• 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 9 - Butterfly Effect, Part 1

GAOA Chapter 9—Butterfly Effect

To be a Hoof and uphold the siren’s promise to protect Celestia—to repay their eternal debt of her having saved them from the evils of the corrupt Cantata Blast—the training was rigorous and secretive. Nothing like what their counterparts, the human SIRENS, would undergo, but defending the princess was serious business indeed. Regular combat drills where sirens fought each other in controlled sparring was a regular occurance.

But to the three newest among the Hooves? That training against their superior ranking fellow sirens had been nothing like what they had to deal with now. Namely: a senior Hoof having gone rogue and endangering not only the Princess and Ladies she was sworn to protect, but countless other individuals, by unleashing a swarm of mindshredding butterflies.

“Siren form!” shouted Adagio as the three split up when Lentando immediately swung her own weapon—a Thagomizer spike attachment for her tail—at the trio, driving it hard enough that it cracked the marble floor where they’d been only moments prior, “NOW!”

In unison, the trio burst into flashes of light, replaced in their own aquatic-yet-flight-capable siren forms. The enhanced mobility however was not as great as it seemed since all around them, the Allucinor Wings were so tightly packed into the ballroom.

“This is crazy!” shouted Aria, “You of all ponies would know how dangerous this is to literally everypony!"

“PONY THIS!” roared Lentando, PONY THAT! Did it ever occur to you three naiads at how far pony society has assimilated our kind?! Our ancestral home is a bloody tourist attraction on the level of Hoofalulu! If the ponies have their way, sirens will be nothing more than just another subspecies just like the bats and the lamias!

Naiads?” repeated Sonata, ducking to avoid some Allucinors that flew right at her face. That was the term that technically was supposed to be used to refer to young sirens, but since sirens were so enfolded into pony culture as Lentando pointed out, normally the term was purely reserved for use in paperwork within the Hooves management structure alone—all other situations had long since defaulted to ‘Everypony’. The fact Lentando was specifically using their species-exclusive terminology and was going on about how much she apparently disliked Equestrian culture…

“You are not seriously channeling Queen Cantata here,” shouted Adagio, stating what she and her sisters already feared was the case. Cantata and the Black Sirens—Contralto Rush, Canizone Burst, and Medley Trance—had plunged their entire species into a pointless war over trying to overcome what was a blatantly biological issue of relying on ponies to continue their species. On the same premise that Lentando seemed to have convinced herself of. “You took an oath as a Hoof!”

“Nothing but empty words!” Lentando’s face then scowled as she seemed to be disappointed in something. “And here I thought the Allucinors would have taken care of you three already, I guess you’re so complacent you don’t have any strong desires anyway.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” demanded Aria, who got her answer when Lentando charged her and, with that spiked tail weapon, smashed open one of the ballroom windows. Immediately, Allucinors began to pour out of the new opening.

“Stop this!” shouted Adagio, racing toward Lentando with her spear—despite having less dexterous hooves in siren form, Hooves were still perfectly capable of wielding their weapons. And on paper, it looked like Adagio should have easily trumped the limb held weapon-less Lentando, but the senior Hoof’s skills with a mere tail attachment proved to be more than equally up to the task.

“It’s already too late!” laughed Lentando, beating away Adagio with another swing of her mace-like tail. “You three can’t possibly hope to defeat me and stop the Allucinors!” And as if to underscore her point, she then raced to another window and smashed that open as well, allowing even more Allucinors to escape.

Regrouping, the three sane hooves looked at each other with grave concern. Lentando was right—how exactly were they supposed to stop hundreds, maybe thousands of butterflies while the insane Hoof in front of them was attacking at the same time?

Gritting her teeth, Adagio made the call. “Forget the butterflies!” she told her sisters, “We’ll have to leave it to the guards—focus on taking this crazy bitch down!”

In the auxiliary ballroom where the reception was being held, chaos was already beginning to reign—and Discord was nowhere to be found. It had taken almost no time at all for the Allucinor Wings to start latching onto any of the party goers that offered a tantalizing mix of both magical power and/or desire.

