The shadowy alicorn landed in front of the steaming cave by the base of the volcano. Her wings folded against her side as she trotted closer, being careful not to slip on the mud and slick stones beneath her hooves. The air was filled with the stink of sulphur and the bubbling sound of pools of mud as they boiled in the oppressively hot and humid air. Taking as deep a breath as she dared of the stinking miasma she was surrounded by, she shouted into the cave as loudly as her prodigious voice would allow.
"Come forth Ille Qui Gubernat Monte Ignis- 'He Who Governs The Mountain's Fire!' I would speak with thee!"
She couldn't help but feel slightly proud that she was able to do this with breaking into a fit of coughing, considering the quality of the air. Of course no sooner had she thought this then a small cough escaped her lips. She sighed and shook her head ruefully, gently clearing her throat.
Her shout reverberated down the cave, each echo somehow being slightly louder than the one before. Soon enough, the echoes died down to nothingness. Luna waited for a minute, slowly breaking out into a sweat in the sauna-like environment. As she considered shouting again, a plume of smoke flowed from the cave, followed by a tremendous yawn. Soon came the sounds of smacking lips and then a snarl that grew into a voice:
"Who dares speak my true name? What fool offers themselves up as a morsel to fill my belly?"
A ponderous thudding filled the air, growing louder as it approached the cave entrance until coming to a sudden halt.
The great scarred head of a dragon emerged from the cave The massive creature scanned the sky beyond it's cave until realizing the one who had called it's name was below it. It stared down at the alicorn with its one remaining eye, the other being completely covered over with scar issue. It lowered its gaze and peered at her, turning his head so the beast's one good eye could better focus on her. Luna stared up at the dragon, shivering slightly despite herself.
"Hmph," snorted the great reptile. "You know my true name and are brave enough to stand firm upon seeing me. I suppose I shall honor your bravery and daring and not turn you to ash or devour you where you stand. Yet. Who are you and why do you awaken me?"
Luna swallowed the sudden lump of fear in her throat. "Do you not recognize me, my friend? Does my voice mean nothing to you?"
"I have seen many things, young filly - mostly meals and foolish folk who confront me as you do, which are often the same thing. I have heard many voices - mostly raised in screams as I devour them or free my flame upon them. Though I confess yours does ring familiar, though I remember not where."
"Does not my appearance remind you further?"
"My vision is not what it once was, filly, and I have only the one eye to see with, the other taken by a younger dragon than I. Let me look upon you more closely."
The dragon brought his head forward slowly. Luna stepped back.
"Worry not, young filly. I have given my word that no harm will befall you. Is my word not good enough?"
Luna remained in place. "I apologize O' great lord of the mountain, for though I know you, you do not appear to recognize me. And I fear offending one as mighty as you."
The dragon let out an amused snort. "I will not be swayed so easily by compliments, filly, deserved though they are. I admit you are a fine figure of a unicorn filly, of a color not usual for your folk," he said, not noticing Luna's wings, tucked against her sides as they were, where they blended in with the color of her fur.
The dragon considered for a moment and then pulled its head away from Luna. "No, I do not recognize you. Though I admit that your voice does stoke a memory within my mind, beyond that you are a stranger. And yet you seem insistent that we know one another, and quite well at that. You know my name - pray offer me yours."
The alicorn sighed. This would be the turning point of the conversation. Her voice quavering slightly, she replied.
"My name is Luna, Princess of the Moon, O'Lord."
The dragon's head reared up and he snarled, the smoke flowing from his nostrils darkening and billowing up as though it were a storm cloud. Luna stepped back, truly afraid for her life. Despite her magical abilities, she would be no match for a dragon of this size and age, especially as angered as it was.
"What trickery is this?!" the dragon roared. "My dear friend Luna has been dead a thousand years hence and yet you come here under her name! How dare you! Had I not given my word to not harm you, I would kill you where you stand. Get thee gone, liar, lest I choose to do so anyway. Begone and never return!"
"I said begone, filly." The dragon lowered his head again, the smoke from his nostrils becoming infused with sparks. "You have no idea how lucky you are that you still live. Tax my patience no further."
Seeing that her words merely served to infuriate the great beast, Luna took the only other option she could to prove her identity. She opened her wings and spread them wide.
Immediately, the smoke and sparks dissipated from the dragon's nostrils and his one good eye sprang wide open. Utterly dumbstruck, the dragon simply stared at the alicorn. After a moment, the creature found is voice.
"Luna? Is it truly you?" the dragon asked, in a voice oddly quiet for such a huge creature.
Luna replied, her eyes misting slightly. "Yes, my friend, it is I. When we were both younger and you were much smaller, you and I played together. You had not yet found control of your flames and thus I named you 'Sparkmuzzle.'"
A small tear formed under the dragon's good eye. "You are truly she then, to know that nickname, as I in turn named you 'Moonfilly.' But how is it you are here? I was told you were killed by a demon which called itself 'Nightmare'!"
Luna sighed. "Oh if only I had been. But the truth is worse than that, Sparkmuzzle. Far worse. I was not killed by the demon, I became the demon. Nightmare ... I tried to usurp my sister and rule the sky. Thankfully, I failed."
Sparkmuzzle cocked his head. "And the story of your death?"
Luna shook her head. "A misinterpretation - my sister had banished me to my moon and told the others I was gone. Her statement was taken to mean that I was dead. In a manner of speaking, I was, possessed as I was by the demon's madness. I spent a thousand years imprisoned upon the moon until I found a way to escape my sister's banishment. I then returned to the world below, both to seek vengeance on my sister for banishing me and to attempt to steal the reins of power from her once more. "
She sighed. "Fortunately I was defeated by six ponies wielding powerful jewels called the Elements of Harmony. Together, the Elements released a spell that destroyed the demon Nightmare forever and returned to me both my sanity and my true form.
"Ah, a happy ending, then!"
Luna shook her head sadly. "A happy ending, yes, but I am ashamed of myself to some degree. While Nightmare did take control of my body, I didn't fight off its advance as well as I should have. Truth be told, I liked the power it offered me - I was envious of my sister, you see, and I saw this as a way to overshadow her. I bid sister Celestia no ill will for what she did, though. Truly it was the wisest - the safest - course of action. While the demon cursed her for what she did, I silently thanked her."
Luna broke free of her reverie. "But I should not burden you with these thoughts, dear friend. 'All's well that ends well' as they say. I have since been trying to reintegrate myself into modern society, given that I'm a thousand years out of date. I've had successes, but more than a few failures. These new ways they have of saying and doing things - particularly these new devices they call 'technology' - can confound me ofttimes."
She smiled. The kitchen staff were still trying to clean the egg yolks from the ceiling during her experimentation with a device call 'a blender'.
"After all this time, I've had to build new friendships from old and then I remembered a friend from my childhood - one who I knew would still be around, even after all this time. I came to visit you as soon as I could, but I should have expected you had forgotten me after all these centuries."
"Forgotten you? My dear Moonfilly, I mourned your believed death for more than a year! My memories of you held and still hold a warm place in my heart and my mind. But over a thousand years, one's memory can fail them, often requiring a slight nudge. It is good to see you again, Moonfi Luna.""
Luna raised a hoof. "No. To you I should always be considered your Moonfilly"
The dragon grinned. "And to you, I will always be 'Sparkmuzzle' though unlike then my flames are now under my complete control." He let off a short burst in the shape of a heart and Luna laughed. Sparkmuzzle joined her, his great bellowing laugh echoing back through his cave, but soon their laughter died down.
"Well," sighed Luna, "Despite renewing our friendship we are at somewhat of an impasse. We are neither of us the children we once were. We cannot play as we once did - I am far too small, and you are far too large "
Sparkmuzzle smiled at his old friend. "No, I'm afraid those days are far behind the both of us, but we can change the type of friendship we have. For instance, I have a thousand years of tales for you to hear, dear Moonfilly."
Luna smiled in return. "And for you, dear Sparkmuzzle, I have all the time in the world to listen."
A thousand years ago, Luna was cursed to become the foul Nightmare Moon and was exiled to the moon, losing everything she had on the world below in the process. Now that she has returned, she has taken it upon herself to renew her friendship with an old childhood companion- old in both the figurative and literal sense. Someone to whom a millennia is nothing more than a measure of time.
It was the night of the Grand Galloping Gala and Princess Luna was thoroughly flustered. She stood in front of her mirror, pouting at her own reflection. Celestia had gone to great lengths to set the evening up for her, lowering the sun early and helping her to raise the moon and coerce the stars out of hiding so she would have time to prepare herself. She had even taken the liberty of personally greeting every guest on her behalf so that Luna wouldn't have an excuse to escape from the party itself.
Luna adjusted her tiara and smoothed out the dress Celestia had picked out for her for the fifth time in as many minutes. She frowned a little at the puffy, lacy affair that now adorned her form, all ribbons and silk and crushed velvet with a large, elaborate skirt that made her feel uncomfortable about the size of her flank. When Celestia had told her no bit had been spared to prepare for the gala Luna had been shocked, even appalled by the flagrant misuse of the treasury to fund an event solely for the aristocracy. When Celestia had then added that the elements of harmony were invited and that Luna herself was to be the center of attention for the evening she had nearly fainted. Luna cursed that mischievous smirk her sister always wore when she was being a... a... Luna thought it over for a moment and decided that her sister was acting like one of the trolls of myth, creatures of deception, trickery and schadenfreude. She nodded to her reflection, who was wearing a smile of triumph at the shared discovery. She cursed that mischievous smirk her sister always wore when she was being a troll.
Her desire to gloat was quickly crushed when she remembered she was still in the dress and was still expected to head out into the ballroom to socialize. The realization of just how utterly unprepared she was hit her like a falling piano. As if socializing wasn't difficult enough with a millennium-wide culture gap, the fact that the elements of harmony would be there filled her with a mixture of fear and dread. Certainly after the defeat of Nightmare Moon they had been friendly with her, even going so far as throwing a party and celebrating with her, but were they in good spirits because of her or because she was no longer Nightmare Moon? She shivered at the loneliness of the thought and felt something like laughter in the back of her mind as the tiny sliver of her former self stirred among her memories.
Her eyes scanned the bare walls of her room as the mocking chuckles of Nightmare Moon ceased echoing through her mind. No one was glad she had returned. Celestia's room had pictures and letters adorning the walls, with many more forming neat piles in her study for her to peruse at her pleasure. After transforming into Nightmare Moon and blowing her old room up in the process all Luna had to line the walls of her new bedroom with were books on culture, history and law and an abacus that she had rescued from a museum. She walked over to it, idly clicking and clacking the beads.
Even with her magic still somewhat unstable after returning to what she supposed could be called normal she had been able to restore it completely, the wood shiny and polished with black wood-stain, the beads painted with silver and pale blues. It looked just like the night sky and she manipulated it just as freely. She smiled and quickly calculated just how long she'd be out among the crowds if she went along with Celestia's plan, taking into account the numerous excuses she had prepared to buy a few minutes here and there to herself. Her jaw dropped as the last bead hit home and she stared at the abacus as though it were telling her a most horrifying and obvious lie. But Abby wasn't lying and she knew it. Hours. Not brief periods where she could acclimate herself to the crowds punctuated with breaks, but huge stretches of time exposed to the general populace with nothing to defend herself from their prying eyes and silent disapproval. She did a quick calculation of how long she would have to be around the elements and was equally crestfallen.
She looked back in the mirror at the under-confident alicorn with worried, teary eyes. It just wasn't possible, not in the slightest. If she brought Abby and a book with her she might feel a bit better but she knew they would mock her for treating inanimate objects like companions like a filly with a security blanket. A sound startled her from her reverie and she looked out the window at the courtyard. Trumpets were blaring and horns announced the arrival of the first wave of guests for the evening. A carriage was pulling up to the castle, with many more behind it. Ponies slowly made their way out of it and the stallions pulling it carried it away to make room for the one behind it, and the one behind that. Soon a small crowd had gathered by the front gate and fireworks were being set off.
It was by the bright pink and blue glow that Luna saw them. The elements stood in a group, with the crowd and yet somehow apart from it. She strained her vision but found she could only barely make them out, unable to tell properly which was which from such a distance. But it was unmistakably them. Luna could see the faint aura of magic around them, remnants of the power they had gathered and used to cleanse her. And then she heard them sing.
She watched as they led the whole crowd in a huge, elaborate chorus number and could hardly believe her eyes. They each sang of their dreams and hopes for the evening and Luna could feel inside her the urge to help them welling up from nowhere at all. It was simply there, this compulsion, stemming perhaps from their song itself, perhaps from somewhere deep inside of her that wished to be appreciated. She nodded to no one at all and walked back over to the mirror to straighten her tiara and delicately wipe her eyes. She nodded in satisfaction and headed for the door. The party could wait, she was a princess on a mission.
As Luna strode purposefully, or at least as purposefully as she could while constantly glancing over her shoulder nervously, down the hallway her eyes landed on Prince Blue-Blood. The poor boy was fiddling with his bowtie and looking around for a helping hand. She recalled one of the elements talking about finding her prince charming at the gala and smiled. Objective one of six, she mentally noted, set the stage for true love to blossom. She fought back her apprehension and approached him. The moment he saw her he jumped ten feet in the air in surprise before looking around for an emergency escape route and bowing humbly. His smile did a very poor job of hiding his unease.
"P-Princess Luna, such a pleasant surprise. How good to see you again."
Luna's heart sunk a little but she suppressed her urge to run back to her room and sulk for the moment. She had a job to do, after all.
"Prince Blue-Blood, do you have a companion for this evening's event?"
His eyes widened and Luna's brain managed the same mental leap he had made right as he began stammering.
"W-What? I-I-I... I couldn't possibly- Not that I don't want- I mean, think of the scandal, not to mention-"
Luna cut him off by raising her hoof to silence him. Celestia would have reprimanded her for exuding an ice cold, regal air in that moment instead of loosening up or even using actual words, but Celly wasn't there and she needed him to be quiet for a moment so she could explain. Her mane and tail turned a shade darker and began to shimmer slightly as she unconsciously brought forth Nightmare Moon's influence little by little, her coy and commanding tone echoing through Luna's words as she spoke.
"That will be enough. I was not referring to myself, Blue-Blood, but to a young lady who wishes to spend the evening with you, a regal and royal prince. It was with the sole intent of discovering if you would be able to accompany this young lady tonight that I ask this question, not so that I could ask you for your time myself."
Blue-Blood's expression was one of pure fear and Luna realized what she was doing, fighting against the subtle hold the evil persona had on her mind. Her hair returned to its normal shade and she smiled shyly, turning her head away and trying not to die of sheer embarrassment on the spot.
"Unless of course you had other plans besides wooing a potential suitor, in which case I'm sorry to have bothered you."
He gulped. Grabbing his hoofkerchief from his pocket he wiped the sweat from his brow.
"I-It would be an honor to accompany her. I-I'll be sure to spend the whole evening with her."
Luna beamed, spirits lifted.
"Excellent! And be sure to be as regal as possible. She's expecting someone with refined tastes and a suitably royal personality."
Blue-Blood nodded dumbly. He folded his hoofkerchief and pocketed it.
"Regal," he said. "Got it. I'll be a true noblecolt the entire evening, chivalrous to the core."
Luna blinked, then thought for a moment. All her knowledge of culture and history told her something was off.
"But mares of this era don't expect chivalry, do they? Aren't they more akin to the mares of the 1600s who expected, and indeed accepted, horrible behavior from their lovers?"
"Are you telling me to be a snobby jerk to this filly?"
Luna didn't know how to respond, so she simply pretended the answer was obvious.
"It certainly wouldn't hurt to try, and she seems keen on nobility, famous throughout history for its many social foibles and mistreatment of others."
Luna walked away slowly, smiling to herself and leaving a very confused Prince Blue-Blood to figure out how to interpret her odd command. Despite briefly slipping up with her self-control under pressure she had already managed to arrange for the first of the elements to have a wonderful evening, with her every expectation fulfilled. It was a wonderful sensation, the feeling of having done a good deed with the promise of a reward. Her good deed would surely earn her a smile from the element of generosity. She mulled over what to do next and decided to head to the gardens to get all of the animals ready to make some new friends.
The gardens were lovely in the evening and Luna had made it a habit to stroll through them on lonely nights when there were no more decrees to sign and she needed a brief respite from her books. The animals knew her presence well by now and paid her no mind, which up until that point had been exactly as she liked it, but tonight was different and Luna needed them all in one place. She walked over to a small rabbit that was munching on some grass. It watched her, chewing slowly, and Luna had to admit that the little animal was charming, or more colloquially, cute. She smiled at it and the rabbit simply kept eating, its eyes always on her. She slowly walked closer.
"Excuse me, sir or madam hare, but if I might have a moment of your time I have a favor to ask of you."
The bunny turned around and hopped off into a bush leaving Luna to question just how good its manners were and whether or not it was intelligent enough to have any. In any case such a reaction to polite introductions was unacceptable. She followed after it, running around the bush and chasing after it.
"Come back! I merely wish to inquire about a simple task that I have need of your assistance with!"
The rabbit picked up speed and the sound of her voice and hoofs startled all the other creatures and critters in sight. She sighed, exasperated and annoyed. No, not annoyed. Never annoyed, she reminded herself. Never angry or furious or filled with rage or anything of the sort. Hassled, delayed even. Every obstacle was a chance to find a solution, not an excuse to give into petty wrath and destroy another perfectly good bedroom and frighten everyone and make everything worse and make everyone hate her all over again. Nightmare Moon stirred within her once more and provoked her emotions as she brought them under control again, making her more and more frustrated and upset. Her plan would be ruined if she didn't hurry and she still had so much preparation to complete. She had to help them, somehow, but when it came to animals she was just a useless filly. Hopeless. No hope. No light, only suffocating darkness that drove others away. She sniffled, pouted, scowled, shuddered, and then felt rather than heard the noise coming from her mouth, a sound usually reserved for calling dogs and frightening small animals.
The high-pitched wail of complete and utter sorrow echoed through the garden and sent shivers through every living thing that could hear it. Her shout slowly subsided as she heard someone coming close and heard a voice that was vaguely familiar. A yellow pegasus in a green dress was making her way through the gardens and Luna tensed with sudden fear as recognition hit her. The animals, she decided, would be perfectly fine on their own and didn't need her help finding the element and making friends with her. She scurried off back to the palace, not feeling a thin wisp of dark shadow and pent up unhappiness peeling off from her and taking with it some of her hidden pain, making its way to the element of kindness to corrupt and corrode her judgment and drive her more than a little insane.
As she made her way from the gardens she made her way through the terrace area and watched an orange pony kick her stand open, flags popping out and apple treats on display. She watched as she sold a pie to a passing member of the Wonderbolts and realized that not only was this an element of harmony, but she was already making her dream come true. Still, Luna felt compelled to help. She gathered up her courage and approached a pony on his way to the stand. He glanced her way and his monocle slid from his face, hanging from its chain just as low as his disengaged jaw.
She held up her hoof.
"Lovely night, wouldn't you agree?"
The pony nodded.
"Y-Yes, your finest one ye-"
"It's almost as lovely as those apple... fritters over there."
Luna wondered just what a fritter was as she read the label but she didn't let her curiosity stop her from making her best attempt at a sale pitch.
"What did you say?"
"Fritters. Apple fritters. You should go and buy one."
The pony looked around for a moment, unsure what to say.
"I was just about to, Princess, when-"
"Then hurry along, kind sir, and partake of as many as you desire. And spread the word of this stand and the quality of the products it sells."
The pony inched away from Luna little by little, hesitation spreading across his features.
"Yes, certainly, I'll... get right on that."
The pony took off at such high speed that Luna nearly believed that he had turned into smoke and vanished. She sighed and turned to the next pony in the vicinity, attempting to make her sales pitch to them. Again she was met with disappointment, fear and strange looks and one by one the ponies around her began to give the booth a wide berth simply to avoid having her come over and attempt to persuade them to make a purchase. Luna kicked the ground, feeling utterly defeated by her poor social skills. The element of honesty seem to be in high spirits though, confident in her stall. Luna decided to leave her be and trust that thing would be alright. She wandered off to see if she could find the Wonderbolts and assist one of the other elements with her goal of spending time with them.
