• 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.

  • ...

4 Return

The odd looking two horsepower pump trolley made its way steadily northwards significantly more quickly than its two occupants could have hoped to achieve on their hooves, but it was still hard work, especially where the elevation of the track was canted in a climb against them. They had counted on not seeing any other rail traffic and indeed had not encountered anything at all; even the stations they had gone through were deserted.

Twilight cocked her head to one side and shot Zecora a troubled look, making a “shhhh” gesture with her forehoof against her lips. Her zebra friend did as requested, and strained her ears too. There, in the background, was a hum, and it was getting louder.

The pump trolley was coasting with the handles still moving in their mildly comical up and down reciprocating motion. Twilight applied the brake, the rhythmic clanking of the vehicle subsiding as the humming took precedence.
“Let’s get off” she suggested, “I don’t think we should be caught in the open.”
They both clambered down, leaving their saddle bags behind and ran for an outcrop of bushes at the side of the track. Twilight paused halfway.
“The bags ...!” she exclaimed, but Zecora dragged her into the safety of the bushes, refusing to listen to any protest.

They were still settling into their hiding place when a pair of small black winged creatures buzzed over them and looped back to the direction from whence they had come. Intrigued, the friends pricked up their ears and looked briefly at each other before crawling through the undergrowth to see what was happening on the other side.

Pushing a branch cautiously out of the way, Twilight gasped at what she saw; there seemed to be some kind of altercation going on. It looked like a large herd of buffalo was being harassed by a dozen of the much smaller black creatures that had just flown overhead. It was clear that the avians didn’t want to tangle directly with the much larger buffalo, but were still intent on trying to drive them off.

“We must prepare to run away
If they stampede and come this way”
Zecora commented, peering out from the bush. Twilight nodded soundlessly, her eyes fixed on the spectacle, watching the aggressors attacking in pairs time after time, keeping just beyond the reach of the buffalo.

Finally, a lone attacker flew out towards the friends and Twilight lit her horn, firing a stream of magical energy that stunned the creature just enough to lose control and tumble from the sky, smacking into the ground with all the grace of a sack of potatoes. Zecora looked at Twilight quizzically, evidently worried that such an action would bring the wrath of its colleagues down on them too.

“Those buffalo are friends of mine, and a long way from home; I couldn’t just watch.”
The stunned creature got to its hooves, shook its head and looked around before whipping its insectoid wings into a buzz and flying back to rejoin its fellows. Upon the return of their colleague, they all disengaged their unequal combat and retired to consider their position, then flew away northwards.

A look at the field in which the buffalo were gathered showed a couple of their number to be laid on the ground, being surrounded by their concerned colleagues. Twilight moved forwards and Zecora reached out a forehoof to stop her, but she continued anyway, breaking cover and walking into the field, closely followed by the zebra, not because she thought it was a good idea, but more as a demonstration of moral support.

One of the buffalo looked up, then called for his leader who, some distance away, dismissed the stream of status reports from the herd and walked over.
“Hmh, you are friends of Rainbow Dash, I think” he said, addresseing Twilight.
“Yes, yes that’s right” she agreed, looking up to the imposing buffalo, “Chief Thunderhooves, may I introduce Zecora; Zecora, Chief Thunderhooves.”
The buffalo, clearly stressed following the harassment by his herd’s attackers managed a brief nod of recognition, while the zebra gave a respectful bow.

“I hope you don’t mind, but I could see you were having a few problems and I kinda shot one of them down … a bit” confirmed Twilight, giving an awkward smile.
“We are most grateful, friends of Rainbow Dash. I have no idea what they are, but they have attacked Appleloosa and now ponies have gone, and there are no more of those delicious apple pies” he sighed sadly, “And we buffalo like them.”
“Oh, I see” concurred Twilight, suppressing a giggle, “So you’ve come all this way to find more ponies?”

“Yes. Hmh, it is in the terms of the peace treaty” he replied earnestly, “We agreed to allow the apple orchards to stay in exchange for the apple pies; it is now a matter of honour to the buffalo to ensure that both sides of the promise are maintained, and as Chief, I must ensure this is delivered.”

