A hidden empire, even worse dating advice, bad apples, witch wolves, and the return of chaos all in Season 3 of Twilight Gets a Puppy
After the insanity of the Royal Wedding, all Rahs wants to do is relax, and maybe finally make it in theater, and find a girlfriend. His Granny Luna and Sister in law Cadence were really interested in that last one.
Of course as one of the Sparkle siblings, relaxation is often hard to come by, particularly with a neurotic sister, a devious younger brother, and all their insane friends. Then add in a demonic rabbit, the return of a great evil, a pegasi betting pool, TRRRRRRRRRIXIE, a massive sports event, witch wolves, a well chewed chaos god, a mysterious thief from another world, and an ancient curse.
“Am starting to believe, we are being lied to.” A white furred Diamond Dog wearing lopsided glasses and a red vest grumbled. The canine was rather burly with a sharp wolf like muzzle, though his ears were rounded and drooped along the sides of his head. He rolled a rock past him to let it travel down the slope behind him to be picked up by the cart loaders to be dumped outside.
The cold ground and rocky terrain did not help the small packs digging ability at all. With the ten of them this had been very slow going and he missed the warmth of his den back in the Everfree Forest.
“Why god lie, alpha?” a gray furred dog in front of him questioned. “Him say treasure here, why not be treasure?”
“Peabody! We find something!” another dog screamed from further up the tunnel.
The white diamond dog shoved the other one aside rushing towards the end of the tunnel pushing past the rest of the pack.
Reaching the tunnels end, he looked down to the lead digger, a smaller miscolored hound by the name of Tunnel Rat. The tiny dog was clearing off a stone slab that was nearly as large as Peabody was and a good four or five heads taller than Tunnel Rat.
Ponies would have said it was about ten feet, but Peabody had never understood why ponies used feet as a measurement, they all had hooves.
Looking over the stone wall he took note of a number of symbols etched into the stone before him.
“Dig it out.” Peabody ordered and the other dogs scrambled to clear the stone free of dirt.
Peabody frowned pulling out a small bit of paper from the dirty red vet he wore and looked it over. The markings drawn on the paper matched those on this odd box. A smile crept into the fanged maw of the Diamond Dog. This was what the god had sent him to find, with the treasure in here, he would surely impress the Alpha bitch Jynx and have a proper pack rather than the castoffs he could gather.
The pack cleared a large space around the stone showing it to be a large stone box covered in the odd markings like on the paper.
This was it.
“Break it open.” Peabody ordered.
[On the surface]
Forthe frowned, wisps of snow blew through his form as he surveyed the barren snow fields around him while floating high in the air.
The pack he convinced to help him should have found the source of the power he felt by now.
This had not been an easy year. The summer sun celebration had come and gone in Equestria which meant that Luna had been free for two years now and he had not managed to so much as inconvenience her save once. And then he had failed to kill the Witch Wolf.
Still sending a message that Canterlot was going to be attacked would keep them all hunkered down and in one spot long enough for him to do what was needed.
Who knew, maybe he would luck out and the bugs would be found out. Then the two races could go back to trying to kill each other again.
He hadn't expected Luna to run off to Tartarus to check on the prisoners there. That cess pit of a prison was home to a number of gods and monsters that either couldn't be destroyed, or no one was willing to commit genocide to be rid of. The prison was run by the gods of Life and Death respectively, Grace and Troph. The one was a skeleton of some sort of pony, and the other great mutated draconic creature.
Some how the pair were also lovers and Forth did not want to think about how that worked. particularly given the size differences and that the mare had no flesh.
Still as far as he knew the pair were rarely in Tartarus, preferring to leave various guardians to watch it in their stead.
Perhaps he should swing by later if this plan failed and see what other trouble he could cause.
The return of the darkest chapter in Luna's life would draw the attention of the other gods and remind them of what they had lost to her last time. She had few supporters among those that paid attention to the world beyond their borders, If the other gods decided she was a threat, at the very least she would be locked in Tartarus. Then she couldn't get in his way when he made to kill the witch wolf.
Given her mentality, he expected Luna would try to fight, which would make it even more fun when she was torn apart and tossed in a cell in Tartarus. She would reform of course, but by then she would be trapped in a cell forever. Perhaps Celestia would fight as well and receive the same fate. Then he could wipe out the whole pony race, or make them all subservient to the diamond dogs, who were far stronger and deserved to rule once that foul taint of the witch wolves was removed.
His musings were cut short as he bore witness to a host of diamond dogs scrambling out of the mines they had dug,and tearing across the tundra at top speed. Peabody barely made it out of the tunnel before it erupted behind him. A black shard of crystal broke up through the ice like a dagger piercing flesh it shot into the sky growing out of the ice as a piercing scream rent the air around it as if the towering shard of black crystal was tearing reality itself apart.
The massive monolith stopped jutting up like a dagger. The scream started again making even the ghost god clap his paws over his ears.
The black crystal suddenly exploded in a flash of magic spreading shards across the landscape along with a blast of arcane brilliance. Briefly Forthe thought he saw an annoyed white rabbit with a pocket watch in the light.
Forthe winced turning his head as the light grew brighter, feeling like it was blinding him, far below several of the diamond dogs screamed out in pain from the noise and the light as well.
Forthe shook his head with a snarl, blinking away spots as the screaming stopped. When his gaze cleared enough, he beheld a massive city before him made completely out of crystal.
Forthe smiled darkly for a moment, before howling his success to the heavens.
A moment later a blast of black energy caught him in the chest, ripping apart his partially corporal form.
The ghost cursed, wincing in spite of himself at that attack. Something was watching him, something that had woken with the city. And it didn't want him here.
It mattered little, what he set out to do was done. It was time to spread word to the other gods of this, and what they should do to stop Luna from reclaiming her dark throne.
Forthe took to the winds letting it carry his spectral form to where he wanted.
Around the city a black miasma swirled, glowing eyes green trailing purple motes opened in the midst of it.
Far away in Canterlot, Princess Luna woke with a scream.
“Sparkles.... meet the Sparkles, they're a textbook mental famillllly. From the, town of Ponyville , they all live in a great big treeeee...”
“Pinkie what are you singing?” Twilight asked looking up from her daisy sandwich. The group of friends had gone out for lunch and were seated out on the patio of the restaurant. They had just been served when Pinkie Pie started humming.
“I'm working on a new theme song the old one doesn't quite fit anymore” Pinkie Pie shrugged popping a loaf of corn bread into her mouth. “It's a work in progress.”
“Err, right, okay” Twilight shrugged, going back to her meal. "So what were you saying about a new buyer Rarity?”
“Oh right,” Rarity offered, dabbing her mouth with a napkin as she looked up from her souffle. “It seems word of my work on the royal wedding dress, dresses, not sure which one of the three I made garnered it? Anyway, word has gotten around and I'm flooded with orders. One mare in particular has offered to buy over a hundred dresses for herself and her entourage. She has already paid for half of them and has taken a good portion of my old stock. She also says she's not in too much of a rush to get the rest of her order, but she wants them in a variety of styles with the only caveat being that they need to be functional as well. She's also said if she's pleased with them she would see what she could do about helping me set up a proper store in Canterlot.”
“Sounds like yer gonna be busy fer a while. Might bit of planning tah do mai self too. Got a big family reunion coming up in tha spring ah gotta plan for. First year Granny's letting me run it myself.” Applejack pointed out.
“Oh, that sounds wonderful Applejack” Fluttershy offered. “I don't really have anything planned myself, but I could do for a nice quiet rest for a while. Especially after the wedding, and the changelings, and then the real wedding.”
“Speak for yourself shy, that was great. For me, the Wonderbolts Academy has sign ups for this fall, and I plan to get in this year.” Rainbow Dash smirked.
“Seriously at least the wedding stuffs over with. They finally got hitched after yer brother recovered.” Applejack pointed out.
“While it was a lovely ceremony, did it have to be so... small?” Rarity sighed.
“Given that Cadence tried to beat Celestia with her own wings by the end of it? It was probably for the best.” Twilight sighed.
[ Two weeks prior, Cadence and Shining Armor's second wedding, Princess Luna presiding.]
“Auntie why is there ANOTHER banner with that image?” Cadence grumbled looking up at the 'rural princess' front page picture posted on another banner at the reception.
“Oh, I've got a few hundred copies of it.” Celestia grinned.
“We agreed never to bring that up!” Cadence snapped.
“You agreed, I did no such thing.” Celestia's grin widened.
“Ah don't think ah'll ever understand alicorns.” Applejack shook her head taking another sip of her cider.
“I'm starting to wonder if part of becoming a god is going nuts.” Twilight mused.
“Might be the other way around.” Pinkie Pie suggested. “Maybe they were nuts and that's why they became gods.”
“Then how come you're not a god?” Rainbow Dash smirked. “You're the craziest pony I know.”
“ How do you know I'm not?” Pinkie Pie grinned wiggling her eyebrows at Rainbow Dash.
“That would explain a lot.” Rarity pondered. “But any way what are your plans now Twilight. You and your brothers have been here two years.”
“Ooh a two year anniversary party!” Pinkie Pie chimed up.
“You know I'm not even going to try and stop you.” Twilight smiled. “Just no strong smelling chocolate or strawberry stuff. Rahs still has issues. As for what we are going to do, I don't plan to do anything but just try and relax. Spike has school before long and Rahs is still trying to audition for parts in various plays. Beyond that nothing comes to mind.”
“Speaking of issues, yours seem better.” Rarity pointed out.
“I agree, you don't seem to have as big a deal with crowds, or panic attacks any more.” Fluttershy smiled looking up from her soup. “ You might have anger issues now though instead.”
“I think those probably developed in dealing with all the stuff that goes on around here.” Rainbow Dash pointed out. “Let's face it Ponyville is rarely boring.”
“Would be nice if it calmed down a little.” Fluttershy muttered.
“Now way, there needs to be more excitement, we go weeks without something cool happening.” Rainbow Dash smirked.
“Yer tempting fate there Dash. Reign it in.” Applejack rolled her eyes.
“What because I want something to happen? Please.” Dash snorted. “My saying something isn't gonna do anything. That's like saying, 'What's the worst that could happen?' or, 'Nothing can go wrong'. Nothing's gonna happen. It's just silly supersitiooooof!!!”
Rainbow Dash might have continued her rant if a large scroll hadn't impacted her face with the force of a boulder, knocking her out of her chair and to the floor. The scroll flipped around a few times in the air before landing perfectly on the table.... in the middle of Twilight's sandwich.
“BORK!!!” Rahs screamed out as he and Spike stormed towards the table.
“Don't blame me. I didn't say anything, it was Rainbow Dash!” Twilight protested as Rahs and Spike both glared at her.
“Ow.” Rainbow Dash muttered from the floor as Twilight opened the scroll.
“Do you know how hard it is to get the crusaders together for a O&O game during the summer, even with a new guy joining?” Spike grumbled. “I finally managed it, FINALY, and then this. We just had our seasonal major disaster, why is there another one already?”
“It's season three.” Pinkie Pie pointed out.
“What?” Spike questioned.
“Twilight. Gather the Elements of Harmony, pack for cold weather, and make arrangements to be gone for a few days to a week. A chariot will be down to collect you and your friends shortly. Make haste and I will tell you more when you arrive.” Twilight frowned. “Signed Princess Celestia.”
The doors to the throne room were pushed open allowing a unicorn stallion with his starched collar pulled up over his head, and tied fast with his tie to stagger through and collapse, flailing onto the ground.
“Does Starched Collar do this every time?” Rarity asked.
“Pretty much. Nice work there Dash.” Twilight nodded.
“Twice with the same trick, that stallion's not that bright.”Rainbow Dash cackled.
“Hey Princess we're here, this better be important” Spike grumbled.” You interrupted my game night.”
“You shouldn't have even come you know that right?” Twilight sighed.
“Right just like I shouldn't have been there for Nightmare Moon, when I saved every one at the town hall. And just like I shouldn't have been there with Discord, and I saved you all from a obvious trap you were gonna run into. Oh then there was when I shouldn't have been there for the wedding, and I figured it out first that they were changelings” Spike grumbled pointing at his sister. “My track record is better than yours.”
“Twilight......” Celestia's eyes narrowed as she approached the group of Sparkles and Bearers.”I should have told you not to bring your brothers. Luna will not be pleased.”
“Like they would listen” Twilight rolled her eyes.
“Woof.” Rahs stated flatly.
“Yeah, it helped with Discord and you didn't want them here then either.” Pinkie Pie shrugged.
“It wasn't my call this time, Luna was rather adamant” Celestia sighed. “There isn't much time. The Crystal Empire has returned.”
Celestia narrowed her eyes as she was greeted by blank stares.
“Is that like tha name of a group of villains or something?” Applejack asked.
“No it's a literal Empire, I remember that much. It's mentioned in a number of old tales and legends but there's not much about it” Twilight sighed.
“Grrrrrrr” Rahs growled.
“You mean that was what Nightmare Moon ran?” Fluttershy shuddered as Rahs nodded.
“Back before the Equestrian Civil War, there was a conflict that led into it. This war was called the War of Night. The War of Night lasted decades and finally ended with the death of King Solomon. Solomon's death freed Nightmare from his control and she set out into the world to marshal her forces, leading us into the Equestrian Civil War. His son King Sombra took over and continued to run the Empire in darkness for several years. Seeing the forces of darkness weakened a coalition of forces attacked, this included several gods, a number of nations and the last collection of Element Bearers.”
Celestia sighed at the memory her ears flattening.
“Before we could end his reign, the empire itself vanished, taking a portion of our forces as well as half the Element Bearers of the time with it” Celestia monologued.” I need all of you to go to the Empire and help Shining Armor and Princess Cadence restore it to it's rightful state and ensure that if Sombra still lives he cannot take it over again. The train is waiting at the station and will depart in one hour. Go and do your best to save the Crystal Empire.”
Celestia turned, heading back to one of her aides standing by her throne speaking with them quietly and leaving the Element Bearers staring after her.
“SERIOUSLY!?!?!” Twilight fumed, drawing Celestia's attention. “You did not just thirty second info dump on us, and then tell us to scamper off!?”
“That is all I have time for, there is far too much to do.” Celestia responded.
“We need more information than that!” Twilight snapped.
“Well, hold onto your questions and ask me on the train.” Celestia snapped back.
“No offense to any of you, but this is a entire empire possibly filled with death and destruction waiting to conquer all of Equss again. Not to mention the population at risk. You are going as Bearers of the Elements and advisers to Cadence. I am certainly not trusting the fate of the world just to a caretaker, a seamstress, a baker, a farmer, a weather pony, a librarian, a student, and an actor “ Celestia rolled her eyes. “This isn't a fated prophecy or a idiot ex of mine that would have given up if more than three gods turned against him, this is serious. Cadence and Shining Armor have the full company of the Heart Guard with them. A division of the guard are boarding the train now, and Luna and I will also be joining you. I need to make arraignments so that the government still functions while we are gone. Prince and a few others I trust need to be briefed on what to do and any emergency plans, and I have less than an hour to do so and get armored. We should have left yesterday, so I am in a bit of a mood. If you have questions ask me on the train. Now go!”
The group stared at Princess Celestia as she went back to what she was doing, then looked to each other, then promptly left.
[Train to North Base Ski Resort, Frozen North. Closest point to the Crystal Empire.]
“The ski resort, along with the train terminal has been cleared Princess. All vacationers and non essential personal were on the last train back, the Guards are currently fortifying the location.” A unicorn in Guard armor reported.
“Thank you Steel Spear. Keep me posted” Princess Celestia ordered. The Guard saluted and left the train car. The Elements of Harmony and the Sparkles sat watching Princess Celestia be fitted with what looked like some sort of golden scale mail armor by a pair of smiths. Princess Luna was already fitted but she sat off to the side, glancing with worry at Rahs occasionally, though she had been silent most of the trip allowing Celestia to explain.
“The actual goings on inside the empire are unknown, we are unsure of what to expect inside. You will all stay close to the Guards we are assigning you. We have been unable to establish communication with Cadence since the shield went up aside from the occasional runner message. She has pointed out there is something wrong with the Crystal Ponies, but she cannot check on them and Shining Armor does not have the magical knowledge necessary to figure it out.” Celestia explained. “I'm sending in a team of doctors this time as well to see what they can find out. Twilight you will head the research team in finding out the main issue. Moon Dancer and Sunburst are your contacts in the team.”
“What am I supposed to find out?” Twilight asked
“I do not know, the Crystal Empire has never truly been part of Equestria, even before the three tribes era the Empire was it's own place. We were on friendly terms with them for decades after the founding of Equestria, but with Solomon's rise to power, that all collapsed. The main thing I wish you to look into is the shield barrier that has formed around the Empire. When Cadence set hoof inside, a barrier formed and started shrinking. Cadence and Shining Armor managed to stop it, but Cadence's own power is all that is keeping it at bay. We found that the spell is triggered by a god crossing the threshold of the main city, likely as a booby trap left by Solomon or Sombra to send the Empire back to where it emerged from, taking the god or gods with it. A rather devious one if it managed to capture a god with a power that Equss needs to survive like myself or Bleu. Luna and I will not be able to join you past the barrier for fear of making things worse“ Celestia explained. “We will remain at the base camp and assist as we can from there. Spike's breath mail should still work despite the barrier. That is the only reason he is allowed to accompany you.”
“That is a lot tah take in.” Applejack frowned.
“I am sorry for this, with luck the Element's of Harmony themselves can be used some how and we can all go home as a success” Celestia sighed. “However if you cannot save the Empire, then you are to get out as fast as you can. We were lucky I had all of the Element's of harmony with me last time and had not given them out to the others yet, or we may have lost three of them then when the Empire vanished the first time. You six need to get free more than any one else there. There is still more to that prophecy I was given. I do not even want to risk you on this, but if this is part of it.....”
“Sister.” Luna finally spoke up with the one word.
Celestia sighed. “And if he is still alive, do not engage Sombra. The Guards have orders to try and take him alive, but to use their judgment. If he cannot be captured then he needs to be destroyed.”
The faint shift of the train car and the scream of brakes announced their arrival.
“We are here. We are going to see to the base camp. Meet up with Major Comet Trail and Captain Lodestone outside and ready for your trek, it's three miles to the barrier through the blizzard. Good luck.” Celestia offered as she vanished with a teleport.
“Rahs. Spike.” Luna spoke up. “If there is danger, do not hesitate. Do what thou can to protect the Bearers first. Guards are expendable, you six are not.”
“It can't be that bad.....” Fluttershy whimpered. “Can it?”
The Lunar mare let out a long breath.
“Rahs Sparkle. You need to be more wary than the others.” Luna frowned. “We did not want you to come here. This is where the army of Witch Wolves, and worse, was made.”
With those words Luna too vanished with a pop of teleportation, leaving the group looking worriedly at Rahs.
Luna popped in with a flash of light, appearing a few paces behind her sister in the snow.
The older sister was staring out into the snow fields to the east of the barrier. Out in the field was a collection of forms of varying sizes.
“That didn't take them long.” Celestia sighed, having sensed this group before she left the train.
“We are going to need to deal with them.” Luna frowned. “We do not like that idea, they are all going to accuse us of this.”
“Most likely, but avoiding them would only make matters worse.” Celestia smiled slightly. “Besides Kaz and Bleu are here and you already met favorably with them.”
“Kaz and Bleu are not the gods we worry about sister.” Luna frowned as she followed her sister to the gathering of Equss' gods.
[ Canterlot, 11 years before the return of Nightmare Moon]
“Celestia smiled as she looked down at the little purple filly before her. The smiling unicorn foal was nearly vibrating in place behind her little desk, just as she did with nearly every personal lesson.
Her brother Rahs however, had already gotten bored, torn down a curtain, and bundled it up in a pile as a bed, to sleep in a sunbeam. It would be more annoying if he didn't do this every time.
“Alright Twilight today we are going to learn about something a bit different. Do you recall last week how we discussed the MP required to move objects?” Celestia began
“Yes Princess.” Twilight chimed up.
“And do you recall how much issue you had when you tried to calculate how much MP would be required to move the Sun?”
“That wasn't a fair question as no one can measure how heavy the sun is to apply it to the formula.” Twilight pouted, she hated trick questions.
“ Indeed. But in truth it's less because of the unknown weight and more because of my aspect.” Celestia smiled. “Today we are going to talk about the various gods across Equss.”
“How is that going to help us calculate the weight of the sun?” Twilight questioned, though Celestia smiled as the filly gathered up a scroll to start taking notes.
“It won't with that, but it will help explain why the machine we used last time maxed out when I was hooked up to it.”
“I thought cause Rahs broke it.”
“Bork.” Rahs protested from his curtain bed.
“Hey... that was mean.” Twilight pouted.
Celestia rolled her eyes, ruffling her wings a little to get the attention back on her, if the pair started an argument neither of them would be fit to learn anything today.
“At any rate, gods are rather capriciously scattered across Equss. No one knows how or why gods come into being, sometimes they are born with it, other times they preform some deed to ascend. And at least once it was because of making a food condiment, though I'm not sure what happened after that.”
Celestia watched as the filly wrote every word down.
“Now gods powers come from something called portfolios, these are the things that the gods are gods of and what they draw their power from. Can you guess what mine are?” Celestia questioned.
“Ummm... the sun.... and ponies?” Twilight suggested.
“Very good. My Primary portfolio is the sun which is why I have such control over it and why even if we knew the weight of the sun it wouldn't be a judge for my power level. I am also made up of three of the tribes of pony and thus ponies are my second portfolio. There are also smaller portfolios a god can have for minor things, in my case, I have the nox-cal as one of my secondary portfolios and for a while I had zebras.”
“Woof?” Rahs questioned.
Celestia glanced to him and the smirk on the puppies face before looking to Twilight who was also giggling.
“He wanted to know if cake was one of your portfolios.” Twilight snickered.
“No it is not.” Celestia sighed. Not for lack of trying though, she thought to herself. “ Now then, there are many types of portfolios, the first type is a physical objects, for example. The minotaur god Kaz, is the god of fire and minotaurs, he also has lesser portfolios in sailing and brewing.”
“Errr, something like that...”
[ Present day, ice field outside of the barrier of the Crystal Empire. ]
Hooves thudded in the snow as the massive black furred minotaur bull looked down at the approaching alicorns. He was easily twice as tall as Celestia and a wall of solid muscle. His white horns sprouted from his head grew out wider than his shoulders and were capped with steel tips. He wore nothing but a tiger pelt loin cloth gathered about his waist and a large belt with the tigers skull as a belt buckle. A huge war maul rested on one shoulder, the head of the weapon as large as a normal pony. Hanging from his waist was a large rune covered cask that sloshed loudly each time he shifted his stance.
“Took you long enough to get here.” Kaz muttered, his voice rumbling.
[ the past]
“Another type of portfolio is for less physical objects, but ones you can still feel physically like heat and cold. The Dragon's god Bleu, for example is the god of Dragons, and the wind, she also has lesser portfolios in gems and lightning.”
Sitting on the minotaur's broad shoulder was a small blue bundle of scales and spite. The dragon god was currently no bigger than Spike and had her wings wrapped tight around her. Despite the cold wind getting no where near her, or her perch the scaled goddess was trying to act like she was freezing.
“I'm turning into a popsicle over here, but yeah take your time.” Bleu whined.
“Then there are metaphysical portfolios. The rabbit god White has the portfolios of rabbits and time. The griffon god Lockheed is the god of griffons and hunting, while the breezy god Teacup is the god of the breezys and war.”
A gold furred and silver feathered griffon stood near by the first two, his coat practically shimmering in the light as he glared at the two alicorns approaching, his green eyes narrowed as he watched their approach with clear annoyance on his curved beak. The crunch of snow under him was baerly heard as his talons flexed crushing the ice under them.
A small blue figure buzzed in the air next to him. The pastel blue and robins egg blue maned breezy was covered in a tiny suit of leather armor and had red war paint decorations covering the exposed part of it's form. A butter knife decorated with runic symbols dangled from it's side and despite the harsh winds and snow falling around them the figure remained stable in the air.
“What other kinds of gods are there?” Twilight questioned.
“As many as you can imagine. Most tend to keep to themselves, but there is the Orc god , Burlap who has orcs and the swamp.....
A great green boar as large as the minotaur sat in the snow near the griffon. He was covered in great mats of moss covered hair done up like dreadlocks. The boars tusks curled up over his snout as he watched the pair approach, the matted hair shifting and writhing on it's own.
...The Buffalo god Iinii who is god of Buffalo, and the snows,...
The snow covered hill behind the others soon turned to look down at the approaching alicorns. The veritable landmass of the buffalo god snorted a greeting, or in annoyance, or perhaps just to clear his nose , before he turned to look back at the dome.
….The Beast god Martle, who holds domain over the beasts and the wilds....
A crimson furred manticore perked it's ears as the pair drew closer, though like the buffalo her gaze was on the dome. The scorpion tail lashing through the snow behind her.
…..The naga god Ascepius, god of naga, snakes and healing. …..
A green scaled serpent, nearly as long as a train car uncoiled from near the minotaur's legs, the female regarding the pair with interest, though she was clearly not going to come away from the source of heat that was Kaz to greet them.
…....Rhino, the god of bugs, and rhinos.......
A great gray lump with a thick horn on the end of his nose had been speaking with the manticore. A large multicolored blanket was draped over his massive back and a large pair of glasses rested in front of his eyes.
He squinted towards the pair as they approached, only for the naga to turn him around and point him in the proper direction towards the alicorns.
…...Kodiak, god of the bears and the forests.....
A massive brown form, easily twice as tall as the minotaur, but not quite reaching the size of the buffalo snarled, as he glared with open hostility at the pair of approaching alicorns.
….......Fledge, god of the harpies and birds. ….........
A massive blue tinted raven hopped around atop the back of the buffalo tilting it's head as it regarded the ponies curiously.
[The past ]
“....There are many more gods scattered all across Equss. Some might be in remote undiscovered parts of the world undiscovered Some may wish to remain apart and still others might simply not care to look beyond their own borders” Celestia explained. ”In either case there are also gods who regularly meet to discuss the affairs of the world. This gathering is simply known as the Host. They make rules that the gods need to follow, though given the powers at play, there are not many rules and most of them are broad or self serving. There are rules on trying to destroy other gods, and races , rules for trying to steal from gods. There are also rules on trying to make your own life form, though those are more recent. The Host also acts as a court to pass judgment on those who have broken the rules, or those who are a clear danger to Equss. They are tried by a jury of their peers, as the only peers to gods are the other gods.”
Twilight was hastily writing.
“So is there a god of moon since you're the god of the sun?” Twilight questioned simply, still looking at her paper as she wrote. As such she didn't see Celestia flinch, Rahs however did. Celestia turned to meet the Moon Dog pups gaze, watching for any sort of reaction, only for him to drop his head back to his paws with a wuff.
Celestia let out a small sigh.
“Perhaps we should move on before I need to list all of the gods I know Twilight. After all this information isn't going to be much use to you unless you ascend yourself.......”
“I'm surprised to see you two here, Rhino, Ascepius, this is a little out of your usual stomping grounds.” Celestia frowned lightly as she and her sister came to a stop at the edge of the group.
“Bleu was kind enough to offer us a lift.” the gray skinned Rhino muttered.” While I am not a fan of the air, I cannot deny that the idea of lost knowledge might have sent me running.”
“While losssst knowledge issss all well and good. Thisssss place has been sssssealed away for over thirteen hundred yearssss. The chance of maladyssss that we have desssstroyed being rampant in thisssss place issss too high for ussss to sssssit back and let it fesssssster.” Ascepius hissed.
“I understand, thank you for the assistance.” Celestia looked up at the towering buffalo mountain standing above them all.
“You know why I am here.” Iinii glowered staring down at Celestia and Luna, his expression still unreadable.
“The problem is, we can't go in. The whole place is rigged to vanish again, probably for another thirteen hundred years.” Lockheed snapped. “And since most of us rushed here we didn't manage to bring any servants of our own to send in. Yet you did Celestia. Curious.”
“The Empire was closest to Equestria and we had a rail line up this way for a resort. When I first heard I sent a Guard contingent and Cadence here. We are just now getting here ourselves with a research team.”Celestia explained.
“And the Elements.” Fledge stated ruffling her feathers, the Raven now the form of a snowy owl.
“Better to have them in case they are needed. I am unsure if this is part of Velkorn's propachy or not. I am skeptical that Chrysalis played the part of Envy, but if so that would make the next Greed.” Celestia explained.
“Perhaps they are more to keep your sister in line?” Teacup questioned staring at the darker alicorn.
“ The Elements have purged her of the darkness...”Celestia began.
“Like they did with Discord?” Kodiak snarled.
“To be fair, Discord is Discord.” Martle sighed. “ They did seal him for a long time and once freed the only one he bothered was his ex. So they might have done something.”
“Forthe had other suggestions for that.” Kodiak snapped.
“And we all know that Forthe certainly doesn't have any ulterior motives, and harbors not a drop of malice towards Luna at all.” Bleu snarked.
“Forthe was here?” Celestia blinked, her ears flattening to her head. “Why was he in the north?”
“A good question.” Rhino pondered.” There is nothing up here but the abominations and now the hidden empire. Even the Yaks and Rams steer clear of this valley.”
“Alright I want two per civi and three on each of the Element Bearers. Tribe teams, no doubles even If you're working with another Guard unit. All business ponies, this is a high risk area, when the escort gets here we are moving with a purpose, no stopping or lollygagging. If you forgot something we are not coming back for it, we move as fast as the slowest member of the detail. If something happens you are to pick them up and bring them with you. Guards on the Bearers, we are code black, no matter what the happens those mares are to come back alive, everything and everyone else is expendable, am I clear!?” Comet Trail bellowed over the snow.
“YES SIR!” was the barked report from the gathered guards.
A little distance away between the Guards and the train station a gathering of well bundled up ponies, and a Moon Dog stood.
“I for one, am not thrilled with this” Sunburst sighed.
“Ain't sitting well with me either” Applejack muttered.
“Then we simply need to make sure we make sure there's no need for them to risk themselves for us” Rarity frowned.
“Dang... this is heavy stuff.” Spike muttered looking around from his perch on Rahs shoulder, a morose expression on his face. “There's so much that can go wrong here.”
“Not the first time we've been in a situation like that Spike.” Rainbow Dash smirked. “Doubt it's gonna be the last either.”
“Woof.” Rahs responded his ears perked up as he looked up at the dome in the distance.
“You smell something? What is it?” Twilight asked.
Rahs frowned before shrugging lightly. He didn't know what the scent was, but it was coming from the empire. It wasn't pleasant either.
“Looks like the escort's here.” Rainbow Dash pointed out. A long heavily bundled pony strode through the snow towards the group. The Guards quickly moved into position around the research team, the doctors, and the three sleds that were being pulled with them.
The pony wore a strange set of sun glasses that covered his eyes save narrow slits and had a thick scarf wrapped around his face in addition to the bulky coat he wore.
“Halt and order.” The massive form of the Nox-cal, Lodestone approached the newcomer, staring down at the bundled figure.
“Double sized Mocha, with three drops of caramel and a swizzle straw.” the figure called back. “Hold the froth picture.”
“He's clear.” Lodestone called back before turning to the bundled figure with a grin. “Nice to see you're still alive prince.”
“I told you not to call me that.” Shining Armor muttered as he pulled down the scarf and pushed the goggles up over his horn.
“Shining! You're alright!” Twilight called out.
“What? After all I've been through you think a little snow is gonna stop me?”Shining Armor smirked. “Glad you're here though sis, this is a bit of a doozy. And a crappy honeymoon too.”
“Sounds about your luck though Armor. Anything to report or can we move out?” Comet Trail questioned.
“Quite a lot, but we can talk on the move. We've made no progress on the barrier and even before it started closing in we had to put up the shield to keep out the snow. There's also something outside that's been hitting itself against the barrier for the whole time we've been here. Some sort of smoke thing. It shows up around sunset and stays all night. If we head out now we should be able to get back before it shows up. Spells and physical attacks don't do anything to it and even my shields only partially effective against it. The one Cadence has up stops it, but she's had the shield up for three days now. And she hasn't figured out how to set it and just recharge it like mine, she's literally holding the Empire in place. Not sure how much longer she can hold it.”
Shining glanced to the wagons.
“There better be some damn strong coffee on one of those.” the unicorn added.
“Oooh, ooh, I can make some Pie family coffee if that helps.” Pinkie Pie bounced up and down in the snow.
“Pinkie I don't think we need to kill Princess Cadence. You're the only one I've ever seen drink that and not need to be rushed to the hospital.” Fluttershy frowned.
“Alright we're moving now. Talk on the march. Hustle ponies, we've got an empire to save.” Comet Trail called out.
[ Some time later]
Twenty ponies, three carts of supplies, a moon dog, a dragon, fifty guards and Shining Armor made their way through the expanse of snow towards the empire. The groups fliers were grounded due to the snow storm and high winds in the area. The weather making the two miles seem like forever.
Twilight, Moon Dancer, Comet Trail, and Dr. Hospice walked ahead a bit speaking with Shining Armor.
“The barrier has moved in about a mile since we first got here, we're already past the zone of inclusion Those rock towers a bit back were where the compacting of the barrier started when Cadence passed.” Shining Armor explained.
“So the Princesses can't come past that point without making things worse?” Comet Trail sighed.
“As far as we know. No one really wants to risk it.” Twilight theorized, she was heavily cloaked with matching boots and leg warmers, rather stylishly, thanks to Rarity of course. All the other girls were much the same with Rahs wearing a brand new and rather thick bright orange coat. When asked about the near blinding color of the coat, Rarity pointed out it was the material color she had left after making the others, and Sweetiebelle's help.
Rahs didn't mind. It was warm.
Spikes coat was the soft yellow of Applebloom's fur. The others thought it was cute until Spike mentioned it felt like he had skinned Applebloom to wear her flesh. It became slightly unsettling then, but they stopped teasing the little drake wearing something that matched his filly friend, which had been his plan all along.
“You said there was something wrong with the citizens here?” Dr. Hospice asked, the dappled brown and white unicorn stallion was half buried in a thick cloak, though wisps of his gray hair fluttered out from under the hood.
“I'm not sure what is wrong with them. All of them are skittish and with faded and muted colors. “ Shining Armor explained about the ponies they had found in the Empire. “They are all earth ponies but a large number are weak and frail, which is weird, but not unexpected given how they have been living. What is unexpected is that they also have no memories, or it's more like they can't recall anything. Some can't even remember their names or what their jobs are. It's obvious what some are, like the armored ponies were clearly Guards, but they don't recall what they were doing or who they worked for. We've got the lot of them disarmed and secured in their barracks under guard. But it's like they can't process anything.”
“I can understand the fearful given what I've heard about this place, but the rest of it.” Twilight muttered.
“Some sort of dissociation disorder perhaps. “ Dr. Hospice frowned. “I didn't bring a professional psychiatrist on my team, though Jaspers did have a stint in it.”
“I'm inclined to think if it's affecting the whole empire it's magical based and not clinical, doctor.” Moon Dancer added.
“Well the whole place is odd. Everything feels muted. None of the Heart Guard are suffering from anything, just the citizens, so it might be an after effect of the displacement.” Shining Armor added. “ It doesn't explain the rabbits though.”
The group took off as a massive smokey shape approached from out of the storm. Two of the cart pullers were starting to lag behind a bit as the others galloped on. Two of the Guard Nocturne thundered up behind the carts, the massive Nox-cal put their shoulders against the back of the cart and started pushing. The sudden increase in speed making the pullers scramble to keep ahead of the carts. Applejack surged on pulling the third supply cart with Rainbow Dash and Pinkie Pie helping push having no issue keeping up.
Magic blasts lit up the sky firing into the darkness, shields formed in the air trying to deter the thing, the snows melting around the focused fire from the unicorn guards. The shadowy creature screamed out as the shots of light passed harmlessly through through it, the mass chasing after the fleeing ponies flowing around and through the shields raised.
The group thundered towards the barrier shield, the fastest runners of the team passing the edge of it already. The unicorn guards stopping at the edge to turn and face the threat as the others pushed through to protect those on the other side.
“Don't stop just run right through it, it'll be fine.” Shining Armor bellowed turning to add his own energy blasts to the attack. He quickly formed a shield as a dark beam of energy burst from the creature, the energy bouncing off the hastily raised protection. The last of the civilian ponies made it through the shield, the unicorns started falling back though as well.
The smoke beast lashed out a tendril at them, slapping three of the guard into the air sending them flying back through the shield. Another lash of darkness crushed a Nox-cal Kirin to the ground with a horrendous crunch of bone and screaming. Shining grabbed the fallen guard in his magic yanking him back through the shield as the shadowy thing roared slamming bodily into the shield trying to reach the fleeing ponies.
“MEDIC!!!”Shining Armor bellowed carrying the wounded kirin through the shield in his magic.
“HERE!” Doctor hospice shouted back, his horn glowing as he yanked a collection of equipment from a cart, including a gurney. The rolling table was quickly set up as the group of doctors took the injured kirin from Shining Armor.
The others that had been hit by the smoke were hurt, but no where near as bad as the kirin and were being helped away from the shield by other Guards.
The kirin guard, Corporal Star Drive, was quickly stripped of his armor, the metal nearly melted off of him to get to his wounds with the armor removed, the damage became much clearer. The night Guard armor's protective enchantments likely the only reason the rust colored Nox-Cal was still alive.
“What the buck hit him, both his back legs and his pelvis are crushed.” one of the doctors muttered, her horn glowing brightly as she let her magic run over the kirin in a scan.
“Check the internals, worry about the bones later.... what tha?” Hospice demanded as his horn winking out as he winced. A wince that was shared by the other two doctors.
Black crystals started forming along the Nox-cal's horn, trailing along his temples and across his spine, pushing up through the skin with wet splorts of rending flesh. Thankfully the guard had already blacked out from the pain. “I can't scan, somethings blocking me.” Dr. Jasper snarled.
“Doc we've got more of that over here, four unicorns have black crystals sprouting from their horns.” A earth pony guard called out.
“More than that,” shouted a pegasus. “Every one of them is developing the damn things!”
“Armor what is this crap?” Hospice shouted at Shining. “Jasper get the trauma kit we're going to have to do this the hard way. What the hell is this shit!?”
“We've been avoiding that thing. I haven't seen anything like this here yet.....” Shining Armor stated looking over to the afflicted unicorns, all of them were ones who had been touched or used a shield to block the creatures attacks. He had done that himself, but no crystals were forming on his horn.
He quickly looked to his sister and her friends. He hadn't wanted any of the civis to be exposed to this sort of thing, let alone his sister. They were all staring with varying degrees of shock, revulsion, or worry. Twilight was simply staring blankly, a look he recognized as usually a form of panic attack where she froze. Better than running screaming he supposed. Spike had his face buried in her mane not able to look at the wounded guard. Rahs was..wait... where was Rahs?
“WOOF!” The large moon dog demanded pushing a pegasus away from one of the afflicted unicorn guards. He crouched down sniffing the black crystals on his horn before looking over at Twilight. “ Bark!”
“Coffee? “ Twilight blinked snapping out of her frozen state, her mind switching gears quickly. “ It smells like coffee? That means....” She glanced over to Shining staring intently at him and his untouched horn. “ Do it, Shining's got no sign of it.”
Rahs nodded, ducking his head down and biting down on the unicorns horn lightly.
The unicorn flinched like he'd been slapped wincing but not daring to move with the moon dogs fangs clamped around his horn. Rahs pulled back after a moment and spit out what looked like a small pile of gray rocks. The unicorn's horn however was free of the jutting black crystals.
“Anything, any surge?” Twilight demanded giving Spike to Fluttershy and approaching, her face a mass of focus as if she now had a problem to solve.
“I feel like shit.” The unicorn muttered rubbing his head with a hoof.
“Perfect. This affliction is a spell. What ever it is isn't stronger than what Rahs can break down” Twilight offered. “ basicly he can digest the spell by either biting or licking the crystals. You sure you're alright Rahs?”
The moon dog considered before licking his muzzle and shrugging. “ Wuff.”
“I'm sure one day you'll find a cider flavor...” Twilight rolled her eyes.
“No offense Miss Sparkle, but I'm not comfortable with your brother licking my horn.” One of the other unicorns muttered.
“He can pee on it too, that has the same effect as his saliva.” Twilight offered as Spike offered an amused snort..
“So..... licking it it is.” the unicorn responded.
Rahs moved quickly to the wounded kirin frowning as he looked at the damage closer up. He let out a sigh before growling a little and spitting on his paws. He hand them down along the guards back working the saliva into his fur and scales and the black crystals matting down the rust colored fur.
The effect was near immediate, the black crystals began falling out of the kirin like grapes being popped off the vine. He added more spit as needed, and although the Kirin's back and horn were soon soaked in drool, all the black crystals were out.
“I'm still being blocked.” Jasper cursed trying another scan.
Twilight shuddered as she approached and cast a cantrip spell that cleaned all the drool from the kirin's fur along with a great deal of his blood. “Try it now.”
Twilight swallowed as she flung the mess to the side of the cobblestone road, her brother going to help the others with more moon dog spit.
“Alright I've got it. Jade start checking his organs work your way up from the worst damage.” Jasper barked.
“I've got a rupture, fixing it now.” Hospice muttered “Jade make sure he stays under. I've got to fix this and clean it out before it goes septic, heart and lungs check out, two ribs puncturing his stomach lining. Liver's clear though, damn lucky there...”
“Saved by spit... that's a new one, we could use that for magic maladies...” Jade muttered.
“The effect doesn't last long once he's away from it maybe twenty minutes tops. We tested it while we were still in Princess Celestia's school, she had the same idea when she found out about his magic eating.” Twilight explained.
“Pity.” Jade offered before turning back to the kirin with the other two.
“Make him ready to transport. We'll set everything back up in the palace.” Shining Armor ordered.
“We need to make sure he will survive first, he's in no condition to be moved more.” Jasper snapped at him.
“We've already lost a mile to that barrier doctor. If Cadence so much as flinches we could lose more, and if that happens while you're here you'll learn if you can treat some one in the snow with a smoke monster trying to kill you. Prep him to move.” Shining snapped back.
“You heard the stallion lets move it, if you lot can walk do it. “ Comet Trail yelled at the afflicted unicorns.
“I feel drained as all crap, but yeah I can walk.” One of them stated, even the ones who's horns had been cleaned of the crystals seemed lethargic.
“That's an after effect, you'll be fine after some rest.” Twilight started before looking back at the triage center. “ Moon Dancer, Rarity, Sunburst! Take up cardinal points here, here, and here.” Twilight snapped pointing a hoof at the spots around the operating doctors. “I'll take point on this you keep it balanced. Doctors don't be alarmed, I'm going to try and make this as steady as possible.”
Twilight's horn glowed brightly, flowing into the cobble stones below the gurney . After a moment the purple mare grunted and a massive slab of stone rose into the air with the doctors perched atop of it, Twilight turned and slowly started walking along the road, with the other four following behind her making sure the slab of rock and it's occupants didn't tilt or tip.
“Spike send a message to Celestia. We've encountered an enemy and it's an asshole” Twilight grumbled.
[In the snow field.]
