Starlight in a Broken Vessel

by the-pieman

Chapter 77

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Chapter 77

I lift my hand up and point at the Red alicorn. “You. Now gimme my treasure.” I pause. “Oh, and cure Twilight.” I pull her out of my shirt pocket holding her up in front of the alicorn. “She’s supposed to be bigger.”

“Ah that’s easy enough.” The crimson sister said, ignoring that her sibling was making giant pouty faces at her. “We can fix this at the feast! You will also be presented your treasure there, and you may stay at my palace tonight!” The red alicorn has the most terrifyingly triumphant face I’ve ever seen.

“Alright, so make me a prince and we’ll get this game over with.”

“Poof, you’re a prince, now follow me to the palace. The soldiers can finish killing each other, or whatever they do in their free time.” The red alicorn turns, and takes a step, seeming to vanish into the distance. The weird thing, though, is that I can see exactly where she’s gone, and simply step next to each other, the entirety of the world around me simply changing to the front hall of an immense and beautiful castle.

“Neat trick. So, when do we eat?” What can I say? I’m a greedy bastard.

The alicorn stamps her hooves, and innumerable servants of varying appearances, mostly ponies, sweep in and set up a feast. It takes about a minute, and the table is now set, immense, and laden with food. As well, there’s nearly a dozen various creatures around the table, some of them looking rather confused at the transition. In particular, I see the card-like creature from before sitting at the table, lower body literally folded to be able to sit at the table.

The red alicorn, now wearing an even larger crown than before, is seated at the end of the long table next to me. She indicates an open seat next to her. “Please, sit!”

I oblige, sitting down in the chair, then I remember something. “Oh yeah, can you fix Twilight after we’re finished?” I set down Tiny-Twi on the table. A bowl of cookies is slid over to her.

How will this help?

“Here.” I place a cookie down in front of her. “You are so small, this cookie is almost as big as a train wheel. This means that it will last for a loooooong time.” I say grinning. “Get the picture?”

Oh, alright...” she takes a bite. “wooaaah!

Twilight enlarges, becoming about as tall as me in a span of about a second, and topples off the table. A bout of tittering circulates around the table.

“Okay... uh, maybe not that big...” Suddenly I get an idea. I hop on Twilight’s back. “Now you can carry me around for the next half of the day!”

Twilight acts like she’s on fire, and rolls on the ground, mooshing me flat into the stone for a moment. It hurts, but not too much. As Twilight, now a half-head taller than me, begins reaching for food, I realize that she’s trying to lift things with magic, but can’t.

“Really, Twi? Give it up. Your magic doesn’t work here. Just adapt!”

“At least until I get your magic back to you. That is the curse you wanted lifted, right?” the red sister asks.

“No, the curse was her abnormal size. Leave her without her magic for a while.” I figure this would be a great time to demonstrate just how inconvenient it is to not have magic. “After all, I’m sure she can manage. She’s not completely helpless.”

Twilight glares at me, and misses what she was aiming for as a result. Her hoof smashes a pie into pulp, spraying it across the table. The chuckles and tittering of the various others around the table intensify.

“So yeah, just fix her size and that should be good for now.”

The red sister rolls her eyes. “Fine, with my power as the Crimson Queen of the Board, I hereby grant your wish of curse removal, however trivial the curse to be removed may be.” She swishes her horn, and it glows a violent, angry red, enveloping Twilight. For a moment, I’m worried, but Twilight then snaps back to her normal size, falling the three-ish feet to land in a heap on the floor. Once again, I hear the other people and ponies at the table laughing at Twilight’s predicament.

“So, I guess we eat now.” I really want to see Twilight manage without her magic. I know I’m kinda being a dick, but seriously. This mare uses magic for everything. It’s so convenient it’s annoying.

The red queen answers me by bringing a pie of some kind closer to herself, and passing one to me. Then, she face-plants in it.

