• Published 13th Mar 2020
  • 5,056 Views, 1,106 Comments

Skeletor, Master of The Empire. - Hotel_Chicken

A monster was dethroned and a demon was thrusted into a position of power he never wanted. Now, the Displaced Lord Skeletor finds himself in the Frozen North of Equestria, fighting frigid temperatures and an evil king.

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Chapter 20. Perception and Perspective of Power.

Cannon Fodder anxiously paced from one end of his room to the other as he made a mental checklist of everything he needed. He threw a glance at his large saddle bags, visualizing the contents of his bags as counted how much food and water were packed away.

He had spent the past two days planning out his expedition to the Ruva Kingdom, making sure that he had enough supplies, tools, and well bodied guards for the journey. The trip would be comprised of seventeen other guards and six alchemists, allowing each alchemist to have three guards next to them at all times. Cannon Fodder would lead the group through the ruins of the fallen kingdom, allowing his memory of the kingdom’s layout to guide him to any of the alchemist or mage guilds that he scarcely remembered passing by in the Ruva Kingdom.

While Cannon Fodder led the expedition, Colonel Kernel would take temporary command of the Royal Guard in Cannon Fodder’s stead, allowing Cannon Fodder to enact his plans away from the prying eyes and ears of Crumb Catcher’s spy network. Without Crumb Catcher’s lackies constantly looking over his withers from the shadows of the halls, he’d be able to find out how many allies he still had in the Empire.

Being the general who failed to protect Princess Amore had earned him the silent scorn of a large number of guards, each one throwing judgmental glances at him whenever his head was turned away. He started to feel paranoid when his guards would whisper to one another, occasionally mentioning Lord Skeletor whenever Cannon Fodder trotted by. Crumb Catcher managed to feed Cannon Fodder’s paranoia with warnings about certain guards and their silent conversations.

He didn’t have to believe Crumb Catcher, and he absolutely didn’t want to, but Crumb Catcher’s warnings always made Cannon Fodder feel more on edge. His journey to the Ruva Kingdom was his last chance to salvage some respect from the guards he would be leading. If Cannon Fodder failed at that, then he may as well have decided to attack Lord Skeletor with a spoon and hoped his death would make him a martyr to the other ponies of the Crystal Empire so that they could band together and overthrow the demon.

Cannon Fodder purposefully chose guards who appeared to be resentful towards Lord Skeletor, using Crumb Catcher’s seemingly infinite knowledge to find anypony in the guard who were either upset by Lord Skeletor’s latest law or who resented being led by a non-pony creature. Others took his claims that Princess Amore was being manipulated as blasphemous, believing that Princess Amore was infallible due to her godhood.

To them, there was no way Princess Amore had been manipulated by a demon, she was a princess, the pinnacle of power and purity. She would never be foolish enough to fall for the sweetened words of a demon, even if it was disguised as one of Faust’s apostles.

Even though Cannon Fodder didn’t believe Princess Amore was infallible, due to years of working directly under the princess and seeing her in a different light than the rest of the Empire, he could still use their blind faith to her as a tool to dethrone Lord Skeletor.

But in order to use anypony, Cannon Fodder would need to find out who among them actually held a great distaste for Lord Skeletor. Crumb Catcher could have easily lied to him, feeding him a list of ponies who were actually completely loyal to Lord Skeletor since he still didn’t know where Crumb Catcher’s loyalties lied.

For the moment, Crumb Catcher was just as much of a threat to the Empire as Lord Skeletor was. Neither of them could be trusted, especially not the blue skinned demon.

After Cannon Fodder threw one last glance at his personal supplies and took a moment to think if he was forgetting anything, the general nodded to himself and left his room to prepare for his journey into the Ruva Kingdom.