“Get this place evacuated!” shouted Marimba Rondo, who had only realized the scope of the situation when some random stallion had suddenly tried to make out with her, with one of those Celestia-damned mind bugs attached to his head . The fact that the room was beginning to fill with the blue bugs made evacuation the only option.

But no sooner had Marimba taken care of the unwanted affection, than did she suddenly take a hard blow to the side of her head. Recovering quickly, she blocked the second attack and was shocked to discover it was one of the waiters.

“This is your end, pet of the tyrant!” the waiter screamed.

“Oh I am so done with this,” groaned Marimba, using the stallion’s own limb as leverage to vault over him and deliver a flying axe kick onto his back. He went down wailing in pain as the Hoof hit her mark dead center, spraining his back muscles. No sooner had she touched back down then did she follow up with a punch that knocked him out cold. But she had no time to dwell on the victory as she looked up and knew rallying the Hooves was going to be extremely difficult.

What was worse, the fact the butterflies were here meant something had happened to Lentando. She was supposed to have prevented this—what had gone so wrong?

“Quickly, my princess!” said Divine Right, gesturing with his foreleg as the guards quickly began hustling the princesses out of the ballroom and to a safe room. Following the incident with Tirek, some of the more loyal nobles had gotten quite paranoid about some other magical ne'er-do-well stealing all the magic of the princesses—one even citing something about a weird blue monkey with a fixation on the weather—they had insisted on a magical safe room being installed in the castle. Not that it would have really stopped Tirek, but it wasn’t like the princesses had been using the room behind the thrones for anything much for years at that point anyway, at least not since the Elements of Harmony had been returned to the Tree.

But still, it brought Celestia absolutely no pleasure that the reception for Sunset, her daughter was ruined by these events, and after everything Celestia had gone through, it was enough to make her dangerously start veering into territory that Luna had embraced a thousand years ago.

You know you want to, that voice in Celestia’s head whispered. A little force to show who’s boss, to remind everypony that you aren’t just a stupid tall mare who goes ‘oh, look, my wings are so pretty!’ when nopony’s looking.

“Shut. Up,” mentally thought Celestia, remaining focused on retreating to the saferoom. She was more worried about Sunset, who had stayed behind to make sure the human contingent were okay. The solar princess feared what might happen if another Allucinor happened to sink its venom into Sunset.

Of course, if you’d stop holding back and use your full power, you never need worry about your loved ones again. Celestia blinked away the mental image of herself, far different from what she wanted to be. A mane and tail of fire wreathed a figure who laughed at her.

“Me and by big mouth!” groaned Razz, who fired off dark magic blasts, causing two of the now hostile waiters to get stuck in the ground with dark crystal anchoring them to the ground. No sooner had she and Lockbox noted the worryingly familiar blue butterflies than had the wait staff suddenly began attacking the guards indiscriminately.

“Who the hell is attacking the capital this time?!” exclaimed Lockbox, whose chains had come out in force now and were busy tossing waiters into each other, using their own bodies as flying bludgeons.

“Take a wild guess!” It didn’t take a genius to figure out that the Covenant was behind this, and much to Razz’s chagrin, she had a sneaking suspicion she knew one major player in this—that damn bartender. Wallbreaker had mentioned something about some asshole running around as a Covenant recruiter, preaching about faith while serving up drinks, and what had that bartender who suspiciously had never given a name gone on about? Fucking faith.

How didn’t I realize it before? She was going to hunt that fucker down, that much was sure. But first, she was going to have words with the dragon ambassador Flambé—that fat fuck had insisted that the Allucinor Wings not be moved, but look what had happened! She certainly was going to recommend Celestia force the dragons to help clean up this damn mess since it had only been set up at their request and—

“NGHHAAA!” she screamed, collapsing to the ground as a sharp pain radiated from her right foreleg. Curling into a defensive ball, she didn’t even think about her actions when she reverted to her true corrupted form and ripped out the thing that was ledged into her foreleg with her fangs. But as soon as the metallic clink rang out from the feather knife hitting the floor, Razz paled.

