Manos the hands of fate (part V)

HumanSuperiority Jul 22nd, 2016 (edited) 2,286 Never
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  1. >You are Blackout
  2. >the parasite has been quieter since her recent encounter with death.
  3. >and your short heart to heart with her has left you feeling more than a little uncomfortable with talking to her about it.
  4. >the sounds of combat inside the city have slowed down to a mere fraction of what they were before
  5. >even from this far away inside a forest you can tell the battle has reached its end.
  6. >You turn your attention over to Queenie
  7. "Its calming down. It wont be long until we will be able to regroup with the Reichs forces and possibly see Manos again."
  8. >still the changeling remains silent, but she does smile slightly
  9. >its an improvement.
  10. >moments later you spot ponies rushing away from the city dropping armor and gear that now only weighs them down
  11. >with the unorganized retreat of so many Royal Guard ponies rushing every which way out of Vanhoover you nearly miss the sight above
  12. >entire formations of the Lunar Guard are flying above the clouds
  13. >their numbers seem relatively the same as when they assaulted the city
  14. >whats more, there is no sign of fear in their retreat, its well organized and almost casual.
  15. >perhaps they just fared better than the royals?
  16. >unlikely...
  17. >but you know a way to find out.
  18. "Queenie, we have work to do. Once we are done we can head back to the Reich, alright?"
  19. >"Alright... What are we going to do Blackout?"
  20. >you point to the closest pony to your current position
  21. "we are going to catch that pony and find out what happened."
  23. >your legs are burning as you fall back from that damned city
  24. >every step you took in its direction more and more death waited for you and your friends.
  25. >and you are MORE than happy to get away from it no matter what punishment might be waiting for you
  26. >though you are uncertain of where to go or what your punishment might be for leaving the princess behind you do know one thing
  27. >its a really bad time to be Morning Dawn
  28. >looking back to the ponies rushing away further behind, you can hear muffled 'bangs' before seeing the occasional pony drop
  29. >you cant believe it!
  30. >even now when the battle is over and your brothers and sisters are running away they are still shooting at you.
  31. >you then realize that you stopping in this open field to catch your breath is only going to get you killed.
  32. >without any real sense of direction you start pumping your legs again making sure to make yourself as hard a target to hit as you can
  33. >heck, even you don't know where you are going. How is anypony else supposed to know?
  34. >a patch of dirt just ahead of you pops from the ground and less than a second later the muffled noise of a weapon firing in the distance greets you
  35. "NO NOnonono!"
  36. >there is a sudden pain in your leg and the sound is heard again
  37. >you fall to the ground in pain, but hold still.
  38. >if you are lucky, he will assume you are dead.
  39. >the pain in your leg is increasing as it is all you can concentrate on
  40. >you can feel blood leaking through your coat and your wound is burning now that your sweat has had time to seep into the wound.
  41. >once you hear the sound of the attacker turn onto another unlucky guardspony you make your move and rush as fast as you can towards a small forested area
  42. "thank Celestia!"
  43. >eventually you make it inside deep enough that you are sure to not be a target
  44. >you can now tend to your wound in relative safety
  45. >with your magic you do your best to clean the area around the bloodied area when you notice something
  46. >there is no exit wound, and it doesn't take a doctor or medical pony to know what that means.
  47. >holding your leg and levitating a stick to your mouth you take deep breaths and reach inside the wound with your magic you try to pull the projectile out
  48. >within a few seconds you locate it and remove it nearly breaking the stick from biting down too hard on it
  49. >holding the projectile up to your eyes you spit out the stick and smile
  50. >if your mother was here she would no doubt be proud that you were finally able to take care of one of your booboos on your own.
  51. >You really miss your mother... but she chose her side.
  52. >before you let it bother you too much you pull a small cloth from your uniform you wrap it around your leg tightly before picking yourself back up
  53. "okay Dawn, where to now?"
  54. >your ears snap up as the sound of a broke twig rather close behind you catches your attention
  55. >as you turn to look you see a pair of glowing predatory eyes staring back
  56. >slowly you back away from the eyes
  57. "e-easy now... I promise I taste horrible."
  58. >the creature steps forward from the shadow of the forest and you realize just how serious this is.
  59. >what is hunting you is a Changeling Queen.
  60. >as you keep stepping backwards you bump into somepony
  61. >before you can react you are knocked to the ground and you can feel the pressure of a hoof on your back
  62. >"Good job Queenie. Now we can find out just what happened."
  63. >the Changeling Queen loses her fearsome appearance and instead takes one of worry.
  64. >>"Just- Just let me know if we have to..."
  65. >the changeling is cut off by the other voice
  66. >"Don't worry. I'm sure he will be a good boy and tell us what we want to know."
  67. >the hoof on your back lifts off and it is placed on your recently wrapped wound
  68. >"or he might get a little uncomfortable."
  70. >you are Celestia, Captive of the Black Hands and Manos.
  71. >despite being a prisoner you have been kept very close to Manos and Cadence
  72. >which right now has you standing atop a large open building, giving you a good view of the surrounding area
  73. >from here you can see the civilian ponies of Vanhoover have been receiving medical treatment and care from the Black Hands as Manos had ordered
  74. >though you have also noticed that whenever his attention is on something else, the quality of that care seems to drop.
  75. >what could he have done to make these ponies so uncaring of others?
  76. >your thoughts are put to an end by the voice of Manos
  77. >"what do you think Celestia?"
  78. >the other ponies as well as Manos are all looking at you.
  79. "I'm sorry, but I was distracted."
  80. >Cadence huffs disapprovingly at you before giving an answer of her own
  81. >>"The citizens should come first, they will need shelter and care that will likely take more time and effort than we are used to. After all they have been inside a dome since the start of this conflict, and those who weren't have likely lost more than we can replace."
  82. >now you really wish you knew what the question was, though you can assume it was about what to do with Vanhoover.
  83. >Manos gives a very collected and slow nod of agreement before looking over the damaged port section of the city
  84. >"You are right, the repair of the production and economic areas of the city can wait, though the port will be the next priority without a doubt."
  85. >>"are you anxious to see your friend Lyra again?"
  86. >Manos smiles down to Cadence then back to the port
  87. >"I can say, that is one of the more personal reasons I wanted this city so badly... She has been gone a long time and I have lost enough friends to know how important their company is."
  88. "and yet you started this war and tore family and friends apart..."
  89. >if Manos heard you he shows no signs of it.
  90. >"Have the construction crews begun their work yet?"
  91. >one of the Black Hands escorting your group gives a salute
  92. >>>"Yes Lord Manos, the first task they were given was to clear debris from the city center an work their way out."
  93. >"Good, once they are completed inform the Hands in charge that they are to start repair and construction of the civilian housing areas. Then to move on to the rest of the city as we discussed."
  94. >with another salute the pony in uniform leaves to carry out his new orders.
  95. >its still hard to believe that each of them used to be the happy citizens of Equestria before Manos arrived.
  96. >they used to be your little ponies.
  98. >you are Great Comrade Glimmer
  99. >the tome you were provided by those lowly criminals has been a great boon for you and your ponies
  100. >well... mostly you.
  101. "Green, Flower, Quill-"
  102. >your guards stand by while some of your more trusted Unicorns observe as you continue a long forgotten spell.
  103. >your horn glows brightly as you eye each of the subdued ponies before you.
  104. >the same ponies that brought you this very tome.
  105. "Hills, House..."
  106. >you take a short breath and close the book as you speak the last word.
  107. "Magic."
  108. >then you release the spell onto the test subjects
  109. >for a moment each of them glow with the aura of your magic and any signs of worry, confusion, or fear vanish.
  110. >you smile and turn to your comrades
  111. "this spell that I have show you dates back to a time before the fall of Discord. It is a very unique spell, and no pony is really sure who first created it."
  112. >the observers mumble quietly as you levitate the book up for them to see
  113. "in fact, as far as Equestria or pony kind knows, this is the only written record of that spell, and its very existence was up for debate."
  114. >"but... Comrade, what does the spell actually do?"
  115. >one of your guard ponies takes a step towards the questioning unicorn with a unsavory glare in his eyes.
  116. >but before he can do the questioner any harm you wave him away, and he takes his place back where he once stood
  117. "I'm glad you asked."
  118. >looking over your shoulder you politely say
  119. "please remove the restraints from the subjects."
  120. >the guard from before speaks up with a bit of hesitance in his voice
  121. >>"are you certain comrade? they will likely resist once they are free."
  122. "Don't worry about that. The spell should have everything under control."
  123. >the guard pony looks over the binds before eventually untying them one by one
  124. >to the surprise of the onlookers, they remain seated.
  125. >that is until you speak.
  126. "Stand."
  127. >all at once, like little toy soldier-ponies; they stand up and wait for instruction
  128. >"remarkable!"
  129. >an overly curious unicorn approaches one of the controlled ponies and taps him with his hoof
  130. >the subject doesn't react other than a brief side glance before returning to his previous position
  131. >"does the spell give you full control over them? or does it just offer a strong suggestion? he was still able to glance over at me, so that would indicate some level of independent thought. perhaps-"
  132. "Doctor Cognition, please. One question at a time."
  133. >the Doctor grins in embarrassment and steps away from the pony he was examining with his head bowed
  134. >his brown mane gently covering his left eye while a slightly cracked lens of his glasses covers his other
  135. >"forgive me Comrade. It just in all my years of mental and magical study I have not come across a spell with this effect. Sure there are a few out there that might influence a subjects interest in a particular object or activity-"
  136. >you cut the doctor off mid ramble before he gets momentum
  137. "Doctor."
  138. >he stops himself, realizing you intended to speak.
  139. >he quickly rejoins the other Unicorns waiting for your explanation to being
  140. "Thank you."
  141. >after a short clearing of your throat you begin
  142. "what this spell does, Doctor. Is not just suggest that the subject do as the caster asks, but make them want to complete said task."
  143. >grabbing your staff you point to the closest pony's head
  144. "the spells you spoke of before do influence a ponies interest or wants, but this goes beyond that. They have full control over their actions from the second its cast to the second it dissipates BUT whatever command the cast gives them becomes an obsession, a drive, and in the most extreme case, an absolute NEED."
  145. >as you pull the staff away you cant help but notice the furthest pony away has a large grin on his face, as if trying to hold back a laugh.
  146. >and the longer you stare at him in confusion the more obvious it becomes that, that is indeed what he is doing.
  147. "what exactly are you laughing at? I gave you no instruction to laugh."
  148. >the stallion quickly falls to the floor laughing and his eyes open wide revealing his gold and red eyes
  149. >>>"Its just Y-You, HA! you completely surprised me!"
  150. >the pony slowly recovers from his growing fit of giggles and begins to stand up
  151. >>>"I didn't expect that you would have used that spell on them first."
  152. >as he does his body completely shifts, extending out further into a more serpentine form.
  153. >his already large white eyebrows grow further and his wings each individually morph into a different type
  154. >before long his previous appearance is nothing but a memory along with the assumption that he was ever a pony
  155. >standing before you and your comrades is not a pony, but Discord, the god of Chaos himself.
  157. >you are Queenie
  158. >the changeling monster.
  159. >you watch as Blackout stands on top of the wounded pony and you slowly start to make your way over to them
  160. >does she really need to threaten him that way?
  161. >He's already alone, scared, and wounded, the mere fact that the two of you are here should be more than enough to find out what you need from him
  162. >your wings buzz slightly and a short chirp of worry for the pony slips out
  163. >>"P-please! let me go! I'll do whatever you want, just let me live, please!"
  164. >Blackout steps off the stallion but remains behind him as he still lay on the ground
  165. >"First things first. What happened in Vanhoover?"
  166. >the stallions voice is quiet but just loud enough to understand
  167. >>"What DIDN'T happen in Vanhoover..."
  168. >the stallion slowly picks himself up just enough to get his wounded leg off the ground
  169. >he also makes absolutely sure to not give any sign of resistance, not even looking away from the ground as he speaks
  170. >>"I was with the Princess for most of it. The charge into the city, that is. It was the single most terrifying experience of my life."
  171. >he starts to look up slightly, but when he sees you still standing there he sight quickly returns to the ground
  172. >>"well... maybe the second most now."
  173. >Blackout shoves the stallion slightly
  174. >"continue"
  175. >>"we were to move with the princess. She was keeping a magical shield above us while we ran, though it looked like it could fall at any second. Our job, the unicorns that is; our job was to assist her once we noticed she wouldn't be able to hold it on her own for very long."
  176. >"and what about the Lunar guards?"
  177. >the stallion recoils at Blackouts harsh tone
  178. >>"I don't know where they were. Most were above us in the clouds before the charge but- I don't know what they were doing. The only Lunar guard I saw in the charge was the Knight, and once she got to the city she was like a ghost. Like the rest of the Lunars."
  179. "they didn't help you at all?"
  180. >>"No, er maybe? I'm not sure, I just know that they weren't where I was, and they clearly were not there to protect Celestia."
  181. >"What makes you say that?"
  182. >for the first time the stallion works up the courage to look back at Blackout
  183. >apparently he planned on seeing another changeling, or perhaps a Black Hand.
  184. >whatever he expected it certainly wasn't what he saw.
  185. >as his eyes lock with Blackouts he shoves himself backwards to get some distance between him and her, completely uncaring if that means you are the closer one
  186. >Blackouts helmet retracts showing her face to the panicked Royalist
  187. >"you were saying?"
  188. >you can see the sweat pouring down his coat and he is visibly shaking from head to tail
  189. >>"Th-... they-..."
  190. >"they were not there to protect Celestia?"
  191. >shaking his head 'yes' the stallion confirms the question.
  192. "then what were they there for?"
  193. >>"I- I don't know! I said that already. Maybe they just wanted to get a close look at the city? I swear I don't know."
  194. >"You said you were with Celestia. What happened to her?"
  195. >>"I got cut off from her once the fight reached the streets, If you could even call it a fight, They were waiting for us, and had ever corner turned into a death trap"
  197. >you are Panicked.
  198. >Wounded.
  199. >and Captive.
  200. >its just great to be Morning Dawn.
  201. "They turned buildings into fortifications, streets into kill zones. It was like taking a step into Tartarus itself. The only reason a few of us made it was because of Celestia keeping us from panicking and splitting up."
  202. >though that still wasn't enough to free the city...
  203. "she always took the lead, using her magic to create a shield to keep as many of us as safe as she could; But... Once it was our turn to repay the favor, we failed. Most of us were captured and held hostage as a bargain chip or fled."
  204. >the voice of the strange hybrid pony breaks your concentration
  205. >"like you did, correct?"
  206. >you remain silent.
  207. >its true, you ran away after freeing yourself.
  208. >you valued your own life over the one pony who could have possibly saved Equestria.
  209. >a slow nod is all you can produce to answer the question
  210. >the pony's helmet closes around her face in a nice smooth motion making a quiet click as they lock into place
  211. >honestly that would be pretty cool if it wasn't terrifying.
  212. >she looks over you to the changeling queen just behind you
  213. >"you ready to go home then Queenie?"
  214. >there is a flash of green and when you look back at where the changeling stood you are reminded of a mirror.
  215. >because you are staring back at yourself.
  216. >>"Now I am."
  217. >the pony walks past you and the perfect copy of yourself turns to follow her leaving you alone in the forest.
  218. >looks like you survived death three times today...
  219. >you are one very lucky pony.
  221. >You are Judice Lunae
  222. >and your timing must have been perfect.
  223. >just as you readied yourself to leave the city a group of panicked Royal guards decided it was time they ran off too.
  224. >and they were kind enough to distract the ponies taking shots from the buildings
  225. "seems that the guard was good for something after all."
  226. >the road to Canterlot should be safe enough to travel, the Black Hands will likely remain in Vanhoover giving you plenty of time to return to the Princess.
  227. >the only Princess.
  228. >as you walk you spot a pony make his way out of a small woods next to the road.
  229. >his leg is bleeding and he looks like he has been through hell.
  230. >he spots you and gives a weak smile before stumbling in your direction
  231. >you stay put letting him walk over to you as you watch him approach
  232. >once he is close enough to hear you clearly you speak in a very commanding tone
  233. "Name and rank solider."
  234. >"u-uh. Morning Dawn, Ma'am!"
  235. >he tries to give you a salute but cant due to his apparent injury
  236. "Morning Dawn. Were you part of the attempted retaking of Vanhoover?"
  237. >his eyes dart around possibly looking for any reason to think otherwise
  238. >"Of course I-- I mean Yes Ma'am!"
  239. >after giving him a short stare down you nod
  240. "Come then. We are to report to the Princess."
  241. >you turn and walk down the road a ways before you hear a question from the guard
  242. >"Did Celestia make it out?"
  243. "No. You now take orders from the Princess of the Moon."
  244. >you continue to walk but look at him over your shoulder for a ways
  245. "I'd remove that remaining armor, You will be receiving a new one when we return anyway."
