“Mr. Whooves, I have-”
Twilight Sparkle jerked back when the brown earth pony interrupted her mid sentence with a single word. “Doctor.”
As if suddenly realizing who he was speaking with, the earth pony coughed in embarrassment. “I’m sorry your majesty, it’s just that it is Doctor Whooves. I received my doctorate in mechanical engineering from Trottingham University.”
“No need to apologize; it is I who should be sorry. You have every right to be proud of your title, Trottingham is an excellent place of study. I apologize for any disrespect done by my slip of memory.”
“Er, it's quite all right your majesty. I did not mean to...”
The brown pony with an hourglass cutie mark was blushing and shuffled his front hooves awkwardly. Ponies always seemed to get upset when she apologized to them. When it became apparent that he did not intent to finish his sentence, Twilight decided to move the audience forward.
“I have had you summoned here today because you are supposedly the best clock maker in all of Equestria. Is this correct?”
The nobles and other ponies in the throne room looked on curiously. Out of the corner of her eye she could see them staring at the pony in front of her. Some ponies were there because they had business to attended to, while others were there because it was a key place for important ponies to socialize, particularly while court was in recess. However, despite their reasons, many of them were wondering why the Princess had called in a clock maker.
“Er... I’m not sure if I’m the best, but I’m good, I suppose.”
Twilight smiled at the pony, trying to put him at ease. She understood how hard it was for some ponies to be the center of all the attention, with everypony staring and judging. She still found it hard herself.
“You are very modest, but I have heard nothing but the highest praise for your work. However, I would like to impose upon you a request. I want you to make me two clocks, each a twin of the other. You are to make them the most accurate clocks to have ever been dreamed. They need to surpass all other time keeping devices in accuracy. Given the passage of a hundred or even a thousand years, they will need to still be in perfect harmony.”
The room exploded in quiet whispers. She could make out the words on the edge of her hearing. The palace already had an accurate clock to assist the royal time keeper. What need did the princess have for two ‘perfect’ clocks. Twilight suppressed a chuckle. They would probably be asking that question for years to come.
“That is a very difficult request your majesty.”
“But you can do it, no? It will be your magnum opus. It may take you years, and by the end you may curse me for making such a request. But I believe that you can do this. Any expense or tool that you need will be provided.” Twilight locked her gaze with the pony. “Will you do this? For Equestria?”
The clockmaker sighed.
“Very well your majesty. I shall do as you have requested. I will create the greatest two clocks ever fashioned, and they will keep perfect time with one another. With the cycle of a thousand days or a thousand years, they shall still tick ever onwards, never losing even a fraction of a second. But this work... You must understand that I cannot do such a task overnight.”
“I understand Doctor. I understand.”
“Your majesty, how can you justify these expenses?”
Twilight calmly sipped her tea before looking up at the unicorn before her. If she was lucky the magistrate would become frustrated and decide to leave. Twilight did her best to suppress a yawn. She wanted to go to bed soon. The day had been a long one, and she was so very tired.
Lately, it seemed as if she was always tired, or least, more tired than usual. It was hard to remember when she had last been refreshed. She took another sip of the tea. It had been a gift from some visiting dignitaries, and Twilight desperately hoped the new blend would give her the energy to deal with the pony before her.
She felt herself smiling as the unicorn began to splutter in exacerbation. Still, it was not right for her to take pleasure in the frustration of others. With a sigh, the Princess levitated her tea cup over to her oak desk and set it down. The earlier hint of a smile disappeared from her face completely as she looked around the room for something that she could use to deflect the magistrate’s inquisition.
Her personal study was expansive and could easily be called a library. The bookshelves towered upwards, the highest of them accessible only by magic. The texts that were contained in her study were ordered in an extremely methodical and logical manner, one that only seemed to make sense to Twilight herself. It was where she preferred to meet with ponies when there were matters to be discussed one-on-one. The smell of paper and binding glue set her at ease and reminded her of happier times. Unfortunately, her rapid visual inspection returned nothing that she could use to deflect the pony’s question.
