Celebrate Your Most Primal Instincts with These Bear Claw-Shaped Meat Shredders
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For all your future barbecues, and for the Wolverine in all of us
Did someone say Father’s Day present?
Here’s the summer grilling item you had no idea you needed: bear claw meat shredders.
If you’re the kind of person who can’t resist trying to grab a piece of meat as soon as it leaves the oven or grill, or perhaps you don’t love getting your hands dirty when making pulled pork, the bear claw is ready to take over for you.
Plus, if you have any inclination to emulate Wolverine from X-Men and you find that real life doesn’t really offer you those opportunities, this particular kitchen utensil might be tailor-made for you — though we do not endorse engaging in any sort of combat with these things.
Besides pulled pork, you could also use these $10 claws to shred your protein of choice, as long as it’s been cooked long enough, so let your imagination roam free.
Heck, we bet you could mix a decent salad with them, if you’re gentle.
Gifts For Friends
Life is all about redefining your vices as positive qualities. In fact, that’s how you become President, if you have the drive to take it that far. But most people prefer to start small, like reframing their nightly glass of wine as something worthy of a prescription. And really, who can argue? It’s a lot cheaper, has fewer side effects, and is actually fun to ingest. And it has culture. Don’t forget about culture.
Explaining to people why they suck gets very, very tiring. Luckily, two inspired authors did all the work for us. All the reader has to do is tear out the pages and deliver them to the appropriate assholes. If only all justice was this easy.
This killer accessory is hardly a gag gift. The recipient of this fine headwear will be commanding respect on the racquetball court and sopping up sweat in style while weed whacking the front lawn. There’s something irresistibly strapping about mullets, and there’s no doubt they’ll reemerge as a hairdo trend if not in this decade, certainly the next. Of course, the lucky stallion that’s sporting this feathered mane has to have the proper attitude to match and that just can’t be taught, so give wisely, my friend!
Everyone who grew up during the golden age of game shows dreamed of one day standing atop the glorious Plinko board, dropping metal biscuits and watching them bounce earthward in the direction of a richer destiny. But since few will ever experience that magnificent moment, we have a smaller, more realistic version for the drinkers of the world. This is Plinko for the people, and we call it Drinko. Because if they can’t end up richer at the end of the day, at least they can end up drunker.
They’ve survived this far living outside the bubble, but why push their luck? Give them this insanely fun inflatable bubble ball, and hope they’re inside it the next time they do something indescribably stupid. A great way to insulate themselves against life’s hard uncertainties.
Personalized gifts are always the best. A picture frame is one thing it’s something else entirely to show them that you know exactly what they want to look at by loading it with pictures that will make them happy. Just make sure you get it right. Otherwise it comes across as a weird attempt at mind control.
In a couple of generations, nobody’s even going to know what the hell a book is. Have you seen a teenager try to figure out how to use one of their parents’ audio cassettes? But for those of us in the know, books are the real source of pure knowledge and wisdom, untainted by the runoff of digital culture. Like a cold, clear mountain stream, but with words.
The good life is all about quality over quantity. Or maybe it’s about quality and quantity. We’re not here to argue. If they still want to swill down cheap rotgut wine by the box, nobody’s going to stop them. It’s their life, not yours. But here’s a great way to broaden their horizons once a month by introducing them to the stuff that’s popular with the people who don’t mix their chardonnay with diet sprite.
Literature and booze have long been intertwined in an unholy alliance of sorts, but this book-shaped flask container takes that tradition and makes it into a real-life, physical metaphor. And unlike most metaphors, this one can help you get drunk on the sly. What looks like an innocuous, nondescript book - the kind filled up with words and ideas and whatnot - is nothing but a devious ploy to camouflage a secret stash of the old firewater. Oh, the devilry they’ll get away with now.
Until we learn to harness our psychic powers, we’ll have to slog through life using technology to communicate our thoughts to each other over long distances. But this is most certainly one of the sweetest ways to slog. Touching one lamp makes the other turn on instantly, so you can let whoever has the matching twin lamp know you’re thinking of them, no matter where they are or how far away. In the age of social media, where mass personal advertisements pass themselves off as “connection”, show someone important that they’re worth a direct line of their own.
Nothing makes you feel more at home in a foreign place than knowing the right way to tell someone to go f*ck himself. Don’t let a traveler you know venture off into the great unknown without arming them first with this essential guidebook. No matter where you end up on this great planet of ours, respect follows those who command the rough outer edges of the language.
A book is more than just a collection of words and ideas. It’s a frozen piece of time — the intersection of one person’s (or sometimes multiple peoples’) thoughts and experiences with the moment in which they were recorded. So sometimes a 50th reprint of To Kill a Mockingbird just doesn’t seem to carry the same weight that it should. Serious book lovers love first editions, because they’re a tangible piece of cultural history.
Poetry is the most appropriate art form for cats, because regardless of the author, nobody cares if a poem makes sense. In fact, the less sense the better. And cats are idiots. Creative, creative idiots, with agendas you never would have guessed.
Go big or go home. Wait, they can do both with these giant yard games! They’ll supersize the fun at backyard parties with these larger than life versions of the games we all played growing up. All sorts of giant games are available including checkers, chess, Connect Four, Yahtzee, Scrabble, Jenga and more.
If they've been feeling a little run down and deflated recently, give them a much-needed boost with this practical gift. They can use it to pump up their car and bike tires, and they’ll be blowing up that inflatable pool in minutes – perfect for all those impromptu pool parties they’ll be throwing now!
We all do it, and yet we all have to pretend we don’t – this book will help you get away with it. The perfect gift for your bathroom-phobic colleague who always ‘pops home’ at lunch, this hilarious book is toilet humor at its best, and is sure to be (secretly) very well-received.
Welcome to the high rollers club! This hefty wad of Benjamins is the ultimate gift for the money-hungry players on your list. Talk about immediate gratification … Enclose a pair of dark aviators, a squirt of hair gel and some ’tude to match and the lucky recipient will feel like they’ve won the cash kitty. Just advise them to proceed with caution though—that counterfeit bulge in their pocket might give them a renewed sense of confidence, but any careless misstep could land them on the FBI’s most wanted poster!
Feeling parched? Snuggle up to this double-fisted bosom and quench your thirst with some nectar of the gods. Best suited for full-bodied reds, this bra bar will serve up the finest burgundies, cabernets and merlots with seduction and sporty spunk. Thick or thin, the legs on this wine-lover’s paradise make consumption effortless, portable and pretty. Jug wine just got really awesome!
Written by James Bond himself (or, you know, an actual real-life spy), this eye-opening book is packed full of genuine, practical tips for self-protection, and is a great present for any loved one or friend. Guaranteed to come in handy during a kidnapping, mugging or zombie apocalypse, you might just save their life one day.
A great piece of meat is only good if you cook it right. And unless you’re going to crawl in the oven with it, it’s going to be hard to monitor it second-by-second so that you know the right instant to take it out. The meater uses wireless communication to signal that dinner is ready. Just like your primitive ancestors.
Admittedly, this is kind of a niche gift. But somehow, inexplicably, this has become a giant niche. Fans of the animated sitcom - as well as the associated blog, comic book, and soundtrack album - will have a great time geeking out to these real life, chef-tested recipes for the outlandishly-named burgers the show is famous for.
Animal farts are the most genuine, because they are done without the slightest comic intent. You could even say human farting is a corrupted act, because everyone knows they’ll get a reaction. Help celebrate flatulence in purest form, with all the colors of the rainbow.
Sometimes we have to trick ourselves into moderation. It doesn’t always come naturally. Luckily, our brains evolved with all kinds of borderline stupid quirks, so we’re not that hard to trick. Any damn fool can see that this is only half a glass, but we bet it will still help slow down said damn fool’s boozin’. And also it looks ridiculous.
If they seem bored with preparing their meals the traditional way – you know, by microwaving them – then this futuristic cooking contraption could be the gift for them. Simply vacuum pack food in a bag, submerge it in water and the all-powerful Sous Vide will turn it into mouth-watering, restaurant-worthy steak. Yes, really. Check out our Guide to Sous Vide Cooking to learn more about this underutilized method of cooking.
