Rainbow Dash soared against the wind, though it didn’t seem as such from the sudden rush of adrenaline. Whooping as she flew out of Cloudsdale, the blue pegasus pony’s scream of delight was lost to the wind. However, news this good didn’t come along this often. A flip, a twist, a twirl—she put on a show, but for no audience. She’d eventually make her way to Ponyville, but she never consciously sought to find her way in her dreamlike haze.
It wasn’t a long way by any means, but it wasn’t short either. As a matter of fact, the length always seemed to be changing as Cloudsdale drifted along the wind. Eventually her nervous energy became too much for whooping and twirling, and she straightened out for Ponyville. Little on her moved, beyond her wings and an occasional twitch of the head, from excitement. She’d passed the test.
That familiar little town rose on the horizon and the nervous little excited twitches became more frequent, as Dash ran over what she’d tell her friends. No, not what, how. Maybe not how, maybe just the order in which she’d—well, it would depend on who she found first and—
She was rambling to herself again, waiting for that little town to grow bigger before her eyes. This news was so big that she could not contain her excitement.
And there it was, Ponyville right below her. The excited pegasus circled in the sky twice before she spotted a familiar yellow blur on the ground. Speeding downward with reckless abandon, she forgot to slow down quite in time, crashing into the yellow blur. But Fluttershy had been excitedly tackled enough times by sudden flashes of rainbow to not be startled.
“Oh hello, Rainbow Dash,” she squeaked. Before she could ask the goings-on, a certain excited pegasus interrupted her.
“What are you doing!” Dash announced, rather than asked.
“Oh, I was just going out to get food for Angel and—,”
Dash interrupted, “Nope! Guess again!”
Fluttershy looked confused now, getting to her hooves and wiping off the dust. “Um, now I’m not sure. Talking to Rainbow Dash?”
Dash shook her head, “Not quite. Who are you talking to?” She was really enjoying this now.
Fluttershy was too, albeit she was confused. “To… Rainbow Dash?”
“I believe,” Dash announced with a grin, “You are talking to Rainbow Dash, newest of the Wonderbolts.” She nearly exploded from the required self-control to not scream it at Fluttershy from the air.
“Oh, Rainbow Dash! That’s wonderful!” She hugged her friend tightly. “I’m so proud of you!”
“I just found out and flew here to tell everypony right away!” Dash said, her excitement bubbling still.
“Everypony’s going to be so excited, Rainbow Dash!”
“I’m so excited! This has been my dream since I was a filly! This is everything I’ve worked for!” Rainbow Dash whooped again and did a flip in the air.
“Uh, Rainbow?” Fluttershy asked the whooping pegasus. “Does this mean I’m not going to get tackled anymore?”
With unprecedented precision Twilight Sparkle went about re-shelving a number books that she had strewn about during a late night research binge.
A place for everything, and everything in its place, the purple unicorn thought as she found the necessary alphabetical locations of each book. This was no easy feat, as the little library’s collection had grown in the past year. With no major adventures since the Changeling incident, the year had been a peaceful and relaxing time, where Twilight could be just as much a careful librarian as she was a reader.
There had been lessons in friendship, of course. There were always disputes to settle, and letters to write. Of course, it just seemed to be less and less letters on the subject of friendship, but instead keeping in touch. Twilight was content with that fact. At least she seemed to be.
With the last three books suspended in midair by a pink aura emitting from her horn, the unicorn read off the titles, authors, and subject matter of each book, preparing to finish her organization efforts.
“A History of Draconian/Equestrian Political Conflict by Quill Scribes. History! No wait, politics!” She spoke aloud. Moving the book to its proper place, the little library flew open and a flash of rainbow flew in, knocking over Twilight and causing a number of books to fall to the floor. “Rainbow Dash!” She shouted in annoyance as she stood up. “How many times have I told you not to burst into the library like that?”
She flew in circles around the room, “I’m not Rainbow Dash!”
Twilight frowned, becoming a bit more than annoyed. “Oh yeah? Then who are you?”
“Why, Twilight! That is no way to address a Wonderbolt,” called a familiar voice from the doorway. The white-coated, purple-maned unicorn hoofed her way into the library.
“Rarity, she just—,” Twilight stopped. She realized. “Wait, Wonderbolt?!”
Rainbow Dash let out a squeal of delight as she swooped down to pull Twilight into a hug. “You bet, Twilight!”
“Rainbow Dash just got back from Cloudsdale where she was made the next Wonderbolt,” said a happy Fluttershy. Twilight looked over to see the room filled with her friends, who had crept in unnoticed during a rather intense hug from Rainbow Dash.
“Dash’s been goin’ ‘round tellin’ all of us now,” the orange Earth pony Applejack remarked.
Pinkie Pie, the smiling pink pony interjected, “When Dashie told me, I was just so excited that I couldn’t sit still!”
“Pinkie,” Twilight rolled her eyes, “You can never sit still.”
“Oh, yeah!” She giggled.
“Rainbow Dash, this is terrific! Tell us everything!”
“Yes, do go on,” Rarity said with a smile. Actually, everypony seemed just eager to finally get the full story on Dash’s recent accomplishment. They almost formed a semicircle around her.
“Are you sure you guys wanna hear it right now?” Rainbow Dash gulped, not expecting to suddenly be the center of attention.
“Well, ya been keepin’ us waitin’ on the story, sayin’ ya won’t say any details ‘til ya tell Twilight,” Applejack said. Pinkie laughed, as she always did.
“I think we’re all ready to hear,” Twilight said.
Dash took a deep breath, preparing to take the stage for yet another performance. “So there I was—a pegasus alone in Cloudsdale. I was wandering, lost and with nowhere to go! Then—,”
Fluttershy interrupted, “but Rainbow, don’t know your way around Cloudsdale?”
Dash frowned. “Sorry for exaggerating a bit! Anyway, I was in Cloudsdale visiting Spitfire. She and the rest of the Wonderbolts had a big show coming up that week. It was gonna be the biggest yet, with all new aerial stunts that nopony had ever seen before! Spitfire invited me to come stay that week and then watch the show.
“There must have been thousands of Pegasi there to watch. It was so awesome! I was in the front row, of course, so I could see everything! It was amazing! They did moves I had never even dreamed of!
“If you remember when Soarin’ left the Wonderbolts last year that stuck-up Rain Runner just beat me for the spot—If only I hadn’t slipped up on the rain boom! —and this was his first big show. Of course, you know Spitfire had argued for me, but the other Wonderbolts didn’t know me as well as she did and—,”
“We get it!” Twilight said, trying to keep Dash on topic.
“Yea, well anyway, so this was Rain Runner’s first big show. He was so sure of himself and stuck up in the try-outs, but I could tell he was losing it in front of a crowd! And the Wonderbolts hadn’t anticipated updating their routine so much after recruiting him. I could see his goggles all fogged up from nervous sweat!
“Rain Runner did okay for most of the show, he did all the moves right, he only swerved a little. He sorta… got into it, and seemed like he got over his nerves. But then, on the grand finale he just lost it! He must have hit an unexpected wind or something, but his wings cramped up and he crashed into Fleetfoot in midair!
“They both started falling, and somepony had to help! Spitfire was already speeding down, but I knew she couldn’t get both of them, so I flew as fast I could to catch at least one of them.
“It was awesome! Suddenly, me and Spitfire were both just in perfect harmony, right next to each other, both plummeting down toward the two falling ponies. I couldn’t tell from the goggles, but I’m even pretty sure she winked at me… and then we reached them in time! I grabbed Rain Runner, and Spitfire grabbed Fleetfoot and we pulled them both back up to Cloudsdale to this crazy wild round of applause!
“We took them both to the hospital. Fleetfoot was fine, just a little concussion, but Rain Runner wasn’t in good shape. Well, he was fine, but his wings weren’t. They’d over-extended and one had crunched up against Fleetfoot, and there wasn’t a way to make it heal right.
“He thanked me as happily as he could for saving him. I mean, I guess it’s sad for Rain Runner, he’s not gonna be able to do any serious flying ever again. But he was so grateful for me saving him that he asked Spitfire and the Wonderbolts if they’d make me his replacement!
“Spitfire agreed right away of course. She had to convince Fleetfoot, though, since she always liked having a stallion on the team—Celestia knows why—but she said that I had really proven myself and that I would be the next Wonderbolt!
“I was so excited, I flew right here as soon as I could get away, ‘cause I knew I had to tell all of you guys! This is the best thing ever!”
“What’s the best thing ever?” came the voice of a familiar purple dragon, who had just walked in the door.
“Spike,” Twilight groaned, but before she could explain anything the newly recruited Wonderbolt flew over and grabbed him.
“Who soars through tornadoes and sudden jolts?” She asked the dragon in a sing-songy voice.
“Uh, I dunno!” Spike replied, nervous.
“Who against the wind always revolts?!”
“Who delights the hearts of fillies and colts?!”
“WONDERBOLTS!” She finished the excited cheer, plopping the dragon onto the ground. Not that it was a long fall, Spike had grown a lot in a year, reaching about the height of a normal pony, but still not the size of a teen dragon as he’d grow to be in another year or two. Perhaps it was living with ponies all his life, but he’d always been small for his age, at least when it came to dragons.
“Spike,” Twilight explained as everypony watched Rainbow Dash happily zooming around the room again in her excitement, “Rainbow Dash just finished explaining how she just became the newest member of the Wonderbolts!”
“Th-the Wonderbolts?!” Spike exclaimed in the same excitement of everypony else before him. “That’s great, Rainbow Dash! We should celebrate!”
And the moment that phrase left Spike’s mouth, the gears turned in the pink pony’s head.
“We should have a PARTY!” Pinkie Pie squealed, jumping for joy. “And we can invite everypony in Ponyville, and we can have a big cake, and—,”
“I for one think a celebration is an excellent idea,” Rarity interrupted before Pinkie could get too off topic. “After all, this is an extraordinary accomplishment for Rainbow Dash and it would only be right to show her how proud we are.”
“Yea,” Applejack added, “After all, this is only all y’been tryin’ tah do yer whole life, Dashie. This isn’t no ordinary occasion.”
“Awh, you guys are great, you don’t have to do anything for me,” Rainbow Dash said, looking over the smiling faces of her friends.
“But we’re all so proud of you, Rainbow Dash,” Fluttershy admitted. “The least we can do is throw you a party.”
“I can plan all the festivities!” Pinkie Pie shouted. “And the baked goods!”
“And I can make sure that Pinkie doesn’t accidentally destroy something.” Twilight laughed, knowing that Pinkie Pie did not have the, ahem, organizational knowledge that she possessed.
“Guys, it’s great that you want to do this but… well, I mean things are about to get real busy for me. I’m gonna have to move to Cloudsdale next week and—,”
“Wait,” Twilight interrupted, “you’re moving to Cloudsdale?”
Dash nodded. “Well, yeah, I have to now, so I can be there for daily practices and weekly shows and well… You know.”
There was a silence as the air of celebration turned to a moment of melancholy. Breaking the setting sadness as she had a way of doing, Pinkie Pie exclaimed, “Well now we have to have a party! A combination congratulations and farewell party! A double party! It’ll be twice the fun!”
As usual, no one could stay melancholy with Pinkie Pie around. As she bounced about rambling party plans, the group’s spirits once again lifted.
“Well, when are you leaving, dear?” Rarity asked at the first break in Pinkie’s plans.
“Saturday morning I’m leaving for Cloudsdale.”
“Then it’s settled,” Twilight announced. “Friday shall be your combination Congratulations/Going Away Party!”
“And it’s going to be the best party ever!” Pinkie Pie shouted in excitement.
They went about their ways for the evening, each pony making plans for her part in putting together Rainbow Dash’s Congratulations/Farewell Party. Pinkie Pie of course would organize baked goods, entertainment, and deal with invitations. Applejack had signed on for refreshments, always looking for events to bring Sweet Apple Acres’ famous cider to more ponies. This party would be especially important, for in the past year Applejack had been working on a much stronger cider recipe (not for fillies or foals), and found this the perfect occasion for its debut.
Twilight agreed to plan the party overall, and at everyone’s suggestion, decided this should be a party for the whole town. As space would be a necessity, Applejack volunteered Sweet Apple Acres (a sly move, as she had been considering the cost of cider transport), which would comfortably hold anypony in the town who would choose to attend.
Rarity would handle decorations. This was no occasion for formality in dress, so she would be left to help beautify the location in any way she could. For whatever reason, Fluttershy did not seem as outwardly excited about the party planning as everyone else, and had muttered something about folding napkins before retreating to her home. But that was Fluttershy, of course.
As the sun set and the buzz of excitement wore off, the library became quiet again. Twilight summoned a quill and ink with the pink aura emitting from her horn. Spike poked his nose into the room.
“Letter to the princess?” He asked.
Spike’s growth had started to inhibit his letter-writing ability, his dragon fingers not being equipped for such a thing. Twilight didn’t mind, she had other duties for Spike to take care of, and her penmanship with magic was improving.
Dear Princess Celestia,
She wasn’t sure how to start. This was another one of those not-really-a-lesson letters that always made her feel a bit awkward. But with the exciting news, Twilight felt obligated to clue in her mentor.
What a day it has been! I was reorganizing some books this afternoon when Rainbow Dash came in and announced she had been recruited as the newest Wonderbolt.
I have nothing but pride and admiration for her accomplishment, but there is a part of me that feels—
She searched for words.
—empty. In a few days, Rainbow Dash is going to be moving to Cloudsdale for good, to live with the other Wonderbolts. It just feels as if everything has slowed down this past year. I almost miss having to fight off some evil—
She stopped, and scratched out that last line. It was silly. You go through tough times so that you can get to the peaceful, relaxing times, not the other way around.
We’re throwing a party for the whole town on Friday to congratulate and bid farewell to Rainbow Dash. After all we’ve been through with her, I think it will be a hard day for us all.
She scratched that out, too.
We will feel nothing but pride as we see our friend off to a new adventure.
Your Faithful Student,
She handed the scroll to the patient Spike, who rolled it up and breathed fire upon it to send it to the Princess.
With that, Twilight Sparkle laid down on her bed, drifting off into what felt like the deepest sleep of her life.
“I can read the scribbled out words, if you can’t.”
“I can read them just fine, sister.”
The bright white alicorn sat in the light of a full moon, reading over the letter from her Faithful Student, a dark blue alicorn of the same size peering over her shoulder.
“She sounds upset.”
“Sister, if you would be so kind as to not read over my shoulder.”
“Oh, it’s not like I won’t read them eventually,” the dark blue alicorn nonchalantly argued.
“Yes, Luna, but it’s the principle,” said the white alicorn with a flowing, multicolored mane, rereading a part she had missed.
“Come on, Celestia, it’s obvious she has grown restless.”
“You are correct Luna, but that may not be so obvious to her.”
Luna scoffed, “Then perhaps make some trouble for her. You know what its like for ponies who grow accustomed to dark times. The moment they step out into the light, they don’t know what to do with the peace they so terribly fought for! It’s boring.”
“Unlike you,” Celestia replied, “I prefer ponies to reach their own conclusions.”
Luna flicked her tail as she exited the room, giving Celestia a wink. “Which is why it takes them so long to figure out anything!”
Celestia sighed, rereading the letter. From anyone else it would read as normal, but it was not like Twilight Sparkle to be so formal. Whenever a letter didn’t contain a lesson on friendship, Celestia knew something was wrong. The letters with copious scribbles meant even more trouble.
Celestia most feared that Luna was right—that Twilight had gone through too much hardship to know what to do with her time of peace. But an even greater concern tugged at Celestia in the back of her mind. It was distance. Growing distance.
She had felt this before and it had been natural, but this time it had much worse implications than she could have ever intended.
She needed to see her faithful student.
She stood in a field. Or maybe in the library. Or maybe elsewhere. It’s okay, she wouldn’t remember or notice anyway.
“Hello!” She said as nonchalant as if she were speaking to a close friend. But there was no one around.
She didn’t notice.
So your friend Rainbow Dash has become a Wonderbolt. That is exciting.
“Oh yes, it’s very exciting! I’m very excited for her.” She was rambling, but she wouldn’t notice that either. She’d remember the content, not the words.
At least for now.
Does it sadden you?
She frowned. “Well, yes, a bit. It makes me sad to know that a friend of mine of so long will be going away soon.”
Does it make you feel… empty?
“Well, perhaps a little bit, but I would call it—,”
Does it make you feel unfulfilled?
“How do you know that?”
Twilight awoke with a sunbeam in her eyes. She’d not had a rest that fulfilling in a long time, but it hadn’t felt like she’d slept at all.
She’d slept late, however. Spike was already off running his errands as she made her way down to the main library. He’d left a reply from Princess Celestia on the table. Twilight opened the scroll, expecting some sort of congratulations for Rainbow Dash.
My Faithful Student,
It is my pleasure to hear about Rainbow Dash’s accomplishments. I will be dropping by today, for we have a matter we must discuss. Perhaps over tea.
It was not what Twilight had expected. She checked for a missing page. No, it really was that short. It was unlike the princess to drop by for unknown reasons, let alone not specify when she’d arrive.
It was a worry, but a small worry compared to the organization necessary for the party planning ahead of her. She loaded her saddlebag with a clipboard and pencil, turned to exit the library, and oh, hello Princess Celestia who is standing right in front of me.
She stopped in her tracks, looking up at her life-long mentor, standing unexpectedly in the doorway.
“I trust I have not arrived at a bad time,” Princess Celestia said, looking down at the startled purple unicorn.
“Oh, no, Princess Celestia!” Twilight babbled, looking around to find the kettle. “You’re welcome any time of course, I just wasn’t expecting you so soon.” She summoned the kettle and some cups and—
“That won’t be necessary, Twilight. Please, let us sit.” Celestia sat down before a table, Twilight joining her. “So how have you studies been going, as of late?”
“Oh well, things have slowed down recently. Since the thing with the Changelings, everything’s just been smooth sailing.”
“You needn’t explain that to me, Twilight. But I asked about your studies on friendship, not on saving Equestria.”
Twilight gulped, not expecting that out of the princess. Then again, she had never been one to fall for false answers—
Does it make you feel unfulfilled?
“I’m… Sorry, Princess,” Twilight said, a singular fragment of dream tugging at the back of her mind. “You know how the friendship research has been going. You’ve read my letters. We’ve had disputes to work through, and misunderstandings and—,” she stopped, with nothing more to add. “Is this really the matter you wanted to discuss, Princess?”
Celestia sighed. “No, it’s not. Twilight, I know you have grown to love Ponyville and your friends here. With, how you mentioned, a recent ‘slow down,’ and Rainbow Dash’s coming departure, this seems to me the most appropriate time to ask this of you.”
Twilight smiled, “Ask away Princess!” It must be another adventure! Something must have gotten loose! Now she must reassemble the Elements of Harmony—
“I would like you to return to Canterlot to continue your studies with me. Privately.”
Her heart sank. Leave Ponyville? After all this time? “I…”
“I know this will be difficult for you, Twilight but I…” She paused. Princess Celestia rarely paused. “I did not intend for you to stay here this… long.”
“But, Princess Celestia,” Twilight began. “What about my friends? What about Ponyville?”
Celestia thought for a moment. “I suggest you speak with your friend Rainbow Dash, for I can imagine she is asking very similar questions right now.”
Twilight frowned, looking down at the table.
“I know moving would be hard Twilight. Change is difficult for everyone, but it is inevitable.”
“But what about the party, and—,”
“Should you choose to accept my request, Twilight, I would ask that you leave as soon as possible. I believe next Saturday morning with Rainbow Dash would give you enough time to get things in order.”
“Princess Celestia, I—,” she hesitated. “I honestly don’t know if I can leave Ponyville after all this time.”
Celestia lowered her head. “Twilight, my faithful student. I cannot force you to do anything. But on this matter I beseech you. It is of utmost importance that you return to Canterlot with me. I need you, Twilight Sparkle.”
Twilight felt a blow to the heart. This was completely unlike the princess to say. Everything was usually so mysterious.
“Think it over these few days, Twilight. Speak to your friends. I am certain that they will guide you in the right direction.” She got to her feet, making her way to the door. “And I’ll be back for the party to congratulate Rainbow Dash. And to hear your decision, my Faithful Student.”
With that she flew off, leaving Twilight in a mess of her own emotions.
But Twilight couldn’t stop for a moment; she had a very important party to organize, and hardly any time to do it.
Twilight first went to Sugarcube Corner to visit Pinkie Pie. Since the Cakes had moved to Fillydelphia a few months ago, Pinkie Pie had taken over the little bakery, full swing. When Twilight entered, the place was too quiet, especially for a Pinkie place.
It was empty. When Twilight turned to leave, she saw Pinkie Pie down the road, very slowly making her way to Sugarcube Corner, balancing a large bag of flour on her back.
Twilight ran over. “Let me help you with that, Pinkie,” she said as she got underneath the bag to help support the weight.