  246. >"a new set of armor? I thought if a guard was wounded like this they were given the option of retiring having spilled their own blood for Equestria?"
  247. "I have been wounded far greater than you have and I still wear my armor with pride, the princess will expect all of her ponies to do the same."
  248. >the sound of Mornings stumbling picks up until he comes just barely into your sight along side you
  249. >"you.. you cant be serious, right? Its been a right of the ponies to retire after being wounded in battle! its been like that for centuries!"
  250. >and look where that has got us.
  251. >your tail flicks at his leg slapping his wound enough to cause a sting
  252. "Do you see Black Hands retiring? what about Griffons? It may have been a PRIVILEGE to retire if you were wounded in the past, but I assure you guard; it is far from being a right."
  253. >perhaps your words cut a little deep, or the stallion simply didn't want to believe what he should have already known, but he stops in front of you blocking your path
  254. >"I- Im not going back to fight more of those soldiers. Do you have any idea what its like down there?! Where did you even go once you left Celestia behind!?"
  255. >this stallion is starting to get on your nerves.
  256. >and you are sure that your glare is making that completely clear to him.
  257. >none the less you control yourself enough to keep a straight face and calmly answer his questions.
  258. "One, I do know what its like. I know what its like on BOTH sides. Its like walking into Tartarus with nothing but what you were born with to save you, and two; As I recall Celestia ordered me to handle a mission. A mission which I completed."
  259. >now your voice starts to turn to venom as you walk around the wounded stallion
  260. "How did yours go? Is Vanhoover taken back from Manos? Is Celestia safe and sound?"
  261. >you wait a while for him to try and defend himself.
  262. >but the best he can come up with as a defense is
  263. >"Wasn't it also your mission to assist the Princess? Shouldn't YOU have tried to keep her safe?"
  264. >as you walk past him you kick out his good leg making him fall to the road with a 'oof'
  265. "You are speaking to a Knight of Equestria. Watch your tone!"
  266. >"Buck you! Buck you and answer my question!"
  267. "No."
  268. >the stallion looks hurt at your choice, not understanding that it was the real answer.
  269. "Now on your hooves. Unless you want to stay here and possibly be found by Manos and his Hands."
  270. >whatever his choice is it matters little to you.
  271. >You still have to report to Luna, and that is your only priority now.
  272. "just remember!."
  273. >you have to shout just to be sure the stallion hears you clearly as you leave him behind
  274. "If you do decide to not report in, you will be considered a traitor to Equestria and treated just like any other, no matter how bad your leg hurts."
  275. >its only fair to warn him.
  276. >and now he has to make a choice on where his true loyalties lie
  277. >it isn't long before his soft stumbles are heard again in the distance behind you.
  278. >a small smile creeps on your face and you whisper
  279. "that's a good pony."
  281. >You are Aryanne, Commander of the Black Hands
  282. >and this is argueably the worst part of a battle...
  283. >the aftermath.
  284. "whats the count at?"
  285. >a fellow officer looks down at his clipboard as you watch a mixed group of Hands and Guards clear the street
  286. >"in this block alone? three hundred and thirty one."
  287. >you watch as a pair of guards toss a limp body onto a overly filled cart
  288. >"three hundred thirty two"
  289. >with a deep sigh your eyes wander over to a group of wounded
  290. "the ratio of the bodies?"
  291. >you hear the record keeper turn the page of his clipboard and there is a moment before he speaks
  292. >"Mostly guards, although...."
  293. "although what?"
  294. >you watch a Medical pony begin to treat a mortally wounded solider
  295. >even you can tell it wont do any good, but it at least keeps the pony from dying in a panic.
  296. >"there is a large number of, civilian losses... almost a quarter of all bodies recovered..."
  297. >you have a sudden need to taste your lunch a second time, but you suppress it.
  298. >it would be very inappropriate of a pony of your position to do so.
  299. >soldiers and guards getting killed is one thing, they signed up for it and knew the risks.
  300. >but civilians...
  301. >luckily before you can dwell on it for too long Roselights voice snaps you back to reality
  302. >>"Aryanne. I have finished the assigned task. Do you have more orders? Or shall I return to Manos?"
  303. >you wouldn't have even noticed her return if she didn't speak up
  304. "See what you can do about getting more basic medical supplies along with more food and water to the wounded, task a team to requisition from the local stores and hospitals if you have to."
  305. >Roselights gaze slowly turns to the same wounded pony you were looking at
  306. >>"We would have a easier time maintaining supply if we let those who are dying die, or give them a mercy-"
  307. "That is all Roselight! you have your orders."
  308. >>"Understood."
  309. >you avoid looking at her, but you can hear the click of her hooves as she gives you a formal salute before leaving
  310. >>"Heil Manos."
  311. >the officer takes a few steps closer to you watching Roselight as she leaves
  312. >once she is a far enough distance away he speaks, still keeping his voice low to be sure she doesn't hear
  313. >"that mare has a heart of ice..."
  314. "-but she is still a part of Manos' personal guard and has earned her place in it."
  315. >"yes, commander."
  316. >there is a dull thump as another body is added to the cart
  317. "have the cart drop off its cargo and let the workers take a break. they can continue when the cart returns."
  318. >the stallion nods and leaves with a quick salute
  319. >these ponies wouldn't have had to die if Equestria just listened to reason.
  320. >that is... at least the innocents wouldn't
  322. >You are Franziska
  323. >head of research in the Reich; and if recent rumor is correct, its new holdings to and from Vanhoover
  324. >with direct access to the sea now within your reach a whole new swath of ideas start to flow in your mind.
  325. >and with you being ever so luckily being in Manos' favor, its likely your new scientific endeavours will not only be funded.
  326. >but given personal attention from--
  327. >CRASH!
  328. >just as you set down one of you newer designs the table leg snaps, and your assorted experiment files, notes, and folders go flying into the air and onto the floor.
  329. "AH! stupid fragile table! This was the CRYSTAL Empire previously yeah?"
  330. >two of your scientists, who both happen to be crystal pony unicorns nod their heads rapidly in a slight worry
  331. "and most of our building material is some form of stone, crystal, or other geological material correct?"
  332. >walking over to them the duo answer in unison
  333. >"yes Doctor."
  334. >just as they answer the broken table leg is trust into their vision and levitates between the three of you in your magical grip
  336. >and just like that your anger is gone and you toss it to the floor
  337. "I will require another table for the lab. preferably one that is more solid than wood yet will not cause any unintended reactions with common material."
  338. >"yes Doctor, would you like one of us to go and place an order for one now?"
  339. "of course not, don't be silly, we have work to do."
  340. >your horn glows and the unorganized heap of various papers and such begin to reorganize themselves into their proper files
  341. >the other scientists attempt to help but you know exactly where everything is supposed to be
  342. >before long everything is as it should be.
  343. >well besides the table.
  344. >sure, you could fix the leg if you wanted but then how would you explain getting a new table?
  345. >so instead you walk over to another one and you place everything down in a temporary location
  346. >the new design of course being on top.
  347. >you smile at it proudly and take a step back away from the second table for the other ponies to see it.
  348. >"yes doctor?"
  349. >apparently, they didn't know they were supposed to be looking at it.
  350. "Ach, I need to explain everything don't I?- please look at the design on the second table made of inferior wood material."
  351. >you already begin to explain your idea before they even lay eyes on it.
  352. "Now what does the Reich lack that most if not all other nations posses?"
  353. >"a head of research that isn't close to crazy?"
  354. >you 'giggle' at the stallions 'joke' you make a mental note to remember who said it for later.
  355. "hhahha- No. What I am referring to my little ponies, is a Navy! Now when we were a landlocked nation not having a Navy made perfect sense-"
  356. >the second unicorn now speaks, and her tone is far more professional than her stallion counterpart
  357. >>"so you are already assuming that the rumors are indeed true?"
  358. "If they are true or not is irrelevant, If we are still landlocked then its only a matter of time before we are not."
  359. >the two scientists finally break their gaze and go to look at the design just as you grab it with you magic and look it over again yourself
  360. "with our new and modern style of warfare we will need a modern and new style of navy. One that the Equestrians-"
  361. >or anyone else
  362. "-will never expect"
  363. >>"and what would that be?"
  364. >you shake the design in the air like someone scolding a puppy with a newspaper
  365. "with this of course! Did you not look at it?!"
  366. >"no? you took it once we got the chance to look!"
  367. >>"the doctor is correct, all we saw was that is indeed something on paper.."
  368. "fine then."
  369. >you toss the design back onto the table for them to look at it
  370. >which they quickly do, likely expecting you to take it away again.
  371. >"what is it Doctor?"
  372. >>"Is it some kind of ship..?"
  373. >this is why you only show your designs to Manos.
  374. "Of course its a ship! What kind of a navy isn't made of ships?!"
  375. >"then what is its propulsion? There are no masts."
  376. >>"is it powered by rowing?"
  377. "Oh for the love of Manos. Come on, I will explain as we gather the necessary engineers and material for a prototype."
  378. >"where would we test the design Doctor?"
  379. >you are already out in the hall your design lifting off the table and floating behind you getting both of your assistants to follow
  380. "We have created marvels of engineering since the start of our Reich. Don't tell me that digging a hole and filling it with water would be too complex of an idea now."
  381. >well.. that might be oversimplifying it.
  382. >but essentially that is what you will be doing.
  384. >you are Lord Manos
  385. >the restoration of Vanhoover is going as well as it could be given the current circumstances
  386. >the captured guard ponies have given no resistance to being put to work
  387. >citizens have begun to volunteer where they can, but you have insisted they are not to work with the dead and dying.
  388. >they are strictly to be allowed to rebuilding and rubble clearing.
  389. >doctors and other medical staff of course being an exception to this rule.
  390. >"Is this how your species would fight a war Manos?"
  391. >Celestia slowly approaches you as you look out over the slowly rebuilding city
  392. >"would they destroy lives of their people then rebuild it to gain their favor? Or is this your idea of war?"
  393. >Though Celestia has accepted your offer of surrender of herself for the life of her soldiers, she is making it clear she is unhappy about it.
  394. >of course you cannot blame her for feeling that way, any rational being wouldn't be happy about giving themselves up to their enemy.
  395. "That is one of the few times that anyone, besides some of my closest friends, has ever brought up my people..."
  396. >your eyes meet with Cadences who has just finished speaking with a group of Hands and noticed Celestias proximity to you.
  397. >you can tell shes not that happy about it, as she starts to make her way over doing her best to look unbothered
  398. >you smile as she takes her own place next to you, between Celestia and yourself with a slightly smug grin on her face as you place your arm around her
  399. "I don't even think Cadence has ever asked... So perhaps I could answer that question just to enlighten both of you."
  400. >though not flattering of a leader you take a seat on a small pile of rubble that has been cleared away from your overlook
  401. >there are a few chairs in the area, but most are currently in use and you don't want to trouble those using them to give it up just for you.
  402. >Cadence sits next to you on the ground her height now being almost equal with your own in this position and she lays her head on your shoulder
  403. >>"Asked about what Manos?"
  404. "My people. Not the Reich, but my original people. My species."
  405. >its clear that many of the Hands around you have started to listen in, as the noise in the room has significantly decreased
  406. >the conversations once going on about what should be done where and who should be in what block has almost disappeared entirely, except for short spats of orders here and there or a silent point on a nearby map as a answer
  407. >whatever you say will not just be heard by just the ponies close by.
  408. >eventually word will spread about and you are sure there will be rumor or myths made up that you will likely not hear directly
  409. >its almost comical now that you think about it.
  410. >that the only pony who directly asked about you and your people is one of your few real friends here.
  411. >not only that, but she is your head of religion, off in a foreign country likely eager to return home and learn more if she could
  412. "So to answer your question Celestia; about my people and how they would fight a war. It would greatly depend on the type of war and who was fighting in it."
  413. >"Then lets say it was a peaceful nation that simply wanted to help others."
  414. >from her tone its clear she is implying that she is speaking of her own.
  415. >"and one that could bring an end to the way of life that the world has had for centuries."
  416. >Cadence speaks up, catching both you and Celestia slightly off guard with her harsh tone
  417. >>"I'm sure you see Equestria as the side of good despite what the Reich has done for its ponies..."
  418. >shes really cute when she is angry.
  419. >And Celestia being around her AND you, she will likely be this cute little pony until you both return to the Reich
  420. >but until then you will be the level headed one, and do everything you can to not voice your anger or aggression.
  421. >besides...
  422. >Celestia is still the same pony as she ever was, just in a new circumstance.
  423. "Well that's a simple one Celestia. One that was a real war in our history."
  424. >or recent equestrian history if you look out a window, opening, or hole in the wall.
  425. "the Empire of Germany... a country that was thrown into a war because of alliances, was sent to war with its allies against some of the most powerful nations in the world. Despite fighting hard and bravely they lost the war when a peace treaty was signed."
  426. >"and what happened to them?"
  427. >you take your arm from around Cadences shoulder and lean forward slightly, placing both your hands to rest under chin as you speak
  428. "they were once a proud empire, much like the rest of the world. Lead by their Kaiser, their king, their emperor. But the treaty they were forced into signing destroyed that. They became a 'democratic' nation and the blame of the whole war, from its start to the individual damages to those effected was all placed on them. Their money was made worthless, the people were shamed, and with their empire gone they were divided."
  429. >your eyes slowly turn to look to the other ponies listening in, letting them know you are aware they are listening
  430. >some try to act busy, which is easy to do when there is work to be done, but they do so poorly still clearly listening.
  431. "the world believed they did the right thing as most of the empires besides Germany had a era of prosperity... They just left them behind to suffer because of a war they did not start. I will not be like my world, Celestia. Any ruins made by my armies will be rebuilt, any damages done from conflict fixed by all involved, its the shared blame of the soldiers and leaders when harm comes to citizens be it direct or indirect."
  432. >Celestias gaze begins to soften
  433. >perhaps she feels the same way?
  434. >you now remember the uniform you wear, modeled to near perfection from that of Germany and its return to power.
  435. "and when one nation is accused of being the sole evil, the one who is put out to dry as being 'the bad guy' it will remember it. Just like Germany did."
  436. >>"were they your people Manos?"
  437. >does it matter?
  438. >they were abandoned and left to fend for themselves as the world around them profited from their loss.
  439. >then when they had the courage to stand back up and take back what was theirs they got told to sit down.
  440. "they are as much my people as those of the Reich are. They were BOTH left to suffer alone while the world moved on."
  441. >as those words leave your lips, you realize how true that statement is.
  442. >and so does Celestia.
  443. "the one from my world was left to suffer alone with no help from the outside, just like the Crystal Empire was left to suffer under Sombra. Banished and left to fend for themselves while the world around them prospered from their suffering."
  444. >apparently those last words were too much for Celestia to listen to as her voice rises to a shout that could topple a building
  445. >"they are not the same Manos!"
  446. >Cadences horn glows brightly and she readies herself to attack Celestia.
  447. >along with many of your Hands; who ready spells, raise weapons, or just get as close to her as they can to hopefully do something if she tries to assault you.
  448. >but she doesn't.
  449. >instead she starts to tear up, but keeps her now angry glare fixed on you.
  450. "Because it was you? Because it was the choice you made?"
  451. >"NO! Because it was the only one available! Because it had to happen for the rest of the world to have peace and harmony."
  452. >you calmly rise to face celestia, the amulet in your pocket already starting to glow its bright red
  453. "do you know what Germany did then Celestia? After being left in the dark while the world enjoyed its time... in the sun?"
  454. >a few more tears form and Celestia starts to shake her head 'no' slowly
  455. "they chose a leader, just like a democracy is intended to do, but they chose a leader that abandoned the democracy in favor of a new form of government, with a new plan for the future, and Germany rose from its ashes. The country flourished, it became a world superpower and took back what the rest of the world stole. It united its people, despite being told not to by its enemies"
  456. >the amulet is taking advantage of your pent up aggression feeding it into your words giving them a sharpness that you could not produce otherwise
  457. "and once its people were united again, it decided to strike back at those that caused it suffering, that made it out to be the evil one!"
  458. >your fists tighten up and you jab a finger at Celestia firmly. Making sure she understands that she is in fact not like the germans as she originally thought when you begun
  459. "and when they struck back against the world they made them understand that there is always a consequence for abandoning the weak in their time of need. They went to war with them, and they conquered, they achieved marvels of science and warfare unimaginable for the time so much so that it took a nearly united world attacking from all fronts to stop them!"
  460. >you retract your hand and look away from the large white mare as you attempt to calm yourself down
  461. "I will not let those I fight be left on their own... Any land or ponies the Reich defeats will be joined with it and allowed the same prosperity and protection as those who were born in the Reich."
  462. >the two of you stare at each other in silence as you let your words hang in the air.
  463. >during this time, Celestia and yourself are the only two beings either of you can focus on.
  464. "and if my actions make me out to be the evil one to the world. I will gladly bear that badge alone."