“So, we finally meet!” Lockbox could be heard shouting from behind. Razz, getting back onto her hooves despite the pain—it would heal quickly enough after all given her powers—turned to face the commotion and saw Lockbox was confronting—who else? Corner Shot, who had shed her hair clip—revealing her green fur coat and those dark wing racks on her pegasus appendages— and was hovering over the ground a short distance, but still high enough that she could deftly dodge the skyrocketing chains Lockbox was trying to entangle her with.

“That the best you got?” Corner shouted back, doing a spin in the air before deftly taking several knives in one hoof and throwing it at Lockbox—the unicorn immediately forming a shield from multiple chains swirled together.

“That the best you got?!” countered Lockbox, who deftly managed to grab Corner’s rear leg with a chain and bring the surprised pegasus crashing into the ground.

“Quickly, tie her down!” shouted Razz to Lockbox, while the Sombraic unicorn was using her magic to quickly incapacitate more waiters.

“On it!” replied Lockbox, but before she could, Corner recovered and instead rushed Lockbox. The unicorn blacksmith, not expecting the sudden charge, took the blow head on and the two tumbled backwards.

“I don’t have time for pleasantries!” said Corner, who withdrew another knife—one that in the split second Lockbox had seen it, she noted had a very blunt edge instead of the razor sharp blades the pegasus had been using up to that point—and brought it down on Lockbox. However, instead of simply driving itself into her flesh, the knife instead failed to even scratch the surface—but that wasn’t its purpose. Instead, both it and Lockbox in full simply vanished in a flash of light.

“LOCKBOX!” screamed Razz, who managed to look over just in time to see the other unicorn disappear, before another one of the blunt knives suddenly was in the air and without any time to react, it too made contact with Razz and promptly disappeared with her in tow.
Getting to her hooves, Corner noted that she was relatively safe in the now empty void within the chaos of ponies going crazy and the wait staff attacking anypony who could establish any sense of order.

“Hey, pool brain!” one of the imprisoned waiters called out, “give us a helping hoof here?”

“She’s got bigger fish to fry!” came another voice, and soon enough Corner found herself joined by—who else—Barkeep. In the middle of all the chaos, he’d gone and mixed himself a rather foul-smelling cocktail.

Corner leaned over, took a whiff, and immediately recoiled. “What the fuck even is that?!”

“It’s called the ‘Sudden Death in the Afternoon’—you take a heaping large fuckin’ amount of Spiritus Faustus, mix in a little absinthe, a few splashes of sparkling wine, and finish with a nice lemon twist. Most ponies take one sip and it knocks ‘em stiff!” He held out the beer stein filled with the potion, “Want some?”

“Uh, I’ll pass.” Corner then cleared her throat and continued. “Anyway, just took down two of the targets, going to take care of the third before moving on to the second objective.”

“Alrighty, you go do that—I’ve got a meeting with her royal snootiness.”

Corner just rolled her eyes before departing once again into the chaos. Barkeep for his part, simply drained the whole mug in one go before tossing it callously behind him. “Alright, you two idiots,” he said, approaching the trapped waiters and using his earth pony strength to break the weak crystal holding them down. “Come with me, I need ya.”

“Octavia?” called out Blueblood, “OCTAVIA!”

When the chaos had begun, Blu immediately had gone to protect Tavi, but that had been short lived. As luck would have it, Allucinors had attached themselves to several Pegasi who had, evidently, all wanted to get into singing or something, and thus they’d all flown up to the big chandelier and planted themselves on it. The absolutely terrible cacophony that rang out mercifully only lasted a few seconds, however, as the weight of all the ponies was too much for the delicate furnishing and it immediately came crashing down. In the ensuing extra chaos (on top of the existing chaos), Blu had lost Tavi and was frantically trying to relocate her.