“Thanks, Twilight! Just getting extra flour for all the baking I have to do tonight!”
“So you got all the invitations sorted out I take it?”
“Oh yeah!” Pinkie said with delight. “I delivered an invitation to everypony in town!”
“Did you get any regrets?” Twilight asked.
Pinkie thought. “I suppose I regret not being able to do a singing telegram for everypony, but it would have been too much work and—,”
“No, Pinkie, I mean did anypony tell you they weren’t coming?” Twilight sighed. “I need a general attendance idea for arranging things with Applejack.”
“Oh um, let’s see. Derpy isn’t coming, but she’s still sad about the uh…”
“That stallion who disappeared on her.”
“Yeah,” Pinkie tried to remember as she dumped the bag of flour onto the ground inside of the bakery. “Mayor Mare wanted to see Dashie off, but she’s gonna be in Manehattan for whatever reason. Some mayor-thing.
“But most everypony is excited for the party!” Pinkie exclaimed. “Almost everypony’s gonna be there!” She started to drag the bag of flour to the kitchen.
“Thank you Pinkie.” Great. More ponies meant even more stress. She started to go, to find Applejack. “Make these your best cupcakes, because Princess Celestia’s coming.”
Twilight arrived at Sweet Apple Acres to find none other than Rarity, taking measurements.
“Well, of course, before we decide upon any decorations, we must know what will and will not fit,” she asserted.
“I was just surprised to see you willingly near dirt,” Twilight laughed.
“Some occasions are of such importance that concessions must be made,” Rarity explained. “I believe Applejack is in the cider cellar; I assume you’re looking for her?”
Twilight nodded, walking over to the cellar. Before she could make her way down the steps, a large barrel came rollicking out, followed by a familiar orange Earth pony.
“Well how-dee there, Twilight, nice of you to stop by,” Applejack said, catching her breath. She continued to push the barrel, “I’m just gettin’ the cider organized for tomorrow, y’know.”
“I spoke with Pinkie Pie,” Twilight said, “and she’s says that nearly the whole town will be in attendance.”
“That’s alright. More ponies means more ponies buyin’ cider. Y’all’re on the house a’course,” Applejack said, struggling to move to the heavy barrel over to the pile.
“Need some help with that?” Twilight asked.
“Don’t even worry ‘bout it, sugar cube. Big Mac n’ Applebloom’ll be back in an hour or so, and then we can really get t’work.”
“Alright, good. Just wanted to make sure you knew how many people to plan for,” Twilight explained. “Rarity, did you hear that?” Twilight to turned to see Rarity atop a ladder, measuring the distance between timbers on the roof.
“Hmms? Oh yes, dear. Whole town. Just means more tables, more lights, more etcetera.” She was obviously focusing on something else.
“If you’ve got that taken care of,” Twilight said, starting to walk away. “If you could set aside a separate table for Princess Celestia, I am sure she would appreciate it.”
Rarity nearly fell of her ladder, but she managed to turn it into a jump. “Did you say… the Princess?!” Rarity gasped.
“Oh yes,” Twilight said. “She told me this morning she’d be coming and—,”
“Well this changes everything! The place has to be perfect!” She squealed, panicking in the way an overly excited Rarity always did. “Oh, heavens, I must run and get started! I have so much more to do now than I ever would have thought!” She galloped off towards town, muttering.
“So th’ princess is comin’?” Applejack asked, already pushing another barrel of cider out of the cellar.
“Everyone seems so surprised,” Twilight said. “I didn’t realize it was such a big deal.”
“Well, Twilight, you get th’ pleasure of writin’ to her, but when’s the last time any of us other ponies got t’see the princess?”
She was right, of course. Twilight hadn’t realized it, but it had been a year since anypony else had seen the princess in Ponyville. Princess Celestia’s plans to arrive had been so sudden and unexpected.
Twilight looked back at Rarity, sprinting down the dirt road to Ponyville faster than she had ever sprinted before. “I guess you’re right Applejack. This is a big occasion.”
“Big fer Rainbow Dash definitely,” she added the barrel to the pile, and went for another. “An’ now it’s gonna be even bigger when word spreads ‘bout th’princess.” She descended into the cellar.
Twilight watched as the tiny blob of Rarity disappeared into town. “And knowing her, the word has already spread.”
Fluttershy had kept quiet about party planning responsibilities, so Twilight decided to drop by to see if she had anything in mind. Fluttershy always managed to put something together for parties, usually involving a choir of birds.
The door to Fluttershy’s little cottage was ajar. As she started to poke her head in, Twilight heard a voice and stopped.
“Well, I would have told you sooner, but I was just so excited!”
“I know but um,” Twilight could hear Fluttershy search for words, sounding smaller than usual, “It’s just… I’m going to miss you so much.”
“Fluttershy,” Dash comforted, “it’s just Cloudsdale! You can come visit any time!”
Twilight backed up. She shouldn’t be eavesdropping.
“You won’t be staying with her will you?”
Twilight stopped. Fluttershy sounded oddly accusatory.
“Yes, I’m going to be living with Spitfire,” Rainbow Dash responded. “But it’s just until I settle into the swing of things.”
She couldn’t handle eavesdropping anymore. Twilight turned to walk away, but the door opened.
“Oh hey, Twilight!” Rainbow Dash said, surprised as she closed the door behind her.
Twilight smiled an I-didn’t-just-hear-your-conversation smile. “Hey Rainbow Dash. I was just coming over to see Fluttershy about,” she hesitated, “party things.”
“Oh yeah, I understand,” Dash said as she looked back at the cottage. “You guys are great for doing this, you know.”
“It’s our pleasure Rainbow Dash,” Twilight said with a smile.
I suggest you speak with your friend Rainbow Dash, for I can imagine she is asking very similar questions right now.
This wasn’t exactly how Twilight had intended to approach Rainbow Dash on the issue but she supposed that since they were together now—
“Hey Twilight, I gotta go,” Rainbow Dash said as she started to take off.
“Wait!” Twilight said. Rainbow Dash stopped. “Can we talk about something?”
She landed. “Right now?” Rainbow Dash didn’t really have anywhere to go, she was just eager to leave Fluttershy’s.
“What better time than the present?” Nervous laughter.
“What do you wanna talk about, Twilight?” Dash asked.
She couldn’t figure out just how to put this. “Are you— How does it feel, you know… Having to leave Ponyville?” Twilight asked.
Rainbow Dash frowned. She wasn’t expecting that. “Well uh, it’s a little sad you know, I’ve been living here almost all my life. I mean, I’m gonna miss all of you guys, but I know we’ll keep in touch.
“It was a shock at first, knowing I’d have to leave Ponyville, but then I realized: there’s something out there that needs me,” she smiled. “I’ve wanted to be a Wonderbolt my whole life, and now is finally my chance. It’d be impossible to pass this up and stay in Ponyville. They need me.”
I need you, Twilight Sparkle.
Twilight forced a smile and gave her pegasus friend a hug. “Thank you, Rainbow Dash. That’s what I needed to hear.”
Dash smiled, “Well, there’s no need to get all sappy about it, I’m not leaving yet.”
Twilight laughed as Rainbow Dash flapped her wings and took air again. “You just enjoy yourself Rainbow Dash. You’ve got a big party tomorrow.”
Dash saluted, “You got it, boss!” and flew off; Twilight swore she could hear Dash singing as she flew off into the distance:
Who soars through tornados and sudden jolts?
She laughed, and remembering the real purpose for her visit, knocked on Fluttershy’s door. It opened slowly, and the pink-maned pegasus feigned surprise at Twilight’s presence.
“Oh, hello Twilight! I didn’t expect to see you today!”
“Hi, Fluttershy! I just wanted to drop by,” Twilight said. “You were quiet last night, and I wanted to see if you had any plans for the party.”
Fluttershy lowered her head. “Oh, um, well I didn’t really have anything planned, if that’s okay,” she said. “It seemed like everypony else had it taken care of.”
Twilight raised a brow. This was unlike Fluttershy. But she wouldn’t provoke it; something was obviously going on between Fluttershy and Rainbow Dash, judging by what she had heard earlier. “That’s okay, Fluttershy. We seem to have everything taken care of at this point.”
Fluttershy smiled again, but it was that fake smile. “Thank you for thinking of me at least, Twilight.”
“Do you need anything, Fluttershy?” Twilight asked with sincerity.
“Oh no, thank you.”
“Well, rest up for the party then! The whole town’s gonna be there!” With that, Twilight Sparkle left Fluttershy’s, to go find Spike.
“She very well could say no,” said the dark blue alicorn standing behind her concerned sister.
“I understand that,” Celestia replied.
“You’ve acted unlike yourself, and she can tell. She’s intimidated.”
“She knows me well enough to not be intimidated by my request.”
“She has stayed there for too long,” Luna teased as she approached Celestia. “If I were you, I would not have sent her there in the first place.”
“It was necessary,” Celestia argued. “She would never grow powerful enough to accomplish the tasks required of her could she not learn the magic of friendship.”
“And so she is powerful enough now?”
Celestia sighed. “No.”
“Then why now?” Luna smiled at her sister. “Why not in a few years?”
“Because I feel Aphelion approaching. And even more so, I feel a strengthening pull of—,” she stopped.
“Then, my dear sister, it is obvious you are acting outside of your norm. It is no wonder that she finds your request intimidating.”
“What would you suggest?” Celestia asked. “How can I ease her intimidation?”
Luna smiled, “I think there’s a lesson about friendship in here, somewhere.”
The sun burned crimson bright on Twilight as she woke the next morning. An unfinished letter to Princess Celestia sat by her bed. Though she had meant to send correspondence to the princess with her answer, Twilight realized she didn’t yet have an answer and gave up.
As she got out of bed, she heard chatter coming from downstairs. The voice was too muffled to tell though. Perhaps someone had come in early for a book, but that rarely happened. Whoever it was, she could hear Spike tending to her.
“Good morning Twilight Sparkle. Spike and I weren’t quite sure when you would wake.” Princess Celestia had been developing a strange habit of arriving when Twilight least expected her.
“Princess Celestia!” Twilight said in surprise. “I wasn’t expecting you!”
“I recall saying I would be here for the party,” she said, sipping tea. “I assume you don’t mind if I stay here.”
“No, not at all Princess, you’re always welcome here,” Twilight said. She’d expected Princess Celestia for the party, but the not the morning of, let alone in the library.
“Spike, if you don’t mind, I would like a word with Twilight alone,” Princess Celestia said.
Spike nodded. “Of course, Princess! I’ll run over to the farm and help Rarity set up,” he said as he scuttled out of the room.
“What do you want to talk about Princess?” Twilight asked.
“Nothing in particular. Just wanted to speak to my faithful student without a very talkative dragon in between us.” Princess Celestia smiled.
And Twilight smiled, too. “Princess Celestia, I was not expecting you so early. The party isn’t until this afternoon, and we’ve still got a lot of setting up to take care of.”
“My apologies, Twilight. It’s rude of me to arrive so early without warning. But I was hoping, if it’s not too much trouble, I could spend some time with you while you set up.”
This took Twilight by surprise. “Of course, Princess. I am sure everypony would love your company while we set up.”
“Excellent,” Princess Celestia said as she stood. “Where will we start?”
They went first to Sweet Apple Acres to make sure set-up was going as planned. Rarity had managed to beautify the farm in anyway she could, just short of repainting everything. Rarity adopted Applebloom as an assistant of sorts, stealing her from cider duty to help set up. Applejack and Big Mac had been able to truck along on their own, having nearly emptied the cider cellar in preparation to serve.
When Twilight arrived with the unexpected princess, Rarity somehow managed to keep her composure as she lead Twilight and Celestia around, explaining to Twilight the set up.
“And in approximately one hour there will be a stage over there,” Rarity explained, pointing to an incomplete structure Applebloom was hurriedly assembling. “She’s very talented with those… tools,” Rarity said, waving to Applebloom. “Pinkie Pie didn’t bother to mention there would be live entertainment until this morning, so we unfortunately will not have time to paint it.”
“It will look fine, Rarity,” Twilight said. “Don’t worry so much.”
Rarity looked up to the princess. “Only the best for our honored guest!”
Princess Celestia smiled. “I am flattered, Rarity, but this party is for Rainbow Dash. I am here for the same reason everypony else is.”
Rarity bit her tongue, and bid Twilight farewell, getting back to work.
Princess Celestia sampled a bit of Applejack’s new cider recipe, and to Applejack’s delight her head immediately started to spin.
“Be careful to whom that is served,” Princess Celestia said with a smile. “There are plenty of fillies and foals who I know will be trying to get their hooves onto it.”
“Yes, a’course, Princess,” Applejack replied. “Big Mac here’s gonna be on cider duty, makin’ sure the right cider goes to the right ponies.”
Then Twilight and the princess made their way to Sugarcube Corner, where Pinkie Pie insisted that the princess sample each baked good.
“What do you think, Princess?” Pinkie Pie said, excitement bubbling up in her. “When I heard you were coming I pulled out my oldest and best recipes!”
“Delicious Pinkie,” Princess Celestia smiled.
“Okay, now try this! It’s a—,”
“Please, Pinkie. Let us save some for the party,” Celestia laughed. “I trust that each one is as delicious as the last.”
“Good thinking, Princess!” Pinkie Pie said, sliding another batch of cupcakes into the oven. “I’ve still got a lot of baking ahead of me!”
“We won’t disturb you then, Pinkie. Please, continue.” Princess Celestia turned to leave.
“Uh, Princess?” Pinkie piped up.
She turned again, “Yes?”
“You have frosting on your nose!”
They left the bakery, and Twilight started to head back to Sweet Apple Acres.
“What about Fluttershy?” Princess Celestia asked.
Twilight bit her lip. “Fluttershy isn’t doing anything for the party.”
“Really?” Celestia asked. “That’s unlike Fluttershy.”
“I know,” Twilight agreed. “I… I happened to overhear her and Rainbow Dash talking yesterday and she seemed really upset.”
Princess Celestia immediately ducked as a rogue orange pegasus flew out of nowhere, crashing into Twilight.
“Mmf, m’sorry about that Twilight.” Scootaloo stood up and brushed herself off, as Twilight sighed.
“Scootaloo, you need to be more careful of where you’re—,”
Rainbow Dash landed nearby, interrupting. “Sorry, Twilight. Been giving Scootaloo some last minute lessons.”
Scootaloo looked over to see the Princess and immediately fell into a bow.
“But remember next time,” Dash explained, still not noticing Celestia, “when somepony says ‘heads up,’ you don’t actually look up.”
“Congratulations, Rainbow Dash.” Celestia said, making her presence known.
Rainbow Dash looked over and immediately bowed. “Princess Celestia!”
“Do not bow, my little pony,” Celestia said. “I’m not here on royal business. I am here to celebrate your accomplishments.”
Rainbow Dash and Scootaloo straightened, Dash with a look of pride.
“Thank you, Princess!”
“It is heartening to see you giving some flying lessons before you leave for Cloudsdale.”
“We’re trying t’cram another years lessons into one morning!” Scootaloo said, and Dash laughed.
“Well maybe not that much, Scoots, but I promise I’m gonna fly with you every time I come back to visit Ponyville.”
Princess Celestia seemed a bit awed. “Rainbow Dash, you have grown into quite the teacher.”
Dash blushed, “Thank you Princess, but I just like to give back, y’know?”
“Rainbow Dash helped my get my cutie mark, Princess!” Scootaloo said as she showed off the cutie mark of a pair of butterfly wings she had earned a few months prior.
“That’s very exciting, Scootaloo,” Princess Celestia smiled. “It looks like you have a lot of work ahead of you with Rainbow Dash gone.”
“Uh huh,” Scootaloo agreed.
“But I am sure you will have the drive to accomplish anything, my little pony. I have a feeling you’ll soon shine in whatever it is you wish to achieve.”
The party for the public would begin that evening, but the six friends, Spike, and now Princess Celestia, had agreed to meet an hour or so before hand, for a private celebration of their own.
“To Rainbow Dash!” They cheered, raising glasses of cider. They regaled tales of their friendship and their journeys together. Princess Celestia watched and listened as each pony shared some special memory of Rainbow Dash.
It was different for the princess to see them like this, in their element. Princess Celestia had only before gotten to observe their friendship in times of hardship, or through Twilight’s letters. Listening to their intimate moment of remembrance made her realize why Twilight was so hesitant to leave Ponyville behind.
And it crushed her that she had to ask Twilight to leave.
To say that everypony in Ponyville came to Rainbow Dash’s send-off would not be an exaggeration; everypony in Ponyville came to Rainbow Dash’s send-off. Even Mayor Mare, who had plans to go to Manehattan, was able to delay her trip upon hearing of the Princess’ arrival.
Not everyone stayed for the entire party of course. Ponies shuffled in and out throughout the whole night, staying for variable lengths of time. So all in all, the crowd was… manageable.
“Except a’course for a certain three fillies who think they c’n sneak themselves some of the cider for adult ponies!” Applejack remarked loudly to Twilight, seeing Applebloom sneaking behind cider barrels while Sweetie Belle and Scootaloo watched from a distance. Applebloom bolted. “They’re always getting’ in t’trouble. Trouble is that th’older they get the worse it gets!”
Twilight laughed, looking around the party. It had just begun, but was already full of ponies eager for a good time. Pinkie Pie was going around, making a point to greet everypony she had not yet seen, which got harder by the minute. Rarity kept an eye on the growing attendance, fretting to herself about seating arrangements and if the farm looked good enough, which it definitely did, but there was no convincing her. Spike was right by her side, helping her move tables. Twilight wondered just whose assistant Spike was.
Rainbow Dash was milling about, mingling with everypony. Dash normally loved to be in the spotlight, but mingling was not something she enjoyed. As awkward as Dash was at mingling, the princess was the opposite. She made it an art. Of course, everypony wanted to speak with Princess Celestia, and she made it a point to smile and chat with anypony who approached her. Even a few nervous fillies managed to strike up the courage to say ‘hello’.
Pinkie would be getting things started in ten minutes or so, and then it would—wait, where’s Fluttershy?
“Applejack, have you seen Fluttershy?” Twilight asked.
Applejack looked up while filling a glass of cider. “Tha’s two bits. Wh’sthat Twilight?”
“I don’t see Fluttershy.”
Applejack smiled, exchanging the glass of cider for two bits that she tossed into a bag. “You know Fluttershy, ‘n how she gets with these things. She’s prob’ly off hidin’ from the crowd. She’ll come out as things settle down.”
Twilight walked off, circling the crowd looking for Fluttershy. On the other side of the yard, Pinkie Pie hopped onto the stage.
“Ahem! Excuse me! Excuse me everypony,” she said to no avail.
If anypony could be heard over a crowd it was Pinkie Pie, and she managed to grab the party’s attention.
She giggled, “I’d like to thank everypony for coming to celebrate and see off our good friend Rainbow Dash!”
There was applause. “And I’m sure Dashie would love to come up and say a few words.”
As the crowd began to chant ‘speech,’ Twilight slowly pushed open the door to the barn. Lantern glow filled the small, dark barn, and Twilight saw Fluttershy lying on the ground.
“Fluttershy?” She announced her presence with care. “Is everything alright?”
Fluttershy looked up. She was crying.
“Oh, hello Twilight. I… I didn’t see you there.”
Twilight walked over and laid down by Fluttershy. “Fluttershy, what’s wrong?”
“Oh, nothing. I had just scheduled my weekly cry and I—,”
Twilight wouldn’t buy it. Fluttershy sighed, “I’m just so sad.” She pressed her head against Twilight.
“Fluttershy, it’s okay to feel sad,” she consoled, “but Rainbow Dash is only going to Cloudsdale, and you can visit her more often than any of us!”
Fluttershy scoffed, out of character for her. “It’s not that she’s going to Cloudsdale, it’s that she’s going to be living with her!” She quickly covered her mouth and gasped at what she had said.
“You mean Spitfire?” Twilight asked. “What’s wrong with Spitfire?”
Fluttershy started to blush, looking straight to Twilight. “Can you keep a secret?”
“Me and Rainbow Dash… Well, we uh… We’ve been kind of close, sometimes.” She covered her eyes, her face redder than the farm’s namesake.
Twilight smiled. “Fluttershy, that’s your choice, and none of us will judge you for it.” She comforted the quivering little pegasus.
“Oh Twilight,” Fluttershy said, “Thank you for being so understanding… but Rainbow Dash says she’s going to be living with Spitfire and she says that it’s just for a while, but I think there’s something going on between them and—,”
“Fluttershy. You’re overreacting.”
“Am I?” she asked embarrassed.
“Yes!” Twilight laughed. “Now, before you freak out any further about Rainbow Dash’s living arrangements in Cloudsdale, I know a certain little pegasus who is missing a great party.”
Fluttershy pressed back against Twilight, and they made their way back out of the barn and into the party.
