Cloud Zapper and the Sacred Heart Saga by AlmanacPony
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Book 1 in the 'Sacred Heart Saga

Thing's are not so calm as they appear. An underground whisper speaks of an army growing, of a danger around the corner, of a prophesy yet to be fulfilled. But what can one Royal Guard do when he has no evidence of the coming dangers to show those that he relies on, how far can he go to prove of the impending doom?
Join Cloud Zapper as he breaks all the rules to go to the one place Pony kind should never tread: Maren-en-Gwlas.

Cloud Zapper and the Golden Sun

 


 

Dark images flashed.

The sound of rushing in the veins, the sound of steel clashing against steel breaking through the darkness and the coppery scent of spilled blood…they were all very familiar.

Too familiar.

But that was part of the job right?

To protect and serve, to hunt and take down…to fight.

But He had fought more than most.

He had fought too much.

His mind reminded him, reminded him of what had happened, the slashes, the flapping of wings, the feel of a sharp blade cleaving through flesh and bone, the splashing spray of crimson blood.

His mind reminded him of the present; the serving, the kneeling, and the doing of his duty and what it had cost him. Family, friends, yet was he so content?

He tried to be.

But then his mind changed. He felt a rushing, he felt a pain and then he saw what might come to pass.

The cackling of green fire licked his skin, the soft moans in the dark, the foreboding images of death and screams and there he saw it, green dark eyes in the shadows, glaring out with lustful desire.

And then the fire consumed him.

Cloud Zapper woke abruptly, sweat pouring from his face as he shook, looking around.

“W-what?” He asked himself, panting softly as he gazed around his room. The stallion sighed, running a weary hoof through his white and blue mane, looking around.

Azure eyes closed to allow the stallion to gather himself before he looked out the window. It was dawn; Luna was lowering the moon on the highest ivory tower.

He sighed at her beauty, the way that her flowing celestial mane blew in the breeze with an eerie yet beautiful darkness.

He wasn’t in love of course; his admiration was purely a fact of his devotion to the princess and her sister.

Cloud Zapper was a Royal Guard.

Pulling himself from his bed, he stood up tall. He wasn’t extremely built, even smaller than most other Guards though not by much. His abilities lay in his speed, and he was defined by his loyalty and sense of justice. His flank bore the cutie-mark of a yellow heart in a blue shield. The mark represented his love and devotion for his duty, and the justice and protection of others.

Cloud Zapper padded over to the closet, opening the doors to reveal his golden armour. It bore several distinctions from usual armour. The official artificial mane on the helm had been removed; allowing his personal mane to flow freely, this was a symbol of the royal respect he had earned, and the trust that was laid on him.

Cloud wasn’t a captain or anything; he was part of a very small division known as the Inquisitor Guard. They were a small group of elite royal guards that had earned the respect of the crown through many deeds, and had earned the right of investigation.

Every guard needed to investigate events that concerned threats to the crown, but Cloud was allowed the right of pursuit. He was able to leave the palace and the princess’s side to deal with far off threats from particular individuals. They were the detectives, the judge, jury, and executioners for the crown. They were loyal, they were fierce, and while Cloud Zapper was young, he was quickly placing his name up there with the very best of them.

He smiled at his armour before closing the door and heading out of room without putting it on. He’d best get himself cleaned up first.

The barracks where the Guards officially slept were actually rather grand, but it did hold military significance, so it was communal showering.

Entering the shower area several other fellow guards were already up, ranks that he overshadowed in authority, but not so much as to warrant a salute.  

He entered the shower area and turned on the stream, sighing happily as the hot water cascaded over his mane and his body, his grey fur becoming dense and slightly heavier as it collected water.

“Looking forward to a good day?” A voice said to his right.

Cloud Zapper turned and grinned at the other stallion, looking him over.

This was Captain Sunride. He was one of four captains stationed at the castle.

The Palace guard where separated into four groups.

The Militia Guard:

These were the guards on show, constantly surrounding the princess’s, they were the face of the royal guard, a show of strength and their duty was simply to be there. To protect, and defend the palace as needed. They were the first and last line of defence for the palace and the princess’s alike.

The Inquisitor Guard:

These were the guards that investigated, tracked and captured or took down targets of importance who were a danger to the princess’s and the kingdom. They often worked outside of the royal decree, using their smarts and ingenuity to achieve their ends. Cloud Zapper was one of these.

The Aerial Guard:

These were made up of only Pegasus. Most of the other guard groups were a mixture of races, but only Pegasus could take this role. They were the guards that transported the princess’s, they pulled the carriages. But they were not simply labour mules; they were the first and last line of defence for the traveling princesses. As they travelled and transported the princess’s, large groups of them would fly above unseen, scanning everything. They required excellent eyesight and the ability for ground and aerial combat; they were firm and deadly when challenged.

And finally;

The Mystic Guard:

Only Unicorn could enter this guard unit.

Famously founded by their first member, Starswirl the Bearded, who through his research and prowess in magic, managed to both discover several ancient magicks, and also protect the princess’s during their early reigns.

Only unicorns with great magical potential were able to enter this particular guard set, and their aim was to research magic, enhance their own skills, discover potential ways to aid Equestria in their studies, and protect Canterlot and the palace with their magic if they were required.

Captain Sunride before Cloud was the captain of the Militia guard. He was physically built strong, like that of a shire pony and taller than most. He was over a head taller than Cloud, but there was no lack of respect. He and Cloud were actually good friends.

“I suppose,” Cloud responded to the greeting, shrugging his hunches, looking up into the stream of water, closing his eyes and letting it wash over his muzzle.

“You suppose? That’s not like you Cloud. Is something wrong?” He asked sounding somewhat concerned.

