Equestria Underground-Book I: Hope Is Magic

by MisterEdd

First published

In an alternate Equestria, Daybreaker and Nightmare Moon reign supreme. Who can stop these tyrants?

The land of Equestria languishes beneath the iron hoofed-rule of the alicorn tyrants Daybreaker and Nightmare Moon, who keep its citizens in a state of misery and hopelessness. Sombra, the heir to the recently-destroyed Crystal Empire, along with his advisor Grogar, has decided to take a stand. Together, with a gang of fellow misfits, he embarks on a journey to discover the means to end the sisters' cruel reign and bring peace and prosperity to Equestria. The answer lies with a mysterious collection of artifacts known only as the Elements of Harmony...

Co-written with the fantastic Viper Pit

Cover art does not belong to me; I got this off of Google and it belongs to https://www.deviantart.com/selcix

Dramatis Personnae

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“Look away, Sombra. Don’t look.”

Try as he might, Sombra could not heed Grogar’s words and shrugged the ram’s hoof off of his shoulder. Trudging forward in the snow, Sombra could only stare with jaw-dropping horror as the smoke continued to billow out of the Crystal Empire, the screams of its shimmering-coated inhabitants still echoing in his ears. Rivulets of salt water flowed down Sombra’s cheeks but no audible sobs came out of his mouth. It had been known as the “Jeweled City,” a scintillating utopia and one of the premier centers of trade and learning in Equestria. Now it was a smoking ruin of fire and death, one that he was expected to lead someday.

“Your Majesty?”

Sombra gripped the crown in his hooves tightly and turned to meet the worried gaze of his companion. “Don’t call me that.” He stared down at the crown, picturing the bearded face of its late owner and clenched his jaw, wishing that now more than ever, his father was still alive. “Father...mother...I’m so sorry. I’ve failed you both.”

“That’s not true, my prince.” Grogar said as he put a hoof on Sombra’s shoulder only for Sombra to pull away sharply.

“I’m not a prince nor a king. I’m not worthy of the title and besides, my kingdom is burning as we speak,” Sombra spat bitterly. The light reflected off of the gold band and illuminated the gems that adorned it, creating a multi-hued corona of reds, blues, greens, and violets. With a snarl, Sombra spun around and tossed it as far as he could, watching it disappear into the snow. He pulled his cloak around himself and started to march away when Grogar grasped ahold of his foreleg.

“That crown was passed down through forty generations of your family. Please do not toss away such a valuable piece of your family’s heritage.” His tone was more pleading than angry, though his gruff voice and imposing size made it sound more threatening. Sombra wretched his foreleg away. “Your father would’ve wanted…-”

“My father’s dead! My family is dead!” Sombra glared at the ram and then sighed, “It doesn’t matter what they would’ve wanted. It’s just me now.”

“Sombra…-”

“Let’s just go. The Royal Sisters’ spies will be searching for us.” Pulling up his hood, Sombra stomped forward, not looking back to see if Grogar was following him but picked up on the crunching of snow behind him. For the next couple of hours, neither one of them said a word, their minds occupied by not only the fate of their home but also the terrible what-ifs that the future had in store for them. They had survived the attack on the city and eluded Daybreaker and Nightmare Moon’s forces. Now they had to survive the harsh and unforgiving conditions of the Frozen North.

***********

The sun blazed overhead as the seemingly-endless line of slaves slogged forward through the streets, their chains rattling in a grim melody amongst the chatter of the reprobates that eyeballed them disdainfully. Klugetown...what a wretched hive of scum and villainy. A centaur with an awesome set of mutton chops swatted at a fly that had been persistently buzzing in his ear and was rewarded for this action via a firm whip crack to his already tender back.

“Quit Goofing off, Tirek! Your break ended two minutes ago.” The rotten-toothed pony responsible for the centaur’s new red mark growled as he readied the whip again.

“I’m going, I’m going.” Tirek mumbled as he left to go back to the cotton fields. It was unusually hot that day and Tirek figured that Daybreaker was having a bad fight with her sister (which was almost constantly, the way he heard it) or maybe she slept funny. He didn’t know and he was just too hot and tired to muster up any sense of care.

I really miss the good old days before the sisters. Tirek thought as he pulled the seeds out of a stalk of cotton to be replanted later. Nothing but nice relaxing days without out the fear of dying of heat stroke or freezing to death at night because a couple of ponies are in a bad mood.

“Man, if I wanted to die of boredom, I would’ve stayed in Griffonstone,” a bored voice droned on behind Tirek. “At least there, you can off yourself without anyone’s permission.” The griffon picked some cotton seeds and scrunched his face up. Oddly enough, with his large eyes, or rather, eye and more rounded head, Gunter more closely resembled an owl than an eagle, which was what griffons were supposed to be half of.

“Quiet fool or you will get us all punished!” A diamond dog growled as he came by to collect the cotton once the seeds were separated. “Last time you opened up your beak every creature got fifty lashings.”

Still wearing a mask of boredom, Gunter pointed to his left empty eye socket. “And I got this little ‘treat.’ We’re slaves. This is what happens.” As the griffon and Diamond Dog went back and forth, Tirek just kept picking, waiting for the pony in charge to come and break them up and once he was there, he would strike.

“I don’t get it, Cujo! You’re a diamond dog, the alpha of the subterranean world! Why are you rolling over and acting like a bitch for the masters of Klugetown?”

“Because the Underground’s not safe! Pony Princesses cause earthquakes to colonies that get too big.” Cujo growled in Gunter’s face, only for the pony in charge to whip him, causing him to whine and recoil from the pony. Before he could swing again, Tirek grabbed the pony by the throat and drained him of his magic, watching with fascination as he kicked and squirmed in his grasp.

“Been a while since I did that but it was necessary.” Tirek tossed the pony down to the ground and rolled his shoulders, sighing in relief as they popped and cracked. The weakened pony slowly rose to his hooves but then froze as Cujo and Gunter advanced on him, furious retribution in their eyes. The pony tried to flee but was grabbed by the pair and crushed into the dirt as the other slaves rushed over to join in on the action. As the pony was torn to shreds, Tirek walked off to find some allies to change the world now that he had some magic in him.

***********************

In the far east, there stood a small mining town, a desolate little patch of land that more closely resembled a penitentiary rather than a community. A lone unicorn mare with a purple mane and tail with a pink coat and briefcase made her way into the mayor’s office with a meeting that she had booked months in advance. She strode up to the assistant, who looked as though she was having a rough day and gestured for the mare to take a seat and wait for her turn.

She didn’t have to wait long, maybe ten minutes at most. “Starlight Glimmer.” The assistant called. “The Mayor will see you now.” Nodding, Starlight went into the office with the briefcase in hoof.

“Hello, Mayor Scrolls.” Starlight greeted as she took her seat. The Mayor was a middle-aged earth pony stallion that had a brown and white coat with a black mane and tail, both of which were peppered with silver strands. Given his young appearance, it was probably due to stress.

“Hello, Starlight.” The mayor’s voice was full of worry. He checked to see if the door and windows were closed and leaned forward. “I assume you have it with you?”

“It is in here.” Starlight confirmed, holding up the briefcase and opened it up to reveal its contents. Said contents were a stack of photographs of the Mayor and his assistant engaged in illegal breeding, which was a big no-no in Equestria. “Do you have your end of the deal?”

