Twilight stared intensely at the protective shield. It nearly obscured the entire city from view. She could make out most of the key buildings though.
“I wonder what that shield’s for.” She said to herself. The capitol was never sealed off; only in times of war would princess Celestia order a lockdown.
“That’s easy.” Rainbow Dash said, not looking up from her book. “To make sure the groom doesn’t run away!”
Twilight rolled her eyes. “Yes Rainbow, they need a city-sized shield to keep Shining Armor from running off.”
“Who was he marrying again?” Applejack asked. “Princess Mi a-something?”
“Princess Mi Amore Cadenza.” Twilight said, obviously annoyed. “And no, I have no idea who she is.”
“Rarity, do you know?” Fluttershy asked.
The seamstress looked up. “I’m afraid not, my dear. I haven’t been keeping up with the ins and outs of royalty since my meeting with Blueblood.” She shuddered. “Perhaps she’s one of Celestia’s nieces. Or she could be from another kingdom.”
“Or perhaps she’s some kind of dark entity from beyond the mirror, hell-bent on destroying Equestria.” Rainbow Dash said. “Just like in this book!”
“Rainbow, stop spoiling the story.” Twilight grumbled. “I haven’t read that one yet.”
“Really?” Rainbow Dash sat up. “You’re a bigger Daring Do fan than me. How come you haven’t read it yet?”
“Because somepony crashed through my window, swiped my book and flew off!” Twilight complained. “Does that sound familiar?”
“Hehe, yes.” Rainbow Dash smiled.
Twilight just sighed and sat down in her seat again, once more content to just sit and watch as the city came closer and closer.
“We’re almost there!” Fluttershy cheered.
“Does that dome look like a big scoop of ice cream to anypony else?” Pinkie asked. “I wonder if it tastes like strawberries. Oh! Or maybe it’s cherries!”
Twilight was rather oblivious to the inane discussion whether or not the protective shield tasted of strawberries or cherries.
Besides, everypony knew that protection spells taste like raspberries.
Twilight groaned. Her head was pounding. The closer they got to Canterlot, the worse her headache became.
“What’s the matter darling?” Rarity asked. “You don’t look so well.”
“My head’s hurting.” Twilight muttered, rubbing her forehead. The pounding intensified, like something was forcing its way into her mind.
“Lay down for a bit.” Applejack said, a concerned look on her face. “We’re almost in Canterlot anyway and then you’ll be able to get some fresh air.”
“Good idea.” Twilight said as she laid down. Maybe a bit of shuteye would help.
Just in time
We are waiting for you
“What was that about?” She asked herself.
“Huh?” Applejack looked at her. “You say something Twi?”
“It’s nothing. Just a weird dream.” Twilight said, suppressing a yawn. “Are we there yet?”
“You slept for only a few minutes.” Fluttershy said. “We‘re just about to go through the shield.” She said nervously. “It won’t hurt, right?”
Twilight shook her head, before stealing a glance through the window. She could see that the locomotive had almost disappeared through the protective barrier, the pink energy rippling as the engine passed through it.
Dread filled Twilight for some reason as the shield came closer and closer.
She could sense its energy passing through the solid matter of the train as it slowed down.
Mere seconds later the pink energy found its way into their wagon.
It passed by the other ponies harmlessly.
But Twilight cringed and took an involuntary step back. Her headache became worse and worse as the shield came closer and closer.
It was almost upon her and…
The wall of energy just moved past her.
She just went through it and the dread she had been feeling disappeared instantly.
The headache remained though.
“I’m telling you, I’m fine.” Twilight said once the train had stopped. “Look, if it means that much to you, I’ll go see a doctor.” She gave in. “After I’ve met with Shining Armor.”
“We’re just concerned for your wellbeing.” Fluttershy said. “You won’t be able to manage a wedding when you’re not well.”
“I know Fluttershy. And thanks for your concern.” Twilight sighed. “It’s just this whole wedding. Shining Armor and I have always been so close up until now. And he never even mentioned anything about a girlfriend and now he’s suddenly getting married?”