“I am sorry that I can not explain in more detail Magistrate Blueblood. But let me reiterate that these expenses are vital to an important experiment I need to carry out. I believe I may have discovered a new field of magic, but without those clocks, the exploration of this field will be simply too exhausting on top of my regular duties. Unfortunately, there is no other pony in Equestria with the skill, power, or knowledge to pursue this. So, it is up to me,” said Twilight, as she leaned forward, emphasizing her words.
“But have you seen this material list?”
The white unicorn used his telekinesis to wave a ream of papers in her face, while she gently used her own magic to push them away. Blueblood never failed to be rude, obnoxious, or annoying. Usually, he managed all three at the same time. Unfortunately, there was no denying that he had incredible skill when it came to matters of the state.
The Magistrate of Finance knew his numbers.
“Yes, I have looked it over, just as I have looked over the budget. There is money in the treasury to spare. I know you wish to build up the royal reserve, but the bits can do more good if we put them to use.” Twilight paused to take another sip of her tea. “Doctor Whooves is an expert craftspony, and if he says he requires what is on that list - then that is what he requires. Honestly, I was actually surprised that the amount he is requesting was not greater.”
Magistrate - formerly Prince - Blueblood slammed the papers on her desk breaking a quill and causing her tea to spill in the process.
“This is worse than that stupid school you insisted we build. When the rest of the Magesterium sees how much money you are putting into this pointless experiment of yours they’ll-”
Twilight stood up to her full height, silencing the pony. Briefly she wondered if she had recently grown a little bit taller. She would need to ask Rainbow Dash. However, her mind returned to Blueblood so quickly, she never fully recognized the other thought. The Princess towered over the unicorn now trembling before her. Rage smoldered in Twilight’s eyes, and a cold wind whipped through her study causing papers and parchment to blow about.
Blueblood had stepped too far.
“They will do nothing. I am Princess Twilight Sparkle of Equestria. It is by my will that the sun rises in the morn and sets in the eve, and I hold the darkness at bay. I am the ruler of this land, and my word is law. Do not forget that. Never forget that.”
She could see the fear in the pony’s eyes. His pupils dilated, and his knees seemed to be trembling. She did not know if it was her words or her stature. Perhaps it was something else entirely. However, some part of her was thrilled at his reaction.
“I have told you that these clocks are vital to my studies - studies that may be vital to Equestria’s future. If you cannot accept that, then perhaps you are not fit for your duties. I suggest you reflect on that. Oh, and Blueblood, if I ever hear you speak ill about the school for disadvantaged fillies and colts again, I will see you replaced. You’re dismissed.”
Twilight collapsed back onto her cushion the moment the magistrate had scampered out of the door. The wind that had been blowing a moment before vanished.
“I shouldn’t have yelled at him like that.”
With a heavy sigh she began to clean up the spilled tea as she used her magic to levitate a new quill over. She would need to write a letter of apology. The pony had just been doing his job, and she had exploded at him. She would explain in her letter once again why the clocks were important. Twilight did not want to say too much about her reasoning, not until she knew for sure, but she would try and make him understand.
She should not have yelled - but it had felt good.
Twilight took the remaining anger she felt towards Blueblood and tried to banish it from her mind. It was distressing just how satisfying it had felt to rage at the pony. Even worse was the pleasure she had felt at seeing the fear in his eyes. She was a good pony. Good ponies did not delight in the discomfort of others.
The lavender unicorn felt herself crying.
Was it Blueblood’s comment about the school that had set her off?
Long ago, on a night when Pinkie Pie had been unusually serious, she had shared something very special with Twilight Sparkle. The element of laughter had told the librarian about her cousin who had been born blind - her cousin who had wanted nothing more than to study music, but had been unable to pursue her special gift. Their family had been too poor to afford sending their daughter to a specialized music school. What money they had, went towards treating the condition that had caused their daughter’s blindness.
So little Pinkie had made a promise to her cousin Sonatia. It was a silly promise made from one foal to another. Pinkie Pie would someday make a school where ponies could come and study advanced things like music, even if they did not have the money to afford the tuition - even if they could not see. Pinkie would make that school and Sonatia would then attend it.
Pinkie Pie had never been able to keep her promise. Later that year Sonatia had passed away from her condition. The promise the pink earth pony had made died along with her cousin. The normally humorous pony had told Twilight that she still felt bad about never fulfilling the promise, but then she laughed saying that she had been a silly little filly. After all, it was like the kind of promise two young foals might make when they naively say they will marry one another when they grow up.
