• 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 18 - Prophecy Realized

Chapter 18—Prophecy Realized

Back in Canterlot, Pinkie Pie remained in her coma while the magically aided hospital equipment continued to chime regularly. Coco, staying true to her promise to keep watch over Pinkie should there be any emotional signals she was on the upswing, had remained in the hospital room for the sake of her vigil. However, despite her best attempts, Coco had dropped off to sleep in her chair, face covered by her latest trashy thrift store romance novel focus; Sweet, Elite, and Petite. It was the daring love story of a young colt who sought to prove himself to his love, a minor princess, despite his diminutive size.

To Rarity, it was a page-turner. But for Coco, it was life itself: a way to both enjoy herself and get a little closer to her new queen-slash-employer. Right now, at a little past four in the morning, it was a sleep mask.

Suddenly, Coco woke up with a jolt, feeling a strange twinge in the back of her head. As if something wrong was going on with the hivemind. Thankfully, ever since accepting Rarity as her new queen, it meant she was all but severed from the hivemind, a step closer to being a true, one-hundred-percent pony. It still left her sensitive to the hivemind, but she no longer was subject to it as before.

As she tried to think of what it possibly could have been, she recalled that she’d overheard reports that a group of changelings led by a purple-colored queen was currently attacking Oatmaha, so Coco figured it had to be the hivemind reacting to that. Queen Chrysalis was still around and things really didn’t go well if there were multiple dominant queens.

In the end, Coco chose to ignore the call of the hivemind and just went back to sleep. She’d figure it out in the morning—nothing she needed to be concerned about.

45th Day of Spring—4:03AM

There had been many theories over the years as to just what made Chrysalis different from other changeling queens. After all, typically they only lasted for maybe a century or two at most before they were done in by rivals. But Chrysalis had somehow defied the odds, proving that even though there might be many potential queens of the changeling race, in the end Chrysalis was the Queen—a changeling above and beyond that of a normal changeling. A super changeling, so to speak.

The truth, as was quickly made evident to the Scions, their rescuers, and the changelings who were experiencing the hivemind acting in ways it was never meant to behave, was that Chrysalis was not, in fact, fully a changeling to begin with.

It was hard to believe, but there was just no getting around it—Chrysalis, queen of the changelings, had been a thirteen-year-old human girl when she was cruelly thrown into a completely alien world by her own husband in exchange for cheap magic tricks. And whatever Sombra had done to her, as well as the harsh erosion of time, had turned a young Tuscan noblewoman with hopes and dreams into a walking horror show of the damned. She’d somehow gained a brilliant jade and teal dress, obviously once a masterpiece of mercery that would have made Rarity—both of them—swoon with its beauty…and weep at the ruined threads it had become. Mismatched scraps of cloth patterned all around it but even then, it was torn and moth-eaten to the point Chrysalis must have desperately clung to the faded rags as a possession of utmost importance—maybe as the last possession she had from her human life, but just as likely to hide as much of her ruined body as possible. Though what benefit the dress provided in that regard was minimal at best.

Her body was a twisted amalgamation of changeling parts grafted to her once-beautiful human form seemingly at random. Her right arm became a black hoof partway down, as did her left leg. A blue carapace adorned her midsection, from which emerged familiar hole-ridden wings, and holes dotted the inhuman limbs she bore like rotten swiss cheese. A malformed black horn emerged from her forehead, punching through blond hair halfway turned blue (identical to the tail protruding from her backside), mocking the regal appearance of the alicorns. It was almost comical in how she still had her tiny black crown on her head, given the horror of its wearer.

“Y-you’re supposed to be dead!” Raspberry cried, horror clear on her face. “Like, Sombra killed you dead! Kicked into a pit of molten metal with a sword run through you dead!”

“Did that fucker write about that in his little diary, too?” hissed Chrysalis, pointing a human finger at Razz. “Sombra truly was a simple little pony—if he wasn’t killing, torturing or enslaving, he was writing about it in his stupid little book! I’m not surprised it made the rounds to the mare whose entire job it was to go sniffing about his old junk.” Her voice had now turned into a twisted reverb, layering the voice of the queen in with that of the much more adolescent, innocent voice that had appeared when donning the amulet seemed to have gone all wrong.