Make sure that they’re never caught short (of battery, at least) with this pocket-sized power pack that is perfect for their portable devices. This charger harnesses the power of the biggest battery in our solar system so they should never have an excuse for not returning your call.
This gift gives them actual ownership of a tiny piece of a real Scottish castle, which gives them the legal right to call themselves a Laird or Lady. It’s a perfect boost to their ego, instant bragging rights, and endless opportunities to make them try a Scottish accent. When you add next year’s gift of a kilt to the mix, the transformation will be complete.
Everyone likes a nice stiff after-dinner drink, but sometimes you get tired of swearing at strangers and getting in fights with the sheriff. What’s a country boy to do? A great gift for anyone who’s looking to tone it down a notch but can’t give up the taste of that sweet Kentucky nectar. Or anyone who wants an extra special kick to start the day.
Back when old people were kids, shadow puppeteering was accepted as a legitimate skill. That meant holding your hands in front of a light to create rudimentary animal shapes on the wall, because there was no internet. These candleholders are a serious step up. Just try making a mature cedar with your hands. Ok, stop. It’s not going to happen.
For the person who’ll try anything once, why not pop them in a local isolation tank and deprive them of their senses for an hour or so, see what happens? It might make them feel super relaxed and chilled-out. It could even be an enlightening experience. Or, it might just make them feel lucky to be alive when you finally let them out!
One of the biggest problems with being in public is there are so many things you’re either required or tempted to touch. Door handles, ATM touchscreens, animals, garbage…the list is practically endless. And it’s all contaminated with a never-ending litany of biological hazards and impurities. Germs, chemicals, and various bodily fluids are liberally smeared upon all the surfaces of our civilization. This keychain multitool is the gift from the gods of hygiene we’ve all been waiting for.
Nothing adds a bit of natural flair to an outdoor party better than a large piece of fruit that gets you drunk. Just hollow out a watermelon, insert the tap, and fill it up with your favorite beverage. Let them show off their inner DIY in the coolest way possible.
One problem with our hectic modern lives is that we’re usually nowhere near nature when it calls. Instead, we’re usually in a crowd of strangers, at a public venue with horrible restroom facilities, or stuck in a traffic jam. And having to abide by the rules of social decorum means that women really get the short end of the stick. A simple portable plastic device has changed all that. With the SHEWEE, you’re not only making someone’s life easier — you’re striking a blow for urinary equality.
In case you’re not aware, death is always clawing its way into you through every pore. Make sure everyone else knows about this harsh reality too by giving them this book. Shatter their precious illusions of health and vitality, in the most entertaining and hilarious way possible. A perfect gift for your favorite hypochondriac.
People weren’t joking when they said this coffee is the sh#t. The undeniably rich, full-bodied flavor produced by these rare beans has redefined the food chain and flipped the coffee industry on its head. Perhaps one of the most imaginative adaptations of the farm-to-table movement, this coffee product is redefining waste management.
People love venturing into nature for the near mystical experience of being connected with our pre-civilized roots. We feel a strong, implacable pull toward wild places like the desert and the forest. The problem is, nature really just wants to eat you. This book tells you how not to let that happen.
If they’re anything like us, they’re not wild about some anonymous person manhandling their pork. The problem is, of course, that someone has to turn it into bacon. A make your own bacon kit is the perfect gift for someone who really wants to take control of their lives, starting with the most important parts.
You might remember that snow cone maker from when you were a kid with the crank and Snoopy on top. It was disappointing it was hard to turn and it made tiny snow cones. This thing, though. This makes real deal snow cones and uses electricity. This is not for kids.
Lobsters have many, many great qualities, not least among them are their nutritional and flavor profiles. But they’re dumb as dirt, exceptionally slow, and don’t drive. So if it’s inconvenient for you to go all the way to the ocean to find the best lobsters, you’re going to have to get someone to mail them to you. Thankfully, lobster mail is now a reality.
For the frugal homemaker, there can never be too many ways to save space and eliminate unnecessary appliances, utensils, and the like. So a single stove-top skillet that allows you to fire up a full three-course meal in one go? You bet your sweet pork chop, corn, and baked beans that’s gonna find a place in lots of kitchens. And consider that it’s stain resistant, built to last, and safe for the oven and dishwasher, and it’s clear someone had their thinkin’ cap on at the old pots and pans factory.
Who has time for trial and error? Folks today demand fast-acting, proven solutions to their everyday conundrums. A modern stand-in for the tried and trusted Farmer’s Almanac, this back pocket companion is more reliable than your great-grandmother and more concise than an open-ended Google search. Believe it or not, some of the “smartest” solutions have been around for ages.
If they stuffed some bacon into this box, this would be Ron Swanson’s dream gift. Offering an assortment of classic manly items like booze, old-time hair paste, leather tote bags, and quite the variety of bladed implements, this is a monthly grab bag of masculine goodies tailored to each recipient’s preferences as determined by a pre-delivery personality test. No guessing here — just solid dude gifts based on hard data and great gift-giving instincts.
Take a friend back to their glory days on the streets of Hong Kong with this authentic bubble waffle maker. All they have to do is fill this bad boy with their favorite waffle batter, close the lid, and within a few minutes they’ve got their very own homemade version of one of the world’s most iconic street foods. Add in a stockpile of cheap batter and a few cases of whipped cream, and this could literally keep them alive for years.
Big ideas can change the world, but so do small acts. Not all of us can create the next Google or reinvent the energy industry, but we can all be better at being human. This international, online-integrated card game provides the ideas and the motivation to spread goodwill everywhere you go, one act at a time.
As much as we hate to mention, and we don’t advise you do, they’re not spring chickens anymore and Ben and Jerry probably aren’t the best of people for them to be around. They’ve probably realized this already, so give them a helping hand with their new healthy lifestyle with this marvelous little yogurt maker which will let them create some delicious and nutritious snacks to help make that break up a little easier.
Having to get out of bed to retrieve your favorite stuff is the deepest kind of bummer. And since not everyone has the money to afford a full-time servant, many people are forced to suffer the indignity of placing their bare feet upon the cold, hard floor. This bedside shelf is an ingenious answer to that problem, especially for top bunk dwellers and anyone else for whom a bedside table is not an option. An attractive, eco-friendly, and minimalist way to make sure they have all of their doo-dads, gadgets, and consumables within arm’s reach the moment they wake up.
Whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, or maybe just gives you PTSD. Either way, it’s better than dead. Here’s a book that can help the owner avoid the dead category for a little longer, even when things get hairy. Rough world we live in.
If they're a little clumsy in the kitchen, these cut resistant gloves may help them from accidentally adding unplanned ingredients to their meal (fingers in the coleslaw are never good). Now you won’t need to be suspicious of that red sauce when they invite you over for dinner.
You have no idea how weird the world is. Yeah, we know, you’ve seen your 400 lb next door neighbor dancing to the Bee Gees in his underwear through the front window at 2 in the morning. Take our word for it: that’s nothing. Anyone with a touch of wanderlust and an appreciation for the bizarre will cherish this book.
Sitting on the throne, for lack of a better term, isn’t the place where you tend to feel at your most gallant, but every king or queen needs a loyal knight to serve them and we’ve found just the man for the job. Always at hand when they need him the most, he won’t shy away from coming to their aid in even the most, er, challenging of situations.
We’re not sure how far the constitution goes as far as ring marks on tables are concerned, but if you know someone who’s passionate about defending their household surfaces then you might just hit a bullseye with this present. This set of heavy duty coasters are as much a conversation starter as they are a conservation effort so we’d definitely take a shot on them if we were you.
Flowers don’t just look nice and fill the air with pleasant aromas, they also carry various levels of symbolism. Much like the zodiac, each month has its own flower variety, reflecting the character of everyone born therein. Or at least, that’s what someone decided a long time ago. And it sure is a nice idea. Regardless of whether the person you’re buying for really is a carnation at heart, or whether they’re more of a Venus fly trap, these earrings are going to look great on them.
