• Published 28th Nov 2021
  • 770 Views, 70 Comments

Agate's vigil - VVingnut



A filly trying to escape from the Crystal Empire gets lost in the north, eventually discovering a new tribe of ponies.

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Fight or flight

All was not well in the Crystal Empire.

The Empire, the "shining beacon of the North", as the locals called it, was quickly being taken over. House by house, street by street, helmeted enforcers of the self-proclaimed "King" Sombra were blocking roads, breaking down doors to pony's homes, and chasing them down one by one.

Those that tried to run got herded into corners and chained up, the fastest ones getting a kick in the side for the trouble. More minions would show up, dragging them off to heavens knew where.

No one wanted to know where.

Those that tried to fight back, whether they had any degree of success or not, would get a different treatment. After they got dogpiled and mercilessly beaten, more of those enchanted helmets would be brought in. Mere moments after having one forced on their heads, any pony that previously tried to fight the mind-controlled soldiers would join their ranks with immediate effect.

There was not a shred of hesitation in their movements. They'd start hunting down any pony that was not wearing either a helmet or chains with the same unflinching focus.

No one wanted that fate for themselves any more than they wanted to get dragged away, either.

With either fight or flight being futile, the few remaining crystal ponies that still had the will to keep their freedom did the only thing they could think of: try to hide and bide their time for any opportunity of escape.

While the puppet soldiers were single-minded in pursuing their orders, they showed no initiative whatsoever. They'd methodically break into every residential house in any given street, but as long as they didn't see anyone, places of business, back alleys and other potential hiding places would be ignored.

In one such place, a small family of three were planning their next steps...

❅ ❆ ❅

For the moment, the street was quiet. A mare quickly peeked from a jewelry shop window, her lime-green eyes furtively scanning the street before ducking out of sight again.

"I think they're gone," she called softly to her husband.

The stallion in question was busy rooting around the back of the shop, trying to gather up anything useful for their immediate survival. Unfortunately, it wasn't much. Jewelry stores weren't exactly known for stocking such supplies, after all.

"For now," he agreed. "But I'm sure they'll be back sooner or later. Especially if they capture and put those thrice-cursed helmets on enough ponies to start regular patrols instead of random sweeps... We have to get moving soon."

The mare swallowed nervously, looking through the window at the unusually dark and dreary sky. A cold wind was blowing, the Empire no longer shielded by the Crystal Heart. "Are you sure about this, Radiant? Should we really just... Run out into the wilderness?"

He sighed and stepped out of the back room. "Garnet. Garnet Necklace, love, look at me." She complied, though she could barely see him in the shadowed side of the shop. His sapphire coat and aquamarine mane blended in with the building's blue crystal almost perfectly, only his amethyst eyes shining in the dark. "We're not blindly running out into the unknown. The pillars marking the road to Equestria are easily visible even in the winter snow. I'm not saying it's going to be pretty, easy, or even remotely pleasant. But consider the alternatives, yes?" He asked, cocking an eyebrow.

Garnet frowned, though she couldn't really argue with him. There really were no good options here. Lie down and surrender? Absolutely not. Go down swinging, and get taken anyway? Same results with more pain. Not her style.

Her husband kept talking while looking through the meager pile of supplies. "We could try hiding in the city somewhere. Stealing food, running from building to building. Maybe even sabotage something, if the opportunity presents itself. How long until we're in chains, do you think? A day, a week?" He pointedly asked his wife. "We're both jewelers, dear. Garnet Necklace and Radiant Cut aren't exactly the kind of names to show up in an epic about mighty heroes defeating an evil tyrant. Besides... think about the third member of our merry band of rogues."

"I know, I know," she sadly sighed while getting up from the window and walking to some of the display stands on the other side of the store. "Speaking of our brave little trooper, how's my filly doing? Could you come out, Agate?"

A little pony with a deep purple coat and dark blue mane crawled out from under one of the display cases. Agate's colors really were a perfect mix of Radiant Cut's deep sapphire and her mother's rich red, though Garnet couldn't help but notice that her coat was losing it's crystalline shine. All of their coats were.

