Luna giggled, “No, I make no jest. Starswirl the Bearded was not in fact a Unicorn. He was an Earth pony that just had an unnatural gift for understanding the principals of magic.” Luna levitated one of her chess pieces to a spot on the glass board. It had been a while since Twilight had played chess, even longer for Luna. She was pretty sure she had not played a game since her before time on the moon. Back then the game had fewer pieces. Twilight used to play chess with Celestia on a weekly basis but that had stopped once she moved to Ponyville. Out of all her friends, only two of them knew the rules of the game and none of the others would even bother to so much as look at a game piece. Applejack and Fluttershy were the only ponies she ever played chess with now. Applejack was a smart aggressive player that occasionally could give Twilight a challenge in the endgame, however her knowledge on any actual positions was extremely lacking if not nonexistent, often leaving her disadvantaged during the early game. Fluttershy knew a surprisingly large number of openings and famous games, but once she reached the endgame she would lose almost instantly. Consequently, Twilight won every game against both her friends. Now Luna was a real challenging opponent. She clearly did not remember any of the rules, but she was perhaps just as challenging an opponent as Celestia. Twilight cringed slightly. She knew it was not fair to Luna to keep comparing her to her sister. Twilight moved her night princess piece. When she thought about it, it was odd that she was playing against the very being that the piece was named after, not that she had not had the same thoughts when playing against Celestia. She sighed to herself, it was impossible to not compare Luna to Celestia. It was a thought that sobered her slightly.
“So, how did history get Starswirl’s tribe wrong?” Twilight waited for Luna to move her Pegasus piece to the edge of the board. She gave Twilight a warm smile. If she was being honest, and she usually was when it came to her feelings, the past hour she had spent with Twilight was the best time she had had since, well, before Nightmare Moon.
“History gets many things wrong.”
“They get anything wrong about you?”
“They have gotten many things wrong, including many things about the race of Alicorns in general.” Luna said as her smile vanished. “It’s not always a detriment.”
“I’ve often wondered about Alicorns in general. Celestia doesn’t like to talk about it.”
“Nor do I.” Luna said. Twilight glanced back down at the board. Luna sighed to herself, she did not particularly like discussing this, even with her own sister, but here was a chance for Luna to provide Twilight with something Celestia would not give. “One question. You can ask one question. Tia would banish me if I answered more.”
“How many of you are there? You’re a very rare breed. Did something happen long ago? Did there used to be more Alicorns?”
“That’s more than one question. I’ll answer the first. There are only two Alicorns, my sister and I.”
“But that doesn’t make sense. Cadence is…”
“Cadence is a Unicorn Pegasus. Not an Alicorn. She’s a unique and rare genetic quirk. Alicorns are an equal blend of the three tribes: Earth, Pegasus, and Unicorn ponies. Cadence lacks the Earth part. This shouldn’t be a surprise to you, she foal-sat you. You saw her age. Alicorns don’t age. Not to say that Princess Cadence isn’t a very interesting pony. She posses a type of magic no other Unicorn can harness. I suspect that is why Tia adopted her as a niece.”
“But she’s a princess, so she must be related to…”
“None of my sister and I’s ‘relatives’ are linked by blood. It’s a common misconception we don’t take the time to correct, much the same as the idea that there is an actual royal line of succession.”
“No blood relatives mean that there are no other Alicorns. If you or Celestia had children would they be Alicorns?”
“I think we’re up to three questions now. This is the last one. Celestia has forbidden us from having foals.”
“Forbidden? That’s a bit harsh don’t you think?”
“It’s one of the few things my sister and I agree with wholeheartedly. Consider the incident with… well, Nightmare Moon. Alicorns are too powerful to exist in even small numbers. More of us would hurt the world, even if it would absolve some loneliness.”
“So if Alicorns are born just like any other pony, what happened to all the other Alicorns? There had to be more before the two of you.”
“No more questions. I was generous enough as it is.”
“But there’s so much more I was never told!”
“WE WILL ABIDE NO MORE OF THY QUERIES!” The Royal Canterlot Voice echoed through the castle. Twilight was blown across the room. The chess set was scattered. Luna frowned and looked down at the now empty chess board. “I’m sorry. Sometimes I forget…” Luna levitated the chess pieces back on the board and looked pensively as she tried to replace them back in the correct positions. Twilight sat back up and timidly crawled back to her cushion.
“I understand. Celestia always said there are things about her past she didn’t want to discuss. Why shouldn’t you have the same right?”
“When you live as long as us, Twilight, you gather a great deal of skeletons for your closet. But, perhaps we should share more with you. You are an element bearer after all.”
“Come now, Twilight, if I told you everything right now, you wouldn’t have any reason to come back and chat!” Luna said with a cheery smile.
