So here is chapter 4. This chapter was going to be even longer but i decided to break it up and have Ranma and Trixie's arrival and actions in Hoofington happen in the next chapter. The background story in this has actually expanded radically. It was going to be just a minor bit about Trixie's origins and it's began to snowball into something much bigger than is happening behind what Ranma and Trixie are up to.
As always, read and review it if you want. point out any problems i need to fix.
Pain. Trixie wasn't exactly unfamiliar with the sensation but this was a horrible thumping pain that pounded through her mind in waves and was making it hard to focus. It reminded her of the morning, several mornings later actually, after a post show party she had attended for a fellow performer where she had been stupid enough to drink an imported drink that supposedly came from the Diamond Dog undermines. That instance had gotten more interesting when she had found out it was three days later and she still to this day had no recollection of what had happened over those days. All any of the other drinkers would say was that she had a beautiful singing voice. Which she refused to believe as she had never sang a song in her life, despite many ponies penchant for breaking out in song when they felt excessively happy or sad. Wincing she slowly opened her eyes to a pale light that seemed to glow from many tiny crystals growing from tunnel walls. She was finding it impossible to move her legs and with an effort that sent a painful spike of agony rushing through her head she twisted enough to see that she was currently secured to the back of the giant spider thing that had attacked her and Ranma. The immobility of her legs came directly from them being pinned together with webbing along with a few other strands that secured her to the back of the spider. Ranma wasn't anywhere to be seen.
'probably ran while he had the chance.' The thought flickered through her mind and she nearly felt her earlier despair come crushing back full force. Not that she blamed him for taking off, she wasn't exactly worth the effort to save. And she doubted she would have put the effort into fighting a giant spider to save anypony. The spider she was on top of seemed to be having difficulty walking and a look back showed a line of black behind it that seemed to be leaking out of somewhere below. Trixie could only imagine that Ranma had injured it enough that it couldn't stop him from getting away, but she found herself having trouble believing that. She had only known the other pony for a short time but he just didn't seem to be the type to run out on others. Of course that would have meant that he possibly could be dead, which she found a worse option than if he had run away. She ruminated on the realization that she was taking the entire situation rather calmly and put it up to head trauma. Any other thought on the subject vanished as the spider shakily stumbled its way into a huge cavern filled with webbing from floor to ceiling and literally crawling with numerous other such creatures.
Even this close to what she was sure was certain death she focused on what she could see of the surrounding area. There was a number of bundles near one section of the webbing that she was certain were most likely other unfortunate creatures captured by the spiders and held for later purposes of eating. Some even still seemed to be struggling to break free of the heavy strands that held them. Behind that section of webbing was a pile of pale white that she could easily identify as bones, and as they got closer she could see that several even appeared to be pony skulls and bones. The nearer she got the more panic managed to dredge its way past barriers of pain and haziness. She desperately tried to channel magic into her horn only to get a few fitful sparks from the tip and a horrid spike of agony right below her horn that nearly knocked her unconscious.
"Yes, more food." The whispery voice caught Trixie's attention and she managed to turn her head to see the creature climbing down another web, she managed a whole five seconds before she screamed. It was as if something had taken a giant spider and decided to staple something else on there as well. It was mostly hairless on the non-spider part though it seemed to have a mane of some type. Two spindly limbs jutted out from what she assumed was its shoulders that ended in claws much like a young dragons. The head though appeared to be even a third type of creature as it most certainly wasn't like the rest, being reptilian and scaled in nature with a snout full of sharp teeth. It appeared to be a patchwork creature of some kind and she could see what appeared to be the remains of a belt dangling around where spider met...whatever else it was.
Trixie was jolted out of her shock by the spider she was riding suddenly lurching to the left and then, with a loud grinding sound of stressed metal on metal, collapsing to the ground and lying still but for a few minor twitches of the legs. Other spiders quickly scrambled down the webs to snatch her from its back and begin wrapping her in webbing. The creature crossed the floor to the downed spider and pulled a small box from its belt sweeping it back and forth across the downed spider. "Damaged? By brute force? Stop!" Turning to the spiders holding Trixie the thing approached until it's reptilian head was close to her. Trixie was trying not to scream again but could feel her heart thundering at top speed.
"How was my creation damaged?" That close Trixie was able to see that the creatures words weren't coming from its mouth, though its mouth was moving, but from a small grey collar around its neck. When she didn't answer right away the creatures claws dug into the webbing pricking her sides. "Your death can be painless or excruciating, decide now."
"Trixie's c-companion was w-with her, he did it?" Her voice only squeaked a little in the answer, she was actually surprised she had been able to answer past the sheer terror that was clawing its way through her mind right now. And it wasn't like she was putting Ranma in danger, he was likely long gone by now.
"Another pony?" Seeing her nod vigorously he snarled and backed away "Impossible. No pony is strong enough to break my creations." But Trixie could detect uncertainty in the things speech. "More calibrations." The creature turned away and headed out of her view while the spiders went back to wrapping her in webbing. Once completely covered she felt them shove her against the webbing that the other unfortunates were cocooned against. Was it luck that the light had startled the creature or something else? She was a showpony, not skilled in real battle magic, not that there was many ponies who were. She knew that the unicorns of the royal guard who had the skill were trained in spells more designed for fighting but in truth now that Trixie really started to think of it, and she certainly had plenty of time for that right now, her lightning spell was used as a magic trick but if a pony fed more power to it and modified it a little it would kick out a truly impressive bolt of lightning. Instead of just a minor shock it would put out a bolt capable of possibly even heavily damaging a pony, or maybe a spider?
For the first time in weeks she was starting to feel like she didn't want to die. She wasn't sure where Ranma was but she told herself that she wasn't going to go without a fight if she could help it. Now all that was required was for her head to stop feeling like a group of diamond dogs were trying to bash it in and she could try to get out of here.
*POKE* Ranma twitched slightly.
*POKE* Ranma twitched again as the irritation poked him in the flank for the second time.
*POKE* This time his body responded by itself, by snapping a kick back at what was bothering it. The pained cry that sounded apparently got a laugh from someone, or several someone's, and Ranma tried to focus on the noise and drag himself fully back to the land of the living. He could feel heat on his face and the sound of wood crackling in a fire while even a minor attempt to open his eyes and look around sent a spike of pain through his skull. Clenching his eyes shut for a second he opened them slowly to get used to both the light of the fire before him and the spiking pain that drove through his head. Looking up slowly, so as to lower the amount of pain, he tried to see past the flickering flames at what had both saved him from the river and apparently had been carrying him some distance as he couldn't hear the water nearby.
"Pony finally awake."
"I told you he would be." The one who talked strode more into the light and Ranma had to wonder if he had picked up head trauma and was hallucinating. "About time you woke up pony. We were getting tired of carrying you."