Cloud shrugged and sighed, thinking back to the dream he’d had, and how real it seemed.

“I suppose I just haven’t been sleeping well.” He said, giving a slight smile to the captain who simply smiled back. The captain gave him a somewhat mischievous grin that brought a light flush to Cloud’s cheeks.

“Well if you need help waking up, I suppose I could help you out there.”

Cloud Zapper was not unused to such advances.

Three of the four guard types only allowed male guards in them. This wasn’t a sexism ideology, simply an old doctrine that had never went out of style, and the style of life very rarely invited many mares into the field. Only the Mystic Guard had frequent female members.

Because of their personal vows to the princesses as part of the oath of the guard, they were not allowed to seek family whilst in service to the princesses.

No families coupled with living together and barely leaving the palace meant that a tradition between the males had rapidly grew, and enjoying each other’s physical company was not an uncommon thing in the shower rooms..

Cloud Zapper could already feel his own body start to stir and excite and he smiled up at the captain.

“I suppose I wouldn’t mind a little aid to improve my mood.” He said, grinning softly, feeling his shaft slip from his sheath, hanging low below him.

The other male eyed it with a smile and turned his body, presenting his own rather large shaft.

Cloud Zapper needed no invitation, and it wasn’t long before his lips were over the other stallion’s member, tasting the flavour eagerly before slipping him into his maw. He didn’t mind that there were in the public shower rooms, it wasn’t the first time, and he had no doubt some other guards may enjoy themselves before the shower was over.

He suckled the tip softly, letting his tongue run over the flat equine head with a soft moan, enjoying the taste. The other stallion however had different plans than enjoying the smaller male’s mouth. He grabbed Cloud Zapper and turned him around, wasting no time in mounting his back.

Cloud moved his tail out of the way, and the first touches of that shaft at his tailhole had him groaning softly before with a loud gasp it was thrusted in, feeling his rump spread around the large equine penis

No stranger to this play Cloud happily bucked back, grunting as he pushed the shaft deeper, his cheeks flushed pink as he felt the other males balls press against his own; his own cock drooling pre onto the wet floor.

The Captain began thrusting, the first rut eliciting a heavy groan from Clouds maw as he gasped, grinding back, shuddering and panting as the other male picked up a steady rhythm.

The shaft speared him deep, rubbing against his prostate and sending Cloud into a plethora of pleasurable sensations, panting hotly and grinding back, every thrust against his prostate sent his own shaft twitching and drooling pre-cum ever more copiously to the wet floor below.

He as panting, letting out heavy moans now. Captain Sunride was grunting, holding him tighter and thrusting firmly into Cloud Zapper below him, his balls slapping the other males loudly as he felt his shaft tip beginning to flare.

“Gonna cum…” He grunted, panting as he thrusted faster and harder, Cloud Zapper letting out heavy moans before Sunride slammed in with a single rough thrust.

Cloud gasped, feeling his prostate struck by the firm blow sending his body quivering, his own equine shaft erupted, his cock pouring hot seed over the floor as he felt his tailhole filled with the other stallions cum. He blushed and smiled, groaning as Captain Sunride pulled out.

He turned to the smirking face of the captain, a smile on his own face as his body still quivering slightly.

“Feel better?” The captain asked curiously, a rather smug smile adorning his face.

Cloud nodded and sighed, finishing his wash he grinned. “Thanks, I kinda needed that.” He said, feeling much better after some good sex.

Cloud Zapper left the shower room and dried off, making sure he was once again in his sheath and fully dried before heading back to his room.

Upon arriving he went back to his closet, opened it and picked up the helm from its stand.

Placing his helm on, he threaded his mane through the back so it flowed down properly. The helm was a snug warm fit, more comfortable than it looked, but he wasn’t quite sure if that was its design, or simply so many years of wearing it.

Taking the rest of his armour and latching it onto his body, he moved to the mirror

There stood a strong stallion. His blue and white mane flowing out of the back of the helm and down over the golden armour that reflected bright rays of the dawning sun. It glistened, newly polished the night before.

The night before…the dream.

Even the euphoric aftereffect of sex couldn’t take away the gut feeling that something was wrong.

Those dreams he’d had were more than what they seemed, he could tell. They had been so vivid, vivid enough that he could almost still taste the coppery taste of blood from the battlefield.

He sighed to himself and shook his head before heading for the door. He had a job to do, and standing around contemplating dreams wasn’t going to get it done.

When not on a particular assignment, Inquisitor Guards patrolled the palace areas and did the rounds questioning informants.

Informants were particular ponies not within the guard, but entirely outside of it. They were often called the Little Spiders, because they had webs of contacts and ears to the ground, they were usually the first to tell when danger was incoming against the palace; unless the Mystic Guard beat them to it with prophecies of course.

Prophecies…there was another headache he didn’t want to deal with.

Prophecies were the bane of all guard. They were often unavoidable, and sometimes trying to avoid them would make them happen anyway. It was the mystic guard’s primary job to deal with prophecies, to make them, to discover them, and find out which ones needed to be called to attention. To Cloud Zappers knowledge, no current prophesies were much of a problem or threat. He hoped.

Surely if a bad one had been discovered, as guards of royalty they would have been informed to be prepared for the threat, so he supposed the lack of news and information was a good thing.

Cloud Zappers informant was an earth pony. His blue coat and white mane didn’t set him apart from others very much, the only main identifier he had was a lack of a cutie-mark. But this wasn’t due to being a blank-flank, he covered it using makeup.

Most the guards avoided using him as an informant. Generic Blue was considered shady and not the most reliable of ponies. He often had ulterior means, and always knew more than he let on.

But he talked for Cloud Zapper.

