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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3. Chapter Three: Love and Hope

Chapter Three: Love and Hope

 

 



 

 

    Beyond building up the trust between her new subjects--no--her friends, several challenges presented themselves. First and foremost was the matter of supplies. Sure they had been left with an ample store, but there were just so many ponies who stayed. As luck would have it, Crystal had just the thing.

    The idea of a greenhouse was first brought up after the snow refused to recede, and several spells had been developed to mimic their effects. Unfortunately there were no earth ponies willing to help with the cultivation. Now with the help of several farmers, Crystal had several fields encased in a heat-trapping bubble. She was always one to be hooves-on, never letting herself fall to the same mindset like so many nobles before.

    And now it was bearing fruit--literally and figuratively. For every seed planted, for every drop of sweat, friendships were made and new bonds forged. Soon everypony knew the blue unicorn with heart-shaped cutiemark, and soon everypony came to admire their new princess. Even Luminare had let go of his remaining distrust thanks to an evening on the town, courtesy of Wrought Iron.

    The poor smith had invited him for drinks at the last open tavern in the city. An apology for the whole “calling your wife a freak” thing as he so slightly put it. Luminare graciously accepted, never one to turn down a lager--earth pony lager at that. But much like most decisions he made in the last month, he got far more than he bargained for.

    Never had Luminare seen a pony knock back so many pints, and the fact he was apparently expected to keep up was taking its toll on his more “modest” frame. An old earth pony tradition, he was told. More like an excuse to get everypony drunk-not that he would complain. And so the beer continued to flow as stories were told, and laughter echoed throughout the night. It was early next morning when both stallions ended up stumbling home-singing songs of camaraderie, and of better times.

    With each passing day their community became more and more close knit. With each passing day Crystal’s dream was becoming a reality.

    

 

    The warmth coming from the happy town had grown intolerable. Each smiling pony a dagger in their chest, each laugh an arrow to their side. That accursed little unicorn was the worst of them all. Love radiated off her like the heat from a raging inferno. They hated her, feared her. They dared not venture close to her domain, lest they melt just like the once frozen hearts of her wretched ponies.

    They screamed and hissed at the barrier, seething with impotent rage. Her warmth had to come to an end, and just one push would be all it would take to send an entire mountainside worth of snow to ensure it. Again they tried to find an opening in the protective bubble, and again they were repulsed. All they needed was a tiny bit of strife or hate, and to their perverse delight-such a window was about to open.

    

 

    One month had passed since Crystal and Luminare’s arrival, and things had never seemed so bright. The abominable weather had faded, and the first signs of a spring a long time in the making had made their first appearances. Colts and fillies laughed and played, birds chirped, and life had finally returned to some sense of normalcy.

    A wholly unexpected sound echoed across the valley. The sound of life, the sound of ponies. Perhaps the earth ponies had returned? Regardless, Luminare and Crystal rushed to the the city gates to greet whoever it may be.,

   Hundreds of unicorns and pegasi greeted them--odd as it was to see that combination. On one side was an orderly column of pegasi, on the other a rather ragtag collection of unicorns from all walks of life.

    “So are you going to let us in, or are you just going to let us freeze to death,” a gruff looking pegasi asked, scars covering his navy blue face and chest, and missing feathers spotted throughout his wings. This stallion had seen some grizzly sights in his time, and Crystal was not about to draw such a warrior’s ire.

    A pair of fairly pampered unicorns pushed the pegasus out the way, doing their best to gain Crystal and Luminare’s undivided attention. A shiver crept across Crystal’s spine. Either it was the cold, or the fact the pegasus had continued staring into her eyes-completely ignoring the sudden obstruction.

    “Do not mind Stormseeker, he has been a bit grumpy since we ran into his lance a week ago,” said the well to do mare.

    Her stallion counterpart took a quick yet graceful bow. “Forgive us my Princess and Prince; in our haste we did not recognize you. But that begs the question-what are two ponies of such high nobility doing in a Sun forsaken place like this?”

    Luminare sneered, trying to in no way hide it. Oh, he remembered these ponies, from his time as a guard stationed in the King’s court. Lady High Cliff and her husband Mighty Falls, the only ponies he thought could surpass Platinum in their arrogance.

    “Lady High, Lord Mighty. So great to… see you,” Crystal managed to force out.

    Heh. I guess Crystal remembers them as well.

    “It is a long story, one I will tell you once we have taken care of everyponies’ needs. I would also like to hear both of your tales. I wasn’t expecting any ‘company’ for some time. Now would you three gather everypony up, and lead them to the town hall? I will arrange to have plenty of warm rooms and fresh food waiting.”

