A Different Perspective

Long Path, an earth pony living in Canterlot, and his best friend, a griffon named Free Agent, set out in the company of Twilight Sparkle to visit various places and species to look into what makes them different, and hopefully learn how to get along with them better. Things rarely go to plan though, and along the way, they discover things about themselves, and find love, drama, and laughter. Then Chrysalis changes everything, and the fate of the whole world might be at stake. Their lives will never be the same!
This story is set mostly after the events of Conversations in a Canterlot Cafe and builds on the fanon of the series, especially changelings, so you might want to read those stories first for background material.

https://www.fimfiction.net/story/246414/a-different-perspective

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23. Chapter 17: Death By The Numbers Part 2

Twilight then re-established her shield temporarily so that the Skyshark could descend into the maelstrom, and it landed with a hasty thump. The ground-based warriors immediately poured out, and General Warfist’s orders distributed them to reinforce Luna’s troops with the goal of taking the strain off the city’s shield.

Path used the comm again. “Luna – have you seen any sign of Chrysalis yet?”

Nay, Lord Path. There have been none but the soldier drones so far.

“Probably holding back while her drones soften us up. Maybe waiting to see that there are no more of the love blasts to repel her.”

Agreed. Her strategy is working,” Luna replied grimly. “We need more defenders, but my sister has not been able to get us more than a hoof-full since we arrived. Reinforcements are yet hours away.

“Hopefully the House troops will sway the balance. Our coordinator, Proper Place, will be staying on the Skyshark to help guide all our forces to where they’re needed most.”

All assistance is…” There was a long moment of silence except for some noises of battle. “…most welcome, Lord Path.

From their vantage point, Path and Twilight had seen the massive discharge of alicorn magic take out a particularly dense cloud of invaders.

Twilight said, “This is bad, Path. Luna can’t do that indefinitely, but there seems no limit to the number of Blue Changelings. Chrysalis’ plan is brilliant in its simplicity. She’s utilized her species ability to reproduce quickly to breed a virtually endless supply of expendable troops.”

“It seems beyond belief, even though we can see the result for ourselves,” Path replied. “The power of exponential breeding is mind-boggling. We have to work smarter to beat them. Commander Onyx, take the Skyshark above the shield so that we can observe in all directions. Proper Place, start analyzing the Blues’ attacks and dispatch our forces appropriately.”

The airship took off and was soon in position. Path quickly noticed something odd.

“They’re not attacking the ship. They seem utterly focused on Shining Armor’s shield.”

Twilight dropped her own shield and waited for a moment. When it became clear that they were being ignored, she said, “The drones must be very simple-minded, and fixated on their orders to break down the city’s shield. That means I can risk leaving the ship and make myself more useful somewhere else.”

Path said, “Have you forgotten about Streak, Twilight?”

Commander Onyx spoke up before Twilight could respond. “With all due respect, sir, this airship is capable of defending itself. While perhaps not as effective as the Princess’ shield, the magic-reinforced armor can withstand a lot, not to mention the array of weapons at our disposal. We can protect your son, sir.”

Path recognized a gentle rebuke when he heard it. As precious as Streak’s life was to them, so many more lives were at risk, and they all had their part to play in preventing their deaths. “Very well, Commander. I’ll leave him in your care.” He sighed. “Come on out, Streak. I know you’re there.”

Blue Streak crawled out from under a console with a nervous smile. “How’d you know I was there, Dad?”

“You left your tail sticking out a bit. I was looking anyway because I figured you would try to be where the action was. Here’s the deal – the commander has only a skeleton crew left to run the ship. Help her out as best you can and stay out of trouble while your mother and I fight. Got it?”

Streak looked disappointed, but agreed. “Yes, Dad.”

“Good.” He looked over to Roseclaw. “Time to be warriors. Ready, darling?”

“With you forever, my love.”

“Let’s go!”

The three of them secured their helmets to complete their armoring and headed to the launch platform where they paused to observe the fighting. Pegasi, thestrals, and griffons filled the airspace along with their changeling enemies. The changelings’ utter focus on the shield was to the defenders’ advantage because until they were attacked, the drones mostly ignored them. This enabled the Equestrian forces to take a terrible toll on the changelings, but it was still not enough. For every drone taken down, another got past to slam into the shield. Wherever Luna launched one of her furious attacks, there was a temporary lull in impacts in that general area, but very quickly they resumed. Even though the alicorn was reserving her most terrible weapon for only the densest of groups of the attackers, she was quickly exhausting her power.