They went way back.

Cloud Zapper was the only pony in Canterlot that knew the true identity of Generic Blue. An identity he wasn’t about to reveal to anypony, no matter the cost. He valued his friend too much, even if he was a bit of an ass sometimes.

Cloud Zapper clopped down the steps into the low alleyways of Canterlot; he turned right and knocked on a door. A panel slid back.

“What’s the password?” A voice called out from the other side, purple eyes looking out at Cloud, scrutinizing him. He knew exactly who Cloud was, but with things like Changelings in the world, couldn’t really be too careful.

“There is no password.” Cloud replied, smiling.

The pony looked him over and grinned, opening the door. ‘There is no password’ was in fact the password. It was a rotating system. A password would be used for two weeks, and then there would be a week where the password was ‘there is no password’ before a new one was chosen.

The door opened up into a dimly lit hallway with stairs traveling down. He moved downwards, his hooves clopping on the stone below before he reached the bottom, and turned the corner. He entered into what could only be a storehouse basement, a basement which had now become the home of Generic Blue.

He had hired men with him, making sure he was protected, and sat in the middle on a rather comfy looking chair.

Generic Blue wasn’t rich, he didn’t need to be. Knowledge was power, and there were few that knew more than the stallion in front of him.

Generic Blue turned to him, his black eyes piercing Cloud Zapper with a glare, a glare that soon turned into a bright grin.

Black wasn’t the real colour of his eyes, he covered it with contacts so that he wouldn’t be recognised in his everyday life. He went to great lengths to make himself forgettable. His mane was temporarily bleached a pure white, his blue coat a standard colour that was on many a pony in Equestria, not a single part of him looked like he would be anything more than a random pony.

A pony in the background.

Of course, Cloud knew the real him. Knew the real colour of his coat, his mane, his eyes, knew his cutie-mark.

But Cloud hadn’t seen the real him in years. They had lost contact for anything other than business. Now he only saw his friend as ‘Generic Blue’. It had been almost six years since he’d seen his friend’s cutie-mark, the true colour of his eyes, mane and coat. He hoped one day to rekindle the friendship, but he doubted that would happen.

“Cloud, what can I do for you today?” He asked cheerfully, grinning broadly as he hopped out of his chair to join him. Ponies were close by, all eyeing what was happening casually. They were the guards, the protectors, and while not a one of them could stand against Cloud Zapper alone, the mass of them were a real threat. They protected Generic Blue. Whether out of unusual loyalty, or due to being forced to, as Generic had something on them, a blackmailed guard. Either way, they were obedient and always ready for a fight if it was needed.

Generic Blue was almost as well protected as the princesses.

“Standard visit I’m afraid, just wanting to know the usual.” Cloud Zapper informed, he visited Generic Blue on an average of once a week, just to gather basic information if it could be found. His visit days however constantly changed and were randomised, this was to protect himself, as much as Generic.

Predictable tropes could get a pony killed, best to keep your life random so you’re hard to follow.

“Well it’s a good thing you arrived. I may have some little tid-bits for you.” Generic chuckled. “I have heard news of some stirrings in the east. The Changeling’s are stirring apparently. They haven’t done anything much, raided a few towns here and there, but that’s pretty usual for the area. But that’s not the interesting part; would you like to know the interesting part?” He asked as his hoof extended.

Cloud Zapper reached out and emptied some bits into the pony’s hoof, bits that Generic quickly stashed away.

“The interesting part is that they aren’t just killing or stealing, they are capturing and foalnapping ponies of all kinds, most notably unicorns.”

Cloud Zapper bit his bottom lip, not liking the news. “Do you have anything else?” He asked hopefully.

Generic just shrugged, “maybe.”

With a light glare Cloud Zapper was keenly reminded of why they had drifted apart as friends in the first place. He pulled out some more bits and placed them in Generic’s hoof.

The blue pony chuckled.

“Go to your mystics. I think they’ll have something interesting to add to this. There might be an old prophecy that they aren’t heading.”

With such a vague answer despite being paid more, Cloud Zapper knew he wasn’t going to get anymore from Generic; it was all the blue pony likely knew, or at least…all he was willing to share.

Bidding Generic goodbye, Cloud walked out and took off into the air once out the door.

The wind lifted up his wings and allowed him to soar high as he headed back to the palace. He arrived in only a few minutes, heading inside and to the left. There was a winding stairway down into the library levels, he entered them and crossed past the rows and rows of books.

This was the Royal Canterlot Library, famed throughout Equestria, and was a place Cloud Zapper often wished he visited more. He liked reading, and always loved taking a book to bed at night, but unfortunately his duties often kept him up late, and seldom gave him enough free leisure to pick up a book any other time than the weekends.

At the far end of the library, were another set of stairs. He went down them into what was known as the Propheterium. Rows and rows of ancient scrolls littered the shelves, piles and piles of information and relics and prophecy’s that would have shamed the great libraries of the past in their vastness.

He approached a unicorn mare who wore the studded robed armour of the Mystic Guard.

He cleared his throat to get her attention. She raised her head from her work desk, upon which sat a scroll in Ancient Equestrian she was currently in the middle of translating by hoof.

“Yes?” She asked with a sigh, obviously not happy about being interrupted. “May I help you?”

He nodded.

“I have it under good authority that there is trouble brewing in Marên-an-Gwlas. A stirring of Changlings are capturing ponies for something specific. I have been informed this might have something to do with a particular prophecy; either discounted, assumed completed, or previously overlooked. I will need copies of each prophecy concerning the Changlings.”

The mystic looked at him and just smiled.

“We are quite good at our jobs. If a single prophecy is considered completed, it is because all the signs say it has. We triple check these things so as not to make a mistake. No prophecy is overlooked and very few are ever discounted. I can get you the scrolls, but I fear your search may be in vain.”

