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

Splintershard - TheMajorTechie



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

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3|3 ◈ The Burst

The ashes fell from the sky.

All was silent as the flames died down.

And then, a single cheer. And another, and another after that...

Within only a matter of moments, it seemed as if the entire liberated city was rejoicing.


Yet another distant distant bang. Emily rolled her eyes as she lay on her bed in the tree dungeon thing.

"Yeah, sorry about the noise," Exo peeked through the barred window in the wall. "The dungeons aren't exactly the quietest of places. I'm sure that once King Blueblood trusts that you pose no harm to the kingdom, you'll have the chance to join me and the others at the palace."

"Mm-hm," Emily hummed. Her stomach growled. "Hey, by the way, do you think you could let me out now?"

"Wha--I just said that you're in here because you aren't trusted yet!"

Emily pulled her saddlebags closer and began to rummage through their contents. "Yeah, I know that, but didn't you say a little something about... oh, y'know--" she pulled a smashed granola bar from her bags and began to unwrap it in all its crumbling goodness. "--treating me to dinner?"

Starlight's voice snorted. "Wow. Didn't think you had it in you to say something like that, Emi."

She took a bite out of the granola bar. Crumbs dropped from the ominously hovering snack as she continued. "So, Exo, how 'bout it? Dinner, just you and me? Half an hour, and I'll be back in here. Deal?"

"I...wh--" Exo sputtered behind the wall. He disappeared from the window for a few seconds before returning. "Okay, fine. Just remember that there will be guards watching you at all times. If you want to live, don't do anything stupid."

The wall opened up to reveal Exo and the aforementioned guards.

Emily grabbed her saddlebags, setting them on her back as she stuffed the rest of the granola bar in her mouth. Exo frowned.

"Come on, let's make this quick." He sighed. "Guards, stay at her sides. I'd rather not further raise the suspicion of the King tonight after having lost my previous partner today."

"So, that's it then?" Emily stepped out of the cell. "I've just got some guards sticking by me while I wander? I thought--"

"The dungeon is the easiest way to keep an eye on you. Nobody said that it is the only option, however. Now follow me."

Eh, easiest way or not, it still felt like he was low-key crushing on her.


"...Wow."

"Wow is correct, Emily." Aero glanced down a street. "The shopping district at night is one of the many wonders of the Old Guard. King Blueblood himself is quite proud of how well it has taken to his modernization changes."

Emily nodded slowly, taking in the view. For a tiny fort kingdom in the middle of a forest, this place was absolutely filled with things she would've expected to find at, like, downtown strip-malls or something. She looked to her side. Was that a supermarket there? How the heck was something like that even necessary here?

"It certainly is far better-kept than it was back when I was around, that's for sure." Starlight mused.

She felt a nudge from one of the guards surrounding her. In her periphery, she could see their hoof pointing at Exo.

"Are you going to continue admiring our lighting fixtures, or will you follow?" Exo stepped away from Emily. "Come on, I have some places in mind. I'm sure you'll like them."

"Uh-huh," Emily began to follow again. "We'll see about that. I'll have you know that I'm picky when I want to be. I'm usually fine with just about anything, but tonight I think I want something more on the savory si--" She stopped just behind him. "Wait, we're here already?"

"Yup. What, did you expect our little city-state of a kingdom to have a diverse range of high-end restaurants? These are just the ones I personally pass by the most."

Fair enough. Emily peeked past Exo. "So... what are the options here?"

"We've got a restaurant serving artisanal soups and pastries, a pasta place, and some oddball joint that's got nothing but forest food. What's your pick?"

"I'll try the pasta place."

Exo nodded, starting toward one of the surrounding buildings. Emily trailed close behind.

"Do you want any drinks? Desserts? I have money to spa--DUCK!" a deafening shockwave rocked the ground as Exo tackled her. "What in the name of Celestia was that?"

The shockwave didn't subside. Instead, it was quickly replaced by a strong wind that spent little time flinging rubble and dust into the air. Emily looked up from beneath Exo, her eyes widening at the sight of the off-blue plume rising from beside the palace.

The same location as the training grounds.

"S-Star, that... it--" she halted the stutter with a hoof. If the explosion came from the training grounds, didn't that mean that every single crystal embedded within those guns from earlier were caught in the blast?

"I fear worse, Emi. You already know firsthoof how volatile those shards of crystal are. While neither of us were conscious to witness the explosion we ourselves set off back in Canterlot, I wouldn't be surprised if it were around the same size as this one."

So wouldn't that mean that the shards backfired the same way then? Were they going to have to deal with another harmony-transformed creature? Emily gasped. How many guards were there again? If each of them had their own crystal-based weapons that were also caught in the blast, wouldn't it mean that they would be directly affected as well? Or--

"Calm down, Emi. Don't be like Exo there in front of you."

Emily nodded. From the look of things, it seemed that Exo must've gotten off her back not too long ago, as he was currently standing in absolute silence, staring at the glowing plumes.

"The... the weapons--the Ashen will know of their existence!" He stammered, bolting toward the epicenter. "I must find and alert King Blueblood at once! Word of this must not spread!"