The Wonderbolts, it turned out, were in the middle of an enormous crowd of ponies, all of them famous performers, aristocrats or businessponies. Luna gulped, walking towards the mob and trying to make out the less-than-subtle blue colors of the Wonderbolt uniform among the multicolored outfits. Ponies turned their heads to look at her, staring and gossiping. She lowered her head a little, trying not to meet anypony else's gaze. The gossip must have been contagious, because by the time she made it to the Wonderbolts they were each busily swapping stories and rumors about her. It was then she noticed the rainbow mane behind them, jumping up and down trying to get their attention. She walked over to them one by one, trying to talk to them and direct their attention where she wanted it, but every time she managed to pull one from their discussion the element of loyalty was already making a similar attempt elsewhere, too far away for her to call out to her without it feeling awkward, forced and frightening.
She cast her gaze around the room for an alternative when she saw a colorful blur do a flip and catch someone's falling glass. The element of loyalty looked around expectantly for the praise of her idols but Luna could see even from far away that she had failed to impress anyone besides her. As the rainbow-maned pegasus walked away, head hung, Luna felt her heart go out to her. The element might be brash, but they both wanted the same things; acceptance, praise and appreciation. Her head searched for ideas and Luna's gaze came to rest of a statue near the middle of the room. She smiled, her knowledge of physics and her keen eye for details quietly computing the weight of the alicorn sculpture and the force of its landing.
It would be just enough that a strong pegasus could easily catch it, but enough that the feat would be impressive, a perfectly tolerable amount. And an object that big would catch the attention of everyone in the room. Luna walked over to the refreshment table and poured herself a glass of punch, her horn glowing softly as it levitated in front of her. With her magic already flowing she discretely directed it to the statue, altering the distribution of its mass to make it top-heavy and easily tipped. Then she did the same to the base, creating a small but steadily growing crack that would result in total collapse right as the party was dying down and the Wonderbolts would be free to rush over to inspect the heroic act of the element. It was the perfect plan, and so long as the statue fell as the pedestal broke apart it wouldn't fall as quickly, minimizing potential damage. And really, who would knock it over before then?
As Luna made her way to the entrance hall she couldn't help but be overwhelmed by the sheer number on ponies gathered there, lining up to shake hoofs with Celestia. And there by her side was the Element of Magic herself. Luna dove behind a tapestry to hide while she figured out what to do next, but the element seemed to have already succeeded at spending time with Celly on her own, albeit not the time alone that she had sung about only hours before. Success was success though, and if... Luna's mind searched for a name to put to the face and remembered Celly had called her "Twilight Sparkle". Luna blinked, her eyes running along the folds of the unicorn's dress and taking in the star pattern. Twilight Sparkle. Stars. The evening sky adorned with the glittering jewels that heralded the night to come. She felt herself smiling.
If Twilight Sparkle was already happy with the evening then she felt it best not to interfere. Besides, she mused, what would she say? How could she approach the one who had freed her from her own darkness, this pony whose very name underlined their connection? Luna felt a warmth spread across her cheeks and a sudden wave of nervousness at the thought of talking to Twilight. Just as before a feeling entered her heart that seemed to well up from nowhere at all, but she knew that whatever the sensation was it was pleasant and warm like a candle in the dark.
She found herself staring a little longer than she had intended, her eyes locked on Twilight's. She took a step forwards, then another, moving from hiding place to hiding place. What felt like minutes rapidly became hours as she studied both the element and her own reactions, looking for words she hadn't used or heard in a thousand years and feeling things that she had thought she had lost forever. Joy. Longing. Envy. She realized that she was now only a few feet away, peering over a vase as she hid behind its pedestal with Celestia directly in her field of vision. She felt jealous of her sister once more, but it wasn't over the hearts of every living thing in Equestria. It was just one mare, one very special unicorn that she felt compelled to let her emotions run wild for. This new envy stemmed from Celly being the object of Twilight's affection, her beloved teacher. Luna fought it down with some difficulty. Logic. Rationalization.
She hadn't been part of Twilight's life up to this point, Celly had been there since she had been a child. Such distribution of Twilight's... Luna hesitated to call it love, but it felt like the emotion Twilight showed Celly was the love a child shows its parent. It was only natural. And despite being a student of the sun it was the stars that she was wearing, nestled in the deep blue hues of the night sky. Luna's smile grew little by little and she stopped paying attention to hiding her presence. As the last pony walked off to enter the main hall Celestia turned to Twilight, stepping between her and Luna almost on purpose. Suspiciously convenient, Luna mused, trying to inch around her sister and finding herself blocked at every turn as she spoke to her student.
"Now then, my star pupil, shall we head off to join your friends? With my duties complete I'm free for the rest of the evening and I want to hear all about your adventures firsthand. A letter can only tell so much, after all."
Twilight beamed, almost jumping for joy.
"Yes! I mean, yes, Princess Celestia. I've been wanting to have a chance to talk to you for so long."
Luna stopped in her tracks and remembered what her goal all along had been. Here she was trying to catch Twilight's attention to talk to her when the whole point of searching for her had been to ensure she had time alone with Celestia to catch up. And she still had yet to find the element of laughter to make her night complete as well. A loud crash echoed through the halls, followed by another, and another. The room shook with the force of an especially loud thud and all three mares stared at the door that led to the main hall.
"I think we should hurry along and see what that was, Twilight. If it's something your magic can fix perhaps you can demonstrate for me just how much your magic has progressed."
Twilight nodded, mildly concerned by the sound.
"I just hope nopony got hurt."
Celestia and Twilight headed off down the hall and Luna watched them go, unsure what to do. The hall was completely empty save for a pair of guards who were too busy staring out at the night sky and the rows of carriages to notice her presence. Well, she thought to herself, she had at least managed to try to help the elements have a good evening, even if it was difficult and filled with mistakes. The animals might have been a touch frightened by her, but the element of kindness would easily smooth over their fear and hesitation and make friends with them. She had certainly made a poor salesmare but the element of honesty clearly had a knack for business and didn't need a helping hoof to appeal to the party-goers. The element of generosity would be wooed by the prince, especially after the tips she had given him. And as for the element of loyalty, rigging the statue was a sure-fire way to make her a hero when it fell over.
She walked off back to her room, pondering the fate of the element of laughter. The pink party pony would be too hyperactive for a refined party, but this was the modern era and quite different from what she had grown up knowing. Perhaps in the thousand years she had been imprisoned parties had become more relaxed? Whatever the case, the element of laughter could certainly handle herself when it came to parties, even with her quirks.
Her thoughts turned back to Twilight and the feeling of connection she had felt when she saw her. Had she simply been too caught up in the excitement of having the darker part of herself driven away to notice it? Luna vowed to find out, her mind already working through the long list of books she'd need to read to figure out what was going on. Lore, myths, legends from generations before and after her banishment. Already she could feel the excitement of a new discovery upon her. It felt wonderful.
Twilight Sparkle hadn't run this fast since she was a filly.
She rounded the spiral stairs of Canterlot Castle, gasping and desperate, until she reached her library workshop. Her chest heaved and hurt from the nonstop running, but she pushed it aside to concentrate on the task at hand.
They'd called her mad. They'd said she was depraved. They'd said she was messing with powers beyond her reach.
Unfortunately, for once, it seemed that "they" were right.
Wasting no time, she willed several books off of the massive shelves. They opened and spun around her. Twilight's eyes were lightning, moving across several turning pages in mere seconds. Her mind moved almost as frantically.
It should have worked, it should should have worked, it should have worked! None of this should have happened! I checked everything! I dotted my Is, crossed all the Ts, carried all the ones, seriously what happened here-
"There she is!" she heard a voice cry out from the hallway.
She spun around to see four ponies with very stern faces looking back at her--and blocking the entrance.
"Twilight! There you are! Honestly, so many dreadful staircases, just to find you!"
Rarity's expression turned from grim to solemn. "When things got serious, so did she."
The others lowered their heads.
Twilight gasped. "No."
"Yes. Yet in the end, it was all in vain!" Rarity's teeth gritted for a split second. "Twilight, what made you think you could control those things?"
"I wasn't trying to control them!" Twilight huffed, and opened one of her workbooks to a page for them to see. "Well, not completely. But look! My research shows that the duplication properties of parasprites could be an excellent way to convert and recycle energy! All that was needed was to have them take up less space, and my new nanosprites should have been able to-"
"Twilight?" Applejack tapped her hoof. "Now, I admit I ain't exactly a fancy-schmancy magi-scientist, but do y'all know what 'nano' means?"
"Nano? Yeah. Y'know. Little. Tiny. Mini." Twilight broughht her hooves close together.
Applejack waked onto the terrace. "Uh-huh. Thought so. Learned the word in Manehatten myself so anyways how in the ever-lovin' tarnation do y'all explain THAT?"
The gathered ponies looked outside. A giant blue fuzzball flew above ground, knocking over trees, causing thunderous crashes, all without even noticing. It flew until it hovered over downtown Canterlot, kicking up high-speed winds with its wings.
Fluttershy shrank back. "I-I-It caught up with us!"
Then it touched down, and things got even worse.
--- "Polaris" A My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic Fanfiction Part 4: "Mad World" by Bookish Delight, 2012-2013 All characters and referred properties belong to Hasbro. ---
The impact could be felt even in the castle tower. Unicorns below screamed as their homes were destroyed in an instant. The royal guard sprang into action, both to help the populace and fight the threat. However, those who attempted the latter were ironically swatted without a second thought.
"Guess that's my cue." Rainbow Dash flew off of the terrace.
"Don't let it eat anything!" said Twilight. "It'll just get bigger!"
"Yeah, we learned that real quick back in Ponyville." Rainbow Dash's eyes narrowed as she glared daggers at Twilight. "Back when there was a Ponyville."
She was off in a flash--and in seconds, the remaining ponies were able to see Rainbow Dash flying circles around the giant parasprite, while a newly arrived Shining Armor, on the ground, put up a shield to contain both it and the heroic pegasus.
It worked for all of two seconds. With a turn of its body and a single flap of a wing, the giant parasprite burst through the shield, accompanied by the sound of shattering glass. Pegasus and unicorn were knocked back several city blocks.
"Shining Armor! Rainbow Dash!" Twilight yelled out the window, then turned around, snapping back to action. She went back to her pile of books, and speed-read through several hundred more pages in seconds. "Come on, come on... there! I've got it!"
"Got what?" said Rarity.
"Antidote? Now? Way to be hours late to the party!"
"Berate me later! Especially if this doesn't work!" From the terrace's perch, she fired a spiraling beam from her horn which hit the parasprite square in its gaping mouth. Twilight kept her beam constant as the parasprite resisted, and pushed her backwards. "Brace me, guys! It's fighting me!"
Fluttershy, Rarity and Applejack took hold of Twilight's sides and rear, and pushed. With their help, Twilight's forced retreat stopped, and they all kept pushing until that force gave, and the resistance ended, with a pop. The parasprite glowed violet all over, shrank to normal size, then popped out of existence.
"Well," said Rarity, her voice frosty. "Excellent work."
Twilight slumped and sighed. "But way too late."
At that moment, Rainbow Dash landed back on the terrace and in front of Twilight. She was littered with bruises, out of breath, and sported a coat that was as frazzled as her current disposition.
Sarcasm dripped from her voice. "Oh, so you finally managed to stop it. Great job." She sneered. "Jinx."
Applejack held up a hoof. "Now, Rainbow, let's not go a-usin' the J-word again-"
"No!" Rainbow Dash shook her head furiously. "No, no, no! Do you know what it's like to have hundreds of ponies counting on you to save them, but not being able to? Of course not. You're the one who originally thought it'd be a laugh to make fun of wanting to be a hero! Don't think I've forgotten."
Twilight didn't answer, instead lowering her head even more.
The blue pegasus continued her tirade, stepping forward, backing Twilight towards the edge. "That giant parasprite made short work of Ponyville in no time flat! If Pinkie hadn't been there, I don't know what... what I... aaaaargh!" With a high-pitched, tear-filled yell, Rainbow tackled Twilight, tumbling the two of of the terrace.
"Rainbow! Twilight!" the other three ponies screamed as the two fell and landed on the courtyard below. Only a cushioning spell at the last second from Twilight saved them both. Rainbow Dash didn't seem to care in the slightest. Instead she picked Twilight up by her sides with both front hooves.
"I don't even have to go to Ponyville to show you how you've messed up! Look at this place! Demolished again! I was here when you made that faulty magic reactor! And again when you put everypony under that slow-motion spell! That last one especially was pure torture."
"I-I apologized publicly for all of those mishaps, though," Twilight said, her voice meek as a kitten.
"Apologies, schmologies. When will you get it? You used to help ponies! Now all you are is Equestria's mad magician! All harm and no good! You're not worth keeping around anymore!"
The words echoed through the courtyard far better than Twilight would have liked. By this time, Applejack, Rarity and Fluttershy had caught up to them. Twilight looked their way. "You guys feel the same?"
Applejack sighed. "Sugarcube, I..." She stopped herself. "...no. You don't get called that anymore. Because of you, we don't have a Sweet Apple Acres anymore. Worse'n that... we don't even have a Ponyville anymore!"
Rarity shook her head. "Carousel Boutique was destroyed in a blink."
Fluttershy sniffed. "All my animal friends... gone before I even knew what happened."
"The Wonderbolts saw everything, Twilight. Everything! They tried to help! Now they're gone too!" And again Rainbow Dash tackled Twilight, causing the two to roll across the castle courtyard until they met a gathered crowd of ponies. Twilight recognized some of them as Canterlot citizens--and others as Ponyville residents.
The crowd stared at her. Murmurs sounded from among them.
"Twilight Sparkle? She's always been a troublemaker. What'd she do this time?" "That giant parasprite that just decked us? That was her." "No way! Seriously?" "Yeah, a bunch of them just wasted Ponyville, too." "Just 'cause she's got Celestia on a leash, she thinks she can do whatever she wants!"
Through the crowd stepped a beige bespectacled mare, looking nearly as disheveled as Rainbow Dash. "Twilight... is this true? Are you really the one responsible for the giant parasprite?"
Twilight's voice cracked. "M-Mayor Mare? I-"
Mayor Mare shivered. "I'd never been so terrified in all my life. Why would you do this to us? Were we nothing but welcoming when you came to live in our town? W-was there something I could have done better? I just don't understand."
"It was an accident!" Twilight cried. "I was just trying to make things better for everypony! For Equestria as a whole! I-"
The heavens nearly shook with the sound of her name.
Sunlight flooded the courtyard. The temperature, however, didn't change. Princess Celestia appeared from the stratosphere, and landed in the midst of the crowd, directly in front of her student.
She looked around at her city. Her eyebrows furrowed.
That was all Twilight needed to see.
"P-P-Princess Celestia? Please, d-don't worry. I can fix this like all the others! I promise! Well, it'd probably go faster with your help, but either way, things can be back to normal before you know it! We can restore Canterlot, and Ponyville, and everywhere else! Right?"
Twilight smiled weakly while searching Celestia's eyes for that telltale spark of forgiveness she always saw.
She didn't see it this time.
"Right?" She blinked, searched again. Nothing. Celestia remained stoic, and for the first time, Twilight felt the first tinges of fear creeping towards her heart.
The winged unicorn shook her head. "Twilight Sparkle, you've done so much for me, and for Equestria, already. But even those scales can be tipped. I hoped this day would never come, but we have reached an imbalance which I'm afraid I can no longer abide."
Twilight took a step back. "Princess Celestia? W-what do you mean?"
"It means that there is such a thing as being too dedicated to your studies. It means that there is such a thing as abuse of power, even with good intentions. It means, Twilight, that I agree with your friends."
Twilight shuddered. "No! They're wrong! They're all wrong! I just need more time! Just once more chance! Equestria will thank me once I get this right! They'll see!"
Celestia shook her head again.
"No, Twilight. They won't."
Twilight froze. The fear now touched the tips of her heart, and crept even further as Celestia continued her denouncement.
"I've turned a blind eye for longer than I care to admit, but today I must face facts." The princess closed her eyes and slowly shook her head in dismay. "You are the greatest mistake I've made in thousands of years--one that I made in my rush to undo another. It appears the cycle will never end until I do so myself, the only way I know how."
Twilight's eyes widened, tears welling up within them. "I'm a mistake?" she whispered.
"Elements of Harmony, arise." Celestia's voice was smothered in sorrow.
"Wait." Twilight gaped. "What?"
Six multicolored jewels appeared in front of Celestia, and swirled around her. Twilight felt their magic touch her, but not in their usual, empowering fashion. They were working against her, fighting her, smothering her. No matter how much she tried to fight back, she was completely helpless, even with her considerable power.
"Y-you can't do this!" Twilight cried as she realized the futility of the situation. "I was only trying to help! I've always only been trying to help!"
Twilight felt herself levitating off of the ground. For brief moments, she was eye-level with the Princess, remained silent while looking away.
She struggled in midair. Nothing changed. She tried to cast spells. She rose faster.
Her brother had arrived, and Twilight's heart leapt at her final sign of hope. "Shining Armor! Help! Make Celestia stop!"
Shining Armor looked at his sister, then at Celestia, and quickly put two and two together. "Princess, what are you doing? This is going too far!"
He moved to act, but Celestia placed a hoof on his shoulder, reopened her eyes, and looked into his. He was complacent in an instant.
The entire crowd of ponies was, in fact, simply willing to let it all happen, Twilight realized. Everyone present was perfectly willing to let her be banished.
Nopony on her side. Complete loneliness. A centuries-old legend sprang to mind, and for the first time in her life, Twilight truly and fully understood how both of its protagonists must have felt.
She struggled one last time, and tried every counteractive spell she knew. Unfortunately, fighting ancient relics of untold magical power and a princess of the same was a laughable effort at best. She gave up, curling herself into a ball.
I'm sorry, her mind chanted. I'm sorry, I'm sorry. I never wanted to hurt anypony. But it just kept happening. Every time I tried to stop it, it just kept getting worse, I...
The creeping fear, the terror and sadness, took over her heart completely, and she broke down into silent tears as her mind's voice repeatedly echoed a single sentiment.
...I'm sorry for ever being alive!
It was cold. Cold everywhere.
Twilight wasn't sure how much time had passed before she opened her eyes again, but when she did, she saw exactly what she expected: a starry void, all around her. She was still floating in a single direction--and wouldn't you know it, the moon wasn't far off.
As she approached the large, gray mass, she trembled. She'd be trapped within its confines for who knew how long, with the opportunity to plead her case long past. She would have started sobbing again, if not for the sight of a blue winged unicorn rushing up to meet her.
"Twilight," she heard her say. "Please, look at me."
Twilight did so, looking straight in her eyes--and the unicorn appeared to recoil in shock. Twilight did as well, once they were close enough for her to see a few pieces of telltale black armor.
"Nightmare Moon? No!" With a shriek, Twilight instinctively attempted to move away. She got absolutely nowhere, merely swimming in space for her troubles. "Y-you're not going to take me!"
Her horn's light pulsated erratically, sending off repeated magical bursts everywhere around herself with no reason or direction--explosive fireworks which lit up the starscape. A few of these stray light shows made it to Nightmare Moon, who protected herself from them with a field which looked to require barely a thought for her to raise.
"Calm thyself, Twilight Sparkle!" Nightmare Moon's voice boomed as she flew closer. "You have done nothing wrong, now or ever. You are in the middle of a delusion! Fight it! Set yourself free!"
"What? No way! You're all the crazy ones!" Twilight cried, the fireworks intensifying and increasing in frequency. The second she saw the dark pony advance, she tried getting away again. After still not getting much of anywhere, she simply re-curled into a ball, all shivers and sniffles.
W-why... why does everypony hate me?
The fireworks ceased, leaving only Twilight's trembling voice.
Why does Princess Celestia hate me? Is it really because of my magic? I've only done my best to please her my whole life! Where did I mess up? What does she want from me? What does Equestria want from me?
Nightmare Moon stopped where she was, shaking her head with a sigh, and a mental reply of her own.
Oh, Twilight. It truly is worse than I thought. How long have you kept all of this bottled inside? And worse... how long has my sister allowed you to?
If Twilight had heard her, she didn't let on that she did. No reply was made outside of further cowering.
Very well, then. I may still be learning myself, but this may at last be the correct time...
The dark princess cleared her throat, then opened her mouth.
This time, instead of booming words, or even soft ones... sweet, dulcet notes escaped instead. A beautiful song, its melody both familiar and foreign, poured forth from Nightmare Moon's lips until Twilight's shivers and shakes slowly ebbed, and she eventually worked up the nerve to peek out from her position.
The second she did so, she saw the dark winged unicorn smile and nod through her performance. Moonlight swirled around the both of them, taking them out of infinite space and into a lush, colorful yard.
Twilight gasped at the scene of tranquility before her. Fireflies were the garden's source of luminance; petals flew about with abandon. The smell of roses, lilies and daisies, lilacs and grass, combined together into a most heavenly of scents she had never experienced even when visiting Fluttershy's grounds in Ponyville.
The mist cleared, and she could finally see Nightmare Moon for who she really was. Her stature was smaller. The armor was gone. Her eyes twinkled benevolently as opposed to sparking with electric menace.
Her fear slowly draining, Twilight shakily rose and explored, with nopony doing anything to stop her. Instead the song continued, syrup in her ears--an ability Twilight had never suspected the Moon Princess of possessing. It served as a background piece as Twilight explored her flora-laden surroundings their entirety.
She returned as the song's final notes were sung, and looked up at the winged unicorn's navy visage. "Princess Luna?"
Luna nodded. "Yes, Twilight. It is I."
Twilight looked around. "The castle gardens?"
"It was the closest place I could think of. And the best, considering the n-" Luna stopped herself. "The bad dream you were having."
Twilight held her hoof to her shaking head. "Ugh. One of the worst. I don't even know if I can describe it without going crazy again." She looked back up at Luna again with sad eyes. "I'm so sorry. You should be guarding the night instead of having to check on me."
The smallest of smiles crossed Luna's muzzle. "It is all right. Both are responsibilities I quite enjoy. In fact, I do not mind doing both at once. For instance, your dream? Descriptions are not needed. I know every single detail."
Twilight's eyes went wide. "You do?"
Luna extended a hoof. "I hope that by now, I have proven that I mean no harm. Twilight Sparkle, will you take a tour with me?"
Twilight took a deep breath and gathered her nerves. It was the least she owed Luna for everything that had just happened, she reasoned. "Okay."
A dark blue aura surrounded Twilight as she was gently levitated and placed on Luna's back. With a spread of her wings, and a mighty yet graceful push, Luna took flight, out of the garden, and above the castle.
It wasn't long before the two were slowly coasting over Canterlot skies. At this height and time of night, Twilight noticed, there wasn't much to hear except the sound of the passing breeze. She decided to take advantage of this by keeping their conversation going.
"Your singing voice is absolutely lovely."
"Why haven't I at least heard of it before?"
Luna hesitated for a long while before replying. "The lessons you helped me learn during my trip to Ponyville stuck with me. For months I attempted to 'tone myself down,' so to speak. But even with my sister's aid, it wasn't going very well. So I returned to observe you further."
"But I never saw you," said Twilight.
"Disguised, naturally," said Luna with a quick wink. "Eventually I also noticed you and your friends' penchants for breaking out into song every so often. Usually, when you do, it infectiously spreads to others. The pink one especially appears to be able to brighten your entire village with her voice."
Twilight giggled. She'd remembered that day. She'd actually went out and bought reading earmuffs that very afternoon.
"I could never figure out exactly why, but I did happen upon another epiphany observing it. Is song not the ultimate form of voice control? If I could pull it off, then what couldn't I? I began practicing during free and lonesome moments--of which I have few. Still, the result is what you have heard." Luna paused. "I, um, do hope it was satisfactory. I've ever sung in front of another before. Not even my sister."
"Beyond satisfactory, Princess," said Twilight. "And it shows. You already seem in so much more control of your speech. I hope that one day, all of Equestria is able to hear what I heard in that garden."
Luna smiled. "Well, it may be a while yet before I serenade our world, but I thank you all the same. For the compliment... and everything you've done for me. Have I done so lately?"
"Well, not lately, but you don't have to."
"On the contrary. I can never do so enough times." Luna sighed, and they rounded the town border from above. "A thousand years, consumed by a force of pure hatred, unable to do anything about it. Believe me when I say that it's a slow pain that eats away at you, and the only time I ever considered my own potential lifespan a curse. For myself, and those who love me."
Twilight stayed silent for some moments before daring to ask, "The story of how you became Nightmare Moon... are the legends true?"
"How I became so consumed with jealousy towards the constant worship given my sister that I was easily corrupted? Sadly, yes. Unfortunately, the legends make me out to be far more majestic than I truly was." She scoffed. "I wish I'd allowed myself to be corrupted because of something as natural as envy. But I'm afraid matters on my part were far more petty."
"What do you mean?"
Luna stopped where she was. Twilight looked down. They were currently hovering over Canterlot's exact center. "Listen right now, Twilight. What do you hear?"
Twilight did the best she could, but in the end came up with, "Nothing. Maybe a couple of ponies enjoying themselves in a local tavern, but at this height... those might just be bugs."
"I can take a lack of worship. I could even take being cursed if need be, or not being purposefully ignored. But silence... abject silence is enough to drive anypony mad if exposed to it for long enough." She closed her eyes, and the night breeze let forth a muted whistle. "So far gone, so lost in myself I eventually became, that I told myself I was willing to become Nightmare Moon simply because hearing the laments of my subjects at least meant I would still be hearing them."
Twilight gaped. "How awful! I'm so sorry."
"Do not weep for me, Twilight. It was one of many silly decisions borne of a lack of self-confidence. And the problem didn't go away simply once I was freed of her influence. As I resumed my nightly guardian duties, I was challenged with finding a solution all by myself. After much meditation, I indeed found it."
Luna flapped her wings, soaring moonward. As they both were bathed in alabaster light, her horn shone with a contrasting navy glow which, once bright enough, wrapped itself around a startled Twilight's horn.
"What?" said a startled Twilight . "Luna, I-"
Luna simply held up a hoof. "Now listen."
Twilight closed her eyes, concentrating on the new magical aura surrounding her own.
"And stay out, y'no-good varmints! But only after y'all apologize for tryin' to make my family look so bad!" "A show dedicated entirely to my designs? In Manehatten's Central Park? I... I don't know what to say..." "Thanks, everypony! As Cloudsdale's new mayor, I promise to make sure the rest of Equestria always knows just how awesome we are. And to help with that, my first act is the announcement of a worldwide race!"
Twilight stopped as she realized. "They're... I'm listening to..."
Luna smiled with satisfaction. "Indeed. Ponies do not become inactive simply because of their nightly slumber rituals. In fact, upon partaking of them, they simply enter a different world of their own creation. Therefore, as Princess and guardian of the moon and night respectively, I have taken it upon myself to stand watch over their nightly journeys."
"A dream guardian..." Twilight looked at Luna with a feeling of awe she hadn't experienced in quite some time. "...I never would have imagined."
And for once, Twilight could see Luna fluster every so slightly. "T-thank you, Twilight. I..." She snapped back to attention just as quickly. "Hold, Twilight. I sense an emergency."
"An emergency? Where?" Twilight just barely remembered to hang on as the Moon Princess took off at top speed. "Wait. You're going back towards the castle?"
"I think we've both learned by now that dream emergencies can happen anywhere." Luna stopped in front of one of the castle bedrooms, where Twilight could see a white unicorn tossing, turning, and sweating besides.
"Shining Armor!" she said with a gasp. "What's going on? I have to help him!"
"And help him you shall. Due to the nature of the dream I'm sensing, I do think it's best that you are the one who intervenes."
"W-wait, me? Intervene?" Her voice crept to a whisper. "You mean, inside of his-"
"Yes," Luna said as sparkles covered them both. "I will provide the magic you need... so that you may provide the hope he needs."
And before Twilight had time to ask questions, her reality was swirling away once more.
She only hoped she was prepared well enough for what lay on the other side.
Original Synopsis: After the events of the Royal Wedding, Twilight Sparkle questions the purpose of her very existence. She fortunately has friends in high places who may be able to provide some answers... but heaven help her if they prove to not be enough.
What Is This?: Part 4 of Polaris, wherein Twlilight Sparkle's fears of the future get out of hand. It's going to take a Princess truly versed in the ways of remorse to rescue her this time. The Bookish Delight Season 2 finale refuses to give up!
Dear Princess Celestia: From here on out, there is only one set of "standards" I will ever adhere to: my own. If it means I sacrifice some things, then so be it.
Text by Bookish Delight, 2012-2013. My Little Pony belongs to Hasbro, not to me. This is done completely bereft of profit.
"Everypony, remain calm so as to allow our fair city to be efficiently defended!"
Even given its volume, Shining Armor's request fell on deaf ears. Unicorn citizenry either shivered in corners, or ran in all directions in an attempt to make themselves scarce from the chaos that was downtown Canterlot.
Meanwhile armored pegasi flew about, combating household objects which had become animate--brooms, mops, pantries, and even ovens which had learned to put their super-heating abilities to malicious use.
A squadron of fifty unicorns, led by Shining Armor and Princess Cadance, rushed to the scene of greatest commotion. While weary from preventing casualties for the past hour, they were still fueled by adrenaline granted through the will to prevent even more.
And at that scene, they found the source of the chaos--quite literally, in fact.
"Discord! It is you! I didn't believe it at first," said Shining Armor. He looked around. "Even when Celestia told me the legends of your handiwork."
"Understandable. The legends tend to lie," Discord replied, flashing a smile. "They understate everything." He looked around as well. "Weren't you telling ponies to run for cover during the Nightmare Moon affair?" He pointed towards a crumbled statue. "I was watching from my perch. Looks like they're good learners."
"Tactical error," said Shining Armor. "Not mine, but I'll own up to it. Just like I've owned up to the task of making sure you leave Equestria alone!"
"What?" For a few moments, Discord looked puzzled. "Aha! I get it! You must be the captain of the royal guard this time around! Oh, Celestia always goes for the heroic ones--and why not? Their ideals are always so quaint."
"And your magic is utterly repulsive," said Cadance. "But if you're so fond of it, we'll make sure you get more than you'll ever need! Unicorn brigade, cast at will!"
All unicorns present followed their Princess's orders, and the result was a brilliant sphere of light where Discord stood. It pulsed, it vibrated, and then exploded in a near-blinding flash, forcing all in the vicinity to shield their eyes.
When it was possible to look again, the unicorns did so, only to see Discord blinking, nonplussed. "Well, I'm still waiting," he said.
Shining Armor took a step back. "It can't be!"
"Hmm? Can't be what? What's the matter?" Discord blinked in mock confusion, then gasped. "Oh, that was your offensive! Sorry, I so rarely can tell when it comes to token resistance. Unfortunately, I can't say I'm impressed, much less harmed. In fact, I'm hard-pressed for a response... wait!" He snapped his fingers. "Never mind. I believe I know exactly how to express just what I feel that sorry excuse for an attack deserves."
For a few brief seconds, Shining Armor was at a loss as to the meaning of Discord's words--until he heard a scream from one end of his squad, and then the other. The screams multiplied in number, and after enough time looking frantically in both directions, he was able to discern the cause.
All around him, unicorn soldiers' horns were being forcibly changed into common household flashlights, and made to shine permanently as added insult to injury. Instantly, he raised a shield around the unicorns who were yet to be affected. When he saw, to his horror, that it had no effect, he turned to Cadance. "You've got to go. Get out now."
"What? Absolutely not! Shining-"
"Look. We're out of our league. Discord's got us to rights, and he knows it. All I can do here now is buy us time. If there's anypony with a chance of truly standing against him, it'll be a Princess, or a bearer of the Elements of Harmony." He placed his hooves on her shoulders. "I don't count as either, but you do."
Cadance thought it over for exactly three seconds before giving Shining Armor a quick hug and kiss. "I love you always."
"And I you," he said as Cadance vanished from the scene.
"Oh, I do so love playing with royal guard captains," Discord said with a chuckle. "Just in case you were wondering, yes, I am saving you for last. So if you're enjoying watching your entourage fall while under your command, then by all means, feel free to unleash any sort of desperation spells you may have stored--wait." Discord craned his head to the side and looked at the white unicorn's cutie mark. "Curious design, that. What exactly is your name?"
"I am Shining Armor," he said, standing his ground. "Canterlot's first and greatest name in defense."
"Wait. You're a... a shield pony?" Discord broke into peals of laughter. "Celestia has changed since my last imprisonment! Nothing personal, really. It's just that her former royal guards used to be utter attack stallions." His neck elongated until he was right in Shining Armor's face with a smug grin. "And with good reason. They lasted far longer than you."
Shining Armor growled, his teeth gritting and his horn crackling, in response.
"Oh, my." Discord backed away. "That's the spirit! Show those deep-seated aggressive urges! Sadly, it looks like too little too late. I've already gotten to the rest of your unit." He gestured to the dozens of unicorns, now lying around Shining Armor--twitching, barely conscious, their flashlight-horns still shining in random directions.
With a gasp, Shinng Armor galloped around the borders of the town square, looking further outward. The pegasi were all down as well, their wings subtly replaced by those of chickens. Those who weren't crashing into the sides of houses were in the same twitching state as the unicorns.
His anger ebbed, dismay taking its place. "I've failed, haven't I?"
Discord came up behind him and placed a claw on his back. "Oh, spectacularly. But ask yourself: knowing what you do about me, did you honestly think you had a chance of success?"
Shining Armor thought it over. "No. I suppose not."
The second he said those words, he lowered his head--and from muzzle to tail, the whole of his body lost its defining color. A gray-tinted Shining Armor stared back up at Discord with wide and empty eyes.
Discord cackled at his handiwork. "Oh, goody! It still works! Well, if nothing else, watching your failure was most amusing, but I can't drag this out all day. I've got more important ponies to utterly demoralize. Sayonara, Shining Armor! Heh--a little word humor there."
Shining Armor watched Discord point at his horn, and sighed in resignation. After all, it always ended up like this. He braced himself for the pain, knowing that at least it would only last a few moments before-
Purple lightning burst from between them at that moment, revealing a single unicorn when it cleared--not to mention a sight for Shining Armor's sore eyes.
Twilight Sparkle had arrived.
And the fire in her eyes was as intense as the determination written on her face.
--- "Polaris" A My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic Fanfiction Part 5: "Equestrian of the Battlefield" by Bookish Delight, 2012-2013 All characters and referred properties belong to Hasbro. ---
"Eh?" Discord shook his head and rubbed his eyes. "Wait. I left you wandering around a maze. How are you here?"
"I hate to agree with him," said Shining Armor, "but yeah, Twilie. This isn't normally-"
Twilight cut to the chase. "No, it's not, and that's what I'm counting on. Look, Discord plays a lot of mind games. That's half his power. As long as we don't let him get to us, we've got a chance."
Shining Armor shook his head. "I already know how this goes, Twilight. There's nothing I can do to stop it! Not even with you around!"
"And certainly not with that attitude! This dream doesn't have to play out the same way every time! Not so long as you don't want it to! And I don't want it to, either." She placed her hooves on his shoulders, looking into his eyes. "Are you willing to trust your sister?"
Shining Armor looked back, seeing in her eyes the hope he'd had just a few minutes ago. She looked so sure of herself right now. What did she know that he didn't?
"Always," he said. "If you can believe, then I guess I can too."
Twilight smiled. "Then let's show this chump what for."
Discord shook his head. "So your final desperation maneuver is believing in yourselves. This has officially gone beyond amusing." He waved his hand over the two...
...to no effect. The both of them stood, side by side, with lights and sparkles swirling around above their heads and growing brighter by the second.
He waved his hand again. Still nothing.
"Wh-... why isn't this working? Where's my beautiful chaos?"
"Sorry to drop this on you so soon, Discord. But where I come from, you've already been defeated!" Twilight's smile grew wider. "And guess who played a part?"
"You're dealing with the combined power of family now, Discord! My sister's no joke..."
The light faded, revealing Shining Armor, color and confidence restored, standing with a glittering shield bubble around himself.
"...and just in case you were wondering, you've made the royal guard very angry!"
With that, he charged towards Discord at triple-speed. When the headbutt actually happened, he didn't feel a thing--but judging from the yell he heard, Discord certainly had. The chimera sailed through the air over several yards before landing, hard, on his side.
"Why is this actually hurting me," Discord said in an annoyed monotone. He jumped to his feet. "All right, fine. I don't need to take this. I have a schedule to keep. But don't get too comfortable! I'll be back, and then things really get crazy!"
In a blink, he was gone.
The second Discord disappeared, the squad showed signs of recovering. Unicorns, with their horns restored, slowly stirred. Pegasi took tentative, then joyous, flaps back into the skies.
"Shining!" Twilight ran over to her brother. "Are you all right?"
"Twilie..." Shining Armor looked out to the distance. "...I don't know what to say but thanks."
"Thank Princess Luna, too. She guards dreams now, and sent me in to help. I... I had no idea it'd be this bad."
Shining sighed. "Yeah. This happens to me every once in a while. Biggest failure and all that. Brain makes you relive the excitement whether you like it or not."
Twilight sighed as well. "I know what you mean."
Shining Armor shrugged. "Perfectionism runs in the family. You didn't think you were the only one, did you? But hey, thanks to you, I've finally got a scenario where this could have gone well to think about. That'll go a long way to helping me get over this. Thanks, Twilight. And thank Princess Luna for me too."
Twilight beamed. "In that case, I'm happy to help. Especially since I think we are in the same boat."
"That's just it, though. We don't have to be. You don't have to be." He pressed his hooves onto Twilight's shoulders in the same way she had his earlier. "In fact, you should do whatever you can to stop that from happening."
"But I can't!" Twilight shook her head. "I know what it's like to have failed the kingdom now! To have failed everypony! Chrysalis-"
Shining Armor cut her off. "-was defeated in part by me. I finally know what it's like to have saved Canterlot. Would you deny me that?"
Twilight was stricken silent, only able to shake her head in reply.
Shining chuckled. "Heh. Good. But you're still a couple victories up on me, and you know what, sis? I've seen you beat yourself up too much for too long. Now, I've got troops to tend to, and a wife who'll be here any minute with plans to do the same to me. I can take it from here." He winked.
Twilight giggled. "I'll leave you to it, then."
"Great. And try to remember what you did tonight, okay? Because believe me--it matters."
Brother and sister shared a hug, as the world around Twilight swirled away, and the former's final words echoed in her mind:
"You are Twilight Sparkle. That's a fact to be proud of."
The night returned.
Twilight's vision faded back into focus, and she looked back at Shining Armor through the window. The tossing and turning had stopped, and on his face was a look of peace.
"Well done, Twilight Sparkle," said Luna's voice from in front.
"Thank you Luna. But it wouldn't have been possible without you."
Luna's eyes met hers, flashing with determination. When Twilight looked closer, she could see the moon's light reflecting off of small droplets just under them.
"No need to thank me, Twilight. As mentioned before, this is my responsibility now. Under my watchful gaze, the word 'nightmare' will be banished in all of its forms." Her voice was intense, yet wavering. "This I absolutely vow, now and hereafter."
Twilight met her stare head on. "Luna... they've forgiven you, you know." She wrapped her forelegs around the Moon Princess's neck and shoulders. "I certainly have."
Luna's muscles relaxed as she took off again, and she looked straight ahead. "Most have. Looking into dreams can be a double-edged sword. I know that some still wish to banish me in the worst and most painful ways they can." Luna shivered. "Sometimes I wonder if I'd welcome it. Nopony deserves feel the effects of the curse I became."
"You're not a curse!" Twilight held onto Luna even more tightly. "You said it for yourself. You are Princess Luna. You guard Equestria when it's arguably at its most vulnerable. There is honor in your name, and in your position! But it's up to you to live up to it!"
