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Why Do We Persist

by Zealcrown

Only a mere few days after the disappearance of our dear Princess Amore, the evil pony of shadows, Sombra, who has declared himself to be the new King of the Crystal Empire, has brought the empire into chaos. Every step one takes is across rubble, and fires dominate the night sky as bright as the sun itself. The city is uninhabitable but for the center of the city, where King Sombra, his ghostly army, and the slaves have built up their defenses. The only way inside is through the horrors of our time.

The few of us who had managed to escape capture found solitude and rest around the mountain on an impossible trek. Karat the Brilliant, as she has become known as, has welcomed us amidst the crisis, and for that, we owe her our life. The former empire is surrounded by mountains, and so we have become disconnected from our friends on the Western side. For all we know, we few are alone, and without aid and help arriving, it is our duty to reclaim our empire, for our lost princess.

We had sent a single messenger south to Canterlot, hoping to plead to our allies of our horrors. Our friends in Yak Yakistan are in the West, and so, in our position, Canterlot is our last hope. Though Princess Celestia and Princess Luna have been feuding for some time now, we hope we may be able to convince them to intervene and give us our empire back. With the evil King Sombra’s influence and power rising however, our time is limited. Our future looks bleak, but with our crystal spirit, we won’t hide our tails between our legs, but rather hold our heads strong for whatever may come. We are the children of Princess Amore.


Our hideout within the mountain, barely visible through the trees down to our grand city, is small. We have no tools to fight back but for our own body. Our makeshift tools, built from tree branches and sharpened with our teeth, are all we have. We hide under the cover of the snow, and we live in the dark, as to not reveal our location with fire and smoke. For all they know, we are long gone.

Our numbers are weak. Very few of us know what we’re doing. Karat the Brilliant, the retired advisor to our Princesses, knows the city well. She is all we have. Though our spirits are low, Karat the Brilliant inspires us to never give up. It is our crystal nature. We have persisted through many battles under the blizzards and hail of our frozen crystal north, yet we prevail with our spirits high.

We sat around Karat’s small cottage. It can barely fit all of us, and we’ve taken sleep in shifts on the floors of every room. It’s not much, but we work with what we have. Now, we finish our plan.

“We are cut off from the world.” Neighls Bohr states. “If we don’t act fast, we’ll be discovered. If we flee, all hope may be lost, but if we stay, we’ll become his slaves, and I suspect our rebellion won’t be much appreciated in captivity under his guards. I don’t know about you, but I don’t think we have much hope. I think we need to flee and save what’s left, ourselves.”

“We can’t abandon our families.” Autumn Gem interrupts. “Even if we’re captured, we’ll be with our families. Maybe we can do something from inside. Start a revolt, overthrow the guards, inspire each other.”

“That requires our capture, and that’s not something I’m too favorable of doing. Our positions as rebels will likely separate us from the masses who were pulled from their homes without a fight. We must avoid capture any way we can.” Purple Polish, though annoying, was smart.

“What are we doing?” I ask. “We’re all young and inexperienced, and most of us don’t know the politics of our own city. We should not be fighting.” I pull their attention to Karat, our honorary leader. “You know the best of any of us. What do you know of Sombra? What should we do?”

Karat, though brilliant, was slow. Her age has caught up to her, and none of us expected she’d last another year. We’ve been forced to help her around her cottage and feed her. Still, like Purple, she was smart too. In fact, she lived up to her title for her brilliance. If she was of royal blood, she would have been our Princess.

She sat in silence for some time. We all waited patiently for her to move or say something, but there was nothing. The stress was getting to us all, but especially Jade. “We can’t sit here and wait years for instructions. We have to do something now! Today! And that something is to flee!” Her family was the first to be taken. She barely managed to escape, but her feeble body allowed her to slip out of any grasp and small crack. She saw it all from the very beginning. “It’s no use, we can’t stay here forever. Princess Celestia and Luna were our only hope, but yet we had not a single sign of support. We’ve been abandoned, and I’m sure they’re looking for us as we speak this very moment!” She stood up and glared. “We have to accept the reality that we cannot do anything. We’re powerless.”

I stood up too. “We can’t leave our friends! They need us! Those ponies in there aren’t giving up, and neither should we!” I turned to Karat in desperation. “Please, say something, we can’t keep going like this.” I begged and pleaded, but yet, she said nothing.

“She’s useless.” Verity Lucky might have been the most annoying one to me. If there was any of us who had given up, it was her. “We don’t have what it takes to trudge through the thick blizzard, and we especially don’t have the strength to support Karat. This is all useless.” Her gaze moved to the window, down to the fires of the city. “We’re trapped. Though they don’t know of our presence, they’ve already cornered us. The sooner we accept defeat, the better our conditions as slaves will be. Maybe Karat will be able to get off easy.”