It was a dog. Or at least some kind of dog. It had a build that seemed at least partially reminiscent of a gorilla and seemed to alternate between four legged and two legged walk. The one who was talking looked like it was some breed of husky though one nearby appeared to be a type of bulldog. With a pained wince he slowly managed to get to his hooves, and when his stomach lurched he was glad he hadn't eaten anything yet today. A part of his mind, usually the part that was obsessed with food started to wonder what ponies ate. The four dog-things moved enough into the light that Ranma could get a good look at them. They all wore vests and collars, the latter of which were covered in gems of differing types. Blue, grey and brown, which he decided was what he'd call them until he knew their names had only the vest and collar. The other had bracers, covered in gems as well, and a belt that was also gem covered. While the first three were covered in short fur that seemed like it was probably no longer than what Ranma himself had the fourth had thicker fur and the voice was definitely making him think female.
"Spot, check the tunnels. We don't want to be getting sneaked up on." And by the orders being thrown out she was the leader as well. "Rover, Fido we're going to be moving soon get ready to douse the fire." She turned to focus a emerald green eye on Ranma "I suggest you come with us pony, unless you want to be spider food."
"My name is Ranma, not pony." Bad enough that he was a pony but to have to be called it instead of his name was pushing his limits. Wincing at the pain in his skull he shook his head "I have to find Trixie. Where would one of those spiders have taken her?"
"If your friend has been taken then forget it, she's probably dead already." She turned as Spot came back. "Well?"
"Tunnel is clear Rose."
"Good, we need t..." She didn't get to finish as Ranma stamped a hoof cracking the stone underneath. "I need to find Trixie! I didn't leave her behind in the forest and I sure as hell ain't leaving her behind to be eaten by a bunch of damned spiders." She was the first person...pony, that he had met in the world and he wasn't about to just abandon her because some wannabe dog-gorilla things wouldn't help him. He jerked back in surprise as a large paw closed on his neck shoving him back. "I lost five miners to those things! I'm not going to fight them until we receive help from the main mines. We saved you, be glad I don't just keep you for manual labor." Ranma could tell both by her words and actions that the lost miners was getting to her.
Even as she began to turn away Ranma heard the sharp scratching sound of rock on rock and a spider dropped from the ceiling nearly right on top of Fido who swung a fist wildly in surprise. Ranma was surprised that when said fist connected the spider reared back stumbling from the strength of the blow. A second later the spider lashed out with both front legs to try and knock Fido down only to have its front legs snagged by Rose who began to slowly push the spider backwards. Ranma's head may have been pounding but he wasn't about to let that get in the way of a fight. Rushing forward he leapt upwards clearing Rose entirely and landing on the spider, rearing back he tried to focus his ki and lashed out with a forehoof that slammed straight though the rock and into the creatures interior. He jerked his hoof out of the hole he had created to find it covered in inky blackness "Gah! What the heck is this?!" The spider jerked underneath him letting out a shriek even as Rose suddenly wrenched backwards bending the legs in a direction they weren't meant to bend causing the rock to snap loudly and more of the black liquid to pour out. A second later found her underneath the spider and connecting with an uppercut that actually lifted the entire thing off the floor of the cave and cracked the spiders underside allowing more liquid out.
Ranma rode the spider down to the ground as it collapsed and he closed his eyes to try and lessen the now increased pounding in his skull. It was the clicking and whirring that got his attention and he attempted to peer into the insides past the hole he had punched into the creatures back but it was to dark to see anything. That was when the smell finally wafted to his nose and with surprise he lifted his black stained hoof and sniffed at it. "Can't be." With a grimace at what he was about to do he licked it lightly and then spit. "That's oil!" looking around quickly he hopped off the back of the spider and looked at the remains of the fire, there were several sticks with some fire still burning on them but he was finding it extremely hard to figure out how to hold onto anything. "Arg! Fingers, why did I have to end up as something without fingers!" Spotting Rose where she was trying to get some oil off her paws he pointed a hoof at one of the burning logs "Hey, bring that up on top."
"You want to get yourself killed, do it by yourself pony. shouldn't have even bothered to save you." She gestured to her subordinates "We're leaving." Ranma glared after the retreating dogs and muttered a curse before turning back to the fire. Every attempt to grip the sticks with his hooves failed miserably and with a final grumble of irritation he snagged the end of the stick in his teeth and carried it up to the top of the spider and peered down through the hole.
Firelight glinted off metal gears and springs as several twitched and attempted to turn without the lubricating oil that seemed to have kept them mobile. There were several larger gears that were obviously deformed from the blow from underneath and two gears near the top had been driven down into the heavier assembly below by Ranma's strike. Deep in the central gear assembly he noticed a small grouping of spherical gems that glowed dimly with their own internal light. By the small metal wires that connected to that area he could assume it was some form of power source, not that he was an engineer or anything but the weird glow was sort of an indicator of energy of some type. The strange thing was that the gears looked like they were extremely rough, with jagged edges in some places and looking partially malformed from whatever process had created them in others. It was more like the thing had been hastily thrown together and then kicked out the factory door. Of course this raised the question of how did a machine even feel pain? And he was sure the creatures response to the punch had been pain.
Looking again in the direction that the dogs had gone he muttered a curse, which had the effect of dropping the torch, and with a roll of his eyes he snatched the burning wood up again and leapt down to the tunnel floor. The jarring movement sent more pain through his skull, aided by the tight grip his teeth had on his new torch, and he stopped for a moment to let the pain subside again. Thankfully it appeared to be fading somewhat as his impressive healing kicked in. And none of this put him even a foot, or hoof, closer to Trixie or wherever these things came from. His thoughts on the matter were interrupted by a scraping sound from another tunnel and he quickly dropped the torch and dove for cover behind a small rock pillar that supported the ceiling. Peeking out into the cavern he watched as another of the spiders, this one smaller and colored in a slightly different shade of grey and black, clamored over rocks and other debris to reach the fallen spider. It poked and prodded it but when it got no response it extruded a few strands of webbing and attached it to the fallen spider before turning and beginning to trek back into the tunnel it had come out of, taking its fallen comrade with it. The debate on whether to follow or not was settled before the thing had even gone twenty feet and Ranma slipped out from behind the pillar and began to shadow the smaller spider.
Trixie jerked awake with a start and desperately attempted to ignore her roiling stomach while also trying to push past the pounding that still hammered in her head. As the slow thud in her mind lessened she opened her eyes to the darkness of the webbing that surrounded her. She did have to admit that it made it a lot easier to relax as she could simply rest her body against the strands. Hearing soft muttering from somewhere she slowly began to open her mind to her magic while trying to ignore the slight increase in the pain that such an act incurred. The strands of webbing hid the dim purple glow and she slowly began to work at the webbing near her eyes prying it open enough to be able to see but not wide enough to be spotted. After doing the same to the area near one ear she let the glow die out and focused on the creature from before as it strode back and forth before a strange glowing image. If her studies in astronomy were correct the central object was Equus, she could make out the continent that Equestria was positioned on when the object rotated. Around the massive planet orbited Celestia's star and Luna's moon. The creature paced around the image alternating looking at the image and then at a small object in its claws that let out a beep every now and then. The pacing continued for several more minutes until another beep and the creature snarled and threw the device at a wall shattering it to pieces before turning to glare at the glowing image.