“—and I honestly can’t thank you guys enough! I’ll be thinking of all of you everyday I’m in Wonderbolt training!”
The crowd stomped their hooves.
“Looks like we missed her speech,” Twilight remarked aside to Fluttershy, “which isn’t bad considering it seems to have been a long one.”
Pinkie took the stage again as Dash waved to the crowd, walking off. “And now, for tonight’s entertainment, I am honored to present Ponyville’s own, singing pony Tessitura!” There were murmurs from the crowd as a beautiful, peach-colored unicorn pony with a short, light yellow mane stepped onto the stage, followed by a group of musicians.
“Tessitura?” Twilight said in confusion.
“She’s a very famous singer in Manehattan,” Fluttershy explained quietly. “She was discovered in Ponyville, but that was before you came to live here… I never really paid so much attention, but I heard her sing a few times.”
Dead silence; the audience waited. Even Princess Celestia seemed to be awaiting some spectacle as she stood on the edge of her hooves.
And then she sang:
Every sunrise is the birthing of a bright and vibrant dawn
Even if you tried to halt it, it would still that night be gone
But do not fear, through the night we’ll travel on
Though the darkness can feel empty, and can make you feel afraid
If you live your life in nighttime, it becomes as bright as day
And when the dawn returns, part of you may drift away
Everypony in the crowd listened in silence as Tessitura effortlessly sang through her first song, and stomped a thunderous round of applause at its completion.
This, Twilight realized, is no ordinary party.
“Thank you everypony,” Tessitura announced with a grin. “Now that that’s out of the way, let’s hear something upbeat!” She nodded to a pegasus pony on a stringed bass who started up an Equestrian swing standard, to which everypony started to bop.
As the party started up again, Princess Celestia made her way through the crowd over to Twilight Sparkle, who was absent-mindedly slurping down her first adult cider.
“My faithful student. Are you enjoying yourself?”
She burped out of surprise. “P-Princezz Celestya! I didn’t see you there!”
“Don’t worry Twilight.” Celestia lifted a hoof to keep Twilight from falling. “That cider is strong, I meant to warn you not to drink too much of it too quickly.”
Twilight teetered, “I’m sorry Princezz, I shoulda known better.”
“Perhaps this is not the best time to ask if you have made your decision?”
Twilight was immediately sobered. Not only had she forgotten about making the decision in the swing of the party, she hadn’t even discussed, not even hinted about it with her friends.
“Princess Celestia,” she said after a moment’s silence, “I—,”
“As I expected. Do not worry Twilight Sparkle. I am certain it can wait until morning.”
Twilight lowered her head.
“I am going back to the library to rest, I hope to hear your answer in the morning.”
With Celestia’s turn away, a somber reality set in upon Twilight Sparkle. She needed to find her friends. She teetered, and realized that three fermented ciders were more than anypony should have.
Applejack had mostly been near the cider all night, so she was easy enough to find. Supportive as always, Applejack was excited to hear that Twilight had been asked to return to Canterlot, and encouraged Twilight to say yes. Pinkie Pie was thrilled that the Congratulations/Farewell double party could act as a Congratulations/Farewell/Farewell triple party. She was disappointed of course that Twilight may leave, but was realistic about keeping in touch and visits.
Rarity was not only supportive, but also a little bit jealous that Twilight had the opportunity to go live in Canterlot. “Canterlot?! It’s the most high-class city in all of Equestria! Well, you simply have to go.” Spike oddly had nothing to say.
Despite it being her party, Rainbow Dash was nowhere to be found. After a few laps around the crowd, Twilight spotted a rainbow mane in the corner of her eye, and turned to see Rainbow Dash and Fluttershy sneaking into the barn.
Rainbow Dash was more than supportive; she was excited. “Twilight, she needs you! This could be something real big! Like, royal magic big!” Fluttershy was not so happy that another friend could be leaving, but she managed to put on a happy face and congratulate Twilight for the opportunity. Twilight quickly made up an excuse to leave, so Dash and Fluttershy could go back to... sneaking.
“Why are you blushing so much?” Dash asked with a laugh as Twilight headed through the gate to make her way home. “She doesn’t know about us.” She kissed Fluttershy’s head.
Nervous laughter. “Yeah, um… Doesn’t know anything.”
Twilight returned to a dark library. She crept in, so as not to disturb the princess. She retreated to her room, where she found Princess Celestia, sitting by the window, staring at the moon.
“Oh, welcome home Twilight, I wasn’t expecting you so early,” she said, yawning. “Or late, I suppose.”
Twilight sat down next to the Princess. “Princess Celestia, I spoke with my friends.”
“Have you reached a decision?”
Twilight nodded. She actually hadn’t, but figured she would come up with one on the spot.
“Excellent,” Princess Celestia said with a smile. “But it’s late, I am sure you wouldn’t mind saving it until morning?”
“Yes, Princess!” Saved!
Princess Celestia stood and spread her wings, stretching. “Twilight, would you mind if I joined you in bed tonight?” she asked. “Like when you were a filly.”
Maybe it was late, or maybe it was the cider, but Twilight was certain the Princess had just asked—
No, it’s not like that!
“I don’t mind, Princess Celestia,” she said as the two ponies climbed up onto the bed.
Princess Celestia draped a warm wing over Twilight, who nestled against her. “I know this decision has been very stressful,” she cooed, “But I want my faithful student to know I am closer to her than ever.”
She drifted into sleep.
She stood in Canterlot gardens. This was certain. To whom she spoke once again was not. She did not notice.
Have you made a decision, Twilight Sparkle?
She looked up at the castle, and nodded. There was an air of somberness about her.
What have you decided?
It became dark. The flowers wilted, the castle melted away before her eyes.
And you call yourself her Faithful Student.
“How do you know what I chose?”
And again she awoke, this time alone. Going downstairs, she found not only Spike and the Princess, but also all of her friends laughing over in the library.
“No one ever wakes me for these impromptu meetings,” she said, coming down the stairs with a smile.
“Good morning, Twilight Sparkle,” Princess Celestia said. “This is no meeting. All of your friends just happened to arrive here this morning. I have no idea what they could want to know, however.” She winked.
Twilight was confused. “Wait, you guys all came here unplanned? For what?”
“Well, whadya think, sugar cube?” Applejack said.
“We wanna know if you’re gonna go to Canterlot!” Rainbow Dash said excitedly. Even Fluttershy, who had before shown only gloom, seemed excited.
“You have made your decision, right my Faithful Student?” Princess Celestia smiled.
And you call yourself her Faithful Student.
She had made in her decision. But that nagging wisp of dream made her change it right then and there.
“I’ve decided to return to Canterlot.”
Cheers! This was the answer everypony expected, and had hoped for. Though saddened to see her go, they all knew Twilight would keep in touch more than anypony.
Princess Celestia stood, “Then let us celebrate both Rainbow Dash and Twilight Sparkle, who are moving on to what I am undoubtedly sure will be great accomplishments.”
It became at that moment another party, and for the next few hours, the six ponies and Spike made a last ditch effort to enjoy themselves before an inevitable change occurred.
It dwindled down, as all things do. They said their goodbyes, and went their separate ways. Everypony had something to take care of that morning, and despite their best efforts, that moment could not last forever.
Fluttershy was the last to leave, and not after giving Twilight the longest, tightest hug she had ever had. As Twilight closed the door, she let out a sigh of relief, and got back to her own task.
“Alright, Spike, let’s get bags packed. We’re going to Canterlot!”
Princess Celestia looked at Spike and nodded. He stepped forward.
“Uh, Twilight? I’m not uh,” he stammered. “Me an’ the princess talked and um… Well, I’m not going with you guys.”
“What?” Twilight said, shocked. “Why not, Spike? What’s wrong?”
“No, nothing’s wrong Twilight. It’s just you know,” he shook a bit. “Someone’s gotta run the library, and Miss Rarity always needs assistance and—,”
He had no more words. He simply held onto Twilight, who looked to the Princess.
“Sometimes, my Faithful Student, it is necessary that you go your separate ways from someone you love very much,” she explained. “That is a part of life that is never easy to deal with. Even when you have lived for thousands of years.”
Twilight nestled into Spike. Or perhaps it was the other way around. “You’ll be able to come visit, I know!”
Celestia nodded. “Your time with Spike is not at an end. I tell you that now with complete certainty.”
Spike remained silent, but very few things could take the words out of him.
Princess Celestia had wanted to stay with Twilight, but urgent matters called her back to Canterlot. Twilight packed her bags alone, and made her way to the train station, where everypony and Spike saw her off. Even Rainbow Dash, who often refused any hint of sentimentality, would admit to shedding a tear as Twilight’s train to Canterlot chugged off into the distance.
“You want to what?” A light blue unicorn stallion asked, looking up in shock.
“I would like to take your daughter as my personal student in magic,” Princess Celestia said, eyeing the scared little unicorn filly who cowered between her parents. “She would live with me here in the castle, attend the Royal Academy, and receive private lessons from me.”
He looked to his wife, another unicorn. “Princess, I do not think we could afford the necessary accommodations.”
“Those will be taken care of,” Celestia replied, her eyes still on the young Twilight Sparkle. “Your daughter has displayed considerable natural talent, which I would like to develop.”
Twilight’s mother looked down at the shivering filly. “It’s up to you, dear,” she said, nuzzling against her daughter.
There was a knock on the door.
“Come in,” Princess Celestia called. As she expected, a nervous little filly entered.
“Good morning, Princess Celestia,” she said, bowing.
“Twilight Sparkle, there is no need to bow,” Celestia said. “I am your teacher. And I hope to soon be your friend, as well.”
Twilight straightened and smiled.
“Are you nervous, my student?”
“There is no reason to be nervous.”
She stills shied away.
Oh, butterfly, butterfly, why must you flutter by?
Butterfly, butterfly, flying so very high
Oh, how cute!
Celestia kept singing, but there was no further sound. Where had that voice come from?
Twilight awoke on the train. She looked out the window to see the bright light of a full moon. Once upon a time the train ride to Canterlot was a few hours, but after a terrible rockslide a few months ago, the only rail route went first through Manehattan then around the mountain. It took nearly a day.
Twilight wasn’t sure why she woke up, but she wasn’t about to sit up in the dark. She watched the moon as she slowly drifted off to…
Twilight stood in a dark room lit only by candlelight that she did not recognize. It was dusty, and filled with mismatched shelves, tables, and trunks, all covered with various tokens and knick-knacks. Rarity would have thrown a fit.
Hearing a door open, Twilight gasped and hid behind a chest of drawers. She peered out from behind it and watched as an unfamiliar stallion in a cloak entered. Following him was… Princess Celestia! Only she looked younger. Her mane was not multicolored, but in fact only light pink. She seemed smaller, as well. Definitely less intimidating.
“It was cut in the first age, and it is very rare,” a crackly, misshapen voice came out of the cloaked stallion.
“It is a ruby?” Princess Celestia asked him, interested.
“It is not a ruby!” He coughed. “It is the rarest ruby in all of Equestria!” He approached the chest behind which Twilight hid, and she ducked back farther.
“I ask merely for clarification,” Celestia remarked.
The stallion stopped before going any closer to Twilight. He turned around and went to an old gold-plated trunk on the other side of the room. “Yes, of course it’s a ruby. That’s the symbolism.
There’s something on the train I need you to find.
That voice! It was starting to become familiar to Twilight.
He won’t see you. Look at it.
She couldn’t resist the temptation. She stuck her head out from behind the chest to see the stallion pull out of a dusty old trunk a fantastically bright red gemstone, which shone bright, even in the dim candlelight.
Celestia looked at Twilight, and she immediately jumped back behind the chest. But had she seen her?
Now you know where it is.
Twilight awoke again. It was darker now; the moon had hidden behind a cloud. But the vision of that gem still teased at her mind. Sure, it was just a dream, but it seemed so conscious.
You know where it is.
She looked around. Was that a memory, or had something just spoken to her? No, it was a memory. A very clear one. Standing up, she stretched. The car was empty, and silent aside from the noise of the train making its way across the countryside.
You know where it is.
That thought would not stop nagging at her. That trunk. That ruby. Every detail etched itself into her mind and pulled at her until finally she could no longer resist. With the utmost silence Twilight slid open the back door of her car, stepping out.
The train loudly clacked as she closed the door behind her. She took great care in crossing the gap between cars, watching the tracks pass below her. Then, with just as much care as before, she slid open the door to the next car.
It was the sleeping car. Ponies snored behind pulled curtains as Twilight crept through. She cast a silencing spell upon herself, not wanting to risk the clop of a single hoof.
Exiting the sleeping car, Twilight let off the silencing spell, as the loud clacking of the train covered her. She crossed to the other car carefully, and then moved to slide open the door. Locked. Nothing a little magic couldn’t fix. A pink aura began to emit from her horn, floating to and inside of the lock. Twilight bit her lip, as turning invisible mechanisms was never easy, but then—click!—she turned the correct pin, unlocking the door.
With a boosted confidence, she moved to slide open the door to the luggage car. Forgetting her care, Twilight misplaced a hoof and tripped. Her face smashed against the door, and she slid back, gasping as she rolled into the space between the cars. She reflexively reached, grabbing at anything she could to save herself from hitting the tracks below. All of a sudden, the falling stopped, and she looked up to see her hooves wrapped around a railing, a lucky reflex. As she pulled herself up, the speeding tracks underneath seemed to glare to her. She panted and quietly slid her way into the luggage car.
She closed the door behind her. There was no light, so she cast a glow from her horn, starting to take a look around. Twilight knew the trunk she was looking for. She panned the light over the various trunks and bags, searching.
There it was: the old, gold-plated trunk. It was exactly the same as she had seen it before, as if lifted from her dream. It bore a hefty silver lock and sat in a corner. She crept to it and began emitting an aura from her horn to pick the lock.
She flew backwards in a burst of sparks, hitting the wall and sliding down to the floor. As she rubbed her aching head, the door slid open, and a light shone on Twilight.
“Stop! Thief!” somepony shouted.
Twilight looked over as two ponies approached her.
“I recognize that spell,” said a male unicorn in nightclothes. “She attempted to unlock my trunk!”
“Is this true, Miss?” the rail security guard asked, holding his lantern over Twilight’s head.
She looked up, ashamed.
“Of course it’s true!” the unicorn yelled. “I recognize my magic anywhere!”
“Calm down, Sir,” the rail guard said, calming him. “Miss, did you attempt to open this gentlecolts’ trunk?”
Twilight looked at the trunk, a dim red light emitting from within that silver lock. She lowered her head.
“My good Sir,” the unicorn said through gritted teeth, “this luggage car was locked, and for good reason! She would not have come in here for any other purpose! Detain her!”
“Sir, we can’t—,” he was interrupted.
“I believe this will suffice for your troubles.” The unicorn pulled a small bag of bits from his shirt pocket, handing it to the rail guard.
He smiled. “Sir, I apologize for any disturbance she may have caused. I’m going to keep her in custody until we arrive in Manehattan.” The unicorn nodded and left.
“What?!” Twilight gasped. “You can’t do that!”
“You are under suspect of attempted thievery,” he growled. “You can either cooperate or I will have to use force.”
Twilight could have fought him off, but then where would she have gone? And what would the princess say when she—
Twilight hung her head in shame as the rail guard led her to a secure car for supervision, realizing what the princess would think. First night out of Ponyville, already an attempting theft! Princess Celestia would be so disappointed she’d surely send Twilight away at once. How could she have been so stupid? Following a dream. She didn’t even know if there was anything in that trunk—as a matter of fact it was probably just a similar trunk!
She laid against the window in the secure car, the rail guard watching over her. A pair of hoofcuffs weighed her down. Twilight stared at the full moon, slowly drifting into slumber.
She was nowhere this time. Or perhaps she was somewhere, but she didn’t recall.
It was in there. You could have had it.
“It was a magical lock!”
You should have expected it to be magically protected.
She groaned. “I don’t even know what it is.”
You needn’t know what it is. You need it.
“Good morning, Twilight Sparkle.”
Twilight opened her eyes to the rail guard removing her hoofcuffs and Princess Celestia standing behind him.
“Princess Celestia! How did you—,”
“Don’t worry Twilight, I’ve sorted things out.” Twilight had expected her to be angry, but instead she acted as if she already knew the whole story. The rail guard bowed and left, Princess Celestia following behind.
Twilight lowered her head. “Princess Celestia, I’m sorry.”
She turned back and smiled. “For what? My Faithful Student, it is not unlike you to find yourself somewhere that you do not belong.” She paused. “The train is leaving Manehattan shortly. All of the luggage has been unloaded.”
Did she… know?
“I wish I could offer my company on the ride, Twilight, but I must fly back to Canterlot for an urgent matter. But I’ll be seeing you in a few hours.”
And with that, she exited the car.
Twilight avoided any trouble for the last few hours of the ride, merely watching the scenery as the train trekked up the mountain.
Princess Celestia met Twilight at the platform, wearing the same smile she had before.
“Ah, so good to see you again, my Faithful Student!” She said, escorting Twilight past the royal guards.
“Princess Celestia,” Twilight said, still glum, “I assume you want an explanation for what happened on the train.”
She laughed. “Oh no, don’t worry Twilight. You’ve been granted a royal pardon, so I say we just forget the whole incident ever happened.”
“If you say so Princess.” A royal pardon! Twilight felt ashamed.
They made small talk as Celestia led Twilight into the familiar castle. Spiraling up the staircase in the West Tower, Twilight became more and more curious about exactly why she had been asked to return. Twilight followed Celestia through a door into a large chamber, lit only by the sunlight that shone through the window.
“Have you not heard of knocking?” Princess Luna looked up from a worn book.
“Sister, look who’s here.”
Luna eyed Twilight. “Hello again, Twilight Sparkle.”
Twilight smiled. “Princess Luna! It’s so good to see you again.”
Luna approached, grinning. “The pleasure is all mine. I look forward to our studies together.”
“Have you not told her, Sister?”
Celestia sighed. “I had not yet explained to Twilight why I asked her to return,” she said. “But I suppose now is as appropriate a time as any. My Faithful Student, your lessons on friendship are not complete by any measure. However, I am putting them on hold so that we can further your lessons in magic.”
“Magic?” Twilight asked. “But Princess Celestia, how much more is there for me to learn?”
Luna and Celestia smiled to each other.
“There is much more for you to learn,” Celestia said. “I will be instructing you in magical combat and Deep Magic.”
“Magical combat?! But Princess Celestia, when am I ever going to need—,”
“And Luna will be instructing you in the art of Subconscious Magic.”
Twilight looked to Luna with confusion, “Subconscious Magic?”
“It is an art that nopony else has been able to achieve in the last thousand years,” Luna nodded. “I will explain more as we begin lessons, but as a warning: it will not be easy.”
“Obviously this will be a lot for you, Twilight,” Celestia said, “but I trust that you have the magical ability and the drive to succeed.”
“But Princess Celestia,” Twilight asked, “What am I going to need magical combat for?”
“We will go into that further when your training begins. For now, let’s just get you settled in.” Celestia exited the room, and Twilight followed. They walked down a hall and took a left, entering a room with which Twilight was very familiar. She gasped with delight.
“Recognize this place?”
It was her old room! She ran in and looked around; everything was as she had left it: bed sheets unmade, telescope positioned, and an open book on the table.
“Of course, Princess!” she said, as Celestia came in after her. “I haven’t been in here in three years.”
“I have,” Celestia said. “I meant to clean up at some point, but I expected you—,” she hesitated, looking around. “I didn’t want to interrupt any research you may have been pursuing.”
Twilight went silent as she looked at the book on the table. It was open to a page on Nightmare Moon.
“Everything alright, Twilight?”
She looked up. “Oh, yes Princess Celestia. It’s just—,” she sighed, “When I first went to Ponyville all I could think about was coming back home to my tower.
“Are you not happy to be back?”
“Well, since meeting my friends, I haven’t thought of any place as home but my library.”
“I remember there once was a time when no tree stood where your library is now, and it was only by chance that a little filly planted its seed there in the first place.”
“But now that I’m really back home, I feel more homesick than ever.”
“Twilight, your home is not a place; it’s what you make of where you are,” Princess Celestia replied. “Your home is not a tree, nor a tower. It’s where you spend time with your friends and stress over research. It’s where you long of collapsing into your bed after a long day of studying.”
“I think,” Twilight said, “I think I’d feel much more comfortable in my bed back in Ponyville.”
Celestia nodded. “I had a feeling. You’ve planted yourself deeply there, and it will take quite a force to uproot you. Just like that library of yours.”
She pulled Twilight against her.
“Your trunk should be up any moment; go ahead and take some time to unpack, and then I would ask that you accompany me to the gardens for a private meal.” She gave Twilight a kiss on the forehead. “And don’t feel too terribly sad that you’re so far away from your friends, my Faithful Student. You have many adventures ahead of you, and I am certain they will come to your aid.”