“There he is, girls!” shouted a strangely familiar voice, and as Blu turned, he saw none other than Autumn Blaze, Allucinor firmly attached to her head. Behind her were two other Kirin with similar adornments, and it was very, very clear what they wanted.

It wasn’t like they’d been at all subtle about it even before the Allucinors.

Damn you, Rainshine! Blu swore internally as he promptly started fleeing the scene. Now he had to find Tavi while also simultaneously avoiding extra horny Kirin. And then life got even more difficult when he got blindsided by a pony that somehow materialized out of the rolling chaotic crowds.

“There you are, my Blueblood!” said Heatherfield, who also had an Allucinor attached to her head.

“Fuck. Me.” cursed Blu, before realizing his extremely poor choice of words.

“With pleasure!” gleefully exclaimed Heatherfield.

“HEY!” came the loud, almost demonically changed voice of Autumn Blaze, who emerged as some kind of fire demon creature and tackled Heatherfield off Blu. “HE’S OURS!”

Blu wasn’t sure how to feel about arcane powers being awakened because of mares literally fighting over who would have the right to have sex with him. So instead he just opted to stop talking and try to find Tavi instead—trying to break up the fight between Heatherfield and the three crazed kirin probably would have just ended up with them all trying to screw him at once, and Blu was just so tired of his fake persona he didn’t even want to begin trying to work his way out of that fivesome.

“There, that should be the last of it,” said Sunset, her horn de-powering after applying the last spell. The first thing that Sunset had done when she had realized the butterflies were loose was gather her family and friends safely into a side room and promptly cast a counterspell ward which would make them immune from the Allucinor Wings. The absolute last thing Sunset needed was for one of those damn things to make her start doing the horizontal mambo with Pinkie or for one of her other friends to start getting freaky because of those fucking butterflies.

“Thanks, Sunny,” said Fluttershy, rubbing the back of her neck where the spell had been applied—she’d been the last since, being Fluttershy, she stood the best chance of literally talking the butterflies away. But Sunset was taking no chances and evidently neither were her protection detail.

“We need to get out of here,” said Sable. The triplets were at the door, propped open slightly but weapons drawn as the chaos outside ensued as guards, Hooves, and the rest of the SIRENs were trying to bring order. “Does this castle have a safe room?”

“Yeah,” said Sunset, “it’s behind the Platinum Throne, in the throne room, it used to be just a vault but they recently upgraded it to a full blown panic room. I got myself locked in there once when I was still a filly and—"

“We get it, your magical horsey childhood,” drolled Aria, “but do you know the way there from here?”

“If you can find one of the Hooves, they can take you there—I’m needed here,” said Sunset, her horn lighting up with righteous fury.

“Negative—your safety is more important,” said Sonata, “Besides, we're not letting you die again for our sakes.”

“Please, Sunny, let’s just get out of here!” begged Twily. Sunset turned and saw the looks of concern in the eyes of her entire human supporting group...though Tavi seemed distracted.

“Tavi, what’s bothering you?” asked Sunset.

“Blu’s still out there!” she said, “He—"

“—will be fine,” insisted the maize alicorn, “they wouldn’t have made him the head of the Agency if he couldn’t get himself out of a shitshow like this.” Then she turned to Sable. “Alright, Admiral, when you think it’s a good time to move, we need to exit through the western door.”

“Right,” he replied, before turning to the triplets. “You three take up guarding the back, Sunset and I will lead.”

“Roger,” they replied in unison.

Sable then turned to the rest of the humans. “All of you, stay close and do not try to be heroes,” he said, seemingly focusing in on Rainbow Dash on that statement.

“Hey, why the discrimination?!” she explained.

“If what your two educators have told me about you is true, Ms. Dash, you especially need to cut down on the, and I quote Luna here, “Leroy Jenkins-ing””

“Who the hell is Leroy Jenk—"

“MOVE!” interrupted Sable, after seeing an opening in the chaos outside appear, “NOW!”