    Well this should be entertaining… and probably painful.

    

 

    As they walked, they shared stories of how each of them had ended up traveling together. It turned out some cloak and dagger skulduggery had taken place, leaving High and Mighty, along with all their servants and a troupe of traveling entertainers, stranded.

    Stormseeker’s tale was just as heartbreaking. Apparently his detachment had been cut off by a freak blizzard, and had failed to check in. When they got back to Pega, they had found it abandoned except for a note detailing that they should take refuge with Crystal and Luminare.

    Crystal’s and Luminare’s own tale had them chuckling. And after arriving back to the town hall, they were all in much better spirits. Inside, Crystal’s orders had been followed to the letter. Hundreds of bowls of piping hot soup were arrayed on several tables, while rooms had been prepped and readied with cots and beds; everything anypony could need after spending days in the winter wasteland.

    That is when the trouble began. Even if the earth ponies had grown to tolerate and befriend the other tribes, the newcomers certainly had not. It started innocently enough, an accidental bump here, a knocked over bowl there. Soon it escalated into insults, then shoving, and before anypony knew it, all Tartarus had broken out.

    Pies, pans, anything you could get a hoof on were flying thick and heavy through the air. Not one care given to who may be in their path. In the center of it all was Luminare and Crystal, trying desperately to calm everypony down.

    Storm clouds as dark as night descended upon the town. The wind’s gleeful cackling drowned out the cursing and yelling from below.

    Freeze.

    Those stupid ponies had left themselves wide open. All because of simple—but oh so exploitable—differences, and now they would make them pay.

    Suffer.

    The wind grew into a deafening, almost maniacal laughter as the three icy horrors sliced back and forth along the mountain’s summit.

    Perish.

    

 

    “Please, everypony stop!” Crystal shouted at the top of her lungs, looking from pony to pony in a vain attempt to restore some semblance of order.

    Unfortunately Luminare was not faring any better. The majority of his concentration spent on plucking the more dangerous of items from the air.

    “I said STOP!” Crystal’s voiced boomed throughout the room, the ground quaking beneath her. “Did I do that?”

    “Avalanche!” somepony cried out.

    Ponies froze where they stood, several of them not caring that a pie had just impacted in their faces. Crystal and Luminare raced outside, surely this was a mistake. They even went over this before taking over. There was no way an avalanche could reach them here. To their mounting horror, this was not the case.

    Her pupils shrunk to pin pricks, her mouth agape in disbelief. A white wall of flowing snow was all she could see. So high it had blocked out the Sun, casting the town into unnatural darkness. A grim herald to the destruction heading straight for them. And there was nothing she could do.

    No, no, no, no!

    “Get everypony in the hall!” Luminare barked to a couple pegasi, and some earth ponies he knew were in the guard.

    “You heard him! Get your tails in gear!” The pegasi snapped to attention at the sound of Stormseeker’s orders. “Now you two find a way to stop that thing, and let me worry about getting everypony inside,” he said, saluting Luminare.

    “Crystal. Crystal we have to go now.” Luminare shouted, trying to wake his catatonic wife.

    “Why? It’s all over. Our dream, our ponies, our lives. All will be gone, buried under the snow we tried so hard to escape.”

    “Have you really not noticed how strong you are? How you commanded the respect and admiration of some many strangers in such a short time? How you won my heart till the end of time? Open your eyes Crystal, not even Starswirl could hope to match you now.

    “Now let’s go!”

    Was she really that strong? She looked back to the throngs of panicking and crying ponies. It was kind of ironic that ponies from every tribe would all be sharing the same frigid grave.

    Wait.

    Crystal leapt into action. She was right, by the Sun and Moon she was right!

    “Where are you going?”

    “No time to explain, just clear the center of the hall by the time I return! And whatever you do, stay back.”

    “Now where is it!” Crystal yelled, flinging crate after crate out of the way. She sincerely regretted burying it so far back, but she was equally grateful she decided to keep it in the first place.

    “Aha! There you are!” she announced triumphantly. Grabbing the runed metal box with her magic, she turned tail and ran as fast as she could back to her waiting husband. The roar and rumble of imminent white death growing louder by the second.

    

 

    Luminare had done what Crystal asked. At the site of the failed summit he stood, ponies of all three nations huddled to the sides of the grand hall. Luckily Stormseeker was a stallion of his word, and had managed to get every single pony to the makeshift shelter in record time.