She walked to the door, turned, and smiled.
“And so will the basics of magical combat.” Then she was gone.
A member of the Royal Guard entered, a brown unicorn with a white mane in gold armor. He carried behind him a large trunk, held in the air by a gold aura emitting from his horn.
She looked over.
“I have your trunk,” he said laying it down in the center of the room.
“Thank you,” she said, opening it.
“Miss Sparkle?” He asked.
“Prince Shining Armor is your brother, correct?”
She nodded, starting to unpack its contents.
“My name is Diadem,” he said. “I’m temporary Captain of the Royal Guard while Prince Shining Armor and Princess Cadence conduct royal business in the Griffin Kingdom.”
“A pleasure to meet you,” Twilight said, not paying much attention.
“I personally brought up your luggage so that I could have the honor of meeting my prince and Captain’s little sister.”
She looked up to him, wearing a fake smile. “That’s very kind of you—,”
“You have the most beautiful eyes.”
She stepped back. “Wh-what?”
“I’m sorry. How unprofessional of me,” he smiled and stepped closer. “But it’s hard to remain so serious when around the most beautiful unicorn I have ever had the pleasure of meeting.”
“Your flattery knows no bounds. If you could excuse me, uh—,”
“Yes. Diadem.” She started to walk to the door, hoping he would get the hint. “Anyway, if you could excuse me, I have some unpacking to do.”
“After you unpack, how about you meet me in my quarters in the South Tower, and we can get to know each other?”
Twilight’s face went flush, and from her horn she shot a small flame straight towards Diadem. He stepped to the left and dodged it.
“Or… you could meet me in the dungeon immediately.”
Twilight scowled. “Please excuse me while I pack.”
He nodded and winked, stepping out. “I am sure I’ll be seeing you later, Miss Sparkle.” He left.
Twilight closed the door to her room, and went back to unpacking her things. Without thinking, she moved her copy of Types of Magic by Token Bones to the table instead of the bookshelf. She walked over and started flipping through the pages, looking for any mention of—
There it was! An entire chapter! She read:
“Deep Magic is a term used to describe a number of ancient spells and practices which due to their extreme difficulty, dangerous outcomes, and ethical concerns were never refined by modern conjurors into magic as we know it today.”
The chapter went into further detail, but she would have to read it later; Princess Celestia was waiting, and it would take Twilight a bit longer to make her way to the gardens, while avoiding the South Tower.
Twilight Sparkle made her way down the spiraling stairs of the West Tower, through the halls of the castle, and down the large stone staircase into the gardens, completely from memory. Passing by several statues, she paused when she saw the familiar face of Discord, immortalized in stone.
“See someone you remember?” Princess Celestia sat at a wrought iron table just beyond.
Twilight looked beyond the statue to the princess, and then approached her.
“May I ask you something, Princess Celestia?”
“Do you know what it is like to be turned to stone?”
That was not the question she had expected first.
“Let me caution you, Twilight, that I have never been turned to stone, so I cannot answer from experience.” She laughed.
“Is it like being… dead?”
“Perhaps. But that depends on what being dead is like, and there’s nopony we can ask.”
“This may satisfy your curiosity,” Celestia said. “I recall an account of an old pony philosopher. Forgive me if I paraphrase but he said, ‘When one’s likeness is carved in stone, he is immortalized even through his death. When one is turned to stone, his death is immortalized, as he finds himself trapped in eternal nothingness, where he will never die, but from which he will never return.’”
“So,” Twilight said, looking back at the statue of Discord, “Discord is alive, but trapped in some sort of… nothingness?”
“It is contested whether or not the philosopher whom I recall had the spell placed upon him for any time, but if I were to hazard a guess, I would say he is.”
“He can’t see through the eyes of the statue, can he?”
“Oh no,” Celestia smirked. “That’s an amusing thought, considering how many times I have kicked that statue, but no. Eyes set in stone cannot see.”
A member of the royal wait staff approached. He was a crimson unicorn in a tuxedo. A white aura emitted from his horn, which carried behind him a dinner tray.
“Princess,” he bowed to Princess Celestia, using his magic to move two meals into place, along with a kettle of hot tea.
“Thank you, that will be all we require,” Princess Celestia said. The unicorn bowed and left.
“I’ve been taking my meals in the gardens recently,” Celestia explained, noting Twilight’s curiosity. “The dining chambers have just felt so close to everything. It’s just relaxing to back up from everything sometimes.”
“Princess Celestia?” Twilight asked as the princess poured her a cup of tea.
“Are we at war?”
Princess Celestia laughed, almost spilling the tea.
“What makes you say that?” she snickered.
“Well, forgive me for trying to put things together—,”
“I’d have been concerned if you hadn’t.”
“—but magical combat is so,” she searched for words, “out of fashion for a unicorn who isn’t a member of the Royal Guard. I didn’t know much about Deep Magic, so I read a quick passage while I was unpacking, and it said that Deep Magic is this very ancient and dangerous form of,” her words started to run together, “and I haven’t looked up Subconscious Magic yet, but it sounds very difficult and—,”
“—Shining Armor hasn’t told me why he and Cadence went to the Griffin Kingdom, but it could be for negotiating terms of war or—,”
“Twilight!” Celestia interrupted. “Equestria continues to maintain peaceful relations with its surrounding nations. Furthermore, I would never use you as a tool of war. You are greater than that.”
Twilight lowered her head, “I’m sorry, Princess Celestia.”
“No, I’m sorry,” she said.
“Princess, do you know Diadem?”
She laughed and nodded. “Of course I do, Twilight. He’s second-in-command of the Royal Guard. I believe he wanted to meet you.”
“He wanted to do more than meet me.”
“Never mind,” Twilight grumbled.
“I put a lot of trust into Diadem, my Faithful Student,” Celestia said. “Especially with Cadence and Shining Armor away for the next few months, there’s a lot his plate. I know he can,” she hesitated, “come on strong, but he’s been under a lot of stress. If he becomes bothersome, just ignore him.”
She nodded and sighed.
“This is just all so overwhelming,” Twilight said, looking up. “Canterlot feels so much darker, all-of-a-sudden.”
“That’s because the sun is setting,” Celestia nodded to the West Tower, where on a high balcony Princess Luna watched the sky. “And now Twilight comes to Canterlot.” She smiled. “Get some rest, my Faithful Student. We have an early morning.”
“You are going to have to be completely honest with her at some point, Sister,” Luna said, watching the moonrise from her balcony.
Celestia sat behind, her mood somber, “I know.”
“What have you explained to her?”
“Nothing at all?”
Luna sighed and turned to her sister. “Celestia, this is unlike you.”
“I know. It is Aphelion befalling me. I have been distant on all accounts.”
“Your distance is your greatest enemy right now.”
“You know my greatest enemy!” she shouted at Luna.
“Now, now,” Luna teased. “The princess wouldn’t want her loyal subjects waking in the night to her screams.” Luna sat down and nestled against a pouting Celestia. “Sister, be honest with Twilight. Overcome the pull of Aphelion for as long as your task takes.”
“It is not easy.”
“It is not easy for me to resist the temptation of Nightmare Moon within myself, but lo and behold, I manage to make it. Sister, you are stronger than I, and I have the utmost faith in you.”
Luna pulled her sister close, burying her muzzle into that flowing, celestial mane.
Twilight stood in Canterlot Gardens, gazing upon a stone statue of Princess Celestia.
“I know you’re in there!” she shouted, slamming her hoof against it.
“Come out and tell me something already!”
It chipped again.
“Tell me what’s happening!” She shouted as loud as she could, and with a final blow the statue cracked and turned to powder, blowing away in a sudden gust of wind.
And she didn’t notice the company she kept, as usual.
If you can’t get answers out of her, perhaps you must try something other than asking.
“How can I do that?”
Do what you do best.
“Good morning, my Faithful Student!!”
Twilight jolted awake, and rolled to get out of bed.
She hit her head off of the wall (wrong way!) and then rolled the other direction, falling out of bed at Celestia’s hooves. She looked up at the princess, seeing stars swirl around her vision.
Celestia smiled, holding back tears. “Twilight Sparkle, what ever am I going to do with you?”
“Princess Celestia!” Twilight stood, woozy. “You startled me!”
“That was the plan, but I did not expect it to be so funny!”
“What time is it?” Twilight groaned and rubbed her head.
“Five A.M. sharp!” Celestia laughed. “I told you that you had an early morning.”
“They still make five A.M.?”
Celestia walked to the door. “I brought you some breakfast.”
A plate of eggs sat on the table.
“After you finish, meet me in the Great Hall in the South Tower for your first lesson in magical combat!” Celestia walked out, whistling.
“I had forgotten she was such a morning pony,” Twilight said to herself, digging into her eggs.
“It makes sense doesn’t it?”
Twilight looked at the doorway. Luna.
“Oh, good morning Luna.”
She yawned, “Morning, yes. I’ll be resting shortly, just wanted to stop by and tell you I expect you in my chamber at midnight.”
“For what?” Twilight raised a brow.
“Have you already forgotten your lessons with Auntie Luna?” Luna yawned and stretched.
She had. “Oh no, I was just curious,” Twilight lied. “Wasn’t sure when that would start.”
Luna saw through it, like she always did. “Be there at midnight. You have a very short time to learn magic that nopony has been able to accomplish for over a thousand years.”
At that, Luna left. She was obviously not a morning pony.
Twilight finished her breakfast, and set out down the spiral staircase of the West Tower. She took the route that led across a bridge over a small canal of which she had always been fond as a filly. Opening the door to and entering the South Tower, Twilight inadvertently bumped into Diadem, heading out for early morning routines.
“Miss Sparkle! I see you decided to take me up on my offer. Better late than never, I suppose,” he smirked.
“Out of my way, Diadem,” Twilight snapped. “I’m meeting the princess.”
“The princess can wait.” He moved forward, emitting an aura from his horn that immediately closed the door behind Twilight.
He backed her against the door. “I may need to report a security breach, a certain purple unicorn who is in a place she shouldn’t be—perhaps a possible case of theft! I hear you’ve stolen before.”
The door glowed blue and swung open causing Twilight to fall backwards. Before Diadem could react, she reared up and bucked him in the chest as hard as she could. She got to her hooves and ran past him, into the South Tower.
“I won’t forget this, Sparkle!” He shouted behind her.
Twilight ran straight to the Great Hall.
I put a lot of trust into Diadem, my Faithful Student.
She composed herself, wiping the tears from her eyes and smoothing out her mane. Twilight stepped into the Great Hall, to find all of the tables pushed aside and Celestia standing at the other end.
“Twilight, how nice of you to join me!” Celestia flew across the hall and landed in front of Twilight. “Are you ready for a hoofs-on intensive in magical combat?”
“As ready as I’ll ever be,” she sighed. “Is there a book?”
Celestia laughed, “Oh no. The course is simple, my Faithful Student. You are going to fight me, and you are going to keep fighting me every day until you finally win.”
A light began to glow on the tip of Celestia’s horn and a ball of flame shot out of it. Twilight ducked out of the way, and it hit the stone floor.
“What was that?!” Twilight said in disbelief as she back against a table.
“I believe I was clear,” Celestia said, flying into the air and shooting another ball of flame towards Twilight, who once again dodged it, running to the other end of the hall.
“You’ll have to be more offensive, dear,” Celestia smiled. She reared back in the air, her horn becoming aglow. A bright beam shot out, headed straight for Twilight. In reflex, Twilight shot out of her horn a beam of bright pink, which intercepted the path of Celestia’s attack in midair, creating a mess of sparks and light which danced around the room.
Twilight groaned, trying her best to push back Celestia’s attack, but her strength was growing weaker. Celestia was a much more powerful being, and did not let up at all. Finally Twilight let down her attack out of exhaustion, but jumped away as Celestia’s beam of light slammed into the wall, spraying sparks and gravel onto Twilight.
Twilight ran across the hall, dodging attacks from Celestia, who taunted her to be more offensive. She ducked behind a pillar, trying to catch her breath and think of any attack spell she could remember.
At that moment, Celestia came around the pillar, and shot a ball of flame straight at Twilight. It slammed against her like a buck to the chest and everything went red as she was engulfed in fire.
“And you’re dead!” Celestia laughed, landing on the ground.
Twilight opened her eyes. The flames had gone, and she was not burned.
“It’s cold fire, it won’t hurt you.” Celestia smiled and lay down beside the shivering purple unicorn. “I would have told you, but I wanted you to realize the seriousness of your studies in magical combat.”
“Princess Celestia,” Twilight laid against her, still shivering, “Am I ever going to have to fight somepony like that?”
Celestia frowned, “I cannot tell you that you will not, for it is so difficult to predict what is to come.” She looked down at Twilight, who was crying. Celestia laid a wing over her, and pulled her close.
“My Faithful Student, do not cry,” she consoled, “This is just as much a learning experience as any lesson you’ve had before.”
“Now what did you learn today, Twilight?”
“Combat is scary.”
Celestia chucked and kissed Twilight’s forehead. “Yes it is, but it is at times a necessity to accomplish a noble goal.”
“You and I will discuss attack spells after lunch today, Twilight. What you cast today was very strong, but I did notice that it was a spell used most often to warm tea.”
Twilight smiled and looked up. “It was the first thing I thought of.”
“I understand. You have a lot of power, but without the proper magic you will still lose.”
“Something else to work on is being more offensive.”
“But Princess Celestia,” Twilight said, “it is so hard to attack you.”
“I do have an advantage with flight, but—,”
“No, I mean,” she paused, “it’s hard to attack someone I love.”
Celestia leaned down and nuzzled against Twilight. “Do you not think the same is true for me?”
“Just do what I do, my Faithful Student. Pretend I am someone you would very much like to attack.”
Twilight thought for a moment, and then pictured herself shooting balls of sparks at a certain brown unicorn. Diadem.
Twilight rested, and then went off to meet Princess Celestia in the library. She managed to get all the way there without running into Diadem, but if she did she wouldn’t be afraid to buck him again.
Processing underneath the stone archway into the library, the overwhelming smell of books brought back memories of many long days spent in that ancient room. Just as she began to reminisce, she ran into Princess Celestia, who had a number of books suspended in the air behind her.
“Good afternoon, Twilight,” she whispered, eyeing the old librarian, a wrinkled Earth pony who sat a few meters away behind a desk. “I’ve found most of the source material we’ll need.” She laid the books down on the table, with a thud.
Princess Celestia looked over to the librarian, who grumbled under her breath.
“Sorry, Madame,” Celestia said, lifting the books up again. “On second thought, let us go to the grounds.
Celestia left the library with Twilight close behind her.
“I’ve never heard anyone brave enough to shush a princess before,” Twilight laughed.
Celestia trotted down the stairs, “I may have lived for more years, but Madame Inkwell is much older than I.”
They exited through a pair of large wooden doors onto the castle grounds.
“That library is her kingdom, just as Equestria is mine. I’m only a princess when not under her athenaeum rule.”
Twilight snorted. Celestia laid the books down in the shade of a tree, where she plopped down.
“I’ve gotten the basics: Beginner’s Magical Combat, and for when you finish that, Intermediate Magical Combat, and for when you finish that, Advanced Magical Combat, and for when you finish—well, there’s about three more books here, and you understand.”
“This is rather overwhelming.”
Celestia laughed. “You needn’t read them one after the other. We’ll start together right here, and then you’ll understand enough of the basics to work through the rest mostly on your own.”
Twilight looked nervous.
“I’ll be here if you have any questions, of course, and we are going to fight every morning, so you can put these concepts to practice.”
“Must I fight you, Princess Celestia?”
“Sometimes you must fight your very best friends.”
“Are you sure I couldn’t fight somepony else? Perhaps—,” she watched a familiar brown unicorn trot past in the distance, “—perhaps the Captain of the Royal Guard?” She grinned at the thought of sending a fireball at him this very moment.
“The difference between myself and Diadem,” Celestia explained, seeing the fire in Twilight’s eyes, “is that one of us will actually hurt you.” Celestia opened the copy of Beginner’s Magical Combat.
“Alright, this book starts off with the basics of a simple attack spell. Let’s read through them and give one a shot.”
The pegasus weather diverted that night’s planned rain shower in order to put out the fire on the castle grounds.
“Simply spectacular Twilight!” Celestia laughed. “You have the power of flame only seen in dragons!”
Twilight panted. A fire attack spell was a lot more difficult to control than the campfire spell she had shot at Diadem the day before.
“Your power is still very raw at the moment, but we will work on refining it, my Faithful Student.” She patted Twilight’s back. “For now, I suggest you rest. We have an early morning fight, and I would hazard a guess that you will share a late night with Luna.”
“Oh, don’t worry so much, Twilight.” Celestia laughed. “The grass will grow back!”
Twilight slept through dinner, and awoke in time to meet Luna in her chambers at midnight. She quietly crept down the hall, so as not to wake anypony who might be sleeping, but she didn’t know anypony other than herself and Luna who resided in the West Tower.
She knocked quietly on the door. It glowed blue and swung open.
“Ah, good evening Twilight Sparkle. Welcome to the first night of what shall be many a painful lesson in Subconscious Magic.”
Twilight groaned. Great, more pain.
Luna glared at Twilight, as if she’d read her mind. Twilight smiled.
“Knowing you, you have done some pre-reading on the subject,” Luna said, stepping out onto the balcony. Twilight followed.
“I actually didn’t get a chance.”
Luan grinned, “Then you saved yourself the trouble, because there exists no reading on the subject.”
Twilight rolled her eyes.
“See that guard down there?”
Twilight stepped to the edge of the balcony, looking to where Luna gestured. On the stone walk bordering the castle grounds, a Royal Guard pegasus took rhythmic steps.
“Yes,” she nodded.
“Do you know him?” Luna asked.
Twilight squinted, trying to get a better look. “I don’t think so.”
“If you knew him, you would know he is the Head Chef, and not a guard at all.”
“Then why is he making rounds in armor?”
“Because he is asleep,” Luna said in her singsong voice.
“He’s asleep?” Twilight asked, with disbelief. “Is he sleepwalking?”
“Yes.” Luna started to giggle to herself.
“But wait, if he’s the Head Chef, then where did he get the armor?”
“He sleepwalked into the armory and put it on.”
Twilight laughed. “Now that, Luna, is impossible. There is no way a sleepwalker could accomplish that.”
“Not on his own.”
Twilight raised a brow. Luna couldn’t contain herself. She looked down to the guard, “I bet you ten bits that he’ll attempt a flip.”
They watched, and no sooner than Twilight agreed did the pegasus in armor attempt to jump up into the air and flip, coming crashing down on the stone and waking up, confused.
Twilight started, “How did you—,”
“There are two types of Subconscious Magic. The first is Manipulative,” Luna explained, laughing as the pegasus below examined his armor in confusion.
“But wait,” Twilight contested, “I know you weren’t controlling him with magic, or else I would have seen it on your horn.”
“Subconscious Magic is magic of the mind, Twilight,” Luna said as she watched the pegasus run inside quickly. “The first type, Manipulative, requires creating a link between your mind and somepony else’s in order to control their actions. It works best during sleep, or else they notice.”
“What’s the second kind?” Twilight asked.
The alicorn Princess and the purple unicorn filly made small talk as Celestia led Twilight into the unfamiliar castle. Spiraling up the staircase in the West Tower, Twilight became more and more curious about exactly what her studies would entail. Twilight followed Celestia down a hall and took a left, entering a small chamber.
“This, my student, is going to be your room.”
Twilight gasped with delight: it was her room! She ran in and looked around at everything.
“Do you like it?” Princess Celestia smiled, coming to Twilight.
Twilight nodded, but she couldn’t help but notice that aside from a layer of dust the room seemed occupied: bed sheets unmade, telescope positioned, and an open book on the table.
“I apologize for its state. I meant to clean up at some point, but I expected Lu—,” she hesitated, looking around. “I had more important affairs with which to deal.”
Twilight came to Celestia and nestled against her. “I absolutely love it, Princess Celestia! Thank you so much!”
The second kind is Invasive Subconscious Magic.
Twilight awoke with a start. She was lying on Luna’s bed, light from the waning moon shining upon her.
“Oh, you’re awake.” Luna called from the balcony.
“What happened?” Twilight rubbed her head.
“You nodded off,” Luna smiled and walked over to the edge of the bed, “So I tucked you in.”
Twilight blushed. “What were we talking about?” She started to get out of bed.
“The second kind of Subconscious Magic,” Luna said, gesturing for Twilight to stop. She leaned down and pulled the covers back over Twilight, cooing a fragment of song:
Sweet and low, sweet and low
Wind of the Western Sea
Low, low, breathe and blow
Wind of the Western Sea
Over the rolling waters go,
Come from the dying moon and blow,
Under the silver moon;
Sleep my little one,
Sleep, my pretty one,
And she slept.
