Marble was the building material of choice for Canterlot Castle. It was white, it was an absolute pain to ship in from the valley quarries below, and it was white. The smooth, Celestia-colored stone was mostly for show, though, so more frugal ponies used the plentiful dull, coarse granite from the mountainside. Those ponies were usually not let anywhere near the architectural plans for the castle, though, so almost everything there was built out of marble.
Even the guards seemed to be hewn from the stone, two white pegasi at the main entrance to the castle. Strangely, only one of the two guards raised a wing to block their entry. "Halt! State your name and purpose." His eyes momentarily twitched in the direction of his passive partner, and somehow managed to harden his face further, from marble to granite.
Twilight didn't miss a beat at the command, "I'm Twilight Sparkle, and with me is Trixie. We're here seeking an audience with Princess Celestia."
The guard immediately blanched and lowered his wing, "My apologies, ma'am." His partner smiled only with his eyes.
Twilight gave the offending guard a sympathetic smile, "Thank you, sirs." She entered the castle, Trixie following close behind her. Inside was the same decadent tastes as decorated the outside, marble with the addition of rugs and tapestries which a younger Twilight had discovered to be soft enough to take a nap on.
At the far end of the foyer, on the stairway landing leading up to the second floor, Princess Celestia, the Divine Flame stood, brightening at the sight of her student. No pony else was present in the hall. "Twilight Sparkle! My faithful student, I've been expecting you."
Twilight ran to her mentor, remembering halfway to stop and bow before closing the remaining distance between them. "Princess Celestia! It's so good to see you! Did you get my letters?"
"I did, however I haven't been able to give them the attention they deserve. And who's this you've brought with you?" the Princess asked, referring to the mare still bowed near the entrance. "You may approach. I won't bite," she said, giving a conspiratorial wink to her student.
As Trixie came forward, Twilight introduced her, "This is Trixie, I met her in Ponvyille. She's here with the same question I have; Princess, what's going on? Why are the stars all messed up?"
"All in due time, Twilight." Celestia's eyes were still looking patiently at Trixie, who was trying hard not to meet her gaze. "Hello, Trixie."
"Your Highness." Trixie made a sweeping bow with her hat before replacing it on her head.
Satisfied, Celestia addressed the two unicorns, "You see, this is a very important night for me, but I didn't want to make an announcement until everypony-" The Princess grandly gestured at the empty hall, "-was here."
"But there's nopony here, Princess, just Trixie and me."
"And that is more than enough. It's certainly more than Princess Luna was expecting." Celestia turned to ascend the stairway, "Come, come. We could stand here to see if any more ponies show up, but I would rather we have a chat over tea."
As the three ponies walked the wide hallways of the second floor, Celestia asked her student, "So, Twilight, do you have anything to report on the magic of friendship?"
Twilight cringed. She should have expected this question. Her thoughts flashed back to the last letter she wrote, which was... Oh Celestia, it was weeks ago! What had she been doing since then? There was Hearts and Hooves day, during which the most exciting thing to have happen was the Cutie Mark Crusaders borrowing a book from her in the morning and dutifully returning it well before its due date. Nothing to report there. Was there something she had learned on her way here? That was the entire reason she asked Trixie along, after all. "Er..."
After a quick mental review of the evening's events, nothing stuck out as a particularly good lesson, or even a decent one. Trixie had shown off her magic, and while Twilight had learned from it, that wasn't a friendship lesson. "I'm not ready to be a teacher" was useful to know, but again, not what the Princess was looking for - or was it just not what Twilight thought the Princess was looking for? She would want to know but -
Trixie interrupted her train of thought. "How about, 'Friends don't let friends try to knock ponies off of cliffs?'"
"Friends don't let friends try to shoot ponies out of the sky, Trixie!" Twilight snapped back. As soon as she said it she covered her face with both forehooves, as if her mask had fallen off and she was most embarrassed about it. Which she was.
Trixie snorted, indignantly, "Well, friends don't let friends get engulfed in uncontrolled magical explosions."
Twilight said nothing to this, only after an awkward silence did she finally look up at her mentor to speak, "Er, sorry Princess. It's kind of a work in progress." At this Trixie finally remembered just who she was in the presence of, and ducked underneath her hat, hiding her own face.
Princess Celestia just gave a small chuckle, "Aren't all friendships? It sounds like you had quite the adventure on your way here. Why don't you tell me about that instead?"
"I can think of a few reasons why not," Trixie muttered.
"Oh, actually..." Twilight floated out some papers from her bags, "Trixie was showing me her magic, and I learned quite a bit from it! Here are my notes, Princess!"
Celestia took a look over the notes. "Love Sign: Master Spark?" After quickly looking through the other pages, she looked down at Trixie, "Oh, so you're Lady Mima's latest student!"
"Er... Y-yeah." Trixie shrunk a little. "You know her?"
"She's an old friend of mine, from a time most ponies don't remember." Princess Celestia stopped at a large, ornate door with a prominent sun motif, flanked by two guards. The door opened of its own accord and the three ponies stepped inside. "I do believe I have her latest letter in my study. Twilight, put on the tea, would you?"
"Of course, Princess!" Twilight chirped.
Trixie took a look around the room she found herself in. Her immediate impression of the room was "cozy". Unlike the high, vaulted ceilings found everywhere else in the castle, the roof above her head was only as high as it needed to be for the Princess. Light from the fireplace was accented by candles along the walls, giving the room a mild glow with few shadows. A doorway lined with sheer curtains led, presumably, to the Princess's bedchambers. Princess Celestia herself had vanished into a different doorway into her study. Twilight Sparkle lay down at a low table near the fireplace, eyes closed as she floated over a tea set from across the room. Not sure what else to do, Trixie busied herself looking over one of the bookshelves, noting the top shelf was lined with pink paperbacks with floral designs.