“It’s in the safe.” He said sadly, pushing forward a slip of paper containing the safe’s combination. “I do hope you know what you are doing Miss Glimmer because if you succeed, one or possibly more of the Generals will come for you.”

“I know the risk but I am also aware of true love when I see it. Go be with her and let me handle everything.” Starlight hoofed over the briefcase and magically began turning the dial on the safe, briefly peeking over her shoulder to see mayor swing the door open and hurry out with his assistant and briefcase in tow. “I hope they have a happy life.” Starlight then opened up the safe to reveal a map with all of the surrounding areas and military routes. Underneath that was the town deed and a signed document declaring Starlight Glimmer as the new official mayor of Our Town. “Our Town...the first free town in Equestria.” Starlight smiled as she immediately began to make plans for everything that she would need to fully liberate the town.

******************************

“One-two, buckle my shoe! Three-four, close the door! Five-six, pick up sticks! Seven-eight…” The draconequus frowned. Wait...how does the rest go? Discord sighed and stared once more up at the stone ceiling, his mismatched eyes studying the various cracks that decorated it. Incidentally, there were four hundred and twenty-five cracks and he named each and every one of them. There was Carl, Harriette, Eddie, Laura, Jason, Maggie, Mike, Carol, Ben, Homer, Marge, Lisa, Bart…-

“Hey, Freakshow!” A regrettably familiar voice chortled. “Chow time!”

The metal slot of the cell door slid open and a tray covered in some kind of thick paste was unceremoniously shoved through, landing on the floor six feet in front of Discord. The slot slammed closed and the guard’s hoofsteps thumped away, leaving Discord alone once more. He eyed the pile of sludge and decided to save it for later. I miss chocolate milk. I could drink a whole lake of the stuff! He fondly recalled a time he made it rain chocolate milk in Manehattan for a whole week! Oh, how the little colts and fillies loved that!

“But then Day-Wrecker and Moonie just had to spoil the fun! Hmph! ‘A public menace!’ ‘A frivolous display of immature nonsense!’ I was just brightening up the ponies’ day!” He crossed his arms and furrowed his brow. Ever since the Royal Sisters came into power, Equestria had been reduced to a bleak, totalitarian nightmare that George Orwell would’ve orgasmed over.

“Oh right, nopony would get that,” Discord murmured, blaming it on the flawed education system. Or his own unique perspective on metafictional singularities and cross-dimensional awareness. Either one. Still, the worst part of being stuck in a dungeon wasn’t the chains, the darkness or even the repugnant slop they called “food.” No, it was the sheer and utter lack of excitement. If he still had his magic, Discord would’ve poofed up a whipped cream cannon or a marshmallow bouncy castle. “Soooooo boreeeeeeeed.”

His ears, which had become rather keen during his imprisonment, caught the sound of voices emanating from outside his cell door and he sat as quietly as possible in order to hear them. The asshat guard from before was conversing with a mare-if the feminine voice and light scent of perfume was anything to go by-and it sounded like an argument. Oh, what fun! Discord grinned and tuned into the disagreement. It was about time for some entertainment.

“Look here, Captain, I didn’t receive any kind of notification before hoof…-”

“Are you questioning an order from a superior officer? And a Solar Mage?”

“C-captain..-”

“Because as a Solar Mage, I speak for Her Royal Highness Daybreaker herself and questioning me is tantamount to questioning her as well. Shall I alert Her Royal Highness to your blatant disrespect to her good name or will you stand aside and allow me to perform my duty?”

“R-right, forgive my impudence, Captain.”

Discord heard the tell-tale clinking of the key sliding into the keyhole before the door squealed open, revealing the now-sweaty form of the pegasus guard. “Hey Freakshow, you’ve got a visitor. So be on your best behav...be…” He tumbled forward and collapsed, his obnoxiously loud snoring a clear indication that yes, he was unfortunately still breathing. A unicorn stepped into the light, her horn still sparkling with recent magic usage. She wore a chest plate, sleeved cloak, and pauldrons, all of which were emblazoned with Daybreaker’s fiery emblem.

The unicorn was yellow with a flame-like, two-toned mane of gold and orange hair and ironically possessed a pair of cold blue eyes. Discord scanned the newcomer. All in all, she’s actually quite the looker. I mean, if I were hypothetically into ponies, that is. However, this certainly isn’t the case, nope...okay, okay! Maaaaybe a little. Just don’t tell anypony!

“Well, erm, this is certainly a surprise,” Discord said awkwardly, though in all fairness, he hadn’t had an actual conversation with another individual in the past few months. The unicorn shook her head and lifted the keyring from the dozing guard, quickly unlocking Discord’s restraints while keeping an eye on the door. The shackles fell to the floor and Discord was able to rise to his full height, his back popping in quite a few places as he did so. ”Sweet Aunt Jemima, that feels soooo good! Now then, I believe introductions are in order. I am Discord Q. Draconequus…-”

“Lord of fun and happy times” She interrupted with a smirk. “I know, I’m here to release you for good behavior. My name is Sunset Shimmer. Now let's get going”

Discord shrugged, “Whatever you say, Sunny. Lead the way!” He reflexively snapped his fingers and then let out an agitated huff when nothing happened. “Oh yeah, now I remember. Brilliant!”

“Hurry up Snappy, we don’t have all day.” Sunset huffed as she finished snapping the shackles closed around the sleeping guard and racing past Discord, who mumbled something about not being a turtle before he swiftly caught up with her.

“You know, not that I’m not grateful for your help busting out of the hoosegow, but do you have an actual plan or is this all predicated on ‘winging it’?”

Sunset turned and frowned at him. “I’ll have you know that I have an excellent plan that involves...oh buck.” They both skidded to a stop and came face-to-face with a small cadre of fully armed and armor-clad but semi-confused guards. The pair looked at each other, then at the bewildered guards, who slowly brought up their spears and swords and aimed them at the two.

“Uh...hi?” Discord said as he waved.

*******************************

Beneath the scorching heat of a mid-afternoon sun, a platoon of fully armored earth pony guards stood in the castle’s courtyard, all of them frozen in formation until reanimated by the barking commands of their unicorn superior officer. High above the shuffling guards, a single unicorn mare watched with secret disgust at the display. A slight breeze swept through her orange-yellow mane, giving it the appearance of crackling fire or the sun setting after some rare cool day. With a final glance she went back inside to meet with her superior Twilight Sparkle, General of Magic, to go over new training methods for the Solar guards.

As a Solar Mage, Sunset Shimmer was one of Daybreaker’s elite conjurers, a squad of hoof-picked unicorns that answered only to the Queen of Day herself. There was a time when she was proud of such an honor but then she grew up, discovering for herself the horrors that came with the job. Similar to their counterparts the Lunar Mages, Solar Mages protected the princess and served as inquisitors towards suspected lawbreakers as well as assassins for her political rivals or anypony else that angered the short-tempered alicorns. Sometimes, the princesses often forced the two mage groups to fight to the death just to see whose decision was right. Sunset had to kill many friends on those days.

The walk to Twilight’s office had always given Sunset uneasy vibes, like she was being watched. “I really hope Blueblood won’t be there this time.” Sunset prayed, not because Blueblood was a prick or anything, but because he just didn’t know how to read a room and that often led to him getting attacked by the sisters, leaving him very scarred and unsightly to look at. It just made her feel sorry for the stallion, who did nothing more than try to placate his tempestuous aunts.