Twilight yawned as she woke, the sun shining hot on her face. She stretched, and pulled herself out of bed. Half expecting Princess Celestia to have woken her up for another early morning, she was relieved to find herself alone, and the sun already risen beyond five A.M.
Celestia must have decided not to have a fight this morning, Twilight thought to herself. She looked on the table to find somepony had left her breakfast, which she gobbled down. She shook herself off and walked to the door.
“And where do you think you’re going?” called a voice from behind her.
She turned. Luna.
“Luna! I didn’t hear you come in!”
“I didn’t use the door.”
Twilight shuffled. “Oh, um, I’m sorry I dozed off last night before we could get to a lesson. But I promise tonight I’ll be well rested and—,”
“Twilight,” Luna interrupted, “Your first lesson begins now.”
“But I thought you wanted your lessons to be at night and so I figured—,”
“It is night,” Luna rolled her eyes. “You don’t often notice me in your dreams, do you?”
“You are dreaming, Twilight Sparkle.”
“That’s not true!” Nervous laughter. “Your attempt at a prank isn’t going to work, Luna.”
“When did we get here?”
Twilight looked up, to see the sun above her head, at high noon. She and Luna sat at a wrought iron table in Canterlot gardens.
“How did we—?!” She shook her head in disbelief. “I didn’t even notice.”
Luna laughed. “No, Twilight, you never notice.”
She closed her eyes and started to concentrate. A glow radiated from her horn.
“What are you doing?” Luna looked concerned.
“I’m forcing you out!”
“You really think you can overpower the Queen of Subconscious Magic?” Luna laughed loudly.
Her laughter stopped as Twilight shot a beam of gold light out of her horn, which hit Luna, surrounding her with sparks.
Everything turned to black.
Twilight gasped as she awoke. She glanced out her window to see the waning moon still high. She got out of bed and illuminated a candle, resolving not to sleep again for the night. Idly flipping through the pages of Mypes of Tagic.
Wait. That’s not right.
She stared at the cover. The day before the title had said, “Types of Magic,” but now for some reason it said “Mypes of Tagic.” Perhaps somepony had decided to play a little prank on her, or—
“You noticed something, that’s a first,” Luna said, looking over Twilight’s shoulder.
She jumped. “Luna! What are you doing here?”
“Our lesson continues, Twilight,” she said, walking over to the bed. “You’ve performed satisfactory, for the most part. You noticed the mistake, but you failed to identify what it was.”
“Twilight, you’re still asleep!”
Twilight opened her copy of Mypes of Tagic. The pages were blank.
“I could have sworn I was just reading this,” she said, in confusion.
“What makes the subconscious so malleable is everypony’s inability to notice anything!”
“But it feels so real,” Twilight whimpered. “I can feel the wood on my hooves; I can smell the breeze coming in from the window.”
“Your senses deceive you. What you feel are memories, not reality.”
Twilight cried out in frustration, “This is ridiculous! If I can’t trust my senses, and I don’t notice anything, how can I know I’m in a dream or not?”
“You must focus!” Luna yelled. “Focus yourself! Push all of this away! Focus yourself on what you really feel!”
Twilight closed her eyes and groaned, trying to focus. Idle sparks shot from her horn as she began to shake. The world around her started to crumble, pieces falling into a void of nothing. She screamed, and collapsed to the floor.
“Twilight, wake up!”
She awoke with a start, sitting up to see Luna by the bedside in the light of the morning.
“Twilight, are you okay?” Luna seemed frantic.
“My head hurts,” Twilight moaned. “What happened?”
“Look at me,” Luna said. “Look at me!”
Twilight obeyed, looking into Luna’s eyes.
“Now, don’t look around. Tell me what room we’re in.”
Twilight hesitated. “I—,”
“It should be easy, Twilight. It’s the room in which you fell asleep.”
Twilight groaned, “I don’t remember what room I’m in!”
“And you still haven’t noticed.”
Twilight’s eyes widened. She realized. “I’m asleep.”
“Yes you are!” Luna smiled. “Just as asleep as you were last time.”
She groaned and lay back down on the bed. “This is just too much for me, Luna! How do you expect me to realize I’m in a dream if every dream begins with me waking up!”
Luna laughed and leaned against the bed, looking down to Twilight. “They all won’t, silly. I’m doing that to confuse you.”
“But no matter in what situation you find yourself, there are cardinal rules for determining if you are in a dream.”
“What are they?”
“You tell me. What room are we in?”
Twilight stopped. She still didn’t know.
“Not knowing where you are, or how you got there?” she asked.
“Correct,” Luna smiled.
“Let’s see… mistakes?”
“Yes,” Luna said. “Like the lack of words in books.”
“What else is there?” Twilight asked.
“There is more, which you will learn in time.” Luna leaned down to nestle against Twilight. “For now, tell me what you sense.”
“I feel the heat of the morning sun, the softness of this blanket—,”
“Wrong. Try again, and focus this time.”
Twilight sighed and closed her eyes. She cleared her mind, and ceased all movement—even breath. The world around her did not crumble, but instead it faded out, so that the only thing that existed in the entire universe was a singular Twilight Sparkle. She felt nothing.
And then from the nothingness, she felt something. A warmth. A scratchy warmth. Like feathers and fur. She felt something press against her entire body, and then retract away. And then it pressed again, and then it retracted again.
What do you feel?
She felt something balled up against her chest. Something soft, and cuddly. Something blanket. The smell of warm air engulfed her, and she felt a tickling against her nose. A feather.
Then she began to hear. A quiet breeze in the distance, a soft breath in and out. The sound of her own breathing. She was breathing.
I am in bed, under your wing.
Luna smiled down at the little purple unicorn who slept clutching a blanket, wrapped up under the warmth of her wing.
“Congratulations, Twilight Sparkle, you have felt through to the waking world.”
Twilight opened her tear-filled eyes slowly, looking up at a smiling Luna.
“How long have you been in my dreams?” Twilight asked.
“Since Celestia told me she’d be asking you to come.”
Twilight nestled up against Luna, who pulled Twilight even closer with her wing.
Sleep, my little one
Sleep, my pretty one
Princess Celestia smiled, looking over the two entwined ponies.
They must have fallen asleep after an exhausting lesson, she thought as she quietly closed the door to Luna’s room, and headed down the hall. She made her way into Twilight’s room.
Celestia went to the table, and moved aside Twilight’s copy of Types of Magic. She summoned some parchment, a quill, and ink from the shelf, laying them down on the table. She composed a letter:
My Faithful Student,
Do not fret that you slept through our training this morning; I understand how exhausting my sister can be. Rest up, and meet me in the Great Hall in the South Tower for some spell-casting lessons after lunch.
She folded the note, wrote Twilight’s name upon it, and left it on the table. However, knowing Twilight, she’d wake up in a panic and immediately run to find Celestia.
Twilight awoke in a panic and immediately ran to find Celestia. Luna was briefly awoken, but rolled over and returned to sleep. Twilight stumbled down the West Tower’s spiraling stairs, only stumbling once.
She ran through the grounds, over the charred grass, and straight to the South Tower, hoping she had not kept the princess waiting for too long. Bursting through the doors into the Great Hall, Twilight’s heart sank when she found it empty.
Twilight turned to see Princess Celestia standing in the doorway.
“Princess Celestia!” She lowered her head. “I’m so sorry, I didn’t mean to—,”
“It’s alright, my Faithful Student,” Celestia smiled. “You and Luna were simply too cute to disturb this morning.”
“I left a note in your room, but I had a feeling you wouldn’t read it before running here.”
“I’m sorry, Princess.”
“We’ll fight tomorrow morning,” Celestia said. “For now, let us practice spell-casting.” She produced an aura from her horn that pushed aside the tables, clearing the hall.
“What spells?” Twilight asked.
“How about you show me?” Celestia winked.
Twilight sighed, but gave in. She reared back and then growled as she shot a concentrated of flame from her horn, which lit the room orange.
“Yes! Much more refined than before!” Celestia cheered. “You have improved, but you must focus further to make the spell even more powerful.”
Twilight groaned. “But Princess Celestia, I’m performing the spell the way the book says, how can I make focus anymore?”
“A perfect attack spell has two elements,” Celestia explained. “The first element is the by-the-book spell. If you master that, then you are only halfway there. The second element is aggression.”
“Yes, Twilight. Not anger, but pure aggression. You don’t have to feel any sort of hatred towards what you’re attacking, but you need to have a merciless desire to attack.”
For hours Twilight attempted to focus her aggression into the attack spell, Celestia cheering her on with each bit of improvement. She started to imagine Diadem standing at the other end of the room, taunting her with his smug, pretentious face. Finally, with a large huff she shot a concentrated, spiraling beam of flame straight ahead into the other wall, leaving a huge black mark.
“Spectacular!” Celestia whooped. “Your focus is improving!”
Twilight panted, “This isn’t easy.”
Celestia laughed, coming over to the burnt out unicorn. “Of course it isn’t, silly filly.”
“However, sometimes you can’t just do things by the book. At least if you expect to beat me.”
“I don’t think I could ever beat you, Princess Celestia,” Twilight looked down.
“You will, someday. Even if I have to help.”
Almost every day for the next few weeks Twilight would wake in the morning and get creamed by Celestia. Her technique improved, but she was still no match for the most powerful alicorn in Equestria. Luna woke up one morning to watch, and was highly impressed, amazed to see that Twilight had so quickly surpassed her own ability. Though she would never let on to that.
The nightly lessons in Subconscious Magic continued, as Twilight learned to distinguish dreams from reality. This did not come as quickly to her as magical combat, but she made significant improvements from her first lesson. When she started to truly grasp the abilities to realize the dream world, Luna began teaching how to manipulate it. Twilight was still far off from the ultimate goal of putting these techniques to use in the mind of another pony, though.
Celestia began to grow more distant, leaving Twilight to her own private study with the exception of morning combat. Only on a few more occasions would Princess Celestia instruct Twilight, and those times would be on the subject of Deep Magic.
Twilight slowly pushed open the door, nervous. She’d never been invited to Princess Celestia’s private chambers before.
“Twilight! Please come in,” Princess Celestia called. Twilight made her way inside, shutting the door behind her.
“You summoned me, Princess?” Twilight asked, looking around the large chamber. For the Princess of the Sun, it was rather dark, with curtains drawn, lit only by a few stray candles.
“Yes, my Faithful Student,” Celestia summoned a large book, placing it down on the desk between herself and Twilight. “It is time for your first lesson in Deep Magic.”
“We’ll start with one of the simpler spells, but one that you will find to be most important,” Princess Celestia said, flipping through the pages.
“A-ha!” She found it. “This is called the Artifact Unification Spell.”
Celestia chucked. “I suppose it makes more sense if you understand Separation. I’ll explain it later, for now—,”
Twilight interrupted, “Princess Celestia?”
“Can you explain it now?”
“Yes, my Faithful Student.”
Celestia came around the table to Twilight, nodding toward the bedside.
“Please, sit. This will be a long story.”
Twilight sat on Celestia’s bed, and the princess climbed up next to her.
“Many thousands of years ago, there was a very powerful Sorceress. Because her power was so great, other ponies worshipped her without question. Although she liked to think of herself as a very kind and benevolent mare, she had a dark side.
“Though power was at first given to her, she began to be consumed by greed. As greed took control of her, she began to feel herself transforming into a Nightmare. You recall of course the tale of Nightmare Moon. It is the same Deep Magic of greed that turned my dear sister into Nightmare Moon that began to overtake this young Sorceress.
“But this Sorceress did not want to succumb to the enchantment of her Nightmare Self, so she looked to the same Deep Magic that was overtaking her in order to save herself. Before the Nightmare could overtake her, she Split herself into two physical forms. One physical form was she, as everypony knew. The other was the Nightmare.
“She fought her Nightmare self, subduing it in order to perform another piece of Deep Magic: Separation. She Separated the physical form of her Nightmare self, sealing it magically within different objects, known as Artifacts. Though Split from herself and Separated, the Nightmare was still a part of her, and she still had a mental connection, though she successfully prevented the Nightmare from ever overtaking her.
“The Artifact Unification Spell is a piece of Deep Magic that goes along with Separation. It would be used in any instance where the Artifacts were brought back together, and would reunite the physical form of any Separated being.”
“Princess Celestia, you’re bleeding!”
She pointed, and a small tear of blood trickled down from Celestia’s temple, onto her cheek.
“Yes I—,” she hesitated, “Don’t mind it, Twilight. It is part of the Deep Magic.” She stood and moved over to the table. “It cannot be performed without tribute.”
“Yes, my Faithful Student.” Celestia wiped the blood from her cheek. “Tribute must be paid to the Deep Magic in advance, or else it will be taken from you without warning.”
Celestia produced an aura from her horn, which lifted the blood into the air above the table. Twilight gasped as it turned to sparks. Celestia then summoned two objects from her bookshelf, a pocket watch and a teacup, setting them on the table.
“What are these, Princess Celestia?” Twilight asked.
“Two Artifacts,” she said, nodding at the book. “I Separated a beetle this morning, and I would like you to reunify it.”
Twilight looked nervous, looking down upon the pocket watch and teacup. She quickly read over the page in the tattered, old book, but couldn’t keep herself from skimming, the ever-watchful eye of Celestia beaming down on her.
She produced an aura from her horn, focusing on the instruction in the book, surrounding the teacup and pocket watch. Grunting and closing her eyes, she did her best to focus.
Why does everything require focus? Why is all of this powerful magic about focusing my thoughts? Why can’t I just go back to magic that didn’t require—
Twilight looked up. Princess Celestia nodded to the teacup and pocket watch, which sat on the table, no longer surrounded by an aura.
“Something is on your mind.”
She sighed and lowered her head, “How can you tell?”
“I can always tell,” Celestia smiled and embraced Twilight. “My Faithful Student, if I am pushing you too hard, just tell me.”
“No! No, not at all!” Twilight said. “It’s just so overwhelming, all of this. But it’s not too much; I know I can do it! I don’t want to let you down!”
“Oh Twilight, you have done nothing but impress me since your return to Canterlot.”
“I just feel I’m learning very slowly.”
Celestia came around the table again, pulling Twilight close, “You are subject to daily lessons in some of the most ancient and powerful magic in all of Equestria. There is nopony else I know who would be able to learn as quickly as you are.”
“Rest, my Faithful Student. You deserve it,” Celestia kissed Twilight’s forehead. “Go ahead, take the Artifacts and the book back to your room. Take as much time as you need, and I am certain you will soon come to me beaming with a beetle.”
“Thank you, Princess Celestia.”
“No, thank you, Twilight Sparkle.”
Burning midnight oil, Twilight sat up at her desk, hunched over a pocket watch and a teapot. She glanced at the book.
She cleared her mind, blasting out an aggressive aura onto the pocket watch and teacup. Sparks flew, and smoke rose from the Artifacts, but nothing happened. Reading over the passage once again, she could not figure out just what she was doing wrong.
She closed her eyes and shot another aura from her horn. Sparks and smoke, but still two plain objects remained. Though she had spent hours blasting them, they had not stained at all. The pocket watch remained as polished as it had ever been, and the teacup’s porcelain was without crack or chip.
Twilight once again closed her eyes, focusing. She bit her lip, and suddenly tasted blood. She shot out the aura against the Artifacts, and in an explosion of light, she opened her eyes to find a small beetle walking across the table, seemingly unaware that it had been Separated.
Twilight grinned and whooped! Though she longed to run and tell Celestia, her exhaustion finally overcame her as she stood up from her desk. She’d not paid attention to just how tired she was.
Letting out a yawn, she crawled into her bed and contently curled up to sleep.
Well now, if you can do it in your dreams, then I am sure you’ll be able to do it when you wake.
Twilight opened her eyes, sitting up in Luna’s bed.
“I think I understand now,” she said.
Luna sat across the room. She hadn’t planned for a lesson that night, but Twilight begged for one, desperate for anything that would help her succeed with the Artifact Unification Spell.
“Do you?” Luna asked. “The dream is fleeting, what do you remember?”
“I remember trying it many, many times,” Twilight recalled. “But the final time, something was different.”
Luna nodded and smiled, standing. “And what was different?”
“I felt—,” she searched for words, “Different. As if I had cleared my mind in a different way—in a more aggressive way!”
Luna sighed and sat back down.
“You are wrong, Twilight Sparkle.”
Twilight huffed, “What do I have wrong, then?”
“For the first time, you have taken too literally the power of focus. Deep Magic is not like Subconscious Magic,” she explained. “Subconscious Magic comes from focus of the mind. Deep Magic comes from sacrifice.”
“What do you mean?” Twilight asked.
“The more powerful the sacrifice, the more powerful the magic,” Luna stood and walked over to the bed. “That’s the way Deep Magic works, anyway. Once you become more adept at it, you can cheat the system, but the magic will take from you whatever it can afterwards.”
“That’s what Princess Celestia said,” Twilight contemplated.
“You should have listened to that,” Luna grinned.
“But I don’t understand!”
“The blood, Twilight!” Luna explained. “You bit your lip in frustration. You made a blood sacrifice to the Deep Magic, and that is what made it succeed. You paid tribute!”
Princess Celestia, you’re bleeding!
“What do you mean, though,” Twilight asked, “when you say the magic will take from you?”
Luna lay against the bed and sighed. “Let us say you become very skilled with Deep Magic. You will have the skill to perform it, and therefore you may not feel the need to pay tribute. Deep Magic spells are tied to the pony who casts them, and will drain tribute from them, if they do not forfeit it up front. It may take as tribute something physical, such as blood, or it may choose to drain something else.”
“But Luna, let’s say you had to perform some Deep Magic,” Twilight wondered, “Why would you not just pay the tribute? I mean, I just had to bite my lip and—,”
Luna laughed. “Twilight, you performed a very small amount of Deep Magic—within a dream, no less! Separating a beetle into two Artifacts does not require the same sort of tribute that it would take to say,” she mused, “Separate a Nightmare self into six pieces.”
“Princess Celestia told me the story about a Sorceress who did that. What sort of tribute would that amount of Deep Magic require?”
Luna grinned. “Just a little less than is required for the ultimate piece of Deep Magic.”
“What is that?” Twilight asked.
“Resurrection,” Luna said. “For that very deep and powerful magic, the only tribute is complete self sacrifice.”
Twilight woke in the morning draped underneath Luna’s wing. This time she did not panic, as Princess Celestia had grown familiar to Twilight sleeping through combat lessons underneath Luna’s wing.
She stretched and got out of bed, making her way to her own room. Celestia usually left a note on the days Twilight slept in, explaining where she would be. This morning however, Twilight was surprised to find the princess waiting in her room.
“Good morning, Twilight!”
She jumped, startled. “Oh my! Princess Celestia, good morning! I—,”
“Late night with Luna, I see?”
“Well, my Faithful Student, I have good news.” Celestia stood, coming over to Twilight. “You’re going back to Ponyville immediately!”
Twilight’s heart sank.
“Princess Celestia, what did I do wrong?” she pleaded, “I’m sorry I’ve missed so many combat lessons, I just—,”
Celestia laughed, and interrupted. “I’m sorry Twilight, let me explain before I scare you any further. I’m sending you back to Ponyville with a task to complete.”
“A task?” Twilight asked.
“Yes,” Celestia nodded. “There’s something of mine that I need you to acquire.”
AUTHOR'S NOTE: This chapter of Aphelion would not have been possible without the assistance of Plotscribbler, PreytorFenix, and CracklesCousin. My cheers to their gracious dedication!
BANG! A gavel.
“A Hearing before the Second Pegasus Senate will now come to order,” announced a graying pegasus, reading off a sheet. He sat behind a desk, on a cloud before a crowd of some thirty pegasi. Each pegasus sat on his own separate small cloud, facing the Speaker. “Presiding is Senate Leader Gray Snow—that’s me—,” there was laughter. “We will begin with opening remarks from Senator Empyrean Skies.” He nodded to a younger, red pegasus who flew to a podium below the desk.
“Thank you Senator Snow,” Empyrean gestured to the pegasus above him. “Let us not beat around the bush on the issue: We are very clearly divided between two schools of thought. The question we must ask ourselves is how much longer can Cloudsdale self-sustain before submission to the Celestial Monarchy becomes the only option?
“Equestria relies on Cloudsdale pegasi for weather control, but it is foolish to deny Cloudsdale’s reliance upon Equestria! We have not the Earth ponies to provide food, and we have not the unicorn magic for a sufficient mastery of our own architecture. Cloudsdale does not exist as a large enough settlement in order to survive through trade of resources alone. Every other pegasus society has already submitted to the Celestial Monarchy and—,”
“The other pegasus societies are weak,” a very old, and very large blue pegasus interrupted, lazily lying upon his cloud. “Cloudsdale is by far the largest and most prosperous—,”
“There will be order,” Senate Leader Gray Snow snarled to the interrupter.