As he trotted towards the office of his second in command, Colonel Kernel, he kept a list of orders for the colonel to carry out while he was in the Ruva Kingdom. It wouldn’t be too much, just making sure that the guards were paid, that they were assigned their regularly scheduled patrols, and sign any papers necessary for any stallion who spontaneously decided to drop out, something that Cannon Fodder personally loathed doing.

To Cannon Fodder, abandoning their position in the guard during the Empire’s new tyrant was the equivalent of allowing him to do as he pleased without resistance. It boiled Cannon Fodder’s blood to know that they had abandoned their posts, especially while a demon sat on the throne. The guard was the only line of defense left that posed even the slightest of a threat to Lord Skeletor, and most of them had just up and left.

To make matters worse, the stallions who left were some of the very select few that still respected him as a general. The ones who remained still followed his orders without much question, but he had lost their respect a long time ago. Only their secretly shared hatred for Lord Skeletor could allow the guards to fall under Cannon Fodder’s complete command. He just needed to separate the more sensible ponies from the delusional idiots that thought Lord Skeletor was some sort of god.

While he was silently contemplating the possibility that he would need to sleep with one eye open during the expedition in case of any “accidents”, he failed to hear Crumb Catcher trotting towards him from behind. It wasn’t until he began talking that Cannon Fodder finally noticed him.

“Good morning General Fodder, I trust you slept well?” Crumb Catcher asked.

“It was fine,” Cannon Fodder bluntly replied as he trotter a little faster, making sure not to break into a canter to get away from his fellow council member.

“That’s good to hear. Are you prepared for your trip? You’ve been so busy these past two days that I haven’t been able to talk to you.”

“I have everything I need. I just need to talk to Colonel Kernel quickly and then I’ll leave.”

“I can go talk to him. I haven’t had a good excuse to speak to the colonel yet, and I would love a reason to talk to the stallion,” Crumb Catcher offered.

“Thanks, but I’ll do it.”

“Oh well, that’s fine. I’ll just speak with Lord Skeletor about a few interesting rumors I’ve overheard,” Crumb Catcher casually said as he turned to trot down the hall in the opposite direction.

It didn’t take long for the implications of his words to click into place for Cannon Fodder. It was a reminder of who held the power in their little deal. Cannon Fodder would simply need to refuse Crumb Catcher only once and that opportunist would go galloping to Lord Skeletor. But Cannon Fodder couldn’t piece together why he was threatening him then of all times. There wasn’t anything to gain from talking to Colonel Kernel in his place, it was as like Crumb Catcher was begging for an excuse to go tattle to Lord Skeletor.

“… What do you really want?” Cannon Fodder finally asked.

“An excuse to talk to a nice stallion,” Crumb Catcher calmly said as he stopped trotting and smoothed out the sleeves of his suit. “I’m sure he couldn’t be a worst conversationalist than Lord Skeletor or, fields above forbid, Avid Value. I’d love to hear how the colonel feels about our new Lord. If he shares our views, then we could all discuss… ideas,” he coyly said with a smug smile.

Cannon Fodder scowled at Crumb Catcher, but bit his tongue to stop any harsh accusations from leaving his muzzle. It was almost as if Crumb Catcher was purposefully acting untrustworthy to test Cannon Fodder and see how he would react.

“… Fine,” he eventually said. “I’m going to go say goodbye, tell Colonel Kernel to meet me and the rest of the expedition team at the plaza in an hour.”

“I’ll make sure to relay your message to him. Be safe on your trip, General Fodder,” Crumb Catcher said as he trotted towards Colonel Kernel’s quarters.

Cannon Fodder’s gaze hardened as he watched Crumb Catcher trot away, silently cursing fate for tethering him to the manipulative stallion. After seething in his own anger for a few more moments, Cannon Fodder trotted towards the alchemy tower to make sure that the alchemists coming with them were ready for the journey.

Colonel Kernel, a grey coated stallion with a dirty blonde mane and tail nervously tapped his quill tip on the rim of the inkwell that rested on his desk. A blank piece of paper sat on in front of him, waiting for the ink to stain the pages with a soliloquy of words that would beg for General Cannon Fodder to reassess his decision.