ICANN Considers Using '127.0.53.53' To Tackle DNS Namespace Collisions/>Two days after Mt. Gox, once the world's largest Bitcoin exchange, effectively collapsed due to the alleged theft of more than $360 million worth of Bitcoins from its system, a U.S. senator has . requested that the federal government "ban" Bitcoin entirely. The post US senator wants to ‘ban’ Bitcoin, but gives Dogecoin a pass (Updated) appeared first on Digital Trends.
19 - Sovereignty
Gentle Repose - 1st of Snowfall, 16 EoH
Crystal Spire - Crystal Empire
Standing at Princess Cadence’s war table was easily the least intelligent thing I had ever done. Not in and of itself, I did have some training in commanding large forces, and a little experience as well. In theory, I could be a good addition to a war plan meeting.
What made this the single most foolish act in my life was the target of choice.
La Palaisville-de-L'empereur. They say its construction on the palace never stopped, when the outer wall is finished, a new wall begins. The official measurements show the fortress as just over three square kilometers of fortifications given the facade of a palace. Prance began its construction six thousand years ago, and simply have not stopped, electing instead to built up more layers of defense just like adding more clay to a ball.
And yet Twilight, Cadance, and Shining Armor were casually making plans to assault a place the combined might of every griffon clan could reach, but not touch. They simply couldn’t know. That had to be it.
“If I may interject,” I interrupted with a frown, urgency compelling me to voice my warning. “La Palaisville-de-L'empereur is-”
Shining coughed in embarrassment, giving me an apologetic frown. “Mister Repose, I’m afraid I don’t speak Prench. Would you mind repeating that in Equish?”
“I didn’t teach you my translation spell?” Twilight exclaimed in surprise as her cheeks pulled up into an awkward smile.
“No, you did,” Shining replied. “I don’t use it unless I have to. I’ve been learning languages for myself. And I have not yet learned Prench.”
“I apologize, I’m used to saying the fortress’s name in Prench,” I said with a diplomatic dip of my head. “The Emperor’s Palace-City is perhaps the largest fortification in the world. Presuming there are no other major landmasses on our world, then it most certainly is. Need I remind you we are discussing an assault on Prance’s greatest fortress? I know my homeland is supported more by magic than technology but these forces are after all, equivalent to one another.
“You seem to be planning a small tactical insertion on a physical and metaphorical labyrinth. The layers of physical defense alone would be a challenge for an army of battlemages to breach. And-”
Twilight laughed, her small giggle sounding almost mocking. “Repose, Everypony here except for Shining has been to the Palace. The anti-teleportation wards around it are based on Sky Chaser's work. They are about two hundred years out of date, and while quite functional, you can easily breach them with a few small tricks assuming you have enough power to do so.
“I was able to teleport myself inside a few days ago. I can take us all right to the Emperor’s room. The real problem will be getting him to his throne. Because the Steward will not likely step down peacefully.”
Ah, well… True. I am talking to a pair of Alicorns.
“Alright, we can get inside,” I conceded with a flick of my tail. “But we have more problems than wards and walls. The Emperor’s Palace-City is the home base for the Imperial Knights. I’m certain you have heard of our Iron Line? That is what becomes of the Imperial Knights upon their death. We don’t train, kill, and then bind them to a sarcophagus. They live a full life, and forsake a true death so as to guard the nation eternally.
“While alive, they are honestly more dangerous, we can rarely reanimate one to their full capabilities as they were in life. And the entire Palace-City is guarded by six of their Legions, with additional Shields of Guard Ponies, and the mage’s auxiliary… As well as a few Master Necromancers, provided by the Necromancer’s Guild, if I am remembering correctly.
“A small force simply can not pack the firepower to survive. Not that I am calling you two weak, far from it. I am simply calculating the numbers and-”
Twilight rolled her eyes. Her horn pulsed with one singular flash of lavender light. The air around Twilight rippled like the waves of heat above the sands of a desert. Tiny motes of light blinked in and out of existence around her, making the air sparkle like glitter.
“Did you factor in my actual power level?” Twilight asked with a bashful smile.
I was forced to close my eyes as her blinding aura blotted out my visual senses. How much bucking power did that mare have!? Her thaumaturgic aura leaked into the visible spectrum!
“Guh!” Shining yelped. “Sis, please… Stop that. Repose does not need to know exactly how powerful you are to calculate the numbers game. One powerful foe can easily be overwhelmed and destroyed by mere peasants if you have enough of them.
“It’s called a Hound Rush. Very popular tactic amongst the Diamond Dogs. I’ve seen it work too. If they outnumber your force twenty to one, it doesn't matter that they have clubs and pointy rocks on sticks with leather shields while you have proper weapons and battlemages. There are simply too many of them to kill or disable before they reach your position and then drown you in sheer numbers.
“It would be one thing if you had any proper combat training to complement your seemingly infinite reserves. But raw power alone will only carry you so far. Even if you are the Alicorn of Magic, Twily.”
“True,” Twilight admitted, her overwhelming aura vanishing, leaving spots in my eyes as if I had decided to look into the sun. “But I’m as powerful now as I was when I fought Tirek. And that’s just with my own power. I think I can handle myself.”
“Yourself, yes. But a group of us must go, and friendly fire is a definite concern. You do remember making Ponyville’s new lake, right Twilight?” Cadence asked as my vision finally returned to normal.
Twilight blushed, and nodded meekly. “Well, I mean, of course I do. That was thirteen years ago, before I grew into my full power and lived with it every day. I had no idea how to manage it back then. I do now,” Twilight said adamantly. “But… You do make a good point. I could easily injure somepony on our side if I simply didn’t notice them.
“Not that it matters. It’s dumb to talk about fighting! We just teleport in, Repose and I fix the Emperor, and we bring the other Elements along too. We all go Rainbow Form, zap the current Steward, and he steps down peacefully. Problem solved!”
Twilight finished her proposal with a huge grin, clearly proud of herself. As I was I. I’d entirely forgotten about the Equestrian superweapon.
“Granted, if we can deploy your super weapon that will really even our odds. Assuming you can’t actually defend against it, as the legends say,” I admitted.
“Can you teleport seven ponies into the Palace, Twilight?” Cadence asked with a thoughtful expression.
Twilight nodded, still smiling. “Of cour-” Her face suddenly fell, a thoughtful frown overtaking it before she was forced to shaker her head, ears drooping. “No. The distance, the number of minds… I could do four safely, five if we wanted to risk things. Can the wards be taken down? Perhaps I can teleport in a few agents who can-”
“No. The wards do not turn off, they are also built between the layers of concrete which make up the walls,” I interjected with a defeated sigh.
“Could we take two trips?” Shining suggested. “Or do all forces need to be deployed at once?”
“We won’t get a second chance if we fail,” Cadence said bitterly, stepping forward to look at the map atop her table. “If we fail, Prance will declare war on Equestria, because we just tried to assassinate their ‘rightful’ leader.
“Just because they didn’t notice Twilight and I teleport in doesn't mean they won't notice if we take a large group inside, or move in multiple small groups quickly. We only know they did not detect a pair of ponies teleporting inside one highly specific room.”
“Ponyfeathers,” Twilight sighed, sitting down as a dejected look overtook her face. “So… Only Repose and I can get in safely, and we have to go to setup the device and work it.”
“That seems like how it has to be,” Cadence admitted. “We could risk sending three if we can’t think of any other options. We have a little time to plan, let’s use it. What can we do with just you two?”
I frowned, brow furrowing as Cadence’s words stuck in my mind. Just two? There wasn’t two. There would be three. Assuming we revived the Emperor, while I hardly expected he would be able to do much more than walk surely he would have a plan. Or perhaps… Yes!
My ears perked as I looked back up to speak to everypony. “His Majesty has had little else to do but plan. I am certain he will know exactly what to do once we revive him. If he has no plan, nothing says he has to retake the throne right away!
