Twilight Sparkle sat in front of a chessboard. She had only a king and three rows of ivory pawns. Her opponent amassed an army of knights and bishops, but no queens or rooks. Separated from the king, the army of varnished blackwood sat at the center of the table. Her opponent’s king— almost hiding in a far-off corner— was fashioned in the shape of Twilight’s pawns: diminutive, lightly armored, expendable. It looked like a twisted caricature of her friends.
“You may begin.” Her opponent said in a familiar timbre. A hoof seemed to drip from the curtain of shadows behind Twilight’s opponent as it pressed a button on a clock. The ticking rang in Twilight’s ears.
Her hoof tensed as she hovered it above the first row of pawns. Any move she made would end up as a sacrifice to one pawn to her opponent’s bishops. If she moved a pawn too far, then the knights would ravage the second and third row pawns before she could think of a counterattack.
Twilight pushed a pawn up one space at the left corner. Her opponent swiftly struck down the advance with a deft movement of her bishop. Twilight instinctively took the black bishop with her off white pawns, but the same one fell victim to a knight’s attack.
“You don’t move your king.” Her opponent said, playing with her bangs that hanged over her head like Twilight did when she was younger.
Twilight remained silent. She pushed a second row pawn forward. Another retaliation brought down Twilight’s advance. She had six pawns left on her board, surrounding her king. She couldn’t bear to move them, as the king would enter a check.
She thought of letting the king fall and forfeiting the game, but let the clock continue ticking. She did not have to make a move if the time on the clock ran out.
“You don’t move your king as well.” Twilight remarked.
“I don’t need to.” her opponent said dismissively. She pointed to her bishops and knights. They were spaced throughout the board, but surrounding Twilight’s remaining pieces at an intentionally slow pace. “I have my friends. They do all the work while I sit back and command them.”
Twilight felt bile rise to from her stomach. The way her opponent spoke to her struck at her ears and her chest.
“Our objectives are similar, aren’t they?” Her opponent asked. A gruff bellow sounded beneath her voice. “We aim to protect our king— sometimes I like to think that the king controls all of the actions on the board.”
She pointed to the discarded pieces on the left of the table. There were two black knights and a bishop on the side of the table, while there were dozens of white pawns neatly put aside.
“They’re expendable, aren’t they? It doesn’t matter if I lose one or two or one dozen, what matters is that I’m safe. Because in the end, that’s all that matters: My safety and my own plans. Whatever my other pieces do is for my entertainment, or for the actions that might get my hooves dirty.” Her opponent said, pushing a bishop closer to one of her pawns.
Move 30. Left.
Her opponent was toying with her power. She purposely moved away the nights so that her bishops could perform a match of cat and mouse with Twilight’s king. She often repeated the same movements, as if she were trying to teach Twilight Sparkle.
With every move, Twilight found her king gravitating towards her opponent’s. She had no choice: the path to her opponent’s king was the only safe spot on the board.
“I find it strange,” her opponent said between movements, “I have so much power, but I never choose to use it. I always back my foes into a corner, but never let my friends deliver the final blow. It’s always me. I always perform the last strike.” She snickered behind an empty hoof. “And they don’t care. They simply do whatever I tell them to, even if it is to kill, or in this case, not to.”
Twilight’s king was a space away from her opponent’s. Her hoof was forced into moving there. Her last move would forcibly initiate a check. It was against the rules of chess, but Twilight moved her piece towards the cowering king.
Her opponent raised her hoof, then toppled her own king to the ground. A forfeit.
Twilight looked up to her opponent, gaping at her surrender. She could have defeated Twilight on her turn.
“Peculiar.” her shadowy opponent said through her deep-yet-light voice, “whenever I have innumerable power at my disposal, I control those around me, force my opponents to bow and kiss my hooves, and then do nothing. I force them to know weakness and pain, and let them live their days in happiness, even if I know that they shall seek blind revenge.”
The ebony pieces melted away into the darkness behind her opponent. The shadows faded and lifted, revealing a dark-purple pony with jet black hair that danced and curled amidst the disappearing shadows. Her eyes were strong willed, but her body was withered. Her sharp horn glowed with an otherworldly color. She was speaking through her magic.
“And still I have an army. They will do anything I say, even if it costs their lives. And still I am the living encapsulation of the strongest force imaginable, but choose to rely on sudden weakness and hopeless. Evanescent friends are my strength.”
Away from all of his pawns, the king sat. Twilight sat amidst the waltzing shadows, the white paint of the sole chess piece becoming the only beacon of light. The pawns faded away, forgotten in the playful darkness.
The powerful, yet powerless king remained.
I feel like this might be a reference, but I’m going to assume it isn’t and work with that assumption. I liked the idea of the chess game, it’s an interesting way to convey the confrontation implied by the prompt. Good job!