• Published 9th Oct 2019
  • 1,221 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.

  • ...

Countdown to Extinction

The Maw’s dungeons weren’t the same five-star accommodations one might get in Canterlot. There, a prisoner could expect a cot, clean water, food that probably hadn’t been spat in, a distinct lack of rats.

In the Maw, you started to hope you saw a rat because if you were able to catch it you might get dinner.

Starlight curled up around Trixie’s hat. It still smelled like her, expensive shampoo and cheap perfume covering up the telltale smells that came along with keeping one or more living animals in one’s chapeau.

Sunset rubbed her back gently, at a loss for words. Tempest was just collapsed in the far corner, not even able to look at them. She hadn’t even aimed for the dirty straw that was theoretically bedding - she’d just slumped down in defeat and stayed there.

“Trixie was the first new friend I made when I really started putting my life back together,” Starlight whispered. “It was when I didn’t even think I could make new friends. I didn’t think anypony could understand me, but then there was Trixie, and she knew exactly what it was like being in my shoes.”

Sunset nodded and kept rubbing.

“Twilight didn’t approve of her, and I think that’s what made it exciting at first. But when I really got to know her, she was the most amazing mare. She came up with all her tricks on her own, from scratch. Most of them didn’t even use magic! She could do things with just a pack of c-cards and one hoof that Twilight Sparkle couldn’t do with her whole library, a-and she never- she never really thought she was good enough.” Starlight rubbed her eyes, sniffling and trying not to cry.

“I didn’t get a chance to know her, but she reminded me of myself,” Sunset said. “I used to be Celestia’s student, and then I threw it all away because I thought she was holding out on me. I know just what it’s like to think you need to live up to some impossible standard, but unlike me, Trixie actually made ponies believe that she could do it.”

“Yeah,” Starlight whispered. “I just can’t believe-- I can’t believe she’s gone. And she doesn’t even have her hat. She loved this thing.”

“She probably would have wanted you to have it anyway,” Sunset said.

“This is all my fault,” Tempest muttered. She started to sit up and stopped halfway, leaning with all her weight on one hoof before giving up and collapsing to the floor again, rolling onto her back and staring at the ceiling. “This was all my idea. I thought I knew better than Celestia and every other pony in that conference room put together.”

“And that was…” Sunset hesitated. “You really dated a gorgon?”

Tempest groaned. “Yes.”

“How did that even work? She’s so…”

“Evil?” Tempest asked. “Psychotic?”

“I was going to say ‘big’.”

“She likes to hug.”

“Of course she does,” Sunset said. “So how are we going to stop her?”

“We’re chained up in a cell with our magic restrained,” Tempest said. “It’s impossible to escape. All we can do is wait for whatever happens and hope we can take advantage of it.”

“If we just wait, all of this really will have been for nothing,” Sunset said. “Tempest, no matter what mistakes you made, you were right that this place was too big of a threat for Celestia to ignore. If they get the Sun Crusher working, they could turn every pony in Equestria to stone before the Royal Guard even knows what’s happening.”

“And Trixie would never forgive me if I didn’t at least try to avenge her,” Starlight said, getting to her hooves.

“Right,” Sunset agreed. “Hey, there was a bunch of stuff in Trixie’s hat. Did she miss anything? Maybe there’s something useful in the brim or in a hidden seam or pocket or something.”

“Let’s see…” Starlight flipped the hat over and started rummaging around.

“Our first priority has to be getting the restraining rings off of you two,” Tempest said. “Neither of you can fight without your magic.”

“I might be able to pick the locks,” Sunset said. “I’ll need two or three pieces of wire. It’s a little skill I picked up in the human world. You wouldn’t believe how many lockers and desk drawers I’ve had to pop open.”

“I found something!” Starlight pulled it out. “It’s… the three of clubs.” She sighed and kept feeling around.

“We should call for a guard, Sunset said. “One of you act like you’re sick, then when the guard comes in to check, we attack him! It always works on TV.”

“I don’t know what TV is, but it’s not real life,” Tempest countered. “I trained most of these soldiers myself. They wouldn’t fall for such a simple ruse.”

“Do you have a better idea?” Sunset asked.

“We could…” Tempest started, trailing off when she failed to immediately think of anything better. “It wouldn’t work on me,” she said, decisively.