“There’s Free,” Roseclaw said as she pointed him out.

They watched the pseudo-alicorn blasting away freely at the enemy. The same energy that he had carelessly used for his lust spell the last time that he had been in the city was now being utilised offensively instead. However, unlike Luna, his energy stores were constantly being replenished by the Crystal Heart, so he could afford to be profligate in its usage.

 

 

Path tapped his comm. “Free! Need any help, buddy?”

Finally joining the party? I seem to be popular and have picked up a few admirers. I wouldn’t mind sharing the joy,” Free replied jauntily.

“He seems to be coping well,” Twilight observed. “As long as he keeps expending the energy as fast as he accumulates it, he should be in little danger of burn-out, even this close to the Heart.”

“Yeah, but all those blasts seems to be drawing the attention of the enemy as Free said. Even though he has his special squad working with him, with the crowds he’s drawing, I think we could make the greatest impact if we work with him also.”

“Okay. Proper Place – did you hear that?”

Yes, Princess. I’ll direct you to the hot spots after you join up with Free Agent.

“Let’s join the action then,” Path said, activating the wings on his tek-armor. With a mental command, he took off from the airship, oblivious to the heights that used to worry him so much. His galloping translated into thrust, and he sped off in Free’s direction. Roseclaw and Twilight were moments behind him as they dived to join their comrade.

In order to conserve energy for more important things such as keeping his wings powered up, Path reserved his more potent armament in favor of something a lot more low-tech. He fitted his right forehoof into the guard of the sword sheathed along his left flank, his special hoofguards locking it firmly into his grip. He drew the weapon, and the razor-sharp griffon-forged steel gleamed in the sunlight. Warfist had made him practice its use intensely until it felt comfortable in his grasp, but this was the first time that it would be used in anger. It had taken even more mental preparation to be ready to use it to kill. However, this was an enemy that accepted no compromise, and he had a duty to perform. Path chose his first target and dived. His sword cleaved the changeling in two with little effort, but he felt no elation at his success. It was just a necessary act, and one that he would have to repeat as often as was needed. He grimly set to work doing so.

Roseclaw was at Path’s back from the moment that they left the Skyshark. From the instant that they joined battle, she used her talons to deadly effect, her size and strength a great advantage over the much smaller changelings. It also made her a bigger target, and so she attracted a greater portion of the enemy. That suited her fine though because it drew them away from her beloved mate. He could concentrate on his attacks while she would guard his rear. His tek-wings, while very sophisticated, in no way matched a natural flyer’s, so she would do her best to compensate for his lack. She was very skilled though, and between them they wreaked havoc on the drones.

Twilight was the most conflicted. As Princess of Friendship and an Avatar of Harmony, she had always sought the ways of peace and resolution of problems through negotiation. The closest that she had ever come to all-out violence was when she had fought Tirek, but even then she had only sought to defeat him and return him to Tartarus. Now though, she faced an enemy where compromise was not an option. This foe could only be stopped by death. Logically it was their only choice, and thousands of crystal ponies in the city, and potentially every sapient being in Equestria was relying on their forces defeating the rogue changelings, but that did not make it that much easier for her to act. Nevertheless, she knew that the pony that she admired most, Celestia herself, the alicorn who had preserved peace for most of her centuries of reign, had fought and killed many times in wars. It was a sad reality that Twilight had to face – there wasn’t always a happy solution. She braced herself and called forth the offensive spells that she had learned but hoped never to use. She took out fourteen changelings with her first horn attack, followed by a dozen more, and then fifteen others. She grimly forced herself to stop counting lest the horror of what she was doing became too much to bear.

Proper Place kept up a steady stream of instructions to direct the defenders’ forces where they were most needed. After a long while, the killing and the dashing around all began to blend into one bloody blur, and yet the black tide of changelings never seemed to get any less.

Path took a moment between attacks to make a call. “Proper! Situation report!”

I estimate that successful attacks on the shield have decreased by approximately 38 percent since we joined the battle sir, but I have yet to see any significant decrease in the enemy’s numbers. More drones are replacing the fallen ones as fast as we’re killing them or as they suicide on the shield.

Path felt like cursing, but the channel was still open to everyone. “Cadance! How is Shining Armor holding up?”

The attacks are taking their toll. If this keeps up as it is, I fear he may not be able to maintain it much longer.

“How is the Crystal Heart taking all this changeling activity? Is it in any danger?”

