Through Ice and Shadow

Love and Hope once shone bright from a gleaming crystal city, only to be lost to the evils of indifference and despair. This is a tale of the leaders who built an empire based upon those virtues, and the two newly weds who are about to realize their shared destiny in reclaiming it.

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1. Chapter One: The Summit of Three

Through Ice and Shadow

 

    

By Dal

 

 

    Edited by Bok and Voidchicken

 

Proofread by Geomancing and Wylie

 

Cover Art By FoxInShadow

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter One: The Summit of Three

 

 

 

 

 

    A unicorn stallion made his way through the windswept pavilion of the solar dais- his fiery mane blowing freely in the in the blinding snow. Another day had come, and once again he marched to The Shrine of the Sun. The others of his order had also braved the journey, the cold a constant reminder of how vital their duty was. At last he arrived, his white coat giving him an almost ghostlike visage in the boreal landscape.

    In well-versed fashion, he took his position among his five brothers arrayed themselves in a circle around the ornate statue of their most revered celestial body. With an unspoken word, their horns began to shine with power, their voices filled the air, their song echoed off the faraway mountains, and they grew brighter and brighter till their combined brilliance matched that of the shining Sun.

    The first rays of dawn cut through the abominable clouds, the signal they had all been waiting for. In unison they ceased their ritual; the Sun was raised and the new day could begin.

    Again the stallion trudged through the freshly fallen snow back to the warmth of the castle, and his loving princess. One of his fellows bowed to him, prostrating himself before the newly crowned prince.

    “There is no need for that, friend,” the prince said, helping the other stallion off the frozen ground.

    “Sorry, Prince Luminare. ‘Tis a force of habit.”

    Prince, the very thought that he was now one of those snooty nobles made Luminare sick. He would never get used to having that title, even his position as Grand Master of the Solar Guard had taken a while to get used to. He remembered the day he joined the guard--the same day his father cast him out. He took a vow to show others there would always be a new dawn, no matter how much darkness life brought. Seeing the renewed hope upon ponies’ faces was the only reward he ever wanted, and as he made his way home through the icy streets, that sight had become far too rare for his liking.  

 

 

    The long halls of the castle were dark and unwelcoming, a reflection of the malaise that had crept across the once grand kingdom. For Luminare, only two bright spots remained--the warm amber eyes of the mare waiting for him. And there she was, Princess Crystal, his bride, and the love of his life. She was the definition of beauty. How her tri-colored mane of azure, rose, and lavender accentuated her sky blue coat. Her lithe body displayed a degree of elegance no other pony could ever match. And nothing would come close to the smile she would give him, and only him. Why she chose him to be with her forever, he would never rightly know.

    “Ten thousand mornings can pass, and I will never tire of seeing you raise the Sun,” she said, her smile positively radiating the joy in her heart.

    “And another ten thousand could pass, just as long as I can see your smile,” He replied, letting her lean on him as they trotted down drafty corridors.

    A harsh wind swept past the couple, nipping at their hooves. It was the middle of June, and yet it did not matter to the unrelenting blizzards. In fact, it was their wedding day was the last time the Sun shone unhindered. The celebration brought leaders from across the separate tribes, all who managed to put their differences aside, if only for a short time. Sadly, as the guests left, the ill winds returned.

    If one thing could be taken from the long winter, it was that his job had grown easier through the months. Even the Sun wanted to end the frigid misery. Unfortunately for his comrades of the Lunar Guard, the opposite was true of the Moon. He could hear Master Starswirl’s groans and curses echoing through their temple, the Moon stubbornly refusing to plunge the world into its blanket of darkness.

    A familiar voice echoed off the stone walls. “There you two are! Just the ponies I was looking for.” Princess Platinum, the very definition of what Luminare hated about nobility. If Crystal was full of love and kindness, her sister was full of greed and a lust for power. “Father has arranged for us to attend the gathering being held by the earth ponies and pegasi. We are to represent our kingdom’s best interests, and reaching an agreement on how to end this dreadful weather.”

     “And what would those interests entail, sister of mine?” Crystal said, arching an eyebrow.

     “To ensure that we do not take any of the blame being levied at us, of course,” Platinum replied, fixing a strand of hair that had blown across her crown.

     “Do we even have an idea as to the cause? Or some plan to stop it?” Luminare said, trying his best to stare down his pompous sister-in-law.

     “Nope, only that it is not natural. Besides, it is those uncouth pegasi’s fault anyway.”

     Crystal could only sigh. “When are we to leave?”

    

 

     Unicorns of all shapes, sizes, and colors milled about the main stretch of road leading out of their mountain city. Some waved, some cheer and whistled, but all were wishing the royal procession the best of luck on their journey.