“The good thing is, you’re in here with us,” Sunset said. “You pretend to be sick. I’ll hold you up, and Starlight goes in the far corner. When they open the door, you act like you’re going to throw up and I’ll shove you into them, and you… do your thing. Starlight can use Trixie’s hat to blind them from behind, and we’ll get the keys and escape!”

“...I can’t act sick,” Tempest said.

“What are you talking about? You just groan and hold your stomach.” Starlight demonstrated. “Bleeeeh! I’m a sick pony! Like that, but, you know, less like I’m mocking you and more like you’re sick.”

“I’m just not comfortable with it,” Tempest said. “Can’t one of you do it?”

“You’re the best pony for it,” Sunset said. “The guard knows who you are. They might care that you’re sick.”

“They didn’t care enough to not throw me in the dungeon.”

“We’re going to be kicking them a lot and stealing their keys, so we’ll call it even on both sides. Once we’ve saved Equestria we can figure out some kind of friendship lesson.”

“I’ll give them a few extra kicks for Trixie,” Starlight said.

Sunset smiled and nodded. “Okay. Let’s get into position and--”

The cell door creaked open, the guard walked in the door, and the whole plan went out the window. Tempest grabbed for their collar and threw them to the floor, keeping her weight on their chest, pressing the ill-fitting armor to the floor.

“...aren’t you a little short to be a storm creature?” she asked.

“Get this helmet off me!” the guard whined.

“It can’t be,” Starlight whispered. She pulled off the steel helmet, and a silver mane bounced out. “Trixie?!”

“Tah-dah!” Trixie said, from the floor. “Can Trixie get up now?”

Tempest stepped back, and Trixie got up, obviously a little shaky. Starlight grabbed her, pulling her into a hug.

“How are you alive?! You big dumb idiot!” Starlight sobbed into Trixie’s shoulder.

“Trixie has been doing escape acts since her daring break-out from the School for Gifted Unicorns. Did you really think Trixie could escape that, and not manage to avoid certain death when plunging hundreds of feet to the ocean, with her hooves and horn bound, chained to a petrified horror? It was so easy Trixie is thinking of doing it again in her next live performance.”

“We’re really glad to see you,” Sunset said. “I don’t suppose you’d like to help us with our own little escape artist trick?” She held up a hoof as much as she could with the cuffs on, jangling the chains for emphasis.

“You haven’t managed it already?” Trixie asked, mildly surprised. She pulled a slim piece of metal out of her mane and jammed it in the seam between the lock and the shackle, wiggling it around for a moment before the whole lock popped open. “Don’t tell the scary mare in the corner but they cut a lot of corners around here. Even if I wanted to try picking them instead of using a shim, I could rake them open in about five seconds.”

“The Storm King was never big on details,” Tempest sighed. She watched Trixie take apart the rest of the restraints as easily as if she had the key. “He probably hired the lowest bidder just to get something with his own branding on it.”

“Well, Trixie admits branding is important,” Trixie said. “Trixie once tried investing in Trixie-themed snack foods. In retrospect, I regret trying to market them as pony snacks, because the uninformed consumer got the wrong idea entirely about the contents. They still sold well in Griffonstone, for some reason.”

“Why would you-- never mind,” Tempest said. “Trixie, I need to give you an apology.”

Trixie raised an eyebrow.

“I didn’t think you were a valuable asset on this mission, and when Euryale asked me if we were friends, I…” Tempest trailed off. It was hard to find words when you were being crushed by shame.

“We’re not friends,” Trixie said.

Tempest nodded sadly.

“But since you apologized…” Trixie smirked. “Trixie is willing to give you a chance to become her friend, which would make you part of an exclusive and extraordinary group of ponies which even Twilight Sparkle is not allowed to join.”

“I’d like that,” Tempest said.

“Good. Now, since Plan A failed, what’s Plan B?”

“Without explosives, there’s no way we can destroy the fortress,” Tempest whispered. “Maybe we could do some damage, but there’s something more important we have to do first.”

“The Sun Crusher,” Sunset said.

“Exactly,” Tempest nodded. “If it can really affect an entire city at once, it’s too dangerous to exist. We have to get into the lab and destroy it. If we do as much damage as possible, we might set them back months. Even just a few weeks would give Equestria time to prepare a real invasion.”

“And you know where the lab is?” Starlight asked.

“The good news is we’re not very far from it,” Tempest said.

There was a long, empty pause.

“And the bad news?” Sunset asked.

