Serpent of the South- Return from the North

by J-90

First published

Locked away in an icy prison, now broken out, The Queen of the Forbidden Jungle has a debt to settle...

It is amazing how someone in high position of power and authority can make mistakes. Whether it is lowering your guard in an official Trial, trusting justice to happen. Or using an archaic privilege to over rule the courts final ruling in front of so many beings witnessing it, all because of fears caused by some vision. Leading to a cold frozen prison to one, and a political sh*tstorm and potentially burned bridges to other, who still hopes that things will calm down in the long run...

But fate has other plans. And marilith Naja's forced hibernation has come to an early end. And with the help from a familiar face and from the native folks from the lands of the north, she will slither her way back to the south. With the intention of giving some promised payback to a certain pony sitting upon a throne with her cake filled bottom...

Edit: Whuuut? Got featured on on its first day (8.7.2020)??? Even got hot...:derpyderp2:

Chapter 1 Thoughts and voices

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Chapter 1 Thoughts and voices

??? pov

Imprisoned... By the use of some archaic royal privilege...

Curse those visions... Curse those visions... Curse them all the way to the deepest depths of the Seven Hell's...

Cold slumber... A freezing cold forced slumber... And she just left me here... Unable to move... Unable to feed... Barely able to think... Or even dream... Yet my memories still stay strong...

I had a home... Friends... A purpose... A calm way of life... Yet she still saw as a threat to her little ponies... Even after I actually gave her a chance... And she tossed it away... All because of those accursed visions...

And she had the gall... To say 'sorry'... While imprisoning me in ice... And going back to her oh so comfy life... In her golden ivory towers...

When I get out of this frozen torment... I WILL... Make her... Pay... No matter who... Or what... Stands in my way...

??? pov

"Are you certain this is it?"

"Yes... I can sense her band. She is in there."

What's this?

"I hope so. Otherwise we hauled all this equipment here for nothing."


"I promise, they most likely will be needed."

Coming from outside this frozen prison?

"Høvding! Sir! We found the entrance! But it is blocked by a barrier of magic."

"Well? Can you do something to it?"

"I can only absorb magic from the living beings. Do you maybe have something that might help?"

"Hmmm... Perhaps I might. Brothers! Sisters! Clear out your pipes! Let's see if this piece of pony magic can withstand our ancient tones!"

What is this? Singing? Like a choir following a single note? Like it's coming deep from the throats of many...

"Did it work?"

"Let's check. Stand back"

Sound of something shattering? Does not sound like ice... Almost like glass.

"All right then. You, get in there and be careful."

"Yes høvding."

Steps?... Approaching steps? Almost like hoof... They stop...

"She is here! Matches the description given by the good sir perfectly!"

"All right then! Then let's start expanding that hole so we can get her out!"

??? pov

I'm hearing... Pickaxes... Someone is digging... Somewhere close... Small source of warmth too... Are they... Are they making an attempt in freeing me?

That can't be... Who would even know location of my cold prison... Other than her...

Someone is approaching... One has graceful steps... Other one is with heavy sounding steps...

"It is her..."

"Are you certain that she can help us? None has been able to break The Wall, and we don't even have much to offer to her in return."

"I'm sure she most likely will help your people, once you explain your plight. Maybe even more so once she hears what's going on in south."


"Still cannot believe how many things where boiling below the surface among those ponies."

"And your exiles most likely did not help the matters?"

"They where fools to even follow him. And he was even bigger fool, for thinking he could just come crawling back, and ask forgiveness for his crimes."

"And you fed him to the fishes. Rather creatively I might add."

"Nothing more than a our kinds tradition for dealing with treasonous traitors. Personally I would have given him the 'Blood Eagle', but it would have made it faster for the bastard..."

Who are these two? The one they call høvding sounds like an interesting lady...

"Wait... Did you see that vapor? Do you think shes starting to wake up already?"

"Could be possible. Hard to say when, with the weather outside. She might fall asleep during the trip, but with warm enough fire she should wake up again with a relative ease."

"Well you better help us in hauling her on the sleigh, AND pulling it as well. I don't want my kin getting overtly exhausted from pulling all that tail back to the village."

"It will be no problem. I just want her somewhere safer for now..."

"And we just might have a big enough shelter for her to stay warm. But now, let start removing ice from her ar-"

??? pov

Blacked out for a moment... Now what is this sound? Like something sliding on snow... Am... Am I covered by something? Where I'm even being taken?... Can't move... Still too cold... Wind gently blowing through my hair, caressing my face...

"Ummm... Sir? Are certain she is going to survive? That long time spent in ice might have caused something."

"She survived a thousand year long sentence in Tartarus, and practically stayed in her prime, so she most likely is still going strong after recovering. And I hope nothing has happened due to all the ice..."

He sounds worried... About my health?... Genuinely?... Or are they just needing me healthy enough for something?--- They did say something like that earlier...

"How much further until we're back at the village? I'm getting tired from all this pulling."

"Soon brother, don't get your antlers in a twist. And be grateful that the weather is not at the heart winter-phase yet, or this would be a near-death sentence this far up in north."

"No need to tell me that sister."

There are several more around me? Folk who live in the north... They don't sound like ponies... Who... And what are they...

"Høvding! We're almost home!"

"Good. Just little more everyone! Then we can all have a good night's rest from this little effort!"

Cheers? Now the thing I'm on is being pulled slightly faster. Well, they did say 'home'... What kind of I wonder?...

??? pov

Happy voices... Welcoming pullers home... Many also sounding rather curious... About me I bet...

"Welcome back home Høvding. I see your little excursion with our good guest was a success."

"Yes indeed. What told you that? Was it maybe the huge serpentine maiden we hauled in here from some iceberg that had made it to the nearby shore? Now let us get her somewhere warmer. I think she started to stir a bit on the way here."

More movement... Is that... A sound of a door being opened?... Now the wind stopped... Am I now indoors... Can I maybe get my eyes open?

"Høvding. I think shes waking up. Or at least trying to get her eyes open."

Everything is blurry... Figures around me... Three I think... All of them... Have horns... No, one has a pair of horns, the rest have... Antlers...

"Easy, easy. You have slumbered a good while in ice. Please stay a while and rest... Lady Naja."

They know my name? How?...

Chapter 2 Meeting the folks of the North and a familiar face.

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Chapter 2 Meeting the folks of the North and a familiar face.

Location; unknown, Naja pov...

'Uugh... Whuh?... '

Naja's thoughts being now mostly free of its hazy state after such a lengthy, forced slumber, she managed to slowly open her eyes. While her vision was getting clearer, her other senses also started to wake up. All of her hands starting to feel tingly all over, neck feeling a little stiff and her tail muscles actually vibrating a teeny bit from waking up.
Marilith's back also felt a familiar feeling of the fur pelt beneath her. And a source of warmth somewhere in the middle of her coils. This drew her attention, and after her vision cleared enough, she saw a fire-pit with several still glowing burned logs. The warmth radiating from them was most welcome to a being of reptilian nature like her.

After doing a simple check-up on all of her fingers mobility, alongside of some light arm raising, Naja finally dared to rise up in to a more sitting-up-position. Her movement was slow due to some remaining lethargy. Now having a better view of her surroundings, Naja took a good look around her.

She seemed to be in an lengthy, large one room building, with a couple of more fire pits in the middle. Walls seemed to be made of combination of wood and stone, and decorated with rune-like carvings and different kinds of fur pelts. Some of them had been stripped of fur and had simple painted images on them. Many of them being of either reindeer, caribou or some other animal or being with antlers.

A light rattling sound drew her attention to closest wall and the huge double-doorway on it, with a smaller one on it. She could almost see a couple of snowflakes floating in from between tiny cracks.
'So, it is either winter, or I am now somewhere in the colder climates. That means some swell time for me then...'

Her thoughts where interrupted when the smaller door opened up, letting some cold air in, as a creature, who seemed to be in the deer-family, entered the hall. Needless to say, it got a little bit spooked when noticing the marilith being awake.

"Oh my. We did not expect you to wake up this fast, stor slange. H-how are you feeling?"

"Just woke up, and I feel that hunger might catch up soon." Naja answered to the creature.

"Well, just wait a moment. I'm sure høvding can arrange something and would certainly like to talk with you."

After that, the deer-creature left, luckily remembering to close the door, so that no cold air could get in.

'I wonder how my magic is doing?' Naja thought to herself, which she followed by absent-mindedly snapping her fingers on her middle lefty, causing a small, flickering fireball to appear on top of them.
"Well, at least it works. Most likely will be needing proper rest to get full power again." marilith mused, while flicking the small fireball at the fire-pit, making its remaining wood light up with more of the pleasant warmth.

Naja's thinking was interrupted by the sound of the door opening. New warmth in the fire-pit managed to keep the worst of the cold breeze from affecting her. And entering where couple more of the deer-creatures, carrying large covered bowl and kettle, followed by different looking one.
This one was almost twice as big as the rest, possessing a snow-white fur color, a very ample fluff on it's chest and overall neck area, ice blue eyes and an impressive set of antlers, which seemed to have small rune carved ornaments hanging from them, giving off a slight rattling sound when moving.

"Greetings Lady Naja. I am høvding Ishorn of the Northern deer-folk, and I hope you find given lodgings adequate." the reindeer lady said in a pleasant tone, even giving a small polite bow.

"Hello, and by what means do you know my name?"

"Well, to put it simply, an associate of yours told us about you. We where lucky to actually even locate your icy prison, but luckily he had means of locating you. The metal-band on your wrist to be exact."

This information made Naja to spare a glance at her wrist, where alongside her usual garment, where indeed a metallic wristband, given to her by a certain centaur, who had admitted on having an interest on her.

"Is he perhaps outside right now?"

"Unfortunately no. He went to help in reinforcing our village walls, but I'm sure he will be glad to hear that you have woken up."

"Very well then. So what's in those bowls?" Naja asked.

"Oh just some lichen soup with freshly acquired yeti meat and finely aged mead. We thought you might like a varied meal when you woke up." Ishorn answered as the the content of the bowls was revealed. Soup itself looked exactly like it had mentioned ingredients in it, but Naja did not really care. She was feeling seriously hungry.
"Please, enjoy you'r meal."