When she replied, the puzzled tone in Cadance’s voice was very clear. “Until Free Agent arrived, the Heart seemed unaffected. It seems that the drones have only been drawing on the ambient love energy, and not directly on the Heart itself as Free does.

Twilight had of course been listening to everything, and she gasped in realization. “Oh, no! We’ve been wrong about the effect of changelings on the Heart from the very beginning!” Almost too late, she realized that she was about to blurt out Free’s secret to everyone. She tapped her comm’s controls to switch it to the Command level only before she continued. “We thought Free was an ordinary harvester when we originally set out to test the Heart, but he’s actually a queen, and they have significantly greater abilities. He can draw directly upon the Heart’s power, but these drones apparently can’t.”

That is very good news for the safety of the Crystal Heart, but not much help to us otherwise,” Cadance replied.

“You’re wrong, Cadance. We’ll be able to tell immediately if Chrysalis is coming, and I believe that your ability to monitor the flow of the energy from the Heart can tell us from which direction she’s approaching. She won’t be able to take us by surprise.”

I think you’re right, Twilight. I certainly can do that. However, will our defenses last that long? Chrysalis might simply be waiting until we’re exhausted before she makes an appearance.

“Then we will have to ensure that that doesn’t happen. I have an idea. I’ll be joining you shortly to explain it.”

We can’t drop the shield for even a moment to let you through, Twilight.

“I know, but you won’t have to do so.” Twilight turned to her comrades and smiled encouragingly. “Keep up what you’re doing. I’ll be back soon enough.” Her horn glowed, and with bang and a flash of light, she disappeared.

A moment later, Twilight reappeared besides Cadance on the concourse in front of the palace. The Alicorn of Love blinked in surprise. “You shouldn’t have been able to teleport through that shield!”

Twilight looked over to where her brother was lost in concentration on his defensive barrier. “Shiny taught me his shield spell, and I know it inside out, so I also know how to get around it rather than through it. Of course only an alicorn could manage it, but even so I can’t take passengers.”

“I suspect that only the Avatar of Magic could manage it, but I’m happy that you could.”

Twilight could see the strain that Shining Armor was under. Although he would never admit it, she suspected that he would not last much longer. In fact she was a little amazed that he had done so for this long. “Have you been supplying my brother with power, Cadance?”

“Yes, I’ve been doing so since it became clear that the changeling attacks were far more debilitating than the ones back at Canterlot. However, I’ve just reached my own limits. I haven’t the endurance of Auntie Celestia or Luna.”

“Then we need another power source for him.”

“What did you have in mind?”

“Where are my friends? The girls are key to this plan.”

Cadance pointed upwards. “They’re probably still up in the observation post in the tower. They were using that as a vantage point when directing Harmony against the drones. Of course that only repulsed them like our love blast.”

Twilight started flying up that way, and Cadance followed. “The power of Harmony isn’t a weapon, so of course it did the changelings no harm. However, it is a powerful force in the hooves of those who seek friendship and peace, and its power can be utilized in other ways to achieve those goals.”

Twilight quickly reached the observation post, and as Cadance predicted, they were all there still. The startled mares were delighted to see her, but she had to quickly put a stop to their overtures. “Girls, we have a job to do. Hang on for a teleport!” Without waiting for acknowledgement, Twilight teleported everyone back to where Shining Armor was still straining to maintain the shield. “My brother can’t keep up the spell for too much longer at this rate. While he started off with a lot more power than when Canterlot was invaded, this attack has been brutal, and it’s draining him fast. We believe that that’s exactly Chrysalis’ intention – to wear us down with her seemingly inexhaustible supply of soldier drones. We have to make sure that that doesn’t happen.”

“But how, darling?” Rarity protested. “No unicorn can match Prince Armor’s shield capabilities.”

“You’re right, but we don’t need another shield-caster. We need to sustain Shining Armor! And what do we have to do that?”

“Oh! Oh! I know!” Pinkie said enthusiastically. “We have the power of Harmony!”

Twilight grinned. “Exactly. My dearest friends, this isn’t going to be easy because the flow of Harmony has to be maintained as long as Shining Armor has to hold the shield.”

“Shucks, Twi! Shining Armor has been holdin’ out all this time – do you think any of us could do less?” Applejack admonished her.

“Hell, yeah!” Rainbow Dash agreed. “Better than being stuck here inside the shield doing nothing.”

“Then gather around my brother and bring forth the power of Harmony to direct it at him.”