  466. >You are Twilight Sparkle
  467. "I don't know... I just have a bad feeling about it Applejack. There hasn't been any news about Celestia since she was seen leaving with those guards."
  468. >AJ pats you on the back with her hoof with a reassuring smile
  469. >"Celestia will be fine Twilight, What could possibly happen to her? She is the most powerful pony in Equestria and you heard about how many ponies she took with her, that was more than enough to keep her safe."
  470. "Yeah I suppose that's true."
  471. >Applejacks words do alleviate some of the worries you had
  472. >You're sure she is right.
  473. >the two of you are walking down the streets of Canterlot just looking for a way to pass the time
  474. >Applejack has become quite well known in the commons as a very hardworking and dependable pony
  475. >without a farm to work on she has been doing odd jobs all over Canterlot
  476. >"Twilight..."
  477. "Yes AJ?"
  478. >Applejack has that look on her face that simply screams she wants to tell somepony something but isn't sure if she should.
  479. >Of course you wont push her to say anything, but it does always make you just a slightly bit more curious about whatever the topic is.
  480. >"I was thinking about joi-"
  481. >there is a loud squeal of joy followed by a very happy Rarity rushing over to the two of you
  482. >>"Twilight?! Applejack!? Its so good to see you two again!"
  483. >the joy quickly spreads to the both of you as you wrap each other up in a hug
  484. "Rarity! How have you been? We haven't seen you in the longest time."
  485. >"Hows that job ah yers been treating ya?"
  486. >Rarity waves a hoof and gingerly laughs
  487. >>"Its been... well a little stressful. But I love it, and I think its the right thing for me to be doing."
  488. "That's great Rarity. What is it?"
  489. >>"Oh its nothing to exciting and I wouldn't want bore you girls with right now."
  490. >she then makes a long dramatic gasp
  491. >>"but today is one of my days off, are you two girls doing anything right this moment?"
  492. >Applejack just looks over to you slightly thankful that she has a bit more time to think about whatever it was she was going to say
  493. >but You shake your head no and Rarity smiles wide at the two of you
  494. >>"well then you simply HAVE to join me for dinner, I was on my way to meet a-"
  495. >Rarity's eyes dart around quickly looking for the right word
  496. >>"a friend from work!"
  497. >Applejack chuckles lightly and leans in with a coy grin
  498. >"he's a Stallion isn't he?"
  499. >you cant help but giggle, but you still step in to give Rarity a hoof
  500. "Applejack, it isn't polite to assume things like that."
  501. >>"It's quite alright Twilight, and yes Applejack dear he is a stallion, but we are not like that."
  502. "well we would love to join you then Rarity, wouldn't we Applejack?"
  503. >"sure, Its been ah while since we seen each other. Its too bad that Fluttershy and Pinkie are busy today."
  504. >the name of the pony left out of your list seems to be brought to everyponies mind and there is a short moment of silence before its quickly pushed away at its discovery
  505. >>"Well yes, lets go then."
  506. >while the three of you walk you each chat bout recent events and happenings in Canterlot
  507. >before long your conversation turns from Canterlot to ponyville and you all start to reminisce about the old days
  508. >"I always had something to do back then, even with everything goin on with Manos in ponyville my farm was still the most important thing in the world besides you girls and ma family of course."
  509. "Have you heard from Big Mac at all since he left?"
  510. >"No, Not really. I mean, we get an occasional letter from time to time saying he's okay and doing well, but it always feels like its... I don't know. Been read or something?"
  511. "that's strange."
  512. >>"oh Applejack I'm sure that it's just the worry talking. You miss your brother and just want him back again. He'll be fine on his own."
  513. >"Yer probably right Rarity. I just worry from time to time is all. He did leave kinda suddenly and he didn't even have an idea of where he was going when he set out."
  515. >you are Rarity
  516. >Twilight Applejack and yourself finally make it to the restaurant and walk inside
  517. "Here it is girls! the "Mane Dish."
  518. >inside the whole place is splendidly divine.
  519. >silk table linen are placed neatly over each table and there is a beautiful assortment of flowers in the center.
  520. >the atmosphere of the place is comparable to the castle, clearly doing its best to mimic what it would be like dining there.
  521. >a tall stallion in a nice white suit stands waiting with a smile as you and the girls walk over to him
  522. >>>"Hello and welcome to the Mane Dish, do you have a reservation?"
  523. "oh yes! 'Rarity' and I have two guests with me to add to that."
  524. >the stallion doesn't even look at the list for you name and gives you a understanding nod
  525. >>>"of course Miss Rarity. Its good to have you dining with us again. Your table is right this way."
  526. >Twilight walks beside you and AJ follows close behind looking around at what she would no doubt call a 'high class' dining area
  527. >"Wow Rarity, I didn't expect this to be where you had planned on going."
  528. "Oh don't worry about a thing Twilight. OH and don't worry about paying either! This meal is on me since I invited you girls."
  529. >>"Ah don't really like mooching Rarity... but I don't think I brought much with me."
  530. "Well I already said I'm buying, and its not mooching AJ. I haven't seen you two in so long that this is simply making up for that."
  531. >you are quickly brought to your table and seated while waiters bring each of you water and bread to enjoy while you think of what to order
  532. >Twilight looks around the restaurant
  533. >"So where is your friend Rarity? Didn't you say you were meeting him here?"
  534. "He will be along shortly, he's never too late, only late enough."
  535. >each of you giggle before looking over the menus
  536. >the waiters return and your orders are taken when you spot him walking over from the back
  537. >his mane is a nice and proper blue trimmed to a neat perfection and his coat a light orange
  538. >>>"Rarity its good to see you again."
  539. "oh Top Cuff, I told you was I coming here yesterday."
  540. >>>"yes of course you did. Does that make it any less good to see you?"
  541. >you quickly turn Top Cuff's attention to your friends
  542. "these are my Friends Twilight and Applejack, we have known each other for a long time, back in ponyville."
  543. >"Hello sir."
  544. >>"Hello"
  545. >Top Cuff bows his head slightly with a smile
  546. >>>"Its always a pleasure to meet friends of Rarity. Please if there is anything my staff can get you, don't hesitate to ask."
  547. >your staff-?"
  548. >Top Cuff leans in and whispers to you not hearing Twilight's question
  549. >its only a single sentence, but its the reason you came here, and it is more than enough once you hear it.
  550. >>>"she's under control."
  551. >you immediately laugh and wave your hoof
  552. "You are such a charmer Cuff, thank you."
  553. >he smiles pulling himself back and laughs along with you before saying his goodbyes and leaving you and your friends to you meal
  554. >you put on a smile the whole time you and the girls chat and eat not once showing any sign of the conversations existence
  555. >but you are a little worried about Twilight...
  556. >Its going to be hard for her to take when she eventually hears about it.
  558. >you are the princess of Equestira
  559. >The only princess.
  560. >your long flowing mane wisps slowly in a nonexistent breeze seemingly held down solely by your beautiful lunar tiara
  561. >Equestria is under your hooves. Its ponies will be looking to you for guidance and protection, just like you always dreamed they would.
  562. >a smile forms on your lips as the doors to the night court open and inside walks two ponies, one of whom you easily recognize.
  563. "My Knight. You have returned to me, with good news I hope."
  564. >Judice Lunae approaches your throne and bows deeply before speaking, the other guard who came along with her just doing his best to keep himself from falling over.
  565. >"The mission was completed as instructed. Have the rest of the guard returned already?"
  566. >standing up from your throne you approach your knight as you speak
  567. "Yes, they returned just hours before you. With more than enough recovered weaponry and useful information."
  568. >as you reach your still bowing knight you attention moves on to the other guard with her
  569. "And who is this?"
  570. >Judice Lunae rises and looks back to the stallion
  571. >"Morning Dawn, of the royal guard. He was at Vanhoover and was able to escape with his life. He was very determined to take his retirement since he was wounded while serving in the guard."
  572. >The stallion does his best to stand straight
  573. "retirement? Do you no longer have the desire to serve and protect Equestria?"
  574. >>"Of course I do Princess, but-"
  575. "Then why would you abandon it in its time of need? We are at war with a enemy that is both within and outside our walls. I will need every available solider to best our foe."
  576. >>"Princess I-"
  577. >your horn glows from your magic and your eyes illuminate the dark room and within a moment the stallion falls to the floor asleep.
  578. >the other guards ponies approach the passed out pony and begin to haul him away
  579. >"what is to become of him Princess?"
  580. "I will speak with him in private and convince him that his continued service is required and appreciated... Was he there?"
  581. >Judice Lunae appears a little puzzled at your question
  582. >"Morning Dawn?"
  583. "No. Manos. Was he the one to capture my Sister? or was it somepony else?"
  584. >"Manos set a trap and Celestia surrendered without a fight."
  585. >your smile grows a little wider and you can feel your heart start to beat a bit faster in your chest
  586. "Did other ponies see? any that fled or returned from Vanhoover?"
  587. >"yes Princess."
  588. "Perfect."
  589. >as the guards reach the door hauling the stallion away you shout after them
  590. "Gather the press and the nobles, along with enough guards to help control them! I wish to inform Equestria of my sisters betrayal to our ponies."
  591. >>>"Yes Ma'am. For the moons glory!"
  592. >the door closes shut leaving you alone with your Knight
  593. "Judice Lunae, as a reward for your service you will be given complete command over Canterlots well being. From each guard inside to whatever length of control you wish over the populace, unless my own orders say otherwise of course."
  594. >"Thank you Princess. What is the reason for having such a honor? What is my next task?"
  595. "The same as it was inside the castle Lunae. To root out any traitors and spies, to help secure Equestria."
  597. >you are Rainbow Dash
  598. >and with the help of Kyrie you have been able to do twice the work you could have alone.
  599. >walking down the line of your new pegasi recruits you make sure to inspect each one.
  600. >their uniforms have been tinted a slight blue to help conceal them in the bright sky and to distinguish them from the other Hands
  601. "My job, little ponies, is to make you into soldiers ready and able to protect the Reich from any and all threats."
  602. >they each keep their eyes forward as you walk by and turn back around
  603. "Along with being your commander, I am still a member of Manos' personal guard. Do you recruits know what that means?"
  604. >The line of pegasi remain silent and looking forward waiting for you to continue
  605. "That means that you are an extension of myself. You are to protect Manos and follow his orders under any circumstance."
  606. >"Heil Manos!"
  607. >it feels really good to be in charge.
  608. >the sound of flapping wings can be heard and soon they are followed by the sound of hoofsteps bringing a fast flyer into a controlled landing.
  609. >the pegasi stops next to you and quickly pulls you aside
  610. "Kyrie? is everything okay?"
  611. >>"Dash have you heard the news?"
  612. "what news?"
  613. >Kyrie looks back to the new recruits still patiently waiting where they stood before she landed
  614. >>"Manos has captured Celestia and taken Vanhoover."
  615. >what?
  616. >you lift your wing between you and Kyrie preventing the others from hearing you whisper
  617. "B-but Manos is here isn't he? When did he leave for Vanhoover?"
  618. >>"I'm not sure, but he is for sure the one who captured the princess and is now overseeing construction there. I had it confirmed before I showed up."
  619. >great.
  620. >you just go through a speech about you are part of his personal guard and you didn't even know that he left the Reich.
  621. >if your coat wasn't this blue you might start to turn red.
  622. "So who's in charge? Cadence? Aryanne?"
  623. >>"They are with him. So he is at least in good hooves while he is away."
  624. "That leaves Honor Bound. I'm sure he is having a great time acting in charge while Manos is gone."
  625. >maybe that's why you've had a sudden increase in paperwork?
  626. >no, that's probably from the Shines and their constant need for information.
  627. >>"and we have orders from him... Well, one of us that is."
  628. "what are they?"
  629. >>"One of us is to take a force of Pegasi and meet with Manos in Vanhoover. Something about him needing a more conventional mode of transportation."
  630. >escort duty.
  631. >you or Kyrie are being told to leave your recruits behind and perform escort duty.
  632. >If it wasn't for Manos you would be upset, but you can understand his desire for someone dependable to go.
  633. "If that's what our orders are then I shall go. Can you take care of these little birdies?"
  634. >Kyrie looks over the group then back to you
  635. >>"Sure, I can break them in for you. Don't expect me to do all of your work while you are gone though."
  636. >the two of your laugh quietly so the recruits don't hear
  637. "I'm sure there will be even more papers on my desk when I return."
  638. >>"a few might have my name on them..."
  639. >Kyrie flips her mane aside and walks away towards the recruits
  640. "feel free to do those too when you return. Its only fair that we share the work."
  641. >you take to the sky giving you a moment to think while you fly to your office
  642. >Manos has captured Celestia, the most important being in Equestria.
  643. >does that mean that the war will be over soon?
  644. >the thought of seeing your old friends again comes to mind and you cant say it isn't a pleasant feeling.
  645. >even though the last time you were all together things didn't exactly work out.
  646. "they might have changed their minds since then."
  647. >there is no way you are the only one of them who thinks Manos isn't the bad guy... right?
  648. >it doesn't take you long to return to your office and find the new orders already waiting on your desk.
  649. >you don't bother reading them too thoroughly, its mostly just you taking a carriage and some able pegasi and bringing Manos back
  650. >you know this is usually very bad luck to think but...
  651. "what could go wrong?"
  653. >You are Princess Luna
  654. >it has taken some time but eventually all the necessary ponies have been gathered to meet with you.
  655. >the halls outside the court are filled with hundreds of other ponies who heard rumors as to why you have asked for them to come so suddenly
  656. >the room slowly falls silent and only a select few voices continue to murmur in the gathered group
  657. >guards are stationed at each of the doors and windows, each with spells to stop any noise from entering or exiting the room.
  658. >there are a hundred different ways you could start this, but time is likely short, and you decide the most direct route is necessary.
  659. "My sister is no longer with us."
  660. >the crowd quickly begins to stir, ponies quickly beginning to question if what they heard was in fact what you said.
  661. >you speak again, your voice demanding of attention and obedience.
  662. "Before anypony begins to say or think otherwise, she is alive. Though to me, she may as well not be."
  663. >before anypony can speak you raise your hoof and continue on
  664. "As some of you may have notice or heard, she recently led a large force of her royal guard out of Canterlot to help rescue the ponies of Vanhoover from Manos and his tyrannical Hands. This was the assumption I too had. However, once she arrived there the reinforcements I had sent along with her for support returned informing me that she gave herself and her ponies up willingly without putting up a fight once making contact with Manos."
  665. >the crowd starts to enter an uproar, questions flying out from them faster than you can answer.
  666. >"What does that mean for Equestria?"
  667. >"Shouldn't we surrender ourselves then too?!"
  668. >"Why are they called Hands?"
  669. >"Who is in charge of the guard now?"
  670. "ENOUGH!"
  671. >you shout back using your royal Canterlot voice, the walls themselves shaking slightly and for a moment you wonder if the magic could silence it outside
  672. "Despite my sisters choice I shall still do everything in my power to safeguard Equestria and her ponies. I will take on all duties my sister held. Trust me my little ponies I will not let Manos take and destroy everything we hold dear, nor will I surrender myself in hopes of being spared from whatever wrath he may have."
  673. >a older stallion, likely a noble, steps forward and bows his head in respect before speaking
  674. >"Dear Princess, please forgive me for my question, but why should we let Equestria fall to you? You have been gone for over a thousand years- and to top it off Celestia was the one who banished you for trying to usurp her rule in the past."
  675. >many ponies nod or give other signs of agreeing with the nobles point
  676. >though it doesn't matter how sound his argument may be-
  677. "The Equestrian governments line of succession is clear, If either Celestia or I are to give up our rule or otherwise be incapable of leading then it shall fall to the other. If such a time comes where neither of us were able to lead, then the rule would fall to princess Mi Amore Cadenza, who by her own choice has given up her right to rule in favor of joining the Reich."
  678. >"but that doesn't answer-"
  679. "There is only one pony remaining who is capable of ruling, and that is I. Equestria is in a state of war and far beyond any normal state of emergency. There is simply no time to adjust ourselves to a new line of succession or elect a temporary leader. As of this moment, I Princes Luna am the sole leader of Equestria and all of her holdings."
  680. >a voice from the back comes to everyponies attention
  681. >>"But you are not fit to rule!"
  682. >you are shocked that anypony would say such a thing to a princess, especially the one who chose to stand with Equestria till the end rather than surrender.
  683. >the crowd starts to part where the voice came from and a young mare stands there suddenly regretting her choice to speak
  684. >you walk down the open line of ponies eyeing the mare.
  685. "how so my little pony? Am I not your princess? Am I not Celestia's only sister?"
  686. >she starts to quiver in fear as your shadow falls upon her
  687. >>"w-well.. yes. B-but, you are-were! Nightmare Moon, the mare who tried to shroud the world in darkness to have an eternal night. How can we trust you to rule us fairly?"
  688. >you extend your wings to their fullest length, your shadow now completely covering her as she lowers herself to the floor in panic
  689. "you are right, I WAS Nightmare Moon... I cannot deny that."