"Oh by Fenrir's maw I sure will"

Naja then proceeded to make short work of the offered soup, and was even given two refills of it. Taste was certainly on the exotic side, but food was food.

"Well that certainly was rather filling stuff." Naja commented after finishing her third bowl.

"Yes, the yeti meat is very filling stuff. It helps greatly during the times of famine."

"Wait... Are you saying your folk are-?"

"Occasional omnivores? Yes. When the food grows scarce around here, one can't be too picky when it comes to food."

"...Understandable. Now may I ask where on earth am I?"

"This is one of the bigger Helligdom, or sanctuary valleys, my kind uses during the harsher winter times. But these days, we have been calling it Fengsel... Or a prison in the common tongue." reindeer lady explained, starting to sound a little bitter when telling the valley's name.

"Is there any specific reason for that kind of name change?" Naja could not help but to inquire.

"There indeed is. My kind, meaning the deer, elk, caribou and reindeer, have for a long time been nomadic wardens of the forests and especially the northern wilds of the world, keeping the worst of the worst weather and creatures that are either causing them or are attracted to them, in check for generations. We usually wander from place to place, or in rare cases pick a place to keep watch over.

Eventually the deer chose to stay in one the temperate forests, the elk went to the evergreen wilderness in the west, and the caribou and reindeer remained in the northern lands as nomads with a few shared resting places to perform our bigger rituals and other rites. Thing's were overall peaceful."

"Let me guess. Then some ponies came around these parts, and messed up something for your kin?"

"... Yes, to put it bluntly."

"How exactly?" Naja asked politely, which made Ishorn sigh deeply and lay down on her belly.

"Well, we met them building a camp rather near one of our sacred Rune-Stone sites on the tundra, this one being a rather big one: it includes four partially buried stones in a circle and a fifth one floating in middle of them. All of them have ancient runic carvings on them, enhancing our magic we use to soothe the storms of the north, while also making them either stay in the north or make them tolerable if they reach further southern lands, instead of them becoming a building burying blizzard.

After we told them the importance of the stones to our kin's work, they promised they would not do anything to them, and that they where just passing by, looking for a good place to settle. So we told them about a few good spots to build their settlement. And thus the deal was made between their leader and our current høvding and we carried on our way... Only to find them building some crystal structures on and around them when we returned!

Our høvding was furious, and made it known to the pony leader, who had the gall to say he forgot the deal and that they needed an existing support structure for their planned palace. Needless to say, it made all of us even more furious for such disrespect for our sacred site and demanded that they leave. Of course they did not agree, and it ended up in a conflict. It lasted for almost a full month, until we almost succeeded in driving them away from the north... Only for them to activate some manner of a hearth shaped magical artifact of theirs, quite literally pushing us back, all the way to this valley. And to add salt to the wound, they went as far as to erect a gargantuan crystal wall at the entrance of the valley, trapping us here, while continuing to build their Crystal empire upon our sacred site. We have been stuck here ever since. Luckily for us, our numbers where high enough to keep our family lines healthy, but still low enough to make food here last for a very long time."

"Interesting story... Has there been any other problems lately? I thought I heard someone say something about exiles and wanting to give someone a 'Blood Eagle' treatment." Naja inquired.

"Oh, you heard that? Well might as well tell about that incident... Some time ago we felt a disturbance on the pony artifacts power, like it was momentarily broken by something, only to be brought back in power. Around the same time, one of the caribou-kin tried to arrange a coup against me. An overly ambitious bull, named Dainn from the Stonehoof clan. He somehow got in to his head, that he should lead all the males to rule over all the females of the world, thinking that all they are good for is serving the males. The coward tried to ambush me in my sleep with his supporters. Luckily for me, I am a light sleeper.

By the time they entered my dwelling, I was ready and showed them why I earned my status as høvding. His followers where easy to scare away from me with some show of force of my ice magic, but Dainn was more confident and actually challenged me to trial by combat after that. Needles to say, I was victorious, despite his attempts to cheat with some severed horn he had found, and even trying to force himself on me during the battle as a some kind twisted show of dominance. In return I showed him how hard I could kick and may have tossed him over my head a couple of times, with some antler work. In the end he submitted and was exiled along with his followers by boats we have in a small bay. I hoped the frozen sea would have taken them, but they actually made it to the shore and made their way towards the Crystal Empire, and tried to enact Dainn's crazy plan."

"I'm guessing it did not work?"

"No, it did not. And it ended up ruining our kinds reputation to the crystal and Equestrian ponies. Before they could be imprisoned by ponies, they had the gall to come crawling back and ask for safety, which was another attempt to take over here. Only after stomping said attempt down this time, I exiled Dainn's followers to the yeti territory after crippling them: they did not even survive a day. And as for the Dainn... After de-horning him, I slowly carved some select runes on his body, which would stop him from drowning or burning. Then we tied him to a boulder with some special rope, set them to a boat, set the boat on fire and sent it floating to sea. And then we watched the boat breaking down and the boulder dragging him to the depths of the sea, where the bottom feeders of the depths will feast on his flesh and guts, until he's nothing but bones. And thanks to the runes, he will suffer greatly in there, feeling all the pain of drowning in the depths, but unable to die from it..."

"...Well he sounds like an complete arsehole. He won't be missed."

"Very much agreed on that. We have also managed to get some information from south with the help of messenger owls. Sounds like things are a bit tense there at the moment."

"How exactly?" Naja asked with a grim tone.

"From what the letters have told, there is a small scale border dispute going at the southern border of Equestria, between Southern Twin towns of Tanaha Kahijian and Southpost, Equestrian royal military and a group calling themselves 'The chosen of the serpent maiden'. In addition to that, the Night Princess Luna has recently left Equestria with her personal guard to the Nahkhiir, the hidden free city of thestral's. Reasons for that are still in the dark for us, including is it just a long visit or did she leave for good, but the mentioned border dispute apparently started soon after your imprisonment. Tanah Kahijian and Southpost having closed their borders from Equestria, which also closed off an easy land trade-route from them, which in turn forced ponies to either to use longer land routes or sea routes. But with majority of other nations being angry at Equestria, have either raised their prices or downright closed their ports from Equestrians, which led to them creating a trade-alliance with each other to keep their own economies afloat without any of the Equestrian goods."

"So basically Equestrian economy is now in a bad state?"

"Apparently so. And Princess Celestia is still being pressured to just annex the town's by the Council of Nobles, but best they got was only to send some troops there trying to occupy Southposts surroundings peacefully. Then some mercenaries and 'The chosen' attacked the town and the troops. The mercs apparently where hired by some noble, and 'the chosen' are group of ponies and other creatures both from and out of twin towns who started to think you are a divine entity of some sort."

"Oh, by Ixion's horn... You mean to tell me that there is now freaking cult that worships me??? And that the situation there is now a huge powder keg, ready blow up?" Naja asked, one hand pressed against her forehead, sounding stressed. Ishorn could only nod.

"Yes, and yes. Other nations, the Trade-alliance and the Union of free towns are currently keeping watch of the situation. But if I had to take a guess, I'd say they most likely choose to stand with your home towns, should an actual military conflict arise there. Equestria might hold the power over the sun, but they seem to have lost the respect and fear the other nations held about the said fact. Also the word has spread that your towns... 'Maht Erria(?)' wielders magic seems to be on average more potent than pony magic's version of a similar spell, which has given them an edge in defence for now."

"Well good to hear that the Materia crystals are helping there. I just hope there has not been any need to use the big guns... Has there been any sightings of enormous pillars of flame, or an enormous metallic being that exude gargantuan amounts of magic?"

"No, there has not been any sightings of such being. Even I would have sensed it, if it's anything like I sensed a thousand years ago while stuck in Tartarus, Lady Naja." said a third voice, which sounded familiar and made marilith to turn her head at its direction.
There stood a familiar centaur, Tirek. Only he... Looked a little different from last time. Noticeably him having shorter horns and stature.

"Well hello there Tirek. Did you lose weight, mass and got you horns shaved down a bit while I was gone?" Naja asked with a pleasant tone, while leaning a little for a closer look. "Oh, and how did you got out of the pony-hell slammer this time?"

"To answer to your questions, my size is dependent on the amount of magic I have absorbed and stored into my body at the time. It took me most of my original imprisonment to gather enough of my power to barely escape, and even longer to get enough to use my powers. And as for my escape this time... I received help from some tall cloaked figure, who smelled of seawater and overwhelmingly oozed of some manner of... Eldritch powers that I did not even dare to try sampling... He said he was only helping me escape because he, or it, lost a bet with 'that black goat with a ton of kids', who wanted her ship to sail forward. No idea what that meant, but I accepted the help. Next thing I know, I'm at the edge of this valley, being chased by some yetis and found by Ishorns folk." centaur explained.

"Did you see if that cloaked fellow had tentacles peeking out from the hood?"

"Uuuh... I think so?"

Instead of answering right away, Naja merely looked up at the ceiling, like she was trying to find something specific in there. Both Tirek and Ishorn could not help but feel a bit confused by this.

"Lost a bet, eh Ol'Squidface? Well tell my regards to the dark goatmom and her kids."

"...Maybe she had a mild frostbite or hit her head while we hauled her here..." Ishorn commented to Tirek worriedly.

"Oh, I'm quite sane. In the meantime, do you maybe have something I could wear? I don't do well in the freezing climate, due to obvious reasons." Naja said, even giving her tail a small wiggle for emphasis.

"Actually we just might. Some of our seamstresses are making something out of some yeti furs. They have good insulation properties. And yes, they have enough of them for your clothing size, tail included... We killed a lot of yetis over the years."

"Good to know. In the meantime, is there anything else you'd like to know?"

"Well, I would like to know a bit more about your past. Word is you offed the Mad King Solaris long ago. Can you tell more about that?"

"Hoo boy, now that is memory from a loong time ago... Might take a while to tell accurately."

Contested southern border area near Southpost, Equestrias side...

"Anything to report?"

"Nope. Nothing in sight for now. Only seen movement is closer to the edge of Southpost, and we can't really get closer without causing an international incident."