“We understand how you feel.” Rarity said. “Just go talk to him, okay?”
Twilight bid her friends goodbye as they arrived at the castle. They would go on ahead and prepare for the wedding while she would head to the barracks, to give her brother a piece of her mind.
Which he was welcome to, as her headache was on the verge of becoming unbearable.
She quickly spotted her brother. He was the only stallion in gold and purple armor. And the only one who could actually pull that look off.
“Shining Armor!” She yelled. “I’ve got something to say to you!”
Immediately all spears in the vicinity were aimed at her, causing her to flinch and step back in fright.
“Stand down.” Shining Armor bellowed from atop the stairs. “That’s my little sister you’re aiming your weapons at.”
The spears were lowered instantly. Shining Armor gave his soldiers a disapproving glance, before turning to his sister.
In an instant his stoic look disappeared. “Twily!” He said cheerfully. “I’m so glad to see you kiddo!” He moved in to give her a hug, though Twilight simply walked past him.
“I’m angry with you Shiny.” Twilight said, turning to look at him. “Why didn’t you tell me you were getting married!”
“Oh that…” Shining Armor said, rubbing his neck in an awkward gesture.
“Oh that? Is that all you can say about it?” Twilight asked. “Look Shiny, I’m not really that angry.” She sighed. “I’m sure you must have some reason not to tell me.”
“I did.” Shining Armor admitted. “And no, not because we’ve been growing apart.” He said. “Don’t give me that look Twilight, I know it crossed your mind.”
Twilight glared at him. “Very funny Shiny. Us? Growing apart? Yeah right.” Her gaze softened. “We write each other every week. You panic any time I mention doing something dangerous. Remember the Hydra?”
“Do I ever.” Shining Armor laughed. Apparently Hydras had little to no respect for his authority. One of the heads even tried to eat him. Nothing a few dozen troops armed with pointy spears, and a bath couldn’t fix.
“And besides, I’m part of your cutie mark.” Twilight pointed at his flank. Even though the golden armor covered his mark, she knew it like her own.
“Remember how mom always said that you were her little protector?” Twilight teased.
“Do I? She wouldn’t shut up about those three stars. Just like hers.” Shining Armor groaned. “And then you got your cutie mark as well, a big purple star of all things. What a coincidence, eh kiddo?”
“Coincidence?” Twilight stuck out her tongue. “You wish. Dad was always going on and on about what you did when I was born. It took you three weeks before you wanted to sleep in your own bed again.”
Shining Armor blushed. “It wasn’t that bad. I had just lost you back then Twily. I didn’t want it happening again.”
“I know.” Twilight hugged him. “I love you, my B.B.B.F.F.”
“I love you too L.S.B.F.F.” Shining Armor said.
One of the guards cleared his throat, to indicate that they were all still there.
“Oh, right.” Shining Armor seamlessly slipped back into his role as commander. “Pegasi squads one and two, you may begin your sweep of downtown Canterlot. Report any suspicious activity to me. All others, return to your stations.”
The royal guards did as they were told.
Twilight was impressed. She hadn’t seen her brother in action yet.
It was obvious that he had earned the respect of his soldiers.
“Living the dream Shiny?” Twilight teased.
“Of course.” Shining Armor said. “Now where were we?”
Twilight smiled and pulled a scroll of paper out of her saddlebag. “Let’s see… I yelled at you. Check. Intimate apology, check. Reminiscing about childhood memories, check. Hug, check. That just leaves you explaining why you didn’t tell me about the wedding.” She rolled the scroll up again. “And what’s up with that shield anyway?”
Shining Armor just groaned and took his helmet off. “Twily, I love you but I hate it when you do things like that.” He laughed weakly as he rubbed his head. “You’re making my migraine worse.”
“Weird, I had a headache on the way here.” Twilight said, rubbing her head as well. She still felt the ache but it wasn’t as severe as before. “Still do, just not as bad.” She admitted.
