• Published 9th Oct 2019
  • 1,222 Views, 39 Comments

Legend of the Galactic Horses - MagnetBolt

When nopony else is willing to step up and do anything, Tempest has to confront the shadow of her own past to keep Equestria safe.

  • ...

The Phantom Menace

The Cutie Mark Crusaders had caused very few disasters since they had actually gotten their cutie marks. While the number was not down to zero, this was considered a marked improvement by most ponies in town. Only the ponies working at the spa mourned the good old days when they could sell whole gallons of shampoo specially-designed to remove tree sap from one’s mane.

“Are you sure this is something we should talk to Twilight about?” Sweetie Belle asked. “I’m not really sure this is Princess-level stuff.” To her, Princess-level stuff meant formal meetings, important ponies, and the vague sense of government that everypony had until they found out that it was mostly just paperwork, which would still have very much been in Twilight Sparkle’s wheelhouse.

“We know better ‘n anypony that bullies ain’t something teachers can deal with,” Apple Bloom countered, who was sure this was Princess-level stuff because Twilight outranked Cheerilee and could order her to actually do something about ponies tormenting others in her classroom.

“And we voted,” Scootaloo added. “We voted two to one that this was something Twilight could handle.” Like Apple Bloom, she was sure that this was something for a Princess to handle, though for a different reason. She was hoping Twilight would blow up the school with horn-lasers.

“Okay,” Sweetie sighed. “We’ll tell her about Dinky, and ask her for advice. There’s got to be something she can do…”

Apple Bloom knocked on the front door of the huge crystal palace and prepared to wait. With how large the place was, and how Twilight refused to hire staff, it sometimes took a few minutes for Spike to answer--

The door slammed open, and Tempest Shadow glared down at them, her eyes like burning embers, her form like a huge armored behemoth ready to trample over the fillies.

“What?” she demanded.

“I, um…” Apple Bloom swallowed. The glare was very effectively intimidating the words she wanted to say right back down her throat before they could get out.

“W-we just wanted to--” Scootaloo started. This was a mistake, because it meant Tempest’s gaze fell on her like a spotlight.

“We can come back later!” Sweetie squeaked. She turned and ran, leaving the others to their fates, which was why unicorns tended to fill officer roles in the army where they could stay far behind the front lines and flee with dignity instead of unseemly haste.

Apple Bloom turned to follow and her ankle caught Scootaloo’s extended hoof, the pegasus at least having enough shame to look back with eyes full of apology as she offered her friend up as a sacrifice to make good her own escape. She lay on the ground, reaching out to Scootaloo as if asking why, why she would betray her own best friend?

Tempest loomed over Apple Bloom and picked her up, putting her down firmly on her hooves like somepony might right a tortoise that had slipped.

“Thanks?” Apple Bloom asked, several questions implicit in that single word.

Tempest sighed and rolled her eyes. “Just go,” she said. Apple Bloom nodded and ran off after her friends.

“Did anypony ever tell you that you’ve got a real way with foals?”

Tempest sighed and turned around. “No,” she said. “Is there something you wanted, Miss Glimmer?”

“I was going to get the door, but you took care of that,” she said. She smirked, but her smug grin faded when she really got a look at Tempest’s expression. “Are you okay?”

“I’m fine,” Tempest said. She slammed the door. The handle came off in her hoof. She looked at it for a moment before Starlight took it out of her grasp, putting it aside.

“Don’t worry, Sunburst taught me some spells to repair crystal,” Starlight assured her. “I’ll work on it later. I’ve been meaning to give them a try anyway. They’re all old Crystal Empire spells he dug out of an archive, and he wanted me to test them.”

Tempest sighed. “Sure.”

“Hey, I know what it’s like,” Starlight said. “It takes some time to adjust.”

Tempest nodded.

“You try to turn your life around, but it’s been so long since you were anything close to ‘normal’,” Starlight continued. “It’s so hard, isn’t it?”

“It is,” Tempest agreed. “I don’t really know what to do, and every time I try to relax I feel guilty about it.”

“Exactly! It would be so easy to just enslave them all!” Starlight said. “But if you enslave them even a little with magic they get on your back about mind control and you have to apologize and it means extra friendship homework!”


Starlight paused. “I’m working through some things. It’s been a Trixie week.”

“What’s a ‘Trixie week’?” Tempest asked, not sure how worried she should be.