"Well keep watch of the overall area. Can't let those crazy cultist fellows to get a drop on us. And they seem to be a problem for the both sides."

"Yes sir... Wait... Do you hear that?"

"...Oh crap. It's that weird airship of theirs doing a patrol flight!"

Airship 'Levea Kuljetus'(Wide Load), contested border areas neutral airspace.

"Hera, I got two peepers at the neutral area. They are leaving at the moment, over."

"Well they obviously learned to avoid your ship. You do vent it while on patrol, right?... Over."

"It ain't my fault their got sissy lungs. Also saw four cult idiots sneaking near Naja's rock-house. All of them ran off before I could even give a warning shot. I suspect sissy-lung there too, over."

"Whatever Cid, try returning soon. With luck, we might be receiving a message from the north any day now... Over."

"Sure thing. Guess when I get back I could give mah darlings rear a good maintenance. And I guess mah ship could use some fixing too, over."

"I did not need to know that, but I guess Shira will appreciate that... Over."

Chapter 3 The Wall and The Winters Heart

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Chapter 3 The Wall and The Winters Heart

Sanctuary/Prison valley, The Wall, nearby hill...

"Wow... That sure is a big wall of crystal..." Naja commented at the sight of the said wall before her. Even at a distance of almost a mile away, it was gargantuan in size, reaching from one end of the pass to the other, blocking all potential traffic through it.

"Indeed. I would find it amazing, if it was not a constant reminder of the wrong done to our kin, keeping us from doing our duty properly. Yes there are more than one way to this valley, but they are all on the dangerous side. The floating ice breaking unlucky boats apart when far enough in the open water, and smaller passes and paths are simply a death wish when travelling in groups in these mountains." Ishorn said, standing next to the marilith, who was now covered from head to the tip of her tail in yeti-fur clothing, even with an additional fur-cape for the added protection from the surrounding cold. Even with the day being calm and serene, the cold was still present. She was also given suitable protective eye-wear to reduce glare from snow.

"So in order for me to make my way back home, I need to get rid of this giant piece of enchanted shiny rock?"

"In short, yes. I'm afraid that entirety of your large frame is not suited for our boats or the remaining mountain paths."

"You can just say that I'm fat, heavy or something. I am perfectly fine with my body."

"Well good for you then. But now returning to the wall-issue. We have tried to destroy parts of it, but the darn thing just fixes itself almost right away. You can even try for yourself."

"I think I 'll do just that. Could use some target practice on a huge target as a warm-up."

With that said, Naja raised one of her mitten covered hand, pointing palm at the ample direction of the Wall. Soon a small flicker of flame formed in front the outstretched palm, turning into an almost solid scarlet orb. With a flick of her fingers, Naja sent the orb flying speedily towards the Wall, soon disappearing from view.

They did not need to wait potential results for that long, when in less than a minute a huge fiery explosion went off at the Wall. Both of them could see that it had done some damage to it; a visible crack, that unfortunately began to close itself almost right after the smoke had cleared. Bundled up marilith repeated her second strongest spell five more times, once for each of her remaining hand, only to get the same result of the Wall just fixing itself up.

"Well, that thing is going to be a real pain in the rear to try and remove completely. I don't think my natural spells can do enough damage to destroy it, with a healing factor that fast. We would need either get the crystal ponies to remove the spell keeping the fixing-mechanism up or to try and destroy it completely, in basically one shot, leaving no piece of it remaining afterwards." Naja commented thoughtfully.

"Seems like it. Hopefully your friends send some useful 'maht erria' for you to use at that. Maybe even something that would protect you from cold?" Ishorn said in a hopeful tone.
"We should return to the village. The messenger owl should hopefully return soon, and I can smell the Winter Heart approaching soon..."

"What is this 'Winter Heart' you keep mentioning? Some manner of weather anomaly perhaps?"

"In a way, yes. It is a time when winter and ice are at their most powerful. Especially here in the north. If one is not indoors keeping warm, or without some manner of extremely high resistance against cold, one will surely freeze to death within an hour or so while being outdoors during it. The Heart usually manifests itself as a gigantic snow storm, its eye being the most dangerous part to be in. We have even found yetis frozen solid after being caught in the eye of the storm..."

"... Ok, that sounds like a complete deathtrap for the likes of me. At least if I am without any proper materia equipped. But for now, let's head back to the village."

It did not take them long to arrive to the deer-folks village, located at the safe corner of the their 'prison valley', with cliffs on the mountain covering at the one side and wooden walls on the other. Most of the villagers where doing all kinds of small work, like fixing up parts of the buildings, which greatly resembled viking longhouses, weaving cloths, cutting extra firewood, tanning yeti hides or carving runic marks on some of their items to name a few. Overall, things that someone can keep themselves occupied and be useful for the community. Especially with the Winter Heart approaching any day now...

As they moved closer towards the town square, they where approached by small caribou calf carrying a package of sorts.

"Høvding Ishorn! Your eagle owl returned a moment ago and brought this! I think its for both of ya."

"Why thank you lass. Run along now, we all have things to prepare for. You don't want the Great Cold to come and bite your little hoofs don't ya?" Ishorn said to the little one, while accepting the package, lifting it up with her antlers, offering it towards Naja, who took it with her lower-righty.
"Let's go check this somewhere indoors." Naja commented, heading towards one of the buildings, which happened to be the one she woke up in.

As they entered, there was a nice fire in the fire-pit, courtesy of still mildly short Tirek, who was at the moment fixing up some spots on the mariliths given dwelling to ensure there be no extra holes for the cold breeze to get in. A gesture Naja very much appreciated.
"Nice work there Tirek. Now could ya help me peel this winter coat off of me?" marilith asked while removing her fluffy mittens.

"Sure thing."

The centaur proceeded to help the snake lady to remove trickier parts of her arctic-winter level clothes, mostly the enormous part covering her equally big purple hued tail. He even was considerate enough to keep his hands on the side of Najas back, trying not to touch her underbelly. Just in case she might take such a touch the wrong way.

"Now then, let's check what we got here." Naja said as she began to open the package. First thing that caught her eye in it, where four materia crystals; three green and one blue, all gently glowing there. And there was a folded letter on top of them too.
Before checking the crystals, Naja went to grab and read the letter first.

'Greetings Naja, Hera here. Hopefully you are fully thawed out when reading this. After we received a word of our northern allies finding you, moral here rose rather high. On the flip side, a cult worshiping you also seems to have gotten a word about it. We're not sure what their big plan is, but it most likely is nothing good. Among few mild terror attacks on our Twin-towns and Equestria, they have also tried to take over your temple house as some kind of sacred site, only for some kind of sentient ash-clouds to appear and violently drive them away. My personal theory is that Shadow Petal and many others of our founders are indeed watching over your home from beyond the veil.
On the other end, the Equestrians don't seem to have caught wind about your return, but I guess it's only a matter of time. They have pretty much parked an entire regiment of soldiers on our northern border, mostly guarding the main road, I guess they are hoping we eventually fold and open our borders to them again. At the moment our towns Council is not submitting to their demands, but we are negotiating with the Trade alliance and the Union of Free towns to get by economically and militarily if needed. Luckily their shared navy is a lot more capable Equestrias, and is helping to keep our sea-route open.

There have also been report of our big snake friend, Dalamadur, appearing in Equestria randomly. Mostly to either look around intimidatingly, or to destroy princess Celestia's property. Last known target was her personal villa, which was basically a semi-hidden mini-palace, and was destroyed so thoroughly, that not even foundation remained in one piece. Few of the Church of Two Sister locations have also been targeted, but not as much. Mostly only getting half-destroyed.

I hope these materia's can help in your return. We would have sent you more but the eagle owl of Høvding Ishorn can only carry so much, so in the end we selected few useful ones. Ice, Barrier, Time and Elemental to be exact. Other more powerful or potent ones are unfortunately needed by my fellow Materia Keepers to help in towns defence efforts, in both as a deterrent against Equestrians and as more of a fire power against the damn Cult, who also managed to nab few of the lesser materias. Luckily for us, both of them fear a potential retaliations from the 'The Big Guy'. Especially after we gave a small warning shot via spell granted to me by him(?), named Holy. Not sure was it the blinding light from the spell or the implosion that followed afterwards. Luckily no creature got harmed in that show of power.

Hopefully we see again soon, whether it is before or after this craziness with Equestria is over.

Best regards, Hera.

PS: Blueblood says hello. He has given towns a heck of a financial help after leaving Equestria, and finally marrying his three sweethearts, Lacte, Fofa and Scarlet, who are now planning a friendly competition on who bears his firstborn, after he gets out of the wheelchair and pain-killers. Their Honeymoon-night was extra wild apparently. No idea why they asked me to write about it...'

Naja could not hold a smile after reading the letter, folding it neatly and setting it aside for now. Next her attention was drawn to the materia crystals, gently picking them up and reaching out with her senses to confirm that they indeed where ones mentioned in the letter.
She proceeded to equip Barrier and Time first in her hidden sockets in her wrist-wear, feeling the knowledge and skill of their spells flow into her mind.The Elemental and Ice materias where next to go in another wrist, more specifically into the metallic 'courting-band' given to her by Tirek. When the Ice materia slipped in, it did sting Naja a little, like a sudden stinging touch of an freezing icicle poking on a really warm skin, mixed with a nasty gadfly bite, making her hiss in pain for a short moment. Luckily the stinging cold seemed to calm down with the contact with the Elemental materia, turning it to a soothing feeling, that soon faded to overall normal feeling.

"And now test if this combination works..." Naja said, while making deep blue hue surrounded cluster of ice spike appear on the floor with a flick of her wrist. It certainly impressed Ishorn.
"Please open the door, and be ready warm up the fire-pit just in case."
This request made Tirek to go and be ready to get fire pit going hot, while Ishorn started to open the door, visibly hesitant.