“Listen Twilight, you can’t tell your friends about what I’m saying now.” Shining Armor briefly slipped back into his commander state. “It’s top secret and the only reason I’m trusting you with this, is because you’re Princess Celestia’s personal student.” The armor-clad stallion said. “And because you’re my little sister.” He added.
Twilight leaned forward. “You want me to Pinkie-promise?”
“Huh? Pinkie, isn’t she the mare that got you into that situation with the hydra?” Shining Armor narrowed his eyes. “Remind me to scold her on that later.”
“I won’t.” Twilight said. “Look, a Pinkie-promise is a promise that you cannot break. CANNOT break.” She emphasized that word.
“Or else what?” Shining Armor asked.
“You’ll lose the other pony’s trust.” Twilight explained.
“Ignore that.” Twilight said, ignoring Pinkie’s warning echoing through the courtyard. “Cross my heart and hope to fly, stick a cupcake in my-Ow!!”
“I figure that wasn’t supposed to happen?” Shining Armor chuckled as Twilight gently cupped her eye with her hoof.
“No.” Twilight admitted. Now she had a headache and a sore eye to boot. “Now tell me: what’s the big deal?”
“The shield and the reason I couldn’t tell you about the wedding earlier are one and the same. Canterlot is under attack.” Shining Armor said. Simple and clear, he figured.
“Wh-what?” Twilight uttered, panic clear on her face. “By who? Why?”
“Calm down Twilight.” Shining Armor said, laying his front left hoof on her shoulder. “I may have been a bit too direct. Last month the Pegasi of squad twelve intercepted a courier. The courier himself got away but we managed to get the message he was carrying. It was written in some kind of code. Our top decoders are still busy decoding it.” He grumbled in annoyance. “All they got out of it were a few random words.”
“What did they say?” Twilight asked. Her curiosity was piqued. Who, in their right mind, would want to attack Canterlot?
And to use codes that even the royal researchers couldn’t completely crack.
Whoever they were, they had thought this through.
Shining Armor pulled a piece of paper from his helmet. “You still keep your notes there?” Twilight stifled a laugh.
“Last place anypony’ll ever look.” Shining Armor handed her the note.
Twilight looked it over. The note held a bunch of squiggly lines and holes in it. “This is a copy, right?”
“Sort of.” Shining Armor said. “The parts we could decode are filled in.”
‘Assemble -- -------Canterlot----Be prepared---’ The first paragraph read. ‘------Royal W------’ the rest of the paragraphs were indecipherable.
“Assemble, Canterlot, be prepared?” Twilight was confused.
“I know, it sounds like a whole lot of gibberish.” Shining Armor said. “Okay, a little bit of gibberish. Only six or so words translated. And very freely at that. We’re not even sure if the ‘w’ stand for wedding.”
Twilight looked the paper over again. And again. “It’s not complete.” She eventually concluded. “Like there’s a part missing, I think.”
“How can you tell?” Shining Armor asked, moving besides his sister and looking over her shoulder.
Twilight pointed at two identical sets of squiggly lines. “See these two parts? They look exactly the same. Why would anypony write the same sentence twice? And so close to each other? Unless they have a different meaning, which would require another note to know.” She concluded, looking rather pleased with herself. “At least, that’s what I think is wrong with it. I’d need time to figure it out entirely.”
“I don’t know.” Shining Armor admitted. He took the paper from Twilight again. “All I know is that we’ve sealed off Canterlot so the wedding can still continue. Ponies love their royalty after all.” He smiled.
“Speaking of royalty…” Twilight started. “Who in Equestria is ‘Princess Mi Amore Cadenza’ anyway?”
Shining Armor just smiled.
Twilight didn’t like that smile. Her brother always got that smile when he was about to do something mischievous. Or stupid. Or both. Usually both.
“You’ll see.” Shining Armor said. “We’ll go and meet her in a minute. I need to do just one more thing.” He winked at her. “You’re not the only one proficient with magic.” He aimed his horn upwards, towards the shield.