"Impossible! The planet size is wrong. The sheer gravity should crush all life on the planet." Frustration had driven the thing to speak loud enough for Trixie to hear and by the looks of it the thing seemed about ready to tear its own mane out in confusion. "The sun should not be orbiting the planet! This is...is...impossible!" The creature stalked around glaring at the image and Trixie had to restrain the urge to snort in mirth at the creatures stupidity. Could it really not know that the satellites of Equus moved at the will of the royal sisters? The next idiotic thing it would complain about would probably be the pegasai controlling the weather. Not that that was a pegasai only activity in the world. While pegasus magic was what ponies used to control the weather it was well known that the griffons had their own weather teams and if the book she had looked at detailing exotic cultures was correct the zebra shamans were adept at handling things in their section of the world. She didn't know what the dragons used, or if they used anything at all, but she doubted they would have difficulty handling the weather if they so desired. Her understanding of the diamond dogs was limited but they were mostly subterranean and the few above ground cities they had used migrant pegasus and griffon workers to deal with their weather. 'And why am I thinking of the weather?'
Watching the creatures pacing she nearly missed the spider that crawled into the nest dragging another of its kind behind it until it reached its creators side and then stopped to stand obediently in place waiting for attention. The creature used two of its legs to lift the downed spider and examine the damage to the overall structure. "Another?" The creature looked near the head and let out a sound that Trixie could only assume was glee of some type and it pulled a small box from its belt and hooked a small wire up to the damaged spider before jabbing the same wire into its own head near its left eye. Trixie was glad her muzzle was pinned shut or she might have made some audible sound of disgust as a small trickle of green ran down across the creatures scaled face. "Impossible! A pony is not that strong! And the others, why are they still here? How many of them must be killed to drive them from this place?" Trixie could only think of one pony that would even be down here and that was Ranma. Which meant he hadn't run, it meant...her thoughts were interrupted by a shadow flickering from place to place near the edge of the nest. She noted a flash of a golden eye, the glint of light from crystals off a swaying hourglass. He had come back. For her?
And yet that begged the question of why? Why would he have bothered to return to find her. It would have been far easier for him to make for the surface and continue his search for the Doctor and just leave her behind. In fact she really couldn't think of any reason he would have bothered to even look for her, nopony else would. Most ponies would likely have just said she deserved what she got and left her behind. 'Why? I'm...I'm not worth it? Am I?' A clatter, a hoof hitting a stray rock followed by a muted curse, and the creature began to turn. It was time to make a move for freedom if she was planning on it and with the way the spiders all over the nest had begun to turn towards the new sound she knew it was now or never. She opened herself to her magic and began to struggle to free herself.
"Why are we following the pony?" Fido spoke softly while they moved through the tunnels, sometimes carving their own when a patrol was heard coming.
Rose herself wasn't sure why she had decided to backtrack and begin to trail the pony through the caves. Maybe it was just the thought that by leaving and waiting for the reinforcements she had asked for she was likely consigning those captured to death. And something about that pony called her to action. She wasn't sure what it was, it wasn't just his words alone, or his obvious drive to rescue his friend. It was...it was some kind of pull that seemed to tell her that helping him was simply the right thing to do. If he had been a unicorn she would have suspected a spell of some sort but she knew that the earth ponies were incapable of that kind of magic. And yet everything was telling her that he had influenced her somehow, and for some reason she found she didn't care. "How long do you think those idiots have before they get themselves eaten? If any of them are still alive we have to do something." It was a complete 180 from the position she had been holding to for the last two days but she tried not to think about it.
"He's in the cavern ahead." Tracking the pony was easy for one with her nose "Rover, Spot, Dig up to the top of the nest and get ready for a Crack and Drop." She looked to Fido "Be ready to move in and fight." The larger diamond dog looked scared by the prospect but orders from a pack leader were orders.
'Sneaky hooves, ninja hooves.' The thought would have made Ranma laugh if he hadn't been trying to stay as quiet as possible across the rock floor. An action that he had found was much harder when you had hooves than when you had feet. And though his eyes were far sharper and with much better night vision than his human ones had ever had he of course just had to miss seeing that small crystal lying on the ground, the same type as the last ten he had avoided and tried his best not to run into. The clatter of the crystal moving across the floor drew a muted curse from him, at which point he knew the situation had gone from a dangerous rescue of Trixie to a beyond dangerous possible full out fight. As the first spider approached his hiding place Ranma muttered a curse and threw caution to the wind. Ducking his head he charged forward impacting the underside of the spider with enough force to knock it upwards before leaping up to strike it nears its eyes, shattering stone and sending it stumbling back to collapse onto two others. He had barely touched down when he had to throw himself to the side to avoid silk thrown his way. Even as he began to scramble up he heard a loud crack and saw another of the spiders lurch to the side while a familiar black and white furred figure leapt to the top of the spider and struck it with both fists sending it down to the floor in a broken heap.
A brilliant purple glow flared around Trixie's prison as she began to exert pressure on the strands. When that failed to work she quickly summoned a knife to slice through the webbing and cut herself free. Pulling free of the strands she decided to vent some frustration on the creature that was now shouting at its minions to kill Ranma and, of all things, a couple diamond dogs. Her horn glowed and a blackness swirled into existence above the strange creature followed swiftly by a brilliant flash of light and sound as the lightning bolt pounded down onto the thing sending it crashing backwards even as thunder boomed. She found herself wincing in pain from the minor feedback as the spell dissipated with too much energy still contained. It wasn't a bad effort considering the amount of changes she had had to make to the spell to get it that powerful, and it hadn't backfired or just went wild which was a plus as well. She turned in time to see the larger diamond dog tearing at the webbing that contained the other prisoners of the spiders. As some was torn away Trixie could see that the imprisoned were diamond dogs themselves. She wanted to help Ranma, but with the amount of spiders that were now starting to drop from the ceiling and walls they needed all the help they could get. Summoning another set of shears she went to work freeing the other diamond dogs.
Ranma dodged around another strand of silk and twisted around skidding to a stop underneath another spider before bucking upwards into its thorax causing the stone to break and drenching him in oil causing him to slip and nearly get crushed by the machines remains as it crashed down. Scrambling out from under one of the things legs he was just starting to push himself up when pain pierced his side as a huge hand clamped down on him lifting him off the ground and flinging him at a nearby wall. Ranma could feel the rock shattering behind him as he slammed into it hammering a crater in the wall before falling to the floor with a pained moan. Shaking the darkness from the edges of his vision he looked up to see the creature approaching him. The human torso attached to a spider body from the waist down was a shock, but it certainly got stranger than that in the alligator-like head that was on said human torso along with the clawed hands that certainly weren't human either. He struggled to get to his hooves and started coughing until he hacked up a small amount of blood. 'That isn't good' The thought had barely registered when he noticed the thing, whatever it was, had crossed a good halfway to him only to be intercepted by Rose. The creatures punch stopped dead as it slammed into a paw that didn't budge from the impact. Rose let out an enraged growl and then stepped inwards lasing out with a right hook that staggered the creature, only to have to dodge as several of the spiders attempted to grab her.