The problem with the mystic guard was that they often considered themselves superior on many levels for their ability with foresight. Their magic making them overlook the strength of the other guards as meaningless. What’s the point of battling enemies with weapons when a magical shield will prevent any battle at all?

It was an ideal that Cloud thought stupid, and egotistical. He knew the worth of the Mystic Guard, and they were important of course, but so were all the others. After all, a shield didn’t help the first time the Changelings invaded, and he doubted it would help very much a second.

Cloud Zapper just narrowed his eyes. “Yes, I’d still like those scrolls.”

The mare shrugged, her horn glowed, and slowly a pile of scrolls landed on the table.

Cloud smiled. “Well that doesn’t seem so many.”

And then a hundred more scrolls landed on the pile. His brow dropped and he sighed. He wasn’t going to be sleeping much tonight evidently.

The scrolls were dusty in his hooves as he read through them. The mare had been at least kind enough to give him the translated versions. He wasn’t able to read Ancient Equestrian, so he’d have been here longer if she’d been that cruel.

It quickly occurred to him just how needed the guards were. There were invasions and inceptions and stealthy incursions, and all manner of actions that the Changlings were apparently going to be part of. But after several hours, it became apparent that a particular one fit the bill far more than other.

It was called the Prophecy of the Sacred Heart.

‘Secret voices toe the way,

Watching,

Waiting,

Seeing.

Sacred Heart falls to prey,

A change of shape and being.

Altered mind, to gain the Heart,

A kingdom and a throne.

Shields will break,

Shadows will fall,

The past will then be known.’

He looked over it and sat back.

According to the notes that accompanied the prophecy scroll, this was about the invasion of Canterlot by the Changlings. The ‘Sacred Heart’ is referencing Prince Shining Armour and his marriage to Princess Mi Amore Cadenza, and the ‘kingdom and throne’ representing the threat to the princesses and the kingdom. At least, that’s what the mystics thought.

But Cloud Zapper had some interesting questions.

Prophecies were made in writing. A mystic pony would go into a trance, induced by a mixture of unicorn magic and Zebra Alchemy. Once in the trance the prophecies would sound out, both in speech, but also written down in whatever language it was from. Most notably, Ancient Equestrian. The writing was part of a prophecy as well, magic induced, so how it was worded and spelt became significant.

Every time it mentioned the ‘Heart’, the word was capitalised. As though that was important.

That and the last line concerned him.

‘The past will then be known’, was a foreboding message, that seemed to have nothing to do with that invasion.

More was going on here.

Looking up at the time, Cloud sighed. He’d been reading through scrolls and prophecies for the past eight hours, and combined with his trip into the inner quarter had left him very little time left before he’d need to head back to his room.

To his left, the unicorn mystic came out of a shelf of scrolls and passed nearby.

“Can I have a moment?” He asked kindly.

She gave him an annoyed glance before padding over. “Yes?” She queried, obviously not happy at an Inquisitor being this...inquisitive.

He showed her the notes he’d made. “The capitalisation and the mention of the past concern me in this prophecy. What did you mystics make of it before considering this prophecy concluded?”

The mare shrugged. “I don’t know, that was a few years ago. I wasn’t part of the sect that dealt with that prophecy. Likely it was just considered fluff. A lot of prophecies seem to have a bit of fluff about them in terms of wording, like the powers that send them seem to throw it in just to make it rhyme.” She chuckled and Cloud found himself pleasantly surprised at her attractive laugh. “I wouldn’t worry too much about it. The rest of the prophesy was down to the letter, so unless you can find anything else that supports your idea it might not be over, then I suggest you keep looking, or get over it.” She shrugged, walking away.

Cloud Zapper looked down, and re-read the prophecy.

His fears meant something. He could feel it.

Cloud Zapper had always had good instincts, he’d always known where to look, where to go, what was right, what was wrong. He was always good at knowing when to jump, when to fight, when to talk, when to dodge and when to slash. He didn’t know why, maybe it was his talent. Every one of those skills and instincts allowed him to be an effective protector, always able to take on even the toughest of opponents in battle. At least…so far.

But these instincts had got him this far, trusting them had made him an Inquisitor, helped him survive through many battles and even wars. He was there during the last invasion, fighting against the Changlings. He had seen battle, and his body had the scars to prove it, hidden under his fur coat. He had always trusted his instincts, and he wasn’t about to stop now.

He needed permission to leave.

He needed to go east.

He needed to go to the Marên-an-Gwlas.

The Marên-an-Gwlas, which roughly translated from the regions ancient language to the ‘Land of Holes’ (or ‘Holes in the Land’ to be more literal), was to the east. It bordered with the base of the Chrystal Empire and only the desert separated its borders from Equestria.

Marên-an-Gwlas was an unforgiving land, and often considered especially dangerous to go into. Queen Chrysalis called this her home where she raised her hive of Changelings and for their part ‘ruled’ them; though it was often understood that it wasn’t really so much of a ruling.

The Changelings were of a hive mind. They had their own personalities and personal thoughts when individual, but when among the buzz of the hive their minds would sync with their queens; one mind and one body.

This is what made the lands dangerous.

The entire population of the Changeling race inhabited that singular region, and with so many there, their hive mind was extremely intelligent, and the Queen’s eyes were everywhere in the land.

Legends told of it once being a great kingdom; but it fell prey to Queen Chrysalis well over a thousand years ago, just before the reign of King Sombra in the Crystal Empire; some even considered the events linked.

Cloud Zapper mulled these facts over in his mind as he headed for the throne room. He knew what he had to ask, and he was sure the Princess’s would listen. They often did, they were kind like that.