Twilight was never fully convinced that Pinkie Pie had believed her own words.
The event did have a profound effect on the pink pony, however. While Sonatia had been in the hospital for those final months, Pinkie would visit every day. The earth pony would do all she could to cheer up her sick cousin, but it would never be with a smile on her face. How could she smile when a pony was in a hospital? Then one day her cousin's room was empty. Eight months later, the pink pony would be inspired by a sonic rainboom and finally learn the true value of a smile.
“Smiles can always help.”
After the pony had finished her story, Twilight did not think much of it. However, later that same year the element of laughter, one of the happiest ponies in all of Equestria, died before Twilight’s eyes. She could still remember cradling her friends shattered body as she watched Celestia and Luna fight the horrible creature in the sky.
The death had been quick. That was the only mercy. For the first time in her entire life, Twilight had felt hatred. She had been torn between watching the battle and gazing down at her departed friend. The lavender unicorn had only been able to settle on looking upwards because of a desire to see justice be done.
And then she saw Luna fall from the sky.
Then she saw her world end.
With a start, Twilight realized that she was sobbing into her hooves. She had not let herself shed tears over that horrible night in so long. Yet, once again, she was crying over her loss. So much had been lost in a single night, but she would have hoped that in nearly half a century the pain would have begun to fade.
Unfortunately, it still stung as badly as ever. Was she really so horrible of a pony that she could only focus on her own suffering? In vain she tried to supress her tears.
For Celestia, she had taken up the mantel of ruler of Equestria. For Luna, Twilight had ensured that the arts and music the princess of the night appreciated so much would always have funding. For Pinkie Pie...
For her departed friend she had opened the school that the earth pony had once promised to create. Under Celestia’s rule there had been scholarships and other policies to help the disadvantaged, but for sometimes it had been not enough. Of course, nothing was ever enough.
Twilight quickly dried her eyes as a knock sounded against her door. A guard poked his head in, and she appreciated the fact that he ignored the puffiness in her eyes. She knew that the guard had heard her sobs. She also knew that her guards would never spread word of such a thing outside of the palace staff. Still, if past experience was anything to go on, the palace’s head chef would just so happen to decide to prepare her favorite desert tonight. Sometimes, it was hard to tell if she was taking care of her ponies or if it was actually the other way around.
“Princess, Moon Dreamer is here to see you.”
And suddenly a real smile was on Twilight’s face.
“Please send him in.”
A yellow unicorn colt trotted into her study. No - that was not right. Moon Dreamer was no longer just a colt. He had grown into a young stallion. The pony bowed enthusiastically in front of her desk as his orange mane flopped into his face.
“My most trusted student...”
The words, as always, brought with them a torrent of memories. Her heart ached for those words to be addressed to her, rather than by her, once again. When spoken by Twilight, the phrase meant something different than when Celestia it. The words were not as strong and lacked some of their deeper meaning. Still, the new princess did speak with affection. With yet another sigh, she pushed the thoughts of Celestia aside for the time being.
“It seems you need your mane trimmed once again.”
The yellow stallion chuckled nervously. His grooming was usually subpar, and Moon Dreamer would often forget to take care of himself. Twilight would do her best to offer him gentle reminders, but she supposed what her student really need was an assistant. Rainbow Dash had once said that Moon Dreamer reminded her of somepony she had once known back in Ponyville. However, when Twilight had asked her who it was, the pegasus would just laugh.
“Err... I suppose you’re right your majesty. But I wanted to show you this right away. I finished my calculations about the harmonic fields. You were absolutely correct. I would have asked a messenger to deliver my notes to you, but I wanted to hoof deliver them so I could get your feedback right away - um... I hope I’m not interrupting anything.”
Twilight shook her head.
"No, it’s quite alright. I am interested to hear what you’ve found."
The younger pony eagerly ripped some papers out of his saddlebag and levitated them over to his teacher.
Twilight had been touring the newest wing of the magical academy when she had first sensed him. A young colt was walking away from the school with his head held low. The princess had asked her guide about the pony, and was told that it was probably a unicorn who had failed his entrance exam. The presence of two older ponies, one of whom Twilight thought she recognized, trying to cheer up the colt reinforced her guide’s suspicions.