“You know what might help?” Starlight asked, changing the subject away from a certain somepony before her name could be repeated enough times to summon her. “A haircut and a bottle of wine. It was basically the first thing I did when I was in your position.”

“It must feel so nice to be out of that stuffy armor,” Rarity said. Tempest flinched as the designer ran a comb through her coat, snagging here and there on curled, gnarly patches over old scars. Every tug was a reminder of bad times and a temptation to hide. Was it a punishment for scaring Rarity’s sister, some penance handed down from a higher power?

Maybe, but only if that higher power was haute couture.

“It’s a good thing I had the last bottle of that shampoo,” Rarity continued, with her ability to see the smallest detail yet ignore obvious discomfort. “I have no idea what you used to get your mane like that, but it’s much better now that we’ve let it down.”

Tempest gave Starlight a look. It was the look of a proud pony brought low with no way to save themselves, a wordless cry for help. Starlight saw it. Like a Romane Emperor pronouncing judgment on a fallen gladiator, the only mercy she could offer was death and it was denied to Tempest.

“Tell me, darling, do you think a Prench braid would be better, or a bun?”

“Oh, well, um--” Tempest started, as if Rarity had actually wanted an answer.

“Yes, you’re right. A bun is so professional and uptight and we’re trying to get away from that. A simple braid, for now, to keep your mane out of your eyes.” Rarity nodded to herself. “We can go to the salon later and find something a bit more sophisticated.”

Tempest winced as her mane was pulled in three directions at once.

“I’ve been hoping you’d come down for a fitting for some time. I didn’t want to press, but you seemed like a pony who knows how to really make their look work for them. It can be so difficult to break out of old habits, though, hm? I learned that the hard way myself. There was a rather demanding client and it took me some time to-- well, you know the phrase ‘the customer is always right?’”

Tempest nodded, and Rarity’s field held her head still.

“Don’t move your head, darling! I want to keep this braid straight. Anyway, the phrase means that the customer is always right about what they want, even if their taste isn’t the same as yours. Most ponies don’t like hot sauce on their cupcakes, but Pinkie Pie adores it. She’s not wrong for simply having different tastes, nor was a certain customer of mine wrong for her own choice in dresses, even if it did end up looking rather like a combination of cellophane and swiss cheese. She was happy with it, I did my very best making it, and that’s what really mattered in the end.”

Tempest swallowed and tried to stay perfectly still. She felt fabric settle on her body, but didn’t dare move her head to look down. This was probably for the best, because she didn’t see the needles and thread making a few minor adjustments at what would, for most unicorns, be reckless speed and dangerously close to Tempest’s skin. For Rarity it was simply a quick touch-up.

“There!” Rarity declared. “What do you think?”

Tempest finally felt like she could move. A mirror was levitated in front of her, and what she saw took her breath away. Rarity had draped her in turquoise and white, and if she held her head just right, turned her face to only show her good side, just for a moment she could pretend she could look at somepony who hadn’t made so many bad decisions in her life.

Distantly, Tempest heard a knock on the door. The two seconds it took Starlight to cross the room were apparently too long, because the pony on the other side decided she’d been standing there long enough and flew through the window.

An open one, to be precise, because we’re talking about Rainbow Dash and it wouldn’t be unlike her to crash through a closed window just because it was faster.

“Hey!” Dash said, almost landing then thinking better of it after Rarity looked at her unwashed hooves and made a noise. She hovered halfway between floor and ceiling instead. “Twilight needs everypony. Something big came up. Do you know where her new evil friend is?”

“Is that me, Sunset Shimmer, or Tempest?” Starlight asked.

“That last one. You should come too, though.” Dash said, without the half-ounce of apology one might expect after calling somepony else evil to their face. “Oh hey, she’s over there! I kinda thought you might have skipped town. No offense.”

Tempest narrowed her eyes. Dash was hovering, but it was no excuse to look down on her.

“So, uh…” Dash hesitated. “You look good out of uniform?”

“Thanks,” Tempest growled.

“This is getting pretty awkward.” Dash nodded to herself. “I’m gonna leave before it gets worse. Just kinda… bowing out. Anyway, I’ll see you at the train station.”

She looked at the door, all the way across the room, then flew out the window instead because it would save her half a second.

“Did anypony catch what this is about?” Starlight asked.