With the rather slapdash plan in place, the whole group of humans rushed out the door and towards safety. While the SIRENs focused on crowd control, Sunset continued to blast any Allucinors that approached—they’d messed with her head once before, and she wasn’t going to let that happen again. As they slowly made their way across the expensive marble floor tiles, Sunset gave a laser-like focus on taking out the threats to the point of practically ignoring all else.

Amazingly, it seemed to be working, as absolutely none of the partakers in the chaos seemed to even notice the sixteen humans and one alicorn princess making a straight beeline across the virtual battlefield that had become the ballroom.

Or that was what they thought up to the point they all got through the door into the relatively empty corridors. Because no sooner had they broken through than did Corner Shot make her ambush from the far end of the corridor, with Sunset Shimmer dead in her sights. With the defenders completely focused on the other threats, there was no way for them to stop her if she hit that 8-ball just right.

And so she did.

Wordlessly she unleashed a volley of her feathery missiles at Sunset. The Alicorn and her protectors were so focused on their original targets, they’d let the barrage slip through and even at this range, there was going to be no way for Sunset to stop all of them without switching spells.

So it was to her surprise that Tavi, sensing her cousin was in danger, darted out to take the blow. “NO!” Shouted Tavi, moving just in the nick of time to shove Sunset out of the way, but not fast enough to avoid getting hit herself. In a flash of light, she vanished.

Acting on pure adrenaline, the triplets had already pulled out their firearms and were pouring lead in Corner’s general direction. But it was to no avail, as Corner tapped her hairpin, activating an emergency short-range teleport.

“FUCK!” swore Corner, who immediately dashed back behind a wall which suddenly started resembling eyed cheese as anti-personnel ammunition slammed through the relatively weak wooden walls. While she’d gotten away immediately, there was still some distance to put between her and the soon-to-be-pissed-off alicorn—and it was clear that the weapons those humans used required even more space.

Regardless, she’d failed: that stupid bitch human had taken the hit for Sunset and now the Covenant had a silly human instead of the final Scion! What made it worse was that the Covenant had only supplied Corner with a limited amount of teleportation knives, and they were now all spent. Furthermore, the element of surprise was gone and with it any other chance of potentially capturing Sunset via other means.

“Guess it’s onto the second phase then,” she grunted in annoyance, departing out of sight.

“We gotta keep moving!” barked Sable when it was evident that the triplets were just pouring ammo into nothing.

“But what about Tavi?!” shouted Sunset, “We don’t know—"

“They’re going for you, Sunny!” Adagio growled, getting into the alicorn’s face, “Right now, we have a job to do and we need to get you and everyone else to safety! You can monster mash through the tulips on these fuckers after the castle is secured!”

“CLEAR!” shouted Aria, who had bravely scouted ahead and saw there was nothing in the way. Without looking back, she motioned for the group of humans to follow.

“These fuckers are going to wish it was the monster mash when I’m done with them,” growled Sunset, “because that would be me going easy on their sorry asses!” It only then occurred to Sunset she had no idea what a ‘monster mash’ even was, but she opted to keep that to herself given the present circumstances.

Pinkie stepped out of the group. “I’ll go,” she said. “We need to stop these freaky butterflies, anyway.”

“No,” Sable said. “Too dangerous.”

“I didn’t ask.” The man looked at the teenage girl and something in the normally-bubbly teen had changed. She suddenly didn’t seem, attire aside, very much different from the three other heavily-armed teens he was in charge of.

Before he could say anything further, she went over to Sonata. “Soni, give me your knife.”

“I’m not sure that’s a good idea, Pinkie,” the youngest triplet commented.

In response to that, without even so much as batting an eye, Pinkie pulled Sonata’s EK Commando knife, turned and threw the blade. The blade effortlessly speared an Allucinor that was just about to connect with Cadance’s head. By the time Cadance flinched in shock and surprise, the creature was impaled on the wall.