Soon the door was fully opened, letting the cold winter air in. Naja almost expected to feel its freezing sting, only for it being almost like a gentle spring breeze. Encouraged by this, she proceeded to slither through the doorway, still expecting coldness of the northern weather to start making her lethargic and lose consciousness...
Only for the direct winter air and snow felt almost pleasant and cool in a good way. A feeling she had not felt for a long, long time... And she genuinely enjoyed it. So much that she let out a joyful laugh, while doing a little spin and letting herself to fall against the snow on her back, sending plenty of loose snow flying, which in turn encouraged few younger fauns and calfs to do few playful jumps over her.
"I had no idea how long I missed this feeling." Naja said out loud, while moving all of her arms on the snow blanket, like she was trying to make some manner of snow-angel.

"Well, great that you can play in the snow now. But could you maybe explain to me, how its possible? Just a moment ago you needed yeti-fur clothing before opening the door." Ishorn asked, which made Naja rise into her stand up-position from the snow.

"To make the answer short, Elemental materia combined together with the Ice materia in my clothing, or in an accessory, like say in a ring or wristband, grants me protection from ice and cold, perhaps even a level of regeneration with how good I'm physically feeling. I guess this was what Hera hoped for when picking them to send to me."

This information seemed to satisfy Ishorns curiosity, and she was about to say something, before something in the horizon drew her attention.
"That is good to know. And they certainly arrived in time. The Winters Heart appears to be arriving a little early..." she said, pointing at something. And pretty much everyone else looked at the same direction.

Just rising over the visible edge of the horizon, was a wall of storm clouds, that had an odd, barely visible, greenish hue to it.

"That is just the edge of the freezing storm. And with this wind, it hits here by late evening. With any luck, the eye of the storm should pass by somewhere else. But for no... GET THAT EXTRA FIREWOOD INSIDE, RIGHT NOW!!!" She continued, before giving a loud command, which she also followed.
Soon everyone where cutting and hauling more firewood in to their dwellings, which went well with Naja with her blades and Tirek with his physical strength aiding in the effort.

By the time when the sun was starting to go down and the approaching snowfall getting more and more intense, everyone was safely indoors, killing time, making sure warm fires did not go out and waiting out the storm. On Najas part, killing time was good'ol meditation followed by a nap. Tirek was half-forced to go with some bucks, and was now playing several rounds of horn-dice with them.
And of course, they hoped that the eye would pass them far away, or at the very least pass them quickly.

Later around midnight...

Wind blowing outside had momentarily robbed Naja of sleep, and she was trying to find it again, while laying on her back, staring at the roof-boards in the dim light of the fire-pit. She was also thinking on how to get rid of the Wall.

'My strongest fire-spell did no permanent damage, and it would take far too much effort to just try constant bombardment it to be actually effective. Such a tactic would only just drain my pool of magic. I could try Flare, but I would have to get overtly angry for it to do big enough damage. But a non-elemental explosion of that size would bring with it an enormous chance of friendly-fire and most likely civilian casualties... Yeah, definitely not taking that risk...'

Her thoughts were cut by an odd sound mixed in the wind outside. Almost like a singing note. She would have chalked it up as just a random whistling that wind sometimes does, but this just felt different. Like something was calling her, but not in a siren-way. More like something wanting make contact. Almost like Carbuncle once did, only in a more active way.
Deciding to go with her instinct, Naja proceeded to open the door of her dwelling and slither outside, where the snowfall and wind began to fade out rapidly. And one glance upwards at the clearing night sky explained why.
The eye of the storm had just arrived upon the village, bringing with it vast amounts of frost on all of the outside surfaces of the buildings. Few smaller items left outside, like a wooden wind chime or an old axe handle, looked like they where already frozen solid.

'Good thing I have a cold resistance now... Luckily it seems to also extend to my clothing and other accessories' marilith thought while looking at the 'courting band' with now very important protective Ice-Elemental materia combination.
Her attention was next drawn by small patch of swirling snow. Which was odd, due to eyes of the storms usually have no air currents to do such swirling.

'There is definitely some magic at play here... Let's see if meditation brings something forth...' Naja decided, swearing she saw swirling snow take a vague humanoid-like form for a fleeting second. With the decision made, she took her meditative-stance.

Minutes went by, and marilith just stayed still just breathing calmly, with the odd swirling snow as her company. Few more minutes passed, when the oddly swirling snow began circle her in a pattern of sorts. As the meditation started to near its peak, Najas arms began to do slow, flowing movements, as if dancing, following floating snows pattern by instinct. Or maybe something was guiding her movements? All these movements were followed by gentle song-like notes.

Finally after almost an hour, Naja reached her meditations zen-phase, a red materia crystal began to grow in front of her, drawing in the floating snow. Almost like it was waiting for it to appear. By this point the eye of the storm began to pass the village, bringing back the wind and snow, which in turn brought Naja out of her meditation.
"Well would ya look at that. Guess there was something wanting to make contact." she muttered to herself, while respectfully picking up the red crystal. And from the get-go she could feel that this one held the power of ten thousand great blizzards and more within itself.

"My humble greetings to you, Empress of ice and cold..."

Later after the storm...

"- and you just went outside on a hunch, did not freeze to death, danced in place, and now you are offering me this red crystal?"

"In short, yes Ishorn. And I think I can call what lies within it, due to it wanting to meet you."

"...Very well. Call forth this entity."

After receiving permission, Naja took a slither back a little bit, before beginning the non-battle summoning.

"O Empress of Ice, wreathed in frost. Hear thy name and come join us! SHIVA!"

With the chant spoken, the red crystal began to glow brightly, followed by a gust of winters wind from it. This made some of the snow on the ground to rise up and coalesce into something large. Then the mass of snow visibly hardened and began to crack, like an egg or a cocoon.
And soon it broke apart with some manner of flourish, revealing a humanoid figure almost as tall as Naja in her standing-position, with icy blue skin, bright blue eyes that almost looked white, deep blue flowing hair, wearing an azure harem dancer outfit and a crown of ice in the form of deer antlers.
Needless to say, entirety of the village was in awe of this creature, whose whole being seemed to breathe vast magic and power of winter.

"Greetings Høvding Ishorn. I am Shiva. And I would wish to form a pact with thee..."

Chapter 4 Power to wipe away a universe in a grain of sand...

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Chapter 4 Power to wipe away a universe in a grain of sand...

Week later, nearby of the Wall...

Sub-zero coldness followed behind a beautiful humanoid being of embodied ice and winter, while she flew by the giant crystal wall with a grace of a master dancer, leaving behind a thick layer of shining ice upon the walls surface. Soon the entirety of this side of the Wall was covered in ice and frost, actually making it look a bit better.
Having now finished icing the annoying crystal blockade, frosty maiden floated before the middle section of the Wall, eyeing it for a moment, before gathering some snowflakes upon her palm and blowing them towards the ice layer, creating a smooth outcropping of ice. She then proceeded to give its very tip a gentle tap with her index finger, oddly causing an echoing 'ting'-sound.
Following the little tap, bright blue spider web cracks formed from the point of touch, covering entirety of the iced surface, not quite breaking. Frosty maiden looked satisfied, before raising her hand... And snapping her fingers, causing all of the created ice shatter in a spectacular sight. Like a rain of diamonds, fading to dust.
When the shining dust had settled, there was an enormous layer missing from the entirety of the crystalline wall, little more missing here and there. And unfortunately, not even a minute later, it began visibly fix itself once again, much to the annoyance of the frosty lady, who showed it by shooting a few giant-sized icicles at it, mostly just out of spite, before flying to the nearby hill overlooking at the Wall, and the duo standing there waiting.
After arriving to the hill, she kneeled respectfully before a reindeer wearing a red crystal around its fluffy neck.

"I am sorry, Høvding Ishorn. The target just has too high regeneration capability for me to destroy, without causing damage to your kins village."

"Its alright Shiva, we tried. Maybe with some more meditation we could fine tune it? Any comment about it lady Naja?" Ishorn asked from the marilith standing behind her.

"Its a possibility. Especially with the bond you have developed in a record time. Is that pact giving some manner of a boost in power and learning?" Naja said, while inquiring about recent info they had learned, receiving a confirming nod from Shiva.
"Did you perhaps sense anything special while up there?"

"Actually yes. There was a momentary surge of power on the other side of the wall at the moment of its regeneration starting. There most likely is a power source of sorts out of our reach, keeping the Wall up whenever it is damaged. I would be able to fly to it, but it would leave thee too drained, Høvding Ishorn."

"I understand. You may leave now." Ishorn said, while giving a humble nod to Shiva, who smiled to her kindly in turn before fading away, until she would be summoned once again.

"If only we had more subtle fire power against that darn thing..." Naja thought out loud, before having an idea.
"Say, Ishorn... Is there potentially any kind of sacred sites or some kind of calm place nearby, where I could meditate? With any luck, we might find some more help."

"Hmmm... Actually yes, there just might be one." was reindeers answer. With the decision made, Ishorn began to lead Naja to that place.

Northwestern edge of the valley.

"Over there, in that cave. There lies a place we call Smeltedigel av Elementer, or Crucible of Elements in the common tongue. It was found by Høvding Store gevirer, long before the time of the Wall. According to tales, he thought it being one of the most serene places where the four cardinal-elements co-exist without harming each other." Ishorn explained while pointing respectfully at a large cave-entrance, that clearly went deeper into the mountain.

"Fascinating... Can you please tell Tirek not to get worried too quick? I'd rather not risk meditation potentially breaking."

"I will. He clearly like you." Ishorn said with a mischievous wink.

"I'm well aware." Naja jovially commented back, while showing her now Ice-Elemental-materia equipped wristband, given by mentioned horned centaur.

After Ishorn left, Naja proceeded to enter the cave, holding palm full of fire on one of her hands for light. Luckily the tunnel in it was more than big enough for somebeing of her size. The natural tunnel seemingly twisted and turned seemingly in several ways, going progressively lower in a rather mild angle. Soon Naja began to wonder how far the tunnel would actually go? Maybe to the hearth of this mountain?
But soon after those thoughts, the tunnel opened up into roomy cavern. And she could see how it earned its name from the deer-folk. On one side there was a calm stream, most likely from an underground river. On the opposite side of was a small pool of bubbling lava. The roof of the cavern had lightly glowing raw gems and was seemingly supported by large pillars of petrified roots of some truly ancient tree. And finally there was a gentle breeze coming from somewhere, keeping the air circulated and fresh. It really felt truly serene and harmonious place, even with an elevated spot between the stream of water and pool of lava, with some moss growing on the middle of it, that looked to be roomy enough for being of mariliths size category.