“No. Because we were not informed.” Rarity huffed. “The next time somepony complains about how much luggage I bring, I will remind them that I am often expected to be on-hoof for a task that might be anything from a trip to Yakyakistan to defending myself against monsters to secretly teaching Princess Luna how to dance.”

“You taught Luna how to dance?” Starlight asked.

“No. Because if I did, it would be a state secret and I couldn’t tell you, darling!” Rarity laughed.

“Um,” Tempest said. “Where should I leave this dress?”

“Hm?” Rarity asked. Tempest watched with trepidation as her armor was packed away in a travel bag along with several additional bolts of fabric, a box full of assorted gems, one rubber duck, and roughly a gallon of assorted perfumes and soaps. “You should wear it.”


“Don’t worry, I’ll be there in case there are any minor stains or adjustments to be made,” Rarity said. “But in return, perhaps you could help carry one or two of my bags?”

“Is your back feeling any better?” Starlight whispered.

Tempest stretched and winced. “We were already going to a castle. Why did she bring bags full of bricks?”

“I don’t think they were literally full of bricks, even if they felt like it,” Starlight said. “Are you sure I can’t do anything to help?”

“I’ll be fine,” Tempest said, speaking as an expert at abusing her own body. “Why did they need me if they were just going to have us wait outside the room?”

“Who knows?” Starlight shrugged. “Maybe Twilight wanted to get you out of the castle for a while. I mean we went right from one castle to another castle, but at least it’s a change of scenery, right?”

“Actually, I wanted her to take a look at something,” Princess Twilight said. Tempest bowed as she approached. Twilight sighed. “You don’t have to do that, Tempest.”

“I don’t have to, but that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t,” Tempest said. “How can I help?”

“Follow me,” Twilight said, motioning with her head.

They passed a few guards as they walked through the corridors. They tried not to look at Tempest but she spotted a few dirty looks when they thought she couldn’t see them.

“There was a robbery last night,” Twilight said. “The Royal Treasury was shipping newly minted bits from Fillydelphia. The robbers got away cleanly.”

“And you need my help tracking them down,” Tempest said. She nodded with approval. “I’m an expert at hunting ponies down, as you know.”

“Ah, actually, no,” Twilight said, with the kind of smile a teacher reserved for a student who wasn’t only wrong but who was so wrong it actually lowered their future expectations of them. “The bits they stole are commemorative, so it’ll be easy to tell if they try to spend them. There are guards looking for them, but we’re more worried about this.”

Twilight opened a door into what was usually a ballroom but was being used as something between an infirmary and a statue garden.

“When the train arrived at its destination, everypony who had been guarding the treasury car had been petrified, as you see here.” Twilight motioned to the dozen ponies standing in various poses of surprise.

“You haven’t revived them?” Starlight asked.

“We wanted to confirm something first,” Princess Celestia said. Maybe all the white and gold in Canterlot was purely to serve as camouflage for her, because she somehow managed to surprise Tempest when she stepped towards them. “Thank you for joining us.”

Tempest bowed again. “Your highness.”

“Can you confirm if these ponies were petrified by the same method you used on my sister and I?” Celestia asked, going right to business.

Tempest swallowed down her nervousness and stepped over to the nearest statue. She stepped around it, needing less than a minute to make her decision.

“It’s gorgon venom,” Tempest said. “I’ve seen it enough to know. The same thing I used on you.”

“And not a common thing to come by,” Celestia muttered.

“A gorgon?” Starlight asked.

“Imagine a snake with the front half of a deer,” Tempest explained. “Bronze hooves and antlers, steel scales, incredibly strong and fast and able to breathe a gas that turns living things to stone.”

“I’m surprised you know about them,” Twilight said. “They’re very rare creatures. I’m not even sure where you’d buy gorgon venom…”

“You don’t need to find somepony selling it if you have your own gorgon,” Tempest said. “I know what they’re like because the Storm King hired one. The same way he hired me.”

“That raises some disturbing questions,” Princess Celestia said. “It means whatever weapons are left must be making their way to the black market.”

“It could be worse than that,” Tempest said, the bottom falling out of her stomach. “The Storm King fell, but everything he built is still out there. He’s gone, but there are soldiers and fortresses and factories…”

“I guess I got spoiled.” Twilight groaned. “Most of the time when I beat a villain everything they did just sort of fades away.”

“I’m so sorry,” Tempest whispered.