“It doesn't matter if the mutt was here or not,” Kodiak snarled!” What matters is the night mare empire has returned and 'that' has as well!”
The large bear pointed a claw at Luna who flinched.
“We have already established she was under control....” Celestia began.
“I find that unlikely Celestia.” Lockheed stated.” For a mortal to have developed a spell that allowed them to control a god is far fetched enough. Then you state the Elements of Harmony cured her when they have consistently failed to do anything about Discord and were completely useless the first time the Crystal Empire appeared. Both of us lost a large portion of our population due to her actions and the monsters she created, one of which you still allow to be free. That you are so willing to forgive that after a mere thousand years shows how young and stupid you are ...”
“I'm two hundred years older than you Lockheed.” Celestia snapped. “And as stated, when Discord escaped this time he didn't bother any one other than me.”
“Of course not, because you had my focus. And every one else is so dreadfully boring” Discord stated making the group jump as they looked for the chaos god who wasn't even there.
“My point stands.” Lockheed muttered warily.
“Do I need to point out, that Celestia was one of the leaders trying to stop her sister and was the one who ultimately succeeded” Martle spoke up. “Only the Buffalo were more proactive against the darkness.”
A few of the gods looked back at the hill towering behind them, though if Iinii noticed he made no sign of it, and stared on at the dome of the Empire.
“We should have put her in Tartarus after what she did to Forthe. It was fairly clear she was up to no good then.” Kodiak snapped.
“Forthe is an ass, and it wasn't as if we even had a law about that yet. All she did was try to save a few mortals and Forthe lost his shit about having to share his portfolio when he didn't even have to in the end.” Teacup muttered. ”As for the selective breeding rule, need I remind you about koalas and raccoons, BEAR god??”
“She did try to fix the issue too. Forthe was very against any sort of help aside from her killing the ones she saved. It is hardly a crime to NOT take a life.” Kaz stated. “Forthe was the one who was at fault for refusing.”
“Until she turned loose her monstrosities on Equss and nearly destroyed him because of it.” Kodiak snapped.
“I'm afraid I wasssssn't part of thisssss when it happened. Sssssso I am unsssssure here.” Ascepius offered.
“I will fill you in later if you wish, but it was not of my matter either at the time.” Rhino stated.
“She has been freed for two years now and has been checked out by a number of gods to show she is free of Solomon's control and the dark taint.” Celestia responded her tone starting to get a bit uneven at the constant bickering circle.
Luna had yet to respond and simply took the accusations.
“In your care, with your allies.” Lockheed stated.
“Are you questioning my skills Lockheed?” Bleu glared at the griffon.
“Please, you are capricious at best, and lazy at worst, you probably just waved a claw and said she was fine.”Lockheed responded.
“We can settle this now if you all...” Celestia tried.
“She has been rather silent this whole time.” Fledge pointed out, looking like some sort of vulture now.
“Because she knows she is guilty!!” Kodiak roared.
“Silence on a subject does not mean guilt!” Kaz growled.
“Yet to not even try to defend oneself from accusations...” Lockheed countered.
“It would be easy to simply.....” Celestia tried again as the bickering continued.
“Body language could be interpreted as guilt if the accused is unwilling to speak.” Rhino pondered. “ I have several texts on that.”
“I thought you had no ssssay?” Ascepius questioned.
“It is a simple bit of knowledge, I am not siding.” Rhino huffed.
“Please just listen....” Celestia frowned.
“What was that Lockheed!?!” Bleu snarled.
“ I shouldn't think something as uncultured as you would understand what I was saying.” Lockheed snarked.
“Bitch, your race came about when a full bird fucked a cougar, and I'm not talking about military rank OR attractive older females.” Bleu hissed. “Don't talk to me about culture!”
“ENOUGH!” Kodiak snapped, shoving past Martle and Rhino. “If none of you fools will do anything about the danger before us I will drag it to Tartarus my self to be rid of its corruption.”
“Kodiak stop... “ Celestia moved to stop the massive bear.
“Out of my way mare, this no longer concerns you!” the towering bear god snapped and shoved Celestia aside, storming towards the unmoving Luna.
There was a flash of red light.
[Where mares glow, and stallions plunder ]
The night sky over the plains lit up with a red glow. A whistling sound sent a number of smaller animals scurrying for their dens. And sent the larger, deer like creatures with thick tails hopping off towards safety.
A falling star arced through the sky slamming into the earth with an explosion of fire and a great gout of dirt and rock being flung into the air as it impacted.
A few of the braver roo's hopped closer, peering over the lip of the massive crater that had formed and still radiated heat.
At the bottom of the crater was a large ursine form of that looked vaguely like a chard kola.
The first roo blinked noting the two burn marks on the underside of the brown figures chin that looked like horse shoes.
“Huh.. drop bears getting a bit more aggressive now,coming in from space.” The second commented looking up at the sky.
“Ow.” uttered Kodiak
[ Former ice fields near the ski resort.]
A plain of black ash and rock radiated out from a central point near the ski lodge stopping just short of where Princess Luna stood.
Steam filled the air soaking the gathered gods, save Iinii who remained unmoving and uninterested in the goings on near by.
The snow and ice had not even had time to melt before it was steam, or in some patches here and there , on fire and burning merrily.
In the center of this clearing, which also held the other gods, all of whom seemed slightly chard, save Iinii who was still outside the ring, was a pure white alicorn.
The mare was standing on the bare ground, the rock melting or turning to glass under her hooves. Her mane and tail were lit up in a fiery orange that whipped in the air like it was flame itself. Her eyes were bright crimson and her breath sent blasts of heat hot enough to ignite the air before her nostrils.
“DOES ANY ONE ELSE WANNA FUCK WITH THE SUN TODAY!?!?” Celestia bellowed.
“NO ONE!?” Celestia snarled, the tone enough that even Iinii had turned to watch her.” GOOD, shut up and listen. I just got my sister back and I'm not letting any of you lock her away again for no damn reason. You have a problem with the scanning spells we used to see if she was clear, blame Ascepius, she's the one who taught them to me. If you have a issue with Rahs Sparkle, tough shit as well, I helped raise him and he mauled Discord, so none of you are so much going to look at him funny.”
The naga blinked at being addressed.
Bleu after staring blankly at first started laughing, and then promptly fell off Kaz's shoulder with a thud clutching her sides as she cackled on the ground.
Kaz simply rolled his eyes
“Rhino! Fuck off! You're friendly as all get out if there's some information you want we have , but even getting so much as a sentence of information from you when lives are on the line is like pulling teeth!!” Celestia screamed out jabbing a wing at the rhino god.
“That is hardly....” Rhino began.
“FUCK OFF! OR LEARN WHERE KODIAK WENT FIRST HOOF!”
“Fucking off.” Rhino stated turning and very quickly headed south.
“Lockheed the only reason your over grown feather dusters of a race are not all dead is because of all the bits we send to keep them alive, your race is in shambles, your damn nobles all mostly live in Equestria. We allied ONCE to deal with the fall out of the Nightmare, that lasted three hundred years before you tried to take some of our territory and it cost you didn't it!? You're about as noble as what I wiped off my ass this morning in the bath room. You come here and try to start this nonsense with me? Guess what, that's it . You're cut off, and I'm deporting all your nobles living on my bit the moment I get back to Canterlot. Let's see how long it takes before your lower cast eats them.”
Lockheed's eyes had gotten wider and wider the more the mare ranted.
“Martle I told you centuries ago to keep your monsters out of my cities and every year I still have to deal with them.” Celestia snapped.
“I'm the god of sapient beasts, getting the dumb ones to do anything is like herding cats.” Martle muttered.” You need a Chimera to wander off somewhere, easily done, you want me to talk to a hydra? The moment it loses a head, anything that was in that head is forgotten by the others.”
“Fair enough” Celestia grumbled.
“Fledge...” Celestia glared up at the swan sitting on the buffalo's back. “For bucks sake pick a damn form and stick with it longer than thirty seconds.”
The harpy god frowned.
“Teacup, you're fine, our deal is still on with the breezies. What are we two hundred years away from completion?” Celestia muttered her hair at least no longer burning.
“A hundred and eighty nine.” Tea Cup answered.
“Good... Bleu seriously shut up....” Celestia rolled her eyes.
“No .” Bleu gasped before cackling more.”You punted him into orbit, hahhahahahahha.”
"BURLAP!!" Celestia started, staring at the orc god who was still standing in the same place he had been when they trotted up. A moment of study showed the massive green boar had fallen asleep where he stood and had likely missed the entire exchange.
"Never mind" sighed Celestia.
“And Iinii you already know what's going on, you're the oldest one here, you should have said something!” Celestia glared at the buffalo mountain.
“There was no need, you have dealt with the problem.” Iinii stated and turned back to watch the Empire.
“To be fair Celestia you knew you were going to have some problem here. Particularly with Luna turned inward so much at the return of this place.” Kaz commented.” Despite this not being her fault she is still clearly feeling guilty about it.”
“Had Kodiak not come after her, it would have stayed civil. But I have found I can only be a diplomat so long before I reach my limit. Threatening my family gets to that limit damn quick. Yes i expected issue, and yes she needs to get over it . We've dealt with this when she first came back.” Celestia looked back at Luna. Her fire having died down enough that snow was falling again. “No one with any common sense blames you Lulu.”
“Indeed.” Iinii stated. “Though there are other things here that we are still to deal with.”
“But what about my...” Lockheed began to whine.
“Stuff it Lockheed, I'll build some soup kitchens on the border, they're your people, fix it yourself for once. Bad enough I have to deal with Chrysalis on the loose again.” Celestia grumbled glancing up as a scroll burnt into existence above her horn. She unrolled it in her magic and read it. Her attention quickly going to the barrier, as she looked for the smoke creature.
“It is on the other side of the barrier. It stays too far in the inclusion zone for us to deal with it.” Iinii stated. “It is strong, but it is not showing enough power to be a god of any kind I have seen. A remnant of the darkness perhaps?”
“Sister.... what has happened?” Luna began, moving up to look at the note.
“Twilight's group was attacked. The Bearers are fine but one of your guards is badly hurt and several others are wounded. According to Spike if Rahs hadn't been there the guard would have died and the others would have been useless.” Celestia frowned noting a bit of easing on Luna's features. “They've made it to the palace.”
“Attacked huh...... this is gonna get interesting.” Bleu muttered, finally stopping her laughter.
[ The base of the Crystal Palace.]
“Letter's sent Twi.” Spike offered his gaze shifting around at his surroundings.
“Did you mention the rabbits?” Twilight asked.
“We'll send another later, let me put this some where” Twilight muttered shifting the stone slab with the doctors on it down to lightly place it on the cobblestones near the door to the palace.
Surrounding the group, scattered all across the city, sitting on the ground, the tops of buildings, random windowsills, atop lamp posts, under mail boxes, on the sides of walls, in midair, on beams of light, or on the edge of a shadow, were thousands of white rabbits. They were in reflections, under the water of a fountain they passed, clustered on the under side of awnings and wandering around in mid air.
The red eyed creatures paid them no mind and seemed to wink in and out of existence as any one got within a certain distance of them. Rahs was the only one they seemed to look at and the moment they noticed him, they vanished. Once the group had passed some of them reappeared but others did not.
They occasionally seemed to be nibbling on the edges of a building or a mote of light in the air. The one time they saw another pony, it had several of them in it's mane that seemed to be eating the strands of hair without the mare noticing. The mare quickly ducked into a building slamming the door behind her.
“This is new.”
“Yeah I'm not even going to try to figure out the rabbits at the moment.” Moon Dancer sighed glancing up at Rahs oddly.
“Right, we talk to Cadence first. Then we get started trying to fix this.” Twilight agreed. “Shining is there a library?”
“Yeah, two of them. A patrol found one down the main drag, looked excessively unused and there were chains on the doors. Had some of my team break in and the whole place is covered in dust like no one has been in there in a long time. Guess Solomon sealed it and forgot about it. The other ones smaller but it's in the palace here, probably a personal library. I've kept every pony out of it just in case there were traps, we haven't had time to do more than secure the main areas yet.”
“Okay can you spare a couple Guards to lead the research team to the locked up library?”Twilight asked as her brother nodded. “The six of us and Rahs will go see Cadence then check out the library in the palace. Moon Dancer you take over the research team for now. Spike, I need you to go with her, if you find anything, flame mail me. If we find something I'll send you something back.”
“You can flame mail each other now?” Sunburst asked.
“Yeah tuns out it's pretty easy to lock on to a target. I can send to Princess Luna, Princess Cadence, Twilight, Mom, and Bleu on top of Princess Celestia. “ Spike beamed. “It just takes a really expensive gem infused with a ton of magic to give me a lock.”
“Huh, something to look into later.” Moon Dancer pondered “ Alright ponies lets go, times a wasting we have a job to do.”
“Are you sure this is safe?” Spike questioned. “ We're splitting the party, 'in' the dungeon here.”
“Come on Spike, it's a library, what can go wrong in a library?” Twilight stated.
Both her brothers stared at her.
“Never mind, don't answer that.”Twilight sighed.” Look Spike, you'll have a bunch of Guards around, including Lodestone and you can flame mail me if something goes wrong.”
“Fine....” Spike sighed.” You're lucky my paladin code puts the needs of the many before the few.”
Despite their magical numbness the guards still split as needed and followed their respective groups with the exception of the fallen kirin. Two of the Heart Guard joined the research group and another two fell in with Shining Armor and the Element bearers as they entered the palace.
[Inside the Crystal Palace throne room.]
A pink alicorn lay slumped over the throne groaning softly as she struggled to raise her head, her horn glowed brightly, though there were heavy enough bags under her eyes to make her look like a raccoon. Her fur was some what matted and her mane a mess, she clearly needed a good preening as well.
A Heart Guard stood nearby with a campfire brewer, making several pots of coffee at once.
“Cadence.” Twilight called out as she rushed into the room with the others right behind her.
“Oh wow you look like crap.” Rainbow Dash pointed out, only to get an elbow to the ribs from Applejack.
“Greetings Princess we haven't seen you since the wedding.” Rarity chimed up. “You're looking..... well.”
“This is the worst honey moon ever.” Cadence joked. “I'm glad you're here, I'm not sure how much longer I can keep this up. No pony will talk to us and the few who will don't remember anything. I'm hoping you might be able to find something or at least Fluttershy can ask the rabbits.”
“Oh I tried princess. But whatever they are saying sounds like gibberish to me.” Fluttershy frowned. “ they also don't act like any rabbits I know of.”
“Well so much for the easy way.” Cadence sighed.
“Scuse me fer asking Princess but why are you holding up that shield, ain't those more a Shining Armor's thing?” Applejack asked.
“I tried to start with, but the barrier passed through my shield like it wasn't anything, it was only when Cadence tried to help that it stopped. “ Shining Armor muttered. “Her shield is the only thing that is stopping the barrier from closing............”
“Well we passed through it pretty easy shouldn't be hard getting out.” Rainbow Dash offered.
“Yes well...” Shining looked to Cadence. “Cadence can't pass through the barrier, she's trapped here. We already tried to leave once. This place is like a trap designed for alicorns or gods or something.”
“You mean?” Twilight gasped.
“Right, if the empire vanishes, so does Cadence.” Shining Armor growled.
“Wow Shining wasn't kidding, this place is a mess.” Spike muttered wiping a claw along a shelf and looking at the near inch layer of dust on his claw.
The library itself was massive, three stories, plus a double basement taking up a full city block. It easily dwarfed the Canterlot royal library in size as well as volumes, given how nearly every available wall for the full three stories was covered with shelves of books. Ornate crystal walk ways ran along the walls at every story circling the open air main area allowing those on the upper tiers to look down on the lower. Curving stairs ran up to the next floor in every corner of the building, and various wider balconies gave a place for patrons to read on the upper tiers.
The open floor space on the ground floor was wrapped around a long stone wall that ran along the middle of the structure. Various works of art or items of interest were placed atop of the stone. A few old weapons, some faded paintings, and at the very front, on a metal pedestal was a massive buffalo statue that looked as if it was carved out of black crystal. Who ever the artist was they were very detailed as each strand of fur seemed to be separate from the others.
Moon Dancer stared in awe until Sunburst came over and pushed her jaw closed, offering her a rag.” You're drooling dear.” he smirked.
“Right.. okay .. Focus... Sunburst pass out the glasses. Every one focus on finding anything we can about the empire, any sort of spell books as well. No matter how interesting something is we need to work fast, skim the books look for the info we need and move on if it's not there. If you find something, put it on that table there and Spike and I will check to see if it's relevant.”
Six ponies took glasses from Sunburst and he gave a pair to Spike. “Sorry I didn't have time to make more, these are translation lenses. We've condensed the spells needed to make anything you view through these translate to modern equestrian. It's not perfect by a long shot, and we only managed to get ten languages in them, but ancient Equestrian is one of them, or at least the best translations we could get.” Sunburst offered. “I didn't expect we would have any one other than our little team, so those of you without glasses help out those who have them in finding books.”
“Brahe, Gauss, you take the top floor. You three go with them.” Moon Dancer pointed to a pair of pegasi and a couple of earth ponies.
“Herschel, Hoyle, you two take the next tier and you four go with them.” Moon Dancer pointed at a Unicorn and earth pony mare who nodded taking along the four extra workers that had come along with them. Each group was also followed by double their number in guards.”If the Guards can help that will make things go faster.”
“I don't think the guards should help... they need to focus on their jobs.” Spike stated as he looked around the library.
“We could use the help.” Sunburst stated.
“Yeah, but somethings wrong here.” Spike frowned.
“You noticed to? Good eye drake.” Lodestone smirked.
“Noticed what?” Moon Dancer asked.
“There are no rabbits in here.” Spike stated gesturing to the silent dust covered, empty, library.
“What is with all these rabbits!!” Rainbow Dash cursed as she glared at one of the white bunnies that was hopping through the air in front of her, nibbling on something unseen.
“Well, they are a lot braver than the ones outside.” Rarity commented.
Twilight grumbled as one of the rabbits sat on her head. The rabbits still avoided Rahs and kept a large circle of space empty around him, but none of the others had that granted personal space and were swarmed by them. There were more rabbits in the palace than out of it. For some reason though, no pony could touch them, as they either faded out or simply were not physically there if any one tried.
Fluttershy kept trying though.
The Heart guard had taken the group to the library where they were pouring over any book they could find. Twilight was rather annoyed at how many of them seemed to be works of fiction, and Rahs was annoyed he couldn't read any of them.
The others just looked through the books to see if there were any pictures, as Twilight was the only one who could translate the ancient equestrian. It was a small library, but it was slow going.
Pinkie Pie however had a different mission. She was currently in the throne room with Cadence and Shining Armor. She had set up a coffee stand and was currently mixing something that caused steam and other strange colors of smoke to spiral into the air.
“Umm, just normal coffee is fine Pinkie it works.” Cadence stated worriedly.
“Diminishing returns.” Pinkie Pie stated matter of factly “ Also normal coffee makes you poop too much. I get you're on a throne, but I bet it's not that sort of throne.” Pinkie Pie rambled as she kept mixing.
“What exactly are you making?” Shining Armor frowned.
“It's a Pie family secret recipe for coffee. Rock farming is super dull work and we needed something to keep us awake during the tedium of pushing rocks around all the time. So my great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great,... and a few more, Granny Pie, invented a drink that would help keep the farmers awake. Usually we prepare it the previous night cause it takes it a good while to percolate, but I didn't have time to make it yesterday. I was on the train to long and it doesn't do well being jostled.”
“Ummm.” Cadence blinked not being with it very well at the moment and Pinkie wasn't helping her confusion.
“You're an alicorn, you can handle it.” Pinkie smiled. “Besides if you fall asleep and vanish that's gonna make a lot of ponies sad, so don't worry your pretty fake pink head about it. Auntie Pinkie Pie will make this all better..... or at least give more time before you poof.”
“Well that ….” Shining muttered.
“Alicorns can't die right ? I mean not unless their whole reason for being poofs right? I mean, I still love cupcakes so you're safe there I think.” Pinkie Pie hummed to herself as she tapped her chin with a hoof. “Yeah, you should be fine.”
“Ahh, yeah, what is this drink called any way Pinkie?” Shining asked watching the table with worry as something started to spark on it.
“Oh, Granny called it Shoggoth's milk.”
[ Crystal Library, a little under an hour later]
“I found something” Gauss called out, the pegasus hopping over the railing and drifting down carrying a large book.
“That was fast.” Moon Dancer smiled.
“I looked for the largest books, standard fiction tends to be smaller, with the larger tomes needing the size for maps or illustrations.” Gauss smirked.
“History of the Crystal Empire....” Spike nodded as he looked at the cover through the glasses. “ Hope this has something.”
[ The Palace, a bit later still]
“A faire?” Rainbow Dash questioned.
“I'm up fer some fun as much as tha next pony, but how is a faire gonna help anything?” Applejack muttered.
“Moon Dancer thinks it's a ritual spell. Ritual magic was widely practiced in olden pony times.” Twilight muttered. “Spike sent a note out to Princess Luna and she mentioned that while she didn't recall it exactly, Solomon did have a festival of some sort every year. It could be the source of why the empire vanished if Sombra didn't do the ritual. Moon Dancer sent over a list of things we need to know to get the faire going. She warned me that there's a page missing however so there might be something we're not seeing with this. Her teams checking on it now.”
“Well, it's a start, we ken set this shindig up while you keep looking. Beats standing around watching yah read this gobldy gook.” Applejack commented.
“Maybe it might help some of the ponies here remember too. Familiar settings and surroundings can trigger memories for those who lost them.” Fluttershy added having looked into a few things after her failure to cure Twilight from Discord.
“Alright, Rahs and I will stay here and keep looking everything over, you girls be careful out there, this was an enemy city and so far we haven't seen anything but a smoke monster that's trapped outside.“ Twilight frowned giving the instructions to the others. “There's got to be more than that here.
“ We'll keep an eye out ma'am.” One of the Guards nodded as a troop followed the Bearers out of the small library leaving Comet Trail, and four other guards with the Sparkles.
Rahs wasn't looking at the books but he was watching the rabbits rather carefully.
“Woof.” Rahs stated again pointing at the rabbits.
“The rabbits don't have any smell?” Twilight considered. “Curiouser and curiouser.”
The unicorn mare quickly went back to her book though the pegasus guard patrolling the room stopped in front of a book case and stared at it a moment before he motioned to Comet Trail to come over. The rest of the ponies in the room tensed at the change of pattern and major Comet Trail moved over to where the Pegasus had spread his wings, his feathers brushing along the book case. Rahs watched with some interest as Comet Trail spread his dragon like wing as well , his tufted ears perking up curiously.
“Miss Sparkle, I think we found something.” Comet Trail stated.
“What?” Twilight asked as she looked back. The Major had the earth pony team member come over to give the shelf a quick shove to see if it opened like a secret door.
The the wall and the shelf both groaned in protest as a loud crack echoed in the library and the whole section crumbled to dust as the wall gave way and took the shelf with it.
“Ooops.” The earth pony guard muttered.
“A hidden room?” Comet Trail frowned looking inside the hole, one wing spread out to keep Twilight back.
Twilight pushed the draconic wing out of her face and looked into the chamber herself. There were a few rabbits inside and a small door at the far end that likely led to the store room next door to the library. On the other side of the room was a crystal pedestal that the rabbits were avoiding, with a black book resting on top of it
“Well that screams trap.” the pegasi who found the room muttered.
“It's covered with almost as many wards and spells as golden oak library.” Twilight frowned as she cast a scanning spell. She looked back at the table behind her.”This is going to take me some time to break through. That is a lot of spells. I need parchment and a....”
Twilight whirled back around to see Rahs standing next to the pedestal holding the book and chewing on something, the air around him was filled with flickering and broken spell work that her scanning spell picked up. There was a bit of magical smoke in the air as well, and the light of some kind of fire flickered between her brothers jaws as he chewed up the spell like it was taffy.
Another chomp in the air from the moon dog and the residual spell work collapsed in on it self with a faint pop, the trap destroyed. Rahs calmly walked back out of the hole in the wall and dropped the book on the table with a small burp.
“......Or I can just let my idiot brother deal with it.” Twilight sighed.
“It's a spell book.” Twilight frowned flipping through the pages. “ And not a very impressive one... why was this hidden away?”
“To be fair Miss sparkle, the room had a unlocked door leading to the back of the store room next door. The only reason we even felt the draft was that the room was cooler than in here and the wall had partially rotted away.” Comet Trail answered. “It wasn't well hidden.”
“There are a lot of places we haven't looked in the palace” one of the Heart Guard with them added. “ We've been focused on questioning every pony and keeping what places we have looked into secure. There were a lot of maids and guards wandering around here aimlessly when we first showed up.”
Twilight hummed as she looked over the book. “The sheer number of magical traps that were on the book means that there was a reason it was put in there. But everything in here is a basic spell with only a bit more focus on combat magic than most spell books. I know all these, even if they are written weird.” Twilight frowned. “Rahs have you found anything else about that book stand?”
“Wuff.” Rahs commented prodding the tinted crystal stand that was still in the hidden room, there were no more spells on either the book nor the stand that he could smell. There was however a flip up top on the stand that he had taken the book out of. The see through smoky crystal acted like one of those fancy glass cases you saw in the museum.
“Nothing.... but this book has to be some sort of clue, you don't just stick something in another room and trap the fool out of it for no reason.” Twilight snorted.
“Red herring?” a guard suggested.
“Dude was an ass?” another guard added.
“Maybe, on both of those, but something tells me not. Look here. The lettering is odd, at first I considered it some sort of odd script of old equish, but no other book I've looked at here has used this sort of type. It's not hand written, it's print and the spacing for this sort of print makes it seem like there's something between the letters, like a secret message, but there's no indents on the page and none of my spells reveal anything.”
“A secret message? You mean the sort you used to get from cereal boxes?” one of the guards asked.
“So that means we need a decoder ring or some special glasses?” another questioned.
Twilight considered before getting up and moving into the small room with her brother. She placed the book back inside the crystal pedestal, closing the lid and looking at the page she had left open. Well so much for that, it's just a spell book under glass now.”
Rahs however was staring at the book with a frown. He opened the glass case to check again before closing it and looking at the book more.
“Somethings magic?” Twilight questioned, her horn glowing as she started flipping through the pages of the covered book curiously, seeing nothing change at all.
Rahs frowned watching, still feeling the magic there, but not seeing anything. He opened the case again as Twilight got to the end of the book and flipped it over before slapping the book face down and closing the case.
The cover of the book glowed in shadow cast by the tinted case, a number of runes visible in the leathery binding.
“Well. That's new.” Twilight muttered as she looked over the runes her horn glowing.” Wow... that is some strong magic.......”
Twilight's ears perked up at that.
“Dark magic too...”Twilight muttered. “But it's a spell. Enchantment in fact, self targeting, odd.”
“Not sure what he said Miss Sparkle, but if it was 'don't even think about it', I agree.” Comet Trail responded.
“My sister in law and this empire are in danger.” Twilight snapped her horn still glowing.” Besides I already cast it.”
[Outside in the 'less snow than before' field]
“Another message from Spike, the Bearers and their Guards are trying to set up the faire they found out about. With luck the familiarity might jog some of their memories. “Celestia sighed reading the scroll.
“A long shot, but it's not as if there are other options we've come up with” Martle shrugged.
“There is a lot of ground to cover in the empire, there are places that exist there we do not know how to access. Solomon had a number of hidden passages.” Luna offered.” Even we... were not allowed to go into some of them back then.”
“We should prepare to evacuate the civilians at least. “ Kaz offered. “There is a river frozen over that runs to the sea at the edge of the ice shelf. Celestia and I should be able to clear it for ships to come up. I can have a force here for transport in a few hours. That will take strain off your train lines,”
“There are over a million ponies in the empire” Luna stated. “We would need a way to get them past the inclusion zone without the smoke creature attacking them. And if the message from Cadence is correct they are barely able to do more than hide and struggle to recall what they forgot. We cannot be sure we would get even half of them to safety. “
“It would be better than nothing.” Teacup stated. “ Your niece may be a lost cause at this point, but we could at least save as many of those that she is trying to protect as we could.”
“ I trust in Twilight to find a way. That whole family has surprised me countless times.”Celestia sighed
“What concerns me.” Ascepius pointed out. “ Are the rabbits.”
The other gods nodded.
“You know he won't show up until after every things already over right?” Lockheed sighed.
Twilight Sparkle flipped through the spell book rapidly, her eyes scanning over the newly revealed spells and the information contained within.
The Guards were much more concerned with the glowing tendrils of shadow that flowed out of her now green eyes, like smoke.
They were also highly concerned that Rahs sported the same feature, and the points of light at his ears and tail now looked like the moon in eclipse with only the faintest glow of light around the edges of the orbs.
They grew slightly less concerned when Rahs cuffed his sister upside the head and let off a rather lengthy tirade of barks at his sister.
Twilight for her part was ignoring him and focused on the spells in the book.
“I was right there's another set of words between the odd lettering. I've never heard of any of these spells, but I'm not sure I understand what they do...” Twilight frowned stopping at a page and staring at it with a look of disgust on her face.” I take that back... I know what this one does.”
Rahs looked over her shoulder to the spell and growled, the rumbled rattling some of the guards teeth.
“What, what is it?” Comet Trail demanded, having sent some pony to get Shining Armor.
“This is the spell used to turn Princess Luna into Nightmare Moon, all the details weaknesses and explanation for it is here. It turns gods into slaves...... This has to be Solomon's spell book.” Twilight grumbled flipping through more pages before stopping near the end of the book. “ Found it..... oh...... oh wow..... this is evil.....”
“You are not filling me with confidence here Miss Sparkle.” Comet Trail muttered.
“It's the spell around the empire. It's just wow, this is not a simple or nice spell. That barrier Cadence is holding back is only part of it. This thing is purely designed to trap gods and kill gods. Sort of like a crab pot, where the crabs can go in, but they can't get out. If a god comes in the trap springs and starts closing around the god in question until it closes completely and vanishes again taking the empire away with it. Anything caught in the spell at that point would have it's memories blocked and have a basic fear spell implanted so the only thing the victim wants to do is hide, not run, but hunker down in place.”
“That's bad” a guard muttered.
“It gets worse. It creates some sort of focal point under the ice. If that object is disturbed the Empire will return but only until at least one god enters it, then it will try to close again. Any captured gods will have the same effect as anything else caught in it and will forget everything. A new focal point will spawn and the process will repeat.”
“Sounds like the guy had a hard on for taking out gods.” a guard muttered.
“I think I can break it though. It seems that he used an artifact called the Crystal Heart to power the spell the first time. Any subsequent vanishings would be powered by those who were trapped in the empire and afterwards any gods that were trapped would be drained. Eventually everything in the empire would be drained of life to power the trap. And the only way it would never activate again was if the empire never trapped another god. But the power released each time it formed would act like a beacon to the gods, and if enough time passed between appearances every one out side might forget it's a trap.”
“This guy was a dick.”
“So Princess Cadence is food for this trap?” Comet Trail frowned.
“That's what it looks like, though if I can find the Heart I, well Rahs, can break the enchantment on it and disarm the trap. “ Twilight theorized as her brother nodded.
“So we just need to find an artifact of unknown power hidden somewhere in a massive city before the Cadence blacks out from lack of sleep and gets eaten by a magic trap devised by a psychopath. All with only about a hundred guard.” Shining Armor stated as he walked in hearing the last bit. His eyes narrowed as he looked at his little sister and brother. “Okay first off, I'm telling mom you're screwing around with dark forces again. Secondly... what do you need me to do?”
The plan was rather simple. The Element bearers minus Pinkie and Twilight, would keep trying to set up the faire. At the very least the faire should draw enough of the Crystal ponies into one place that the ritual that Moon Dancer's team discovered could take place. Given that Moon dancer found out the Crystal Heart was supposed to be the center of the ritual and what was powered up, if twilight couldn't find it, perhaps the ritual would reveal it.
Moon Dancer's team was going to continue to scour the library for anything else about the fair and any other information they could get about the Empire.
Pinkie Pie was going to keep Cadence awake and comfortable... well awake at least. Shining was threatening to demote the Guard that gave her a flugal horn to full time latrine duty for life. Evidently the coffee Pinkie was making wasn't ready yet.
Shining Armor and a team of the Heart Guard were going to head out into the city and check out various places of note where Solomon might have hidden the Crystal Heart. Slave mines and workshops supposedly dotted all four cardinal directions of the Empire. The rest of the Heart Guard were to search the palace for anything that might be out of the ordinary, checking over rooms that they had skipped, or simply sealed during their time here.
There were a lot of rooms in the palace.
Twilight, still glowy eyed, and Rahs, no longer glowy eyed, along with their assigned Guards, were checking out the throne room and one of the known work labs that had been found before they would head to check out the wine cellars.
However it seemed that they didn't need to go any further than the throne room. Upon entering Twilight let out a shriek and stopped dead staring at the floor as everyone else moved in as if there was nothing there The mares Shriek brought every one about at the ready for an attack only to be confused as she started at the floor.
“Miss Sparkle what is it?” Comet Trail asked looking at the floor in confusion.
“There's stairs here....” Twilight muttered before moving around to one side and starting to fade out as she descended into the floor.
Rahs growled leaping out to grab her tail and landing face first on the ground. A moment later there was a growl and Rahs bit the floor yanking back and seeing to rip reality away revealing a large hole with a spiraling stair case going down. The magic shredded as the Moon dog slurped it up like noodles before rushing down to grab his sister who was still following the stairs.
She yelped as she was grabbed and held up meeting her annoyed brothers gaze as well as the glares of the Guards assigned to her.
“Is this foals a play room?” Green Bean muttered as he and his earth pony partner moved through one of the abandoned rooms.
“Looks it. Whole bunch of toys, lot of chipper painting son the wall and old books. Whole place is covered in dust though.” the second guard Ramshackle replied, the pegasus ruffling his wings.
“No rabbits though. Worrying sign. Should we get back up?” Green bean asked picking up a old teddy bear and looking it over before setting it aside.
“Let's check the doors there first, this isn't the only room we found without any rabbits in it.”Ramshackle responded advancing on the double doors on the far side of the room, there was some sort of plaque on one of the doors with a name. “ Hey bring that light closer, there something on the door.”
“Odd to see a foals room here though.” Green Bean commented moving closer to the door, the lantern on his back lighting up the room.
“Might have been from before Solomon or whoever that guy was that took over. They don't tell the grunts anything.” Ramshackle sighed, his wing grabbing the door handle to open it.
The sudden explosion as the doors burst outward, flung both the Heart Guards through the air. The pair slammed into the wall opposite the door, fur and armor smoking from the explosion as they both crashed to the floor, smoke starting to fill the room as the lantern was smashed against the wall as well.
The earth pony guard winced trying to push himself up from the floor, a glance over to his companion showed the crumpled form of the pegasus was still breathing, though the odd directions a number of his limbs were in and the blood pooling under him was not a good sign.
He turned his head to bellow out for aid when a energy gripped tight around his muzzle, sealing his mouth and yanking his head back towards the door as the sound of heavy hoof falls echoed in the burning chamber.
Out of the doorway a black furred unicorn in metallic breast plate and shin guards strode forth. Smoke billowed around his form, fluttering the red ,white trimmed cloak he wore and blending with his dark mane. His horn curled up a little taking on a red coloration as it neared the tip a black aura around it. Red eyes regarded the armored form of the guard he held with mild interest.
“Not mine.......” the stallion grumbled, his fangs flashing as he spoke. This close the guard could see that it wasn't smoke, but the figures own black mane that flowed and whipped about, much like the alicorn sisters.
Any further thoughts from Green Bean were removed as he was slammed back into the wall and rendered senseless before he was tossed away to crash against a small book shelf.
The figure regarded the fallen earth pony his eyes darting over the room in a mild confusion.
“Familiar...... something else.” The unicorn frowned looking at a wall as if staring through it. He felt something that way.
Stepping out into the hall he left the room burning behind him as the first cries of the other Heart guard sounded as they rushed towards the explosion.
Golden Orb web was on of the first of the heart guard to make it to the burning room. She had thought she saw something headed down the hallway towards the throne room but with all the smoke she couldn't be sure. The 'unicorn' pushed forward into the burning room spotting Green bean and lifting him up to carry him outside to the other Guards before she rushed back into the room.
Looking to the hole in the wall as a pair of pegasi rushed in pushing small rain clouds, she could see it was a foals bedroom, well decorated and thus untouched by the fire. She moved forward glancing over as another unicorn carried Ramshackle out of the room, her hoof crunching on something.
Looking down the mare noted a crystalline plaque mounted on the remains of the detonated door with a name on it.
“Sombra?” the guard questioned, before being called over to help put out the fire.
“Alright. Here's what we have. Moon Dancer snapped looking at the large collection of books spread out and open on the table before her. Most were various history books but a few larger ones were large atlas' showing the Crystal Empire in it's heyday had settlements that dotted Equss pre-unification.
There were a number of clearly doctored histories about the Empire's prowess in combat, but there were enough other books showing that the empire began it's decline a little before the creation of Equestria. The main city of the Crystal Empire was simply renamed the Crystal Empire by some egotistical king or another as a slight to all the colonies that broke off from the Empire as a way to say they were not welcome there.
Because you can't go back to Consantan-opal.
“The Heart is the power source of the Empire. The magic from it is what makes this city, and a good bit of the surrounding farmland, habitable despite being in the middle of a frozen tundra.” Moon Dancer stated.
“Check.” Spike agreed.
“The Crystal Faire is a yearly ritualistic ceremony which draws on the inhabitants of the empire to empower itself some how...” Moon Dancer frowned.” Mana drain perhaps though it doesn't seem to drain their spells in fact it seems to make them stronger.”
“Some sort of emotional feeding like was explained with the Changelings?” Sunburst offered.
“I still say it's a symbiotic resonance.” One of the other researchers added. The others starting to get indignant and about to voice their own theories when Spike cut them all off. The fact they listened proved the smart ones didn't mess with a dragon, even a little one.
Also the Guards liked him for keeping order and listened to the drake more than the researchers.
“Look, we spent an hour arguing about this last time, let's just call it friendship magic and move on. The 'what' is less important than the 'how' at this second. We know the faire is what brings this power out and that channels into the heart itself. And the heart fixes things to make this place livable.” Spike sighed.
“There's also the idea that this is the fabled Rainbow valley of legend...” Another researcher pointed out. ”Which would make the power they produce Rainbow...”
“ STOP! “ Spike growled glaring at the one who had interrupted, shutting him up. “Worry about that later. It all comes down to we need to find the heart.”
“Correct. The current goal should be the location of the heart or how to create one if we can't find it. We have a collection of gods outside, whom if we can find out how, are willing to try and make another heart if we can't find the original.” Moon Dancer offered.
“I've let the Guards outside relay the message to the Element Bearers to keep the Crystal ponies distracted from where the Crystal Heart should be.” Sunburst sighed.” Worst case if we can't find or remake the Heart we try the Element's of Harmony on the shield and hope it works.”
“From what Twilight said the heart is at the center of this trap.” Spike frowned.
At this point Lodestone trotted in, the massive night Guard's heavy hoof falls seeming to shake the building.
“More bad news, we can't evacuate the crystal ponies. I just got a report that a team tried bringing some out and they couldn't bypass the barrier that's closing in. The shield touching them made them disoriented all over again.”Lodestone spoke clearly as he relayed the report. “ And more bad news a number of our guards are suffering from the same effect. Namely the ones that had been infected by the black crystals. So not only do we now run the risk of losing Princess Cadence, we are also going to lose all the civilians and about a dozen of our guards.”
Two unicorn Guards that had been with the research team since the start flinched. Lodestone took note.
“Star Glitter, Grape Shot, take five... write out what you need to. I'll make sure it gets to who ever you want it sent to.”Lodestone spoke before turning his attention back to the researchers.” If you don't get out any way....”
The researchers took the hint and got back to work at a more frantic pace , with a number of worried glances to the two guards who were filling out their own last words.
Spike to had quickly started writing. If the crystals kept the others from getting out, what would happen since Rahs ate that magic?
Twilight and the Princesses needed to know.
Spike paused his writing , before crumbling it up. He would inform the princesses, but Twilight didn't need any more piled on her, from the letters she sent she was already taking the whole thing on her own shoulders. More stress about something that couldn't be helped wasn't going to do anything.
Of course Spike was also worried that none of them might get out if that dark magic worked like the Poison joke did.
[Under the Palace.]
“This is absolutely ridiculous. Who designed this thing with so many stairs?” A guard bitched.
“A hippogryph maybe?” another suggested.
“Met a foal or chick or whatever a hippogryph kid is called a good while back during a out post posting. Little thing was obsessed with the stairs the outpost had going up to the watch tower.” the second Guard explained.” Cute, but weird.
“More like it's a deterrent.” Twilight added. “There's layers of magic around the middle which is why I told you all to walk. Try to fly down and set off traps, who ever made this probably set it up to annoy and deter any one looking to descend while he had his own quicker way to get down here. A way I don't have time to look into.”
“We're almost at the bottom.” Comet Trail interrupted. “ Looks like there's a door down here.”
The group moved off the stairs heading over to the door as Twilight scanned it.
“It's not obviously trapped, but it is enchanted heavily.” Twilight frowned.” Illusion, and transmutation. Traps are normally evocation or enchantment. Odd.”
“Bedrock, open it.” Comet Trail told the earth pony of the group. “Everyone else get ready. Miss Sparkle, Rahs, get back behind us.”
“Woof.” Rahs grumbled.
“ Right, he is the magic eater here.” Twilight grumbled.
“Don't worry about it, Bedrocks got the highest magic resistance of us and his armors reinforced if it's a physical issue. If any thing affects him Rahs can break it so long as he isn't caught up in it. That would hit your whole family, wouldn't it?”
“Well, yes, but...” Twilight began.
“No buts Miss Sparkle, we're here for a job, so let us do it.” Bedrock grunted reaching out to shove on the door latch with a hoof.
The door however had other ideas and zipped away from him, skittering along the wall to the other side of the room.
“The buck?” Bedrock asked as they all looked at the door that was now behind them.
[Entrance to the Crystal Mines of the north.]
“Nothing.” Shining Armor cursed throwing down the paperwork from the office they had found. Shipping receipts, slave work orders and solider patrols. Nothing at all about the heart or the trap.
The scouts he sent into the mines also found nothing, at least nothing they would talk about. Shining had seen the rage on a few of the teams faces, and horror on the others. All he got when he pressed was a sickened Guard muttering about, mass graves and crystal bones that looked gnawed on. He let it drop after that.
The research station they had visited first was an old weather outpost on the west side. While there was nothing of note there either, the entire place was designed with pegasi in mind.
Something about this bothered Shining Armor as he had yet to see anything but earth ponies in the Empire. The weather station however had clearly been designed with fliers in mind and there were even a few items like old preening kits in some of the lockers they found that stated this was a pegasi run facility. None of the crystal ponies he had met had wings so who used the place?
[ Crystal Faire ]
“Ain't fully sure this is working.” Applejack muttered, her hoof running over the necklace pressing against her chest. The others had decided that putting the Elements on, just in case, was the best option at this point.