"I'm fine, Mom," she said while finishing off a dry piece of toast. "I did my best to rest up, like you said. Is it time to go yet?"

Garnet nodded. "Soon, dear. Put on your clothes while your father and I take stock of what we have, alright?"

"Mhm," Agate replied while retrieving her saddlebags out from under the display case. She opened them up, pulling out a scarf and looping it around her neck. When she saw an Equestrian trader selling it and asked her parents to buy it, they just giggled at her, like she was doing something silly foals did. What use was a scarf, really? The Empire didn't get cold. She really liked how it looked and felt, though, and insisted that she wanted one. Since it got cold everywhere, who was laughing now?

"No one," she thought while she watched her parents stuff a first aid kit they took from their workshop and a few pieces of fabric into their saddlebags. "I guess that no one's laughing right now. But someone will come around soon to fix things. They have to." The scarf was followed by a hat and boots, these ones being gifts from her classmates after they noticed her penchant for winter clothing.

Agate really hoped Tourmaline and Sugarberry were okay. They lived closer to the Royal Spire, and those city blocks got hit by Sombra and his minions first.

"All ready, dear?" Her mother asked. Agate nodded silently in reply, using her mouth to tighten her saddlebag's straps so they wouldn't bounce around while walking.

"Very well then," Radiant Cut said, coming closer and sitting down in front of the filly. "Now, do you remember what we talked about when we came here? Repeat what I told you, just so I can be sure."

Agate scoffed. "Dad, I'm not a filly anymore." Radiant raised an eyebrow at that. "Fine, maybe I'm a filly, but I'm not a baby anymore. I'm ten years old, I'm not dumb. Don't make noise, don't get seen, don't go through open areas. Follow you and mom as quietly as I can. Keep close to building walls in the side streets and alleys, or the bad ponies will get us."

Garnet grimaced. "They're not really bad ponies, Agate. There's just one very, very bad pony here, and that's that usurper Sombra," she spat his name with venom. "All the others are just... being controlled by him, like puppets on strings. I guess, well, I guess it doesn't matter in the end. They'll still try to get us if they see us."

"Yes, and if we don't want to become like them, then we need to make our escape now," Radiant spoke up. "It's a sure bet that the southern gates are going to be guarded. We'll try to sneak out the western side and cut through the plains. North gate's the least likely to have guards, but..." He shook his head.

They lived in the southwest quadrant of the city. And when they fled their house, the family caught a glimpse of the Spire while running to their shop. Much like everything else, the royal palace had been twisted.

Ugly, jagged spikes of black crystals adorned the once pristine walls of the palace, giving the place a nightmarish look. There was also some kind of purplish-black miasma pouring out the top, no doubt more of Sombra's dark magic. The heart of the Empire, once the focal point of their safety, was now the most dangerous place to be.

"That would take us through the whole city, and far too close to the Spire," he finished. "Now, here. I found some extra covers from the display cases while digging around," he said as he presented a few squares of fabric to his wife. "Wrap them around your hooves. That should help deaden the sound. You don't notice how loud a pony's hoofsteps echo until you're the only one on the street. Agate has her shoes, they should work the same."

Once that was done, Radiant slipped on his saddlebags, took a deep breath and had a good look at his wife and daughter. Garnet had a grim, determined look on her tired face. She was wearing her soft saddlebags she'd usually go shopping with. Not the best choice for a long journey, but they had to rush while leaving their house.

Agate was stoic, only her darting green eyes betraying her slight nervousness. Her ears were up and alert though, sticking out from the blue winter hat. His daughter had always been the quiet, sharply observant type. She quickly grasped the situation once her parents explained to her that they were going to have to run, and didn't complain once.

She would be okay. They would be okay.

As an afterthought, he took three of the more expensive golden necklaces from one of the display cases, putting one each on himself, Garnet and Agate. To his wife's questioning look, he answered: "In case we have to buy passage or lodgings somewhere along the road. Unlike a bag of bits, they won't weigh us down."