“We can evacuate him and then figure out how to get his throne back. Though I expect if he simply walks into any Prench city he would get their immediate support. Um, assuming that he could prove he is the Emperor. Which shouldn’t be hard if he can do what the legends claim he can.”
Twilight’s ears perked excitedly. “He’s right! Nopony will have a better plan than his. I’ll bet he’s done nothing but plot his return since he was put into that room!”
Shining hummed then nodded to himself. “That’s certainly true, and assuming he has no plan that you can enact, it doesn't matter if they spot you leaving. Because you’ve gone. Yes, this is the way to do it. The return point should be this room. Cadence and I can wait here for your return, or to be fetched as backup if something goes horribly wrong,” he decided with a satisfied nod.
I nodded in agreement, then hesitated. I would have to take my watch with me. I would need to actually risk my life for this.
It had been one thing to need to flee the country. There is only so much which could happen to you in the wilderness after all. But to take it into an area where battle mages would be using area denial spells if we were caught? Was I able to justify with risking myself to-
Oh, shut the buck up you overthinking coward! You’re the only pony who can help, and so you will!
“Let’s go. We are only wasting time,” I said with a determined expression.
I turned around and gingerly picked up the Matrix Amplifier and floated it over to hold it close to my body.
“One moment, there’s still one thing to plan,” Twilight said cautiously.
“What?” Cadence asked her lips parting in confusion. “The plan is fairly solid.”
“When we arrive in the Emperor’s room, what exactly do we do?” Twilight asked. “I think that for the best chance of success we should do everything exactly the same as we did with Jiila. I should first cast that hex remover, and then use the same restoration spell on the amplifier as soon as Repose has configured it-”
“Um, why would we do anything else?” I asked with a raised eyebrow. “For all we know, it only worked last time because of that spell!”
Twilight blushed, then laughed, ears flopping with her embarrassment. “I keep forgetting you’re a scientist too!”
I nodded. “Clearly. We can’t change any variable in a working system without testing to be sure they are needed or not, after all. Shall we?”
Twilight nodded and trotted over to me. “We shall,” she said, then her horn burned lavender.
The world was consumed for a moment in purple sparks and clouds. They parted as soon as they came, depositing the two of us onto a sandstone tile floor amid a crackle of purple lightning.
Sandstone? In the Palace? What?!
I took a quick look around me, not believing we had arrived in the right place. We couldn’t have! The room had two oversized doors made of white marble, but sandstone walls which weren't even covered in plaster or painted. Just bare bricks with the odd shelf cut into the wall and some large timber beams holding the roof up and-
“Hello,” a quite silken male voice said happily.
I turned around. My heart stopped dead. Literally.
The Emperor was massive, exactly like the legends said. The white sheet which covered the small dais he rested on had small lumps in it which certainly were made by arcane machinery, but his skull was clearly outlined, as was the arch of his spine and together those features meant he had to be bigger than Light Step by about a third of her own size.
And his eyes. They really did burn like two golden lights. They seemed to look you directly in your soul, not with violence, but with compassion. Somehow that was so much worse than hostility.
Those two golden lights sat behind the sheet which did nothing to diminish their brightness. They lit up the smoke from the bowls of incense laid around his hooves. It was like looking at the remains of a god.
“This room isn’t suited for you, sire,” I said stupidly, too afraid to give the proper ritualistic greeting.
“That’s because it’s supposed to be a pantry,” the Emperor said with a chuckle. “Hello again, Twilight. Who is your friend?”
TWILIGHT WAS ON FIRST NAME BASIS WITH THE EMPEROR.
It’s a good thing my heart had already stopped. That one would have triggered a proper heart attack. And those really hurt…
“I thought you were keeping track of Gentle Repose,” Twilight replied as I forced my ears to stand back upright. “This is him.”
“I’ve never seen him before,” the Emperor explained bashfully. “Good day, Master Wizard. I assume you are here to try and heal me?”
I nodded, gulping nervously. “Y-y… Affirmative!”
Faust’s bloody tears, I need to pull myself together!
The Emperor laughed. “There is no need to be nervous, I can’t bite right now,” he joked.
He cracked a joke. I need to laugh!
I erupted into nervous giggles awkwardly trailing off to rub the back of my head with a hoof.
“I see,” the Emperor said knowingly. “Twilight, can you smack some sense into him for me?”
“I’d rather not…” Twilight admitted with a distasteful grimace. “Repose, please. We have a job to do.”
“It’s the Emperor,” I hissed quietly.
“Yes. I’m me,” he agreed with a snort of laughter. “Come on, son. Use that… Magical fez?”
Fez… Ugh! I was sick and bucking tired of everypony calling it a fez!
“It’s not a fez!” I snapped, ears flattening in anger as my invention was once again mocked. “The base has to be cylindrical to house the inner arcanite coil and the primary spell matrix for the field modulator! The propeller is there to spin and spark each gemstone on the top face six and one-third times per second to modulate the thaumaturgic current to the correct frequency for resonating with the amplifier, and has to be a propeller so the device has a means of cooling via the airflow to ensure it won't melt, and also serves as a dial for selecting the size of the effecting field! The antenna has to be on top of the device or it looks really stupid with it sticking out of a side!”
My eyes flew open in terror as I realized who I had just snapped at. “I’m-so-sorry! It’s-just-everypony-says-that-and-it’s-really-hurtful-to-have-lifetimes-of-work-mocked!”
“I have an affinity for silly hats. That was a compliment,” he replied in amusement. “But please, get on with it. Twilight’s departure last time was noticed, and while the hole couldn’t be patched, there is an alarm ringing in the nearest guardpost. We have-”
Twilight spun around, her horn flaring magenta as she placed a large flat shield over the doorway.
“That will buy us time. Repose, do the thing!” She ordered, turning back to give me an urgent look.
“You need to cast that hex removal spell first!” I reminded.
“Right,” Twilight said taking a deep breath then focusing for a moment as she readied the spell.
The urgency of the situation having pushed aside the shock of actually seeing a childhood hero, allowing me to turn the amplifier’s dial, setting the bubble to cover what I hoped was more space than the Emperor’s body occupied. With the dial turned I carefully levitated the amplifier onto his back, carefully balancing it atop him.
The second I let go, the space around the Emperor warped, bending and twisting in a way completely alien to my mind before snapping back into normality with a flash of white light.
“Spell cast!” Twilight called from behind me.
“The buck was that!?” I asked, jaw hanging open as I tried to work out what school of magic that had even been a part of.
“Oh, Equestria decriminalized the use of Divine Magic? Interesting,” the Emperor mused.
“Divine Magic?” Twilight and I asked together.
“Ah, you didn’t know? What you call the ‘old religion’ taught a unique form of magic. That seems to have been a Light Magic adaptation of- Horseapples! Forget I said any of this. Just drop it. All of it.
“Almost every nation, and the church itself agreed to stop teaching those spells. They are what made the Thaumaturgy Wars so bad. I can’t help talking about things. I’m very very lonely and I’ve lost my brain-mouth filter entirely. Otherwise, you’d never have heard a word of that for the sake of world peace, understood?”
“Well, that proves the letter came from the past then,” Twilight mused with a concerned frown. ”Repose… Um, are we ready?”
I nodded. “Yes, all set. The amplifier is on His Highness's back,” I confirmed.
“Alright, here goes,” Twilight said with a nervous grin. “Mister Prance, in case something goes wrong, I apologize in advance.”
“Oh no!” The Emperor gasped sarcastically. “I could wind up horribly disfigured and paralyzed for life, then stuck under a bedsheet inside a disused cupboard!”
I couldn’t help but smile, the sheer absurdity of the Emperor of all ponies making a sarcastic joke now of all times. I really needed that.
Twilight on the other hoof, rolled her eyes in irritation, closed them, then charged her spell.
Her beam of magic lanced out, connecting squarely with the crystal set in the amplifier. As before, it cracked, sparked, shuddered, then stopped. I took a nervous breath as the device seemed to just die again, only to release it as the golden glow began to wash over the amplifier’s surface.