“I disagree. We have gathered quite a sizable crowd for this. Some of them have even started to recall what they were before the Empire vanished.” Rarity pointed out her horn glowing as she put together another hat for the stall she was working on.
“Yeah and one of them recalled he was in Sombra's Guard and tried to punish the rest for gathering without his leaders orders.” Rainbow Dash growled.
“Well with him being taken down so quickly, more of the others have come out of hiding. “Fluttershy offered. “It seems the Heart Guard are starting to be well liked already.”
“Still, fer a Empire there have to be far more than the maybe two or three hundred ponies we've seen.” Applejack muttered.
“Frankly that is likely for the best. It is hard enough to keep every one away from a non existent center piece. “Rarity let out a sigh, working on another hat.” The Crystal Heart is the first thing most of them remember, even if they don't recall why.”
“This is very stressful.” Fluttershy let out a sigh. “I'm glad all the Guards are here, I can't imagine trying to do this ourselves.”
“Setting up a whole faire to restore an Empire with just us? Yeah that would be pretty dumb.” Rainbow Dash agreed.”Ehh maybe Pinkie could do it. I mean Rarity some how managed to set up a hattery.”
“Haberdashery dear.” Rarity corrected.
“Isn't that a type of cabbage?” Rainbow Dash questioned.
“In either case we need to keep an ear open and try figure where the heart was stored. Ask around, see if any one recalls that much. Git as much info as yah can, we'll have a runner pass it on tah Spike an his team. “ Applejack frowned.
“Right.” The others agree splitting off to make sure the events run smoothly.
Far above them a shadowy cloud clawed at the top of the shield.
[Under the palace]
“YAAAAAH!!!!” Bedrock screamed out before Rahs yanked him away from the doorway.
The door itself had led them on a merry chase around the room before Rahs managed to sink his claws into the frame of the door holding the struggling thing in place. Twilight added to that by striking the gem at the top of the door with a bolt of black magic which made the door stop moving.
It also got her glares from everyone present, especially Rahs.
Bedrock again moved to open the door, the door opening to a simple rock wall, though Bedrock froze, staring at it and after a moment or two he started screaming.
Even as Rahs yanked him back he felt the pony sag in his grip as he collapsed, the massive earth pony crashing to the ground like a limp rag. Rahs whirled on the door seeing absolutely nothing but the rock wall before the door slammed shut on it's own.
“He's alive, elevated pulse, sweating and he's burning up. Scans show all green otherwise. I think he fainted.” the unicorn medic offered. “My magics not back up to full yet, so i'm not completely sure.”
“Transmutation was the animate object. That must be the illusion effect.” Twilight considered.
The purple mare went over to the door and pulled it open. She too froze as she stared at a blank wall.
“Shit.. Does your sister have any impulse control at all?” Comet Trail cursed.
Rahs simply shrugged, Twilight was in a rush to solve this puzzle and all her focus was on it. She always got a bit haphazard when she was rushed.
“Umm, her horn's glowing....” another Guard pointed out.
“GET BEHIND THE STAIRS AND GET A SHIELD UP!!” Comet Trail bellowed as the black magic around Twilight's horn grew even brighter, her eyes widened and she started prancing in place.
Rahs ignored the order and walked up cuffing his sister in the back of the head again. Her head rocked forward, horn hitting the rock wall in the door frame as the spell discharged.
Out side the Faire goers were treated to a earth shattering kaboom as a black beam of light lanced out of the side of the Crystal Palace, chunks of the wall striking the inside of the shield on the other side of the city.
The Heart Guard and the crystal ponies all stared at the spot for a few minutes before slowing starting to go back to what they were doing a little nervous about the beam. Many of the crystal ponies went back to hide in their homes, though those that were already hiding heard the noise and poked their head out to look, getting drawn into the faire, increasing the numbers of those present.
The Heart Guards went on a higher alert and some pony was sent to contact Shining Armor.
The Element Bearers stared at the palace with a frown before Rainbow Dash broke the silence.
“Twenty bits say that was Twilight.”
“Sucker bet Dash. Twenty it was Twilight and something surprised her.” Applejack countered.
“I'll match that, though I say she saw a snake.” Fluttershy added.
“I would say Rahs did something to make her mad.” Rarity suggested, “Put me down for that.”
“Huh. How about that there's a staircase outside the palace.” A guard muttered. Didn't the Heart Guard do a fly over?”
“Magic probably.” Comet Trail shuddered glancing over to Twilight who was cussing out her brother, then back to the new 'door' in the side of the palace. “ I'm more freaked out that we went down, and are now higher up the palace than we started.”
“So what now?” another Guard grumbled.
“Alright, Lighthook you stay here with Bedrock. I hate to split the group, but I doubt we can convince Twilight to stop for a moment. Rahs is just going to have to be a bit under protected. Starscream, Swift shot, you're with me. We're down our tank and healer, so we need to be careful. And take this slow......” Comet trail let the statement die as he noticed the other Guards looking behind him.
“They already went out didn't they?” Comet Trail sighed.
“Yes sir.” a gray furred and blue and red maned pegasus chuckled.
“Lets go.” the three guards rushed out after the Sparkles.
It had been about four minutes since the others left and Lighthook had tried a number of small spells to get Bedrock to wake up with no success.
Lighthook sighed looking over the large earth pony he was left with , frowning as he considered trying to wake him up by dousing him with water.
His ears perked up a hearing something from above. Looking up he spotted a shadowy figure trotting down the spiraled stairs, the heavy thud of armored hooves echoing in the now silent chamber.
Narrowing his eyes he caught a glimpse of the figure, his eyes going wide at the armor the figure wore, this wasn't a Guard.
Lighthook grabbed his weapon, a billhook, leveling it at the descending figure, placing himself between the stairs and the fallen earth pony. Before he could issue the command for the figure to halt and identify himself, his billhook glowed in black energy and came alive. The steel bent and twisted like a snake, wrapping around his head and neck, the blade striking at his horn to keep him from casting spells. The shaft of the weapon grew tighter as he flailed until he was stolen from the waking world, collapsing in a heap as the animate weapon choked him out.
The descending figure didn't even look at the fallen guards, only focusing on the door frame and the hole in the wall it was around.
After a moment of pondering, King Sombra stepped out of the hole and followed the Sparkles and their remaining Guards.
Something woke with a growl.
There were trespassers.
Three felt familiar, but three others did not.
There was also something wrong with two of them.
One would be forced to leave, they were not allowed here, the other two would be examined to determine why they felt odd, his reaction would be based on that.
The other three.....
He hadn't eaten in a long time.
[ Crystal Library]
“Nothing at all on where it's stored“ a researcher cursed. “What good are books that don't tell you anything?!”
“Well, we learned who to blame for the creation of the flugal horn.” another added.
“Less bitching and more reading.” Moon Dancer shouted.
There was a general grumbling from everyone, then a loud crack and a shattering sound that resembled glass breaking.
The Guards were quickly on high alert and every pony, and dragon looked up from their books.
“I didn't do it!” Sunburst protested.
“Do what?” Moon Dancer asked.
“What ever broke, not me.” Sunburst smirked at his little joke.
Spike simply stared at him.
“Hey that was funny.” Sunburst sighed.
“No it wasn't. That was a dad joke and I'm pretty sure I'm not with foal..... “Moon Dancer considered a moment. “Maybe I should double check....”
Spike continued to stare
“Okay maybe it wasn't that funny, but the mood needed to be lightened with something..... “Sunburst sighed, before noticing Spike wasn't staring at him, but behind him.
The unicorn stallion turned to look behind him, Moon Dancer also following the little drake's gaze.
Behind them, on the center display shelves of the room, the massive black crystal buffalo was shaking off the black crystal covering it as it started to move.
[Outside the Barrier]
The smoke monster paused.
It felt something.
It was unsure what it was it felt, but the drive to destroy was only increased.
It recalled it's purpose.
Somethings could get in the barrier that could also get out.
It was to make sure they stayed in.
Alive was optional.
Dead was preferred.
[ In the, slightly more snow than before, seriously does this white crap ever stop falling, field.]
The gods had been discussing things.
The news sent by Spike that the evacuation could not be preformed had disheartened Luna, even more so when it was found that a portion of the Guards sent in would not be returning. Both from Luna and Celestia's forces.
Those were personal visits to family members that the rulers never wanted to make.
Distracted as they were, all of them took note of Iinii when he gasped and took a step back, the first real movement the giant buffalo god had made since any one else got here.
Turning as one, the gods all looked up at the shield.
A dark form was pulling together from a billowing cloud of smoke that had been swirling atop of the shield.
At first it was hard to tell what it was, though very slowly a solid form emerged.
The creature was hunched over, four limbs jutting from the still forming main body. The limbs ended in massive wicked black claws, claws which immediately sank into the shield sending, a spider web of cracks across it from each puncture.
A massive body formed, atop the legs. Scales the color of blood glistened in the sunlight, plates of some sort of metal shone brighter than the dulled scales in the light. Patches of what looked like metal covered the creature, though on closer examination it was less worn and more bolted to the creatures flesh. The magic resistant mithril prevented natural healing and kept the creature in constant anguish. A pain it had learned to enjoy when it inevitably went mad. Black crystalline shards burst out of the spine of the creature like a row of spikes on the back like most dragons. A long serpentine tail lashed out, striking against the shield as well.
A massive set of wings burst from it's back, the smokey miasma between the outstretched digits replacing what webbing might have once been there naturally. The spined head formed, two jutting black crystal horns that curved back over the serpent like neck and a draconic muzzle filled with sharp teeth dominated the main features of the head, many of the teeth seemingly replaced with black crystal as well.
The eyes were glassed over, black ovals of void.
The creature roared, ebon and green flame flickering around it's muzzle as the cry echoed off the mountains, starting avalanches and rock slides on nearly all the surrounding peaks.
Bleu barely seemed to move, though suddenly there was a massive form looming over all the gods. The now gargantuan blue dragon towered over them. Where Bleu's sons were perhaps the size of a moderate castle or keep, Bleu at full size could look down on Canterlot, the city not the castle.
The red scaled smoke dragon in the distance was only a little bit smaller than she was.
Lightning crackled along her form as she ground her fangs, the sound like glaciers meeting.
“ A dragon?” Martle questioned.
“Dreadnought.” Iinii corrected staring at the monster atop the shield.
“A what?” Ascepius questioned.
“An abomination, created when the darkest of magics are turned on a dragon. It is then augmented with armor plate and countless ward spells. A number of demi gods and at least two gods were lost to such things in the War of the Night. It is why there is no longer a god of Rams, and why Fledge is the second god of Harpies.” Celestia stated with a shudder. “The witch wolves were bad enough, but these... To think one remained....”
“We had no say in the corruption of these. Nor the juggernauts.” Luna frowned. “But the magic that twisted them into existence was ours. Drawn from the nightmare and made to suit what Solomon wished.”
“It's Kayete.” Bleu snarled.
Iinii blinked and Celestia and Lockheed winced.
“My condolences Bleu.” Iinii stated not taking his eyes of the twisted form of Bleu's former mate.
[Inside the shield]
The roar drew Shining Armor's attention faster than anything else. His team had just scouted the most likely location for the heart, a mages tower at the southern point of the empire.
Like the weather office, everything in the building seemed designed to be used by unicorns, though like the pegasi he had seen none in the empire yet.
Also there was no Crystal Heart.
Granted that was neither here nor there, a massive dragon was currently hammering at the top of the shield Cadence was using to keep the barrier back from swallowing the city.
As he galloped back towards the palace he watched in horror as the shield flickered and faded, the barrier rushing forward, as the gargantuan dragon dove in. The shields flickered weakly back to life a moment later, the barrier having claimed all the outer farms and some of the buildings at the edge of the city as it encroached.
The black monstrosity however didn't seem to care about that and winged it's way towards the palace, it's massive form ripping the roofs off houses with just it's wing pressure, it's breath lighting the homes ablaze with black and green flame.
Shining Armor's panic rose as the massive creature continued on towards where his wife and siblings were.
At this point Shining did something he had never managed before.
With a flash of light and a faint pop, Shining Armor teleported, leaving the guards behind.
[ Inside the palace throne room.]
Pinkie Pie was freaking out.
She hadn't had panicked this much since that time she forgot Limestone's birthday until the last minute.
Princess Cadence had dozed off on the throne.
The flugal horn was no longer effective.
Right now the Princess was dripping went and shivering a little, the bucket of ice cold water Pinkie had used had worked. The bucket of water was the last trick she had though, noise no longer worked and the ice bucket barely did along with some shaking.
“I'm sorry Pinkie, I guess I dozed off a moment.” Cadence yawned.
That the Princess hadn't heard the super scary roar, nor even noticed the deep hole in the floor they found when they came back from the kitchen was even more worrying.
Pinkie was wracking her brain trying to come up with something else to keep the Princess awake.
There was a soft ding. A chime like a deus ex machina plot point coming to bear at the last second, either that or the bell she had set on the timer.
Okay it was the timer.
Pinkie Pie turned looking to her alchemy lab, and the steam rising from a coffee pot that was slowly starting to fill.
A thick scent wafted through the air, one that the pink princess opened her eyes wide from the moment she caught a wiff.
“What is that!?” Cadence asked, sounding more awake than she had since Pinkie got there.
“This place is creeping me out” Iron Plate muttered. The charcoal colored earth pony stallion strode along the dark hallway. His copper and coral colored armor marking him as one of Cadence's Heart Guard.
Water dripped somewhere, echoing across the nearly black and mold covered stone. Piles of debris and old rusted chains lay heaped along the floors, some times with larger masses of old bones and rotted clothing. Cells lined one wall, thick steel doors with only small grates that allowed viewing inside.
“You're telling me.” Kulbit, pegasus mare in the same sort of armor uttered. The slate colored pegasus floated over the floor, the lantern she carried illuminating the mess of the hall.
“Cut the chatter you two, we need to keep our eyes and ears open. There's a lot riding on finding that crystal heart thing. “ A orange unicorn mare ahead of the other three snapped. Her armor was the same as theirs, though the rank pips on Ghost Pepper's armor marked her as a sergeant. “We'll clear the hall first then come back and check the cells.”
“There must be a hundred of them sarge.” Iron Plate grumbled. “Most of them look like they saw heavy use too. What the buck went on in this place?”
“Nothing good.”Kulbit added.
“Focus.” Ghost Pepper ordered.
“Well, well, what is this? After all this time am I finally getting a conjugal visit?” a male voice called out.
“Really? I would say you disgust me, but you are far beyond that flirting with our captors.” another voice snapped.
“You two need to be silent and listen. They are not of Sombra's ilk.” a third female voice stated.
“Oh, I knew that. They sound way to pretty to be one of those guys. “the first voice chimed up again. “Well two of them do. So what are your names sweethearts?”
Ghost Pepper moved closer to the cells the voices were coming from, her magic lifting up the metal flap to peer in.
Staring back at her was a large form, with two glimmering green gemstones for eyes.
The faire was pandemonium. The appearance of the dragon had the crystal ponies running around in a screaming panic, a stampeding herd that had no regard for any one they trampled or smashed into in their desperate attempt to get away from the Dreadnought's notice.
Not that it mattered.
Black and green fire ripped through the city center setting the very stone of the roads ablaze and igniting buildings, blocking off avenues of retreat and forcing even more crystal ponies out of their homes lest they succumb to the inferno. What had been hundreds of crystal ponies poking around the fair soon became thousands, all milling and being herded by the fiery dragons breath.
Some escaped the circle of fire that was being made only to find themselves trapped against the much smaller barrier that was pushing in, barely out of the fire on the other side of the green and black ring of death. If the shield faltered again, this lot would be pushed into the flames as the barrier constricted.
The Dreadnought swirled around the ponies on the palace side of his firewall, the black eyes looking down at them as they milled about trying to take shelter any where they could.
Rarity and Fluttershy were taking cover in Rarity's hat stall. Rarity was shouting out at any crystal pony nearby to run towards the palace. Fluttershy was hiding under the work table.
Applejack and Rainbow Dash were trying to control the herd to force them towards the palace itself, though there were far too many crystal ponies who were not listening and were running every where , trampling the faire grounds in a blind panic.
Pegasi Guards were darting over the crowds grabbing any ponies that fell and bringing them to a more secure location.
Unicorns and earth ponies with ranged weapons fired at the beast, the magic and bolts glancing off it. Shields were raised but simple exhalation of fiery breath shattered them and infected the casters with black crystals.
The Pegasi were about to launch themselves at the creature to drive it away from the civilians, or die trying when another shield formed in front of it.
This shield was far to thin to block anything and as the guards and terror stricken ponies watched, it narrowed more and slashed at the Dreadnought.
The monsters eyes widened and it rolled to the side, the spell blade dragging over it's scales ripping off a number of the metal plates that fell with a crash into the burning buildings.
The creature roared more in rage than pain as it's gaze whipped around to a lone white unicorn with a blue mane standing on the palace balcony over looking the square. A flash of light and the unicorn was now in the open field to the west of the palace staring up at the Dreadnought as it winged around.
Shining Armor had seen what was going on, what the creature was doing as he ran up.
He wasn't sure how he was able to teleport, he wasn't sure where the energy he was using was coming from, but he felt he should thank his brother if he survived this.
He was damn sure going to make sure they survived this.
It had been a long time since he felt this mad at something. Most monsters he had fought in the six hundred and sixty sixth division had been hungry or territorial. Easy enough to drive off. Most of them he almost felt sorry for as ponies had encroached on their old hunting grounds leaving them little choice if they wanted to survive.
This thing was herding ponies, driving them in a direction. It wasn't out of hunger or territory, but amusement.
He wasn't mad. He was pissed.
The Dreadnought stared down at the creature that had actually injured it. While the wound was barely a trifle, that made this one more a threat than any of the others.
The Dreadnought roared in challenge to the lone guard.
Shining Armor lifted his left fore leg and waved his hoof towards himself, beckoning the monster to bring it.
[ Crystal Library]
Screams came from the researchers as the beast broke free of the black crystal encasing it. The buffalo was massive, towering over even the Chief Spike saw when he went to Appleloosa.
The fur of it was black, though white at the roots as if this was some odd dye job. The creature's onyx black eyes shifted over the group and as it moved Spike took note that it's hooves were shod in some kind of metal, and it was covered in armor plate of the same.
Spike's eyes widened as he noticed the plate moved when the buffalo did, he wasn't wearing armor, plates were bolted on to him as was the steel shodding and the metal horn extenders that were sharpened into blades.
“Umm hello?” Sunburst asked hopefully. “Err how do you do I'm Sunburst. Did you know you were trapped there for a while, it's been quite a long time outside the Crystal Empire... Are you feeling alright? Do you need help?”
The buffalo stared at the unicorn before him, his gaze shifting to the collection of armed guards, taking special note of all the Nox-cal and particularly Lodestone who moved up to push Spike back.
“Intruders and traitors.” The buffalo stated, his voice rumbling like a train at full steam who's boiler was about to explode. “The master bade me to guard this place. The penalty for trespassing here is death.”
“Oh... so it seems you're doing alright then.....” Sunburst frowned. “Pity.”
[Upper parts of the Crystal palace.]
Rahs was on edge, there was magic here, a lot of it. He could smell it in the air, taste it with every breath. It was a horrible blend of flavors, bitter black coffee, hints of licorice, and a overwhelming taste of strawberry. Not natural strawberry either, but the super sweet type like those hard candies Twilight always said left a film on her tongue. There was also the scent of smoke from burning wood, though that was faint.
Outside the hole in the wall they had found a staircase that led upward on what seemed to be the outside of the palace. It only took one of the guards bouncing off of the illusion of open air to show it was in fact a wall. That no clouds or anything else were moving in the scene as they walked up the stairs gave the impression that it was simply an illusionary image of the empire spread out below them.
Rahs took a few bites of it and found it tasted like old mints.
Of course after a few minutes of climbing Twilight got annoyed at the speed and cast a spell, which brought a great deal of cursing from Comet Trail.
Rahs added to the swearing as gravity suddenly reversed for him and his sister and where she was expecting it, he landed hard on his back and immediately started sliding up the ceiling behind her.
The guards quickly took wing and followed, though at a slower pace along the narrow stair well.
As the siblings made it to the top of the stairs Twilight cut the spell and and dropped down onto the upper platform skidding across the stone.
Rahs thankfully was expecting it by that point and whirled around to land on his feet, lashing out to grab his sister by the tail and yank her back from entering the door on the stone landing.
“What do you mean slow down? We're almost there?”
“Of course I'm in a rush, everyone is counting on me to...”
“BORK!” Rahs snapped cutting her off and bent over to glare at his sister eye to glowing black eye.
“Those have been acceptable risks...”
“They turned out fine in the...”
He growled louder.
“You were the one who walked in there and ate the spells around the book without letting me even try to see what they did!”
“Bark.” Rahs stated crossing his arms.
“Alright fine, it's magic and that's sort of what you do, but still... fine.... I'll try to be more careful.” Twilight sighed looking over as the Guards started to catch up. “But I'd rather just be risking me, not them too. I'm not some sort of princess they're swore to protect. How many have already been injured because they came with us... and that Kirin nearly died...”
Rahs glanced over at the guards and let out a sigh as he uncrossed his arms nodding in understanding.
“Miss Sparkle..” Comet Trail snapped glaring at the purple unicorn.
“I get it. I get it. Sorry, it's just we have a time limit and I'm not willing to lose my sister in law after I barely welcomed her to the family, or let my brother become a widow on what was supposed to be his honeymoon.” Twilight sighed. “I've got a great deal of energy from all the magic Rahs has been eating I need to burn off as well. But this is it. We're at the top, either the Heart is in here or this has been a wild goose chase.”
“I've chased wild geese before. Those suckers are mean.” Swift Shot offered, the pegasus guard nodding sagely as the other four stared at him.
“Annnnnnyway, there's no spells on the door.” Twilight added though Rahs was the one to open it and step through first.
The chamber they entered was larger than the palace throne room.
Once the small group entered they all noticed different things.
Starscream the Guard noticed that the room was open to the air and had little more than some railing around it with a crystalline covering over the top, like some ridiculous gazebo.
Swiftshot noticed that there was a great deal of smoke in the air and a distant roar.
Twilight Sparkle noticed the floating Crystal Heart spinning slowly over a pedestal in the center of the room.
Comet Trail noticed the collection of well gnawed crystal bones that lay littered and broken around the room including some obvious wing bones and skulls with horns.
Rahs took note of the smell of death in the room and the large hulking creature that rose up from a pile of bones shaking them off as it clamored to it's feet.
The creature’s fur was a deep brick red. It had a canine shape, with it's front limbs built differently with longer, retractable claws on the ends of fingers for manipulation and attacking. It's head was more cat-like than canine, with a longer muzzle, and much longer ears that were currently plastered to it's head. It had red eyes with black sclera that were slitted like a cat’s, wide and staring. Its tail whipped wildly behind it, the tail being whip like, rather than the club tails Diamond Dogs had. It had a rougher mane of hair that ran down its head from between its ears, along the back of its neck, and between its shoulders like a short mane.
The most prominent thing about it, aside from the slowly widening grin that displayed it's sharp teeth, was at the end of its whip like tail, as well as the points of each long ear, there sat a small free floating globe of light. The light it shed was dim and barely perceivable in the well-lit chamber, though black clouds seemed to flicker and pass over the silvery orbs.
The creature growled, drool falling from it's maw as it regarded those that had come into it's den.
“Witch wolf.” Rahs said in rapidly rising panic as the creature lunged at them.
He was lazy, fixated on his own personal interests, and not very inclined to put too much effort into things that didn't interest or immediately affect him.
Sure he was super naturally tough, and given the very nature of the world he lived in with it's plethora of magic, able to heal from anything that didn't kill him outright.
The Bone Hounds had shaken his world view quite a bit, and although his traits had remained the same, he had taken the time to learn how to defend himself.
He was still not a warrior.
The thing that was lunging at them now WAS a warrior. He was a foul creature, twisted in darkness to serve as a shock trooper for an evil empire. He was larger than Rahs in both bulk, fluff, likely training, and also sadly, other parts.
Because clearly real warriors didn't wear pants.
Had to be a intimidation thing.
This thing had been sneaking around in the shadows when they came in and Rahs had barely caught sight of it as it lunged at them.
Rahs didn't have the genius of his sister, nor the cleverness of his younger brother, nor even the training of his elder brother. All his fights, with the exception of Discord, had been against things that his size and magic eating ability could easily deal with. Heck even Discord was 90% magic by mass.
Despite his penchant for slacking, the need to protect his siblings was ingrained in his very nature since birth. It might have only been to guard their dreams as a pup, but out here that translated to something else. As such he had been in more than a few fights.
In situations like this ponies often said time slowed. While time might have seemed to slow for the others, Rahs didn't notice and reacted instantly. Pushing his sister down with a rear paw and grabbing the pouncing witch wolves arm, shoving his other paw into his chest, claws first, as he used the beasts momentum to send him over the group to crash on the floor. Preventing the witch wolf from landing on Twilight.
He had to thank Jynx for teaching him that throw.
The beast was up again in a second snarling at Rahs, a snarl the moon dog returned .
Rahs quickly shucked his coat, jamming the element of magic atop his sisters head as he did so as he advanced towards the witch wolf.
Against a trained combatant, an amateur like him stood no chance.
This thing was yanked out of the Oneiroi, was born from a race that prioritized survival in a harsh landscape, and was stronger, faster, and more vicious than he could ever hope to be.
He was clearly the underdog here.
But, underdog victories were some of the most dramatic sort there were.
Twilight shrieked as Rahs stepped on her, the roar and the rush of air as something passed over her brought her attention away from the Crystal Heart.
It took a moment for her mind to process what Rahs said, but she was up just as quickly, her horn lighting up even as her brother flung his coat over her and engaged with the larger creature.
Twilight cursed shoving the heavy coat off of herself, yanking whatever Rahs had stuck on her head off to stare at it, she grumbled putting her Element back on.
She hated wearing this thing, she really would have preferred a necklace to a tiara. This thing made her feel like a little filly playing princess dress up.
Readjusted so the Element of Magic was facing the right way on her head, Twilight took a shot at the witch wolf as Rahs managed to break away from it.
The magic blast was snapped out of the air by the feral looking beast and the few claw wounds Rahs had made on it healed up instantly as the creature seemed to bulk up as well.
Rahs flattened his ears and glared back at Twilight as she cried out and rubbed her head. The distraction enough for the witch wolf to plow into him, sending the pair crashing about the room in a snarling ball of red and blue fury.
“Damn.. So that's what it feels like.” Twilight cursed at having her own magic bitten for once.
“Sparkle are you alright?” Comet Trail questioned as he an Swift Shot rushed over to help her up, Starscream moved to place himself between the brawling canines and the others, a pair of wing blades snapping out as he watched the fight looking for a way to get involved.
“I'm fine, just don't use magic. That's a witch wolf, it will eat it and get stronger.” Twilight flinched as Rahs howled out, the larger beast chomping down on his shoulder only for a claw across it's eyes to force it back giving both of them time to heal.” We need to help Rahs......
“BORK!!” Rahs snapped before the pair closed of beasts closed once more and started trading blows, growling and hissing at each other.
“ Wha... but... DAMN IT!!! “ Twilight snapped. “Never mind, I need to remove the spell from the heart, cover me in case something else shows up.”
“Right.” Comet Trail stated.
“The Crystal Heart...... now I remember.” another deep voice said. Whirling about the Guards and Twilight took note of a black unicorn stallion standing in the doorway, his red cloak fluttering in the wind behind him.
“You should not be here Prince Sombra.”The witch wolf growled his attention switching between Rahs and the unicorn at the door.” Your father forbade you from approaching the heart.”
“That's King Sombra, you foul beast. My father is dead, Managarmr and it is my title now. While you play with... what ever that is, you let the traitor and the other three get close to the heart, clearly you cannot be trusted to do your job any more.” King Sombra snarled. “I will deal with you after I deal with this lot.”
Rahs and Twilight's eyes both widened. Managarmr was the name of the first true moon dog, and the first of the witch wolves to be made.
“Just what we need...” Twilight grumbled.
“Fix the heart Sparkle.” Comet Trail frowned a massive weighted chain dropping from his wing to strike the floor, cracking the crystal.
“Fools do you even know who I...” Sombra snarled before he was forced to throw himself to the side as with a wing movement Swift Shot had filled the air he had been in a moment before with a trio of blades that sunk into the door behind him.
“You're a dumb ass monologuing target.” Swift Shot responded.
“FOOLS!!” King Sombra roared as the three Guards rushed him.
Rahs too had taken advantage of the witch wolves distraction and slammed his fist into the jaw of the larger wolf, the blow lifting him off the floor for a moment.
Managarmr growled before returning the favor and sending Rahs stumbling back.” You should have gone for the throat pup!!”
Twilight ducked behind the pedestal with the heart on it, quickly starting to scan over the spell tied to it. Her black glowing eyes widened as she saw the massive overlay of dark power that had been threaded into very core of the artifact like a demented tapestry.
[Crystal Empire Library]
Spike was freaking out.
Screams of terror filled the air as the researchers ran and tried to find a safe haven in the library. They only found out that aside from being a massive beast, the buffalo was amazingly spry. The destroyed third story stairwell was proof of that. The buffalo had just hunkered down a second, then lept straight up and through the crystalline structure. Gauss and Brahe had been blown off the top floor from and if the pegasi guards hadn't been so quick to catch them the two unicorns would have smashed into the floor three stories bellow like the remains of the staircase.
Two of the others had tried the front door only to find the front of the library was on fire preventing them from escaping.
Lodestone and the other guards were attacking it, but even the massive Nox-cal's attacks barely seemed to phase the creature. The unicorn guards fired off spells at first only for the magic to bounce off the metal plates bolted to the beast, doing more damage to the Guards and the library than the buffalo.
“What the hell is that thing made out of?” one had shouted.
“That's mithril, it's heavily magic resistant and can even reflect spells if properly treated, save your energy.” Moon Dancer yelled out from where she, Sunburst, and Spike were hiding behind the middle row of book shelves in the room the buffalo had been standing on.
“I really should have studied more combat spells. “ Sunburst grumbled.
“You mean any.” Moondancer countered.
Spike blinked at that. "Did you say mithril?”
“Yes, it's a very...” Moon dancer winced as a guard screamed and was thrown through a book case with a sickening crunch. “... rare metal that is highly resistant to magic......”
“And tastes like blue raspberry candy.” Spike added.
“... and tastes like blue raspberry... wait, what?” Moon Dancer demanded looking down at Spike, though the little dragon was already on the move.
No one was having any luck hurting the buffalo, the spell casters had the best chance but the mithril was making their efforts useless.
He had eaten mithril once, Chrysalis' blade in fact.
It wasn't very filling.
Princess Luna had told them. 'If there was danger, do not to hesitate.' The bearers were outside, somewhere, out of the fire he hoped, but if this thing wasn't stopped here it would probably go after them next.
Curse his paladin code.... he really should have tried to identify more with the O&O rogue or something.
Scrambling up a toppled bookshelf that partially leaned over the battle. Spike waited for his chance and when it was presented to him, he took it.
The buffalo barely noticed the scant added weight to his back. He did notice when an armor plate slid from his back to crash to the ground as Spike bite through all the bolts keeping it bound to his flesh.
The Guards took advantage of the unarmored portion of hide and attacked, the buffalo ignored them and focused on bucking the small dragon off his back.
“This is my worst idea since I joined the Cutie Mark Crusaders.” Spike screamed out as he clung on for dear life.
The Dreadnought roared as it slammed into another shield, it back winged and took off into the air again, not able to get through the ponies defenses enough to close on him.
Chunks of it's armored plate and scales had been sliced and cut open by the annoying gnat, none of the attacks had been deep enough to wound it, but the audacity that something dared challenge it that it couldn't instantly kill drove it's fury.
Shining Armor darted among back roads and alleys of burning stone making his way towards the large park to the west of the palace. He wanted to get the creature away from the buildings that it was destroying and give the civilians time to seek shelter in the palace.
He also wanted the blasted thing to land again. The dragon kept in the air most of the time, a lucky strike on a wing joint had grounded it briefly and allowed him to close on it and strike at vital points, though it hadn't been down long enough. Drill Sergeant Kaisur had pointed out that if you fought a dragon, getting it on the ground made it far easier to deal with than if it was airborne.
Thus far he hadn't been able to keep it down however.
The other Guards around occasionally took a pot shot or launched a spear at the Dreadnought, but their actions barely seemed to be noticed by the massive thing.
Shining's strategy was simple, strike and move. The creature was trying to herd him as it had done the larger crowd now gathering at the base of the palace. Plenty of the ponies were trying to get inside, but the design of the palace made this near impossible. Small stairwells and narrow doors kept the crowd bottle necked. Shining had to acknowledge the designer of the palace clearly knew how to build to stall invading armies.
The pegasi Guards had flown the Elements of Harmony up to the main the balcony of the palace, he hadn't been able to tell for sure, but it seemed one was missing and the Guards were frantic to find the lost unicorn.
Hopefully they would find her, he had more important things to focus..... Wait, what the hell was it doing?
The Dreadnought had turned it's head and breathed a gout of green flame flecked with black at a three story building that was already on fire.
The building was quickly consumed from the onslaught and reduced to ash.
Shining Armor blinked curiously as he tried to figure out why it had bothered when a shadow appeared over him.
He barely had time to glance up as a three story burning building materialized in the air above him covering the whole street he was on as it fell.
“BUCK!!” Shining cursed and vanished with a pop as the building impacted the street.
[ At the top of the palace.]
Twilight cursed under her breath. Her brother wasn't doing that well against the witch wolf. Buck this was THE witch wolf of the first three ever created. How much power had Luna used in a panic to pull and corrupt them from another world?
The Guards were fairing a bit better, the three fliers were keeping Sombra distracted, but all it would take was one mistake or one time for him to get lucky and it was over.
The Crystal Heart itself was a mess of intertwined spells. It was like a puzzle box from Tartarus. Who ever had done this did not want the trap to be undone. There were other strands too, things that stretched down into the mana lines under the palace, was that what powered the heart? No, these lines were draining power from the heart not feeding it....
“GAH, focus, unravel first.... this is impossible........” Twilight narrowed her eyes looking to Sombra and the Witch Wolf. She couldn't get this done in time, there was too much going on and she couldn't take the time to study it and simply stealing it and running would probably cause more issues than she wanted.
Seems it was time for the usual approach the Sparkle family took in situations like this.
'Why use a mallet when you have a sledge hammer?'
She was pretty sure that was what the family crest motto said anyway.
“SWITCH PARTNERS!”Twilight shouted letting out a blast of magic that ripped between the Guards and struck King Sombra directly in the chest forcing him back even with the mithril armor he wore redirecting the blast.
The Guards blinked at that and Comet Trail nodded, whirling away from Sombra as his meteor hammer screamed through the air. The weapon lashing out to slam into the side of the witch wolves' head sending it staggering away from Rahs.
Rahs took the distraction as a chance to flee the fight, blood soaking his fur. He rushed over to where Twilight was as she switched off to attack Sombra. He recalled the brief discussion of plan B, took note of all the magic around the heart, and then took a big bite.
[Inside the palace.]
Pinkie Pie winced as she heard the roar, nearly stumbling as the palace shook when something crashed outside.
She spared a glance to the open balcony as Applejack was dropped off on it. The farm mare turned yelling back at the guards and pointing as another pair kept Rainbow Dash from rushing back outside.
Pinkie Pie didn't see Rarity.
She licked her lips carrying the small mug onward, holding it carefully in her fore hooves, presenting it to the Princess of Love with the reverence of some pony transporting a high yield and highly unstable explosive.
Cadence didn't really notice as she was too busy struggling to remain awake. The smell of it had helped for a little while, but Pinkie had insisted that she wait for it to cool before she drank.
Cadence took the mug with a small nod to Pinkie Pie before she treated it like every other cup of coffee she had over the last three days.
She knocked it back in a single gulp, ignoring Pinkie's order to just sip it.
Pinkie Pie stared at her in mute horror, before backing away and then running off screaming to take refuge in the kitchen.
Cadence smiled tiredly at her antics, Pinkie Pie was just being silly, it was only a cup of coffee.....
Princess Cadence's eyes shot wide open.
[Outside in the, yep it's still snowing, snow fields.]
“Get out of my way mare, that thing needs to die!!” Bleu snarled glaring at the Solar Princes who's magic gripped one of her horns hard enough to keep the dragons massive head down on the ground where Celestia was. The other gods had attempted to stop her as well, though none of them managed to even slow her and they all backed off when Bleu had stepped on Burlap and flattened him to the ground.
He was fine..... and still asleep.
“Calm down Bleu if you go in there you'll be trapped too and only feed what ever that spell is.” Celestia shouted.
“Kayete is going to kill everything under that shield and none of your group can stop him. If I kill him I'll be able to give Cadence more time to get free.”
“I am not going to let you go in there Bleu it's suicioOOOF!!” Celestia's protests were cut off as a train sized tail snapped out and belted the solar mare through the air. Princess Luna tried to catch her sister and both of them cried out at the impact and went tumbling across the ice fields.
Bleu wasted no time launching herself at the barrier only to slam into it like a foal running into a wall in one of those funny recorded moments that win prizes in front of a studio audience.
The shield had grown and forced the barrier back to it's starting point before shattering it completely like glass and expanding another few miles to stop just shy of the train station and the gods standing there.
The sudden expansion flung Bleu back and the gargantuan dragon was launched through the air head over tail to slam bodily into a distant mountain range. The impact of it leveling at least two of the distant peaks.
“What in Equss is going on in there?" Martle demanded as the glimmering pink shield stood out strong in the snowfield, with no sign of the barrier that had been trying to crush it.
[ Crystal Library]
Another Guard screamed out as as the buffalo slammed into him flinging the earth pony across the room to impact another book shelf dropping the whole reference section on insects atop of him. Several spears and a number of crossbow bolts stuck out of the side of the buffalo where the metal plate had been removed, though it barely noticed, if at all.
The creature thrashed and bucked trying to throw Spike off of him though the little dragon had lasted longer than expected on Rainbow Dash and Applejack when they were trying to throw him. Compared to those two this thing was nothing.
Granted Rainbow Dash and Applejack didn't have armored plates to remove, nor did they smell like the death and rot that permeated the buffalo's fur once a plate was removed. It smelled worse than Featherweights arm when he had that cast removed after an accident.
There was also the uneasy fact that Spike had to scramble around the beast s back as it smashed into bookshelves and other trophy cases trying to dislodge him.
So far his luck had held out, but like any run at a casino, luck didn't last forever.
The buffalo stopped bucking suddenly and lowered it's head, the brief pause allowing Spike to bite through another bolt and let another massive chunk of plate armor fall from it.
Though before the guards could take advantage of the new weak point, the beast started to move, slamming into Lodestone and sending the massive Nox -Cal flying before continuing forward and smashing into and through the front wall of the library.
Spike screamed out as the hard stone and crystal pelted his form, the rush of heat from the fire barely felt as they plowed through the ring of flame out into the city street before the palace. Fearful screams from the crystal ponies were accompanied by cries of 'Juggernaut'.
A sudden stop from the creature was enough for Spike to lose his grip and send the baby dragon tumbling up over the buffalo's head.
The massive beast lashed out with a jerk of his head as Spike fell past. The bladed horns impacting the youngest Sparkle launching him away from the buffalo, bouncing across the cobblestone road to land before the palace in the street in front of a Rarity's hat stall. One arm was bent at a bad angle and a trail of purple scales littered the ground between where he landed and the buffalo Juggernaut .
[In the burning City]
Shining Armor smiled as he noted the shield expand. It seemed that coffee or whatever it was of Pinkie's had done something.
Unfortunately this gave the Dreadnought more room to fly around in. The dragon made the most of this by strafing him and dropping more buildings and anything else it could, on him.
Seems his little brother wasn't the only one with messenger flame.
It was getting harder and harder to find a clear spot to attack from, he had led the fight away from the palace into one of the parks nearby, but there were still plenty of buildings and other things nearby for the Dreadnought to use against him.
He had gotten a bit of a breather as two balista bolts had slammed into the dragon, the massive crossbows brought to bear by a few of the former Six Sixty Sixth he had convinced to join the Heart Guard. He hadn't even known any pony had brought those things.
Still they had lost the element of surprise after only three shots found their mark and the team was forced to drop their equipment to be able to avoid the dragons counter attack.
Still the bolts allowed him a chance to recover and find clear ground from which to fight. Something he was rapidly running out of as the whole park was on fire and covered with rubble.
Of course it was going to get worse.
On the other side of the street he spotted a white unicorn mare with a purple mane. Shining's eyes widened as he recognized Rarity. The Element Bearers were supposed to be safe in the palace what was she doing over here?
The dozen or so crystal ponies following her gave answer to that, as did the soot stains and slight chard bits of her mane and tail. The mare had braved the fires to try and rescue ponies.
Unfortunately the Dreadnought spotted them too and swept the edge of the park with green fire and a large gathering of burning debris appeared over the group and began to fall.
“You bastard.” Shining Armor swore, his horn blazing as he raised a shield over the group, the massive chunks of burning building material bouncing off the shield, bringing screams from the crystal ponies and forcing Rarity to turn them around and herd them back down the side street to get clear of the falling rubble.
The Dreadnought however didn't care about them and the moment Shining's attention was diverted, a blast of black and green flame was launched, enveloping the elder Sparkle.
[ Upper tower]
King Sombra roared out, a sphere of black energy flaring out of his horn, ripping into the surrounding crystal and turning it black. The material started growing spikes as the darkness swept through the crystalline room. The jagged crystals rushing across the floor towards Twilight who telported away.
“SWITCH PARTNERS!!” Twilight screamed out again as Rahs rushed forward, darting around the crystal spikes to plow into King Sombra, ripping apart the radiating spell the evil king was using to form the crystals.
Twilight herself appeared behind the witch wolf. Managarmr immediately turning away from the guards to lunge at her and her magic only for a hoof ball size chunk of crystal to be ripped from a wall and slammed into him with the force of a cannon ball.
Managarmr howled as Twilight grabbed anything in reach lobbing it at the which wolf with her considerable magic power, bones, chunks of the crystal walls,Swift Shot's thrown blades, a pedestal, the Crystal Hea... wait nope not that.
The beast could do little but brace itself against the onslaught as everything she was throwing had no magic powering it and what magic she did use was spent well beyond his reach.
Rahs was doing much better against Sombra. The unicorn clearly didn't know what to do when something like his minions attacked him and Rahs was easily laying into him and feeding off every spell the edge lord threw at him.
Seriously black and red? Who designed his outfit?
Twilight stopped channeling her inner Rarity and focused on beating down the Witch Wolf. It was still the most dangerous thing here.
The guards had fallen back to the heart and Comet Trail was passing it off to Swift Shot shouting the order to get it to Cadence if she was coherent or the gods outside the shield if she wasn't.
As Swift Shot took off clutching the Crystal Heart Twilight allowed herself a moment of hope that this had been it, and they could fall back and let the Princesses deal with these two.
Of course that's when things went belly up.