“Stop!” I shouted. “You’re letting your emotions get to you! We can’t do that. Please, all of you, please don’t give up hope. That’s what they want.” I turned to Karat again, who’s gaze drifted off into space. “Please, I’m begging you. You know this better than any of us.” I lowered my head to her, not to bow, but because I can’t support myself. “You’re our last hope. They need you. We need you.”

My emotions, of course, were getting to me. I struggled to see past my teary eyes. While the others bickered and argued, I kept close to Karat, our guru. I truly believed she was all we had.


I wasn’t sure how long we had been arguing and fighting. None of us could agree on what to do. Every single one of us had a different idea, and there was no compromise to be made. The possibility of splitting up was very real. After hours and hours, arguing around our empty plates, and under the worst stress in the history of our empire, we might as well have been done.

Finally, Karat blinked, and she leaned forwards. I raised my head to watch her do so, and I held up a hoof to the others. Though we all disagreed, and though we grew hateful of one another, deep inside all of us, we trusted Karat.

“What is the Crystal Faire?” Karat asked. It was the only thing she had said all day.

Jade sighed. Her last straw has been pulled from her. “That’s it! She doesn’t know anything! We have to flee.” Her boiling frustration melted the snow. “We have to accept that we lost, that’s it, no more. It’s all over.”

I stretched a hoof out to her. “We need to listen! I’m begging you.”

Though I would never consider Jade to be smart, I must recognize her ability to read emotions. She rolled her eyes and turned back without another word. Our attention shifted back to Karat.

“What is it?” Karat asked once more.

Purple answered. “It’s the festival we celebrate every year. Why?”

I stared at Karat just as we all did. “Why?” I asked.

Karat couldn’t move her eyes, they were glued to the empty wall across from us. “The Crystal Heart. The umbrum.”

Jade rolled her eyes. “Yes, yes, the Crystal Faire, the Crystal Heart, the umbrum legion, what’s your point?”

Crystal Beau piped up. He was the silent one of us, even more so than Karat, so when he spoke, we all remained quiet. “The Crystal Faire is the celebration which empowers the Crystal Heart. The Crystal Heart is what drives back the umbrum legion.” He stared at the ground. “Maybe if we can find the Crystal Heart, we can save the empire?” He tapped his hooves together. “That’s what I think Karat is trying to say.”

I nodded. “Yeah, you’re right!” I lit up. “The Crystal Heart is what we need!”

“And how do you expect to find it?” Jade asked. “We can’t simply march down there and ask for it back. Sombra likely has hidden it away deep in some dungeon where none of us can reach it. That’s a stupid idea. Our little guerilla isn’t going to get us anywhere.

“Radiant Hope.” Karat said. We waited for her to say more, but there was no more.

“Who is Radiant Hope?” I asked the table. “What is Radiant Hope?”

Purple, just as smart as she was, answered. “She’s a crystal unicorn. Last I remembered, she ran away to Canterlot to expand on her potential as a crystal unicorn. If she was of royal blood, she would be the next princess.” She sighed. “But she’s not here. She’s gone. She’s useless. There’s nothing we can do.”

I huffed, silenced her, and turned to Karat. “What about Radiant Hope? What can she do?” Though I pleaded in desperation, Karat said nothing more.

Autumn perked up again. “Radiant Hope was in tune with the Crystal Heart. She used her magic to heal Sombra every year when he would fall ill. Though he’s seemingly allergic to the heart, she used it to heal him. It was the Crystal Faire that always made him sick and weak.” She sighed, as she knew what she would say next would not be received well. “I say we go in, maybe get captured, find the Crystal Heart, and raise the morale of our families to empower the heart. It would be like an impromptu Crystal Faire.”

“So what does Radiant Hope have to do with all of this?” Neighls asked. “She betrayed us. She helped Sombra and the umbrum legion.”

“What if she didn’t?” I asked. “What if she didn’t know? She’s in Canterlot, she’ll surely know the knews of Sombra’s takeover soon.” I turned around, looking through the window to the city. “She can save us, but we can’t wait for her. We should get started now. Maybe we can spy, catch some intelligence, or do something other than sit here.” I raised my head. “That’s the plan I propose; we sneak in under the snow and hail, gather intelligence, and do what we can with that information. I mean, really, it’s all we can do. None of us are fighters. None of you have ever held a spear in your life. This is what we have to do.”

“We have to flee!” Jade shouted.

“We have to give ourselves up!” Autumn shouted.

The room erupted again.

“We need to stop fighting!” I shouted. Though they shot glares at me, they stopped yelling. “We need to trust Karat. She knows best. I say we do whatever she says. She knows more than any of us.” I looked at her. “Can you speak?”