"Now come on. Let's not tarry any longer. Remember, nothing above a whisper from now on." With one last forlorn look towards his shop, Radiant carefully opened the back door and slipped through. The other two quickly followed, trying to make as little noise as possible.

The back street was empty. There were no ponies with chains waiting to jump them.

Radiant Cut took a few tentative steps forward, his ears cocked for any sounds. The hoof wraps seemed to be deadening his own hoofsteps well enough.

He waved Garnet and Agate over, the three of them quietly making their way through the wide open space, past the service entrances of various shops. A few abandoned carts stood here and there, but it was easy to navigate around them. Compared to other cities, The Crystal Empire was remarkably orderly in that way.

There were no tight spaces to squeeze through, run-down lawless sections of the city, shady alleys or dilapidated buildings that housed ponies of questionable morals. Even the side streets meant for utilities were well designed, allowing plenty of access for fully loaded carts to pass by and make their deliveries, or to collect refuse from the shops and restaurants. While crime did exist, the wide, snowflake-like design of the streets made sure that there were no dark corners that the Guard couldn't see on their patrols. Every citizen could feel safe.

The guards weren't here now, though. They were the first to fall, and the city's new enforcers did the complete opposite of making the populace feel safe.

As the family crept forward, the three kept glancing at the doors of the other shops on the street as they passed by. All of the service doors were closed, and there were no sounds or light coming from any of them. They knew that Sombra's soldiers didn't bother with ambushes (so far, at least), but it was hard to ignore their instincts.

"This is wrong," Garnet thought. "Every single street in the Empire used to be as safe as any other. Now my heart feels like it's trying to beat it's way out of my chest." She kept moving, always keeping one eye on Agate. The filly was calmly walking alongside her, hear ears cocked for any sounds. "Keep it together, Garnet. Your daughter is showing more spine than you are."

Radiant kept trotting, trying not to trip up. The intersection connecting to one of the central streets was just ahead. There was a restaurant on their left side, and a crystal wall to their right. He nodded to Garnet and Agate, and gestured to their right. They all hugged the wall, trying to remain out of sight of the main boulevard as long as possible.

As they got closer, the street remained empty, much to their relief. They knew better than to try and make a run through there, however. The city's wide-open design now worked against them, and they'd get spotted in a heartbeat.

Fortunately, both Radiant Cut and Garnet Necklace knew this area quite well. Garnet would often go and grab a bite in the restaurant, and she would sometimes hear the sounds of foals playing on the other side of the wall. Which meant that on the other side of the barrier, there was someone's backyard.

If they'd climb over the wall, they wouldn't need to go through any streets at all to reach the edge of the city, moving parallel to the main street. As long as they didn't mind jumping over a hundred or so fences while stomping through pony's backyards, of course. The owners probably wouldn't care, even if there was anyone left in the homes. Everyone had bigger things to worry about at the moment.

Radiant nodded to Garnet. She nodded to Agate, who nodded back. Then they all looked at the wall, trying to figure out how to actually get over the thing. The wall was barely taller than the two adults, but ponies weren't exactly built for climbing. After a few moments of fruitless staring, Radiant frowned, sat down and waved Agate over.

After some gesticulating, she nodded and climbed on his back, holding on to his neck with her forelegs. Radiant reared up, putting his forehooves on top of the wall. He looked back at Agate and pointed at the wall with his muzzle. She slowly clambered on top, carefully stepping on her father's head. Looking down, she gulped quietly and went over the side, landing with a dull thump.

Radiant looked at Garnet next. She raised an eyebrow. He looked at her, the fence, then himself. She blinked. Could she actually get over the thing herself? In all honesty, probably not. She shrugged, and started climbing her husband. After getting over, she grabbed his forehooves and started pulling.