  690. >you slowly look your wings over, their length and dark feathers slowly beginning to darken further becoming raven-like.
  691. >once the wings become as they once were, black and sleek as the midnight sky you give a warm smile and close them letting the rest of your coat darken with them.
  692. >the space around you becomes larger as ponies begin to back away from you as you change
  693. >you speak softly, in a hurt tone
  694. "is this is what you fear? The mare I once was?"
  695. >you step back from the mare giving her space to relax
  696. "This was me when I thought my own desires were more important than the desires of my ponies. I know that now..."
  697. >your mane slowly changes to match your coat and wings, becoming darker and the stars that filled it slowly dim away
  698. "You have all heard the stories of my reign, of what I was capable of and the terror I caused, but that was when I was against you. Against all of you and my sister... But she gave me a second chance, and for that I am forever grateful, I promised on that day that I would never harm Equestrians. That I would give my life to defend them- to defend you!"
  699. >you turn away and walk to the front of the room to look over all your ponies.
  700. "Manos has made no promise. Manos cares not for his ponies only that they help serve his goals! Do you know what he seeks? Do you know what artifacts he already possesses?"
  701. >a few voices break the silence and ask
  702. >"what does he have?"
  703. >"artifacts? like what?"
  704. "He seeks the elements of Chaos... the only power that is able to rival the elements of Harmony that protects us, and whats more? He already possesses three of them."
  705. >you let this information sink in as your guards slowly start to remove their magics from the windows and doors
  706. "My little ponies, before you lay two options. Side with me, with Eqeustria and hopefully put an end to Chaos, or run and let the beast searching for Chaos find it, and eventually find us all."
  708. >You are Captain Softshores
  709. >and you are making your way to port on board your beloved ship, the Shining Seapony
  710. >your crew have been away from home for too long and are excited to return to Vanhoover.
  711. >stretching your wings you stand from your captains chair in your quarters and step out onto the deck
  712. >the crew is bustling about with the daily work necessary to operate your vessel
  713. >you are greeted by your first mate, another pegasus who you have taken to calling 'Matey'
  714. >"Ahoy Captain! Today's the day right? They day we return home?"
  715. "Indeed, if we are on schedule as planned we shouldn't be more than a few hours away, maybe less if we are lucky and the winds are favorable."
  716. >Matey grins and wraps a hoof around you pulling you close
  717. >"Oh they are! Never have I had such a feeling of freedom under my wings when I first awoke for my morning flight around the ship"
  718. >you pull yourself away politely
  719. "already wanting to fly about eh? well then you wont have much issue with me asking you to fly up and see if you can spot port?"
  720. >Matey forces a laugh and steps back a bit looking around
  721. >"oh boy, I'd love to. But I got such a work out from my flight this morning and uh-"
  722. >a crew member accidentally knocks over a bucket spilling the dirty contents of mop water across the deck getting groans of disappointment or hearty laughter from the other crew members
  723. >Matey is quick to capitalize on this
  724. >"Bucket! Bucket get over here!"
  725. >the pony who kicked the bucket by mistake quickly looks around wondering who Matey is referring to
  726. >it soon becomes clear to him that its indeed him and he rushes over, his hooves leaving wet prints as he goes
  727. >>"yes first mate?"
  728. >"Do us all a favor and let the deck get clean. you know what, why don't you fly up and find out if we are on course to Vanhoover. That should keep you out of trouble right?"
  729. >Bucket turns red and nods
  730. >>"yes sir, as you say sir."
  731. >his wings extend and he takes to the sky a few wet drips falling behind him as he leaves you and Matey behind on the ship
  732. >Matey smiles and begins to walk off to finish his work, as you watch him with a large grin on your face
  733. "Looks like you lucked out this time Matey, but I'll get you in the air eventually."
  734. >Matey laughs and picks up a mop taking over where Bucket left off
  735. >"I don't know what you are talking about Shores."
  736. >you leave him be for know, and walk up the sitars to the upper deck and take the wheel feeling the wind in your mane
  737. >You'll never understand how Matey can be a pegasi like you and still have a fear of heights.
  738. >as you stand there at the wheel of your ship you take in the sights.
  739. >your crew toils away on the deck and up between the masts pegasi easily moving up and down the tall areas of your ship while unicorns and earth ponies take slightly longer needing to climb various ropes and close locations
  740. >the sound of the sea splashing against the side of your ship and the wind picks up pushing the sails out
  741. >"Captain!"
  742. >above you can see Bucket calmly flapping his wings easily maintaining his place above the ship
  743. >though the voice you hear is not his, its instead the voice of a short line of ponies shouting news to one another down the line to you
  744. >"The pegasi above thinks he can see Vanhoover! We are perfectly on course with port and- wait."
  745. >you see the ponies questioning one another but cant directly hear what they are saying until the other pony shouts again
  746. >"She... She seems to have been damaged a bit Captain."
  747. >what has? the ship?
  748. "What are you talking about?! What has happened to my ship when I wasn't looking?!"
  749. >"I- Its not the ship Captain-"
  750. >Bucket starts to fly down to you, eliminating the need for the line of communication
  751. >He lands just in front of the wheel with a worried look
  752. >>"The ship is fine sir, b-but Vanhoover looks like it was caught up in a storm then led to rocks."
  753. "That bad?"
  754. >>"Well the city looks like its getting put back together rather well, but it must have seen tartarus before then. Maybe a dragon passed through in a bad mood?"
  755. >Well you need to make port either way.
  756. >your supplies are running low and the crew could use some time on shore.
  757. "When we get there, I'll make it a priority to find out what happened."
  758. >>"yes captain."
  759. >Bucket looks around feeling out of place now that Matey is doing his previous job
  760. >>"so... What do I do now?"
  762. >You are Marble Sunset
  763. >and you have been given word that a ship is coming into port.
  764. >an Equestrian ship.
  765. >perhaps that's what the ponies were waiting for behind the barrier before Celestia was captured?
  766. >it doesnt matter, once the ship comes in you know you cant let it leave.
  767. >Not without Manos' approval at least.
  768. >By the time you arrive at the port the ship can be seen pulling in.
  769. >Black Hands fill the port and all eyes are on the vessel and its crew.
  770. >the ship is large and elegant, carved from some of the finest wood; at least as far as you can tell, and the sails bare large emblems of Equestrian design.
  771. >if there ever was a ship that could be referred to as a 'Royalist Vessel' then this is it.
  772. >the whole crew of the ship quickly gets to work securing the vessel into place, ropes being thrown off or flown down and secured while the sails get pulled in to prevent the wind from moving it.
  773. >the few crew members that have to leave the ship are assisted by Black Hands though the crew are apprehensive of them
  774. >You calmly make your way over to the ship, a larger escort of Hands with weapons that can be readied at a moments notice follow along with you
  775. "Do we know anything about this ship?"
  776. >you ask the question to no one in particular.
  777. "Where it came from or how long its been at sea? are there any documents saying its to come in today?"
  778. >"No sir, none that we have recovered. Perhaps its a privately owned ship, and not used for shipping or trade."
  779. >possibly, but the ship itself screams that it has ties to Canterlot in some way.
  780. >Why else would it be decorated from top to bottom with Equestrian emblems?
  781. >as you walk by you spot a large name written along the side in white gold
  782. >the Shining Seapony.
  783. >well, with all this bright trim and elegance "shining" really does fit its description.
  784. >soon a series of planks and boards are placed down from the side of the ship, but no one leaves who hasn't left already.
  785. >you and the Hands wait a moment at the foot of the makeshift bridge between the ship and the port, but still no one comes.
  786. >"they must be waiting for us to come aboard sir."
  787. >you slowly step on the planks and make your way on to the ship, your escort following close behind you
  788. >the crew of the Shining Seapony step back as you make it aboard, the Hands making a sizable space with there presence
  789. >nobody talks.
  790. >everyone just watches each other in a awkward stand off that seems to be going nowhere.
  791. >You cough, getting everyone's attention on you.
  792. "I am Marbel Sunset of Lord Manos' Black Hands. Vanhoover is now a city under the protection and control of the Reich. As this is a recent change in ownership, I am not surprised that you wouldn't be expecting it."
  793. >you let the crew murmur to themselves for a moment before you speak again
  794. "Who is your Captain? We wish to speak with him or her."
  795. >a pegasi steps forward in a outfit that you would imagine a colt pretending to be a pirate would wear, his wings tucked closely at his sides.
  796. >>"What is the Reich?"
  797. "Are you the Captain of this ship?"
  798. >the pegasi shakes his head 'no'
  799. >>"Me? No, I'm the first mate. Most of the crew call me Matey, on account of both my choice of clothes and my position on this ship."
  800. >again, the name fits.
  801. "Where is your Captain then, Matey?"
  802. >there is a gruff sounding cough off to your side and you quickly turn to face the noise
  803. >an older pegasi stallion with a grey mane and matching beard smiles at you
  804. >his outfit is much less over the top, instead of a childs pirate get-up he wears a standard Equestrian Navy uniform
  805. >but from the look of his crew, this is not a Navy ship.
  806. "You are the Captain I presume?"
  807. >"Softshores. Captain Softshores. Retired Equestrian Navy officer and avid sailor."
  808. >a retired Equestrian officer.
  809. >a retired Equestrian officer, that is unaware there is a war going on.
  810. >"This is my ship, the Shining Seapony. She was the vessel I was given command of when I was in the Navy."
  811. >you look over the crew again.
  812. >not a single one of them resembles a guard, in fact most look like casual sailors with little experience.
  813. >but that's just the feeling you have from looking at them, and you are no sailor.
  814. "Are there any weapons on board?"
  815. >"Weapons?"
  816. "Any forms of armor?"
  817. >Softshores is surpised your questions
  818. >"No, what use would we have for those? We are just simple sailors exploring the seas for the thrill of adventure and the possibility treasure!"
  819. >you wish you could just take his word for it.
  820. >he honestly seems like a pony who is sailing for the enjoyment of it.
  821. >but you cant take that risk.
  822. "I am sorry Captain, but I am required to search your ship. Recent events you see."
  823. >Softshores steps forward his curiosity apparently getting the better of him as he extends a hoof
  824. >"About that. What happened here? What happened to this city? And you mentioned something about a ride?"
  825. "The Reich, not a ride. There is currently a war going on my good captain. One between brother and sister, father and son, husband and wife. Equestria has been thrown into a civil war that has attracted the attention of several foreign nations-"
  826. >you turn to face the Hands who came with you and quickly mumble
  827. "search the ship for anything of note."
  828. >The pony nods, and you stop him with a hoof before he walks off
  829. "Nicely."
  830. >>>"of course sir."
  831. >you now turn your attention back to Softshores
  832. "I hope you understand that certain precautions need to be taken care of."
  834. >you are Rainbow Dash
  835. >so far the flight to Vanhoover has been uneventful, besides a small storm that had to be push away.
  836. >you look over your shoulder and see the carriage with its drivers keeping a good pace behind you and the other Pegasi
  837. >they have to put almost double the amount of effort as you and the others to maintain the same speed
  838. >if you continue on without a break then they might begin to slow.
  839. >you turn your attention to the earth below and look for a decent place to land and swap drivers.
  840. >unfortunately most of the terrain seems to be a little too rough or muddy and it might end up taking more time to stop now and rest later then it would be to continue on and deal with tired drivers.
  841. >looking ahead you spot the lead flyer and fly up to her.
  842. >the two of you are flying neck and neck to make having a conversation a bit easier to hear
  843. "the drivers are going to need a rest or swap out soon."
  844. >the mare looks back at them for a moment then to you.
  845. >"they seem pretty fine to me. They're big guys, they can haul it for a bit longer."
  846. "for now, but look at their wings."
  847. >the two of you look back at the two stallions who have now begun to notice the constant looks.
  848. >one of them looks around thinking it might be something behind the carriage, while the other just smiles back.
  849. >but when you look at their wings you can see that on occasion they will flap suddenly out of sync.
  850. >a sign that they are indeed going to need a break from a flight soon despite how casual they appear to be flying now
  851. "see the occasional dead flap?"
  852. >"yeah, I see it. I'll keep an eye out for a good landing area. just tell them to follow me down"
  853. >you give her a nod and pull back to the drivers and inform them of the slight change in plans
  854. >and before long the group is slowly descending coming in close to a small town where the land has finally started to even out.
  855. >even from up here the town seems a little off, but you wont be staying long enough to find out.
  856. >as the group lands the drivers are rotated out and everyone is given a short rest.
  857. >ponies in the village look at you and the Hands from the safety of their homes
  858. >you turn to one of the drivers who is taking a rest beside the carriage and grab his attention
  859. "Hey, have you seen this village before?"
  860. >>"no, I cant say I have. I've been living in the Crystal Empire then The Reich, my whole life."
  861. "Well shouldn't this place be on a map? or have been secured when we pushed out in our land grab?"
  862. >he shrugs
  863. >>"Id think so, but you know more than I do Commander. If you don't know about this place then I don't."
  864. >that is a good point.
  865. >and you're not the most studious of ponies, its quite possible you just overlooked it.
  866. >it is a smaller village, it might be a new one that hasn't had a chance to be recorded yet.
  867. >from the corner of your eye you see a group from the village begin to approach.
  868. >some of your pegasi stand up curious, while others remain resting or ready themselves.
  869. >the group gets closer and then you notice something about them
  870. >each of their cutie marks are either covered up, or a strange grey equal sign.
  871. >you focus in making sure you are indeed seeing that when a rock collides with the side of the carriage.
  872. >the group of ponies from the village begin to shout and yell, soon followed by more projectiles
  873. "what the heck!?"
  874. >a few of your pegasi take to the sky and easily dodge the angry lobbing.
  875. >"Commander, are we ordered to engage?"
  876. "of course not! they are civilians!"
  877. >the civilians start to charge at your Hands still shouting and showing no signs of stopping
  878. >>"Commander! we either need to engage or leave now!"
  879. "Then get out of here! get in the air. I will not attack innocent ponies because of some misunderstanding!"
  880. >>"Yes Commander! Everyone! get in the air! We can still-"
  881. >the sound of the mares voice vanishes
  882. >along with the rest of the world around you.
  883. >all that remains is a sharp pain in the side of your head before you fall to the ground
  885. >you cant be sure how much time has passed, but when your vision starts to return you are immediately greeted by the worst headache of your life.
  886. "ah. What happened?"
  887. >the feeling of a hoof on your back put you at ease
  888. >that is, until you remember what had happened.
  889. >you roll yourself away from the hoof and bump yourself into a very hard wall as you try to look over to the pony who touched you
  890. >it takes a moment but eventually your vision returns to normal and you can see a worried looking Hand staring back at you.
  891. >"Commander, are you okay?"
  892. >you look her over for a moment and you begin to recall seeing her before...
  893. "you- you were the lead flyer, right?"
  894. >the mare smiles and nods her head
  895. >"yes, good, you remember. We were worried when we saw you take that hit to the head."
  896. >you look away from the mare and examine the room you are in.
  897. >the room as it turns out is actually the carriage you were supposed to be taking to pick up Lord Manos
  898. "where is everyone else? Are they okay? what about-"
  899. >"we made it out just fine commander. You gave us orders to run when we were attacked and we grabbed you just in time."
  900. >good. thats good that everyone is okay.
  901. >and you got away from the angry civilians.
  902. >but why were they so angry in the first place?
  903. >more importantly where are you now?
  904. >jolting up you peek out the window of the carriage and see that you are just about to enter Vanhoover as a few Pegasi pull the carriage in.
  905. "We made it to Vanhoover?"
  906. >the mare looks out to see the city getting larger as you approach
  907. >"looks like it. Once we land we can get you looked at properly."
  908. >you're alright.
  909. >at least that's what you are telling yourself, the pain is still there but you've made it through much worse from when you used to do your stunts
  910. >besides, you are supposed to be a leader now. You need to be stronger than those you lead
  911. "no- no. I'm fine. just let me get out before we find Manos."
  912. >"uhm, okay. Whatever you say Ma'am."
  914. >You are Lord Manos
  915. >and word has reached you that a Ship has docked and the crew is led by a Equestrian Navy Officer
  916. >the ship sits still in the port as various Hands and other ponies look on at it while crew are being taken off the ship in small groups.
  917. "quite a lovely ship."
  918. >the words escape your thoughts into reality and you look around noticing you are more or less alone.
  919. >Celestia is being held back in a secure area with Cadence watching her
  920. >probably very closely.
  921. "she will probably behave herself."
  922. >Celestia that is.
  923. >"Lord Manos sir."
  924. >a lone Black Hand approaches you giving a salute, and waits for you to acknowledge him.
  925. >you look over to him with a slight smile giving him your full attention
  926. "Yes?"
  927. >"Marble requested that I- uhm.. That I request that you come to see him on board the Shining Seapony to speak with the Captain"
  928. >you glance over to the ship
  929. "That's the name of this ship?"