Whatever that delay was caused by, it didn’t seem to hurt things.
The three thaumaturgic beams lanced outwards, striking the edges of the field like white-hot spears, their light slowly filling the much larger field. A drum like crash boomed out from the doors as something heavy struck them. A second loud crash following the first almost immediately. He had been right!
“Twilight! The doors!” I called urgently.
“Already on it,” she replied, having turned to face the doors, her eyes carefully monitoring her forcefield.
The rear half of the room was washed out by blinding white light as the amplifier reached full power. The room’s doors cracked, marble flaking off the doors showing dark oak timbers beneath the stone veneer. The amplifier’s hum rang throughout the room, building to the same terrifying shriek from before just long enough to send a chill down my spine, before vanishing along with the light.
The ponies on the other side of the door stopped trying to break it in. A few snippets of fearful murmurs slipped through to door, reaching my ears as Twilight turned around to see if our work had borne any fruit, hope, and dread hanging in the air in equal measure.
“Take your artifact off my back, please,” the Emperor asked, the soft silken voice was no more.
While pleasant to the ears, and similar to the voice he had been speaking with, the Emperor’s new voice was fuller and richer, with a slight bass rumble to each word.
I gingerly lifted the amplifier up with my telekinesis, moving it to my side by reflex. The white sheet pulled and ripped, and was then thrown aside as Emperor Prance stood up for the first time in two thousand years.
As the sheet fell aside, the Emperor was revealed. He was four meters of sandy brown fur covered muscles, chiseled features, all packaged into the absolute ideal form any stallion could ever hope to achieve. His mane and tail were cut short and colored a uniform shade of teal that went amazingly well with his fur, and also gave him an oddly familiar look.
I almost placed who he reminded me of, save for noticing the Emperor lacked a cutiemark, which I swiftly forgot as I noticed his eyes. They remained unchanged. Each was still nothing more than that bright golden glow.
The Emperor popped his neck, grunted, and then scratched his nose with a savage fury before sighing in relief born of ages of torment.
"Ah! Thank the gods! That was two millennium overdue. And now begins a certain asshole’s savage beating," the Emperor announced, lips parting in a cathartic smile.
"You're huge!" Twilight exclaimed, ears perked and eyes wide. “I thought that was all arcane machinery under the tarp! And a decorative skull!”
"Hmm?" The Emperor asked looking down at the comparatively tiny pony. "Oh, yes. Reiechk Brine allergy. Turns out enlargement potions never wear off if you're allergic to their base ingredient. Runs in the family. Both my sons had it. One moment, be right with you."
The Emperor tapped his auto-scribe. "Scribe: Message Empty Room. Begin. I'm on my hooves again. The Steward will be dead in five minutes. Go ahead and head home. Message your hive, have them check and see if any of your brother's descendants survived her purges. If so, have them brought to the palace with you for the celebratory feasts. It's okay if they don't find any, I expect all of my pony heirs to be dead. Love, dad. End."
“Now, you two, don’t panic. I am doing this myself, and on purpose,” the Emperor said as he closed his eyes.
Before I could question what he was doing, his body twisted, bones scraped, tendons popped, and within the span of a few moments he had shrunk to stand about a pony and a half high.
“Hmmm… That’s all the spellcasting I could muster for now,” the Emperor mused, a look of displeasure crossing his face. “No matter. I have other weapons in my arson-”
“Holy cow! You actually CAN cast spells!” Twilight yelped, her jaw slack in awe.
“Yes, I can, Miss Sparkle,” he replied calmly. “Or at least I am able to. It seems my mana reserves are empty, though I do feel my original Earth Pony magic working at full capacity. I’ll need a few weeks to regain the rest of my magic. As such, I will need you to focus on casting shield spells, Miss Sparkle.”
Right! No cutiemark! That’s important.
“Um… I uh, speaking of a lack of magic, I think we didn’t regenerate your cutiemark, your highness,” I admitted slowly, ears falling nervously.
“Don’t worry, son. I turned it invisible it ages ago. Being Emperor is special enough for one pony. I don’t also need to brag about my skill in alchemy,” he said with a polite smile before nodding towards the doors, taking a couple steps towards them, slowly testing his body with each step. “Yes… This will due for now. Twilight, please remove that forcefield.”
“Are you sure?” Twilight asked with a concerned frown. “Can you fight? We don’t have to, we can teleport aw-”
“There will be no retreating today, Miss Sparkle. Not until I’ve got my hat back,” the Emperor said adamantly. “Please, remove the forcefield.”
Twilight nodded and the magenta shield vanished, fading away in a heartbeat.
“Mister Repose, open the doors please,” he asked, taking a few more steps forward. Stopping a short distance from the double doors.
“Are you sure?” I asked hesitantly. “You’ve only just been revived we don’t know if you-”
“I have my earth pony magic. Not the watered down passive variant modern Earth ponies have due to mixed bloodlines. The active kind. I will be fine. Please, open the doors,” he asked again.
I nodded and pulled each door open with my magic. The moment the doors opened, six red coat-clad Land Guard soldiers snapped their loaded crossbows up, their two ranks of three blockading the door, ready to fire at the oncoming enemy.
Their ears fell and eyes widened in unison, as if they were one singular organism.
“Do you recognize me?” The Emperor asked.
One of the soldiers nodded slowly.
“If you want to shoot your Emperor, here I am,” he said plainly.
The soldiers gulped nervously, sharing a look before slowly lowering their weapons.
Twilight and I let out a breath the two of us didn’t even know we were holding.
Emperor Prance nodded in satisfaction. “Stallions, and Lady, I walk once more. The Steward is thus no longer your ruler. You are hereby ordered to proceed to the dungeons and release every political prisoner held therein. Leave other prisoners in their cells, you are to only release the political prisoners, and nopony else. Have them gather in the courtyard adjacent to the throne room and wait there along with any other soldiers you encounter. Go.”
“Yes, your Majesty!” One of the soldiers snapped, throwing a salute nervously. The rest of the group followed suit, then bolted down the hallway to obey their order.
“H-how did you know that would work?” Twilight asked, doing her best to hide her nervous stammer.
“I’m a figure out of the legends they heard as foals. They all know what I am capable of doing to bigger and stronger creatures than them,” Emperor Prance said matter of factly, pausing for a split second before adding in a jovial tone. “And my eyes are bucking terrifying to look into.”
They were. But I wasn’t about to say so.
“Why are your eyes like that?” Twilight brazenly asked, her face twisted into an inquisitive scholarly expression despite the danger we were in.
“I lost the original ones and ancient ‘prosthetics’ were not aesthetically pleasing,” he replied with a shy dip of his head. “Now then, Twilight, you’re on shields. Protect myself and Mister Repose. You need not attack, I will handle that. Mister Repose, do your best to cover Twilight. I am primarily worried about the two of you.”
Twilight raised a hoof questioningly. “Um, sir, what exactly is your plan?”
“Go into the hall, take a right, head straight to the throne room, kick in the doors, give the opportunity to step down which will naturally be rejected, and then eliminate my enemy before he has a chance to dig in making taking back my Empire into a costly civil war,” Emperor Prance answered simply.
“But how are you going to do that with just Earth Pony magic?” Twilight asked, raising an eyebrow. “Which of the bonds do you have? Are you planning on your influence causing the water in his drink to turn poisonous, or something?”
The Emperor raised an eyebrow of his own. “Um, no. Why would I utilize our passive magic to attack something?” He asked, ears lowering slightly.
“Because that’s what Earth Pony magic is?” I asked with an uncertain frown. “Oh! Of course, you mean the enhanced strength!”
The Emperor looked at us both in complete confusion. “Y- you guys don’t know what… Oh, come on! There were thousands of monasteries! Do you mean to tell me that an entire people’s magic is completely unknown? Oh for buck’s sake!”
“What are you talking about, sir?” Twilight asked, her face scrunched into a confused ball.