The ground began to tremble again, though this time it was not from some magical mega-bomb going off. Emily squinted, ducking beneath an incoming umbrella. Was that... was that a--

"Yup, it's a stampede." Starlight deadpanned. "Typical. And before you ask, no, I will not levitate you over them to get us out of this situation."

...But she wasn't thinking of that in the first place? Would've been a neat idea though. Emily turned her attention back to the oncoming stampede. Exo too had stopped dead in his tracks.

Thankfully, it seemed that the crowd up close was quite a bit thinner than how it looked at a distance.

"You there!" Exo darted after one of the passing ponies, pulling them up close. "Give me a damage report, pronto!"

"I-I just saw an explosion, tha--"

"We all saw an explosion, you nimrod! I wanna know how it happened!"

The pony nodded. "Something went wrong on the training grounds, I think. I-I was passing by... and... and I heard a thump! I didn't think much of it, but there was some yelling about... dropping something, I think? The air started to wave around in a strange way not long after--almost like a mirage. I tried to stay calm to avoid starting any panic, b-but--"

"Good enough," Exo let go of the pony. "Emily, we're heading to the training grounds. Dinner will have to wait. Blueblood will surely be traveling there to assess the damage himself."

He took off without another word. Emily felt a nudge against her back.

"I think it's best if you follow along." One of the guards grumbled. "For your sake and ours."

...Yeah, that wasn't something she was going to question.


"--So you're saying that the crystal must've been damaged when the weapon was dropped?"

"Yes, Emi, that's exactly what I'm getting at. The explosion was likely an uncontrolled release of Harmony magic, rather than a backfire like what happened with you. Not that I'm familiar with either as far as magical studies go, but that's beside the point. Just... be prepared for anything to happen."

Emily broke into a trot. She could hear a different guard groan behind her, followed by their own collective hoofsteps hastening.

The plume of smoke was far bigger up, and just as much more intimidating as well. Thunder crackled somewhere within it. Nevertheless, she continued forward.

This was it. She stared at what remained of the training grounds' walls. None of the guards from earlier were around, though... her eyes turned to the rubble surrounding the central crater. There were silhouettes imprinted in the soot on the ground and the damaged walls.

Emily forced herself to look away. Exo seemed to be inspecting the crater alongside King Blueblood in the distance, though she could only make out the vague shapes of their bodies against the glowing smoke continuing to billow from the hole. A low rumble echoed through the air. Probably more thunder.

"Exo!" She waved a hoof in the air. "Exo! Did you find out what happened?"

He didn't hear. Or maybe he did and just didn't pay attention. She stepped closer to the crater, paying mind to step around the soot-free shadows on the ground. She dreaded the thought of what it must've been like to be caught in the blast like the guards here were.

"Emi, do you see that?"

She raised a brow. What was Starlight talking about? Even this close to the crater, all she could see was smoke.

"There's something at the bottom of the crater. It's hard to see without concentrating, but there's definitely something moving down there."

Emily looked up at Exo and Blueblood. They still hadn't noticed her, apparently. She turned her attention back to the plume rising from the crater. Now that it was finally beginning to thin out a little, she could just make out a bit of color against the grey-brown of the smoke and rubble. She stepped a little closer. It was certainly moving alright, and it... Emily craned her neck for a better view. What was it doing?

Coughing.

Emily gasped. Someone was down there still! Better yet, they were alive!

"Wait wait Emi what do you think you're doi--"

Not now, Star. Emily wrestled herself free from the guards trying to restrain her, barreling straight into the smoke.


"Hello?"

Emily took another blind step, holding her hands out--she paused. Hands? She was human again!

Little celebration aside, she pressed onward. Even with the murkiness dissipating, it still felt as if she were walking in a cave. The coughing was louder in here, at the very least. She could hear her guards frantically telling Exo about her being in the crater as well. He didn't sound very happy about that.

"Hello?" She repeated, waving away the smoke in front of her. Strangely enough, the tips of her fingers were beginning to fuse back into a hoof. Even stranger was that it didn't feel like anything was changing in the first place.

More coughing. She was definitely close now. Just a little further. Her arms had since transformed back into pony forelegs.

And then the smoke was gone.

Or at least, it was gone in this specific part of the crater. Emily looked overhead; sure enough, that same glowing smoke continued to flow all around this strange dome of fresh air. She teetered a little, falling back on all fours.

"...Emi, are you seeing this?"

"Seeing wha--" She turned her focus to the side.

Right there, unconscious, was some kind of... creature.

"I think I finally know what happened to Fluttershy all those years ago."

Author's Note:

Heyo, I'm taking Splintershard off the once-every-Wednesday update cycle that it's been on up until now. Winter break is coming up soon, and I have Pony-Me to work on as well. I'd like to have some more time to work out the kinks on the chapters I write, instead of dedicating several nights in a row on purely Splintershard to make the weekly deadline. I'll instead borrow the updating habits I've been using across both the original and the current incarnations of Pony-Me; that is, I'll update as I go. If I finish a chapter, that's when I publish.

So, what does that mean?

In short, it'll mean that updates will be slower and more sporadic, but in turn will also (hopefully) be of higher quality.

Until then, thanks for reading! :twilightsmile: