Ponyville faced an ordinary day. Apples were sold on the market, ponies milled around at their jobs, parties were planned, and friendships deepened.
But then night came, and with it a black gateway into another world. It closes before any action can be taken, but now the Mane Six and the Canterlot nobility are tasked with finding out what they can about the gateway. Who created it? Where did it lead to?
And most importantly, did anything come through?
Chapter 1 - The Calm Before the Storm
The sun was bright and warm, a crisp yellow orb in the morning sky that promised a pleasant day. Until next week that is. Or tomorrow to be even more specific. Rainbow Dash was busily collecting moisture for clouds and storing them up on the highest peaks of the nearby mountains. From there, she and the rest of her team would add to the collection and the clouds would drift lower and lower to Ponyville as they stacked up on each other. Being lower to the ground would provide more heat to the clouds, priming them for a series of storms scheduled to happen throughout the week. Ponyville was getting dry due to several weeks of clear skies and it could use a good deluge.
“Dew Drop! Deep Blue! Watch the stragglers!” Rainbow Dash called out. The two blue pegasi grinned sheepishly and rounded up the clouds that were escaping the rest of the pack. Rainbow Dash had rounded up eight teams of pegasus for next week’s storms; four teams in shifts to keep the clouds up in the mountains and the remaining four scavenging for any additional clouds and moisture to add to the pack. Dust Devils’s team was already complaining about overtime, but Rainbow Dash’s job as Ponyville’s resident weather pony was on the line. With a few inspiring words, she managed to cool the grumbling.
Speaking of, her replacement would be arriving soon. Rainbow Dash had to change her sleeping schedule for the storm and had been supervising for the last 12 hours; in short, she really needed a break. Fluttershy had taken it upon herself to cook breakfast in preparation for the end of Dash’s shift and she was itching to get over there and pig out; Fluttershy always made good food. Dash listened to her stomach rumble. ‘Good for me, because I can’t cook at all.’
Lucky for Dash her replacement had just arrived. A snow white Pegasus was weaving between the rocky, snow covered peaks to Dash’s location in the sky. Nobody called him by his name, but by a moniker, an exclamation the pegasus always seemed to swear by. That being—
“Great Scott! What’s this I hear about you scouring the landscape!? Halfway to Canterlot!? What were you thinking!?”
“Hey! It’s only 50 miles! That’s nothing for even my team! What’s the big deal Scott!?”
“Halfway to Canterlot is 88 miles, Rainbow Dash!” Great Scott retorted.
“We need those clouds Great Scott! I don’t care how far we got to go to get them!” The shouting match would have continued, but both noticed that they were beginning to draw the stares and ire of those around them.
“Just leave, Rainbow Dash; I’ve got it covered from here,” Great Scott gave a defeated sigh and shooed Dash away with a hoof. Dash did not complain for an instant; she’d been up all night and now it was time for breakfast.
It was not Fluttershy that opened the door to the rural cottage, but Angel. Angel gave Rainbow Dash a scowl, but gestured for her to come in.
“Heh, don’t mind if I do.” Angel slammed the door right behind Dash, causing the latter to jump. That gave Angel a smile and the bunny hopped to the kitchen. Hearing the ruckus, Fluttershy poked her head around the corner and smiled at seeing her friend.
“Oh, hey, Rainbow Dash. Come on in; everything’s already set up.” Dash cantered to the kitchen and saw Fluttershy’s full spread.
“Woah.” Dash said blankly.
The cream-colored pegasus had finished removing an apron and was shyly staring at her hooves, “Is it good?”
Dash was used to receiving large meals whenever she visited Fluttershy’s for food or to crash on the couch. But even this took the cake: lemonade, orange juice, daisy sandwiches, a 2 gallon bowl full of lettuce and salad makings, five different dressings, apples right from the orchard, fresh muffins, pancakes, and an omelet apiece.
“This is amazing, Fluttershy! You’ve sure outdone yourself.”
The timid pegasus flushed at the compliment. “It was nothing.”
“Come on now, let’s eat!”
And thus Fluttershy’s breakfast and Rainbow Dash’s very late dinner started. Dash began shoveling food down her throat in between conversation pieces while Fluttershy seemed content to pick at her breakfast piece by piece while listening. Word of the coming storm came up along with Fluttershy’s scheduled stop with Rarity later that day. The topics degraded into idle chatter and soon both were done with their meal. Fluttershy had noticed that Dash’s eyes were drooping with every bite she took, so after cleaning up the leftovers, “You know Rainbow Dash, you can stay at my place for a while. I really don’t mind after all.”
“That’s okay, Fluttershy. I can still make it back to my pl – OW!”
“That’s the cellar door, Rainbow Dash.”
Rainbow Dash slowly made her way up the cellar stairs, not even trying to fly up. “You know what,” She simpered after climbing out of the cellar. “I think I’ll stay here for a while.”
Rainbow Dash already knew the drill, having crashed at her place several times before for various reasons.
“I have some blankets folded in the closet if you need them.”
“Hmm...” was Dash’s only reply.
‘Wow, she must really be tired then,’ Fluttershy thought; it was not often Rainbow Dash would would vy for sleep so fast. Dash just pulled out a blanket, wrapped it around her shoulders, and curled up on the couch.
Angel’s thumping foot broke Fluttershy out of her thoughts. “What is it Angel?” Angel pointed at Rainbow Dash, shook his head and crossed his little arms over his chest in a huff.
“She’s just taking a nap, Angel. Let Rainbow Dash rest.” Angel only glared at Fluttershy in return. “I’ll buy you an extra carrot at the market if you can watch over her while I’m away with Rarity.” Angel stopped thumping his foot and thought for a moment before brandishing three furry fingers. “Alright then, Angel, three carrots.”
Rainbow Dash started to snore.
No matter how many times Rarity visited the spa, the magic of Aloe and Lotus worked every time. Every kink in her neck or closed pore melted away under their treatments.
“So the brute just barged in, ate her fill, and staked a claim on your sofa? Fluttershy dear, how do you put up with her?”
“Oh Rarity, she was just all tuckered out from preparing for the storms next week. Giving her some food and a place to sleep is the least I could do for all her hard work. And besides, I volunteered for it; she didn’t ask or barge in.” Lotus was giving Fluttershy a calf massage while Rarity was currently enjoying a mud bath. Lotus worked a particularly tense cluster of nerves and Fluttershy let out a moan of enjoyment.
“Well a little class would not hurt that pony at all. On another topic dearie, I have a favor to ask of you. Cloud Kicker stopped by yesterday and placed an order. I was wondering if you will be busy tomorrow and if you could model for me for an hour or two.” Rarity began to peel off the cucumber slices on her eyes and Aloe was there to assist Rarity out of the mud bath in a flash.
“I’m taking care of Owliscious because he’s been having problems with his wings, so any time after one o’clock should be fine.” Lotus finished a quick massage up Fluttershy’s back and then helped her off the table.
“Same time next week?”
“I wouldn’t miss it darling.”
Rarity ventured to the spa a little earlier than normal today, but for a very good reason. It was 1 o’clock and she was expecting a loud guest very soon.
“Hey, Rarity! How’s it going!” exclaimed a frizzy head from the doorway.
Rarity gave a smile for her guest. “Good morning, Pinkie. I take it you’re here for your order now aren’t you?”
“Why of course silly!” Pinkie skipped inside, bouncing on the tips of her hooves.
“What exactly do you need two bolts of red and blue fabric for anyway?” Rarity put on her work glasses and began looking through her list of orders.
“Oh! I didn’t tell you, did I?” Pinkie turned around to face Rarity. “You see, Cherliee’s planning to do an outdoor talent show for her students and she wanted all the parents and friends to come too! So she asked me set it all up. There’s going to be games and exhibits and fun and food and dancing and singing oh! Lyra said she’d bring her lyre and play music and I’m trying to get Zecora to come by and tell some stories. I’ve got an order in for about a dozen different cakes in already and I’ve just got so much to do! Yes yes yes! It’s going to be so much fun!”
“I can be certain that there isn’t another pony better for the job Pinkie. I am sure your party for Cherilee will be as delightfully grand as all your others.”
“As great? I intend for it to be better!”
Rarity smiled at Pinkie’s declaration. If Pinkie ever had her mind set on something, by Tartarus she would do it. It was something that Rarity admired about the perky pony. Rarity had heard from Rainbow Dash about an instance where Pinkie refused to pull a prank on Fluttershy just because she knew that the shy mare wouldn’t take the joke as well as intended.The joke was harmless enough, but on the off chance that Fluttershy did take it the wrong way, Pinkie canned the prank. She was fun, carefree, and lived life to the fullest, but still followed her own special code of conduct, as absurd as it may be. In her own way, Pinkie was as honest as Applejack.
Rarity walked over to her table to her sign-out sheet, which unfortunately Opalescence was taking a nap on. This was always a little tricky.
“Opal sweetie? You are napping on mommy’s clipboard.” Opal continued to sleep soundlessly, her paws batting playfully in her sleep. Rarity gave a sigh of concentration and focused her magic on the clipboard. It became enveloped in the soft glow of her horn. Centimeter by centimeter, the clipboard edged slowly out from under Opal. Rarity had just two more inches it left, but by then it was too late. Opal had finally woken up and wasn’t too happy that it was Rarity to disturb her rest. Opal swiped at Rarity, who only just managed to dodge the attack at the cost of a few hairs.
“Opal! What did I tell you!?” Opal just sauntered off the table and jumped to the ground. Karma, however had caught up to Opal and she landed on an inflatable flotation device that Sweetie Bell had left at Carousel Boutique. Opal bounced off the piece of plastic and landed in an undignified heap on the floor. After a disgruntled meow and a hiss at Rarity, Opal righted herself and sought out a new place to sleep. If it wasn’t for Pinkie that is. Opal was scooped up by pink ball of self-sustaining sugar-high brain and hugged tightly to her chest. She nuzzled the white Persian and cooed.
“Opalescence, you are just adorable when you’re angry.” Opal was furiously hissing and spitting and scratching at the air in an attempt to escape Pinkie’s grasp. But even Rarity knew that there was no escape. She smiled slightly; Opalescence would get a taste of her own medicine for once. Rarity’s thoughts soon drifted elsewhere however. Bouncing plastic...
“Hmmm...” Opal's ungraceful flightset forth an idea Rarity's mind. “Ideeeeeaaaaa! Pinkie!” Pinkie dropped Opal to end the poor animal’s torment. “I have an idea for a fun house I want to run by you...”
Applejack was pulling in her weekly cart of apples to sell on the market in Ponyville Square. It was full to the brim of Red Delicious, Macintosh, and a few Granny Smiths. The sun was shining, the birds were chirping, and Applejack expected to sell out of apples. The days were getting hot and apples and cider sold very well in such heat. Her cart grumbled noisily at it got stuck in a rut in the dirt road, but a heave on the cart jostled it loose.
A slow, steady wind blew through the leaves with a gentle rustle and cooled the sweat on Applejack’s brow. The Earth pony’s only concern was the increased smell of moisture in the air. A storm perhaps? She’d have to ask one of the weather ponies later so she could prepare the farm. At least Applebloom had the sense to stay home this time; Applejack hated having to keep giving away apples as an apology for the zealous filly’s actions.
The dirt road gave way to cobblestone streets and simple wooden houses with thatch roofs. Ponies were milling about in idle chatter while a few were carrying on with their jobs. Morning Dew and Golden Harvest were swapping seeds and stories about their respective gardening activities, Cherilee was heading to the schoolhouse with a fresh batch of papers, and Lyra was eyeing the candy mare Bon Bon over a strawberry milkshake. Applejack had a wager with Rarity that it would be Lyra the first to take the leap and pop the question between the two. They had been steadily dating for about a year and a half now and several other ponies had started placing bets on who would make the first move. Most couples tended to stay just that, but there was the rare occasion when two ponies would tie the knot. An event such as a wedding was always a momentous occasion for a small town like Ponyville. Applejack remembered many years ago when she attended Mr. and Mrs. Cake's wedding with Grandma Smith. Save for the time when Ponyville hosted the Summer Sun Celebration, she had never in her life witnessed so many townsfolk in one place before.
And now that her thoughts were on the matter, she wondered how Pinkie would react to a wedding. Or even better, how she would plan one for such a small town. Princess Cadence and Shining Armor’s wedding was the first she had been asked to assist with. Having full reign for a Ponyville wedding would make the excitable pony erupt from anticipation.
Applejack had made her way to the center of town and set up shop next to the fountain in Ponyville Square. Most of the food-oriented businesses were positioned further away from the center of town, which was why Applejack always picked this spot. She didn’t like to draw away sales from her friends in town and it always gave her a recognizable position for people to come and chatter if need be. It wasn’t too long after the cart was open and her money pail set down that the business began streaming in. She chatted with a few of her regulars, finally discovering from Cloud Kicker that a series of storms were scheduled all throughout the following week. Applejack gave a dry grumble; she really wished she had figured it out earlier from somepony, or even Rainbow Dash. She looked up at the sun; it was about 3 o’clock. Cloud kicker said her farewells and Applejack spotted a familiar figure walking behind the mare.
“Pinkie! How ya doin’ hun?”
“Oh hi, Applejack!” Pinkie Pie bounced over to Applejack’s cart. Applejack eyed the large package that Pinkie had strapped to her back.
“Watcha got there, Pinkie?”
“Oh this? This is just some fabric for parties I got from Rarity. Speaking of Rarity, she just gave me a great idea! What do you think about this Applejack: a balloon house so all the little fillies and gentlecolts can bounce around in! I can’t believe Rarity thought that one up before I did. I wish I thought of it!”
“Ah can’t say for sure, but I plum reckin’ there’s not a one here. Yer next party’s sure gonna be in fer a treat.”
“You bet! And Applejack, how long will you be here today?”
“A few more hours. Why you ask?”
“Ambrosia gave me an idea after Jim Beam was getting a little too fresh with her and she bucked an apple into the scaffold he was standing on and it made him lose his balance and fall into a big bucket of water. So then I thought, ‘Hey, wouldn’t that be another great game to have at a party?’ So I started talking with Crafty Crate and he said he could build a tank where a person would sit on a chair and if a target was hit by an apple the person in the chair would be dropped into the tank. Berry Punch volunteered to dress up as a clown foritandit’sgoingtobesomuchfun!SoIwasaskingifyouhaveanybushelsofapplesthatIcanuse?”
“...Say what now?”