The mare had to bite back a curse as she tried and failed to pull her husband over. The hoof wraps made the already finely polished crystal extra slippery, and they were having trouble. After a few tries, Radiant managed to jump high enough with his hindlegs, after which Garnet pulled him down, both of them collapsing on top of each other.

Meanwhile, Agate was busy studying the area. The yard was quite simple, just a well maintained lawn with a few balls and other toys set by the door to the house. Fortunately, it appeared that the fences dividing the properties from each other were much smaller than the wall blocking off the street. Not short enough for her to climb them alone, but still much more easily manageable.

After her parents picked themselves up, Agate trotted over to the fence, sizing it up. Could she actually get over it without help? Might as well try...

❅ ❆ ❅

*Thump*

Garnet Necklace hissed quietly as she landed on her rump. They climbed over a couple dozen or so fences of various shapes and sizes so far, and she was getting quite sick of it. This particular one was quite tall, and had dull, triangle-shaped spikes on it. What was even the purpose? They hardly stopped her from getting over, though they were certainly successful in annoying her.

"You alright?" Radiant Cut asked her quietly.

"I'm fine," she whispered. "Help Agate," she pointed to the filly.

Agate was currently stuck, her saddlebag's strap caught on one of the spikes. She took her father's hoof and managed to slip out. After getting down, they all looked across the yard at the next fence. At least this one wasn't very tall.

Garnet Necklace snorted, moving forward. "If mother could see me now. Reduced to jumping over fences like some brigand on the run." She shook her head and started awkwardly climbing the slippery crystal barrier.

Radiant Cut smiled wanly while he boosted Agate up. "At least all you'd get is a stern scolding. My brother would arrest me on the spot and clap me in irons," he remarked quietly.

Now on the other side of the fence, Garnet pursed her lips. "Do you think he's alright? I know how close you two are. Maybe we could-"

"Hush. We talked about this already," Radiant Cut quietly, but firmly told her as he climber over. "You know as well as I do that trying to look for anyone is madness. And you also know that Obsidian's a Guard through and through. If he went down fighting Sombra or his minions, he went happily. If he was chained, no doubt he's already making plans for a resistance movement. He takes his Oath to the Empire seriously." He shook his head. "I'm not happy about leaving any pony, family, friends or even neighbors behind, but there's nothing we can do but save ourselves at this point."

Garnet nodded sadly, throwing a forlorn look in the Royal Spire's direction. The enchanted tower was still casting a dark pallor over every corner of the city. She felt a stab of fear in her gut, and forced herself to look away. Was that her fear, or was the dark magic actually affecting her from that far?

No matter. Radiant was right. Her family, her friends... If she got caught, she would rather prefer that they got to safety instead of mounting some suicidal rescue mission to try and free her. They needed to get out of here, as soon as possible.

❅ ❆ ❅

The inn was empty.

Or it appeared to be. The trio of fugitives were trying to determine whether it was the former or the latter.

After a few more fences, Agate pointed out a small ladder leaning against a toolshed. With it, they managed to speed up their journey significantly, making their way to the very edge of the city unmolested.

The final building in the row was not a house, but an inn, built there to tempt anyone that stepped into the city with a warm meal and soft beds the moment they stepped through the gate. The Diamond Pickaxe was a decently-sized establishment, rising at a respectable three stories' height. As the name implied, it was mostly used by miners, masons and other ponies working in the mines and quarries west of the city.

And from their vantage point behind the building, it's impressive size completely blocked their view of the gate.

"So," Garnet ruminated. "Do we go inside and through? Or just run around and make a run for it?"

Radiant Cut was nervously biting the inside of his cheek, considering the situation. "It would be very useful if we could climb to the top floor and take a look through the windows. We could see if there's anyone stationed near the gates. Of course, given the useful vantage point, the inn itself could be an observation post. But if that's the case, then they'll start chasing us the moment we walk past the front windows. Agate..." He trailed off softly.

"Yes, dad?" Agate tilted her head questioningly.