Luna stopped where she was, allowing Twilight's words to catch up to her, and for Twilight herself to panic as upon realizing she'd just told off royalty. "Th-th-that i-is, i-if you don't m-mind my saying so, I mean, I... awww."
Luna simply laughed. This did absolutely nothing to help Twilight's nervousness, until she was levitated off of Luna's back, and into a tender frontal embrace. Twilight looked up into Luna's eyes, then past them, to the moon itself, while savoring the warmth and softness of her coat in the cool of the night.
"P-Princess Luna? I..."
"Thank you, Twilight. From the bottom of my heart. You are welcome to remind me of what you just did as often as you like."
She followed Twilight's gaze to the moon with a sigh.
"Heaven knows I need it."
Their tour of Canterlot finished, Luna and Twilight landed back in the latter's room, with Twilight sitting on the bed and Luna standing beside.
Twilight fidgeted nervously. "Is it all right if I tell you something I'm... not exactly proud of?"
"We've been doing that all night, if I recall. I would be honored."
"Well... seeing Shining Armor's dream helped me to understand mine, I think. After the changeling invasion? Whenever I didn't have anything else to think about, I would run it back over in my mind. I would always think about what I could have done differently, what I could have had my friends do differently... so that I didn't fail everypony like I did. Princess Celestia charged me to find the Elements of Harmony, which I've done twice already." Twilight shook her head. "But I couldn't this time."
Luna nodded, listening instead of responding, and inviting Twilight to continue.
"I don't know how much your sister told you about my, um, misadventures in learning magic. But I used to always tell myself that maybe all of my screwups were worth it if the magic abilities I gained proved useful in the end. Which they didn't this week. So how long, then, until the ends no longer justify the means? I know if I were your sister, I'd be worried about whether or not Twilight Sparkle was... you know..."
"Still worth the trouble?"
Twilight held in a sniffle. "Exactly."
"Hmmm. An excellent, if sobering question. Twilight?"
Luna stroked Twilight's mane with one hoof. "I will trust you with one of our greatest secrets. There have been stories told by ponies for centuries about my and Celestia's exploits, both good and otherwise. However, if one were to look more closely at the most popular of those stories, they would realize that nearly all of them take place during either the height of day or night."
"You mean, noon or midnight?"
"Thereabouts, yes." Luna sat next to Twilight on the bed. "As Princesses of our respective astronomical beings, our powers are strongest during the time periods when the ones we represent are active. During the nighttime, Celestia's potential greatly diminishes, and so it is with myself during the day. It was actually best for one of us to retreat while the other took over, so vulnerable were we. Our myriad gifts as pegasus unicorns came with equivalent curses in the name of balance. But circumstances have changed."
"Because of..." Twilight trailed off.
"Yes. Celestia has had a millennium to hone her magical abilities such that she can subsist during both the day and night. I haven't had the luxury yet--and therefore, if you recall, I wasn't around for the changeling invasion. Not only would I not have been much help, I likely would have made an easy hostage besides."
Twilight simply nodded, the memory of Chrysalis overpowering Celestia still fresh in her mind.
"I see you agree. Celestia and I talked about it afterwards and actually chalked it up to good luck. But I'm still one of the heads of the royal house. Meaning, at best, we are in the same boat--but at worst, I have far more to answer for than you." Luna closed her eyes. "No matter how sound the reasons may be, it breaks one's heart to be forced to leave their sister alone to fend for themselves."
Twilight looked down, towards the bedsheets. "I... I never thought of it that way. You must feel even worse about the whole thing than I."
Luna shook her head. "It is not about the degree of remorse we harbor, Twilight, but that we harbor it at all. Our regrets are, in a way, our greatest asset. They express our desire to learn from our mistakes, to make sure that they never happen again. My remorse compels me to ward the curse of Nightmare Moon by any means necessary. Your remorse means that those troublesome dreams you've been having of late will remain forever those--dreams of the past, or a future that will never come to pass. That is, unless..."
"Unless you become lost in them. That is the sole danger of using your sadness as empowerment, but the danger is great indeed. However, I saw you in your brother's dream. You exuded a confidence that allowed both you and him to overcome a situation that you should never have been able--and he is now better for it. Keep that in mind."
"I... I will," said Twilight.
"Good," said Luna, rising from the bed. "Twilight, my sister may be right... you may be our next and greatest hope. And from the actions and words which I have witnessed tonight, I am inclined to believe her. Thus, from this moment forth I will do my best to assist as she teaches you the secrets of magic."
"Princess Luna!" Twilight gasped with a soft happiness. "Thanks so much."
"Consider the sentiments mutual. After all..." Luna moved closer. The room grew warm, and her cheek gently brushed against Twilight's as she whispered in the young mare's ear. "...there are things you have been teaching me as well. Things beyond mere voice control, and beyond even confidence."
"I have? What sorts of things?"
Luna didn't answer. Instead, she moved the sheets and blanket with her magic, tucking Twilight in. "Good night, Twilight Sparkle."
"I... good night, Princess."
Luna cast one final spell over the bed, sending Twilight into a peaceful sleep in seconds. "And sweet dreams. You, most of all, deserve them."
She'd been in danger before. That was fine with her. She knew it came with the office she held.
She'd been at her wit's end before. Yet she knew, even when you live for millennia, you can always stand to learn new things.
But rarely had Princess Celestia been both of the above, and powerless to boot.
That, she hated.
She looked out at her kingdom from her castle's tallest tower--a kingdom which was literally coming apart at the seams in the night. Buildings turned upside down, water turned into strawberry jam, unicorn horns turned into flashlights... she'd laugh if she didn't know that it was all being done in the name of chaos and suffering, and that the cause of all of this would never stop, never end, never be satisfied.
She hated only being able to watch, but she knew she had to. The Nightmare Moon affair had brutally taught her the value of patience--a patience both exercised and stressed as a solitary glow was felt within her heart.
A single glow that she placed her full faith in. If the kingdom at large ever knew that even she looked up to one other... well, it was moot, for they never would know.
And so long as that one light was never snuffed, she would hold her own ground.
Princess Luna walked into the tower's room with a yawn, mercifully distracting Celestia from her worries. "Sister... what is my moon doing up so early? I did not raise it."
Celestia replied with exactly one word. "Discord."
"What?" That one word caused Luna to step back. "Well... that was quicker than expected."
"All sealed evil eventually returns, Celestia. I have learned as much up close." She moved closer and hugged her sister, looking out to the moon as she did so. "Not a lesson I am exceedingly proud of, but knowledge is knowledge. So what is your plan?"
"Not so elaborate as the one I had for you, I'm afraid. Twilight and the other bearers of the Elements of Harmony have already been charged to quell the threat. Unfortunately I gave them their mission hours ago, yet..."
"I'm sensing bad news."
"My usage of the Elements long ago links me to those who would wield them now. But only one of those links still persists at present."
Luna didn't even have to think about it. "Twilight Sparkle?"
"She does tend to come through in the tightest of situations, does she not?"
Celestia closed her eyes. "I'm counting on that now more than ever."
"Your Majesties," said a guard at the door, "You have a visitor."
"Somepony made it here in all this chaos?" said Celestia. "Let them in."
"As you command." The guard made way for a pink winged unicorn. "Presenting... the Princess Cadance."
"Cadance!" With a gasp, Celestia ran to embrace her. "Cadance, my trusted companion! I thought you and Shining Armor were-"
"We were," Cadance replied. "I attempted to assist the royal guard as much as I could... but I'm afraid there's not very much that powers over the heart can do in the face of all this insanity. Shining Armor and I thought it best if I fell back to the castle for now. He also told me of your strategy--how are Twilight and the others doing?"
"Not well. In fact, Twilight is the only one le-" Celestia's head jerked up as a sudden chill, a sudden emptiness, was felt throughout her body. "-oh no." She rushed to the tower's window, calling out in despair. "Twilight! Twilight Sparkle! You can't have... no..." Her face fell in an instant.
The other two rushed to Celestia's side. "Sister! What has happened?" Luna asked, then froze as well. "Never mind. I just felt it through you."
Cadance looked between the two now-sullen sisters. "Somepony fill me in?"
"Twilight has failed," said Luna.
"Indeed. One by one, I felt their lights fade... ending with Twilight not ten seconds ago." Celestia shuddered. "They have fallen to Discord's powers of deception. They have lost all hope." She lowered her head. "The Elements of Harmony can no longer help us."
"Then we win this day without them."
Celestia turned to Luna. "Are you suggesting..."
"Really, Celestia. I know what it took to beat him all those years ago, but if we tremble in fear now, then he has already won!" She gestured to herself, her sister, and Cadance. "Are we not Princesses of Equestria? This kingdom is not Discord's to claim! Should we face him, then with our combined powers, we may well have a-"
"If I may interrupt, Luna." Cadance held up one hoof. "Before we rush in head-first? I have an idea."
"By all means. But please, make it good. The situation requires no less."
"You say Twilight Sparkle leads your task force, Celestia? Then I think we're still in this."
"How?" asked Celestia, almost too quickly. "Why?"
Cadance walked to a nearby shelf and opened its casing, revealing dozens of scrolls. "Because if there's one thing that's ever empowered her--before friendship, and beyond the Elements--it's the written word."
"Come again?" Luna walked to the shelf. "Wait, are those not-"
"-Twilight's letters," Celestia finished, scanning over them. "All of the lessons she learned personally, on the magic of friendship."
Cadance nodded. "You were responsible for cultivating Twilight's magical powers, Celestia--and I was often responsible for nurturing her as a pony. So you know as well as I that sometimes she gets so lost in her personal quests for knowledge and order, that sometimes she forgets what she's already learned. I believe a reminder is called for."
She levitated a scroll before Celestia, who hastily applied a transportation spell to it. Several more followed, and several minutes passed... until Celestia went rigid again... and then relaxed with a relieved smile, radiating with the warmth rushing through herself.
"You underestimated yourself before, Cadance," she said. "The power of heart may well have won this day, when I genuinely feared all was lost."
"Don't worry," said Cadance. "Your secret's safe with us."
"Oh, I intend to let her know. She deserves to. But only when the time is right. Only when she understands the gravity of what she means to Equestria...
...and what she means to me. Twilight..."
"Mmmm..." Twilight groaned as the voice floated into her consciousness.
"My dearest Twilight Sparkle... arise from your slumber."
Even before Twilight fluttered her eyes open, she could feel the softness all around her. Once she could see, she realized that it was due to her being enveloped completely in a long, flowing, multicolored mane, which glittered even in the near-darkness of the room.
Only one pony in the universe had a mane with those colors, that feel, that scent. She didn't have to look up into its owner's face to know who was embracing her right now, but she spoke her name anyway. It was, at least, a deserved courtesy.
The Princess of the Sun smiled down at Twilight, and kissed her forehead.
"Good morning, Twilight." Her voice was as soft and gentle as her mane. "Before you ask, you're no longer dreaming. And we have much to do."
Original Synopsis: After the events of the Royal Wedding, Twilight Sparkle questions the purpose of her very existence. She fortunately has friends in high places who may be able to provide some answers... but heaven help her if they prove to not be enough.
What Is This?: Part 5 of Polaris, wherein Twlilight Sparkle learns she isn't the only one with inner demons. The Bookish Delight Season 2 finale rockets towards its climax!
Text by Bookish Delight, 2012-2013. My Little Pony belongs to Hasbro, not to me. This is done completely bereft of profit.
Rainbow Dash lay on a cloud, head in her hooves, looking out at nothing in particular. She had to keep her gaze down to keep the sun out of her eyes, and ended up pony-watching. Nothing in particular was going on; it was early enough in the summer that the heat hadn't gotten bad, but after planting season. Ponies went about their business in the late morning, a few deciding on an early lunch while most ran errands or still worked. Nothing special at all. At least, until she saw Fluttershy rushing through town with full saddlebags. It was odd enough to see Fluttershy in such a hurry, let alone with her packs. Rainbow Dash decided to see what her longtime friend was up to and took off from her cloud. She easily caught up to her Fluttershy by flying just above the ground.
"Hey Fluttershy. What's up?" she asked, making her flight look casual next to the hurried pony.
"Twilight said it was an emergency!" Fluttershy explained. It really came out more in gasps; Fluttershy was hardly an athlete.
"Huh? Emergency? What's going on?" Rainbow Dash knew that somehow or another, Twilight managed to get herself in the middle of a lot of crazy problems - whether it was relocating dragons or grumpy ursa minors, or even the return of a psycho-goddess, something always seemed to be happening to that pony. This would certainly make her day more exciting.
Fluttershy shook her head, not sparing the breath for more of an answer. With a slight frown, Dash whisked ahead. What emergency could she have contacted Fluttershy for? If it was anything more dangerous than a mildly clogged sink, Fluttershy would probably turn back around and go hide under her bed.
Of course, Rainbow Dash made it to the library in a matter of seconds. What most of ponies considered to be "on the edge of town" to her was "not-quite-instantaneous to get to". She didn't exactly burst through the door, but she certainly didn't stop and knock. It was a library after all.
"Oh, Fluttershy, is that - oh hey Rainbow Dash!" Twilight's head popped up over a stack of luggage. "Do you need help with anything? I'm kinda busy."
"Do I - Fluttershy said there was an emergency" Rainbow Dash replied, looking around. It looked like Twilight was planning for a vacation! What kind of emergency was this? Did she need to borrow a hairbrush for her trip?
"Twilight?" Fluttershy ran in through the open door, sliding to a stop. "I'm here! Is everything okay?"
"Fluttershy..." Twilight said lightly, coming around the stack of luggage that was bigger than her. Rainbow Dash noticed Spike tying a belt around the biggest suitcase, trying to seal it closed. It looked like she was taking half the library with her.
"I'm sorry to worry you. I said there's been a bit of an emergency at the castle. Since you're both here, I'll explain. Princess Celestia told me that Princess Luna has come down with something. We're not sure what, but she's pretty ill. Princess Celestia wants me there to help take care of her sister, since she can't be there all the time."
"Why you?" Rainbow Dash asked. "You're smart, Twi, but you're no Nurse Tenderheart."
"I think it's just that...I think it's that Princess Celestia wants to be there, and it hurts that she can't. I think she wants me because I'm one of the only other ponies to know Princess Luna."
"So...why'd you need Fluttershy?" Rainbow Dash ask, nodding towards her friend. Twilight had turned away, and seemed to be counting something in her head as she gazed over her luggage.
"I don't know how long I'll be gone, and I need a house-sitter. I remember Pinkie Pie saying you two were good at it - which is surprising, actually - and I could only get a hold of Fluttershy." she finished her count and turned back to the two pegasus ponies.
"I was also hoping to get some advice from Fluttershy. Not medical advice, precisely, I have my books, but my bedside manner is...well...."
"Doesn't exist?" Rainbow Dash asked.
"Oh, I'd be happy to help. I mean, I've never cared for royalty before...unless you count Philomena." Fluttershy responded.
"We can definitely look after the library for ya, Twi!" Rainbow Dash told her. Twilight looked relieved.
"Great, thanks. Owlowiscious is going to stay behind to help with keeping the library running. Rainbow, why don't you two get acquainted while I compare notes with Fluttershy." Twilight pointed a hoof to a desk by the window. There, on a wooden perch by the desk, a brown owl opened his eyes and turned to stare right at Rainbow Dash. Straight. At. Her. Rainbow Dash trotted up as she heard her friends chatter.
"Hey, I'm Rainbow Dash." she told the owl.
"Rainbow Dash." Rainbow repeated.
Rainbow Dash's brow furrowed. "Me. Rain-bow Daaaaash. Champion speedster? Only pony to do a sonic rainboom, and twice? Future Wonderbolt?"
On top of a pile of suitcases, Spike gave the scene a flat look. "Been there sister." he muttered to himself. "We're all ready to go, Twilight!" he told his friend. Twilight looked up from her conversation with Fluttershy.
"Great. That's my number one assistant. Could you start loading them into the balloon please?"
"Me?" Spike asked. There were a half dozen suitcases (mostly filled with books, as Rainbow Dash had guessed), all of them bigger than him. By a sizable margin.
"Number one assistant." was all Twilight said before returning to her conversation. Spike dropped his arms and sighed. He clambered down the pile and sized up his adversary a pale blue suitcase four inches taller than he. He tugged on the nearest handle, moving the suitcase all of....nowhere. He gave it another go, putting his weight into it. Given he was a baby dragon, this made about as much of a difference as one would expect. Finally, spitting in his palms and rubbing them together, Spike prepared for the mother of all heaves. He gripped the handle tightly, took a breath, and pulled with all his might. And the suitcase moved! Up!
"Sorry Spike, I got it." Twilight said, levitating all the suitcases with ease. Spike whistled and dropped from the suitcase. Twilight didn't seem to notice it, but when they had first come to Ponyville, Twilight couldn't have moved six books at once, not with any coordination. Both her power and finesse had taken a sharp upswing in the eleven months they had been here. Now she trotted out with the suitcases in tow like they weighed nothing at all.
"Thanks girls! Let the others know I'm gone, would you please?" the balloon was as of yet deflated, just a basket sitting out back. Spike shooed away a couple of birds that had started picking at the weaving. Twilight placed the suitcases inside.
"I hate to leave on such short notice." Twilight said, giving her friends an apologetic look. Rainbow Dash waved it away.
"Nah, it's all good! What better place to nap then a library? I shoulda started hanging out here months ago."
"We'll take good care of Owlowiscious too." Fluttershy promised. Twilight nodded. and hopped in the balloon.
"I promise I'll find time to write."
"Uh...Twilight?" Spike interrupted. "It's going to take me a while to inflate this."
"Oh! I meant to tell you, I've got an idea. Here." with that, her horn began to glow. The balloon lifted overhead, Twilight even going so far as to force it into shape. She turned to Spike.
"A little heat, please." she said. Curious (even upright, the balloon wouldn't be going anywhere without a lot of heat), he breathed his best flame upwards at the mouth of the balloon's envelope. To his surprise, however, the flame didn't dissipate. Instead it began to swirl into a little ball in midair. A faint purplish glow told him that this was Twilight's doing. That ball of fire made its way into the balloon. Twilight focused (she didn't even seem to be straining) and Spike heard a whoomph of flame. With that the envelope billowed out. Twilight released her telekinetic hold, and it began to rise.
"Hop in Spike!" Twilight said. Spike recovered from his amazement (she had definitely not done that before) and scrambled in.
"Bye girls! Thanks again!" she waved to her friends. Both waved back, and Twilight only turned away once she saw Rainbow Dash turn to Fluttershy to talk .
"Excited to go back to Canterlot?" Twilight asked. Spike nodded and looked up at the balloon. He decided to give it a puff of flame for safety's sake.
"The last time we went was the gala, and we all remember how that went."
"A-heh." Twilight smiled. She looked off towards the horizon and her expression dropped.
"I hope Princess Luna is going to be okay. I didn't know goddesses could get sick."
"Yeah, what's with that?" Spike asked. "You'd think that anypony who can survive a thousand years on the moon could deal with a cold or whatever."
Twilight shook her head. "It may be because she's spent a thousand years on the moon. The world's changed a lot, I'm sure."
Spike had nothing to add to that, so instead decided to watch the scenery, occasionally adding heat to the balloon. Twilight said nothing, her gaze barely moving from the same spot on the horizon. She knew where Canterlot was, but they wouldn't be in sight of it for a while yet. Spike watched as her expression struggled between worry and excitement. Canterlot was still their home, in a way. Twilight knew the palace halls better than her own house. Then there was also the matter of actually spending time with Princess Celestia. Sure, the two of them spoke once and a while at celebrations, and there were of course the letters, but this would be the first time in a while when time wasn't so limited.
"I think Princess Celestia is gonna be real impressed with your magic." Spike said, trying to get Twilight to calm down - or at least settle on how she wanted to feel about this trip.
"Huh?" It took a moment for Twilight to snap back to here and now. "Oh, thanks Spike. This trip is first and foremost about Princess Luna, of course." she said, her tone almost diplomatic. Spike rolled his eyes. He still knew who Twilight would be fawning over when they arrived. Still, Twilight at least seemed to know how she felt about their trip - she was expectant, eager, leaning over the basket as if to get closer to Canterlot. Spike could read it clearly on his friend's face, not that Twilight ever worked to hide her emotions. He wasn't sure what Canterlot would hold for them, but he knew this would be one interesting trip.
