• Published 5th Dec 2019
  • 3,082 Views, 55 Comments

The Canterlot Hive - Bronyxy



When Shining Armor banished Twilight from his wedding, she returned distraught to Ponyville, but she soon got to hear about the changeling invasion of Canterlot. With the help of some unexpected allies, she returns to try and put everything right.

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3 Friendship

Twilight awoke early in the afternoon at around the same time as the bride would be putting on the lovely dress that Rarity had created especially for the high-profile event. She had never seen it herself, but she knew her friend’s high standards, and that it was bound to have been perfect for the occasion.

Before she could lapse back into the mood of corrosive self-recrimination that had brought her here, her tummy gave a loud reminder that it hadn’t been fed for some time. Turning her attention to placating the uncomfortable rumbling sounds, she left the library, sealing the door with her magic and retraced her steps back to the main entrance.

The view from the top of the steps was still impressive even after a thousand years of neglect and random incursion by generations of brambles. Twilight pictured the bustle of activity that would have surrounded this very spot when this formerly lavish castle had been in its prime, and tried to imagine how the former occupants would have felt if they had known that she was currently the only guest, if one were to exclude the bats, that was. They flew in and out through the gaping hole in the roof and appeared to have no qualms about claiming refuge among its high vaulted beams.

She made her way to the nearby stream and bent down to drink, catching a look at her reflection as her muzzle neared the surface. Even despite the distortion caused by ripples playing with casual indifference across her image, she couldn’t help but notice how the last 24 hours had taken their toll, and released a sad sigh.

The water perked her up a little, but she still recognised her need to eat, and began a half-hearted forage among the undergrowth, the solitude she felt not being her best companion.

In fact she wasn’t alone. A pair of blue eyes was watching with interest, but their owner did not call out. Instead, recognising the sad gait of the lilac unicorn, decided a softer approach to be more appropriate.

Twilight stared at a plant growing in the midst of a prickly shrub; her eyes focused, but her mind absent.

“A flower of such vivid hue
Can help in a healing potion or brew”

Twilight continued staring ahead.
“I thought everypony had gone to Canterlot for the wedding” she said flatly.

“I received no invitation
So I continue with my vocation.

But I thought you would be away
Is it not your brother’s special day?”

“Oh Zecora” she sobbed, turning to face the village shaman, “I thought Princess Cadance was an imposter and told my brother, and he sent me away, and now I’m … I’m …”

Suddenly all the pain she felt turned into tears that burst forth like a dam breaking open. She fought for breath between sobs and felt her legs tremble, ready to give way underneath her, so to avoid the embarrassment of falling, lay down on the dew soaked grass as her body shook with grief.

The wise zebra lay down beside her and mentally postponed everything she had planned to do that day.

***

Zecora and Twilight faced each other over a table, each holding a cup of tea. She had listened sympathetically to the unicorn’s outpouring and had been especially interested at the evidence she had put forward to support her accusation; the same evidence that she had since been so desperate to retract so as she wouldn’t have been ostracised by her friends and family.

“The traits that you have well defined
Are oddly out of place in one so kind

Be assured, my unicorn friend
That on my friendship you can depend.”

“Thank you Zecora” she replied, ”You have no idea how much I needed to hear that.”

The two relaxed happily in each other’s company, the mysterious zebra distracting her unexpected guest from her troubles by showing her how to identify various woodland plants, and with them create a range of herbal remedies. Switching Twilight into learning mode quickly dragged her out from her self-pity and she pushed all the worries about tomorrow from her mind. Even when she wasn’t learning about herbal magic and shamanic ritual, she still had a barrage of questions about Zecora’s homeland.

More familiar with a solitary lifestyle, Zecora found it a challenge to keep up with her friend’s insatiable thirst for knowledge, but was pleased to witness how far she had been able to lift her spirits since having met her during her early morning forage.

The morning flew by, but it wasn’t long before the conversation was interrupted by rumbling sounds from Twilight’s tummy, reminding her of how long it had been since she had eaten, or even wanted to. Zecora continued the tuition in her hut by preparing a traditional meal and having her guest help out so she could taste each of the ingredients, many of which were completely unknown to her palate, but nonetheless quickly became firm favourites.