It had been a side project of Twilight’s for some time to construct a communal calendar of events for the citizens of Ponyville to reserve buildings and parks for social events and private gatherings. It had mostly to do with Pinkie throwing a party at every possible time around the clock and ponies were starting to voice complaints. She had spoken with the Mayor about such a project and its implementation, but she was too busy at the moment to give it more than a cursory glance. It was simple enough, but the Mayor still needed to speak with the town's major businesses and make a public presentation.
Twilight finished the last few details of her project and stepped away from her desk with a sigh. Spike stepped forward and started cleaning up, filing away spare parchment and quills in their proper places across the library. “You sure can’t stand not being busy Twilight.”
Twilight smiled at her little helper. “What can I say Spike, it’s just a habit I’ve never quite shaken since my school days.”
“You know Twilight, it wouldn’t hurt to let loose every now and then.” Spike had finished putting everything away and cramming the charter into a drawer. The parchment wouldn't fit with all of Twilight's other projects and documents taking up space, so he let it sit on the desk until he could finagle some room.
“Oh, I do, but Pinkie’s parties tend to wear me out faster than my work anyway.” Twilight looked at the clock on the wall; it was 7 o’clock. It was an hour to sunset and between running the town library and her own busywork, time had gotten away from her.
“I’ll say. That girl loves her parties.” There was a quick knock at the door. “I’ll get it!”
Spike trotted over to the door and turned the knob. On the other side was a familiar cyan pegasus, “Hiya Spike! Twilight here?”
“Sure! Twilight! Dash is here!” Spike called over his shoulder.
Twilight cantered over to the door with a smile on her face. The pegasus was visiting past library hours, but she knew exactly why she was here. “Hi Rainbow Dash. I take it you’re here for the next one?”
An hour later, Rainbow Dash still had her nose in a book title Daring Do and the Lost Sapphire of Marelantis. Rainbow Dash had gotten into the habit of reading out loud to herself, but ever since Twilight had seen the bright gleam in her eyes whenever she got sucked into a story, Twilight let her friend indulge herself.
“’Think, Daring, think!’ the brave adventurer thought to herself. From a pair of open grates in the ceiling, the cylindrical room was filling up with seawater. The sound was deafening as the water came rushing in, sweeping her off her hooves and into the wall. Her wings were useless in the enclosed death trap. She could see no way to force open the doors as they were barricaded by her captors from the outside. The only ways out were the two grates gushing water from above. The current was too strong for Daring Do to escape, so her only hope was to try to loosen the grate when the water filled up the rest of the room. Her captors had left her with her satchel of supplies, believing such a small package could not aid in her escape. She still had her tools. With a little luck and a steady hoof, she might be able to loosen the one of the grates and see where it leads. Her lung capacity would be tested to its most extreme. She couldn’t help but smile; it was better than a boring day.”
Twilight gave a content smile as Rainbow Dash finished the chapter. Whenever she opened a book, Rainbow Dash became as excitable and enthusiastic as a filly with her first toy. Rainbow Dash would never admit how enthralled she became, but she let Dash have her fun and enjoy herself, even if she felt a desire to tease her friend on occasion.
Twilight was instead observing the night sky with her telescope. It was a pleasantly cool night with the stars and moon giving off a steady glow. Ever since the Summer Sun Celebration, she had acquired a newfound fondness for the night and night sky. It truly was a lovely beauty with all of its black, blues, and dashes of purple.
“Hey Twilight?” Rainbow Dash asked. Despite the desire to keep reading, it was past time for Rainbow Dash to leave the library. Twilight had already signed out the book, but Rainbow Dash had stopped her before closing up for the night.
“Yes, Rainbow Dash?”
“How many Daring Do books are there?”
“Daring Do is part of a joint author anthology.” Dash had a confused look on her face. “Meaning that any author can write about Daring Do and tell their own story about her. By my last count, there are thirteen different books between four different authors.”
Dash gave what Twilight swore was a squeal of excitement. “That’s great! There’s 9 more left for me to read then.”
Twilight gave a chuckle, “I'll place an order when you’re done with that one Rai--“
Twilight could not and would never remember what would happen for the next few seconds. After one moment, she was speaking with Rainbow Dash, the next, she was on the ground. Twilight blinked, her brain still not registering why she was lying on the ground or how she got there. She was covered in bits of something sharp and under a pile of books.
Twilight blinked again and shook her head, trying to clear away the ringing she was hearing. Everything felt strange and fuzzy. And what was that loud ringing anyway? It wasn't anything Twilight had heard before. Some of the shelves were knocked off their pegs and the books were sliding off them and onto the floor. But why were the books hitting the floor not making any noise?
