• Published 10th Jun 2020
  • 764 Views, 31 Comments

Splintershard - TheMajorTechie



Once upon a time, Equestria flourished. That time is now long-gone.

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3|2 ◈ A Weapon

"You've got the Elements?"

"Yes. I can assure you that they are in my possession."

It was now or never.

"Ready, Luna?"

"Ready as I will ever be."


The rest of the way back to Ponyville was filled with tension, to say the least. And not the sappy romantic kind, either.

Emily stepped off the train with a wide yawn. Now that she had least the tolerance of the stowaway, it'd be a good idea to follow along. Splitting off and doing her own thing would probably only raise suspicion. She watched him shuffle past her toward the Everfree.

"You gonna follow, Emily?" Aero stuck his head out of the cab.

"Yup. You stay here in Ponyville, Aero. They won't recognize me in this body."

"Sounds like a plan."

Emily took off after the stowaway. From behind, now that he was actually walking, it... actually looked like he had a bit of a limp of sorts. It wasn't really anything all too obvious, but it was clear that he was having some trouble with one of his hind legs.

He stopped walking "You gonna catch up, or am I going to have to call the guards to drag you away on stalking charges?"

She trotted up beside him.

"Why are you so dead-set on following me, anyway? Don't tell me you're another one of those 'undercover' journalists. I've had to deal with far too many of those in my time." He brushed aside some branches blocking the path. "Ladies first."

"I... uh, thanks." Emily walked ahead. "And I'm not a journalist, if you're wondering."

"Again, then why do you follow?"

"Well, I certainly believe that King Blueblood should be restored as the rightful heir to the Equestrian throne! Glory be to the mighty rule of the Old Gua--"

The stowaway facehoofed. "You know what? Just stop talking. You'll have a better chance of getting through the forest in one piece if you do."

Emily hid her smirk. She'd have to thank Starlight's crash-course on what the heck happened to this place later.

"I'm right here y'know, Emi. Just staying quiet so you don't start talking to yourself like a madmare around this guy."

Yup. Thanks, Star. Anyway--

Emily let the stowaway pass her again. Leading the way would make her look suspicious.

She stared up at the canopy. The forest seemed a little more... overgrown. At least, it did when compared to the last time she'd seen it. The path through the forest certainly seemed narrower than it'd been when she was captured the first time around, for one. The same went for the number of low-hanging branches. She turned her attention back to the stowaway. He slashed another branch and kicked it aside. What he used as his blade, she didn't know.

"Darn greenery's been growing all outta whack," he muttered under his breath. "Watch your step now, there's a big root. It's like the whole forest has been doused in fertilizer or something since I left the fortress."

Emily stepped over the root. She looked ahead, past where the stowaway was currently cutting through some vines. For the most part, the path ahead seemed a little clearer. Maybe it was better-kept since it was closer to the fort itself?

"Nearly there. Just keep walking."


Welp. Here it was. Again. Emily stared up at the weathered walls of the fortress.

"Quite the beauty, isn't it?"

"Hm?" Emily glanced at the stowaway.

"This place has been standing for ages now, withstanding just about everything the Everfree has thrown at it."

"Hey, thanks for actually shutting up for once in our little romp through the forest. Really appreciated the peace. You actually don't seem like all that bad a mare to be around, y'know."

"Thanks, I guess." Emily turned her attention back to the fort. Wasn't the stowaway supposed to do some sort of magic thing to open the gates? At the very least there should've been guards stationed around the entrance, right? Or maybe some roaming guards patrolling the paths like when she'd first arrived here? "So, are you going to let us in, or are we going to keep on staring 'til something happens?"

"Don't know. There's normally always a guard on patrol here that can let us in. Guess I'll have to do it myself."

She looked to his forehead. "Do it yourself? But you don't have a ho--"

A ring of green flame suddenly burst from his body. Emily shrieked, jumping back. Water--she needed to find water before he was burned alive!

"Calm down, Emi. I recognize a Changeling's transformation when I see one."

Oh.

"You like that little trick?" The stowaway smirked at her. "Now I have a horn. Watch how the--"

"WHO GOES THERE?" A voice boomed overhead. About time the guards showed up.

"Exo, sir!" The stowaway saluted. "Returning from a successful mission!"

"Very well. The two of you may enter."

Well that was a lot more painless than she'd expected it to be. Then again, the last time she was at these gates was when she was in a cage, sooo... she stared at the guard standing atop the walls. The stowaway--Exo, as he called himself--did mention that something happened to his old partner. The guards probably thought that she was that partner, but still in disguise. Or something like that.

She waved at the guard and followed Exo inside.

...Well, at least now they knew where all the guards went. The crinkle of paper caught her attention. She turned her head.

"Oh wow, it's you, Emi."

Yup.

"Wuzzat?" Exo stepped in front of her. "Looks like a wanted poster. Says some human who says she's the reincarnation of Starlight Glimmer has gone missing. She's got a hefty bounty on her head right now. Preferably caught alive, has proven knowledge of higher-level magicks... suspected to have been captured by the Ashen, huh? Sounds like we had the real deal for some time before those bastards snapped her up."

"Sounds like he wasn't here when we first arrived."

Yup.

Exo tore the poster off the wall and tucked it under a translucent wing. "Well, I suppose I'll be hunting for her next. That'll fetch a good sum for my retirement."

...Oh.

"Let's keep going now. King Blueblood will be happy to hear the news I bring."

They continued to walk. Just like last time, they cut straight through the shopping district, complete with all its little trinkets and stuff. The smell of food also drifted past. Emily's stomach grumbled.

Exo paused at the noise. "Ah, you must be hungry. I can get you some dinner once I've finished speaking to the King. I'll let you pick whatever you'd like."

...Did he just casually ask her out on a date? Ew.