The mares encircled Shining Armor and joined hooves. Closing their eyes and concentrating, they called forth their avatar power. Rarity’s Generosity linked with Rainbow Dash’s Loyalty, then Fluttershy’s Kindness, Applejack’s Honesty, and Pinkie Pie’s Laughter. Then, joined in Friendship, their power focused on the Avatar of Magic. Sunset Shimmer’s eyes burst open as the power of Harmony was released and flooded into Shining Armor. The effect was immediate as the stallion straightened up and the strain visibly relieved. His eyes too glowed with the power of Harmony that flowed into him.

Twilight smiled at the sight of her friends’ work, but she was especially proud of Sunset Shimmer. It had taken a lot of time and effort to convince Celestia’s disgraced former student to return to Equestria, make her peace with the princess, and become a true friend of theirs. Twilight had long recognized how vulnerable their greatest defense was to being disabled by the loss of one of the avatars, and she had begun a search for candidates for alternatives. As proud as she was of being an Avatar of Harmony, it was not an exclusive club. Any pony, and perhaps any other species, if they truly reflected one of the aspects of Harmony, had the potential to be an avatar. Finding them was the real trick, but from the first, Twilight had had a candidate in mind to replace herself. Sunset had been available when Twilight had not, and had already done a big part in the defense of the Crystal City.

Cadance said, “I believe my husband can sustain the shield now for as long as he’s supplied with power. What are you going to do now?”

“I have to go re-join with Path and the others. Ultimately, there’s only one way we can win this battle, and that’s to take out Chrysalis. We have a plan to achieve this, but until she shows herself, we have to maintain our defense of the city. However, the girls and Shining will last much longer if the power they have to supply is kept to a minimum, so we have to keep killing the drones. Hopefully Chrysalis will get tired of waiting, and make her move sooner rather than later.”

“Do you think you’ll be able to last until Celestia’s reinforcements arrive?”

“They’re still hours away and won’t arrive until after sunset, so it’s hard to tell. I hope we can. Even more, I’m hoping Chrysalis will make her move while it’s still light. I think it might depend on just how many more drones she has in reserve. She might figure that she needs a certain number available when she comes. If our defenses collapse before she arrives, I doubt that we’ll be able to successfully spring our trap.”

“So many things can go wrong in the meantime. Is there anything that I can do?”

“For now, just monitor the Heart and warn us if you see any change. If I can think of anything else, I’ll let you know.”

Cadance nodded, and went back over to the Crystal Heart where it hung suspended. Twilight then teleported back to the battle.

She had not been fighting for long when Proper Place called her directly.

Lady Twilight, I was feeling fatigued, and so I temporarily dropped the shield spell that you gave me so that I could get a quick recharge of love energy. I noticed immediately that the ambient love is far less than you indicated it should be.

Twilight thought for a moment. “Of course! Seeing as the drones aren’t drawing on the Heart itself, they all must be feeding on the ambient love alone, but there have been so many of them that it has drained the normal level. That’s important! Thanks, Proper!” She caught Path’s attention as soon as he dealt with a drone. “Path! Recall our changeling squad. Have them reinforce our troops at the shield. The ambient love is low enough for them to cope with it now.”

Path nodded in understanding and changed comm channels. “Captain Kerbarok, are you there?”

A tired voice quickly responded. “Still alive, Lord Path. We have lost very few so far. The enemy soldier drones are near mindless and unskilled in battle.

“Good! As quickly as possible, have all your squad join us at the city’s shield perimeter.”

To his credit, the changeling never hesitated for a moment despite thinking that it would endanger him and his fighters. “On our way, sir!

Path returned to the general comm circuit. “All defenders be advised that we will soon be joined by our changeling squad members. While it should be obvious from their uniforms, do not mistake them for our enemy.”

While they awaited the changeling squad, the defenders fell back into the routine of blocking and killing the invaders again and again. Twilight practically had to switch off her thoughts to keep her mind off the horrendous body-count that she alone was responsible for. When the Red Changelings arrived, it was obvious that the denser ambient love had revived them, and they immediately had a big effect on the number of Blues getting through. It was sorely needed because it was equally obvious that, except for Free, the rest of the troops were flagging.

Path took advantage of a slight lull to seek out Luna. The Princess of the Night was looking particularly drained, and her attacks were a shadow of what they had been when they had arrived.

“Luna, I think you’re going to have to call Celestia to join us here.”

“Nay, Path, we must not leave Canterlot undefended. We have a duty of care to our little ponies.”

“And I agreed earlier, but now it looks as if we have no choice. If Chrysalis can win against the forces gathered here, the same would probably be true at Canterlot. Chrysalis must be stopped here to ensure Equestria’s safety.”