Lockbox glanced over to Razz. “Let me guess—Broken Neck?”

“Yup,” replied Razz with a nod.

Corner, however, was more preoccupied with the sheer what the fuck factor. “Wait, why is the queen of the changelings not a changeling?” A quick glance around the room would suggest that some of the changeling drones themselves seemed to be asking the same question.

“Do you see? Look at what your progenitor has done to me! I don’t even know what I am anymore!” shrieked the patch-quilt queen, clutching her head with her human hand, like someone with the worst migraine of their life. “Am I Chrysalis, ancient queen of the changelings? Or am I Crisalide della Lucca? Is there even a difference between the two now?”

Seeming to regain her center, the mad queen looked at the figures standing in opposition to her, focusing on the four Scions with a hard glare. “I know what I’m not, though! I am not The Rose With the Broken Neck! Today, I shunt that title by destroying the last of Sombra’s legacy!” She glanced down at the murdered body of Neon Lux. “The Covenant of Shadows is already no more….” She then returned her attention to Razz and the others. “All that remains now are his Scions.”

Knowing what was coming next, Razz took a step forward and desperately called out, “Wait! You don’t have to do this!”

“Do you think any of us love Sombra any more than you?” Lockbox said, moving to stand beside Razz.

“Even I can see how much evil he’s done now!” Corner Shot added, standing on Razz’s other side.

Behind her, Razz heard Octavia try to stand and fall to her knees again. Even so, she straightened her back and looked the malformed queen right in the eye. “If this Sombra person is the reason I’m like this now, you can bet your ass I want nothing to do with him!”

Chrysalis—or maybe it was Crisalide—looked at the four Scions standing before her, defiant; not just to her, but to their progenitor. For a moment, she looked uncertain, before her mutated face hardened again.

Blood calls to blood. I may have twisted Sombra’s prophecy for my own ends, but I still remember how the original goes, and so far it’s all come true. For here you are, Sombra’s Scions, standing united before me.” A twisted smile formed on the queen’s face then. Razz was struck by just how desperate such an expression could look. “Only one part of the prophecy has yet to come true: the final verse.” Then she quoted, “These four: Scions, dark legacy, called now and thus command, Take up stations and move on towards your struggle great and grand. Licorns broken, pinions ripped clear, strong bones ground into sand. My children—go, your quest awaits...on Canterlot’s grave, stand!
Her smile returning to the cold calculating thing it had been moments ago, the mad queen said, “I may not care for the ponies of Equestria, but I have no intention of letting Sombra’s progeny seize the throne.”

“Well, it’s a good thing we have no intention of seizing it, either!” Razz countered.

Yet!” the queen argued. “That’s the funny thing about prophecies… they rarely specify when they’re supposed to happen.” Then she leaned forward, her eyes boring into Razz… through Razz. “You may go the rest of your life hating Sombra… but how much longer until you become him?”

“How about never?” Razz retorted, but something about what Chrysalis said rooted itself firmly into the back of her mind.

“You believe that now, but do you honestly think Sombra planned on becoming a monster when he was your age?” Chrysalis asked. “I certainly didn’t! It just happens without you noticing.”

Worryingly, Razz couldn’t think of a retort for that, and based on the silence, neither could her fellow Scions.

So Chrysalis continued, “You can’t fight fate, Razz. But you can check out ahead of it! Here, I’ll help you with that. You don’t have to thank me… you just have to die!” Chrysalis then outstretched a hand to her waiting swarm. “Tear them limb from limb!

Raspberry Beryl shut her eyes and braced herself for… for what? The end? She didn’t prepare any spells. Wasn’t ready to fight back. Her own response (or lack thereof) surprised her. Did she really believe what Chrysalis said?

No, she realized. Becoming Sombra is not my destiny!

Of course, by the time Razz came to realize this, she also came to realize something else: that she was not, in fact, currently being torn limb from limb. Razz opened her eyes.

The changelings around them did nothing. They just looked back between the Scions and the thing that had been their queen except...now she wasn’t. The hivemind, normally the driving element of having the swarm obey the queen, was mysteriously silent, as if it had lost all cohesion and simply wasn’t around anymore. Without the hivemind, the changelings were, effectively, truly on their own as individuals and they didn’t know what to do.

