• Published 4th Feb 2021
  • 11,061 Views, 1,001 Comments

Choice - zelkova48

When the time came, choices needed to be made. Consequences be damned. A series of short vignettes set in the Negotiationverse by Rated Pony

  • ...


Shining Armor had perished during the battle of New York, killed by a human sniper. His grieving wife retaliates by firing the Crystal Cannon at Rome.

Princess Cadance stared up trepidatiously upon the monument of war that loomed ominously over her. It was a massive structure, a towering crystalline obelisk ten stories high formed from pure solidified magic and carved into an arcane foci capable of discharging raw destructive might accurately across long distances. The power it unleashed would scorch the earth with enough heat to render it into shimmering glass and become inhospitable for hundreds of miles.

This was the Crystal Cannon, and it was the ultimate weapon of the Crystal Empire.

Forged by King Sombra during his tyrannical reign the Crystal Cannon once brought the old world to its knees. Were it not for the combined efforts of Princess Celestia and Princess Luna, Sombra's cruelty would have gone on uncontested for centuries to come. Knowing what it was capable of, the pony sisters sealed it away, hoping that the world will never have to experience its cataclysmic power ever again. And so it has remained unused in the time since, collecting dust beneath the castle's foundation as a forgotten relic of a mad unicorn's ambition, never to see the light of day.

...That is, until now.

It had been a week since Commander-General Shining Armor's untimely demise during the battle of New York.

Nopony had seen it coming.

As in, nopony had seen the .50 BMG round zip through the air and penetrate Shining Armor's vulnerable skull in the space between his left eye and horn. In the blink of an eye his head exploded in a squall of gore, painting the filthy streets of Time Square with blood, flecks of bone and equine grey matter.

He was dead before his body even hit the ground.

His men didn't even have to chance to register the kill let alone scream in terror as it had happened so abruptly. Mere seconds ago their stalwart commander was shouting orders over the heat of battle, leading from the front lines and inspiring others to greater heights of heroism. Then they all felt something wet and sticky coat their fur.

Shining Armor, loving husband to Princess Cadance, doting father to Flurry Heart, beloved older brother to Princess Twilight and Spike the dragon, proud son of Twilight Velvet and Night Light, fearless leader of the Royal Guard and kind hearted prince of the Crystal Empire had been killed in action. His body laid in a collapsed heap on the cold concrete, twitching sporadically every few seconds as blood, guts and other viscera poured out from the mangled stump of a neck where his head used to be.

Morale shattered instantly and the invading force of ponies scattered to the four winds, retreating with their tails between their legs. Those that foolishly remained fought futilely against hopeless odds and were subsequently crushed by superior numbers and overwhelming firepower.

When news of Shining Armor's death reached Equestria's shores the whole country wept for their loss and vowed vengeance in his name.

Vengeance that would be carried out by his grieving wife.

Princess Cadance ran her hoof along the cold uneven surface of the Crystal Cannon. She could feel the faint pulse of power radiating from within the structure like a dim heartbeat. Even when inert it frightened her. Only a select few knew how truly destructive the Crystal Cannon was, even fewer with the knowledge to actually use it. The power to bring down entire civilizations was at her the tip of her hooves. With but a single command, she could avenge Shining Armor and all those who died fighting the war, maybe even end it in one fell swoop.

But... she didn't know if she could bring herself to do it.

The Crystal Cannon had been sealed away for a reason. It was too powerful for any one party to use. If she used it, even to avenge Shining Armor, would that make her no different than King Sombra?

The clattering of horseshoes snapped Cadance out of her thoughts. She turned around and beheld her aunt, Princess Celestia, and her personal retinue of guards.

"Auntie," Cadance greeted, bowing her head in respect. "How is Flurry Heart?"

Celestia gave a warm yet hollow smile. "Asleep. She's in Luna's care now."

"I see..." Cadance smiled back but couldn't hold the emotion for long. She turned her attention to the cannon but kept speaking. "Today's her sixteenth birthday, you know? They grow up so fast..."

Tactfully, Celestia gestured for her retinue to leave them alone to which they left immediately with a curt salute. Their presence was not required for something so personal. Once Celestia and Cadance were alone together, the latter broke out into tears.

"Do you know what she wished for?" Cadanced asked, tears staining her cheeks. "She... S-she wants her daddy back!"

"Cadance..." Celestia consoled her grieving niece, draping a comforting wing over her.

"Shining told me he'd be there for Flurry Heart's birthday!" Cadance continued, spiraling deeper into hysterics. "He promised! He promised he'd be back after the battle! In and out, he said! New York will be in total chaos by dinner, he said! We were supposed to be together as a family, and where is he now?! Dead, that's where! Rotting in human lands thousands of miles away from home! Away from his friends and family!" She broke down, heaving and sputtering as her lungs burned. Cadance wept and continued to weep until her eyes were red and her chest was raw from grief.

"...I don't know what to do," she muttered defeatedly. "The empire is in disarray, Flurry Heart is devastated, and I can't... I-I..."