“My sister will have time to gather her forces. She has the experience of several centuries to guide her.”

“Forces a lot stronger than those gathered here already? Forces that would be able to cope with Queen Chrysalis reinforced by the power of the Crystal Heart? I don’t think so.”

Indecision warred within the alicorn for only a short time. “You are right, Lord Path. I will call Celestia now.”

The Lunar Alicorn was a little surprised when she found that her sister had already come to the same conclusion, having been monitoring the progress of the battle. However, Celestia had been loath to step on Luna’s hooves in this matter, and had put off asking until it became glaringly obvious that she would have to come after all.

I will be there in a minute, Luna. I will be bringing help.

Celestia was true to her word, teleporting in with a retinue of soldiers that had been recalled from distant deployments, but had arrived too late to join the troop train still bound for the Crystal City. The soldiers wasted no time in joining the battle, having already been briefed on what they had to do.

Luna nuzzled Celestia and said, “Give me a few minutes to recover my magic, and I shall join with you in the fight.”

The older alicorn shook her head. “No, sister, you have expended too much power already. I am sending you back to Canterlot. There you can watch over the city in my stead while recovering.”

Luna was about to protest, but just then a surge of enemy changelings made discussion impossible for several minutes. Despite her tiredness, Luna nevertheless fought side-by-side with Celestia for a while. When she had the opportunity though, while the Royal Guards kept the invaders at bay, Celestia sternly said, “Time for you to rest, Luna.” She lit up her horn in preparation to teleporting her back to Canterlot.

“Wait!” Path cried out.

Celestia’s horn glow faded as she turned to Path. “What is the problem, Long Path?”

“Before Luna leaves, I need to ask you both a big favor.”

“Is this really the time to ask for such?”

“It most definitely is, Your Highness. It’s my belief that Chrysalis is going to wait for sunset before making a personal appearance. Darkness is her ally. I don’t think that we will be able to hold out against her then. We need to force her hoof.”

“What is it that you propose?”

“Don’t set the sun today.”

Celestia looked startled, then thoughtful. She nodded and turned to Luna. “Sister, I will not presume to steal your night. Will you give this plan your blessing?”

“The need is greater than me; thou hast my permission. Thank thee for asking though. I will forestall raising the moon until thou dost inform me that it is propitious to do so.”

Path spoke up again. “No, raise the moon on schedule, Your Highness.”

Both princesses looked at the earth pony in surprise. “Why?” Celestia asked.

“Once Chrysalis sees both sun and moon in the sky, she will know that she will not have the night to hide in. Hopefully she will stop waiting for the cover of darkness and move ahead with her plans. As I said, we force her hoof in any way we can.”

“Again you make sense. Very well! Luna, you have your duty, and I must get to mine. Farewell, sister!”

Celestia teleported Luna back, and then said to Path, “To battle once more! Have your forces move away from where I will be fighting. As my sister might say, I have a lot of smiting to do, and I am not going to be gentle about it.”

Path hastily beat a retreat as Celestia was true to her word, and she cut swathes through the swarm. Still, the net effect was much the same as when Luna had been at full strength – the impacts on the shield were minimal, but the hordes still came in a seemingly endless stream. Nevertheless, the additional soldiers were able to let some of the other exhausted fighters rest briefly, and get a drink and a quick bite to eat to help overcome their fatigue. They were too few though to help out everyone, and so the rest fought grimly on.

Path never noticed when Celestia reversed the movement of the sun towards the horizon. However, when he finally noticed that the moon was up, he realized just how long they had been fighting. If this had been an intelligent enemy, they would have all been dead long ago against such ridiculous numbers. Now he had to hope that Chrysalis would get impatient because they could not possibly keep this up for much longer.

Twenty minutes later, Cadance’s voice suddenly cut across the chatter of directions to the troops.

Celestia! Path! I’m detecting a secondary drain on the Crystal Heart!

“Which direction?” Path demanded.

From the south-east.

“Proper Place – position extra units at that side of the shield. Princess Celestia, I need you to take up the slack while we try to spring our trap.”

Understood, Long Path. Good luck!

Path and Rose were about a third of the way around the shield dome from Chrysalis’ approach, while Twilight was engaging a large cluster about fifty meters further upwards. They hastened to get into position as General Warfist moved to rendezvous with them. The sight that greeted team was disheartening; the thickest swarm that they had seen yet was approaching fast.