The Emperor slapped a hoof to his face. “I know that the less earth pony blood you have the harder it is to use your powers actively but it shouldn’t ever be removed entirely! Gods damn it, Twilight! Cadence fondly refers to you as ‘the Book Princess’. How can you not-
“Okay, look, Earth pony magic can be manipulated directly. We used to be able to just know how and do it via instinct, just like unicorns and telekinesis. But the more tribes interbred, the harder that became. Then it started taking meditation and training to do it.
“It’s impossible to dilute it enough to remove the magic altogether. Modern Earth ponies should be able to actively manipulate their nature bond. And it looks like an entire species has forgotten that… Somehow. So take some bucking notes, because I’m going to need help reteaching an art that should have been bucking impossible to lose!”
“But… They don’t have active magic,” Twilight and I protested together.
“It’s in the bucking name!” The Emperor grumbled eyes closing tightly in frustration. “Unicorn, old Equish for ‘magic pony’. Pegasus, old Equish for ‘sky pony’. Earth Pony, the name’s simply been translated. I… Buck it, I’ll just show you. I need to pray anyway.”
Before Twilight or I could question him further, the Emperor slammed a rear hoof into the sandstone floor. Immediately a pony-sized section of floor shot upwards in front of him, forming a crude table. He raised a foreleg and smashed it down on the jagged section of sandstone, causing portions of the rock to drop away, forming a neatly tapering stone slab that may as well have been chiseled.
“There! See?” He asked, giving the two of us a frustrated glare. “Any pony bonded with stone should be able to do th-”
“HOLY BUCK!” Twilight exclaimed in awe, jaw hanging limply.
“How the hay did you do that!?” I added incredulously.
Emperor Prance made a sound I had never heard before, a long, slow, quiet, nasty moan.
“An entire people literally forgot how to use their magic properly, probably because they couldn’t be bothered to go join a monastery for a few years and learn how to access their power and didn’t bother to tell their foals they could go train if they wanted to. The stupid. It hurts,” he groaned to himself. “I’ll tell you all about the methods later, Twilight. On the condition you IMMEDIATELY begin to teach ponies how to do this. I was wondering why we were only having two harvests a year… We’ve been relying solely on the passive positive influences… Bucking Tartarus!”
Twilight nodded eagerly, eyes still wide. “I will! I promise! I had no idea that this was a thing that-”
“Enough idle chatter, it’s time to go. Ready yourselves,” he ordered before sitting in front of the stone table he had just made.
Assuming he meant mentally prepare yourself for battle, I stowed the amplifier away in one of my cloak’s pockets, then took a deep breath, remembering my orders to protect Twilight. Hopefully, I could-
“Arcos,” Emperor Prance intoned quietly. “Exceptional of strength, world-shaker, golden-helmed, various and wrathful, shield-bearer, savior of cities, destroyer of worlds, oh defender of the Heavens from that which lurks beyond the heavens borders themselves hear me-”
“What are you doing?” Twilight asked uncertainly.
I gave Twilight an incredulous look of my own. “He’s praying, you have to have religious ponies in Equestria.”
“Yeah, but you don’t just speak aloud to empty space!” Twilight protested.
The Emperor gave the two of us a glare of annoyance. “Hear me,” he continued. “The game’s on! Get yourself a beer and watch this shit.”
I blinked. Twilight blinked.
“It’s going to be a good show. I wouldn’t want War to miss this,” the Emperor said, explaining nothing as he stood up and trotted out into the hall.
Twilight and I shared a quick look as he left the room.
“Um, that’s not how the Old Religion is supposed to work, is it? We don’t practice it anymore,” Twilight asked with a frown.
“Uh, no. It’s not,” I confirmed, ears drooping.
“It is when you don’t want to be a dick and demand help from them just because you presume they owe you a damn thing. Come on. We got to put on a good show if we want any kind of favor. Quit slacking, you’ll bore him!” The Emperor called urgently.
The two of us left the room. The hallway outside stretched off in either direction seemingly forever. Rows of white marble doors blended into the white marble floor, and contrasted with the black marble walls and the ebony ceiling adorned with crystal chandeliers every ten meters or so.
The hallway happened to be filled with all manner of servants nobles and diplomats. It definitely had to be close to the throne room, as the shocked crowds had benches to wait on lining the hallway on either side, and servants had been pushing carts of food and drink along, serving a rather good looking lunch.
“This is an emergency! Everypony, move!” The Emperor bellowed, the crowd immediately clearing a pathway, in all likelihood assuming he was a knight outside of his armor due to the Emperor’s size.
We ran down the hall, pursuing the Emperor as he jogged down the long hallway, leaving a visible trail behind him as the crowd parted. We caught up in a few moments, and began to rush towards a massive set of golden double doors in the distance.
Snippets of conversations reached my ears as we ran.
“What’s going on? Is there a battle someplace?”
“Faust’s blood, did you see his eyes!?”
“Wait! That’s the- Uh, guys I just remember I need to be anywhere else right now!”
We reached the doors sooner than I thought we would, and immediately slid to a stop. I almost plowed into the Emperor as he planted all four hooves firmly against the ground.
“Twilight, shields now. Repose, get ready to provide cover. She won’t surrender,” he warned.
I raised an eyebrow. “She? The current Steward is a stallion, sir,” I explained.
“Yeah, no. There’s only been one of them,” he replied cryptically.
“Are you sure we can’t solve this peacefully?” Twilight asked hesitantly.
“We can if she surrenders,” the Emperor promised. “But that is highly unlikely. I killed her mother back in the day and she’s kind of pissed about that.”
“Sir, the steward is a stallion,” I repeated.
“No, the steward is a changeling Queen shape changed to look like a stallion. Are you ready Twilight?” He asked again.
The world tinted pink as a shield bubble engulfed me.
“Yes,” Twilight answered firmly.
“Excellent,” the Emperor grunted in acknowledgment.
Rearing up, the Emperor moved both his forelegs to his sides and the thrust them upwards towards the doors. The floor heaved, cracking and sending marble tiles flying as the flagstones below leaped upwards, forming into large draconic talons that ripped the massive doors apart, slamming into the mangled metal into the walls before smashing large chunks out of the stonework with a sound like hooves on a chalkboard during a thunderstorm.
The gathered nobles behind us screamed and ran off, a wave of panic spreading back down the hall.
The brightly lit throne room lay before us. The polished white quartz walls, floor, and ceiling draped with blue and gold silk tapestries and red rugs. The large elaborately carved gold throne sat directly opposite the doors atop a raised dais where a stocky, crimson furred, black-maned unicorn stallion sat, eyes wide in terror, flattened ears hidden beneath a dark brown tri-corner hat as he stared into the gaping wound which had been ripped from the wall in front of him.
Court had been in session and six knights, a dozen Guard ponies, along with a group of seven Nighponese Samurai dressed in formal kimonos, who had been facing the throne now looked at the three of us in a mixture of surprise, urgency, and duty.
“You’re in my spot, Queenie. Get going, or get rotting,” Emperor Prance said turning his wrathful gaze onto the throne.
“FIRE!” The Steward ordered, voice cracking in terror.
The throne room erupted into chaos. A rainbow of spell bolts and energy rays scorched the air, reflecting off the mirror-like walls and floor, creating the illusion of a million blasts heading towards us from every angle.
“Ten'nō o mamorou!” Somepony bellowed in Neighponese.
The Samurai grouped around one of their number in a ring, the shriek of their arcane energy blades joining the crack and screech of the spells being thrown our way as they ignited their weapons, leveling the blades at the three of us.
The Emperor slammed his forehooves into the floor, cracking the quartz as large flat sheets of rock flipped up from the floor, walling off the Guards. A second quick twisting motion with his forehooves and sections of the ceiling peeled away, burying two of the knights in a shower of rubble.
“This is between me and the changeling, stand down!” Emperor Prance bellowed.
The Steward cursed, jumping off the throne and encasing himself in a dark green shield before firing a volley of crackling green bolts into the three of us. The spells slammed home, sparking against Twilight’s shields.