“I know where it is because I used to drag test subjects there from these cells,” Tempest said. “I couldn’t always trust the storm creatures to do it because, well…”

“Because they’re somewhat less competent than foals playing dress-up?” Starlight asked.

“They’re not natural fighters,” Tempest said. “They’re stronger than they look, but they need a lot of training to actually use that strength.”

She ushered them down the corridor. The lights above them were jarred lightning, giving everything a flickering and unnatural cast. They turned a corner and nearly ran into a storm creature. Tempest jumped it before it could react, bucking it in mid-air hard enough to slam its head against the wall, the soldier sliding down to the ground in a heap.

“Great, are we supposed to take him with us?” Starlight asked. “If we leave him here, they’ll see it.”

“Search him for a key,” Tempest said. “It’ll be a card.”

“Is this your card?” Trixie asked, pulling -- predictably -- a three of clubs out of his pocket.

“Trixie, just because we’re relieved to see you alive doesn’t mean this is the time for tricks,” Starlight sighed.

“Maybe you need to look closer!” Trixie waved her hoof over the card, and it transformed into a brass-colored card with the Storm King’s logo printed on it. “Because I think this is what we were looking for.”

Tempest made an annoyed sound in the back of her throat.

“Oh come on,” Trixie huffed. “It wasn’t that bad.”

“That’s not it,” Tempest said. “The problem is this won’t get us into the lab. There are different layers of security. We need a higher level pass.”

“Let me see that,” Sunset said, grabbing it in her magic and examining it closely. “Okay… That’s what I thought. I might be able to use this.”

“It won’t open the warding around the lab,” Tempest said.

“We’ll see about that.” Sunset winked.

“Okay, so basically magical locks can work one of two ways,” Sunset whispered, while she worked on the glowing seal across the steel bulkhead door. “Sometimes the key is the complicated part, and sometimes it’s the lock. If the key is complicated it’s hard to replicate. That could be something like requiring a certain magical signature or one half of a broken gemstone or whatever. Those kinds of locks are supposed to make it so only one pony has access.”

“There are a lot of access keys for these areas, though,” Tempest said.

“Exactly,” Sunset agreed. “That means the complicated part is in the lock, and the keys are simple and easy to replicate. Now, the Storm King doesn’t strike me as the type to bother investing in an expensive security system, so I’m betting all these keys are basically the same. Since we’ve got the lock here, and a key here, we’ll see how far it goes and where it gets stuck, then just adjust those bits.”

"You'll have to adjust it so you can use it," Tempest warned. "They're keyed to the assigned keyholder."

"No problemo." Sunset held out a hoof. "Pretending I'm giving a thumbs-up."

“You make it sound easy,” Trixie said.

“It is easy,” Sunset said. “Celestia’s locks are way tougher. Just to open her journal you have to use her magic signature or all the pages seem blank.”

A whooping alarm filled the halls, sirens and bells ringing from all directions.

“That wasn’t me,” Sunset said, before anyone could blame her. “I already checked for a tripwire here.”

“They must have noticed we’re not in the cell,” Tempest said. “We were lucky to get all the way here without being seen. How much longer do you need?”

“I don’t know, Call it ten minutes?” Sunset shrugged.

“We might not have that,” Starlight said. “We’ve got company!”

Down the hallway, soldiers had stormed out of a side room and spotted them almost instantly. One pointed at the ponies with a spear and grunted something in their language, a beautiful and poetic statement somewhere between a war cry and a haiku which none of the ponies could appreciate at all.

Starlight blasted him before he could recite more poetry, proving that brute force is sometimes more important than culture.

“We’re sitting ducks here out in the open,” Tempest said. She blasted a thrown spear out of the air. “We need to retreat to cover!”

“If we do that, we’ll never get into the lab!” Starlight shouted.

“Trixie can make us some cover!” Trixie said. She reached under her cloak and pulled out two very distinctive orbs.

“Gorgon venom spheres?” Tempest blinked. “Where did you get those?”

“The same place Trixie got the armor she was wearing. There was an armory right outside the dungeons.” Trixie smirked and tossed one to Tempest, Tempest bouncing it into the air like she was juggling a soccer ball with her hooves before back-flipping and kicking it at the nearest soldier. Trixie followed her lead, throwing the second at the next storm creature. The two crashed into each other mid-petrification, the stone creeping up their limbs joining them into a barricade of twisted limbs and surprised expressions.

