat. “Very well then, we will have to keep you in the garrison along with your...pet...that Corner seems to have retrieved instead of the alicorn she was supposed to have gotten.”

“Pet?” said Tavi, indignantly, but a brief look from Razz silenced her.

“You have no idea how much trouble you bastards have invited upon yourselves,” said Lock, “Because it isn’t just Equestria you’ve pissed off...and you’ll wish it was just them.”

Meanwhile, on one of the large external prominades of Castle Canterlot, a pitched battle of blades continued. Despite being wounded in one arm, Pinkie was still doing incredibly well against the trained-since-birth assassin pegasus who was far more agile.

Corner grunted in annoyance as every time she tried to break away from close quarters, the magenta-haired human was right on her again. While as a trained assassin Corner was more than skilled at melee range knife fighting, the truth was she didn’t like engaging in combat at all with knives. Ironic, given her talent for knife throwing, but her feather knives were designed for utilizing distance and momentum to drive the edges into targets. As actual close range weapons they weren’t the best; even when switching from wing grip to hoof grip, they didn’t offer much leverage against the human’s short sword or even themselves as the human was wielding the feather knife that Corner had thrown into her arm earlier. She held it in a strange, blade-down kind of stance that seemingly made it easy for her to keep parrying away any moves Corner tried to pull. It was extremely annoying to put it mildly as Corner’s window for escape out of Canterlot was shrinking rapidly.

“You’ve hurt a lot of people,” said the human in a strangely calm fury, deflecting another thrust from Corner and spinning, using the momentum to. “And you’re going to pay for it.”

“Oh, trust me, bitch,” replied Corner, the briefest flashes of Tilled Fields popping up in her mind, “I’m already paying for it.”

“No, you’re only aware of the price. You have yet to see that the true payment is due. And I’m the interest!”

The human suddenly dashed at Corner as if to tackle, but then leapt up and somersaulted over the pegasus. Corner moved to turn around, but the human was faster—with strength that her frame suggested shouldn’t have been possible, she threw the feather blade hard enough that it lodged itself right below where Corner’s left wing was attached to her body.

“AAAAGGHH!” screamed Corner—the pain was quite unlike anything she’d felt since first receiving her artificial wings, and she wasn’t sure what was worse—the fact the blade was lodged in such a way that she couldn’t pull it out, or the humiliation of having her own weapon turned against her. That pissed her off...and then she felt it. That surge she’d felt before when it had been those three humans—the pigtailed one having fired a crossbow bolt into her hindquarters.

As the green and purple mist began to flow from her eyes, Corner let out a primal, inequine scream which caught the human off guard.

“What the fuck even are you?!” asked the human, taking a defensive stance as Corner turned to face her. However, her wounded arm and having lost the feather blade meant her defenses were not as airtight as before—it would be her undoing.

“The last thing you’ll ever see,” hissed Corner, who then used her good wing to withdraw one of the three knives left in her holsters and then launched it at the human. Predictably, the human deflected it—but the knife had been a distraction only. When the human looked back at Corner, the pegasus had already launched herself full speed at her, and there was nothing she could do before getting knocked back. Vaulting into the air, Corner withdrew her last two feather blades, tossed them in the air just before her, and then while still airborne did a hammerhead turn. The pain was nearly unbearable, but Corner used it to fuel whatever of Sombra’s dark powers was empowering her, giving her the ability to land the finishing blow.Her rear hooves make contact with the hilt of the blades at the same time the blade tips pressed into the human’s chest. Finally, with all her might, Corner bucked both legs and drove both knives into the human’s chest down to where the blades met the hilt.

Both bodies ended up crashing to the ground, but only Corner got up—the human seemed to have hit her head on the hard ground knocking her out cold, and the already considerable amount of blood pouring from her chest wound suggested she would not be getting up.

“Shoulda just let me walk,” groaned Corner, the quickly evaporating purple/green mist signifying her Scion power fading. It didn’t last long, but damn did it help in a pinch. She then hurried over, wincing in great pain as the feather knife was still buried in her back, and used the discarded short sword as a kind of reach extension to catch the blade’s hilt guard and yank it out. Sure, she’d be bleeding from the wound, but she knew where she could get help—the human on the other hand was most likely going to die.