  930. >"As far as I am aware sir."
  931. "Its appropriate. Shall we go then?"
  932. >he stumbles slightly and starts to walk ahead of you thinking that you were waiting for him to lead you.
  933. >you weren't, but small little jokes like that have become more entertaining the longer you are in charge of little nazi ponies.
  934. >yup. It's still funny to think that's what they are.
  935. >the crew who have been escorted off of the ship all stare at you as you walk by with a mix of fear and curiosity
  936. >from their outward appearance they look like just regular ponies you would see anywhere.
  937. >and its a little disappointing if you are being honest, you were secretly hoping for them to be ponies in various pirate uniforms or some classical navy uniforms.
  938. >the way on board the ship is quickly cleared once your Hands see you approach the ship, clearing out any supplies or unorganized crew members who have not been led away
  939. >before you step onto the planks leading up to the deck you admire the craftsmanship on the vessel
  940. >the name of the ship elegantly carved into the side with a very overly fancy style
  941. >you take your first few steps up and you hear a voice call out from the far end of the ship
  942. >"Lord Manos is coming aboard! Make way!"
  943. >the air seems to change as you finally reach the deck, a line of your Hands wait for you and salute as you come into view
  944. >you give one back and walk down the line to Marble and-
  945. >a wide grin comes over you as the two ponies standing there are exactly what you wanted to see.
  946. >one wears a uniform of a distinguished officer while the other has a red sash around his waist and a single pierced ear
  947. >both of them are pegasi but one is far older in appearance with a grey beard and eyes that show his age
  948. >he is the first to speak and he does not sound happy
  949. >"So you are the one leading these ponies vandalizing my ship?"
  950. >he seems to not care that he could be taken away for being so brash
  951. >either that or he simply doesn't know
  952. "Vandalizing? what do you mean?"
  953. >Marble steps forward
  954. >>"We inspected the ship for any type of weaponry or armor that could be meant for the ponies who were held up here, I've tried explaining the situation to him but he refuses to-"
  955. >"-let you tear apart my ship. When you said inspect I was fine with you searching it, but they started to go through my personal belongings!"
  957. >you are Captain Softshores
  958. >and you are furious at the sudden escalation in the thoroughness of these ponies search.
  959. >so furious in fact, that you have begun to shout at the being in charge of them in an attempt to have them stop.
  960. >if you were thinking rationally, you probably wouldn't be shouting and likely irritating the one who could control them.
  961. >but you're not, and you continue.
  962. "and not only that, they have begun to tear apart my supply storage in search of something I DO. NOT. HAVE."
  963. >you stomp your hoof on the deck as you finish your sentence and you take heavy breaths as your anger simmers over.
  964. >"but we do not know this unless we check everywhere. You have already stated you were a officer in the Equestrian Navy, that is more than enough to require a search of your ship."
  965. >you turn away from the tall creature who was referred to as Manos and face the pony next to you.
  966. "I had no idea there was even a conflict going on. How can I be supplying anypony if I didnt even know they needed it?!"
  967. >"its not about what you knew or what you think Mr. Softshores! Its about what we are required to do!"
  968. >you open your mouth to continue to argue your case when Manos speaks
  969. >>"Give the order to stop the search of the ship. I can find out if he is knowingly hiding anything on board without all this commotion."
  970. >Finally! somepony with some sense!
  971. >strange that its coming from the one you were shouting at for your first meeting, but beggars cant be choosers.
  972. "Thank you. Now perhaps we can talk this over and-"
  973. >just as you look at the creature his eyes bore into your own and the world around you turns into a swirling mess of color and shapes
  974. >you feel trapped in the most unimaginable storm possible until it suddenly stops leaving you and Manos standing alone in a vast emptiness.
  975. >looking down you find yourself standing on nothing.
  976. >the same black void that is above and around you is also below, yet despite nothing being there it feels solid and standing is not an issue.
  977. >never in all your years have you ever seen a place like this, and a uneasy fear slowly creeps up your spine
  978. >>"Relax. Nothing can harm you here."
  979. >Manos looks at you with a calm expression, clearly used to this place and its ways.
  980. >but thats just another reason to feel uneasy in your book.  
  981. >he casually sits down and out of thin air a wooden chair forms for him to relax.
  982. "Wh-where are we?! where have you taken me?!"
  983. >>"I haven't taken you anywhere. We are still aboard your ship. Standing in the same places and surrounded by the same ponies."
  984. >the world slowly changes though it hurts to watch.
  985. >you blink, and when your eyes open you are again on board the ship in port.
  986. >however its just you and Manos on deck, until large shadows form the bodies of the other ponies.
  987. >over time the detail and color comes in and its as if you never left the ship in the first place, but nopony seems to be moving or even breathing.
  988. "what are you?"
  989. >Manos smiles and reaches forward as a table stocked with various refreshments materializes and a cup appears in his hand.
  990. >he takes a drink before he speaks.
  991. >>"I am Lord Manos, I am the hand of fate."
  992. >he sets down the cup and sits back in the chair relaxing.
  993. >>"but to give a proper answer to your first question... I suppose the easiest way to explain it would be to say that we are in your mind or rather our minds."
  994. "and.. why are we here?"
  995. >Manos grins
  996. >>"I'm going to learn everything you know about you ship and where you have been. If I see no reason to continue the search, it will end. If there is something I might need to take, then it will be taken."
  997. >he extends his arms lightheartedly
  998. >>"Simple."
  1000. >you are Marble Sunset
  1001. >"Thank you. Now perhaps we can talk this over and-"
  1002. >before the sentence is even completed Manos speaks
  1003. >>"There is nothing here, our Captain has no knowledge of recent events and there is no need to harass him further."
  1004. >the sudden certainty in Lord Manos' voice is staggering.
  1005. "are you sure sir?"
  1006. >Manos begins walking to the ships bridge the once furious sea captain slowly following behind him with a sudden curiosity in his eyes
  1007. >>"I'm quite certain. You may release the crew too. Give them some food water and any other necessities they might require for their voyage. Oh, and get some volunteers to go along with them. Armed."
  1008. >you look around at the rest of the crew and Hands on ship, and they too share your surprise.
  1009. >>"the captain has agreed to do me a personal service in return for favor. One that will also benefit the Reich."
  1010. >the ships first mate looks to his Captain and Manos, then back to you before smiling wide
  1011. >>>"you heard your leader. Your inspection is over and we are to be supplied without issue."
  1012. >his overly cheery attitude and a slight hint of revenge in his voice annoys you but you say nothing
  1013. >>>"Chop chop land lubber! off the ship!"
  1014. >"Watch the attitude Matey!"
  1015. >the voice of the Captain stops his harassment cold and both of you stare at the once furious pony in surprise
  1016. >"I wont have any of that aboard my ship now that we are employed!"
  1017. >Employed?!
  1018. >what in tartarus happened in that half a second when they looked at each other?
  1019. >"and in the morning we set sail for the Zebranican Republic!"
  1020. >There was no use in trying to completely understand whats going on, and right now you have orders that might be more difficult than they seem at first glance.
  1021. >where are you going to find volunteers willing to take a trip across the ocean to a foreign land while your home is caught in a war?
  1022. >and at the last possible second no less?
  1023. >lost in thought you hardly notice where your wandering hooves have taken you
  1024. >"I SWEAR, if the two of you mares don't grow up and stop bickering like schoolyard fillies-"
  1025. >a mixed group of black hands, civilians, brownshirts, and even a few captive royal guards have gathered in a large circle in front of a relatively undamaged building
  1026. >as you approach you can clearly hear what has everyone's attention
  1027. >"-I'll have to--"
  1028. >"You'll WHAT, Aryanne?! write a note home to my parents? Send me to detention? You don't have rank over me, and SHE-"
  1029. >the voices slowly begin to die down, at least, they get low enough that it becomes difficult to understand whats being said.
  1030. >The black hands eventually get everyone moving along, though you can tell a few are doing it to get a bit closer to listen in
  1031. >after a few more seconds of waiting for things to die down you approach the guards at the door, who are seemingly transfixed on watching the door
  1032. >perhaps expecting one of the shouting mares to come marching out
  1033. "you guys think its safe to enter now?"
  1034. >the stallions at the door perk up their ears only now noticing that you were waiting to get in.
  1035. >"They have been going at it for a while, but it seems to have calmed down."
  1036. >>"at least enough for someone with reason to enter to go in."
  1037. >really, you're not sure that you have 'reason' per say, as you were just tasked with finding volunteers.
  1038. >but if Aryanne and Cadence are inside, perhaps they can point you towards a few ponies that are not as necessary to clean up operations
  1039. >you put on you best false confidence face you can
  1040. "unfortunately I think I do."
  1041. >one of the hands opens the door for you and you step inside
  1042. >"watch for falling rocks."
  1043. >>"Yelling Alicorns give small buildings like this a hard time."
  1045. >you are Aryanne
  1046. >Elite personal guard.
  1047. >Trained soldier.
  1048. >Loyal pony to a living god.
  1049. >and Alicorn babysitter.
  1050. >with much effort you were finally able to get Cadence to calm down enough to have a word in private.
  1051. >without leaving Celestia unattended of course, you doubt she will be trying to leave.
  1052. >but right now Cadence is the center of your attention.
  1053. "Cadence, this is the second time we've had to do this. You need to get a hold of yourself."
  1054. >Cadence's anger has seemingly reached a point where she cant contain herself and tears begin to stream down her face
  1055. >She quickly turns her face away from you while raising her wing to hide it from her once Aunt
  1056. >"Wh-Well how should I act Aryanne?!"
  1057. >all that remains of her rage is her brightened face but even that is giving way to sadness
  1058. >you catch yourself glancing around the room as she speaks again
  1059. >"I- I've lost nearly everything I cared about because of her, her and those disgusting changelings!"
  1060. >you gently place a hoof on her shoulder and to your surprise she slightly flinches
  1061. >"but I cant help thinking about all the time we spent together and how things were before-"
  1062. >she hiccups
  1063. >"AND I HATE IT! I hate that I cant forget those times, I hate that I don't WANT to forget!"
  1064. "Cadence, I can understand that its hard for you."
  1065. >you gently pat her shoulder to hopefully calm her down a bit
  1066. "but this isn't the time or place. Once we go back home there will be plenty of time to talk about this."
  1067. >she reluctantly nods
  1068. "What did Celestia do to set you off like this?"
  1069. >Cadence takes a moment to answer, wiping away her tears
  1070. >"She apologized, and I wanted to forgive her."
  1072. >You are Celestia
  1073. >and its hard to believe how much Cadence hates you.
  1074. >Or rather, how much she thinks she hates you.
  1075. >you know that this, all of this, is Manos' doing.
  1076. >and he has gotten so far into her mind that even apologizing to her sets her off like that.
  1077. >but even so, its hard to keep yourself from shedding tears in front of them.
  1078. >raising yourself up from your seat you are about to try and speak when someone else beats you to it.
  1079. >"Commanders Aryanne and Cadence, may I speak to one of you?"
  1080. >A stallion in uniform stands patiently in the doorway to the room
  1081. >Aryanne asks Cadence if she will be okay by herself before walking out with the stallion
  1082. >leaving the two of you alone
  1083. >the silence between the two of you now is so loud that you can hear bits of the louder noises outside
  1084. >rubble being cleared away, ponies giving short shouts of orders, even a splash of a large load of waste being dumped into the sea
  1085. >after what seems like an eternity of silence you decide you should try talking to her
  1086. "Cadence"
  1087. >just once more.
  1088. >Shes still looking away from you, and even takes a seat making it clear shes not wishing to speak
  1089. >after her outbursts at your previous attempts to speak with her, or even just apologize, you don't really know what to say.
  1090. >but you desperately want to say something, ANYTHING that might bring her back home.
  1091. >when nothing comes to mind you lay down on a clean part of the floor
  1092. "I surrendered myself for the lives of my ponies... and I still include you."
  1094. >you are- BOOM!
  1095. >a slight miscalculation in one of your experiments has your ears ringing
  1096. >where once a newly constructed weapon and its unhappy wielder sat, a giant scorch mark riddled with gooey bits remains.
  1097. "UGH! I am so close I can feel it in my bones!"
  1098. >"Doctor Franziska, is everything alright?! we heard an explosion, again!"
  1099. >oh that's right, you forgot that part.
  1100. >you are Franziska.
  1101. >without turning to the new arrivals concerned for your safety you remove your goggles and begin to take notes
  1102. "Yes-yes-yes everything is fine."
  1103. >"thank Manos we thought-"
  1104. "OH while you are here"
  1105. >you turn to face the pony-
  1106. >scratch that, the FOUR scientists, TWO black hands with fire extinguishers, and a crystal guard with a bucket of water.
  1107. >so the group of ponies then.
  1108. "my there are more of you than I thought, ah never mind. I'll need you to requisition another shipment of test subjects from whatever camp has spares, another sample of those dark purple crystals I have yet to find a real name for, two more chassis of our next prototype, and a large fruit salad with Prench dressing."
  1109. >you skipped lunch today.
  1110. >the young mare scientist that has been conversing with you steps into your lab looking around at the mess
  1111. >"I uhm. Is that really necessary doctor?"
  1112. >you let out a childish groan as you set your notes and pen aside
  1113. "fine... a regular size salad then."
  1114. >who knew your staff were such calorie snobs?
  1115. >"n-no doctor that's not what I meant, I-"
  1116. >the guard in crystalline armor interrupts
  1117. >>"She means is your request for more supply really necessary? We already have several shipments en route already, how can you already be requesting more?"
  1118. "I am a very-very-very busy mare who knows exactly how much material I need for each and every test and experiment I wish to do."
  1119. >speaking of, you're beginning to wonder how Vanhoover is coming.
  1120. >OH VANHOOVER!
  1121. >that reminds you that you had a test field, or rather a lake, dug up for one of your other machines.
  1122. >how could you have forgotten?!
  1123. >completely forgoing your notes since this current project is on hold until more subjects arrive you merrily trot past the light protest and complaints of those less intellectually fortunate.
  1124. >namely everyone who was talking to you just now
  1125. >speaking of other living creatures, you're beginning to wonder what the rest of your specially marked trio are up to right now.
  1126. >Ahh you're sure they are fine, you have more tests and experiments to run.
  1128. >You are Rainbow Dash
  1129. >and Vanhoover is nothing like it used to be.
  1130. >in fact, it more or less resembles Ponyville the last time you saw it, besides the size scale of course.
  1131. >you unconsciously rub your hoof on your head and the pain from that hit you took catches you off guard as you wince.
  1132. "gah!-"
  1133. >the lead flyer from before immediately notices your discomfort
  1134. >"its best you don't touch it Commander, it should heal fine but it might leave a mark if you fool with it like that."
  1135. >shes probably right
  1136. >inspecting your hoof you are mildly surprised to find no blood smeared on it
  1137. >they must have patched you up well
  1138. "I take it you are the one that fixed my head?"
  1139. >the mares eyes dart around like its some super secret that was let out
  1140. >why would she act like that?
  1141. >"oh, no I wasn't in fact, none of us in the escort team were."
  1142. "then who-?"
  1143. >she steps in front of you causing the rest of the group behind you pulling the carriage, apparently now on foot, to stop
  1144. >"you don't remember Commander?"
  1145. "Uhm, no? How could I?"
  1146. >she looks over to two other hands in the team and waves them over to your sides
  1147. >you cant help but feel worried as they get a little too close for comfort
  1148. >"Do you at least remember who I am?"
  1149. "uh, of course? You were the lead mare in our formation."
  1150. >this apparently was the answer she was hoping for as her worried smile now turns into a even more worried frown
  1151. >"no, I mean my name."
  1152. >she never told you her name
  1153. >heck, you never even asked as far as you recall.
  1154. >now that you think about it... how long have you been walking for?
  1155. >the mares voice becomes a little more formal, seemingly much to her own dismay
  1156. >"Commander Rainbow Dash-"
  1157. >wait, when did you get out of the carriage?
  1159. >the pain in your head increases tenfold
  1160. >no, a hundredfold!
  1161. >"as of this moment, I Smile Bright, will be taking command for the remainder of this mission since you are currently mentally unfit to lead-"
  1162. >the two stallions at your sides begin to attempt to restrain you, but you resist as best you can
  1163. "What are you talking about?! Whats going on?"
  1164. >at the sight of the struggle a few Brownshirts and Hands that had been observing attempt to help restrain you
  1165. "Why are you restraining me?!"
  1166. >you are yelling and fighting the overwhelming strength of the ponies as best you can
  1167. >but even through all that you hear Smile Bright's calm voice clear as day
  1168. >"Commander..."
  1169. >you glace back at her as what you can only describe as a held back smirk crosses her lips
  1170. >"This is our third time having this conversation in the past half hour."
  1172. >You are Princess Luna
  1173. >and your Knight, Judice Lunae has been very effective at bringing in suspects and traitors.