Father time taunted the new colonel with a slowly ticking clock placed at the other side of the room, a relic left behind by his superior’s-superior’s-superior. Each chime from the clock loudly mocked him for passively waiting, becoming a slave to the whims of time. Colonel Kernel looked at the ticking second hand of the clock and recoiled when he noticed how much time had passed.

The colonel looked back at the blank sheet, searching for the perfect words to use to convince General Cannon Fodder to demote him. He couldn’t handle the stress of being a colonel, the only reason he was promoted to the position of a colonel due to all of his superiors dying under King Sombra’s rule.

As Colonel Kernel stared at the clean sheet of paper, silently cursing his inability to find the right words to convince General Cannon Fodder to make a different decision, he threw caution to the wind and put a cap on his ink well. He had spent two days struggling to think of the best words, and he had failed miserably. There wasn’t enough time to find the right words, if he wanted to have his position given to somepony more competent, then he would need to speak to General Cannon Fodder personally.

Colonel Kernel was slightly startled when he opened the door to see a blue coated stallion on the other side, but quickly regained his composer when he realized it was just the head of the staff, Crumb Catcher.

“Ah, hello Colonel Kernel, good to see you,” Crumb Catcher said as he stepped aside to let Colonel Kernel leave his room.

“Good to see you to, Mr. Catcher. Is there something you needed?” Colonel Kernel asked as he trotted into the hallway.

“Nothing I need, but General Fodder wanted me to fetch you. He forgot to tell you to seek out Lord Skeletor and bring him to the plaza for the expedition team’s departure.”

“M-meet… Lord Skeletor?” He nervously asked.

He had never actually met the Crystal Empire’s newest master, only catching glimpses of his new Lord and hearing leftover whispers of Lord Skeletor’s conversations with the council members. There was never a reason to directly interact with Lord Skeletor before, and he was completely fine leaving it that way, staying away from the figurative stage of politics and life that Lord Skeletor took complete control of.

“Of course, colonel. You’re going to work alongside the council for the next few weeks, you were bound to interact with him sooner or later. Listen, I know that Lord Skeletor may look intimidating, but he’s a kind and just ruler. Steel your nerves, be respectful to him, and everything will be fine,” he reassured him.

“I-I’m not nervous. I’m excited!”

“And I’m a ruva,” Crumb Catcher sarcastically joked. “Colonel, you don’t need to lie to me. Truth be told… He scared me too, at first. But he’s a kind and gracious creature once you get to know him.”

“He is?” Colonel Kernel asked before he coughed into his foreleg. “I-I mean, of course he is. He’s our leader, we can’t expect any less of our lord, right?”

Crumb Catcher silently chuckled to himself as he held a hoof to his muzzle. “Yes, I suppose we can’t expect any less. Anyway, Lord Skeletor should still be in his bedchambers. Miss Secret usually goes to fetch him, but she’s preoccupied this morning with our dear Royal Archivist.

“If you go now, you should have time to eat breakfast with Lord Skeletor before you both need to go to the plaza in an hour. Have a good time and get to know Lord Skeletor. I’ll see you at the council meeting later today before court. Take care, colonel,” Crumb Catcher told him before he trotted away.

Colonel Kernel nodded to himself as Crumb Catcher left, taking deep breaths as he prepared himself to speak directly to Lord Skeletor.

“Meet Lord Skeletor, easy enough… Just have to put one hoof in front hoof the other… No pressure… Oh, I’m so bucked…” He quietly muttered as he trotted down the hallway.

After a few minutes of trotting down the halls aimlessly, he finally decided to ask one of the guards for directions to Lord Skeletor’s chambers. It was difficult to hold a conversation with another guard without receiving cold stares that spoke volumes of their inner rage towards him.

