“EVERYPONY JUST SHUT UP!” Twilight screamed. The ground seemed to shake slightly around her as magic faded from her horn. Such a monumental source of anger welled inside her. Celestia and Nightmare Moon clashed overhead. She glanced upwards and hoped that one of the sisters would see her on the ground, conversing with Discord himself. This was not how she had seen her day going. Perhaps I should have listened to Luna when she said she didn’t want to tell Celestia. Would we not be here now? Would we not be seriously contemplating making a deal with Discord? Discord! He’s not a statue anymore! How did he break out? Was it all this chaos from the fight, the fight that was no doubt over Luna and I’s relationship? Was all of this my fault? How was I supposed to know I was breaking some ancient Alicorn law? She tapped her hooves against her temples. What do I do now? Take the deal and possibly put Equestria in danger or let my mentor and my fillyfriend destroy my hometown and each other? Perhaps there only is one option here…. “Alright!” She shouted as she shook her head clear. “I’ve made my decision…” She inhaled deeply, mentally preparing herself for the reactions she was going to receive from at least two of her friends. They aren’t going to like this. But they are the ponies closest to me, right? They won’t abandon me will they? She gritted her teeth.
Discord gave her a wink. “I certainly couldn’t get them to turn on you even with hypnosis. So that should tell you something.”
Twilight shook her head. Was it possible he could…?
Discord snickered. “Well, a couple months of dream surfing gives one an excellent insight to the bronze gears of thought turning about in the dreamer’s head.”
She shook her head and straightened her posture. “We’ll take the deal.”
“What!?” Fluttershy shook her head. “Are you sure about this, Twilight?”
“Rainbow Dash and Rarity are right. If we don’t deal with this now the city won’t be salvageable. Hay, I don’t even know how much longer it will stay attached to the mountainside at this rate. This is the city I grew up in and I’ll be strolling through Tartarus before I’ll see it destroyed. Then there are the princesses! I don’t know what madness has taken over Celestia and I can’t stand the thought that Nightmare Moon thinks she’s doing me a favor right now. We need to put an end to this now!”
Pinkie Pie scoffed. “We’re going to regret this, and I don’t need my Pinkie sense to tell you that.”
“Don’t think I don’t know the risks! But I just don’t see any more options at this point and we’re running out of time!”
“Enough! The vote has been cast!” Discord bowed and extended his claw. “Just a formality, but if you would be so kind, honest Applejack…”
“Twilight?” Applejack glanced back to Twilight who gave a small head-bob approvingly. The orange pony shook her head as she slowly extended her hoof. Discord’s grin widened. “Very well, Discord. We have an agreement.” Discord’s eyes flashed as he grasped his claw around Applejack’s hoof. Shining chains swirled around the union of hoof and claw. Discord smiled widely as the chains crisscrossed and tightened around the handshake. The chains faded away with small clinking sounds and Discord jumped backwards into the air.
“YES! We do indeed, honest Applejack!” Discord laughed and did a small dance in the air. “Yes! Yes, yes, yes! Freedom at last!”
Twilight stopped her hoof. “Our deal?”
“What? Oh yes, of course. One moment.” Discord snapped his fingers and disappeared with a flash of light.
“Yield, sister. This destruction has gone on far enough.” Celestia’s hoof pressed against Nightmare Moon’s neck, slowing the Alicorn’s breaths. Celesita looked up at the sun; it looked out of place, surrounded by Nightmare Moon’s storm clouds. Despite it being directly over head, the area was cloaked in a gray shadow as the moon was fighting for the same spot in the sky. “Do you know where we are now, sister?” Somehow during the battle they had made their way up to the balcony of Canterlot Castle’s highest spire, which by no small feat of pony engineering was still standing despite it missing several sections on its lower levels. Nightmare Moon grunted underneath Celestia’s hoof. “This is the observation terrace. It was the very first tower built when Canterlot was constructed.” A small tear rolled down Celestia’s cheek. “It is the highest tower in the city and without a doubt one of the most stunning parts of the whole city. Do you know what it built for, sister dear?” Celestia narrowed her eyes as she increased the pressure on Nightmare Moon’s throat. The moon began to retreat down the horizon. “It serves… served… only one purpose and that was to provide a staircase close to the heavens. The tallest tower in a city built on one of the highest mountains in Equestria. All so I could stand here with my head turned to the sky… just so I could be even slightly closer to the moon, where my sister was.” Celestia spread her wings as she loomed over Nightmare Moon. “Perhaps I was wrong to let you come back. I figured a thousand years would mellow your heart, quell you desires to something less harmful, but it seems I was wrong. You still have not learned how to control your Affixed.”