His magic flared, a beam of light erupting from his horn and into the shield. It shimmered as it absorbed the energy, recharging itself.
Shining Armor gripped his head, his face twisted in pain. “Pretty neat huh? Only I can keep it up. Nothing can come through, unless I or the princesses allow it.” He said with a strained voice, though his face quickly cleared up, followed by a big smile.
“Wow.” Twilight snickered. “Your shield is pink.” She teased, though she was visibly impressed as well. A shield this big required an awful lot of power.
Shining Armor nodded. “And it tastes like raspberries. Come on, let’s go!”
Twilight followed him. Her headache suddenly flared up again. “Are you okay?” Shining Armor asked.
“I’m fine.” Twilight said. “Just a headache. It comes and goes. Nothing to worry about.”
“Mi Amore can help with that. She's been helping me with my migraine.” Shining Armor said proudly. “She may not be a medical pony but she knows her way around a headache.”
The two of them made their way into the castle.
And into the royal living quarters.
Shining Armor stopped at a door.
One that seemed oddly familiar to Twilight.
He knocked on the door. “Mi Amore?” He called out. “Are you decent?”
“Don’t come in!” Sounded through the door, causing Twilight’s ears to perk up. She recognized that voice. “I’m trying on my wedding dress!”
“There’s someone else here to see you, can I let her in?” Shining Armor asked.
“Is it who I think it is?”
“Of course.” Shining Armor grinned. He turned to Twilight. “Go on in kiddo. I’ll wait here.”
Twilight nodded and opened the door.
“Hello?” She quickly closed the door behind her. She knew her brother. Given the chance, he’d follow his curiosity and try and sneak a peek anyway.
“Oh hello darling.” Twilight recognized that voice as well.
“Hi Rarity. I’m here to see Princess Mi Amore Cadenza.” She rolled her eyes.
“You can call me Cadance, Twilight.” A pink Alicorn stepped out from behind an ivory dressing screen.
Twilight’s jaw dropped.
“Is something wrong Twilight?” Rarity asked. Twilight didn’t respond. Nor did she move. At all.
“I think she’s in shock.” Cadance said. “See?” She waved a hoof in front of Twilight’s unblinking eyes.
Cadance clapped her hooves in front of Twilight. “Twily, snap out of it!”
“Huh?” Twilight said. “Oh hi Cadance.” Her eyes widened. “Cadence! Oh my gosh! You’re marrying Shining Armor!”
“Well, I am wearing the wedding dress after all.” Cadance smirked. “By the way, miss Rarity.” She turned to Rarity. “Would you mind if we changed the design a little bit? I have a thing for long trains. At least 7 yards.” She said. “If it’s not too much trouble?”
“Of course not dear.” Rarity said. “Anything for you, especially for such a special day.”
Twilight took a step back to look at the dress. It was lovely. She’d never understand how Rarity could pull off such masterworks in such a short time.
To her, it seemed like a sin to change anything about it now. It was perfect the way it was.
But it was Cadance’s wedding day, not hers.
“So Cadance, are you ready to go oversee the rest of the preparations?” She asked, eager to spend some time with her former foalsitter and future sister-in-law. She pulled out a checklist. “See, I’ve prepared a list of everything we need to check.”
“That’s lovely Twilight.” Cadance said. “But there’s been a change of plans.”
“Huh?” Twilight was confused. “But Princess Celestia herself asked me to-”
“I know, I know.” Cadance waved her off. “But I can take care of those things on my own. Believe it or not, I am a total control freak.”
“Oh, I see.” Twilight said sullenly.
Cadance rubbed the side of Twilight’s face in a comforting gesture. “Hey, no frowns here, okay?” She smiled. “And besides, I have a far more important task for you.”
“Really?” That cheered her up a bit. “What can I do?”