Three years ago, most of the ponies in the castle outranked him and had rightfully earned their position in the guard while he had used his family’s connections to become a trainee under Lieutenant Bolt. His father had pushed him into the position, stating that becoming a guard would teach him important life lessons about responsibility.

Now, he was responsible for more than he had any right to be. Colonel Kernel hadn’t earned his position, it was simply passed down to him because all the more qualified and capable ponies were dead. He wasn’t a warrior or a colonel, he was a farmer, no matter how much his father claimed that his cutie mark was a larger than average spear. And now, he was walking to the door of death himself to eat breakfast with him.

No matter how reassuring Crumb Catcher’s words were, Colonel Kernel still feared for his life and his immortal soul. Lord Skeletor held this natural aura of dominance and power that terrified Colonel Kernel, he was a pillar of strength that made everypony around him look like a group of foals. From what Colonel Kernel heard, Lord Skeletor had effortlessly beat Sombra to death with Sombra’s skull, and then he used his own skull to beat what was left of Sombra’s skull, and that was just because Sombra looked at him funny.

One wrong word out of Colonel Kernel, and it would be off with his head. While Lord Skeletor hadn’t killed anypony in the near three weeks of his rule, there was nothing to really prevent him from doing so. Even with an army of crystal ponies against him, Lord Skeletor would utterly crush them with his physical strength and magical prowess.

Far too quickly for Colonel Kernel’s liking, he was in front of Lord Skeletor’s door. Colonel Kernel eyed the door nervously before looking at the empty spot next to the door where a guard should have been. Nopony had been brave enough to guard it after the first night, and it seemed like General Cannon Fodder wasn’t too concerned with having somepony stationed there.

With so few guards to patrol the Crystal Pony Kingdom and guard the Crystal Castle, General Cannon Fodder positioned guards to protect other things such at the Crystal Heart, the Royal Archives, and the medical ward in the castle and makeshift medical tents that filled the backstreets of the Empire. There just wasn’t a need to protect a creature like Lord Skeletor since nopony posed an actual threat to him, even the guards assigned to trot with him at the Crystal Fair were more for show than his actual safety.

After steeling his resolve and swallowing his fears for the moment, Colonel Kernel knocked on the door and waited. Colonel Kernel’s hardened and professional demeanor crumbled as tense seconds turned into uncomfortable minutes, his heart boomed in his chest as he raised his hoof to knock again. Once again, there was no response from Lord Skeletor, leading the colonel to wonder if he was at the wrong door.

Reluctantly, Colonel Kernel pressed an ear against the door to see if he could hear anything. An unnerving and deathly silence was all he could hear, and he could have sworn that the sound from the halls became dulled when he listened to the unnatural silence of Lord Skeletor’s room. Colonel Kernel released a shuddered breath as he pulled his ear away from the door, allowing the natural noises of far off creaking doors and gentle breezes from open windows to fill his ears almost instantly. It was almost like the basic concept of sound died when he listened for any noises from the other side of the room, possibly due to a silencing enchantment that Lord Skeletor must have placed on the door.

Colonel Kernel wasn’t a ruva mage, so he only really knew that sound silencing enchantments stopped sounds, and he wasn’t sure if it worked both ways or not. He couldn’t have known that silencing spells only worked in one direction, so he simply assumed that Lord Skeletor hadn’t heard him knock because of the enchantments.

The colonel took a few calming breaths as he prepared to open the door to see if Lord Skeletor was still in his room. His hoof felt heavier than it had ever felt before, and his muscles felt like they were fighting against him, but he managed to do it.

Opening the door, Colonel Kernel felt the chilling embrace of death wash over him as a strong breeze flew through the open window of Lord Skeletor’s room. The low hum of magic in the room drew Colonel Kernels attention to the four posted bed where Lord Skeletor sat with a book on his lap.