"Princess Celestia!" Twilight didn't even wait for the balloon to touch the ground before hopping out. They had landed in the palace's outer gardens, and the Princess herself had come to meet them, flanked by a pair of royal guards. The guards knew Twilight well enough that they did nothing as the young unicorn rushed up to her mentor. While any other pony surely would have stopped to bow with respect to the Goddess living, Twilight nuzzled against her foreleg like a filly greeting her mother. Celestia had a calm smile on her face.
"It's good to see you again, my star pupil." she said. "I only wish it were under better circumstances.
Twilight righted herself, and gave a worried nod. "How is Princess Luna? Is it bad?"
Princess Celestia closed her eyes, taking a moment to gather herself. It worsened Twilight's fears, and Twilight was the kind to worry at the drop of a hat.
"Why don't you come inside. I'm sure we have much to discuss." she turned away slightly, gesturing to the Castle's entrance. Celestia's left wing flicked, and the guards moved towards the balloon.
"We'll get you settled in in no time. Come." Spike and Twilight followed Celestia towards the castle. The castle was clearly designed with the sunlight in mind - plenty of tall windows, open spaces for the light to fill, along with openings and balconies every few yards to allow one to see the sky. The light stone floors and bright tapestries further made it feel as sunny and cheerful as the outdoors themselves. Twilight recognized the grand entry hall from the gala. The soft rug beneath her feet trailed all the way up the stairs, winding the length of the room.
"It's been so wonderful to have my sister by my side, after so long." Celestia said, keeping her gaze ahead of her. Spike jumped onto Twilight's back to keep up with the two ponies, and Twilight either didn't care or more likely didn't notice as she kept her eyes on her mentor.
"I suppose I was there with every change, but to her the world is quite different from how she left it. She's done her best to adapt, but I worry that it's just too much for her." They climbed the stairs together, Celestia's long legs taking them two at a time. "I have done well enough one my own for the past thousand years, but it is not easy. I am hoping a friendly face will help Luna recover. And I must confess, Twilight, I have my own reasons for bringing you here to Canterlot."
"Hmm?" Twilight hadn't expected to hear that. For a second, despite her smile, Princess Celestia's expression looked downcast, even sorrowful.
"We'll discuss more later. Luna has been very expectant since I suggest you come here. Let's not keep her waiting, shall we?"
Twilight nodded, her brow furrowing. Even during the incident with Nightmare Moon, it had been clear that Princess Celestia had had things under control the entire time. When Philomena had been stolen under her nose and promptly died (death being more routine for phoenixes than most creatures), Celestia hadn't shown the slightest worry. Nothing ever seemed to fluster her. So Twilight's mind churned with worry over seeing her mentor's distress. How bad could things be?
The palace was intimately familiar to Twilight, but like any child who comes back home older and (perhaps) wiser, Twilight noticed slight changes, things that didn't match up to her pleasant memories. There seemed to be more guards about. Sometimes she caught only a flank or hoof here or there from beyond a pillar or inside a doorway - as if their presence was not something to be noticeable. Of other castle staff there were definitely fewer. Twilight was used to seeing tour guides, maintenance workers, and hordes of clerks balancing an absurd number of papers on their backs. Twilight began to feel like she had swallowed a rock.
"Here we are. Your room is just down there." Celestia raised a hoof at an ornate wooden door three down from the similar door they stood in front of now. Twilight was caught off guard. Shouldn't a princess's room be....somewhere special? More aloof? Apparently not as Celestia knocked on the door.
"Sister hasn't gotten used to being a Princess again, she says. She prefers the quiet side of things." Celestia said, as if she knew what was on Twilight's mind. Twilight nodded. That made sense. She could only imagine how it could feel to be thrust into such a (normally) busy castle when one had had a thousand years of solace.
"Come in!" they both heard. Celestia pushed the door open. The room inside was only dimly lit as the afternoon sunlight pushed its way through silky purple curtains. It was not a large room, nor did it seemed particularly lived in. The dresser may have well been untouched, not so much as a brush laying out by the attached mirror, and there wasn't a lamp or candle to be found.
Only half out of bed, Princess Luna looked at them as they came in. She was dressed in a deep blue nightie that just covered her flanks. Something about it seemed...intimate, almost indecent, which was an odd way for a pony to think of purely optional clothing. Twilight looked away out of embarrassment and respect for the younger goddess.
"Ah! Sister! You might have told me that Twilight Sparkle was here!" Luna cried, cheeks going red. She got all the way out of bed. "Please pardon me." she said, actually bowing down. It was most definitely directed at Twilight. "I'm not used to being up this time of day."
"Uh.." Twilight was taken aback. "The honor is mine, Princess." she settled on quickly, bowing down and trying to make sure she did so deeper and more respectfully than the Princess. Idiot, she thought to herself. Princess Luna hadn't said anything about honor. Still, what was one supposed to say in such a situation? Sure, she felt a certain level of familiarity with Princess Celestia, but they were still princesses, and she had no such relationship with the moon princess. She slowly worked her way out of her bow only after seeing Luna was already getting up.
"I'm sorry to have to trouble you so. Celly simply insisted."
Twilight blinked several times, trying to hide her confusion. Celly? A court advisor? Perhaps a doctor?
Princess Celestia gave a small laugh and tapped one hoof against the ground a few times. "If the doctors insist you get your bed rest, dear sister, I must ensure you have proper company. Besides which, I'm sure Twilight would let us know if there were any trouble?" she turned her gaze to the young pony. Twilight's mouth made an 'o'. Celly - Princess Celestia! She felt almost ashamed to hear such an informal moniker applied to her mentor. Of course, this was still a younger mare referring to her big sister - even among princesses, it made sense. Twilight realized something was being expected of her.
"Ah! No, I mean of course it's no trouble." Princess Luna didn't look convinced, so Twilight felt compelled to add; "Besides, it's been too long since I've been in Canterlot. It's good to be back." That softened Luna's gaze, and she nodded just slightly.
"We will let you rest." Celestia said. "I hope you don't mind if I take Twilight from you for this afternoon."
"Not at all." Luna said. "You'll see. I'll be better in no time." she turned around and clambered back into bed as the two left.
"Princess, is she okay? Is there anything I should know?" Twilight asked after they had exited. Aside from looking sleepy, nothing had marked the Princess Luna as ill.
"Yes, my faithful student." Celestia said with a bow of her head. "I know you are no medic, though I imagine you've already begun furious study. It is your talent with magic I seek."
"Really?" Twilight could only imagine what the Princess was getting at.
"I have never in well over a thousand years gotten ill. I never knew sister to have, beforehand. I never considered the...poison Nightmare Moon was to her. I would like somepony familiar with such magics by her side, and in all of Equestria that leaves you and I alone."
Twilight found her throat too dry to swallow. Her steps faltered as if she carried a heavy load now. She knew the princess trusted her, but she couldn't help but question her own ability. Before, she had had the elements of harmony with her - along with the less official but all important element of surprise.
"You always were quick to worry, my little pony." Celestia said, watching her. "Nothing shall come of it, but I simply must be sure for my sister's sake. In the meantime, and before I must go to lower the sun, why don't we visit the grand library, while you let me know what has gone on in Ponyville. A letter can only carry so much..."
Whew! Here it is. Hopefully I've done enough editing. This thing is an absolute beast. And you want to know something? It's slim. I trimmed the story down as I wrote it because I realized it would have hit triple digit page numbers in my word document if I didn't. I am very proud of this, though I know there's probably a few things I've yet to tweak. To be honest, I can't any more, it's just too much pony to reread time and again! Hope you all enjoy. Oh, and by the way the chapters are, to say the least, a little longer than before xD
My Little Pony is a trademark of Hasbro Inc. A fable loosely inspired by My Little Dashie. A tragic tale about the dangers of allowing dogma to be an excuse for persecuting others who may be different and have attributes and gifts that are not understood. Warning: The content of this story may be ideologically sensitive to some readers.
Our Little Celestia
They say that time heals all wounds. But that's not true. Sometimes, time only causes the wound to fester—to become infected and burn with the fire of loss.
I have told this story at least a hundred times. And every time is like opening the wound afresh and pouring salt into it. So now, I write it down on paper so that those who wish to hear the tale may read of it. For I will never tell this story again.
It was the year 1903, and dust roared across the vast farm fields of Missouri. In those days, I was the head of a small family owned farm in a rural community. The summer had been hot and dry and a particularly severe drought had parched the land. That morning, I arose before sunrise, as was my habit, and started down the creaking stairs from the bedroom to the kitchen. I was thinking the same thoughts I'd been thinking all week: if we didn't get some rain soon, we were going to lose that year's corn crop, and if that happened, we would probably lose the farm.
As I walked into the kitchen, my ears caught the sound of a tapping noise coming from the front of the house, as if on the porch. My first thought was some type of predator—a wolf, or perhaps a coyote. We had already lost several of our sheep that year.
Without hesitation, I jogged out into the living room of the old farm house, reaching above the fireplace mantle and taking down the Winchester lever-action rifle hanging above it. Carelessly, I threw open the door and looked out into the predawn dark.
At first, I saw nothing. But then I looked down on the porch to see a woven wicker basket before the door. Inside, something was wrapped in a crimson blanket that had a strange stylized image of the sun on it, embroidered in golden thread. Never had I seen such a thing, for the thread looked as if it had been woven from actual gold.
Now during those trying, drought-filled years, it was not unheard of to find abandoned babes left on doorsteps. After their crops had failed, many families simply couldn't afford the expense of raising another child. When I reached down to unwrap the blanket, that is exactly what I expected to find. Nothing could have prepared me for what was actually there.
I hesitate to say it was a baby horse, for it was more than that. The young foal in the basket was pure white in color, as if her coat were made from freshly fallen snow reflecting the light of the sun on a crisp winter morning. A single horn grew from the center of her forehead, like that of the unicorns of mythology. On her sides, near the top of her back, grew small feathery wings. Her mane and tail were blending colors of pink, light green, and light blue, and seemed to flow gracefully in some unfelt breeze.
I don't know how long I stared at the strange sight before me, but it must have been nearly a full minute. Finally, I recovered my wits enough to lean down and pick up the basket, taking it back inside the house. There, I unwrapped the young filly—I used the obvious method to determine it was a filly—and held her for a moment. Her magenta-colored eyes looked deep into mine and I found myself wondering why anyone would have simply put something so adorable in a basket and abandoned her on a doorstep.
I untangled the blanket from her and carefully set her down on the rug in front of the unlit fireplace. I thought she might be hungry and went into the kitchen. I had no mares that were with foal at the time, so cow's milk would have to do. My youngest daughter was still not fully weaned, so I did have some baby bottles. I filled a small pan with milk and began to warm it on the stove.
As I waited for the milk to heat, I went back out to the living room and watched her. She stood up, shaky on her four spindly legs. Then, she carefully put one forehoof forward, followed by the other. At one point, she stumbled and almost lost her balance. Now living on a farm, I had seen fillies born before, and I surmised this one must be no more than a few hours old.
I went back into the kitchen to stir the milk and tested it, then filled the bottle, took it back to the living room and offered it to her. She looked at me for a moment, then pecked at it with her muzzle, testing it and playing with the rubber nipple before finally taking it into her mouth and starting to drink. I could feel my heart melting for this poor creature that someone had so carelessly abandoned in a basket. At that moment, I bonded with her as if she were a lost puppy.
I heard a noise upstairs and realized my wife and children were up. Before I had a chance to hide the young filly, they were already out of their bedrooms, standing at the top of the stairwell and staring down at her. The children wasted no time before darting down the stairs and rushing to her, ignoring my wife's shouts to stop. The shouting seemed to frighten the young filly, and she attempted to bolt and run behind the couch. But her legs were still unstable, and slipped out from under her, causing her to land muzzle first on the floor. My three children surrounded her and began to fawn over her as if she were an abandoned kitten they had brought in from outside. At first, the little filly seemed scared, but she quickly warmed up to the attention. She even seemed to enjoy their gentle stroking of her fur and their little hands brushing through her mane and tail.
My wife came downstairs and we spoke briefly while the children remained occupied with the young filly. I was relieved when it took took next to no convincing for my wife to agree that we should keep the filly. And so, our strange little filly had a new home. Now, all she needed was a name.
I thought back to the blanket she had come wrapped in—the one with the image of the sun emblazoned on it—and tried to think of names that might fit our new filly. "Sun" wasn't a good name, "Solar" didn't sound good either. Where had she come from? She had just appeared. A sun. A star from the heavens. From the heavens? Celestia! I suggested the name to my family, and they all agreed quickly. And so now our little filly had a name. And what a beautiful name it was—Celestia.
Now children will be children, and children are not very good at keeping secrets. So it was only a matter of a few days before the entire schoolhouse knew of our strange new filly. Soon, we had the children from every farm in the area—even from all the way in town—coming out to play with our little Celestia as if she were every child's favorite puppy. The little filly seemed to hesitate at first, recoiling from all of the hands reaching out to touch her. But it wasn't long before she seemed to enjoy the attention of the children, even looking forward to their visits. On the days when the dust storms rolled through the area and parents didn't allow their children outside, she would sit by the door, a look of sad longing in her deep magenta eyes, like a faithful dog waiting for its master to come home.
At first, I wondered why none of their parents had come over to see our little Celestia. But then, Billy—he was one of the children who routinely came to play with her—gave the obvious answer: Their parents simply didn't believe them. The other children nodded their agreement. Little Timmy, well he was little at the time, even said that his father had taken a belt to him and told him to stop telling such tall tales.
Of course, it wasn't long before the parents started talking amongst themselves. And when they discovered that all of their children had been telling the same story, a few of them decided it was worth coming over to our farm to investigate. Once a few had seen her with their own eyes, they told all of the other parents at the school parent-teacher meetings. And those people told the people they worked with in town, and so on. Soon, our little Celestia was a local celebrity. I felt it only natural to be concerned about how some of the adults would react to her, but it turned out, my concern was unfounded. All those who saw her fell in love with her, just as the children had done, and word of her continued to spread. Soon, even people from the next town were coming to see her. At first, our little Celestia seemed intimidated by all of the attention. But once she realized all of the people loved her, and all of the hands that touched her were gentle and kind, she began yo crave it like a dog craves being pet and played with. And so life was good. Our little Celestia's celebrity status had extended beyond just the immediate town, and into other small towns close by.
Now as luck would have it, the drought broke later that summer. Autumn came, and we were able to harvest a normal corn crop so we were no longer in danger of losing the farm. And our little Celestia had started to grow up; I'm sure you know fillies tend to grow rather quickly. Her unsteady legs had grown strong and powerful, and despite her youth, she could run like the wind. But nothing could have prepared me for what happened next. She spoke her first words. She said my name; then she said the names the rest of my family. She even spoke the names of some of the children who routinely came to play with her.
Needless to say, I was completely dumbfounded at this new development, but I was also excited. I took it upon myself to teach our little Celestia to read and to speak the language fluently. When the children came over next time, she stunned them all by speaking to them. At first, they seemed slightly frightened by this new development. But as tends to happen with children, fear soon gave way to curiosity, and in no time at all they were playing again as if nothing out of the ordinary had occurred. The only difference, was that now their filly playmate could actually talk to them. Even the adults seemed to take it in stride after getting over their initial surprise. And so life remained good. We had sold our entire crop, we had enough food to get through the winter, and our little Celestia was loved by the entire town.
Winter came, and with it, long days spent indoors near the fireplace as the cold Missouri wind whipped across the open fields. Fewer children came to play with our little Celestia now, and those that still made the trek did so less frequently. I can remember one day coming downstairs and seeing her sitting in front of the fireplace, her head hanging low and a distraught look on her muzzle. Concerned, I sat down next to her.
"What's wrong?" I asked.
"Why don't the children come to play with me anymore? Did I do something wrong? Do they no longer like me?"
At first, I was shocked that she would think that. But then it occurred to me: it was her first winter. I wrapped my arm around her neck comfortingly and spoke in a reassuring tone. "Oh, that's not it at all, Celestia. They love you. All the children do. But in the winter, it's not safe for them to venture so far outside of town. I'm sure all of them miss you as much as you miss them, and they will be overjoyed to see you once spring comes and the snow begins to melt."
That seemed to reassure her. She gave me a small smile and her ears perked up on her head. Then she looked at the bookshelf above the fireplace mantle, before turning her head back to me.
"Will you read a book to me? And teach me more about how to read?"
I smiled in response. "Of course, I will." And that is how we spent much of the rest of the winter. Our little Celestia learned quickly, and before long, she was proficient enough to start reading books to my children at bed time. She had a little trouble turning the pages, but eventually mastered the ability of slipping the tip of her horn between the papers and turning them that way. I was overjoyed that she enjoyed reading to them and had taken it upon herself to do so almost every night. It relieved me from the duty and gave me more time to focus on planning what to plant next year and trying to round up potential buyers.
Before long, spring came, the snow began to melt, and the children were at our door again asking to play with our little Celestia. The first thing they did was marvel at how much she had grown through the winter. The children had also grown during that time, although not as much as our little Celestia had.
The next few years continued much as the the first had. The children continued to play with our little Celestia. The adults continued to be fascinated by her as well, although they did not come to see her nearly as often as the children did. And it wasn't long before our little Celestia was not so little anymore. By the fourth year, she had grown into a beautiful young mare.
Given that she had always had wings, we had often wondered if she could fly, so it came as little surprise to us nor anyone else, the first time she did. Her first flight was relatively short, simply taking to the sky, taking a few turns around the barn, and then landing. But before long, she was flying as proficiently as if she had been doing it all her life.
Now, even the adults came to see her more often. Always, they wanted to see her fly. She would oblige them and perform spectacular aerial stunts. Loops, rolls, dives, and vertical climbs. And when she would land, the audience would cheer and clap for her. And all the while, the entire town continued to love her.
Much to the chagrin of the parents, sometimes Celestia would let the children climb onto her back and give them rides, although no matter how much the children begged her, she refused to fly when any of them were riding her. This was met with groans of disappointment from the children and sighs of relief from their parents. Only a few of the parents refused to let their children ride her though. She was always very careful with the children and had never shown any aggression or carelessness with them. And so all of the townspeople trusted her and loved her.
Other than her willingness to play with and entertain the children, she was always willing to help anyone with any problem she could. I remember that spring my plow horse stepped into a small hole in the field and injured his leg. Thankfully, it was not a fatal injury, but it would take the rest of the harvest season to heal. I don't know what I would have done without Celestia, for she offered to let me put the harness on her, and together we harvested the entire field. I couldn't have done it without her, and we would have lost the crop.
That was just the type of mare she was. When someone needed help, she helped them. And her kindness and generosity extended to everyone in the town who needed her help. And through it all, the townspeoples' love for her continued to grow.
Spring turned into summer and summer into autumn, and the night came where there was to be a town meeting at the community center. Celestia had never been into town before and very much wanted to go along, so we agreed to let her come. When we arrived at the community center and brought her inside, a few people thought it slightly strange seeing a horse inside the building, let alone one with wings and a horn. But once they got over the strangeness of the sight, she was welcomed with open arms.
Folks went about their business, and I stayed next to Celestia. A few minutes later, I noticed her looking intently at something on the other side of the room. A look of sadness seemed to fill her large eyes, and a frown creased her muzzle.
"What's bothering you?" I finally asked her.
"That boy over there. What's wrong with him?" she responded.
I glanced in the direction she was looking, and I saw ten year old Phillip, seated in his wheelchair, his head motionless as he looked at the table. I turned back to Celestia and leaned towards her ear speaking quietly so as not to be heard.
"That's young Phillip. He was born with a spinal cord defect that prevents him from moving. He's been paralyzed from the neck down since he was born. Doctors didn't even think he would survive since they were not sure he'd be able to breathe on his own. But he can." I hesitated for a moment before adding, "Some say it would have been a mercy for him if he had not survived."
She looked back at me, her eyes getting wider. "He can't move at all? Not at all?"