A black crystal shard shot from the wall stabbing into Swift Shot's side as he tried to fly away, the pain of being impaled caused the pegasus to scream out and drop the Crystal Heart. His wings snapped to the side yanking him away from the black spear before it ran him through. The pegasus barely made it a flap or two away before falling out of the air and crashing to the floor against a wall.
Rahs mean while had been smashed with a jutting crystals and was currently flying across the room.
“FOOLS! I've lived around these monsters my entire life. Did you think one as weak as that would be able to stop my magic!?!” King Sombra bellowed as the crystal walls and floors around him started turning black.
“Starscream get to Swift Shot.” Comet Trail shouted as he tried to dodge the black crystals growing rapidly around him, only to find he was trapped in a cage of them and the darkness took up the whole chamber, another wave black crystals swarmed over the fallen pegasi and his tender.
Twilight flattened her ears to her head sparing a glance at where her brother landed, only for a crystal skull to smash into her face with the force of a ice box launched by a bomb that had some stupid adventurer in it.
She tumbled head over tail crashing to the ground by the railing, her magic sputtering as all the things she was holding aloft to throw crashed to the ground around her, blood flowing out of her likely broken nose.
Managarmr rushed forward tossing aside the other skull he had grabbed to throw at Twilight. His prey was down.” It's been far too long since I tasted unicorn flesooof!”
The witch wolf was almost on top of Twilight when a blue form slammed into the side of him claws and fangs slashing and biting anything they could get. The impact was accompanied by a roar that Twilight had never heard her brother make before as the pair of them slammed into the railing along the side of the room, and kept going over the side to Twilight's horror.
Sombra cared nothing for this turn of events and strode across the room, ignoring the fallen and trapped as he advanced to the Crystal Heart.
The King picked up the Crystal Heart with a hoof, smirking at his victory.
She bounced constantly between easily distracted and insanely focused, had a list of issues and phobias, that while she had gotten better about, still affected her. As of late she had leaned far to heavily on anger to power through some of her issues when presented. This made many uncomfortable.
Twilight was primarily a scholar. She was most at home researching something or studying. She was also a clear bibliophile and thanks to her oldest friend, now sister in law, she had developed a few other odd interests.
None of which Big Mac seemed to mind.
She was also the Element of Magic, part of a set of six, and the most gifted spell caster in the last few generations.
She was still not a warrior.
She did know a few combat spells, but it had never been her field of focus.
She did exercise, but it was less to strengthen herself and more to remain fit with her otherwise sedentary lifestyle.
Twilight had also just watched her brother go sailing off the edge of a palace that stretched into the sky to save her.
She had witnessed her guard detail, one member of whom she knew very well, get trapped and possibly killed by black crystal.
She watched as the one responsible for this picked up the artifact she needed to save her sister in law and the whole empire.
Twilight Sparkle was not a warrior.
She didn't need to be.
She was pissed off.
King Sombra had no idea where the white unicorn with the burning mane and tail had come from. He did however know that he lost at least three teeth as well as his hold on the Crystal Heart when the unicorn's hoof smashed into his face.
The Crystal Heart bounced once, then went over the side like Rahs had.
Though Sombra had something more important to focus on.
Saving the rest of his teeth.
[ Through the fire and the flames.]
“This was not what I expected darlings... This way.” Rarity called making her way around a burning wagon, darting forward with a good dozen or so Crystal ponies following behind her.
When the dragon attacked Rarity had tried to help from her hat stand only to find no one was listening to her. Once she was sure Fluttershy was safe, her attention turned to some pony screaming from behind her stall. Stepping out she had seen a young colt stuck on the other side of wall of fire crying for help.
Running over to him she managed to beat back the fire with a bit of magic and the liberal use of the dirt in an old flower planter nearby.
The colt, named Garnet, was not looking for help for himself, but for the rest of his family that was trapped in their house.
Being who she was, Rarity followed the colt to a two story home wedged in between some taller buildings. The entire front of the structure was on fire and the colt had managed to slip out of a small window that wasn't burning but that the rest of his family couldn't get out of it.
Rarity wasn't sure what to do at first, though inspiration quickly struck.
Most of the houses she had seen were made of rather old wood, likely imported given they were in the tundra. The nails likewise were very old, and there were a lot of them, but they were small, and Rarity was used to working with small metal things.
With her horn glowing she grabbed all the nails holding the siding on the house and yanked them out.
A few wooden planks fell here and there, but with her urging the ponies inside started kicking at the walls.
With Rarity prying out the nails and bolts and the crystal ponies kicking they soon had a hole large enough to get everyone out of the house.
The next part had been a bit harder, the way they had come in now had a collapsed building in the middle of it, so the small group was forced to find another way.
That way led them towards a park and brought the dragon's attention to them.
Rarity didn't see who cast the shield that blocked the falling building, but she made certain to remember to find out who had done it so she could thank them when this was all over.
She didn't think she had been that close to being killed since she confronted the Bone Hounds.
Still that meant they needed to find another way through the burning city, and although Rarity was quite ready to freak out herself due to the situation, the Crystal Ponies were in far worse shape with their minds still scrambled, and she needed to take charge and press on.
“Well seems that way was a bust, let's try that side ally we passed.” Rarity said with faux cheer.
[ Inside the palace]
“Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeyoutwoareperfectforeachotherhowhadineverseenthisbeforeohmystarsyouradorablepleaseletmeplanandpreformtheweddingwhenyougethitched.” Princess Cadence, goddess of love squeed as she hugged a confused Fluttershy and a panicking Pinkie Pie in her fore hooves.
A moment later the pair were on the ground and Applejack was in the air being spun around as the alicorn mare twirled and went air born, seeming to be in two places at once.
The pink alicorn was vanishing and appearing like she was teleporting around the room talking to all the guards consulting their love lives and declaring she had the perfect plan for Rahs to find his special someone. In the five minutes since she had drank the Shoggoth's milk, she had harassed every pony in the room, planned out her entire marriage to Shining Armor including 2.5 foals, figured out what to do about Chrysalis, and drawn up a plan for Rahs, Luna, and Celestia's love lives that took up twelve note books, five chalk boards, three pegboards, and half of the wall in the throne room.
No one knew where she got the chalk boards or the note books, let alone the pegs and string.
She was currently in the third chorus of explaining how, there was nothing one can know that isn't known, nothing one can see that isn't shown, there's nowhere one can be that isn't where one is meant to be, when she stopped.
And just like that Cadence was gone with a pink contrail of hearts following in her wake as she blasted out the window and vanished into the distance.
The room was silent a moment, the two guards and four element bearers stared after the blur.
“By Princess Luna's dimpled plot. What … The … BUCK!?!” Rainbow Dash shouted.
“Destroying it now before she gets a second cup, or Princess Luna or Twilight try a cup.” Pinkie Pie nodded pulling a fire ax from her mane and advancing on the coffee maker.
Spike slowly stood up.
Before him was a hat stand, cowering around it were a large number of Crystal Ponies who couldn't make it to the palace. Behind them the city was burning, the faire at the edge of the Palace, and the Palace itself were the only places currently untouched by the flames on this side of the city. He was vaguely distracted by a pink line of light that shot through the air over him, though the screams brought his attention back to what was behind him. The thing the crystal ponies were calling a juggernaut
Patches of his scales were broken along his right side and he could feel a sharp pain in his back, his arm hung uselessly at his side and his right eye was swelling shut from where he had been hit by part of the wall. Looking down he could see blood on the stone under him where he had landed and saw the glitter of his shattered scales across the road leading to where the massive black buffalo stood pawing at the ground nearly a block away. Spikes blood was splattered over the things head and what looked to be one of his green spines was impaled on one of the sharpened horns. Clearly that was why his back hurt so much. The library rumbled as the front wall collapsed behind the Juggernaut.
That sound seemed to be all it needed to start rushing towards him, barreling down on the dragon that dared to remain alive.
Spike flinched as he regarded the massive creature, his mind racing as his thoughts ran wild.
A normal individual might be considering how their life had turned out like this, or perhaps what god to pray to for salvation.
Some might even be wondering if they left the stove on.
Spike was thinking of none of this. He was only thinking of two things.
The first, was that there were a lot of ponies behind him that this buffalo was going to kill if he wasn't stopped, and for all the professing that he followed a Paladin code from his O&O games, this would be one of the first times he was really in a situation where it meant anything.
The second thing he was thinking about were quips.
All heroes gave some quip before they defeated their opponent and right now he was having trouble thinking of one. The only thing he could think of was that stupid Japony card game Snips and Snails tried to get him into, where every one had super weird spiky hair.
He did like the guy with the three white dragons though, he clearly had taste.
Still, it was better than nothing.
“You just activated my trap card.” Spike quipped, the last word turning into a deep inhalation.
His back hurt and several of his ribs screamed at him as tears welled in his eyes from the pain, green flames danced around his fangs and as soon as the charging buffalo got within a few pony lengths of him he let it out.
A gout of green fire burst from the little dragons mouth like a roaring inferno, engulfing the charging buffalo. Spike pressed on with the breath as the massive form reached him and blasted him with green ash that swirled and billowed around the little dragon, trailing off into the sky, leaving the street clear save a barely standing baby dragon.
[ Outside in the snow fields.]
“What the sharding fuck was that?!” Bleu growled as she landed again in front of the collected gods. Several of them looking after the pink streak that was trailing off to the distant mountain range.
“You hit me!” Celestia yelled up at the dragon.
“Whatever, you can take it.” Bleu snapped back.
“Thou hit me with mine own sister!” Luna protested. “ Do thee have any idea how heavy she is?”
“Okay, you I will apologize to.” Bleu smirked before looking back at the shield as it faded away.
“That was funny.” White added sipping a cup of tea atop of Martle's head. The white rabbit in his red vest not having been there a moment before.
“White!? What the buck?!” Celestia demanded as the rabbit drew every other gods attention.
“The time displacement on the empire is fixed, the trap is removed. Just power up the heart and you're good to go. Seriously have you ever seen some ones skeleton come out of phase three seconds after they do? It's not pretty.” White offered waving a paw. “Oh yes, we also need to deal with the fires,and Sombra, and Kayete, and this lout.”
Before any of them could say anything more about the rabbit among them, a massive cloud of green smoke coalesced in the air before Celestia.
A huge black buffalo solidified in the air crashing to the ground and spinning about trying to find out where the dragon it attacked went.
What it saw instead, was twelve gods, all with their attention soly on him.
Martle, White, Lockheed, Teacup, Ascepius, Fledge, Kaz, and a newly woken Burlap, stared at the dark solider dropped in their midst.
Iinii stared at a fallen member of his tribe.
Bleu, Luna, and Celestia, took note of all of that, and also of the bloody green dragon spine impaled on one of juggernauts bladed horns.
As one, twelve gods acted before the juggernaut had time to take its last breath.
Across Equss a flicker of magic touched libraries and school shelves alike. Scrabble connoisseurs and curious bibliophiles took note over time that one of their books had something new added.
A picture of a black buffalo with bladed horns and some sort of armor plate now resided in their dictionaries, under the definition of 'obliterated'.
[ Crystal Faire]
Spike sat down hard, whimpering as he coughed out a few more puffs of green fire. He took note of a number of the crystal ponies, slowly moving closer to him as if the check on him.
That lasted until a flash of light sent them all skittering away as a white unicorn with his fur still smoldering teleported in from the park near Spike.
Shining Armor cursed, looking into the sky for the dragon, smoke billowed from his mane and tail as embers burned along the hairs covering his body, causing him to flinch as patches of hair were chard down enough to sear his flesh.
A glance behind him showed the gathered crystal ponies huddling around the edges of the faire, though Shining Armor's blue eyed gaze snapped immediately to his younger brother and the condition the baby dragon was in.
“Yo.” Spike greeted with a wince.
A roar snapped the eldest Sparkle siblings attention back to the sky, as the dreadnought had spotted him and was coming in for the kill.
Out of all the Sparkles, Shining Armor 'was' the warrior.
He was also proof that things, other than random mental health issues, ran in his family.
The smoldering blue mane and tail the white unicorn possessed suddenly burst into a brilliant blue white flame, his fur took on a more golden coloration as if it was being lightly toasted. As he glared up at the Dreadnought. His teeth gritted in rage as his horn flared to light, nearly blinding those around him.
Far above the Dreadnought turned to dive at the unicorn, and slammed into a shield. It back winged away only to slam into the other side of the magenta globe that had formed around it.
A globe that was rapidly shrinking.
The massive dragon flailed, smashing into the barrier. It roared out screaming at the unicorn that dared to try and trap it.
Shining Armor roared back at it, smoke started to flicker up from his horn as it glowed with the heat he was putting into the spell. The fur around his horn starting to blacken and burn as he poured even more power into it.
The Dreadnought's roars turned into screams as the shield shrunk more, the sound of shattering bone, bending metal, and crunching scale heard in the air as the shield turned opaque, hiding the thing inside from view. The glowing globe shrank to half the size of a dragon, then to the size of a pony, then to the size of a rabbit. It was barely the size of a marble when the spell faded and a tiny bit of black stone fell to the cobblestone road way, shattering to dust on impact.
As the spell dropped Shining Armor staggered, falling to his knees as his mane and tail went out, trails of smoke curled around his horn, a new patch of black fur covered his forehead and a few streaks of charcoal coloration ran through his smoldering mane.
He panted heavily, his head lowered, though he snapped it up quickly as he felt a claw on his shoulder.
“What a day, huh?” Spike chuckled, wincing.
“Yeah. I really hope that was it.” Shining agreed.
It was at that point, the top of the palace exploded.
The main gate of the country of Yakyakistan burst inward as something hit it from the outside. Bits of wood and metal crashed down around the frame of the great door into the valley and sent a number of the yaks there screaming in terror, or rushing towards the gate to smash.
The soldiers that arrived however were greeted to the sight of a long trail of land clear of snow as if it had been blown away from the ground stretching back towards the frozen north where the Crystal Empire used to be.
Standing in the rubble of the gate and prancing in place was a pink pony princess clutching a crystal heart.
“OhsothisisYakyakistan,lovelyplacealsoyoutwoareatotalyperfectcouple,youshouldaskheroutandyoushouldn'taccepttheproposal,thereareotehryaksthatwouldsuityoubetterandifyoudidn'tfeelpressuredintoityouwouldseethat,hecanalwaysreturntherock.” Cadence ranted, pointing at each of the yak soldiers in turn as she spoke about them.”Anywaygotagetthisbacktotheempireyouallhavefunnowgottagobye.”
And with an explosion of motion and a rooster tail of snow about a mile high Cadence took off back towards the Crystal Empire with a sonic boom that filled the air with glowing pink hearts.
[Just before the top of the Crystal palace exploded.]
“YOU DARE MAR..PPPHH!” Sombra demanded only for another hoof to slam into his jaw from the other side. Sombra was certain he had just lost another tooth. He quickly tried to back away only for the mare to continued to rush him, hooves striking at anything she could get.
“ENOUGH!” Sombra roared, a pulse of power bursting from his horn sending Twilight skidding away from him. The mare remained on her hooves, blood dripping from her nose, her mane and tail crackling with flame. Four trails of fire where her hooves had scraped the surface of the crystal blazed behind her actually burning the magical stone. Twilight lowered her head, one hoof pawing the ground kicking up sparks as she growled at the larger stallion.
Sombra was not about to admit it, but he was intimidated as fuck.
He opted to stop talking and simply do away with whatever this mare was, his horn glowed brightly, a blast of black magic firing off in a beam at the mare.
A beam of purple magic burst from the mares horn meeting the black magic spell and causing a collision of energies. The swirling ball of magic rapidly grew larger as the two unicorns dumped more power into it. The orb of annihilation growing every larger as it shifted closer to one of them or another depending on who had the upper hoof at the second.
“A spell duel... you idiot, you're challenging ME to a spell duel?” Twilight snapped.
“After all I've seen you cast mare you've got to be on your last dregs.”Sombra snarled his eyes widening as Twilight laughed.
“Last dregs? Do you know who I am, you must not know who I am, I'm Twilight Sparkle, Bitch!” The white burning mare snapped, her power seeming to double as the energy ball pushed towards Sombra. The dark unicorn redoubled his efforts just to get it back to the middle between them, the mare barely seemed to be trying as the ball of death grew larger.
“I'm the greatest caster in the Crystal Empire. I will not lose to some random demented mare in my own Kingdom.” Sombra snapped.
“Listen here chuckles.” Twilight snapped.” I'm dizzy, I've got stars dancing in my vision, and I seem to be tasting sound. So it's a pretty safe bet you're losing to me when I've got a concussion. This would be over already if I could think straight.”
“Impossible, I was trained by Nightmare Moon in combat magic, there is none greater!!” King Sombra roared.
“Yeah, well, we kicked her ass two years ago, and then Discord's ass last year.” Twilight said as if it was old news, her words slurring a little. “You ain't shit.”
“What? You Lie!” Sombra snarled.
“The day I came to your piddly little empire was the greatest day of your life. For me it was Tuesday.” Twilight paused.... “ Or was it Thursday? You know what I don't care, I'm quoting Spike's stupid comics in the middle of a fight with a magic user who's magic I can see tastes like olives, I'm not doing the quips! I need to trounce you then go save my brother.”
Twilight's horn blazed brighter and the great ball of magical death pushed inexorably closer to Sombra.
In a last ditch effort, the black unicorn dropped his beam and threw up a shield, and lifted a wall of black crystal before him.
The beam slammed through the crystal, through Sombra's shield, through his mithral armor, then threw him back through a wall as the explosion took the roof off the tower and sent it spiraling off into space.
Comet Trail smashed out of the cracked crystal cage, snarling as he looked around at the now ruined top of the palace. The other black crystal cage was still intact and he could hear some one beating against the inside of it as Starscream tried to get out.
Looking around he spotted Twilight Sparkle wandering around shakily by the edge of the tower near where Rahs fell, and with a flash of magic she was gone.
"What the buck does she even need guards for?" Comet Trail sighed.
“Granny is lunch ready?” Applebloom called trotting into the farm house with Sweetiebelle and Scootaloo right behind her.
Big Mac looked up from the table where he was going over the numbers to see how many bits they could tuck away for the upcoming reunion, he offered the girls a small smile before going back to the numbers.
“Jus about sugar. Biscuits is about done.” Granny Smith smirked.
“Cool, thanks Granny Smith.” Scootaloo chimed up.
“Yeah, thanks.” Sweetiebelle added as well. “We wanted to eat before we started work on our parade float in the barn. Maybe we can get cutie marks constructing it.”
“Was wondering why all tha cows ran outta tha barn like their tails was on fire.” Granny Smith chuckled. “Jus remember if yah need help with power tools make sure there's an actual adult nearby.”
The fillies response was cut off as a whistling sound filled the air and a massive earth quake shook the farm house knocking things off the walls and sending the fillies tumbling.
“We didn't do it!!” Scootaloo said instinctively.
“EARTH QUAKE! GIT IN THA DOOR FRAME!” Granny shouted as Big Mac grabbed the lot of fillies in one fore leg, diving into the doorway between the living room and the kitchen. The large stallion stood over the fillies and Granny in case anything fell.
There was a shower of something hitting the side of the house and a sound like sand being poured over toys in a sandbox before everything was still and quiet.
Taking the moment to make sure everyone was alright Big Mac moved to the back door and poked his head outside. The first thing he noticed was a bunch of dirt had been thrown up every where. Looking around he next took note that the old barn was flattened again.
What had trashed it this time however was a massive white crystal spire that towered over the farm house. It's landing had leveled the barn and kicked up a great deal of dirt as it partially buried itself where the barn once stood.
Big Mac stared a moment, the spire looking like the underside of it was set on fire given the scorch marks marring what he could see. It kinda looked like one of those fancy rocket ship things one saw in the pulp magazines.
Granny poked her head out from beside Mac and looked around spotting the tower. She snorted and went back into the house.
“Durn aliens here tah steal tha cows again. Where's ma pappy's gun?” Granny Smith snapped.
Twilight appeared with a flash of light a few feet above the ground and fell down with a crash. She shoved herself back to her hooves seeing the blurry forms of a purple dragon and a white unicorn with a blue mane before her.
“Shiny, Spike?”Twilight mumbled falling against her older brother, her head swimming.
“Twilight .. what happened to you?” Spike demanded. “ Where's Rahs?”
“He fell a couple of minutes ago. I came down here to see where he went... what, where is he?” Twilight explained.
“I haven't seen him since he went with you to find the Crystal Heart.” Shining offered.” Where did he go?”
It was at this point Rarity's hat shop, the only stall to survive a rampaging Juggernaut, a Dreadnought attack, a epic magic duel, falling tower fragments, and the trampling hooves of panicked crystal ponies, exploded.
[Just before the top of the Crystal palace exploded.]
Rahs and Managarmr fell over the railing, bouncing down the sloped side of the palace before crashing into a small landing, a good twenty feet below where they fell from.
The pair barely noticed the impact, claws and teeth lashing out sending red and blue fur flying. The witch wolf had the bulk and strength, but flooded with the magic trap on the Crystal Heart, as well as what he ate from Sombra, Rahs was managing to hold his own.
Particularly since for some reason, his fur was white, and he was now also on fire.
Blood flowed freely from various wounds that barely managed to close up before being torn open again, the crystalline walls running red with it.
There was no banter or quips, simply savage attacks as Managarmr tried to break free of the frenzied fighting to use his larger size to his advantage.
Rahs was hanging onto the larger beast trying to use what grapples he was taught to get to any weak point he could reach.
The tearing of flesh and fabric filled the air as Rahs' pants were shredded and charred along with the flesh underneath, though his rear claws kicked wildly trying to tear open the witch wolf's belly.
The writhing ball of pain, growling, and hate might have continued until one or the other gained the upper claw, though the sudden explosion of the top of the palace dropped a few tones of rubble on their perch and shattered the platform sending the pair in a death slide down the side of the palace walls.
The crunch of bone and crystal sounded as they impacted a few ornate protrusions on the way down before the slope ended sending the pair launching out into the air to fall, still fighting, from the middle of the palace, easily ten stories up.
The sudden impact into a haberdashery, blew out the roof and partially collapsed the structure on top of them.
The crystal ponies around it panicked rushing away and giving it and the three Sparkles standing in the middle of the street a wide berth as the siblings stared at it.
There was some movement and a bloody figure rose from the rubble shoving aside a fallen wall as it hobbled forward, chunks of crystal and wood sticking out of it's form.
Managarmr snarled, sending the Crystal Ponies into a frenzy as the beast's eyes locked on the two unicorns and the dragon before him.
“It's been a long time since I've had unicorn meat.” The witch wolf snapped advancing on the trio.
The beast staggered forward suddenly, turning his head to look back only for a pair of blue furred legs in tattered pants to lock around his mid section and a clawed hand to grab the underside of his jaw yanking the red furred witch wolves head back to meet the amber eyes of the pissed off Moon Dog.
“I went for the throat this time.” Rahs snarled. His free hand slapping to Managarmr's neck, digging his claws in and yanking.
Blood sprayed from the neck wound as Managarmr roared and flailed, trying to get the moon dog off his back. Rahs pulled himself tighter to the larger beasts back his ears and shoulders getting clawed, though he sank his teeth into the witch wolves shoulder clinging on for dear life as he kept Managarmr's head pulled back , his claws still ripping at the creatures throat, tearing it out again and again before it could manage to heal.
The red furred witch wolf fought on, his roars becoming gurgles as he started to inhale his own blood, his attacks getting weaker as he staggered backwards crashing into the hat stand again and bringing the rest of it down atop the pair with a loud crash.
The rubble was still a moment more before the wood was shoved aside once again and a red furred form rose up. There was a collect gasp before it crashed back down into the debris.
Rahs pushed himself up, sparing a glance down at the dead witch wolf before taking a step away from the crushed hat stand towards his siblings.
His ears perked hearing the mummers and barely perceptible whimpers of 'witch wolf' that the crystal ponies didn't even try to suppress as they stared after him. He stopped and turned to face the crowd behind him causing many of them to flinch.
He was soaked in blood, one of his arms completely red from the elbow down. He was breathing hard and his fur was matted with blood and several open wounds were visible.
A heavy thud on the ground near him drew his attention to a bright orange coat that had just drifted down from above. He smirked picking up the coat and swung it around over his shoulders in a dramatic flourish that turned into a bow directed towards the Crystal ponies. He offered them a grin, spun on his rear paw, took two steps towards his siblings, and face planted in the middle of the street.
Twilight, Spike, and Shining rushed forward helping their whimpering brother up to at least a sitting position when a blast of air hit them and a ray of pink appeared over them.
Cadence spread her wings wide stopping to hover over the Sparkles, the crystal heart clutched in her fore hooves.
The Sparkles looked up at princess Cadence as she looked down at them.
There was a cry of 'Crystal Princess' from the gathered crowd and the Crystal Heart lit up, radiating rays of warm light that shown out and enveloped the Empire.
Rarity screamed out as a massive chunk of black crystal smashed into the street in front of her as the palace top exploded. The massive chunk of crystal bounced once and plowed into the side of a building , sending a collection of white rabbits scampering away.
The crystal ponies behind her all scattered for cover, her trek having picked up a few more after the dragon had focused on something else.
The black crystal rocked before smashing open and a black unicorn staggered out. Cracked and burnt armor was half melted on his form. Blood ran from his mouth and nose and he spit off to the side dislodge another tooth as he cursed yanking a melted crown off his head, tearing out some of his own fur as he removed the ruined bit of metal.
“This is not over Twilight Sparkle.” he snarled looking up at the broken tower.”I will destroy you mare, and you damn dog too...”
“What?” Sombra demanded turning his head only for another white hoof to cold cock him across the face. After all the punishment he had been through already, that last bit was more than enough to drop him like a sack of potatoes.
“I am not sure who you are darling, nor who dressed you in such tacky things but you do not threaten my friends in my earshot without....... never mind you're unconsciousness.” Rarity sighed looking at her hoof idly. “Alright, shows over darlings, you can come out now.”
“Is that.. is that King Sombra?”one of them whimpered poking her head out from behind a barrel she ducked behind.
“The ruler of the Empire, he .. he took over when Solomon was killed.....” the crystal pony continued.
“I have no idea darling, but we can't simply leave him here to burn... or to wake up and go after a friend of mine.... Hmm.” Rarity shrugged, her horn glowing as she grabbed the stallion by his tail and started walking, dragging him along after her. “Come along darlings, I'm sure this is the way out.”
Ten gods rushed into the Crystal Empire after a streak of pink.
Two stayed back watching over the burning Empire as the others went to help.
“Not going in?” Bleu asked simply, her form about the size of Luna who sat beside her.
“Our presence will not help at this point. We came in case we needed to fight something. The crystal ponies do not need to see us, it will simply add to their panic.” Luna sighed. “Better to let my sister deal with this.”
“Probably.”Bleu offered letting the silence linger a bit before speaking again. “I don't blame you for Kayete..”
“Thou are lying.” Luna responded sadly.
Bleu stared for a moment more at the city, before looking over at the alicorn who hadn't moved or changed her gaze from the city. The flames were dying down rapidly, putting themselves out, likely Kaz's doing.
“Yeah, okay, pretty much. Even after Solomon died you continued on as Nightmare Moon. You tried to kill your sister and usurp her throne. You would have killed the world to spite your sister.” Bleu agreed, “ So yeah, I do still not like you.”
“We are fine with that, we feel far too many did forgive us too soon.” Luna responded.
The pair sat in silence for a bit longer watching a blast of light fill the air and cover the empire, the few Crystal ponies they could see moving around suddenly taking on a crystalline sheen.
“Wonder how the whelp is doing.” Bleu questioned.
“He's not my son.”
“Thou are lying.” Luna responded.
Bleu snorted, “Fine, whatever you figured it out still so what I've got lots of kids dragons don't care for them after they get to be a certain age....”
“Thou are lying.” Luna responded.
“Stop doing that.” Bleu sputtered.” What are you the Element of Honesty or something?”
Bleu stared at her a moment before sighing. “ Yeah forgot about that.”
“He is Kayete's isn't he?”
Bleu remained silent.
“We are sorry...”
“Always was a headstrong bastard, took a flight of our toughest to deal with the trouble himself. Left me with a clutch to tend. Never came back. I thought he was dead for years. But I never hatched that last egg cause I wanted him to be there to see one of his sons born. Then I thought, well I'll wait until the Darkness is beaten then it will be safe to hatch him. The empire vanished and I thought well Nightmare Moon is still out there better wait for her to be stopped. Then you went to the moon and I found another excuse and another.”
Bleu sighed as Luna looked over at the dragoness finally.
“So I gave the egg to Celestia, made her think it was some sort of peace offering. It worked, but the real reason is for as long as I had that last egg I'd never get over Kayete. And if I hatched him I'd just see Kayete in him and who knows what I would do. My other whelps from Kayete were either killed in the war or left for parts unknown. I'm still not sure there's any left alive out there or not. Every so often I see a little bit of him in one of my other kids. Ember has his horns, for instance. Torch wasn't his, but from another after I moved on, but his mate might have been a descendant of one of the others, or one of Kayete's brothers.” Bleu frowned. “ Doesn't matter, Kayete's finally at rest and Spike's got a family that actually won't see any one in him but himself. I won't distract him with my emotional shit.”
“Yet you still care for him?”
“Yeah well, no shit. If Celestia had done anything to him or let anything happen to him I would have raised Equestria to the ground and there's not a damn god or thing out there that could have stopped me.”Bleu said flatly. “ Despite the stuff I hear he gets up to he's in a better position now and he's got some dangerous siblings watching his back. Seriously, that one soloed a Dreadnought. That's gonna make some of the older dragons piss themselves.”
Luna pondered a moment before speaking again.“You know he has a filly friend......”
“Oh? So I should expect another half breed in my family line?” Bleu smirked. “So which one is it, not that prissy white unicorn is it? Stars. I hope he has better taste than that.”
“Nay, tis one of the Cutie Mark Crusaders that has his eye.” Luna smiled.
“Oh shards, that's worse. He's got his fathers bad taste in females.” Bleu cackled. “ We hear about them all the way in the Dragon lands.”
[ Crystal Library]
“So due to the temporal instability in the spell, I will have my followers take care of all the whirls and eddies around the empire when it comes back. Due to everything being out of phase with the proper flow of time, we have yet to realign it. Some places were already aligned properly so we will have no need to be there. It seems that was intentional, and the dreadnought will correct himself back into the flow of time again before he fought.” White explained.
The researchers gathered around the rabbit god were writing things down quickly trying to translate the rabbits odd tenses as best they could. The bunny sat on the metal dais the buffalo had been on and occasionally some where else without seeming to move.
“We left a number of the empire's citizens out of phase simply due to if we brought them back in they would die in a fire or from an attack or old age, or when they were born, the only ones we couldn't keep from getting hurt, were the ones who were already awake, in one of the temporal dead zones, or will come in from outside.”
“So you're saying there are no deaths despite all that out there?” Moon Dancer asked.
“Just three. The dreadnought, witch wolf and juggernaut. Solomon will call the witch wolves, reavers but the name never stuck.” White added.” You will be welcome, or maybe you already are.”
“How did all those rabbits manage to fix this?” Sunburst asked.
“Most of them are my brood, or will and have been mates. The were called vorpals or will be called Chenrenbog, depending on who you ask and when.” White offered waving a paw to the three dozen smaller white rabbits that now moved around the library nibbling at things.”They eat the time issues.”
The rabbits all stopped and turned to stare at Sunburst as he looked at them. They all then opened their mouths showing lamprey like maws with rabidly spinning teeth.
“GAAAH!” Sunburst shrieked.
“Knock it off, you're not Langoliers!” White snapped as the bunnies all giggled.
“Are you sure this is a good idea Princess?” Lodestone muttered from the door of the library. The massive nox-cal sporting a number of bandages, though he seemed unperturbed by his injuries.
“They need a break and it keeps White out of my mane.” Celestia sighed heading off to check on the others.
“Her record is seventy two hours.” Spike pointed out.
The green naga slapped her face with her hand. Twilight Sparkle was in a fear filled panic run around her brothers. The only thing keeping her from tearing off into the crowd was a shield put up by Fledge, who was watching the mare go around in a circle with a tireless morbid curiosity.
Holding onto Twilight's tail with her wings out was a pink alicorn, who was acting like she was water skiing, clearly enjoying herself. Her cheering only paused when she was near Rahs in the circuit so she could belt out a rapid fire explanation of some new plan she had involving boats or something that was too fast for any of them to understand.
“Thisssss cannot be helping her concusssssion.”
The great buffalo god Iinii strode through the crowd, passing the crystal ponies who gave him a wide berth. His massive size making it easy to push past any one trying to stop him, though none were dumb enough to try.
The massive white buffalo stopped under the huge palace, taking note of the Crystal Heart that now floated and pulsed in the air under the palace. Though his attention left it quickly as he searched the area.
“There you are.”
The massive buffalo god whipped around with more speed than any one had ever seen him move. Snow slung from his back coating the area with a carpet of white.
Approaching him was a much smaller buffalo cow, though one who would be considered large by the average buffalo. Her golden fur was marred with a number of black scars including several that went across her face and over her eyes.
Green glittering gems lay in the sockets of her eyes staring at the buffalo god, a gift from Iinii long ago.
The pair stared at each other for a long time as the great god of the Buffalo smiled.
“Maohk. You are safe...”
“I told you I would be Iinii.” Maohk smiled.” But you never lisooof..”
The buffalo cow's words were cut off as the massive god of the snows hugged her to him, weeping openly at the return of his wife.
“Let go of me damn it!, don't you know who I am?!” Lockheed crowed scrambling against the stone road as a figure drug the griffon god along in a one armed headlock. Pulling the flailing bird towards Celestia, who paused and waited for the pair to approach.
The griffon dragging the god along was not a pretty bird. The war bird of the, now defunct, Fairchild Republic was scarred, with a oddly shaped beak and clearly carried a bit of weight with him despite his time imprisoned. He had a slight list to one side as he drug the griffon god with him and he moved with the authority of some one who got things done. Despite his state and status he was barely in his mid twenties.
He was also one of the few mortal creatures that Princess Celestia would not risk messing with.
Also the only one who still rated higher than Pinkie Pie.
The former bearer of Loyalty was lost when the empire vanished, Celestia was surprised that that would slow him down.
“Lord Thunderbolt the second.” Celestia smiled at the griffon. “You have no idea how happy I am to see you are alright.”
“I expect so. But that can wait until later. Who is this lout that thinks he can command me?” Thunderbolt questioned holding up the golden and silver feathered griffon god who was clearly indignant and confused that he was being tossed about so easily by a mortal.
“That is Lockheed, the current god of the griffons.” Celestia pointed out.
“What?! What happened to my grandmother?” Thunderbolt demanded, dropping god of the griffons to the ground with a thud.
“Southern Cross retired not long after the empire vanished and passed on her title and portfolio to Lockheed.” Princess Celestia sighed. “The loss of her only grand chick did not sit well with her.”
“Over a thousand years. Much has changed in your absence.” Celestia frowned looking to her friend with pity.
“So was this whiny git correct? The empire is fallen?” Thunderbolt frowned gesturing with a dull gray wing at the much fancier looking griffon god.
“Whiny git!? How dare ymmpph.” Lockheed was silenced as the other griffon grabbed him by his beak holding it closed.
“Quiet chick, the adults are talking.” Thunderbolt looked expectantly at Celestia.
“Not completely, but it is hardly the place you knew. Greed, corruption, apathy, and laziness has infected the society, hardly any of the nobles even live in Griffonstone now. They reside in Equestria on my bit. Well they will until I get home any way. The land has been without a proper leader for quite some time....”
“You're going into your chess master mind set, I hate that.”Thunderbolt frowned.
“I wasn't..... honestly, I had not planned to... it's gotten me in trouble in recent years, but old habits I suppose.” Celestia sighed. “ Look Thunderbolt, it's been a long time, and the world has changed. I have ponies who can help you catch up as they did with Luna....”
Celestia continued noticing the griffon's eyes go wide as she mentioned Luna.“ Right, look, long story there too. Just, when you get caught up on the modern world, whatever you want to do is fine. You want to wander and fight things, go for it. I can point you to hot spots. You want to retire, I can point you to some decent resorts and the crown will pay for it for what you've done. You want to head back home and fix things, the crown will support that too. All of it's you're choice my friend, just let me know what you want and I'll try and help.”
“Wait you're throwing me and the nobles to the wolves, but this random bird shows up and he gets a free pass!?” Lockheed snapped.
“Because you're an asshole and I trust Thunderbolt to make proper decisions regarding the well being of the griffons” Celestia stated. “ I wouldn't trust you or the nobles to clean up after your own dogs after you took them for a walk.”
“I am the god of griffons and the hunt Celestia.. I will not be talked down to by you....” Lockheed snarled.
“God of the hunt? Well now... That's a new title? Bit of a hunter myself. What do you usually hunt, big game I mean, foods barely a thing.” Thunderbolt questioned, interrupting the other griffon.
“Cryo hydra's mostly, there's a plethora of them in the north along with the usual abominations.” Lockheed stated with some disdain, but no small amount of pride.
“Ahh those things. A bit gamy if you ask me , but easy enough to take out if you got a bit of fire on yah.” Thunderbolt nodded with a shrug. “Fairly large and good in a pinch rather than starve. The hydra not the abominations, those taste like shit.”
“And what exactly did you hunt to be so unimpressed.” Lockheed snapped.
“ Tanks.” Thunderbolt smirked.
“Tanks..” Lockheeds eyes widened.” You mean....”
“Discordian era dragon turtles, yes.” Celestia smiled. "You know the things that eat ships and are known to pretend to be islands so they can drown the settlements that are built on their backs for a free meal. I do look forward to your next hunt Thunderbolt. It's been a long time since I had that wonderful soup you make.”
[ Much later in the day]
Shining Armor rested his head on his hooves barely, listening as the gods sat at the table around him talking.
Twilight was finally checked on by some one other than the naga god. She had a concussion as predicted as well as a number of smaller injuries and a small taint of black magic that was quickly removed by Celestia. Though it was expected the spell would have worked out of her system and been eaten by Rahs before too long. She was treated and put to bed with several doctors watching over her.
Rahs was in fairly good shape considering. He was covered in cuts, punctures, and bruises, some of them fairly deep. The impact damage from the fall as well as the bits of the haberdashery that impaled him healed up fine as soon as the offending objects were pulled out. The burst of energy from the heart more than enough magic for him to recover. The rest of his injuries would need to heal naturally because they were inflicted by another magic eater. Thus wounds were immune to any form of magical healing, including his own. He had also opted to take a nap after proving to Rarity that he had not destroyed another coat.
Shining himself had a number of burns, some minor wounds and had burned out his magic for a while with that last spell. His fur was scorched to the root around his horn and the white was evidently burned out of the fur. He would be stuck with a black spot around his horn and temples. Still better than going gray. The doctors made him wear a few suppressor rings much like Twilight to avoid accidental casting so he could recover.
Spike was the worst off, though he was doing his best to power through it. His arm was broken in two places, a few of his ribs were cracked and he had deep gashes in his back and arm. One of his spines had also been ripped out of his back and was probably the worst of the wounds, though the naga doctor had pointed out he would probably regrow it after a few moltings. The bruise on his head was minor despite the black eye he was getting from it. He was currently dictating his story to the guard assigned to watch him and had full plans to turn this whole thing into an O&O adventure.
Shining Armor had met with the few city leaders that remained, helped pass judgment on a number of Sombra's soldiers and had been busy all day even while getting treated. The weird crystalline effect that had taken hold earlier was thankfully fading from all the non crystal ponies.
Much to Rarity's annoyance.
Despite the gods in the room, every crystal pony who had come to speak with them had deferred to what he said, not what Princess Celestia or any of the other gods said.
Some listened to Cadence as well, but given that she still had not sat still for longer than five seconds, and that was to only to almost crush him in hugs and kisses, he understood the why of it.
The weird thing of it was that Celestia said that they expected Cadence and Shining to take over running the empire.
He protested of course, he might have made Guard Captain, but he wasn't fit to lead an Empire. Cadence had never expressed a desire for anything like that either. Besides they were still supposed to be on their honey moon.
Teacup 'helpfully' pointed out that his wife had the Crystal Heart branded on her ass, so she was probably related to the last bit of proper royalty the Crystal Empire had had before Solomon took over. Of course by association and more importantly 'deed', so were he and his siblings. Over half the empire had seen his battle with the dreadnought and his siblings fights with the witch wolf, juggernaut, and saw the end result of Twilight's fight with Sombra. The Sparkles were on their way to becoming legendary folk heroes of the Crystal Empire.
Shining just wanted to rest and recover from this, he was no royal, he was a guard. Still since the Crystal Ponies were listening to him now that they all were more aware of themselves, as well as blatantly ignoring all the Gods walking around, he relented to a point.
The first thing he did was draw up a battle plan. Recovery and care for the wounded was first. Securing of all the new prisoners, release of all the old ones, and a full sweep of every part of the Empire was next.
Turned out there were only three old prisoners, and they did their own thing. He was more than happy to let them, well two of them any way.
The two buffalo left. Iinii and Mahok clearly had catching up to do.
Once he was done talking with Princess Celestia and the griffon god, Lord Thunderbolt offered his assistance in dealing with any thing else that might crop up and filled in any blanks he might know of on how things were around here before the empire vanished.
Shining Armor was going to pair him with Comet Trail, but the griffon seemed rather aggravated by the nox-cal, so Shining put him with a wing of standard pegasi to check out a few places.
He was not happy with the report on why there were no more unicorn or pegasi crystal ponies, though he had no reason to disbelieve Thunderbolt. It did make him far more leery of what Rahs might have been when Discord touched him, and far more satisfied at what had happened to the dreadnought and witch wolf.
The third prisoner, a one Rhedric Pelt, hero of the Crystal Empire, sadly not self proclaimed, took care of himself as well.
As in he hit on Princess Celestia, and was ignored. He hit on Cadence and nearly got thrown off the balcony by Shining himself. Then he hit on Pinkie Pie and got knocked right the buck out by an angry, and rather possessive, butter yellow pegasus.
The Element Bearers themselves went back to working on the faire and trying to help out any way they could.
Rarity's …. guest.... was slapped in chains, a few dozen magic suppression rings, a gag, tossed in a cell in the dungeon and was watched over by Teacup, who was practically frothing at the mouth in hope that Sombra tried something.
He got White to have his rabbits guide the rescue teams to any one trapped, injured, or still out of phase. Kaz dealt with the fires, Fledge acted as messenger between the base camp and the empire, and he had Princess Celestia advising him.
Ascepius was still running a medic triage, though at last check she was preparing to vaccinate every crystal pony in the entire city against modern viruses. Martle was tasked with watching Cadence as she set up a new shipping room and Burlap went back to sleep in the middle of the road ignoring everyone.
Lockheed did his own thing as well. Despite his arrogance, he still tried to help how he could. He joined another of the flight teams to scout the perimeter and see if anything else came up.
Food and necessities were scrounged and passed out and the least damaged buildings and homes were turned into shelters for those who had become homeless due to the fires.
Messages were sent back and forth between the Crystal Empire and Equestria thanks to Fledge and the supply trains would be coming along with engineers and construction ponies. Another wave of Guards would come in and all the nox-cal present would ship back out, due to the Crystal Ponies reactions to them. It would take some time for the nox-cal to be accepted here given they were once Nightmare Moons warriors.