"If we get spotted... If we need to run, get on my back if you can. I'll carry you. And, if we do run, don't try to outrun them. Try to break their line of sight, and hide somewhere. Look for an open window, an upturned barrel, anything. Now then." He nodded towards the inn's backdoor. "Let's hope that's unlocked. Let's sneak in and split up. I'll go to the upper floor. see what's what. You two check the kitchen, pick up some extra food if you can. Be as quiet as you can. Listen for the tiniest sounds, even breathing. If any one of us hears anything... hm."

Radiant Cut looked at Garnet and Agate, then considered himself. Even if all three of them dogpiled a single pony all at once, he didn't think they'd manage to take them down with anything even remotely resembling stealth. And Sombra was smart enough not to send out his soldiers alone.

"Just walk back to the door, quietly. We could, maybe... run out quickly and jam the front door," He nodded to himself. "That might slow them just enough to get away. Let's do this."

They all started moving again. The door, luckily, turned out to be unlocked. It lead to a small hallway with a two doors immediately to their left and right, helpfully labelled "Pantry" and "Kitchen". The kitchen door was ajar, the scents of cooking and spices heavy in the air. Though it was silent and cold, the smell had seeped into the very crystal of the building over the years.

Garnet Necklace glanced at the door, then turned to glare at her husband. Watch yourself, she mouthed, then turned and walked through the door, Agate quietly shuffling behind her. Radiant just nodded, folding his ears and walking further down the hallway towards the main lobby.

Agate watched her dad slink away. Did he do something wrong? She followed her mom into the kitches, looking around and listening intently. After they scanned the place from the door for a few minutes, making sure the coast was clear, they went further in.

It certainly didn't look like their kitchen at home. So many stoves, some of them still with a few pots left unattended. And some of those pots were so huge, she could probably fit inside! The ponies that come to inns must eat a lot, she decided.

Her mom was checking out one of the pots, carefully sniffing the contents. "Mmmm... carrot soup, I think. Cold, but still good. Come here, dear. I'm a bit hungry after all that climbing. Let's find ourselves a couple bowls and eat up a bit," she whispered. "Try not to bang any plates."

"Ok, mom," she whispered back, looking through the cabinets on the bottom while mom looked through the top ones. Garnet found the bowls, but Agate found a ladle for the soup. Even the ladles here were big. "Good filly," her mom praised her with a small smile when she came back with the huge ladle in her mouth.

After doling out their portions, they sat down right there on the floor and slurped down. The soup was cold, but filling and hearty. Bit heavy on the salt, Agate thought, but still pretty good. After a minute of eating silently, she decided to ask about something that was nagging her.

"Mom? Did dad do something bad? I saw you looking at him angrily before we split up."

Garnet cringed a bit. Her little filly really was very observant, sometimes at the worst times. "Oh, you caught that? Don't worry about it, dear. It's just... adult stuff."

Agate frowned. Then scrunched her muzzle. "Come on, mom. I told dad before, don't give me the baby talk."

"Alright, alright," Garnet relented. "You saw how he went to examine the upstairs rooms all by himself, despite fact that there's a good chance Sombra's soldiers could be there. While there's pretty much no chance they'd be standing guard in the kitchen, where he told us to go. You know how stallions are."

Agate tilted her head at that. "Um... no, I don't think I do?" She asked tentatively.

Garnet's eyes sparkled with mischief and a hint of smugness. "Oh? You don't? Well, I guess you'll learn when you're older, young filly."

Agate opened and closed her mouth a few times, huffed, and went back to eating her soup. Seriously, adults were the biggest smartflanks. And she got told off for "trying to get smart with him" by a cranky old teacher once! Well, when she got older, she'd be the smartest of smartflanks. That'd show them.

"Aww, I'm sorry, my little jewel," Garnet cooed softly, nuzzling her daughter. "I'm just a little stressed, and I'm making poor jokes. Here, finish your soup. I'll go root around in the pantry for a moment." She carefully set her empty bowl down and went through the door, stopping to listen before heading out.