Nightmare Moon gasped, “You blame Luna for this? It was you that made us into this monster. A monster just like you.”
“Do not blame this on me. You have wrought your own fate.” Celestia focused magic in her horn. As she was lit with the soft glow the magic, Nightmare Moon closed her eyes and chuckled. With a thunderous clap, Celestia blasted a ray of light into the sky.
“All this time and you still can’t do it? What happened to your killer instinct? You know, the one that got us into this mess in the first place? You are weak, sister.”
Celestia stared at the sky as the clouds began to clear away from the blast, her eyes wet with tears. “Perhaps you are right. I used to consider my inability to do away with you to be a strength. A barrier that separated me from the monsters I so hated.” The clouds covered the sun, blanketing the city in darkness. “But now, as I watch the destruction you have caused once again, perhaps that mercy is a weakness after all.” A hole in the clouds allowed the moon to shine through, casting a pillar of light upon Nightmare Moon and Celestia. “Hear now thine acts of sedition and bearest witness to our ruling.”
“No!” Nightmare Moon gasped. With a pinging sound a glowing runic circle traced itself underneath Nightmare Moon.
“For thy devastating acts against our city and for breaking our most sanctified code…” The pillar of light solidified and Nightmare Moon felt herself start to lift of the ground.
“No! If you want to be merciful then kill us!” Nightmare Moon struggled in the air. “We will not go back, the sky will eat us!”
“We hereby banish thee from our fair world for the remainder of thy immortal life. Thy prison shall be thy own precious moon.” The runic circle broke apart and gave way to a rift. Nightmare Moon attempted to fly against the pull of the magic. “We hope the Ancient Sprits still show thou mercy for from this moment onwards THE SUN HATH…!” Snap! The pillar of light faded away and Nightmare Moon fell to the ground. Celestia gasped. “What?! What sort of magic could possibly…?”
“Oh it’s only the kind of magic that you are intimately familiar with, Celestia.” A voice rang out.
Celestia’s eyes widened as far as possible. Even her injured eye opened to reveal a bloody mess. She only could muster a small sound from her throat. “No…”
“Oh yes quite so!” With a flash of light Discord appeared. “Did you miss me, Celestia?”
“Discord! Look what you have wrought upon us now, Nightmare Moon!” Celestia raced past Discord and charged Nightmare Moon.
Discord laughed. “You’re still blaming her for all this? Allow me to fix that for you.” Discord summoned a roll of newspaper and thwacked Celestia on the nose with it. “Bad Alicorn. No using ancient artifacts to see into the future!” As the paper hit Celestia’s snout she immediately stopped in place. Her face turned to horror as she scrambled backwards frantically.
“What happened…? By Dagr and Nótt! Canterlot is…” Celestia gazed upon the smoldering ruins of her fair capital. “How could this have…? Oh no…! I remember now….” Celestia collapsed to the floor in tears.
“The Dome of Vision? Really, Celestia?” Discord chuckled darkly. “How many times must the lesson be learned? Don’t touch those Centaurian artifacts that you keep pulling out of Tartarus! Didn’t you learn the lesson well enough when you found that bell?” Celestia sobbed. Discord grinned widely. “You know, it was the time where you…”
“Discord! Enough!” Nightmare Moon stamped her hoof. “Leave her be.”
“My, what interesting behavior! You would defend the pony who only seconds ago was preparing to imprison you on the moon? I dare say I feel like I hardly know you two anymore.”
“Discord is back… And it’s our fault….” Celestia sobbed. “That may be true, but I won’t let you toss our world in to chaos again.” Celestia focused magic in her horn. “Not again!”
“Oh please, Celestia. Don’t think your puny magic will accomplish anything. It’s entirely the wrong alignment. You’d need positive magic to stand a chance against me and you have long since lost the ability to harness a power source so pure. Fighting negative magic with negative magic is just not possible!” Celestia bowed her head and let the magic fade from her horn. Discord turned around with a laugh. “Now then, Nightmare Moon… There was a reason I came up here besides taunting you and your sister, now what was…” A thunderous blast of golden light enveloped Discord. He sat with a exasperated look as the magic turned to confetti around him while the remainder of the attack struck the mountainside. With a large explosion, the mountain peak slid downwards and crashed to the ground, taking a good chunk of the city with it. Discord turned around and shook his head. “Now what did I just say? Honestly, I would easily mistake you for mortals the way to never listen to your elders.” Discord leaned over the edge of the platform. “Oh now look what you’ve done! The entire upper level district is gone. It lies at the foot of the mountain in rubble and you just don’t even care. What are all those ponies going to do for a home now? It’s a good thing only nobles live there, so at least they can afford a new place to live. Well that assumes they didn’t keep most of their wealth inside their homes. What a pity.”