All and all, this had been a long day and he was glad it would be over soon.
Granted it looked like Shining Armor had a lot of long days in his future.
The hollow clack of hooves on stone echoed in the normally unused dungeon of Canterlot Castle. A rustle of wings heralded the sudden rattle of armor as the four guards posted there snapped to attention the noise echoing over the scant few holding cells that were there.
The dungeon was small in truth, having only five cells. It had been unused since it was built save as a tourist attraction, and once to hold a particularly famous cat burglar, who had only been in the cells to show he could escape them.
The cells had been upgraded since then, but Princess Celestia had never felt the need for dungeons. There were jail cells in Guard posts across Equestria for the few crimes that needed them, mostly disorderly conduct, theft and the like.
It was a rare pony indeed that did things worse than that. Still it happened and if it was bad enough for jail time, but not bad enough to be sent to Tartarus, banishment, or being added to a particular garden of the princesses, there was always the island of Alpacatraz. Granted there were at best twenty to thirty on that island, mostly violent dissidents and at least three failed assassins.
While some might consider the number of prisoners there rather low for the sheer number of ponies in Equestria, one also had to consider the volume of property damage done by the nations 'heroes' to realize that most crimes could easily be dealt with on a lower judicial level. Ponies also tended to be rather big on forgiveness.
That and the thieves guild had their own rules and morals, given they drew in most of the worst, they minded their own and any one who broke their rules tended to vanish.
As it stood, a great deal of work had gone into upgrading one of the dungeon cells in the last day for a very specific guest.
Chains rattled as a black furred head lifted, red eyes glaring as a blue alicorn strode up to the other side of the bars.
“Well. I see you finally decided to show up.” Sombra snarled. “ Here to torture me more with your 'dentist' ?”
“That was to help thee..” Luna began.
“Spare me the platitudes. I was strapped to a chair and had a mare jabbing sharp metal into my mouth, that was torture pure and simple.” Sombra snapped.
“That is a modern medical practice that even we had to submit to.” Luna rolled her eyes.
“And I thought the doctors of my time were barbaric.” Sombra snapped
The former king was bound in the cell with numerous chains and six limiters on his horn. His burns had already healed and his teeth had also come back in. Even without his magic he was dangerous as two unwary guards, now on medical leave, had found out.
“We are not here for that. Our sister shall be deciding your fate in this once she has a list of your crimes. We simply wish to talk.” Luna frowned.
“Talk?” Sombra snorted.” You wish to talk?!”
“That is what we have stated.”
“And what would we even have to speak with YOU about mare? Your inability to do anything without deferring to your sister? Your grandstanding? Your utter incompetence? Your murder of countless innocents through your creations? Perhaps you mean your utter failure as a ruler?”
“HEY!” one of the Guards snapped.” Mind your tongue or else...”
“Or else what colt? You'll lock me up further? Try and come in here to force me to mind my tongue? How well did that work for your useless companions? There is not a thing you can do or say to me that will matter a wit colt, so do yourself a favor and shut your own damn mouth because I WILL tear out your tongue and beat you to death with it!” Sombra snapped back fangs bared.
The Guard took a step back at Sombra's snarl before starting forward again only to be blocked by Luna's wing.
“Enough!” Princess Luna snapped.” We did not come down here for thou to get into an argument with the guards, we came here for answers.”
“Spare me the lies mare, you came to talk to me to make yourself feel better, to try and find something to blame all your issues on that was not yourself.”
“Don't Sombra me mare. You want to talk fine how about I tell you a story? This is a little tale I like to call 'buck off and die'. It's a little tale about a colt who grew up as royalty, was given every material thing he could ever want and denied what he most needed. It stars a psychotic stallion of a father who's whole purpose was to become a god and rule everything. And a twisted abomination of a mare who hated both the son and his father, even though the colt didn't do anything wrong. In fact the little colt did everything in his power to please both of his parents as he needed, if not outright mindlessly lusted for that connection, that little spark of caring that even the slaves received from their families. And at one point his desire for that was so high, so driven into his very psyche that when the mare asked of him something, in a tone that was caring and warm, something he had never known, he jumped at it as a pony dying of thirst in the desert would go for a cup of water. “
Sombra glared straining against the chains his eyes locked on Luna.
“ He listened to her like a good little colt and did as she asked. The little colt crept into his fathers room at night and slew the monster in cold blood because the mare said she would take him with her when she fled. A murderer before his twelfth birthday”
The guards and Luna both stared as Sombra was practically frothing at the mouth at this point, the chains binding him straining as the rings around his horn started to glow as they absorbed the magic he was putting out.
“And low an behold just when he thought he was done, that he had achieved the love and caring that he had desired his whole life, what happened?! The mare decided that since she was free, any promises she made were no longer valid and she took off into the night with all of her followers, leaving the colt behind with a corpse and a empire to rule devoid of nearly all it's protectors. An empire that was besieged on all sides by enemies. Enemies that took advantage of the weakness and started destroying everything he had known around him. He held on for ten years keeping those wolves at the gate at bay, hoping against everything that the one who promised to free him would return and rescue him from the nightmare she had left. And THEN!! THEN!! when it was all said and done and the enemy was rushing in seeking to kill and destroy, not even trying any other way but complete annihilation, did he find his dead father had left A GIFT. And oh what a wonderful gift, the young stallion had all his memories stripped away and was flung out of time and space along with everything he knew to BE BAIT FOR A TRAP!!!”
Sombra lunged forwards two of his chains snapping off completely as his face pressed to the bars, the unicorn still contained but still straining against his bonds.
“All of that, because he was betrayed by ones he loved who used his desire for acceptance and caring against him. Quite a story isn't it?” Sombra snarled.” And I'm sure you know exactly who that mare was don't you 'mother'?”
Luna flinched at the words, the venom in his tone enough to make a blue ring octopus jealous.
“Oh don't get me wrong. I know why you did it. I'm not the same little colt you tricked into doing your dirty work. I realize now you were controlled and had no say over your actions.... at least until I killed Soloman any way. After that well... I'm a lot less understanding.” Sombra hissed the words at Princess Luna. “ So go ahead mare. Do your worst. You've already ruined my life any way, what's a bit more, go a head and finish it. Finish what you started.”
Sombra snarled as Luna turned and left. The stallion glaring at the shocked guards before turning and settling back into the shadows of his cell.
[ ? ]
“There was one left...... damn....” Forthe growled as he shifted and moved though the jungle he was in, paying no mind to the trees as he passed around or through them.
If the witch wolf had gotten out it would have weakened him further, possibly enough to destroy him completely if it got into any of the nearby packs. He was somewhat thankful to his targets that they had destroyed it, pity they hadn't died as well however.
If what he heard was true, aside from making Luna suffer, the act barely did anything at all, most of the gods were indifferent to her return at best, and wary at worst.
He had thought the object under the ice sealed the empire away as a foci, but to think the whole thing was a trap for gods. Well, he had been a lot closer than he liked to it. Though if he knew he would have done things a little differently , and tried to get Luna inside instead of the pink one.
Still despite Kodiak's attempt Luna was unharmed, the moon dog and his summoner were still alive, the only advantage he had was that the witch wolf was dead and the pair of them were hurt.
The ponies would also be distracted by the empire and their prisoner now and he would have time to try something else.
The was still the problem of the bitch interested in the abomination. She wouldn't listen to him and she was too strong for any of the ones he could convince to try and take over. If he sent another pack after her there would be a war and the ponies would get involved and any attempts he made after that would be foiled as they would be looking for him to make a move.
No he needed something else. Something they would never see coming.
The darkness cursed.
It wasn't enough power.
The trap had been sprung and broken before the one caught could be drained completely.
Still it had been enough.
He clung to the world again, not quite existing as more a ghost. Less alive than he should be , but more than he was. It seemed the spell he had taken from Grogar was effective after all.
He could get more power later, he could complete this and it needn't even be as complex as the trap. That had been a fail safe any way. To think he expected Nightmare to be the one to do it.
He needed time to recover fully.
But for now.
Time was something he had an unlimited amount of.
He would have it all, everything would be his soon enough.
The darkness smiled.
[ Abandoned grove outside of Ponyville]
If you asked the local weather ponies about the Everfree Forest they would all agree on the same thing, 'the weather there was unpredictable'.
Now most would chock this up to the idea that beings that controlled the weather of course would worry about a place where the weather did it's own thing, and they would be partially right.
The forest did have it's own weather, but it really was unpredictable. The forest was known to have a summer drought in the middle of winter while surrounded by snow. Or have a blizzard in the dog days of summer. Hurricanes formed over it despite the fact there wasn't enough water there to feed such monstrous storms, not to mention the few rains of fish and frogs that Equestria knew of also happened here. Some ponies blamed Discord, but the history of the Everfree Forest went back much much further than Discord.
So it was of little surprise to any one when a tornado erupted from the forest seemingly at random.
Most only thought it odd that it was a Sunday rather than a Tuesday this happened.
The tornado screamed and howled, but it stayed away from the town, tearing through a bit of government protected land away from any pony homes before it dissipated.
With the danger passed the weather team made a note of it for their records and everything went back to normal, just another crazy thing for the town, and not even one worth really noting, or bringing up.
The area of forest the tornado hit however was destroyed , shattered trees and broken limbs littered the area. The tornado had come through with a savage howl ripping apart this section of the forest before crashing into the largest tree in the clearing, splitting it open just as the tornado had petered out.
The massive trunk of the tree crashed down, smashing into the monument erected by Princess Luna. The black stone not even showing a scuff from the impact as heavily enchanted as it was.
An hour or so after the storm faded, the area was again filled with the sound of snapping limbs and creaking wood. This was soon joined by howls of rage and frustration.
And as the sounds of grinding wood and snarls of canines left the area, what damage had been done by the storm seemed worse.
Few if any living trees were left untouched. Most were altered in some way shredded or simply reduced to toothpicks.
And in the center of it, a black stone monument lay crumbled to rubble drained of it's protection.
[Ponyville Library, 2 weeks after the Crystal Empire, Wednesday]
“Thanks for coming guys. Dash, Pinkie, and Shy should be on their way. I wanted every one here by three.” Twilight sat back a little in her chair, her hoof flipping the pages the book she had been reading. She placed a book mark where she had stopped with her teeth, a pair of suppressor rings on her horn keeping her spell casting nonexistent, at least for a few more days.
Across from her at the reading table in the middle of the main room sat Applejack and Rarity, both of whom had just come back from their camping trip to Winsome Falls.
Rahs as usual had fallen asleep on the couch nearby. The moon dog was still covered in a number of bandages as some of the bite wounds he received had gotten infected, though his body was fighting that off fairly well he complained about the itching quite a lot. There was also currently a raccoon curled on the small of his back sleeping. Blakeney had decided to stick around for the free food and shelter by agreeing to be Rahs' pet. Rahs didn't even really want a pet, but Fluttershy convinced him, though he still occasionally referred to his new pet as emergency rations.
Spike still had Peewee, though the phoenix chick was still in Canterlot being tended by Phillomenia until he got a little older and could fly on his own, something Spike couldn't teach.
Every so often Rahs' ears perked up at a noise, though thus far he hadn't opened his eyes, but Twilight knew he was listening and waiting like she was.
Spike was at the other end of the table counting out the bits that Rarity had forked over to him from the crusaders betting pool. The little dragon looked better, but he too was still bandaged and had one arm in a cast and sling.
The little dragon had been rather upset that he couldn't join the camping trip, but with his injuries and Twilight's, the pair had to pass.
“So what was the bet?” Twilight asked, looking at her brothers new payout with a sigh.
“Tree sap.” Rarity answered with a frown.
“And you bet against him?” Twilight raised an eyebrow.
“Tah be fair, there were three of us there counting Dash, an we each were keeping an eye on one of tha girls.” Applejack sighed. “We almost made it too, then some one had to annoy them beavers...”
“Ugh, please stop Applejack, the less said about all that the better.” Rarity shuddered. “Suffice to say tree sap is murder to get out of ones fur. Particularly white fur.”
“So did anything else interesting happen or was it as relaxing as you thought?” Twilight smiled despite herself.
“Bit of a kerfluffle with Scootaloo the first couple of nights, but spect she was just excited tah be around Rainbow Dash.” Applejack shrugged. “Not a bad trip, tha girls jumped right back into making their parade float again soon as they got back. Mac and Granny are keeping an eye on um.”
“Cool I'll have to head over and see that.” Spike offered.
“Not until you're cleared by the doctor.” Twilight retorted. “We don't need you getting hurt again.”
“How would I get hurt just going to see a float?” Spike questioned.
“Bark.” Rahs offered from the other room without moving or opening his eyes, though his ears were perked up and focused on Spike.
“Seriously they are not that bad.” Spike protested.
“I agree with him, they may not mean too, but those girls are disaster magnets. And if they did something dangerous you'd do what you could to get them out of it and get yourself hurt in the process.” Twilight frowned.
“Changing the subject a little,have you heard from Shining Armor?”Rarity questioned.” About Cadence?”
Twilight rubbed her temples with her fore hooves. “Princess Celestia said she finally crashed two days ago. She also said that probably every female of every species within miles of the empire was probably going to be expecting soon. She hearkened it back to the first Hearts and Hooves day event.”
“Starting to think we got outta there in time.” Applejack frowned.
“Quickly changing the subject again.” Rarity stated flatly. “ Why did you want us all here before three?”
“Well when we got back from the Crystal Empire, we had a visitor in the library.”Twilight rolled her eyes as Rahs growled.
“Skiddi doot skiddi doot”
[One week after the Crystal Empire, Ponyville library, Monday]
“Ugh I'm gonna sleep for a week.” Twilight groaned shoving the door to the library open. The mare looking much worse for wear and having a number of inhibitor rings on her horn, she also carried a number of bags on her back.” Spike if you could can you check see if anything spoiled while we were gone, we'll go shopping tomorrow..... wait no it's Monday, the day after tomorrow.”
“Right, your poor wounded younger brother will certainly fall back to menial work against the doctors orders....” Spike snarked as he walked in carrying nothing.
“By the stars Spike, I'm not asking you to reorganize the entire library, or even cook, just see if anything's spoiled while we were gone.”Twilight grumbled.
“Oh, I'm gonna still be cooking. Rahs barely makes anything passable and you set fire to the kitchen trying to make toast.” Spike snarked.
“I did no such thing, I may not be the best cook, but I can cook.” Twilight snapped.
“Sandwiches and cold cereal don't count.” Spike continued .
“Bork!” Rahs stated as he headed, in pulling a luggage trolley behind him. The station manager hadn't wanted to let him take it from the train station yard, but the Sparkles were already in full irritable snippy mode when they got off the train with the other Element's of Harmony. No one wanted to poke the landmine, so they were simply reminded to bring it back, from a relatively safe distance.
Twilight whirled glaring up at her brother.”I did not catch the milk on fire last time I made oat flakes!”
“Did I come at a bad time?” a mares voice asked from further in the library.
The trio whirled about looking towards table in the main room of the library.
Sitting at the table was a tall black carapaced green maned changeling. She had a little crown on her head and was idly flipping through a book called 'To serve pony'.
It was a cook book.
Part one of three in fact.
“YOU!” Twilight snarled at Chrysalis who did little more than jot down one of the recipes on a bit of parchment she had.
“Yes?” Chrysalis asked finally looking up at them curiously. “What in Tartarus happened to you three?”
“What are you doing here!?” Spike demanded.
“This is a public library...... and I'm here during normal hours.” Chrysalis pointed out.
“You should be in jail. You're Equestria's most wanted!” Twilight snapped.
“I thought that was the Serial Grapeist?” Chrysalis questioned.
“Nah they caught her and she's being forced to pay for the treatments for all the ponies coats she turned purple.” Spike added.
“Why are you here?” Twilight snapped.
“Well to start with I was looking for a recipe for steamed broccoli that didn't make it taste like ass, and I don't mean a donkey. They taste awesome, they're so angry and cranky all the time that when they do love something it's super sweet....” Chrysalis drooled a little.
“You.... why.... “ Twilight stammered.
“Anyway Sparkle I'm mostly here to talk and see if you could get a message to Princess Luna and Cady for me.” Chrysalis shrugged.”Going through normal channels would likely be bad. But I also don't expect you to trust me any so I figured I needed to explain things for a bit first.
“Today is not a good day.”
Chrysalis blinked in surprise at the voice. “I would like to get it done soon.... perhaps tomorrow....”
“NO!” Spike snapped. “ Nothing on a Tuesday.....”
The changeling queen blinked in surprise again.” Alright when would be the best time for a conversation?”
“A fortnight.” Spike stated thinking of all the things they still had to do and by then Twilight would have the suppressors off and be cleared.
“Can't really wait that long, my vacation ends next Friday” Chrysalis shrugged.
“Fine next week, Wednesday at three pm.” Twilight growled.
“That works” Chrysalis stood up walking towards the trio and the door. “Well I suppose I will be off, until then Sparkles, do me a favor and don't invite sun butt. Quickest way to get a town leveled is to let her think I'm hiding there. I wouldn't even show up to tell you anything and it would still happen. Just 'boom' orbital bombardment from the sun. No survivors, so much screaming and burning...”
“Chrysalis.” Twilight growled.
“Right leaving now.”
The siblings moved out of the way as Chrysalis slapped a big bushy fake mustache on her face that looked like she had stolen it from Celestia's tail before she strode out into the street, walking down the road without any pony so much as glancing at her.
After all who would believe their own eyes that Equestria's most wanted was walking about in the open with a fake mustache, that was just silly and not something they needed to pay attention to.
“Skiddi doot skiddi doot”
[ Back to the present, part 2..... you know the good one, before that stupid old west thing.]
“Chrysalis is coming here?” Rarity gasped. “Why haven't you notified the guard!?”
“Ah agree, after what she pulled tha only place she needs tah be is a jail cell.”Applejack nodded.
“While I agree, I also can't do that.” Twilight sighed.
“What? Why?” Rarity demanded.
“Because we don't know what her real plan was in Canterlot. Not to mention Cadence still seems to like her.” Spike pointed out. “She stopped Luna from sending out a hit team after all.”
“She's a god ain't she? Would a hit team have even done anything?” Applejack questioned.
“No clue, but she came here not in a disguise for some reason and I want to know why.” Twilight grumbled.
“Well.... “ Applejack began before she was cut off by the front door opening. Pinkie Pie pronked in followed by Fluttershy and a complaining Rainbow Dash.
“Seriously, I leave for a week and she gives Thunderlane my spot as storm breaker. I'd have the sky cleared by now, but he's still out there struggling with the cumulonimbus. Like seriously just break it up or put it over the Everfree stop playing with it, it's not your dick.” Rainbow Dash ranted.
“I thought you wanted more time off Dashie.” Pinkie Pie questioned.
“I do, but not because some one else took my job.” Dash rolled her eyes.
“Won't Prince help you if you get too far behind in bills?”Fluttershy asked.
“I'm not asking him for money. Geez, I'm dating him cause he's pretty cool not cause he's rich, that's more Rarity's thing.” Dash fumed as she walked up to the others.
“Rude...” Rarity snapped only for Dash to stick her tongue out at the white mare.
“Hey Twilight what's going on?” Pinkie Pie asked.”Is this about all those letters we're getting from the Crystal Empire? It's like the Element of Harmony zerg love rush part two. Kee kee kee...”
“What?”Twilight asked looking at Pinkie Pie before shaking her head.” No, it's not that...”
Rahs grumbled loudly and Blakeney lifted his head up to chitter angrily along with the moon dog.
This drew Fluttershy's attention and she immediately went over to talk to the raccoon.
“So he didn't get any letters again?” Pinkie Pie questioned at hearing Rahs' grumbling.
“ BY MY MOTHERS HARD PLATED ASS, WHAT THE BUCK!?!?!” Saturnia screamed as another cartload of love letters from the Crystal Empire addressed to Rahs was dumped into the room. Seems despite the fear of witch wolves, Rahs had made a very positive reaction among the females, and a number of males, in the empire.
Princess Cadence probably helped with that.
“No and even Spike got a ton of them again. I'm starting to think something screwy is going on with our mail.” Twilight admitted. “ But no, I called you all here because Chrysalis is coming by at three.”
“Wait, the evil queen bug?” Pinkie Pie growled.
“Calm down, she wants to talk. “ Twilight sighed.” She came here undisguised and wanted to have a word with me. I figured I would get all of you together in case we needed to use the Elements and blast her. But if she wants to talk, I want answers.”
“Well I guess.” Rainbow Dash sighed. “Still rather knock her upside her head a few times.”
“You and me both, but as Princess Celestia taught, we're going to try diplomacy first.” Twilight offered.
“Which is pretty weird given Princess Celestia wants her dead.” Applejack offered.
“Has any one else noticed we seem to be rather dismissive of some of these threats we face?” Rarity considered. “ We really should at least have Princess Luna and Princess Cadence here. Princess Celestia was the only one you said she didn't want.”
“Given how things went for us in the Empire compared to what Chrysalis did, I can't even bring myself to consider her an actual threat. From what you guys told me she has no interest in doing anything to us given we hold the Elements of Harmony and are the front line against other things. If she wanted to she could have taken out just one of us and that would have been it. She had Cadence and Shining at her mercy as well as all of you and she barely did anything but keep you occupied.”
“Plus I wanna know what other plans happened during the wedding. I have ten bits riding on more than just attacking Celestia and trying to woo Cadence.” Spike added.
“GAH!!!” the collective group, minus Pinkie Pie screamed out.
“What the heck is that!?” Spike screamed out.
“New Ponyville bell tower.” Pinkie Pie stated.
“Where did they even get that thing?” Rarity whined watching as Rahs picked himself up off the floor from where he had fallen at the first overly loud bell gong, the raccoon on the floor cursing up a storm.
“Sent away.” Pinkie Pie shrugged.
“Why is it so loud?” Spike grumbled. “And why was this the first time I heard it?”
“Dramatic tension.” Pinkie Pie shrugged.
Rahs pondered that for a moment, then gave Pinkie a thumbs up.
“If it does that again I'm melting the bell.” Twilight growled. “ And the tower, and maybe whoever thought it was a good idea.”
“Doesn't that mean it's three o clock?” Fluttershy asked. “When Chrysalis should be here?”
The front door was shoved open with a thud showing a black carapaced changeling queen looming there as a bolt of lightning arced through the sky right behind her with a booming crack of thunder that shook the library with it's nearness.
The effect might have been overly dramatic or even terrifying to witness, if the changeling queen hadn't screamed like a filly at the boom, and dove through the door, crashing down behind the book check out counter.
The Sparkles and Bearers watched as she shoved herself back up to her hooves and stormed over to the door screaming up at the sky.
“HEY, CAN'T YOU SEE I'M WALKING HERE!!!!” Chrysalis screamed at a black furred stallion messing with the clouds far above.
“Sorry.” Thunderlane called back from the sky.
“See the guys an idiot.” Rainbow Dash pointed out.
Chrysalis sat calmly at one end of the table as eight individuals glowered at her. She could feel the anger and fear coming off of them. While she wasn't a fan of that sort of meal, she was more than willing to feed on it. She had been silent since she sat down, as had the Element Bearers and the Sparkles, though a few of them had been passing notes.
After a moment more sitting there she allowed a smile to cross her face. ”Well given that no fiery ball of cake fat has come out of the wood work to try and smite me, I suppose you've held up your end of things and not told her?”
“I want answers to a number of questions and that's not going to happen if I have to keep Princess Celestia from squishing you.” Twilight frowned.
“Ahh bug humor, I see. So were you going to play the proper host and offer me something to drink or do we just sit and stare at each other while you figure out who gets to play the good guard and who plays the bad guard?” Chrysalis chuckled.
“Spike, would you and Fluttershy make us some tea.” Twilight stated flatly.
“Just some hot water full of sugar, or some cider for me thanks. I'd rather not start getting sloshed this early in the day.”” Chrysalis continued to smile.
“What?” Spike asked.
“A number of insects and spiders display what could be considered an 'intoxicated effect' when exposed to caffeine.” Fluttershy offered.
“Bold of you to expose a weakness of changelings.” Twilight frowned. “I don't think for a second that was accidental slip.”
“Who said it was a weakness? Perhaps I can't hold my caffeine like others can, much like some ponies can't hold their booze.” Chrysalis offered noting that Applejack was staring daggers at her her right ear twitching from the annoyance. Odd she expected more anger from the pink one.
The farm mare might be a bit of a issue, but Chrysalis wasn't sure yet how everything would play out. She had zero plans to attack them, already of the mind set that if they attacked her she wouldn't even defend herself. The three Sparkles were injured, and if she did defend herself there was a chance they might get hurt more. If anything happened to Rahs any agreement she might make with Luna would be moot. If anything happened to Twilight, she could kiss getting back together with Cady goodbye, and if anything happened to Spike, Chrysalis really did not want to get Bleu on her case. It would be easier to let them kill her then pop back up some other time.
She expected that the others could keep Pinkie Pie and Rainbow Dash from coming at her, though seeing Applejack this intense worried her a little.
“So how did the trip go, I'm assuming Sombra was something to do with Lust?” Chrysalis smirked feeling the faint shock at the statement. Time to keep them interested, and preferably non violent.
“I'd ask how you knew that, but it's not much a surprise you do.” Twilight stated.
Chrysalis took note of the placement of all the ponies. Twilight sat at the end of the table opposite her. Pinkie Pie was between Chrysalis and Fluttershy on the right side. Applejack was in the middle on the left with Rainbow Dash closest to Twilight and Rarity closest to Chrysalis. Spike stood between Fluttershy and Twilight and Rahs loomed over both his siblings. The moon dog worried her more than the others, the way he was poised made it clear he was ready to pounce the second she did something he didn't like.
There was a brief spacing issue as the pair called went to get the drinks, but they took their places right where they had been before as they came back. Twilight floated the tray with what Chrysalis wanted to the other side of the table, the purple unicorn not taking her eyes off the Goddess of Change.
“It shouldn't be a surprise, no. Though I am a little miffed that my part was little more than envy...i mean seriously.” Chrysalis rolled her eyes.”My actions were more of wraith or lust ….well... maybe a bit of envy.”
“I doubt the prophecy is exact, it's a prophecy. Princess Celestia has expressed annoyance at them quite a number of times.“ Twilight offered. “ Now onto the meat of it. What do you want?”
“A griffon saying? Well I suppose that works given your siblings. So did you want to know what I want over all, or just why I wanted to meet?” Chrysalis asked flippantly.
“Why did you come here?” Twilight gritted her teeth.
“Straight to business then hmm? Fine. Simply put, I need a go between. Between myself and Princess Luna I mean. I can't exactly send a letter to her that she wouldn't share with Celestia and I want to avoid the cake flanks notice. The white train wreck waiting to happen would ignore anything I brought up and simply try to kill me again, or stuff her face with more cake. It's fifty fifty shot with her royal lard ass.”
“Could you at least try to show some respect for the Princess?” Rarity questioned.
“No.” Chrysalis readily denied.
“Why do you want to meet with Princess Luna specifically?” Twilight asked her eyes darting over to Applejack briefly.
“Because any negotiation that could be done between changelings and ponies can't happen so long as ton o fun is involved. I've had very little interaction with Princess Luna, good or bad, so unless her sister has turned her against me already, she's the best bet for any sort of deal.”
“Ah would think that invasion would have turned her against you more than anything Princess Celestia would say.” Applejack snapped her left ear flicking.
“Really then, answer me this? Aside from some property damage, who was actually hurt by my invasion?” Chrysalis questioned.
“Well yah cut off Princess....” Applejack began.
“She doesn't count. She regrew it any way.” Chrysalis snapped.
“My brother.” Spike added. “Both of them.”
“Shining Armor recovered rather quickly, which was the intent. I'm not petty enough to try and eliminate my possible competition for Cady permanently, particularly when I can simply outlive them by being a god. If I 'was' that cruel I simply would have destroyed him, had a ling impersonate him then have that ling break it off with Cady. At that point I would swoop in and make her forget all about her break up without even setting hoof into Canterlot personally. The the ling could simply turn up missing on the next outing with the monster hunters. It happens often enough no one would bat an eye.” Chrysalis smiled, noting Applejack's frown deepen as her left ear twitched. ”And as for Rahs, that was in no way intentional, I've some interest in keeping him around.”
“That's not ominous at all.” Pinkie Pie grumbled.
“Yes it is and had I the inkling I'd let out one of those evil laughs everyone seems to think I enjoy. The rumbling thunder in the back ground makes this the perfect time to do so.”
“Seriously … that guys an idiot.” Rainbow Dash sighed.
“Anyway, the fact of the matter is the level of destruction actually caused by changelings was far less than the property damage you did personally,Twilight Sparkle. In fact most of the damage to the city was either done by you, Pinkie Pie, or fat flank herself. Most of what the changelings did was little more than vandalism on par with your average hoof ball win or a slightly out of control protest. Which is, in fact,exactly what it was.”
“A protest?” Rarity scoffed.” That was decidedly an invasion, you said so yourself. What would you have done had we not actually beaten you?”
“Ruled Equestria.” Chrysalis shrugged. “And been very disappointed. I mean I warned you I was coming.”
Applejack's right ear twitched.
“You didn't send that note.” Twilight frowned.
“Of course not, Forthe did.” Chrysalis smiled as Applejack's left ear twitched. Something was up with that Chrysalis thought paying a bit more attention to the farm mare while pretending not to.
“Who?” Twilight questioned as Chrysalis sipped her now slightly cooled sugar water.
“Another god.... well what was once a god any way. The interesting thing about those who are gods Twilight Sparkle is once they have their portfolios nothing can kill them unless what's in those portfolios is wiped out, or they willingly step down. Granted Forthe is in a odd half state that is unique since what he was a god of is no longer a pure species and the other part of it is stronger than what he represented. If he got over himself and agreed to sharing a portfolio with Princess Luna he'd be fine, but he stubbornly refuses and as such he's in a strange half existence trying to make trouble.”
A left flick.
“But that's not why we are here is it? I agreed to answer some questions but I want to know things too. I feel it's now my turn to ask one.” Chrysalis clapped her hooves together with a grin.”First off is your brother there still single?”
The changeling queen pointed a hoof at Rahs suddenly and she could sense the sudden confusion from the whole group before that switched back to anger again.
“Wha.. oh no, you screwed with Shining, I'm not letting you even try to get a hold of Rahs.” Twilight growled.
“Oh don't worry about me … I'm still interested in Cady..... and maybe a bit in your older brother.... but that's not why I asked.” Chrysalis grinned as Applejack's left ear twitched. “If you didn't know, he is the only single Sparkle left, and given his family and how famous you all are surely you all have realized he's one of, if not the, most eligible bachelor in Equestria now. Of a minor noble family, granted the title of Prince by Princess Luna herself, last of a extinct race, slayer of Discord, and now one of the Four Legendary Heroes of the Crystal Empire. I figure every mare from here to Moss-cow would be all over him. Well I mean, those who don't mind that he's not a pony. And from what I've seen and the emotions I've tasted as of late, not many mind.”
Chrysalis lit up her horn and pulled a photo of Rahs cursed with poison joke from some where, the image showed his earth pony form in a dress.
“Well, I mean at least, most of the time he's not a pony.” Chrysalis smirked as she took note of Rahs becoming embarrassed and annoyed as he glared at Spike. Twilight just slapped her face with her hoof.
“Woof.” Rahs glared down at his little brother.
“Oops.” Spike shrugged.
“Did you come here to do anything, but make Twilight and Rahs mildly uncomfortable?” Rainbow Dash muttered.
“Of course, that's just an added bonus.” Chrysalis smirked noting Applejack frown as her right ear twitched.
“Right so you just want to contact Princess Luna.” Twilight grumbled.' But you never explained what for.”
Chrysalis' smile dropped, as all pretense of her amusement fled her features. She leaned forward over the table a little as her tone darkened.
“I want to discuss with Princess Luna a way to start integrating the changeling race more with Equestrian society. We've lived on the fringes because of sun butt for a long time now. I'm not willing to risk any ling but myself in dealing with her, because neither of us is ever going to one up one another for long. Both of us were butting heads long before even the three tribes situation came about, and I don't see that changing anytime soon, and I'm the god of change so I know. Princess Luna doesn't have the same hang ups with changelings as her sister does and given my kind was sealed in a volcano during the time she was Nightmare Moon means that she doesn't have to worry about any undue prejudices from me as none of my kind suffered a wit from any action of hers. My species needs others to survive, so that gives you a larger bargaining chip in the end, but we've been feeding off and living among your race for as long as you've been around. So if some sort of agreement cannot be reached we will continue to do as we have been doing. The only difference this will make in the end is if changelings can or can't walk around undisguised, and if we have to pay taxes. After all this time I would rather like to settle this where changelings don't need to worry about being hunted or killed, but I can't do that with cake ass, as her only goal involving my kind is to murder us or seal us away somewhere. With Princess Luna sharing the throne there's a chance that a peace can be achieved and I'm willing to take that chance to avoid having to keep stay in the shadows forever. We can always move to another country, but we're established here. I'd prefer not have to uproot my whole species and move somewhere else. Particularly given some of the positions changelings hold, if we all cut and run there would be some rather sizable repercussions all over Equestria.”
Applejack's left ear twitched as the group stared at the Changeling Queen.
Twilight steepled her hooves as she stared at Chrysalis.
“So why does Princess Celestia hate you so much?” Twilight asked.
“Ugh I knew this question was going to come up.” Chrysalis sighed leaning back and picking up her teacup again. “I murdered her father.”
There were a few gasps of shock, though Applejack only flicked her right ear after a pause and Twilight narrowed her eyes.
“You're lying.” Twilight stated.
So that was it. The Element of Honesty was a lie detector. Good to know. Chrysalis thought, ignoring the glares.”Thing is.. that wasn't really a lie.. well not to sun butt any way.”
“You wanna clarify that a bit.” Applejack demanded, her ears flat to her head.
“I'm maybe about ten to twenty years older than cake flank. I sprung into being pretty much at the same point in time my race did, instant goddess, just add love. In the early days we were starved constantly hungry. Waring tribes, abominations, so much unsettled land, instant distrust of strange ponies. There was very little love to go around and we were desperate. So when I found an older earth pony stallion on one of my attempts to find food and discovered that he had a great love for his absent wife and daughter, I jumped at it. He was well liked in the village, and was still pretty good looking despite his age. It didn't take much to find out what his wife looked like, he had a painting of her in his home. Going by that I snuck in, waited until he went to sleep, cast a clouded mind-scape spell on him and turned up as his wife after waking him. He thought he was dreaming about his wife and just had a delightful surge of love and caring for her. We made small talk through most of the night as he talked about what was happening and how he missed her he didn't even seem to notice he was doing all the talking. Well things got a bit, steamy, and I was a bit drunk on the rush of food I was getting. One thing led to another and well..... Bang, bang, bang, goes the headboard, and after a few rolls in the hay the that lasted until the next morning, old stallion keels over from a heart attack.”
Applejack flinched a little though her left ear flicked.
“Of course at this point in time I start freaking out, cause I just killed a stallion with my mad sex skills. First time for that. Not a good feeling, I can tell you that much. But any way, of course his daughter just happens to be visiting the town that morning and after she lets herself in the front door she feels the magic I cast over him. So she busts into the bed room and what does she see? Me, in my natural form dancing about in panic over her dead father with a mind altering spell print all over him.” Chrysalis sighed. “I suppose you can guess who the daughter was.”
“Celestia was an earth pony?” Pinkie Pie questioned.
“Well her father was, mother I think was a unicorn. Looking back she was probably a bit more than that. Of course I didn't know that at the time.” Chrysalis sighed.
“Wait if you killed her father why wouldn't Luna be mad at you too?” Rainbow Dash frowned.
“It wasn't Princess Luna's father. He was a pegasus, she was born about a hundred years later. I only heard about it during one of fat asses attacks on me where she swore she would protect her baby sister. Not sure when she ascended, but I expect it wasn't long after she was born, much like her sister.” Chrysalis shrugged. “Keep in mind most of my information on Princess Luna comes from a long time ago and it was second hoof then. I know Rahs is one of hers, but not the how and why of it, and I know what I've been told about the War of Night and the Equestrian Civil War. Most of that is fairly colored however.”
“Is this some sort of trick to take over ?” Rarity asked flatly.
“No subtlety at all...” Chrysalis rolled her eyes.
“There were a number of attacks on Ponyville last year coupled with everything else that happened. “ Rarity scoffed. “Forgive me for wanting a direct answer.”
“You want a direct answer so your orange furred lie detector can see if I have an ulterior motive.” Chrysalis offered feeling the twinges of annoyance and anger from them.
“So much for that.” Applejack grumbled.
“I've been doing this a long time. Though to your credit that was a new one.” Chrysalis smirked. “ But to answer you directly, there's no trick and I certainly don't want to take over.”
Applejack raised an eyebrow.
“What, you expected me to want to take over and shove every pony in pods to feed off of?” Chrysalis rolled her eyes. “We're emotivores, the happier our prey is the more food we can gather from them, and if things go properly they won't even notice we're eating. The best way to make sure things don't go properly is to put ponies in pods and try and farm them. We feed off all sorts of emotions and while love is a favorite of most changelings, there are some who prefer sadness, anger, and every other emotion out there. Shoving ponies in pods stops them from feeling anything if they're asleep and only terror or anger if they are not. I assure you we would all get sick of those two emotions real damn quick.”
“You ain't lying.” Applejack frowned.
“Why would I have reason to? I'm trying to wave an olive branch here.” Chrysalis smiled. “ And or get back into Cady's pants.”
“Cadence doesn't wear pants.” Pinkie pointed out.
“Oh I know...” Chrysalis offered a lecherous grin.
“ So what's an emotivore?” Spike asked curiously.
“We can sense and feed off emotions. Generally we can tell what some creature is feeling at any given point in time. Take these two for example.” Chrysalis waved a hoof at Applejack and Rarity.” I can sense there's a deep seated if somewhat hidden love between the two, barely repressed and ready to spring forthe into a delightfully heated affair at any moment.”
Rarity had taken that moment to sip some of her tea and Pinkie Pie across from her wound up wearing it instead. Applejack frowned though a few others looked at the pair in surprise.
“What .. I never..” Rarity gasped.
“Calm down, she's lying.” Applejack stated.
“Of course that's what you want them to think, to hide your secret affair.” Chrysalis grinned.
“Tha only secret affair that's gonna happen is my hooves routeing with yer face if yah don't quit it.” Applejack growled.
“Finnne, but you should have seen the look on your faces.” Chrysalis cackled.
”So how many changelings are in Ponyville?” Spike asked changing the conversations direction.
“I won't answer that. I don't want a witch hunt. I can say that no changeling in Ponyville has taken the place of some one else. All the ones in Ponyville have their own identities.” Chrysalis stated looking in annoyance at the little dragon for that question.
“Good enough I suppose, you did admit there are some here and I've got a pretty good idea on three of them. I'll have to ask Kevin about them, he always seems to be hanging around that group.” Spike questioned, noting Chrysalis' eyes widen a bit. “Okay so next thing, do all gods have named weapons or something?”
“I'm not letting you eat my other sword.” Chrysalis snapped. “And no, but given how long most of us live, things that seemed funny when they were done, have evolved into something most ponies would think is madness. Like weapons with names or personalities.”
“You mean like Dr. Choppy's doctorates.” Twilight stated smugly.
“Oh no. Dr. Choppy earned those. I've read his thesis for both his doctorates and it's rather spectacular work.” Chrysalis offered.
“Please tell me she's lying Applejack.” Twilight muttered.
“Fraid ah can't” Applejack blinked.
Twilight slapped both her hooves to her face and grumbled barely coherent curses into them.
“So are changelings like a divine race?” Pinkie Pie asked suddenly.
“A divine race?” Chrysalis blinked.
“Yeah, devout, pious, blessed, just, that sort of thing.” Pinkie Pie elaborated.
“I'm a god of changelings, but religiously I'm regarded much the same as cake flank and her sister to you ponies. Why do you ask?” Chrysalis pondered.
“Cause all you guys are holy.” Pinkie Pie grinned.
Everyone in the room stared at Pinkie Pie for a moment before the sound of six hooves, a paw, and a claw slapped into their owners faces.
“The holes in my body are all old scars from the time my entire race nearly starved to death. They're called 'voids' and even with a surfeit of food they would exist now as a reminder of that time. Many burned out their own bodies to provide subsistence to keep each other alive. The scars of that time are still prevalent today, though not as much as there used to be. Gnarled horns and holes, all signs of magical starvation that progressed beyond what we should have been able to survive. Between the warring tribes and cake ass' vendetta against us , it was small wonder we lived at all. Just when we were starting to recover, the fat wench sealed us in a dormant volcano I was using for a hive. She magically reinforced the rock around it and set her spell to be powered by the sun. I don't even know how long it took us to get out of that I lost over half my race to starvation. Have any of you ever truly been hungry , or starving, watched friends and family waste away to nothing then simply die. Watched your young wither and die out because there was nothing for them to survive on? I may have accidentally killed her father, but because of what she did to me an mine I will never forgive her nor will I ever stop doing my best to make her miserable. But unlike fat ass I won't make every pony suffer just to get at her. She tried to kill me off by killing off changelings as a whole. One death does not equate to thousands.”” Chrysalis snarled.
“So Princess Celestia tried to wipe out a whole species? I find that hard to believe.” Rainbow Dash stated.
“Woof.” Rahs offered getting a shocked look from Pinkie and Fluttershy.
“Right . She has before. She hunted the witch wolves down and killed every last one of them. She might have done the same to Rahs if things hadn't played out as they did.” Twilight stated flatly.
“What are you talking about?” Applejack demanded.
“Princess Celestia lent me her journals and Princess Luna provided a number more that Celestia kept from me. This included the one she made on the day that I took the test to get into her school. She wrote about how she was part of a force that hunted down and destroyed every single witch wolf they could find.”
“Now do you see why I have issue with her.” Chrysalis snapped.
“Your actions might have been accidental, but they still killed a family member. While i don't like it, I understand it fully. Had you harmed Shining Armor personally or gone with that plan you described and I found out about it, I wouldn't have left enough of your kind intact to be sealed in a cigar box, let alone a volcano and I would have left you alive long enough to watch before I destroyed you.” Twilight stated flatly.
Applejack stared wide eyed at the mare, Twilight had meant every word of that.
Chrysalis' eyes widened as well, though she smirked. “And that statement right there, is why I tried to keep you away from the wedding. Given what you, your brothers, and your friends have done in the last three years alone, coming after you directly is foolish at best, and suicidal at worse. I wanted none of you even near Canterlot and your brother circumvented that attempt. That you became suspicious of me immediately meant I needed to keep you distracted. I planed to replace your friends and have them try to talk you down from doing anything. The goal was to keep them out of the way and get the wedding over with before releasing them unharmed.”
“Yeah well that Rhino guy didn't seem to share your 'unharmed' sentiments.” Applejack frowned.
“He was stressed from having lost half his team capturing you. He was reprimanded for his actions..... well, when he woke up any way.” Chrysalis sighed. ”It's not like I have some stupid hive mind thing that allows me to watch and order around my entire race. Which is why I had to go to plan B when plan A failed and you came after me.”