Suddenly, what felt like a fly going faster than Rainbow Dash at max speed whizzed right past Corner’s head, just barely scraping her right ear and drawing blood, followed by a numbing yet burning sensation. Wheeling around, Corner groaned as her luck proved to be against her yet again—the blue haired human of those damn triplets had shown up and, likely having seen what Corner had done to the magenta-haired one, didn’t even try to negotiate. She was shooting to kill with one of those explosive boxes with the long tubes in them, like Griffonian shootsticks but a lot smaller, and far more deadly. And Corner was out of knives.

So, bleeding and in pain, Corner immediately raced off, praying that whatever the fuck weapon the human was using was not loaded for additional shots.

“FUCK!” shouted Sonata, pulling the trigger again, missing the green pegasus by the thinnest of margins, and the pistol’s slide locking in the ‘fired’ position indicating the magazine was empty. With rote practiced precision, Sonata ejected the magazine and had already slammed in the last reserve magazine she’d had, but it was too late—the pegasus was moving too fast to try shooting from a distance.

But as Sonata glanced back down at the unconscious, copiously bleeding form of Pinkie, she swore again and went to try and do anything to save the girl’s life. Ripping off her dress jacket to try and contain the bleeding, careful to not push the blades even deeper, Sonata also pulled out her—mercifully unharmed—smartphone and jabbed the app that would turn the phone into a radio.

“MEDIC!” she barked into it, not waiting for an acknowledgement from Adagio. It was a violation of protocol but Sonata didn’t give a fuck. This was Pinkie dying in front of her and if she didn’t get help now...Sonata banished the thought, the alternative was simply not going to happen on her watch.

Sonata glared at the place where the pegasus had been and swore that when she saw her again, she was going to kill her, rules of engagement be damned.

Meanwhile, in a dilapidated hotel room a relatively safe distance from the palace, Corner’s “roomie” Chrysoberyl had been hard at work preparing an escape. She was currently seated on the floor holding rune-drawing chalk in her magical aura, where she worked her very literal magic on a space she’d cleared out in the middle of the room.

“Just a little here...a little more there…” she hummed to herself in an off-tune key.

Suddenly, the door flung open and a bleeding Corner Shot collapsed into the room.

“Having fun out there?” asked Chrys, looking up. “I trust that the mission was successful?” She magically removed the pillow cover from one of the bed pillows and tossed it over to Corner.

“Uh...mostly,” grunted Corner, struggling to her feet and using her extreme wing dexterity to wrap the pillowcase around the wounded area at her wing’s base—it was far from ideal triage but it didn’t need to last long. “Think I missed one of the Scions.”

That made Chrysoberyl’s fur bristle on end. “You...missed one?”

“Yeah, one of Sunset’s stupid humans got in the way—got Lockbox and Raspberry, though. Pretty sure I killed another one as well.”

“Oh, then that’s fine.” Truth be told it wasn’t great that Corner had failed to get the complete set of Scions, but at the same time, there really was only one of them Chrys was truly interested in and that one was not Sunset Shimmer. “You got the usurper, as long as she suffers then that’s all I honestly am concerned with.”

“Suffer?” asked Corner, confused. “What are you talking about?”

A distant look crossed Chrysoberyl's face then, and whatever she was now staring at with her mind's eye caused a hateful grin to spread across her muzzle. “Oh, I’ve been wronged by one of the two you did get since birth, and now the time has come for her to get what is due.”

“Really starting to creep me out here,” the pegasus said to the unicorn, but then the lamp on the bedside table started flashing rapidly.

“The proximity charm got tripped,” said Chrysoberyl, seemingly getting serious. “You’ve really brought down the heat this time haven’t you?”

“I...might have killed that one human that seems to hover the most around Sunset, yes,” admitted Corner.

“Inconsequential what happens to the humans, but right now we need to go.”

Chrys gestured for Corner to step into the ritual circle in the middle of the room. Chrysoberyl herself was not powerful enough to perform a multi-pony teleportation, so the ritual was required to give her that power. Indeed, by the time the guards finally got to the hotel room, there was a bright flash that signaled a successful teleportation.