  1174. >She has set curfew for your subjects to follow, and nopony is allowed near castle grounds without voluntarily subjecting themselves to a thorough inspection and questioning
  1175. >anypony questioning her methods of rooting out the unloyal were quickly quashed by the results
  1176. >sitting on your throne you begin examining the latest group of suspects brought before you
  1177. >all the windows have been closed and the lights dimmed giving the once bright and joyous room a air of the nights dominance the kingdom needs in these times
  1178. >and with your sister leaving you the sole ruler with her capture your ponies need to know you will not be so lenient as she.
  1179. >a Lunar guard steps before the group his nocturnal eyes easily seeing every bit of detail on their faces as if it was bright as day
  1180. >"You have been brought to stand before the Princess of the night to be tried for treason against the throne, against Equestria, and against all of its citizens. As this is a time of war, all related offenses will be overseen or personally undertaken by Princess Luna."
  1181. >your horn glows and the lights around your throne intensify slightly to make you stand out clearly in the dark room
  1182. >the first of the four ponies, a mare, is motioned forward and is brought to the center of the room alone
  1183. >the guard raises his voice making the seriousness of the situation clear to all who are listening
  1184. >"How do you plead?!"
  1185. >your gaze must seem like the weight of a thousand hammers crashing down on a anvil as the mare's eyes are locked on to your own
  1186. >her body is shaking as she forces her voice to leave her lips
  1187. >"I... I haven't done anything princess."
  1188. >you say nothing, instead opting to let your presence continue to bear down on her a while longer
  1189. >her fear begins to grow and it becomes evident by her tone
  1190. >"I swear its the truth."
  1191. "Are you sure, my little pony? Have you committed NO crimes against Equestria or the crown?"
  1192. >"of course not princess! Equestria is my home, I only want wants best for everyo- everypony. Please, ask T-"
  1193. >you cut her off
  1194. "that's all I needed to know."
  1195. >with a motioning of your hoof, the mare is brought back into line with the other three much to her dismay
  1196. >when she reaches her original position, a guard is about to bring forth another but he stops as you slowly descend from your throne and walk to the group
  1197. >the lights around the throne dimming as you distance yourself from it, while the next nearest ones brighten and dim until you reach the ponies
  1198. >besides the mare you just spoke to there are two other mares, and one stallion waiting to be judged.
  1199. "Perhaps we can make this a bit smoother. My ponies, are ANY of you guilty of treason?"
  1200. >as expected, you are met with silence.
  1201. "I promise to forgive you, if you admit to your guilt."
  1202. >this time you get a few shakes of 'no' from some of the mares and one steely eyed glare from the stallion
  1203. >but no verbal responses, or admissions of guilt.
  1204. "Very well. Then I shall find out for myself."
  1205. >two lunar guard unicorns originally from the royal guard step forth with horns glowing
  1206. >and one by one, all of the accused start falling asleep.
  1207. >closing your own eyes you enter the dream world ready to see if they really are as innocent as they claim.
  1208. >and to find out as much as you can about Manos and his plans if they are not.
  1209. >Who knows how much you will learn this time...
  1211. >You are a Knight of the Moon, Judice Lunae
  1212. >and you are currently being bothered by a group of very distraught mares
  1213. >the most vocal of them being a purple unicorn who has been pleading with you ever since you brought one of the mares in
  1214. >"She couldn't be a spy! She would never in a million years betray her friends or the Princesses!"
  1215. "Miss Sparkle, the evidence points to her even if I believed you I wouldn't be able to ignore it."
  1216. >You turn away from the mare hoping that your guard detail finally stops them from pestering you
  1217. >but unfortunately as you finish your turn you come face to face with another mare
  1218. >this time pink and speaking in near gibberish
  1219. >"Shesnotabadponyshejustisconfusedletustalktoherandipinkiepromisewecan-"
  1220. >you shove your hoof to her mouth silencing the living pink migraine
  1221. "No! until the trail has ended you will not speak with her, you will not talk to her, you will not even see her!"
  1222. >>"An' why is that?"
  1223. >you easily recognize the cowponies drawl from behind you, presumably still next to Miss Sparkle being kept back by the guards
  1224. >you ""gently"" move the pink pony back behind the guards with the rest of her friends hoping that she will stay there this time when you walk away
  1225. >since you are already facing them again you decide to respond to Miss Applejack
  1226. "Because she is considered a traitor to Equestria, and a suspected high ranking spy at that. I cant risk her passing along any messages back to her monster of a leader."
  1227. >>"we wouldn't do anyth'ng like that! we just want to talk to her-"
  1228. >you find yourself shouting at the mares, causing the silent yellow one in the back to shrink into her own mane at the sound of your voice
  1229. "I SAID NO! Let me be perfectly clear with you girls. The only, "ONLY" reason I am even speaking with you about this right now is because you are element bearers. If you were anypony else I'd just have you arrested for impeding a royal guard investigation AND interrupting a war trial"
  1230. >you snort your nose adding even more emphasis.
  1231. "And even THAT is losing credibility for loyalty when now TWO are possibly abandoning Equestria for that creature."
  1232. >you open the doors leading to the secure lunar guard section of the castle before stepping through and slamming them closed behind you
  1233. >the walk down the hall is peaceful and calming
  1234. >all around are banners both old and new dedicated to the princess of the night
  1235. >for some reason, you have always liked them more than Celestias.
  1236. >As do the rest of the lunar guardsponies, some- well, many seeing them as a testament to Luna's resilience even back before Manos
  1237. >Hopefully this time Luna's abilities will save Equestria instead of doom it.
  1239. >You are a purple unicorn
  1240. >and you are panicking
  1241. >in fact, you are nearing a breakdown
  1242. >oh, never mind brain. You're there
  1243. >ooooh~ you're so there
  1244. >"Twilight..."
  1245. >Breathe Twilight! Just breathe!
  1246. >In, and out. In, and out. In-and-out, In-an-out, Inandout-inandout! inandoutinandoutinandout!
  1247. >Is it getting hotter in here?!
  1248. >Are the walls closing in on you?!
  1249. >"You need to calm down Sugar cube!"
  1250. >Applejack places her hoof on your shoulder followed quickly by Fluttershy embracing you in a surprisingly tight hug
  1251. >with the help of your friends you begin to regain your composure, at least for the time being.
  1252. "Okay-Okay. I think I'm okay. I'm totally NOT okay, but I am okay."
  1253. >you cant afford to be panicking right now anyway.
  1254. >one of your closest friends is currently being held prisoner for TREASON
  1255. >and with the way things have been going around here recently, if she is guilty...
  1256. "We have to get her out."
  1257. >your words seem to leave your lips just as you comprehend the thought
  1258. >"uh, 'out' Twilight?"
  1259. >you look to Applejack with what you hope is determination, but comes off as uncertainty
  1260. "Yes, out."
  1261. >"And where would we take her once we broke her out of jail Twilight? Its not like we can jus' keep hiding her around the castle hoping somepony doesn't recognize her."
  1262. "Then there's only one thing we can do!"
  1263. >Fluttershy's eyes widen
  1264. >>"You don't mean..."
  1265. >unfortunately you do, but a very serious Pinkie Pie beats you to the punch.
  1266. >>>"We're going to get her out of Equestria."
  1267. "some trials have been going on in the throne room for a while now, if we are going to have a shot at getting Rarity out we have to act quickly."
  1268. >"any idea on how we do that without getting caught ourselves Twi?"
  1269. >you think to yourself for a moment as the girls all look to you for an answer
  1270. >knowing there isnt enough time to think of a full proof plan you go with the best one you can think of
  1271. "Yes, I have a idea that will work... but..."
  1272. >but there is a slight problem with it.
  1273. "not without getting caught."
  1275. >You are Applejack
  1276. >and you now have a very difficult choice to make.
  1277. >If Twilight's plan can work and it can get your friend out with her head attached it will mean your whole family might be put in danger
  1278. >Macintosh had already been under watch for a while for attending a few of the early gatherings and offering a helping hoof to the brownshirts back in ponyville quite often.
  1279. >the only reason he was 'let go' was because of your status as the element of honesty and Celestias intervention
  1280. >and Granny smith would be devastated if you just got up and left without AT LEAST saying goodbye and giving her your reason for leaving
  1281. "What about our families Twi? Or Spike? You've been keeping a lot of this from him you know."
  1282. >"I know Applejack, I've kept a lot of what I know about whats going on from him. But I know he would give everything to save Rarity, to save ANY of us."
  1283. >well, you don't need to be the the element of honesty to know shes telling the truth about that.
  1284. >but just going off and committing to this without telling anypony?
  1285. >you cant do that.
  1286. >you look Twilight in the eyes
  1287. "Twilight, I'm sorry but... We need to at least tell them why we are going to do be leaving."
  1288. >with a nod Twilight turns to Pinkie Pie
  1289. >"Pinkie could you-"
  1290. >>>"I already told them about it after that mean pony slammed the door on us Twilight. Spike will be waiting for us out by the gates with everyone by the time we get there."
  1291. >Twilight and yourself give Pinkie heartwarming smiles before turning to Fluttershy
  1292. "I guess, I'm in then."
  1293. >"What about you Fluttershy?"
  1294. >the yellow Pegasi's eyes quickly focus on the floor
  1295. >>"W-well, I guess the animals will be alright without me. I hope."
  1296. >she smiles slightly and the four of you wrap each other in a tight hug
  1297. >>>"The next time we group hug, it will be with all of us together again. I Pinkie Promise."
  1299. >You are Rarity
  1300. >and right now you have no idea where you are.
  1301. >the last thing you remember is you were being approached by two Lunar guard unicorns and Luna
  1302. >now looking around, you are unbound and in a seemingly empty void
  1303. >no, no- its not a void.
  1304. >your eyes seem to focus on something in front of you and you begin to see that its a wall
  1305. >following it down its side you see another wall, and another, and a another.
  1306. >you're in a room!
  1307. >well that far better than a void surely.
  1308. "Okay Rarity. Get control of yourself. Its just a room, a dark dirty room, but still its just a room."
  1309. >a light from behind you illuminates the room for a moment, just long enough for you to turn around and see somepony standing there.
  1310. >"Rarity?"
  1311. >The voice is familiar, it almost sounds like-
  1312. "Sweetie belle!?"
  1313. >on the other side of the room your younger sister is sitting there with tears streaming down her face
  1314. >"Why did you do it?"
  1315. >you rush over to her wrapping her into a hug
  1316. >you feel her tears beginning to dampen your coat where she has buried her face
  1317. "Do what Swe-"
  1318. >her soft sad voice quickly turns into a screaming torrent of rage
  1319. >"WHY DID YOU BETRAY US!?"
  1320. >before you can look at her you are tossed across the room by Sweeite Belles magic
  1321. >you hit the wall on the opposite end of the room and chains wrap themselves around you holding you in place
  1322. >Sweeites voice noticeably changes into a far more malicious one but you hardly notice with how suddenly everything has happened
  1325. >You are Sweetie Belle, at least in form.
  1326. >you are actually Princess Luna, and you are furious at this mare!
  1327. >what you were able to get from her unconscious mind only shows the surface of her knowledge
  1328. >but even the bits you have been able to scrape together from it, the spies have gathered more than enough information and contacts to move almost freely throughout your kingdom.
  1329. >your eyes begin to glow as you continue to yell at the traitorous mare
  1331. >your Royal Canterlot voice booms in the fictitious room you crafted in her mind
  1333. >>"Princess!"
  1334. >the foreign voice stops your rant
  1335. >>"Princess!"
  1336. >you pull yourself away from the dream world and open your eyes
  1337. >quickly you turn to see your guards struggling to fend off a very persistent and elusive pink mare, your horn glows as you try to pry her away but she eludes you for the time being
  1338. "Miss Pie! This is a war trial, what are you-"
  1339. >the sound of hooves rushing behind you makes you snap your attention back to the prisoners
  1340. >to your surprise you see Twilight and the rest of her friends quickly gathering around Rarity and the other captives followed quickly by Pinkie
  1341. "Twilight. What are you doing!?"
  1342. >"What I think is right."
  1343. >you see her horn glowing and you unleash your own magic at her in a concentrated beam
  1344. >"I'm sorry Luna-"
  1345. >your magic collides with the floor as she and the rest of the ponies vanish before your eyes
  1346. "NOO!"
  1347. >You flare out your wings and stomp your forehooves on the floor causing it to crack in a few places
  1348. >you turn to the other guards in the room and with your royal canterlot voice shout
  1351. >You are Reichmarshall Honor Bound.
  1352. >While Manos has clearly been away you have been at work discussing future plans for Equestria and the Reich
  1353. >Discussing, not actually doing the planning.
  1354. >Though you have found that this is pretty much just as much work
  1355. >deciding plausible defensive tactics, counter measures, security, new urban warfare methods, and of course implementation of new weaponry and forces.
  1356. >besides that which already has been approved, denied, or requested by Lord Manos himself of course.
  1357. >"Ah, Honor. We have been looking for you."
  1358. >oh... and you have been dealing with these mares.
  1359. >you don't even bother to face the suspected duo at this point, instead you keep your eyes on your papers
  1360. "Yes Shines?"
  1361. >Instead of waiting for you to face them they walk around to be in your vision, one on each side of you.
  1362. >"Do you have word as to when Commander Dash is to return with our beloved leader?"
  1363. "No. I do not, and please I am very busy with-"
  1364. >Emerald cuts you off, neither of them really caring what your current affairs are.
  1365. >sometimes you wonder why Manos put them in control of his gestapo
  1366. >>"We only ask because we have quite a bit of troubling information coming from our agents in Canterlot."
  1367. >Sapphire continues on as soon as her sisters sentence finished
  1368. >"the information being, there is no more information."
  1369. >you wonder if they have some sort of mind link or something.
  1370. >or perhaps a hivemind like Changelings.
  1371. >maybe if you are lucky Franziska will get a hold of them and find out
  1372. >but as for the agents not responding, that's not really your problem as Manos has full control over them in most circumstances.
  1373. "I can see how that might be a problem for you."
  1374. >"Yes, and if its a problem for us its a problem for Manos."
  1375. >and in turn that makes it a problem for you and the rest of the Reich and its ponies.
  1376. "Alright, you have my attention then. What do you need?"
  1377. >"Just inform us as soon as you can about Manos' arrival"
  1378. >you nod only to be met with a few chuckles from Emerald
  1379. >>"Unless of course he's already with us."
  1380. >"If that's the case, don't send anyone. In fact, keep everyone away unless its VERY important."
  1381. >>"Yes, that would be best for everyone. Especially us."
  1382. >the twins giggle a bit to themselves before leaving you to your work
  1383. >you greatly dislike those whorses.
  1384. >but you do love to watch them leave...
  1385. >because it means they wont be back for at least a few hours.
  1387. >You are Twilight Sparkle
  1388. >Just as Luna had struck out with her magic, your own spell had already completed.
  1389. >luckily enough even under stress, it worked.
  1390. >but now there's a new problem
  1391. "Quick, everypony grab one of the sleeping ponies. We will have to explain what happened to them after they wake up."
  1392. >you grab rarity with you magic and lift her onto your back.
  1393. >Now, as a good friend you'd never say this to her face but...
  1394. "oh Wow, Rarity's a lot heavier than I expected."
  1395. >instead of struggling under your friends weight completely, you continue to hold her with your magic, taking a portion of the burden off of your back
  1396. >"Whats the next step in yer plan Twilight?"
  1397. >well...
  1398. "Okay, so maybe its not a perfect plan. But if pinkie pie already told the others to meet us at the gate, then all we have to do is get there before the guards know to look for us."
  1399. >you can already feel the sweat forming on your brow
  1400. >and its not from lifting rarity
  1401. >surely they will be safe until you get there, right?
  1403. >You are Big Mac
  1404. >and you are waiting by Canterlot's main gate
  1405. >Granny Smith and Spike are waiting here with you while Applebloom and Sweetie Belle are examining the gate and guards probably assaulting them with questions about whatever comes to mind.
  1406. >"So... Did Pinkie Pie tell you guys how long we are supposed to wait here?"
  1407. >Looking up at the little dragon sitting on your cart you answer
  1408. "Nope."
  1409. >your cart filled up with all sorts of supplies ranging from food and water to tents and blankets and spike has already made a makeshift pillow out of the softer materials
  1410. >Hopefully he doesn't plan on sitting on the cart for the whole trip.
  1411. >Sure, pulling the gear plus Granny Smith on the cart isn't too hard for you but you're not exactly wanting to add more weight to the load either
  1412. >"Okay, I'm just worried. I mean, Pinkie seemed to be in a rush, but not her normal kind you know? What if we need to go help them- or-"
  1413. >>"Well, If they needed help young dragon, I'm sure Pinkie would have told us where and why rather than telling us to come here and wait. She does have a strange knack for that kind er thing"
  1414. "Yeeup"
  1415. >"Well, alright. I just think-"
  1416. >>"There they are!"