This naturally infuriated Chrysalis. “Did I stutter? KILL THEM!”

Some changelings took the hint and lurched toward the group, with the Scions and what few allies they had bracing, but then the telltale burst of a carbine rang out and a few of the changelings fell dead.

All attention then turned to the other side of the room where the entire command structure of the SIRENs emerged from the entrance, weapons drawn. They’d evidently reunited at some point in the crusade to kill everything in their path and now had finally reunited with the group. And it was obvious by the look in their eyes that the triplets noticed Tavi was now 50% less human. It was almost enough to make them break their military bearing...almost.

“This party is over!” shouted Adagio, drawing a bead on the individual who seemed to be the one calling the shots—and nearly failed to follow through in the action when she registered what seemed to be the profile of a thirteen-year-old human. As far as anybody knew, the only humans that were supposed to be on this side of the mirror portal were Sunset’s family and friends. And the only one under the age of sixteen had been Spike. The fact there was now an unaccounted for human in the mix had not been part of the plan.

“Hold fire!” barked Sable, though he kept his gun up and pointed toward his enemies—superior firepower or not, they clearly still had a numerical advantage and given the previously displayed tactics of the Covenant ponies, a bum rush would not end well for either side. Not missing a beat, he then turned to look at the semi-human teenager at the other side of the room. Brief mental images flashed of the would-be suicide bomber girl he’d shot back in the Middle East, but he banished them—the trauma could wait until later. “You! Identify yourself!”

The girl—who Sable had to admit looked like a twisted version of Tinkerbell mixed with a rotting tree—seemed to be taken aback by the order. “Y-you!” she hissed, now pointing a finger at Sable. “You damn werewolf, I guess you would side with the humans!”

“Werewolf?” asked Octavia, confused.

“Yeah, that human ain’t one of my werewolves,” said Lockbox.

“No, I think she’s talking about the original werewolf pony,” answered Razz, making a mental note that somehow, Chrysalis was unaware that the Sable Loam she thought she was addressing had actually been killed a few years prior, long before any of them even knew about the man standing before them.

“Knees on the ground and hands up!” ordered Adagio. Unlike Sable, Adagio and her sisters were not hesitant to shoot hostiles under the age of eighteen, though they found the idea as unappealing as he did. For better or worse, that had been part of their upbringing as SIREN in the time that never was.

“How about just the latter?” In the blink of an eye, Chrysalis lit up her horn, hand, and forehoof in the toxic green aura, the latter two raised in the aura and, boosted by the amulet, the aura turned blood red for a moment before suddenly a similar aura appeared around the SIRENs, levitating them and ripping their guns to the ground.

“NGgh!” grunted Sonata, “Can’t...move!”

Chrysalis, meanwhile, also seemed simply more agitated—evidently, that had not been the spell she’d been trying to cast. In fact, she seemed to be struggling with the Amulet. “Damn you, whoever you are,” she swore, “stop interfering!”

Razz immediately charged her own counterspell to take advantage of the fact the changelings around her seemed to simply be in some kind of daze. But it was best to take no chances—she had to redirect Chrysalis’s attention toward her, since of everypony involved, she alone could handle the power that amulet was capable of boosting the humanized queen’s own output.

Slamming her forehooves down, Razz fired off her counterspell right at Chrysalis. The queen immediately threw up a shield, but evidently something was going wrong and it caused the original spell to fail, dropping the four SIRENs to the ground.

Something’s wrong with her, Razz thought to herself. On her own, Chrysalis was formidable—enough to be a worthy adversary to a pony like Princess Celestia. With the Alicorn Amulet, she should have been damn near unstoppable. Yet here she was, struggling to maintain more than one spell at a time. Razz then recalled her own first struggles casting magic in human form, and hope filled her as all at once it was clear. Chrysalis isn’t used to casting magic like this, Razz realized, and having to fight Melody for control means she can’t use the Alicorn Amulet effectively!

“Everyone, ATTACK!” shouted Razz, switching to a localized blizzard spell—she’d read somewhere that changelings hated the cold and while it would make things rough for Razz’s own side, it would throw a wrench into what clearly was disorganization within the changelings on a level that their race had never experienced before.