Ranma's vision flashed white again as a lightning bolt slammed down driving the creature back again. "How dare you think to keep the Great and Powerful Trixie as food!" Trixie's shout echoed through the cavern followed by a yelp that got Ranma's attention and he looked to see another spider, that had just tried to hit the showpony, plummet to the floor as a lightning bolt impacted it. But Trixie was starting to look tired and Ranma could already see another dozen of the spiders scrambling down the walls along with others coming in from the tunnels leading into the nest and the freed diamond dogs were being pushed back. Ranma stumbled slightly as he got to his hooves only to have two lines of webbing latch onto him stopping him from moving forward. Focusing his ki he began to stalk forward by anchoring each hoof as it struck the rock and then moving the next. The two spiders began to slide across the rock as they pulled backwards trying to stop him. The creature that had hit him was now focused on Rose and rushed the diamond dog only to have her leap out of the way.
"NOW!" Rose's shout stalled the creature for a moment in confusion only for a loud crack to sound from the ceiling followed by a thundering boom as a massive chunk of rock slammed down on top of the creature crushing it under tons of stone. Rover and Spot looked down from the hole that now dominated the ceiling to check on their work.
"Woah!" Ranma stumbled forward as the spiders that had been holding him back suddenly stopped doing so. Looking back in surprise he saw the machines sliding to the floor and lying there unmoving. Crashes sounded as the bodies of other spiders dropped from the webbing and slammed to the cavern floor. A glowing pair of shears appeared and sliced through the webbing attached to his side and Trixie trotted over looking confused. "You came for Trixie." Ranma could see she was trying to puzzle something out. "Why?"
"Why wouldn't I? We're friends right?" To Ranma it was a simple and truthful answer, mostly as he had a somewhat broad definition of friendship. As long as someone wasn't actively trying to kill him, cause damage to anything he liked, or stand around insulting him he would treat them fairly and usually try to be nice. If they actively helped him they usually automatically got lumped into friend territory. Of course once in the friend category Ranma usually had a hard time kicking them out of said category, even when they actively tried to kill him once or twice like that weird girl in Denmark. Ranma had no idea that in the universe he was in, especially on the planet he was on, the term friend carried far more weight than it did in his own world.
'Friends?' The thought flickered through her mind and Trixie tried to remember the last true friend she even had. She had to think back a really long time but it was likely Boom Boom in Canterlot. The young filly had been older than Trixie and already had her cutie mark but she had few if any friends outside of Trixie and the two had gotten into tons of trouble using Boom Boom's prototype explosives. 'And who would have thought that liquid rainbow could be mixed with the right ingredients to make a really massive explosion. Wonder if the guard ever did find out why that warehouse blew up.' But she really hadn't thought of Boom Boom in...how long had it been since she thought of her old friend? And she hadn't even told the other filly that she was leaving Canterlot when she had taken off, she hadn't even left her a note. Why? She had trouble even remembering why she had left Canterlot in such a hurry, only that she had been absolutely sure she had to leave to find her cutie mark. No, there was something else there, something...something she didn't want to remember. Over the years she had trained her mind quite well and had come to understand when it did and didn't want her to know things. This situation had happened only three times in her life and she had learned not to pry when her mind told her not to.
"Trixie you okay?" Ranma watched as the blue mare jumped slightly and saw her focus on him again.
"Yes Trixie is fine." Glancing towards Rose and the others she frowned "Where did you find the Diamond Dogs?"
"Uh...They pulled me from a river before I could drown, figured they had left but I guess they decided to come back." 'Diamond dogs? Really? What is up with this world.' He shook his right foreleg slightly to try and work some stiffness out of it and walked over to Rose. "Thought you were leaving?"
"Yes well, I couldn't leave my workers trapped down here to be food and just wait for reinforcements to show up." Suddenly sharp teeth flashed in a smile "Besides pony, you were the perfect distraction."
"Ranma! My name is Ranma, not pony!" He glanced around at the collapsed spiders "Must have had something on him that controlled them." Frowning he walked up to one and tapped it with a hoof "Why use rock?" Any other questions were silenced by a scrape from the near the center of the nest. Turning Ranma watched in surprise as the rock used to crush the creature began to shift and move. "Ya gotta be kidding me." Slowly the rock lifted until it slammed down beside the creature as it struggled up onto its now only five working legs. One arm looked to be busted halfway down but the other was raising something that Ranma could recognize by shape even if it looked a little different than he was used to. "DOWN!" He tackled Rose even as a red lance of light shot from the weapon slicing through the air where the diamond dog had been standing.
"NO! I will not die here. I saw! I alone saw the way out. As the light burned our world I saw the way! I slipped into the nothing between universes and crossed the void, crossed the abstract plain! I SURVIVED! And I will not allow myself to be stopped by you stupid ponies!" The weapon shifted to point at Ranma and he could see the claw tightening on the trigger even as he knew he wouldn't be able to move in time to avoid the entire shot. Still, maybe he could get off with only losing a leg or something.
"NO!" The shout came from Trixie whose horn flared to life once more with a brilliant shine as the cavern darkened noticeably. Startled by the shout the creature had just begun to turn towards the unicorn when light flared around his good legs wrenching them out from under him with more than a few loud cracks of breaking chitin even as everyone in the cavern was deafened by a staccato of thundering booms as more than a dozen brilliant lances of lightning slammed into the creature again and again ending in a last rolling boom that echoed away down the tunnels attached to the nest.
Ranma, who had had his head against the ground, eyes clenched shut, ears pulled flat and hooves pressed against them to try and block out the noises that assaulted his extremely sensitive hearing, slowly lifted his head to look at the now smoking creature. Trying to ignore the ringing in his ears he stood up slowly and watched as the creature slowly began to fall forward even as the parts of its body struck directly crumbled to ash. "Wow." He looked to Trixie who happened to be swaying on her hooves looking like she was about to fall over. "Remind me not to get you mad." He looked to Rose as she stood one paw holding her shoulder where the beam had just grazed her. When she moved her paw Ranma could see that her vest had and fur had vanished in a line across her shoulder leaving blackened flesh where the beam had brushed past.
"Good riddance." Rose stepped back to look around at the spiders. "Have to clean this mess up just to reopen mine shafts 20 through 40." She glanced at Ranma and Trixie as the two approached.
"Well I hope they can get us out of here near where we need to go." Ranma's stomach suddenly growled and he tried to remember the last time he ate. And then thought of his new form and wondered exactly what ponies ate. 'If anyone thinks I'm eating grass they can forget it.' "Let's see if they'll lead us out."
Looking Glass wandered around the small clearing as his scanning spell continued its work trying to determine what magic the princesses had felt. He had already seen the section of the small clearing where a fight had taken place. By the hoof prints in the dirt and the claw marks nearby it was obviously between a pony and multiple timber wolves. By the looks of the ground and the way the hoof marks shifted an moved it hadn't ended well for several of the timber wolves, not that they would have been down for long. The light of his spell zipped back and forth sweeping across the ground as he glanced up at the moon dominating the sky. He could have slept and went out tomorrow but something about all of this, Trixie and this new problem, were driving him forward and he could already tell this was going to be one of those cases where he slept little. His right forehoof slipped into a slice into the ground and he stepped back to stare at the deep gashes in surprise. "A Timber King?" Timber Kings were rare compared to the more minor timber brutes that could form from the remains of multiple fallen timber wolves. If there truly was a Timber King running through the Everfree it would need to be reported to the guard so they could deal with it. The last one that had formed had led a full six packs of timber wolves into the surrounding population centers and caused quite a few deaths before being put down.