“Much better,” Tempest said. The next wave of spears bounced off of the petrified soldiers. “Sunset?”

“I’m working on it,” Sunset said. “Just try to keep the noise down!”

“Really? Keep the noise down?” Starlight asked. She fired again, bouncing a bolt of force off of the ceiling to hit the approaching soldiers from the rear.

“It’s delicate work,” Sunset countered. “Unless you’d like to try doing this part yourself? I’d be happy to play around while you show me your expert ward-cracking skills. Oh wait, you aren’t an expert at this! It’s why you asked me to come! So maybe shut up and let me work!”

“Somepony’s moody,” Starlight mumbled.

“I’m moody because I’m trying to focus and--” A spear hit the door next to Sunset’s face, missing her by a hoofwidth. She roared in frustration and threw a wall of fire without looking. Starlight shoved Trixie out of the way. A storm creature who had been climbing over the barricade caught it full-on and was thrown back, fur blackened by the heat.

“Careful!” Tempest shouted, “You caught my tail with that!”

“And my hat!” Trixie wailed. She looked up at where the tip used to be.

“Sorry!” Sunset yelled. “I think I’ve just about got it!”

The ward changed color, and the brass key pinged. The door slid open. Tempest charged through, jumping and holding her hooves out, catching the guards on either side of the other side of the door in a massive clothesline and sending them to the floor.

Sunset held the key up.

“Get inside!” she shouted. “I’ll close this behind us!”

Starlight and Trixie ran in, and Sunset followed at their heels, slamming the door closed and turning the security back on before turning around and running right into where her friends had stopped, only a single pace beyond the open door.

“What are you-- oh.”

“If you’re thinking about blasting me with magic, please think twice,” Euryale said. “Some of this equipment is delicate, fragile, and full of things that would eat the flesh off of your bones. I’d be fine, of course. Gorgons are rather immune to alchemical accidents. Ponies aren’t.”

The lab was massive, a room the size of Celestia’s throne room, the lower level a maze of chest-high stone tables packed with alchemical gear, barrels full of reagents and alchemical waste stored haphazardly here and there, and an upper balcony running the whole length of the walls. A wrought-iron cage surrounded two glass spheres, each one as big as a pony was tall. One was green, the other swirling with purple gas. Both looked incredibly deadly, odd shapes forming in the mist like something invisible and angry was trapped in the fog of venom.

“I knew you’d come here,” Euryale said. “I’m a little disappointed at how long it took you to escape.” She looked up at the balcony, and soldiers marched in, crossbows drawn and pointed down at what is usually called the kill-zone, which was as the name implies not a very good place to stand.

“Please don’t do this,” Tempest said. “Equestria doesn’t deserve this.”

“Doesn’t deserve this?” the gorgon snorted. “Do you know why I’m doing this? Well, mostly it’s because I’ll be able to make so much money they’ll have to invent new adjectives just to describe it. But also, I’m doing it because you broke my heart.”

“I didn’t… I mean…” Tempest hesitated.

“Oh, I’m kidding!” Euryale laughed. “You ponies are so soft. Tempest, you were cute, but you’ll still always be that dumb little foal you were when we first met. You used to want revenge on all those ponies that wronged you. What happened to that? Don’t you remember how they treated you?”

“I do,” Tempest whispered. “I remember that I didn’t give them a chance. They were scared because I couldn’t control my magic. They were scared because I got hurt. Foals don’t understand things like that. I thought they hated me, and instead of trying to fix it I ran away. I’m done running, Euryale. I have to face my choices and live with them.”

“That’s very deep. Such pathos.” Euryale rolled her eyes.

“I held on to being hurt like I was prodding my own wound and not letting it heal,” Tempest said. “It wasn’t worth it. I could have been happy. Really happy. I got a glimpse of it when I was in Ponyville, and I have to protect it.”

“We all used to be evil too,” Starlight said. “I led a cult.”

“I tried to topple the monarchy with an army of brainwashed teenagers,” Sunset added. “I would have gotten away with it too, if it wasn’t for those meddling kids and their dog.”

“Trixie is perfect and blameless,” Trixie said.

Starlight coughed and nudged her with an elbow.

“Fine, Trixie once might have possibly taken over a town with an evil artifact. But Trixie was, legally, under the influence of dark forces. I have paperwork from my lawyer to prove it, so I’m not liable for damages.”

