• Published 25th Jun 2021
  • 1,046 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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6 Survivors' Tales

Everypony in the main force stayed alert and scanned the skies for more of the enemy, but it was soon apparent that what they had seen was only a solitary patrol of three, all wearing the same eerie metal masks. These three pegasi were speeding unswervingly into the teeth of a vastly superior force, but showed no fear of the unequal odds they faced.

High above the main force, one of the flight commanders on combat air patrol led the thestrals under his command to intercept, apparently unseen by his enemy who were fixed rigidly on attack, without any apparent recognition that they were not just the hunter, but had also just become the prey.

From her chariot, Twilight caught glimpses of the thestrals sweeping down in a graceful arc to approach their targets from above and behind.

Diving down and building speed, the thestrals closed fast on their inattentive targets, building momentum and ticking down the last few seconds until interception.

A pair of thestrals singled out the pegasus on the left and exchanged a wordless glance between them, the lead pony taking his position at the front. As his target grew bigger and bigger, he extended his hooves and pulled up, striking a glancing blow that sent his winded adversary tumbling downwards where his wing pony was waiting to catch him in his hooves. The lead pony then returned to rip off the accursed helmet before the stunned pegasus could respond. The same action was repeated near simultaneously on the other two pegasi, completely neutralising the attack and releasing the shocked crystal ponies from their servitude.

In a few short moments, all the action was over and three startled pegasi, still fighting for breath, enjoyed their first breaths of freedom since having had their mind control helmets fitted.

Twilight strained intently to watch the entire interception, pleased to see that the Night Guard had neither killed nor seriously injured the pegasi, and signalled for them to be brought to her. One of them was struggling to fly, his torn wing muscles refusing to carry him as they should, so he was carried to the Royal chariot by the thestral wing pony who had caught him.

Twilight moved to one side on her seat and accepted the pale blue and white pegasus as a passenger next to her. He furled his wings painfully, the left one hanging lower than it should, confirming that he still required medical treatment. As a reflex action, he turned his head back and tried to nudge it into place, but it wouldn’t stay and drooped back down to where it had started.

“Take a seat” Twilight invited, “We’ll get you to a doctor as soon as we can, but we have an appointment in the Crystal Empire to honour before we can turn back. Tell me what you can about what’s been happening, please.”

“Yes, your Majesty” he began, “My name is Sky Sapphire and I live in the Crystal Empire. A few days back ... well it may have been more; you can’t tell when you’re wearing one of those helmets … we were all going about our business when a darkness came. It spread out from the highest point of the Crystal Castle; you know, like how sometimes you can see pink, yellow and blue auroras … well this was kinda the same, but black, and then it just kept getting wider. It went dark and there was panic. I flew home to protect my family and we hunkered down. It wasn’t long before the front door was kicked in and ponies with helmets on ran into the house. I told my wife and foals to get out while I tried to hold the intruders at bay so as to buy them a little time to escape. Next thing I remember is a helmet being put on my head. That’s all I know.”

“Thank you” said Twilight, “You were very brave. If you remember anything more, then please let me know, but in the meantime we will have to carry you as we daren’t send you back by yourself.”

“I understand, your Majesty. Thank you”

At Twilight’s signal, a thestral came to pick up Sky Sapphire and then she spoke to the other two captured pegasi in turn. The next, a pink mare, gave a very similar account of a quick transition to darkness before being captured, but the third provided some further information.

“I was a member of the Royal Guard stationed in the Crystal Empire” he confirmed, “Something happened to Princess Cadance. I was guarding the door to the throne room and there was a bright flash. I turned to see if she was alright, but my eyes were shocked by the brightness and I could only see her as a dark silhouette, but what I remember clearly were the eyes; they were bright green with red pupils …”

“… And purple smoke pouring from them?” completed Twilight.

“Yes, your Majesty, quite so” he replied, “I thought I was dreaming.”

“That was not a dream” Twilight pondered, “Is there anything else you remember?”

“Only her laugh” he replied thoughtfully, “It may be nothing, but I thought it sounded sinister. I could have imagined it, what with everything else going on. Next thing, a helmet was forced onto my head and I was suddenly powerless to resist following commands, even if I knew them to be morally or ethically incorrect; my will was not my own, so to speak. I cannot tell you how glad I am to have had it removed, Ma’am.”

“Did you see a grey unicorn stallion with a black mane?” she continued, “He may have been wearing armour and a red cloak.”

“No nothing like that. I would have definitely remembered.”

Twilight thanked him and dismissed him to ponder what she had been told. The feeling that she was missing something obvious continued nagging from the back of her head. Something wasn’t right, and she still couldn’t place what it was.

She looked ahead. In the distance, the Crystal Castle was glowing a combination of violet and blue that she had never seen before.

Whatever thinking time she had counted on was gone.

Twilight was now certain that her destiny, and the fate of Equestria, awaited her in the Crystal Castle, and she could not afford to be late.