The sound of his hooves on the floor below echoed around the gilded chambers as he entered the large hall, the thrones before him at the end of the room.

He approached in a dignified manner, his gaze firmly on the princess’s. They seemed to be in conversation but they halted and smiled at him, watching expectantly before he bowed.

Cloud Zapper gazed up at their regal forms. Celestia’s blue sky hair waved in the light, flowing luminously and scattering light across the walls.

Luna was no less regal and beautiful; her night mane casting starry reflections and lights across the wall behind the throne as he gazed at her.

He bowed his head again.

“Princess’s, I request the right to leave for Marên-an-Gwlas. Trouble is stirring in the east with the Changlings, and I believe that a prophecy might indicate trouble and a threat towards the throne.”

Celestia listened and turned to her sister. Luna lifted her chin slightly. “Which prophecy is it you speak of?” She asked curiously.

“The Prophecy of the Sacred Heart, Your Highness.” He answered firmly.

He looked up and he despaired as Luna’s expression changed to one of kind amusement. She found the situation amusing…she wasn’t taking him seriously.

“That prophecy has been discounted. Princess Twilight Sparkle overcame Queen Chrysalis’s attempts and she was banished away by Prince Shining Armour and Princess Mi Amore Cadenza’s efforts. I believe these stirrings are just restless Changelings likely, and you need not trouble yourself. We would prefer you stay, Cloud Zapper, lest we need you in further more important endeavours.”

He grit his teeth. They were kind; they didn’t want him wasting his time. But he knew something was wrong.

“Your Majesty, with all due respect, I have a bad feeling. My instincts have never failed me before. I am certain something big is stirring in those dreadful lands; please give me leave to go.” He said, trying his best to sound dignified, even though what he said was akin to begging.

“No.”

The word hit him like a hammer in his chest.

“We will not allow you to waste your talents. I am sorry Cloud, But you have your answer, return to your duties.”

He stared at the floor. His duties…what duties?

He spent his days, looking around for some kind of trouble, most days he might as well be a militia guard for all the inquisition he conducted. He was TRYING to do his duty right here, to protect the throne.

And they were not letting him.

“Yes, Your Highness.” He said gruffly and walked out without a backwards glance.

He knew what he had to do.

Their final words were to do his duty.

The Inquisitor’s duty was to protect the throne at all costs. And that meant even his honour as a soldier.

Cloud Zapper was going to disobey orders.

Gathering everything he’d need, he shined up his armour and headed out, only to be stopped.

At the main gates a militia guard halted him.

“We have been ordered to not let you leave the premises.” He said firmly. “I’m sorry, Cloud Zapper.”

Cloud cocked his head and looked at the guard sternly.

“I was ordered to go about my duties. And that involves using my informants, my most reliable of which is outside of the palace grounds. Will you prevent me from following the Princesses orders?” He challenged firmly.

The guard hesitated, which is just what Cloud wanted.

“Next time, understand what is expected of you.” Cloud bit at him sharply and just walked past. As long as he maintained the superiority and disappointment of the guard, the guard might not remember that keeping him inside was also in fact a royal order.

He managed to get away without another incident, and headed for the lower south quarter. He found Generic Blue’s place again and knocked.

“There is no password.” He said firmly and was allowed in.

Descending the steps he walked down into the large basement area.

A voice sounded out from his right. “I thought you’d be back.”

Cloud turned and saw Generic Blue; he was standing by some saddlebags that seemed fully packed. “I got you what you might need for your trip, and yes, safe passage out of Canterlot without raising suspicions, though you’ll need to lose the armour for a little while.

“You knew they wouldn’t let me go?”

He chuckled. “Of course I knew, if they believed everypony who claimed a prophecy was about to be fulfilled, do you think we’d ever not be at war with someone?

“There are plenty of crackpot ponies that shout about prophecies, so you gotta understand their wariness.”

Cloud Zapper sighed. “But I am one of their most trusted guards-“

“No you’re not.” Generic Blue said firmly, causing Cloud to pause.

“You are just a single one of three hundred guards that protect the princesses. You are neither a captain, nor a high rank. Simply an Inquisitor.

“Tell me, what have you done to give yourself status? You have fought in a single war against the Changelings when they attempted to invade. You have otherwise shown skills, and followed orders, not unlike many guards before you. They only remember your name because the princesses have good memories for that kind of stuff, and they consider it polite.” He shrugged. “The fact is this…you are not special, and you haven’t established yourself as anything other than a normal guard in their eyes.”

Cloud Zapper looked down.

“Now, now. Don’t go getting all mopey on me” Generic Blue said with a wave of his hoof.

Cloud Zapper however thought that easy for him to say. He had no idea how hard it was to do this job, and how hard it was to climb the ranks. His life was his duty, and now he realised his duty hadn’t really mounted up to much.

“Here is your chance.” Generic continued. “You could become great, you could become respected and loved, and all you need to do is get out there and prove your instincts correct.” He grinned.

Cloud swallowed and looked up. “And if they aren’t?”

Generic Blue smiled. “Well that is the problem isn’t it, you COULD be wrong, my information COULD be wrong. But let me ask something, what do you value more?” He asked, approaching Cloud slowly. “Your honour and reputation, or the thrones safety?”

Cloud Zapper gulped.

“If you are wrong and do nothing, you continue to rise in the ranks and protect the throne. If you are wrong and act, then you dishonour yourself, lose your rank, your duty, and everything. But-” He said firmly. “If you are right and act; you save the princess’s, they herald you and you earn title, respect, and the satisfaction of doing your duty.” He smiled. “But...if you are right and do nothing…then the Changelings attack and the fall of Canterlot and the throne falls into your hooves…because you didn’t protect them when you had the chance.