It was not surprising that Moon Dreamer had failed his exam or that his testers had failed to notice his potential. His power was buried deep inside of him, deeper than she had ever sensed in anypony before. Twilight doubted if anypony alive, other than herself, would have been able to feel it out. But it was there, and it was immense. She practically lived and breathed magic, and to her it shone like a beacon.
She had asked him if he would like to become her personal student. He had said ‘yes’ of course. Two years later, he had his cutie mark: an image of her own tiara. Moon Dreamer had told her in front of court that his purpose was to serve the crown of Equestria to the greatest of his abilities.
Twilight did not remember if she had ever been so embarrassed.
It had been a struggle to bring out his power. She had never properly taught a pony before, and she had started with a particularly challenging one. However, after fifteen years she had transformed him into one of the most capable unicorns in Equestria.
Unfortunately, he had fallen far short of her expectations.
When Twilight had first sensed the magic in the colt, she had believed she had found another pony like herself. It had been her hope that one day her student would reach the point where his magic would allow him to transcend his mortal trappings. The Princess had briefly thought she had found a unicorn who might give birth to the stars and the moon.
Twilight had begun to wonder if there had ever been a biological relationship between Princess Luna and Princess Celestia. Perhaps they had been more 'sisters' in spirit, united in a common will. She desperately wanted to know if the two princesses had been raised together, or if they had been strangers brought together by the common affliction of immortality. The unicorn had dreamed that someday Moon Dreamer would be Prince Moon Dreamer. In her wild imagination she would address him as 'little brother' as he would prepare to to raise the moon to herald the night.
She had been very, very wrong.
Moon Dreamer was powerful, there was no doubt about that. However, his strength was not anywhere near a fraction of what he would need to forge a new moon in the night sky. She also suspected that he would never have the will or strength of character required to begin the same metamorphosis she was undergoing. Even if he had been powerful to create a new moon, it would die with him when his mortal life ended. Twilight Sparkle had vowed to never tell her student how disappointed she felt when she realized her dream would never be a reality.
It was not his fault. She had been overly eager and naively hopeful.
However, she still wondered if she would ever find her own Luna.
Despite the fact that he had fallen short of her expectations, she had recognized that Moon Dreamer could be of great aid to Equestria if properly trained. Twilight had also grown somewhat attached to the pony before she realized his limitations. He reminded her of Applejack's colt when he had been younger. In the end, she had kept Dreamer on as a student.
It had been the right decision.
Looking back, the Princess of the Fading Sun was happy with her decision. It was nice having a young pony looking up to her, and she imagined it must be a bit like what it felt like to be a parent. She had not participated in raising him in the same way that Celestia had stepped into her life, but she had played an important role throughout his youth. Having trusted students might be the closest she would ever get to having a foal of her own. Twilight wondered if Celestia had felt the same way. She often wondered what exactly she had been to the Princess. Twilight remembered the alicorn’s final words. She thought she knew, but Twilight could never know without a doubt.
Equestria’s ruler looked over the documents that had been presented to her, and the two magic users proceeded to talk excitedly for what felt like hours. Her earlier sadness was mostly forgotten in the rush of discussing magical discoveries.
Moon Dreamer may not have been the panacea that Twilight had been hoping for, but in the end, he could still bring about Equestria’s salvation. He had a particular talent for the creation of magical constructs. She was quite fond of some of the magical knick-knacks he had created, and they had special places in her study. However, as her student had aged, he had moved onto more practical creations. Two years prior he had invented magical orbs that could collect and store energy using the rays of light from her sun. They could then slowly release the energy throughout the night, and now his light orbs were beginning to be used throughout Equestria. More recently, however, Rainbow Dash was keeping him busy with military projects.
It was nearly a year ago that he come to her with ideas for a magical amplification matrix. Such a thing was nothing unheard of, but the scale on which he had imagined his creation had never been attempted. She doubted his research would come to anything but she had given her consent for him to explore it in his free time. He had been working on it off-and-on-again in his free time ever since.