Pinkie then folded her arms and looked at Sable evenly.

“This goes against my better judgement.” Adagio reached into her blazer and pulled a small satchel from an inner pocket. “You be careful, okay?”

Pinkie opened the satchel to find a batch of KA-BAR throwing knives.

“You can count on it, Dagi,” Pinkie promised, turning to give Sunset a brief unreadable glance before running down the hallway in the opposite direction.

Sunset looked at her, suddenly feeling helpless. But there was nothing more she could do as Sable and co. ushered them on—if one Allucinor could get to them, there were likely others still between them and safety.

“Stop!” shouted one of the guards before promptly getting knocked out from a well thrown beer stein—Barkeep had decided to pick up his discarded mug specifically so when he threw it again, it actually would hit something meaningful besides the floor. The other gate guard was quickly taken out by the two Covenant ponies disguised as waiters.

“Nah, I’ll take the suggestion under advisement, but I think your terms are unacceptable,” jested Barkeep to the unconscious guard. He then turned to the waiters he’d dragged with him. “Open the gate.”

As the two entered the little box that held the gate controls, the massive metal gates opened up to reveal an already waiting crowd of ponies. Of all races and colors, they shared a similar background in that they’d been hit hardest by the long winter and to that end, they really did not have high opinions of the current government.

To Barkeep, he only thought of the lot as ‘useful idiots’ and were otherwise worthless. He resented the fact they were only in this for themselves. They needed to be brought into the realm of the educated, the realm that believed in the true Lord. But he could work with what he had at the moment.

“Alright, you scraggly bastards!” he shouted at the crowd. “Who here thinks the alicorns are doing a good job of running this country?”

The overwhelming negative noises that came from the crowd gave him a grin.

“I thought so! And I bet you all want to give them all a piece of your minds right?”

A chorus of cheers sounded out.

“Well then!” He backed up, swinging a foreleg wide and behind him. “Let’s all go tell those giraffe necked bitches exactly what we think of them and how unhappy we are with their manner of rule!”

“UNGH!” grunted Sonata, the force of being slammed into the back wall of the ballroom taking its toll as she couldn’t even manage the strength to keep flying, instead sliding down the wall and collapsing on the floor beneath. Aria was already knocked out cold on the other side of the room, a bloody wound on one of her forelegs where she couldn’t effectively block Lentando’s Thagomizer in time.

Adagio was not in much better condition. Despite it having been three on one, Lentando’s senior status and moreover experience had proven superior. Adagio had never felt so alone and helpless.

“Look at you pathetic minnows!” said Lentando, feinting with her Thagomizer and then delivering a mean punch into the side of Adagio, sending the siren flying into one of the solid stone columns. “All three of you—you’re nothing but ponies in scaled clothing!”

Adagio knew she was outmatched, so instead tried to play for time. By now, the Allucinors would be causing absolute mayhem throughout the rest of the castle. Somepony was bound to come check on what had happened to the ballroom they’d all come from.

“So, I take it you were the one who supplied Simple Science with the original Allucinor Wing, then?” she asked, hoping to get her opponent talking.

“No, I only gave it to my contact in the Covenant of Shadows,” Latendo explained. “He gave it to that idiot scientist.”

“Huh. Never would have figured you for a Sombra fanatic!”

The barb clearly hit its mark, and Latendo lunged at her with another attack, but in her rage, telegraphed it so clearly that even with the huge disparity of skill between them, Adagio was still able to parry with ease.

“Oh, please! Those Covenant fools are just a means to an end,” Latendo monologued, hardly able to stop herself now that she was going.

Good, Adagio thought as Latendo continued, “I couldn’t risk being discovered before the big night, so I used that filthy bartender as my patsy. Even convinced him the whole Allucinor plan was his idea. It wasn’t hard; all I had to do was sing the suggestion to him.” Then with a glower, Latendo added, “That our kind now refuses to use our greatest ability is just more proof of our subjugation! Tell me, why should our entire race be made to suffer for the sins of our forebears?”