“So what ya gonna do?”

Cloud Zapper knew the answer immediately. “What do I need to do?”

“Remove your armour.” He said with a smile, pulling out a sack. “Store it in here.” He said as Cloud Zapper undressed and placed the armour into the sack.

The cool air ran over his fur coat and he sighed. Despite the fact that clothes were rarely worn by ponies anyway, he felt somewhat exposed and naked without the armour, and he wasn’t sure he liked the feeling.

Generic Blue handed the sack to another pony who took it away to Cloud’s alarm.

“Wait, where are you taking my armour?” He demanded.

“Do you want to get out of the city or not? You can’t as a guard.” He said firmly.

“But you can’t just take it-“

“I’m not.” Generic said firmly. “You will meet up with one of my associates outside of the city; he will return you your armour. But for now, you must trust me. We have a lot of work to do.”

Cloud Zapper begrudgingly agreed.

He wasn’t happy about this. He barely trusted Generic these days. The blue pony was a valuable informant, but almost always had his own agenda’s, and the concept of trusting him with something as precious as his armour was not something he was ever going to be happy with risking.

“Oh, one question.” Generic Blue began with a grin that actually worried Cloud for a moment.

“Erm, yes?” Cloud asked hesitantly.

“How are you with makeup?”

The question had Cloud Zapper worried.

Cloud Zapper was not a happy pony.

He walked with a new mane style, and…well a new everything.

His mane was a deep blue, and curled around him in some sort of effeminate style. His eyes had been changed to pink by the use of contacts, and even his coat had been altered. He was now a bright pink.

They’d even taken the time to alter his cutie-mark. Changing it so while he kept the usual shield, it no longer contained a heart, but instead contained a smiley face.

He knew he looked nothing like he normally did, but he had a strong feeling that Generic Blue had enjoyed designing his new look FAR too much.

With his new look and saddlebags, he approached the gat of Canterlot and just presented papers showing he was headed to Ponyville for some sort of festival or other. The guards didn’t even bat an eyelid.

He walked right past them as though he were any other pony.

As much as he hated this new look, he couldn’t argue with Generic’s results. That pony knew how to make someone a disguise.

Cloud Zapper had to walk the way, the changes to his body had weighed down his mane and coat, and flapping his wings could dislodge the dye and get him caught. Also moisture in the air as he flew would likely cause the fur to streak from him. So he was a Pegasus grounded, and forced to walk down the mountain trek.

After about seven hours he grew a new respect for Earth ponies that constantly stayed with their hooves on the ground

Walking sucked.

His hooves were sore, his ankles blistered, and he was panting from how heavy his pack seemed after carrying it for so long.

He was currently deep in the woods at the base of Foal Mountain and a sound behind him reached his ears.

His soreness and tiredness forgotten he tensed. His body betrayed nothing of his current awareness.

When a something was sneaking up on you to get you by surprise, the best thing to do was turn the element of surprise back at the it, by striking only moments before they did, letting them think at first that their stealth was succeeding.

Whatever it was, it was getting closer. It was behind him.

And at the last moment he stepped to the side, turned and drove his head towards it. The pony behind him didn’t expect it; suddenly Cloud Zappers head was under him, and with great strength Cloud lifted up, forcing the other pony to rear up on its hind legs before Cloud Zappers hooves swept his legs, bringing them down either side of the pony’s body that suddenly found itself pinned to the floor.

“Who are you?!” He demanded with a menacing glare.

The pony looked terrified but pointed to the side; Cloud Zapper glanced and saw a sack, his helm having rolled out nearby.

It was his armour.

Cloud sighed and stepped back. “You should have announced yourself.” He said gruffly, dropping his saddlebag and grabbing the armour. “Are you thirsty?” He asked curiously, the other pony pulling himself to his hooves and nodded.

“You gonna say anything?” Cloud asked curiously, the pony pointed to his throat and shook his head, pointing to his cutie-mark. It was a treble clef and a dash, signifying musical silence. His talent likely being music, but it seemed he was mute.

He sighed and walked through the trees with the sack. He reached a small lake he knew had been nearby.

He let the other pony drink first before he took a deep breath and climbed in. The dye in his mane and fur coming out easily as he washed over himself. The dye spread out in the water, so it was a good idea they’d drank their fill before he climbed in. When he climbed out he was happy to see he was back to normal, though his mane had become knotted. He tried his best to sort it with hooves, but hooves were never built for taking knots out of a mane. He shrugged, gathered up his armour and looked it over. He sighed at the scuffmarks.

“You could have taken better care with this.” He grumbled, setting about polishing it up a bit, but some of the scratches just couldn’t be helped. He donned it, and looked in the river at his reflection.

He looked like he usually did, somewhat dishevelled and damp, but still like Cloud Zapper the Inquisitor Guard.

Smiling he turned to the other pony. “Are you gonna head back now?” He asked curiously, grabbing his weapon from the bag too. Most ponies used different weapons, but Cloud Zapper favoured the sword. The weapon was originally developed by the Griffins, their talons easily capable of gripping the hilt, but Cloud Zapper loved the balance and the weight, also he enjoyed the style. There was a particular style of fighting done by ponies that used the sword, but not many could master it. Cloud Zapper had been trained with the privilege of a good teacher.

The pommel at the base of the hilt was part of a dangerous technique, able to be gripped in the teeth and used to rotate the blade with momentum, allowing for strong precise swings. The teeth were in danger, trying to guard and block and slice with their strength alone could damage the neck and jaw, and took much training to master and gain the muscular strength in the teeth and jaws to manage at all.

Thankfully Cloud specialised in this.

