THIS STORY IS A FAN-BASED PARODY OF THE SEASON 2 FINALE OF THE MY LITTLE PONY: FRIENDSHIP IS MAGIC SHOW OWNED BY HASBRO AND IS PROTECTED BY THE FAIR USE ACT. ALL CHARACTERS AND INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY BELONGS SOLELY TO THEM AND/OR LAUREN FAUST! =3
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WRITTEN BY CARDSLAFTER,
Writing aspirant and all around hammy ass…
BEST VIEWED THROUGH GOOGLE DOCS THANKS TO SILLY IMPORT TOOL BEING SKETCHY!
A gasp escaped her lips as a crack of thunder shook her awake, ominously marking the end of a dreadful nightmare. Her bleary eyes attempted to take in her surroundings, but the night was still young and the moon provided naught but the barest hint of light. Celestia let her eyes focus a little bit as she lifted herself up from her feather-soft bed. Her blessed sun felt far away, allowing her to discern the hour being just barely past midnight. With but a thought, the candles throughout her room lit themselves and the princess found herself once again wondering what it was like to have a good night’s sleep.
The storm that had interrupted her sleep began to intensify, lightning and rain both surging throughout Canterlot as its ruler slowly pulled herself from the bed and to her hooves. Fatigue clung to her, begging her to get more of her much needed rest, but as usual, nightmares drove her away from such a prospect. She only stumbled once as she made for the door thanks to the familiarity of this scenario. There was a time when she would have composed herself before leaving her chambers. That, however, was not to be the case this day. Nor had it been the case for the last several months whereupon Celestia had, night after night, found her slumber fraught with terror filled nightmares and an everlasting, egregiously frightful storm.
“I was born in darkness!”
Haunting words and memories flooded her mind, threatening to drown her in sorrow and fear. Chrysalis. Luna. Cadence. The invasion of Canterlot. What was nearly the death of her beloved utopia.
The squall continued to assail Canterlot, growing in strength and fury as the blustering wind whipped and howled without showing any signs of relenting. As dangerous as it was, though, not a single guard sought her out to report the dreadful weather. No doubt this was credited by the fact that every night for the several preceding months had seen similar weather. One could even take a little comfort in the sense that this night would pale in comparison to some of its predecessors of late.
“I simply couldn’t imagine what it’s like to lose a sister. It must be absolutely dreadful. The LOVE you two must have shared!”
That harrowing laughter resounded in her mind more loudly than her own hooves resounding against the flagstones. Slowly, deliberately, she made her way to the ballroom. Though there was nearly no light to illuminate the grand venue, Celestia found it all too easy to see every last detail of the room around her. Everything from the groove in the floor where her crown, flung from her head during a short-lived battle, had dug into the reflective marble to the countless scorch marks left by her sister and niece. Even the charred remains of the dais, long since repaired, were all too clearly visible. Just standing in this room was all she needed to feel those dark memories rushing to her mind’s eye.
“You are nothing but a living deception that hides behind the faces of others! A coward that writhes in a filthy, sulfurous vat of lies! Even in a world of night and shadow would I find your ilk disgusting! You… You’ve taken from me that which is irreplaceable!”
Though the memory of Chrysalis was indeed a frightening one, it was instead her sister Luna that kept her awake at night. It was the harrowing scream of fury and hatred that escaped her little sister that forced her to the strawberry-rose wine that she kept stashed in the royal pantry. It was the fear of just how close Luna actually was to becoming Nightmare Moon again. Or perhaps it was the rising fear that Nightmare Moon may have truly been Luna all along.
Though she wanted no part of it, the memories began to coalesce about her, taking shapes and forms that only she could see. The shapes quickly took on definition and life as they began to speak, forcing her to relive the night of nightmares.
“Ah-Ah-Ah, not too fast you two,” Chrysalis tsk’d as she pulled Shining Armor away from Cadence with a bit of magic, “I’m not very curious as to see what you two could accomplish. I am no stranger to the power of love, after all. Besides, I’m practically bursting with the love I’ve already consumed and I really must watch my figure.”