    The crowd’s jubilant attitude wasn’t fooling Crystal. She could see their weary faces and sullen eyes; the unceasing ice and snow had the stoutest of miners looking haggard. With a brave face she waved back to them, trying her best to assure her people everything would be all right.

     There has to be a way.

     An abandoned shrine passed by, its once bright purple facade and ivory columns faded from years of neglect. The sight took her back to the days when ponies would come from across all nations to hear the great teachings of harmony, and to give thanks for the blessings they received in life. How she longed for those days. No cold, no wind, no snow, only peaceful and happy times for every tribe.

 

 

     Dim lights appeared on the horizon, the first sign of civilization in many days. The long trip had been fraught with obstacles; the unrelenting snow and ice made the trip through the rolling hills of the earth ponies’ homeland precarious at best. The wide wooden doors of the city’s gates lurched open, signaling the end of their journey.

    “Welcome to our home, oh ‘esteemed’ delegates from the unicorn kingdom,” a hearty voice called out from the rampart above.

    Crystal glanced out the window of her carriage towards the poorly-lit streets and the dismal crowd that had grown around them. All races had suffered under the unrelenting cold, and by the looks of it, the earth ponies more than most. They had no magic to clear the snow and block the cold, and no wings to remove stubborn storm clouds--only the grit and determination that seemed to be a defining trait among them.

   There was an emptiness behind their tired and blackened faces, the very same Crystal had seen in her own ponies. Longer she stared out across the bustling town, her heart growing more and more heavy with each passing moment… and cold? Something frigid and dark had taken hold of their hearts, a feeling Crystal was all too familiar with.

   Hate and mistrust had frozen ponies’ hearts, and driven wedges between even the oldest of friends. Crystal had tried her best to keep above the petty infighting which had paralyzed the tribes. Instead, she devoted more and more of  her time to defusing the countless quarrels that erupted whenever an earth pony or pegasus had ventured into her father’s kingdom. It was only right.

   Sighing, she closed her eyes, trying to come to grips with the situation before her. This was the first time her father--or sister for that matter--had asked her to attend such a high level meeting. Of course she had begged before, but was told that she “Wasn’t ready” or “You are needed here”. But now, now was her chance.

    With another sigh, Crystal turned her gaze over to the sleeping form of her husband and lit candle that was his mark. It suited him, he was always one to bring light where ever it was needed. Even in the darkest moments of her life he had been there, shining strong. And now she would need that strength more than ever.

    She looked back at the rose colored heart wrapped in a golden filigree that was her own mark, the symbol for her love and compassion of all beings. A reminder of who she was, who she was meant to be. Today she would step out from her sister’s shadow, and show the world what was within her heart.

    “I swear upon the Sun and Moon that I will show them all what its like to love again. I was blessed with this gift, and I intend to share it.

   “This suffering will end.”

    Snuggling closer to her knight, Crystal smiled for the first time since they left home.

 

 

    The carriage came to a creaking stop, jarring its occupants out of the warmth of each other’s embrace. “My Princess, we have arrived,” announced the captain of their escort.

    Crystal stepped out of the carriage, her hooves impacting in the dark colored slush of the well used road. In front of her stood the unremarkable town hall, and capital of the earth ponies. It was a simple stone building, for humble and hardworking ponies. Not nearly as grand or tall as the castle from her homeland, but large enough to provide ample space for all affairs of state.

    A shrill shriek pierced the air. “My hooves! Look what your filthy road has done to my hooves!”

   Crystal slowly shook her head. “Sir Candela, could you please help my sister.”

    

 

    A cacophony of hundreds of ponies assaulted the trio of unicorns while they made their way to the places that had been set aside for them. Ponies from every tribe and walk of life had gathered in the galleries above and to the side of the central table which the meeting would take place. Crystal gulped; there were far more ponies present than she had anticipated, more than even the most packed of courts her father would see.

    A diminutive gray earth pony approached them, a pair of worn spectacles nearly falling off his wrinkled snout. “Excuse me Princess Platinum, Princess Crystal, and Prince Luminare,” he said bowing to each unicorn. “But there have been some changes in the arrangements of the upcoming summit on the behest of the pegasus delegation. Mainly that only one pony will be allowed to represent their tribe.”

    “Very well, we will decide who—”

    Platinum barged in front of Crystal. “I will be the one to represent the unicorn kingdom!”

    “This way, Your Highness.” The clerk bowed once again, and motioned towards the door.

    Crystal looked to Platinum, then to Luminare, her mouth agape with shock. Her one and only chance to make a difference left along with her sister.

    “Well, that certainly makes this easier on us,” a grinning Luminare said, snapping his wife back to reality.