“Fair enough.” Twilight stated.
Chrysalis let out a small sigh she didn't know she was holding. The spike of anger from the three Sparkles as Twilight spoke about what she would do lead Chrysalis to believe they would have been hunting right along with her. That worried her. With the slight relaxation of tensions she felt herself relax a little as well. Progress, was always good.
“I asked Princess Celestia about why she hated you and she told me she viewed changelings as a threat to pony kind. I could tell there was more to it than that, but I believe her. “ Twilight offered. “If the negotiations between you and Princess Luna bare fruit, I would expect it would be wise to appoint one of your changelings to be the one who talks if there's any negotiations in Canterlot. It would be best if you simply avoid the city.”
“Please give me some credit. I can chess master and delegate just as well as cake flank. I'd rather all of the talks go under her nose.” Chrysalis sighed and rolled a black orb across the table towards Twilight. “ Here. Use this to contact me.”
“What's this?” Twilight frowned.
“Dragon glass fused with some of my magic. You can have your scaly little mail dragon add me to his contact list. “ Chrysalis smiled.
“ Dragon Glass?” Spike frowned at being called little more than the other things.
“Obsidian. Dragon glass is an old name only used in the Crystal Empire.” Twilight explained. “ I'll check it out then we'll send a test message.”
“Best I can ask for, if Princess Luna agrees you can use that to get a message to me.” Chrysalis chuckled. “ And with that I think this little Q&A is over.”
Chrysalis rose and turned heading for the door before stopping.” I do thank you for offering to deal with me like this Twilight Sparkle, here's hoping this turns into some sort of friendship.”
“Don't count on that any time soon.” Twilight responded as the Queen of the changelings left.
[ Canterlot. Two weeks after the meeting with Chrysalis, mid summer]
“Did you need anything sir?” the receptionist asked.
“Nah, I'm good.”
Rahs shifted on the couch in the waiting area, these things tended to be a bit uncomfortable for any one not pony shaped. The moon dog sighed and shifted again, adjusting his teal coat to stop it pulling at his shoulders as he sat back, picking up a magazine and sighing as he read through the better Homes and Stables.
Normally he would have a book with him, but it had been quite a while since Twilight had visited Dr. Katts, and getting her to do so again hadn't been an easy thing. Luckily the shrink had had a rather sizable part of his day clear today to allow him to see Twilight and when she found out she wasn't getting out of it, his sister relented.
Applejack and the others had expressed some concern over Twilight's reactions to things lately particularly after what she had been through in the Crystal Empire. Her friends insisted she get some sort of counseling. It came to no surprise to any of them she already had a doctor she saw.
His sister had never been the most stable of ponies to begin with, in truth out of the lot of them,Spike was probably the most sane. Twi had her list of phobias and assorted other issues, Shining was crazy enough to join the guard to hunt monsters and think he could date a princess, granted that last had worked out for him. Rahs was a displaced carnivorous creature from another realm who was raised by vegetarians and along side a dragon and a basket case like his sister. While that in of itself wasn't enough to cause any issues, the fact such a odd and slightly tragic upbringing was perfect for a method actors tragic backstory was perfectly acceptable to him.
Still after the last few months it was a wonder any of them were doing well mentally.
Twilight was the worst of the three. She hadn't actually killed any thing, but the head trauma coupled with a near nonstop barrage of conflict and fighting in the last few months was taking it's toll. PETA, the Crystal Empire, the wedding invasion, it seemed like there had barely been any time to relax and the chaos and conflict was causing issues with his list loving sister.
He was rather surprised she didn't try to throw the changeling queen into the sun with how wound up she was. Thankfully Chrysalis seemed to realize that and aside from a few friendly jabs here and there, kept things civil and interesting enough that Twilight was more in 'study mode' than her recent 'burn the land and boil the sea' mode.
Still if Chrysalis was being honest with her intentions then that was one less problem they had to worry about, any further negotiations would b done by Luna, not the Sparkles.
Shining was doing the best. He was used to killing monsters. Rahs didn't know exactly how Shining was doing, but mom had mentioned he requested one of the guard psychiatrists from Canterlot. Evidently it was one he used after his first few missions with the six sixty sixth. Ponies were not naturally violent And being forced to kill never sat well with them.
Heck the whole Empire would probably need an army of shrinks.
Spike seemed to be doing alright, right now he was more than a little miffed he was missing the parade in Ponyville. Mom had come to take him to a doctor in Canterlot who was an expert on dragons to see how his arm and spine were doing. Most of his scales had grown back, but they were a different shade of purple than the rest of him. Velvet had eased his annoyance by promising to take him out for ice cream later, but he was still upset at missing the parade and the float his friends had worked so hard on.
Spike wasn't sleeping well, between the injuries hurting if he slept wrong and whatever was troubling his mind lately he always seemed tired and sluggish. He had watched his two older brothers kill a dragon and a witch wolf respectively and he was smart enough to know what happened to the buffalo he burned. Thankfully he seemed to be getting better on his own. Applebloom and his friends helped with that. Even if their little relationship never went past 'first crush' levels it was helpful to him.
Rahs himself... that was a bit trickier. He had never killed anything sapient before and while necessary, he had spent a good week compulsively washing his hands as if trying to rid them of the blood that wasn't there.
Even when the Bone Hounds grabbed him he hadn't killed any of them himself. Still all three of his siblings got hurt and he felt like a failure for allowing that despite the fact he had done all he could just to keep Managarmr away from Twilight. He hadn't even known about the buffalo or dragon until later.
Beyond that claw washing compulsion, which he was over now, he didn't feel anything. No sadness for the life he took, no joy which he had expected if he really had become one of those monsters, just … nothing, it was like he had just killed something he was going to eat, he had no emotion over it one way or another.
No that wasn't quite true.
If he thought about what Managarmr was going to do to his siblings he felt a great deal of anger,enough to know that he wouldn't hesitate if put in the situation again. It reminded him of what he was told happened when he was still a puppy to the attempted foal nappers.
His training with Jynx had gotten a great deal rougher as he put more of his attention into it. Jynx had upped her own game to counter his growing skill. The alpha still trounced him more often than not, but she had to put more effort into it.
She had asked what had happened to him, evidently only getting a few details and noticing the new scars he had, though he hadn't wanted to talk about it. Maybe he should, her pack had been in conflict with the Bone Hounds before they were destroyed and she had to fight more often than not to keep her position and protect her pack, so perhaps she would understand.
That was something to look up later.
In short though they all needed a break, Twilight more than anyone else. Fortunately, one looked to be coming soon, at least for Twilight. As a reward for their aid in freeing the Crystal Empire, the Princesses were not only allowing, but paying for the expedition to Whinnyshire castle in the Everfree.
While this was not Rahs' idea of a vacation, it would be to Twilight. Anything found there would be Twilight's responsibility to check over and document. The scouts that had been sent in there recently had already started some of the clean up of the old castle and a path was being cleared through the forest.
They had found a number of artifacts and items of historical interest, but most importantly they had found a massive library untouched by time weather or animals, the spells protecting the place still in effect. Nothing was taken out of the ruins, but a number of repairs and wild life removals had taken place to make it safe for the research team.
It would be a different one this time as Moon Dancer and Sunburst had opted to stay in the empire to work on catching every pony up to the modern age as well as study anything they could find about the Empire. The pair were also secretly looking into was anything that might have been left behind by Solomon or Sombra, before whatever was still hidden was found by some pony less prepared. Although the Sombra was in a cell some where, he was supposedly not being very cooperative.
The only thing major the pair had discovered so far was a well fortified null room. Null rooms up until now had only been theorized due to the large amount of mithril needed to make one. Solomon had enough for quite a sizable room in a secure part of the palace's upper levels. What was already stored there would be investigated and either left there or moved some where else depending on use and risk. A number of the artifacts that Canterlot had would be moved there as well, including a strange puzzle box, a severed paw of a monkey holding two fingers outstretched, and a mirror rumored to be a prison for evil, created by Starswirl the Bearded.
The Monkey's paw Rahs was very familiar with. Celestia had checked to see if his magic eating ability could destroy it at one point.
All that had happened was one finger went down and Rahs had gotten too sick from the glut of power he ate to do anything else with it. It tasted like rancid fish.
Before Twilight's appointment they had met up with Luna and he had taken the lead in explaining the meeting with Chrysalis. Thus far Celestia still didn't know what Rahs was saying.
Luna was surprised at the situation, though it was fairly easy to prove that neither Twilight or Rahs were changelings, as Luna could still see the link. Given the singularly unique nature of the Sparkle's connection, none of them could be replaced without it being a easy check.
Luna agreed to a meeting in Ponyville as neutral ground, though she then made herself scarce, citing other business.
Rahs and Twilight didn't think much on it as they expected Luna was going through her own issues in regards to the return of the Crystal Empire.
Perhaps they could all meet up later for dinner.
[The Crystal Empire]
Shining Armor sat back at his desk with a small sigh. The reports were not good. There was going to be a lot of recovery needed for the crystal empire to be able to sustain itself. It was already too late in the season to grow anything and there was hardly any stores of food in the empire as it was.
The Princesses had offered what support they could, as had the dragons, but food and medical supplies were going to be tight for a while.
Bits were the easy part. Solomon horded wealth like a dragon and then when he turned on the rest of the world he had no where to spend the money. Even with that wealth if they had to pay for everything they needed they would be broke by next summer.
Not that it was all bad news, it turned out his sisters friends had some rather important connections as well.
Moon Dancer and Sunburst were pulling their own weight and then some with the glut of information recovered, even managing to find out that Cadence was legitimately of a noble family line that escaped when Solomon came to power. The town where Cadence grew up had a number of ponies who were distantly related to the empire simply due to the unusual surnames they had.
The pair had fended off or set fees for another groups wanting to come and investigate the Crystal Empire. They had used those fees to recruit a number of curse breaker and other skilled unicorns to aid them in dealing with the information and the possible dark artifacts they might find.
On top of that both of the unicorns had taken to teaching classes to bring the time lost crystal ponies up to speed on the modern world.
Shining and Cadence were strongly considering offering them tenures in the empire.
The farm land around the Empire was mostly abandoned, most of the ponies that lived there fell victim to the monsters of Solomon's rule. Applejack had come through on that front speaking with members of her family and a number of other farming families they had contact with. The first of that crew had arrived last week and were currently surveying the farmland for what could be grown and what was already growing wild that could be re-cultivated. If enough of the farms that had run wild still produced food, the shortage wouldn't be as bad as it seemed. There had also been talk about setting up unused land at the edge of the protective shield with green houses as it was too cold at those points to grow anything naturally.
By next year food would no longer be any sort of issue, that was the one thing all the farmers had agreed on.
Shining and Cadence were prepared to offer the land to any that would stay to tend it provided family of the real owners couldn't be found.
Rarity's help turned out to be unexpected and a number of crystal ponies were already singing her praises for helping them escape the fire and being the one to capture Sombra. That she then managed to convince some of the wealthiest fashion companies and designers to send supplies to the empire was a surprise. While textiles were not quite a necessity, the bulk materials sent along with older fashion lines and outdated work cloths could be turned into bandages, blankets and tents for those still without homes.
Then there was the other help Rarity gathered.
A veritable pack of Diamond Dogs showed up in the empire at the behest of their alpha to help shore up the mines around the empire and bring them up to code. The Jade Wolves had cut down on the time that it would take to get the empires primary export back up and running. It might take some time to find any crystal ponies willing to go back into the mines, but even thought he Diamond Dogs were only here for a short time they had already taken care of the burial of the crystal pony remains from the mines and set everything up for when ponies would be able to work the mine again.
Shining and Cadence had made the offers for them to stay to keep working the mines if they wanted, for decent pay and provided housing. Their Alpha Jynx had considered it, after all there would be no competition from other packs this far up, but thus far she wasn't comfortable with any of her subordinates enough to leave them alone. She did say she would look into it however.
The biggest surprise of that encounter however was the massive diamond dog asking Shining's permission to pursue Rahs more openly.
Cadence had quickly agreed for him.
They kept the agreement on the down low however as Rahs was gaining a rather cult like following of mares and stallions in the Crystal Empire for being the only one of their saviors who was still single.
Fluttershy had been surprisingly helpful. With the rise of Solomon the swarms of vermin grew as the standards of living fell. Her response had been rather quick and the city soon found itself the recipient of a large number of stray cats one of her friends had 'adopted' from a less than welcome situation.
Pinkie Pie had translated that statement to, three more PETA installations had been raided. Then she rambled something about a pony named Ted with a zip line and Shining had tuned the pink mare out.
While many of the felines still remained wild to hunt the rats, quite a large number had made themselves at home with the Crystal ponies and decided that a particular pony or another had adopted them, neither the pony in question realized it or not.
Fluttershy had also brought in a number of other ponies, who with a great deal of searching had come across a number of formerly extinct Crystal Dragon Flies. The group was quite certain that with a proper program, they could reintroduce them to the world to help curb the growing parasprite problem.
The yellow pegasus had also had a number of her animal friends pull fallen logs out of the Everfree forest to be shipped to the empire to help rebuilding a small gesture after the rest of what she did , but still welcome.
Rainbow Dash had surprisingly managed to help as well. In addition tot he support Prince Blueblood drummed up, Rainbow Dash managed to recruit a whole weather team to come up to the empire and take over the weather duties for the empire. The end result was a decent weather team that was far cheaper than the ones being offered by Cloudsdale. The team itself was paid a little better than they would have been in other places, even for working cheaper than what Cloudsdale had offered. Dash pointed out it was probably a estimate based on how desperate they were for a team and how much some stuck up bureaucrat could swindle for their own pockets.
Then there was Pinkie Pie. She had promised to help as well, though Shining wasn't sure what she had planned until a swarm of entertainers had come in on a train, Circus acts, musicians, confection artists and even simple street performers had shown up and started plying their trades.
While Shining wasn't sure of the how or why of it, there was a noticeable improvement of morale around the empire.
The problem now was the crystal ponies themselves. Out of three tribes of crystal ponies that had existed only the earth caste remained. The witch wolves and other monsters of Solomon's reign had found the flying ponies and magic rich unicorns the perfect meals and had wiped them all out. The trauma of the events shown through worse when it was found that most of the civilians left had never known anything save Solomon or Sombra's rule, and while the prince had not been as bad as his father, he was still horrid.
With them in the state of just now starting to accept that they were free, he and Cadence were put in the odd position of being stuck as rulers as no one knew anything else.
Rhede turned out to be immensely helpful at this point. Despite the stallions tendency to flirt with anything female, he also took no for an answer. He was something of a legend to the Crystal Ponies for being a robin hood type, or heck perhaps he even was the original legendary figure. In any event he was very well respected and knowledgeable of everything that was going on, even if the populace wasn't willing to speak to their new rulers for fear of reprisal, they were willing to speak with Rhede, and a number of issues were corrected because of his bringing it to Shining and Cadence's attention.
There were also the anonymous donors of goods and supply's. One of them had even supplied a few hundred repair ponies with gear at no cost what so ever to the empire. The workers had set out to rebuild the burned houses and even better, bring modern plumbing to the time lost empire. The crew mostly kept to themselves and evidently brought their own food supplies as they didn't dip into the Empire's stock. They also worked rapidly on full rotation shifts, they changed out rather rapidly however as a number of them left with every train as the same number of other ponies replaced them. There must be something wrong as the ones leaving always looked a little ill and bloated, but there were never any complaints. Still perhaps he should have some one look into this 'Favorable Change' construction company, something seemed fishy despite the welcome help. It might be nothing, but Cadence seemed rather irked by their presence, though she wouldn't say why.
All in all Shining Armor knew nothing of how to run an empire and Cadence was only trained in the political aspects of it, so after a good bit of discussion they decided to split the issue. Cadence dealt with the legislative stuff as well as the other political fluff and negotiations and Shining would deal with the judicial stuff and keeping everything in motion.
To that end he set out to run all of it like it was one big Guard brigade. Repairs and food preparation would be first and for most. Getting everything back in working order was first, modernizing everything was second. He had the Heart Guard patrolling in shifts at all times to maintain order and offer aid when they could. He himself took a few of these shifts as well, doing his best to be out and seen among the recovering populace.
The few upper class nobles that remained or had risen to power under Solomon and Sombra's rule were under a strict watch. The soldiers that worked for Sombra were kept locked up to be dealt with later.
They didn't have the resources to watch them all all the time if they were freed. They were fed and watched over and the less angry or violent ones were allowed out on work crews to work in some of the more strenuous or unsafe tasks that were needed. The ones that did so without any complaint or went beyond what was expected were noted for later as possible parole candidates. The ones that were violent or tried to escape were left in the cells with plans to send them to Alpalcatraz after there was time for a trial.
There was a lot left to do before there would be time to relax, but things were looking up. Though he still wasn't sure he was fond of that statue the Crystal Ponies had insisted be raised.
[ Crystal Empire]
Trixie Lulu moon's left eye twitched as she looked up at the massive statue in the central courtyard of the Crystal Empire. She had been hired to come work as an entertainer for a while though one of the talent agency she was a part of. The pay was decent and the timing was good, plus she would be one of the first to see an empire that had been missing for a long time.
A perfect crowd who had never seen any of her tricks of course she had been allowed to set up in the main courtyard before the palace.
That was where she say the statue. A life sized rendition of the four legendary heroes of the empire with their new Princess.
The four figures stood facing out ward towards each of the cardinal points on the compass. Posed as if floating above the other four, wings spread wide and clutching the Crystal Heart in her fore hooves was Princess Cadence herself. She was facing north towards the palace with the inscription of ' The Hyper and Beloved Crystal Princess Cadence Sparkle.'
Also facing north was a statue of Shining Armor. The stallion was depicted as much more robust than he was in real life, but that was clearly artistic license was taken. His plaque read, The Heroic and Stalwart Crystal Prince, Shining Armor Sparkle.'
Facing the west towards where Trixie had learned a college had once stood and would soon again was perhaps the most expected of the statues given all the mare had done already. Twilight Sparkle had her own statue that had artistic license added.
That mare had never looked like a super model.
Her plaque had read, ' The Noble and Mighty, Twilight Sparkle.'
Facing the east towards a library was a smaller statue that had been raised so it looked like the little dragon was standing tall on a jutting bit of crystal. They had captured Spike's likeness fairly well.
His plaque had read. 'The Honorable, Brave, and Glorious Prince Spike Scale Sparkle.'
Evidently the little dragon was a local favorite as he had three titles.
It was the last statue that had started Trixie's eye twitching and it was also the one she had first noticed.
Her favorite moon dog was posed giving a sweeping theatrical bow, his fanged face split into a smile as his pose had his eyes focusing on whoever stood in a certain spot under his statue. He was facing south towards the main gate and his pose seemed to convey that it was bidding welcome to any who entered.
Trixie didn't notice any artistic license with his statue.
What she did notice was the plaque.
'The Great and Powerful Prince Rahs Sparkle.'
The eye twitch increased a little before the blue mare sighed.
“Fuzzy's gonna get it for this...” The Great and Powerful and upstaged Trixie growled.
[Castle of the two sisters, Whinnysor, late summer]
“BoOOOOOOOOoooooOOOKss!!” Twilight cheered loudly bounding around the library grabbing anything that looked interesting to her and dancing off further into the library with a small collection of books hovering behind her.
The purple unicorn mare was happily bounding around looking over everything, popping in and out of book cases acting very much like Pinkie Pie.
Rahs was embarrassed for her as she started using the collection of books to build a book fort as the Guards posted at the castle watched on with amusement. The moon dog let out a long suffering sigh wondering what might happen if she saw the massive library that Spike had been at in the Crystal Empire. Perhaps it was better she had been focused while there.
Rahs was less interested in the books here, a number of them being simply tomes of various spells or construction techniques. A few were birth and death records and countless others were history and treaties. The few fiction works he had seen were some what dull and dry, though he had found two unedited works of The Bard in his original script. Any one who wanted to get those from him could pry them out of his cold dead claws, Princesses and siblings included.
Rarity and Fluttershy had shown up to look over some of the old tapestries and see what could be salvaged, while Applejack and Rainbow Dash were simply poking their nose about the castle seeing what was what.
Spike and Pinkie Pie were absent however as Spike didn't want to come, and the Cakes had a large order to deliver leaving Pinkie to foal sit the twins after giving them their first birthday party.
Rahs was rather curious how that was going.
[ Sugar Cube Corner]
“WHY IS EVERYTHING ON FIRE!?!?!” Pinkie Pie Screamed as the giggling foals bounced around the smoke and flame filled kitchen.
Perhaps he was better off not knowing.
Twilight was constructing the rear parapet on her book fort based on a authentic model of Mustang Fort in the Unicorn Range when he decided to walk around himself. He hadn't seen much of the old castle last time he was here and Twilight would be far too distracted to stop him from exploring. Once again Spike got to miss this due to it being a school night and he already expected to be walking back under the moon.
He padded down one of the side halls in the castle not really having a direction to go. He was surprised as Rainbow Dash tumbled out of a wall crashing to the floor before him.
“Ow.” Rainbow Dash muttered looking up at the moon dog.
Rahs raised an eye brow looking at the wall she had fallen from and the lack of any where she could have come from before shrugging and walking on. Dash and AJ seemed to be enjoying finding the old hidden passages in the place.
Walking on he took note of Fluttershy and Rarity carefully removing some old tapestry or another, while Rarity gushed about the skill of the weave or something. He gave angel Bunny a glare, which the rabbit returned, before Rahs walked on, he doubted any one would appreciate a fight in this place. Pity that would have helped his boredom.
Wandering around and dodging the sudden appearance of Applejack this time she dropped through a new trap door in the ceiling, Rahs came across a partially sealed door. A large star spider skittered across the wooden frame to get away from him. Rahs watched it scamper before ignoring it. He had found out that while they were magical, they tasted like old socks.
He was not eager to have a repeat taste.
Pushing open the door the rustle of paper drew his attention as the scent of old crumbling parchment assailed his nose. Forcing the door open further he pressed on into a room that was covered with old papers. The piles were thick on the floor, rustling like old leaves as the scant breeze from the now open door way blew into the room. Reaching down to pick one of the papers up he took note it was a postcard like slip of paper, the ink on one side too faded to read. The other side had a peeling stamp and heavier ink that had the post mark reading;' Whinnysor SL4 1NJ, EQ'.
Looking around he sniffed the air, ears perking up as he caught the scent of old magics, much like was in the library, though not as strong. Picking up another bit of paper he saw it was an old envelope. Opening it with a claw he found a letter in fairly decent condition, though not with anything interesting in it. It seemed to be a report of crop yields in a district of the Unicorn Range.
Moving through the papers carefully Rahs advanced further into the mail room noting a number of boxes and larger packages that had been dumped as well. The room wasn't very large, but it was packed to the brim with mail. Picking up another letter he could make out it was addressed to Princess Luna with the return address on Gallopagos islands, home of the Nox- Cal.
Frowning a moment Rahs sighed looking at the piles. Well if he did something it would alleviate his boredom here. Heading back outside of the room, he later returned with a couple of shipping boxes for moving things out of the old castle and started dropping various letters he could understand into various boxes. He opened one every so often when he didn't know who it was to to see if the interior ink was any better than that on the outside. While he expected he was breaking some iron clad code of the postal service, they had been given permission by the princesses to look through anything here they wished.
More often than not Rahs found himself reading a insult to Luna, a indecent proposal to Celestia, or some boring bit of drivel that Twilight would love.
It didn't take long before the first box addressed to Celestia was filled. He wondered how long letters had come here before Celestia left the place to rot and started building Canterlot, there had to be years worth of letters here.
The sorting took Rahs a good part of the day as he ignored the screaming of Rarity, Fluttershy , Rainbow Dash, and Applejack as they crashed around the castle and were screaming about ghosts and shadow ponies. He then ignored the screams of the guard who was pretending to be said ghosts as a prank and now had three angry mares and, a 'very disappointed' one, chasing after him.
By the end of the day most of the mail had been sorted. Four full crates to Celestia, two for random unknown ponies who were probably census or accountants, and a few dozen letters for Luna. He also had a number of packages that were strewn about.
He quickly sorted them and was left with three that were unmarked.
Opening the first to look it over he found it was a novel by some one named 'Eclipse'. He read through a few pages and opted to tuck it into his coat to read later, it reminded him of one of his favorite romance drama novels 'Wolf of the Harvest Moon'.
The second book was a collection of names numbers and dates that filled a fairly thick tome. Figuring that was to go into the business pile he dropped it in.
The third item was marked but only with a angry hard pressed scrawl that was illegible. It almost seemed carved into the box by the writing implement. Even looking at the cut lettering though he couldn't make it out. Opening the box found it only had a small note and a hoof written journal. The note wasn't helpful as it only had one message.
'These were his last words you heartless tyrant, READ THEM! Read them and tell me what you did to him was justified, monster.'
Rahs frowned, not sure if the letter was addressing Princess Celestia or Princess Luna, with how things trended in this place it was most likely Luna. Opening the journal, it took him a few moments to understand the writing, but once he got that the script flowed along.
Twilight practically skipped down the corridor to where a few of the guards said Rahs had gone. So many books to go over, so much information. And Rahs had found a mail room, even better as if any of the old stamps survived she could give them to her father for Hearths Warming for his collection. Maybe she could trade some with Sunburst for some of the ones he was likely picking up in the Crystal Empire as well. It truly took nerds of their caliber to collect and trade stamps.
The other girls had headed back already and the Guards were looking to call it a night as well, one bruised one in particular.
Trotting into the room she spotted Rahs sitting on a crate staring at a journal in one hand, the book was closed though his ears were flat to his head as he glared at it.
Twilight glanced around casting a small scry spell and taking note of the weak spells in the room. Although nothing seemed to directed at her brother, the journal he had wasn't magical beyond the residual effect of the rooms preservation spell, she knew something was wrong.
Her spell did draw Rahs' attention and he rose offering her the journal.
“Read the last six pages.”
Twilight blinked, taking the journal and flipping to the back, pouring over it. Her eyes narrowed then widened at the words written there.
She finally lowered the journal lost in thought a moment.
“ You don't think....”
“Woof.” Rahs frowned shaking his head.
“Luna might know for sure. Or Sombra.” Twilight grumbled
“ Woof.” Rahs sighed not expecting the former king to be very forthcoming, Luna was the better bet.
“I need to warn Cadence and Shining Armor.”
Rahs nodded and the pair headed out of the castle with a brief stop over for Twilight to grab the large cart she had packed most of the libraries books into before they headed back to town with a Guard escort.
Along the way back to town, the small group took note of the howls of Timber Wolves in the distance.
“Gesundheit granny.” Twilight offered glancing in the box that she had just floated down from the barn loft, the older mare sneezing up a fit from the dust that billowed out from her attempt to open it.
“Ah knew ah saw that box some where.” Applejack chuckled climbing down the ladder from the loft where she had found it.
The new Apple family barn was a massive affair, dwarfing the farm house it self and even town hall. The newest Ponyville land mark was a gleaming spire made of white crystal with a large section of dome under it that the Apples had walled in and built off of making the massive structure their new barn after the last one was totaled by the arrival of the new one.
Twilight had done everything she could to redirect any questions of her involvement in it's present location.
Applejack had let it slide so long as Twilight got Princess Cadence to let them keep it.
Cadence was a little too busy with the empire to bother to send the number of ponies that would be necessary to recover it, and had already contracted some ponies to rebuild it.
Still, Twilight had gone over it a few dozen times to make sure nothing nasty was still lingering in the towers remains before she felt safe letting them build around it.
“So how are those RSVP's coming Applebloom, Spike?” Granny asked. ”Who's showing their muzzle at the reunion?”
“EVERY PONY!” Applebloom shouted sending letters into the air and getting a sigh from Spike who went back to stacking them up with one arm, his other arm still in a sling.
“Every pony?” Granny blinked.
“Every pony!” Applebloom exclaimed again.
“Yah sure?” Granny questioned.
“Well we have RSVP's from Yonder hill, Hollow Shades, Galloping Gorge, Fillydelphia, Unicorn Range, Appleloosa, Canterlot, Bayston, Wilmingtrot, Baltimare, Vanhoover, Macentosh hills, and Dodge city.” Spike listed. “Heck there's even a couple from Nox-cal in Lion Heart and at least three Apples were found in the Crystal Empire. and they wanna come tah meet their descendants families.”
“And Manehattan! Babs is coming!” Applebloom grinned flinging the letters into the air again much to Spike's annoyance.
Granny stared into space as Applejack and Twilight watched the filly bounce around them and then out the barn door as Spike started picking up the letters again.
“Well it sounds like you have quite a fun time ahead.. or at least a super busy time.” Twilight smiled.
“Don't cha mean we have a busy time ahead?” Applejack smirked.
“What? Isn't this your family reunion? I figured you'd want to deal with it like you do most of your family things.” Twilight shrugged. “I'll be happy to help if you need it though.”
“Oh dun worry girly, yer gonna be in tha thick of it too.” Granny smirked.
“What?” Twilight blinked.
“Well ya are knocking horseshoes with mai grandson and ah expect he ain't sharing yah, so yer pretty much family there, wed yet or not.” Granny offered.
“Ugh, did not need that mental image.” Spike grumbled.
“Me either.” Applejack agreed.
“Don't think yer gitting out of it either youngin. Applebloom's sweet on yah so you'll be helping us set all this up too.” Granny stated gesturing at Applejack. ”Now if ah could git this one tah look at a stallion with a bit more interest ah'll be set”
Applejack rolled her eyes at the 'not in the slightest bit', subtle hint.
“Really?” Spike blinked in surprise before looking at his sister.” This has got to be better than the last Sparkle reunion we went too.”
“Ugh, don't remind me. Uncle Placid Lake kept hitting Rahs with a broom and screaming about him stealing his dentures.” Twilight sighed.
“To be fair, Rahs did steal his hearing aid at the end of it.” Spike grinned.
“Yes, and then you planted it in Aunt Gem's purse where he could spot it. That turned the whole event into one big family brawl.” Twilight grumbled. “You two are the worst...”
“I don't want to hear it little miss 'aim for a elliptical orbit' they had to call the guard to help the family out of the duck pond after you got tired of the screaming while you were trying to read.” Spike pointed out. “ And you're the one who moved his teeth to begin with.”
“He left them on the bathroom counter! It completely disrupted the orderly flow of the sink and cabinet I had set up. I had to rearrange everything in order to get them to be fit and orderly.” Twilight ranted.
Granny stared as the siblings argued, before she leaned over close to Applejack to whisper in her ear.”Is it too late tah change mai mind about invitin them?”
“Are you sure you want me to help with this... this is fairly big...” Twilight sighed looking over the letters scattered over the kitchen table. She was still having some doubts about being considered 'family' enough to help with this.
“Eeyup.” Big Mac countered with a smile.
“Ooh, lots tah do. It's been a while, and Granny's a little bit rustier in tha giddiup since tha last reunion.” Granny Smith chuckled.
Twilight blinked and looked to Applejack for a translation, though the orange mare shrugged.
“It's fine Granny yah might be a bit old, but yer feisty and full a spark as ever...” Applejack offered only for Granny Smith to slap her fore hooves on the table, forcing herself up so that she could lean over it and give Applejack the gimlet eye.
“Who you calling old!?!” Granny nearly growled.
Twilight's eyes went wide as she leaned back in her chair away from the pair, she spared a look to Big Mac and saw he was doing much the same to stay out of the mare's line of sight.
“What I mean is, why don't you let me an Twi here deal with tha preparations an everything .. Then all yah need to worry about is enjoying yerself.” Applejack quickly placated. ”She's a wiz at checklists organization an stuff an ah ken keep her informed of what she needs tah know.”
“They'll be checklists?” Twilight said hopefully.
“Uhh, sure Twi...” Applejack blinked looking at her now grinning friend.
“Hmmmmm” Granny pondered. “Alright youngins, yah got yerself a deal. You're in charge this time.”
“Not to interrupt, but didn't you all just have a family reunion when I showed up to Ponyville the first time?” Twilight asked. “That wasn't that long ago.”
“That? Nah that weren't no reunion. That was a buncha vistin family who popped by tah see Celestia raise tha sun from Ponyville fer tha celebration.” Granny offered with a cackle. “ Woooooo did they git them self a few stories to tell there. Bet they ain't ever seen anything like that afore.”
“Hopefully we won't again.” Spike added from near Applebloom at the other end of the table. The idea that Princess Celestia had other time lost villains around or perhaps seven evil exs left to defeat was left unsaid, but not unacknowledged by the ones at the table.
“Great. So what ken yah tell us about what were gonna need and we ken get to it.” Applejack smiled.
“Ah ken do better than that, ah ken show yah.” Granny smiled wickedly.
Big Mac's eyes widened at that grin and he quickly excused himself from the table. That sort of grin meant only one thing, Granny was busting out the photo albums. He had never been able to get a hold of them without Granny present to remove some of his more embarrassing foal hood, and school pictures. At this point he was better off hiding in the fields for a few hours, particularly with Twilight here.
Maybe Granny would focus on what was asked and not any of the old stories.
Nah he wasn't that lucky.
“Hey Spike.. Where's Rahs at any way?” Applebloom asked as they followed their sisters and Granny into the living room.
“Hmm, oh. Shining asked him to come back to the Empire for a little while to see if he could do something with a couple of things they found. He's kinda in high demanded as a magic garbage disposal.” Spike offered. “ Of course he's gonna play it up like he saved the Empire a second time when he gets back.”
“Drama Dog?” Applebloom smirked.
“Eeyup.” Spike grinned as Applebloom giggled.
[ Crystal Empire, Crystal Palace]
Rahs raised an eyebrow staring at Shining Armor.
Shining Armor was grinning like a fool as he stared at one of his younger brothers.
Cadence sat there looking completely confused.
The trio were seated at a still rather sparsely furnished sitting room on various couches. The room was rather small, though they had opened a door leading to a small balcony to let the cooler evening air keep the room from getting too warm. Seeing the sun set over the mountains from the balcony had been a fantastic view too.
Breaking the artifacts found hadn't taken anything for Rahs, and he was getting used to the taste of black coffee that was Solomon's magic. He wasn't fond of it, but he could deal with it better than Chrysalis'.
“Woof?” Rahs asked again, glaring at Shining.
“Hey it's not my fault they chose that name. We just let them build the statue.” Shining grinned, practically bouncing in his chair.” No idea why they picked 'great and powerful' after that face plant you did .”
“BORK!” Rahs snapped.
“Watch it now, she's your mother too.” Shining returned still grinning.
“I'm missing something here.” Cadence blinked.” Do … do you actually understand what he's saying?”
“Yes!!” Shining smirked wider with a shout.” After twenty years I can finally understand what this idiot is saying!”
Rahs responded with a well used griffonese gesture towards his older brother.
“Yes well even I understood that.” Cadence rolled her eyes. “But why?”
“Eh Twily could explain the science of it, but with all the magic being thrown back and forth when we saved the Empire it probably opened the link between us to the levels Twi and Spike have.”
“And just like that you can understand him?” Cadence blinked.
“I know right... he's done that barking thing for so long, I keep forgetting what he really sounds like.” Shining Grinned as Rahs sighed leaning back in his chair, he was going to have to cut down on insulting his big brother to his face without him knowing now.
“I've been meaning to ask about that. Cadence frowned. “I've heard Rahs speak normally, why does he bark?”
“Yes we know you're right there.” Shining Waved a hoof still elated at the development.” As for the barking thing , basically he just....what is that?”
Shining paused his ears perking as they three of them looked around hearing music coming from somewhere.
“...but which ever way I go... I come back to the place you are......”
Getting up from the couches the three of them look around ears perked before they make their way to the open door and out onto the short balcony hearing the music grow louder.
“All my instincts , they return And the grand facade, so soon will burn. Without a noise, without my pride. I reach out from the inside......”
Shining Armor, Cadence, and Rahs all stare down off the balcony at a figure standing before a blue cart on the road below.
The black carapaced figure was half hidden in a brown trench coat. It was standing on it's back legs and holding a large box over it's head. The trio recognized it as an old crystal 'boom' box that had been all the rage when Shining was in school.
The figure was holding completely still and was letting the music blare up to the balcony where the three stood.
“In your eyes.... the light, the heat In your eyes I am complete in your eyes.....”
“By my aunt's cake filled gut.... is that...... “ Cadence covered her face with her hoof.” She isn't......”
“Is that Palomino Gabriel?” Shining asked blankly his ears twitching at the music.
Applejack rubbed her chin with a hoof as she pondered. There was a lot to go over with this. The quilt, the fritters, the events, everything. She ignored the squee of Twilight as Granny got to the pictures of Big Mac as a foal, she had seen Granny heading in that direction after the first few pages.
Clearly so had Big Mac given how quickly he made himself scarce.
Granny was in high spirits with the only down side being the lack of a response from her half sister that was supposed to live in Canterlot. Granny hadn't seen her since she was a foal and went to school in the city.
Applejack wanted to find her for Granny, but Granny told her not to bother she didn't expect the mare was still alive at this point.
Still even ignoring that there were a whole mess of cooking supplies, quilting supplies and materials she would need to collect. Just the set up alone would take a few days and the first of the family would start trickling in a few days before the event. Heck the first few would be here by the end of the week.
Looks like Twilight would get her checklists.
Twilight smiled as she looked over the images. listening to the stories that Granny told about each of them. She didn't just focus on Big Mac, but there were plenty of tales about him.
What Twilight noticed however was a pair of ponies that were in nearly every photo that Applejack and Big Mac were in. A pair of ponies that were ignored or quickly distracted from in Granny's stories.
Twilight remained silent about it because of how intently Granny was avoiding talking about them. Applebloom seemed a little more sullen as she pressed against Spike's good arm and Applejack had wandered away muttering to herself as they passed the first of those photos.
Twilight didn't need to have who they were explained, she and Rahs had already heard about what happened to her friends parents. While she wasn't on the best of terms with her own family she was at least better about it now than she had been. Between the wedding and everything else there wasn't a real reason to be mad at them. Until dad tried threatening Mac, or mom went on a grand foals rant again.
Still she wished there was something she could do for them, but at the very least she could make this the best reunion ever.
[ Crystal Empire]
Rahs couldn't hide a grin as he sat back in a chair and watched the three at the table. This was great, he had even gotten one of the palace servants to bring him some popcorn.
“Can you please stop flirting with my wife?” Shining Armor glowered as Cadence actually had a blush from some of the Changeling Queens suggestions.
“No promises, though I could flirt with you if you prefer stud.” Chrysalis grinned as Shining blushed and Cadence glowered.
“Chryssy......” Cadence grumbled.
“Right right fine. Look I came here to apologize for that whole wedding thing. None of it went according to plan really...” Chrysalis offered.
“Except where it did.” Shining pointed out.
“What?”Chrysalis raised an eyebrow.
“ After the wedding there was a convenient influx of new guards and ponies looking to live in Canterlot with no real back grounds past a certain point. Most of the damage to the city was limited to public works with only Guards and nobility being targeted with anything more than simply keeping ponies in their houses. It was a terror tactic designed to get us to look the other way while you slip changelings into positions that could be taken advantage of. I've also broken down the new adjustments I some how know how to make to my shields. You taught me a very specific type of shield spell and added the suggestion while I was in that daze spell to use it to only affect changelings who were out of their disguise, not the race as a whole. I know how to do that now by the way, and it's been tested as hundred percent effective before we came up here.”
Chrysalis' eyes widened.
Cadence was clearly surprised as well.
“I sometimes forget he's related to Twilight.” Cadence smiled.
“Doesn't show it very often?” Chrysalis asked.
“I'm right here you know.” Shining sighed as Rahs cackled.
“So I gather he's right?” Cadence sighed.
“Of course. I needed changelings in position to be able to work a vote to allow us a space in Equestria. Sunbutt's not going to allow it on her own and basically you and Princess Luna are the only ones I can work with without risking losing my head.” Chrysalis sighed. ”Of course you may have also given us another option with this empire thing, but I'm still leery going through with that until I find out more about that Crystal Heart of yours. It does me little good to try and move up here if our presence has any detrimental effects to it.”
“Why would I let you, let alone tell you anything about the heart? I'm still mad that you tried to steal away my husband, and you slept with him.” Cadence glowered.
“You weren't even married yet and it's not like I forced him to, he's the one who suggested it.” Chrysalis protested.
“Because he thought you were me.” Cadence snapped.
“I slept with you too and I don't hear him complaining about that?” Chrysalis offered.
Both the mares turned to look at Shining who had taken that moment to pretend to take a excessively long drink from his tea, and hoped to what ever god or universe writer that might be out there they would move on with the conversation soon.
Sadly the rabbit was not that generous.
“In my defense, I wasn't even born yet.” Shining finally offered when the stares continued far past the emptying of his tea.
“That's hardly a defense Shining Armor, I remember what you said at the wedding.” Cadence glared.
“Well that makes one of us. That whole bit was rather hazy.” Shining placated, rather glad Applejack wasn't here. His brothers hyena like cackling wasn't helping.
“See I broke his mind with my mad sex skills... I'm always doing things like that.” Chrysalis smirked.
“Please....” Cadence scoffed. “ You're not that great.”
“Don't give me that Cady I taught you everything you know.” Chrysalis grinned.” But I didn't teach you everything I know.”
“I've taken that teaching and expanded quite a bit on it over the years.” Cadence frowned. “The student is now the master.”
“Unless she has the collar on.” Shining added getting a blush from Cadence a grin from Chrysalis and a retching noise from Rahs. Shining smirked before he turned to yell at Rahs “That's what you get for listening in hair ball!”
“ Shining......” Cadence growled.
“Cadence. Stop. Do you know how often you've brought up Chrysalis in conversation since the wedding? A lot. It's pretty clear you've still got feelings for her in some shape or fashion. And given her …. hmm... about it.... what's the word?”
“Constant harassment?”Cadence sighed.
“Shameless flirting?” Chrysalis smiled.
“Insistence...” Shining glared at his brother.” She clearly still has a thing for you. So we need to work this out like the reasonable adults we are, sorry, are supposed to be.”
“Fine. Though I am married now Chryssy and you're going to have to respect that.” Cadence huffed.
“Fine, but you're also Empress, and Emperor of the Empire and those titles tend to come with concubines and stuff.” Chrysalis offered.
“You're willing to settle for being a concubine?” Shining blinked.
“I mean you studly.” Chrysalis grinned.
“Chryssy...” Cadence snapped.
“What!?! Just picture him in one of those transparent lace outfits they have in those Arabian books.” Chrysalis grinned wider.
Cadence blinked and looked over at Shining thoughtfully.
“I am not going to go out and get fitted for that sort of outfit....” Shining grumbled
“Why would you need to?” Chrysalis grinned. With a flash of green flame she turned into Shining Armor. Granted it was a Shining armor with some artistic liberties taken, and one who was dressed in flowing transparent silks with quite a bit of gold jewelry and even a few obvious piercings.
Shining Armor narrowed his eyes in annoyance and his horn lit up. His burn out was not completely recovered from, but he had more than enough power and skill to lift a napkin up to cover his wife, mouth as she drooled.