Nearing a pair of double doors bearing the twin crests of the princesses, Sunset was halted from advancing by a hulking mass of scales that glared down at the mare. “Sunset...” The mass bellowed. “You’re late.”

“My apologies to the general, Spike. It won’t happen again.”

The dragon growled but said nothing, his powerful footsteps thudding as he stepped aside, allowing Sunset access. Inside the office was a rather large desk and the pictures of the sisters on each wall having a eternal staring contest. Behind the desk, there sat a stoic-faced unicorn sorting through a stack of paperwork, her violet eyes flickering between each sentence. A large scar ran over her right eye and part of her neck and her horn was covered in scratches and cracks, a testament to her career as a trained warrior and mage. As the leader of the Six Generals, Twilight Sparkle was as tough and brutal as they came and the princesses needed such a follower to keep their subordinates in line.

Sunset remained silent; she knew that she was only to address the general when spoken to. She must of stood waiting for at least five minute before General Twilight looked up and smiled, gesturing a hoof towards a nearby chair. “Take a seat Sunset, we have much to discuss.”

Sunset saluted before getting off her tired hooves. “What’s the good news?” She asked, having known Twilight long enough to know when she was happy.

Leaning back in her seat, Twilight tapped her hooves together. “Well, for starters, Star Swirl was able to ‘convince’ the Alchemists’ Legion to bring him more rare ingredients to make the necessary heat-resistant potions for the Sun Squads and then the head of the rebellion group in Trottingham was decapitated by General Pinkie Pie and lastly, Spike made this cute picture for me.” Twilight levitated said picture, which was a very crude drawing of Twilight and Spike hugging inside a blocky heart. ”I just love it.”

“Very nice, Ma’am,” Sunset replied automatically, inwardly flinching at the odd juxtaposition of the childish doodling and talk of death and bloodshed. “I take it that you’re adding it to the Wall?” She inquired, referencing a nearby wall covered in hundreds of crayon-drawn sketches. Despite her harsh reputation, Twilight was somewhat of a softy when it came to her family.

Twilight grinned, though it was more predatory than friendly. “Yes I am. Now then, onto business. Tell me, Captain, what do you think of training the new recruits in the sun without those potions because that looks like it may happen until we can get a new batch in.”

When you played the political game in Canterlot, every answer could either result in death or another day of continued existence. “Ma’am, I believe that we need to push our guards to their breaking points to prepare them for victory or death in service of the princesses. We cannot afford the time nor the effort to coddle them.”

“Excellent answer, Captain, exactly what I wanted to hear! It’s not everyday you share the same sentiment with somepony. Too many of our allies are soft. Softness won’t do a damn thing to keep this land under our princesses’ control.” She rotated in her chair to open a drawer when she turned back to face Sunset. “Oh, and before I forget, inform Spear Head that he’s fired. He failed at one of the most basic tenets of serving Our Majesties: staying awake while on duty.”

Sunset gulped. She hated firing ponies, mostly because it involved actual fire.

“Consider it done, General,” she stated, managing to keep the revulsion out of her voice.

“Very good.” Twilight levitated a scroll over to Sunset. “Deliver this to my brother. The princesses have decreed that the age of mandatory enlistment has been lowered once again, this time from fifteen to fourteen. As my drill sergeant would’ve said, ‘Fresh meat for the grinder.’”

Sunset was seething with rage but kept on her mask of indifference. “It will be done, General. Hail Daybreaker, hail Nightmare Moon.” She patted the left side of her chest four times and raised her foreleg upward as if trying to touch the sky.

Twilight repeated the gesture, only with more vigor and reverence. “Hail Daybreaker, hail Nightmare Moon! You’re dismissed.”

Sunset took her leave and she decided to get the firing process out of the way first as it would take longer and Shining Armor was having lunch right about now anyway. It didn’t take long to find Private Spear Head as he was once again sleeping. Sunset got it over with quickly and with a flash of her horn, what was once a pony was now a pile of ash-covered armor. It was a shame, considering that he was a single father of four. At least the kids might have a better life in a orphanage as they were often (thankfully) overlooked when recruiting, something about them being impure or something or other.

Two bat-ponies, both of whom were decked out in the armor of the Lunar Guard, passed by Sunset, chattering to one another and purposefully ignoring the unicorn. She chalked it up to the internal rivalry between followers of either princess and was ready to ignore them as usual when something interesting caught her attention:

“So what’s the deal with the draconequus? Is he really as freakish as they say?”

“Sure is, Shroud. Rumor has it he was once powerful enough to challenge the sisters but lost because he tried to protect some kirin. Well, depending on the story, it was also a foal or a mother-to-be. Anyway, they took his powers and locked them up at opposite ends of the castle.”

“You know, if I had chaos magic, I wouldn’t waste it on snot-nosed brats....” And that was all Sunset heard before they walked out of ear shot. It didn’t matter as she got all of the information that she needed. Powerful enough to challenge the princesses? Somepony like that might prove to be useful in the right hooves. She stroked her chin thoughtfully. I think it’s time that I met this draconequus….After I deliver this to Shining Armor regrettably.

Sunset’s hoofsteps echoed as she began her descent down the winding staircase leading towards the dungeons. She’d never had much cause to visit such an abysmal place but drastic times called for drastic measures and all that noise. Trotting past cells filled with miserable-looking ponies in rags and chains, she made her way to the very last cell, where she came across a dark brown unicorn stallion with chipmunk-like cheeks and a cruel-looking mouth. Taking a deep breath, Sunset threw her shoulders back and marched forward.

“Halt, who goes there?!”

Sunset regarded the stallion with professional disdain. “Captain Sunset Shimmer of the Solar Mages. I’m under orders from Her Majesty Daybreaker to question the draconequus.”

The stallion frowned. “Look here, Captain, I didn’t receive any kind of notification before hoof…-”

“Are you questioning an order from a superior officer? And a Solar Mage?”

“C-captain..-” The stallion sputtered before Sunset cut him off.

“Because as a Solar Mage, I speak for Her Royal Highness Daybreaker herself and questioning me is tantamount to questioning her as well. Shall I alert Her Royal Highness to your blatant disrespect of her good name or will you stand aside and allow me to perform my duty?”

“R-right, forgive my impudence, Captain.”

Sunset couldn’t help but grin as the stallion turned his back on her to unlock the cell door. Readying a sleeping spell, she prepared to strike. As the guard unlocked the door, he mockingly called, “Hey Freakshow, you’ve got a visitor. So be on your best behav...be…” He never finished his sentence.

Wandering the Frozen North

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Night fell quickly as the temperature dropped, forcing Sombra and Grogar to seek shelter in a small cave that they barely found and one magically-created fire later, were warmed up and protected from the frigid harshness of the Frozen North. They were nearing the edge of the tundra and after a few more days of travel, would be out of there and in a more temperate climate. But food was quickly becoming an issue as they were forced to travel without any provisions over than the clothes on their backs. Water wasn’t as much of a problem as they could simply eat the snow to stay hydrated. Sombra still refused to speak, instead staring off into space with a haunted gaze that made him look far older than he really was. He also slept very little as he was prone to nightmares and fits of hysteria. Grogar had known Sombra since he was a colt and it broke his heart to see his prince and basically grandson so damaged.

“Sombra...look at me.” Sombra barely glanced at him. Grogar did what he thought was right: he grabbed Sombra’s chin and forced him to look. “Look at me. It was not your fault, damn it! You couldn’t have stopped the sisters or even knew they were coming. IT. WAS. NOT. YOUR. FAULT.”