    Crystal’s eyelid twitched, unnerving the stallion just a little.

    “Don’t tell me you forgot about this,” he said, gently flicking the blue horn before him with his hoof.

    “Ouch! What did you do that for?” Crystal said, a smile creeping across her muzzle. “With all eyes on my sister… I can take matters into my own hooves.”

    

 

    The meeting was going about as badly as Crystal had feared. If she had to take a guess where it all went wrong, the opening statements consisting only of a disorganized shouting match between all three ponies present would be it. It didn’t help that the stubborn Commander Hurricane was the representative from the pegasi, or that the air-headed Chancellor Puddinghead was the earth ponies’ chosen delegate. Of course her stuck-up sister wasn't much help either.

    Once they had finished speaking over one another, and actually started taking turns to talk, it only became more evident that nothing would get accomplished. Around and around the arguments and blame went, like an ouroboros of thickheadedness. Even if it was horrifying to see grown ponies acting like mere foals in such a formal setting, Crystal couldn't stifle her giggling when her sister was called “Her Royal Snootiness”.

    The sight of Platinum storming out of the summit brought an end to Crystal’s laughter. And not to be outdone, the other two attempted race Platinum to be the first one out, only to succeed in wedging themselves in a doorway.

    Now or never.

    Like Crystal had planned, everypony was too busy watching the spectacle before them. Blue light sprung forth from her horn, coalescing into two halves of a glowing pink heart on each side of the bickering ponies. The two halves melded together, and at last victory was within Crystal’s grasp. Yet something was amiss. Her spell was drawing far more power than normal--its usual warmth fading into bone chilling cold.

    Crystal watched in agonizing slow motion as the icicle encrusted heart fell to the ground and shattered into thousands of icy shards.

    No, no, no. It’s not possible.

    The spell she had cast a hundred times before, the spell which had brought together even the most incorrigible of nobles, the very spell which clued her into her special talent had failed.

    Platinum looked to the ruffian, and the loon. “Hmm, did you two louts happen to feel something strange just now?”

    “Nope! Ooh is that down? So soft!”

    “No, just somepony’s leg I'm two seconds away from snapping.”

    Hurricane drew back, preparing to sock the dimwitted earth pony, only to have the whole pile give way and leaving her face to face with the floor. Before she could act, four sets of hooves plodded over her once-polished armor as their owners escaped into the frigid streets of the town. A chill wind met the pegasus, carrying the sounds of haunting echoes in the distance.

    Think Crystal, think. It can’t end like this… it just can’t! But it was too late for her, and soon for all of ponykind. Crystal’s legs grew weak and she slumped to the ground.

    “You aren't going to give up that easily?”

    Crystal found Luminare’s outstretched hoof, and those diamond blue eyes of his. Those eyes. There was a fire inside that stallion’s soul burning so bright, and with such fervor, Crystal wondered how a being could contain so much power while remaining so kindhearted. Truth be told, even since they were foals she could sense something was different about him, and even if he hadn’t been knighted she would have done whatever it took to be with him.

    Those eyes. Always brightening her day--always filling her with hope of better things to come, and now filling her with a fire all her own. Grasping the outstretched hoof, Crystal picked herself up and gave Luminare a quick peck on the cheek.

    “Not on your life.”

    

 

    “You. First you proclaim yourself as sole ambassador of our kingdom without so much of a word, and then you proceed to act like a markless foal in front of everypony!”

    “Crystal, calm down, please hear me out,” Platinum said in her most diplomatic of voices, one that was conspicuously absent earlier.

    “Calm down? Calm down!? How are you going to explain this to Father? How are you going to explain it to our subjects?”

    “Easy. The Summit of the Tribes was merely a sham. All that mattered was our wild card, and showing that We were serious about leaving this miserable wasteland.”

    “Wild card?”

    “You, silly. Why did you think I took the the spotlight from you and Luminare? Can’t really have you working your magic and bickering with those uncouth wretches at same time- could we?”

    Today had been a day of ups and downs, but this revelation was the only thing so far that managed to leave Crystal truly speechless.

    “Crystal, I love you--envy you even. While you were allowed to find the joy of a true love, and to go out making a difference for those less fortunate than us. I was left with the burdens of being a ‘proper’ heir to the throne. I’m sorry I had to use you like this, but it was the only way. Please forgive me, sister.”

    It stung knowing that her sister played her like a harp, but seeing Platinum genuinely opening up for once was more than enough to bury it in the past.

    “Of course I do,” Crystal said, wrapping Platinum up in a tender hug. “But leaving home? All of us?”