Colonel Kernel waited for Lord Skeletor to acknowledge his presence but appeared to go completely unnoticed by his lord. A light green aura enveloped a page in Lord Skeletor’s book, lazily turning the page with a light levitation spell as he continued to read. Lord Skeletor appeared to be in another world as he read, barley moving a muscle as his eyes scanned the pages in front of him. If it weren’t for the green aura occasionally turning a page in his book, Colonel Kernel would have assumed that Lord Skeletor fell asleep sitting upright.

“Um… Lord Skeletor?” Colonel Kernel said, finally breaking Lord Skeletor out of his trance. His voice was barely above a squeak as he spoke, fear gripping his vocal cords as he worried for his own safety.

“Hm? Oh! Uh… Who are you?” Lord Skeletor asked while he wearily eyed Colonel Kernel.

“Colonel Kernel, reporting for duty, sir,” he said with an immediate salute. “I’m sorry that I interrupted your reading, sir.”

“At ease, colonel, it’s alright. You’re Cannon Fodder’s temporary replacement, right?” Lord Skeletor asked as he closed his book and placed it on the nightstand next to his bed.

“Yes, sir,” Colonel Kernel said as he put his foreleg down. “I was instructed to come meet with you as soon as General Fodder prepared the other ponies for their mission. He wanted to see us before he left.”

“Excellent, I was hoping I could say a few parting words. If you could take me to them, then that would be greatly appreciated,” Lord Skeletor said as he stood up and grabbed his scepter. Colonel Kernel simply nodded as he stared into the eye sockets of the ram skull that crowned Lord Skeletor’s scepter, becoming lost in the black shadows inside the ram’s skull.

“Yes, sir,” he said with another salute before stepping aside to allow Lord Skeletor to leave his room first.

Colonel Kernel trotted behind Lord Skeletor once they left his room, keeping at least two feet between them as he followed Lord Skeletor to the dining hall. A minute of calm silence went undisturbed until Lord Skeletor looked down at Colonel Kernel, whom had stated a few hoofbeats behind Lord Skeletor.

“Have you seen Cannon Fodder today?” Lord Skeletor asked him.

“Not yet, sir. He just sent Mr. Catcher to tell me to escort you to the plaza.”

“Hmmm. I hope they have everything they need,” Lord Skeletor mused before he fell silent once more. The silence only remained for a minute before Lord Skeletor asked him another question. “What are your thoughts on this expedition?”

“From what I’ve been told, the mission is to find any medical books in the Ruva Kingdom and alchemy books to make medicine and paper respectively,” Colonel Kernel replied.

“Along with any magical tomes they can get ahold of,” Lord Skeletor stated. “They’re potentially risking their lives, going into treacherous terrain in an unforgiving snow storm, all for the hope of finding medical and alchemy books. So, what are your thoughts on the expedition? How do you feel about my decision?”

“It’s not my place to question your decision, sir.”

“Aren’t you a colonel?”

“Yes, but—”

“Then you have some experience from Princess Amore’s rule,” Lord Skeletor assumed. “How would she handle something like this?”

Colonel Kernel took a few moments to consider his response since he had never directly spoken to the princess, but Lord Skeletor held the impression that he had. He didn’t want to correct Lord Skeletor, since could have given the wrong impression. After all, he wouldn’t want to accidentally insult his lord by telling him he was wrong about his assumption.

“I… Sssshe would trust her decision since she was the princess. She knew better than everypony, that’s why she was the princess.”

“And what if she needed a second opinion?” Lord Skeletor immediately asked.

“… Then she’d think about the Empire as a whole,” he guessed.

Lord Skeletor didn’t make any comments for a while, quietly mulling over Colonel Kernel’s words as they went down the halls. Colonel Kernel felt uneasy with the sudden lull of silence, fearing that he had given Lord Skeletor an answer he didn’t like.

“How do you know if you’ve made the right decision?” Lord Skeletor suddenly asked.

Colonel Kernel was struck silent by Lord Skeletor’s question, the lull in conversation was suddenly much more welcoming than his interrogation. As Colonel Kernel tried to formulate an answer that would satisfy him, Lord Skeletor continued to speak.