As the battle waged on between the powerful but clumsy Queen Chrysalis and the gathering of ponies and humans, Thorax and his fellow changelings watched in a stupor. The voices of the hivemind in his head had always been a comfort to Thorax—a constant reminder that as bad as things got, he was never alone. But now, the hivemind had been severed at the source, and Thorax couldn’t hear anything but his own thoughts. The silence was disorienting.

Thorax hadn’t been one of the changelings selected for the infiltration mission from the very beginning (more evidence that the queen didn’t trust him). He tried to imagine how the drones who had infiltrated the Covenant with their queen from the beginning handled being cut off from the hivemind intentionally—it was the best way for them to remain undetected within the cult’s ranks, after all (and Chrysalis clearly didn’t want the rest of the hive to know what she was up to until the time came for her decisive strike). Clearly each of them had time to acclimate to living without the hivemind in order to carry out their mission effectively.

But when Chrysalis gave the order to finish off the Scions, the changelings who had infiltrated the Covenant from the beginning were just as paralyzed as Thorax and the rest when Chrysalis had assumed her true form. This clearly went further beyond the mere disorientation of losing their connection to the hivemind. Seeing their queen for what she really was changed something within the hive.

“Should we do something?” asked one drone to another. Not in Thorax’s mind, but through his ears. “Is the hivemind saying anything?”

“I’m getting mixed messages,” said another. “Like, I think that’s our queen up there but...was she really ever our queen?”

“She certainly is barking orders like she thinks she is.”

“Well, she was until she put on that necklace.”

“I’m hungry.”

“That’s enough!” said a newcomer, and Thorax turned to see a changeling he was honestly surprised to be glad to see.

“Pharynx!” Thorax exclaimed, “what should we do?”

“We’re leaving,” he said in a tone that brokered no argument. “We’ve all been fooled—that thing up there has pretended to be our queen for centuries, but she was never a changeling—she merely hijacked the hivemind.”

Thorax had to admit, the prospect of leaving Chrysalis’s hive had grown more appealing the longer she spent focusing on this personal project of hers. Still, the idea of actually doing it…. “But...but can we function without a queen, fake or not?”

“We won’t have to. You forget, there is still a queen we can serve.”

Thorax gave his brother an uncertain look. “I hope you don’t mean Mandible.”

At that, Pharynx’s voice actually softened somewhat. “I know it isn’t ideal, brother, but better Mandible than a pretender changeling!” With a gesture of his head to the exit, he immediately started to head out. All the remaining changelings exchanged looks of uncertainty between one another, before slowly starting to make their way out themselves, some even taking care to pick up their dead while leaving the bodies of the actual fallen Covenant ponies behind.

Unbeknownst to them, one of those bodies wasn’t quite as dead as it appeared. Hiding behind a simple illusion spell, Chrysoberyl silently waited for her chance.

Chrysalis, naturally, was infuriated at seeing the swarm—her swarm—turn their back and leave her.

“Where are you all going? You all exist to serve ME!” she screamed, “GET BACK HERE AND FIGH—" Her declaration was cut off by a sudden blow to the chest, courtesy of a balled up end of a dark chain from Lockbox.

“Give it up!” the blacksmith shouted, while Razz quickly raised walls of crystal around the queen, preventing escape. “Your own bugs have abandoned you! You have nothing!”

“No thanks to you lot!” Chrysalis hissed. But then she took a quick look behind her, the sudden smile putting her aggressors at unease. “But even if I won’t get my revenge now...you haven’t beaten me yet!” Then, with agility that seemed surprising given the off-kilter stance of mismatched legs, Chrysalis turned and ran for the mirror, firing off a spell that immediately reactivated it.

“STOP HER!” Sable barked. The SIRENs immediately fired off several rounds, shots over the bow intended to make her stop rather than to kill her, but she ignored them all. A second later, they all stood there as the cackling human-changeling abomination vanished into the mirror.

“Oh no,” gasped Octavia, “is...is she loose in the human world?”

“No way,” Adagio snarled. “SIRENs, we’re going after her. Lethal force authorized, Admiral?”

“As much as I don’t like it, if that’s what it takes, that’s what has to happen. Authorized.”

But Razz shook her head. “I don’t think that will be necessary,” she told them, brow furrowed as she tried to recall everything she knew about the mirror in front of them. Something about the situation was nagging at the back of her head, but what was it?