“Are you all applying for jobs?” Euryale asked. “Because that would be a bold move, which I would applaud. Not the slow, sarcastic kind of applause, either.”

“What’s the pay like?” Trixie asked. Starlight nudged her again, harder.

“If you won’t give up willingly, I’ll have to stop you,” Tempest said.

“We used to wrestle almost every day,” Euryale laughed. “You couldn’t even win when we were playing. Do you really think you can beat me when it counts?”

“I’m fighting for something bigger than myself.”

“No, Tempest,” Euryale hissed, rearing up. “You’re just fighting something bigger than you are.” Euryale’s tail lashed across the space between them, catching Tempest by surprise, hitting her breastplate hard enough to dent it and throwing her through a table full of beakers.

“Tempest!” Starlight yelled. She started running for her, and a red shield appeared in her path, crossbow bolts bouncing off the barrier. Starlight looked back at Sunset, who was blocking attacks from both sides.

Tempest rolled to her hooves, shaking chemicals out of her mane. “I can handle her! This is my fight.”

“Trixie, give us some cover!” Sunset yelled, moving the shields around in anticipation of the attacks, having to concentrate in two directions at once.

Trixie ran over to the nearest table, grabbed one flask, then a second, and poured one into the other, mixing the contents like a bartender before throwing it against the floor. Smoke billowed out around her hooves, filling the lower level with an opaque, bluish-grey cloud. The rain of crossbow bolts from above slowed, and Tempest lost sight of her friends. She also, unfortunately, lost sight of Euryale.

“You never asked what I did with all of those prisoners you brought me,” Euryale said, her voice seeming to come from all around Tempest.

“You experimented on them,” Tempest said. “Let me guess, you’ve got some nice little statue garden and you’ve got a place picked out for me and my friends.”

“That sounds more like something Princess Celestia would do,” Euryale hissed. Tempest caught a glimpse of something moving and threw a bolt of force at it, the cracking sphere shattering a table full of beakers.

“Where are you?” Tempest muttered.

“I don’t have a statue garden. I can’t keep them long enough. There’s nothing as delicious as petrified pony! They crunch between your fangs so sweetly!” Euryale giggled. “Sometimes I keep my favorites around for weeks, savoring one bite at a time.”

“I’m starting to wonder why I dated you,” Tempest said.

“Don’t be sour, my morsel. After all, you brought me dinner and a show!” Euryale lunged out of the smoke, spitting a thin plume of acid-green gas. Tempest threw herself to the side, but the groping fingers of the breath weapon latched onto the armor along her left forehoof, and shoulder the metal warping with a sound like cracking ice as it started to turn to craggy stone.

Euryale stomped down, and Tempest barely avoided it, the stone weighing her down even as the metal squealed and set in place. Tempest stumbled behind one of the lab tables before the gorgon could attack again.

Tempest grunted and tore apart one of the straps, kicking the sleeve off before it could spread to her flesh, shedding it and the shoe like a snakeskin and letting it shatter on the floor. She glanced at what she was sharing her hiding spot with and smiled.

“This is the most fun I’ve had in years!” Euryale laughed. She loomed over the lab table where Tempest was hiding. “I see you~”

“Catch.” Tempest said. She threw something up at Euryale. The gorgon caught it on instinct, looking down at the red barrel in her hooves.

Tempest blasted it, and as the laws of the universe demanded, it exploded gratuitously.

Euryale roared and backed off, the volatile chemicals burning on contact with the air. If Twilight had been there, she probably could have identified what they were based on the color of the flames. Tempest wasn’t really into the science side of blowing things up.

“I should say something clever,” Tempest said, stepping out of cover. “I think I’ll just enjoy the moment instead of trying to come up with a one-liner.”

The flames had spread across a few tables, and Tempest lost sight of the gorgon through the wall of fire.

“Is it too much to hope that you stay down?” Tempest muttered, squinting through the haze. Something exploded on another table, glass popping and even more volatile chemicals leaving the air smelling like sulfur, burning tar, and hot metal. It was the kind of smell that made a pony wish there was a fume hood and an eyewash station, but mad scientists weren’t known for their lab safety procedures.

Something made of magnesium got hot enough to start burning and Tempest winced at the flare of white light. At that same instant, hot iron scales coiled around her, lifting her off her hooves and denying her any kind of leverage.

“That wasn’t very nice,” Euryale hissed. She wiped at her black eyes, not burned but covered in cinders from the explosive debris. “I warned you about how fragile the lab equipment is, Tempest! Do you know how many bits I’ll need to replace all of that?!”