The gold earring winked with light for a second and a small notebook and quill appeared allowing him to start taking notes on the Timber Kings claw size and spacing. By the looks the creature must have been truly massive. By size alone he would have believed it to be at least two hundred years old which would make it quiet dangerous to engage in hoof to hoof combat. This was a situation that likely would require the Nova Guards arcane squads. Filing all information away he turned as his spell stayed hovering over one spot winking fitfully. Trotting over he could see where the grass seemed to be completely dead and brown in the exact outline of where a pony had lain. His horn glowed again and a second glow surrounded his right forehoof as he extended it to the dead grass and touched it lightly. There was the remnant of some power still buried in the grass and dirt where the unknown pony had lain. It was too weak for him to get much of a lock but it was certainly not pony magic. It also didn't conform to Zebra shaman magic, or the powers the intelligence service knew the Griffons and Diamond Dogs possessed. The EIS though had little knowledge of Changeling magic, or of Dragon and Harpy magic. "And plenty more." Looking Glass frowned as he looked around the clearing again and sighed. Well his target had obviously headed out from here to escape both a pack and a Timber King.
Shaking his head the agent trotted along with his scanning spell keeping an eye on everything around him so he wouldn't get caught unawares if something managed to see through his stealth spells. Now all he had to do was find out where this unknown pony went.
"Ya sure about this?" Ranma hadn't meet many girls who could travel as quick or as long as he and his father could. But then again with spending most of his life outside of normal society he hadn't met many girls at all, and he really didn't know the limits of pony stamina.
"Trixie has been relaxing enough." She looked out at the edge of the trees they were about to pass out from under. "With where we came out it's several hours to the road and all day and part of the night on the road to reach Hoofington. It would have been nicer if we could have come up closer than here."
"It's not that bad we..." Ranma staggered as they stepped out from under the trees, leaving the Everfree and entering normal Equestria. "What the!" He spun to stare at the forest edge, which ended as if a knife had sliced it off in a straight line and then placed normal rolling plains next to it. "It's like...like the whole world changes." His muttered words caught Trixies attention but she could only watch in confusion as he stepped back over the edge into the Everfree and then out again. To Ranma it was like the bottom had dropped out of his stomach the instant he stepped free. One minute he was practically swimming in energy and the next, nothing. Well not nothing but the amount of ambient energy dropped to being lower than he had ever felt anywhere in his life but one place. 'Hell, only deserts have less life energy than this!' He could certainly feel some life energy around him but it was much smaller than it should have been. He could imagine that with this low energy even the plants would suffer a slow growth cycle. And yet understanding how this worked was impossible, the massive amount of energy in the forest should have been bleeding over like nuts into the surrounding land, but it wasn't. The instant he stepping into the Everfree he was back in the wild ocean of energy, step out and he was practically digging to find any kind of energy to bolster his own.
"What is it?" Trixie was starting to get irritated over her companions continued stepping back and forth across the edge of the Everfree.
"You can't feel that?" He stared at her for a second before walking over "The massive energy difference between the places?"
"Of course there is an energy difference." Trixie rolled her eyes while turning and starting to walk away. "That is the Everfree, the magic there runs wild." Seeing that wouldn't be enough she snorted "Old stories place it as the remains of an ancient battle that got out of hand and unleashed magic beyond any ponies control which spread and spread until it corrupted the wood and created the Everfree."
"Not exactly the energy I was talking about." But it did explain some things, as well as add more questions on top of everything else. His stomach growled again and Trixie glanced his way. "Anything to eat around here? And please don't say grass." He noted Trixie's raised eyebrow before she let out a snort and shook her head.
"Trixie believes you must have been very far from normal society. Grass is food when nothing else is around." Frowning she looked around the plains, glad for the full moon that shone down upon them, and spotted a small grouping of flowers growing nearby, she couldn't identify them outright but she was hungry as well and they didn't match any of the poisonous flowers she had learned about in Flora: A Pony Guide to Cuisine on the Road. "Now there is food. would be nicer with bread but one takes what one can get." Her magic plucked some of the flowers and floated them over to Ranma who looked at them uncertainly. "If you aren't going to eat them then Trixie will."
"No it's okay." He snatched the flowers with his hooves and looked at them warily for a second before deciding that he really didn't have a choice and shoved them in his mouth. And a second later Trixie was shaking her head as the night pony dove into the remaining flowers and ate all of them.
"Trixie can tell this is going to be harder than she thought." At his confused look she frowned "You know nothing..." She raised a hoof to stop his protest. "Don't try to lie to Trixie, she can tell you know nothing of pony society. While she can't teach you everything you likely need to know by the time we reach Hoofington she can at least make sure you don't make easily avoided mistakes. It will be better for both of us if you don't draw attention." After all, the more attention he got the more ponies would look at her and the more likely she would be recognized even through an illusion spell. And her bruises from the last such foray into town had finally faded, she didn't need any new ones.
"Fine." The answer was sullen but he trotted over and began to listen as she tried to cover the most need-to-know points of pony society. neither pony noticed the grass becoming greener and growing longer in each place the night pony stepped as they went along.
Two Hours Later.
Looking Glass smiled as the hulking steel armored diamond dog dove back into the hole in the gem fields and went to fetch his pack leader. The agent had learned more about his target, the pony was fast and extremely durable if the jump from the top of the cliff was something to go by. But he had also picked up another pony while moving through the woods, and if his scanning spell was correct it was a unicorn. Two sets of tracks had entered that small area but only one had left, though by the depth of the hoofprints he could assume the target pony was carrying the other. His musings were cut short by the arrival of a diamond dog decked out in enough gems to identify her as a mine operator, or more commonly known as a pack leader among the diamond dogs.
"Rose." Looking Glass smiled as he trotted up to the diamond dog "I didn't know you were back from Ruby City."
"If this is a social call It will have to wait as I have brainless miners who need looking after and twenty mine shafts that need cleaning." Rose's irritation at the interruption to her work was obvious. "And the overseers aren't being much help right now." She smiled coldly at the unicorn "We could always use a few more strong backs."
"Maybe some other time. In truth I'm searching for a couple ponies who traveled through your mines." He noticed the pack leader stiffen at the same time she tried to adopt a casual air.
"No idea what you are talking about, we have been busy dealing with our own problems and haven't had time to look for ponies in our mines." She looked to the smaller diamond dog who hopped out of the tunnel next to her to hand her a stone tablet with writing scrawled on it. "Yes, send it back and tell them we don't need the soldiers any longer, the problems been dealt with." She turned back to look at the agent. "No ponies here but you."
She was trying to send him away and it was blatantly obvious, it also irritated him greatly. "I do have to wonder if we should examine your mines. After all we would hate for an instance like that one a couple years ago." He was of course refeering to the diamond dogs attempts to press gang the element of generosity into being their personal gem finder.
"I wasn't here when that happened, my business in Ruby city was still ongoing. If I had been you certainly wouldn't have gotten whatever pony it was back." She glared at the agent.