It was Sonata that put the puzzle together. “Isn’t this the mirror that connects to the one at the history museum? Baldy something or other’s mirror?”

“The one that’s broken?” added Aria.

Adagio said nothing, not really remembering the mirror at the Baldassare di Cavalcanti exhibit all that well—selectively on account of a particular liability having been found in front of it—but her attention was drawn to another movement just in the corner of her eye. She snuck off to investigate.

It was risky, but Corner was out of options. She had to ditch the other Scions now, since technically with Chrysalis gone, her end of the deal was settled—but it would be even more in her favor to simply vanish without Razz or the others knowing where she went. It wasn’t that Corner didn’t trust Razz to keep her word, it was just that Corner couldn’t trust herself to trust Razz.

So, while they were all distracted about that dumbass mirror, Corner began to sneak away. Once she was out of earshot, she could use the cave’s non-linear architecture to sneak out before any of them noticed and—

“I don’t think so!” Adagio jumped the assassin, who had been distracted herself in her own thoughts, and before Corner could do anything the SIREN had the pegasus in a chokehold; furthermore, apparently the human had recalled her knives and placed her legs against her wings, preventing Corner from accessing her weapons. With her ability to breathe now restricted and unable to defend herself, Corner couldn’t do anything other than attempt to use her forelegs to beat off Adagio’s arms in vain until finally unconsciousness claimed her.

Sable listened as the little unicorn explained to Aria the nature of the mirror in front of them.

“Yeah, that’s it!” said Razz. “The mirror is broken, meaning it can’t act as a portal door!”

“But she went in this one,” pointed out Sable. “She’s got to end up somewhere.”

“It’s actually simple, if I’m getting what Razz is saying,” said Sonata, ever the engineer of her siblings. “I may not know magical teleport-whatsit, but there’s only as many ways in as there are ways out. The way the mirror was set up had one entrance and one exit per side, but if one of those exit portals no longer exists…”

“Then there’s only one way out,” finished Razz.

And as predicted, the mirror suddenly flashed and then spat out the form of Chrysalis, though curiously the Alicorn Amulet had become detached and landed separately from its most recent user, coming to a clattering halt against some rocks.

“Guess we’re getting both tangos today,” Adagio commented, busy tying up the unconscious Corner with 550 cord. She immediately stopped when to her surprise, Sonata drew her handgun and aimed right at the pegasus’s head. “Sonata, what are you—"

“She hurt Pinkie!” said Sonata, rage in her eyes.

“Cmdr. Dusk, stand down,” Sable ordered. He knew that this moment was going to come sooner or later, and it was exacerbated by the fact that Sonata was still, when push came to shove, just a kid.

But Sonata kept her furious gaze trained on Corner’s limp body, her sidearm unflinching. Her finger drifted onto the trigger, and Sable realized he was going to have to disarm her himself, and then what? She will have lost his trust, and that of her sisters. He would have to demote her, maybe even suspend her permanently. Sunset’s SIRENs would be one step closer to breaking apart.

Adagio placed her hand on her sister’s gun. “Soni...she’s not worth it.”

“But what if—”

“Sunny won’t let that happen—you know that. Plus, Pinkie herself would say this bitch here isn’t worth losing your soul over. We’re protectors, sis—not vigilantes.”

“I know this is hard for you, Commander, especially with the losses you three have suffered before,” Sable told her. “But it’s important that you retain your humanity so that we can show ponies that we’re not the nightmare they think we are.”

Sonata continued to point the gun at Corner and seconds flowed that seemed to pass like hours. Finally, she holstered her gun and pulled her glare away from the downed pegasus.

“Standing down,” the blue haired sailor said with distaste. “It’ll hurt more when her ass is in the brig, anyway.”

Adagio nodded toward Whiskey, then hooked a thumb to the unconscious pegasus. “SO3, finish binding her. We’re taking her back to Canterlot to be tried for terrorism...and anything else we can make stick.”

While that was going on, Razz carefully approached the form of Chrysalis, horn lowered and ignited with dark energy if need be. Heliodor, for his part, landed on Razz’s back and was ready to do the same. Strangely, Chrysalis seemed to have forgotten or not even noticed the hostiles around her, instead merely having just picked herself back up on her knees and slowly running her hand/hoof over her form. She looked like someone waking up with a nasty hangover after a night they’ll never remember.