Tempest fired a crackling bolt at the gorgon, and it just rolled off her scales.

Euryale lifted Tempest up to eye level, leaning in until their snouts almost touched, her forked tongue tickling the unicorn’s nose. “What did you even hope to accomplish? You must have known you couldn’t win.”

“I know,” Tempest grunted, trying to breathe with the heavy tail squeezing tighter and tighter. “I wasn’t even sure I’d last this long.” She was struggling not to pass out. It was like an oven was giving her a hug. The iron scales were so hot they were practically cooking her.

“Then why bother?” Euryale asked. “You could have tried to escape.”

“Because I’m your little morsel,” Tempest said, smiling a little. “So I knew I’d be a perfect distraction while my friends took care of business.”

“While your…” Euryale blinked. It dawned on her that the sound of fighting from the upper level had died off a while ago. The smoke bomb Trixie had made started to clear, the fire and temperature change burning off the mist.

Sunset was hooves-deep in the iron cage around the Sun Crusher’s two glass spheres, tweaking whatever mechanism was within.

“Stop that!” Euryale yelled. “Get away from it or else--”

“Got it!” Sunset shouted. The green gas from the top sphere started flowing down into the purple haze at the bottom like an hourglass full of two terrifyingly dangerous chemicals. As soon as they touched, the whole rig began vibrating like a kettle or poorly-sealed pressure cooker. Sunset backed off, Trixie pulling her way from the mess.

“Oh no!” Euryale gasped, dropping Tempest and rushing towards the Sun Crusher. “You idiots! That’s going to affect the entire fortress!”

Tempest grunted as she landed, sucking in a deep breath and coughing when the air proved to be full of a chemist’s nightmare of volatiles. There was a flash of light, and Starlight appeared next to Tempest, helping her up.

“Ready to go?” Starlight asked.

“Very ready,” Tempest coughed, her throat feeling like she’d gargled with embers. Sunset waved from the balcony and vanished in a flash with Trixie. Tempest looked at Euryale wailing in defeat as she watched the Sun Crusher start glowing with light in a nameless color between purple and green, and in the last moment she even saw the glass crack.

And then she was between. It was only a flash, like blinking, like being so exhausted you close your eyes and an hour has passed, a sense of disorientation. It wasn’t black, it was the color a blind person sees, the echoing nothing of deaf ears.

The world reappeared, and gravity made itself known. The storms of the Maw raged around Tempest, and the only thing there to stop her fall were clouds. By all rights, she should have plunged right through them and into the boiling sea below.

The laws of physics weren’t up to the task today, though. The clouds caught her like a mattress, letting her sink in a few inches and bouncing her back up.

“What?” She gasped.

“Cloudwalking spell,” Sunset explained. “I got you with it while you were falling.”

Starlight, glowing with the light of her horn and an impressive skill at self-levitation, slowed to a halt next to her, just above the surface of the clouds.

“Nice work,” Starlight said. “Teleporting into the fortress would have been tough, but out of it and into the open air? Easy!”

“Are you sure you set it up correctly?” Trixie asked, taking each step on the cloud carefully, like she expected to find a pitfall. “Trixie thinks you should have opened up all the dump valves.”

“I’m pretty sure I saw it--” Tempest started. There was a sound like a door slamming, a huge burst of compressed air, not quite the sharp report of an explosion but heavy and solid. Gas poured out of the underside of the mushroom-like fortress, rolling down to the sea.

“Look at all that,” Starlight said. “It really would have been enough to cover a whole city!”

“Yeah,” Tempest sighed.

“Are you upset because you had to fight your girlfriend?” Trixie asked.


“Is it because you had to betray countless creatures that used to be your subordinates?”

“No. Well, yes, now that you mention it.” Tempest winced. “Mostly I just think I have a few broken ribs. I’d really like a doctor.”

“We’ll get you one once we’re back in Equestria,” Sunset assured her. “Actually, um, how are we getting back?”

Trixie smirked. “Trixie recalls dozens of airships being parked in the fortress. I suggest we return in style!”

“...and then we flew back,” Tempest said. She winced, and immediately regretted it. Twilight let her settle down before continuing wrapping bandages around her chest.

“Well, that explains why a Storm King warship is parked just outside of Ponyville city limits,” Twilight said. “And why Trixie is asking around about wholesale deals on glitter paint.”