"Shh..." Celestia cooed, pulling away and locking eyes with Cadance. "I understand how you feel. Believe me, I do. Shining Armor was my family too. All of Equestria mourns for him, but it is moments of despair like this that you must be at your strongest. Be the leader the Crystal Empire needs. Be the mother Flurry Heart needs. Be the pony I know you can be."

"H-how? I'm barely holding together as it is. This war, it's taken so much from us."

"...You know what must be done," Celestia declared, her eyes steely and resolute.

"A-auntie?" Cadance sounded perplexed. "What do you... No. No, you can't be suggesting-"

"Use it, Cadance," Celestia urged, gesturing to the Crystal Cannon. "Avenge him. Avenge Shining Armor and bring to justice those wretched humans that have stolen him from us. You owe it to yourself to honor his memory."

"I... I," Cadance stuttered, unable to respond.

"Do you know what the humans did to him after he died, Cadance?" Celestia continued.


"They desecrated his body-"

"I-I don't want to hear this!" Cadance looked away, screwing her eyes shut and bringing her hooves up to her ears. Yet, Celestia continued on recounting every gruesome detail of Shining Armor's post mortem humiliation, her voice raising steadily as her fury was made known.

"-Parading him around like some macabre trophy as they cheered in victory-"

"Auntie, p-please!"

"-Strung him up and left his body to be feasted on by the carrion!"

"No more!"

"They celebrate his murderer! Calling him a hero as they humiliate our own! Are you going to let this offense, this sacrilage, go unanswered! Where is Shining Armor's justice?!"


"You are his wife! The one whom he dedicated himself to! He was willing to go beyond our borders and fight for a world where you and Flurry Heart could live in peace and harmony. Everything he did, he did for you, for Flurry, for Equestria! What would Shining want for you?! Tell me, Cadance! What would he want?!"

"He'd want me to avenge him!" Cadance relented, finally accepting the harsh truth she'd been denying to herself this whole time. Wearily she stood back up and regained what little composure she could muster before the glowing embers of vengeance smoldering within her aching heart erupted into a roaring inferno. "...G-gather the war council. We must prepare the Crystal Cannon to fire within the week."

Celestia had a ghost of a smile on her lips. "The preparations will be made, Cadance. We'll meet again soon. In the mean time, try to get some sleep. "

"...I will," Cadance replied tiredly. "Goodbye, auntie."

"Goodbye, Cadance." And so Celestia turned and left to join up with her retinue.

It didn't sit right with Princess Celestia to manipulate her niece like that, nor use Shining Armor's death as emotional currency, but it needed to be done. On her own Cadance would've never use the Crystal Cannon. She rightly understood the horrors it could unleash, but so did Celestia.

The war wasn't going as well as she and the others had originally surmised. it was taking far too long and the mounting casualty rates were starting to raise some concerns back home. Equestria just wasn't equipped to fight a war of attrition. Ponies were beginning to question whether or not they might actually win in the long run.

Celestia could have never foreseen humanity banding together as a single unified race and fighting as fiercely as they have. But they did and it irritated her to no end. Which was why she had resorted to another strategy. She will break their fighting spirit and convert the broken remnants of humanity into newfoals. The Crystal Cannon will be the tool that would ultimately tip the scales of power in Equestria's favor. And she had a few targets in mind to use the cannon on...

The atmosphere in the crystal castle's war room was one of tension. Every available high ranking officer was there along with the princesses and other members of staff, including Spike. The Crystal Cannon had been deployed nearby, having been painstakingly moved from the caverns beneath the castle and up onto solid ground. It gleamed brilliantly in the sun, an awe inspiring monolith to desperation and madness.

Every pony watched as Princess Cadance took to the front and began to organize the effort to utilize the Crystal Cannon. It had already been prepped by a team of experts and was ready for use. But while there were many who advocated for its use against the forces of humanity, Twilight Sparkle couldn't help be feel a tad doubtful about the entire situation.

As the brass quietly chatted amongst themselves, eager to see the cannon in action, Twilight carefully approached her sister-in-law curious as to her sudden change in disposition. Less than a week ago she was an emotional wreck, unable to cope with the loss of her husband. Twilight fared no better but was able to keep it together with the aid of her friends and family. It just didn't seem right for Cadance to suddenly unearth an ancient superweapon out of the blue and turn it on their enemies.

These were not the actions of a grieving widow, they were the actions of a vengeful matriarch lusting for blood.

While Twilight also wanted revenge for Shining Armor's death, using a horrible weapon like the Crystal Cannon was over excessive in her opinion.

"Cadance," Twilight began, approaching Cadance. "Are you absolutely sure about this?"

"...Yes, I am," Cadance whispered, a faraway look in her eyes. "It's my choice. This is something I have to do. It's what Shining would want."

"Shining would want you and Flurry Heart to live your lives and be happy," Twilight argued. "I know my big brother. Commander-General or not he puts family above all else. Don't you think using the Crystal Cannon goes against that?"