“It’s over, Chrysalis,” Razz calmly intoned. “Surrender.”

“Over?” Chrysalis said with either a chuckle or a sob, Razz honestly couldn’t tell. “As long as I live, it will never be over! There’s only one way you can end this, and you already know what that is, don’t you? It’s like I said: you can’t fight fate, but you can check out ahead of it….”

Razz knew exactly what Chrysalis meant. It was why she suddenly found herself wondering whether it was worth it to stop the creature in front of her from ever being able to come after her or her friends again. Why she found herself wondering what kind of life such a fractured, broken person could lead after what Chrysalis had been through. Whether death at this point would be a punishment...or a mercy.

That line of questioning stopped when everyone cognisant of the situation heard a very loud crack, their heads turning toward the mirror as a gigantic crack formed on it. Razz wasn’t as knowledgeable about portal magic like her counterpart alicorns, but she did distinctly remember there was a peculiarity about this one. Namely, that it had never been properly closed—it had been propped open due to the imperfect manner by which Sombra had constructed it and due to one or more figures having only made one way trips through the mirror, the frame was “bent” and thus couldn’t properly fit the door. Razz shot a quick glance at the still oblivious Chrysalis, then the mirror again, and it all made sense.

Dimensional travel required a lot of energy to actually pull off, normally in a closed circuit of portals the energy transfer was balanced and so could happen normally. There had been nothing balanced about Sombra’s portals, and to compound the problem the portal on this end had been forced back open without its counterpart existing. So all that energy had to go somewhere and...

“We need to get out of here,” said Razz with authority. “NOW.”

“But we need to figure out what we’re going to do with—" protested Sable, but Razz cut him off.

“That mirror portal is beginning to collapse in on itself and it’s been open for a thousand years. That’s a thousand years of potential energy about to get unleashed like an interdimensional bomb. You wouldn’t just get killed by the shock, you would be physically erased.”

The cracking noise happened again, followed by a jolt to the ground. That ended any and all arguments.

“Okay, all units back to the Valanx!” barked Sable, and instinctively the trio got to work. Razz provided crystalized cuffs to restrain Chrysalis, as Adagio and Sonata quickly picked her and Corner up in fireman carry positions. Sable, being the biggest, handled Octavia.

Despite everything that had happened, Tavi couldn’t resist having a little fun in her situation. “Is this how you take Ms. Celestia everywhere, Mr. Loam?”

Sable merely grunted in what sounded like amusement—he was still focused on a rapidly deteriorating situation. “Okay, hostages up and out, let’s move move move!”

Together, the group immediately ran out the way opposite the kitchen, as the single crack on the mirror’s face became two, then four, then eight, the arcane surface of the mirror spiderwebbing—and with it the earth again began to quake, this time worse than what had happened with Tavi’s scream. While there were still Covenant ponies within the halls, they didn’t bother stopping the rescue group as they too could figure out that self-preservation was more important than anything. Thus, they unintentionally provided the means by which the humans and Scions were following to escape the hive.

As they were running, Razz noticed that Chrysalis looked right at her and, to her surprise, asked in a younger voice with no trace of the malice heard in the queen’s:

“Why are you saving me?”

With nothing but the bodies of the dead and dying left behind, those few unfortunate souls bore witness to a magical phenomenon few could ever conceive of.

Sombra’s Mirror, fracturing ever more by the second, finally succumbed to the ravages of time and entropy. Like its twin in Canterlot, the explosion reached supersonic pitch as the glass shattered, but unlike its twin, there was no ominous message behind the glass. With nothing left to hold it together, the mirror shattered and collapsed, its ancient frame released from the stress, and the first piece to fall was the countenance of Sombra himself from the top, still holding the chains leading to the alicorns four. The moment it hit the ground, an intense burst of energy from between worlds exploded out, rocking the ground and triggering a collapse.

Forgotten in the corner was the Alicorn Amulet, now dinged, dented, and scratched, but still very much potent.

The tunnels and caverns that formed the Covenant hideout were a labyrinth, but as per his training, Sable had kept track of every twist and turn since first arriving. He knew that the teleportation sigil that served as the entrance was close—through the next chamber, around the next bend and down a final corridor about eighty meters long. We can make it.

His confidence was momentarily shaken along with what felt like the entire world as a deafening CRACK echoed throughout the entire cave system. The mirror just detonated, he thought as he struggled to maintain his balance while holding Octavia over his shoulder. After the initial CRACK and tremor, everything went still, and Sable thought for a moment that it was over.

Then he felt more tremors beneath his feet, and more loud CRACKs began to sound as the rock all around them began to shift.

“DON’T STOP, GO!” Razz shouted as the little unicorn galloped past him. Sable wasted no time following suit, spurred on by the CRASH of rock on rock somewhere back the way they came.

The entire group ran through the rest of the chamber, rounded the corner, and started running down the final stretch. The soft glow of the teleportation circle shone steadily at the end of the tunnel; then another tremor shook the cavern and the arcane glyphs that made up the circle started to flicker like a dying light.

Adjusting Octavia’s position over his shoulder, Sable pushed himself harder, running the last eighty meters to the exit in a mad sprint. He could feel dust and pebbles from the ceiling sprinkle the top of his head. A rock bigger than his head dislodged from the wall and rolled into his path. Sable bounded over it like an olympian clearing a hurdle.

The exit was close now. Just another thirty meters and they would be out of here. The ponies had already made it to the teleportation circle (four legs were faster than two, it would seem). Then another CRASH of rock on rock sounded a fair distance behind him, and Sable’s heart went cold when a pained scream accompanied it.

Sable whirled around and saw that the way they came had been completely blocked by a pile of huge rocks...and buried under that pile nearly up to her waist was Sonata. The tied up, unconscious form of Corner Shot was sprawled out on the ground just in front of her—evidently Sonata had just enough time to throw her clear of the cave-in before it came down.

The good news was Sonata had been at the back of the pack—none of their people were trapped on the other side of the cave-in. The bad news was Sonata was trapped under it.

SONI!” Adagio called out, making to set down Chrysalis to go back for her sister.

Sable put a stop to that with a sharp order, “Focus on the mission, Capt. Dazzle! Get the target out of here and make sure the rest of the packages are safe!

Adagio nodded and set about her task like the professional she was, but couldn’t stop herself from sparing a worried look back at her sister. Sable immediately called Whiskey over to him. He gingerly set Octavia down on her alien feet and passed her over to the young humanized kitsune. “Take your charge the rest of the way, SO3,” he ordered. “I’m getting Cmdr. Dusk.”

Whiskey said nothing, merely draping Octavia’s arm over her shoulder as the two of them limped as quickly as possible to the intermittently flickering teleportation circle. With everyone else accounted for, Sable sprinted back down the corridor toward Sonata, where Aria was already struggling to move the rocks covering her.

Aria had managed to move some of the smaller ones already, but a particularly heavy looking one still had Sonata’s right leg pinned

“Lift on three,” Sable said, kneeling beside Aria and gripping beneath the boulder. “One, two, three!

The two of them grunted as they lifted with all their might… the boulder barely budged.

Sable counted again. “One, two, three!” Again the two of them put all of their strength into lifting, and again it wasn’t enough.

Sable gathered his breath, shook out his arms, and gripped beneath the boulder for another attempt.

“Just go.”

Sable almost didn’t hear Sonata’s voice, as quiet and broken as it was.

“Just go,” Sonata said again. “I’m already dead.”

“No you’re not!” Aria said, determination filling her voice.

But then she got one look at Sonata’s face, and all that determination washed away.

Sonata was looking at both of them, tears pouring down her cheeks. Yet inexplicably, they were lifted by a smile. “I’m already dead, but that doesn’t mean you have to be too,” she said. “So just go. Save yourselves.” She nodded towards Corner Shot, still tied up and unconscious nearby. “Make sure that garbage gets punished for what she did to Pinkie. And….” she hiccuped, and somehow laughed through the tears. “Tell Sunset… it was an honor being her SIREN!”

Sable knew she was right. They couldn’t lift this rock. It was just too big. They couldn’t save Sonata—they’d die trying.

So Sable gripped the huge stone again. “I wasn’t aware that SIRENs made it a habit of leaving their people behind, but that isn’t how I do things.”

“Neither do I.”

Sable and Aria turned and saw Adagio approach.