The other pony nodded to the question and Cloud extended his goof. They bumped hooves in farewell before Cloud re-donned the saddlebag and walked away.

Despite the added weight of the armour coupled with the familiar weight of the saddlebag, he felt stronger wearing the gilded metal. His hooves no longer ached like they had, and he walke3d with a better posture than he had before.

Cloud Zapper looked up and flapped his wings. His wings were powerful, more than powerful enough to take to the sky. He had places to be, and a throne to save, and he was not going to tire himself out by walking the entire way.

Thankfully, the saddlebag was a specific Pegasus one, meaning it didn’t cover his wings and hinder his flight.

The saddlebags weighed him down and increased the difficulty of his flight, but he forced himself to continue. Despite the difficulty, it was easier than walking, and faster.

To the east of Canterlot and Ponyville were the desert areas, the desert areas led their way to the buffalo lands and such towns as Appaloosa, but beyond that entered the Crystal Empire territories, for a part.

The Crystal Empire’s borders stretched down in a form of sharp point across the end of the desert, enough of an ownership to be considered a part of their empire, but it was only a few miles across in reality before it entered into the darker regions.

The darker regions were home to two different areas.

The Negasus Kingdom and Marên-an-Gwlas.

The Negasus Kingdom was to the south and Marên-an-Gwlas above it; the top regions of Marên-an-Gwlas actually bordering with the Crystal Empire’s south-east borders.

They were however, rather protected.

Prince Shining Armour and his princess constantly helped the Crystal Empire’s borders with a special shield spell that not malevolent force could enter.

It was considered the strongest shield on Equis; a mixture of Prince Shining Armour’s special shield talent, enhanced by the raw power of the Alicorn Princess Mi Amore Cadenza.

It was said even Celestia and Luna could not break the shield, which is why Queen Chrysalis had needed to weaken Prince Shining Armour and increase her own power before she could manage to invade Canterlot the first time.

Cloud Zapper flew along the higher borders of the desert wastes and looked out ahead of him. The sandy dunes below stretched on for quite a distance, but he could see in the far distance the beginnings of spires and a shimmering light. It was the borders of the Crystal Empire.

The sight thrilled him and he pushed himself to fly faster. He’d been gone from Canterlot for almost a full twelve hours by now, which suddenly occurred to his mind that he may be being hunted. They would likely have sent word by dragon fire to the Crystal Empire, knowing where he was headed.

Figuring avoiding the Empire was a smart move he flew diagonally, so as to put some distance between him and the borders. This sadly increased how long he would have to fly, but he preferred that to getting caught. His leaving wouldn’t be a national emergency, just seen as disobedience. However, there was the chance that the Princesses considered this as a very bad idea, and that the presence of a royal guard in Marên-an-Gwlas could ignite something akin to a war.

He hesitated.

Could that happen?

He felt his stomach drop and toyed with the idea of going back, but shook his head.

His instincts, he had to trust his instincts.

Cloud Zapper forced himself to keep moving, ignoring the nagging feeling that while he was right that something was stirring to threaten the throne that this might still not go as he hoped it might.

But then again, he reasoned, how did he expect this to go? That he wander in, defeat the entire Changeling nation and saunter back out?

Hardly.

He had absolutely no idea, the best he could hope to do was get in there, find some proof of their dastardly plans and deeds, and then head back so that Canterlot could defend itself in time.

After all, he was only one Royal Guard.

Marên-an-Gwlas lay before him.

The striking difference between this land and the last was chilling.

The ground was sandy dunes up to a point and then…it just turned to rock. Cracked rock with dead trees and spires that jutted from the ground before him, like those that made the world had torn the land asunder and separated them with a singular black line of stone.

Landing on the sand he approached the border, and lifting a hoof from the warm sand he stepped onto the black rock. Instantly the temperature changed, his hoof was cold, like there was a barrier, a difference in worlds. He gulped and stepped over the border complete, a light chill running over his coat.

He had no idea if this chill was psychological, whether it was just the starking contrast he saw, or if he was actually stepping into something that was like magic, a land that was damned.

He had a feeling it was the latter.

As his steps moved him through the forest of dead trees, Cloud Zapper had the distinct feeling he was being watched, which likely meant he was.

He walked on, the sound of his hooved echoing as though he were alone in the world, and he certainly felt isolated. The cold dread chilled through to his bones and he not for the first time, wished he had some form of backup.

Looking up the grey Pegasus contemplated rising into the sky to make his way, but he figured that would make him easier to spot, and that was the last thing he wanted. Besides, he knew where he was going.

He had never been to Marên-an-Gwlas before, but the large foreboding spire of a mountain in the distance was something of a good indicator as to where he might need to head.

Anything as abhorrent as the Changelings would likely make their hive in the most desolate and damned looking place in the land, at least, that’s what he reasoned.

The ground beneath him kicked up dust that smelled like burned wood, but it was cold, not like ashes, but something more akin to the ashes of decomposition, like many things had died here and long ago turned to ash over age.

After several hours he finally reached the summit of the mounting. A buzzing nearby had him ducking into a corner as two Changlings flew by, chuckling to one another as they entered one of the caves in the rocks. He watched them go, their black holey bodies with green eyes looked identical to him, but he thought that maybe one was larger than the others. He often worried how they were made, as far as he was aware, queen Chrysalis was the only female Changeling.

Their mating habits however were not what he was here to find. He followed them in, ducking into alcoves so as not to be seen.

Fiery torches lit the way and he found that the two Changlings split off down two ways of three. Three tunnels stood before him and he decided to head down the third, if only because he travelled downwards. He assumed that anything he found would be deep in the mountain, and that meant going as deep down as possible.