“You’re a colonel, you’ve made more tough decisions than I have and I respect whatever you say. So, I need to know, do you think I should let them risk their lives, let alone order them to do so? Should I call off the expedition entirely?” He asked as he stopped and turned to look down at Colonel Kernel.

His new lord had put far too much faith in his decision-making skills, and maybe Lord Skeletor knew that. It was all just a test to see if he deserved his position as a colonel. While answering the question wrong would almost guarantee that he would be relieved of his position, a bad answer could also spell the end of his life.

“I… I’ve always found that, difficult problems have easy answers. When I wanted to make a choice, but couldn’t decide, I just flipped a bit.”

“… You flipped a bit?” Lord Skeletor asked almost incredulously. Colonel Kernel noticed a hint of anger in Lord Skeletor’s tone and quickly tried to amend his statement. “You dealt with serious issues and problems… By flipping a bit? You balanced life and death, weighted hard options and difficult choices... On. A. Bit? You gave orders based on what a small piece of metal would tell you to? Am I hearing this correctly, colonel?”

“W-well, it’s because then I’d know what I wanted. If it came up as a snowflake and I was unhappy, then I’d know that I wanted heads, and then I’d just do what I would have done if it came up as the other option. So, if I ever had to do something that I felt conflicted over, that's what I'd do to find out what I really wanted to do,” Colonel Kernel explained, omitting the fact that he had mainly used this technique to decide what he wanted to eat for dinner.

Lord Skeletor hummed to himself as he looked off to the side, debating the admittedly shoddy advice that Colonel Kernel gave him. As Lord Skeletor thought about Colonel Kernel’s words, the colonel was inwardly screaming at himself for giving Lord Skeletor such faulty advice. He couldn’t believe that he had just told Lord Skeletor to flip a bit. His lord had come to him asking for his thoughts and he told the ruler of the Crystal Empire to flip a bit?

Colonel Kernel wondered if stupidity was a valid reason to be put on a death sentence, and quickly worked out a plan to weasel his way out of his situation and apologize to Lord Skeletor. But, before he could try to salvage the situation and beg for mercy, Lord Skeletor turned his attention back to Colonel Kernel.

“I see… Do you have a bit on you?” Lord Skeletor asked.

His hooves instantly flew to the small satchel of bits that hung under his barrel and pulled out a single bit for Lord Skeletor. As soon as Colonel Kernel offered them measly bit, he realized that he should have hoofed over his entire satchel.

Lord Skeletor accepted the single bit and twirled it between his fingers, subtly studying each imprecation, scratch, and discoloration he could find on the bit. In a flash of movement, Lord Skeletor tossed the bit into the air with the flick of his thumb, and struck like a snake as he snatched it out of the air before slapping it against the top of his other hand.

His hand was too high for Colonel Kernel to see what the bit landed on, and nothing in Lord Skeletor’s demeanor gave away if he was upset or happy with the result. After a few moments of complete stillness, Lord Skeletor handed the bit back to Colonel Kernel and simply said two words before he went back to walking.

“Thank you.”

“You’re uh… You’re welcome, sir. So, what did you decide?” Colonel Kernel asked as he put the bit back in his small satchel and cantered to catch up to Lord Skeletor’s long strides.

Instead of replying to Colonel Kernel’s question, Lord Skeletor chose to remain silent as he contemplated his decision. Colonel Kernel didn’t press his lord anymore as they trotted and walked respectively, and only opened his mouth to speak once he noticed that they had briskly walked past the dining room doors

“Are you not going to eat, sir?” The colonel asked.

“I’m not hungry right now, breakfast can wait. Since you’re here, there are a few things I want to talk about before the expedition team leaves, and you’ll be able to help. I’ve been worried about the Empire’s defenses; We have an hour before Cannon Fodder and the team leaves, so I’d like to resolve an issue I’ve had for a while.”