"Well this sure feels like a nice place." Naja commented while dispelling her own fire, and slithered to the elevated mossy spot in the cavern, proceeding to coil up in her more relaxed meditation stance. To reach more calm state of mind, Naja began to recite Nine-cuts(Kuji-in) mantra, along with doing the hand proper hand signs (mudra) in a calm manner out of respect for this place.
"Rin... Pyō... Tō... Sha... Kai... Jin... Retsu... Zai... Zen..." she half-whispered to herself, feeling soothing calmness wash over her body, while opening her mind to the latent energies around her.

She did not for the moment care about the passage of time, as she just concentrated on her breathing, only feeling the breeze on her skin and the soft moss under her scales. Maybe some hours of meditating later, she reached her zen-phase while momentarily letting go of her emotions, which in turn actually did attract the interest of something truly potent. And soon after that, a tall root-like plant began to grow before marilith, holding a green crystal, like many other materias before it.

Maybe half an hour later, Naja finally came out from her meditative trance, while noticing the growth carrying the materia before her. First thing she noticed was that it was a rather small one; much smaller than third of her finger nail in fact.
"Well now, let's have a look at you, little one." she said, while carefully picking up the little materia and setting it gently on her palm, before reaching for it with her senses... And was almost overwhelmed by a titanic, maybe even a near cosmic, maelstrom of magic. By sheer luck and willpower she managed to weather the storm, getting into its metaphorical eye, where it felt almost eerily calm and empty. Almost fearful even...
'Hello? May I inquire your name?' Naja mentally called out to the materia. 'Don't be afraid, I will not hurt you.' she continued soothingly, with almost motherly tone.

Then she heard a little, whispering voice in her mind. It sounded like a small child, saying one word...


Chapter 5 ...Unleashed.

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Chapter 5 ...Unleashed.

Cave entrance.

"Are you certain she is alright? It has been two weeks by now."

"Very certain Ishorn. The courting band gives both of us a bond, that enable us to either contact or feel the presence of the other. And I can still sense her presence going strong down there. If she where hurt or dead, I would know." Tirek said to Ishorn, while at the same time looking at his 'courting band' on his wrist. He was also still in his short-horned, but still visibly muscular form. Local beasts did not possess that much edible magic and was too dangerous to go in the yeti territory, just to get a little more.

"Well, let's hope she comes back soon. I know that snakes can fast a long time, but they do still need to eat."

After waiting ten minutes longer, they saw a light approaching from the darkness of the cave. Soon enough the light was revealed to be a flame held by a familiar serpentine being. Even though Ishorn for some reason was for a moment expecting it to be a lantern held by something short and green with a knife. She had no idea where the said thought came from.
Returning to the returning Naja, she looked a little bit frazzled, most likely due to not washing for two weeks, and maybe partially due to something happening during the meditation. What drew both of their attention, were her eyes. They seemed oddly... Empty and devoid of emotion.

"Naja? Are you alright??" Ishorn inquired worriedly. Even Tirek looked worried.

Instead of answering, Naja stopped in front of them and lifted one of her hands, one with the courting band on, with the index finger pointing up. Said hand also had a ring on the middle finger, that looked like it was made out of braided, hardened root, with a small green crystal on it. Seconds later, something looking like a tiny, lightly glowing soap bubble appeared at the top of the pointing index finger. With a gentle flick, Naja sent it towards TIrek, who in turn managed to caught it in his hand, now looking a little confused. He also sensed a potent magic pulsing in the bubble looking thing.

"Have a taste..." Naja said with a quiet deadpan voice, with absolutely no emotions behind it.

After a moment of hesitation, Tirek carefully absorbed the given magic. And almost instantly felt a HUGE rush of power flowing through his body, barely managing to keep himself from roaring out from the power that felt equal to almost all of the magic of Equestrias ponies, minus the alicorn magic, and Discord's put together. Only given all at once.
After the rush faded, Tirek felt both stronger and bigger. And a short look over revealed that he was now the same size and form as he was during his fight with the Princess of Friendship, which also was head taller than Naja in her 'standing-position', minus his horns.

"So? Ho did it taste?" came a question from Naja, still in the emotionless deadpan voice.

"It feels absolutely marvelous." Tirek said coming down from his strength boost induced rush.

"Good. Now c'mere." Naja said, before she suddenly grabbed Tirek's beard and pulling his head on the level with hers and proceeded to kiss him, surprising both him and Ishorn. He also found out that Naja had a surprisingly long tongue, as it explored almost the entirety of the inside of his mouth. And it lasted almost a full five minutes. Or at least it felt like that.
After those minutes of tonsil hockey passed, Naja finally let go of Tirek's beard, while withdrawing her lengthy tongue back into her mouth.

"Well, looks like you enjoyed it as much as I did." Naja commented in a much happier tone. Even the emotion had returned in her eyes.

"Sooo... What exactly happened down there? And where did that tongue wrestle came from?" Ishorn asked carefully. Tirek was still coming down from the high caused by the kiss.

"To put it simply, I did attract some little help." Naja answered, showing her green crystal equipped ring, before continuing.
"And I decided to spend some additional time to try and acclimate to it a bit better. It went quite well too. Only thing is that in order to wield its power properly in a way we need, I have to be empty of any emotions. One drop of, lets say joy or excitement, while casting and we're just eradicating everything around us..." She said the the end part of the explanation in a grim tone, clearly being very serious about it.

"A-and the kiss?" came a careful question from now lucid Tirek.

"Other than the fact that I like you? The mental state of absolute emotionless, required for the proper use of this magic, is quite hard shake off just on one's own willpower. So I simply needed a little push to regain my normal mental state. And what better way than giving a nice big passionate smooch to my well bearded centaur?" marilith explained, while twirling a finger around a tuft of centaurs beard in a pretty loving fashion.


"Good. Now how about we get some food? I did spend, what, two weeks in there. So obviously I'm a bit hungry and needing some fuel."

Three eating and proper rest including days later before the Wall...

"So Naja. What do you intend to if this for some reason does not work?"

"Well Ishorn, I just might just take my swords and dig a fricking tunnel through a mountain."

"I see... Shall we stand back a bit?"

"That would be for the best. And I might need help again to get back to normal state of mind, soo... Tirek? You know what to potentially do if I can't 'come back' on my own."


Having now prepared as best as she could, hoping things had not gone overly bad back home since the letter, Naja slithered to 'stand' on the edge of the hill, looking at the shiny wall of crystal, stubbornly blocking her path back to south. Just add a carving of a hand with the middle finger pointing up and it would be just perfect...

But she managed to push that image out of her mind, and began to push away the rest of her thoughts with emotions in them. Outwardly she looked like she was concentrating hard with her eyes closed, but internally she was going through the same tough mental wrestle she went through in the last two weeks to be able to cast the spell without it becoming overly destructive. Potentially to the entire valley...

Finally she reached the state of complete emotionless, which could be once again seen in her eyes. This was followed by Naja lifting her arm with the materia equipped ring and pointing it towards the Wall, making once again the glowing bubble of magic appeared at the tip of her fingers. Unlike the one she gave as a snack for Tirek, the power in this could be felt with relative ease. And it was almost terrifyingly strong..
With the flick of her finger, Naja sent the 'bubble' towards the Wall. When the bubble of magic touched it, it simply erased the parts it made contact with from existence. The crystalline construct tried to close up the damage almost instantly, only for fixing-parts disappearing when they touched the bubble. Finally it reached the center section inside the Wall and stopped, while having its little hole in there.

"From the deepest pit of the seven hells to the very pinnacle of the heavens, the world shall tremble... Ultima... Erase."

The chant seemed to echo a bit, despite it being half whispered. And following the words, the bubble she sent earlier began to grow in size, erasing the Wall bit by bit. Eventually the effect could seen far, due to the Ultima's bubble having erased at least a third of the Wall by now. And the spell had also began to take its toll on Naja, making her visibly sweat a bit and her held arm had also began to shake a little.
'If I stop now, it just means I have to try again...' she thought, managing to keep herself in the required state of emotionless. Deciding to amp it up, she raised rest of her arms in a pattern, making join in with the ringed one. This made her spell visibly speed its expansion, erasing the Wall even faster. It also seemed to cause mild bleeding from her nostrils. And yet she managed to keep her face calm and stance stable.
Finally she folded all of her arms across her chest, making the bubble shrink momentarily, before quickly spreading them to her sides in a wide arch, which made the Ultima's bubble to spread by the entirety of the pass, wiping the Wall, which was attempting to fix itself yet again, away from this plane of existence completely, down to the last dust mote of it. And so with a tiny *pop* sound, the spell ended, leaving the pass completely open, as it once was.

Naja merely let out a breath she had held in since the finishing moments of the spell, still feeling nothing emotionally. She could feel the cold wind pass her, which gave her a tiny bit of her healthiness back, thanks to the Ice and Elemental materias. She also could hear someone approaching her from behind, most likely Tirek and Ishorn.

"It is done... I hope your folk will enjoy retur-" Naja began in a deadpan tone, before being interrupted by a pleasant 'chill' down at her lower back, and moving up to the nape of her neck, making her body lightly shiver out of momentary pleasure, while restoring her emotion back to normal state. A turn of her head revealed the source being Tirek's thumbnail gently moving up on her upper spine, or on her humanoid-part to be more accurate.
"...Do something like that on my whole length, and you got yourself a bride." Naja commented with half-lidded gaze, while giving the horned centaurs rear end a playful smack with the tip of her tail. The reactions where a short blush from Tirek and a snicker from Ishorn.

"Now if you all excuse me, I'm gonna faint for now."

Chapter 6 Final days of an "Empire" (going trough a re-write)

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Chapter 6 Final days of an "Empire"

Crystal Empire, Crystal palace.

"Are all of the routes completely open yet?" Cadence asked from a guard who had just returned from clearing-duty.

"Not yet your majesty, but we are making a dent to that giant snowbank around the empire. That giant storm left a lot of snow to clear out. Luckily the train tracks are cleared for travel."