Followed by a big explosion that ripped the hotel room apart, removing all chance of tracing the ritual circle’s destination.

“What do you mean they’re in hiding?” Sunset asked one of the nearby guardsponies. She’d since returned to pony form, if only to not freak out the civilian ponies who were still being treated for Allucinor overexposure.

“We simply can’t find Archmagus Beryl or Miss Lockbox,” the guard replied, looking frazzled.

Indeed, the attack had generally only just been stopped and the combined efforts of guards, Hooves, and SIRENs were working hard to restore order. The very ancillary ballroom which had earlier that day been the site of the reception party for Sunset’s coronation was now a staging ground of sorts for the wounded and those whose minds were affected by the Allucinor Wings. Looking around, it was easy for Sunset to figure who was in the latter group by the lost, mortified, and utterly broken looks on their faces. The feeling was uncomfortably familiar to Sunset, and it only spurred on the rage she already felt roiling inside her.

“Find them,” Sunset snarled. “Now.”

“Sunny, calm down,” came the voice of a very exhausted looking Princess Twilight.

Sunset looked at Twilight, fear in her eyes. “Why? Someone just vaporized my cousin––”

“Teleported, not vaporized,” Twilight corrected. “For that matter, they did the same to Razz and Lock—they’re not anywhere in Canterlot. I’ve tried to locate Razz by tracking her magic signature—it simply vanished somewhere in the main ballroom.”

“You can track her magic?” asked Sunset, raising an eyebrow.

“I know you’re stressed right now, so you’re forgetting things,” Twilight reminded her. “Remember that Razz is literally as powerful as Sombra in the Left Hoof Path when it comes to how much dark magic output she creates. I could track her from orbit with a strong enough spell if I was so inclined—it would completely burn me out, however, so unfortunately that’s not an option right now. Need I remind you of the pony from the human world who managed to track her down because of a misfired dark magic spell?”

Sunset nickered, annoyed at the memory. “For the record, I only went after her because I thought she was an evil version of me. But you made your point.”

“Exactly. Plus, I found this,” Twilight levitated a feather-shaped knife that looked like it hadn’t ever been sharpened to cut anything. “Look familiar?”

Sunset paled. “That’s...one of Corner Shot’s knives...was that in the ballroom?”

“Yup, two of them. There’s traces of a powerful force-teleport spell on them. Furthermore, the spell’s got an encrypted enchantment on it.”

Sunset looked down, simultaneously worried yet...relieved, much to Twilight’s confusion. “Then they’re still alive, thank God,” said the maize alicorn.

Twilight nodded in sympathy. “But it means she’s alive and with Razz and Lockbox, so unless something else happens, I know those two can keep her safe. I hope. But speaking of safety: where are the other humans?”

“Back in their rooms. Naturally, Spike was wondering what the hell was going on since he’d been so absorbed in his video games, but not enough that he realized Tavi wasn’t there. Mom told him she’d been taken to safety with another group but...I just don’t know how we’re going to tell him she’s been kidnapped because they were trying to kidnap me.”

Just then, the human Applejack, Rainbow, Fluttershy, and Rarity came around the corner, as did Sonata...but Sonata was conspicuously missing her blazer, and all of her clothing was stained heavily by blood.

“Soni?” said Sunset, feeling her gut wrench harder and harder at the sheer amount of blood covering her. She hadn’t looked like she’d waded neck deep into a war like this even after the first time she and her sisters had met Corner Shot. “I thought you were trying to find Pinkie?”

“I did…” she said, clearly at odds between trying to observe military restraint and being, well, Sonata Dusk level of normal emotionality. “I’m sorry, Sunny: Corner found her first.”

“We got her to the castle infirmary in time,” said Applejack, who Sunset then noted also seemed to have a lot of blood—it had been drowned out in the red dress she’d been wearing from a distance. “But it’s bad.”

“Two knives to the chest like they’d been kicked there by a horse,” said Rainbow, looking visibly shaken up.

“She might not survive,” Fluttershy finally spat out.

Rarity could only nod, looking on the verge of tears.