After lunch, they resumed their activities together and everything was going well until Twilight’s horn began to glow and she felt the sudden onset of a headache with such ferocity that she buckled at her knees and sank to the ground.

“What is wrong my unicorn friend?
Have you eaten something which did offend?”

“N … no, Zecora” she said bringing her forehooves up to massage her head, “It’s the strangest feeling; like a number of ponies all reaching out to me at once. I’ve never felt anything like it before.”

Zecora watched the glow on Twilight’s horn fade back to normal and could see the life flow back into her body.

“Something is afoot I do fear
We must take care or danger may come here

I’ll douse the fire and use no light
Or we may get more guests along tonight”

“If something unpleasant can find me Zecora, I can’t stay here and let you get caught up in it too. There is somewhere I can go to that’s a few miles away from here, so I’ll go there and you’ll be safe.”

“No my friend, you should stay here
We must work together if evil comes near”

“What is going on Zecora?” Twilight asked tentatively, “I know you know something.”

“Just some vague feelings, nothing more
But plan for the worst and we’ll be secure.”

The happy atmosphere that had grown between the two transformed into a council of war, preparing contingencies for anything that may arise. It was difficult to know what, if anything to expect, but there was no doubting the seriousness with which Zecora was heeding Twilight’s warning.

Although initially worried that they wouldn’t be able to get everything prepared before sunset, they were both surprised at how long the afternoon had lasted, with very little progression towards evening.

“There will be no night, that is clear
Celestia is compromised, I fear.”

“And Luna too, I expect” added Twilight sombrely, her thoughts echoing Zecora’s own, “Something must have happened at the wedding.”

“To keep our guard up, you must rest
To prevail, we have to be at our best”

“Thanks, I didn’t get a lot of sleep last night” said Twilight showing her hostess a wry smile as she headed inside the hut, leaving Zecora to watch for something unusual. What it was she didn’t know, but she knew it would be easily recognisable when it arrived.

Twilight slept. Neither of them knew for how long, but it was enough for her to feel revitalised. When she came out from inside the shade of the hut, the sun was in just the same place as she had last seen it. She greeted Zecora, who fortunately still looked relatively fresh despite the indeterminate period she had been on watch.

“Welcome back, I trust you slept well?
I must go to town and see what they will tell”

“Alright Zecora” agreed Twilight, unable to adequately stifle a waking up yawn, “I’ll hold the fort here, but please be careful.”
Wasting no time, Zecora donned her dark brown cloak and set off on a path she knew well.

Twilight waved her off and settled into her vigil, feeling so much better about herself. She had found a friend who supported her when she was at her lowest ebb and knew she was no longer alone. She had somepony who believed in her, somepony to fight for, and this made a difference.

Twilight could have dismissed the strange feelings she had experienced, but the fact that the sun hadn’t moved confirmed in the most forceful terms that she hadn’t been wrong. She allowed herself a fleeting smile; it was almost as if she had developed a Pinkie Sense. Now she stood, reflexes primed to face whatever destiny had in store.

***

A rustling of bushes made Twilight’s ears prick up as she focused in the direction of the trail Zecora had taken about an hour ago. She was alert and primed with half a dozen of her best defensive spells rehearsed and ready to go.

The rustling grew closer and then a caped figure emerged into the clearing before her. She breathed a sigh of relief as she recognised the distinctive shape of Zecora, back from her reconnaissance mission and waved cheerfully, ”How did it go?”

“Twilight, it is worse than I thought
Changelings have invaded Canterlot!”

“What?” gasped Twilight in shock.

“From what I heard; details are few
But, Princess Cadance led them, that seems true”

“Princess Cadance!” gasped Twilight, “She would never betray Equestria!”

“The real one would never sell out
But this one was an imposter, no doubt”

“That makes perfect sense!” cried Twilight, ”I thought there was something wrong about her from the outset, but nopony else seemed to see through her act. So, she must have been a changeling herself! Is the real Cadance OK? I mean, I hope the changeling didn’t kill her or anything …?”

“Enough! You have questions galore
But I have to say that I know no more.”