“Thank you Senator,” Empyrean Skies nodded. “It is the foolish mindset of those who still linger from the First Pegasus Senate that Cloudsdale can survive any longer on its own,” he glared to the pegasus who had interrupted. “To conclude my opening statement, if we do not submit willingly to the Celestial Monarchy, Cloudsdale will fall.”
“O, Princess of the Sun!” an armored male pegasus bowed as the pink-maned alicorn Princess landed on the cloud before him. “I call myself Sovereign Thunder, and I am to be your guide through Cloudsdale.”
“Cloudsdale?” Celestia spoke with curiosity. “That is the name upon which the Pegasus Senate has decided?”
“Yes,” Sovereign nodded, standing upright. “Please, allow me to escort you through our city.” He pressed onwards, leading the Princess up a stone set of stairs.
“And to what honor do I owe the Pegasus Senate with being so forward as to allow,” she tried to recall, “Cloudsdale, to operate under Equestrian rule?”
Sovereign laughed. “My dear Princess, I am but a guide; it is not I who runs the Senate.”
They passed underneath a white marble archway into the center of Cloudsdale. Pegasi bustled about through a town square surrounded by marble architecture.
“It’s unicorn magic,” Sovereign smiled as he led Celestia through the crowd, “holding all of this up, that is.”
“I assumed.” Celestia nodded as pegasi bowed to her, the Princess nodding in acknowledgement. “The Cloudsdale pegasi are on good terms with the unicorns then?”
“Yes, since the resolution was passed.” Sovereign started up a marble staircase, “Before we tour, I am to show you this.”
Reaching the top of the stairs, they passed underneath a marble arch that was the entrance to a large pantheon. Stepping inside, Celestia noticed inset carvings on the walls, each one displaying a famous battle in ancient Equestrian history. They were spectacular, obviously carved by a very talented artisan. Of course, Celestia didn’t remember those battles looking so glorious.
Sovereign grinned, as he and Celestia reached the end of the aisle, and she first noticed it. Celestia went wide-eyed. When you’re around for a thousand years, you are introduced to many cities, but Celestia had never seen anything like this. It was a carved stone statue of the Princess herself. The statue was perhaps twice her size, and displayed Princess Celestia reared back with wings spread.
“We offer this temple in your honor as a sign of our eternal loyalty,” Sovereign said, bowing.
Princess Celestia stepped forward, closer to the statue, examining it. A glint of light caught her eye, and she raised her head. Though the entire statue was stone, the eyes were two shining blue gemstones.
“I see the eyes have… caught your eye,” Sovereign smirked. “They are carved from the finest crystal we pegasi could acquire.”
Celestia remained silent, focusing her attention to the statue’s left eye.
“With the assistance of unicorn magic, the Crystal Eye of Celestia will continue to shine even through the darkest of nights, reminding every pegasus to whom his loyalty lies.”
Princess Celestia turned to Sovereign Thunder as her horn began to glow gold.
Celestia gave Twilight her old book of Deep Magic for reading material on the train ride back to Ponyville. This time Twilight didn’t sleep, her head buried in the book the whole ride, each spell more fascinating and terrifying than the last.
Regeneration (limbs): The regeneration of limbs is perhaps the simplest of spells in the realm of Deep Magic, however it requires the utmost focus. The memory of the limb(s) must be fresh and accurate, or else the results of the spell will be disastrous. When improperly performed, malformed, incorrect, or even cursed limbs may generate in place of the desired limb.
That was not quite what Twilight was looking for. She turned the page.
Resurrection: Resurrection of any deceased being is the most difficult, and among the oldest and most powerful Deep Magic spells. The spell requires an extreme emotional attachment to the deceased, and only will succeed when coupled with total self-sacrifice. The Resurrection Spell has only once succeeded in recorded history, when its creator performed it on his deceased child. The spell was banned in the pre-classical era, and all ties to its creator were erased from history, with his burial in the Catacombs of Tartarus. Due to its high illegality, no information on performance of the Resurrection Spell is provided.
Somepony had scrawled in the margin, see primary source SS.
It was still not what Twilight was looking for, but she couldn’t help her curiosity. She turned to the back of the book, the section of primary source documents. She passed source Q, then source R, then source S, and then she found something unlike anything she’d seen in the book before.
Wedged between sources S and T was a series of ancient, frayed papers, covered from top to bottom in quill-written text. These pages obviously came not from the archaic printing press that had produced the already ancient text, but had been pulled from some unicorn’s personal writings, and shoved into the book. The writing was faded, but clean.
Twilight started to read through it, but it was not easy. It seemed less a document than a collection of thoughts, scribbled at random. Several parts had been scribbled over, and Twilight was not sure if that was the work of the original author or the pony who had placed these pages into the book.
On this day, the brightest light in my life has burnt out. –S.S.
I have tried every spell known to unicorns, and she has not awoken from her eternal slumber. She cannot die; I must save her. –S.S.
Attempts to inject into her the necessary life force to live have continuously failed. There is something I am missing. –S.S.
A large section was inked over.
By pouring my heart and soul completely into her I enter a trance, in which I see her, and she is alive, but it is no more than a dream. I know I am closer, but I am still missing some key element. –S.S.
Most recently, upon seeing the vision of her, I focus every memory I have of her and try to pour those into that vision. It comes closer, and I can feel her begin to breathe. I have the confidence that if I put something more into her, I can bring that vision to life and she will wake once again. –S.S.
Another large section removed.
The idea came to me while I slept, perhaps I can make her fleeting breaths become whole again if I pour into her not only every ounce of energy and memory I can muster, but also all the life force I myself have to live. It is a risk, but I have confidence that with complete self-sacrifice she will awaken once again. –S.S.
The next attempt will surely be my last, and there is no way for me to document it, nor is there any way for me to know if it will succeed. However, I know that if the Resurrection Spell is a success, I will exist within her eternally. –S.S.
The writing then changed, much less refined, but less faded.
Post-Script: Let it be known to all of history that S—
The rest of the post-script had been inked over. Twilight would have given anything to know more. She closed the book out of reluctance and lay down along the seat to sleep in the dark and empty car.
Twilight woke to the whistle, which announced the train’s evening arrival in Ponyville. She stood and stretched, put her book into her saddlebag, and stepped out of the car onto the platform.
It was empty.
Twilight had expected everypony to be there on the platform waiting for her, since she’d written Spike that she would make a brief return. But Spike hadn’t replied, and it became suddenly clear to Twilight that her return was not as anticipated as she had expected. She tried to hold back her tears as she stepped off the empty platform and walked down the lonely road into town.
Why is the walk home always so much shorter? Twilight thought, recalling the long journey to the train station on the day she left Ponyville. It felt like so long ago. Reaching the library she sighed, pushing open the door. It was dark and empty.
Twilight looked up as the lights came on. Before her stood all of her friends, with a large banner that said, “Welcome Home, Twilight!” Everypony ran up and pulled her into a hug, cheering greetings over each other. Now she could no longer hold back her tears.
“Everypony, it’s so wonderful to see you all again!” Twilight said with a smile, looking around. Pinkie Pie ran to the corner to grab a party hat, which she placed atop Twilight’s head.
“An’ the same t’you, sugar cube,” Applejack said, patting Twilight’s back.
“Darling, we’ve missed you so much!” Rarity looked Twilight over. “I can see Canterlot has treated you well, have you had your mane trimmed differently?”
“Oh no, I—,”
“Alright, I’m back!” shouted a purple dragon as he pushed open the library door, carefully carrying a large layer cake. “Okay, let’s hide, I think the train’s coming soon!”
“Spike!” Twilight laughed. “You’re a bit late.”
Spike nearly dropped the cake. “Twilight?!”
She ran up and hugged him, Pinkie Pie taking the cake out of his hands and moving it to the table.
“Oh, Spike, I’ve missed you so much!” Twilight hugged him tightly.
“I’ve missed you, too, Twi,” Spike lurched, “But can you not squeeze me so hard? I think my head might pop off!”
They both laughed and Twilight let off of Spike. She looked up; he’d gotten even bigger.
“I know!” He beamed. “Three whole inches!”
“I’ve been taking his measurements,” Rarity interjected. “The challenge of fitting a dragon is a rare feat for anypony.”
Twilight smiled and looked around. Applejack and Pinkie Pie were at the table, trying to keep the layer cake from falling over—“Push the top a bit more t’the left!”—, Rarity was explaining the various obstacles of fitting clothes for a dragon, but something else had caught Twilight’s attention: the mysterious absence of two ponies.
“Where’s Rainbow Dash and Fluttershy?” Twilight asked.
The room went quiet.
“Well, y’know Rainbow Dash is in Cloudsdale a’course,” Applejack broke the silence. “And uh, well, Fluttershy—,”
“Fluttershy doesn’t come out as much as she used to,” Rarity spoke up.
“What do you mean?” Twilight asked.
“Well, Twilight,” Applejack approached her, “since you n’Rainbow Dash left, she’s been much quieter, and doesn’t so much like to uh, leave her house anymore than she has to.”
“We tried to get her to come,” Pinkie Pie started, “but she said she didn’t wanna—,”
“She said she’d try!” Rarity interrupted. “But obviously, something has come up. Perhaps Angel is sick, or—,” she stopped, unable to think of anything else.
A silence befell the room again.
“She’s jus’ been real sad since y’all left, ‘n we haven’t had any luck ‘n cheerin’ her up,” Applejack said, bringing a stein of cider to Twilight. “Try not t’think about it for now, jus’relax ‘n have fun.”
“It’s just… I’m going to miss you so much.”
Twilight pushed away the cider Applejack offered her. “Everypony, listen up. I’m going to go talk to Fluttershy, I know what’s wrong.”
“But darling,” Rarity stepped in front of the door, “you just returned!”
“I know,” Twilight said. The door glowed pink and opened. “And what better thing to do upon my return than help a friend?” She left, closing the door behind her.
Before anypony could even let out a sigh, there was a crash. Rarity, Applejack, and Spike looked back to see Pinkie Pie on the floor, covered with a fallen layer cake.
Fluttershy’s house was dark as Twilight approached, crossing the babbling stream and walking up the path. She knocked on the door, unsure if Fluttershy was even home.
Twilight pushed open the door, stepping in quietly.
The main room was empty. Twilight crept up the stairs.
“Fluttershy?” she whispered.
She pushed open the door to Fluttershy’s room, to see a quivering yellow pegasus curled up on the bed.
“Fluttershy? Are you alright?” Twilight said as she went over to the bedside.
“Twilight! You’re home!” Fluttershy sniffed and wiped her eyes. “I didn’t expect you back.”
“Fluttershy, what’s wrong? Why are you crying?”
“Oh, no reason Twilight, I wasn’t crying,” Fluttershy smiled. “I was just, sleeping. I had a very busy day.”
She frowned. “Oh, Twilight, I’ve just missed you and Rainbow Dash so much. And Rainbow Dash has been living with Spitfire and—,”
Twilight put her hoof to Fluttershy’s mouth.
“Shhh,” Twilight pressed against Fluttershy gently. “You really love her, don’t you?”
Fluttershy nodded, wiping a tear from her eye.
“Would you like to come with me to Cloudsdale tomorrow?” Twilight asked. “We could visit Rainbow Dash.”
Fluttershy buried her head into her pillow. “Oh, I don’t think I could do that.”
“I just don’t want to see her with Spitfire, okay?”
Twilight hugged Fluttershy.
“Oh, Fluttershy,” she laughed, “You don’t even know for sure if they’re together or not.”
“Well, no,” she mumbled. “But I can feel it!”
Twilight rubbed Fluttershy’s back and walked to the door.
“Try not to let it eat you up inside. If you need anything, or if you change your mind, I’m at the library,” she said as she left.
Fluttershy sighed and rolled over.
The library still bustled with excitement when Twilight returned, as everypony had had her fair share of cider. Rarity, Applejack, and Pinkie Pie were on the ground, giggling over nothing, and Spike had fallen asleep in the corner.
“Everypony listen up!” Twilight announced to the giggling ponies as she closed the door behind her. “I really appreciate your welcome home, but I have an assignment from Princess Celestia to which I must attend.”
“Ooh! Princezz businezz!” Rarity snorted.
“Looks like somepony’s had one glass too many!” Applejack swatted at Rarity.
“Listen everypony,” Twilight sighed. “I’m leaving tomorrow afternoon for Cloudsdale.”
“Cloudsdale?” Applejack asked. “How’re ya gonna get there, Twi?”
“Balloons!” Pinkie Pie burst with laughter and fell over.
“I know of a spell,” Twilight said, shaking her head at Pinkie Pie. “But, I’d like to ask that you all leave—,”
“Sorry ‘bout that,” she laughed.
“So uncouth!” Rarity scoffed.
“I’ll uncouth you!”
“I am sure you’d love to,” Rarity winked, making Applejack blush.
“Kiss her!” Pinkie Pie screamed from the floor.
“On second thought, I’ll just borrow the Boutique,” Twilight said, lifting her saddlebags onto her back and heading out the door.
Twilight pushed open the door to the Carousel Boutique, emitting a glow from her horn to light the dark room. The glow left her horn, slowly drifting across the room, splitting into several parts, each of which made its way to a lamp, illuminating the room. She set down her saddlebag on the table, pulling out her book on Deep Magic.
Rarity won’t mind if I use the boutique for the night, Twilight thought as she started to flip through the pages, combing for a certain spell.
“Rarity? Is that you?” called a voice from up the stairs. Twilight jumped, startled. She was unaware anypony else lived with Rarity. She turned, took a candle, and slowly made her way up the stairs.
“Hello?” She called out.
Twilight turned a corner, entering a small bedroom. Tucked into the covers was Rarity’s little sister, a violet-and-pink-maned, white-haired unicorn filly.
“Sweetie Belle!” Twilight smiled. “I’m sorry, did I wake you? I didn’t know you were living with Rarity right now.”
Sweetie Belle sighed, and rolled over. “Yeah, I guess she didn’t tell you about it.”
“Is something wrong?” Twilight asked, approaching the bedside.
“Nah, don’t worry about it.”
“Hmm,” Twilight thought to herself. “Well, I’m sorry for waking you Sweetie Belle. Rarity’s back at the library, I just needed some quiet to perform a bit of a difficult spell.”
Sweetie Belle shifted.
Sweetie Belle rolled over again, the covers falling down below her torso. As Twilight reached to tuck the filly in, she saw it: where once had been Sweetie Belle’s left front leg, there was nothing but a scarred and stitched stump. Her eyes went wide in shock.
“It’s not polite to stare,” Sweetie Belle muttered, feigning sleep.
“What happened?” Twilight asked.
“I don’t wanna talk about it,” Sweetie Belle sighed.
“I’m sorry, I just didn’t know,” Twilight said, in shock. “Rarity never told me.”
“Of course she didn’t,” Sweetie Belle scoffed. “Rarity only talks about beautiful things.”
“Sweetie Belle, when did this happen?”
“A little after you left.” Sweetie Belle rolled over. “A runaway cart smushed my front leg, and then had to cut the whole thing off.”
A tear ran down her cheek.
“I’m sorry, Sweetie Belle.”
“It’s just not fair!” She yelled. “I don’t even have my cutie mark yet, and now I’ll probably never find a special talent. Not like this!”
She was crying. Twilight approached her bedside.
“Sweetie Belle, I can’t even begin to imagine what it’s like to deal with this, but I know that you’ll still be able to go onto great things.”
“I won’t!” She huffed. “I’m gonna be stuck living here with Rarity taking care of me forever! And I’ll never get my cutie mark because I’ll never have a special talent!”
She wept. Twilight climbed up onto the bed and put her hooves around Sweetie Belle.
“Shh,” Twilight consoled, “Shh… It’s alright.”
“I’m sorry, Twilight; I just can’t handle it!”
“It’s okay, Sweetie Belle.” Twilight laid the filly against her. “It will take time, but you’re a strong unicorn and I know you’ll work through it.”
“I’m just so scared, Twilight.” She nestled into the unicorn who held her. “Things are never going to be the same.”
Twilight sighed. “You’re right,” she said, matter-of-factly. “They won’t. But change is an inevitable part of life, and you have no choice but to adapt to it—whether you’re ready or not.”
Sweetie Belle looked up to Twilight.
“I think Rarity hates me,” she said.
“Now I know that’s not true.”
“It seems like it!” She argued. “Since she’s had to take care of me all the time, she hasn’t been able to make as many dresses for everypony. It’s really starting to get to her, I think. Sometimes I wish that cart had just—,” she paused. “—I wish it’d just killed me.”
“Don’t say that!” Twilight said, in shock. “Rarity loves you! She’s just still getting used to all of this, just like you are.”
Sweetie Belle pouted. “It’s not the same for her.”
“Of course it’s not the same, Sweetie,” Twilight rubbed the back of her head. “But things are suddenly new and different for her, too. I know she loves you with all of her heart and could not be happier than to take care of her little sister while she recovers.”
Sweetie Belle pressed her head against Twilight’s chest.
“Will things ever be normal again?” She asked, looking up.
“Yes. They will,” Twilight smiled down at her. “It won’t be exactly the same, but it will all be normal again. You’ll go back to having adventures with Applebloom and Scootaloo. You’ll find your way into trouble again, too, and your friends will help you out of it. And just like always, you’ll come home every night to a big sister who loves you more than anything in the world.”
Sweetie Belle wept again, but this time the tears were not of sadness.
“And I’ll still get on that big sister’s nerves?”
“I know that for a fact,” Twilight laughed, watching Sweetie Belle smile and close her eyes.
Sweet and low, sweet and low
Wind of the Western Sea
Low, low, breathe and blow
Wind of the Western Sea
Over the rolling waters go,
Come from the dying moon and blow,
Under the silver moon;
Sleep my little one,
Sleep, my pretty one,
And Sweetie Belle slept. Twilight slid out of bed, tucking in the filly and planting a soft kiss upon her head. She blew out the bedside candle and carefully crept back down the stairs.
She opened her book, flipping through to the W section.
Wing Generation: Unlike the simplicity of limb regeneration, the specific spell of Wing Generation is of utmost difficulty. A comprehensive understanding of wing anatomy is imperative, in order to have the focus to create something from nothing. Even when conjured by the most skilled unicorns, Wing Generation has never yielded a result much longer than twenty-four hours, the longest recorded success of a Wing Generation spell to be one week. If done improperly, results can be disastrous. See Instructional Section WG for information on casting.
Twilight leafed to the necessary page and started to work.
Wing Generation requires a most specific tribute: the spell caster must first cut two incisions into his body where he intends either wing to appear. The wounds must be left open for the duration of the conjuring.
Perhaps I can skip that bit, she thought, but then recalled the words of Luna:
Deep Magic spells are tied to the pony who casts them, and will drain tribute from them, if they do not forfeit it up front.
She took a deep breath. Across the boutique, a drawer glowed violet and opened, a pair of Rarity’s sewing scissors floating through the air to Twilight. She turned to look at them.
“I’m sorry, Rarity.”
She closed her eyes, slowly moving the scissors towards her bare side. She shook from nervousness, but couldn’t find the power to hurt herself. The scissors dragged along her body, scratching a bit, but not even cutting the hair.
Twilight grit her teeth, realizing it would not be so easy. With all the bravado she could muster she took a leap of faith: she jabbed the scissors into her side as hard as she could.
She went immediately numb, and started to shake as her legs trembled. She bit down on the edge of the table before her, pushing the blood-covered scissors along her side, making a roughly wing-sized incision. Pulling out the scissors she collapsed on the floor. Twilight opened her eyes to see blood pooling around her.
“Halfway there,” she panted to herself, mustering the energy to keep going.
While still lying on the ground, she brought the scissors to the other side of her body and created another wing-sized laceration. Twilight growled as she finished, tossing the scissors across the room. She shakily pulled herself up to the table, trying to focus on the book.
Reprinted below is a comprehensive analysis of wing anatomy. Remember that it is imperative one understands this before attempting the necessary tribute.
Twilight groaned, closing her eyes.
She opened them immediately.
“This is no time to sleep, Twilight Sparkle!” She snapped at herself, focusing back on the written word.
Analyze the bone structure of the wing. There are seven main bones, which are single fused ossifications of smaller—
Everything turned to black.
“Well, what do we have here?”
Twilight opened her eyes, and looked up to see a dark blue pony standing before her.
“Princess Luna, how did you get here?” Twilight asked.
“How about you answer that for me?”
Twilight looked around at the boutique. But there was no boutique. There was no blood stained floor. There were no lacerations upon her body.
“We’re in a dream.”
“As with most of our meetings,” Luna japed. “But we do not have so much time, Twilight Sparkle.”
“What do you mean?”
“You are dying.”
“What?!” Twilight stared in disbelief.
“You are on the floor of the Carousel Boutique, bleeding heavily. I am certain you remember that,” Luna said.
“But how am I supposed to complete the spell if I’m asleep?” Twilight pulled herself to her hooves.