“What issue, sir?”

“The Crystal Heart,” Lord Skeletor replied. “I’ve been concerned about its safety. Cannon Fodder assured me that the guards standing by would protect it, but his answers always felt dismissive. I’d like a second opinion on the safety of leaving it open for the public. What stops someone from just walking up and taking it?”

“Isn't that what the guards surrounding it are for?” Colonel Kernel guessed.

“Yes, yes, I know about the guards. Half a dozen or so, if I remember correctly. I understand that they're the first line of defense, but what if someone got past them, which ponies do all the time already. What’s stopping them from reaching up, grabbing the Crystal Heart, and running? Cannon Fodder just said that the guards would stop them before they went too far, but I’m not satisfied with that. If I’m going to have the general and a good amount of guards leave the Crystal Castle, then I’m going to make sure we’ll be alright without them.”

“So, you decided to continue with the expedition?”

“Yes. You were right, Princess Amore didn’t second guess herself and I can’t afford that luxury either. Thank you for your advice.”

“You’re welcome, sir. I live to serve,” Colonel Kernel said proudly, before a more sober and weary tone took over his voice as he asked Lord Skeletor a question. “So... what are you planning for the Crystal Heart?”

“… I’m not sure, yet. I’d like something like a fence, but I’m sure that will cause some sense of uproar among the crystal ponies. Their happiness and safety is my primary concern,” Lord Skeletor told him.

Colonel Kernel briefly looked up at Lord Skeletor with wide eyes before he hid his surprise under a mask of calm professionalism and quiet contemplation. He hadn't expected Lord Skeletor to care about how his subjects felt about his decision. From the colonel's perspective, the word of the leader was something that should have been taken as law because they earned the power that they wielded, and to question any decision made by them was to question the power they held. Lord Skeletor had more than earned his power, not only by slaying Sombra but also by rebuilding the remains of the Crystal Empire. So for him to question his own choices and measure them against the desires and needs of the crystal ponies felt almost baffling to Colonel Kernel. It was almost as if Lord Skeletor believed that he should serve the Empire, and not the other way around.

"What do you think, colonel? Do you have any suggestions for my dilemma?" Lord Skeletor asked.

Once again, Colonel Kernel found himself in the uncomfortable position of offering advice to Lord Skeletor, something that should have been handled by an actual council member.

"What if... What if you… you put a gate around it during the night? I remember that the nightshift at the Crystal Heart was always the hardest since the ponies standing guard would usually be lulled to sleep by the Heart's energy. That could work... Uh, right?" Colonel Kernel suggested.

To Colonel Kernel's shock, and partial horror, Lord Skeletor's jaw adjusted to allow a large predatory smile to split across his skull as he looked down at the colonel.

"You might be on to something... Do you know where the blacksmiths are?"

"I do."

"Good, take me to them. I want to see if a portable gate is possible and how much it would cost. Then we'll see Avid Value and see if it's within the Empire's budget," Lord Skeletor commanded.

With a quick nod of his head, Colonel Kernel took the lead and guided Lord Skeletor to the blacksmith's forge in the Crystal Castle. While he trotted towards the forge, he couldn't stop the small smile from breaking across his muzzle as he went down a flight of stairs. Lord Skeletor was clearly pleased with his suggestion, and if he was lucky enough, then maybe he could get through the next two weeks without accidentally angering his lord even once. He had a near brush with Lord Skeletor's ire when he mentioned flipping a bit, but as long as he was clear in his actions and spoke with a tone of authority and knowledge, then he'd hopefully be able to appease Lord Skeletor. Then, he would be able to hoof the position back over to General Cannon Fodder and possibly quit the guard. While making his lord happy certainly gave him a small sense of pride, the overall fear he felt during his conversation wasn't worth it.

He'd just need to play his part in Lord Skeletor's council for the next two weeks and everything would be fine.

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