“Seriously?” Shining asked as he ignored Rahs who had fallen over onto the floor clutching his own eyes as he rolled about in dramatic anguish at the sight.
“What? This more to your liking?” Another flash of green flame and it was now Cadence in the same outfit with the same piercings and jewelry, as well as a fancier version of the aforementioned collar. .
Shining's mind stopped working, as his wife offered him a napkin for his own drool.
“Bork!” Rahs shouted snapping Shining Armor's mind out of the gutter.
“What do you mean get a room? This whole place is our room?!” Shining snapped at Rahs.
“Ahh breaking the place in are we?” Chrysalis smirked as she let the form she had flash back to her own.
“We still have the kitchen and a few hundred other rooms to break in. This is a big palace.” Cadence nodded.
Twilight smiled thinking back on all the charts, graphs, and plans that Applejack and she had put together. This was probably the most fun she had ever had with her friend. Not to say she didn't have fun before, but who knew Applejack was so good at spread sheets.
Every moment of the day was going to be filled with something, from the moment the others arrived until it was time for them to leave.
This was going to be a reunion long remembered in the Apple family.
That actually sounded rather menacing in her head for some reason.
They had spent the last few days preparing, getting help from their friends with supplies and snacks, Twilight also spent more time covered in candy glitter than she was comfortable with thanks to Pinkie.
Although Big Mac had helped with that issue.
“Think that'll do it.”Applejack smiled tying off the last bit of rope on a banner.
“Just in time too. Ah see a couple of kin heading up tha road there.” Grannysmith smirked.
A number of ponies were trotting up along the road, some pulling wagons others simply on hoof, one or two were flying under their own power and there were several in small airships.
“Wow.”Spike stated gawking at the throng of ponies converging on the farm.
“Seventy three RSVPs not including spouses and foals. “Twilight nodded watching as the gathered ponies started talking and milling around. Some hitched their wagons and started unloading supplies that they had brought, some had planed to stay a few days and brought their own tents, though the sight of the massive crystal barn that had already been set up for a few days lodging made most stow their gear back where they got it.
Applebloom had already set off looking for her favorite cousin and Spike was quickly surrounded by three rather nervous looking crystal ponies two mares and a young colt.
Twilight rolled her eyes at the snippets of conversation she was hearing from the three, though they spotted her and quickly bowed. Twilight rolled her eyes the other way and trotted over to the trio.
“Stop that, no bowing, I'm not royalty.” Twilight sighed. “ I'm here as a family member of the Apple's same as you are.”
“Technically you are royalty through marriage and kinship.” Spike grinned.
“Shush you.” Twilight chided.
“You're an Apple?” the apple green mare asked
“Technically since I'm dating one... So is Spike here. In either case I'm not royalty so just call me Twilight. Now I expected you to be nervous about coming out here for this so I already made the adjustments to the plan for me to help you around for the day. I've got a checklist made out on who to introduce you too.” Twilight smiled. “ Since I suppose the first thing we need to do is find out which branch of the family you're most related to we need to talk to Goldie Delicious. I was told she keeps most of the family records. I have also been informed to ask you to please not mention the cat smell.”
“ Cat smell?” The reddish hued mare asked.
“Not sure, Granny just warned me about that so, I'm passing it on.” Twilight shook her head. “Anyway let's go and mingle. You guys are safe here, having some actual family help you catch up will be better than Moon Dancer's classes. Not that I'm against Moon Dancer's classes I'm sure they are brilliant, it's just Princess Luna is my only frame of reference for how well Moon Dancer teaches and well.... any way not the point.”
Spike took note of the colt looking at the other foals running around playing.” Hey Twi. You gonna be good with the crowd?”
Twilight inhaled looking around before letting out a sigh.”Yes. I have a mission and I know exactly where Big Mac is if it becomes too much.”
“Alright.” Spike nodded before he tapped the spotted crystal colt on the shoulder.
“Come on. I'll introduce you.” Spike smirked waddling off with the colt. The red mare looked on worried.
“It's okay Aventurine, the Honorable, Brave, and Glorious Prince Spike is with Jasper, he'll be fine...” The green mare said.
“I just said that.” Twilight sighed. ”Without the titles.”
“Don't mind her Noble....”
“No, no titles. Just call me Twilight. I didn't even want any titles.”Twilight sighed. “I'm not a Princess, I don't need titles. And neither does Spike. I deal enough with his ego.”
“Err sorry, it's just this is the first time we've been away from the Crystal Empire and Jasper's all she has left....please don't be mad.”
“I'm not mad, it's just I don't want any titles, you're with family here. Everything's going to be alright... umm you were Chrysoprase right?”
“Yes N... Yes Twilight.” The green mare smiled.
“I'm sorry as well, it's just coming from the train station we over heard some of the locals talking about their new bell tower by the library being destroyed. There was a blast of mysterious fire that launched the bell into orbit. So I'm a little leery about letting Jasper out of my sight.” Aventurine admitted.
Twilight's ear twitched. “I'm sure it was just faulty wiring, that bell was rather loud....”
“Oh, will the Great and Powerful Rahs be here?” Chrysoprase perked up at the thought, with a rather odd look on her face that Twilight was certain she had seen on Applebloom in regards to Spike.
“I'm afraid not, he's actually in the Crystal Empire now helping Cadence and Shining deal with some dangerous magic items.” Twilight explained.
“Oh.” The mare deflated.
“Any way, Big Mac is got the oil for the fritters going and they should be ready in a while.”Twilight offered changing the subject and silently cursing Cadence for starting up another Cloudsdale incident. “ Until then I'll introduce you to every pony once Applejack makes the opening announcements. Now, just a heads up, there are a couple of nox-cal here and I know there's a bit of issue with them. Please bear in mind that despite what it seems like it's been over a thousand years since any of them worked with Nightmare and all of the ones here are members of the Apple family, same as you. Now my plan was to stick with you most of the day so you can adjust, but don't let me stop you if you feel you want to talk to some one more or do something else. And try to enjoy yourself, I can assure you there's no danger here, nothings going to attack.”
“No offense, but.. how do you know that?” Chrysoprase asked nervously.
“It's Friday.” Twilight shrugged with a small smile as if that explained everything. The purple unicorn spared a glance towards the edge of the Everfree in the distance, feeling a small tingle of her magic.
[Edge of the Everfree.]
The timber wolf reared back with a his as two of it's pack mates were vaporized to splinters. The third growled at the one before it before turning to run only for a massive steel war hammer to smash into and through it from the armored figure that had come up from behind.
The armored unicorn moved closer looking down at the remains of the timber wolf before setting it alight to make sure the creature didn't reform.
The massive armored nox-cal Guard stepped away from the burning twigs and brush before she reached up to tap a crystal on her chest, the soft glow of it showing it's activation.
“This is unit seven. Three timber wolves dealt with in quadrant two.” The guard grumbled.
“Acknowledged seven, cancel movement to aid three and four with hydra, situation green.” the com chimed back.
“Understood base, continuing patrol route.” The nox-cal nodded..
“And here I thought Miss Sparkle was just being paranoid requesting a heavier guard presence in this part of town.” The unicorn smirked.
“She was, but she's lived here long enough to know that's not a bad thing. Besides she asked the Princesses for the extra presence and with all she and the Bearers have done in the last two years alone I say if she says jump, we ask how high.” The nox-cal grinned as the pair started on with their patrol along with six other three pony units running a heavy patrol route along the border of the Everfree and Ponyville for the next three days.
“This is unit seven airborne, I'm seeing what looks like a manticore in sector three.” the crystal com unit chimed.
“Understood airborne, unit seven is on our way.”
“Howdy ya'll and welcome to the Apple family reunion.” Applejack announced from the stage with a grin at the loud collection of cheering and hollering. “Ah'm Applejack, and ah just want tah let yah know ah got a real big day planned fer all of yah.”
“Spike Spiiiiike!!” a voice called out as Applejack continued with her announcements.
“And that's Applebloom.” Spike offered pointing with his good arm to the approaching yellow filly and the some what larger caramel colored filly with a reddish mane and short tail.” And I have no idea who the other one is.”
“She's you're filly friend?” Jasper asked.
“Yep.”Spike smirked.”The yellow one not the other one.”
“Bleh.” Jasper stuck his tongue out. “ Girls are icky...”
“Give it a few years.” Spike smirked wider looking down at the six year old.
“Hey Spike, who's this?” Applebloom asked as she thundered up with the other filly.
“Holy carp, he is a dragon...” the other filly stated.
“Why yes, yes I am.” Spike chuckled puffing out his chest a bit only for Applebloom to poke him in the belly and force him to lose the pose.
“Told yah.” Applebloom smirked. “This is mai cousin Babs. Babs this is Spike, mai colt friend.”
“She won't shut up about you.” Babs and Spike said at the same time before both laughed much to Applebloom's annoyance.
“Any way this is Jasper, he's here from the Crystal Empire with his mom, not sure where he's related on the family tree but it's pretty far back.” Spike explained. “ Jasper this is Applebloom and Babs, they're like super distant cousins to you some where.”
“Hey there y'all are.. we got tha obstacle course set up fer yah . Why don't yah head on over and go fer it.” Applejack stated suddenly appearing behind the small group in a way that made the small group jump in surprise.
“Uhhhhh. We were gonna catch up.” Applebloom blinked.
“Yah ken do that during tha race.” Applejack stated starting to push the fillies along.”Come on Spike.”
One overly complicated, and quite silly, race explanation later.
Spike narrowed his eyes as the fillies took off. He looked down at the binding he had on one of his legs tied to Jasper's foreleg then back up to Applejack.
“Twilight helped you with this didn't she?” Spike asked with a deadpan tone.
“Yeah , she was a right big help. Plenty of memories tah be made in this reunion” Applejack admitted watching the others race off towards the distance flag.” Yah better hurry up spike or they'll get too far ahead of yah.”
“Doctors note.” Spike stated flatly, “ No heavy exertion until my arm and ribs heal up more.”
“Oh right... umm “ Applejack pulled a list out of her hat. “ Oh okay Twi did give you a pass here, but ah spect you ken participate in tha apple bobbing.”
“Sure because dunking my head under water with a bunch of other fillies and colts and biting at things is a great idea.” Spike grinned showing off his 'very' sharp teeth.
“Right .. well ah, yah, ah better go check on tha quilters.” Applejack shoved the list back under her hat quickly, the end of it still draped over her back as she raced off.
Spike sighed pulling his leg out of the binding and looked to a clearly confused Jasper.
“What was that all about?” Jasper asked.
“My Twilight sense is tingling.” Spike grumbled. “Come on lets see what else is going on and if it needs to be stopped.”
“Okay.” Jasper shrugged, having no clue what was happening, but it sounded fun. More fun than running a mile tied to a dragon anyway.
“Absolutely not!” Shining Armor stated flatly crossing his fore legs in front of his chest in a X.
“Aww come on.” Chrysalis whined. “It would only be for a little while.”
“I am not letting you 'borrow' my wife.” Shining Armor growled.
Cadence did her best not to look amused and failed.
Rahs of course found it hilarious.
The talks had been going on for a few days with Chrysalis staying in one of the guest rooms under guard. Shining still expected her to wind up in bed with them at some point, but thus far she had behaved.
Much of the discussion the three had, had revolved around the possible benefits of the heart to Changelings as well as the potential benefit Changelings could have to the Empire.
Moon Dancer and Sunburst had teamed up again to study the heart while Chrysalis actively tried to drain it. The effects were noticeable, but well within the expected range.
The heart could indeed sustain quite a number of changelings, though it would need to be recharged more often. Given the bolstering effect it had on the crystal ponies discussions were considered to double the Crystal Faire events.
The plan was to have it in the Fall and the Spring. With the Summer sun Celebration and the Winter Moon Festival adding to the power at their times.
Of course there was a great deal left to work out. Particularly after it was revealed why Celestia wanted Chrysalis dead.
There was a pair of real apologies for the wedding, and a large number of fake ones.
Well until Chrysalis decided to be Chrysalis and tried to have Cadence added as part of the deal.
[Sweet Apple Acres]
The thunderous roars of the generators firing up made Spike turn and head in another direction away from the farm house. Jasper was less than thrilled about approaching the horrendous beast that was making all that noise, though if the Brave and Glorious Spike wasn't concerned, he would try not to be either.
When the colt caught up the purple dragon was yelling something that couldn't be heard over the roaring.
Jasper was a little confused, as the sound was clearly coming from under the tent, but all the colt saw was an odd device and three old mares working on a quilt using machines connected to the roaring thing.
The green mare hit a button on one of the machines and the place went silent.
“..... Freaking oatmeal!! Where did she even get a crystal generator any way!?” Spike shouted only to trail off as he found he could hear himself. “Right. Seriously, what is this?”
“Applejack got us these things so we can finish tha family quilt.” Granny-smith offered.
“What?” Spike blinked.” Isn't the point of a family quilt that it can never be done? Don't you have to design and add a patch to it every time a new family member is born or marries into the family?”
“Yup.”Auntie Applesauce added.
“How does she expect you to get done with that then?” Spike groused.
“Dunno, but it was on that checklist of hers.” Granny-smith shrugged. “Plus she hid our rockers.”
Spike rolled his eyes and stomped off grumbling about checklists..
Jasper blinked trotting past before looking at the trio of old mares. “ I like your teeth.” he stated before darting after Spike.
“My what a polite young colt, clearly some ponies have taste.” Auntie Applesauce scoffed as the other two mares giggled.
[ Crystal Empire ]
“Absolutely not!” Princess Cadence stated flatly crossing her fore legs in front of her chest in a X.
“Aww come on.” Chrysalis whined. “ It would only be for a little while.”
“I am not letting you 'borrow my husband'.” Princess Cadence growled.
Shining Armor did his best not to look amused and failed.
Rahs nearly choked on his drink laughing as the negotiations continued.
[ an hour later Sweet Apple Acres]
Applejack and Twilight hid under a wagon as fruit bats dove down with shrieks around them.
“This makes no logical sense.” Twilight frowned.
“ AHHH, THEY'RE IN MY MANE!!”
“ How would a swarm of startled fruit bats...”
“ THEY STOLE MY FRITTER!”
“... forced from their slumber in the middle of the day...”
“THEY GOT UNCLE STEM, OH THE PONANITY!!!”
“.. ignore an entire orchard of trees full of fruit....”
“GAME OVER MAN, GAME OVER!!”
“...and focus soly on a wax apple on some pony's hat?” Twilight concluded.
“Well cousins, Cyanide and Codling Moth seemed tah be thrilled about the fruit bats.” Applejack offered sheepishly.
“They ate six of them... apiece.” Twilight explained in a dead pan tone.
“Reckon they're changelings?” Applejack frowned.
“Probably, you did say they married into the family.”Twilight agreed ignoring another scream.
“Ehh, ah suppose every family tree has a few bugs in it.” Applejack nodded sagely.
“Literally in this case.” Twilight agreed. “This is going to to wreck the schedule something fierce.”
“Might be a bit late for that Twi.” Applejack sighed.” Though ah am pretty sure ain't no one gonna forget this reunion.”
A loud roar echoed across the field followed by two more rumbling snarls that rose to match the first in volume. The swarming fruit bats fluttered about in terror scattering to the skies to get away from the horrendous noise.
Twilight and Applejack blinked, crawling out from under the wagon, and looked around for the source only to see Spike and Jasper standing by the roaring sewing machines watching the bats fly away. Cutting the machines off ,the purple drake and his excited colt tag along stomped over towards the pair. Glaring up at his sister and Applejack , Spike held out his good claw.
“What?” Twilight asked.
“Your check lists.” Spike growled. ”In my claw. Now.”
Twilight and Applejack looked at each other before Twilight offered her list and AJ took the one from under her hat hoofing it over.
Spike took them looked them over a moment and nodded.
“Your back up lists.” Spike demanded of Twilight.
“Seriously Spike what are...” Twilight questioned before she staggered to the side from an unexpected weight. Looking back she saw a red crystal colt had lept up and buried himself half way in her saddlebags.
“Hoff um!” Jasper exclaimed pulling a collection of scrolls out her saddle bag before dropping back down and trotting over to Spike.
“Hah, totally a rogue.”Spike chuckled taking all of the lists and setting them on fire with a burst of orange flame.
“AHH!!” Twilight yelped.
“You made the foals run themselves ragged on some stupid obstacle race, you put the quilters inside a Pikey Sweatshop, you had the cooks acting like they were working at Hay King during rush hour, then you attacked every one with bats on a hay ride. Don't even get me started about what you had planned for dinner and bed time. You set out a specific amount of sleep and time to eat!” Spike growled. “How are you two considered responsible adults?”
“Spike that's a bit harsh, we were trying to make this the best reunion ever.” Twilight offered.
“Well it's certainly one that's gonna be unforgettable.” Spike sighed. “I'm sure plenty of therapists will be hearing about this for years. And I need to send a message to Luna about expecting nightmares about fruit bats tonight.”
“So what we should just leave everything in a unplanned disorganized chaotic mess?” Twilight demanded looking quite shocked at the mere implication of that..
Spike glared up at the pair with a frown. “Let. Ponies. Enjoy. Themselves.”
The little dragon turned and waddled off with the colt hopping along with him clearly excited to have seen the flames.
Applejack and Twilight watched Spike then glanced down to the pile of ash that was all that remained of the lists.
“Well, ah think he's a might mad.” Applejack offered.
[ Crystal Empire ]
“Absolutely not!” Queen Chrysalis stated flatly crossing her fore legs in front of her chest in a X.
“Aww come on.” Cadence whined. “ It would only be for a little while.”
“ I am not going to......... wait a tick... this is pretty much what I've been trying to sneak into these negotiations for the last few days.” Chrysalis blinked as she caught on finally.
“Ehh I'm still mostly against it but you and Cadence make a convincing argument.” Shining Armor shrugged.
Shining Armor Rolled his eyes and chuckled.
Rahs fled the room.
[ Sweet Apple Acres.]
“Well …. this coulda gone worse.” Applejack smiled as she watched her family mingle about chatting and talking and having a grand time now that everything was back to normal.
“So evidently, I did over do it.” Twilight sighed looking out from where she sat on the edge of the podium. “Sorry about that.”
“A might bit. Still getting every one tah pitch in tah help with the clean up turned out to be in our favor.” Applejack chuckled.” And it ain't yer fault Twi. I had yah helping me with that lists cause ah knew yah were good at that sort of thing. Figured packing that day full of events would make it tha most memorable. Didn't even think it would make ponies unable tah even do any reunioning.”
“That's not a word.” Twilight smiled.
“Which one?” Applejack smirked. “Any way, glad Spike was here tah talk some sense into us.”
“He's good at that. Dealing with my issues and Rahs' theatrics he needed to find his own nitch.” Twilight sighed.
“So he's the one with the common sense?”Applejack chuckled.
“In in the terms of his games he's got the highest Wisdom, I've got the highest Intelligence and Rahs has the highest charisma.” Twilight shrugged.
“That brother of yours don't seem that charismatic.”Applejack offered.
“Tell that to the two cities worth of ponies, the show mare, the Diamond Dog Alpha, and the mysterious mare that are all dead set on making him their 'special some dog'.” Twilight smirked.
“Really, yah noticed all that?” Applejack sighed. “Me an tha girls jus lost ten bits to Fluttershy.”
“Really betting on me not knowing my brother was being chased after like that? Why would I miss that when I can use it to mess with him?” Twilight grinned.
“Figures. So who you betting on tah git him?”
“I can't. Family members can't bet with the Ponyville pool.” Twilight sighed. “It's a tough choice any way. I know he's attracted to Jynx, but Trixie has the whole 'foal hood friend love interest' drama going on. Rahs eats that stuff up. Then we have the mysterious Saturnia, who's just enough of a 'mare of mystery' to catch his interest.”
“Not even including the cities in tha running?” Applejack smirks.
“ No.” Twilight snorted.” The pegasi will stay away if they know what's good for them. I can't say anything about the Empire save I don't think he likes the hero worship they do for him.”
“Well hopefully yer brothers love life 'll be the most interesting thing we have to deal with fer a while. We need a bit of down time.”
Rahs stared at the statue of himself with a smile.
Damn he looked good.
This was the first chance he had to wander around and see the place. Despite the issue with the taste of her magic, he had stuck around to make sure Chrysalis stayed under control.
However now that the negotiations had gone in THAT direction he was done being a guard dog.
He actually planned to head back to Ponyville tomorrow, this had been a enjoyable trip, but he was greatly disappointed that the Empire didn't have any sort of theater left standing.
Of course he made the mistake of mentioning it and the crystal pony who over heard his brothers translation had run off with a gasp.
Next time he came back there was probably going to be a Theater with his name on it.
He rather liked that idea more than the statue to be honest.
Still he should mention that they needed to change his title. Not that he wanted a title any way.
Rahs sighed looking down at the plaque under his statue.
Trixie was going to kill the 'Great and Powerful' Rahs.
[ Crystal Empire]
“Are you certain?”
“Yes. It was one of the few that was salvaged. A number of these were used by the freedom fighters to increase their power, though after the unicorns were all...' put down' , there wasn't any more use for them.” the shop keep explained.” This one came into my possession not that long ago from some Crystal ponies looking to clean out the reminders of their former lives that remained in their homes.
“And you are certain it works?”
“Yep” The shop keep nodded. “Money back if it doesn't”
The hooded figure nodded, setting a bag of bits on the counter and grabbing the object in question as the shop keeper started counting the bits.
The necklace was a gray triangle with a red gem set in the center and a red eyed unicorn head emerging from the top. A pair of red gem encrusted wings spread out from the top as if the unicorn was winged as well.
The alicorn amulet.
Rumors of the necklaces power were everywhere, evidently some of the freedom fighters had found them to fight back against Solomon and Nightmare Moon before the crystal unicorns had gone extinct. It seems the raid directly resulted in Solomon having all the unicorns killed off. With the power of the amulets they did a great deal of damage in their attempt , only the Witch Wolves proved to be beyond their ability to deal with.
Trixie Lulumoon smiled. With this power she would be stronger than Twilight and be able to pull Rahs away from her. The Diamond Dog and the god's child would hardly be able to compete with her when she had this.
Fuzzy would be hers.
This would not do.
The place was far too protected.
Far to many of the pack had been destroyed becoming that much weaker as they sought to find new hosts.
It didn't let them. It devoured them drawing their power into itself and growing stronger and bigger.
The tower was there before him, close enough he could smell the power still lingering on it.
It would claim it.
And destroy everything in it's way.
“I HAVE A WHAT!?!?” Cadence screamed staring at Chrysalis.
The bug queen grinned and drew out a bit wallet, letting it unfold, showing a pink maned changeling as a little grub foal dressed up in a bunch of cute outfits.
“Isn't she adorable?” Chrysalis cooed.
“HOW!?” Cadence demanded.
“Well when a mommy alicorn and a mommy changeling decide to get their freak on, and the mommy alicorn decides to get a little more freaky and cast a spell to grow some parts that normally are only on stallions ….” Chrysalis began.
“And this is why I refused to let you do anything with that spell when I was a mare.” Shining nodded sagely.
“You can be a mare?” Chrysalis gasped.” I wanna see!”
Princess Celestia looked down from her throne at the pony before her. Those who were familiar with the court recognized that the Princess usually looked impassive when she dealt with her court, rarely letting anything bother her.
They also knew to duck and cover any time green magic floated around her horn, but that was a new lesson.
As such most of them were rather concerned when the Princesses' mask slipped and she looked confused.
“I'm sorry Red Tape, could you repeat that?” Princess Celestia asked.
The yellow earth pony before her clearly had some zebra ancestry due to the red lines running through his coat and around his limbs. If she recalled correctly he was of a minor noble house that focused mostly on law and politics. He was not one to frequent the court due to his heritage, but his skills were well known and often used by the 'less than cranialy blessed' nobles to write up some of their proposals. That he was here meant his current employer was paying well.
“Yes your highness. I represent a group of concerned ponies...”
“No no... just the important bit.”
“It is all important, Princess.”
“The relevant bit about Twilight Sparkle.”
“It is all about Twilight Sparkle.”
“A summery then.” Celestia snapped.” A BRIEF summery.”
Red Tape blinked at her tone and suppressed a small shudder as he made a mental note to to raise his fee to those who had hired him, he was quite certain that one word had rattled his teeth. Clearly the princess had understood the legal babble he had first uttered and wanted him to get to the meat of it. Asking him to repeat himself had been a courtesy.
“Of course Princess. The nobles I represent view Twilight Sparkle as a danger as well as a valued resource.....”
“Twilight is not a danger.” Celestia interrupted.” She's harmless....”
“NO.” Spike stated swatting Twilight in the head with a rolled up newspaper.
“What? OW stop it!” Twilight winced glaring at Spike.
“You are not doing this!”Spike growled.
“Spike relax it's only a 4th tier spell. I take a snow casting ritual template and use an ice cube in the casting and the spell has the cold descriptor, then I use Flash Frost from my runic training and it makes the area slick and does about as much damage as being pelted by a slush ball. Of course then we put the energy substitution therom on it to make the spell electric. Then adding the Reeves Matrix 'Born of three thunders', which makes the spell half sonic as well as electric, but then it would require some skills to avoid it, but that allows us to apply the explosive spell matrix which shunts anything that doesn't have the training to avoid it, outside of the area of effect. Of course the base spell which I added all this to is the Seek Settlement spell which has a base range of ten miles...OW.” Twilight explained before getting smacked with the newspaper again.
“I didn't let you do that as a GM and you are not allowed to cast the Locate City Combo in real life either!” Spike snapped walloping Twilight again with the newspaper.
“.... mostly harmless.” Celestia finished after a brief pause to consider.
“ Never-the-less my clients wish her to be brought back to Canterlot where she can be properly secured to prevent her level two PDR rating from escalating further. Here it is believed that she can be properly harnessed for the good of the nation rather than some unknown back water town. My clients believe that with the proper training of her magic we may not have to worry about the danger she represents.”
Celestia sighed softly.
“Red Tape. What this proposal is suggesting is we imprison a civilian who has done nothing wrong because some rich ponies want to. That alone sets a horrible precedent that I will not accept. Then we add to that, that this is Twilight Sparkle, the mare who freed my sister, stopped Discord, and helped restore the Crystal Empire by defeating the evil ruler of it in one on one combat. This mare is also the sister to the Dragon Gods son, the sister to Luna's Grandson, and even if you ignore those things, she is also practically a member of the Apple family, the family that owns 95% of Equestria's fruit and technology industries. A mare who was chosen to be the Element of Magic, who's brother and sister in law are the current rulers of the Crystal Empire. “Celestia rose and strode towards Red Tape strolling around him like a hunting cat looking at it's next meal.
Red Tape mentally added a few more zeros to the end of his bill.
“Baring the fact that dragging her back to Canterlot away from the other Element bearers would render the nations greatest defense completely useless, imprisoning her here would have all of the aforementioned individuals and nations they represent coming down on Equestria rather harshly. And as a side note I assure you, you do not want her brothers all focused on and mad at you at the same time, to say nothing of her parents and their connections. Granted you also need to deal with all the ponies of Equestria themselves, who would possibly revolt in learning that a national hero was being treated as a criminal for doing nothing wrong, I expect the term 'lynch mob' would come up rather often. While I find it rather flattering that you are so certain of my power that you think I can stand against my sister, nearly every other god of the world, and I would like to point out she has become close friends with Bleu, Kaz, Rhino, Odin, and was granted a boon by Iinii himself for freeing his wife. And after dealing with them also stand against every pony in my own nation. Flattery such as that would not stop me however, from being the one who would supply the rope to the lynch mob. Particularly given it is a back hooved compliment simply due to the line from your statement saying 'proper training in magic', particularly as I was her magic teacher for twelve years.” Celestia continued pausing to lean down to look at Red Tape eye to eye.
“The main reason, Red Tape, that I seem so calm about this proposal of yours is that I know you are only a representative of some nobles who wish to remain nameless because they know it's a dumb idea. Had one of them come in themselves I would have been trying to beat my high score for distance and see if I could hit Santa Whooves' front door from here.” Celestia stepped back and returned to the throne taking a seat. Red Tape couldn't help but notice the little droplets of molten gold that had splattered on the tile around him.
“Red Tape please go back to your clients and inform them if I ever see this proposal or any like it before me again, or hear about it coming before my sister, I shall do something, NOT, NICE.” Celestia concluded as Red Tape swore one of his fillings had popped out from the volume.
“Of course Princess. Thank you for your time . Have a good day.” Red Tape stated turning and walking with all the dignity he could while also trying to haul ass at the same time.
“Flowery Text, would you please call the next petitioner.” Celestia asked calmly to her assistant.”Lulu was right, that was rather cathartic.”
[ Sweetapple Acres, the next day]
“Yah sure Rahs ain't gonna be a problem this time?” Applejack asked as she slammed her hooves into a tree, the apples it contained shaking loose and falling. Before any of them touched the ground the mass of fruit was caught in a magic field and floated towards a near by cart before being placed gently inside a collection of buckets.
Applejack was alright with Twilight using magic to help, but at the same time the farmer was still a little leery about using magic on the trees themselves. Thus a compromise was made that seemed to work favorably and kept the apples from risking getting bruised at the end of their fall from the tree.
The harvest season was in full swing, though like last year the extra help of the girls made the job that much easier.
Twilight was paired with Applejack as the last time she paired with Big Mac they worked a little too slowly and spent a little too much time trying to sneak off behind the barn.
This year Rarity and Pinkie were working with Big Mac doing much the same as Twilight and AJ were doing with the added help of Pinkie pie doing..... something to speed them along. Fluttershy, Rainbow Dash and Rahs were harvesting by claw and hoof, and Applebloom and a freshly healed Spike were running supplies. The pair teaming up to pull the filled wagons of apples to the barn.
“Yep, I'm not saying he might not eat a few here and there, but he's not going to gorge himself. “ Twilight smirked.” I'm holding his ticket to that ' Hamlet with lions' thing he wanted to see, hostage.”
“Hamlet with lions?” Applejack asked.
“Beats me, that's what he called it, point is I snagged his ticket and it's a sold out show. Since it's not showing in the Canterlot Theater he can't use his connections to get in either.” Twilight smirked.
“If he didn't wanna help he didn't have to. Not sure ah like that yah have tah blackmail him.” Applejack frowned.
“He's not being forced to help. He did want to help, it's just you know how he gets around the apples and he has the self control of a two year old.” Twilight sighed.
“You're one to talk little miss, 'I have to be at the book store three hours before they open on new book day'.” Spike snarked as he waddled up pushing a wheel barrow full of more baskets.
“So how's yer arm Spike.” AJ cut in before Twilight could retort, any argument between this lot could take hours to simmer down and would draw all three of them away from any work they were doing. Not to mention it often involved some property damage, and she didn't need that here.
“Not bad. It still feels weak, and I thought I'd never get the smell of that cast off my arm, but it doesn't hurt, not like my back. That missing spine itches like crazy.” Spike offered squirming with a grumble.
Applebloom smirked and brought her hoof up to drag it along his back at a spot getting a sigh of relief from Spike and a giggle from the filly.
The pair dumped the baskets and went off to deliver more baskets to the others.
“Fer such a little guy he sure is helpful.” Applejack smirked.” A bit snarky, but alright.”
“He's grown up having to look out for my problems, Shining's issues, and Rahs' overly dramatic existence. It was either he becomes the responsible one or becomes as crazy as the rest of us.”
“Well glad he went this route, got enough crazies in mai family that ah don't need one tah be a dragon.” Applejack chuckles.
“It causes problems though. You know he's worried about Apple Bloom right?”
“Hmm? How so?”
“He worries he's going to get too big to be with her , or that something might happen like when he had that chaos Spike and he might hurt her. He's even worried about inevitably outliving her.” Twilight sighed.
“Worrying a lot ain't he?” Applejack frowned.” He's way to young tah be thinking bout all that.”
“That's just how he is, he doesn't worry about every little detail like I do , or blow everything out of proportion like Rahs does, but he has some rather deep thoughts. Ones with no real answers. I told him to just enjoy it while he can, if it doesn't work out it shouldn't be because he didn't try.”
“Given how Bloom's still crushing hard on him near a year ah don't doubt it'll last.”Applejack smirks.”Once any of my kin git their sights set on some one, ain't nothing gonna shake um. Heh, reminds me of tha story Granny told us about ma and pa....”
The sudden cry made Applejack dive to the ground, and Twilight fling up a shield around them a moment before the cart Twilight and Applejack had been loading exploded.
Applesauce and shattered bits of wood rained down around the cart as a form surged up from the mess almost instantly.
Rahs growled, three large gashes were ripped into his chest letting blood flow freely down his front. The wounds didn't seem to be closing that quickly either and Twilight felt her shield weaken a little as her brother drew more magic from her trying to heal.
“Rahs! What happened!?!” Twilight demanded.
“BORK!” Rahs snapped as a collection of howls sounded in the area. The whole orchard sounding alive with the echoing reverb.
“Timber wolves?” Applejack gasped at the howling.
“.. and finally.” Red Tape stated, glaring at the unicorn stallions before him. “You may take your contract, and shove it sideways right up your plots!”
The half breed turned with a growl yanking open the door.
“I will send you my updated bill, failure to pay in a timely manner will have me returning to the Day Court with a grievance against you and a full list of what services I have provided, that included today's fiasco.” Red Tape snapped.” GOOD DAY!”
The door slammed shut leaving the office quiet for a moment before the stallion seated at the desk looked to the other unicorn standing near by.
“Well it seemed that didn't work.” The sitting one offered.
“To be fair plan A was a long shot.” the standing unicorn responded.
“Does that mean we have to go to plan B?” the sitting unicorn grumbled.
“Unfortunately, I hate plan B. It should be plan CM for complicated mess.” the standing unicorn sighed.
“Well we are the ones who decide such things.” The one at the desk shrugged.
“Very well. Plan CM it is. Hehehe Ha HA BWAHAHAHAHA...... “The standing stallion started laughing tapping a button on his cuff link. “ Hmmm...”
“It didn't work?” The standing stallion tapped the button again and a flash of lightning appeared in the window followed by an ominous peal of thunder.
“What?” The sitting stallion questioned.
“It has a sleep mode? It seems I have to press it twice? Seriously what do I pay those mages for? It's supposed to simply activate whenever I push the button.” the standing stallion complained.
“Sending it back to the shop?” the seated stallion asked.
“No, I suppose not. I wouldn't want it going off at the wrong time from an accidental push. Still....” The standing stallion sighed.
“Care to try it again? It's only us here and I can pretend the first time didn't happen.” the seated stallion shrugged. “ Just be sure to say something more ominous this time.”
“Hmm alright, I have it.” the standing stallion nodded moving to the window.
“Plan A might have failed but plan CM shall not, and soon Twilight Sparkle shall be mine! HAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHAHA” the standing stallion cackled as a flash of lightning lit the room and a roll of thunder rattled the windows.
“Very nice.” The seated stallion offered with a small golf clap.
[Sweet Apple Acres]
Flames burst from the little dragons mouth setting a wooden wolf ablaze. The animate foliage screamed and yelped, rolling around on the ground trying to put itself out.
This might have continued, but a large brush ax came down, lopping off the head of the flailing timber wolf, silencing it.
Applebloom frowned biting down harder on the brush ax's handle, before she rushed back into the barn. Spike spat more flames keeping the others back as the filly closed the door with a slam as Spike slipped inside. Three more Timber wolves slammed into the barn door as the pair made their way up to the hay loft, throwing open the upper doors to look out at the bedlam that was the orchard.
Timber wolves were everywhere.
Scores of the creatures rushed all over the place rampaging and attacking anything that moved, their claws tearing up the ground, clawing at the trees and destroying the carts and baskets full of apples.
There was something larger too, as a deep rumbling roar echoed across the orchards.
Looking out from the top of the new crystal barn hay loft the pair could see most of what was going on.
In the far west field they could see Big Mac's team. The boom of a cannon sounded as Pinkie Pie blasted one of the wolves to pieces, back flipped in midair, still holding her party canon, and smashed it down atop of another wolf.
Rarity had gathered a number of farming implements and was going to town on the attacking wolves like she was a lumber jack. So far she was okay.
Big Mac had ripped up a fence pole and was batting them away from him like he was trying to learn to play golf.
Fluttershy was floating about nervously in the air near Pinkie Pie.
Rainbow Dash was all over the place. The mare was slaloming around the trees as a rainbow colored blur, smashing the creatures apart with kicks as she flew by or catching them and slamming them into one another or any other solid object she could.
Spike frowned seeing the problem with this immediately. Every time a wolf was knocked down, even if they were set on fire, before long the bundle of sticks reformed and joined back into the fight.
Spike frantically looked around, recalling his talk with Celestia and Luna after the fight in the Crystal Empire.
“Spike there's a whole bunch of them around tha barn trying tah git in. Ah don't think we shoulda hid here.”Applebloom whimpered.
“Of course my packs in the farm house......An entire apple farm and no apples....” Spike growled as he looked around the barn fanatically, the harvest was still parked outside. “ Applebloom.... dang it.. sorry about this.”
“What?” Applebloom asked as Spike grabbed her tail, cutting a fair chunk of her red hair from it with his claws.”Spike what are you doing!?”
The dragon breathed out, green flame consuming the patch of hair. “I'm calling for help.”
Spike swallowed, leaning over the edge of the barn door and letting out another belch of green flame that consumed a trio of timber wolves that had been trying to rip through the barn door.
The entire Day Court held it's collective breath as they spotted the spark of green flame forming around Celestia's horn.
The current petitioner chose the better part of valor, and dove behind one of the seating pews.
Celestia frowned as the spell completed, she took note of the red hair drifting down, the strands looked cut rather than burnt..
After Spike had sent her the fallen buffalo in the Crystal Empire, Celestia had praised Spike on his fast thinking in protecting the ponies and himself. She had asked if he needed to do that again, to try and send some sort of warning first, or at least a hint of where he might be so she could help faster. She trusted him not to abuse his power and the dragon fire spell was the fastest way to get a message to her.
The strands of red hair drifting before her might simply have been an accidental sneeze. That had happened before.
Though the feeling of something heavy in her magic made her realize it was not.
“Day court is canceled, clear the court immediately!! Flowery go wake my sister tell her to meet me in the armory. Captain I want a team of your fastest fliers dispatched to Ponyville now, check Sweet Apple Acres, a large apple orchard to the west of the city, first.” Celestia ordered. Flowery Text long used to Celestia's tones took off like a shot. The new Guard Captain hesitated.
“Princess why, what's going on?” the Captain asked.
The glut of green flame that formed over Celestia's head discharged a large pile of sticks and logs that crashed to the ground in a pile of shrubbery and sticks like a discarded mulch pile.
Celestia frowned at the pile, wondering if it was a false alarm after all, though that thought vanished the moment the yard waste started moving. Three wolven forms pulling themselves out of the entangled pile, the forms scrabbling around on the tile having no traction but clearly seeking to go after the nearest ponies.
Celestia's horn flashed.
Motes of burnt dust drifted down into the newly melted marble.
“Timber Wolves..... Now Captain.” Celestia ordered, vanishing with a flash of light.
[Sweet Apple Acres]
“What?”Applebloom gasped looking towards the farm house as an elderly green mare stepped out on the front porch clutching a large metal tube, with a crossbow stock, and a funneled end like a trumpet, an end that was still smoking.
Flailing about before her was a timber wolf that had been blown back through the front door. It was filled with nails, shards of metal, and was also on fire.
“Git cher paws off me, yah dang durty mutt!” Granny Smith snapped ,spitting out a strand of wheat she had between her teeth.
Two others that had rushed up towards her hesitated as they noted the flailing burning one. They started to circle and growl as they looked at the mare.
Granny calmly reloaded her pappy's gun and looked at them.
“Ah came out here tah kick flank and chew bubble gum. And mah dentures can't handle bubble gum!” Granny shouted, blasting another Timber wolf with her reloaded weapon. The third lept at her only to get a frying pan to the face hard enough to send it crashing to the ground in pieces.
“GRANNY LOOK OUT!!” Applebloom shouted as the first burning timber wolf surged back to it's paws lunging at her only to vanish in a blast of purple arcane energy. The other two quickly followed the first into arcane oblivion as Twilight Sparkle strode up towards the house, her horn crackling with magic.
The pack of Timber Wolves around the barn met much the same fate as the purple unicorn blasted them to nothing the moment she saw them.
“Applebloom did you and the girls try for a 'raising a Timber Wolf puppy cutie mark' and do you have one you named Fern hidden in the barn some where?” Twilight asked.
“No.... but if ah was gonna have a plant puppy, ah'd ah named it Sprout.”Applebloom admitted. “ Can yah get a cutie mark for that?”
“I doubt it. Timber wolves are an abomination of natural magic, there shouldn't be any puppies, they're just gatherings of dark and chaos magic that took a wolven form out of whatever happens to be available.” Twilight sighed. “I was just hoping there was an easy to explain reason for this attack, they're every where. I've never even heard of anything like this before.”
“HUZZAH!!” WACK. “YIPE!”
“Sound's like the cavalry arrived.” Spike smiled, waving at Princess Luna who had appeared near the farm's main gate with Dr. Choppy.
“Where's Applejack?” Applebloom asked.” We can't see her or Rahs from up here.”
“She went after Rahs and I came over here to make sure you two and Granny were safe.”Twilight frowned. “Granny, get everyone in the storm cellar, they seem to be trying to get into the barn more than any other place for some reason. Better we stay away from it for now.”
“Alright, come on youngins let's get in...” Granny Smith started to say before a scream of pain echoed over the farm followed by a loud roar that Twilight and Spike translated as a massive swear from Rahs.
Twilight vanished in a flash of light.
Things were not going too well for Rahs today.
First, his sister had taken his show ticket from him and was holding it ransom to keep him from eating twice his weight in apples, which he wouldn't do any way if they weren't so delicious.
Then he got stuck on the team with the laziest pegasus in the world, and the weakest.
He thought both the mares were great, though Fluttershy had a hard time pulling her own weight, and Rainbow Dash was lazier than he was, and he was part cat!
Still he thought they were making fairly good time with Dash bouncing like a pinball between trees shaking the apples loose into the buckets that Fluttershy placed around, leaving him to do the heavy lifting when the baskets were filled and put them in the wagon.
The only warning he got that something was wrong was Fluttershy's shriek, he turned to see what the issue was and was hit by a tree.
He was sent flying across the orchard crashing through the branches of other trees tearing his coat and finally managing to call out a warning right before he slammed back first into a wagon.
He was back on his paws in moments though he nearly feel to his knees, he felt like several ribs had been cracked, he had three large rents across his chest, and a multitude of splinters embedded in his back.
And another ruined coat.
He should just ask Rarity if he could buy in bulk.
His score cards were bent too.
He was healed up by the time Twilight and Applejack started moving. Twilight went off to find Spike and Applejack stuck with him as he raced back to the field he had been in.
They met what hit him rather quickly.
A gargantuan timber wolf as tall as the trees around it was skulking through the grove headed towards the barn and the farm house where Spike and Applebloom were.
This thing had already sucker punched him, so Rahs was more than ready to throw down.
Of course he had to figure out how to fight such a massive thing.
Ehh, maybe he could just keep it busy until Twilight got back and blasted it.