  1417. >Granny Smith smiles and begins to wave at the rapidly approaching group of mares
  1419. >you are Rarity
  1420. >you wake up in a panic and fall off of your bed onto the floor
  1421. >wait...
  1422. "Ooof!"
  1423. >this isn't your floor.
  1424. >Without a second thought you jump up and shout for your sister
  1425. "Sweetie Belle!?"
  1426. >Instead of the little sister you expected to see, you are instead face to face with Twilight and the girls
  1427. "Twilight dear! Where's my sister?"
  1428. >At first Twilight seemed relieved, but her attitude quickly changes to a more disconnected one
  1429. >"She's waiting for us at the gates."
  1430. >she dismissively turns away from you and begins walking down what you recognize as the back streets of Canterlot
  1431. "The gates? Why would she be waiting for us there?"
  1432. >you are about to follow her lead since she clearly looks like she knows where shes going, but as you take a step AJ comes into view from the corner of your eye
  1433. >She only says one word as she passes by another pony laid across on her back.
  1434. >>"Rarity."
  1435. >Her tone suggests its a greeting, but one that should probably not be reciprocated
  1436. >Fluttershy looks to be at odds with herself wanting to say hello, but ultimately thinking best to follow Applejacks lead
  1437. "Girls, Is- Is something wrong?"
  1438. >You are suddenly wrapped up in a big hug and Pinkie spouts off a million words a minute in her normal excited manner
  1439. >unfortunately you hardly understand a word of the babble
  1440. >>>"TwilightcameupwithaplantobreakyououtofjailButapplejackwasunsureofitbecauseshewasworriedaboutherfamilysoIranoffandtoldherfamilywhathappenedandwhatneededtobedonesowecouldbetogetheragainasfriendsbutthingsdidntgoexactlytoplan-"
  1441. >as Pinkies torrent of verbal mush increases so does her hug
  1442. >you start tapping at her as you start to feel your face turn purple
  1443. "Pinkie... dear... Could you please-"
  1444. >>>"OH! of course Rarity!"
  1445. >her loving clamp on your neck releases and you are graced with beautiful oxygen filling your lungs once more
  1446. >the two of you begin to follow the others once again and you politely ask Pinkie to fill you in on what all has happened.
  1447. >but slower this time.
  1448. "Pinkie dear, I'm a little confused as to how I got here and what exactly is going on. The last thing I recall is..."
  1449. >the cold floor.
  1450. >a dark room.
  1451. >your little sister.
  1452. >No, that's not all you remember, there was something before that.
  1453. >but what?
  1454. >>>"Do you remember being captured by Princess Luna and her guardsponies?"
  1455. >THAT WAS IT!
  1456. >your veins turn to ice at the realization that it wasn't all just some horrible dream
  1457. "o-oh. Y-yes, I think I do recall something like that happening..."
  1458. >suddenly its becoming hard to look in the direction of any of your friends
  1459. >Twilight said something about meeting your sister at the gate, didn't she?
  1460. "So... We are meeting some ponies at the gate then?"
  1461. >you cant help but keep your voice low, though you could have sworn you tried to speak the same
  1462. >>>"Yup! We're leaving Canterlot."
  1463. "Oh, I see."
  1464. >Because of you, you imagine.
  1465. >>>"When we heard that you were arrested, we all knew we had to do something to get one of our bestest best friends out."
  1466. "Did you happen to learn why I was arrested?"
  1467. >You're hoping the answer is no, but your gut is already saying-
  1468. >>>"Yup!"
  1469. >Contrary to Pinkie Pies chipper demeanor, you feel like the worst pony in Equestria right now
  1471. >You are Manos
  1472. >standing about the ship you take a deep breath enjoying the sight of the open sea just beyond the port.
  1473. >and already you catch yourself waiting for what lay beyond to arrive.
  1474. >without saying a word to the hurriedly preparing crew you step off the ship and walk into the city once more
  1475. >the Black hand escort follow you closely, but after requesting that they give you some space you feel more at peace among the shuffling
  1476. >ponies from both sides being rushed around by Black Hands or Brownshirts, Royalists being questioned, and care being provided to injured or needy individuals.
  1477. >yet despite all this cooperation the smell of death hangs heavy, and at this lull in activity you begin to really take notice of it.
  1478. >its a very uncomfortable smell.
  1479. >but its one you know you will be met with again.
  1480. >you turn to one of the Hands confidently approaching you and he gives you a salute at seeing your gaze
  1481. "is it safe to assume my carriage has arrived?"
  1482. >"Yes Lord, but there's been a problem that has kept it held up for a while. It had actually arrived earlier but-"
  1483. >the Black Hand Stallion coughs covering it with his hoof
  1484. >"sorry, -but Commander Rainbow Dash has had to be replaced as lead flyer after arriving, her command has to be put on hold."
  1485. >thats curious...
  1486. "Take me to them, inform Aryanne of this as well and if its possible for Cadence to be left alone with the Princess have Aryanne join us. If not, then have all three of them come."
  1487. >"yes Lord Manos. Right this way."
  1489. >you are Rainbow Dash
  1490. >and whatever is going on, you certainly don't like it.
  1491. >you have been bound and brought to a makeshift field hospital in a old general store where medical teams and civilian volunteers have been examining you for the past several minutes
  1492. >they haven't said much to you besides occasional question
  1493. >it only adds to your unease, even having the leg binds removed doesn't make you feel much better about it.
  1494. "Whats going on then?"
  1495. >the Hand Medical staff and Equestrian doctors mumble a bit to themselves before a older mare in a civilian doctors uniform answers you as the others leave to work on the rest of the injured
  1496. >"Well, Miss Dash as far as we can tell there isn't anything medically wrong, aside from slight exhaustion likely due to the flight here and your line of work."
  1497. >so you're just tired.
  1498. >thats horseapples if you ever heard it.
  1499. "this is the first operation I've been on in a while. 'Being tired' isn't exactly one of the ways id describe myself eight now. But more importantly what about the rest of the flight team? Where are they now?"
  1500. >"One is right outside, the rest I have no idea. Perhaps they are with the carriage?"
  1501. >the doctor motions for you to sit down but you ignore her as you stand up
  1502. "They aren't going anywhere without my say! That mare seemed all to happy about me being taken out of command. Bring them here!"
  1503. >"I cant do that Miss Dash, I have too much work here with these ponies. On top of that I'm not in your military, you cant just order a old mare around."
  1504. >oops...
  1505. >Maybe being in a command position has made you get used to getting others to do work or perhaps you really are just tired.
  1506. >for a moment you think about just sitting back down but you shake that thought out of your mind
  1507. >no, something fishy is going on, you just know it.
  1508. "Sorry Doc, I'll be leaving then-"
  1509. >you step out of the back room where they had been keeping you just as the entrance the the field hospital becomes occupied by ponies
  1510. >after a bit of shouting from some of the Hands at the entrance the more mobile of the injured eventually back away
  1511. >any conversations going on are immediately cut short as Manos himself takes a step inside
  1512. >in the near silence you can hear the quiet prayers of those whispering
  1513. >the sick and injured are divided between those in awe and those in fear of his presence, even as he dismisses his escort to wait outside
  1514. >at least that means wherever the carriage ponies are, they haven't left Vanhoover yet.
  1515. >after he takes a few moments to take in the scene around him his gaze falls onto you
  1516. >"I see you're well enough to walk Rainbow, mind sparing a moment of your busy day to talk with me?"
  1517. >a grin appears on his face as he probably finds his word choice humorous, despite the calm seriousness in his tone.
  1518. >you give him a nod before the two of you leave the building, the eyes of the patients and doctors following you as you do
  1519. >as you escort Manos out of the location and get a slight ways down the road he begins to speak with you
  1520. >"I was told a mare took command away from you because of a few 'episodes', would you care to explain whats going on?"
  1521. >is THAT what he was told?
  1522. >you scoff as you begin to undo the binds around your wings with your mouth as best you can
  1523. "I don't know whats going on Sir, but we had a run in with a few angry ponies before getting here."
  1524. >your words are of course muffled by your mouth being occupied with the knots but eventually you free yourself
  1525. "-Ever since then things have not quite been making sense. Its kinda hard to explain."
  1526. >you feel his hand press against the back of your head and you immediately stop walking as he steps in front of you kneeling down to your level
  1527. >he pulls his hand away from you as his eyes meet with yours
  1528. >"then show me."
  1530. >you are Manos
  1531. >the familiar sensation of leaving the material world behind you washes over you as you and Rainbow Dash appear before a void
  1532. >She wobbles slightly taking a bit more "time" to comprehend the space around her
  1533. >doing this as often as you do sometimes makes you forget not everyone is used to leaving the 'real world' behind like you are
  1534. "Rainbow, I want you to remember what you saw the moment you were confronted."
  1535. >she places her hoof on her head
  1536. >"yeah, okay I can do that, just one second please... I feel a little weird."
  1537. >Weird?
  1538. "Weird how?"
  1539. >"Like... Like I'm thinking too hard? It doesn't feel like I'm confused or having a headache but like my mind is racing for something and I don't know what."
  1540. >you have seen ponies react to this sudden change in many different ways. Some get sick, others fall to their knees and pray, and some meld into it without any real effects.
  1541. >but this seems different than that at least how she explains it.
  1542. "Where did this all start?"
  1543. >She takes a seat on her haunches as a small village and field appears around you
  1544. >much of it is blurry and distorted some areas being empty of anything at all
  1545. >the only explanation you can come up with is she simply doesn't remember those areas as clearly-
  1546. >>"That could possibly be it, but I doubt it."
  1547. >the voice catches you completely off guard
  1548. >but you recognize it immediately and turn to face its direction, one of your hands already balled into a fist out of instinct
  1549. >>"Ohh. my my my. is that any way to greet another higher being?"
  1550. >slithering from the shadows of Rainbows mind a long serpentine figure smiles at you his claws placed gently on his cheeks as he leans against nothing
  1551. "Discord"
  1553. >>"Surprised?"
  1554. >you feel something place its claws on your shoulders from behind and when you turn to look you are face to face with Discord as if he was there the whole time
  1555. >>"Well you shouldn't be. You have been a very busy little bee I'll give you that, but you surely didn't expect me to be trapped in that statue forever did you? after all-"
  1556. >he snaps his claw and the two of you appear high above Equestria standing on air looking down below
  1557. >>"Look at how much beautiful chaos you have been creating!"
  1558. >he points down at a random point on the ground and a magnifying glass appears
  1559. >if you weren't in the immaterial world and you weren't with discord, you're sure that the object of course would do nothing to help
  1560. >but these circumstances easily negate any real logic.
  1561. >you look into the glass and see groups of ponies being forced out of homes by family, fights over trivial things escalating because of opposing loyalties and beliefs, marches and demonstrations in larger villages and towns over whose side they should aid.
  1562. >>"All of this is because of you. Isn't it lovely?"
  1563. >you unceremoniously toss the magnifying glass aside and it tumbles down to the ground
  1564. "I gave them a choice and a option for a different path, what each individual does on their own I have little control over."
  1565. >>"that's a half truth if I ever heard one, but if that's how you can get yourself to sleep at night- OH! speaking of-"
  1566. >suddenly gravity seems to return and you start falling rapidly from the sky
  1567. >even though you know this isn't going to harm you here, you still feel your heart racing
  1568. >the ground far below rapidly approaches at a speed you never would want to see it doing  
  1569. >a primal panic takes over you and you cover your eyes just before you hit...
  1570. >a bed?
  1571. >the would be impact turns into you jerking yourself up from a very comfortable mattress as if you had a nightmare
  1572. >>"how HAVE you been sleeping?"
  1573. >feeling a rustling on top of your head you reach up to feel what it is
  1574. >and to your dissatisfaction you find discord as a sleeping cap placed gently on you head
  1575. >you quickly correct this and toss him to the other side of the bed where you and the cap can see each other clearly
  1576. "That's not any of your concern."
  1577. >the cap smiles at you knowingly before 'standing up' and waddling off the side
  1578. >>"fine, be that way."
  1579. >the cap walks off into the distance before turning around once more
  1580. >>"Oh and before I forget, from one being of Chaos to another..."
  1581. >you half glare at the sleeping cap
  1582. >>"if we do something once, its bound to happen again."
  1583. >he gives one last smile before waving goodbye
  1584. >>"Передавай привет Cелестия."
  1585. >In a flash you are back with Rainbow Dash sitting in her foggy memory
  1586. >after looking around there seems to be no sign of Discord now, but of course that doesn't mean much with him
  1587. >"I think I'm feeling better, a-and I can remember it now!"
  1588. >as soon as Discord disappears she can remember?
  1589. >wait...
  1590. >she complained about her head just a few minutes before he appeared.
  1591. >not only that but Discord completely ignored her and focused only on you.
  1592. "Rainbow-"
  1593. >just as you are about to inquire about a possible connection a scene starts to play out before you
  1594. >a angry mob of ponies rush towards Rainbow Dash and her unit
  1595. >they seem to make ready to attack the mob but then Rainbow falls to the ground after being hit by something
  1596. >as soon as she collapses everything disappears before you see her waking up in the carriage for a brief period and passing out again
  1597. >some time must have passed between these events because now you are watching her walking along with her unit in a ruined area of Vanhoover
  1598. >Rainbow begins to talk with a mare as they walk and a panic begins to wash over her, suddenly noticing where she is and wondering how she got here
  1599. >after that everything plays out just like you were told
  1600. >"That's all I remember happening, well besides the whole hospital stuff, but you were there for the end of that."
  1601. >the ponies who informed you of what happened never said anything about a mob...
  1602. >Hell you weren't told much of anything besides Rainbow being out of commission
  1603. "Thank you Rainbow."
  1604. >you return the two of you back to the real world to find something even more concerning waiting for you.
  1606. >you are Twilight Sparkle
  1607. >and your hooves are killing you.
  1608. >you have been walking for what feels like forever, towards a place you aren't sure will be welcoming to you.
  1609. >but what choice do you really have now?
  1610. >"Twilight?"
  1611. >you look over to spike walking next to you at the front of the line
  1612. "Yeah Spike?"
  1613. >"Its getting late, the sun should be setting soon but..."
  1614. >you look up into the sky at the motionless ball of fire still resting at its highest point
  1615. "I know, the sun should be much lower than this by now."
  1616. >you can sense thee worry in the little Dragons voice
  1617. >"Do you think Celestia is okay?"
  1618. >honestly you're not sure, and the thought of her not being on time for lowering the sun isn't helping to put your other worries to rest.
  1619. "I- I'm sure she is Spike. She's probably just a little busy with everything that's going on."
  1620. >you're not sure if that lie was to put Spikes worries at ease or you own
  1621. >but it helps you and Spike feel at least a little bit better.
  1622. >"okay, I guess... Hey Twilight?"
  1623. >you force a smile
  1624. "yes spike?"
  1625. >"Why didn't we take a carriage or train?"
  1627. >You are a monster, with a carapace armor as black as the void.
  1628. >every inch of your body was changed to thrive amongst a unknowing enemy
  1629. >you can hide in the shadows with ease and hunt anywhere a pony can survive
  1630. >and you hate that about yourself.
  1631. >because you are Blackout
  1632. >and with you is a Changeling who is more similar to a pony than you are
  1633. >and not just in appearance.
  1634. >your first steps back in the Reich were... strange.
  1635. >most little crystal and regular ponies still recognized you and gave you smiles and waves from a distance
  1636. >the more courageous ones who either got permission from parents or just chose to out of their own free will rushed over to you asking to know more about you and your missions and adventures
  1637. >being made known to the public by Manos oddly makes you feel split between two lives
  1638. >one, the assassin and murderous monster of Copper Coins creation
  1639. >and two, a hero to young colts and fillies that are around the age you SHOULD be.
  1640. >you politely turn down answering their questions by instead saying that you have to meet with someone important
  1641. >and while a little disappointed they believe you and let you go on
  1642. >after doing this several times to many little ponies you finally get a break from being "the hero" by turning down a empty street
  1643. >the only one to follow you is a random stallion with a look on his face unsure if he should keep following you
  1644. >oh yeah, you forgot shes still here.
  1645. >She hasn't said a word since you asked her to be quiet after arriving at the main gates
  1646. >do your thoughts really distract you that much that you can forget you have a Changeling with you?
  1648. >you are a Changeling Queen
  1649. >well you don't look like one right now, but trust me you are.
  1650. >you've made sure to keep your distance from Blackout like she instructed since you got to the main gates.
  1651. >after she started talking to the guards you both were let though without question or hassle
  1652. >though you did get a strange look from one of the guards like she might have recognized you from somewhere before
  1653. >or rather that stallion Blackout had captured, you have been disguised as him ever since then.
  1654. >it kind of feels weird looking like a male pony.
  1655. >actually, it feels weird looking like anypony besides yourself or Cadence.
  1656. >but after she threatened you about turning into her without Manos expressly ordering you to you'll never think of doing it.
  1657. >...
  1658. >okay you might THINK of doing it, but you wont.