    Over a thousand souls, all looking to the unicorn with the heart shaped cutiemark. And she was trembling. Scared of the doom that was only mere seconds away-terrified of the consequences if she failed.

    Her horn ignited, breaking the seals upon the cast iron box. Incredible light poured out-nearly blinding her, and filling the entire chamber with its otherworldly rays.

    Her necklace.

    Quickly she placed it around her neck, and locked it into place. A wave of unimaginable power crashed down upon her, threatening to sweep her away. The entirety of the world’s love called to her, begging for her to let go. She wouldn't, not yet.

    Her horn ablaze, she thought of the surrounding town, its objects, and its inhabitants. She thought of a meadow from her childhood, where her sister would laugh and play among the wild flowers and swim in the crystal clear stream which was filled with cool mountain water. It was perfect.

    She dumped more and more energy into her spell, the endless well of magic heeding her every whim. Everything was set and primed, ready for her final push. A push that wouldn’t come.

    Luminare watched on. Magic flowed and arced around Crystal in some kind of elegant waltz. His fur was standing on end, maybe from the adrenaline coursing through his veins, definitely from the magic radiating off his wife. He noticed her looking back and forth, and the spell that was growing more and more out of control.

    Going against Crystal’s wishes, he rushed to her side. Wind and magic buffeted him with every step. How she was managing to contain so much power he wouldn’t dare to guess. All he knew is that she needed him, and a promise is a promise.

    “Stay back! The call, it’s so strong. I don’t know if I can hold it much longer.”

    “Crystal, listen to me. Do you love them?”

    “With all my heart.”

    “Do you love me?”

    “Now, and forever.”

    Luminare wrapped her up with his fore legs, leaning in so that their horns crossed.

    “Then what’s holding you back?”

    In an instant, Crystal and Luminare were consumed the massive pillar of light. The thatch roof above offered no resistance as it punched its way higher and higher into the sky.

    The colossal mass of ice and snow was now on the outskirts of the city, casually wiping away farms and houses unlucky enough to be in its path. So eager it was to gorge itself on the puny ponies, only to be denied its terrible hunger when the entire city winked out of existence. Nopony left to hear the wind’s enraged screams as the wave of snow broke upon a now empty valley.

    

 

    “Crystal,” a motherly voice whispered.

    Who was that? How long was she asleep? Did she do it? Crystal opened her eyes. A little at first, but full and wide when she saw her surroundings.

    For as far as she could see, stars hung suspended in sea of blues, yellows, and purples. An eerie, yet calming stillness permeated this place. If this was Elysium, it was kind of nice. But where was Luminare?

    “Luminare! Are you there?” she called out.

    Crystal raised a hoof to her ear. Nothing, only the melodic chimes of this strange place.

    “Great. Not only am I dead, but I’m alone as well,” she said, throwing her hooves up and collapsing on what she hoped was solid ground.

    “You are not alone, and I imagine death is not a thing that will trouble you, or your husband now,” a more commanding voice said, as two mares emerged from the æther.

    One was a mare of radiant white. Her flowing prismatic mane invoking images of the first rays of dawn breaking on a humid summer’s day. Next to her was a mare of midnight blue. Her mane resembling the clearest and most splendid of night skies. It was not the magical manes that perplexed Crystal, it was their bodies. Not only where they larger than even the most stout of earth pony, but they possessed both wings and a horn.

    Crystal recalled some old mares’ tales her nanny would tell her. Stories about beings of light coming to ponies in their most desperate times. The details surrounding each story were different, except for it was the same kind of creature each time. An elegant mare with the power of an earth pony, the horn of an unicorn, and the wings of a pegasus.

    Alicorns.

    “Welcome Crystal. We have been expecting you for some time,” the motherly voice said once again, this time coming from the taller white mare.

    “Who… who are you?”

    Both mares took a bow before Crystal.

    “I am the Sun,” the white mare said.

    “And I am the Moon,” the blue mare said.

    These ponies are the Sun and Moon? The celestial sisters who watch over all pony kind! And they are bowing!

    Bowing to me.

    “Please, please don’t do that. I’m no pony special.”

    “YouR humbleness serves you well. But once again you are incorrect,” the Moon said.

    “Crystal, you are the first mortal to set hoof in our home. That is something very special indeed,” the Sun said, approaching Crystal, “Let us show you.”

    Panels of light sprung into existence around Crystal, each one a window to her past deeds and triumphs.