Celestia watched fearfully from her glassy prison as Shining Armor was forcibly dragged to the Changeling Queen. The black creature gave her once-puppet a peck on the cheek, purposefully keeping her eyes locked on the frightened pink Alicorn. Shining Armor visibly recoiled from the false affection and snarled before taking a swing at her. Drained as he was, however, Shining Armor barely had the strength to level a swing at all, much less an accurate one. The Changeling Queen laughed at his efforts before aiming her horn at him and wrapping the Captain of the Guard in the same glue-like magic that held the Sun Princess and placing him on the ceiling beside her.
“Ah, there we are. A fine start to my collection of royalty,” Chrysalis gushed up at Celestia and Shining Armor, her smile ever-widening. “Think of the endless love I’ll be siphoning from each of you once I’ve all the pieces united!”
Unwilling to stand by and do nothing, Cadence began to gather every last iota of resolve within her. With a soft grunt, the lesser princess amassed all the strength she could muster before leveling her horn at the distracted Queen. It was slow and subtle at first, but Cadence was still an Alicorn Princess and therefore commanded power that was beyond any given pony of her age. The seconds ticked away and the ballroom was soon tinged in a rose light that carried a bizarre weight along with its wondrous glow.
“What…?” Chrysalis finally took note of the light slowly growing behind her and slowly turned around to gaze upon the would-be heroine.
“I… I won’t let you!” Cadence cried, her voice bristling with strain.
Chrysalis blinked several times before suddenly erupting into laughter. It was a false laughter, one meant to mock and ridicule the young princess attempting to oppose her.
“Y-You can’t be serious!” Chrysalis cried in between breaths, wiping at her eyes with a hoof before looking back at the princess, “You, Cadenza? Truly? The Princess of Love? Ahehe~! Well, I would say I eat ponies like you for breakfast… But that would be a little redundant, I think.”
Cadence had no more words for the fiend and responded only by unleashing every last ounce of magic she had in a single coherent beam of energy. It crashed into Chrysalis’ chest before washing over and past her like a jet of water blasting harmlessly against a wall of steel.
“Mmmm.” Chrysalis shut her eyes and let a slight shudder travel through her body as Cadence continued to pour everything into her attack. “I’ve never actually had the opportunity to bathe in love before, my hopeless little foal.”
Cadence’s steely expression dissolved into horror as she realized that she couldn’t hurt the Queen of Changelings. She faltered back a step, unsure of what to do; if she could even do anything. The insectoid queen cantered forward a few steps, closing the last of the distance between them and smiled down at the now cowering princess.
“How about I let you in on a tiny secret?” Chrysalis murmured, lifting a hoof to gently stroke the cheek of the trembling filly, “Did you know you’re going about it the wrong way, child? Mmhm~… It’s quite simple, really. To beat a love-devouring fiend, you’ll need to find it in your heart to be a tiny bit more…”
The Queen of Changeling’s horn suddenly flared a bright green light as she viciously swiped the backside of her hoof across Cadence’s cheek. “HATEFUL!”
Celestia felt a lump form in her throat as the fear took hold of her. Out of the corner of her eyes, she could see Shining Armor struggling against his prison, unwilling to watch and be docile as his beloved was subject to the cruelties of Chrysalis. His voice couldn’t escape his cage despite sound being able to enter, but Celestia knew exactly what he was feeling and what he was saying. Unlike Shining Armor, however, it was not Cadence’s pain that choked Celestia with fear, but rather the manipulative power that Chrysalis commanded.
“You need more rage!” Chrysalis seethed as she struck a second time, knocking Cadence down the stairs that ascended the dais upon which the bride and groom had stood.
“Your love makes you weak!” she spat, slowly cantering down the steps after the princess. “It makes you my prey! You especially are what I feast upon. Even your magic is so saturated with your devotion to love that it cannot harm me! More magic than nearly anypony in the world and all you are to me is a fine wine.”
A mewling cry forced its way out of Cadence as she forced herself back to her to hooves. She felt her right eye swell shut and pushed back down the sensation of nauseating fear. Lifting her gaze up the stairs, she watched as the dark queen strode her way with a brazen confidence. Chrysalis’ diabolic smile matched her arrogant gait, both serving to frustrate her defenseless victim. For such a creature to have brought Cadence such misery and then forcibly remind her just how helpless she was served only to infuriate the young Alicorn. The injustice burned like scalding water that wouldn’t wipe away. And because of this, Celestia was forced to watch with a breaking heart as hate filled the eyes of her darling Cadence.