Twilight looked up at her sadly, “You don’t really think that do you?”
Luna looked down, “The past has not given me much reason to be trusting.” Twilight could not help but think there was quite a bit more story behind that last statement, but she decided not to press the subject further. Twilight stared down at the glass chess board in contemplation. Truth be told, there was much she wanted to ask Luna. Celestia, while a great teacher, was always very secretive with her past. Luna seemed much more open, at least to Twilight. She glanced up to notice Luna was staring at her. Twilight looked back down at the board, choosing to view her reflection on the checkered glass instead. For some reason Luna’s stare made her nervous. She searched for a reason to feel so uncomfortable but it was not something she could quiet put her hoof on. She decided to focus her attention back to the chess game. She was losing badly and at least wished to put up a fight for the princess rather than become Luna’s Fluttershy when it came to chess opponents. She studied the board looking for anything that might lead to an advantage, but she found it difficult with her thoughts still focused on the look Luna had just given her. Those deep blue eyes…. Focus, Twilight, you want to show her that you’re smart right? Twilight blinked a few times. Where did that come from?
“With all the shouting, it’s no wonder you can’t think of a move. Or is something else on your mind?” Twilight was startled by the voice. It was not Luna’s voice. She glanced at the glass chess board. Her reflection was missing and there was another form in its place. “Your head is in the clouds more than Rainbow Dash,” the draconequus said. “Unicorn to B4 is checkmate, in case you were wondering.” Twilight focused her magic on the Unicorn piece and used it to wipe the area of the board where Discord’s face was. She furiously dragged the piece back and forth as if it were an eraser. The image of Discord vanished but only after Luna spoke up.
“Is something wrong, Twilight? You’re not mad at me for yelling at you are you?” Luna said with a bit of nervousness.
“N-no, just cleaning a smudge on the board.” Twilight was silent for a moment as she looked at the board. “Unicorn to B4, checkmate?” Twilight said with a tad uncertainty.
Luna’s eyes widened, “Oh, I suppose that is. Well that is what happens when one hasn’t played in over a thousand years.” Both mares chuckled as Luna began resetting the board. Their laughter was cut short by a knock on the door to the conservatory.
“Princess Luna? I heard shouting. It’s made some of the guards nervous. Are you in there, your highness?” The voice was deep and gruff, probably belonging to one of the stallion guards.
“Oh no, it’s Storm Dancer.” Luna had a slight panic in her voice.
Downstairs, the Celebration of Harmony was in still going strong. Rarity was still gabbing Fancypants’s ears off. She was talking about her fashion plans. She was talking about the latest set of arts to pass through Canterlot. She was talking about the lives of models and other designers. She was even talking about talking. Yet Fancypants did not seem to mind in the least. He listened patiently and added his own input on a topic when Rarity stopped to take a breath. Normally this was not how the very rich stallion held a conversation, but he did agree that it was nice to be on the other side for a moment, if not to gather perspective. However he did have a proposition he wanted to voice. “Rarity, my dear, I have a unique opportunity I would like to extend to you if possible. Have you heard of Daring Doo?”
“My friend, Rainbow Dash, you know the dear, the element of loyalty? She is a fan of the series.”
“Well I have just entered a business venture with the author of said books. We’re planning on putting on a production and we could use someone to design the costumes.”
“Oh the theater! How I do love the velvet curtain!” Rarity
“Actually, this will be a new medium. Tell me, have you ever heard of moving pictures?” Fancypants started to explain the novel concept when he found his flank grabbed quite forcefully by the hooves of another pony “I say!” He shouted. The surprise caused the Unicorn to spill his cider all over Rarity’s dress.
“Hey there, fella, you’re cute.” Fluttershy said with a slight slur to her words. Fleur de Lis shot the yellow Pegasus a scowl for touching her husband. Pinkie Pie grabbed Fluttershy and pushed her out of the way.
Rarity started balling, “My dress! My beautiful dress! Out of all the worst possible things to happen…. This! Is! The! Worst possible thing!”
“Sorry about that, everypony. She’s had just a bit too much cider. It's like the time I had too much candy, except it isn't because you can never have too much candy.” Pinkie pushed Fluttershy halfway across the room until they scooted past the entrance to the ball room where Applejack and Rainbow Dash were returning from their trip to the dungeon. Princess Celestia stood waiting eagerly to hear from the orange and cyan ponies. Rainbow Dash simply scowled at Applejack, still harboring anger and the feeling of rejection from earlier. Applejack did a quick bow to the princess and began speaking.
“Seal seems mighty fine, Princess. I reckon you’ve got nothing to worry about.” Applejack gave the princess a smile.