Sombra stared at Grogar. “Then why do I feel responsible? Why is it I feel as though all those deaths are on my head?”

“Because you are a good stallion, Sombra.” Grogar simply but earnestly stated.

“I...want to cry but I have to be strong,” Sombra muttered, his voice cracking. “My parents raised me to be strong but I feel like I’m made of glass.” His red eyes fogged up but shed no tears.

“Even mountains fall eventually, Sombra. You can’t hold it in forever.” Grogar said sadly.

Sombra’s chest hitched in and out as images of his parents being struck down flashed before his eyes. Blood. Fire. Mad cackling. The dam broke, tears racing down his cheeks. He wrapped his forelegs around Grogar’s neck and wept heavily. “I miss them so much!” He gasped between sobs. “I ran away! I just ran! I left them to diiiiiie!” Grogar said nothing as Sombra let it all out.

“Why? Why did I live when there were so many others more deserving? There were foals back there and yet I’m still alive and they’re dead! I’m nopony special!” Sombra choked, burying his face into the warmth of Grogar’s fur. “I don’t deserve to live. I don’t…” He trailed off, sobbing until there was nothing left. Finally, he released his hold on Grogar and sank to the floor of the cave, staring deeply into the fire. Silence once more enveloped the two. Until:

“I’m going to kill them,” Sombra intoned coldly, his red eyes illuminated by the flames. “I’m going to kill the princesses and avenge my parents, as well as everypony else who died. I swear it.”

“I will follow my King.” Grogar uttered solemnly, as now he felt sombra would accept the title.

“I’m no King.” Sombra’s horn glowed as he lifted a charred rock up to his face. For the briefest moment, his red aura flickered black. “Not yet anyway.”

“Lets get some rest it won’t do us any good if we are exhausted.” Grogar suggested and Sombra had to admit that after his cry he was dead tired. The pair fell asleep with empty bellies but healing hearts and with a goal in their sights to overthrow the sisters but they would need help as they knew they could not do it alone.


Sombra soared over the white depths of the Frozen North, zooming past the Crystal Mountains and over fields of grass, yet he felt no wind nor cold. He arrived in a thick forest, one that was ancient and teeming with old magic. He followed a path he’d never seen before but knew as intimately well as his own face. Something was calling to him. Calling FOR him.

“Sombra…”

Before the young prince stood a tree, one that appeared to be made of crystals and humming with mystical energy that he’d never felt before. Six gems adorned its branches and Sombra wished to touch them. However, it was the purple gem in the center that compelled him forward.

“Assemble the six...true harmony is nigh…”

Almost...there...Sombra struggled to reach for it, his hooves only a breath away and yet the gem was somehow pulling itself out of his reach. Just then, the purple gem turned black and began to sink into the tree’s surface. What in Tartarus…?

“You are so close and yet so far…”

“What does that mean?!”

The most horrid smell entered his nostrils. His eyes shooting open, Sombra was sent into a coughing fit as he struggled to get some fresh air.

“By the ancient ones Grogar, you are nasty.” All of Sombra’s wheezing had woken up the elderly goat who, after smelling the air, chuckled quite proudly of his feat.

“Who ever smelt it, dealt it, Your Highness.” Grogar went from chuckling into a full-blown laughing fit.

“What are you, five years old?” Sombra sputtered and hacked. “Seriously?”

“I’m 505. Does that count?” Grogar joked, finding the relief in tention to be much welcomed.

Sombra leveled his eyes in a deadpan gaze. “Well, thanks for the disturbing wake-up call. I was having the most delightful dream about some gems and a tree but hey, your flatulence is sooo much more interesting!”

“A tree? Was it made of Crystals?” Grogar asked after he suddenly stopped his laughing altogether. A queer look of intense curiosity crossed his elderly face.

Sombra’s eyes widened in shock. “How did you know that?”

“Back before the Sisters showed the world their true colors, the empire gave them a magic tree sapling.” Grogar began as he got into his storytelling pose. “It was made with pure harmony and friendship. The purpose of the tree was to show the future of our alliance. I don’t know everything as I was but a kid at the time. But I thought they would destroyed it. They must of planted it somewhere hidden in Equestria so they can use its power for themselves should they need to.”

Impossible mental image of Grogar being a kid aside, Sombra was intrigued by the old ram’s story. “Wait, I’ve never heard of this tree before. So how is it that I dreamed about it?”

“Beats me but I think that it to grows tired of the Sisters’ rule.” Grogar suggested

“The tree...grows tired.” Sombra raised a skeptical brow. “The tree’s alive?”

“It is incredibly hard to kill harmony and friendship after all.” Grogar pointed out. “Almost impossible in fact.”

All of this was strange but Sombra had no reason to doubt Grogar nor his own sanity, so he simply went with it. “The tree had these gems...six gems...and asked me to ‘Gather the six.’ Six what, exactly? The six gems? If so, then why was I only trying to grab one of them?”

“Perhaps the gems are its seeds and it wants you to find the proper areas for them to sprout.” Grogar was very clearly grasping at straws but it was based in facts about every other tree to exist ever.

Rubbing his muzzle with his hoof, Sombra sighed, “So I go from a king with no throne to a mystical tree hunter? I think somepony’s messing with me.” He took a deep breath and stared at the ground. “Still, I don’t know why, Grogar, but it’s like...I have to find that tree. It’s a compulsion otherwise, I just feel...incomplete. Does that sound crazy to you?”

“Oh absolutely but I have seen a lot of crazy things in my life” Grogar said completely serious. “It just means that we will need supplies before we starve to death.”

While uncertain of his path, Sombra at least now had a starting point. He patted a pocket on the interior of his cloak, hearing the satisfying clinking of the bits that it contained. “I don’t think supplies will be an issue but I think we should careful. They’ll probably be looking for us.” And aristocrats on the run are worth double the money. He added internally.

“Be that as it may, we still need food and we are a long ways away from any villages, towns or cities.” Grogar said as he stood up and started to leave the cave “Let's get going before the sun gets too hot for us.”

Sombra nodded and rose to join him but paused. For whatever, logic-defying reason, Sombra picked up a soot-covered rock and drew an image of the tree onto the floor. Well Magic Tree, here we come. As they trudged through the snow, Sombra shot Grogar a wicked grin and let loose the quietest but stinkiest fart he could conceive.

Grogar never saw it coming until it was too late. “Gaahhh! Your Majesty, really? I had my mouth open.” Grogar coughed as he gave Sombra a wide range to walk. “And you call me nasty.”

Sombra merrily trotted past Grogar and with a cheeky grin replied, “Revenge stinks, doesn’t it?”

Grogar chuckled at the pun. “That it does, My lord, that it does.”

Despite their situation, or because of it, they then proceeded to cackle like lunatics.

Welcome Aboard

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Amongst the bustling, malformed miscreants that infested the Klugetown marketplace, Tirek appeared to blend right in. Thankfully, he hadn’t drained enough magic to drastically alter his size, so he was of average size and didn’t draw too much attention to himself. The only real change was that his bones no longer hurt from moving, not that he was complaining. His eyes darted around, searching for any possible pursuers. When in Klugetown, it never hurt to be extra cautious.

He eventually came across a “gentlemen’s” club and decided on it as a place to hide out for a couple hours. While the other recently freed slaves went nuts and drew attention to themselves, Tirek would be hiding in plain sight. The front of the establishment was crawling with a multitude of males and some females from different species, all of them chattering, smoking or simply eyeing whoever came into their line of sight.