Agate kept eating, eyeing one of the cupboards nearby. If anything happened, she could probably hide inside... That proved unnecessary as her mom walked back just when she finished her soup. Garnet had a couple loaves of bread on her back, and held a small jar in her mouth.

"Here," she said as she held out the jar in her hoof. "Crystalberry jam. Something to make life a little sweeter. See if you can fit it in your bags."

Agate nodded eagerly, opening the flaps of her saddlebags. They managed to fit the jar and one of the loaves of bread into her now-full saddlebags. Garnet took the other loaf of bread. Then they sat down to wait for Radiant Cut to return.

"At least things are quiet," muttered Garnet. "If something bad had happened, I'm sure we'd have heard it. He'll be back soon."

They didn't have to wait long. Radiant soon peeked into the kitchen, motioning them to come along. "It's all empty. I snuck all the way to the top floors, and the place is ransacked. Looks like Sombra's goons were here, and they took every pony with them," He explained as they entered the main lobby.

"The view from the top floors is really great, I could see everything around. Good news is, the gate really is unguarded. I didn't see anyone in that direction at all. Bad news, I saw a small roadblock in the street further back in the city. They're all looking in the direction of the Spire, though, so just walk as quiet as you can, and we'll make it out," he hurriedly explained.

The lobby was in some disarray. There were several splintered chairs and a coatrack by the front entrance, likely from a hasty attempt to build a barricade. The door itself was broken, hanging on only by the top hinges. The floor was littered with crystal shards here and there, from broken mugs and plates thrown at the ponies trying to break in. It looked like the guests and workers of the Diamond Pickaxe didn't go without a fight.

Garnet and Agate followed Radiant Cut to the entrance, carefully stepping around the broken shards. "Now, I promise this is the last time I'm going to repeat myself," he whispered while trying to move the broken door without making noise. "Don't make a sound when we get outside."

The door was slowly brought to rest against the wall, a chill wind immediately blowing in from outside. They all shivered, Agate tightening her scarf around her neck. The cold just made stepping outside all the more intimidating. Garnet fixed her saddlebags, while Radiant made sure his hoof wraps were secure.

Their final preparations made, the family shared a long look. Radiant opened his mouth as if to say something, closed it, then silently pressed himself against Garnet, rubbing their necks together. He then bent down and gave Agate a hug. Taking a breath, he turned away and slowly stepped outside.

After sitting in a dark kitchen for a while, both Garnet and Agate were momentarily blinded by the light when they stepped out. Agate squinted against the glare, while her mother tried to spot the roadblock Radiant mentioned earlier.

After a few moments, the details resolved themselves. Back down the street leading deeper into the city , there were a few overturned carts with a group of helmeted ponies sitting on them, though they looked more like statues. They weren't moving at all, only gazing forward with a mechanical focus.

Turning away from the disconcerting sight, she hurried to catch up with her family. For the first time since this mess started, she really hoped that whatever foul magic controlled their minds didn't fail at just the right moment. As long as they kept watching their side of the street, nothing would happen.

The walk was tense, either Garnet or Radiant glancing backwards now and then. Agate kept her gaze firmly forward, however, studying the terrain ahead. They were approaching two large red crystal spires, the final border marking the city limits. The West Gate didn't have an actual gate, as such; the city's barrier took care of that.

The terrain sloped downwards gently, and by the time they reached the gates, the family were out of sight of the ponies on the barricade. The wind was blowing flurries of powdery snow here and there, a number of pony-high snowdrifts dotting the frozen landscape beyond. They made it out.

Radiant sighed with relief, all three of them perking up and picking up the speed. He waved the others behind a tall snowdrift, the snow hiding them from view completely.

"Alright," he began with a wide smile, the first real one in days. "The road's still in sight of some taller buildings in the city, including the Spire. But the odds of us being seen are slim, and we're going through the plains anyway. We'll go straight south, then turn southeast to reach the road to Equestria." As he talked himself up, his coat actually regained some of the shine crystal ponies usually had.