“And Corner got away,” added Sonata, her fists by her side clenching hard enough for her knuckles to turn white. “I might have gotten her but I only had two shots in the mag left and by time I reloaded, it was either try to get Corner or try to save Pinkie. I just hope it doesn’t turn out it wouldn’t have mattered what choice I made.”

The next thing they knew, they had all been teleported by the maize alicorn to the infirmary. Twilight, immediately realizing what was going on, stepped in front of her fellow princess.

“Sunny, don’t! Medical rules!”

Fuck the medical rules! I’m not going to let her die!”

“You can’t just apply a blanket healing spell if you don’t know anything about detailed medical care for humans!” the lavender alicorn argued back. “The doctors in there have been trained for this eventuality with all the books you sent from your world! Let them do their job, Sunny! Please!”

Sunset stood there in front of the others as her brain began to register that, as much as she was an omnipotent being that bordered on the legitimately divine, there was nothing she could do to avert the fact Pinkie might not make it back to the human world. Not alive at any rate. She tried in vain to speak, to say something, but where words failed her, emotions were only just getting started.

Just then, the four remaining human girls who had known Sunset prior to Princess Twilight cratering her in front of their school saw something come over Sunset which triggered a deep seated fear within each of them. Fear of something that they’d thought had died when Sunset had turned over a new leaf.

Sonata, who had not seen Sunset at her absolute worst, could sense that something very, very wrong was happening given the reactions of the four other teens. “S-Sunny?” she carefully asked, knowing full well that if she so wanted, Sunset could be likened to a short fused nuclear bomb ready to blow.

But the very air that seemed to radiate around Sunset? Sunset the redeemed wasn’t in the building anymore.

“Where. The Fuck. Is the instigator of all this,” hissed Sunset, pure venom dripping from every word she spoke out of her gritted teeth.

The old Sunset, the ‘my way or my way’ Sunset, was back. With a vengeance.


Corner was not in a good mood, suffice to say. While the teleportation ritual circle had gotten her and Chrysoberyl out just in the nick of time, it hadn’t been a perfect spell and so the two of them had emerged within the Covenant hideout looking more than a little worse for wear. And given Corner Shot already had been subjected to a hell of a night, the last thing she wanted to do was deal with other ponies’ bullshit or more annoyingly, be regarded like some kind of demigoddess as some of the Covenant had tended to do ever since it was known she was the third Scion.

“But, Corner,” said one cloaked acolyte, trying to calm her down. “The mission was a success, was it not?”

“It ain’t a clean pool table if the damn eight ball is still on it!” she retorted loudly, slipping back into using pool terminology—and weirdly, doing so made her feel a bit better. Boy how she would have loved nothing more than to just knock some billiard balls around right now to relax.

“It’s been a...rough night for her,” said Chrysoberyl, who seemed to be for the most part okay save for the singed fur and mane/tail hairs. “She got two of the other Scions but one remains at large.”

“No fucking shit! Now where the fuck is the Oracle?” Corner demanded, holding up a certain dark amulet carved in the likeness of an alicorn. “I got her stupid trinket to give her and then I’m taking a fucking shower, finding a healer to patch my ass up and gutting anypony who tries to stop me!” Corner stomped off, noting that the big ugly ass mirror that had been stolen during the whole fiasco was on its way to the central atrium looking clean and shiny. Fucking mirrors and not fucking up getting magiced all over the fucking place, Corner griped in her head, but said nothing as she continued on her mission to be rid of the stupid-looking neck accessory.

“I should have known it was an eventuality,” groaned Marimba, rubbing her temples with a forehoof, “but for a Hoof to betray the Oath, the Promise, to the Princess…”

“She isn’t our princess and you know it!” said Lentando, glaring death at her former commander. Since she’d straight up admitted to being the one behind the Allucinor Wing even being let into Canterlot in the first place, let alone the shitshow the reception had turned into, she’d been stripped of anything she could use as a weapon, forced back into her pony form, and had her ruby necklace forcibly removed, which would make it much harder for her to switch form—the ruby necklaces each Hoof wore served as a kind of conduit for the wearer to more easily change forms. Furthermore, in her weakened state it was virtually guaranteed she wouldn’t be able to turn again without it, much less put up further resistance.