Something resembling a large toad stood with his arms akimbo in front of the club’s entrance. He took a long hard look at Tirek. “Where do ya think you’re goin’?”

“In,” Tirek simply said.

“Name?” The toad growled.

“Tirek,” He replied almost bored.

“You ain’t on the list,” the toad grumbled indignantly. “And if you ain’t on the list, you ain’t getting…-”

“Petey! Long time no see, man!” A lanky, Abyssinian cat strode up to him, his gait one of casual arrogance.

“Capper?” The toad-man asked. “I didn’t know you was in town.”

“Just got back. The boss is expecting me.” The toad-man, Petey, pulled aside the velvet rope and allowed Capper to enter. The cat then turned and said, “Oh, and the centaur guy is with me.”

To say Tirek was surprised was a understatement but he wouldn't look a gift horse in the mouth. “Thank you for your cooperation.” Tirek smiled as he went inside past the reluctant toad.

Almost as if to mock the building’s plain and shabby exterior, the club’s interior was sleek and well-designed, covered in Saddle Arabian carpeting, neon lights and expensive wooden tables. The women were very eye-catching, even for one as old as Tirek.

“Enjoying the view?” The cat from before quipped, casually leaning up against a stone column. “Welcome to Venko’s Oasis, where the drinks are fine and the, he he, entertainment even finer.”

“Capper, darling, welcome back.” A white tabaxi said from the pole in the center of the stage. Tall and slender, she resembled a bipedal leopard with a spotted, dark yellow coat and olive green eyes. Clad in a criss-cross halter top-style brassiere, G-string and ankle-length loincloth, she exuded feminine beauty and sensual beguilement as she danced like a pro. The Abyssinian's eyes tracked the movements of the tabaxi's rather generous hips while she crouched and rubbed her back against the pole.

“And Lucille, my sweetheart, it is great to be back!” Capper chuckled and tossed a wink at her. “How’s my little kitten doing, hmm?”

“I’m doing good but I have been asked to do a special dance in a little while.” Lucille replied in a semi-bored tone. “The boss is in the back by the way. One of the dancers brought their kid in today.” She said as she spun around the pole with her legs.

Capper rested his chin in his paws. “Lucille, I swear you’re an artist! Seriously, it may have Venko’s name on it but you own this place, baby!”

“And don’t you forget it,” she laughed breathily, finishing up her routine before collecting the money and leaping off of the stage gracefully. She winked at Capper and caressed beneath his chin with her tail as she headed backstage while the next performer came out, this one a white pegasus with a stripper pole for a cutie mark.

Tirek was confused as to what exactly is going on but knew enough to not ask any questions. Yet.

“So, are you enjoying yourself, big guy?” Capper asked, skillfully rolling a silver coin between his fingers. “Aren’t you glad you ran into me?”

“Not yet as I know there is a catch to your generosity.” Tirek crossed his arms knowingly.

Capper let out an exaggerated gasp. “I go through the trouble of getting you into this fine establishment and you accuse me of having ulterior motives? Didn’t your mama teach you any manners?”

“She did. She also taught me that nothing comes for free.” Tirek smirked.

“Sounds like a woman after my own heart.” Capper let the coin slip through his fingers and land onto his tail, which he then flipped onto his nose and carefully balanced it. “Okay, okay, there is a reason I let you tag along. You see, I couldn’t help but notice that you have the look of someone in need of some dough. I can help you with that.”

“How kind but money isn’t on the top of my priority list right now.” Tirek tried not to show his shortening temper.

The coin rolled from Capper’s nose and back into his right paw. “So money’s a no-go. That’s cool. I’ve got all kinds of connections. So what do you need? Girls? Perhaps a good knife or two? Tell your old buddy Capper and he can deliver.”

“Simple. I need a way out of town and actually make it to the next one.”

“Pfft! Is that all? You could’ve just asked!” Capper palmed the coin and opened his fingers, revealing that the coin was gone. “I know just the person for the job. An ex-girlfriend of mine with a nice ship that’ll take any and all kinds of payment. Heck, she’ll even help someone like you.” He opened his left paw and held up the silver coin. “I know you’re not exactly a free person. Don’t worry, I won’t tell. I used to be a S-L-A-V-E myself.”

“I never would have guessed.” Tirek commented with genuine surprise, considering the Abyssinian cat looked like he never did an honest day’s work in his life.

“It’s true.” He rolled up his right sleeve to reveal a strange marking burned into the inside of his forearm. “Abyssinia is known for its blackmarket slavery rings.” Rolling his sleeve back down, Capper shrugged, “Anyway, that’s a story for another day. So, shall I show you around this little den of sin? You wouldn’t be able to live with yourself if you left without a sample.”

“I’ve lived a long time, cat and I can assure you that I’ve probably tried what you’re selling. Let us just get going.” He said somewhat iritibly.

Capper flicked the coin into an inner pocket of his coat. “If you insist. Follow me, please.” He strode past a table and briefly flirted with a griffon dancer before beckoning Tirek to follow him. “We’ll have to use the back door. Given your current status, the less people that see you the better,” he explained, opening a red-painted door and turning down a corridor. They passed through a metal door and arrived at an alleyway. Some passed-out, possibly dead hobos were there so the both of them had nothing to be worrying about to say the least.

After a few twists and turns, the two arrived at an airship port, where all manner of merchants, traders, sailors and cutthroats were gathered, either peddling their wares, unloading their shipments or swapping tales. A frill lizard-looking thing and a mole rat were knocking back drinks like it was going out of style while two diamond dogs were engaged in a fist fight, a small crowd gathered around them waving bits and hollering for blood.

“Charming place,” Tirek stated cynically.

“Eh, it has its moments. Ah, here we are: the Harpy Queen.” Capper gestured towards a nearby zeppelin and as they approached it, Tirek could see it being loaded up by Ornithian parrots, who appeared to be the only species that worked aboard the vessel. A few of the avians glared in Capper’s direction as the pair climbed aboard deck but the feline either didn’t notice or did a real good job of acting oblivious.

“Oh Celaeno, I’m home!”

A female parrot stiffened and turned to meet the two, her expression initially one of shock that quickly transformed into anger. Every crewmember stopped what they were doing and crowded around the three, intrigued by the drama unfolding around them.

“That’s Captain Celaeno to you,” one burly parrot grimaced and pointed his hook hand at Capper threateningly. Grunts of agreement accompanied him as the entirety of the crew glared at the cat.

The female strode over to Capper, her crystal peg leg thumping with every step. “You’ve got a lot of nerve showing your face around here. Didn’t you get the message that you’re not wanted here or should I have my crew throw you out?” Tirek decided then and there that he liked her.

Capper held up his paws defensively. “Ah, Celly, don’t tell me you’re still mad at me?”

“Don’t call me that!” Celaeno shot back, her voice full of rage and hurt. “You lost that right months ago when you skipped out on me. Now get lost before I neuter you with my sword.”

“Cel-Captain, wait a minute! I came here with a business proposition.”

The parrot turned and narrowed her eyes. “And what hair-brained scheme is it this time?”

Tirek, had to admit watching a lover’s spat was certainly interesting but he wouldn’t let a little thing like a grudge keep him there. “I am in need of transportation.” He said plainly, grabbing the captain’s attention.