“Me? I haven’t done…” Discord slapped his head with his claw and ran it down his face. “I don’t have time for this. The point is… a certain pony is very scared and uncertain right now.”
“Twilight!” Nightmare Moon exclaimed as she took wing.
“Hold on for a moment!” Discord held out his claw. Nightmare Moon was pulled by an invisible force back to the tower. “Your fillyfriend probably wants to talk. A more terrifying phrase to hear in a relationship I’m not sure you could find.” Discord turned to face Celestia. “And you my little sun goddess, your student has requested office hours.” Discord held up his hand and snapped his fingers. “Andiamo!”
There was a low rumbling. Twilight Sparkle glanced upwards as the golden barrier that had blocked her path began to crack. Fissures of white light traced their way up the wall in erratic motions. The crevasses’ glow increased with a humming sound. Twilight gasped in awe. It was a fantastic sight to see, such a raw amount of magical forces interacting. If times had been more pleasant she would have pulled out a scroll and jotted down her observations on the matter. The shield shook and a piece already sectioned off by the fissures fell to the ground like a fragment of glass. Piece by piece the wall fell until a low rumble shattered the remainder into nothingness. A flash of light blinded Twilight Sparkle. Discord appeared in the air with Celestia and Nightmare Moon. Discord tossed his arms downwards and the Alicorns were forced to the ground by an unseen force. “Observe, Twilight Sparkle! I have fulfilled our deal! I present to you the sisters Alicorn!”
Nightmare Moon struggled. “Twilight!”
Celesita looked upwards. “Deal? My student, what does he…?” Celestia’s snout was forced into the dirt.
“Now now, that’s enough of that.” Discord said with a sneer. “Quickly, Twilight! Now’s your chance! Finish the agreement!”
Applejack approached Twilight’s side. “What now, Twilight? We have the princesses here, but what do you reckon we do with them?” Celestia and Nightmare Moon struggled against Discord’s magic.
“Well whatever you do, make it fast.” Discord said. “Even I can’t hold the power of an Alicorn forever. Actually I feel them slipping out. They’ll just go back to each other’s throats if you don’t do something! Quick, use the Elements of Harmony to pacify them!”
Twilight glanced back to her friends. “He’s right. We need to depower them. Nightmare Moon won’t stop until Luna’s desires are fulfilled, and Celestia won’t rest until Nightmare Moon is quelled. Elements of Harmony… fall in formation!”
“Gottcha! Time to be awesome.” Rainbow Dash landed next to Twilight’s right and dug her hooves in the ground. Her necklace glowed a bright red as she grinned wildly.
“You can count on us!” Applejack took Twilight’s left and adjusted her hat determinedly. Her necklace gave of a soft orange light.
“If you say so…” Fluttershy landed beside Rainbow Dash and attempted to stand up straight. Her necklace lit up a dull pink as she hid her face behind her hair.
“For Canterlot!” Rarity raced up to Applejack’s side and struck a pose. Her necklace flashed a brilliant purple as she adjusted its symmetry.
“You know ‘Elements of Harmony fall in formation’ is just such a ‘meh’ battle cry. We need something with a little oomph! You know, something like: ‘In the name of Harmony we call upon the might of all our powers combined to the limit of SPECTACULAR to smite thee evildoer with a rainbow of light!’ Something with a little pizzazz! Oh! Or pizza! We should go get a pizza after this! Who’s with me on the pizza? I’ll buy if we get half with….”
“PINKIE PIE!” The others screamed.
“Oh, sorry.” She mewed.
“Right!” Twilight closed her eyes and cleared her mind. She focused on all the things she liked about her friends. The small star on the top of her tiara began to glow. How they were always there for her and how they would stand by her no matter what troubles befell them. They certainly had a lot of troubles recently. She felt her hooves lift off the ground. She opened her eyes to see the Alicorn sisters struggling on the ground. A burst of rainbow colored light exploded in all directions. Discord snapped his fingers and vanished as a ribbon of multicolored light raced down towards the princesses. Celestia gasped. The rainbow impacted Nightmare Moon and tossed her form to the side. The younger Alicorn slammed against the ground and Nightmare Moon shattered. High in the sky, the moon began to fall. It dipped past the horizon and vanished from sight. Luna lay unconscious against a pile of rubble.