Just in case, however, she now was tied up and leaned against one of the supporting pillars of the ballroom, right next to Barkeep who was similarly tied up.

“You really should listen to her,” he said with a smirk, “She’s got the right idea of it.”

“What, like how you listened to her basically tell you how to plan a terrorist attack?” said Marimba, glaring over to the stallion with awful taste in facial hair.

The disheveled stallion’s smile grew wider. “Hey, can’t argue with success.”

“Oh, I think I can.”

Before Barkeep could react, he suddenly found himself aglow in cyan and rocketed straight up into the ceiling, slammed hard enough to crater the plaster, raining dust to the ground. He had no time to even react to the pain before getting slammed back down into the ground. By the time he recovered from being dazed—he was lucky he was an Earth pony and thus could take outrageously ludicrous amounts of punishment—he found himself staring right in the face of a very, very, very angry teenage human.

“Huh, so I guess Corner didn’t get ya after all,” he remarked, looking nonplussed.

“I’m gonna make you wish she had unless you tell me what I want to know.” To underscore her threat, she raised a fist that was engulfed in cyan flame.

Barkeep was unimpressed. “Apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, huh? Figures the daughter of the sun tyrant would behave like her mother.”

That response got him backhanded across the face hard enough to cause an audible snap as his head reeled back from the blow.

A second later, he spat out a tooth. “Oh yeaaah, I like a lady who plays rough!

Sunset’s cyan aura came back, this time around Barkeep’s throat, lifting him into the air and tightening.

H-harder, Mommy,” he choked, somehow still grinning.

Sunset obliged. “Is this a fucking joke to you?” she asked, squeezing his throat with her godlike power just a little longer before releasing him, sputtering and coughing to the floor.

“Lady, this whole world is a fucking joke, and I am tired of being the butt of it,” Barkeep rasped. His usual devil may care attitude cracked just a little, and Sunset realized there was something else buried underneath: pain. Terrible, emotional turmoil. Enough to drive a person mad. “Family, friendship, they’re all jokes, and even the best jokes stop being funny after you’ve heard ‘em enough times.”

Barkeep returned to a sitting position, shifting a little in his bonds as he continued, and Sunset got the feeling that she was suddenly seeing beyond the facade he kept up for what had likely been most of his life up until now. “That’s why when Father Lux found me, a useless nopony in the slums, and told me the good word of Equestria’s true Lord, I jumped at the chance to serve him. If everything’s a joke anyway, may as well double-down and bring back the greatest monster of our history.”

Sunset looked at him with the utter disgust of Rarity looking at a rat. “I can think of a lot of reasons to follow an evil megalomaniac, but that’s probably the worst one I’ve ever heard.”

“And that’s why I’m not afraid of you or your mother. There’s nothing you can do to me that’s worse than the joke called ‘existence.’”

Through all of the righteous fury, some part of Sunset (the part of her that became capable of compassion after she changed her ways) saw Barkeep for what he really was: just a sad, desperate pony barely more than a shell of whoever he had once been. It was enough for her to stay her hoof for one moment, then another.

Then she thought of Octavia, in the clutches of his mad cult. Of Pinkie, who lay dying in a hospital bed. All of it made possible by the broken pony in front of her.

“I’m a creative pony. I’ll think of something,” Sunset said with a quiet intensity that spooked everyone present. A second later, she moved faster than the eye could follow, hitting him with a punch that sent him flying across the room, ending up with him colliding into—and through—a nearby pillar. He crashed against the ground, but didn’t land as he suddenly found himself kicked back across the room by Sunset, who had teleported over to deliver the second blow. This time she let him come close to the wall on the other side before teleporting once more and grabbing him in mid-air, slamming his face into the marble hard enough to shatter the wall, as well as Barkeep’s nose.

“You wanna try giving me the wrong answer again?” said Sunset, raising her fist again.

“Lady Sunset,” Marimba voiced, as a look of alarm came over her face, “I would please ask you to—"

“STAY OUT OF THIS,” Sunset barked back, the glare in her eyes making it clear that she would not brook argument before turning back to Barkeep. “Even if I have to use every bit of my magic to rip the answer out of your fucking head, I will damn well do it!”