    The two lovers she brought together when she got her cutiemark, and the happy family they now had. The elderly couple who made it home together from what was one of the best times in their lives. In the center was a more recent event, one where an entire city escaped certain doom. Pony after pony whose life she touched passed before her, each and every one giving thanks to the sky blue mare that made it possible.

    One final image appeared before her: a pony announcing her intent to the world.

    “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.”

    Crystal was speechless. She never gave a second thought about what she considered doing the right thing, or the consequences therein. So many ponies, and so many hearts that had blossomed thanks to her touch. They were right; she was indeed a very special pony.

    “Now you see why you are here, and why we have watched over you for so long,” the Moon said.

    “You are not the only one we took an interest in,” the Sun started to say, bringing forth an image of a sleeping Luminare. “Your husband has been one of my chosen for the majority of his life. I know the light that burns within him. The very light that you found yourself drawn to like a moth to a flame.”

    “And it is no coincidence you two found each other,” the Moon added. “There are forces in this world. Some good, some evil beyond measure. Then there are two that are nearly inseparable.”

    “Love.”

    “And Hope.”

    “Warmth.”

    “And Light.”

    “Now it has come time for the both of you to fulfill your destinies. And spread your magic across not only your lands, but the entire world as well.”

    The Sun looked at her, eyes burning with power. “Do you intend to keep your vow you swore upon my Sun, and my sister’s Moon?”

    “I swore it before, and I shall swear it again. No pony will suffer as long as I draw breath,” Crystal said, bringing her foreleg across her chest.

    “Then follow your heart. It will show you all you need to know.”

    A wisp of blue magic leapt from Crystal’s chest. She watched on as it began to orbit her, slowly at first, then faster and faster until she was rising into the air. A familiar glow once again made its appearance, growing brighter as the magical winds churned around her.

    She would follow her heart- follow it right back to the stallion she gave it to.

    With that last thought, her world exploded in light.

    

 

    Crystal’s spell had quite the reaction on Luminare; knocking the mighty knight out cold, and sending him to the land of dreams. When he finally awakened, he found himself in the epicenter of a scorch mark that bore a remarkable likeness to his wife’s cutiemark, yet there was no trace of the mare that only moments before had saved his life and the lives of so many others. And so he searched for her. Every room, every building, every square foot of the town for some clue to where Crystal had gone to.

    During his fruitless hunt, he found out what exactly Crystal’s spell had done. The cozy valley and tall mountains that surrounded the city had vanished, replaced with—if he wasn’t mistaken—a once verdant plain where Crystal would take him during their summer respites.

    After everything he had been witness to over the past month, this was by far the most unbelievable. His wife, a mare who never received training in the highest schools of magic, had teleported an entire town hundreds of miles with—as far as he could tell—no error. Had Crystal left herself behind so that they may live? Had her necklace devoured the mare at last? He didn’t know, or want to dwell upon it.

    Then there was that heavenly blue mare. That had to have been one of the strangest dreams in his life. She radiated a power he had only felt when his counterparts in the Lunar Guard performed their most sacred of ceremonies. She kept reassuring him everything would be alright, and that Crystal was safe and sound under her protection. Perhaps that is why he hadn't been ravaged by dread or worry? That, or he was in shock.

    Dusk had fallen and yet ponies continued to mill about Luminare’s home, or what had been home; Crystal’s spell had not been kind to the old town hall. Some were walking from group to group to check if everything was okay, others just sitting and enjoying the company of a newfound friend.

    None of the earlier mistrust lingered here, only an unspoken understanding that life was too short to hate based upon silly differences. Luminare chuckled at this fact; no matter who you are, standing together in the face of death has a strange habit of making one reevaluate their priorities.

    Crystal would be proud of them. Sure they had not come together the way she would have liked, but they did all the same. Still, it would be all the better if she was here by his side. Luminare looked to the starry sky above, and the Moon which hung so beautifully in the crisp winter’s night. His thoughts still lingering back to that dream, and the words of comfort within.

    “I know you are safe wherever you are. But please, please come back-if not for me, but for them,” Luminare pleaded, hanging his lead low and slowly making his way inside. There was a lot of work to get done, and he was only one pony.

    A glint of light caught Luminare’s eye just as he was about to close the door. To the south, a pink beam was streaking ever skyward. Whatever it was, it was powerful. He watched on as the beam continued its path towards the apex of the sky--building in intensity all the while, and bathing the entire world in its warmth and light. Then it happened, one of the most majestic and beautiful sights he had ever seen.

    A heart ignited in the sky, burning bright in all its rose colored magnificence. Ponies wept, ponies laughed, others shared a tender embrace. Luminare just stared. There was no mistaking who was behind this. She had done it, she showed the world how much she cared--how much she loved.