“Aren’t we a fast learner,” Chrysalis cooed as she approached the fledgling Alicorn, “You know, they say Love and Hate aren’t truly opposites. That they are, in fact, closely related to one another. And if that is true, you just might have it in you to stop me. Isn’t that what you want? Hmm? Princess Mi Amore Cadenza?”
Cadence shrieked defiantly, flinging herself at the changeling with all the fury in the world before being struck back by the same hoof.
“I think I saw a bit of hesitation there,” Chrysalis tittered mockingly, “Perhaps you aren’t as strong as I thought. Or maybe you just aren’t as devoted to Love. Or maybe the wise pony was correct when he said, ‘Love does not hate.’ Oh, I do hope for your sake that he wasn’t so wise in the end.”
“S-Shut up!” cried the Princess of Love.
Celestia felt the trickle of moisture rolling down her face as Princess Mi Amore Cadenza surrendered herself to miserable rage. Chrysalis continued the abuse for hours on end, slowly twisting the filly’s mind with magic and malice. The torment was felt equally by those experiencing and those witnessing. What was once a beautiful paragon of love and kindness slowly became an exemplar of spite and callousness. The minutes ticked away and Cadence eventually began to twist in form to match the perversion of her heart. Her once colorful, flowing mane slowly fell flat and darkened to a blood red wave with streaks of black where royal purple had once been. Her tail frayed at the tips as her rose-tinted coat lost its color, fading to a bone-white that held not the slightest shine. Her dazzling violet eyes had become a soulless blue and sharp like that of a viper’s.
As the sun finally began to fall over the horizon, the Queen of Changelings took a step back to admire her work. The sinful pride shone in her eyes like a sinister fire as she circled her plaything. Cadence lay before her, barely breathing with her eyes half-lidded and staring at nothing.
“I confess, my dear, you lasted longer than any pony before you. All of seven hours of nothing but mental and physical torture. Poor thing. Though, I don’t think it would have taken nearly as long if you weren’t so resistant to magic. But! That’s what you get for being an Alicorn princess, I suppose.” Chrysalis leaned in with a chuckle, her appraising eyes roaming over Cadence as her laughter slowly tapered away. “I must say, though, you have never looked better. I’m almost jealous.”
“I... hate you,” croaked the tortured filly.
“I know,” replied her tormentor.
With that, Chrysalis conjured a chain around Cadence’s neck and leashed her to the nearest column before snapping a painfully tight brace over her snout. Too weak to resist, Cadence allowed herself to be dragged, bound, and muzzled like a beast before discovering a small, soft pillow mercifully slipped under her head.
“Dream of love this night, Princess,” commanded the queen before turning towards Celestia and taking flight to bring herself closer to her most valued prisoner. “I may yet need strength for the next event.”
“How could you?” asked Celestia.
She knew that Chrysalis would be able to hear her thoughts even if her voice could not escape the confines of her prison.
“Oh, it’s not usually that enjoyable, I’ll admit! In fact it’s often downright boring, Celestia!” Chrysalis giggled gaily as she casually leaned up against Celestia’s cocoon-like cage, “But I suppose that was something of an… exception. I do hope you enjoyed it as much as I did. No, no. Don’t thank me… I’m quite the performer, after all! I only did what was natural.”
The Princess of the Sun refused to look at Chrysalis. She knew that there was nothing to gain by corrupting Cadence; that the Changeling Queen done it all in an attempt to weaken her own resolve. Maybe it worked, maybe it hadn’t. What Celestia did know was that she still had hope as long as Luna and the Elements of Harmony were with their Bearers. This invasion was still far from over.
“Hah! The Elements of Harmony?! The Banished Princess?!” Chrysalis mirthfully barked as she threw her head back in laughter, “The Bearers of the Elements may have eluded capture thus far, but the precious Elements themselves are locked away in the vault you left them in! A pity you opted to be the only one able to open it, else the Bearers may have actually posed a threat to me. And I don’t see how your sister will save you! The moon may not be as far away as your impotent sun, but the distance is still quite appreciable. No, I don’t think there will be any ‘rescue’ coming for you, Celestia, and it would seem that you are entirely to blame for that.”