“Oh? We were suffering?” Adagio asked mockingly. “I hadn’t noticed!”

“Because you’re blind!” Latendo jabbed at Adagio with her tail weapon again, and again Adagio deflected it. It clearly wasn’t meant to do any damage; just another probe at her defenses.

“Maybe you’re the one who needs her vision checked,” Adagio countered, using her swords to do a little probing of her own. “Because even I can see that helping a cult that worships King Sombra is a bad move!”

Latendo opened her mouth, a retort already on its way, but then she hesitated. A smile crept across her scaly face. “Y’know? Maybe my eyesight really isn’t what it used to be. After all, it’s taken me this long to realize that you’re stalling!” Then Latendo lunged at her with a full body check, pinning Adagio to the wall as her speared tail came over her shoulder to strike, this time with intent to kill. “And that is not our way!” Fortunately, Adagio managed to move her head to narrowly avoid getting it skewered.

“What are you even talking about?” said Adagio, wincing from the pain but still dodging the follow up punch.

“I’ve bothered to read up on our culture! Before we got all namby-pamby with the ponies, sirens would finish off their enemies as fast as possible!” She did a somersault in the air, the spikes on her tail coming dangerously close to Adagio’s face. She was able to dodge getting hit in the face...not so much getting spiked through one of her dorsal fins. The spikes tore through and blood gushed from the wound. Never having experienced a dorsal tear, the pain was great enough to finally send Adagio crashing into the ground. “Trying to reason things out? Bah! What a pony thing to do!”

“I’m sure your dad must be so proud,” snapped back Adagio, trying to get up and failing. “After all, a male siren certainly has to have high standards.”

“Male siren?” asked Lentando, before realizing what Adagio was annoyingly pointing out—that for all her bluster, Lentando was half pony herself. Lentando tried to ignore it, “He doesn’t have anything to do with this!”

“He has everything to do with it! We’re not an all-female species, you dumbass! What, did you think we suddenly became whiptail lizards or something?”

“I’m about to whip you to death! It’s only a shame you won’t live to see the resurgence of our species...” said the rogue Hoof, swinging her Thagomizer right at the downed siren’s head…

...only for there to be a deep metallic CLANG noise, followed by one of the Thagomizer spikes embedding itself into a column far away from Lentando.

Adagio, who had closed her eyes in readiness for the end, opened them when she realized she was neither dead nor in any more pain than she was already in. She saw, standing above her, a kitsune dressed in the SIREN clothing, and brandishing a sword made of a metal Adagio had never seen before, given the glowing golden veins in the blade.

“Clearly, loyalty and honor mean nothing to you, it seems,” said Whiskey, looking the larger Lentando dead in the eye. “Unfortunately for you, it means everything to me!”

“One of Sunset’s guards, hmmm?” Lentando didn’t seem impressed, though Whiskey could tell from subtle eye movement that cutting off one of those tail spikes had definitely alarmed the fishy bitch. “I guess you’re that disgraced kitsune Sunset picked up out of pity.”

“Enough talk,” demanded Whiskey, not lowering her sword, “surrender, or else I will take you down.”

“You couldn’t even make it as an Inari swordsvixen!” laughed Lentando. “What makes you think you can take on a Hoof?”

“Because you’re not a Hoof—Hooves have an oath to keep. And I’ve got mine to Sunset to uphold!”

“Your funeral!” Lendando rushed Whiskey, who dodged nimbly and out of the way. Lentando had counted on this and oriented the momentum of her Thagomizer to impale the golden furred bitch. But what she didn’t count on was the vixen being able to change her own course of trajectory so that the Thagomizer spikes, instead of being the cause of her death, turned into platforms which she used to get up higher on Lentando.

“Or maybe yours!” said Whiskey, who had taken her daito out and drove it into Lentando’s back. The wounded siren shrieked in pain, the sudden 180 in the battle’s direction not at all factoring into how she could fix things—the major downside of specializing in Thagomizer combat was it was not good for true close quarters combat as it posed more self-harm than enemy harm.