Oh yeah, Wunderland. Heh, guess Twilight won’t have any problem at all. I grab my own pie and do the same. Somehow, it just makes the pie taste a thousand times better.

taking a moment to take stock of what exactly I’m eating, it tastes like a perfectly normal chicken pot pie. I look over at Twilight in time to see her tentatively press her muzzle to the pie and try to take a relatively dainty bite. After a few moments of looking frustrated, I see her glare at the pie, then simply grab the pie tin with her hooves and begin devouring the contents. I’ve never seen any pony eat with such gusto or lack of manners, and I’ve watched Pinkie go after the local equivalent of marshmallow peeps. When Fluttershy isn’t around, of course.

I continue eating, grabbing whatever is nearby in my hands and just shove it into my face. If Rarity saw this, she’d probably hide in the closet until it was time to leave. I am an absolute mess and getting messier. Life is good.

After dinner is beginning to wind down, I look over at the red queen. She smiles beatifically at me. “Now, for your treasure!” she belches loudly. “Knights, bring in the prince’s new treasure. Be careful, I don’t know how fragile it is.”

“Alright, sounds interesting. Let’s see what you got.” Six knights, still in their helmets, but with no lances, marched into the room. On their backs is a massive, ornamental-looking cage, and inside...

For a moment, I’m confused, because it looks like a bronze woman is kneeling in the middle of the cage, but it doesn’t move. After a few seconds of watching, I realize it’s a statue, made of bronze. Who the hell makes a statue of a woman in a cage, made of bronze? I take a closer look and notice some very non-human features. The statue is certainly humanoid, but has a bit of an avian feel to it.

Then, I see that the statues arms are completely replaced with wings, each feather formed from a single, detailed sheet of bronze, looking almost realistic, but not quite. Another thing is that the legs of the statue are bird-like, but also still humanoid to the knees.

“Huh, well. This is certainly interesting, but it’s not from my world, I assure you that.” What human would think of making a bronze harpy and sticking it in a cage?

I see the statue twitch slightly. The red queen smiles at me, in a way that almost feels predatory. “Are you sure?” Every set of eyes in the room is locked on me. A moment later, I realize this includes the eyes of the harpy statue, which are now open and decidedly alive.

“Uh... hello?” I say to the harpy. I wouldn’t be totally surprised if it was real, the problem is that they think it came from my world. No way, especially if it’s alive.

The harpy blinked slowly at me. From behind me, I hear the red queen speak again. “I told it to stay silent and still, but now that it’s yours, you can give it different commands. It did take a while to get it into that position, though, so please consider the artistic side of things.”

“Alright how’s this?” I turn to the harpy. “Are you sentient? Can you think for yourself without being ordered?”

The harpy’s expression turned a touch angry, and she glared at me. I saw a faint gleam of red flash across the bronze. It took me a moment, but I recognized the type of sheen effect. It was the same as when I’d seen Ren order a changeling to stay in place, and the changeling had to.

“You know, you’re allowed to speak. First off, the cage looks nice and all, but that pose seems rather uncomfortable.” I look around the cage for a door.

Seeing one, I reach towards it. As I move, I realize a couple of things. One, the harpy still hasn’t moved, and two, that the cage isn’t locked.

I just open the door. “Come on out. I’m not gonna hurt you.”

With a sound like an entire stack of metal being knocked over, the harpy slumps onto her side, then begins to crawl towards me across the bottom of the large cage. Something’s not right... how long was she holding that pose?

“So... uh... I give you permission to speak... and stuff.” I think for a moment. “What are you... no, wait. Who are you?”

The harpy looks up at me, and I can see the fatigue in her eyes, and she answers in a croaky, scratchy voice, “I’m Anne.” Then she faceplants, one wing-arm stretched towards me, splaying a single wing out, each bronze primary feather almost three or four feet long. I realize that she isn’t clothed, and that the bronze coloration is fading from much of her body, only staying in the feathers for the most part.

“Jeezus, girl. What the hell happened to you? You look awful! Are you alright?”

There’s no answer from the harpy girl, just a barely noticeable rise of her back as she lays, face-down, on the floor of the cage, nearly at the door.

I turn to the red alicorn. “So what happened? Why’d you do this to her?”

The crimson pony laughed imperiously. It wasn’t a nice laugh. “She tried to bargain, to bet for safe passage through the Board. A game of poker later, and I owned her.” The alicorn sighed. “It’s too bad you had her relax, she’d held that pose for almost two weeks. Such a shame to see art go to waste like that.”