Celestia blinked in shock. The irony of the well-informed Changeling being behind on such major events was not lost on her. By some miracle, Chrysalis didn’t know that Luna had been set free of her own inner darkness by the Elements of Harmony and had returned to being the Princess of the Moon. She watched as her thoughts were slowly pulled away from her by the Changeling Queen and deigned only the slightest of smiles to grace her lips as her captor’s visage lost all semblance of arrogance, only to have it replaced with shock and confusion.
Celestia would never admit aloud just how wonderfully delicious the changeling’s fear and apprehension was. Nor would she ever confess to the sense of petty vindication that surged through her when Luna’s echoing roar was heard in the distance. How Chrysalis somehow missed Luna reclaiming her place as Princess of the Night, Celestia couldn’t guess. It would have seemed, though, that Luna’s natural introversion had paid off in ways that neither of them ever could have predicted.
“BEGONE, PARASITES! WE CAST YOU OUT OF OUR BELOVED CANTERLOT!”
The room trembled as sounds of destructive magic and shrieking Changelings filled the air. A pall of panic began to envelope the queen, but she cast it off as quickly as it fell over her. Her mind began to work furiously as she began to dig through Celestia’s mind for everything Luna was; what weaknesses she could exploit. Celestia didn’t resist her. Luna had no obvious weaknesses. She was a tad antisocial and even a little backward thanks to her time spent away from Equestria, but she was far too intelligent to be tricked now that she knew Changelings were about. And much to Chrysalis’ dismay, Luna was twice the combatant that Celestia was and ten times as aggressive. Taking Luna head on was out of the question partly due to the efforts she was forced to expend fighting off Celestia. With no time to spare, Chrysalis knew that siphoning love from her captives would not give her the necessary edge she needed to defeat Luna in combat. She had to resort to her specialty: Trickery.
“Hive Guard!” she shrieked frantically. She had to get creative, and quickly if she wanted to keep her perfect day of triumph. She paced back and forth, snarling as she bit down the urge to scream in annoyance. Through discipline alone she was able to prevent herself from falling into a furious rage directed at herself. Of all the things for her to miss, a third Alicorn princess was more than a little significant. Not once was she even mentioned in the week that Chrysalis had stood in as Cadence’s doppelganger. Even Celestia was more than a little surprised at this. Did nopony ever speak of Luna? All Chrysalis had to do was step out at night to meet the Night’s Princess but she had been busy undermining and draining Shining Armor. Now her entire, flawless plan was about to be thrown in her face all because of a detail so glaringly obvious that she had missed a forest whilst looking at the trees.
Within seconds a pair of her most trusted guard had appeared before her, stoic and obedient.
“Both of you take Princess Celestia’s form and fight to the death. The survivor is to take my form and await my orders!” she snapped before turning to look up at Celestia and Shining Armor still dangling from the ceiling. “As for you two, enjoy the show.”
With that, she covered the silent prisoners with an illusion to hide their presence. The struggle did not last long and ended with an eerily loud crunch. After receiving his next orders, the victor knew that his triumph over his less talented brother was likely only going to prolong the inevitable sacrifice he would come to make on behalf of his queen. Fully understanding his role, he changed his form to resemble that of Chrysalis’ before altering it further. Precious seconds passed as the Hive Guard took care to show signs of a long fought battle on his disguise while the real queen busied herself sealing his late brother’s form so as to keep it from reverting back to its natural state. Afterwards she cast a second illusion to hide the twisted Cadence and false Celestia corpse before taking a false form of her own. After a moment of focus, her body slipped into the likeness of Princess Cadence before the Alicorn’s change. Chrysalis found herself inwardly remarking how familiar Cadence’s appearance felt. As she did, however, the sounds of shattering doors could be heard from the central hall of the castle. Luna was not far away.
“OUT OF THE WAY, YOU WRETCHED FIENDS! OR FORFEIT YOUR LIVES TO OUR WRATH!”
Celestia’s worry was somewhat offset by Luna’s intentionally silly charade. There was a difference between Luna yelling in anger and Luna being loud just to be dramatic. She was currently being the latter and in Celestia’s perfectly valid opinion, this was hardly the time for such antics.
Just as the actors took their places, the door was blasted back and off its hinges. A dark blue fire consumed both of the magnificent pieces of wood before either touched the ground and in the wake of ash and dust, Luna cautiously entered the ballroom.
“No, no don’t hurt me!” cried Chrysalis as she cowered from the Hive Guard disguised as her.
