"What do you mean she isn't coming?"
Lightning Dust was, understandably, upset over this news. She stood at the entrance to the main tunnel leading into the changeling hive, the air within cold and damp, and served as a stark contrast to the dry and hot air of the wastelands surrounding it. Her anger was directed towards the one who stood by her, Sombra. Under normal circumstances, he might have been rather upset that one of his subordinates was speaking to him like this. However, he was rather annoyed by the news himself.
"Chrysalis' command was clear. She will not be joining in the battle. However, you and I have command of hundreds of changelings that she has given to us in trust. Couple that with the other recent addition to our forces and we'll have more than enough raw power to take down the city."
Lightning had no doubt that they had amassed a very impressive force. All she had to do was glance to her right, out of the tunnel entrance to see that. Out on the wide open spaces in front of the hive, was their army. Hundreds of changeling drones, arranged in groups of a hundred, all lined up like a professional army. In between the various groups was their other ace-in-the-hole, the dragons. There were dozens of them, all standing silently in-between the changelings, their eyes still glowing with the enchantment that Sombra had placed on them.
But still, Lightning was uneasy.
"Sombra, even with all this, Canterlot will be no easy target. Did Chrysalis give a reason as to why she won't be joining?"
Sombra simply shrugged his shoulders.
"She gave no reason. Regardless, it's probably better if the army only had one voice to command them instead of two."
Lightning wasn't satisfied with that answer, but nodded in agreement anyway. Another look at the large force outside the hive was enough to intimidate even a mare like her. This was it, she told herself. Ever since she'd been made privy to Sombra's plan to eventually attack the Equestrian capital, she could never quiet believe it. She'd always suspected that something or somepony would come along to thwart his plans. But instead, Sombra had achieved victory after victory, with the other side only ever able to react to his actions rather than stop them.
She had no doubt at this point that Canterlot was in for one hell of a fight. And turning to see Sombra, and that look of sheer determination on his face, she knew that he intended to unleash a devastation that Canterlot had not seen since the first changeling invasion a year ago. Sombra caught a glimpse of Lightning's face and her apprehension, which she foolishly tried to his from him by looking away.
"You have no need to hide your concern from me child. I know that you've been worried about my plan for some time"
Lightning's heart froze. Did he suspect her of treachery? Perhaps a desire to leave his group? Whatever he thought, his face showed no anger or sign of being upset with her, instead bearing his usual stoic expression.
"But you need not worry. Even siding with me, you will face no consequences. For the time will come when it is I who rules this land. History is written by the winners after all. Have no fear Lightning. For with the power at my disposal.......even Celestia will fall."
Gazing out on the balcony, she allowed herself a brief moment to enjoy the still air. The skies were clear, the only sound that of a gently breeze, and the city of Canterlot looked magnificent as always. But as pleasant as things may have seemed on the surface, Celestia knew it was all a lie. The calm before the storm, she told herself. That's what this was. Nothing more than a brief respite before the terror that would soon be unleashed upon this city.
The princess soon heard the sound of hoof-steps coming from behind her. She did not need to turn, for she knew that sound well. It was her sister, Luna, no doubt returning to inform her of the preparations that had been made to defend Canterlot. Soon enough, Celestia could see her in the corner of her eye as the night princess took her place by her side. There was a pause for a while as the younger sister also allowed herself to enjoy the calm, as much as she knew it couldn't last.
"Sister....the preparations are complete."
Celestia nodded before finally turning to face her completely. Luna's expression was one of apprehension, as was to be expected. They both knew battle was coming, and despite both of them being powerful enough to overcome most foes, neither had ever revelled n a fight. They'd always tried to avoid it through diplomacy or some other non-violent means. But now they faced a foe who was interested only in their destruction. But, choosing to deviate from such thoughts, Celestia enquired further.
"They've all been evacuated down into the crystal caverns beneath the city. It's been made safer down there for them to stay for an extended period of time. Even if Sombra smashes this city to pieces, the ponies will be sheltered down below."
Celestia was relieved to hear that. Even though no ponies had been harmed in the last changeling attack, there had always been the chance that they would, so efforts had been made to provide safe shelter should such an attack occur again. But now they had to consider other defences.
"The royal guard?" Celestia asked.
Luna nodded again.
"The unicorn divisions have been posted to all the towers and battlements around and within the city. Should the enemy attack from the skies, which they no doubt will, they will fire upon them with magic. The pegasi have been assigned to the mountain range behind the city, ready to fly down on the enemy in ambush. As for the earth pony guards, they've been placed within the palace and other important buildings in case the first two divisions fail."
Celestia nodded. All the preparations had been made. Now there was only one final step. Luna looked towards her sister as she closed her eyes tight. The younger sister was concerned for her, ahs she frequently was, and place her hoof on Celestia's shoulder, breaking her concentration.
"Celestia, You have not had to cast such a large defensive shield for a very long time. Will you be alright?"
The elder sister gave Luna a small smile. Having Luna show such concern for her was one of the few things about this whole situation that gave her some comfort. But, as much as she appreciated such concern, she knew she had no choice but to proceed.