Her library was a mess now, too. It seemed that everything that had been on a shelf or elevated in anyway had been knocked on the floor. Dust was falling from the ceiling, stinging her eyes. Twilight called out for Rainbow Dash, but all she could hear was a muffled noise. Strike that; Twilight could hear the sound of very loud breathing. Believing Dash was on the ground next to her, she looked around and behind herself. Seeing that her friend wasn’t, Twilight realized that the loud breathing was her own. Her own breath was thunder to her ears. She tried shaking her head again to clear her thoughts. It felt like there was cotton stuffed in her head that muffled the sensations of the world.
Twilight took another look around the room for Rainbow Dash. The library was a complete mess, but still no Rainbow Dash. ‘Hard... hard to think...’ Twilight thought. She tried to figure what just happened and came up with only one hypothesis: Whatever happened knocked her off her feet, into a bookcase, and shattered the windows.
Twilight perked up; the mare had just spotted a cyan hoof under a pile of books and a cabinet. Twilight gingerly made her way over to Rainbow Dash, paying special attention to not step on anything, especially the broken glass. Lighting her horn up with power, Twilight lifted the cabinet and books off her friend and set them in a corner of the library. Using a little more magic to clear the debris and glass from the floor, Twilight ran the rest of the way to Rainbow Dash, whom had already started to move and gather her bearings with the weight off her back.
“–ainbow Dash?” Her voice still sounded muffled to her own ears, but was coming in more clearly. Dust was falling off of Dash’s mane as she looked around the room and at Twilight. Her eyes were glazed over like Twilight’s had been a few moments ago.
“Rainbow Dash? Can you hear me?” Twilight’s voice didn’t seem to register with Dash. She used her magic to clear off her upstairs bed of debris and levitated Dash over to it. Dash, having gained back her equilibrium, started to panic at being moved without conscious effort, but settled down when she was placed on Twilight’s bed. She tried to take flight, but her wings flapped uselessly in her daze. Twilight raced to her upstairs balcony to check on her pegasus friend. Dash tried to say something, but it came out slurred and unintelligible. Dash looked ready to panic and turned to Twilight, but her friend was already there to comfort her. Twilight knew that Dash couldn’t hear her just yet, so she wrapped her forelegs around Dash’s neck in a gentle embrace. Dash was shaking slightly and Twilight couldn’t blame her. Rainbow Dash was a mare of action, always diving head first to wrangle problems with her bare hooves. Being deprived of her senses and wings so suddenly and without a noticeable cause must have been terrifying to her. Twilight held Dash in the hug until she stopped shaking. There were tears in Dash’s eyes when they pulled apart.
“Twi..light...” Dash managed to say. Twilight smiled and pushed Rainbow Dash back onto the bed. Rainbow Dash seemed to understand and lay down to rest. Having secured her house and gaining back her senses, it was time for Twilight to figure out what had just transpired. She made her was back downstairs, the doorknob opening with a flash of lavender energy. Twilight ran out the door and stopped. She found what caused the disruption inside and it was unlike anything she had seen before.
A half mile up in the night sky outlined with a black border was a massive, swirling vortex of violet energy. Actually, massive was an understatement: it was positively ENORMOUS. The swirling mass stretched from the town all the way to the Everfree Forest; it had to be at least a mile wide. An unusual noise was coming from the oddity, something akin to a hushed whisper that reminded her of some of her spells she’d cast in the past but far more ethereal. The light of Luna’s full moon illuminated the backdrop of the giant... portal? That’s what a cursory glance suggested anyway. Black material outlining a swirling vortex of a deep violet energy; a portal if she’d ever seen one. It was oddly shaped too; a rectangle with perfectly aligned edges. How did it get there without anybody noticing? Where did it come from? Where did the portal lead to? What composition of magic and materials could sustain such a massive gateway? Who built it? Did the explosion signal the portal’s arrival or something else? And why was it just hovering perfectly still in the sky!?
Her analytical mind aside, Twilight couldn’t help but feel a deep enthrallment at the gateway. It was foreign and ethereal with its solid black structure, unknown origin, and swirling, curling energy. Small flecks of violet magic broke off from the portal and rained down like a gentle snow. It really was...
“Beautiful...” Twilight could not help but take a moment to appreciate the portal’s aesthetic grace. In the past she had taken her time enjoying walks through the various gardens and parks since she moved to Ponyville. It was the same during the Running of the Leaves where she enjoyed the fall colors in preparation for the winter season or seeing Princess Celestia raise the sun for the first time. The shell shock was mostly cleared and she knew that she needed to do something, but she wanted, no, needed, to take a moment. She had never, in all her studies and stories she'd come across, encountered such an oddity. Time had stopped for Twilight and she could do nothing but admire the portal in all its beauty and splendor.