“You know the Storm King’s army better than anypony else,” Princess Celestia said. “Would you be willing to brief the head of the Royal Guard, along with the Royal Cabinet, about what we might expect?”

Tempest steadied herself and nodded. “Yes, your highness.”

Tempest coughed.

There were a lot of eyes on her. Three princesses. Five more ponies who’d saved Equestria a few times. A half-dozen members of the military and nobility. Starlight Glimmer. Spike was there too, but he was taking a transcript instead of actively staring at her.

“I’d like to start by apologizing to everypony here,” she said, her voice a little hoarse. “Most of us have only met once before when I was, ah, conquering you. I take full responsibility for my actions, and I’m trying to atone for what I did.”

“And that includes getting a spa day and a new dress?” Prince Blueblood asked, from the back of the room. Tempest winced like she’d been struck. “Is this about finally putting her in prison?”

“Princess Twilight has assured us that Tempest Shadow is learning the value of friendship,” Princess Luna said, without looking at Blueblood. She was watching Tempest like a hawk. “I tend to believe her.”

Starlight waved and smiled, nodding for Tempest to go on

“Thank you,” Tempest said, swallowing past the lump in her throat to continue. “So, I assume everypony has been briefed on the robbery?” She waited for nods. “After examining the victims, I believe that the same weapon I used on the Princesses was used to petrify them. It’s based on concentrated gorgon venom, and I believe they were constructed here.”

She pointed to a spot on the map.

“There’s nothing there,” Blueblood scoffed.

“Actually, that’s not true,” Rainbow Dash cut in. “There’s a huge storm system there that never goes away. You can see it from like, forever away.”

“The Maw of Thunders,” Tempest said, nodding. “It’s a hurricane, hovering over and around a huge, broken mountain range. Picture cliffs of volcanic rock and glass going right from sea level to a few thousand feet, totally sheer, with canyons between them dropping down to the water. It’s a maze, with dangerous winds and zero visibility in some spots.”

“Let me take a wild guess,” Applejack said. “It ain’t no coincidence he’s called the Storm King.”

“There’s a fortress in the eye of the storm,” Tempest said. “It was his headquarters. Just to reach it you have to know the path through the maze of cliffs, and even if you do there are armed checkpoints along the way.”

“And these gorgon venom weapons come from there?” Celestia asked.

“They were designed there. It’s mostly factories and docks. They make everything from armor to airships. Everything you need to supply an army.” Tempest frowned. “And his ‘merch’. I doubt it’s selling very well right now.”

“Maybe that’s why they needed the bits,” Dash suggested.

“It’s possible,” Tempest agreed. “The fact the attack happened at all means the power vacuum is being filled and someone is giving orders to the troops.”

“We’ll have to increase defenses along our southern border,” Celestia said. “If we set up patrols to watch for airships in the corridor directly to and from this ‘Maw of Thunders’, we can turn them away before anypony can get hurt.”

“No, you don’t understand,” Tempest said, quickly. “You have to attack!”

Celestia frowned.

“The Storm King’s army is probably still regrouping,” Tempest explained. “They lost a lot of soldiers and equipment here in Canterlot, but they’ll rebuild. The longer you wait, the more time they have to gather strength. An immediate strike can capture the fortress before they’re a threat!”

“These monsters aren’t ponies,” Blueblood said. “It’s much more likely they’ll simply destroy each other with in-fighting without us having to lift a hoof.”

“More to the point, Equestria does not attack,” Luna said. “The EUP and Royal Guard are self-defense forces. There is no need for us to strike at a phantom threat, especially one in such a precarious position.”

“But--” Tempest started.

“I understand your feelings,” Princess Celestia said, gently but firmly. “You need to relearn how ponies do things. We are not going to attack, especially without definite proof. However, if there are remnants in this fortress, we might be able to open dialogue with them.”

“If you don’t attack, they’ll think you’re weak,” Tempest growled.

“Strength doesn’t come from a willingness to hurt others,” Celestia said. Her tone soured slightly, just enough to let Tempest know she was displeased. “A weak pony is one who is so afraid that they would rather hurt others before they can be hurt themselves. A strong pony is one that is willing to extend the hoof of friendship even to an enemy.”

Tempest deflated, looking down. “Yes, your highness.”

“You’re dismissed,” Celestia said, not even looking at Tempest. “Thank you for your advice.”