Celestia stood up. “No…!” The rainbow struck her squarely. A gale force wind tugged at her fur and mane as Celestia attempted to walk slowly forward into the blast. “No! I won’t go back…” Her tiara was blown off of her head and bounced off somewhere in the distance as she grunted. “…to being her!” Celestia’s mane began to dissolve into a light pink as she struggled against the force of the magic. The rainbow dissolved around her and the Alicorn screamed. The sun fell from its place high in the sky. It raced towards the horizon until it finally came to a stop just beyond the curvature of the surface. Casting a faint glow over the land, it had returned to its proper place in the sky for the time of day. “Helia… again…” The Alicorn fell to the ground with a scattering of dust.
“Is that… is that the end of it?” Twilight said as her hooves returned to the ground. Canterlot was covered in an eerie silence, almost as if sound had stopped. A few stray fires burned in the background, but they were too far away for their crackling to be heard. Twilight approached Luna’s side and glanced down at the pony. She was breathing, but clearly unconscious as was her sister. Twilight shook her head. From somewhere behind her the sound of wings flapping could be heard. Twilight turned around to see if the noise was coming from Rainbow Dash, or even perhaps Fluttershy, but both ponies were on the ground. In the distance an armored pink Pegasus stallion was flying in the air. The stallion put himself into a glide. As he came closer into view, Twilight spied several other Pegasus’s flying in formation. “Look! The royal guard!”
“Ho there, Lady Twilight!” The pink stallion shouted as he neared their position. “Well done! We saw the light show from in the air.”
“Commander Wind Strider!” Twilight said as the Pegasus landed.
“Perhaps I am not getting ahead of myself with congratulations. But is it over? Has Nightmare Moon been sealed again?”
Twilight shook her head. “Nightmare Moon alone was not res....”
“I know.” Wind Strider held up a hoof. He gestured to another member of the guard. The guard nodded and walked over to the princesses. “I saw most of it with my own eyes. You have to understand that most ponies won’t believe that Princess Celestia was involved in so much of the destruction. Nightmare Moon is a known enemy; they will find it much easier to accept that Celestia was merely defending her subjects from her.”
“That’s a load of horseapples!” Rainbow Dash said.
Twilight shook her head again. “Yes, but the Commander is probably right in this regard. Besides it is not our choice to make. That’s for Princess Cadence to decide. I would hate to be her right now; she’s got a lot of cleaning up to do.” Twilight glanced over to her friends. “But, Wind Strider, you can tell the princess that we will be willing to help in any way possible.”
Wind Strider sighed. “Actually, I hate to do so, but I must deliver some terrible news, Lady Twilight.” Twilight winced. “We cannot find Princess Cadence or Captain Shining Armor.”
“WHAT?” Twilight blinked rapidly. “What do you mean you can’t find them?!”
“The Captain went searching for the princess when she was not found among the castle refugees. He has not returned and our current search effort has not revealed his whereabouts.”
“Are you telling me… are you telling… me…?” Twilight’s eyes began to well up. Fluttershy wrapped her hooves around Twilight’s back in a surprisingly effective attempt to comfort her.
“Now we have found no evidence that suggests it, and until we find otherwise, we can only assume he located the princess and took her somewhere safe. He probably chose a location far away from Canterlot. They could be halfway to Manehatten by now for all we know.” Wind Strider sighed. “Lady Twilight, that brings me to our next order of business. With your brother missing, I am acting Captain of the guard again and as such I have a set of duties to fulfill should certain conditions be met. Today, such conditions have been.” The guard Wind Strider had gestured to approached and dropped an object on the ground that Twilight could not be bothered to pay any attention to its shape. “Both of the High Princesses are currently incapacitated. As I’ve said, Princess Cadence is missing. Now more than ever, a ruler is needed, Lady Twilight.”
“I don’t understand what you… why do you keep calling me…?” Twilight looked down at the object Wind Strider was now holding. “No. Absolutely no. There are plenty of other ponies for that!” Wind Strider held up Princess Celestia’s crown. Twilight took a step backwards. “There is a proper line of succession….”
“Yes there is, Lady Twilight.” Wind Strider attempted to polish the crown with his wings. “If Princess Celestia should be incapable of fulfilling her duties, Princess Luna shall take the leadership role. Then Princess Cadence, then Duke Dawning Road, then Duchess Dawning Road, then Prince Blueblood if needed.”
“Surely you don’t mean…?”
“Yes, they are all missing. We are searching but we have found no evidence that they are either alive or dead at the moment. We’re remaining optimistic.”
“But I’m not even in the line!”