“I ordered you—” Sable started.

“To focus on the mission, and I did,” Adagio said as she knelt on Sable’s other side. “Hostages made it out safely, the enemy leader is in custody, and Agency Six is currently signaling the Super-Electric for extraction.” She then gripped the boulder’s underside. “All that’s left to do is make sure everyone makes it home.”

At that, Sonata began full-on sobbing. “Please, just go… I don’t want all of you to die for me!”

“Well, tough shit, Soni,” Adagio said. “We’re SIRENs. No, more than that. We’re family. Live or die, we’re in this together!”

Sable smiled. He knew at that moment that for as long as he lived, he would be proud of all three of them. Even if that turned out to be only for a few minutes.

Sable gripped the boulder’s underside alongside Aria and Adagio as another rumble sent more dust and pebbles raining onto his head.

“On three….”

45th Day of Spring—4:46PM

Letting out a big yawn, Softwing paused momentarily only to stretch before getting back to the eternally endless amount of work that a royal’s seneschal was required to process. It often was a thankless job that required tremendous dedication for normally only moderate returns, since it was in effect a glorified secretary position in the highest levels of government.

But Softwing absolutely loved this job and being made Sunset’s seneschal had been a dream come true—especially after the Equestrian nobility had refused to allow Twilight Sparkle to take her on initially. The fact she was required to take on human form and would in the near future be working more out of a world still alien to her as opposed to Equestria was just an added bonus, as it meant no longer having to worry about her own supposed “people” trying to drag her back to being a pawn of her birth father’s political machinations.

However, the job did have its downsides, and today was probably the first time that Softwing even had the inclination of questioning if it was all worth it. It had been hell dealing with the fallout of the coronation ball ending with mass kidnapping, mentally compromised guests, and ponies blaming the presence of the humans being the cause of it all. As a result, sleep had been in short supply and only now was Softwing beginning to understand why Princess Sunset practically Idealized morning coffee.

To make things worse, Precious Jewel had simply taped her resignation letter to the temporary office’s door, citing a “change in her life goals” being the reason and that she would be unavailable due to going on a “pre-honeymoon” with her new coltfriend. Softwing had made a comment about how love makes ponies do strange things, lamenting that now it was a one-pony show in the aftermath of the disastrous events the previous evening. She did, however, make a mental note that if things didn’t work out and Jewel wanted her job back, she was going to have to do quite a bit of explaining.

And to top it all off, Softwing also had to deal with the fact Sunset and the triplets had made mention of devices called “PCs” and “smartphones” which supposedly could handle writing and filling out forms where mere typewriters and hoofwriting could not. Such devices did not exist in Equestria and eventually Softwing knew she’d have to understand a way to reconcile the massive difference in technological levels between the two societies she was going to straddle.

There was suddenly a distinct knocking, a rapping of horseshoes on the wooden door, and before Softwing could tell voice for the pony to come in, a messenger pegasus stallion dressed in a standard Royal Equestrian Navy uniform entered.

“Report from the top regarding Operation: Lost Chord,” the stallion said without introducing himself, reaching into his saddlebag with a wing with which he then placed a single closed manila envelope, gave a courteous nod to Softwing, and then departed.

“Uh, okay,” said Softwing, a bit taken aback at the abrupt interruption. It had been roughly thirty-six hours since Operation: Lost Chord was expected to end, and Softwing had been wondering when her office would receive the report on it. So, Softwing applied the particular decryption magic that she was informed to use for these types of messages, then immediately opened the envelope.

She scanned the message briefly, and her eyes widened. She then read the message in full, then read it through again. Oh no…. A second later, she reached over and opened the strange silver plate with a glowing white apple on it. She was going to have to learn how to send a message to Princess Sunset via this device.

One she was not looking forward to sending.

Author's Note:

To commemorate finally reaching this point after six solid years of work on GAOA, I commissioned this lovely piece of art by the very talented Ayne Hart.

I will admit I'm kinda surprised nobody thought of simply putting 'Crisalide' into Google Translate and see this was where everything was leading to since 7DSJ Book 1, though. Several of you correctly guessed where that plot thread eventually led, but I've spent this whole time wondering if anybody was going to figure out this big reveal was spoiled from the moment her name first appeared all the way back then!

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