“She has ideas on redecorating it,” Tempest nodded. “I told her she’d be better off selling it to pay off her debts before somepony comes to collect on them.”

“I just wish Sunset could have stayed longer. I’d love to pick her brain on some of the finer points of the wards you encountered…”

“She said she wanted to get home before the Dazzlings did anything stupid,” Tempest said. “I’m not sure if she was worried or excited.”

“Probably both.” Twilight stepped back to examine her work. “There. How does it feel?”

“Better. Thank you.”

“I’m always happy to help,” Twilight said, snapping a book on pony anatomy shut, then shelving it along with the other first-aid books she’d taken out of her library. “Speaking of which, it’s time for us to have that little talk about what you did.”

“I’m prepared to accept any punishment,” Tempest said. “It was my idea, so please don’t punish the others. Starlight just came along to keep me out of trouble, Trixie was practically an innocent bystander, and Sunset--”

“Woah, woah, I didn’t say anything about punishment!” Twilight offered Tempest a hoof, helping her stand up. “You know, you saved Equestria.”

“I also disobeyed a direct order.” Tempest followed Twilight into the hallway.

“A direct order that was wrong,” Twilight said. “You did what you thought you had to do. It’s a fine line, isn’t it? A few years ago I did the same thing. I was sure, absolutely sure, that my brother’s fiancee was an evil monster. Everypony told me I was just being crazy about things, and when I put my hoof down and tried to do something about it, I almost ruined his wedding.”

“How did you fix things?”

“In my case, I got lucky. She really was an evil monster! There was this whole thing where she invaded Canterlot, evil monologues, fighting Celestia, all the kinds of things you don’t really have on your checklist for wedding planning.”

Tempest snorted. “So you were right all along.”

“No, like I said, I was lucky. My friends were right. I was being crazy about things. I was paranoid and jealous. If she hadn’t been a monster, I’d still be trying to make it up to my brother. On the other hoof, if you’d been wrong you just would have gone on a trip with friends and come back feeling silly.”

“I left without saying anything to you.”

Twilight shrugged. “You’re not a prisoner, Tempest. You’re my friend. But if you really feel bad about it, I wouldn’t mind a friendship report on everything you learned. Starlight is writing something up, but I want to know your feelings, too.”

“Yes, Princess,” Tempest said. Twilight stopped in front of a door.

“Now, I know Rarity wanted to talk to you,” Twilight said. “Apparently it’s a fashion emergency, but I don’t know if it really qualifies. When you’re done with her, Starlight is in the library. Let me know if you need anything, okay?”

“Thank you,” Tempest said. Twilight opened the door, and Rarity was inside, waving for Tempest to come over.

Tempest limped inside. Her armor was on a ponyquin, hanging limply. It looked as banged up as she felt.

“I wish I had better news for you,” Rarity said.

“How bad is it?” Tempest asked.

Rarity took a deep breath. “First, remember I work mostly on fabric and gems. I’m hardly an expert. That said, the steel plates are bent out of shape all around the chest and barrel, half of the buckles and fittings are loose or broken. Almost every single exposed surface is tarnished and corroded. It’s a wreck, darling.”

Tempest sighed and nodded in agreement.

Rarity looked worried. “I’m not even sure how to begin repairing it. You might need to send it to a specialist in Canterlot. I’m so sorry.”

Tempest touched the dented, scratched chestplate. Looked at the missing sleeve. The broken straps. In a way, the armor was Tempest Shadow. She used to feel naked without it. Now she just felt free.

“It’s okay,” she decided. “I think… I’ll just hang it up.”

“Are you sure, darling?” Rarity asked. “I’m sure I can find you somepony if you give me a day or two to ask around.”

“Yeah.” Tempest took a deep breath and smiled, putting her hoof down. “It was a little too snug this time anyway. Maybe I’ve outgrown it.”

“You looked fetching in that dress you had on before,” Rarity said.

“It felt good,” Tempest agreed. “I felt like a different pony.”


“I want to feel like that pony again,” Tempest decided. “And I could use some help finding her. Maybe you could help me with my mane again? And… a few makeup tips?”

Rarity squealed in excitement and launched into motion, starting to excitedly describe what she could do, ideas she had on styles and eyeshadow and braids.

Tempest looked into the mirror along one wall. Rarity hadn’t even started the makeover yet, but the smile on her face wasn’t the kind Tempest would ever have worn. Even with her mane up, and her scars on display, it was Fizzlepop looking back.