Celestia returned with a letter and settled herself on a large cushion opposite Twilight. Trixie took the hint and took her own spot at the table, facing the fire. Twilight poured the tea. It was a happy scene between teacher and student, plus Trixie.
Princess Celestia set the letter down so the two unicorns could both read it, "Here, take a look. It seems you made quite the impression on her, Trixie."
Trixie gave a weak laugh, "Yes.. I suppose I did," and began scanning the letter, looking for death threats. She was interrupted when Twilight suddenly sprang up from the table, bumping the table and causing the teacups to rattle.
Twilight's eyes were wide as she nearly shrieked at the other unicorn, "You broke into her study and stole an entire bookshelf!?"
"Hey, I left the shelf there-" Trixie cut herself off before she could dig herself in deeper. Instead she decided a better response would be to curl up in a ball, her forehooves over her head, cowering and whimpering softly.
Twilight, as always, looked to her mentor for advice, but Princess Celestia's smile hadn't seemed to have changed in response to the acrimonious exchange. Instead she simply gave a small nod back towards the letter. Twilight blinked, but obediently returned to the table and picked up the letter to read it more closely.
"'Best student ever'?" Twilight read off. "That's sarcasm, right?" But as Twilight read on her face scrunched up in confusion more. "'Trixie was the most ambitious, cunning, and driven student I've ever had the pleasure of teaching, unlike those ivory-tower dolts you sometimes send me to learn for the sake of learning.'" Twilight sneered at the paper for a moment, then cast a meaningful glance at the crackling fireplace. Deciding against torching the letter, she slammed it back down onto the table with perhaps a bit more force than necessary, before sitting back down to fume.
The commotion caused Trixie to look up. Carefully bringing the letter over to her, Trixie began reading it. Midway through it, she let out a quick laugh, followed closely by a second. By the time she finished, her insufferably smug grin had returned. She put the letter back down and tittered, "She even called me the Great and Powerful Trixie!" Twilight beside her just snorted and shook her head.
The Princess floated over a card and lay it face on the table in front of Trixie. It featured Celestia's cutie mark sun half-hidden behind a green hill. Princess Celestia spoke, "Perhaps the, ah, Great and Powerful Trixie is up for a challenge?"
Trixie's eyes glittered at the Royal use of her self-appointed title. She reached over for the spell card and nearly began casting on the spot, but had enough sense of mind to ask what it was.
Princess Celestia deferred the question to her student, "Twilight?"
Celestia's prized pupil shifted uncomfortably where she was sitting before beginning to explain, "It's the sun-raising spell. In the time before Princess Celestia's reign-"
"SUN SIGN: ROYAL FLARE!" Trixie bellowed, pouring magic into the spell. Every ounce of her focus was honed onto the card, willing it to channel her magic. She blinked, and her irises disappeared, eyes glowing white. Twilight winced at the display. The window on the far side of the room remained stubbornly dark.
Princess Celestia gracefully stood, walking slowly around the table before touching her horn to Trixie's, breaking the spell. The card fell to the table, face down. Trixie wavered but only slumped her shoulders in defeat. The glow faded from her eyes and her pupils returned.
After the blue unicorn had recovered her senses, Celestia beamed. "Well done!"
"Huh?" was all Trixie could manage. Princess Celestia flipped up the card on the table, showing its new face: the sun had risen high into the sky, shining down on the the land below.
"Before Princess Celestia ascended to the throne," Twilight explained, annoyed at having been interrupted, "It took the combined efforts of over a dozen unicorns to raise the sun each morning. If you were expecting to be able to raise the sun all by yourself..."
"Besides," Celestia put in, "My sister would need to lower the moon first, and she would be quite irate at having her night cut short. Particularly this night." Shaking her head, Princess Celestia turned to her student. "How about you, Twilight? You've written me much on your studies of the magic of friendship, but I know you've been keeping up on your studies of other fields of magic. Why don't you show me what you've learned?"
"Eh? Me?" Twilight paused in thought. "I want to see if I can do the Master Spark. I haven't seen anything like it before tonight!" Watching her mentor's reaction carefully, she pressed on, "Maybe we should move to the courtyards? It's not exactly an indoor technique."
The greatest teacher in all Equestria chuckled. "No, here is fine, Twilight. These rooms are the most warded, and I wouldn't want you clipping some poor night sparrow just to impress me." She gestured at the fireplace, "You can direct your magic there."
Twilight blushed, quickly rising to her feet to get ready to cast. She closed her eyes and drew power into her horn as Trixie and Celestia looked on. Twilight opened her eyes, showing off the glow that had become so strangely common tonight. "MAGICANNON!"
"Wait!" Trixie tried to interrupt, "That's not the name of the-"
Everything went white.
The sun shone down upon the tree that was also a library that was also Twilight's home. Inside, two unicorns had tea.
Twilight buried her face in her hooves, "I can't believe I did that to the Princess!" she whined.
Trixie calmly turned the page of the paperback book she had pilfered from Celestia's shelf, a trashy romance written by one Rose Papillonne. "The Great and Powerful Trixie is no longer going to criticize your spell names."
As Twilight wallowed in her embarrassment, a realization struck her, "And she never answered my question! That whole trip was for nothing!" Twilight sighed, "I guess it can't be helped when the moon's already set. The only thing left to do is head back out to Canterlot tonight."
Trixie frowned, looking up over her book, "Why don't we just take the train during the day like normal ponies do?"
Normal Ending #6
The dawn has come, and two sisters sit on the balcony admiring the sunrise.
"Last night, I think, was just for practice. This next night shall be even more glorious," says the younger.
"I'm glad I could provide you a night to work, free from interruptions," says the elder, "Although I do not think I can say the same for tonight."