“That’s good to hear. I must say I am relieved. The Elements of Harmony are powerful artifacts. But prior to their use on Nightmare Moon they had been in a dormant state for many years. I’m glad to see their power has not waned. I suppose I can chalk Twilight’s dreams up to stress.”
“Beg your pardon, Twilight’s dreams?”
“Like you said, my little ponies, nothing to worry about. Rainbow Dash you’ve hardly said a word. Are you alright?” Celestia lowered her head down to Dash’s level and looked at her caringly.
“Don’t mind her, Princess. RD’s just a bit upset that she struck out.”
“I see. I’m afraid I cannot help you there, Rainbow Dash. Matters of the heart should best be addressed to Princess Cadence. Now that you’re back from my little errand, I am going to start the toast.” As the princess walked away Rainbow Dash blew a raspberry at Applejack.
“Real mature, sugarcube.”
Twilight found herself wrapped in the warmth of Luna’s magic. She was being levitated over to one of the corners of the room. Twilight went to protest, but Luna placed her hoof over Twilight mouth and whispered back to her, “I apologize, Twilight. You must hide for a brief moment. Stay still and don’t say anything.” Luna cast a quick charm on Twilight. The lavender pony watched as she turned transparent. She had read of invisibility spells, but they were complex to keeping going for more than a few seconds. Luna turned to the conservatory door, “Storm Dancer, I am inside. Do come in.” Twilight watch as the door opened and a silver-colored Pegasus with a green mane entered the room.
“Princess Luna. Your shouting was heard throughout all the halls. It’s making the guests of the party nervous. I was sent to ask you to stop.”
“Tell my sister I apologize. It will not happen again.” Storm Dancer nodded and glanced around the room. He could have sworn he had heard another voice in this room.
“I will inform Princess Celestia of your apology. Is there anything you need Princess while I am here?”
“No. I am quiet alright.” Luna said. “And self-sufficient,” she added in a hushed tone.
“Very well, I will take your leave then.” Storm Dancer left the room and closed the door behind him. Luna held up her hoof for Twilight to stay still for a moment. After a few minutes she sensed that the Pegasus had left to report to Celestia. Twilight faded back into view as Luna removed the spell she had cast.
“Like a jerk?”
“I was going to say stern.”
“I hate him!”
“Luna!” Twilight was not used to seeing ponies be so forceful in their dislike of others. But then again this was Luna. She seemed to feel more drastically than other ponies. When she was happy she was joyous. When she was sad she was abysmal, and when she was mad she was fuming.
“I’m an ancient being. I’m entitled to a bit of wrath now and then. Storm Dancer does nothing but fawn over my sister.” Luna crossed her hooves over her chest.
“I thought you were past all that jealousy?”
“That’s not what I meant. He simply thinks my sister is the only true princess and I am just a sleeping Nightmare Moon waiting to awaken at any time. Worse yet, my sister condones his behavior. She made him my Chancellor. He constantly watches me and reports any suspicious behavior to Celestia. That is precisely why I didn’t want him to see you, Twilight. I’m not sure how my sister would react to me stealing you away from the party.”
Twilight had a hard time believe that someone as trusting as Celestia would have a hard time having faith in her own sister, “I don’t think she would care.”
“There’s a lot you don’t know about my sister, Twilight. When it comes to me, she’s… different.” Luna noticed Twilight was giving her an odd look. “Not that I’m trying to come between you and my sister. Perhaps you should return to the party now. It’s been almost three hours. Celestia will probably be giving the toast soon.”
“I can stay here. The toast isn’t important. Maybe you can show me how to do that invisibility spell?” Luna nodded.
“Are you sure? It might take all night to practice. It’s not an easy charm.”
“It’s a good thing I’ve just had nine hours of magical sleep then.”
Downstairs a Pegasus was talking to the elder Alicorn, “I have located the source of the noise, Princess Celestia, it was indeed your sister. She was very eager for me to leave her be, but I do not think it uncommon. She despises me so. Perhaps she simply was regretting her choice not to attend tonight’s festivities.”
Princess Celestia “Thank you, Storm Dancer, I wouldn’t worry too much about Lulu right now, she has been using that rejuvenation spell to avoid sleep again. It makes her a bit on edge. I’m sure she’s just suffering from a bit of cabin fever. She’s not been taking her ‘grounding’ well.”
“You made the right choice in confining her to the castle, my princess. Princess Luna’s actions in Appleloosa were quiet out of line for someone of the royal family.”