“Then let’s see you try,” replied the Sombra worshiping scumbag, with that infuriating grin that having just had his face broken didn’t seem to impede. Sunset ignored the part of her that told her he was only putting his mask back on.

“Your funeral,” said Sunset, not really piecing it together that maybe it was what the stallion was hoping for, but she never got the chance to carry out that threat.

“STOP IT, SUNNY!” said Twily, who had somehow shown up out of nowhere and was holding onto Sunset’s arm to keep it from getting her knuckles even bloodier.

“Twily?” Sunset said in surprise, the magic leaving her fist.

“This isn’t you, Sunny!” Twilight had let go of her sister’s arm and was now standing between her and the bloodied Barkeep.

“This asshole is the reason Tavi is missing!” hissed Sunset, “He’s the reason Pinkie’s dying!”

“And is this the message you want to send the rest of Equestria, your own homeworld, that you’re going to bloodily beat the shit out of anyone and anything?” Then Twily gave her a look that utterly destroyed the proverbial raging she-demon inside of her; she looked on the verge of tears. “When the others first told me what you used to be like, I didn’t believe them. I couldn’t even imagine a Sunset Shimmer who was callous and cruel.” Then as if Sunset’s guilt wasn’t already bad enough, Twily’s heartbroken eyes gave way to nothing but disappointment. “Now I can.”

Sunset made to continue her retorts, but found she couldn’t.

Twilight then approached Sunset and hugged her. “C’mon, this isn’t you—this isn’t my sister.”

Sunset just stood there, not sure what to do, before returning the embrace and beginning to cry softly into Twily’s shoulder. Not saying anything, Twily merely led her sister away.

“Aww, how sweet, I might die of a sugar overdose” said Barkeep sarcastically. He got a nice hard buck to the side of the head in response. “Ow! What the fuck, lady!?”

“She may have stopped Lady Sunset from beating you up further,” said Marimba, “but it’s in my job description to defend my Princess and the Ladies from any threats… even if the only threat you pose is to her pride!”

Meanwhile, oblivious to the events transpiring, the two ruling princesses were taking a moment to recuperate in Luna’s chambers, sitting at her tea table.

“Equestria really does not need this kind of shit right now,” said Luna, sipping from her cup while absent mindedly running a comb through her hair with magic.

“I’m wondering if Equestria really needs me,” said Celestia, glumly.

Luna was shocked. “Celestia! You can not be serious, just because the actions of a few...hundred ponies, admittedly, doesn’t mean—"

“It’s been something that’s been on my mind for a long time now,” admitted Celestia. “The country needed me to be there for the ponies in the aftermath of Tirek’s rampage and...I failed it. I failed everypony. Luna, there is blood on my hooves because I let my melancholy over Sunset’s death consume me, and ponies died because of how that influenced the sun. And ultimately it was all pointless because Sunset hadn’t died but ascended—she’d been dead for maybe an hour at the most!”

“Well, given the time shift, probably more like weeks in our realm,” Luna noted.

The older sister gave the younger one a reproachful look. “Not helping, Luna,” she admonished. “In any case, what kind of ruler does that? Sombra?”

“You are nothing like that ugly cad, my liege,” said Kibbitz, letting himself in the room. “Unfortunately, that is what the nobility now seem to think and, credit where due, Riven Oak has gotten them all in consensus and filed a motion.”

“So soon after their lives were on the line?” remarked Luna. “Now, if they were that adamant about tax reforms....”

“Quite. I’ll spare you the, ahem, rather choice words they’ve used here, but essentially they are demanding your presence at Nobility House to explain what just occurred. I’ve taken the trouble of looking up the legalese since they are invoking some truly ancient protocols but alas, they are justified and within their rights.”

“At the very least they aren’t trying to murder other ponies in front of me,” sighed Celestia. “I can handle legalese and red tape. I’ve had to sit through over a thousand years of it after all.”