“Right” agreed Twilight, suddenly appreciating the seriousness of the situation, “We believe Canterlot to have been attacked by changelings, and we’re on our way there to try and stop it before it becomes a full scale invasion of Equestria.”
“And no ponies, means no apple pies” Chief Thunderhooves concluded.
“Right. And I’m wondering whether those things that attacked you could be changelings?” Twilight thought aloud.

“It is too much coincidence
To guess that they are anything less”
Zecora agreed.

“Hmh” pondered Chief Thunderhooves, ”Then honour demands we stand with you to keep the treaty we made. What is your plan?”
“I didn’t have one until we met” said Twilight, “But, with your strength and the magic of friendship, I think we can work something out. They’re obviously scared of your size which is why they didn’t come down and fight you on the ground. Also, there’s enough of you to make an army, so if you can get us to their leader, then between us, we stand a chance of defeating them.”

“But if they are changelings, then surely they can change into buffalo?” Chief Thunderhooves queried.
“But they didn’t” Twilight affirmed, ”And I think I know why; it’s my guess that they can impersonate creatures of the same size, but if they made themselves into anything as big as you, they would still only weigh the same as a small pony.”
“Ha! Then we could easily push them out of our way!”
“That’s why I think they didn’t change into buffalo earlier, and why I think we can pull this off!” cheered Twilight.


Had there been somepony waiting at a platform of any of the stations on the line to Canterlot, they would have been startled to see what was travelling past; instead of the Friendship Express pulling a string of carriages was a stream of buffalo, their leader carrying a lilac unicorn. Keeping pace by his side, but a fraction behind out of deference, was another who carried a zebra.

They made good time, stopping periodically at one or other of the many lakes that adorned the line for the buffalo to take on water and rest awhile, before continuing on their way. It was a spectacle so wildly inconceivable that it could have been conjured directly from Discord’s mind.

The miles tripped by, carelessly counting down as the scenery evolved from the endless vista of rolling plains through gentle hills and then on to snow-capped mountains. The buffalo had never ventured this far from the prairies of their home before, and looked about them constantly, their trepidation increasing as the landscape became more unfamiliar.

Eventually, they rounded a bend and saw Canterlot in the distance, tantalising glimpses of its glittering splendour peeping out from between a range of mountains. The sun glinting off its golden roofs was a familiar sight for Twilight, but one which drew gasps of awe and wonder from the others in their party. She had never really experienced this feeling for herself, having been brought up in the capital and just come to take its grandeur for granted, but nonetheless allowed a gentle smile to cross her lips as she felt a sense of pride in the city.

Twilight’s reverie was broken by the sight of a dark smudge in the sky and immediately called Chief Thunderhooves to lead his herd off away from the line and into the cover afforded by the trees trackside. Twilight dismounted and faced the Chief and his most trusted deputies who gathered round.

“The city you can see is Canterlot. I caught my first sight of a changeling patrol in the skies which is why I asked you to take cover. I know you are all brave and fearless fighters, but I don’t want them to be aware of us until we are as close as we can get to the Royal Castle, which is where I am expecting the changelings’ leader will be. I can use magic to shoot a few down, but we’ll be relying on your strength to get us into the castle.”

“We could get in undercover of night” suggested one of the buffalo.
“Good idea, in theory” said Twilight, “But it hasn’t moved on from daytime for days now, and I can only conclude that’s because Princess Celestia and Princess Luna have been captured. Sorry, we’ll just have to try another way; I suggest breaking into three groups and approaching the castle from different routes.”

The buffalo listened as Twilight outlined the routes to be taken, before the herd split into groups to prepare themselves for combat, a process that Twilight knew involved applying warpaint and telling each other inspirational stories of their bravery in past battles.

While the buffalo got themselves ready, Twilight and Zecora moved to a position from where they could watch for patrols to determine if there was any obvious routine or pattern to their actions. Without interrupting her scan of the skies, Zecora confided her fears:

“Your buffalo allies are strong
And will pitch into a fight headlong

But they are large and hard to hide
so their size is the only downside.”

“I know Zecora, I know” Twilight sighed, ”Much as I would like them all to get through, I can’t help hoping that if one group does get caught, they will act as a diversion for the others. Given that we’ve clearly lost Princess Celestia and Princess Luna, our best bet has to be Princess Cadance as the only other pony with alicorn magic. I’m hoping we can find her while the buffalo fight off the changelings and buy us some time.”