“This is where your teachings in Subconscious Magic come into use. You have witnessed the great power that is Deep Magic. Combat its power with subconscious magic: complete the spell in the dream state.”
“I don’t know if I can focus enough to give myself wings,” she cried out.
“You should have thought of that before paying tribute,” Luna laughed. “Let me give you some incentive.”
Twilight began to fall as the blackness around her became the sky. Luna disappeared upward as Twilight tumbled through the air. Her speed increased as she approached a nonexistent ground. She closed her eyes and focused, trying to feel wings on her sides. She imagined the way wings would feel, on her sides, the feathers brushing up against her body.
Twilight opened her eyes and looked back, but she was still just a unicorn. She groaned, and noticed Luna swooping around her.
“You can’t just imagine being winged! You must be winged!” Luna shouted over the sound of air blowing past them. “Clear out everything else!”
“I’m trying!” She shouted, closing her eyes again.
She cleared her mind, and ceased all movement—even breath.
For the second time, the world around her faded out. There was no more tickle of her mane blowing in the wind, and no rush of air to her face. Her limbs did not flop as she fell. There existed nothing in the universe except a singular Twilight Sparkle.
She focused on her body.
This my head, she thought as she moved it slowly. This is the head of Twilight Sparkle.
And these, she thought, lifting her hooves, are the hooves of Twilight Sparkle.
She continued the pattern, from head, to hooves, to horn, to mane, to tail, until finally…
And these, she thought, spreading her wings to their full length, are the wings of Twilight Sparkle.
“Twilight, wake up!”
Twilight moaned and shifted.
“Princess Luna, I think I—,”
“Twilight, are you okay?!” Rarity screamed. “There’s blood everywhere! You have—,” she stopped. “You have wings!”
Twilight opened her eyes, looking up to see Rarity in glow of the morning sun that shined through the boutique windows.
“Twilight, what happened last night?!” Rarity came over to Twilight as she rose, helping her to her hooves.
“I—,” Twilight stopped. She wasn’t quite sure. “I performed a very power spell.”
“All this blood!” Rarity whined. “Are you okay, Twilight?”
“Yes, Rarity, I’m fine,” she smiled. “I’m sorry I got blood all over your boutique, I just—,” she watched as Rarity’s attention went back to her wings. “I just had never done it before.”
“My dear, those wings!” Rarity ogled. “You’re an alicorn! In Celestia’s name, how did you do such a thing?”
Twilight looked back at her stunning wingspan, still not quite used to the feeling.
“Rarity, I wish I could stay and explain,” she closed her wings against her sides, accidentally knocking her book onto the floor, “but I’m not sure exactly how much time I have.” She went to close the book and noticed the passage:
Regeneration (limbs): The regeneration of limbs is perhaps the simplest of spells in the realm of Deep Magic, however it requires the utmost focus.
She tugged the page from the book, and folded it.
“I understand, my dear,” Rarity sighed. “You have business to attend to for the princess.”
“I’m sorry Rarity,” Twilight said, lifting her saddlebag onto her back, shifting her wings underneath it. “I wish I could help you clean up, but this is real important. I promise I’ll make it up to you.” She looked down at the folded paper that she held in the air beside her.
“It’s okay—I can clean everything up,” Rarity said. “When will I see you again, Twilight?”
“I don’t know. I’m not sure I’ll be coming back to Ponyville for a while.” Twilight made her way to the stairs.
Rarity twitched. “Wh-where are you going?”
“To see Sweetie Belle before I go.”
“How did you know she’s—,”
“She and I spoke last night,” Twilight turned to Rarity.
“I’m sorry,” Rarity lowered her head. “I should have told you sooner.”
“Maybe you should have,” Twilight said, coming back over to Rarity. “But what’s done is done, and you have a little sister who needs you more than anypony else in the world right now.”
“I feel dreadful, Twilight!” Rarity exclaimed in a whisper. “I want nothing but for her to be happy and recover, but—,” she lowered her head. “But nothing I had ever planned for included this.”
“Sweetie Belle said something similar,” Twilight said, lifting Rarity’s head with the gentle prod of her muzzle. “I think you should talk to her.”
Twilight turned and crept up the stairs, so as not to wake the sleeping unicorn filly. She set down the folded paper on the table by Sweetie Belle’s bed, pulled the covers back over her, and left the boutique.
When improperly performed, malformed, incorrect, or even cursed limbs may generate in place of the desired limb.
Fluttershy awoke to the knocking on her door. She climbed out of bed and made her way downstairs. Yawning, she opened the door to see Twilight Sparkle.
“Oh, good morning, Twilight,” she smiled, rubbing her eyes.
“Hi, Fluttershy! I know it’s a bit early, but I was hoping you could help me with something.”
“Of course, Twilight! Anything at all!”
“Well, if you can’t come with me to Cloudsdale,” she grinned and spread her wings, “do you think you could teach me to fly there myself?”
Fluttershy’s eyes widened.
“Twilight! You have—,” she stuttered, “Wings!”
“I suppose this is a bit of a shock,” Twilight laughed. “It’s a rather difficult spell I performed last night, and I’m not sure just how long it’ll last. If you could help me figure out some flying basics, I would really appreciate it.”
“But Twilight, you know I’m not a very good flier,” Fluttershy said, embarrassed.
“You’re better than me,” Twilight sighed, showing off a bruise on her flank. “I took a bit of a tumble trying to fly out of Rarity’s Boutique earlier.”
“Oh my!” Fluttershy covered her mouth. “Of course I’ll help you Twilight. It’s just I’m no Rainb—,” she stopped. “I’m not as good as most ponies.”
“Well, um, I think the problem is that you’re not flapping them at the same time,” Fluttershy giggled, watching Twilight from the air.
“It’s so hard to keep coordinated!” Twilight groaned, trying to synchronize her wing motions as she stayed planted on the ground. “Why am I so heavy?”
“Try going slower,” Fluttershy instructed. “It’s not so much how hard you try but getting the wings to match up, I think.”
Twilight stopped and started over, slowly.
“That’s it, just flap them in unison.”
Twilight began to increase the speed as she flapped her new wings. Not focusing on power, but on maintaining uniformity, she began to lift of the ground.
“Oh yes! You’re doing it Twilight!” Fluttershy cheered.
She opened her eyes and looked down, seeing her hooves dangling above the grass.
“I’m doing it!” Twilight whooped, losing her concentration, and starting to wobble. She straightened back out.
“You’ll get used to it,” Fluttershy smiled. “And then you won’t have to think about it so much.”
Twilight focused, trying to raise herself to Fluttershy’s height.
“Very good! You’ll be soaring in no time!” Fluttershy giggled.
Twilight looked down as she reached the same height as Fluttershy, shaking nervously.
“Oh yes, it can be scary so far up,” Fluttershy flew over and wrapped her hooves around Twilight’s middle, making sure she didn’t fall. “But you’ll get used to that too, I think. Why, I don’t even think about it anymore!”
Twilight smiled, losing her sense of nervousness.
“Since you’re getting used to it now, why don’t you try to fly back and forth a bit?” Fluttershy instructed. “Um, fly to that tree maybe?”
Twilight shakily started to maneuver herself forward, making her way through the air. She loved the way the wind felt blowing through her mane, and her confidence in flying grew.
“I think I’m really getting this,” Twilight laughed as she turned to Fluttershy.
With a dash of rainbow, Fluttershy went from smiling in the air to squirming on the ground, underneath a familiar pegasus.
“Hello, Fluttershy!” Rainbow Dash squealed, covering the pinned pegasus’ muzzle with short kisses.
“Dashie!” Fluttershy protested. “T-Twilight is—,”
Dash turned, her jaw dropping as she saw the hovering purple alicorn just a ways away from her.
“Twilight?!” She was agog. “You have wings!” Rainbow Dash immediately shot through the air, tackling Twilight to the ground.
Dash let off of Twilight, who stood and brushed herself off.
“Sorry, Twilight,” Dash smiled sheepishly. “I just—how did you—?”
“It’s a temporary spell,” she explained. “It’s just for the next couple of days, as I have some business in Cloudsdale and—,”
“You’re coming to Cloudsdale?!” Rainbow Dash beamed and shot up into the air, twirling with excitement. “This is awesome!”
Twilight laughed nervously. “Yes, well, I do have an assignment to attend to and—,”
“I know! You can come see the next Wonderbolts show! It’s the biggest yet, and it’s gonna be amazing!” Rainbow Dash squealed. “And you can come and stay with me n’ Spitfire, and—,” she stopped immediately realizing what she had said. She turned and looked to Fluttershy. “I mean, anyway, you can come and stay with me, and I’ll show you around Cloudsdale and—,”
Fluttershy ran immediately back to her house in tears. Dash gritted her teeth and inhaled sharply, turning back to Twilight.
“Look, Twi, I gotta—,”
“Go ahead,” she nodded, spreading her wings for some more practice in the meantime.
Dash sighed and flew over to Fluttershy’s cottage and knocked on the door.
“Hey Fluttershy!” She yelled through the door. “Hey, look, I’m sorry!”
The door opened a crack.
“Sorry for what?” Fluttershy said sternly through tears as she peered out.
“I—,” Dash stuttered. “I—,”
Fluttershy closed the door.
Dash sighed and went to the open window.
“Fluttershy, listen!” Dash pleaded. “I came here to invite you! I just got so excited over seeing Twilight and—,”
“And was I going to stay with you and Spitfire?” She yelled.
“I’m sure she’d like to hear about all those kisses you greeted me with and—,”
She coughed, choking on her tears. “Rainbow Dash, please just leave me alone!” She slammed closed the window.
Dash plopped to the ground, breathing heavily.
“Rainbow Dash?” Twilight approached with caution. “Is everything alright?”
She sniffed, but hid her tears. “Yeah, everything’s fine.”
“If you still want to, I’d love to stay with you and Spitfire in Cloudsdale,” Twilight said.
“I don’t want to be a third wheel or anything,” she laughed nervously.
“Of course not, Twilight!” Dash sprang up and hugged the alicorn. “I know Spitfire would love to meet you!” She flew up, Twilight struggling to follow behind just as quickly. “If we get there by tonight, I can show you around Cloudsdale, and then you can see the Wonderbolts show tomorrow morning!”
“Oh, Rainbow Dash,” Twilight thought for a moment. “I don’t know if I’ll be able to make the show if it’s tomorrow. The spell’s duration is variable and—,”
“Aww, c’mon Twilight!” Rainbow Dash pleaded, spinning back around to wait up for her slower companion. “This is our biggest show yet, and you can’t miss it! Not when you have wings!”
Twilight did the math in her head. “Well, the spell should last long enough. I cast it this morning, and the book said it lasts about a day.” She thought for a moment. “I think I’ll be able to see the show, since it means so much to you.”
“Whoopee!” Dash did a flip in the air. “C’mon, let’s go to Cloudsdale!” She started to speed off.
“Whoa, hold on!” Twilight called to her. “I’m not that fast!” She made a shaky swoop down to pick up her saddlebag, which she threw around her neck.
“Hold on, Rainbow Dash!” She yelled, trying to catch up to the speedy pegasus. “I’m coming!”
Twilight collapsed in a heap on the cloud, panting.
“C’mon, Twilight! It was only like five miles!”
She rolled over and Dash stepped over to her.
“It’s like you haven’t ever flown before!”
“I haven’t ever flown before!”
Dash laughed, helping Twilight up.
“My wings are killing me,” Twilight groaned, following Dash along the path of clouds.
“Don’t worry, Twi. We’re almost there!” She said with a smile.
Twilight looked up to the towering marble structures of Cloudsdale that rose over the hazy distance.
“Is it just me,” she panted, “or is Cloudsdale even more beautiful when you have to fly five miles to get there?”
Dash laughed. “It’s not just you.”
They trotted across the cloud walkway to the marble staircase that rose to Cloudsdale. Rainbow Dash led Twilight through the market square that bustled with pegasi milling about through merchants’ booths. The alicorn amongst pegasi did not go unnoticed. Twilight avoided eye contact with the inquisitive ponies as she followed Dash through and out of the town square.
“Ugh,” Dash scoffed, as they upped a marble staircase, leading to a row of houses. “Some ponies have no manners.”
“It’s fine,” Twilight smiled.
Dash led Twilight up to one of the small row houses. She pushed open the door, and Twilight followed her inside.
“Spitfire! I’m home!” Dash shouted, closing the door. Twilight looked around: the room was small, but comfortable. The floors and walls were marble, just as most of the architecture in Cloudsdale, but a stone fireplace, a divan, and some rugs made it much more cozy.
“Hey Featherhead, welcome back!” A bright yellow pegasus, with a mane like fire, came into the room. She nipped at Dash’s flushed muzzle. “And who’s this?” She asked, turning to Twilight. “She’s not the pony you said you’d bring home.”
“Oh! Yes!” Dash blushed. “This is Twilight Sparkle, she’s a friend of mine.”
Spitfire nodded, eying up the alicorn.
“I’m Spitfire. ‘S’nice to meet you.”
“Hello Spitfire,” she smiled. “I’ve heard a lot about you.”
“Oh have you now?” Spitfire grinned at Rainbow Dash. “What has Dashie been telling you?”
Dash smiled nervously and gulped.
“Anyway, Twilight,” she stammered. “I guess I haven’t really said this before but uh—,” Dash searched for words. “Me n’ Spitfire have a—a sort of a thing.”
Twilight smiled at Dash’s embarrassment.
“Is that what you’re calling it now?” Spitfire laughed. “A thing?”
Rainbow Dash blushed even more.
“We’re a couple,” Spitfire said, nonchalantly.
“I suspected as much,” Twilight smiled. “I think it’s great that you two have both found somepony you love.”
Dash let out a sigh of relief.
“That wasn’t so bad, was it, Featherhead?” Spitfire nipped Dash’s ear and laughed.
“Anyway, Spitfire, I was gonna show Twilight around Cloudsdale,” Dash said, pulling her ears away.
“I assume you’re bringing her to the show tomorrow?”
“Actually, Spitfire, I’m here first and foremost on royal business,” Twilight explained. “I have an assignment from Princess Celestia.”
“Of course you’re royalty: you’re an alicorn.” Spitfire smirked.
“I’m actually not royalty,” Twilight blushed. “And I’m actually not an alicorn—,”
“Anyway,” Rainbow Dash interrupted, opening the door. “I’m gonna go show Twilight around Cloudsdale.”
“It was nice to finally meet you, Spitfire,” Twilight smiled.
“You too,” she winked. “So Dashie, is she gonna be staying with us tonight? ‘Cause if not then I’ll change into those socks you like—,”
Dash turned beet red as Twilight burst out laughing.
“No!” She blurted out. “Not tonight!”
“If you say so,” Spitfire winked again and closed the door.
“Sorry ‘bout that,” Dash blushed as she led Twilight back up the path.
“Don’t be so embarrassed,” Twilight nudged Dash. “I think you two are really cute together.”
“I just feel so bad about Fluttershy,” Dash said, lowering her head as she continued to lead Twilight down the road. “I feel like it’s really affected our friendship.”
Twilight thought back to comforting the quivering pegasus.
“I’ve been trying to get her to come visit Cloudsdale since I moved here,” Dash sighed. “But she’s been too mad about Spitfire to ever come.”
“She seems to really love you,” Twilight said.
“I know,” Dash nodded. “I love her too. But she’s my friend. I mean, we fooled around a bit before, but it was never anything too serious. Of course, I still think about her and all that but—” She took a deep breath and ruffled her feathers. “—but I’m with Spitfire now! Even though sometimes I wish—No, I shouldn’t be saying all this.”
“It’s alright,” Twilight said. “I know you just need to get it off your chest. But perhaps you should try talking to Fluttershy.”
“I’ve tried talking to Fluttershy!” Dash groaned, heading down the set of stairs to the market square. “But she’s just so mad at me about everything, I can’t get through to her!”
Dash stopped in the middle of the square, looking around.
“Oh wait, where are we going?” She mused, looking around. “Well, you’ve been to the stadium before. There’s not too much to see in the square here—,”
“Actually,” Twilight interrupted, “I’d really like to see the Celestial Pantheon if you could show me that.”
“That?” Dash shrugged. “Eh, that’s just some dumb old temple thing. Not really worth seeing.”
“Please?” Twilight smiled. “I’m really looking forward to seeing it!”
“Sure, I guess.”
Dash turned around and led Twilight to the other end of the market square. They made their way up a large set of stairs, and they passed underneath a marble arch into the Celestial Pantheon. Following Dash inside, Twilight noticed inset carvings on the walls, each one displaying a famous battle in ancient Equestrian history. The carvings were old, and some had been chipped away from time.
Dash yawned, as she and Twilight reached the end of the aisle, and she first saw it: the worn stone statue of Princess Celestia. At its base was a plaque:
Posthumously dedicated to Sovereign Thunder, who died at its base.
She stepped forward to look over the statue. A glint of light caught her eye, and she raised her head to see two shining blue gemstones, which shined as brightly as they did hundreds of years before.
“The Crystal Eye of Celestia!” She exclaimed. It was just as Celestia had described.
“Yeah, it’s kinda cool, I guess.” Dash shrugged. “But it’s just some gems.”
Twilight looked around the pantheon, looking for any sort of guard.
“Most ponies don’t come here?”
“No,” Dash said. “It’s just a tribute thing. I don’t know anypony who ever comes here.”
Twilight remained silent, focusing on the statue’s shining left eye. It’s glow almost seemed irregular.
“You sure you don’t wanna see the Cloudsdale Library?” Dash asked. “Or something cool, like the pegasus racetracks, or—,”
Twilight snapped her attention away.
“Sure, Rainbow Dash.” Twilight smiled, her gaze drifting back to the left eye. “Wherever you want to go, I’d love to see.”
Twilight yawned as she and Dash came in from the dark to the small row house.
“I didn’t realize Cloudsdale was so big,” she said, stretching her wings. “I hope I never have to fly this much again!”
“It’s great once you get used to it,” Dash closed the door and Twilight plopped down onto the divan, before the fire.
“Hey, Featherhead, welcome home,” Spitfire came around the corner as Dash sat on the rug. “Had fun?”
“Oh yeah, I showed Twi all around Cloudsdale.”
“It’s a beautiful city,” Twilight agreed.
“Great,” Spitfire smiled. “So Dashie, I was thinking we could set Twilight up on the divan for the night. If that’s alright with you, of course.” She looked at Twilight.
“Oh yes, that’s perfectly fine.” Twilight smiled.
“Sorry I don’t have anything better,” Spitfire looked at Dash. “We only have one bed and Rainboom here didn’t exactly bring home the pony I expected.”
“Hey, you know, it’s getting late!” She said quickly. “We should probably be getting to bed. Big show in the morning, you know.”
“Good idea, Featherhead,” Spitfire leaned into Dash. “As long as Twilight doesn’t mind.”
“Of course not,” Twilight laughed. “This is all perfectly comfortable. Thank you both for letting me stay in your home.”
Spitfire grinned and nipped Dash’s ear, making her squeak.
Spitfire brought out some blankets and pillows for Twilight.
“I know Dash went to get these, but she lay down and fell asleep.” Spitfire laughed, making the divan.
“That’s alright,” Twilight smiled. “I know she’s real tired and has a big show tomorrow.”
Spitfire started to blow out the candles throughout the room.
“It’s a big one, alright,” she laughed. “You’re gonna love it.”
Twilight crawled under the covers of the divan, snuggling up onto the pillow as Spitfire extinguished the final candle.
“Night Twily,” Spitfire whispered, planting a kiss upon Twilight’s cheek.
Twilight sat up, but Spitfire had gone to bed.
That was odd, she thought to herself.
She listened to the silence, hearing nothing from the rest of the house. Content, she stepped out of bed, and lifted her saddlebag, draping it over her back. Twilight crept as quietly as she could, opening the door and disappearing into the night.
“Well, my Faithful Student, I have good news.” Celestia stood, coming over to Twilight. “You’re going back to Ponyville immediately!”
Twilight’s heart sank.
“Princess Celestia, what did I do wrong?” she pleaded, “I’m sorry I’ve missed so many combat lessons, I just—,”
Celestia laughed, and interrupted. “I’m sorry Twilight, let me explain before I scare you any further. I’m sending you back to Ponyville with a task to complete.”
“A task?” Twilight asked.
“Yes,” Celestia nodded. “There’s something of mine that I need you to acquire.”
“What is it, Princess Celestia?”
Celestia sat down beside Twilight.
“In Cloudsdale, there is a rather large statue of—,” she laughed, “Well, of me. It is a weathered old stone, but the crystal eyes of the statue glow this brilliant bright blue. I need you to get for me the left eye.”
“But why, Princess Celestia?” Twilight asked. “You’re the princess! I’m sure you could have any gem you wanted.”
“I know that,” Celestia rubbed Twilight’s back gently. “But of all the gems I could want, this is the gem that I need.”