'Got you.' Looking Glass put on his most disarming smile "Really? I have to wonder if the Diamond Dogs are still subject to the alliance treaty then?" Seeing her about to object he raised a hoof "After all trying to imprison a pony is bad enough, but you tried to press gang an element bearer." Seeing the pack leader freeze and her eyes widen he continued "The element of generosity at that. And when the other element bearers came to retrieve her your guards attempted to capture them as well, while this has been known for some time the case was closed. I would hate to have to bring this before the princesses themselves, the loss of your peoples lease of these lands would possibly be only the beginning of legal action."
"Two ponies." Rose snarled the words glaring at the agent with now undisguised anger. "They traveled through our mines and aided with a...problem we had. They were traveling to Hoofington."
"Good. Now describe these ponies to me and we can put all this behind us." In truth he was sad to have to pressure the pack leader this way. While he wasn't exactly friends with the diamond dog he had met her in Diamond city and he had gotten quite a bit of good intel out of her. It was obvious that whatever problem they had suffered had been dealt with by both Rose and the two ponies. Like normal dogs the diamond dogs showed loyalty to those who aided them or made friends with them. To Rose giving up information on those she felt loyalty to would seem to her to be a great betrayal. But when it really came down to it he could always find new sources of intel from within the Diamond Dog kingdom.
Changeling Hives, Near Dragon Clan Border
Soft Step winced as she lifted her right foreleg off the ground holding it up while watching the refugees moving through the jagged spires of rock that had slowed their advance on the border. A light buzz next to the pegasus caught her attention and she turned as the blue armored captain, Swift Wing, landed next to her. "How close are they?"
"Moving into the spires now. We haven't been able to find out where the Behemoths are but it is likely they are close by." The changeling watched as his forces escorted those who couldn't fight, which ranged from the young, to the old, to the injured. "We are being slowed down."
"You wish to leave them behind?" Soft Step knew it was a question that needed to be asked as it was the first time the statement had been made by the captain and she wanted to know how he would respond. She was learning quite a bit about the changelings but still had only partial knowledge of what had brought about the desire for a part of the hives to break free of their queen. She had been shocked to find out there had been other attempts at rebellions in the past but that all before had been put down swiftly by the queen. She watched several changelings pass by below dragging a wagon that contained several collapsed ponies. She shivered slightly at the sight and the knowledge of what had been done to them, but the rebels were trying to save them as much as themselves. But she had to wonder if there was anything left to save in those ponies. Nearly emotionless husks that simply followed orders at this point she could imagine that it was going to take years of spells and therapy before they could be returned to some kind of normal life.
"No! We would never leave behind those who couldn't defend themselves. We will defend our hive no matter the cost." He glared out across the rock spires "Whether your princesses helps us or not." He looked down at several soldiers carrying the youngest of the changelings, those who still hadn't even gained the ability to fly. "Whatever the cost." He took to the air again to try and speed up the movement of the rebel forces.
Soft Step glanced down into the mass of changelings as they funneled past the spire she was on and tried to keep a brave face for the ones who looked her way. They were relying on her to bring them aid, relying on the princesses to convince the dragons to let them through the clan territories. It would take another days march to reach the border and it was likely that Chrysalis's forces would engage them several times during that march. But she could only hope the princesses could get them passage through the clan territories. She had been sending reports when she could while leaving out the fact that she herself was injured. Her leg hurt bad enough, but the damage to her left wing would take weeks to heal without a hospital to help it along. And the changeling idea of healing magic certainly didn't work for her. With a sigh she tried to suppress a wince and turned to stumble along with the rest of the refugees towards the border tossing a quick prayer to her princesses for aid.
Next Day, Sunset.
Celestia stood watching the sun vanish from view of Equestria even as she guided it's rising on the far side of the world. Few ponies really considered the weight of the duties that were laid upon the royal sisters in taking care of the sun and the moon. It was known to all races that at one time the unicorns themselves raised and lowered the sun but few knew that at the time the sun and moons schedule was erratic and at one time the mistakes of a few nearly altered the entire orbit of the celestial bodies to disastrous results. The correct path and exact schedule was necessary for things to run smoothly in the world. She watched as the moon began its slow ascent into the sky and looked upon the stars that twinkled in the sky. Closing her eyes she reached out, pushing her limits farther and farther, through the depths of blackness that separated the lights that shined in the sky to reach for the nearest star. Celestia, the might and glory of the sun itself knew how long it took for light to travel from place to place. Thusly she knew this star was five hundred years of travel away if one traveled by the speed of light. She could feel the stars pulses and rhythms, the flares of uncontrolled reactions and she exerted her will. She could feel the star settling as the flares that had been bursting from it lessened and then ceased entirely as its core settled into a more efficient cycle extending its life by hundreds of thousands of years.
"Tia?" The voice startled the solar princess and her power twitched causing the surface of the star she was linked into to roil wildly until she could calm it and cut her connection. Turning she saw a her sister giving her a mischievous smirk. "You did that on purpose."
"Would I do such a thing sister?" Stepping up next to her sister she looked out into the night sky. "An impressive display." She looked to her sister seeing the worry buried under the calm. "What is wrong?"
"Something. I can't put my hoof on it but I feel that there is something wrong, something deep within the entrenched bureaucracy." She frowned looking down upon Canterlot. "Something is rotten within the system Luna, something that I should have seen years ago. And it's coming to a head now." Shaking her head she looked worriedly to her sister seeing the concern there. "I can feel it."
"Your highnesses." The two sisters turned to see a night guard standing at attention near the door to the balcony. "There are two pegasai to see you. They say they are expected."
"Let them in." Celestia smiled as the guard stepped out and watched as two ponies slipped silently onto the balcony. Both bore deep red coats with manes and tails of black, one bore the cutie mark of two crossed skeleton keys while the other had two interlocking padlocks. Both pegasai, like the unicorn Looking Glass, wore a small gold ring near the base of their right ear. "Lock, Key, it is good to see you." Celestia stepped forward noting the two pegasai seemed a bit tired. "I certainly didn't expect a report so quickly."
"We spent all night and day on this." The gold earring in Lock's ear winked with light and a small binder of papers appeared. She set it on the small table nearby and began to nose through it.
"We compiled what we could find of previous reports, as well those strange reports that Looking Glass showed us. And he was correct. The reports within the archives have been altered and changed to show different information than what the original reports recorded." Key stepped forward frowning. "Retrieving this information would have been nearly impossible if it hadn't been for the meticulous record keeping of Sharp Quill. He made copies of all his reports and kept them in his own filing system in case of problems in the archive."
"The original reports covered the actions taken by the unicorn Trixie upon leaving the town of Ponyville up until the end of the Alicorn Amulet incident." Lock looked up from the binder. "Sharp Quill discovered that his reports were being altered and began to look into the situation some time ago but was being blocked on almost every level. He believed that there was a deliberate attempt by parties unknown within the intelligence service, and possibly farther abroad as well, to destroy the career of the unicorn Trixie."
"You sought him out?" Celestia asked the question even though she was fairly sure she knew where this was going.
"Unfortunately he is nowhere to be found. We even examined the apartment building he was staying and found that somepony had already ransacked his home. We talked with some of those who knew him and found that he had set up a meeting with a member of the royal guard but the guardspony stated that Sharp Quill had never arrived at the meeting." Key watched as Luna levitated the binder to herself and began reading. "We would also like to state that we were followed three times and attacked outright once. Nothing we couldn't handle but it is obvious that somepony has something at stake here."