“You all know what to do?” Path asked.

“Yes, Love, we know,” Roseclaw replied. “We clear the way for Twilight to cast her entrapment spell. It isn’t that complicated.”

Simple, but with one major complication, Path knew. It was a line-of-sight spell, and it was essential that they keep a clear path between Twilight and Chrysalis to activate the complex enchantment. Considering the enormous number of drones accompanying their queen, that was going to be a huge task.

Path did not wait until Chrysalis reached the shield, instead electing to meet her partway. Warfist had his troops flanking the threesome to take the edge off any attack, but the core members would have to take the brunt. Within moments, the two groups clashed.

Immediately Path knew that they were in trouble. These drones weren’t acting in the same manner as all the others. While those had nearly mindlessly attacked the shield and only fought with the defenders if interfered with, these drones were actively resisting. No, more than that! They were being guided. Unyielding force met every attempt to force their way into the defensive sphere at the center of which had to be their nemesis. So densely gathered were the drones that they could not even glimpse Chrysalis within.

“Fall back!” Path ordered.

As the group hastily retreated to the shield, mocking laughter followed them – laughter that was terribly familiar to Twilight. They stopped with the shield at their backs to face the changeling queen. The drones parted enough to see her hovering there, a contemptuous look on her face. Twilight hastily fired a spell in her direction, only to have it instantly blocked by several drones. Twilight tried again and again with the same result. As always, there was a never-ending supply of drones to act as shields.

“Twilight!” Path called out. “Can you make some sort of shield to push those drones aside, say a cylinder to make a clear line-of-sight to Chrysalis?”

“Specialty force-fields are more my brother’s department, but I think I can manage. However, I won’t be able to cast the entrapment spell at the same time.”

“I’ve got the emergency back-up, remember?”

Twilight did remember, but even now she was not keen on trying out the untested set-up. Nevertheless, their options were non-existent. “Okay, let’s do this.” Her horn lit up, and after a moment’s intense concentration, a narrow cylindrical field extended from it. The beam pushed aside drone after drone until it reached its target, and then rapidly expanded to push aside the changeling blockade. “Now!” she yelled.

Path had the spell keyed into the tek-horn already, awaiting the right moment. He flew up to the centre of the cylinder and triggered the entrapment spell. It flashed over to Chrysalis and burst, surrounding her with a softly glowing mesh of delicate filaments.

“What is this?” Chrysalis demanded, batting away the mesh with a hoof. “Do you truly thing such a flimsy web can hold me?” To prove her point, she flew upwards. Although the mesh stretched dangerously, it held, but the crystal capacitor’s hum rose to a painful squeal as it supplied the mana needed to power the spell. Chrysalis tried again with more effort, and the squeal became a screech and the crystal grew hot. Meanwhile, unnoticed by Chrysalis, nodes on the net began glowing in sequence, and the interstices between the nodes filled with a solid magic shell. Section after section began to fill, and the flexible net began to grow rigid. Finally Chrysalis noticed and realized what was happening.

“No! You will not capture me so easily!” Her long, crooked horn began to glow intensely.

What’s happening?” Cadance’s worried voice came over the comms. “The drain on the Crystal Heart has suddenly doubled! If this keeps up for much longer, it might shatter!

Twilight was helpless to interfere – she had to maintain the line-of-sight field, and the drones were relentlessly battering away at it. “Path – you have to complete the spell!” she yelled.

“She’s fighting it so hard that it’s taking too long!” he yelled back, even as section after section shut off even more of the queen’s escape route.

There were just a few panels to go when a huge flare of power from within shattered the cage that had built around her. The magical feedback caused the power crystal on Path’s back to explode, knocking the earth pony out of the air. His frantic attempts to use his tek-wings barely broke his fall. He groaned from the pain of the impact and the burns on his back, but by far what hurt the most was the contemptuous laughter of the changeling queen.

# # # # # # # # # #

Author's Note:

Whew! This was not easy to write, and it grew to be a lot bigger than I thought it would.

So - how many of you figured out that Sunset Shimmer was the extra mare? I don't expect everybody to like the Equestria Girls stuff, but you can treat Sunset as being a pony in exile instead, and that will be fine. In order to pursue the idea of alternative avatars, I needed likely candidates, and let's face it - Twilight is a hard act to follow!

Anyway, now to figure out how the heck to get the heroes out of this mess!

ART CREDITS:
Captain Kerbarok was drawn by Kat Miller.
The City Siege and Alicorn Free were drawn by Baron Engel.

   
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