“She is the one we must seek out
And put this changeling invasion to rout”

“Thanks Zecora. I knew I could count on you” said Twilight laying a reassuring forehoof on her shoulder, “Two of us stand a much better chance than one.”

“Hmh” came a deep voice behind them, causing them both to turn and witness the transformation from Chief Thunderhooves the diplomat to Chief Thunderhooves the warrior, resplendent in his freshly applied warpaint.
“You will be fighting with us” he said, not as a question, but as a statement, “You would honour the spirits and bring us good fortune if you carried the blessing from our sacred home.”
“Put on warpaint, like you?” asked Twilight, “We’d be happy to respect your customs and beliefs.”
The two friends wriggled back from their vantage point and Twilight stood in front of the Chief as he muttered an ancient incantation and applied two red streaks on either side of her muzzle.

Twilight wanted to giggle because it tickled her cheeks, but she knew what an honour it was to be included in their ritual, and maintained a solemn expression as he completed his request for protection from the sprits of buffalo leaders in days gone by. As soon as she was considered ready, Zecora stepped forward and bowed, presenting herself for the same treatment.

“Hmh. Now you are ready” he confirmed approvingly, taking in their fearsome new appearance, “And the buffalo will see that you are going into fight with the protection of our ancestral spirits.”
“We are both deeply honoured that you have extended such a privilege to us” responded Twilight respectfully, catching sight of Zecora nodding her approval.

“Is everypony, er, I mean every buffalo ready?” asked Twilight, blushing at her slip.
“Yes” he replied, “What have you learned about the patrols?”
“They come past at about five minute intervals, so I suggest that all three groups make their move as quickly as we can once a patrol has passed.”

“I would be happy to carry you myself” he offered, “But one thing.”
“Name it” she replied.
“If we don’t find Appleloosa ponies, then you make us apple pies yourself” he stated.
“You got yourself a deal!” Twilight agreed cheerfully.

Word spread quickly, and in response the herd split into three lines, each having a fearsome looking leader at its head, with Twilight atop Chief Thunderhooves and Zecora aboard a trusted deputy.
“Friend of Rainbow Dash?” asked the Chief.
“Hmh. Buffalo eyesight is not as good as pony eyesight” he admitted, receiving nods of agreement from his fellows, “As soon as it is clear, you give the order to charge?”
Twilight gulped, suddenly appreciating this meant she would have the combined power of this herd of buffalo hanging on her word of command.
“OK” she squeaked.

Feeling embarrassed at her foalish exclamation, she quickly stuck her head back up into the canopy of the tree above her, so as none of those present would see the crimson blush she could feel spreading across her face, and returned to her lookout. She didn’t have to wait long until she saw a formation of changeling guards following the same route as all the others she had seen.

“Here comes the patrol now” she warned, ducking down below the branches that offered them all shelter from the prying eyes above, “Get ready.”
Expectant whispers from those within earshot rippled the news down to their colleagues waiting behind them, and she could almost feel the sudden rise of adrenalin building around her.

A pause descended as every creature held their breath waiting for her command.
“Now!” she shouted as soon as the last members of the patrol had disappeared from view.

She felt Chief Thunderhooves surge forward, his massive frame accelerating surprisingly quickly as she hung on tightly, fearing to lose her grip lest she fall and be trampled by those following closely behind. To her side, another buffalo drew up to protect his Chief on his flank, this one bearing aloft a zebra, poised resolutely like a ship’s figurehead on his back, facing her destiny with grim determination etched on her face.

A shiver ran down Twilight’s back as she felt the raw power of this massed charge unleashed; the feeling of togetherness, being part of something so much bigger than merely an organised stampede. The feeling was so intense, she couldn’t help but allow a grin to spread across her muzzle.

She turned to Zecora and gasped at seeing how the experience had transformed her into a fearsome looking warrior. She felt another shiver run down her back, but this time one that shocked her back to the reality of her situation; they were going into combat and this was no time to be anything other than completely focused.

Turning to face front, she screwed her muzzle into a picture of concentration, pointed a foreleg forwards in the same way as a jouster would aim his lance, and shouted out a battle cry of her own.