“I want you to take Shining Armor and go visit your parents. Go do something fun, just the four of you.” Cadance said. “I know you haven’t seen them since you left for Ponyville. And that’s almost been a year, right?”
“Right.” Now that she thought about it, it had been way too long since she saw her parents in person. Letters helped, of course. But it just wasn't the same. “That’s a great idea Cadance. But are you sure you’ll be able to handle it without me?”
“Of course Twilight.” Cadance said reassuringly. “And besides, Shining Armor needs some time off. The shield has been very strenuous for him." Worry was clear on her face, though her expression quickly changed to one of amusement. "Now just go get that fiancé of mine and get going.”
“Right.” Twilight smiled, though a pounding in her head made itself known again. “Before I go, could you help me with my headache? Shiny said that you’re the go-to mare for that.”
“Of course Twily.” Cadance’s horn glowed green as she lowered it to Twilight’s. “This might sting a little.”
Twilight braced herself but hardly felt anything. Just a warm glow that coursed over her whole body.
The pain instantly disappeared and Twilight’s head cleared up. In fact, she felt better than ever!
“Wow.” Twilight gasped. “Since when have you been a medic pony?”
“I picked it up somewhere along the road.” Cadance said. “I suppose that you need another dose of medicine as well? Shining Armor?” She said, increasing the volume as she called for her groom.
“I’m not listening in!” Shining Armor yelled through the door. “Okay, maybe a little bit.”
Twilight and Cadance looked at each other and spoke in unison. “Boys.” And rolled their eyes.
“I’ll go undress, then I’ll play doctor again.” Cadance said, disappearing behind the dressing screen once more.
“So you do know her?” Rarity asked, interest and a hint of wonder in her expression.
“Of course, Cadance was my foalsitter when I was just a little filly.” Twilight said with pride clear in her voice. “We even had a little song and dance back then. Hey Cadance, care to sing with me?” She asked with a broad smile.
“Maybe later Twilight, if you don’t mind.” Cadance said as she fiddled with the straps to her gown.
“Oh, okay.” Twilight said, her ears drooping a bit.
“Okay, I’m ready.” Cadance said, stepping out from behind the screen. “Send in the next patient.”
Shining Armor opened the door, though he still held one hoof in front of his eyes. “Is the coast clear? Are you decent?”
“We’re all naked.” Twilight joked.
“Egads!” Shining Armor exclaimed, before lowering his hoof.
“Very funny.” Cadance said. “Now get over here, so I can take a look at you.” Her horn glowed with magic as Shining Armor approached. Cadance looked him over, before just lowering her horn to his.
Sparks erupted from where they met. Shining Armor cried out in pain, even sinking to his knees in the end.
“Shiny!” Twilight screamed, hurrying to his side to help him up.
Cadance removed her horn and panted. “That’s the worst one yet.” She said. “That shield is getting too dangerous to hold up Shiny. It’s hurting you!”
“I know, I know.” Shining Armor’s eyes had finally stopped spinning as Twilight helped him to all fours. “It’s just one more day, I promise.”
“I’m keeping you to that.” Cadance said. “I’m just so worried about you.”
“I’m fine, really.” Shining Armor said wearily. “Just a little drained.”
“How’s the headache?” Twilight asked.
“Gone.” Shining Armor said. “For now at least.”
“Good.” Twilight smiled. “That means that we’re going home to see Mom and Dad. And then we’ll have a day full of fun!” She said with glee. “I’m pretty sure that I have a checklist for fun days on me somewhere.”
Rarity rolled her eyes. “Pardon my interruption, but has she always done this?”
Shining Armor and Cadance looked at each other. “Yes.” They said in unison.
Cadance and Rarity watched as the siblings left for downtown Canterlot.
“Have fun you two!” Cadance called after them, before turning to Rarity. “Now miss Rarity, where were we?”
“You asked for a longer train?” Rarity offered.
“Ah yes. Seven yards, at least.” Cadance said.
“I doubt I have that amount of fabric on me.” Rarity admitted. “And I seem to have misplaced my supplies as well.” Her cheeks flushed red with embarrassment.