“I do not need your approval for my rulings, Storm Dancer; you are dismissed. I have a speech to give.” Princess Celestia nodded to a few guards that were standing next to her. They took wing to the air and tossed streamers across the room. The Canterlot Symphony Orchestra bellowed a triumphant fanfare as the crowd quieted almost instantly. Celestia stood on an ivory marble pedestal. She spread her wings and prepared to magically amplify her volume to speak to the masses. She always found addressing her loving subjects was her favorite part of being the princess. She inhaled deeply before saying her first words:
“Fellow Equestrians! Earth, Pegasus, and Unicorn ponies from all cities. Donkeys, zebras, and mules from beyond the southern borders. Members of the mystical races, the dragons and griffons. Just as the Sun which I raise and the Moon which my sister sets are not just for Equestria alone, neither is this speech. I stand here today addressing all those who will hear my voice. For tonight we mark the first annual celebration of the return of harmony. Not just to Equestria, but to all nations that share its borders on the Known World. For the threat that was banished here just one year ago was not just a threat to the pony way of life, but to all races. I speak of course of the spirit of chaos and disharmony, the terrifying and deceitful draconequus, Discord. It was here on Equestrian soil that once again the Elements of Harmony where used by their bearers to imprison Discord in a sense of irony. For a creature that thrives on chaos and dynamic change to be encased in the static world that is stone, it is only a fitting punishment.”
“Yes, many eons ago, my sister and I wielded the Elements of Harmony and broke the Known World free of the strings of Discord. We harnessed the power of the Alicorns and the Elements to narrowly win a long and arduous battle to wretch free from his grasp our world. I regret that we became complacent and overconfident in his banishment. But just look at what we have accomplished now! When the seal broke new heroes rose up from all kinds of births. The bond of friendship they shared was strong enough to transcend the need for magic and to banish the mad god once again, even when others could not provide aid! What a glorious world we must live in now! A world where harmony and friendship have grown so commonplace that the gods of old are powerless to threaten our way of life!”
“We have come far in unity and in building our utopia. But we must not rest. I encourage each and every pony to follow the examples set forth by the bearers of the elements. I introduce to you now our guests of honor, the bearers of the Elements of Harmony. From the prolific Apple family that feeds so much of our population, the element of honesty, Applejack.” Applejack climbed up on to the stage to a burst of stomping from the crown. She tipped her hat and blushed slightly.
Celestia continued, “From the great fliers of Cloudsdale, the element of loyalty, Rainbow Dash.” Rainbow Dash soared through the air to land on the stage, but when she landed she stuck her tongue out at Applejack. The crowd murmured something about her rude behavior.
Celestia shot a disapproving glance to Rainbow but continued with the introductions, “Braving the outskirts of the Everfree Forrest to tend for the animals as if she were born of Earth, the element of kindness, Fluttershy.” Celestia waited for a moment as she watched Pinkie Pie push Fluttershy up onto the stage. Seeing that Pinkie was apparently coming up as well, she continued with the next part of the speech, swapping Rarity’s introduction for Pinkie’s. “From the out of the rock farms of Trottingham, the element of laughter, Pinkie Pie.” Pinkie waved to all the ponies in the audience trying to get them to cheer, but they were focused on the fact that Fluttershy was staggering around the stage, clearly inebriated.
Celestia sighed and continued, “From the humble town of Ponyville, the element of generosity, Rarity.” Rarity trotted quickly up to the stage, her dress still covered in cider stains and she was lightly sobbing. By this point the crowd was no longer stomping, they were just murmuring to themselves. Celestia clenched her jaw tightly before concluding, “And finally, my faithful personal pupil, the element of magic, Twilight Sparkle…. Twilight? Twilight, are you there?” The crowd glanced around looking amongst itself for the lavender pony. Celestia frowned, only for a moment. It was at this point that Fluttershy vomited on the stage. Celestia ignored the gasps of the crowd, “Mares and gentlecolts, please join me in honoring our beloved heroes this evening.” Around the room the ponies sat silent save for a few hiccup and groans from Fluttershy and Pinkie Pie who was laughing hysterically with a almost pained look on her face. Pinkie’s laughter gave way to an apologetic smile. Celestia glanced at the guests of honor, and gave a soul piercing stare at them. The power behind the stare, which may have been magic or mundane, but it certainly had an effect. After a few seconds Celestia turned back to the crowd. She narrowed her eyes at the crowd. The citizens of Equestria, at least none in this generation had ever seen Celestia annoyed before, and the outright glare of disappointment she gave shot chills down their backs. A few ponies began to stomp. One by one they proceeded to applaud until the crowd was all mindlessly applauding.
“They may not be perfect, but you owe them your lives twice over.” Celestia stepped down from the podium and walked regally to end of the stage. She made no attempt to avoid Fluttershy’s mess and it seemed to dissolve away as she approached. The princess sent one last glare of disapproval at the element bearers before disappearing behind the curtain of the stage. She passed by Captain of the Guards as she left. She barely glanced over her shoulder when she uttered a command with a stern tone, “Shining Armor, go find your sister. Tell her I want a word.”