"Equestria..." Garnet muttered disbelievingly, absently rubbing the golden necklace they took from their shop. "We only have our bags and these necklaces, like some vagabonds... But they'd take us in, right? No, no, they have to. They signed the treaty, they're obligated to, as allies," she concluded, her voice growing more confident with every word, her coat regaining some luster as well.

Agate didn't really know much about Equestria, just that it was far away, and different ponies that brought exotic items and foods lived there. "They'll help us, right?" She asked quietly. "I mean, not just us, but they'll help get rid of Sombra, right?"

"They will," Radiant Cut replied firmly. "As your mother said, they're obliged to, as allies. Let's not put the cart before the pony, though. We've still a lot of ground to cover before it gets dark if we want to make it out safely. Let's go."

It was not meant to be, however.

Sombra, the dark King, knew how hope worked. He fed on fear and despair, after all. And he knew that nothing would crush a pony's hopes more completely and thoroughly than having an escape out of a seemingly hopeless situation dangled in front of them, and then taken away at the last moment. The despair they'd feel as their last hopes crumbled around them would be magnified tenfold.

Barely a few minutes after the trio set off on the snowy plains, they fell into an ambush. A squad of six soldiers burst out from behind a huge snowdrift, attempting to surround the family. And these were proper soldiers, too. They wore the armor of the Guard, the only difference being the dark helmets Sombra designed.

Radiant grit his teeth, cursing inwardly.

Garnet faltered, almost tripping up.

Agate gasped in fear, looking for an escape route.

"In the name of King Sombra, you are under arrest! Resist and you'll pay with blood!" The lead pony shouted.

"To Tartarus with your false king!!!" Radiant Cut screamed in absolute rage, ramming into the first pony that got close. "Garnet, Agate, run! Get- gah!" Whatever else he was about to say was cut off as two more soldiers tackled him, mercilessly pummeling the downed stallion.

Garnet was already running, Agate close behind her. Unfortunately for the mare, in the excitement to get away from the city, she forgot to remove the pieces of cloth wrapped around her hooves. The same thing that helped them sneak out of the city unnoticed now proved to be her undoing.

The soft fabric that muffled her hoofsteps so well on crystal roads turned out to have terrible traction on the icy ground. With a slip and a tumble, Garnet fell hard on her side, various foodstuffs spilling out of her saddlebags. Before she could even try to get up, one of the soldiers quickly jumped on her back, putting her in a chokehold.

Agate kept running, stealing a glance behind her. Three of the six were still dealing with an enraged Radiant, the stallion refusing to give up when freedom was so close. One was holding down Garnet, the mare desperately gasping for air, fruitlessly extending a hoof in Agate's direction with tears in her eyes. The remaining two were hot on her tail.

"I can't outrun them," she thought. "Think, Agate, what did Dad say..? Break line of sight, hide somewhere..." There were no buildings, overturned carts, or anything of the sort around. All she saw was-

*SMASH*

One of the soldier's steel-shod hooves narrowly missed her head. He lost his balance and crashed into the frozen ground so hard, it sent shards of ice spraying everywhere. "Stand still!" He bellowed angrily, getting up.

Agate shrieked in terror, diving between the legs of the second pony that was trying to flank her, forcing him to turn around and lose momentum . "Are they trying to k-kill me?! " She started looking for any hiding spots again, but all she saw was snow.

Snow!

Without a second thought, she dove into the nearest snowdrift. The snow was powdery and almost weightless, allowing her to plow through and come out on the other side moments later. She immediately ran for the other closest pile of snow that she could see, repeating the process several times.

"Hiding won't save you!" Yelled one of the soldiers from behind, smashing the first snowdrift apart. The second soldier joined him a moment later, both of them wasting crucial seconds looking for her in the snow. They soon started digging through other snowdrifts nearby, but it was too late. Their aggressive search methods destroyed any tracks they could have possibly used to find her, and by the time they got the idea to look for any, Agate was long gone.

For better or for worse, she had escaped the Crystal Empire.

Author's Note:

This is not a Crystal Empire story.