Celaeno looked the centaur from head to hoof. “Oh? And where is it that you’re trying to get to?”

“North, across the desert. I have someone I need to give respects to as it’s been far too long.” As Tirek spoke, he noticed a small pegasus filly slowly tip-hoofing to the door leading to the below deck. It appeared that everyone else was so engrossed in the current drama that none of them noticed her. He didn’t say anything as the filly looked rather skinny and just barely able to fly. Besides, he doubted the Captain was feeling hospitable towards stowaways.

The parrot scratched at her chin with a talon. “I think that can be arranged.”

“And don’t you worry about payment,” Capper assured her. “I’ll be paying for both Tirek and myself.” He rooted around in his coat and brought out a small bag. Taking out some gold bits, he placed them into Celaeno’s hand and watched her count them. “So...are we good?”

“Almost. There’s an additional fee.”

Her fist connected with Capper’s left cheek, sending him sprawling onto the ship’s deck. He sat up and rubbed at the developing welt, noticing Celaeno grinning at him from ear to ear.

“Now we’re good.”

“Nice punch,” Tirek commented with a genuine smile.

“Thank you. Mullet?”

A one-eyed parrot with a red feathered mohawk stepped forward. “Yes, Captain?”

“Escort Mr. Tirek down to the crew’s quarters. I’m sure that there’s an extra cot that’ll fit him.”

“Aye, Captain,” Mullet nodded and waved Tirek over. Meanwhile, Capper had risen to his feet and wiped his mouth on his sleeve after spitting out a glob of blood. He made a move to follow the two when Celaeno shot her arm out and blocked his path.

“I don’t think so. Boyle, please show Mr. Dapperclaws to the supply closet.”

The hook-handed parrot from before chuckled, “Aye, Captain Celaeno” and began shoving Capper forward. “Come on, fur ball. To the luxury suite with you.” Capper briefly peered back at Celaeno dejectedly before vanishing from sight. Despite her outward stoicism, Captain Celaeno was a raging hurricane of emotions, particularly anger, regret and wistful sorrow.

Damn it Capper, why did you have to come back?

It's Good to Be the Mayor

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A nervous white earth pony stallion sat across from Starlight’s desk, nervously wringing his hooves and avoiding her stare. “A-and so, that’s why I’m here today, M-madam Mayor.”

“I see. That is quite the problem. I mean, who just cuts down another ponies tree like that?” Starlight wrinkled her nose, a little annoyed at the situation. “I will send an arbiter down to see how much the tree was worth and the city will pay the difference."

The stallion, Double Diamond, perked up enough to actually look Starlight in the eyes. Clearly the previous mayor wasn’t the most accommodating individual. “Really? Thank you! Thank you so much, Miss Glimmer!” He dove forward and shook her hoof hard enough to make her bounce in place.

“Easy there. Just be sure to go through the proper authorities next time. I still have a lot of work to get done.” It was true and in fact, Starlight had a meeting with the town defense to add some anti-magic barriers around the town to stall the Royal sister or their generals in about a hour.

“Sorry,” he smiled sheepishly and bounded for the door. “Thank you again! You have a great day, Ma’am!” He then exited just as a dark blue pegasus mare entered carrying a stack of papers.

“Another satisfied customer?” She grinned. Night Glider had been brought in to replace the previous mayor’s assistant and was so far up to snuff. It was also a plus that she was a genuinely nice pony to be around. “I don’t know how you do it.”

“It’s not easy. I will say that right now but with the sunscreen spell I put over the town, the citizens are a lot happier. Although it is exhausting having to cast it every week.” Starlight said as she took the papers form Night Glider.

“You know, you could just ask for some of the local unicorns to do that for you,” Night Glider suggested, taking out a notebook and quill. “You’ve got enough on your plate as it is.”

“As much as I would like to ask, most of the unicorns are so out of practice that it's really sad that most can only do levitation or nothing at all. It's why I started that magic kindergarten. To prevent that from happening with the next generation.”

“And the citizens are eternally grateful. Heck, my niece is going on and on about how much she’s enjoying school and she even can’t stay still for five minutes. Still, you don’t want to run yourself too ragged. We’re going to be needing you for a long time, Starry!” She punctuated this with a friendly elbow jab.

“I know, I know. I will tell you what. After the meeting with the Town defenders, I will take the rest of the day and tomorrow off for some rest okay?” Starlight suggested as she rubbed her side from the jab.

Night Glider snorted, “You better. Otherwise, I will haul your overworked flank out of here myself. Oh, and by the way, Party Favor sent you an invite for the upcoming Summer Solstice Festival.”

“That's a town-funded event so why is there invitations?”

“Beats me. Now finish that paperwork, go to that meeting and get some rest, Starry.” With that, the pair hugged and Night went back to her duties as Starlight started on the dreaded but much needed paperwork.


The town hall meeting room was chalk-full of the town’s very few ‘skilled’ unicorns, some earth ponies and a crew of pegasus surveillance specialists. The air was thick with worry and tension as they took their seats and all eyes turned towards the new mayor. Night Glider sat beside Starlight and patted her shoulder reassuringly, giving her friend and boss a you-can-do-it smile. The other members watched in anticipation as Starlight rose and cleared her throat.

“After extensive analysis of the Sisters’ previous wars, it has become apparent that they enjoy making the final blow to claim all the glory. What we need is a way to prevent them from doing that, should we ever be discovered.” Starlight began. ”I propose that we set up anti-magic barriers in the eastern mountains that will buy us enough time to escape into the caves in the southern mountains.”

Uproarious shouts boomed in the small space as ponies leapt from their seats in protest. An elderly earth pony was helped to his hooves as he pounded on the floor with his cane, causing the rest to fall silent. “And why in tarnation would we do that? Most of us have lived here for generations! My great-great grandfather was one of the town founders and my family’s lived here ever since. Besides, where would we go? Are we really going to abandon our home, our way of life?”

“I understand your concern, Iron Hoof but this isn’t about the past. It’s about saving the foals who will die if we are caught with our tails up.” Starlight then gave everyone a stack of papers detailing the Sister's cruelty. “That’s just in the town east of the mountains. We have a real opportunity to make a difference here and I want to make sure we plant the seeds for that to happen.”

The crowd chattered amongst themselves. An earth pony mare stood up. “My little Wind Dancer is nearly fourteen, the new age for mandatory recruitment! I’m not letting my baby enlist in anypony’s army, especially not in one for those tyrants! I’m with the mayor. We need to move.”

“We aren’t moving yet, Dancing Drops but we do need to have those barriers and the tunnels scouted mapped and possibly a small group to go build a new town ahead of time in case we are discovered.” A unicorn mare said as she looked over the reports Starlight passed around.

Night Glider nodded towards the mare. “Firefly’s right. How long are we going to just sit around and let Daybreaker and Nightmare Moon’s cronies come into our home and shake us down for ‘protection fees’ and soldiers for their feuds? The time to act is now. Mayor Starlight is offering us a way out. I suggest we should take it.”

“I can see your point but I myself will die to protect as many as I can.” A pegasus stallion said as he was the most recent one to come off duty because of a rather nasty loss of a wing.

Iron Hoof scowled. “And that’s the problem with you young ones! Fight or flight, that’s your solution for everything! You can’t outrun or fight back against a river. All you can do and go with the flow and hope you aren’t swept away. This is rebellion you’re talking about! How many rebellions are crushed every other week?”