Now, looking over the papers he had brought her, it seemed like her student could actually be onto something. The equations were enormously complex and were difficult to follow. Still Twilight was old friends with magical theory. The rough calculations showed it would take tremendous power; Twilight would not be surprised if the only pony other than herself capable of pulling it of was Moon Dreamer. Even then, it would also take years to finish.
“My most faithful student...” Again the memories came. “I would like you to put aside all of your other studies to focus on this. If we can solve the rest of these equations it might just be possible to create this amplification matrix. We can bring in some of the mathematicians from Canterlot University to speed things along. They won’t be able to assist with the actual construction, but with the theory level planning they can definitely be of help.”
“So you think it can work?”
Twilight could see the excitement in her students eyes. She could not help but feel the same emotion, even if it meant risking disappointment.
“I think it is a definite possibility. I’m not convinced one hundred percent, but I’m getting there.” Twilight hoped her smile was inspiring. “However, you need to be aware of something Moon Dreamer. I will not be able to help you with anything beyond the research and planing if it turns out that your idea will actually work.”
“Princess, I don’t understand. Why wouldn’t you want to help me craft the amplification matrix?”
“It is not a matter of what I want I’m afraid. The construction would be far too taxing, and I fear I would not be able to participate in the effort along with maintaining the sun.” In a split second she had made a decision. Twilight sighed with the thought of what she was planned to reveal to her student. “What I am about to share with you, only a few others know, and I expect you to keep it in confidence. I dare not risk allowing the sun to flicker out. Doing so would require a herculean effort on my part to reignite it. Every action I take is with the knowledge that if I push myself too hard, it could doom Equestria.”
“How is reigniting the sun any different than simply keeping it burning?”
“It is the same difference between a doctor resurrecting a pony and simply keeping a pony alive. It is easier to fan an existing flame than it is to start a new one. The originall effort to create the sun nearly killed me.
“However, I have slowly been able to make the sun brighter over the years. Its flames grow hotter with each passing day. As time goes on, so do I grow stronger. But even still, it is not enough. This world is growing colder faster than I can heat it. Equestria is bleeding away centuries of stored heat, and I am racing to fan the flames of my sun before Equestria dies.
“The winters grow longer, and the harvests are becoming smaller and smaller. Given enough time the sun will stave off the growing cold and bring warm light back to the land, but what good is that if everypony dies in the meantime.
“My biggest fear is that I will not be able to grow strong enough fast enough. Your amplification matrix could banish that fear. It would have a large enough capacity that even my power would not overwhelm it as it would a smaller amplifier. I could use your construction to make the sun blaze brightly once again and bring light to the night. However, I dare not endanger what I have accomplished so far on a gamble. If the sun goes out, even if I reignite it, it could set the sun’s growth back nearly half a century. I would need to begin heating it from cold embers once again. While my strength is greater than it once was, it would still take a great deal of time to get it back to where it is today. Even if it only took me twenty years to return the sun to today's strength, that could be what makes the difference between a frozen wasteland and a lush paradise.”
Twilight paused to ensure eye contact with the other pony.
“Do you understand, my student?”
Moon Dreamer's eyes were wide with comprehension and shock. He had been rapt with attention while she had spoken. Slowly, her student nodded his head, but then looked down at the ground, breaking away from her gaze. For a moment, Twilight thought she had upset him until he looked back up. There was steely determination in his eyes.
“I’ll do it Princess. Don’t you worry. I will construct my limitless amplification matrix. Then you can use it to restore prosperity to Equestria. I won’t fail you.”
Twilight smiled as Moon Dreamer nodded his head in agreement with his own words. There was always hope. As long as her ponies were willing to fight for a brighter future, Equestria would march on.
As she glanced back down at her table, her eyes caught the papers Blueblood had slammed onto her workspace. On the front page was a lovingly detailed sketch of the inner working of two clocks. The two sketches were side by side and identical down to the smallest detail. If Moon Dancer’s theories on large scale magical harmonics were correct, perhaps she would not need the time pieces. However, as her student continued to ramble about his plans for his project, Twilight could not help but remember Rainbow Dash’s words earlier in the week.
‘You were glowing.’
From everything I have written of this story so far, I am least happy with the part about Pinkie Pie in this chapter. I must of rewritten in half a dozen times and I still don't like it.