"Well keep up the good work. I want to know what has been making those odd noises north-east from here. There's supposed to be nothing there, except that crystal wall standing in a pass. Which reminds me, has there been any progress at the library's archives?"

"Unfortunately no. It seems that King Sombra destroyed a good portion of our older records. We think that maybe he was trying to change empires historical records for his own benefit, which seem to include any mention of that crystal wall."

This made Cadance sigh in a rather frustrated way. They where going completely dark on the issue of odd and loud noises being heard from northeast, while dealing with the aftermath of an huge, wild snowstorm and some very odd spikes of magic being felt in the same direction recently. All this added with the strange surges happening in the Crystal Heart, aftermath of the foiled coup attempt from the caribou and later from Queen Chrysalis, the Crystal Empire was a little bit on edge. Only recent greatly positive event was the Crystalling, and even that almost went awry, due to little Flurry Hearts out of control magic, but luckily nothing overly bad did not happen. And then there of course was the grand mess at the southern border of Equestria.
Princess of Love was only lightly happy that the empire still had some trade going on, despite Celestias decision messing up many things for the ponies of Equestria. The only reason why Crystal Empire still had outside trade, was because they 'technically' did not fall under the full political power of Equestria, and even that reason was on a rather thin ice with majority of their remaining trade-partners. One them where the Changelings, now led by Thorax. Her amazement about it happening had yet to completely fade.

"Well keep up the good work, and report immediately if there is any changes in the situations."

"Yes your majesty."

After the guard left, Cadance kept thinking over the situation, while looking out from one of the throne room windows. The Crystal Empire was shiny as ever. Though a little voice in the back of her mind did remind her that it was still technically just one city. Like lady Naja once commented...
Princess of Love was still beating herself over not doing more during that sham of a trial. To her, when things in the courtroom ended up being ruined by Celestia deciding to use an ancient Royal bloodline power, Regalis Imperātum, to change the Tribunals ruling, it had happened a little too fast for her to get an effective word in.
And it did not help that they had no idea where the marilith maiden even was right now. Celestia had admitted of locking her in some cave in an iceberg at the cold northern shore of the continent. Cadance still had not idea how on Equus Luna got that creative in their interrogation methods... And only with just an ordinary cotton swab... It still caused her some chills for some reason.
Unfortunately for two of them, after some scouting, the iceberg seemed to have broken loose and drifted off to who-knows-where. This they did not tell to Celestia, or she just might try and pressure Twilight to go look for it with her friends. That was something pink princess did not wish to see for many reasons. One being the serious lack of accurate maps of the area, some of which still just showed some mountains dotting the northernmost coastline.

"Cadance! We have a situation!" Shining Armors voice interrupted her thoughts. Her husband sounded worried.

"What? What is it? Did some monster from the tundra get through the shield?"

"Luckily no. But there is an angry looking reindeer demanding an audience with you. I told the guards to wait and not to do anything stupid. That cervine seems dangerous, considering there was an layer of ice, maybe an inch thick, beneath her and warned that she would retaliate to any attack with 'impressive force'. Not sure though what a reindeer can do with ice-"

Before Shining could finish, both of them heard a loud crackling sound outside. Nigh simultaneous head turn from the couple towards the window showed a tall spire of ice at a square near the edge of the Empires barrier.

"You just had to go and tempt faith Shiny..."

It did not take long for the two royals to reach the now frosty square. And the ice spire in the middle of it was certainly looking bigger up-close. They could also see the reindeer standing at its top.

"I am Princess Mi Amore Cadenza, answering to the requested audience! Will you please come down so we may converse?!" Cadence shouted upwards, due to the distance. The answer came in form of the reindeer just jumping down, while creating a platform from some more ice to stand on. It also meant that Royal couple had to look upwards a little bit more because of it. The blue eyed, snow white reindeer was already much taller than them. It even had some kind of ornaments all over its impressive antlers, giving off a little rattle when moving.

"I am høvding Ishorn of the Northern deer-folk. I would say that this is a pleasure, but that would be a lie." was reindeers neutral answer.

"Ok?... So, lady Ishorn-" Cadance began, only to get suddenly interrupted by now serious sounding Ishorn.

"Høvding Ishorn! At least use the correct title Princess, please?"

"Very well, um... Høvding Ishorn. What is your business here? Or are you here in the name of Dainn Stonehoof?"

Cadance regretted saying that almost immediately. Mostly due to Ishorns initially calm expression twisted into a complete disgust, causing several spikes of ice to sprout out around her.

"You seriously DARE to even think I would serve that pile of unavngitt skitt??!! This visit does not even have anything to do with that."

"But he-" Shining tried to intervene, only to get silenced by a cold glare from Ishorn, that actually caused him to have some visible shivers.

"That pile of unavngitt skitt was not my kinds leader, and never had a chance of becoming one... Ever..."

"All right... So, your reason of coming here?"

Ishorn took a moment to calm herself a little bit with a couple of deep breaths, while dispelling some of the ice-spikes around her, before continuing.

"Just recently my kind were freed from our unjust imprisonment beyond the Crystal Wall, with some help from a friend. So now we can finally resume our ancient duty as the Wardens of the North."

"Oh, well that great. In that case I'm sure we can work together in the future."

"Perhaps... But that is not exactly the reason for me being here. I am here to ask you ponies, both crystal and equestrian alike, to leave the North. As soon as possible if you could, please?"

Almost complete silence followed this request. Nearly everypony present was confused by it, some even having a very visible jaw-drop reaction. Ishorn was not visibly reacting to ponies confusion, merely waiting for their answer.
Finally a lilac colored hoof rose up, as if asking a permission to ask something. And it also caused everyone present to look at its direction, several crystal ponies getting out of the way, finally revealing lilac unicorn mare with a purple mane, with a teal stripe on it, standing next to a orange unicorn wearing a wizardly looking cape, who also stepped a little further away from the mare. It was as if everypony were trying to get away from the proverbial 'line of fire'.
But Ishorn did give her a nod, waiting for the potential questions from the now lightly nervous looking mare.

"Ummm... Hi, I am Starlight Glimmer, just visiting my friend... Soo, is there some kind of a big reason for that request? I mean that would mean that a lot of ponies would have to leave their homes and the weather would most likely bury empty empire in ice and snow without the crystal ponies powering the Crystal Heart, which keeps the cold away around here, among some other things."

"The displacement of crystal ponies would be considered being a payback of sorts for our kin, because it was them who put up the Crystal Wall to stop us from driving them away from the north and retaking one of our sacred Rune stone sites, which they promised not to touch... Only to use it as a starting frame to that giant krystallaksel of a castle in the middle of this place, while saying they 'forgot' their promise to our kin... And this overly shiny place is also responsible for greatly disturbing the weather of the north, while we where stuck behind the Crystal Wall for generations, unable to do our duties to soothe it properly."

"How does that happen? Even a large group of pegasi, and not even the Princesses themselves can't affect the weather up here all that much."

"Not everything has to, or can be controlled by you ponies. And we have our own traditional way of soothing the weather when needed. Keywords being 'soothing' and 'when needed', not 'controlling it' and 'all the time through the seasons' as you ponies apparently do. But I guess as the time passed, you just got in you heads that you, and only you, should be the sole stewards of all nature. While not really thinking what such thing might cause in the long run to others outside of your species."

Starlight could not really come up with any comeback to that. Maybe because when she really thought about Ishorn's words, they did have a noticeable grain of truth. And it even made her hang her head a little bit, while few other ponies also looked a bit ashamed. Unfortunately they were visibly in the minority.
Finally Cadance continued the talks.

"Well, this is indeed interesting information, but I'm afraid that we can't just up and leave. It would take a lot of time. And where would we even go?"

"There is plenty of empty space in Equestrian lands isn't there? Try building something new and more accurately named, that is not solely dependent on constant happiness. And maybe this time not on someone else's sacred site. Or maybe just find or buy a dwelling in Equestria, that does not need to be made out of crystal... Oh and as for the leaving, my kin has agreed to give you till noon i morgen to leave."

"And how long unit of time does that stand for? I don't exactly talk your native tongue, no offence meant."

"None taken. And as for the word, it stands for 'tomorrow'."

"Wait, WHAT??! You can't be serious."

"I can, and I am. And me and my kin WILL reclaim our sacred site to do our duty, whether you leave willingly or not." Ishorn said with finality to the visibly shocked looking Cadance. And of course a rather angry looking Shining Armor and some equally upset looking guards present.

"Then I am afraid we would need to apprehend you and negotiate with your kin properly." he said in his 'on-duty'-tone while giving a hoof signal to the guards, who promptly tried approaching the white reindeer.
Ishorn did not take this well, but managed to stay calm, before loudly stomping her leg on the surface of the ice platform she was still standing on. This caused several tall, curved ice blades to sprout out from any connected frosty surface, mostly forming a protective barrier around her, while spooking plenty of ponies.

"Not a step closer, or next there will be ice spires colored red with equine blood around me, with some potential brave fools being skewered on them. And we don't trust your kinds way of negotiating, nor promises at this time." she warned in a tone so cold, that it caused shivers to some of the ponies present, before leaping surprisingly high and landing on another ice spire she created on a nearby rooftop.

"Tomorrow noon I'll come back, with my kin and friends who promised to aid us in this. Take some pictures, because tomorrow before the sun sets, this crystalline mess of a place will be no more..."

With that, Ishorn leaped away the same ice and frost covered route she had arrived, eventually leaving the area of effect of the Empires barrier.

"...She was more than serious about that... And that was clear without any emotion-scan to sense that..." was all Cadence could say, but had no time to just stand there, as some panic began to start among the citizens. Luckily nopony got hurt and most panic had calmed down by the evening. There still was plenty of unease around though.
If Ishorn indeed had means of wiping out the Crystal Empire, this was indeed a dire situation. Cadance and Shining did consider asking Twilight for help, but Starlight said that it would take too long for her to get to the empire in time to be of any effective aid, or that maybe she was in the middle of a task from the Map and away from Spike to receive the message. And all three of them knew that Celestia was out of the question, due to the still persisting trust issues, and Sun princesses habit of just sending Twilight to fix things. And they still weren't sure how long Luna was going take with her talks with the thestrals, and their negotiations with the diamond dogs.