“Oh, sorry” Twilight apologised, ”There’s just so much I want to know!”

“Only one thing more I can share
They feed off love of those for whom you care.”

“Eww!” Twilight grimaced, ”Gross!”
Then she thought a little more before adding, ”I’m just guessing here, but I assume the changelings need only to have hidden the real Princess Cadance away – I mean it wouldn’t have done to have two of them running around at the same time! So it seems reasonable that she’s still alive, but hidden somewhere, possibly …?”

Zecora nodded, clearly following the same thought process.
“So what do we do now?” pondered Twilight, ”They won’t stop at Canterlot; that’s just for starters. Before long they’ll take over all of Equestria, and with Princess Celestia and Princess Luna captured, our only chance is to rescue Princess Cadance so she can use her alicorn magic. We must get up there as soon as we can; the longer we leave it, the stronger they will become!”

“You are right, we cannot delay
The land will soon die under eternal day

Make up some packs with things we need
We must avoid the towns, and make good speed”

Twilight followed Zecora back into the hut where they filled two sets of saddle bags, then emerged with enough provisions and medical supplies to sustain them on the long walk to Canterlot.
“You know, Zecora” said Twilight, “We may be able to use the railway lines.”
Zecora eyed her sceptically, seriously doubting whether she had the training to operate a locomotive.

“You see, the railway has pump trolleys. They’re like small trucks that you power by yourself by pumping a lever up and down - hence the name. You know, if we follow the line from here to Canterlot, we should find one at one of the stations as we go; there might even be one at Ponyville if we’re lucky.”

“Your idea is sound and clever
We could take turns at being the driver”

Armed with a plan to follow and supplies to sustain them, they were ready, and set off up the trail to Ponyville.

The first thing that struck them was how few ponies there were around. There were no street vendors and most properties had their shutters closed tight, whether the ponies had fled or had locked themselves inside was any pony’s guess. Those ponies they saw were rushing around, clearly panicked, running in all directions and then back again.

The two friends looked at each other; the shops still appeared to be intact, but both knew it would only be a matter of time before panic spilled over into looting. Here and there, ponies were crying as their fears found an outlet, but Twilight made sure she didn’t get involved; compassion had its place, but right now they had a much more important job to do.

They continued to the station which was strangely deserted; the routine hustle and bustle that continued throughout the day being completely absent.
“One way or another, we’ll be heading north following these tracks” observed Twilight, “I’ll take a look around the sidings and see if we’re in luck.”

At that, she set off along to the end of the platform and descended its slope, walking on further to get a view of the sidings. They weren’t very large, catering for the town’s modest needs whilst providing a loading area to fill trucks with their primary export, apples. Sure enough there were a few trucks in today and she had to walk around them to see if a pump trolley was obscured behind.

Her optimism was swiftly rewarded when she rounded a truck that had been left half loaded and saw one on the track behind. Happily, she offloaded her saddlebags and placed them onto its deck, then carefully removed the pots of paint and other items on it that had been left over from the last maintenance job, and jumped aboard.

The pump action was stiff, and it took all her strength to get it to move. A quick look showed that she was moving the right way, so she picked up the speed a little and began to gain confidence, but came to an abrupt stop after a few yards. She looked down and saw she had reached a set of points that directed traffic from the main line into the siding, but were currently set against her.

Hopping off, she saw that there was a lever trackside and took a guess that it had to be pulled, so gave it a firm tug, watching with satisfaction as the mechanism slid over to allow her onto the main line.
“Whoo-hoo!” she shouted in excitement and got back onto the pump trolley, giving the stiff handle a few more pumps before getting off and setting the points back to how she had found them; she didn’t want the Friendship Express suddenly careening into a village siding after all.

A few minutes later, she pulled up at the platform, right next to an impressed looking zebra.

“Well done Twilight, you’ve done fine
Two of us together will make good time”

Zecora stepped across to join Twilight on the deck of the unusual device and removed her saddle bags to take up a position at the opposite end of the pump handle.
“Ready?” asked Twilight, and then started to move the vehicle forwards, a task now made a lot easier with her friend’s help, “Next stop, Canterlot!”