“Living creatures aren’t supposed to be treated like inanimate objects. I don’t care what crazy rules you have in place, I consider that a real mean thing to do.”

The queen scoffed. “Next you’ll be telling me I shouldn’t have had the card soldiers stack themselves in my favor.”

I can feel myself get rather angry. “You shouldn’t have. That’s cheating...”

The queen looks down her muzzle at me. “It’s not cheating if you don’t get caught... and I’m the only one who can do any ‘catching’ around here.”

“Well, then queeny, I’d say you should fix your attitude or you’ll be catching a fist with your face.”

The queen rolls her eyes. “Hmmph. If you don’t like your gift, you can just say so.”

“You really are stupid, aren’t you? This girl is a living being, not some object to be owned! You scammed her out of her freedom and you treat her like she’s just a piece of pretty metal. No, I’m keeping her, just to make sure she doesn’t stay with a bitch like you.” At this point, I am Sparked up and about to enter my Heat form.

I see twilight shake her head ‘no’ at me from the corner of my vision. I realize that if I started fighting, she’d be totally helpless. Damnit.

“Fine, I’ll let you go, but if you try something like this again, I’ll have your head on a spike!” I say through gritted teeth. “Am I clear? Nobody should be treated like a piece of property.”

The alicorn waves a hoof dismissively, and it’s hard to hold back. Even with potentially toasting Twilight if I cut loose.

“Well, I was also promised a stay here, and I guess I’ll take you up on that... but Anne stays with me... and so does Twilight. You try anything funny and you will not live to regret it.”

The red queen brightens up almost immediately, and waves for the knights to escort the three of us. “Perfectly fine. Now sleep well, my prince.” The red queen yawns and begins wandering in another direction as I’m ushered out of the room at lance-point. Thankfully, one of the knights has Anne draped over its back, and is carrying her for me.

A little bit later, we’re in a bedroom that is, in all honestly, rather too large for all three of us. Twilight is too tired to do much, and curls up on the sole couch of the room. As I consider where I should have Anne set down, I realize that the floor is very soft, and there’s plenty of carpet for me to sleep on. She’ll probably be better if she gets the bed.

I move to pick her up. Avian physiology would indicate that she’s light, but who knows if it works for harpies the same way? I lift her up, expecting at least a hundred pounds, but she’s pretty darn light. I could throw her from one end of the room to the other! Anyway, I set her down on the bed and move to the carpet. I bet she’ll feel much better in the morning.

The next morning, we’re brought a jug of water and some various fruits and vegetable btis. As well, three pairs of buttered toast slices sit on the tray. I decide I would let Anne rest and she can wake up on her own. I look over to Twilight on the couch. She’s still asleep, laying half in a beam of sun, so her belly is getting warmed up, but her face isn’t.

I go up to her and rub her tummy. I have a feeling she will find it more annoying than I would, but that’s why it’s entertaining. In her sleep, she smiles, and one of her back legs start kicking. I smile, but stop when she mutters something that sounded like ‘ooh, keep going...’ in her sleep. Note to self, never ever ask Twilight what she dreams about...

I begin eating, giving each of the fruits a cautionary test, but they all seem fine. Then I try the toast. When I grab a piece, I feel it shudder slightly. The hell? I pick it up, making sure I’m not going nuts.

Another piece of toast comes up with it, and I see that they’re conjoined by what looks like a bread-roll, but with antennae. The entire thing shivers slightly, and I realize that it’s looking at me. I recall that these made an appearance in Through the Looking Glass, and that they are ‘bread-and-butterflies’. They’re also alive...

“Fuck it, I’m hungry.” I take a big bite out of one of the ‘wings’. Yep, tastes like buttered toast. Pretty high-grade stuff, too. Eventually I finish it. I imagined my first raw, living-meal to be a bit more bloody, but, hey... Wunderland.

I look around the room again. Didn’t really get more than a glance last night. Then I notice that the bed is empty.

Next Chapter: Chapter 78 Estimated time remaining: 24 Hours, 16 Minutes

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