    Platinum nodded. “Yes, all of us. I really, really wish some headway could have been made today, or that your magic had worked. Yet when it was clear that Hurricane and Puddinghead had similar intentions, I decided to have a little fun. I may have gotten a little carried away.”

    Crystal giggled. “Just a little.”

    “Regardless, without the other tribes cooperation we have no other choice but to leave our homes. You have seen the reports; we will all starve or freeze to death if we don’t do something soon.”

    Crystal lowered her head, her mane lightly grazing the floor. It stung, but if moving was their only option remaining, so be it. She could only hope that the other tribes could make it to their new homes in peace.

    “But I guess I could be persuaded to delay my missive to father if some enterprising pony was to meet with the other delegations, and restart this dog and pony show.”

    A flash of blue, and hugs enveloped Platinum. “Oh thank you, sister. Thank you! Thank you!”

    

 

    Crystal approached the pegasi’s suite with long, drawn out steps. Pegasi were always--to put it mildly--blunt, and an angry Commander Hurricane was not something she was looking forward to. Taking a deep breath, and looking back to Luminare for encouragement, Crystal knocked on the solid ironwood door.

    Nothing.

    Maybe they didn’t hear her? The rooms provided to foreign delegations were always made with privacy in mind. Again she knocked, waiting patiently for any response.

    “Excuse me, your Highness, may I help you?” an elderly voice said from behind, making Crystal jump just a little.

    It was that same wrinkled clerk from before.

    “Yes, actually. I was seeking an audience with Commander Hurricane and her delegation, but they seem to be preoccupied at the moment. Could I have you deliver a message to them?”

    “I would love to, but they flew off the moment the summit concluded. Something about ‘I'm glad we will never have to see those featherbrained idiots ever again.’”

    Great, just great. This whole trip is cursed, and that wrinkled menace is its herald. I just know it.

    

 

    Contrary to how she carried herself publicly, Puddinghead’s office was almost normal, professional even. Despite personal keepsakes and colorful decor full of bright pastels, Crystal noticed it was not unlike her father’s private office.

    “So what can I do for you two- is that a real sunstone necklace? Nana always told me they gave the pony wearing one a super-duper warm feeling, even in this kind of weather!”

    Before Luminare had a chance to think the word yes, Puddinghead was standing next to him, and his necklace mysteriously around her neck.

    “It’s true! It’s true! Now I only need to find—” Puddinghead stopped mid-sentence, noticing the thousand yard stare Luminare was putting a good deal of effort behind. “—its proper owner. Heh. Heh.”

    “Thank you, and thank you for seeing us,” Luminare said, placing the badge of his station back upon its resting place.

    “Oh yeah! You wanted two wanted to restart the summit after we acted one ring short of a three ring circus!”

    “Uhh yes, how did you—”

    “The answer is no!” Puddinghead said with that impossibly cheerful voice of hers.

    On any other day such a quick dismissal would have sent Crystal home without so much as a rebuttal, but today? Today wasn’t any other day. No, she was going to get answers, even if it meant tempting fate. “What? Don’t tell you are planning on moving your entire population as well. No offense, but you have neither the magic we unicorns possess, nor winged chariots to ferry everypony across the tundra. How do you plan to deal with those who can’t or won’t make the journey?”

    Puddinghead’s smile grew as wide as a mile as she produced a long scroll from her bushy mane. “Isn’t it obvious? You are hereby proclaimed Lady Regent of the Earth Pony Territories to guide and watch over those who remain until the time is right for us to come and get them!”

    It should have come as no surprise to Crystal that the final horseshoe had yet to drop today. She should have been angry that the earth pony had been so presumptuous. She should have just walked out the door. Yet she remained, calm and collected. If fate had deemed this as her only way to ease some of the suffering during this tragedy…

    “I accept this title, and promise to carry out my duties with grace, integrity, and to the absolute best of my abilities.”

    Luminare was halfway out the door before abruptly turning around. “Wait what? Honey, are you sure about this?” The last words were past his lips when he caught sight of his wife.

    Awe-inspiring was never something he thought he would end up using to describe her, but nothing else would feel adequate as he stared towards the glowing sky blue mare. Wisps of magic whipped back and forth along her body, knocking over knickknacks and stacks of paper all over the office.

    Then there was that smile, the smile he would never tire of seeing. The smile that was filled with such kindness, such love, that he would give everything to keep it safe. The smile that was currently directed toward him.

    “There was only one thing I have been more sure of in my life… when I said yes to you.”

Author's Note:

A couple things: This story is related, if only slightly, to A Tale of Sun, Moon, and Stars. If you haven't read it don't worry, you wont miss out on anything. I also wrote this before The Journal of the Two Sisters, and is completely different from the tale Amy tells.

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