"He can't, except for moving his head a little bit. But he can only do that with tremendous pain. He needs someone to push him around in the chair. He needs someone to lift him out of it at night and put him in bed. He even needs someone to turn him in bed once in a while so he doesn't get bed sores."
I watched as Celestia's ears drooped and her eyes became even more infused with sadness. I felt nearly as bad for her as I did for young Phillip, as I could feel her heart breaking with compassion for the unfortunate child.
Then, the expression on her face changed. Now, it had become resolute. Her drooped ears raised and she held her head high, walking slowly over to the paralyzed child, stopping directly in front of him. Little Phillip looked up with a great deal of effort and pain judging by the scrunched up expression on his face.
For a moment, the two of them simply looked at each other. Celestia said nothing. Neither did Phillip, although he rarely spoke, since it caused him a great deal of pain to do so. I watched Celestia tap a forehoof on the floor once as if to cement her resolve. Then, she lowered her head towards the child's neck. I watched in awe as the tip of her horn suddenly glowed with a radiant golden light, a light as if from the sun itself. Vaguely, I was aware that everyone else in the room had noticed as well; everyone had gone silent and was now focused on her.
She touched the tip of her glowing horn lightly to the child's neck. The glow brightened for a moment and a tingling feeling came about the room. A smell like ozone after a thunderstorm briefly filled the area. Then, the light from her horn grew dimmer and went out. She raised her head back up, took a couple of steps backwards, and looked at him again.
"Stand, and walk," she said in a firm and confident tone.
Nothing happened. For several moments, there was stunned silence in the room. Finally, an indignant cry arose from one of the men a few feet away.
"Is this some kind of cruel joke? He's been paralyzed since birth! He can't stand up and walk! I've never known you to be cruel, Celestia but this … This is just sick!"
I was about to rush forward, and retrieve Celestia, then make a hasty retreat from the building. But before I could move, Celestia spoke again, undeterred and this time in a stronger voice.
"Rise, and walk!" she said, looking at the child sternly.
Phillip's eyes widened. His left arm moved slightly on the chair's armrest, followed by his right. The silence in the room was overwhelming. Everyone's jaw hung open. That child had never moved his arms on his own. Not since the day he was born.
The child looked down at his feet and I stared in stunned silence. I had never seen him move his head that fast before, and he had not winced when he did it. Could it be? Had he actually made a movement without waves of pain hitting his neck?
A stunned gasp went up as his feet moved. His fingers curled, hands gripping the ends of the chair arms. I saw his muscles tighten, muscles that had never worked in his life. He pushed down against the arms of the chair. His knees began to bend and straighten. His legs, which were thin and atrophied from lack of use, seemed to grow firm and strong before my very eyes. And then, unsteady and shaking, he rose from the chair. From the corner of my eye, I saw his parents. His mother had her hand over her mouth, her eyes filling with tears. I turned my attention back to Phillip. With great trepidation etched on his face, he removed his hands from the chair. He was standing! On his own two legs without any help! His eyes simply blinked in disbelief, his jaw hanging wide. Carefully, shakily, he lifted his left foot, moved it forward, then put it back on the ground. Then he did the same with his right foot. The room remained silent, as if stunned by a lightning bolt, the only sound the weeping of joy from his mother and father.
And Phillip continued to walk, the unsteadiness leaving him. He took another step, then another. Finally, he covered the last few steps to Celestia in a bound, throwing his arms around her neck. His mother and father rushed forward to join him, his mother's cries of joy muffled in Celestia's neck fur now as she cried into her mane.
"Thank you! I don't I don't know how you did it, but thank you!" she managed to say between sobs.
Now I don't know how long everyone in the room continued to stand in stunned silence, but at some point, the silence turned to laughter and shouts of joy, combined with people heaping praise and adoration on Celestia. I could see she was starting to get nervous with all of the sudden attention as she danced on her forehooves. I stepped forward, getting near her and motioning her to the door. She quickly followed me, a crowd from the room pursuing us. Eventually, we made it to the door and stepped outside. She motioned me to climb on her back. I did so, and we galloped back to the farm, losing the crowd of people quickly.
Needless to say, word of what had happened spread quickly. Over the next few days, Celestia's celebrity status increased a hundredfold. Sick and injured people started to show up from all over Missouri, looking for this mysterious white horse with a horn and wings that could heal ailments that doctors could only frown and shake their heads at. And heal them she did. Celestia had compassion for all of them and healed every one of them. I continued to be amazed by her kindness and generosity. Never once did she ask for anything in return.
It was on a day about a week later, when there apparently were no sick or injured people to be brought, that Celestia decided to go into town and see some of the kids she had grown up with. I was busy trying to decide whether to plant corn of soybeans next year, and so I declined to go with her. She simply nodded and smiled, then left and started into town herself.
About an hour or so passed before I heard the door open roughly. Hooves clapped on the floor as she came running in, finding me at the kitchen table going through seed offers. Her eyes were filled with tears and she immediately broke down and started crying. Quickly, I stood up and went to her, concern filling my heart.
"Celestia … What's wrong?" I asked in a worried tone.
"They … they threw rocks at me! They told me to get out! That I wasn't wanted here!" she managed to say between sobs.
"What?" I responded in shock. "Who did? Who told you that?"
"The kids I grew up with!" She buried her muzzle in my shoulder, her body shaking with uncontrollable sobs.
"Why? Why did they say that?"
She shook her head. "I don't know. I galloped away as soon as they started throwing rocks." Another sob racked her body.
I held her close and tried to console her. Eventually, I managed to get her to calm down. She sniffed a couple of times and dried her eyes on my shirt. It took a while, but finally, I was able to get her to lie down in front of the fireplace and sleep. By the time I did so, it was evening. The sun had already set, and it was beginning to get dark out. I went to the coat rack and grabbed my coat, throwing it on over my shoulders. I was determined to go into town and find out exactly what had happened and why. And I wasn't going to wait until tomorrow to do it.
Before I could reach the door, I heard a shatter, followed by the thump of something crashing onto the floor. I jumped in surprise and looked towards the window at the front of the room. The glass was broken, a jagged hole the size of a grapefruit punched through it. Shards of glass lay on the floor underneath. On the floor, a few feet away, there was a large rock with a note attached to it. I quickly picked up the rock and removed the note, unfolding it and reading it to myself.
"Pony witch! We don't want you in our community. We don't want witches and their black magic here! Leave!"
"What was that?" Celestia called from in front of the fireplace, wide awake now and back on her feet.
"Nothing," I responded as I quickly folded the note back up and hid it in my shirt pocket. "The window just broke. That's all."
"Windows don't just break," she responded incredulously.
I sighed before answering her. "Some kids threw a rock through it. But you needn't worry yourself about it. I'll have the sheriff come out and take a report. He'll find the people responsible."
"This is because of me, isn't it," she said as she frowned and looked at the floor.
"No. Don't ever think that. You did nothing wrong to cause this," I said, walking over to her and wrapping my arms around her. "It's just kids acting out. It will pass."
I don't know if she was convinced or not, but I was finally able to get her to lie back down and go to sleep. In my own mind, I hoped I was right. I hoped it was just kids being kids and that this would, in fact, pass.
The next morning, Sheriff Johnson came out to investigate. He looked at the broken window and I showed him the rock that had been thrown through it. I made sure Celestia was in another room playing with my children, as I didn't want to expose her to any of this. After a few moments, the sheriff shook his head and sighed.
"I wish there was something I could do, Bill. I really do. But since no one actually saw who tossed the rock through the window, there's no one I can charge with the crime."
Now I wanted to protest, of course. But what could I say? I knew the sheriff was right. And so I only nodded slightly in begrudging acceptance.
"I'll keep my ears open," the sheriff continued. "People who do this kind of stuff often can't resist the urge to brag about it to others. Perhaps someone will overhear something at the saloon. In the meantime, I suggest that Celestia stay away from town until this blows over."
Reluctantly, I nodded and thanked the sheriff for his time. When he left, I went into the other room to break the bad news to Celestia.
"The sheriff … thinks it would be best if you stayed away from town for a while … Just for a little while."
She looked at me with emotional pain etched on her muzzle. I could see tears starting to well up in her eyes, and again, my heart started breaking for her. She rushed towards me and buried her muzzle in my shoulder.
"I don't understand," she sobbed, "What did I do wrong? Why don't they like me anymore? Why would the kids throw rocks at me? Those are kids I grew up with … that played with me … that loved me. What did I do wrong? Why don't they like me anymore?" I could feel her tears starting to sink through my shirt and wet my skin as I responded.
"You didn't do anything wrong, Celestia … Sometimes, people fear what they don't understand. And they don't understand how you were able to heal those people when no doctor could. But this will pass. Once they realize that you are a good and caring being that only wants to use her powers to do good, this will blow over. And like a passing thunderstorm, there will be clear skies behind it."
I knew my answer wasn't a very good one, but it was the only one I could give her. For I myself, did not understand why they would do this to her when she had shown them nothing but kindness and done nothing but help them. I hoped I was right, that it would blow over. But I wasn't entirely sure that it would.
Now the next few days passed without incident, and I thought perhaps it was over. I was starting to feel a sense of relief. And Celestia, who had been distraught ever since the attack on her, seemed to be a little less depressed. Maybe she thought it was finally over as well. But then came that awful night I will never forget.
I had just sat down for dinner with my family when I heard a tremendous commotion outside. Getting up from the table, I went to the living room and saw flickers of orange approaching from the distance outside the window. Quickly, I took down the Winchester, checking to make sure its tube was full of ammunition.
"Keep Celestia in here!" I called out to my wife behind me. Then I opened the door and stepped out on the porch, shutting it behind me. An angry mob of torch-wielding adults waited for me, approaching from the distance. I held the rifle in both hands in front of me but didn't point it at any of them. At the front of the group, apparently leading it, I saw Thomas, the local mill owner. He had a torch in one hand, and his axe in the other. My hands tensed around the stock of the rifle.
"Give us the pony witch! We don't want witches in our town!" he shouted.
"Witches? She's not a witch!" I responded incredulously. "All she has ever done is use her powers for good! To help anyone in this community that needed it!"
"She is the antichrist!" another angry voice called out from the mob. "She performs miracles and healings as it says the antichrist will do in the Bible!"
"The antichrist?" I shouted back in bewilderment. "She has never claimed she's a god. Never asked you to bow and worship her. Never asked you to leave the church or renounce your faith. The antichrist? She's not the antichrist!"
"Then she is worse!" another called out. "She is the beast itself! Or the devil in disguise! She performs miracles and does not attribute them to God!"
"All she has ever done is help you all whenever you needed it!"
"She is evil!"
"Evil? How can you say she is evil? She has only ever used her powers for good!" I shouted back. But now the sound of my voice was being drowned out by rising chants from the mob.
"Give us the pony witch! She is the antichrist! Give us the pony witch!" they shouted repeatedly, thrusting their torches into the air.
The situation was becoming explosive, and I knew violence was going to erupt at any moment. But then, a gunshot to the left quieted them. I turned my attention there, as did the others. Sheriff Johnson made his way through the edge of the gathered mob up onto the deck of my house. Standing next to me, he spoke to the crowd, his voice laced with anger.
"All of you should be ashamed of yourselves! Coming here like this when she has been nothing but kind to you. When she has never asked for anything in return." He looked at one man in the crowd, about two rows back. "Joe, your boy would be dead from that farming accident right now if she had not healed his injuries. You should be utterly ashamed of yourself for being here. And preacher, what of all of your talk of kindness to strangers at your Sunday church services? I'm disgusted to see you here."
For a moment, the crowd remained silent. But it wasn't long before one, maybe a few rows back, shouted out again. "She's the antichrist! We don't want the pony witch in our town!" The rest of the crowd began to become loud again, voicing their support of running our poor Celestia out of town, or worse.
"All of you disperse now!" Sheriff Johnson called out loudly. "Or I will have every one of you run down to the county jail for disturbing the peace and inciting civil unrest."
Well, it seemed none of the gathered mob was willing to go to jail over it. They slowly started to disperse, each going their separate way, the flickering orange torches fanning out and disappearing into the distance. All but one. Joe, the man whose boy had been badly injured in a farming accident, and healed by Celestia remained behind, a look of remorse on his face.
"Sheriff Johnson is right," he said quietly. "I had no business being here. She saved my boy's life and I'm ashamed of myself for participating in this. I know I don't deserve her forgiveness, but please tell her I'm sorry."
I nodded slightly. "I will, Joe." Then, he turned and left as well.
"I'm sorry about this, Bill." Sheriff Johnson said. "I really am. I wish I could do more to offer protection for your farm and for Celestia. But I'm short staffed and there's no budget for me to hire any more deputies. I simply don't have the resources right now to have a deputy patrol this area so far away from town."
I nodded slightly. "I understand, Sheriff."
Then, he turned and left, and I watched him go before turning back towards the door. The fact that Joe had stuck around to apologize gave me a flicker of hope. Maybe the community would realize they had been wrong. Maybe he would talk to them. If even one of them were willing to admit they were wrong, maybe more would be.
I went back inside to find Celestia in tears again, my wife and children trying to comfort her. The shouting outside was loud enough that she had been able to hear every word, and now, she also knew it was not just the children who had suddenly turned on her and no longer wanted her around. I wish I had been a wise man that night. A man of learning who had studied at the great universities. A man who knew what to say to her to comfort her and make her feel better. But I was not, and I didn't know what to say. I think she ended up crying herself to sleep that night.
Again, the next few days passed without incident. And I began to think that perhaps the uproar had died down. Maybe Joe had been able to convince them they had been wrong; that they were wrong to treat Celestia the way they had done. But that night, any hopes I had of that being true were crushed as surely as if they had been corn tossed into a grinder at Thomas's mill.
Once again, my family had just sat down for dinner, when a crash from the living room startled us. There was a strong smell of burning kerosene. I rushed out to the living room to find a roaring fire in the middle of the floor a few feet away from the shattered window. Looking around, I grabbed a blanket from the couch and threw it over the fire, stomping on it to put the flames out. For several long terrifying seconds, I didn't think I would be able to get it out. I can remember flames eating through the blanket, singing my pants, crawling up my leg and burning. Finally, the flames dimmed and went out.
I breathed a sigh of relief, then turned and frowned to see my family and Celestia standing in the doorway to the kitchen. All of them looked distraught and on the verge of tears. It was Celestia who finally spoke, her voice shaking and unsteady.
"I can't stay here anymore. I'm only putting you and your family in danger. I have to leave."
"No … I don't want you to leave. My family doesn't want you to leave," I responded in a pleading tone of voice. "We'll move … We'll go somewhere far away where they won't persecute you anymore," I responded in a pleading tone of voice.
She shook her head sadly. "I can't ask you to do that for me. Not give up your farm and the life you have built for you and your family. Besides, you and I both know that it would only be a matter of time before the same thing started to happen wherever we go. And it's in my nature to help those that need it. I can't simply stop using my abilities to heal sickness and injury to avoid persecution."
I wanted to protest, but deep down, I knew she was right. Not only was my family in danger as long as she were here, but she was in danger as well. And there was no where we could go where that would be likely to change once the local population found out about her abilities, assuming the entire country didn't already know, that is. My entire family gathered around her, and together, we all cried. We must have cried for an hour or more. We cried until we no longer had any tears left to cry. And then, we cried some more. We agreed that Celestia wouldn't leave until we at least had Sheriff Johnson out tomorrow to see what he had to say. Then, we all went to bed, sleeping in the same upstairs room. I kept the Winchester close to me all night, and my eldest son kept the shotgun. We took turns keeping watch out the window in case anyone would approach, but no one did.
The next morning found Sheriff Johnson, along with Matthew examining the damage in the living room. All of us, including Celestia, stood off near the doorway to the kitchen, watching the sheriff and the fire chief. Shortly, the Sheriff lifted his head and frowned at us.
"Again, I'm sorry to say that since no one actually saw who started the fire, there's no one I can arrest for the crime. All we can do is keep our ears open and hope someone brags about it at the saloon in town or something."
I saw his frown deepen as he turned to look at Celestia. "I'd never force you to leave, Celestia. Not after everything you've done for us. But I can't guarantee your safety here anymore. And I don't think it's safe for you to stay here."
All of us said nothing, only nodding stoically. It was like having a second doctor confirm the diagnosis of some terrible disease. We had all been hoping against hope the original diagnosis was wrong. But deep down, we had all known it was not.
"Thank you for your time, sheriff," I responded quietly.
He nodded slightly and came over to me, putting a hand on my shoulder. "I wish I could do more, Bill. I really do. But my hands are tied by the limited budget and inability to hire more deputies. And even if I had more deputies, I don't think I would be able to hold back the angry mob the next time they decide to come out here."
Then he turned to Celestia and put a hand on her withers. "I am truly sorry … I'm so sorry. I'm a better person for having met you. You do not deserve any of what has happened to you. If I don't see you again, good luck, wherever you go."
Then the sheriff and fire chief both left the house.
None of us said anything for a long time. All we did was hug each other and cry. I couldn't understand any of it. All she had ever wanted to do was help people. And they rejected her because of her unique ability to do just that. We hugged, we cried, my family cried. We all cried for what seemed like hours.
"I will never meet anyone like you again, Celestia," I said softly. "I'm so sorry for everything that has happened. I wish I understood why it has happened, but I don't. I love you, Celestia." The rest of my family all took their turns saying their goodbyes, all sharing their love for her.
"Where will you go now?" I finally asked her after I was able to compose myself well enough to speak again.
"I do not know," she said sadly. "I will try to find another world I suppose. One where I am more needed … More wanted."
"You are needed here, Celestia. These fools are just too blinded by dogma and superstition to see that," I said, a hint of anger creeping into my voice.
She said nothing in response to that, her ears remaining drooped against her head. Her once flowing radiant mane and tail lie loosely, as if the invisible breeze that always seemed to keep them in motion had simply died. Now, her tail hung loosely on the floor, her mane limply over both withers. She finally spoke again in a sad, shaky voice.
"I love you all. And I will never forget you. Thank you for taking me in and caring for me in the years I was here."
We hugged again and said more goodbyes. Then, she took a few steps backwards. For a moment, she looked at us with a deep sadness in her eyes. Then, her horn glowed with a golden dot of light. The dot expanded into a sphere, which grew until it completely surrounded her. It closed in on her with a momentary flash of blinding light. When my vision recovered from the flash, she was gone. I hugged my family as fresh tears immediately flowed to the surface, and we started to cry again.
For the next three days, we did nothing. No seed was planted, no buyers were contacted. Nothing. We did not leave the house and rarely spoke, even to each other. Each of us mourned the loss of our little Celestia in our own private way. We mourned her as bitterly as if we had lost a beloved member of the family, for that is exactly what had happened. I went to church on Sunday, but only to tell the preacher that I was leaving the congregation. For the town's treatment of Celestia had caused me to lose all faith in the church and in organized religion.
But life marches on, even when we want it to stop. And so on the sixth day I half-heartedly went out into the field and worked the plow. The tears began to flow again as I thought of the time Celestia had pulled the plow for me when my draft horse had been injured.
It was then that I noticed a man approaching my field from the road through my tear-clouded vision. Wiping my eyes with the back of my dirty hand, my vision cleared enough to see that it was Thomas, the mill owner. Anger rose in me immediately, and I assumed he had come to make sure that Celestia was actually gone. I halted my horse and began to walk over to him, trying to get my anger under control. When he saw me approach, he stopped, a mixture of what seemed like sadness and fear blanketing his face.
"What is it you want, Thomas?" I asked angrily.
"Celestia … Is she here?" he asked, his voice filled with desperation.
"Why do you want to know?"
He stammered with his response. "My … my boy … Jacob. He's contracted smallpox. He's in the hospital … He is dying. The doctors say they can't save him … I … I—"
Any sympathy I felt for Jacob was overwhelmed by indignation at his father. "Now you want her help? You dare come to her now?" I practically shouted.
He recoiled and seemed smaller somehow, as if he were wilting into the ground like a stalk of corn parched by the summer sun. "I … I'm sorry. I shouldn't have treated her that way. Please, I will do anything she asks of me. As long as she saves my boy. Please …" he pleaded.