“CADENZA!” Luna ordered as she swung her horn, a blue flame speckled with a star-like glimmer surging forth from the motion.
The Chrysalis Stand-In hissed and dived to dodge Luna’s attack. Though his evasion was flawless and would have saved his life, Luna’s celestial flame simply altered its course and swept him away all at once. The Hive Guard never had a moment to cry out his last breath, nor did the blue flame leave the slightest trace of dust to mark his grave.
“A charade, I do not doubt. Is she still here?” Luna snapped, her head whipping back and forth as she scoured the ballroom for any surprises.
Chrysalis-turned-Cadence merely trembled on the floor, falling into her role as the terror-stricken filly. She was secretly very glad she had not tried a more direct approach after witnessing the Night Princess’ display of power. She could now see why Celestia had been forced to use the Elements of Harmony to subdue Nightmare Moon those thousand years ago. Anything less would have spelled her doom.
“What about Celestia? Where is my sister?” The tension in Luna’s body visibly eased as she ascertained no current threat. Now able to pay the younger Alicorn more attention, she found herself lacking in patience for the poor filly’s fear, “CADENZA!”
“I-I don’t know!” Chrysalis whimpered, playing her part with all the skill and talent befitting a queen of lies. “The… The Changeling Queen left with her! S… She said they would be…”
“What did Twilight dress up as for Nightmare Night?” Luna suddenly cut her off.
“There are Changelings about, Cadenza, in case that has somehow slipped past your powers of observation,” Luna softly snapped, “Answer the question so I can know that you are you.”
Chrysalis dared not risk touching Luna’s memories lest the Alicorn take notice of the intrusion. She didn’t bother trying Cadence’s mind, it being in a maddened state of disarray and conflict. Instead, she dug through the memories of Celestia who was able to recall a picture of Luna and the citizens of Ponyville partaking in a Spider Toss game. Chrysalis immediately recognized Twilight’s costume and spared a modicum of credit on the Unicorn’s behalf for having paid such close attention to detail. Starswirl the Bearded’s fashion sense (or lack thereof, rather) had been intentionally overlooked by a great many biographies not wanting to sully the great Unicorn’s name.
“I… I… S-Starswirl the Bea-…” Chrysalis started to reply before finding herself at the business end of Luna’s horn. “W-What are you d… doing?”
“Where is Cadence?” Luna asked, her tone both soft and threatening.
Chrysalis felt a freezing sensation spread to the pit of her stomach. Her mind raced to think up an excuse and had she been more collected, might have a succeeded. Alas, she had taken far to much time and her silence was all the confirmation Luna needed.
“Princess Cadence was not at Ponyville’s last Nightmare Night celebration,” Luna snarled, stepping closer as her horn sparked to life with a wreath of translucent starry power. “Reveal yourself, Changeling.”
Chrysalis’ eyes widened before narrowing in frustration. She had gotten too far ahead of herself and could not resist chastising her own zealous haste. If she had not toyed with Cadence’s mind on a whimsy, this would not have been an issue. A fact that was far too late in its arrival to be of any assistance.
“A trick question, Princess? I’m shocked to find such competence among your kind. Clever,” hissed the Queen, dropping her disguise.
“I’m sure some simpleton out there would believe so,” Luna retorted before narrowing her eyes threateningly. “Where is my Sister? Where is my Niece? Where are the Holders of the Elements of Harmony?”
Chrysalis scoffed, amused that Luna would think her so stupid as to just give away such valuable knowledge, even under the duress of threats.
“I’m sure some simpleton somewhere would be so foolish as to tell yAAHHH!!!”
The Queen’s words were cut short by a small tongue of blue flame lashing its way just under her left eye. Luna’s unspoken threats, Celestia noted with a bit a shock, were not idle in the least.
“Let us start again,” Luna verbally seethed through clenched teeth, “We’ll go slow. For your sake. I’ll ask you one question at a time. And you will answer me. And every time you fail to do so, I’m going to have more of a reason to stop asking you questions. What comes after that should be obvious, Queen of Lies. Is there anything about this arrangement that you do not understand or find unacceptable?”
Celestia could scarcely imagine Luna’s actions. She knew Luna could become intensely aggressive towards anypony that would bring harm to another, but this level of malice was not something she had seen since the days of Nightmare Moon.