Dark green. All changeling magic was dark green! Could- Oh yes, it easily could be.
The knights seemed to have the same idea. The armored colossi stopped their barrage looking at each other for an uncertain moment.
The Steward switched to a single ray, firing directly into the Emperor’s barrel. Twilight shield warped and buckled. She groaned, stumbling slightly as the shield began to drain more and more energy.
The Emperor walked forwards. Each step slightly quicker than the last until he entered a full run, charging directly up the beam to shoulder check the Steward. The smaller ‘stallion’ was bowled over, shield sparking and hissing as the Emperor simply trampled over it, then turned around, whipped one foreleg in a motion as if crushing an egg, wrenching a slab of the floor out from its position and slamming it flat over the steward.
The slab broke into shards, collapsing the shield with a sound like shattering glass as the Steward stood up, immediately getting hit with a savage straight punch from the Emperor. Something snapped with a sound like a dry twig snapping. The Steward shrieked in agony, staggering backward several long paces, bright red blood quickly starting to drop from his face.
“You know I can just take that body apart,” Emperor Prance warned darkly, throwing something aside. “And you know unicorns need a horn to cast spells. How about you change back and we continue this little fight… Or would you rather keep up your deception and have me rip you limb from limb?”
“Imasugu!” The Samurai suddenly bellowed.
The group reared up, lunging forwards in a singular wave.
The Emperor ignored them. He didn’t know Neighponese blades cut through shields!
“Fine!” The Steward spat through a mouthful of blood.
His body vanished behind a wall of crackling emerald flames. The Samurai lurched to a stop, blades raised in preparation to strike, halted only by the revelation unfolding before everyone.
The flames burned out, revealing a tall, platinum-maned blue-ish purple shelled changeling Queen. She sneered at the Emperor, enraged enough for her eyes to glow with an arcane light. She grit her teeth, chitten shining beneath the light of the mage lamps.
“I should have you taken apart centuries ago!” She spat. “When I’m done with y-”
The Emperor casually stabbed upwards with a foreleg. Several needle-like spires of rock lanced upwards from the floor impaling the Queen through her back, barrel, and head with a sickening crunch and squelch.
“No, you should have kept moving and not shape changed back,” the Emperor countered, giving the thrashing corpse a condescending pat on the shoulder. “You forgot I could do that, didn’t you? Ah well. Everypony has something slip their mind sooner or later. Everypony here knows exactly what you were this entire time. Thanks for that.”
“Big guy,” the short pink furred green kimono-clad unicorn mare in the center of the Samurai's formation called, looking at the unfolding scene with a critical expression. “Can you explain what is going on to me?”
Emperor Prance made two swift motions with either foreleg, forcing large pillars of stone to slide out from the floor and arch over the dead Queen’s back, holding her in place on the spikes.
“For the love of Celestia! She’s dead! Stop it!” Twilight exclaimed in disgust.
The Emperor turned and looked at her, shaking his head. “No can do, Miss Sparkle. See the thrashing? When that stops there is no more magic left in her body and she can’t regenerate. If I removed the spikes now, her wounds would seal and she would stand and fight once more. Of course, you could incinerate say, sixty percent of her body, if you wish. That’s more than anyling can regenerate on their own. Then I could remove the spikes.”
I winced slightly. “Still, Your Highness, it is gruesome,” I had to admit.
“It is, but Queens are extremely hard to kill and keep dead via physical force,” the Emperor said with a shrug before turning around and smiling at the pink mare. “Ah! Empress Mitsuki. I remember you from a few years ago, how did the mutual shipping lane defense treaty work out?. Do you recognize me? The eyes are the same.”
The mare’s eyes narrowed for a moment, then her ears stood up straight. “Tatsu!” She ordered, giving her Samurai a firm and commanding look.
“Ten'nō, anata wa kakushin shite imasu ka?” A red kimono-clad samurai asked uneasily.
“Hai!” She replied immediately. “So, how are you alive again?”
“That stallion,” the Emperor said as he pointed a hoof at me, and gave me a respectful nod. “And a little help from Princess Twilight.”
Oh my! He was proud of me! What do I do!?
Ask if he can suspend my exile! Duh!
“Y-your highness,” I stammered nervously.
“One moment, Mister Repose,” the Emperor said politely. “Misuki, the usurper is dead, and I intend to take my throne once more. I am sorry but I am going to have to ask you to return in three months to finish whatever business you were here for. I will make the date a priority and push aside anything else happening to meet with you. However, as of this very moment, the entirety of my nation’s bureaucracy is about to be incredibly busy. I do hope you understand.”
The Neighponese Empress nodded. “You bet your flanks I do. But we can solve this problem right now. Your ‘Steward’ was using our defense treaty to put a suspicious amount of armed warships within firing range of my cities.”
“They will be withdrawn immediately,” Emperor Prance replied without hesitation.
“Thank you, send a message when everything is stable. I want to see exactly how the land will lay once you’ve regained full control,” she asked before nodding to her entourage and walking out of the room.
The Emperor nodded and walked over to the left hoof wall and with a quick swipe of his hoof pulled it down into the throne room. Twilight and I coughed as the dust from the collapse filled the room. Squinting through the haze I was able to make out the Emperor as she ripped the impaled and pinned changeling corpse from the floor with his magic and slid the body into view of the hole.
On the other side of the wall lay a large indoor courtyard, filled with a hundred or so ragged ponies, and at least five hundred guards ponies, all of whom were staring at the hole in shock.
“Citizens!” The Emperor called. “I am Prance, and this is my Empire! This changeling you see dead before you was your Steward, and your father's Steward, and his father's, all the way back to the treachery which struck me down. Knights, stand as a witness!”
The six knights, who had unburied their comrades from the rubble, realizing they had an order, quickly moved to the hole. One of them calling, “He speaks the truth. I saw the steward transform with my own eyes.”
The crowd erupted into a mixture of worried and excited murmurs as the gathered ponies began to talk with one another trying to work out exactly what was going on.
“There is no need for uncertainty, my friends,” Emperor Prance announced. “I will tell you exactly what is going to happen over the next several months. I have returned, and this monster’s reign is over. You are not to bring harm to any changeling within my borders. As you may recall that I have one for a daughter. There will be no witch hunts, as this individual is solely to blame.
“All laws enacted by any Steward are suspended pending my personal review. The Codex of Honor is to be immediately read and memorized in full by every single citizen starting tomorrow morning. The rules of conduct within its pages are once again Imperial Law. There will be a two-decade grace period for everypony to make the social transition.
“From this moment on, every last pony here who was held as a prisoner is now an Imperial Herald. You will receive uniforms within three days, along with employment instructions. As of right now, there are three critical announcements which all of you are to carry to every corner of the Empire.
“First, your Emperor walks amongst you once more. The Stewards have no authority and are to be forgotten. Second, miss Twilight, please step forwards.”
Twilight nodded and stepped forwards to stand a slight distance away from the Emperor.
“Second,” he resumed. “My return would not have been possible without assistance from the Kingdom of Equestria. They are now our sworn allies until the end of my reign. Lastly, Master Wizard, come forward.”
I frowned and turned around to try and see who the Emperor was looking at.
“Repose, I’m talking to you. Please, come forward,” he repeated with a chuckle.
W-what!? Me! Stand in front of hundreds of ponies all of whom would be looking at me!?
I gulped, ears drooping nervously as I walked up to the hole, timidly pulling my cloak’s hood down over my face.
“This is Gentle Repose, without his lifetime of work I would not be here today and you would still be under the hooves of a Tyrant,” the Emperor announced. “I want every last member of our Empire to know his name for he is a hero of our nation. Guards, escort our new Heralds to a dining hall and give them anything they wish to eat. Then carry my words throughout the entirety of the Palace. We have a nation in dire need of healing and have no time to waste.”
The crowd erupted into cheers. The Emperor stepped back into the throne room, and began to look around the floor.
I stood there nervously. I’d never liked crowds and now I was going to be known by everypony ever and-
“There’s my hat!” Emperor Prance exclaimed happily.