Comments ( 21 )

Whelp, I’m curious.

This was great! Loved it the whole way through. Also there’s no way that Euryale is dead or petrified, so...The Gorgon Strikes Back, maybe?

Nice, very nice. Eurale is wonderfully unpleasant, I hate competent enemies.

Trixie, appropriately, steals the show with her escape act.

I do hope they went back and picked up all the petrified Yetis to restore. Now they’re prisoners, basically, that means they need to be treated as such.

Meanwhile, Equestria could use a proper forward military base. One with proper high quality Earth pony contractors this time. Maybe even hire the yetis. In a non-combatant role unless they want to stay in the army.

You know, it occurs to me that the magic resistant armor the Yetis had could easily have been forged from Gorgon Scales. Good thing that this lot figured out how to work around it this time.

I like this adventuring party. I hope they get up to more nonsense and nation saving in the future.

Probably. It doesn't feel correct that a gorgon could be affected by their own petrifying breath. Or at least, it doesn't feel right that Euryale wouldn't have taken some sort of precaution.

More to the point though, I'm curious as to how Celestia and Luna are reacting to all of this, considering that their unwillingness to consider things from a point of view that contrasted with theirs would have ended with both of them petrified - again - and Equestria for sale to whomever had the cash for it - again! Maybe the real reason they're turning things over to Twilight and company is because they know that they're actually really, really bad at their jobs and they're trying to bail before people start to final notice.

I mean, if it hasn't already happened after a thousand some years, it probably won't, but you never know.

How much about Yang Wen-li should I know while reading this?

Loved it!

Getting the four unicorns of the Friendshippocalypse together like this is some of the most fun I get from this site. They are all such strong personalities and get to shine in their own ways. The Star Wars references sprinkled throughout just make it all the sweeter. Too bad Disney threw most of that out when they rebooted the franchise.

As always, good work!

Is this like "Battle Beyond the Stars" with the spaceship that looks like a huge pair of boobs and the snarky AI?


Roger Corman's greatest movie. :rainbowlaugh:

Fascinatingly, it also launched several major careers: James Cameron (hired for the effects work, which was praised despite the film's low budget, much of which went to hiring George Peppard and Robert Vaughn) and Bill Paxton (who was actually working on set as a carpenter!) and it was also acclaimed film composer James Horner's breakout production, followed immediately by his score for "Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan".

(HAVE ALL THE TRIVIA!!!) :pinkiecrazy:

The cover looks like a StarWarsPoster.
Can't wait for a magical story starting with the words "The Storm Kings TRADE FEDERATION........." XD

One pointed at the ponies with a spear and grunted something in their language, a beautiful and poetic statement somewhere between a war cry and a haiku which none of the ponies could appreciate at all.

"Behold: unicorns!
A group is called a blessing.
We shall be a curse."

In any case, a spectacular adventure of reformed friends. Adagio Brando, a fascinating design for local gorgons, and more Star Wars references than you can shake a stick at made for a fantastic read. (And hopefully this will encourage Equestria to be just a touch more proactive in self-defense. Double-tapping an enemy state doesn't count as unprovoked aggression, after all...) Thank you for this.

Haven't actually read it yet, but I have to give you some props for knowing about Euryale. *hands Golden Harvest plushie* Bonus points to anyone who can entangle the layers of that joke.

It's taking the nonhuman parts of the monster and putting something else in its place, which is also what they did with centaurs.


Are they going to need to worry about Medusa or Stheno coming for revenge?


Maybe the real reason they're turning things over to Twilight and company is because they know that they're actually really, really bad at their jobs and they're trying to bail before people start to final notice.

What? No. That's ridiculous! Both Celestia and Luna are retiring because of the many, many years.... of work... they put in...

Man, Luna sits on a throne for like 5-6 years and retires? Is she a Chicago public servant?

“I would have gotten away with it too, if it wasn’t for those meddling kids and their dog.”


That was really fun. Great story.

Fantastic work

You are certainly one of the most underrated authors on this site. That was a rip roaring good time. Bravo!!!

Actually, given the weapon of choice, there's a lot of EU-era SW references. I approve.

This was fun and the characters felt spot on. Thanks for the read.

Okay, this was just.... insanely fun and.... yeah I could actually see these character doing most of this. What more is there to say? Loved it!

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