And to put the cherry on top of it all, Lentando only realized too late that she’d been distracted and flew head first right into a wall, hard enough that it knocked her out cold. Slumping to the ground like a lead snake, her brief stint as a rogue Hoof at an end.

Whiskey, who had already removed her smaller sword, rushed back over to the wounded Adagio. “Miss Dazzle!” she exclaimed, “are you okay?”

“I’ll live,” she said, grinning weakly. “But you have to stay here—my sisters and I are in no condition to move and we can’t risk that bitch over there getting away.”

“Oh, she’s not going anywhere” a new voice said, and as Whiskey looked over, Marimba Rondo and several other Hooves, all of whom looked worse for wear. A gesture with her head and three of the Hooves with medical gear quickly headed for the downed triplets. “Never thought I’d be the Castellan who had to deal with the first rogue Hoof.”

“Castellan Rondo,” stated Whiskey, bowing with respect, “I need to get back to my own unit.”

“Go, take two of my Hooves with you; once we get this shitshow secured—because the Lunadamned one downstairs certainly isn’t—we’ll try to reconvene. We’ve got to prepare for the counterattack!”

Sunset’s own personal group had survived navigating the halls of Canterlot Castle relatively unmolested following the attack that had simply made Octavia vanish into thin air. The rest of the humans meanwhile had only needed to fend off the occasional straggler of the Covenant or one of the reception guests who had been driven off thanks to mental butterfly mind control. Fortunately, the latter all seemed to simply be out of it, as if drunk, while the former were driven off with some gunfire and demonstrations of magic which would intimidate any single pony.

“The throne room is just ahead,” said Aria, noting the familiar architecture. “Let’s hope there’s enough room in the saferoom for all of us…”

“It’s a room enchanted to be bigger on the inside,” said Softwing, “it’s supposed to be able to handle the entire complement of palace staff in addition to Princess Celestia herself.

Just the one princess?” asked human Night Light.

“When it was built, there was only her. We’ve gotten a number of new princesses back—either returned from exile or otherwise. And with them, a whole lot more staff.”

“It’ll have to work,” grunted Adagio, but as she looked around the last corner to make sure it was clear—it most certainly wasn’t. The massive crowd of angry ponies—complete with torches and pitchforks of course—was now storming the throne room. There was no way they were getting in.

“Fuck!” swore Sonata, “What are we going to do now?!”

Velvet put a hand to her head in disbelief. “At least Spike is still in his room and away from all this.”

“Wait, what?” asked Sunset, before she made the connection. “That’s it!”

“What’s it?” asked Aria.

“The apartments! They’re far enough and protected—we’ll be safe there! Hold on, let me teleport us all.”

“No,” Sable told her. “We don’t know where the majority of the infestation is. We could be jumping right into the center of it.” He looked at his charges. “Okay you three, go check it out,” he said, and the triplets immediately blazed a trail for the apartments.

Barkeep had not missed the fact there had been a group of individuals who had tried to get into the throne room and had stayed out of sight just behind a wall, before retreating. And he was sure of the little details he’d been able to make out, there had been a vivid crimson and yellow tail.

“Did that pool hussy fail to even do that part of her job to get the last Scion?” he idly asked himself, before shaking his head. He’d let Neon Lux handle the punishment for her failure—it wasn’t Barkeep’s place to be concerned. No, he had a far more important role as he strode up the center of the throne room, itself filled with the song of angry ponies wanting the heads of the alicorns. The gold and silver thrones had been knocked over, and the platinum was tipped backwards. The safe room was just beyond, hidden behind a wall with a magical horn lock. That meant none of the rabble could get in...but it also meant only one way out for those inside, and that had been what Barkeep had been counting on.

Casually, he walked right up to the door and rapped his hoof on it. “‘Scuse me!” he shouted with a manic grin, “but do you have a moment to talk about our lord and savior; King Sombra?”

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