Though there was a shared moment of silence between all of us, we all collectively chose to wait for Karat’s brilliance to shine through. She was quiet, contemplative, and old, yet we trusted her.

“The throne room,” She said. “The Crystal Heart.”

I turned my attention to Beau. “Can you translate?”

He nodded, though he was just as quiet as Karat was. “The Crystal Heart is likely in the throne room. Sombra is smart, yet he’s prideful, and I suspect, just as she does, he will be displaying the Crystal Heart like a trophy.”

“So we go in.” I said.

Autumn cleared her throat. “We turn ourselves in, play a farce to give up, present ourselves to King Sombra himself, then we take the Crystal Heart.” She nodded to herself. “That’s what we do.”

The others clearly didn’t like that plan.

“Let’s leave it to a vote.” I raised my hoof. “Those in favor of Autumn’s plan, raise your hoof. Those not, leave yours down.” I scanned the room. At first, it was just me. Even Autumn was hesitant, but she eventually raised her shaking hoof. Soon, another one, and then more.

Jade sighed and raised her hoof. “Fine. It’s all or nothing.”

Bohr raised his hoof too. “I have too much pride to run away.”

Purple was the last to do so. “Fine. It’s suicide to do so, but I don’t want to be alone. This is it.”

I sighed the air that had been trapped in my lungs for the last few hours. “Well then, it’s decided. We go in, turn ourselves in, and get to the throne room.” I hesitated. “What do we do from there? What do we expect?”

Karat spoke up. “Shout,” She said. “Run,” She followed up. “Hope.”


Karat stayed in her cottage. Only a couple of us stayed with her, to support her and wait for the arrival of the messengers. The rest of us, covered in snow and hiding under gray and white cloaks, made our painful way down the mountain, through the forest, and ever closer to the city. We made our way through the clearing, being careful to conserve the very little energy we had left, and we peaked through the final branches.

Jade was in front, and she stopped short of the clearing. “Did we go the right way?” She asked.

“What do you mean?” I trudged up beside her. “If this is a joke, I don’t get it.”

Autumn made her way forwards before I did. “We most definitely went the wrong way.” She looked left and right. “But I don’t know where we are. There’s nothing here but a frozen desert. Do you have a map?”

“What are you talking about?” I climbed over a log and through a snow pile to meet them at the edge of the clearing. It was difficult to see through the thick snow and the falling hail. I squinted forwards, but I couldn’t see anything. “Maybe we did go the wrong way. But how could we have done that? The only other way would be the other side of the mountains.” I peered across to the other edge. There was, barely visible, the skyline of the other mountains. “Where are we?”

Beau met us and unfoiled the map. “We didn’t make any wrong turns. This is where it should be.” He flicked his ear and stepped out of the clearing, out of hiding. Scared for his safety, I followed.

“You’re being hasty, come back!” I whispered loudly. He turned towards me, then up the mountain, and pointed up. I turned around too, to see where he was pointing. There was Karat’s cottage. It was always difficult to spot unless you memorized just where it was. I looked back to the desert, then back up the mountain. “What’s happening?”

Jade gasped loud, jumped out of the trees, and ran ahead of all of us, between Beau and I, and ran like her life depended on it. She ran so fast, none of us had any time to stop her or ask what she was doing, so we followed as fast as we could.

“Where are you going!?” Bohr shouted.

Jade didn’t respond. She just kept running, and we kept following. Soon, I was able to spot where she was running, and so were the others. In the middle of the clearing, where we thought the city would have been, was a single purple unicorn. Jade caught up to the unicorn, and so did the rest of us.

“Hello?” I asked the unicorn. “Who are you? What’s going on?”

She stared up into the sky, and her hood fell off. Purple gasped. “Radiant Hope.” She answered.

She didn’t say anything, and instead, she stared up into the empty sky. I looked up with her, then back down to meet her. “What’s happening? What are you doing here? Where are we?”

She turned her head towards me. Tears streamed down her face, and she quivered. “The Empire is gone.” She answered quietly. She looked back up to the same place she had been staring. “It’s all gone. Everypony is gone. King Sombra is gone. The Crystal Heart is gone. Our home is gone.”

My heart dropped out of my stomach. Jade sat down, Autumn gasped, and Bohr remained stunned.

“It really is gone.” Beau responded. “This is where the city was. It’s gone. It’s really really gone. Our gaffe.

“How could this be?” I asked. “It can’t just disappear, can it?”

“The princesses were here,” Hope clarified to us. “They fought King Sombra. He fled, and he took the entire city with him.” Her own cloak waved in the wind, and her gaze met mine once more. “Flurry Heart, it’s gone.”

We were too late.