The massive timber wolf it seemed had other ideas. Namely trying to kill him directly.
As soon as the mobile grove saw him, it started attacking, snapping teeth, claws, it even spat gobs of poison joke at him.
Rahs was hard pressed to dodge most of the attacks, the massive plant monster evidently had a score to settle with him. Rahs wondered if it was one of the ones he had met on one of his hunts, he didn't have too much to fear from timber wolves as they tended to be little more than animate snacks wrapped in twigs.
This one was different.
This one was massive,very quick, and was able to hurt him, it was also doing it's best to keep him at a distance, clearly it knew that if he could get his teeth in it, he would eat the magic keeping it alive.
Applejack was doing her best to deal with it as well, though the creature was largely ignoring the earth pony in favor of trying to maul Rahs. This played against it when a double kick from Applejack caused one of it's rear legs to explode in a shower of splinters.
Rahs lept on it's head, biting at the wood trying to draw the magic out of it only for the timber wolf to slam it's head into a tree, pinning Rahs between the creature and the apple tree.
The moon dog cursed, pushing up to his paws only for a log sized tail to whip around and send him flying across the field tumbling across the ground to slam into another tree. The thick apple tree splintered and crashed down on top of him pinning him under the trunk.
Applejack raced over as he was trying to get free, smashing her back hooves into the wood and flinging it off of him, only for the massive maw of the giant timber wolf to snap closed on the distracted farm pony.
The earth pony mare let out a scream as the wooden jaws closed around her, spear sized fangs piercing her form.
Rahs was moving before her scream died out, grabbing the beasts jaws, trying to wrench them open and off of the bleeding and struggling mare.
The beast clawed at the moon dog trying to rip him off his muzzle.
“You should not have done that.”
The timber wolf froze, turning it's head to the left, glowing red eyes widening as a white form stepped out of the tree line.
“Burn.” Princess Celestia stated flatly.
The timber wolf giant burned.
Rahs watched as the core of the creature caught fire from the inside, bursting out in a flash of flame that left the head untouched. The creature glared at him a moment before the light faded from it's eyes and it's magic vanished. With it dead he finally managed to wrench the jaws open enough to free Applejack. He scooped up the farm mare and darted away from the head of the timber wolf as it was consumed by the sun and turned into less than ash.
A flash of light announced the appearance of Twilight who gasped loudly seeing the bloodied body of her friend.
“Luna!” Celestia called and her sister appeared next to her with a gasp at the sight of Applejack.“Take her to the hospital, we will finish up here and make sure there are no more.”
“Of course.” Luna nodded before both she, Rahs, and Applejack vanished in a flash of light.
[Ponyville hospital, two days later, early evening.]
“So how bad is it?” Princess Cadence asked with a frown. Her eyes looking over those in the small waiting room with her.
Big Mac, Twilight, Granny Smith, and Rainbow Dash were all in the room with her. Granny was out cold on a bed that had been wheeled in for her, Big Mac was passed out on a large couch with Twilight sitting beside him letting his head rest against her barrel as she stroked his mane idly with her hoof.
Rainbow Dash was sitting on one of the chairs having tried not to fall asleep before she was sure her best friend was alright, only to fail.
“To be honest it could have been a lot worse. Most of the bite was tissue damage. She had her small intestine punctured as well as one of her lungs. We got her here near instantly and those major wounds were treated quickly. She lost a lot of blood, but Big Mac has the same blood type as her and had donated plenty. She's going to take a while to recover, but with her being the tough farm pony she is, she'll be ready to start work again next season.” Twilight explained and paused her head drooping a little as she thought.. “Some of that might be from the Element of Honesty, but I can't be sure, I brought it with me just in case, the Elements do..... a lot of things, and I'm hoping helping their bearers recover faster is one of those.”
“They checked her out to make sure there were no poisons, diseases, or any sort of plant based spores or infection. Stars, one of them even did a check for any sort of hex or curse thinking she might turn into a … I dunno a timber-jack or something. It was stupid, but they were very thorough. All came up negative.”
“I sense a 'but ' there.” Cadence frowned.
“There's a lot of 'buts' in this.” Twilight yawned. “This years crops are ruined, we nearly had all of the trees harvested and between burning timber wolves, the fact some of them incorporated the apples and carts into themselves when they reformed,and the general rampaging.... I'm not sure how much of this years harvest is salvageable. A good portion of this years was going to help the Empire as well. A lot of ponies might starve because of this.”
“We'll make do.” Cadence smiled.” We came to a bit of an agreement with Chrysalis, don't worry about the harvest. Do you have any idea why they even attacked like that?”
“No and that's one of the other 'buts'. Luna and Rahs, as well as the entire six sixty sixth are scouring the area hunting down any stragglers and trying to see if there was anything directing them. I was questioned by a few of them and I suggested a group of battle mages go over the spire to see if we might have missed anything in there, they checked, but no, it's all just crystal.”Twilight yawned again. “Spike and Applebloom are staying with Sweetiebelle and Rarity. Applebloom caused a great deal of disruption when she was here earlier. Spike managed to get her calmed down before they kicked her out, but the less she's here the better. I can send Spike a message when Applejack wakes up and they can all show up then. Dunno where any one else is though.”
“Aunt Tia is back in Canterlot, she's putting together a group to investigate fully. She's also sent word to Zecora about finding out what she uses to keep the beasts away from her home in the Everfree....”
“That won't help. Applebloom already found that out and set up their own wards on the edges of the farm. The timber wolves went right past them. That big one bothers me, it seemed to be driving the others. I've never heard of anything like this happening before.” Twilight sighed.
“That's not all that's bothering you. When was the last time you slept?”
“Two days ago. We've had a lot of close calls, but this..... As if freeing the Empire wasn't bad enough for us, now Applejack's hurt from something stupid that I can't even explain. There's something there , there's some reason for this, there has to be. I feel I should know what it is, but I can't think of it.”
“Calm down Twilight. You know you don't do well when you're stressed. You need to sleep.” Cadence placated.
“I don't need sleep, I need to figure this out. I need to find out why so I can fix it and stop this from every happening again. I need to find out who or what did this and show them exactly how bad they screwed up messing with my friends and family...”
“I wasn't suggesting sleep Twilight. I was telling you to sleep.” Cadence stated flatly, her horn glowing.
Twilight's eyes widened, then grew heavier as she tried to fight it. Had she not been awake for nearly three days straight already she probably could have shrugged the spell off with no issue. Now her head lowered as she tried to fight laying over Big Mac's fore legs as she was put to sleep.
Cadence finished the spell rising slowly to her hooves. She adjusted the chairs so Rainbow Dash was more comfortable and let the spell linger on the four of them as she stepped out of the room tying the spell to the door.
A Night Guard and a Heart Guard stiffened as she stepped out, one on either side of the door, a third glancing towards her from his position down the hall.
“No pony is to enter this room until tomorrow morning unless it's an emergency, or Applejack wakes up. They need to catch up on their sleep.” Cadence sighed.
“Yes princess.” The guards stated quietly.
Cadence moved quickly to the front door of the hospital, noting two other Heart Guards moving to flank her. E frowned at the stallion who simply returned her expression as the three of them stepped out of the front doors of the hospital and took to the air, heading for Sweet apple Acres to find Princess Luna.
[Edge of the Everfree Forest]
The timber wolf howled as claws dug into it and yanked. The sticks and logs holding the creature together tore apart in a shower of wood and leaves. The energy that allowed the creature to animate was quickly snapped up by a pair of sharp fangs.
The moon dog stood in the rubble of the corpse for a moment, sniffing the air for any further sign of it in case that mote of magic had escaped him even slightly. Finding no other scent of it's magic in the area, Rahs nodded to himself and skulked off into the trees following the older scent.
Princess Luna glided through the night above him, her horn glowing lightly as she followed Rahs through the Everfree, Occasionally a blast of moon light brightened the night a bit and something would cry out in panic and run or it would be deathly silent after the impact.
They had found quite a few timber wolves still roaming around in the forest and had set upon them rather quickly. Every one he took down however only made Rahs madder.
He had been training to protect everyone and then this happened. His siblings got hurt in the Crystal Empire and he could do nothing about that. Then they were attacked again here at home where they should have been safe and he couldn't do anything but wait for some one else to save him. If he had done better Applejack might not have been hurt.
A light thud next to him announced Princess Luna landing.
“Have you found any other scents?”
“Wuff.” Rahs grumbled.
“Just the one old one humm? Truly. Thine nose is quite good if you can track them this well. We figured they would simply smell like plants.”
“Ruff.” Rahs corrected.
“The magic animating them has different flavors? That reduces the likely hood that it is one thing controlling them then. We don't doubt thine nose in this sort of thing, nor thine taste, but it is annoying we do not have a reason yet.” Luna nodded. “We doubt weather would make that trail of magic fade as quickly either.”
“ Grrrrrr.” Rahs grumbled.
“Thee are too hard on thee self Rahs. This was hardly a failure. Had thee not been there the situation may have been that much worse. If thee had not been there at all the first to be attacked may have been Rainbow Dash or Fluttershy, or any of the others. They would not have fared as well and thou did.” Luna stated walking along beside the moon dog as he sulked.
“Bark.” Rahs sighed.
“We are not simply trying to cheer thee up. We speak the truth. Thee might think thee were no help in this odd situation, but thee have been far more help then thou seems to realize.”Luna smiles. “ One cannot be every where and do everything Rahs. We must simply do what we can.”
Rahs sighed and moved on a bit further with a few more sniffs to the air before he rushed forward, Luna hot on his heels, ending the conversation.
The area ahead of them looked like a tornado had blown through. Trees were destroyed the ground ripped up and roots exposed and shredded. Claw and bite marks were covering everything and most of the wood and branches had been stripped away from the trees leaving stumps and fallen logs but little else remained intact in the clearing.
“Wuff.” Rahs pointed out.
“So this is where the timber wolves came from?” Luna offered looking around her horn lighting up with magic as she scanned the area. “This place feels familiar.”
Rahs didn't move any further into the area. He simply stopped suddenly, got an odd look on his face like he swallowed a bug, made a questioning noise about 'chocolate', and then promptly passed out with a crash into the dirt.
“RAHS!” Luna shouted rushing over to where he fell, the area scan forgotten as the moon dog fell. Her horn lit up forming a shield around them as she scanned over him, her ears flattening to her head as she looked around curiously, wondering where the sleep spell had come from.
Luna frowned, her horn glowing brightly as she scanned the area standing over the snoring Rahs. She could sense unknown magic through the flow of the link. It was a complex spell, a perpetual sleep spell that kept the target in slumber. It was oft used as a way to knock a patient out and keep them under. Given it was coming through the link, Luna assumed a doctor had finally had enough of Twilight staying awake and managed to distract her long enough to make her finally get some sleep.
The thought of that amused her a little.
Lifting her grand pup onto her back she was about to return him home when another presence made her stop and look up to the moon lit sky as a pink alicorn flanked by two guards drifted over. Spotting the Lunar princess Cadence glided down with the two guards, landing lightly among the carnage of trees.
“Was there a fight we missed?” Cadence demanded taking note of Rahs.
“Nay. Twilight was evidently finally weak enough to be put to bed. The link carried it to him.” Luna shook her head.
“Crud.. I forgot about that when I cast it on Twilight. I had to talk to her for hours to get her distracted enough for it to work.” Cadence sighed
“Thou cast the spell?”Luna asked raising an eyebrow.
“It's not that hard of a spell Luna. Celestia taught me......” Cadence began before a flare of magic from Luna cut her off.
“Whom art thou and what have thee done with our niece?” Luna demanded her horn glowing brighter as her large ax appeared before her, wrapped in her glowing aura.
“ What?” Cadence questioned.
“Thou art not mine niece. That was not her magic along the link and though never calls our sister Celestia.” Luna growled.
“Well shit.” Cadence sighed, before a flare of green flame enveloped her, leaving Chrysalis standing there. Luna took note that neither of the Heart Guard seemed surprised. “Second time in my life I've been given permission to take some ponies form and I'm found out in six hours. Add that to the fact Rahs is gonna be super pissed at me and this hasn't been a good day all around.”
“That does not answer our question.” Luna snapped.
“Cady is fine. “ Chrysalis quickly placated. “She and Shining couldn't make it out here due to the crap with the empire and I had some business in Ponyville so I offered to come in her stead. I'll be sending a message back later to let them know what happened.”
“We find we are having a hard time believing thee.” Luna menaced.
“Sweet Tail.... now might be a good time....” Chrysalis took a step back behind the two guards.
“It's Sword Tail.” the pegasus stallion sighed. He was a silvery gray coated stallion with hints of orange fur around his back legs. Hi cutie mark was of some sort of fish and his black mane and tail were short cropped.
“Not from where I'm standing .”Chrysalis whistled and the stallion sighed once again.”
“Seriously, you manage to get the Emperor and Empress and you're still letting your eyes wander?”
“It doesn't matter where I work up an appetite so long as I go home to eat.” Chrysalis grinned.
Luna blinked as the guard sighed again, the other pegasus with them giggling.
“Coffee me.” Sword Tail offered, looking at Luna.
“Order when ready.” Luna frowned responding to the key words.
“Double black mocha with three sugar cubes and a drop of honey, stirred twice to the left.” Sword Tail listed.
Luna raised an eyebrow at the identification. The order itself changed every so often among the guards, but the order was hardly the identifier. The inflection and tone he used were what were the real identification code was. While most guards would know the phrase, only a select few would know the proper words to add more inflection to. This one checked out.
“She is telling the truth Princess Luna. An agreement was made between Chrysalis and the Emperor and Empress. While I won't go into the details, as they will haunt my dreams for years, you can check them for yourself if you're feeling particularly self loathing, suffice to say it's fairly official.”
“Celestia and I can't be in the same area without wanting and trying to kill one another. I would rather avoid having another hated rival, thank you very much, so I am trying to be peaceable here.” Chrysalis offered.
“ The current theory is that they should just fuck and get it over with.” Sword Tail offered.
Chrysalis winced. “Your tail is suddenly a lot less sweet.... shouldn't you be bowing and scraping to me like you do Cady?”
“The Empress would prefer if we didn't do all the bowing and scraping with her. Neither she nor her husband are that fond of it. Besides both of them told me to keep you on a short leash.” Sword Tail smirked.
Chrysalis rolled her eyes though she paused and tapped her hoof thoughtfully to her chin. “ June Bug remind me to stop by the pet store before we leave.”
“Of course my queen.” The nondescript green pegasus mare smirked as Sword Tail cursed under his breath.
“Now then would you mind not threatening me with the ax any more?” Chrysalis grinned trying to look friendly, but baring her fangs instead.
“We still do not trust you.”
“I don't expect you to trust me. Well not yet any way, I did show up to try and make a deal with you, though if everything works out in the Empire I won't need to, still better to be on at least amiable terms with one Princess.”
“This is hardly the time to discuss this sort of thing.” Luna frowned, though she did lower Dr Choppy.
“I know. Which is why I planned to stay as Cadence and help you out with what ever attacked the Sparkles.” Chrysalis sighed looking around.
“Thou does not think it was after the Apples?” Luna questioned.
“The Sparkles are a bit more of a threat to any thing looking to cause problems. If this was something after one of the Elements of Harmony it could have gone for much easier targets. Rarity would let any one into her house, shop, thing if she thought they wanted a dress. Pinkie Pie greets every one who even remotely comes near the town, usually by herself. Rainbow Dash is doing plenty of extreme sports with her colt friend and one slight error and she wouldn't be a problem.”
“Seems thou has thought of this.” Luna growled.” And thou hast not mentioned Fluttershy.”
“Okay first off I am all for there being six super powered artifact wielders between me and what ever else your sister locked away and forgot about. Second, no one sane would go after Fluttershy. From what I heard even Discord didn't say anything bad about her.”
“Any way, Nightmare Moon, Discord, me, the Crystal Empire, and from what I hear dozens of other little problems, have met and been crushed by the Sparkles both with, and without, help. My goal was to keep them away from my plans, and that nearly worked. So clearly something else must have decided to simply try and get rid of them. Besides, Twilight said the big one was going for Rahs mostly and Applejack got in the way.”
“So, was there a fight here?” Chrysalis asked.
“Nay, not that we are aware of, but we have not seen the like of this effect before. Rahs tracked a scent of magic out to here.” Luna continued to watch the three, though she was more relaxed.
The two guards started moving around looking over the area as Chrysalis did the same, trying not to turn her back to Luna, though making a bit of a show that she was putting herself at a disadvantage in position.
“Twilight said it was a massive pack of timber wolves that attacked. I've heard of them attacking smaller settlements and lone travelers, but as busy as a farm is, as well as Rahs' predator scent, I don't think they would have attacked normally.” Chrysalis sighed.
“We confess our knowledge of timber wolves is limited. No such creature existed back before we fell and we do not recall Solomon making any.”Luna explained.
“Really? Hmm I don't recall them either before my unlawful imprisonment, but they were every where after I got out. I figured it was a rogue druid or something.”
“They were explained to me as being a gathering of wild dark magics and chaos magics that build a body out of what ever is around, usually sticks and wood, sometimes stone or other materials.”
“Yeah something like that I guess. But they aren't just magic. Changelings can feel them. They are almost allays full of hate and spite. They're more like angry spirits than shapeless balls of magic wrapped in debris.” Chrysalis frowned kicking at a fallen chunk of tree with a hoof.
“Thou art rather helpful with this.”
“Like I said before, I am looking to try and get on your good side. Besides I have a vested interest in making sure nothing happens to that grand pup of yours.” Chrysalis smirked.
“And why is that?” Luna demanded.
“Because my daughters got a crush on him and I wanna see how that goes.” Chrysalis grinned wider.
Luna blinked. “We did not expect that.”
“No one expects the Changeling infatuation. It's chiefly a surprise. And fanatical devotion. Why the heck do you think I'm so insistent about Cady?”
“Because she is the goddess of food for thine kind?” Luna snarked.
Chrysalis snorted in amusement.”Okay I'm going to have to remember that one.”
“Princess. Chrysalis. We found something.” Sword Tail called out prompting the two gods to approach where June Bug stood. The pair trotted over looking down at a broken stone monument in the rubble of the trees.
“ A stone column?” Chrysalis questioned.
“Ah, this is where we are.” Luna frowned looking down at the monolith.
“Hmm?” Chrysalis glanced to the alicorn.
“The theory of the timber wolves being malevolent spirits has gotten a bit more likely. “Luna explained pointing a hoof at the obelisk. “ This is where we ended a warren full of Diamond Dogs that had foal napped Rahs.”
The pair of changelings froze and took a small step away from the dark alicorn. Sword Tail glanced at the others not quite understanding.
Saturnia and the scout's terror of what Luna had done here had spread through the Changelings well before the invasion of Canterlot, with many refusing to do anything in the city until Luna was some where else. To hear her simple say what she did without the two lings feeling any sort of remorse or any other feeling but a mild anger come from the mare worried them both.
“Well... that would explain their issue with Rahs.” Chrysalis spoke finally.”Upsetting to think they are little more than ghosts, but at least there is no sole villain responsible for the attack. Of course how do you put down malevolent spirits?”
“Magic primarily. We have faced a number of haunts in our time and have considered ways to deal with one particularly annoying one, though we refrain from doing anything about him. Granted it seems Rahs can feed on the energy as well.” Luna frowned. “Pity it is something like this. We were looking forward to finding some thing's skull to invert.”
“Just to reiterate, I come in peace.” Chrysalis added.
“We know.” Luna smiled “At any rate, we need to return Rahs home to sleep this off as I fear waking him would also wake Twilight as well as any natural slumber his brothers are having. It is not as if he has not been awake as long as his sister.”
“Some insane stamina the Sparkles have there.” June Bug commented.
“Oh you have no idea...” Chrysalis purred.
“The whole damn empire has a pretty good idea. None of you are quiet!” Sword Tail cursed.
“Questions about my niece and her husbands skills aside. We are curious as to why your daughter is suddenly interested in Rahs.” Luna asked walking away from the marker with Rahs rather than flying.
“Oh it's not sudden. She's been after him for a little over a year now.” Chrysalis cackles. “She's a shy sort, takes after me a little bit in wanting things to go perfect. But she's not that good on planning on the fly if something goes wrong.”
“We see. And whom is the father?” Luna asked.
“Cady.” Chrysalis says flatly, grinning wide as Luna stumbled and had to catch Rahs in her magic before he hit the ground.
“What? Thee jests. How is that even possible?” Luna protests.
“Well when a mommy alicorn and a mommy changeling decide to get their freak on, and the mommy alicorn decides to get a little more freaky and cast a spell to grow some parts that normally are only on stallions ….” Chrysalis began.
[Three weeks after the attack on Sweet Apple Acres.]
“Rarity.... I'm gonna kill yah.” Applejack snarled.” Maybe not taday, maybe not tamorrow, but some time in tha future there's gonna be a front page spread in tha paper reading' little ole mare got mutilated late last night'.”
“Oh pish posh Applejack. I am simply helping you look your best for your release today. Besides I am hardly more than a year older than you.” Rarity hummed as she fiddled with Applejack's mane. The orange farm mare was sulking as she tried to look over a menu her brother had given her for a Chineighs place that had opened up. Lei ho Foxs. Applebloom swore it was run by a Kitsune.
Applejack winced as Rarity worked on a snarl, the beet chow mein sounded good. Anything was better than the food here, crappy food in tiny portions. She needed a great big bowl of this stuff.
The door to the room opened admitting the rest of the girls, plus Spike and Rahs.
“Oh Rarity, her hair is perfect.” Fluttershy cooed.
“Pinkie Pie. You better stay away from her. “ Twilight frowned. “If you hug her again and she gets hurt again Granny Smith is probably gonna rip your lungs out.”
“I said I was sorry!” Pinkie Pie protested, but she stayed away from the bed where AJ was.
Spike looked over the open back gown Applejack was in and snorted in amusement.” Nice outfit Applejack, I'd like to meet your tailor.”
Rahs slapped his brother in the back of the head.
“Aa-hoo!” Rahs griped.
“I was being nice.” Spike smirked.
“Twilight seriously can we go, tha food they give me ain't crap, and tha portions are tiny. Tried tah sneak down tah get more, but ah guess they heard mah stomach howling round tha kitchen door. Seems tha doctor told um they better not let me in.”
“Yup. We got you cleared but one of us or other family members is going to have to stay with you for another week just to be sure. Also you will not be working on the farm for at least another three weeks. Pinkie Pie has agreed to watch you to make sure.”Twilight frowned.
“Yup I even have a new Pinkie sense for it, waggy tail, floppy ears, and pokey teeth means Applejack's trying to do something she's not supposed to.” Pinkie Pie smiled.
“Wait, you can......” Twilight started staring at Pinkie before shaking her head and flattening her ears.”Nope, not doing it, not even going to try to look into it, not gonna do it.”
“Well given you're going to be under watch for a couple a weeks you can come with me up to Canterlot for a day. “ Rainbow Dash grinned. “Blue found a place called Trader Nick's. We can get you a pina colada.”
“A what?” Applejack asked standing up and yanking off the backless gown. Fluttershy turned a bit red as Pinkie Pie giggled. Rahs covered Spike's eyes.
“Aa-hoo.” Rahs explained.
Applejack stared at him then turned to Rainbow Dash.” Ah say again, a what?”
“Trust me you'll love it.” Rainbow laughed offering Applejack her hat. A hat she quickly pulled over her head and new mane do much to Rarity's horror.
Hooves thudded in the dirt at the crest of a hill. The creak of a wagon heard as it's puller paused a wide grin on her face as she looked out over the town from the top of the rise.
Finally, Trixie Lulumoon had come back to Ponyville.
“Oh stars! I was so close! SOOOOO CLOOOSE!!” Twilight whined gesturing with both hooves to the train station right across the road from them. She tossed her fore hooves in the air and flopped down on her, belly rolling onto her back and kicking her hooves into the air while screaming in frustration.
Applejack raised an eyebrow as she looked down at her friend. The farm mare was clad in her usual hat, though she was still limping a little and was covered in bandages. Her gaze shifts from the screaming purple unicorn to the approaching blue one with a frown.
“Twilight. It's Trixie. “ Applejack offered, her gaze not leaving the blue unicorn mare, dressed in her trade mark purple coat and hat. No really she had trademarked the pattern in Las Pegasus, Rarity was mortified.
“You say that like it's going to make things better, it's Tuesday Applejack, Tuesday! We were going to Canterlot to get away from it.” Twilight whined still laying on the ground.
“Did Trixie come at a bad time?” Trixie asked trotting up and looking down at the flailing mare on the ground. “ Trixie thought Rahs was the dramatic one.”
“It's been a bad few months.” Applejack sighed.
“Trixie expects so. You look like a mummy.” The show mare pointed out with a flourish of her cloak the movement revealing a silver amulet of some kind around her neck.
“Arrrghabbled rab.” Twilight grumbles, before getting back up to her hooves, dusting herself off, and putting on a bright, and very much forced smile.”So Trixie what brings you back to Ponyville, doing another show?”
“Something along those lines. Hold on, Trixie rehearsed this.” Trixie offered before stepping back a little and rearing up.
“By Celestia's wavy tail here it comes.” Twilight groaned to herself.
“Twilight Sparkle, Trixie challenges you to a duel for possession of Fuzzy!” Trixie shouted out with a flourish and a explosion of fireworks.
“And there it is.” Twilight bemoaned.
“Who tha heck is Fuzzy?” Applejack demanded.
“Rahs.” Twilight supplied.
“What? He ain't no object tah be traded or fought over.” Applejack growled.
“Of course not. But Trixie must first defeat Twilight and the others seeking his affections before Fuzzy can be hers. The magic link connecting the two must be broken and if Trixie proves herself more powerful she can take over that link and be connected more closely to Fuzzy.” Trixie explained starting to trail off as her eyes glazed over a little. “ And we shall have a love affair like Morticia and Gomez...”
“Pretty sure it doesn't work like that.” Twilight dead panned as Trixie ignored her.
“ Don't yah mean Romeo and Jenniette?” Applejack pondered aloud.
“Of course not , those two were a cautionary tail about keeping it in your pants. Seriously if either of them had the slightest brain cell between them or more patience than a four year old in a candy shop there wouldn't have been as many deaths.”Trixie explained continuing to ramble.
“I really don't think the link works like that, we've even tried to sever it before....” Twilight was again ignored.
“And we'll have a nice little split level home with a white picket fence and three point two foals, and a little dog house for a small poodle of some kind and a brick patio in the back for barbecues on Sundays and he can be a door to door sales pony and Trixie can be a stay at home wife with a blue frilly dress, a bouffant, and and pearls and he'll come home, and Trixie will ask how his day went, and he'll say better now and kiss Trixie, and eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee” The blue mare pranced in place seemingly lost in her own 50s house wife fantasy for a moment.
“Wait, why would that happen? Don't you wanna be a show mare and ah know he wants to be an actor. Where'd the sales pony thing come from?” Applejack questioned.
“Do not destroy Trixie's fantasy with something as mundane as facts!!” Trixie snapped at the earth pony.
“Seriously?” Twilight sighed.
“Trixie does not need this sort of abuse from you and your mare friend Twilight Sparkle.” Trixie demanded.
“She's not my mare friend.” Applejack snapped.
“Really, because Trixie heard you were dating one of the Apples and you always seemed the type to prefer mares and then there was the show where Trixie may have accidentally broken this one and the rainbow haired one up.” Trixie ranted.
“I seemed the what!?” Twilight demanded.
“She's dating mai brother and ah ain't ever dated Dash either!” Applejack grumbled.
“Really, do we have to do this? Do you know what day it is?” Twilight frowned ignoring everything else.
“What does the day matter? Trixie is on a mission from god!”
“Which one?” Applejack asked deadpan.
“That one over there.” Trixie pointed.
Twilight and Applejack looked, and Twilight's blood pressure spiked.
Sitting on a bench in front of the train station watching the altercation were three figures.
A tall pink alicorn mare with a crystal heart cutie mark was sitting there lifting kernels of popcorn from a small white and red striped bucket. She had a large mustache and goatee made of sea green hair on her face and was wearing both sunglasses and a fedora.
On her left a tall midnight blue mare with a wavy blue mane full of stars and a crescent moon cutie mark sat with what amounted to a big gulp cup filled with steaming coffee. She also sported a hat and sunglasses. Her mustache and beard were massive and seemed to be waving with a life of their own with light blues, yellows, and streaks of pink.
On the pink ones right sat a black furred mare with a number of carapace segments on her body and holes in her legs. She was sitting there looking on expectantly wearing a top hat and monocle as well as a massive handlebar mustache and floor length beard made out of the same sort of material that the one Luna was wearing was.
Celestia stared at herself in the mirror as she struggled to wake herself up. She yawned wide glaring at the mirror as she tried to figure out what felt off. Her sleep addled mind told her something was wrong, but it refused to give clues or any more information on the subject.
Celestia tilted her head to the side, turning a bit. Her mane was flowing fine, she needed to tend it as she had a bit of a bed head look. She wondered what would happen if she went out like this.
Oh wait she did that before.
It became the style for a few months. Seeing the nobles like that was hilarious.
So that wasn't it. She spread her wings idly nope still had those.
Her eyes suddenly opened wide, all traces of sleep gone from her mind as she turned shoving her rump to the mirror, showing the tiny little stub that was left of her tail.
Her mind whirled as she processed the idea before she growled.
“LUNA!!!!” Celestia bellowed
“Your sister is awake.” Chrysalis pointed out her ears perking at the echo.
“Indeed.” Luna nodded.
“WHAT ARE YOU THREE DOING HERE?” Twilight nearly screeched thinking of the collateral damage three goddesses being in Ponyville on a Tuesday could bring.
“Shipping sense was tingling.” Cadence offered as Luna pointed a hoof to Cadence and nodded in agreement.
“Don't look at me, I'm just here for the buffet.” Chrysalis smiled.
“Nope, nope, nope.” Twilight shook her head.
“Twilight, Trixie challenged you to a duel...” Trixie stated.” loser leaves Ponyville... for well at least a little while. Trixie has no plans to banish the sister of her paramour.”
Twilight twitched, a strand of her mane popping out of place as she gazed longingly at the train. She whirled about suddenly on Trixie her eyes wide.
“Right, fine, A duel it is! Onetwothree go!” Twilight shouted firing a beam at Trixie, the mare yelped and dodged out of the way as the beam hits a wall behind her and made it glow briefly. Trixie managed to right herself and fired a beam at Twilight who blocked it with a shield sending it into the ground where it erupted into a cluster of daisies.
“Oh noooo daises my one weakness... I cannot continue, I yield.” Twilight bemoans before darting over to Trixie rapidly scribbling out a list before grabbing the mares hat and shoving the list into it.” This is a list of all the things you can do today as well as the location of all my research notes on the link, good luck screwing with that as Princess Celestia was clueless. Rahs is still asleep, wake his butt up around eight or he will literally sleep until eight tonight then go to bed tired at nine. Spike should be up and he can help you but he has to go to school by eight so he can't help you wake Rahs unless you get him up earlier. Now I need to get Applejack to a doctors appointment so have fun storming the castle and don't break anything expensive in my lab. Peace out.”
Twilight Sparkle and Applejack both then vanished in a flash of light, reappeared on the train platform and quickly boarded the train. The train held up a minute more before chugging off at top speed with a clear magically assisted boost judging by the fact the smoke turned purple and the engineer was clinging to the engine for dear life.
Trixie blinked watching the train leave. She closed her eyes a moment looking down at the flowers then back up at the train.
“What?” Trixie questioned.
“Who cares, she left thee alone with our grand pup. Go and git to making great grand puppies, we are not getting any younger!” Luna called out waving a light blue pennant banner that had Trixie's name on it.
Trixie blinked and looked at the goddess before finally realizing she were right, before darting off with a giggle.
The three goddesses sat there a moment more before they looked at Luna who waved her banner in the air harder.
“Really auntie? “ Cadence asked.
“What? Her last name is Lulu-MOON. Of course we were going to support her.” Luna stated before. “Besides we know thee made thine own banner for thine favored suitor.”
Cadence sighed pulling her own flag out of her mane and waving a white banner with the name Jynx on it.
“Seriously Cady... Saturnia's gonna be mad at you for that.” Chrysalis frowned pulling out a green flag with her daughters name on it bopping Cadence in the head with it.
“We take you have informed your choices in this matter of todays situation?” Luna asked.
Rahs Sparkle was confused, annoyed, and worried in that order.
The annoyance he understood. He was not a morning moon dog, heck that was in his species name even. Moon did not happen in the morning. Also he was rather miffed that his sister had 'noped' right out to the train station and promptly buggered off as fast as she could.
It had to be a Tuesday.
The confusion however came from Trixie being the one to wake him up.
Trixie had tried to wake him up, gently in fact.
It didn't work.
Spike had decided to help with a couple of ice cubes. The little bugger only managing to get away when Rahs paused to try and figure out why Trixie was there in his room. She was being oddly coy with her answers too, clearly nervous about something, and that made him worried.
Breakfast was little more than small talk while Trixie explained what had been going on with her for the past few months.
She had made pancakes.
Rahs didn't know she knew how to make pancakes, they were good pancakes too, not as good as Spike made, but he didn't have to worry about eating one of the wrong batch and chipping a tooth on a gemstone.
Of course at this point things started to get into more confusing territory.
Jynx showed up.
Rahs still found the large bitch attractive, but highly intimidating. He ran through a mental checklist to make sure he hadn't accidentally missed one of their training sessions. After that last time and her efforts to make sure he 'caught up' to where he was supposed to be, he really didn't want to get behind again.
Her explanation of being there to see him confused him further, as did the fact that she and Trixie seemed to dislike each other instantly. He wasn't sure why, he didn't think they had met before and Jynx didn't seem the type to be a heckler at one of Trixie's shows. That was usually the only way to annoy Trixie.
And then it seemed to get even more confusing when Saturnia showed up.
He had met the pegasus not long after the wedding. She had come in for a book and wound up talking with him for a while. While she wasn't exactly a theater buff, she was quite a fan of some of the stories he read. Wolf of the Harvest Moon, and it's sequels were favorites of hers. The pair of them spent a few hours of speculation on who the mysterious author' Double Moon ' was.
He had seen her a number of times after that and she was pleasant enough. Her coloration seemed odd, rather close to his in fact and strangely she smelled like a diamond dog rather than a pony. Least he thought she smelled like a diamond. This time she smelled like a griffon.
Even having no idea what was going on he could tell that she wasn't happy to see Trixie and Jynx there. The same could be said for the other two when she was let in.
Breakfast became strangely tense after that and that worried him too.
“My brother is an idiot and I am going to kill my sister.” Spike growled to himself as he looked over the three females sitting around the table, all of them trying to sit as close to Rahs as possible and block the others from doing the same.
He had no idea how that was working since it was a rectangular table with Rahs at one end.
Rahs seemed lost in thought and or focused on his food.
Now Spike might be sorta dating some one, he still wasn't sure what to call it. Applebloom liked him and he liked her, but aside from that one kiss and enjoying hanging out with each other they hadn't done anything the books said couples did. Plus nine times out of ten the other crusaders were with them as well.
Despite being taken he still had a appreciative eye for females.
His scale went from his sister, who he viewed as a zero, up to Cadence who by all rights was a solid 20+ on the Charisma stat, simply due to the fact she looked the way every other mare in fashion mags and stuff wanted to look.
The ones before him were interesting, but they all lost at least one point for being interested in Rahs, clearly none of them were that bright.
Saturnia he was certain was a changeling. She was too perfect looking and her scent seemed to change every time he saw her. That said, she was very pretty and pushed right up into sexy when she wasn't glaring at the others like this. She was playing on Rahs romantic side rather well. Out of the three she was the best looking in his eyes, but given that was probably by design and she was a bit abrasive he dropped her to a Cha of 16. Decidedly a Rogue.
Jynx was a hard sell in his mind. She was well built, looked pretty good in that dress and had huge boobs, which he had heard was a big plus for certain species. She was decidedly the biggest and most intimidating of the three. Unfortunately the intimidation worked against her and Spike could tell that it made Rahs nervous. Still she was trying, though she didn't do cute that well. The fact she was the closest to a moon dog worked in her favor and Spike knew Rahs had some interest in her. 12 maybe 13 cha. She seemed like she was trying to hard. Clear barbarian sort there.
Then there was Trixie. She was open and honest in what she wanted, pulled off cute well enough and also managed to do sexy some as well, not as good as Saturnia, but decent. She had the best rapport with Rahs, though by that token Rahs couldn't get past the 'old friend' mentality. While that worked against her it also allowed her to get closer to him than the others. That she was shy and nervous about it kept her from just telling him outright how she felt. She was a solid 15 in his eyes despite not being able to sing very well at karaoke. She was clearly a mage of course.
After a stern warning of what would happen to the three if they damaged any of the house, his room specifically, involving a lot of fire, Spike left for school.
On the way out the door he spotted two princesses and a queen with fake beards looking in the kitchen window and sighed.
He would need to let Cheerilee know so she could move class to the school fallout bunker.
Sparks darted between the three females sitting around the table as they all glared at each other. Rahs had gone upstairs to wash up leaving the three alone at the table.
The arguing almost immediately started.
“What are you two even doing here!?” Trixie demanded with a hiss.
“Getting in your way obviously.” Saturnia smirked returning the glare Trixie was giving her.” I've finally got the time to try and get closer to him and I refuse to let you come in and ruin my efforts.”
Jynx frowned, thus far she hadn't managed to talk to him about much more than training, but there had been a few times she had managed to talk about other things. And she had been looking into this 'Bard' that she had heard him speak of before, just to have some conversation that didn't involve fighting. With the Crystal Empire mine work having taken a lot of her more rebellious mutts she could focus on what she wanted rather than keeping the pack in line.
The large black furred diamond dog pushed one of her thick white braids back over her shoulder. “ Do you think I would let you win this so easily? Clearly the Princesses want a more even competition to win his heart or they would not have warned me that you had come.”
“And you came here to get in Trixie's way too.” Trixie growled. “ Trixie has spent to long trying to get the nerve to say something and to put together this plan. Trixie is not going to allow you two ruin her chance no matter what.”
“Was that a threat?” Jynx frowned.
“Really, like I'm scared of a show mare.” Saturnia snapped back. “I'll just have to pod you up until Rahs is soly in love with me.”
“That was a threat, little flea. I find it hard to believe you will be able to do that after I drop you in a cave six miles underground.” Jynx snarled.
“Please, my minions can deal with you any day of the week” Saturnia snapped back.
“I have a whole pack to call on, your minions would be green smears on the rock, little flea.” Jynx snarled looming over the table.
“Ladies please.”Trixie spoke up. “There is no sense in bringing others into this fight. It is simply a conflict between the three of us and should remain such. I seriously doubt we want the Princesses to get involved if we take this too far. All of us want Fuzzy correct?”
“Of course.” Jynx stated, sitting back down her ears flattening to her head at the thought of Princess Luna getting personally involved.
“Right.” Saturnia sighed not liking that the show mare made sense.
“Excellent.” Trixie stated. “ So then it is agreed it shall just be the three of us competing for Fuzzy's attention, no one else shall be involved.”
Elsewhere, in three different places, three other females sneezed at the same time.
“Agreed.” Saturnia sighed. She could easily out vamp the show pony. She might have to work a bit more to draw attention away from the diamond dog though.
“Fine. Just the three of us.” Jynx frowned. The bug was still hardly a threat, though Trixie was closer to him than any of them. She briefly considered if Rahs was worth all this effort before deciding rather quickly that he was.
“Perfect. Therefor may the best mare win......” Trixie stated tapping her hoof on the table. The blue mares horn glowed bright red, her eyes and a odd amulet around her neck glowing crimson as well. Suddenly there were two pops and a flash of light and Trixie was alone in the kitchen.
“...And Trixie certainly will.” the show mare grinned.
Two loud pops sounded and a pair of disoriented females appeared on the outskirts of town drawing the attention of a few ponies milling around.
Jynx shook her head trying to clear it from the sudden transport and Saturnia screamed out in inarticulate rage charging back towards town.
She made it a good dozen steps before slamming nose first into a barrier that formed around the town, the impact knocking her out of her disguise.
Jynx blinked looking at the pink maned changeling before her. Her eyes were pink, her mane and tail were pink even her black carapace had a pearlesent sheen of pink coloration on it. She also didn't have the holes in her legs most changelings did. Instead she looked like a pony in a changeling disguise.
“That bitch!” Saturnia snarled the shout drawing the attention of a few ponies who had gathered on both sides of the shield to her instead. A few of them gasping and running off.
“Was that an insult?” Jynx asked curiously.
“Of course it was an insult, what..... oh right,... never mind. I need a new swear...” Saturnia cursed looking up at the globe over the whole town. “How did she manage this?”
[Canterlot throne room]
“ Princess Celestia!!!” a Guard shouted running into the throne room, cutting off what ever noble was complaining this time.
Princess Celestia silently thanked the guard, and made sure to find out his name so she could see a few extra bits into his paycheck for the interruption. This had been an amusing day. Showing up in court with her tail cut short was likely going to start a trend of short tails for the season. and given winter was fast approaching the nobles who acted first rather than think for them selves or asking questions would literally be freezing their plots off.
“Calm down my little pony, what's wrong?” Celestia placated raising a hoof to silence the noble before he could protest.
“ We've just received a report that a magic dome of some sort has risen over Ponyville.” the guard panted clearly having run up from the communications room.
Celestia frowned though she let out a sigh.”I see It is probably nothing to worry about. Both my sister and niece are in Ponyville today.”
And Twilight is in Canterlot so it isn't her freaking out, though given how Tuesdays seem to get in that town Celestia understood why Twilight might have opted just to seal off the whole place for a day.
“That's not all Princess there are reports of Changelings spotted.” the Guard continued.
Celestia raised an eyebrow.” Explain.”
“One was seen outside of the shield along the road cursing at it, and arguing with a black furred diamond dog with white hair.”
“A diamond dog?” Celestia questioned.
“Yes Princess. The report stated she had … HUUUUGE tracts of land as well.... what ever that means.”
“Lady Jynx.... I see.” Celestia frowned, she was unaware Cadence and Lulu were allowing a changeling into their game. Perhaps it was that mysterious Saturnia Spike told her about. “ Empress Cadence is there and the changelings have been flocking to the Empire, perhaps she is with her. So long as it's not any sort of invasion, and she is not causing any harm it's nothing to worry about.”
Princess Celestia took note of a few nobles and other ponies who seemed relieved that she wasn't calling the guards to send down to Ponyville enmasse. Seems there were some infiltrators, that would bear looking into later.
Honestly it was likely a surprise to the hidden changelings in the crowd that the Princess was so lack luster in her response to this information. She didn't really hate changelings as a whole, well not any more since it had been found out they were not abominations, but still Starswirl's fault.
“There has also been a sighting of Queen Chrysalis in town near the Golden Oaks library.” the guard continued.
“DAY COURT IS CANCELED, RALLY THE GUARDS TO HIGH ALERT. CLEAR THE COURT AND INFORM THE ARMORER I'M COMING BY!” Princes Celestia bellowed, shooting up to her hooves fast enough to knock over the throne before she stormed out of the room.