• Published 25th Jun 2021
  • 1,047 Views, 17 Comments

Creeping Darkness - Bronyxy

An unexpected visitor crashes Day Court, alerting Twilight to something being seriously wrong in the Crystal Empire ...

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2 Looking for Allies

Twilight summoned the Commanding Officers of the Royal Guard and the Night Guard respectively and hastily convened a council of war in the castle’s lecture theatre. A grizzled looking pegasus general in full battle armour and his equally no-nonsense bat pony general counterpart responded quickly to their Princess’s command and stood to attention before their monarch until she ordered them to their ease.

They listened attentively to the brief, which was rather limited by virtue of the lack of information, and drew heavily on inference rather than solid fact. All quickly agreed on the need for a prompt military response and relayed orders for their forces to be placed on combat readiness, whilst messengers were despatched to spread the word to the other towns and cities across Equestria.

Once that was done, they turned their attention to determining the appropriate response and striking the best balance between defence and offense, especially given the need to maintain their reserves. Even though Canterlot boasted the largest garrison of anywhere in Equestria because of it being collocated within the seat of power, they still had to be careful marshalling their resources to avoid overstretch.

Quickly splitting the resources into halves, they immediately agreed to double the guard and send out increased patrols. After this, they focused on their attack, but where, and against what threat?

Since Flurry Heart had in all probability come from the Crystal Empire, this would be their provisional focus, but what was the threat they faced? Without anything else to go on, they agreed on a scouting party comprising pegasi, bat ponies and thestrals, leaving behind any unicorns and earth ponies in the interests of speed.

“Can I go too?” asked Spike quietly into Twilight’s ear, “I have a score to settle.”

“No Spike” she replied, “We don’t know yet what we’re facing. This may be part of a clever plan to lure us away to the north, before a larger force comes round and attacks on another flank, such as from across the Badlands. If that happens, then I will definitely need you here.”

Spike growled his displeasure, but despite his simmering thirst for revenge, reluctantly grasped the logic.

“I would, however, appreciate if you could fly over and inform Celestia and Luna” Twilight requested, “They need to be told what has happened to Flurry Heart and also that something could have happened to Cadance. It’s probably best to do it in person if possible.”

He turned and left for the Silver Shoals retirement home, his face reflecting the unsatiated anger burning in his soul.

Twilight hoped his rage would dissipate a little before he reached Silver Shoals, lest his frightening appearance scare any of the residents into an early demise, and then turned her attention back to the final stages of planning with the generals before dismissing them to go about their duties.

Once they had left, she paused; her mouth was dry, and her stomach was protesting at having been ignored for too long. Not daring to take time out for a formal meal in the dining room, she ordered tea and cake brought to her where she was. She knew this was how Celestia had coped with stressful situations, and could appreciate the comforting therapy it provided, but was determined not to become dependent, especially as she remembered all too clearly that Gabby Gums article from so many years ago.

She lamented the passage of time and how, in years gone by, she would have sent word to her fellow Element Bearers to embark on their latest adventure, but that was all in the past. They had all aged, died and passed into legend as is the way of life, except for those few blessed, or perhaps cursed, with immortality. Princess Flurry Heart, whom she remembered being born, had since become the de facto ruler of the Crystal Empire, her mother never having come out of mourning following the loss of her husband, Twilight’s brother, when he finally succumbed to old age.

It wasn’t just Cadance for whom immortality had gifted a heavy burden, but also Discord. He had shared the deepest of loves with Fluttershy, and indeed they had been held up across the kingdom as the exemplar of a happy marriage, but to his eternal heartbreak, she had refused to let him grant her the immortality he longed more than anything to give her.

He had cradled her softly as she had given up her last breath and looked one final time into her beautiful blue eyes before closing them for her as a final act of respect. It had taken all of his self-control to let her slip peacefully away rather than at a snap of his claw have her alongside him forever. They had discussed it, of course, but he knew she would never have forgiven him for what would have been, he came to accept, an act of selfishness on his behalf, not love.

He knew he had done the right thing by her, but his heart had broken. He was rarely seen these days as he struggled to come to terms with his loss, pining for the gentle and soothing presence of his one true love.

All of these changes left Twilight with very limited options should she need to call upon others for support if Equestria should be in danger, and right now she felt very exposed indeed. Ember still ruled the dragons, but a prolonged period of peace meant her grip on power was constantly being challenged by a swarm of young hot-heads from among the ranks. Twilight was therefore reticent in asking for her support, as most dragons still viewed ponies as weak, and if Ember were to be seen to be helping in some trivial matter, then it could cause a schism among her subjects, precipitating a challenge to her authority and the possible loss of their support.

However, if Twilight played the situation with care, she could yet turn it to their joint advantage; such as if it came to a fight, then she had no doubt that Ember would be all too keen to provide an outlet for the dragons’ pent-up aggression and help cement her position in charge. However, if it was a hostile magic they were facing, then the dragons would become little more than imposing looking cannon fodder.

This left Celestia and Luna who, having ruled for so long, spent most of their time these days away exploring and having adventures of their own. They were of course, always happy to help out when needed, but the problem was getting hold of them in the first place.

Twilight did have one dependable ally whom she knew she could count on to be by her side: Spike. He had always been her Number One Assistant and these days was proving his value more than ever. However, his dander was up having seen the condition of Flurry Heart when she arrived, and Twilight knew it was not going to be a case of needing to motivate him, but holding him back and preventing him from exercising summary justice on anyone or anything he even remotely suspected of being responsible.

She treated herself to a seat and poured a cup of tea, staring wistfully through the steam spiralling off its surface. She remembered being a young filly and first having tea with Celestia, watching in awe as she poured tea and regaled her with stories from history, some going back to a time even before the unification of the three tribes. Her favourite stories were always those in which Star Swirl the Bearded managed some magnificent feat of magic to save the day.

The teacup before her seemed to be lonely, so she cut a large slice of the sumptuously rich looking cake and placed it on a plate next to it. Satisfied that her sense of order had been fulfilled, she then took a large bite and revelled in the instant gratification it gave her, following it with a sip of tea that combined to deliver her a blissful feeling of delight, confirming that at least some things in the world were good today.

Her revelry was punctured instantly as a messenger burst into the room, catching sight of his Princess staring back up to meet his gaze, but with her muzzle plastered in chocolate ganache.

“Your Majesty” he reported breathlessly, “I am to inform you that darkness has descended over the Crystal Empire!”