I shook my head. "You're too late, Thomas. She's gone."
He wilted even further and I saw a look of despair flood over his face. "Can you find her? Please, I'll do anything for her. Anything. Just as long as she saves my boy."
"I can't, Thomas. She's left this world. None of us can go where she has gone. I don't even know where she has gone." I could feel my anger reaching a boiling point. Not only was I angry over what had happened to Celestia, but now over what would happen to this young boy. I shouted at him now, exploding in a rage.
"You and the others couldn't let go of your religious dogma long enough to accept her for who she was! To accept the gift she had! She never asked anything from you in return! All she ever did was help you and this community. And how did you repay her? By accusing her of witchcraft? Of being the antichrist? Well, look where your dogma has gotten you now, Thomas! She's gone. She's not coming back. You are welcome to search my house if you don't believe me."
Thomas recoiled even more under my verbal assault, then hung his head and turned, walking away. He didn't bother to go to the house and see for himself. I watched him go down the walkway, then turned and went back to my plow, tears mixing with dirt now to form streaks of mud on my face.
Thomas's boy died the next morning from the smallpox. He was only twelve years old. That night, Thomas was found in one of the grain elevators at his mill by his wife. He had climbed to the platform at the top, tied a rope around his neck, and jumped off.
Over the next year, the pain of losing our little Celestia never got any better, and my family continued to be shunned by the town and the community. We made the decision that it would be best if we left. And so we sold the farm and moved to Kansas City, where I took a job as a deck hand on the river boats traveling along the Missouri River. Some years later, I heard that Sheriff Johnson lost his next bid for re-election, and left town as well, although I don't know where he went.
To this day, the pain of our little Celestia leaving us cuts deep. I'd like to think that at least the community learned an important lesson from it. A lesson about condemning others who have attributes you don't understand. A lesson about letting religious belief drive people to hate and persecute. But the way they treated her has caused me to become misanthropic, and I doubt that they learned anything at all.
I never saw Celestia again, and I still don't know exactly what she was, or is. Maybe she was an angel sent from God. Or maybe she is God. I suspect I will never know. But what I do know, is that she has a heart made of gold, and that she was the most kind and caring individual I ever met. And that she gave selflessly of herself without ever asking anything in return.
On some mornings, just before sunrise, I almost think I can see her in the sky to the east, as if she is leading the sun up over the horizon. But I know it is probably just my eyes playing tricks on me, combined with age starting to take a toll on my feeble old mind.
Celestia, wherever you are now, it is my deepest hope that somewhere in this vast Universe, you found that world that needed you, that wanted you, and that appreciated you.
A fable loosely inspired by My Little Dashie. A tragic tale about the dangers of allowing dogma to be an excuse for persecuting others who may be different and have attributes and gifts that are not understood. Warning: The content of this story may be ideologically sensitive to some readers. Join the Temple of the Royal Pony Sisters.
Beads of cold sweat rolled down Rainbow Dash's neck. The hot ceiling lights above intensifying the anxiety she felt to such a point that she felt as though she was going to pass out. There she was, standing in the middle of Ponyville's largest store. Her eyes were wide, staring at the newest piece of fan-merchandise being sold.
No, it wasn't anything to do with the Wonderbolts.
It was a limited-time offer Daring Do wallet. Rainbow Dash had to keep her mouth shut to prevent drooling. The wallet was grey and had adventurer's face printed on the front, grinning competitively at some invisible foe. She was a force to be reckoned with, even as just a picture. Hilariously, based on how she looked out of the wallet, Rainbow Dash felt like she was the foe- her hero's ruby eyes piercing into her own like arrows in bows, primed to fire.
Overall, it was beyond awesome, much better than most mass-produced merchandise for the franchise. The smiling image of Daring Do, the snarling beasts in the background that tried to grab her as she swung away on a rope. Rainbow Dash did not just want the wallet. She craved it, hungered for it. The wallet was like a siren singing a heavenly song, inciting her to purchase it.
Picturing all of the fans of Daring Do wearing their own accessories, from saddle-bags to jewelry. made her ripe with envy. Not only because of the cool merchandise that they had and she wanted, but because they had the bravery to go outside and show it off without caring what anybody else's opinion was. Even though many ponies preached that the books series was "foalish", mocking anypony that liked it beyond a certain age, it didn't stop many die-hard fans from showing it off. Their response would be to simply lift their noses up with a smile as they walked on- like they owned the town and did not give a flying feather what others thought.
Rainbow Dash knew that except for her close friends, like Twilight and Applejack, most mares in town didn't read "Daring Do". Instead, they read more "mature" books, such as the "Fifty Shades of Clop" novel that everypony seemed to be talking about. Sure critics and stallions everywhere panned it, but that didn't stop a large number of mares from enjoying it. The cyan pegasus ran into mares reading it on a daily basis, sitting at coffee shops, leaning back against a tree. They would read it anywhere at anytime.
The cyan pegasus wished that she had the tiniest fraction of guts that they had when it came to expressing their love for the books. In fact, the only reason she was confident enough to get the books was because Twilight always got early copies,and would allow Rainbow Dash to either get it early so she could sneak it out of the library when nopony was looking, or read the book in the privacy of the library itself. Though she was perfectly content to help her friend sneak out of the library to read the book on her own, Twilight personally enjoyed having Rainbow Dash stick around so they could embark on the adventures of 'Daring Do' together.
She even made a pair of "Reading Buddies" t-shirts for her and Rainbow. The cyan pegasus begrudgingly wore her's around the library- but only there. Never would she step outside in something so embarrassing.
Rainbow Dash was too nervous to purchase the books in a public store. This fear was intensified one time when she decided to see where the local bookstore kept its copies of "Daring Do". She found them in the back of the store, specifically in the "youth" section. This angered her. Why would they put them in the youth section when ponies of all ages enjoyed the series- so long as they were willing to give it a chance.
At first she was insulted, then relieved that she made the decision to only purchase copies of the book from Twilight. But then she realized how silly she sounded, how weak. She was Rainbow Dash, the supposedly tough, strong pegasus that never cared what others thought and tried to approach life with a 'that's just your opinion' attitude. Angry at herself, it was then that she decided to take measures to help her get over the irrational fear she had of caring what others thought.
That's why she was here today. She was going to buy the very first piece of Daring Do memorabilia, excluding the books, and take a stand against this overwhelming, self-conscious fear, and purchase something she truly wanted.
"I can do this, I can do this." She slapped her hoof against her head, trying to psyche herself up to go through with the act. Every now and then she'd shift down the row of collectibles to make it appear as if she were looking at the newest "Batmare" accessories, something much less embarrassing for her to be a fan of. She did like Batmare, but she liked Daring Do even more. So she kept her focus on the wallet with the adventure pony on it..
"Just grab the bag, trot over to the checkout, pay for it and leave. It's as simple as that. And besides, who cares what everypony else thinks. You're Rainbow Dash! The fastest and coolest pony in Equestria, a wallet doesn't change that in the slightest."
She thought this with confidence, but in reality she was anything but. Truth was that she did care what others thought about her, she cared about her image and how others saw her.
As she continued to contemplate, a voice came over the intercom of the store, "Attention shoppers. We'll be closing in five minutes. Please finish finding what you're looking for and proceed to the check-out."
Rainbow Dash swallowed hard, took a deep breath in and exhaled slowly.
"It's now or never."
With that, she slowly extended a hoof out towards the wallet, seconds seemed like hours, the ceiling lights felt like the afternoon sun, blazing against her and causing her to sweat even more than she already was.
She extended her hoof out towards the wallet, grabbing it and bringing it to her chest. She fearfully looked from side to side, making sure nopony saw her. A couple of ponies trotted by, but they were too far away to notice the paranoid Rainbow Dash..
She let out a sigh, feeling slightly better about the situation she found herself in. But her anxiety didn't end there, for she knew holding the wallet was only half the battle. The other half came from successfully making her way through checkout as quickly and stealthily as possible. She looked down at the wallet. Daring Do's face gazed up into her own. Suddenly, Rainbow Dash felt a wave of determination surge through her.
"I can do this." She thought, taking a couple deep breaths to steady herself. "Daring Do would never care what anypony thought, and neither do I! I'm going to buy this wallet, and I'm going to hold my head up high while doing it! Bring it haters!"
And with that, Rainbow Dash started to trot off, but stopped after about three steps. Her panic was quickly winning, as she knew that she'd need to do something if she hoped to get through these next couple of minutes. She quickly turned around and snatched two of the Batmare wallets that she thought looked somewhat cool and trotted off. It wasn't like she actually wanted the Batmare wallets, even if she did enjoy some of the comics and movies. In fact, she had no desire to buy, let alone use, the two wallets she had in her possession right now..
But she felt that maybe, just maybe, if she bought two cool wallets from a more mature franchise such as Batmare, it would cancel out the "immature" Daring Do wallet in the eyes of the cashier and anypony else that happened to be around. She trotted briskly towards check-out, going as fast as possible, her Daring Do wallet sandwiched in-between the Batmare wallets to hide it from view.
Her eyes were still wide and she was still extremely nervous. She couldn't go more than ten seconds without looking over her shoulder, fearful that all of the customers in the store were staring at her. She imagined them pointing at her and calling her names behind her back because of her choice to buy the 'Daring Do' wallet.
Finally she reached the checkout line. It wasn't too long, only one pony stood between her and the cashier. But as soon as she got there, about three other ponies got behind her, having found what they were looking for and getting to check-out before the store closed. Rainbow Dash took a couple of deep breaths, relaxing herself, getting her mind onto anything else other than what she was buying. She didn't want to seem nervous, that would draw unwanted attention to herself and, possibly, the somewhat embarrassing wallet she bought.
She determined to get through this checkout as quickly and painlessly as possible. Her eyes wandered, waiting for the pony ahead of her to finish her check-out so she could get it over with. The mass of food she was having the cashier go through made Rainbow Dash grit her teeth in aggravation.
"I knew I should have gotten in the express line."
Finally the mare ahead of her was done and walked off, taking roughly ten bags stuffed to the brim with food along with her, Rainbow Dash knew it was her turn. She walked over to the register and handed the cashier the three wallets. Daring Do was still sandwiched in-between the two Batmares, something that would give ponies the idea for a stimulating fanfiction. Rainbow Dash shuddered at the thought of such stories being written.
She waited for the cashier to look over the price of each wallet. Instead of scanners, which only the richer places in Equestria had, Ponyville had the price printed on tags that were stuck to items. The cashier looked at the top wallet's price-tag and clicked it into his small calculator. He then turned the wallets over to see the price of the bottom Batmare wallet, and, again, entered it into his calculator. Rainbow Dash held her breath in anticipation. Her head started to feel light.
"Miss?" the cashier asked.
"Yeah?" Rainbow Dash answered meekly, preparing for the worst.
"You're really a huge fan of Batmare, aren't you?"
Rainbow Dash's jaw fell as the pony smiled, pointing to the two wallets he already looked over.
"Oh...yeah that! He-he, I...I love...Batmare." she said nervously.
The stallion chuckled, "Me too. Especially the recent movies that came out. They're fantastic. Colt Nolan outdid himself with that finale."
"Yep, he sure did." Rainbow Dash sighed. "Gotta love that actress that plays her. What's her name? Hayseed Bale?
The cashier pony nodded and looked over the Daring Do wallet, a curious look on his face. Rainbow began to bite her lip, preparing for the cashier to call her out in front of the ponies that were behind her in line.
"Is everything...okay?" Rainbow Dash asked.
The cashier pony shook his head, "No. I'm afraid something is not okay."
Rainbow Dash closed her eyes, ready to hear something like "You do know this is a foal's book series, right?" or "pretty interesting wallet for the coolest pony in Ponyville, <snicker>" or, possibly the worst, "What's next, are you gonna admit to wearing diapers, too?"
She could just imagine everypony laughing at her, mocking her for liking something that was so unlike her normal interests, or at least how she wanted to show off her interests. Finally cashier pony spoke.
"The tag is missing from this wallet."
Rainbow Dash opened her eyes and looked up at the cashier. "R-really? That's it?"
"What else would it be?" the cashier asked with a small chuckle. "You ought to relax a bit, no point getting worked up about checking-out of a store."
"He-he, yeah. Silly me." Rainbow Dash said nervously, rubbing the back of her head. She still couldn't believe that nothing happened. She worked herself up to be humiliated in front of everypony behind her, yet the only thing the cashier noticed was the lack of a price tag. She was about let out a sigh of relief when the cashier did something that revived the terror she felt.
Now Ponyville might not have had scanners at their stores, and much other technologies that could be found in wealthier parts of Equestria were also absent from the simple, quaint town.
But if there was one thing ponies in Ponyville took pride in, it was their ability to express themselves in the most gregarious, bombastic way possible. That was why so many impromptu songs broke out around town, that was why the town was so welcoming and full of brightness.
And that's also why intercoms were commonplace.
The cashier took out a small walkie-talkie and before Rainbow Dash could stop him, spoke into it: "REGISTER TEN, I NEED A PRICE CHECK ON A 'DARING DO ADVENTURE WALLET'!"
Rainbow's face blushed a bright red. She shrunk back from the counter, humiliated while the oblivious cashier continued.
"REGISTER TEN, COME ON I NEED A PRICE CHECK! IT'S THE WALLET FOR LITTLE FILLIES WITH DARING DO ON IT!"
Rainbow Dash slowly turned around to see some of the ponies behind her, snickering as they watched her embarrassed reaction. Her wings folded against her side, her ears fell flat against her head. She never felt more of a connection with Fluttershy than she did at that moment.
A taller stallion, roughly the same age as the cashier, trotted over to the register, a curious look on his face.
"You called me over?"
The cashier nodded, pointing to the mortified Rainbow Dash. "Yeah, this mare wanted to buy these three wallets, but the price tag on this Daring Do Wallet is missing."
"Dear Celestia, why is he doing this to me!?!" the pegasus thought, her cheeks now like a pepper in coloration and heat. "Does he understand how embarrassed I feel right now?"
The taller stallion, put his hoof to his chin in thought. "Hang on, this was in the youth section, right?"
Rainbow Dash cringed at the word 'youth' being used to describe something she wanted to purchase. She suddenly felt as if she was shrinking, slowly turning back into a school-aged filly from the humiliation she was enduring. Finally, she couldn't take it anymore and spoke up.
"Actually...I don't need it." she said. The two stallions looked at her, eyebrows raised.
"What?" asked the taller stallion. "You don't need this 'Daring Do Adventure Wallet'?"
"Stop referring to it by its full name!" Rainbow Dash screamed in her head, but her eternal dialogue did not match her internal thoughts.
"Nope! Don't need it. I'm fine." Rainbow Dash said, voice rapid and panicked.
"Really?" the cashier asked.
The cashier looked at Rainbow Dash, then back at the taller stallion, who simply shrugged. The cashier nodded and turned back, still with a look of bewilderment on his face.
"O-okay, then." The cashier said, clearly not understanding the motive behind her sudden dismissal of the wallet. "That brings your total cost down to six bits for the two Batmare wallets."
But Rainbow Dash didn't want the Batmare wallets. She wanted the Daring Do one. The other two were simply means to add maturity points to her reputation. Now that she chickened out, there was no need for the wallet.
"No, that's okay I just remembered I had a wicked sweet...[i]Wonderbolts[/i] wallet at home! Yeah, that's it! Got a nice wallet with the Wonderbolts' symbol on it. He-he."
A snicker came from behind her. She turned to see the four ponies with their hooves over their mouths, trying to contain their laughter.
"You do know a Wonderbolts' Wallet is very foalish as well, right?" asked one of the ponies behind her, his face bright red from trying to hold back an eruption of laughter.
Rainbow took a step back. She couldn't take it anymore. He wings extending and pulling back to her sides as she fought the urge to fly from the store like her tail was on fire. She turned her attention back to the two employee ponies, both of whom seemed completely oblivious to her torment.
"So...yeah...thanks I'll see you later." and with that, she bolted out the door, leaving a rainbow trail behind her. The stallions exchanged perplexed looks.
"What the hay just happened?" asked the taller, non-cashier pony.
"Couldn't tell you." the cashier muttered before looking up to the next pony in line. "Next customer please?"
The tall employee left as a teenage colt trotted up to the register with a fresh "Batmare" comic. He wore a pair of glasses and was quite thin.
The cashier smirked. "Ah the newest Batmare comic, I see."
"Yep! I love her, she's so totally wicked awesome." the colt said in a nasally voice, his braces making him spit a little as he spoke. The cashier was about to ask for the bits when the colt held out his hoof to stop him.
"Hey, um, is there any way I could get those three wallets?" he asked, pointing at the two "Batmare" wallets and the one "Daring Do" one that Rainbow Dash abandoned.
"Uh...sure." The cashier said, clearly confused but willing to play along. "By the way, what do you want them for, exactly?"
"Oh, I write fanfiction stories," The colt said with a grin, pointing down at the wallets, "and these three babies give me some excellent ideas!"
Summary: "While Rainbow Dash is an avid Daring Do fan, she has no merchandise outside of the books to show for it. Now, staring at a Daring Do wallet, she plans to beat her phobia of publicly purchasing "childish" items.
Like and favorite it there if you have an account as well. (always trying to get featured)
Anyway, I hope you enjoy *******
Spike the "Hero"
The Crystal Empire was slowly becoming engulfed in a mass of threatening, black clouds; dark as the deadliest of storms. Screams could be heard all around as the crystal ponies began to panic. Up in the tallest tower in the city, Twilight found herself trapped within the confines of a black-crystal prison, the gems risen up from the ground, blocking any means of escape for the lavender unicorn. Just outside, Spike started to feel nervous. His eyes darted from side to side, his feet moved up and down like two, small pistons.
Twilight started to scramble within the crystal-walled trap, looking for the Crystal Heart with a set of panicked eyes.
"The heart? Where's the Crystal..." she started, voice quick and desperate, when Spike interrupted her.
"Here!" Spike called from outside the entrapment, pointing to the blue Crystal Heart that lay at his feet. "It rolled over to me when you dropped it!"
Spike took a few tedious steps towards Twilight, careful to avoid the crystals that pushed up from the shining floor. Each step was a conscious effort to not get stabbed in the foot. Twilight peeked out at her friend, watching as he engaged in strange jig-like movement to avoid getting hurt.
"Don't move," she called out, causing Spike to freeze. The black crystals continued to rise all around him as he looked up at Twilight, eyes fearful and pleading for advice from his brainiac friend. Twilight realized the black crystals were rising from the ground whenever her assistant took a step closer to her. "You can move, just not towards me."
Tentatively, Spike took a few steps back, noticing that there weren't any crystals arising from the floor behind him...yet. The still trapped Twilight nodded, closed her eyes and focused on teleporting herself out of her temporary prison. Her body was quickly engulfed in a familiar, magenta sphere before she was zapped outside of the entrapment, freely floating in the air.
Twilight let out a sigh of relief just before she found herself surrounded in a black shadow that resembled King Sombra's body. Before she could do anything, Twilight found herself teleported back into the crystal enclosure. The magical force slammed her face-first into the side before she slid to the ground, her cheek throbbing in pain.
"How could I have been so foolish? I was just so eager to get it." Twilight said, starting to push her front hooves against the wall, trying to force her way out. Realizing it wasn't working, she ran over to the other side, hoping to find a weakness in the crystals there. Alas, the walls were as strong and immobile as they were on the other side. "Then when I saw what was happening outside, I..."
"You have to get out of there Twilight!" Spike called, a nervous quiver in his voice. His arms crossed over his chest, fear building from within him. "You have to be the one to take the Heart to Princess Cadence." Spike turned around to see the Crystal Heart laying on the ground right behind him. "If you don't, you'll fail Celestia's test!"
Twilight grimaced, realizing that Spike was right, and if she wasn't the one to save the day, she'd fail the Princess' test and the "worst case scenario" she saw in the doorway minutes before would become more than a simple hallucination- it would become reality. Listening to the chaos that was happening in the city around her and Spike, the unicorn came to another horrifying realization- they were quickly running out of time.
"King Sombra is already attacking the Empire. He could reach the crystal ponies at any moment."