I reflexively turned my head just in time to see him reach down and scoop up the tricorner hat the Steward had been wearing and set it atop his head.
“Good, it still fits,” he said happily before turning to Twilight and I.
“You don’t use a crown?” Twilight asked with an amused smile.
“No. They’re tacky,” he replied with a laugh. “Well, Twilight, I believe I promised you some books as a thank you. In a moment we will go and collect them from my library. But right now, Mister Repose, I can not thank you enough. I will ensure you are treated kindly throughout the Empire for the rest of your days.”
I felt a spark of joy in my heart. Which made me remember I was still dead at the moment.
“Thank you, Your Majesty,” I said, bowing politely. “That means a lot to me.”
“I’m glad,” he continued, his tone shifting to a more somber one. “Unfortunately, you did kill a constable, and were sentenced for that crime. The law doesn't permit me to pardon somepony after they are sentenced. Meaning you will have to-”
“That’s stupid!” Twilight exploded angrily. “He saved your life! He deserves his home back!”
“He does,” the Emperor agreed. “And he can have his family estate back in forty years. In the meantime, Repose, you must claim a primary residence somewhere outside the Empire. Naturally, you may visit anytime you desire. So long as you do not stay more than a month at a time.”
“Wait… Exiled individuals can visit the Empire!?” I asked, jaw dropping. “Since when!?”
“Since forever,” Emperor Prance said firmly. “I struck down the Stewards laws, remember? Exiled individuals are allowed to return to the Empire for up to one month every six months so they may visit family. I would happily pardon you, but doing so would show that I value you more than the law. Right now, I can not afford to do that.
“However, I can give your family back their estate, and make you the head of your household, if you wish. We are immortal, you and I. What are four decades? Not that much, not really. If you like, I will buy you any home of your choosing anywhere you wish in the world to wait the time out.”
Twilight blinked, then nodded. “I get it! If you pardon him after reversing all of those laws just now it will how you’re willing to bend the law. If that happens then-”
“I’ll have to put up with noble after noble demanding special favors. Because nopony understands that great rewards are to be given to those who have done great deeds. Not merely because you feel you are great,” the Emperor lamented. “But I do value the gift you have given me, Repose. You may live in my household once you return, should you wish.
“Or as soon as your exile expires, I could build you a manor house attached to say, an arcane university, and put it at your disposal with you as the Director of Research. Were you not undead, I would happily make you my heir… I don’t have one anymore. Changelings and the undead are not allowed to hold noble office within the Empire, and as far as I know all of my bloodline were purged over the years. While my Daughter still lives, unfortunately being my Spy Mistress is the highest position she may hold. Because the law is the law and must apply to everyone fairly, without exceptions. Fortunately, she and her hive love that kind of work.”
I nodded. I understood I really did. And I believed the Emperor. His eyes, while frightening, held honest sympathy. He honestly felt he could not violate the law, which I had to be honest, was a good thing. Nopony should be above the law.
And I did kill that constable. I hope sompony reanimated him…
“Um, did anyone reanimate the constable I attacked?” I asked with a worried frown.
The Emperor nodded. “They did. In addition to knowing that starting right now I will house, feed, and provide for you for so long as you wish, I would like you to name anything at all you would like as a reward which I can give you right now.”
I didn’t know what to ask for. I had no idea of what to say. And yet I answered as if on autopilot.
“Frankly, your majesty, all I’ve ever wanted was to feel useful and have a sense of purpose,” I answered. “Before reviving you, Princess Twilight offered me a job as her court Enchanter and well… I like that idea.”
The Emperor nodded. “As you wish. Write me for absolutely anything you need for your work, and you will get it. Well, assuming Twilight still wishes to offer you the job.”
“I do,” Twilight said with a laugh. “Are you sure you want to take that offer still, Repose? While irritating you can’t go back to your family home just yet, he’s offering to give you a home anywhere you like where you could just sit and do as you please.”
I nodded. “Yes. But I like to do things that matter. I’d rather make things for you, if I can’t be home and helping my family and friends.”
It was true. Working with Twilight had been the most fun and fulfilling thing I had done in ages.
“Then it’s settled,” Emperor Prance said with a pleased smile. “Repose, my boy, go and live with Twilight. I’ll find whatever you need. Provided of course that I can do so. Naturally. The two of you should head home, the next few months will be really rocky here.
“You’re always welcome, of course. But I doubt you’ll want to experience the political turmoil.”
“Yes, we should go. There’s so much I imagine you would like to do, Miss Sparkle,” I said happily.
“As soon as I get those books,” Twilight laughed. “Um, but you’re certain you’re happy with everything? I think I’d be a bit more mad about not being able to live-”
“The location isn’t important to me,” I explained. “I enjoyed working with you, you want me to keep working with you, and together we just changed the world for the better. What more could I want?”
Home. What a strange word. It can be a physical place or a feeling you have. A sense of purpose, of belonging. Of satisfaction with your life.
I could feel it. I was home.
Unknown - Unknown
A jet black stallion paced the floor of an obsidian room angrily. Each hoof fall sent sparks flying, despite nothing being present which should have caused such a phenomenon. He moved back and forth in a rage which boiled and churned almost visibly under the surface.
“How did an afternoon of fun turn into this?” Dawn demanded with a sneer as his eye twitched. “All I wanted was a brief afternoon of relaxation to celebrate taking my sister out of the picture. That was a huge milestone for my conquest, you know!”
He continued to pace back and forth. Passing behind a large desk made from burnt oak. The stallion made several laps before continuing his tirade.
“Take a thick headed kind fool, and his infinitely cruel rival and use them to cause some havoc for my own amusement. A simple plan that I’ve pulled off a million times before in the last age alone. But no, this time it goes wrong. I fail to scare the fool into traveling in the direction I want, and his rival is too much of a self-centered idiot to ever think his ideas are those of a damned fool!” Dawn raged, eyes burning a bright red as he paused taking a breath to contain his anger.
“And now, impossibly, Dusk’s mantle is no longer split into two and hidden away. No, because that ‘fool’ is actually an idiot savant!” Dawn growled clenching his teeth. “I couldn’t absorb her powers over death. It’s not like I wanted to split it up and stick those halves into the only receptacles could. And now they are free and that mantle is whole again and drifting through the ether.
“Dusk could reincarnate now, for all I know. Because clearly, the information I got on divine powers was completely wrong!”
A faintly pained gurgle echoed through the room, causing Dawn’s ears to swivel in its direction.
“Humm… As much of an idiot as you are, you have a point,” Dawn mused. “Dusk is dead, and this plan was completely foiled. I had my guard down. I thought the force working against me to be destroyed. Clearly, it was not. Good catch.”
Dawn turned and stepped behind his desk, sliding the chair out to take a seat, wood creaking as he sat down.
“It can’t be another god. Only Dusk was weaker than me. If they had more power than I, or more respect and value in opinion than Dusk had, and also knew enough of my plans enough to foil them, I would have been destroyed by now. It must be a mortal, and not Swift Prance, he was also effectively dead… A puzzle to be certain. But a puzzle with only one solution necessary to solve it,” Dawn said to himself, his voice oddly calm, and his body relaxing as well.
His eyes narrowed. “Advance my plan’s timeframe, and launch a true invasion as soon as possible. Humm… I’ll have to clear the way first. I can’t just wing this, I’ll need several plans of attack. My hidden opponent can’t possibly counter everything I could throw at them.”
Dawn reached down to a small cabinet set into one of the desks’ two legs and opened it. Inside the small space, a mangled pile of patchwork fur, bone, muscle, and entrails sat heaped and molded into a set of shelves, small drawers, and desk organizer cubbies.
The Dark God retrieved a pen and a stack of paper from the living organizer before shutting the cabinet door.
“You know Sunlit, I’m fairly certain your real special talent is organizing office supplies. You’re remarkably good at that. Keep up the excellent work, and I'll consider promoting you to a clothing organizer after a few eons!” Dawn praised as he sat down, pen beginning to scratch out his first plan of attack.