“Sometimes I wonder if those imbeciles realize that even at your worst, you are still a benevolent ruler,” grumbled Luna, “compared to, oh I don’t know, what I would have done if I’d won the civil war and declared myself Queen Nightmare Moon.”

“An idea worth entertaining, if only just to get a rise out of them,” impishly giggled Celestia. In a trying time like this, it was critical to find relief wherever possible.

“A human?!” gasped Tiny Dynamine. After the two “rogue” Scions and their human had been escorted into their tiny holding cell, Neon Lux had sent for the Oracle to be fetched. She was evidently less than pleased to learn that not only had Corner failed to get all three Scions, but she’d wasted the knives on a useless human. “Unbelievable.”

“I don’t think it’s all bad,” said Lux, “We could probably ransom the human for Sunset’s cooperation, especially if we could get the other two Scions to understand their roles in life and work with us.”

“What makes you think we’d willingly work with a group of delusional nutcases just because your idol is the one we share blood with?” asked Lock incredulously.

“Plus, my job is to make sure asshats like you don’t go around doing whatever you want,” added Razz. Octavia merely kept quiet, this conversation had nothing to do with her and she didn’t want to make things any worse for the two ponies actually on her side.

You of all ponies should have more respect for the one who gave you such unimaginable power!” retorted Lux, thrusting an accusatory hoof at Razz. “His magic is the reason you have achieved such stupendous feats!”

“Yeah, because the fact I exist only because he raped a bunch of innocent mares is such a thing to be proud of!” She smirked as she added, “Almost brings a tear to my eye... tears of remorse.”

“Hmph, such insolence!” sneered Neon. “but no matter: even if we don’t have Sunset to have all four Scions in one place, I’m sure we’ll get you to realize the truth of your heritage soon enough. Besides, you’re at least attached to this human pet enough that you understand if you two try anything, I’ll have her killed on sight—she’ll never leave this place alive!”

“Are you all done yelling yet?” said Corner who appeared from a passageway just out of view—ostensibly the only way in and out of the main dungeon room. “I’ve had a hell of a fucking day and I really do not want to deal with more things shouting!”

“Oh, no, little miss winghooves is feeling bad?” said Lock in a sappy falsetto. “I think I might start to cry now too!”

“Yes, explain why we have this...human...instead of Sunset Shimmer!” demanded Tiny Dynamine.

“Things didn’t exactly go to plan, okay?” flatly stated Corner. “That damn human got in the way of me getting Sunset and then I had to fight off a couple of humans—probably ended up killing the one that likes Sunset the most, not sure, but two knives to the chest ain’t exactly something you recover from—and I got most of what you wanted.” Nopony seemed to notice Tavi clasping her hands over her mouth in shock, reacting to the news that the human Pinkie Pie might have been killed by Corner’s hoofiwork.

“So, the illustrious Corner Shot fails yet again, and looks like the failure she is too,” snarked Lux. “What a surprise.”

“Let’s see you deal with a bunch of humans shooting pieces of metal screaming past your head, Lux! Besides, I have the dumb Amulet, so here you go, Oracle.” Corner removed the Amulet from her saddlebag and carelessly just tossed it toward Tiny Dynamine. The Oracle promptly retrieved it with her sickly looking green magic.

“Thank you, Corner,” she said, “at least with this we can—huh?!”

Inexplicably, the Alicorn Amulet acted on its own, darting out of Tiny’s grasp, flew right through the cell’s iron bars and then latched itself around Tavi’s neck.“What the fuck?!” exclaimed Tavi, “Get this thing off me!”

“How the...why are you doing this?!” Razz shouted at Dynamine, “She’s not a pony!”

“You think this is my doing!?” retorted Tiny, “That I’d let some inferior non-magical scum touch an artefact as important as the Amulet!?”

Razz was about to fire back but then Tavi started to scream in what sounded like pain, almost as if possessed. In truth, as she tried to pry the Amulet off her neck, something was going on that was making her lower body feel extremely weird and unnatural.

And then a voice of pure terror sounded out in the human’s head, the laugh of nightmares that only Tavi would hear.

“Well, hello there, Octavia,” said Melody, “didya miss me?”

Author's Note:

As always, the TV Tropes page could use some lovin'!

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