“Hmm,” Twilight thought. “But Princess, how will I get to Cloudsdale? The only wing spell I know is a bit of a crock, and it’s a mess to coordinate a hot air balloon—,”
“How about you take my book on the train,” Celestia smiled. “I am sure you will find in it plenty of worthwhile spells.”
“Why do I need to go to Ponyville then?” Twilight asked. “I could just perform the spell here, and then go straight to Cloudsdale.”
“Because somepony else needs to go to Cloudsdale too, and I think you may be able to help her.”
Twilight lifted the chisel from her saddlebag, standing before the statue in the Celestial Pantheon. It glowed pink as she lifted it to the left crystal eye, and began to carefully chisel away at the stone. She raised her saddlebag to sit below the head of the statue, ready to catch the crystal as it fell.
After about a minute, with one final chip of the chisel, the blue shining crystal fell from the stone statue, into Twilight’s saddlebag. She smiled, closing the bag and draping it again over her back. She turned to leave.
“So that’s what you came to Cloudsdale for,” Spitfire smirked, standing in the entrance to the pantheon.
“Spitfire!” Twilight shook. “It’s not what it looks like, I—,”
“I heard you get up and followed you all the way here,” Spitfire grinned as she came down the aisle towards Twilight. “It’s exactly what it looks like, Twily: You came to Cloudsdale to steal the Crystal Eye of Celestia.”
Twilight lowered her head.
“It would be such a shame if Dash’s friend was arrested before she could even see the Wonderbolts show,” Spitfire came close to Twilight.
“What are you saying?” Twilight looked up.
“Well,” Spitfire pressed her muzzle against Twilight’s head. “You’ve obviously noticed how empty the Celestial Pantheon is at night.” She started to chew on Twilight’s ears. “Perhaps I could keep my mouth shut if you did some things for me.”
Twilight stepped back, aghast.
“Spitfire! You’re with Rainbow Dash!”
“Meh,” she shrugged. “Dashie’s soooo prude!” She laughed. “And besides, what Featherhead doesn’t know won’t hurt her.” Spitfire brushed up against Twilight, feeling her warmth.
Twilight stepped back again, her horn beginning to glow pink.
“Spitfire, if you come closer to me again, I’ll have no choice but to use force.” Twilight warned. “Think about what you’re saying! This isn’t right!”
“Use force, eh?” Spitfire laughed. “I’m afraid I might like that too much.” She came forward and pulled Twilight into an intimate nuzzle. Twilight’s eyes widened, the pink glow that came from her horn shooting instantly in every direction, engulfing her and Spitfire.
And then everything turned to black.
“It’s odd to be on the other side of it at first, isn’t it?”
Twilight opened her eyes. She was in the ballroom, at the Grand Galloping Gala.
“What?” She felt woozy.
“Focus Twilight,” Luna said, putting her hoof around the wobbly unicorn. “This is an excellent and incredibly interesting lesson for you.”
“Luna,” Twilight looked around. “I’m dreaming again!”
“For once, you are not!” Luna laughed. “You accidentally performed an impressive bit of magic just a moment ago, and you now have the opportunity to be the intruder in the dreams.”
Twilight looked around the ballroom. It wasn’t as bright as she remembered.
“What are you doing here, Princess?”
“What I always do, Twilight. Following you around.” Luna giggled and nudged Twilight’s side. “But I think I’ll let you alone this time. Don’t worry about getting too close to Spitfire—she won’t notice.”
And then Luna was gone.
“Hey, I know you!”
“Excuse me?” Twilight turned to see Spitfire and Rainbow Dash.
“You’re the pony that saved us in Cloudsdale and won the Best Flyer Competition,” Spitfire pointed to Dash.
“Hey, yea!” Dash smiled. “Name’s Rainbow Dash.”
“Well, Rainbow Dash,” Spitfire grinned. “Looks like your skills saved us again.”
The images of the Gala melted away. Twilight suddenly stood in front of Pony Joe’s Donut Shop. She watched as all of her friends walked out of the shop, Spitfire running up to Rainbow Dash on the tail end.
“Hey Rainbow Dash,” Spitfire said, “I’ve been looking for you.”
“You’ve been looking for me?” She asked, blushing.
“Yeah, I think you’re pretty cool, ya Featherhead.” Spitfire laughed, planting a peck on Dash’s cheek. “Find me if you’re ever in Cloudsdale. We’ll spend some time together.”
Pony Joe’s melted away. Twilight suddenly stood within Spitfire and Dash’s home.
“Dash, do you still have feelings for her?”
Spitfire and Dash came into the room in a huff, and Twilight ducked behind the divan.
“I don’t!” Dash yelled, going to the door. “She’s just my friend!”
“You call her name while you sleep,” Spitfire said, looking over to the divan. She raised her brow.
Spitfire and Dash’s house melted away. Twilight suddenly sat on the sideline of the Cloudsdale Stadium. Spitfire, Dash, and the rest of the Wonderbolts flew in, getting ready for practice.
“Hey Spitfire, is it cool if I invite Fluttershy to stay with us and see the show this weekend?” Dash asked as she stretched her wings.
“Stay with us?” Spitfire playfully swooped past Dash. “Are we talking stay with us, or… stay with us?” She laughed.
“N-no!” Dash blushed. “I mean, I don’t know what she’d want, but she’s just my friend!”
Spitfire looked over.
“What’s she doing here?” Spitfire said, pointing straight to Twilight on the sideline.
Cloudsdale Stadium melted away. Twilight suddenly stood in the entrance of the Celestial Pantheon. Her eyes went wide as she saw herself and Spitfire in front of the statue.
“Spitfire! You’re with Rainbow Dash!” Dream Twilight said, aghast.
“I know,” Spitfire stepped back, and lowered her head. “But she’s not really into the relationship. And neither am I.”
Twilight and her doppelganger both tilted their heads.
“What do you mean, Spitfire?” Dream Twilight asked, moving closer.
“She’s in love with that Fluttershy,” Spitfire sighed and turned away. “She says she’s not, but I know it’s true.” She furrowed her brow as she saw a second Twilight in the entrance to the pantheon.
“Twilight!” Spitfire yelled. “You’ve been spying on me!”
“Wait, no—,” Twilight said.
“Liar!” Spitfire interrupted. “It’s some alicorn magic! I knew I couldn’t trust you!” Spitfire began to fly towards Twilight, a gleam of anger in her eyes.
Twilight was interrupted by the collision, during which everything turned to black.
Twilight opened her eyes, the sun shining bright through the entrance of the Celestial Pantheon. She lifted herself up, groaning at her sore side. She looked around: Spitfire was gone, and so was her saddlebag. She sighed.
“Who soars through tornadoes and sudden jolts?!” Twilight heard a call off in the distance.
The show was starting! She ran as fast as she could out of the pantheon, galloping through the market square, all the way to Cloudsdale Stadium.
“And the newest member of the Wonderbolts,” the announcer called, as Twilight made her way through the crowd to her cloud in the first row. “Rainbow Dash!”
Just as Twilight sat down in her seat between two pegasi, Rainbow Dash, dressed in the blue Wonderbolt uniform, swooped into the stadium. Everypony cheered as she performed several flips through the air. Dash made a point to wave to Twilight as she flew by the crowd.
All six of the Wonderbolts shot into the air in unison, each one breaking off after the other, creating a fabulous jet stream behind them. Four of them then came back down, the trail of clouds behind creating a “WB” in the air, and Rainbow Dash next to it formed a Rainbow “!”. Spitfire broke off from the group and flew in front of the crowd.
“How ya doin’, everypony?” She shouted. Everypony cheered as each Wonderbolt lined up behind her. “How ‘bout we start this show with some speed?!”
As she spoke, Fleetfoot, Highwinds, and Lightning Streak shot up into the air behind her, swirling entwined with each other as they flew as one being. Rainbow Dash, Wave Chill, and Spitfire all flew down to the sidelines while the other Wonderbolts performed. Fleetfoot, Highwinds, and Lightning Streak came back down, still flying in an entwined whirlwind, flying in circles around the stadium, right over the audience. On cue, Wave Chill flew out from the sidelines and seamlessly joined the Wonderbolt whirlwind as it circled over the audience.
“Mind the wind direction. Don’t crash on entry this time, Featherhead,” Spitfire grinned and nestled against Dash as they watched the other Wonderbolts do their routine.
“That was one time!” Dash pouted as Spitfire flew off, joining the circling whirlwind with ease, to the awe of the audience.
“Excuse me, are you alright?” The pink pegasus sitting next to Twilight asked.
“Hm?” Twilight turned. “I’m fine, why?”
“Your wings!” She pointed.
Twilight turned her head back to look at her wings: the feathers started to molt into ash, and the bones shriveled and crumbled.
“Oh no!” Twilight gasped. She got to her feet, but immediately screamed as she fell through the cloud.
Dash took a deep breath and prepared herself. Just as she readied herself for entry, she heard an out-of-place scream. She turned her head to look as she shot off. From the corner of her eye she saw Twilight, plummeting toward the ground as she screamed in terror. With a double take, Dash changed direction immediately and started to race towards Twilight as fast as she could.
She grit her teeth, unable to fly quite as fast as she needed; Twilight had already started to fall before Dash noticed, and now there was considerable distance between them. Dash shut her eyes as the ash of Twilight’s shriveled wings briefly clouded the air.
Dash coughed, and then opened her eyes as the ash cleared, only to see Twilight even farther below than before. She furrowed her brow and increased her speed, flapping her wings faster. Twilight got closer, and Dash got faster. As the wind picked up against Dash’s direction, she flapped her wings faster, wobbling. She got closer and closer to Twilight as the ground approached below both of them. Closing her eyes, Dash stretched her hooves out in front of her and reached to grab Twilight.
As she pulled Twilight safely against her body, she suddenly felt a twinge in her right wing. It suddenly seized up and ceased flapping. As the other wing kept flapping, Rainbow Dash began to spiral out of control. She held tight onto Twilight as they both plummeted through the air.
“I—I can’t get my balance!” Dash shouted, squirming as she tried to even out through the air, both of her wings waving randomly with the wind. She looked to see the approaching ground and gulped. She pulled her wings taut against her sides, screaming through the pain of moving her seized-up wing. Attempting to stop wobbling, she aligned her head straight toward the ground.
“Rainbow Dash!” Twilight shrieked as they evened into a straight fall, the ground getting ominously closer. Pulling Twilight nearer, Rainbow Dash inhaled a determined breath and grit her teeth. She spread her wings to the full wingspan, grimacing at the pain of her injured wing in the wind.
Using the drag on her wingspan, Dash did her best to slow their fall. As the growing sight of the ground flashed before her, Dash leaned forward, bringing her and Twilight into a glide. Dash did her best to orient her back parallel with the ground, holding Twilight tight against her stomach.
“Brace yourself!” Dash screamed, as her back met the ground with a loud crash. Dash slid and spun along the grass, her wings being torn apart as the friction slowed her down quickly. Through all the pain, she still held a vice grip on Twilight. The sliding ceased as they crashed against a tree, Dash coming to a complete stop and Twilight flying out of her grip, landing a few yards away.
Twilight took a deep breath and pulled herself to her hooves. Her whole body ached, and she was covered in bruises and cuts.
“Rainbow Dash?” She called, slowly walking forward.
“Twi,” came a whisper from behind a tree. Twilight gasped as she turned the corner, seeing Dash in a heap against the tree trunk, her wings cracked and destroyed, her body mangled and bleeding.
“Rainbow Dash! Sweet Celestia—,” her legs bucked under her at the sight.
“Twi,” Dash coughed. “Are you okay?”
“Yes, Rainbow Dash, I—,” she lay down beside Dash. “You saved my life.”
Dash smiled. Twilight had seen that same beam before: on the face of a pony who had just achieved her dream of becoming a Wonderbolt.
“I’m still the fastest of ‘em all,” she let out another small cough, as she breathed heavily.
Twilight leaned in, moving closer to Rainbow Dash.
“Is somepony coming, Twi?”
She didn’t know. “Yes,” she smiled, looking into Dash’s eyes. “Somepony’s on the way, and we’re gonna get you to the hospital so you can get all fixed up.”
Dash closed her eyes.
“Guess I have some reading ahead of me then,” she whispered, laying her head back against the tree. She coughed and a few drops of blood splat onto Twilight’s face.
“I’m sorry, Twilight,” Dash whispered in embarrassment.
“It’s okay.” She laid her warm head underneath Dash’s chin. “Somepony is going to be here real soon.”
“I don’t think I’m gonna make it,” Dash looked stone-faced. “I just want to sleep.”
“No, Dash, don’t say that! It’s just going to be a few minutes before somepony finds us and—,”
“I can feel it, Twilight,” she strained to lower her head and touch Twilight’s forehead. “I’m just happy you’re okay.” She closed her tear-filled eyes.
Twilight shook too much to get to her hooves.
“Rainbow Dash—,” she choked out.
The pegasus did not move. Frozen as stone was the smile on her face and the tear that rolled down her cheek.
Twilight broke down into tears, pushing her head against the fading warmth of Dash’s body.
On this day, the brightest light in my life has burnt out. –S.S.
With a wisp of memory, Twilight looked up to the stone face of her fallen friend. She sniffed and attempted to focus, a glow of pink emitting from her horn. The glow engulfed her and Rainbow Dash as she focused. She let the world around her slip away as she attempted to pour into Dash all of her heart and soul. Everything turned to black as she could feel life and energy draining from her.
Twilight looked up. Before her in the nothingness stood Rainbow Dash, just as fresh and alive as she had ever appeared.
“Rainbow Dash, I—,”
“I know what you’re doing,” Dash said with curtness. “Stop. It’s not worth it.”
“But Rainbow Dash, I’m the reason this happened to you!
“No you’re not,” Rainbow Dash said, coming closer to Twilight. “And I don’t want you to ever think that again, you hear?”
“I know I have the power to bring you back, Rainbow Dash!” Twilight fought through sobs. “Just let me try!”
“Twilight,” Dash smiled and pressed against the distraught unicorn. Twilight felt a living warmth, that just moments before had been absent. “I’m never going to really be gone. I’ll be with you as long as you still remember me.”
Twilight looked up and buried her muzzle into Dash’s mane.
“But how can I ever grasp that you won’t return?”
Dash sighed, and put a hoof around Twilight.
“I guess that’s not so easy to say. But you know, it’s something everypony has to go through.” She pulled Twilight close to the beating of her heart. “You may never quite feel the same way again, but you’re a strong pony. I know you’ll make it through this.”
“Rainbow Dash—,” she choked, “—I’m going to miss you so much.”
“I know,” she embraced the trembling unicorn as if she were merely a filly. “And I’ll miss you, too. But I know that someday we’ll be together again. Beyond our lives there is a great white plain, where you, me, Fluttershy, Pinkie Pie, Rarity, and Applejack will all meet again. And things will go back to just how they were before, and we’ll be together eternally. How does that sound?” She wiped a tear from Twilight’s cheek.
“That doesn’t sound so bad at all,” Twilight smiled.
Rainbow Dash leaned down and nuzzled Twilight.
“Never forget, Twilight: all of you guys are the best thing that could have ever happened to my life. I love you.”
She let Twilight out of her embrace, smiling as she turned to ash, blowing away with a gust of wind.
And then there existed in the universe only a singular Twilight Sparkle.
Her friends decided to lay Rainbow Dash to rest in a field of flowers. It was impossible to count the number of ponies who attended, standing in mournful rows. From everypony in Ponyville, to Dash’s friends in Cloudsdale, to the countless fans of the Wonderbolts who trekked from every corner of Equestria, the meadow on the edge of town filled to the brim with ponies who arrived to mourn or pay tribute to the fallen mare.
Spitfire and Fluttershy brought a small, white cloud to the ground upon which Twilight delicately laid Rainbow Dash’s body. Twilight lead the procession through the crowd of sobbing ponies. Each Wonderbolt saluted as their fallen comrade passed. Rarity stood with Sweetie Belle, holding her closer than she had ever before. Beside them stood Applebloom and Applejack, both with heads lowered in mourning.
As Dash’s body passed Scootaloo she could no longer keep composure, collapsing to the ground. Fluttershy stepped from the procession, letting Spitfire continue alone, as she comforted the quivering filly who had always been like a little sister to Dash. Fluttershy could not even fight her own tears, but her warmth against Scootaloo made both ponies feel a little less alone.
Pinkie Pie and Spike stood together near Applejack. Pinkie’s look consisted only of shock, the happy-go-lucky pink pony unable to conceive that her friend would not return. Spike sat, his face buried in his hands. He was not shedding tears, but could no longer lift himself upright.
Spitfire and Twilight reached the end of the procession, the cloud that carried Rainbow Dash floating lazily before everypony. Twilight turned and looked to Spitfire, staring into her eyes for the first time since the pantheon.
Her face was serious, almost stern. She aired a sense of professionalism about her, as if her duties in the procession were a final tribute to her lost love. Her eyes screamed weakness, however. As she and Twilight shared a moment, tears began to well in her eyelids. Spitfire nodded, and Twilight did, too. Spitfire moved aside and Twilight stepped forward, standing in front of Dash’s body.
“Everypony,” Twilight began, choking up momentarily. “We have reached a day that nopony could ever have imagined would come.”
Fluttershy held Scootaloo close.
“Rainbow Dash said something to me before she died. She said, ‘I’m never going to really be gone. I’ll be with you as long as you still remember me.’ No truer words have been spoken by anypony. Rainbow Dash will always be with us as long as we keep her in our hearts.
“There is no way for legacy to replace the magic of a life. Rainbow Dash touched all of us, and made us all better ponies through her friendship. And I know that she believed each and every one of you did the same for her. She loved her friends more than anything.
“Somewhere far beyond Equestria there is a silver cloud upon which Rainbow Dash now sleeps, lazing away an eternal summer afternoon. And then, in the light of the sunset sky she will rise to fly once more, forever soaring against the wind. A flip, a twist, a twirl—putting on a show.”
But for no audience.
Twilight turned to face Rainbow Dash’s body, looking to that empty smile.
“I love you too, my friend.”
She closed her eyes and her horn glowed pink. The aura left her horn, surrounding Rainbow Dash’s body and lifting it into the air. Everypony watched as the sun shined upon the fallen pegasus. Twilight focused the spell, and with a spectacular rainbow shot of light, Rainbow Dash became ash, blowing off in every direction, to float forever amongst the clouds.
And then, there came an unexpected round of applause. Everypony clapped, cheering the spectacular display. Rainbow Dash had performed one final Sonic Rainboom. Though as everything must come to an end, the cheering ended and a silence once again befell the mourning crowd.
The ceremony began to disperse, heartbroken ponies reluctantly returning to life as they knew it. As Twilight turned to go rejoin her friends, Spitfire stopped her.
“Twilight,” she said. “You did Dash an amazing justice. She would not have been happier with how you sent her off.”
Twilight did her best to smile.
“No, thank you, Twilight,” Spitfire came closer. “I know there’s no way to apologize for my actions, but—,”
“Please,” Twilight interrupted. “Let’s just pretend it never happened.”
Spitfire shook her head.
“No, that won’t help anything,” she said. “I was stupid. I didn’t realize what I had, and now she’s gone.” Spitfire choked. “Look, Twilight, I want you to know I am seriously sorry for what I did to you.”
“I forgive you, Spitfire,” Twilight said, brushing up against the pegasus.
“Thank you, Twilight,” she half smiled. “It means a lot. Given all that happened.” She sighed. “Just… Let’s not let it keep us from being friends in the future.”
“Agreed,” Twilight nodded.
“And I have something for you,” Spitfire said. “Your saddlebag. I took—uh—,” she hesitated. “You left it by the statue in pantheon, and I didn’t want anypony to steal it while you were asleep. So I dropped it off with Spike in the library earlier today.”
Twilight raised her brow.
“Everything’s still inside.” Spitfire lowered her head. “Everything.”
The doors to the Entrance Hall opened as a small, purple unicorn entered the castle. She walked in silence, down the long aisle toward the raised thrones at the other end of the hall. Her sudden and unannounced presence caught the attention of the two Princesses who stood above, addressing members of the Royal Guard.
“Twilight Sparkle,” Celestia called, diverting her focus to her student’s unannounced arrival.
“There is a darkness that surrounds her,” Luna said with concern.
Twilight continued to move forward down the long aisle in complete silence. Celestia dismissed the Royal Guard members. She and Luna came down from the balcony, both dashing to Twilight.
Twilight opened her saddlebag and pulled from it a blue gemstone. It dropped to the floor with stunning force, landing between the three ponies.
“This,” Twilight said, her head lowered. “Was this worth it?”
She could not hold herself anymore and collapsed to the ground, breaking into tears. Celestia and Luna came to her sides to comfort her. The three ponies stayed there, a thousand silent words filling the great Entrance Hall. On the floor before them, the Crystal Eye of Celestia shined just as brightly as it did hundreds of years before.