Wind Strider sighed. “Next in line are nonfamily members. First Rivensilt, Celestia’s trusted advisor, and then Storm Dancer, Luna’s advisor. Rivensilt is missing and Storm Dancer is a traitor. After the advisors is the Element of Magic. Lady Twilight, you are the next in line for the throne.”
“No! I’m not fit to rule a kingdom! I’m too young!”
“Milady, it will only be until another member of the line is found. If you wish it, once they appear you can pass the throne to them. They will, however, have no power to take it from you.” Wind Strider nodded to a guard who removed Twilight’s tiara. Wind Strider raised Celestia’s crown above Twilight’s head.
“No! I refuse! Take it to the next in line!”
“That would be the Element of Honesty.” Wind Strider said with a slight sigh. Applejack took a few steps backwards and shuffled behind Twilight.
“Honesty? Are you sure it’s not the Element of Generosity next?” Rarity said with a pleading smile.
“No. It goes Magic, Honesty, Kindness, Loyalty, Captain of the Guard, and then Generosity.”
Rainbow Dash landed next to Twilight, “None of us are fit to rule, Twilight. But you’ve got the biggest brains out of all of us and you’ve spent a lot of time at the castle and know politics. Honestly you’re the smart choice here.”
Twilight glanced around. “I… I can’t…” All her friends and the guards were staring at her.
“Lady Twilight!” Wind Strider lowered the crown onto her head. He cleared his throat. “By the power of the royal guard, charged by the crown with the duty of naming successor should the need arise. I, of the Pegasus tribe, Acting Captain Wind Strider, of the Skyborn family, herby crown you, Lady Twilight, sovereign of Equestira!” Wind Strider took a deep breath. “From the plains of peace tended by the Earths to the skies of the Pegasi, the spirits of the ethereal, Unicorn lead, together our oath to you we pledge: Adored land of Equestria! Divine ground of the goddesses! May our hymns enlighten, and the glory of the sun brighten!” Wind Strider took a few steps backwards. “Never thought I, of all the ponies in all of the years, would have to say that.” Wind Strider dipped low to the ground into a kneeling position. “Hail! The Lady Twilight!”
Twilight glanced up at the heave and oversized crown that adorned her head. She frantically gave fleeting looks to all of the ponies behind her. One by one the Pegasi in the air landed and bowed. Rainbow Dash gave a brief nod and knelt as Wind Strider had done. The two guards who had helped crown her bowed their heads. Fluttershy dropped to a kneel with a soft smile. The other guards lowered their heads. Twilight recognized the poses from an old book she had read on royal doctrine. The bows were the ponies’ acknowledgement of her new status as their leader, while the keeling poses were often taken by knights. While her friends might have not realized what they were doing, it felt oddly right. Twilight held her head high as Applejack genuflected. She gave a small nod to Rarity and Pinkie Pie as they two dropped to a kneel. The feeling inside her she could not explain. It was a mix of worry for Luna, uncertainty for Celestia and Discord, but it was also pride in her friends and a new feeling, a sense of strong responsibility she had not felt before.
“Well then.” Twilight clenched her jaw. “Captain! Instruct no more than eight ponies to transport the Alicorn sisters to Canterlot Castle. Have them locked in the most intact rooms of the castle, separately and on opposite sides. Rarity, oversee this task and also assess the damage to the castle.” Twilight nodded thoughtfully. “Have your guardsponies split into four groups, and begin a liner search of the rubble for survivors. Tackle one district at a time, starting with the residential district. Fluttershy and Pinkie Pie, please assist them in this regard. Have another group evaluate the status of the railways. If the trains are not already ready to be up and running, make them. Once this is complete, send a train down to Ponyville and pickup ponies willing to help with reconstruction. Rainbow Dash, fly as fast as you can to Ponyville and gather volunteers for the relief effort: food… water… everything. Applejack, take ten guards with you and begin construction of temporary shelters out in the refugee area. Build a few large tents or something, I’ll leave it to you to decide, just something to keep off the mountain winds that will be howling tonight.” Twilight inhaled deeply. “Captain, I want you to gather whoever you need and find my brother and sister-in-law.” Twilight glanced around. “Now go!”
“Yes, your highness!” The guardsponies saluted.
“And somepony get me a clipboard!”
As the ground below was scattered with ponies rushing from place to place frantically, a figure was watching from high in the sky. Floating in the air and swing on the handle of an upturned umbrella, Discord was smiling wildly. “So, the Era of Twilight has begun.” Discord laughed. “Enjoy the power while it last, Lady Twilight, for soon the world shall be mine.”