“No,” Chrysalis spat, her eyes locked on Luna’s.
“’No, Your Highness.’” Luna corrected her with a stamp of her hoof, stirring the report of lightning and thunder with only her ire.
Chrysalis flinched. For the first time since her arrival in Canterlot, she began to doubt whether or not her attempt at usurping the throne was a sound idea after all. When she did not reply at first, a second tongue of fire leapt from Luna’s glimmering horn and threatened to rebuke her a second time.
“No, your highness,” she begrudgingly replied before her hesitation could cost her.
“Good. Now. Where is Princess Mi Amore Cadenza?”
The changeling let a smile slowly creep its way onto her visage as she made her answer.
“Princess Celestia?” A guard called into the ballroom, pulling the princess out of her walk through memory lane.
Celestia lifted her head and let her gaze slip back towards the entrance, her expression stoic and unmoving. It was one of the Honor Wing pegasi, adorned with the enchanted uniform armor that kept his identity secret behind an illusion. This was not to say that she couldn’t see through the magic that changed his tawny brown coat to a lustrous stark-white and his mane from a light blonde to a neatly cropped sky blue. Despite his appearance being generally bland in color, his dark yellow eyes and sun-highlighted mane gave him an overall handsome appearance that any mare could appreciate.
“Is everything alright, Your Highness?” he asked in a voice that was also masked behind the spells of anonymity.
She made an effort to smile for his sake, but soon found she didn’t have it in her. After a moment of awkward silence, she turned to fully face the guard, staring sadly at him. He began to twist his front left hoof after a moment, uncertain what he should do under such scrutiny. Averting his gaze, he eventually gathered the nerve to ask again.
“Is ev-…” he started before pausing at the sound of her cantering forth. He had never been aware that the princess could be so intimidating when she wasn’t going out of her way to be as gentle and approachable as possible. Meadow Wheat had heard stories of the Princess having changed during the Changeling Invasion and that a great divide had fallen between her and Luna, but he never actually believed that Celestia had truly changed. What happened over half a year ago was terrible and she had every right to be bothered by those events. But seeing her normally bright smile replaced by a blank visage of melancholy, the Honor Wing felt his slight fear and anxiety were more than appropriate. “-…ery… thing al… alright?”
He was afraid of her, Celestia realized as she let her impassive gaze bore into him. She blinked as she let that fact slowly sink in.
Why, she asked herself as she took note of the sweat beading on his forehead.
“Is there cause for concern?” she asked, just able to prevent her voice from taking a callous, apathetic edge.
The guard swallowed a bit, opening his mouth to reply before having it cut short by a second question.
“What is your name?”
“H-Honor Wing, First Feather-Class Wheat, Your Highness,” he quickly replied with only the slightest of stammers.
“Please. Just your name,” Celestia clarified, lowering her head somewhat to better hold his gaze.
He paused for only a moment, “Meadow Wheat, Your Highness.”
“Meadow Wheat,” she echoed, finally able to muster a soft smile. “Are you concerned for me, Meadow Wheat? Do I possibly need your assistance?”
“Y-Yes. I mean, no!” he hastily replied.
Celestia’s smile grew somewhat, her patience bolstered by the entertainment.
Within moments, Meadow Wheat was finally able to scrape enough composure together to make a better attempt at answering his princess’ question.
He took a deep breath before continuing, “Permission to speak openly, Y-…”
“Granted,” she answered before he could complete his sentence.
He took another breath, his eyes scanning the floor in front of his hooves as he attempted to carefully line out his next words. “Y-Your Highness, if I may be so bol-…”
“That isn’t what I would classify as ‘speaking freely,’ Meadow Wheat.”
“I… Yes, of course,” he gave a slight nod, “I just… Your H… Yes. Princess, I am concerned for you. I have heard that you have… not been yourself lately and… And that you weren’t sleeping… much. I don’t know what a simple guard such as I could do, but...”
Celestia could not deny feeling somewhat touched at the humble gesture but she yet remained silent.
“But… I… Did not want to… not try and… I just wanted to offer whatever help I had to give. Not that I… could do…” His gaze fell back to the floor, allowing him to notice the fidgeting front left hoof. He quickly forced it into obedience next to its unmoving right twin and coughed nervously as took note of what he was actually saying and to whom he was talking. “F… Forgive me, Your Highness, I’m making a foal of myself.”