But something eventually did snap her out of her stupor. Like a drop of ink dying cloth, the center of the violet haze slowly changed hues. The very center of the quiet storm of energy became brighter and brighter. Soon it became a full bloody-red and, following the swirling currents already in place, began to spread bit by bit to the black borders of the portal. The change felt... wrong. Perverse. A foul botch of something glorious. The first incarnation was quiet and gentle, this once felt eager and violent. The currents of energy changed as well. The formerly calm and graceful movements had become erratic and tempestuous. She had seen a raging storm on the water once when she was naught but a filly. Her parents had taken her to one of the eastern port towns for a vacation and there she witnesses a masterful display of a weather pony’s art. The winds were gales and the waters black and vast. Such a sight she had witnessed once until now. The crimson energy raged against the black borders of its cage but held fast. Faster and faster they raged, stronger and stronger they became. Something had to snap first.
For the second time in ten minutes, Twilight lost her vision to the gateway in the sky. A single pulse of white light detached itself like a solar flare and turned the darkness into day. For the first time, everything from Ponyville to the neighboring towns saw the world clearly in the black embrace of the night. But just as quickly as it came, it ended. The burst of light vanished and Twilight gazed up at it once more, blinking back the spots on her eyes.
But the portal was barren and empty. The raging tempest of crimson had vanished and left only a black, empty shell with nothing left to give.
It was absolute bedlam at the Canterlot gates. Guards, pegasus and unicorn alike, were scrambling under the orders of their superiors. A cataclysmic shockwave and accompanying burst of light from the south was enough for the head of the Royal Guard to mobilize everyone he had under his command until he was, without any semblance of doubt, sure that the situation was under control. He was shouting commands, shoring up any loose ends or cracks in Canterlot’s defenses that he could find. And that was only the start of his worries.
“Wake the Council of Magic. I don’t care if you have to roll the Archmage himself out of bed, get them here now!” Shining Armor demanded to his lieutenant.
Three more guards stood at attention. Each stood tall, straight, and still as stone, waiting for an order to be given. Even though the Canterlot Royal Guard was trained better, Shining Armor was not in the mood for any insubordination from his subordinates. Shining Armor turned to the first. “Assemble a team of the fastest and finest vets we have. I’m not sure we’ll need them just yet, but I want a strike team ready in the off chance this is the prelude to an attack.”
The pegasus saluted and was off, his wings gathering lift as he made a beeline for the barracks.
Now it was the next soldier in line. “You will be my liaison for the Council of Magic. Once the Council gets here, I want them debriefed on any and all information we have to share. If they have anything to offer in return, I want a report immediately. You should have a little time before they get here, so fly to the School for Gifted Unicorns and get permission to use their facilities. If the Dean gives you any trouble, make certain he knows I do not want to come down there.”
“Yes, Captain!” And he too was off.
“Speak with all unicorns on guard and pick their brains for anything they have learned from... whatever that explosion was. Once you are done, prepare a report for myself and the Princess. I don’t care how insignificant the details may be, I want. To. Know. EVERYTHING!”
“Yes, Captain!” And he was off to the guard towers and castle walls. Shining Armor sighed; Cadence would be waiting for him another night. This would be the third night this week. At least this time there appeared to be a genuine problem.
Shining Armor snapped his attention back to his duties. Now was not the time to lose focus, even for his beloved. He marched back up to the castle walls as well, citizens and nobility giving their respects and asking questions alike as he passed them. He spent a few minutes reassuring them and their families. He didn’t have much to say; he had already mobilized the Royal Guard and started preparing the unicorns with any resources they might need. He assured them that, no matter the circumstances, everything would be alright. It was enough though. The citizens he met parted with smiles and a weight off their chest. The presence of the Royal Guard and the time Shining Armor took with Canterlot’s people was reassurance enough.
Shining Armor began his rounds on the walls with hopes high for a report, but he knew it was too soon. The pegasus he had sent off still hadn’t returned, so all he could do was wait for some kind of report and do his job in the meantime. So he killed time on the walls, his men saluting as he passed.
“Incoming!” came a call from above.
Shining Armor’s head shot around to the soldier’s call; it was one of the Farseers on the towers. Shining Amor raced to the door to the tower and began climbing as fast as possible, his boots making rhythmic thumps against the stone. He made it to the top of the tower and ran down the stone pathway. Each tower was topped with a circular walkway forty feet in diameter and a single walkway extending away from the castle an additional twenty feet and lined with torches across its entirety. At the end on a stone perch was a single Farseer, a unicorn hoof-picked by Shining Armor himself for his or her skills in perception and obfuscation magic. It was the job of each Farseer to observe and record any movement or action from anything they see that was out of the ordinary, magic or otherwise. This Farseer was a sky blue stallion with a white mane by the name of Stormy Skies, odd indeed because that was a pegasus name. Skies’ background check came back all clear, so he supposed one of his lineages hadn't been too adherent to their wedding vows. Shining Armor had spoken with the Private before and confirmed that his grandmother had a reputation of being... promiscuous.
Shining Armor stopped at Skies’ side. “Report, Private!”
“Captain! A single pegasus coming in from the south eight klicks out.”
Shining Armor squinted to the south and saw nothing in the darkness. “Good eye, soldier.” Stormy Skies’ chest puffed at the compliment “Can you make out anything else?”