The air inside smelled stale and disgusting, but he followed the path anyway.

Despite this being the home of the entire Changeling race, he was surprised to find his ways almost completely unguarded. One or two Changelings did find their way across his path, but quick hiding meant they never saw him, and otherwise his trek was largely interrupted.

This wasn’t really a comfort, he had a feeling he was being herded.

Cloud Zapper headed down a left passage that seemed to spiral downwards and found himself in a new room. There were symbols over the walls.

Re-entering the corridor he grabbed a flaming torch in his maw and brought it back, letting the flame illuminate over the walls.

Gilded walls shone back, hurting his eyes and he gasped.

The walls were covered in writing, much of which was ancient equestrian, but some of it was in modern language.

There were four prophecies.

The first was of the Sacred Heart, a prophecy he was aware of. The second was different.

He began to read:

‘Twilight falls,

The land grows dark,

No starry speckled mane.

Darkness rises,

Hunger groans,

The past is all to blame.

Vengeance delivered,

Vengeance taken,

Vengeance raining down.

Seated throne,

Soon to be known,

The fall of Gifted Crown.’

Cloud Zapper just stared. This was looking troublesome.

He turned to the third prophecy.

He began to read:

‘Corruption lingered,

Darkened core,

Change triggered forever more.

Starry night,

Within the mane,

The Moon returns yet again.

Waited battle,

Ended foe,

Truth rising from below.

The past revealed,

Remaining none,

The Forgiven Soul undone.’

A shiver ran up his spine, making him gulp. He turned to the final prophecy, and as he began to read, his stomach dropped and his eyes widened.

He had to get back to the princesses!

He turned and dark green eyes glared at him mirthfully. He reacted, drawing his sword only to have it knocked away from him and a strong hoof slamming him into a wall and pinning him there.

He stared up into the eyes of Queen Chrysalis.

“Have a good read?” She asked with a chuckle.

Her voice was melodic and actually beautiful, despite its duelled and darkly powerful tone. However, its beauty didn’t stop a chill from racing up his spine at her every syllable.

“Let me go!” He demanded, struggling, his sword having fallen to the ground nearby.

“Of course, as you asked so nicely.” She actually did to his surprise, her hoof removing from him and backing off.

He reacted fast, picking up his sword and charging, he swung his head, his sword skilfully slicing through the air only to stop with a green glow. She yawned and suddenly struck him, her hoof striking him with surprising strength and sending him against the wall.

“Care to try again?” She asked curiously, a mirthful chuckle sounding from her throat.

Cloud Zapper glared and charged, only to jump, spread his wings for a moment before diving to the ground. She had expected an aerial attack; instead he landed on the ground, skidded lowly and slashed out with the sword. She jumped rapidly but the steel bit into flesh and sliced into her hoof. She landed with a growl looked at her hoof that now had green blood drooling from the slight cut.

Her chuckle surprised him as she licked the wound clean. “Very well done young Guard, you are quite the combatant. It’s been a long time since I saw my own blood.” She smiled, her horn glowing.

Cloud Zapper tried to prepare for anything but suddenly he was enveloped in a green glow. Pegasus couldn’t fight well against magic.

“But I suppose with those skills it would be unwise for me to taunt you further.” She shrugged.

Suddenly he was slammed at the wall, a cracking sound reached his ears and a spike of agony from his wing tore through him.

Before he could assess the damage he was slammed up to the ceiling, the breath knocked out of him, dragged along it for a little while, stones cutting into his back before he was slammed down into the ground, screaming as something else broke.

His right wing and left arm were broken; he twitched on the ground, his back bleeding and blood running from his nose.

Queen Chrysalis walked past him and picked up his sword with magic.

“Interesting that you use a sword, very interesting indeed. Not to mention impressive. It took me by surprise.” She admitted with a smile before the blade struck down right through his hoof.

At first it didn’t register due to the shock, but then he screamed, the blade had slid through flesh and bone and pinned into the ground, forcing him to stay in position.

She turned from him to the final prophecy and began to speak, her words adding more and more malevolence and dread to the words he’d already read.

“‘Once three are gone,

The ending song,

The throne returned to claim.

Ancient ruler of darkened Heart,

Returned to rightful plain.

Unopposed by those of Gold,

All fall down to one,

The end of ancient powerful might,

The fall of Golden Sun.’”

Her words echoed out throughout the dark chamber, her face turning to Cloud Zapper who struggled on the floor, blood drooling over his hoof.

“The Prophecy of the Sacred Heart, the Prophecy of the Gifted Crown, the Prophecy of the Forgiven Soul, and the Prophecy of the Golden Sun. Princess Cadence, Princess Twilight, Princess Luna and Princess Celestia” She said darkly, her hiss at the end of Celestia’s name showing obvious disdain.

“I tried to complete them years ago starting with Mi amore Cadenza, or Cadence as you call her, and failed of course. I won’t fail a second time young Royal Guard. Your Golden Sun will fall.”

“They’ll stop you, they’ll read the signs!” He spat back at her through gritted teeth.

“Really? Last I checked they figured a prophecy complete, isn’t that why you came alone?” She chuckled. “They are unsuspecting, they are undefended, and they are alone.” She said darkly. “I will take back what was once mine, and then even more.” She said darkly.

“I will say it again young Royal Guard, your Golden Sun will fall.”

Cloud Zapper stared back at the prophecies, panting through the pain.

It was all about Celestia, all about the Golden Sun. All about the past, but what was the past? Queen Chrysalis ruled this land now, what did she once have that she wanted back? Where did she come from? What was this past?

It felt important for stopping her, important for her plans, and important for her motives. He needed to find out, if not to save himself, then to save the throne.

Lest the Golden Sun fall.


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