"You've looked into what Looking Glass stated about discrepancies in her birthplace and parents?"
"Yes your highness." Lock shook her head "It is most confusing. According to the registration files on record the first mention of Trixie is with two earth ponies, Sifter and Pie Plate. Their origin is listed as cooks who had spent years working within the griffon High Peak. But a few discreet inquiries to our ambassador there as well as some interagency cooperation with the griffon inquisition tells us that Sifter was never pregnant, nor did she or Pie Plate have a filly with them when they left High Peak. The first files on Trixie appear to be several guard reports on file about her actions along with a young filly named Boom Boom. Both Boom Boom and Trixie were listed as suspects in the destruction of warehouse seven at the time but no charges were ever leveled."
"Not long after that Trixie seems to have left town and began to travel, we attempted to speak to her parents but they would not talk with us. We have limited information on her until she turned up in Ponyville. She appears to have been a successful showpony until then, afterwards..." Key frowned trying to decide what needed to be said. "We believe that actions were taken in an attempt to destroy her."
Luna glared at the binders pages and then stepped forward. "Why? What reason could there be to attack the reputation of this showmare? She appears to be just a random citizen."
"Yes that is what we thought, but the problem is we have been unable to get access to the deepest levels of the archives, the chief archivist refuses to allow us access." Lock noticed her sisters look and shook her head. "It is speculation."
"Let me hear what she believes." Celestia's expression told the sisters to continue.
"Key believes that the followers and the attack on us is the fault of the chief archivist, those actions only started after our attempts to access the lower archives. I believe she's seeing things that aren't there." Lock noticed her sister roll her eyes and flicked her wing out to hit the other on the nose. Before she could do more a letter floated to her, addressed to the captain of the Shadow guard.
"Thou will take this message to my captain, he will accompany you to the lower archives." Luna's eyes narrowed "We wish to know why, and what, actions have been taken against our subjects." The two pegasai nodded and left with the letter to find the captain of the Shadow Guard.
Celestia frowned trying to decide whether she needed to get involved directly when the captain of the royal guard rushed onto the balcony. "Your highnesses! We have recieved a report from Soft Step. She has reached the border between the dragon clans and the hives, from there the interference of the hives is lessened and she got a report out. They are currently under assualt by the queens forces, they attempted to retreat into the dragon clan territories but the first squad to try was incinerated by a dragon guardian. According to Soft Step the dragons have taken position on the pillars and refused to allow them access to the dragon lands." He stomped a hoof in frustration "The last of her message said that a Behemoth was approaching."
"When did the message arrive?" Celestia's worry for their agent as well as for the rebel forces who had dared to stand up to their queen filling her mind.
"Less than two minutes ago." He frowned "Is there still no response from the dragons?"
"No." Celestia frowned while her mind rushed through ever strategy she could come up with.
"We suggest simply aiding those in need." Luna frowned as her sister shook her head. "Would this not solve the problem?"
"It would rile the dragons, and we have enough problems with rogue dragons the way it is. The one dealt with by Twilight and her friends was young, and the green that currently inhabits the Everfree is still a cause for concern. I do not understand why they have not sent a reply, they would have received my request by midday."
"They would have yes." Captain Spear stepped forward "But by not responding at all they allow themselves leeway. They can claim that your message arrived too late, that nothing could be done before the destruction of the rebel forces happened. And due to the hives wild magic getting messages out is nearly impossible, they likely believe we have no contact with our agent. In fact it is even more likely that if Soft Step survived the last fight the dragons would make sure she didn't get the chance to report back."
Celestia frowned as she considered the captains words and could find truth in them. There had been plenty of time for the dragons to respond but they had not. "I will speak to the clan lords directly." She strode from the balcony, followed by Luna and the captain.
"I will rally an honor guard."
"No." She could see the captain was about to object but she continued. "This will be between myself and the clan lords, there will be no others allowed. Do not worry captain, I have friends there." Or she had, long ago when she had last stood before the council. As she left the royal guard and Luna behind she strode down passages she hadn't been down in decades until she stood before an ancient dais carved with runes. Stepping onto the dais her horn flashed gold and she vanished.
Dragon Citadel, Claws of the Sky.
"This is folly." Graven rested on the small outcropping of rock that he often sat on during council meetings and looked upon the other clan lords. "Celestia has ever been an ally of the dragon clans. And you offer her insult."
"We will not allow the filth of the hives to travel through our lands." Emerald Claw was a young dragon compared to Graven and the other elders and at a mere seven hundred he had participated in the short war against the changelings the dragons had had five hundred years ago though he had been kept from the heavy fighting and had never got the chance to even see a behemoth. "Allowing them to spread would cause more problems than it would ever fix. Do you desire to see their hives begin to spread across the world. All here know there is no such thing as a reformed changeling. They are a disease that we have allowed to remain only due to the treaties of the old alliance."
"And what of Celestia's agent? There is a pegasus there that serves the royal sisters." Verdant looked upon the rest of the lords, far too many of which were far too young. And it was that youth that was going to end with both her and Graven on damage control with the ponies. Looking upon the council she knew how this insanity had started, with the beginning of the long sleep. While the youth of the dragons might rest for a mere hundred years at the most, in their sleep the elders could rest for far longer. She knew of an elder who had once napped for nearly five hundred years before wakening, and what a job catching that one up on political changes had been. When an elder entered the long sleep they usually chose from among their kin the ones that they believed would replace them eventually when they entered the final sleep. It was a way to allow these untested to see the ways of the council and see the way things were run by the lords. But this time...this time things had changed for the worst in far too many ways. Four of the lords had entered the long sleep, four elders who should have been sitting on the council making sure young blood didn't endanger things to this extent. The last time the council had such untested blood on it they had nearly started an inter-clan war.
With four of them sleeping now the only age on the council was herself, Graven, and Vox who spent most of his time dozing when not called upon to speak. And in the place of the sleepers were four youth who were so young they hadn't even been hatched during the Nightmare War. The youth had banded together, thinking they would show their elders a thing or two about politics. This normally would have simply left Graven, Verdant, and Vox chuckling in the hallways at the idiocy of the youth if they hadn't just undercut the dragon clans greatest ally. And calls to the clan keepers to wake the elders had fallen on deaf ears. Seeing Crimson Wing stand Verdant nearly groaned audibly. 'And the clan idiot will now speak.' Why Typhon had chosen this brainless imbecile to represent her clan she would never know.
"I'm sure that something can be arranged. After all we don't even know if it truly is her agent anymore." The youngest of the dragons currently on the council chuckled darkly "I've often wondered what pony tasted like."
"You fool! Do you..." The loud crack caught the attention of the clan lords and drew eyes to the two massive doors that lead into the council chamber. Verdant watched as the doors, forged by the most talented dragon smiths, and endowed with the most powerful magic they could wield, deformed and twisted before shattering as they blasted inwards with a boom that shook the council chamber. Crimson Wing jerked in surprise as a chunk of the doors nearly half her size scythed past her head to burry itself in the wall.