“How many had back up plans or terrain advantages?” Starlight asked an excellent question as most rebellions happened in large cities like Manehatten, or Trottingham. “We also aren’t announcing our presence but rather we are hiding in plain sight.”

“Have you forgotten about the princesses’ spies? They’re everywhere! I say we stop with this foolishness before the Generals come for our heads.” Iron Hoof stated with finality and took his seat.

“Iron hoof, if there were spies here, the Generals would of been here the second that magic kindergarten went up.” Firefly pointed out.

The old stallion grumbled but said nothing else. A young mare beside him stroked his shoulder. “You must forgive my grandfather. He’s lived through the worst of the town’s past ills and wishes for its continued survival. Despite this, I don’t want to see my friends and families torn apart like their ancestors because of the princesses’ malice. We can’t do nothing.” She smiled sweetly at her grandfather, who warmly returned the gesture.

“I understand, Brass hoof but the one thing that is bothering me is where we can get the materials to even make the barriers in the first place?” Dancing Drops asked.

Double Diamond stroked his chin. “Why don’t ask the nearby towns for help? Surely there’s got to be a few ponies that are as tired of this reign of terror as we are.”

Everypony collectively facehooves before Starlight speaks. “Double Diamond, the nearest town is at least a week’s trot away not to mention we can’t trust the other towns because of the previously mentioned spies. We will have to mine for the resources or start some rock farms.”

Brass Hoof spoke up. “It’ll take time and serious pony power, Mayor Starlight. At least a month or two to really get what we need and that’s if we work with little to no breaks.”

“We will have to keep up the rouse and when the next Official comes around for the fresh batch of recruits, we will be forced to give them at least a few of our foals but with any luck, that will be at least six months of prep time before they send somepony out this far.” Starlight said sadly.

Night Glider cleared her throat. “Right, I say it’s time for a vote. All for Mayor Starlight’s plan?” There was a lull of indecision before a hoof raised upward. It was followed by another and a few more. “Okay and all opposed?” The hooves from before dropped to make way for the ones in opposition of the new mayor’s proposal. “Right, the decision to back the new mayor wins by three votes. Everypony ready yourselves for tomorrow. We’ve got some serious work to do.”

Partners in Crime

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As a draconequus, Discord towered over the pony guards and with his slick, serpentine body and sharp claws, he was more than a match for most equine foes even without his powers. However, he was outnumbered and even if he could make it past their armor and steel weapons, he was still in the center of the proverbial hornet’s nest; taking out a few drones still left thousands to contend with. And then there came the issue of their queens, who wielded the power of the sun and moon respectively and could easily wipe the floor with him, especially given that he lacked his chaos magic. We are in a huge pickle, ladies and gentlemen. He peered at Sunset Shimmer out of the corner of his eye and hoped that the oddly attractive unicorn had a plan.

Stepping forward, Sunset cleared her throat. “I am relocating the prisoner while his cell is being fixed as he has attempted to escape with a spork he had saved from one of his meals.” Sunset said with gusto.

No...there’s no way that they’re this stupid!

The guards looked at one another and then lowered their weapons. One of them nodded and stated, “Understood, Captain. Do you require assistance with the prisoner transfer?”

I stand corrected...

“Yes, now somepony get me a muzzle. He keeps telling awful jokes.” Sunset commanded.

“I resent that! My jokes are top of the line, ah-thank you very much.” Discord was offended. Since when wasn’t he funny?

“My point exactly.” she stated flatly

“Roger that, Ma’am.”

It wasn’t long before Discord was chained to an upright gurney with a brown muzzle strapped to his face, the little bars on the front allowing him to breathe. Hey, where have I seen this before?

“Oh and Sunset...do tell me when those lambs stop screaming,” Discord said nasally.

Sunset just rolled her eyes as she used her magic to wheel him down the hall. They were luckily near the Night guard dungeon. Well…..not so much lucky as Sunset had chosen this way to back up her story.

“Quid pro quo, Sunset,” Discord continued, much to his own amusement as he watched one of the unicorn’s eyes twitching slightly. ”Tell me, what does he do by coveting?”

“Coveting what, Discord?” A very familiar and angry sounding voice stated from behind them. “And what, pray tell, are you doing out of your cell?” The two’s collective blood ran cold as Nightmare Moon, the Queen of the Night herself, silently strode forward.

Discord, however, refused to give her that satisfaction. “Moonie! How’ve you been? How come you haven’t been to visit me? Is your backside still dragging you down? No wonder you control the moon cause you’ve got two of those things behind you!”

“Quiet, you foalish immortal.” Nightmare Moon looked at Sunset. “Well, I’m waiting. Why is he out of his cell?”

“He tried breaking out with a spork, Mistress Nightmare Moon.” Sunset said with a salute. “I was relocating him while repairs are being done.”

“What can I say? I’m a rebel!” Discord then wagged his eyebrows at Sunset. “And besides, aren’t bad colts every mare’s fantasy?”

“Yes, that is something he would do. Very well, be on your way then but don’t take too long. The mages are meeting in the dueling arena. Daybreaker thinks that regular burritos should be called night time breakfast burritos. The nerve of my sister.” Nightmare Moon gave them one final once-over before exiting with a dramatic flourish.

Discord shook his head. “Those mares need to get laid.”

“No argument here.” Sunset agreed as she quickly made her way to the exit before releasing Discord from the restraints. "Find your powers and hurry.”

“Why Sunny, I had no idea you cared.” Discord grinned. “You know, I happen to be single.”

“I don’t care right now because if I’m not in that arena soon, they will know I broke you out. We’ve got to hurry.” Sunset pointed out and it was a rather good point.

Discord slowly nodded. “Fine but you better not die. Otherwise, you’ll be late for our date!” He turned and went down on all fours, swiftly making his way down the corridor and twisting past a corner. Oooooh I’m late, I’m late for a very important date! No time to say “Hello!” Goodbye! I’m late, I’m late, I’m late! Discord even checked the clock on the adjacent wall to make sure he would make his date on time. Now then, there’s one very important question I need to ask myself at this critical moment in time: what am I going to wear?!

********************

The Canterlot Battle Arena: where the sands are stained red with blood from the frequent usage the Sisters put in it. The arena was split in two colors, white and blue, each side for the respective rulers.

An orange maned unicorn stallion sighed with relief as Sunset joined the other Solar Mages. Sunburst readjusted his glasses and wiped dust off of his immaculate blue cloak. “Sunset, where’ve you been?! Don’t you know what the penalty for tardiness is? And since when are you late? You’re usually the first one here!”

“I was transferring a dangerous prisoner that takes time. Now come here you," Sunset said as she hugged her brother.

“I was worried something was wrong,” he murmured as he held her tight. “Don’t scare me like that, big sis.”

“I’m sorry for the scare but that’s part of the job sadly. Now let’s get ready for another stupid argument between our leaders.” Sunset gave one last squeeze before letting go.

Sunset whispered, “Is there any other kind of argument between them?“

“Well that time they fought over days off for the guards because 24/7 shifts were not physically possible.” Sunset reminded her brother.

“Touché.”

Above them on a massive raised dais, the Queen of Day rose from her throne. Daybreaker was an ivory white mare with constantly blazing fire streaming from her head and hindquarters in place of a mane and tail. “Solar Mages, assemble!” She bellowed and the ponies in her service stood stiffly at attention. “The time has come once again when my baby sister insults me with her petty insolence. You who have sworn to serve and defend me are called once more to do battle in my name. Do me proud by drowning the arena in the blood of the Lunar Mages! Show Nightmare Moon why the day reigns supreme! Kill in the name of Daybreaker the Eternal Flame! Hail Daybreaker!”