Twilight peered through one of the cracks in the enclosure, trying to get a good view of what was happening outside. "Reach Princess Cadance, my brother, my friends. There may not be enough time for me to find a way to escape."
Twilight swallowed, her legs starting to tremble as the ground shook. She could feel the tears start to well up in her eyes when, suddenly, she had an epiphany. She made her way over to the other end of her prison and peered out, watching as Spike tried to move away from the black crystals that rose up like tiny spears from the floor.
Twilight's face turned from one of concern to one of determination, eyes scowling as she looked at her panicked friend. "You have to be the one to bring the crystal heart to the Fair."
Spike's eyes went wide. "Me? But Twilight..."
"Go!" Twilight shouted. Spike gasped, his eyes landing on the Crystal Heart. Quickly, he made a reach for it, snatching it off of the ground and pressing it to his chest. He could feel his heart beating as the gem pressed against it, his pulse raced and his breathing rate increased- almost to the point of hyperventilation..
He looked down, the pointed, black crystals still rising from the ground at his feet. He then looked down at the Crystal Heart, glimmering in the sunlight, still present, though dimmed from Sombra's shadow. It's smooth texture, it's turquoise coloration, and it's sheer size amazed Spike. With everything that had gone on, Spike hadn't had enough time to sit down and eat anything at the festival. Sure, there were corncobs and other treats that looked delectable, but he hadn't taken advantage of the brief peacetime to nosh.
Now, looking at his amazing gem, he couldn't help but feel an emptiness within the very pits of his gut. A small growl escaped from Spike's stomach. He started to drool, saliva moistening his tongue, contemplating the possibilities of what the gem would taste like.
Twilight, who still had her eyes on her number one assistant, became confused by the dragon's mesmerized state- especially when he had a job to do. "Um, Spike? Hello, we're sort of in a rush here."
"I know. But this Crystal Heart, this...gem." Spike said, licking his lips. His stared wide-eyed at the Heart, taking in its beauty. "It's just so...shiny."
Recognizing the hungry glimmer in Spike's eyes, Twilight suddenly became scared. "Oh no, no, no. Spike! Don't even think about it."
"It's aged over one-thousand years... one-thousand of ripening...wow." Spike muttered to himself, drumming his fingers against the surface of the gem. "I bet it's even more delicious than my fire ruby would have been, had I eaten it!"
Twilight face-hoofed out of frustration. "Ugh! Can you forget about your stupid taste-buds for five seconds and please get the Crystal Heart down to Princess Cadence?" Twilight said, pointing out towards the incoming shadow of doom. "Look! Sombra has almost engulfed the entire empire!"
It was true, the massive shadow that was King Sombra's body continued to creep further and further into the city. Ponies were running around in a blind panic, screaming at the top of their lungs and, occasionally, smacking into one another. Yet Spike didn't notice, all of his attention was on the Crystal Heart in his possession.
"Yeah, yeah some evil unicorn attacking, I'll get to it." he said in a hushed tone, giving the heart a long, sloppy lick, eliciting a disgusted "ew" from Twilight. He then held up the heart, directly in front of his open mouth, saliva accumulating on his tongue.
"Spike, hold on! SPIKE!" Just before he could take a bite, Spike froze and turned to Twilight. The unicorn shook her head, "Spike, please think about what you're doing. If you eat that, the entire Crystal Empire is doomed to become enslaved under King Sombra, including you, me, my brother, Cadence and our friends! That means no more reading the latest 'Daring Do' novels, no more Ponyville, and especially no more gems! So really, is that one turquoise crystal heart bigger than your head really worth it?"
Spike really did consider running it down to Cadence, putting the fate of the entire Empire ahead of his own personal indulgences. But as soon as Twilight let the words "Turquoise" and "bigger than your head" pass her tongue and enter the dragon's listening ears, any chance of Spike being selfless imploded.
He finally answered Twilight with four words she never thought, nor did she wish, to hear coming from her reliable friend.
"I'll let you know."
The baby dragon held the Heart up to his open mouth, sharp fangs glistening above and below a portion of the Heart, ready to chomp down
"SPIKE! NO!" Twilight screamed, but it was to no avail. Spike's pointed teeth made contact with the translucent surface of the Heart.
Smiling, Spike chewed the hunk of crystal in his mouth, swallowing it before letting out a satisfied sigh. He then proceeded to eat the entire Crystal Heart right in front of his terrified and livid friend. Once the heart was gone, currently digesting in the high acid levels of Spike's stomach, the baby dragon closed his eyes and licked his lips, an expression of bliss on his face.
"Mmmm, that was good."
Twilight shook her head in disbelief. "Spike, do you realize what you've done!?!"
"Yeah, I just ate the most delicious gem EVER!" Spike said, letting out a belch after finishing his sentence. He smacked his lips and chuckled. "He-he, even tastes good coming up. You don't think this empire has a second heart, do ya? Because I could sure go for some seconds!"
"No! You ate the only hope we had to stop King Sombra. Now you've doomed us all to a life of slavery under the rule of a tyrant!" Twilight screamed.
"I did?" Spike asked, his cheerful face gone, replaced with one lacking any noticeable emotion. He turned and looked outside, watching as King Sombra's shadow started to engulf the city, before a solid body began to form at the front. In a matter of moments, the re-formed body of King Sombra- black fur, armor and all- stood tall in front of the cowering crystal ponies, his slaves. Chuckling, his purple-aura leaking eyes scanned the crowd of cowering ponies.
"Behold, your King has returned. Mwahahaha!" Screams were heard as ponies began to run, only to find themselves either encased in a similar crystal prison to Twilight, or trapped in chains that spontaneously appeared on their necks and hooves. On a balcony below, an exhausted Princess Cadence, Shining Armor and the rest of Twilight's friends found themselves trapped.
Rarity started screaming about how filthy they looked. Fluttershy and Pinkie Pie began to cry-Fluttershy letting out small, timid weeps while Pinkie Pie went all out in sobs that resembled waterfalls.
Even though he found himself chained, Shining Armor tried to free Cadence with his magic, as she was too weak to do so herself. But the chains wouldn't budge, and eventually the brave captain of the Royal Guard realized it was pointless. He let out one final grunt before falling to the ground, breathing heavy as sweat poured down his face. His wife gave him a small nuzzle and whispered, "You tried."
Applejack and Rainbow Dash both struggled against their chains, growling and bucking their legs in a desperate attempt to break free, but it was all for naught. They were trapped, just as the crystal ponies on the streets below were. The two tough mares eventually gave up as well, laying themselves down onto the ground. Applejack started to think about her farm and family- especially Apple Bloom. Rainbow Dash thought about how she'd never have the chance to join the Wonderbolts. When she realized that she'd likely never fly again, thanks to the chains keeping her a prisoner to the earth, the tomboy pegasus broke down in tears.
As all of this chaos occurred, King Sombra couldn't help but grin. His sense of control and power welling up within him. He was back, and this time not even the Princesses of the Sun and Moon would be able to stop him.
"Everypony kneel before me, your ruler, your master. You are all under my control, and I will make sure your enslavement lasts...FOREVER!"
Fires erupted. Beautiful, crystalline buildings were destroyed by sudden growths of black crystals. The library collapsed into a heap of rubble, a small pyroclastic cloud billowed around, causing some of the enslaved ponies near the fallen building to start gagging.
As Spike watched the library collapse and swallowed hard.
Twilight kept all of her attention on Spike, a silent rage billowing within her. If it weren't for the chains or the crystal prison she found herself in, she'd lunge at her little, scaly friend and start to choke him, screaming, "Why you little!" as he gagged.
While watching all of the destruction, all of the terrified ponies screaming for help, including all of his friends, Spike should have showed some sense of guilt and remorse. Instead, patting his stomach as he remembered how delicious the Crystal Heart tasted, he couldn't help but smile.
Even when a chain appeared around his neck, effectively adding him to the slave machine that was Sombra's empire, Spike couldn't stop grinning like an idiot. He ran his fingers over the chains, feeling the cold, metal surface. He should have been afraid. He should have felt a sense of guilt for putting, not only himself, but everyone he cared about into this horrible situation that saw no conceivable way out. But the Crystal Heart's taste lingered on his tongue, keeping him from feeling any of these things. A content sigh escaped his lips as he responded to Twilight's earlier question.
Shining Armor quickly noticed her voice and looked behind himself. When he realized what the both of them were in for, he held out his hooves. "Twilight! Slow down!"
"Wha?... oh, no!"
She planted her own hooves to stop, but it was too late. She skidded and crashed into him with considerable force, the impact causing the two to roll over and land in a heap.
"Oof!" Shining Armor groaned as his head hit the floor. "Sheesh, Twilight! Only pegasi are supposed to have that kind of speed factor. What's got you so worked up?"
Completely unfazed, Twilight Sparkle was back on her hooves, all smiles, jumping up and down. "Oh my gosh oh my gosh oh my gosh! I just got back from the Summer Sun Celebration with Mom and Dad!"
Shining Armor picked himself up. "Really? Did you enjoy the rides? How about the food?"
Twilight blinked and cocked her head to the side in genuine confusion. "Rides? Food? Those were there?"
Shining Armor went silent for a few moments before laughing. Twilight wasn't sure why. Did all the other ponies go for that stuff? It was the Summer Sun Celebration! The sun was the main attraction, wasn't it?
"Okay, sis, tell me..." He gave her a quick hug and set her before him. "...what happened?"
And in a move that surprised both of them, Twilight's smile got even bigger. "Princess Celestia was there! She raised the sun right in front of us!" She raised her hooves and darted around. "Her horn was all glowy, and then, just poof! She's all flying in front of the sun looking like one of those goddesses in fairy tales!" She tilted over and fell onto her back with wide eyes and a dreamy sigh. "It. Was. So. Beautiful."
Shining Armor took a quick glance back towards the castle through his window, then back at his sister. "Oh, right, of course. Celestia. Yeah, she makes it look easy, doesn't she?"
Twilight got back up again and nodded. "Uh huh, uh huh! I tried moving the sun a little more after she was done, but..." Her head drooped. "...I didn't get anywhere."
Shining laughed. "I remember trying that the first time I saw her too. Same results. Trust me, nopony expects you to be able to do what she does. She's on a whole other level from the rest of us. Besides, you're still just a filly. The older you get, the stronger your magic becomes."
"And I'll make sure of it! I'm gonna start studying all the magic I can, so when I grow up, I'll be just like her!" Twilight gasped as she flashed with an idea. "Oooh, oooh! Can we go to the library? If I borrow all of their magic theory books right now, I can get an early start!"
"Whoa, there, Twilie." Shining ruffled his sister's mane. "Take it easy, kid. You gotta remember: Celestia has a horn and wings."
Twilight nodded. "Just like Foalsitter Cadance, right?"
"That's right. You and I? We're just unicorns. Nothing to sneeze at, but there's a limit to what we can do compared to them in terms of magic."
Twilight's confused look was back. "How does having wings give them more magic than us?"
Shining Armor froze momentarily, then mirrored Twilight's expression. "Tell you the truth, Twi... I dunno. Not sure anypony does."
"Neither do I! So I've decided I don't care. I'll be like Princess Celestia, with or without wings."
"Heh. Now that'll be a sight when it happens."
Twilight gasped. "'When?' You really think I can do it?"
Shining Armor looked down at his sister with encouraging eyes and a smile to match. "Sis, you can do or become anything you want. And when you do, I promise I'll be there to see it."
And instantly, Twilight remembered why she never hesitated to spend time with him. Whenever they were together, her heart felt warm, and twice as big.
Shining Armor was always there. He'd always be there. And they'd be best friends forever. She leapt into her brother's outsretched forelegs with a huge hug.
"Thanks, Shining Armor!" She looked out the window, towards the setting sun. "You'll see. I'll soar higher than anyone!"
Twilight's recollection faded as she ran towards the castle.
He did always believe in me. I want to tell him that tonight. That I appreciate everything he's done for me. But where is he?
She began a sweep of the building. After three floors, she considered giving up. Upon reaching the fourth floor, however, she heard something that shifted her priorities completely.
A voice she recognized, groaning.
Instantly she gasped, jumped, and ran towards the room from where it came. The door was open a crack. Twilight peeked in. Her eyes and mouth went wide at the sight.
Princess Celestia... in pain?
--- "Polaris" A My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic Fanfiction Part 1: "Fantasy Zone" by Bookish Delight, 2011-2012 All characters and referred properties belong to Hasbro. ---
She was slumped over a large cushion in the center of the room. Several small blemishes could be seen marking her white coat. A dark pegasus unicorn kneaded her sides, while a pink one coated her with aquamarine light from her horn.
For an instant, Twilight believed the worst. Just before she was about to barge in, she heard Celestia speak.
"Now, are you sure this is a healing spell, Cadance? I'm not going to become one of your thralls before morning, am I?" Celestia managed a chuckle, which turned into another pained groan. "Oooooh.... note to self, laughter still out of the question."
Princess Luna rolled her eyes. "If you still have a sense of humor, then you can't be that hurt. Why did you not simply take a proper rest, instead of slapping a glamour spell over yourself until you were alone? Now we're tending to wounds that are twice as severe as they should have been! Cadance, I dread to ask--how many times have you weathered this cycle in my absence?"
"What was I supposed to do, Luna? Not run a kingdom?" Celestia huffed. "Not be present for the entirety of one of Canterlot's biggest events? Run off as soon as the bride and groom kissed, perhaps?"
"I'm a Princess as well, Celestia! As much a royal figure as you! Everypony saw what happened to you when you fought the changeling queen. They would have understood!" Her voice calmed. "I would have understood."
Princess Cadance held up one hoof. "Girls, please don't argue. Luna, we'll talk later, but... Celestia did go through a lot today. And worse, she had an audience for it. I'm sure her crankiness is simply a result of bruised pride to match her bruised body."
Celestia sighed. "Sister, I... I am sorry. Cadance is absolutely right. But that is no reason for me to take it out on you."
"I have been down that path, dear sister. I apologize as well." Luna leant forward for a hug, which Celestia accepted. The two parted with smiles. "But, truly, when you need me to stand in, please ask. I cannot make amends if you do not give me the chance."
Luna's massage resumed, and Celestia groaned again, communicating slightly less pain this time. "Believe me, you're doing just fine in that department. Luna, Cadance... thank you for aiding your eldest in her time of need."
Twilight had seen enough. With one second of concentration, she left the scene in a flash of light.
She reappeared in her old library workshop. She looked around at the masses of books on her shelves, and at her work table with satisfaction. Everything was as she had left it. A simple dusting spell to clear off the year or so of neglect, and it would be time to get to work-
"Twilight? Is that you?"
Twilight recognized the voice, and ran to the terrace to find a small purple dragon sitting in a lawn chair. "Spike? What are you doing here?"
"Somepony at the reception told me what a bachelor party actually was." He opened his mouth wide and briefly placed a claw in it. "After I was done being sick, I came here. Only place where it was quiet tonight." He looked at Twilight. "Why are you here?"
"Princess Celestia's hurt."
Spike shrugged. "I know. We all saw her get hit with that big magic blast."
"No, I mean she's still hurt. As in, she was just putting on an air for the reception."
"I know." Spike shrugged again.
Twilight recoiled. "You know?"
"Yeah. She put on a spell to cover it up, but I could tell the whole time. I think it's some kind of built-in dragon thing. I tried asking some other ponies if they noticed. Some thought I was crazy. Others thought I was trying to say she was a changeling." He paused. "I stopped asking pretty quickly after that."
"Well, if you knew, then why didn't you do anything else? Try to talk to her, try to heal her, try to..."
She trailed off when she saw Spike rise from his chair. He walked in front of her, and stared at her straight on. "Twilight, I'm a baby dragon. She's Princess Celestia. I can't perform spells, and if she can't shake off a magic attack, who can?"
"Apparently she can't! And..." Twilight slumped. "...and it's all my fault."
"All your-" Spike rolled his eyes and sighed. "Twilight. You don't seriously believe that, do you?"
"I didn't at first. But the more I thought about it, the more the pieces fit! The first time I outed the fake Cadance as an impostor, I let myself and everypony get fooled, which let her move forward with her plan. The second time I did it, I simply stood there and watched as Princess Celestia fought Chrysalis alone!"
"So did everypony else."
Twilight stamped the ground. "Everypony else doesn't have my responsibility! I'm Princess Celestia's number one student! Her personal protégé! Her-"
"So what?" Spike threw up his claws. "Seriously, what does that even mean?"
"It means that I... I..."
Twilight searched desperately for words, and came up empty. Spike's glare persisted, keeping the pressure on.
"...I don't know."
She looked back into the library. The masses of books felt like weights on her despite their distance. Her voice became subdued. "Spike, I don't know. What it means to be her student... I'm not sure I've ever known what it meant."
Spike calmed down and sighed. "Sorry, Twilight. I didn't mean for it to come out like that."
"No, it's okay. I think we needed this. It's just... it's been a source of personal pride for so long. Since I accepted the honor, I've gone through so much to learn so many lessons. Some happy, some sad, some frightening..."
Twilight paced around the room. Her eyes scanned several random book spines across the shelves. For every title she read, she instantly recalled the book's contents in the back of her mind.
"But even with all my magic training, all my tutelage directly under royalty, I was powerless against the changeling threat three times. I almost lost my friends and family. I saw Celestia fall without doing anything about it. I was captured while trying to obtain the Elements of Harmony... even with my friends beside me!"
"Twilight, you're just one unicorn. You can't do everything."
"I'm starting to realize that, Spike. Compared to Princess Celestia, I'll always only be able to do so much. Still, when she picked me to be her protégé, she said it was because I possessed a special gift. But if I can't protect the ones I love, or the ones who love me, then..." She closed her eyes. "...how special am I, really?"
The tiniest of mental voices screamed in her mind to the contrary. It was drowned out. A long silence followed, until a new voice called in from the doorway.
Twilight whirled around to see a white unicorn. "Shining Armor?"
"Twilight, I've been looking all over for you! I thought we were going on a balloon trip?"
"O-oh, of course!" She looked back at Spike, who simply nodded. "This way, Shining. I left the balloon at the rear entrance."
Original Synopsis: After the events of the Royal Wedding, Twilight Sparkle questions the purpose of her very existence. She fortunately has friends in high places who may be able to provide some answers... but heaven help her if they prove to not be enough.
What Is This?: Part 1 (more of a prologue, really) of Polaris, wherein Twlilight Sparkle realizes her limited effectiveness during the Changeling Invasion, and doubts her place in the world. The Bookish Delight Season 2 finale starts here!
Dear Princess Celestia: I've finally got all my old writer's powers back! Let's see if I've surpassed them, shall we? This is the final test!
Text by Bookish Delight, 2011-2012. My Little Pony belongs to Hasbro, not to me. This is done completely bereft of profit.
LISTEN THIS SONG WITH THE POEM FOR MAXIMIZED EXPERIENCE [link]
I realized pretty early on, that “the Crystal Empire” finale wouldn’t really be that interesting as a narrative epic. Most of my epics have focused on the duality of villain and hero, and I’ve found a lot of fun in depicting the villains of MLP FiM in a dramatic heavy metal sense.
Crystal Empire, however, was different. Sombra was a different kind of villain, who had indirect presence but no direct character to go with it. The focus was clearly more on the heroes… and the victims, Crystal ponies. It was clearly more natural to depict the villain too more indirectly, through the eyes of his victims. The slavery aspect helped it even further: the real conflict of the story would be the search of identity for the crystal ponies, finding the way from the shadow of Sombra and rediscovering the past life and happiness they had nearly forgotten in their time of slavery.
Writing a song about a personal catharsis was a project I've wanted to do for a while, and the episode provided an excellent symbolic framework to explore such themes. Thus these lyrics are probably the most universal stuff I've written so far.
Stratovarius’ “Elysium” was an interesting song to me personally, as I've never been much of a fan of Stratos. However, their later works without Tolkki have grown on me, due to having some feeling of Symphony X and even Kamelot.
The Crystal Empire Trilogy Blind Greed (Fall of the Empire) [link] Anthem (Memory of the Empire) [link] Rediscovery (Rebirth of the Empire) here be you!