“Can you get more?” Cadance asked.
“Of course.” Rarity said. “My main supplier is from Canterlot. I’m sure she won’t mind me picking up some supplies there. Especially considering whose dress they’re going to.” She said with glee. “I’m sorry princess, I’m just so excited about doing this for you.”
“Of course.” The pink princess said. “Now, do you mind? I still need to check up on the rest of the preparations.” She hurried Rarity out the door. “Turn to Brass Bit for money to pay for your expenses, he will help you. He’s the blue colt with the green mane.”
She slammed the door shut, so she didn’t notice Rarity shuddering at the mere mention of a green mane.
“Finally.” Cadance said to herself as the sound of hooves grew quiet. “I thought that Unicorn would never leave.” She turned to the mirror, watching with mild interest as her eyes flickered to green.
Cadance hurried down the stairs. She took care not to let anypony see her, sticking to the shadows as she went.
After all, what would a princess want with the musty old dungeons?
The door slammed shut behind her, the deadbolt locking into place. Nopony would come looking for her there.
And even if they did, the locked door would keep them at bay long enough.
Green flames erupted around her in a tight circle. The cold stone gave way and she slowly sank into the ground.
Deep underneath the dungeons were the crystal caverns, lined with massive chunks of reflective minerals.
She liked these caverns. They were dark yet illuminated by an eerie light, coming off from the more exceptional gemstones that rested in the stone walls.
And the mirrors.
She adored the mirrors.
But that wasn’t what she was here for. She took a moment to dump a gem studded saddlebag into the nearby abyss, along with the rest of the rolls of fabric she had swiped while Rarity wasn’t looking.
“Cadance my dear.” She spoke with a smirk on her face. “I’ve come for another visit. How are you holding up?” She asked, faking concern. “All alone in a cold, dark cavern? Nopony coming to rescue you. Nopony that even knows you’re here?”
“Sh-shut up!” A malnourished Alicorn limped out from behind a crystal pillar. “What do you want now?”
“More information.” The other Cadance said. “She spoke of a song. And a dance. I don’t want to rouse suspicion just yet. Tell me, and I may leave behind some supplies for you.”
“Why do you want to know?” Cadance hissed in pain as she came closer to the imposter. “If you dare to hurt Twilight, I will-”
The other Cadance slapped her, sending her flying to the ground. “You dare suggest that I would hurt her?”
“You’re hurting Shining Armor!” Cadance wheezed as she tried to crawl to a sitting position.
“Honestly dear, that’s more your fault than mine.” The other Cadance said. “Shining Armor has so much love to give. And he’s wasting it all on you. I’m just making sure it ends up in the right place.”
“You monster!” Cadance screamed.
“Monster? Perhaps.” The other Cadance said. “Tell me princess, how far would you go? To make sure that your child gets everything she needs to grow?”
“Child?” Cadance shivered. “No, no! You’re lying! You have to be, you can’t be serious!”
“Oh, but I am.” The other Cadance smirked.
Cadance shuddered as she looked at her own face, her own lips pulled into such a frightful state. The only difference was those sickening green eyes.
“Now, the song and dance? Please?” The other Cadance said, remembering why she had come down here in the first place. “Or Shining Armor might find himself drained of more than just his love.”
Cadance gritted her teeth. She didn't want to give in to this imposter.
But she had direct access to Shining Armor and could hurt him very badly.
And she wanted Twilight as well. She didn't understand how or why but her favorite little filly was, perhaps unknowingly, involved in all this.
She sighed. She had to protect them, somehow. Any way that was possible for her at the moment.
Too much dialogue? Tell me. I felt it was necessary though, because the real episode explained very little about the threat at hand, so I decided to flesh it out a bit. Plus throw in some fond memories for Twilight and Shining Armor to reminisce over.
And thanks to everyone that reviewed/favorited /rated . And a special thanks to those that pointed out my errors!