“Hail Daybreaker!” The Solar Mages repeated, thumping their chests and raising their forelegs to the sky. “Hail the Eternal Flame!”

Nightmare Moon gave a similar speech to her mages, only they were chanting, “Hail the Eternal Night!”

Sunburst subtly placed his hoof in Sunset’s and smiled weakly at her. “Good luck.”

“Thank you. Now go take your seat, you bookkeeper.” Sunset and Sunburst hugged quickly before Sunburst went to the stands. “He will never know how lucky he is to not be a mage like me”

Sunburst, meanwhile, gave his sister one more sad glance from up in the stands. “She’ll never know how lucky she is to be a mage.” As much as he loved his sister, he also envied her position. Everypony knows that the guards and mages were the ones that got all the glory and his folks never stopped reminding him how proud they were of Sunset the Solar Mage. But something Sunburst didn’t envy was that he knew Sunset had to kill more than one friend because of fights like these and that was more than enough to stop him from pursuing such a career. Moreover, he knew if it came down to it Sunset would kill him and it broke his heart to know that fact. Quite frankly, he knew he couldn’t take a life.

Dozens of large drums pounded as the opposing sides faced one another from across opposite sides of the arena, their bodies tense and their glares sharp as they waited for the inevitable sign to begin. Sweat dripped down Sunset’s forehead with anticipation, her heart thundering in her chest as she maintained control over her breathing. In...and out...Steady...Steady...

A single feather dropped by a pegasus referee was all that prevented the battle from starting. Neither side even looked at it as it floated down and once it touched the ground, all hell broke loose with offensive and defensive spells firing all at once. Sunset had raised a shield to block a barrage of spells her way as they all knew she was the biggest threat. Unfortunately, all of them had underestimated her allies as they were all quickly blasted, to either unconsciousness if they were lucky, or they died before their bodies hit the ground. Sunset nodded to her allies before turning her shield into a magical saw blade and through it cutting off the poor lunar mages right legs clean off. The magic part of that blade cauterized the wound almost instantly so they wouldn’t die of blood loss.

Khensu, the captain of the Lunar Mages, conjured a massive crackling energy scythe and made quick work of several Solar Mages, slicing and dicing through their ranks with reckless but precise cuts. The unicorn’s eyes fell on Sunset’s and he grinned, purposefully sinking the tip of the blade into a squirming mare and twisting it until she went still. Sunset heard the crackling and she instantly knew who it was without turning to face him. Sunset bucked some sand in the captain’s direction, causing a momentary distraction as she started preparing a fairly powerful spell. Converting his scythe into a saw-edged shield, Khensu dislodged smaller, similar shields and fired them at Sunset in rapid succession, hitting a few Solar Mages before charging at her, hacking at anypony unfortunate enough to get in his way.

Sunset had to wait until the right moment otherwise she would die. Khensu ran at her with reckless abandon. No, it would be more accurate to say he was like a train with no breaks. Sunset, at the last moment, teleported in place just as Khensu ran through and she fired her spell, freezing him solid and with no air to reach his lungs, he would suffocate in the ice before the battle would be over. The ice crackled and stretched, creating fissures in its surface that spread over it like a large web before it shattered. Gasping and hacking, he tumbled to the sand, clawing at the ground and replenishing his lungs with air. He never saw the blade coming as a solar axe took his head before quickly moving onto the next opponent. Sunset didn’t spare him a thought; in battle, there was no times for such luxuries.

Daybreaker watched with rapt interest as Sunset dashed to and fro across the battlefield. She knew that she was skilled; after all, she was the one that recruited her but had no idea of how much of a raw powerhouse the mage was. “Sunburst?”

“Yes, My Liege?”

“Your sister…”

“Sunset?”

“Yes, her. She’s quite powerful.”

The stallion’s eyes tracked Sunset. “Indeed, Your Majesty. T-top of her class.”

“Really?” Daybreaker grinned sadistically as Sunset dispatched two bat-ponies in one blow. “How interesting. Tis a pity for my sister.”

“A pity indeed.” Sunburst agreed, not wanting to feel Daybreaker’s wrath.

Thunder rumbled suddenly, interrupting the battle as every combatant paused to stare up at the mass of swirling purple clouds gathering above them. Sunset dropped her foreleg just as she was about to strike down a unicorn mare and joined everypony else in staring up at the unusual weather. What the hay...?

There was a flash of light and Discord appeared floating in midair, wearing a green military jacket and a pair of headphones as he spoke into a vintage silver dynamic microphone. “Goooooood morning, Eques-tri-a! This is not a test! This is Chaos!”

DISCORD?!” Daybreaker all but shrieked.

Lounging back, Discord continued, “This is DSCRD, the radio sensation that’s sweeping the nation.” He searched the crowd of befuddled mages below until he spotted Sunset. “And it looks like we’ve got our first caller on the phone.”

Oh please no… Sunset suddenly found herself wrapped in Discord’s tail as the draconequus beamed brightly at her. “You’ve got to be kidding me.”

“Hello there, sweetheart and welcome to the show! And your name is…?”

Sunset stared at the microphone irritatingly. “Sunset...Shimmer.”

Discord moved Sunset to the crook of his arm which was, maddeningly enough, actually quite warm and snug. “Oooo, Sunset Shimmer. Well Sunset, you are one hot little firebrand!” The sound of something sizzling on a grill came from nowhere as an unseen secondary voice proclaimed, “Now that’s hot!”

The two alicorns rushed up to meet Discord, their petty feud forgotten and their fury directed towards the repowered trickster. Nightmare Moon scowled, “How in the blazes did you escape and get your powers back? Did it involve another spork?”

There was a finger snap and Discord, now dressed in black and white striped prison gear, banged a tin cup against a barred window that lacked a wall. Sunset gasped, discovering that she was wearing a police officer’s cap, a button-up shirt tied up as so that it exposed her stomach and a skirt. Discord placed an arm against his forehead melodramatically.

“Oh it was so dreadful being locked up in the big house, all alone with nopony to talk to! But then…” He snapped his fingers again and Sunset was thankfully back in her mage uniform while he wore nothing. “My little shnookie-wookums freed me with a clever ruse and ensured that my chaos magic was returned to me!” He pinched Sunset’s cheek for emphasis and cuddled her against his chest like a large teddy bear.

If the hatred given off by Daybreaker and Nightmare Moon’s collective glare could’ve killed Sunset, then she would’ve been completely disintegrated and scattered across the four winds. She didn’t know who she hated more in that moment: the Royal Sisters or the chimeric blabbermouth currently crushing her against his admittedly soft and warm body. It’s a toss-up. Sunset decided. Definitely a toss-up right about now.

“Oh did she now?” Daybreaker enquired through gritted teeth.

“Your Majesty, I…-”

“Well, it’s been fun catching up with you two,” Discord interrupted. “Buuuut Sunny and I have a rendezvous that we mustn’t be late for. Ta-ta, ladies!” The two vanished in a sparkly flash, leaving the co-rulers furious beyond all reasonable explanation.

Daybreaker’s orange slitted eyes fell once again on the helpless Sunburst. “Solar Mages! Arrest that stallion and have him brought to General Pinkie Pie’s private quarters! Find out what he knows…”