"For now though, let me show you the teleportation runes. They're an excellent mode of transportation through the kingdom, and have even been engineered to avoid placing teleported ponies and objects inside each other!"

And that part... Emily made a face. Was that closer to an overenthusiastic car salesman tone, or was he still trying to hit on her in some weird way?

No matter. They both stepped into the rectangle.


It didn't take long before they ran into the stallion in charge. Heck, he was right up on the roof of the palace, for whatever reason.

"Blueblood."

Yes, that is indeed King Blueberry up there, Starlight.

"He's watching something. He's not focusing on us."

"Sire!" Exo stepped up, clearing his throat. "I believe you will be excited to see what I have retrieved!"

King Blueblood didn't respond. A loud bang rung out from the direction of the training grounds. Emily jumped at the noise, turning to Exo.

"Don't look at me, I wouldn't have any clue what happened, either. You stay down here. I'm going to find a way up to the roof without flying. I don't trust the noise enough right now to fly up there."

Exo opened the doors himself and slipped inside. As for Emily, she began walking toward the training grounds. She'd might as well figure out what the heck's going on herself.

"Emi, what are you doing?" Starlight's voice mentally scolded her. "Weren't you going to stick with Exo and figure out how to get rid of the scroll?"

To be honest, that was actually a pretty good idea there. Figure out who's shooting what first, though.

"Wait wha--"

Emily continued walking. She broke into a trot when the second shot echoed overhead. Magic was cool and all, but the moment guns were involved, all bets were off.

"You're joking, right? The Equestrian military's dealt with artillery plenty of times in the past. Why are you walking towards the danger? Do you want to be--"

"Oh, wow. Oh geez--" She shrunk back behind the wall separating the training grounds from the rest of the palace's exterior. They were using guns in there alright. "--Star, did you see that?"

"A little. I was kinda in the middle of saying somethin--"

Emily peeked through the open corridor again. Some ponies that looked decidedly not like guards were standing around at the far corner by some kind of machinery. Though, the main event that caught her attention was the lineup of heavily-armored Old Guard... uh, guards, each one aiming at a target opposite of them.

"They're all unicorns, too. The extra dexterity compared to pegasi and earth ponies must be a benefit."

"Reload! Increase mana output by one mark, each of you!" One of the ponies by the machine shouted. "Remember, unlike conventionals, the reloading mechanism is non-mechanical. Your weapons are intrinsically tied to and controlled by your individual magical signatures. Avoid overloading the crystals at all cost."

The horns on each of the guards glowed brighter for a brief moment before dying down again.

"And, fire!"

Emily's eyes widened as the glints of the weapons' crystals caught her eye. Those--those were shards of the Tree of Harmony! Or Treehouse of Harmony. Whatever the heck the thing's called. But still--the shot coincided with a synchronized, albeit violent, pulse from each crystal, as if they were flaring up at the moment of fire. A solid beam of mana shot from the muzzles of the guns, hitting the targets straight-on. The smell of ozone wafted through the air.

"Good, good! Reload again; let's increase the mana output one more time now! I want to see peak accuracy from both you and your weapons!"

The firing squad reloaded.

"Fire!"

The embedded crystal shards pulsed again. Just like before, a beam of concentrated mana burst from the muzzles of each weapon.

"Starlight," Emily whispered, "is it just me, or is the air around them sizzling?"

"Sizzling?"

"Y'know, sizzling! What it looks like when there's a really hot thing and you can see a mirage in the distance and stuff? The air gets all wiggly and starts distorting?"

"Oh. Uhm... yes, it does in fact look like the air is wavering from the energy in their shots, now that I've had another look."

"Doesn't it worry you? You know what the pieces of the Tree of Harmony can do! They turned me into a pony! Imagine what could happen if you're hit with a shot from one of those things?"

"Of course it worries me! Blatantly weaponizing the Tree of Harmony like this goes against the very purpose of Harmony magic! I can't even imagine what could happen if something goes wrong the way it did with you! How did the Old Guard manage to even weaponize it in the first pla--"

"Hey!" Exo trotted up beside her. "I found a way up to the roof. Let's get going now." He paused for a moment and watched another round of magical bolts being fired. "Oh neat, the heavy weapons designs are coming together nicely. Anyway, let's go!"

It was still weird how he went from barely tolerating her to acting like they'd been friends for years. Emily took one last glance at the training grounds before following.


"Exo. Carapace." King Blueblood's eyes shot between Emily and the changeling. "Exo, you say that you have a gift for me. Please, present it now."

Exo smirked. "Gladly."

Another green flame flashed on his body, though unlike last time, it was localized to one of his hind legs--the same one that he'd been limping on. With the fire now dissipated, he reached down and... detached the leg, handing it to the King.

"Ah, your false leg," Blueblood took the metallic cylinder from Exo. "I trust you have finally acquired the scroll?"

Exo nodded once.

"And you, Carapace. Why are you still disguised?"

Emily froze. Carapace must've been Exo's partner. How was she supposed to--

"Unfortunately, Carapace was captured and imprisoned in Canterlot, your Highness. I overheard that her name is Emily."

Hoo boy. Emily braced herself for the worst. Now that her identity was revealed, Blueblood was probably going to absolutely tear into her for running awa--

"Very well then. Ensure that she does not pose any danger to our kingdom."

...Wait, what? That was it? No 'hold on, that's the girl we put on the poster' or 'I recognize that name, capture her'?

"I don't think I remember ever hearing Blueblood calling you by anything other than my own name, Emi. I'm pretty sure he's never heard yours until now."

Still, wouldn't he put two and two together and realize that humans seem to be the only ones around here that tend to not be named after random things?

"Why do you think the Blueblood family has never officially ruled over anything besides a hermit faction?"

Good point.

Another bang rattled through the palace.