"I will be sister. Shining Armour may have been more proficient in shield spells than I, but hopefully my alicorn power will make up for that."
Luna opened her mouth to try and convince her otherwise, but she knew there was no point at this stage. She merely sighed and nodded, allowing Celestia to get back to work. She stepped back as Celestia closed her eyes once more and concentrated. Her horn began to glow it's usual bright yellow colour, which grew brighter and brighter as the moments rolled by. Eventually, Celestia was ready, and she pointed her horn directly up at the skies above Canterlot, ready to cast her spell.
"Did Twilight say what we're doing here?" She asked.
The group had been standing on the train platform for some time now, waiting for their recently-recovered friend to arrive. Rainbow Dash, Applejack, Fluttershy, Rarity and Pinkie Pie had all been asked by Twilight to wait at the station for her. And they did as instructed and had been waiting patiently for her to join them. None of them, knew what she was planning, only that it was urgent. Rainbow, who had been the one to ask the question, was the most jittery about the whole thing.
"She knows how much I hate waiting. What could she possibly be planning?"
None of the others had any answer to that, being just as much in the dark about this as she was. But soon, they no longer needed to speculate, for they all heard the sound of rapidly-approaching hoof-steps coming towards them. Turning, they smiled to see their friend, Twilight, run towards them. But their smiles vanished as they saw who was with her. It was a blue unicorn mare running alongside her. Trixie. The group still had their issues with her and were, needless to say, less than thrilled about her being here.
But that thought was pushed aside as they noticed something that Twilight was doing. Because, as she was running, she was also using her magic to levitate six objects above her head. Five golden necklaces and one golden tiara, each containing it's own specialized jewel. The elements of harmony. It was here that they group realised that, whatever Twilight was planning, it was serious. As Twilight and Trixie approached, they slowed down, eventually stopping as they reached the group.
"Thanks for coming girls." Twilight said.
They all nodded at her after she said this, but many among them began to stare at Trixie with less-than-friendly looks. Trixie looked away from them, knowing full-well how they felt about her. Twilight meanwhile looked from the group, to Trixie, and then back to the group. It didn't take her long to figure out that her friends weren't happy about having her here. She didn't blame them for holding a grudge, given everything she'd heard Trixie did during her absence in Ponyville, but there were bigger concerns here.
"Girls. I know you've had problems with Trixie in the past, but we need to focus. Sombra is close to making his move and we have to work together to stop him."
That got their attention. The group gave each other looks of concern before Applejack stepped forward.
"What do we do?" She asked.
Twilight concentrated on her magic and moved the elements. The tiara landed gently on her head and the five necklaces went to each of their respective owners. Once all of her friends had their elements, she explained the plan.
"We're getting on this train to Canterlot. That's where he'll most likely make his move. Trixie and I are going to do what we can to try and stop Sombra. If we can, we'll need to use the elements of harmony against him."
The group understood the plan, and nodded in agreement. As happy as Twilight was that they would follow her in this, she felt a need to explain to them just how dangerous this whole thing was going to be.
"Girls......I won't lie to you here. What we are about to do could well be the most dangerous thing we've done yet. Sombra will not be attacking Canterlot alone. He'll have the force of an entire changeling army behind him, as well as more magical power than we've ever seen him wield."
It was clear from their expression that they understood just what that meant. They'd seen Sombra's power before, able to surround and corrupt an entire empire without much effort. If his power had become even greater than that, then their chances for victory became even less than they'd feared. But Twilight continued regardless of this.
"I won't force you to come with me. There is a very real chance that any one of us could become hurt by this. Perhaps......even worse than that. And so, if any of you don't want......"
But Twilight was stopped by Rainbow Dash, who landed right in front of her with an angry look on her face, making Twilight step back.
"Don't you dare Twilight! After everything we've been through, how can you even think that we'd leave you hanging?"
Twilight's mouth was gaping open, having not expected to be interrupted like that. Rainbow continued.
"You're our friend. You've brought us back together many times before, at points when we all thought all was lost. You gave us hope at times when we could find none. You've led us against evil time and again. And even when you fell, we did not abandon you. We will NOT abandon you here!"
Twilight looked from Rainbow to all of her friends. All of them had looks of determination on their faces, each one ready top accept this task Twilight had gathered them for. The purple unicorn couldn't help but crack a smile. Silently, she blessed her stars that she had been fortunate enough to have friends like these. Rainbow stepped forward and placed a hoof on Twilight's shoulder, smiling back at her and nodding. This was followed by nods from all of the rest. Glancing at her side, Twilight saw that even Trixie was looking ready for this.
Twilight sighed and nodded in response. Then, all of their attention was gained by the sound of the horn of the train, with steam pouring from it's top. They all gave each other one final reassuring look before boarding their cabin. After a few moments, the train began to move, gradually building up speed. As the speed of the train increased, Twilight, having taken her seat in the cabin looked out of the window, and saw Ponyville becoming smaller and smaller as the train moved away.
She had every confidence in hers and her friend’s ability to fight evil. But in spite of that, doubt ever gnawed at her heart, and she wondered to herself, with the power at Sombra's command, did they even stand a chance?