“Not much. Whoever it is, they are flying like a bat out of Tartarus. They’re flying as fast as possible to Canterlot. And...” Private Skies squinted at the horizon and Shining Armor saw his horn glow ever so slightly. Private Skies’ eyes became enveloped with a thin sheen of light. It was a ghastly effect that made the torchlight reflect off his eyes like a cat.
“I... I think... I think they are wearing armor...”
Shining turned his head to the side and to the captain currently on duty. “Send word to the troops. Have them prepare for a possible incursion.”
“Wait!” Came a cry from Stormy Skies. Shining Armor and the captain turned to the Farseer. “It’s not an attacker! It’s one of Princess Luna’s entourage! Those aren’t pegasi wings!”
“Clear the tower! Make way!” Shining Armor shouted to the troops. Everyone immediately filed to the sides and rear of the platform to make a makeshift landing pad. Shining Armor lifted his head and set a single starburst into the air. It hissed into the sky and burst into a flickering yellow light that illuminated the tower in a dull glow. The light lasted only so long; it soon began to fall back to the tower, flickering to a dull gleam as it went out.
“Captain!” Stormy called again. “He... yes, that’s a stallion alright, he’s changed directions. He’s coming straight to us.”
“...Then we wait...” Shining Armor said. It was several minutes before anything could be done. Shining Armor wasn’t too skilled in Farsight, but he knew enough that even he could make out the Night Guard after a short wait. It was another minute before anyone spoke up.
“Huh, he ain’t looking too good.” Private Skies’s back was to everyone else in an effort to keep his night vision safe from the brightly-lit Canterlot below and Shining Amor’s starburst.
“Elaborate, Private.” He ordered. He could make out the black speck of flapping wings, but not much else.
“He’s exhausted and slowing down. Wherever he came from, it doesn’t look like he stopped to rest along the way. He wanted to get here and he wanted to get here fast. He looks like he’s about to fall from the sky.”
It was another minute before Stormy Skies spoke up. By then, everyone could see the Night Guard clad in his violet armor and great bat wings. The Night Guard was weaving in the air erratically.
“Yeah, he’s not in for a pleasant landing.”
“Everyone, stand back!” It was just in time too. The Night Guard took two more minutes to get to Canterlot airspace, barely making it that far. He was weaving up and down in the air, keeping himself aloft by sheer willpower alone. He was only 200 feet out losing altitude too fast for safety. Faster and faster he dropped, but the Night Guard’s head was dead set on the tower.
“You two!” Shining Armor pointed to two pegasus guards. “Help him out.” The two pegasus saluted and shot off like fireworks. They raced to the flailing Night Guard, but as they came upon him, his wings failed and he dropped ten feet. He was close to the tower and moving too fast. Shining Armor braced himself to hear the crunch of bone against the tower walls.
But the Night Guard had enough strength left for one mighty beat of his wings. He rose in the air just enough to clear the battlements, but his legs caught against the Farseer’s perch. The Night Guard tumbled end over end, wings and hooves flailing and Shining Armor swore he heard something snap. The Night Guard came to a stop, a mass of armor and disjointed limbs.
“Medic!” shouted the captain. A pegasus raced off to fetch one from the infirmary.
The Night Guard was a mess. He’d shed all of his leg armor to decrease the weight for his trip. He was covered head to hoof with rivulets of sweat and panting heavily. He coughed several times and gasped, trying desperately to get his breath back. By instinct, he started to fold his wings back against his abdomen, but winced heavily at the action. Shining Armor gave his wings a cursory glance. His left wing appeared fine, if ruffled and soaked with sweat and shivering from cold. His right wing had a large bulge in one of the joints and was bent at an odd angle. A dislocation the medic needed fix when said medic arrived.
The night Guard gave another series of hacking coughs, followed by more panting. His eyes were drooping from fatigue before they saw Shining’s brass. The Night Guard began to stand in respect and Shining Armor was going to make the Guard disregard the salute due to his condition, but the Guard immediately collapsed as he tried to make his feet work properly.
“Stay still, soldier; you’re in no condition to move and the medic is on his way. Now, why did you race here? Report.” The Night Guard nodded and took a few seconds to pant to get his breath back.
*pant* “...message...” *pant* *pant*
*pant* “Princess Celestia...” *pant* *pant* “From...” *pant* “Princess...” *pant* *pant* “Luna...”
One of the soldiers on guard brought a bucket of water and a ladle. He scooped up and lowered the ladle for the Guard to drink. The Guard nodded his thanks and drank greedily. The pegasus dunked the ladle again and the Guard received two more scoops before his breathing began to stabilize.
*pant* “About a disturbance...” *pant* “To the south.” *pant* “A doorway.”
Princess Celestia was sleeping peacefully in her private quarters, thoughts filled with pleasant dreams. She was on the moon and everything was delicious. The ground was a tangy custard with the hint of vanilla, the stones cast across the surface rock candy, and the stars were sprinkles she could scoop from the heavens. The sun itself was a great lemon drop coated in sugar, ripe and ready for her to taste. She reached up, taking the great orb from the sky and opened her mouth, ready to take a bite.