"How could you say such a thing?" Cadance frowned. "You know as well as I do that this is war! We need every advantage we can get in order to win!"

"Is this about winning the war or about avenging Shining?" Twilight countered. "You're not making any sense."

"I could say the same about you," Cadance rebuked. "How could you just stand by and do nothing knowing that your brother had been abandoned in enemy territory?"

"I am doing something; taking care of my sister-in-law and niece in times of grief!"

"Well, as you can see I'm doing fine!" Cadance snapped, narrowing her eyes. "And I will do better once I order the cannon to fire on the humans. I will not let Shining's death with not be in vain!"

Twilight recoiled from Cadance’s impassioned rant. She was dead set on using the cannon and it seemed like nothing could change her mind. Swallowing thickly, Twilight conceded and dropped the issue.

"I... I understand," said Twilight, backing off. "We're set to fire, just tell us when."

"If I may," said Princess Luna, joining in the conversation. "What will we be striking with the cannon?"

"...A major city," replied Cadance. She glanced over to Princess Celestia who gave an imperceptible nod in return. "But not just any city. Rome."

"Why Rome? What exactly makes this one city so important out of the hundreds of others?" Luna asked with a raise of her brow.

"Rome is one of so called holy cities on Earth. Technically Rome surrounds a place called Vatican City, the real holy city, but I'm getting ahead of myself. Irregardless, Rome is a sort of spiritual homeland for one of humanity's major religions," Twilight explained. "Alongside places like Mecca and Jerusalem they are considered the holiest of places for Christianity, Islam and Judaism respectively."

"Bah! So many religions, so many redundancies," Luna mocked, rolling her eyes. "I've been told humans have been zealously killing each other for centuries over these plots of land, is that not correct?"

"Correct," Twilight nodded. "They appear to be of great reverence for some reason, I surmise that it serves as a physical monument to their faith."

"And destroying them will destroy that faith," Luna stated. "A most advantageous move, as expected of my niece. The complete and total devastation of their most sacred of cities will shatter humanity's will to fight, forcing them to submit to us. When they realize how powerless their pagan gods are to the light of our harmony they will lay down their arms and beg to be converted! Come, let us not tarry! Victory calls!"

"Agreed. Let the commencement of the Crystal Cannon begin," ordered Cadance. She motioned to a nearby assistant who began directing the ponies outside to begin charging the cannon.

The assembled team of unicorns stationed at the cannon began the ritual to charge up the weapon. Using their own magic, they formed a conduit for the Crystal Cannon to absorb magical energies from the area around it. Thrumming to life, the cannon began draining the residual magic in the air, sucking the life out of the landscape leaving it withered and decayed. Crackles of arcane energy arced across the weapon's surface, dancing in sporadic patterns before finally reaching full power.

The Crystal Cannon was now fully operational.

"Princess Cadance," the assistant called nearby. "The cannon is ready to fire. Please give us the coordinates."

"One moment," Cadanced turned to review her notes. "...41.9028 degrees north, 12.4964 degrees east."

"...Confirmed. We'll fire on your mark, your highness."

"Fi..." Cadance started, but her voice got caught in her throat. Once she gave the command, there was no going back. She closed her eyes and performed her breathing exercise.

She quickly glanced around the room one last time, all eyes were on her. The chain of command were watching with bated breath, waiting for her to give the command. Celestia, Luna and Twilight remained impassive, silently waiting for what comes next. Spike was sweating nervously, the tension had gotten to him.

Then she met eyes with her daughter, Flurry Heart.

Cadance had forgotten she was in the room. Flurry had grown in a fine young mare, beautiful and kind. Hard to believe this was the same girl who caused all sorts of trouble for the empire years ago just by throwing a temper tantrum. Yet here she was, stoic in mannerism yet fragile mentally. The death of her father had destroyed her from the inside out and she hasn't smiled sincerely since.

The miserable expression of her teenage daughter was the final push for Cadance to give the order that would damn the Crystal Empire to nuclear annihilation less than a year later.

"Fire!" Cadance ordered, and all hell broke loose.

The Crystal Cannon released a shockwave that shook the entire empire to the core, shattering windows, knocking over furniture and frightening the denizens. An earsplitting boom erupted from out of the cannon followed by a blinding streak of magic that ripped across the sky like a bolt of lightning from the heavens. The streak sailed into the horizon then disappeared, leaving behind nothing more than the deafening sound of complete and utter silence. As quickly as it had begun, it came to an end. The cannon powered down, waiting to be used again.

In another land, far beyond Equestria's border, the whole of Rome heard thunder bellow in the distance.

The once grand city had been reduced to little more than an arid wasteland of shimmering crystals and blistering heat for as far as the eye could see. The only remnants of civilization that remained were the eerie humanoid looking crystalline statues sparsely scattered along the fringes of the blast zone and a single cross from atop the dome of St. Peter's basilica embedded into the ground some several hundred miles away from where it once stood.

More than 3 million souls had been blinked out of existence as a result of the Crystal Cannon.

There were no reported survivors.