"May the ancients preserve us." The choked whisper came from Graven as he looked at the shining star that blazed in the entrance of their council chamber. Said star began to stride into the room, each golden shod hoof impacting the floor with a ringing boom and turning rock to molten slag though the hoof never sank into the liquid.
"WHERE IS THE PACT!" The thundering voice shook the council chamber. "WHERE ARE THE ELDERS! FOR BEFORE MY EYES I SEE ONLY HATCHLINGS."
Emerald Claw reared up "You dare!" Any other thing he might have said was stopped as a golden light slammed closed on his jaws clamping them closed. The dragon, used to being heavily magic resistant to the point of near immunity from most spells found that said ability wasn't helping him the least.
"BE SILENT!" Eyes as bright as the sun glared upon the council. "I REQUESTED AND IT WAS NOT DELIVERED. I ASKED AND IT WAS NOT GIVEN. HAS THIS COUNCIL FORGOTTEN THE FALL OF GRIMJAW, HAS IT FORGOTTEN THE FLIGHT OF CLAN BLOODWING!" A single hoof slammed down and a shudder passed down to the roots of the mountain itself as cracks formed on the ceiling of the council chamber. "MUST IT BE REMEMINDED OF ITS VOWS? REQUEST AND IT SHALL BE DELIVERED. ASK AND IT SHALL BE GIVEN. WERE THESE NOT THE WORDS SPOKEN! DOES THE COUNCIL SO EASILY FORGET ITS PROMISES!" The princess continued to shake the chamber with her speech and Vox stirred looking down upon the small being who's eyes now turned to him. Her mane and tail no longer the aurora of colors but a seething mass of flame. old memories stirred in the eldest's mind and he lifted his head.
"Nay princess, we need not be reminded." A long neck lowered and the ancient dragons head swept close to the solar princess ignoring the heat blasting outwards from her while ancient blue scales shone in her light. "But these younglings think they hold the reins of power and a new vote must be made if that is to change." He looked to the youth of the council, disgust writ large across his features. "And a new vote we shall have." The ancient blue smiled grimly at the youth. "And for the sakes of your continued survival I would strongly suggest you vote correctly."
Claws finally dug into the golden power shattering it from his snout "You can not simply order the dragon council to do what you desire!" Emerald Claw slammed claws into the council floor while trying to regain some control. "This council is not subject to your laws!" His voice cut off as power flared sending shockwaves throughout the chamber.
"Keep your forked tongue behind your teeth hatchling, lest I tear it from you." Vox's voice bore none of the casual tone he usually used as he glared down at the much smaller dragon. "You have caused enough trouble, all of you have. You bring dishonor on your clans, and I will be sure to speak if it to your elders when they return." Three of the four younglings lowered their heads in shame, and not a little sheer terror under the gaze of both the ancient one and celestial princess. "Now let us vote."
2 Hours Later.
"The fastest flyers have already returned. The changelings put up quite a fight and had gotten the behemoth trapped within some of the spires near the border. Orders were given and your agent led them across the border." Vox rested on main floor of the chamber, Graven and Verdant sitting with him before Celestia. They had the council chamber to themselves with the youngers having been nearly tossed out by Vox himself. "They lost some but most survived." The princess had damped her power to normal and her mane and tail had returned to their normal aurora coloring as she looked upon the three old friends before her.
"What has happened here? I came to speak to the council and I find many little more than hatchlings that so casually discuses the death of the innocent" She hadn't seen this number of younglings in control since the time she first contacted the dragons.
"Four have entered the long sleep." Graven sighed shaking his head "Verdant will tell me I am being paranoid but this simply doesn't happen. I believe that something has induced this slumber. Something or someone who seeks to destabilize the council. For four members to sleep at the same time is unprecedented, and the ones chosen to take their place? I know Typhon well and Crimson Wing would not have been her true choice for council replacement. Something is going on be we can not prove it. I believe that the keepers in Typhons clan will attempt to waken her soon, especially after this debacle."
"As will the other keepers. The clans can not let this dishonor stand." Verdant frowned as she looked down upon the princess "Do you truly believe they can be reformed? You know their penchant for capturing the innocent to feed on."
"Yes, I know. And if an ancient treaty did not still sit within the vaults within Canterlot I would have long past marched alongside the dragons and shattered the hives open." She looked across the chamber at the ancient throne set against one wall, a throne once rumored to have had a king upon it. "Something is stirring." She looked to the elders. "I have felt uneasy for days now and just yesterday a power entered this world. Something is wrong."
"You have our support, and the support of the sleeping elders as well most likely." Vox couldn't help but chuckle as he thought back to days of old. "When you stood before us today it reminded me of the old days, the Nightmare War in full swing and you in the armor of old shining like a new star to lead us through the dark and into victory. Ah the battles we fought, the glorious clashes in the skies."
"You and I remember those days very differently old friend. Where you see the glory of battle I remember the fallen, the stench of blood and death and the cries of the wounded." Celestia shuddered slightly "I wish never to see those days returned. Never to have to watch my ponies and their allies fall before such darkness. I keep that armor only to remind myself of my failings, to remind myself never to allow things to go so far ever again." She tried to shove the old memories away and focus on the present. "Please see to the safe travel of the changelings through your lands and to the frontier. Once there we will meet them with our own forces to aid them in the last legs of their travel."
"You believe in them Celestia and I can't truly say you are wrong to give them a chance. But you have never seen the insides of their hives, never seen what they do there. You will recieve a report from your agent when she arrives." Verdant bowed her head to the princess "When you make your decision we will aid if you desire."
"Some treaties are meant to be broken princess." Vox stood stretching as he readied to leave.
"You know something." Celestia looked up at the giant dragon "Tell me."
"Listen to your agent Celestia. The changelings are different than they used to be." Even as he spoke she could feel sadness radiate from him. "They have fallen Celestia, fallen farther than even you would believe. You once moved against Sombra when he enslaved the empire and I know why, I trust you will do what you believe is best when the information is given. And know that we did send word, but received only the response that you knew and the treaty still held."
Celestia watched as the dragons flew from the room as she pondered the words Vox had spoken, that they had sent word. Word of what? What could the changelings have been doing that would get even the dragons anger riled. And if word had been sent why had she never seen it? A slow simmering anger grew as she realized that all of this was linked together, the actions that seemed to be coming from the archives as well as the intelligence agency. Something needed to be done, and done now. She left the council chamber for the teleport dais.
I know some are going to wonder about Celestia's power and then say "But wait, she got her flank kicked by Chrysalis. If she's so powerful than how the heck did that happen?" I actually have that figured up and decided to mention it here. Moving the sun is very hard work and requires a massive effort on her part, which is a lot of power kicked out at once. But you don't use that power for just casual every day tasks, so you contain your power to make sure that you only use what you need. The problem is Celestia has been sitting on her flank for nearly a thousand years, minus a scuffle or two, and not doing a lot of training in keeping herself in peak power usage. As such her power control has degraded somewhat to the point that her attempt to stop Chrysalis was either try to win with heavily curtailed power or use all her power and stomp Canterlot flat. Think of it like a water tap that is either on at a trickle or on full blast with no middle ground. She's been doing some training since the wedding though and will start to get her edge back eventually. At current Luna is actually more adetp at power control than Celestia.