So in the end it seemed that Crystal Empire was standing alone in this...

Next day....

"Anything yet?"

"Nothing yet, Shining Armor, sir. And the noon is approaching fast."

"Keep watch, and- Wait... There they are! Sound the alarm."

Soldier followed order immediately, while Shining hurried back to the palace, just in case Cadance needed help. As the alarm sounded, more and more ponies started eye the area outside of the barrier worriedly, many soon noticing the gathering deer-folk on the hill at the visible distance. And there was a lot of them, along with two bigger creatures...

Cadance could see them as well, thanks to the telescope set up on the palace balcony. She could instantly recognize blue war-paint donning Ishorn and, after rubbing her eyes a little bit, Tirek, seemingly strong once again. The other bigger creature she could not quite recognize, due to the ample hooded fur-cape and a mask it was wearing. She was still thinking who or what it could be, when Shining entered the room.

"There's Ishorn, and she somehow has Tirek out there too, along with someone else. What is the Empires situation Shining?"

"Group of guards are forming a defensive line, and the rest are helping Starlight and Sunburst in evacuation efforts. In the meantime, I think we should cast an extra shield around the city, if only to buy more time."

With a nod, Cadence agreed and gently locked horns with her husband. Soon sparks of magic came forth from their horns in a form of a thin spire of light, forming a more visible barrier around the crystalline city. Shining even put more power into it, leaving a bit weak in the knees.

"Let's hope that will last long enough."

"I only hope there will not be any loss of life her-... Do you feel that Shiny?" Cadance asked worriedly when she felt powerful magic spike among the deer-folk. Peek through the telescope revealed it to be coming from Ishorn, who seemed to be wearing simple necklace with a bright glowing red gem, causing snow to billow around her.
Finally the billowing snow started to form a small, but growing, whirlwind before the white reindeer. Soon the snowy wind seemed to take a form of something powerful within itself, which was finally revealed to be a bipedal ice-blue female being, wearing an antler crown made of ice and a rather nice looking outfit, which for a short moment gave Cadance some ideas, but now was not the time for that. All she currently knew was that this summoned being was very, VERY powerful.

The blue being started to float towards the city, waving its hand in a relaxed manner, creating about a dozen pony sized icicles, and sent them flying towards the barrier. The icicles impacted the barrier so hard, it could heard all the way to the palace. While they did not pierce it, they did cause it to vibrate a little bit from the multiple impacts.
Next the icy being gave a little smirk, almost like it could see the royal couple, both of which made Cadance worried, before it flew rather fast closer to the barrier, gave it a short look and a gentle tap with a index finger. Then it proceeded to fly by the side of the barrier, causing a huge amounts of ice to erupt from the snow outside of the barrier.
As the the summoned entity flew, the ice followed and grew in its wake, starting to cover the barrier at the alarming rate, with some pieces of ice even poking through it, until it had covered the entirety of the barrier in its frozen glory. It even had several grand snowflake patterns here and there.

"Wow... Even in this situation I have to say, that this is an impressive sight..." Shining commented, clearly a bit awestruck of the display magic this entity clearly wielded. After the amazement was fading, they both noticed the entity standing at the very top of the newly created ice dome, clearly looking right at them, even giving a light wave to them.
After that, it proceeded to stomp its foot upon the ice dome, causing an echoing sound, followed by rapidly expanding cracks all over the dome, completely shattering it in its entirety, along with the barrier, sending shards of enchanted ice all over the city, crushing several luckily empty buildings here and there, all the while cold winds of north rushed in due to the absence of the barrier.

At that moment Ishorn also gave a signal to all the deer-folk present in an impressive overtone note, and all of them started their running approach towards the city, reaching its edges very soon. Any resistance from the guards was mainly dealt with intimidating show of force, and only attacking guards in self-defence. Who knew crystal buildings walls where oddly fragile when facing a reindeer bucks or caribou bulls rune enchanted antlers. Any slower civilians where calmly herded towards the train station, but some ran towards the castle. Which seemingly was the main target of Ishorn, Tirek and the fur cloaked figure. The latter seemed to leave a singular long trail behind it, almost as if it was dragging something heavy but unseen thing behind it.
While they were rushing towards the castle in the middle of the city, the cloaked figure lightly swung two right arms beneath the cloak, causing an odd orange glowing, speeding clockfaces to appear on the three of them, followed by glassy looking barrier to appearing. After both odd visuals disappeared, all of them seemed to move visibly faster, dodging some stray shots from a few braver guards, while few that seemed to hit got absorbed by the glassy barrier. All the while this was happening, the blue ice entity started to glide lower, clearly taking its time to land.

Finally the trio, along with plenty of other deer-folk, arrived to castle where there was another barrier, created by Shining Armor, with a group of crystal ponies behind it. Cadance was also there, carrying a little alicorn with a rather large wings on her back. She obviously looked worried, and even more so when Ishorn stepped closer to speak.

"Greetings once again Princess Mi Amore Cadenza. I see you decided to do a last stand of sort with your shields and barriers. But please, lower this one and leave peacefully or we are forced to shatter it, with overwhelming force if needed." she said, while Shiva landed and kneeled behind her, bringing frosty air with it, before slowly fading away for now.

"Well we don't really seem to have much of a choice... Can you promise none of us will get hurt by your kin and friends on our exodus?" Cadance requested.

"I promise i jordens og himmelens navn(in the name of the earth and skies) that my kin will not harm you or your citizens, provided you can affirm that Equestria will not do attempt any retaliatory actions upon us."

"I'm sure I can push it through. Celestias authority is not as absolute as it once was... Shiny, please lower the shield, please. We clearly have no chance of winning here."

Reluctantly Shining lowered his shield, eyeing Tirek worriedly, even though the centaur had mostly just stood there.

"So how are you going to proceed here? City has a ton of buildings, so it would take a ton of time to remove them."

"That's where I come in, Princess Bubblegum."

The feminine voice of the masked, fur-cloaked figure sounded familiar to Cadance, not to mention the nickname she had used. The cloaked one then proceeded to lower her hood, revealing a smaller hood attached to the mask. Finally it too was removed, revealing a familiar face of the wrongfully banished and imprisoned marilith, kindly smiling at her. During this, serpentine lady also tapped the rune-carved buckle of the fur cloak, which in turn seemed to de-spell some kind of invisibility from her purple tail.
"Hello Cadance. So how long I was gone? Two maybe three turns of seasons, or whatever many years? And I see you successfully procreated too."

"Naja??? How-?"

"Ishorn's folk found me with some help from Tirek, they asked my help, I agreed and meditated on it, destroyed a giant 'fluff-u' wall and now I'm here to help them remove some crystal buildings..." she explained, as she stretched all of her six arms.
"And I would appreciate If you would not interfere when I'm casting a little spell to do it."

"Umm, how bad it would go if interfered?" came out another familiar voice, who turned out to be Starlight, who had just arrived and most likely heard what marilith had said. She even had managed some courage to stand closer to the huge serpentine being.

"Well hello. And you are?"

"Starlight Glimmer... A s-student of the Princess Twilight sparkle, just visiting my childhood friend here. And she also told me about you few times..." Starlight introduced herself to Naja, getting a little nervous as the marilith came in for a closer look, which was maybe a bit intimidating to a certain degree.

"Hmmm... You kinda look like a 'Twiggles 2.0, Collectors Edition'. Maybe with some added improvements... Don't ask, I just felt like saying that." Naja commented casually, causing some embarrassed blush on Starlight.
"And as for the spells power if interrupted... Well most likely everyone present would cease existing in torrents of near cosmic levels of magic running wild."

"...Stronger than the ice elemental that took down the barrier?"

"I'm somewhat sure you can't fairly compare the two. But for now, please don't interrupt casting. Though I might have to deal with one little obstacle first." marilith said while slithering closer to the much slower spinning Crystal Heart. Few crystal ponies looked horrified when the snake lady conjured a sword to one of her many hands and gave the Heart a few experimental taps, while hovering another hand over it, as if trying to measure or sense something.
Then suddenly Naja took a two handed grip on the sword, raising it above her head and proceeded to stab it at the Heart. The initial of ponies soon faded to confusion, as the blade seemed sunk deeper into the Heart without coming out from the other side. Heart even looked like it was fighting against the blade, even having a almost wicked-like aura on it in the eyes of few ponies present.
Finally Naja managed to push her blade so deep, its hilt was almost touching the Crystal Heart. At that point it started seriously to crack with an ample glow on it, like it was on its final legs on defence. With one last push and twist, the Heart shattered into pieces, that turned to dust before they even could hit the ground. Marilith's blade also came back form whatever space it was stabbed in.
"Now to finish this little crystal removal operation, without the possible risk of aggressively growing stabby crystals. And the warning about interrupting me while casting, it was no joke..." Naja said almost nonchalantly, while de-summoning her blade and getting into proper position. Meanwhile the dark storm clouds, heavy with snow, began to gather around the crystal city, due to absence of the protection from the Heart.

"Oh and Cadance? If you sense a drastic change in my emotions, please don't panic." Naja said to Cadance, before focusing on her pre-casting meditation. And soon enough the pink alicorn princess found out what marilith meant by that.
Cadance could feel a drastic shivers running through her body, as she felt absolutely ALL emotion fade away from now chant whispering Naja, and just barely managed to keep herself calm enough to not have a complete mental breakdown. Never before had she sensed something like this; someone being completely devoid of all emotions, leaving only an absolute void in themselves. Even some of the most heartless criminals had had some emotions in them. But this... This state of complete and absolute lack of emotions genuinely scared Cadance...

And then it happened. A bubble rippling with powerful magic formed between Naja's many hands, and began to slowly expand. Many of the ponies present gasped loudly when they saw what was happening when the bubble touched the Crystal castle's surface. It looked like it was simply being erased, with no special flashing or anything. Just disappearing into nothing. It did not seem to do anything to Naja, or anyone else around her.
As the erasing bubble grew larger, it revealed something withing the crystalline structures, until it turned out to be a large set of stones, four sticking out from the now revealed ground and a fifth floating in the middle of them, all covered in carvings of runes that nopony could read on the fly. At this point the peak parts of the castle had started falling down, only to erased by the bubble, which oddly left several item intact, which were mostly royal couples stuff and that of Flurry's, who saved her Whammy plushie from falling.
Then Naja spread her arms in a wide arc, causing the crystal erasing bubble to expand more rapidly , wiping away almost everything in the city, leaving only some items and furniture scattered here and there. Seeing as the bubble did not harm them, some of the crystal ponies went to collect any items left behind, even getting some help from the deer-folk, also unaffected by the erasing bubble. It was clearly specifically aimed at the crystal buildings and streets.