    He knelt down, tears falling from his face. He was a strong stallion, but he could not deny the feelings that longed to be set free. In his ecstasy, he did not notice the heart slowly descending from its heavenly perch, nor did he notice how it was growing closer and closer.

    “Everypony look! The heart! The heart is here!”

    Sure enough it was right above the town--right above him. Gently it floated down, its aura still whipping back and forth in the breeze. A flash of light and magic illuminated the entire town, driving away the encroaching night.

    The light faded, leaving a pulsating pink glow which emanated from a crystalline heart, and a… mare. Luminare couldn’t believe his eyes. The being before him had a familiar tri-color mane and sky blue coat, but there was no denying there was something more divine about her. Her coat reflected under the pink glow like a sparkling gem, and instead of the unicorn he knew, this mare had a set of feathery wings along with her long spiraled horn. Wings or not, she was back, back with him.

    “Crystal!” he shouted, his voice almost breaking as galloped towards her.

    The mare smiled, light still pouring from her eyes.

    Luminare nearly tackled her, raising her off the ground with his strong forelegs, twirling around in their shared bliss before setting her back down. He looked her deep within the eyes and kissed her. Not a kiss of passion, nor of relief, or desire. A kiss only those who share the same heart could know. A moment of true love.

    In the ruins of the town hall, crystals erupted from the earth, causing Crystal and Luminare to break their embrace. Taller the crystals grew, taking the form of pillars and arches. Spires rocketed skyward, and sparkling liquid crystal flowed around their tops, creating elegant domes. Walkways, bridges, and balconies materialized from thin air as the crystals worked their magic. In a matter of minutes, an entire castle sat at the site of Crystal’s triumph, the moon reflecting off its gleaming crystal facade.

    Grander than even the most lavish of holds in their old lands. It was beautiful beyond words; more glorious than the vision of any craftspony. Four wide arches made its base, supporting the many spires and a massive central one which reached into the heavens. A gem as big as a house sat in its pinnacle, sparkling like a terrestrial lighthouse.

    Luminare stared awestruck at the structure; Crystal only giggled.

    “Come on! This is going to be great!” she yelled in almost youthful excitement. She enveloped the crystal heart in her magic, and took Luminare’s hoof in hers, dragging both of them to the base of the castle.

    In the center of her scorch mark, two crystal spikes—one pointed up,the other pointed down—stood. A gathering of ponies had formed around it; many roused from the slumber by the commotion, many others still present from earlier. A hush fell over the crowed as Crystal and Luminare approached. Ponies whispered amongst themselves; rumors of how Crystal had returned from the afterlife, or that she had ascended to godhood. They were not far off.

    Crystal cut a path to the middle, Luminare and heart still in tow. There she placed the heart in between the twin spikes, and it slid naturally it into place between the spikes with a quiet hum.

    “Its good to see everypony alive and well, and I’m glad to see the ugliness of earlier has been left where it belongs,” Crystal said, her cheery smile more infectious than ever. “But I must ask one more thing of all of you,” she began to say, her new wings flaring open as her voice became more commanding and serious. “Wonderful events are unfolding across all of ponydom, and we have been chosen to play a special role in them.

    “This-” she pointed a hoof the still glowing heart, “-is a gift. Sent to us as not only a shield against the bitter cold, but as a beacon for all of ponykind. We are the first ponies to put aside our differences, the first to truly embrace what it means to be united, and the first to share our love.

    “It is up to us to share that love, our hopes, our dreams across this earth. I ask of you, open your hearts, show me the love I know resides within you. Show the world how wonderful it can truly be.”

    And so they did. Earth pony, pegasus, unicorn, or alicorn, it didn't matter anymore; they all bowed before the heart. Their love ran free, their hopes unleashed. The crystal heart becoming stronger and stronger with each passing second. Until…

    A roar of magic and light exploded from the heart as a cascade of magic swept across the town. Everything took on the heart’s crystal sheen; plants, animals buildings, even ponies sparkled in the love fueled shockwave. At the pinnacle of the castle, their magic streaked into the sky and beyond, creating an aurora of beautiful pastels that could be seen the world over.

    That day an empire was born. Born not out of hardship or strife, but of love for one another, and the hope for a better life for all. All thanks to one mare who cared too much, and the stallion who would never leave her side.

Author's Note:

Edited: 6/3/2014 also Changed King Diamond to his canon name of King Bullion (c'mon Amy, way to miss the great pun!)

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