  1659. >you watch as little ponies rush around Blackout several times as you follow her before she dips into a small section between two buildings
  1660. >you rush over to where she disappeared but when you see her sitting in that dark dirty little street you wonder if you should have
  1661. >"its okay... I just wanted to be alone for a few moments..."
  1662. >you take a few cautious steps into the alley before taking a seat next to her and asking
  1663. "Why? all those ponies out there looked happy to see you."
  1664. >she retracts her helmet
  1665. >"No, they are just happy to see Blackout the 'Hero.' Not- Not me."
  1666. >what does that mean?
  1667. "But aren't you, well, you?"
  1668. >She finally looks at you
  1669. >"I'm looking at a Stallion right now, with lots of fur and a long mane who was crapping himself in the woods when I attacked him."
  1670. >she forces a short laugh
  1671. >"Is that you?"
  1672. >you look down at your forelegs for a long time before speaking
  1673. "No, its not..."
  1674. >"Its kind of the same thing."
  1675. >she closes up her helmet and turning it so its looking at you
  1676. >"When I have this on I feel like I'm someone else, but after I do what I need to, I realize I'm still me when I take it off."
  1677. >she opens it up again
  1678. >"except I have time to think about what I've done, and the choices I've made."
  1679. "Oh. I see, I think."
  1680. >you look around to make sure nobody is looking before you drop your disguise in as small a flash as possible
  1681. >you feel your wings buzz a little and the bright coat of fur is gone
  1682. "I- I don't like wearing my disguises much either. I mean, sometimes I don't mind it but when I'm anywhere near here It feels wrong to do it without Manos telling me to."
  1683. >It feels wrong being anywhere outside your room without Manos or Cadence nearby now that you have started to think about it
  1684. "Hey Blackout... Can you take me back to the Camp soon?"
  1685. >Its time for you to go back where you belong.
  1686. >besides, you need to make absolutely sure none of the other changelings have been getting out of line.
  1687. >Cadence wouldn't be happy with you about that, no matter where you are.
  1689. >You are Judice Lunae
  1690. >You are exhausted and infuriated
  1691. >You have removed your armor and placed it on a large table in a careful and deliberate manner
  1692. >But your helmet gets no such luxury, as your anger gets the better of you
  1693. >with a crash its finds its resting place in the corner as you throw it at the nearest wall
  1694. "I should have expected something like this to happen, of course those mares would have tried something after what I said about their friend!"
  1695. >And now they have escaped.
  1696. >No, not escaped. Now they have willingly and deliberately betrayed Equestria and its ponies.
  1697. >Even Twilight Sparkle.
  1698. >out of all the element bearers, you would have expected her to remain loyal to Equestria, if for no other reason then for her mentors sake
  1699. >well, getting upset about it now wont fix anything.
  1700. >all you can do is hope to catch her before she falls into Manos' hands
  1701. >but for now, you need to wash and get to sleep.
  1702. >your 'luxurious' accommodations here were tailored to your liking as one the perks of being second in command to the Princess.
  1703. >and fortunately for the ponies tasked with providing those, you have very practical tastes
  1704. >a bed, a armor and weapons table, a chest to replace the standard hooflocker, and a bathtub with small niceties like soap and shampoo.
  1705. >you turn the water on letting the tub fill
  1706. >you watch the water rise up inch by inch while your mind begins to wander
  1707. >'IF I were Twilight, where would I go in this situation? more importantly, how would I get there?'
  1708. >multiple possibilities enter your mind
  1709. >you turn the tap off and step into the waters warm embrace
  1710. >without missing out on the sensations of a warm bath, you come to only one conclusion.
  1711. >with a sigh, you lean back into the water submerging your head beneath, letting the filth of the day slide off you before you begin to wash
  1712. >you add shampoo to your mane
  1713. >'Well, the only one place I would go to, would be the place I'd feel safest.'
  1714. >meaning she'd go to a friend or family, but only if it didn't put them under suspicion or put them in danger
  1715. >you can assume this by the simple fact she risked her neck to save one of her own despite its ramifications
  1716. "Shes going to Celestia, so that means she will be going right to HIM."
  1717. >you step out of the tub and shake yourself dry before grabbing a towel to finish the job
  1718. >now clean and dry, you slip into your bed and look out the only window in your room
  1719. >the sun remains high in the sky
  1720. >but in the distance you see the moon steadily rising to meet it
  1721. >before closing your eyes you chuckle softly and whisper
  1722. "goodnight traitors. I hope you ALL sleep well tonight."
  1724. >You are Celestia
  1725. >and you have been trying to lower the sun
  1726. >and even with Cadences... 'help' you have made little progress
  1727. >"I'm starting to think you are just acting like you are trying. You never had any problems with this before, Celestia."
  1728. >your horn continues to glow and you can feel yourself mentally straining
  1729. "Cadence, I promise you- I am doing everything in my power to lower the sun!"
  1730. >suddenly everything starts to get dark
  1731. >though you are positive that the sun has not moved an inch
  1732. >"Celestia..."
  1733. "What Cadence?"
  1734. >You look at the Pink mare and her eyes are locked onto something behind you
  1735. >she points to a open window just behind you
  1736. >"look"
  1737. >turning your head you immediately see what she is talking about
  1738. >rising up and slowly covering the sun
  1739. >is your little sisters moon.
  1740. >unable to do anything you watch as it slowly covers the sun until all that is visible is a small outer ring, surrounding a black looking moon
  1741. >the world becomes shrouded in darkness in a instant
  1742. >Almost everypony outside has stopped whatever they are doing to look at the sudden eclipse
  1743. "Oh, Sister..."
  1744. >distracted, you hardly even noticed that another pony has entered the room
  1745. >>"Cadence Ma'am, Manos wishes to speak to the two of-"
  1746. >he cuts the message short as he too notices what had happened outside
  1747. >>"By Celestias beard..."
  1748. >by your what?
  1749. >Is that an actual saying?
  1750. >How long has that been used for?!
  1751. >you nearly turn to confront the pony when the shadows on the moon face begin to shift
  1752. >revealing a large silhouetted image of nightmare moon on its surface once again
  1754. >You are Twilight
  1755. >and just as your small caravan began to stop and rest what should have been night, you bore witness to a new eclipse
  1756. >Spikes little claws have wrapped themselves around you in a tight hug
  1757. >"Twilight, wh-whats going on?"
  1758. "I- uh-"
  1759. >You look to the others who all are looking up at the sky with the same mix of awe and fear as you
  1760. >Rarity is the only one to notice your gaze
  1761. >>"Twilight"
  1762. >her worried expression seems to be far more apparent than the others
  1763. >>"I think there is a possibility that Nightmare Moon has returned..."
  1764. >no, no that doesn't make sense.
  1765. "B-but we used the Elements on Luna, she should have had all that evil magic banished from her mind!"
  1766. >now you and Rarity are the center of attention, though the two of you hardly notice it
  1767. >>"Yes, but- ugh. Twilight dear, listen to me when I was arrested I had just made a report to warn everyone about the possibility that Luna was drifting back into her old self."
  1768. >she looks up at the eclipse to emphasize her point
  1769. >>"And it doesn't take a genius to notice it when you are witnessing her actions first hoof! We have to get to Manos, he will have some idea of what to do!"
  1770. >so, she IS guilty of being a spy.
  1771. >your heart sinks a little in your chest
  1772. >honestly you hoped that if you never asked you could live in ignorance of it but that idea has now been tossed out the window
  1773. "And what if he doesn't?! What if when we get to him he locks us all up on the spot? He's done it once before, what would be stopping him from doing it again?"
  1774. >you had already planned on going there but... now that all this is going on all your worries are beginning to surface
  1775. "And what if Manos has hurt Celestia? Maybe thats why the sun hasn't been lowered! If he's preventing her from doing that, what could we possibly do if he doesnt want us to get away?!"
  1776. >your breathing has become erratic and heavy, and you're sure its doing absolutely nothing to ease Spike who as far as you can tell is piecing together everything thats going on on his own.
  1777. >Applejack walks over to you and places a hoof on your shoulder and calmly pats your back
  1778. >>>"calm down sugar cube, relax, getting all worked up like this isn't going to fix anything."
  1779. >you sigh
  1780. "You're right Applejack... I just- I'm not sure of what to do anymore..."
  1781. >>>"well, would you like my two bits?"
  1782. >you look to Rarity, then back to Applejack before nodding silently
  1783. >Applejack takes a seat
  1784. >>>"You kno' how big the Apple Family is right? Well I have been in a situation for some time wh're members have been split up. Not because of anypony forcing them to but because of their own choices."
  1785. >Granny, Applebloom, and Big mMac walk over to her for some support
  1786. >Applejack looks to Big Mac for a bit before turning back to you again a little more determined than before
  1787. >>>"But, I still trust mah family more than anything else in Equestria, and if so many Apples have left to go to Manos and them ponies I think it will be safe enough for us to."
  1788. "have many of your family has already left Equestria behind for the Reich?"
  1789. >She nods
  1790. >>>"Back when it first became the Reich ac'tually, in fact Big Mac had put forth the idea to us several times."
  1791. >he nods
  1792. >>>>"Yeeup."
  1793. >>>"of course we didnt, but many of our kin did. They told us that ponies were saying 'All true and able children of fate should come home' and to them, home was in the Reich."
  1794. "oh... I see."
  1795. >Rarity takes the quiet moment to interject
  1796. >>"See Twilight? I know his methods are well... Foreign, but I think he has the right idea. I mean, look at how ponyville---"
  1797. >Rarity gently clears her throat at its memory
  1798. >>"-look at how it was before and after he showed up. I'd never seen colts and fillies so happy to be working and learning. Not to mention all the new outfits everyone was inspired to create!"
  1799. >She gives you a small smile hoping you realize that last bit was more or less a joke
  1800. >and even though you know it was, you also know there is a hint of truth of her interest in it.
  1801. "well, if the two of you think its the right thing to do."
  1802. >you look over to Spike and return his tight hug with a soft one
  1803. "Then I'm not worried about going through with it."
  1804. >there is a moment of warm silence between everypony
  1805. >that is before Granny Smith breaks it
  1806. >>>>>"Wheaaalp, now that all thats settled, its time to hit the hay. We still have quite the journey ahead. Besides, I think Fluttershy might be stuck under our wagon with fright."
  1810. >You are Manos
  1811. >as you wait for Aryanne, and possibly others to arrive you had watched the sun become eclipsed right before your eyes
  1812. >that alone would be enough to cause concern, but not only did Luna go as far as to block it out but she also bore her mark of Nightmare Moon upon its surface
  1813. >you ask yourself under your breath
  1814. "I wonder what could she be thinking making such a move?"
  1815. >frankly you cant see how this would help her at all.
  1816. >in fact as far as you can tell this will only help solidify your ponies loyalties in you
  1817. >maybe even turn a few more of her own. if any had reservations they didn't voice before that is.
  1818. "Rainbow, do you think-?"
  1819. >when you turn to look at her you happen to catch a glimpse of other ponies in the streets
  1820. >some are shaking and quivering uncontrollably as they gaze up into the blackened sky
  1821. >as you stare longer and notice disturbingly large portion of the population is having similar reactions
  1822. >those that aren't frozen in place looking at the moon high above are moving much more briskly and their eyes are keeping much closer watches on the shadows while their ears are perked up and scanning for any apparent noises
  1823. >to be completely honest its even having an effect on you now that you see everyone else's reaction
  1824. >now, with a strange curiosity guiding your eyes, you look to Rainbow
  1825. >and as much as she is trying to hide it, her eyes betray her.
  1826. >Shes just as scared as they are.
  1827. >without much thought you reach down and pet her mane
  1828. >you can feel her shaking slightly until a few moments of you petting her have passed
  1829. >this is odd.
  1830. >the other ponies you could at least understand their fear of Nightmare Moon not having faced her before
  1831. >But Rainbow was- is a element bearer she and the others had faced her before when they first got the elements
  1832. >in fact you saw it yourself... twice.
  1833. "Why are you scared Rainbow?"
  1834. >you probably could have worded that better, but it more or less came out on its own.
  1835. >"Because if Luna... If Nightmare Moon is really back"
  1836. >she shakes her head before stomping her hoof
  1837. >"Ugh! How are we going to stop her?!"
  1838. >you pull your hand away
  1839. >that is a good question.
  1840. >You knew Celestia well enough to know how to beat her without too much conflict
  1841. >her ponies always came first, ALL of her ponies including yours mean the world to her
  1842. >she would do anything to keep them as safe as possible and when she failed you knew she felt guilt for each one
  1843. >your starting to remember why you liked her so much back home
  1844. >You imagined that Princess Luna might be in a similar vein and from what you could tell from your personal experiences with her she was.
  1845. >but if Luna has completely gone back to being Nightmare Moon, well that will complicate things.
  1846. >but you need an answer.
  1847. >If not for Rainbow then for yourself
  1848. >so you say the one thing comes to mind
  1849. "The same way Celestia, you and the others did, or perhaps..."
  1850. >you rest your hand in your pocket and a dull red glow comes from inside as your fingers touch the Alicorn amulet still waiting for you
  1851. >>"Lord Manos."
  1852. >you hear Aryanne calling for you and you notice her arriving with both Cadence and Celestia following behind her
  1853. >she has the same signs of unease that the other ponies have, Cadence too, though much less so.
  1854. >Celestia however seems the same as she always has, you look her over several times searching for any sign of fear or unease
  1855. >and besides her eyes displaying a deep sadness just beyond the surface she is taking this recent event in stride.
  1856. >You hear a loud cough and see Cadence holding her hoof over her mouth with a slightly suspicious look
  1857. >it must have become apparent you had been staring solely at Celestias eyes for a while
  1858. "Lovely day tonight. Odd that its a little off schedule though."
  1859. >you raise your unpocketed hand to the moon and point at it
  1860. >you know just in case of one in a hundred-million chance Celestia somehow didn't know what you were referring to
  1861. >despite your admittedly unhumorous approach to the situation you continue to speak to Celestia  
  1862. "You know what that likely means then?"
  1863. >>>"I'm not blind Manos! I can see the moon blocking the sun! I can see that Luna is turning back into Nightmare Moon!"
  1864. >her ears are low and as she speaks, her voice breaking slightly
  1865. >>>"Is this somehow my fault too?! Is every problem in the world somehow the cause of MY actions?!"
  1866. >maybe this wasn't such a good idea...
  1867. >>>"You have turned my PONIES against me! You have turned CADENCE against me! Now even my sister is becoming lost to me. Lives are being ruined all around you Anonymous- yet you keep saying what you are doing is right that its for the best!"
  1868. >You can feel the eyes of more and more ponies falling on the scene, even if you don't look away from the half defeated half furious Princess screaming at you in the dark street
  1869. >>>"If you are so powerful and all loving all knowing as you have convinced these ponies you are then tell me how many more lives need to be destroyed so YOU can be happy with yours?!"
  1870. >you can feel a deep-seated anger rising inside
  1871. >but whats worse than that is you cant quite think of a good answer to her accusation
  1872. >it would probably be best to just move on in any way you can
  1873. >despite your attempt at a calm and even response your voice comes out as a low and unquestionably guilty murmur that hopefully most of the ponies around cannot hear
  1874. "Can you move the moon out of the sun?"
  1875. >Celestia notices your anger and hidden guilt and slowly shakes her head no
  1876. >>>"No, and before you ask me why, I don't know. Just like you don't know the answer to mine."
  1877. >you just nod briefly before looking at the moon once more as you address your Black Hands
  1878. "Aryanne, make sure everything is set for my departure. And have a new crew of Pegasai assigned to my carriage, give the order to have the others previously assigned to it, excluding Rainbow, arrested and questioned. Then meet me back at the carriage for the ride home."
  1879. >Rainbow Dash carefully interjects
  1880. >"Manos, I don't think the Carriage will be able to hold the four of you all the way back..."
  1881. >you sigh
  1882. >yeah you thought that might be the case
  1883. >you glance over to Cadence, then to Celestia.
  1884. >that anger comes back to you again
  1885. >damn the consequences for this, You've been in this city long enough.
  1886. "Last I checked, Celestia has wings..."
  1887. >Rainbow looks over to Celesita before taking a short step back
  1888. >"uh, Its okay, I'll go with Aryanne and we can have another carriage arranged for Cadence and Celestia to ride in-"
  1889. >Aryanne nods her head
  1890. >>"Yes, just give me a few minutes Manos, I'll have a few ponies ready we will find another carriage to bring you all back"
  1891. >no thats not going to be what happens
  1892. "-No. She flies next to us. She wont run"
  1893. >the two ponies exchange unsure glances
  1894. "Cadence-"
  1895. >Cadence walks over to you trying to hide a grin
  1896. >>>>"Yes?"
  1897. "When we get back you are still in charge of her, keep her wherever you deem necessary"
  1898. >you lean in and kiss her
  1899. "just dont let the same thing as last time happen"
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