Finally, as the erasing bubble oddly silently popped, all of the crystalline city was completely gone, only leaving the train station, which was Equestrian made, and the train itself was juuust outside the effective range. And of course everyone where now standing on a ordinary soil with some still persisting small tundra plants.
Naja for her part quickly casted another spell to heal herself a little bit from the weight and drain the spell had put on her physical body. Rest of her magic would need to recover on its own.
'No nosebleed for me this time, only a spike of pain in the back my head.' she thought to herself.

"Umm... Do you need some help? Your mental state is starting to worry me..." Cadance managed to carefully ask, most likely pushing past the amazement of the spells effect.

"Don't worry, I already have a solution for that. Tirek, dear? Could you ease Princess Bubblegum's worries?" Naja said in a deadpan tone.

"With pleasure, miss Naja." was Tirek's answer as he stepped closer to the marilith, and proceeded to put his hands on her shoulders, giving them a slight massage. He even rubbed his knuckles between her shoulder blades and back, which really got a satisfied sigh from Naja. It also restored serpent maidens emotions to normal state, much for the relief of Cadance.
"So Ishorn? You and you kin about to do your duty soon? I don't think many ponies here would do that good in a wild snowstorm." Naja asked, while moving a bit further from the stones and pointing at the still gathering wild storm clouds, which where getting a bit too close and starting to snow a bit harder than normal.

"Yes, I think we should. Brothers and sisters! It is high time we raise our voices high and reclaim our kinds duty as the true Wardens of the North!" Ishorn called out loudly for everyone to hear, receiving some cheers from her kin. Some ponies, mainly Cadance, Sunburst and Starlight, where a bit curious about what was about to happen.

After a short moment, with Ishorn starting, the deer-folk began to sing, but not in a same manner that ponies would. This was somewhat more primal and guttural sounding overtones. there was even melodic clatter from various ornaments in their antlers. Many even stomped their cloven hoofs in a rhythm of sorts. It was rather shamanisticly meditative tone to some.
As the song continued, the runes upon the stones began to glow, accompanied with a slight hum, and the middle floating one staring to spin at a steady pace. This caused some kind of glowing snow to appear around the stones, floating upwards towards the sky and the dark clouds, making a thin lightly glowing strand of a pillar of light. When the glowing snow reached the clouds, there was some rumbling as it began to... Caress them, like someone trying to calmly soothe an irate animal, with its thin tendrils of light. Eventually it began to almost look like aurora borealis, but different from what the Crystal Heart created. These looked like they belonged up there in the northern skies.

Eventually the dark tone in the clouds began to fade into more neutral whitish-grey color, and the snowing also turned into a much more calmer kind. At this point the deer-folks song also began to reach its end, their tones slowly fading away. This also made the rune stones glow and spinning of the fifth to fade and slow down.
At this point Ishorn sighed in obvious content, which drew Cadances attention.

"Sooo... Is everything here okay now?" she asked carefully, making Ishorn to turn at her direction, looking a little less cold.

"...Yes. I would say so. I feel like I just regained something long lost piece of my being. And we shall carry on our duty once again. Lucky for us, this site is the only one in the wide open area, while the rest are in a bit more secluded and hidden places." was her answer to the pink pony princess.

"Oh? How do you know that? I thought you were stuck behind the Wall for a long time."

"Let's just say that we have our ways, and leave it at that. You don't need to know absolutely everything, and we would like to keep our personal magics as our own, just in case... And we might remove some of that railroad for good measure if needed and maybe leave a group of guardians here. We would not like a new group of ponies to come and try to desecrate this site in the name of research or something."

"Okay, you do that while I get the rest of the crystal ponies evacuated and start planning about what to do about resettling. Can I perhaps have a word with Naja?"

"If you hurry, yes. She seems to be about to leave. Seeya later Naja! Pink Princess wants to to ya!" Ishorn called out before taking her leave to coordinate some of the cleaning efforts of the crystal ponies stuff and other items. Cadance, who left Flurry with Shining for now to nap, had to hurry a little bit to catch up with the marilith and the centaur, who both stopped when they noticed her approaching.

"Sorry, I just needed ask what are your plans at the moment?" pink alicorn asked politely.

"Well... I guess maybe do some renovation at the temple if he needs some horn-room, maybe get a different kind of bed-"

"No not those plans, we can talk about those at a later date. I meant your plans for... Celestia...?"

"Oh that? Basically to just punch her in the face ten times... With each of my hands... At a minimum... Maybe, just maybe add my tail to the set too. And I don't mean just slap her with it, I mean full on slam, with a good swing momentum behind it. So that's my plan for her at the moment, but I'm also keeping that schedule open for additional things if needed."

"Well that is good to hear. She is in need of a little beating. But also, Luna apparently want's to meet you. Said she had some information for you."

"Okay. So where she is at the moment then?" Naja inquired.

"Last I heard, still visiting thestrals and the diamond dogs, in the thestral city Nahkhiir, helping them with something going on down there. Personally I think she has something else going on there too, aside from the potential trouble that the talks are about... I just know! Its more passive magic thing. I don't actively spy on others love lives anymore! I'm long past that phase..." Cadance said, before getting a little embarrassed when she noticed the type of mariliths gaze, like she was suspicious about pink alicorns 'shipping info-gathering-methods', maybe revealing a bit too much info.

"So where I should be heading then? Word is that things are crazy down south, with Sunbutt messing up the nations diplomacy and some frigging cult trying worship me and are causing trouble."

"Oh yes them too. Luckily they haven't reached the northern parts yet, but they indeed are causing trouble. Latest news of them was one their members blowing up a statue dedicated to harmony, since they are running out of the ones made for Celestia. But the direction you should be heading is somewhere in the southwest from here, due to thestrals being rather secretive about the exact location of their city, due to some bad history with Celestias father."

"Well score another set of failures to that side of the royal family bloodline. Do we have to do something to let them know that we wish to meet Luna in their city?" Naja asked, which made Cadance to look around for a second before waved her to come closer, which she did.

"Actually yes. Luna entrusted me a secret greeting of theirs in case I locate you before her, and especially before Celestia... 'Nahkhiired laulavad kõige ilusamalt öösel' is the secret greeting. She told me that it should be said in a weeping willow woods at the shore of the Luna Bay. That all she said, and no, she did not name that bay." Cadance whispered to Naja.

"Well I guess I'll be heading that way then. Oh and can you, and Twiggles2.0, Collectors Edition, maybe keep the ponies present here quiet about my presence here? Pretty sure neither of us wants Sunbutt sending any troops or Twiggles and her posse after me, just because she got tripped out due to spoiled cake or something and got some obviously unfinished visions from it."

"I think that can be arranged for now. Good luck to your travels and budding love-life."

"Same to you as well. Except your love-life seems to be doing pretty well."

With the talk over, Naja started her trip, with Tirek, to south-west towards the Luna Bay, while the crystal ponies were packing what was left of their belongings to the train, which luckily had just enough cars for the full evacuation. Soon enough the crystal express train was heading towards Equestria, with Cadance and Shining already thinking about a potential viable stipend system of sorts to help crystal ponies to find new homes, while Starlight was listening to Sunbursts exited sounding analysis of the bubble that erased only the buildings and streets of the now-gone Empire. He would be occupied with theories and other studies for a good while. Overall the emotions were mixed in the train, but mostly hopeful for the future.

Canterlot. Royal Castle dungeon, solitary confinement-block...

"Are you certain this one is a member of that crazy cult and not another false alarm?" Celestia inquired from a guard, while walking down a hallway full of heavy-duty cell doors. Most of them have remained empty for a long time.

"Yes your majesty, we are sure. She was yelling zealous things before blowing up a statue near the school for gifted unicorns, before guards tackled her and brought her here. The prisoner is an earth pony who used some kind of fire magic, and had cult markings on her body. She is being interrogated at the moment."

"Good. Hopefully we can get something out of her that can help in taking down that cult, and free up more resources to aid in our southern border."

Her thoughts were cut short when one of the interrogators came rushing out from one of the cells in the back of the hallway, rushing past them in a hurry. Soon they could hear a nearby bathroom door slam, followed by a sound of puking. This made them hurry to the open cell. Remaining interrogator was backing away from something when they reached it.

"What happened here?" Celestia asked in an urgent tone, only to receive a shaky pointing hoof, which she followed.

She almost immediately regretted it. In the now smelling cell was the captured cultist sitting tied up in the interrogation-chair, with a ritualistic looking snake tattoo going down from her neck down to her waist. The more disturbing thing was the manic, or rather fanatical, grin on her face and the twisted neck, making the mares head flop down in a sick angle.

"S-she... She said shes not telling us anything, t-then she broke an odd glass orb hidden in her mouth and just started laughing and... Twisted her own neck... J-just turning it too far without even flinching..." was all shaking interrogator could say, while curling up in a fetal position out of sheer shock.

It took some effort from Celestia not to hurl her breakfast, while looking at the mad mares body. She managed to look at the shards of the mentioned glass orb on the floor. One larger piece of it drew her attention, leading her to pick it telekinetically. It indeed looked like it was a piece of an green colored orb when whole.
It seemed to ooze, or rather bleed, some kind of magic, which reminded her of the reports of both the southern free towns fighters and the cultists using something similar.

"Get this piece to the labs immediately with the utmost secrecy. I'll call the dungeon personnel to... Clean her out of here..." Celestia told to the guard, who took off with the shard, clearly happy to leave the solitary confinement-block. The remaining interrogator managed to crawl away on his own, leaving the Sun princess alone with the corpse of the cultist.

"Maybe... Just maybe you ended up giving us something useful..."