Princess Celestia awoke with a start as a large force crashed against the windows. Her head darted to the closet window and her magic sprung from its reservoir deep within. Her magic met her call eagerly like the light meets the sun. Nothing was in her quarters; the wards she had carefully layered piece by piece around the room still held. She was alone. She released her grip on her magic, as disappointed as that made her feel. She quickly put on her crown and armored regalia before exiting her room.
The pair of guards outside her door scrambled to attention. “Princess!”
“I am fine. Come; I wish to find out what has just transpired.” Celestia couldn’t help but sigh; it was such a pleasant dream after all.
As she made her way to the throne room, she had gathered a small following of guards to flank her arrival. She honestly did not believe she would need them, but seeing a formidable guard for Equestria’s princess settled pony’s minds faster than her words ever could. She did not like using such psychological tactics to boost morale, but she was in the middle of an unknown situation and needed all the help she could get. A necessary qualm that must be endured for now. She would deal with the moral ramifications at a later date.
A pony cloaked in reds and greens stepped forward. Emblazoned on her chest was the crest of a court mage, one of a dramatized drawing of Luna and herself wrapped around the planet in a field of stars. “Shooting Star, if you have an update on current events, I would like to hear it.” Celestia commanded.
Shooting Star bowed in respect as she was addressed. “I do not your Highness. All whom I have spoken to report an event to the south that caused a shockwave akin to breaking the sound barrier. As to the source or cause of such an event, I cannot give more details until further investigation.” Shooting Star raised her head to address the Princess directly. “Currently the captain of the Royal Guard has mobilized those on duty to shore up Canterlot’s defenses should the worst come to pass.”
“A wise precaution. I wish him to give me hourly updates until this matter is settled.” One of her guards bowed and ran out the door. From then on, Celestia spoke with her military and political advisors on current events. The creatures of the Everfree Forest had been growing more restless for some time now and would need added measures to keep them in check. Then there were trade disputes between the Griffon Kingdoms and the tariffs on apples; from what her reports can confirm, Griffons had discovered a means of creating a liquor from apples that had become quite popular. It had been quite some time since Celestia had indulged in liquor. ‘I’ll have to sample it some time. Wait, no. Back on topic.’ Other than sweets, liquor had been a guilty pleasure she had indulged in too much in the past.
Next came the preparations and guest list for the upcoming Grand Galloping Gala. All of the local nobility were invited along with notable guests like the Wonderbolts and Photo Finish. 'So close; only three months away...'
“I would like to add a few more to the guest list,” Celestia told her advisor. The advisor gave a half-smirk as if she expected the comment.
“I do have seven additional open slots if you have anypony in mind Princess.”
Celestia smiled happily for having advisors that understood her deeply enough. “Thank you. Please have them delivered the following morning.”
The advisor bowed and turned to leave, having delivered all pertinent news. As soon as he left, a unicorn guard entered and, seeing the Princess, bowed respectfully.
“Rise.” Celestia commanded and the loyal soldier complied. “What have you to report?”
“Highness, I was told to deliver this to you and no one else. Captain Shining Armor received a missive intended for you from a Night Guard that departed from Princess Luna’s entourage.” The Royal Guardspony fished out an envelope sealed with wax and stamped by Shining Armor’s crest. “Apparently she witnesses something pertinent to recent events and sent a message with all haste.”
Princess Celestia took the envelope from the guard and broke the seal with her magic. She began reading the letter slowly, examining each and every letter of her Captain Shining Armor’s script. But as Celestia read more and more, the gravity and absurdity of the situation was finally understood. Her eyes began to widen after every line, putting everyone in the room on edge as they waited for their leader to make a decision. When she was done, she folded the note and gave it to Shooting Star. Gone was the incredulity. In its place was a hard face that demanded her subject’s loyalty and respect. Everyone in the room recognized the change; they were not gazing upon Celestia, but the true Goddess of the Sun.
“Assemble the Royal Guard to be ready to depart on the hour. Shooting Star, assemble a team of mages to attend and gather any supplies they might need from the School for Gifted Unicorns and Countess Incantus’ laboratory. Take special emphasis on magic deconstruction and tracking and be ready to leave by dawn.” Princess Celestia started walking out the door. “Ready my chariot; I will be joining this expedition. And summon Princess Cadence. I want her briefed on the situation and privy to any report. She is to be placed in command of Canterlot as my temporary steward.”
Everyone’s eyes boggled at the orders. “Princess...!” Shooting Star began to exclaim. Celestia turned her gaze on Shooting Star and she shrunk under the stare.
“Do I make myself clear?”
Everyone in the room stood at attention and exclaimed in unison.
“Yes, Your Highness!”
Chapter Commentary: LINK
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Edited by: Viktor Lionheart