Celestia blinked as the earnest guard quickly turned to leave, a bit surprised at his quick turnabout. Her eyes followed him as he turned and slipped out the way he came. After recovering from the colt’s rapid change of attitude, she called out for him.
“Meadow Wheat.” The terseness in her voice made her inwardly wince. She had not meant to sound so harsh. Regardless, it produced the results that she desired by pausing him just before his turn at the grand doors of the ballroom entrance. “I gave you permission to speak freely, not leave freely.”
The Sun Princess watched with a mite of entertainment as the nervous guard slowly turned back around and cantered to stand before her at attention.
“I’m sorry, Your… Your Highness, I was overstepping my b…”
“That’s quite enough of that, Meadow,” Celestia interrupted him yet again, “I understand that typically I am one to adhere to formalities; I think we can both concede that I have not been acting in a very typical fashion these past months. Don’t you agree?”
“I… I suppose,” he replied haltingly.
“Meadow Wheat, walk with me,” Celestia commanded as she cantered out of the ballroom. Though her gait was slow and deliberate, the shorter Pegasus found it necessary to take a healthier pace to keep up with her.
“Um… My superior officer w-…”
“Will be notified, Meadow Wheat. Thank you for reminding me.” Celestia replied before he could get the words out of his mouth. With that said, Celestia shut her eyes and one flash of her horn later, reopened them.
They walked in silence for several seconds to a destination Meadow Wheat could not be certain of in the slightest. The lack of conversation allowed the Pegasus to note that the tumultuous storm outside had genuinely lessened in ferocity. The feathered pony started to make a comment but, yet again, was preceded by the princess he strode beside.
“Meadow Wheat is not a name that most would consider normal for a Pegasus,” Celestia pointed out, keeping her eyes forward.
“Ah. No, Your Highness. But I am not a very… normal Pegasus. I grew up on the outskirts of Manehatten as a farmer. My father and mother aren’t your typical Pegasi either. They owned one of the wheat and grain farms that rode the popular pizza craze to prosperity,” he admitted with an excusing laugh, “We were something of a novelty, being that we were Pegasus farmers.
“Pegasus farmers,” Celestia mused aloud, her smile growing somewhat, “There was a day when both Earth Ponies and Pegasus Ponies would have not only scoffed at such a ‘ludicrous and outrageous’ notion, but would have genuinely ostracized your parents on sheer principle. I trust they’re not suffering such treatment these days?”
Meadow Wheat could not possibly begin to fathom why Celestia could bring herself to find any interest in asking such questions about his simple life. Still, it was fairly common knowledge that the unending storm was a byproduct of the Princesses’ current state of distress, and if he could help by simply taking some time out of his day to talk to Celestia, he’d take out all the time she wanted from him.
“It was a little difficult at… at first. Not a lot of investors were keen on the idea of Pegasus Ponies doing an Earth Pony’s job, but the Orange family made a bargain with my father.” Meadow Wheat’s tension had slowly fallen to the wayside in favor of fondly remembering his old home.
Celestia could hear the longing nostalgia in his voice. She could almost see him and his father doing their own crop-dusting in the heat of the day as the lady of the family toiled away at the stalks, breaking grain from chaff by hoof. If it was half as lovely as Celestia imagined, Meadow Wheat lived a truly enriched life.
Meadow Wheat kept a portion of his attention on the storm. When it began to further lighten in its intensity, he felt a bit of comfort return and found himself speaking in ease, “The arrangement was to hire on my parents to help in their orange orchard for a season and if they showed the aptitude required to own their own farm, they would front the investment money needed for my parents to buy their own land. Heh. My Dad was certain he couldn’t trust such a pompous Earth Pony and he often told me and mom that if there had been any other choice, he would have taken it. But he soon discovered that for all of Mister Orange’s… finery... There was not a better pony to do business with. Mr. and Mrs. Orange were honest, hardworking folk that would never allow their personal squabbles to interfere with business practice. Things were turbulent to start, but… well, it just didn’t take us long to realize that we were all dependable and hard-working.”
Celestia found a slice of solace in listening to the heart-warming tale of the overcoming of social boundaries. Every generation took a step closer in realizing perfect harmony and though the final day of such a utopian project was far off, it was hard earned progress that bolstered Celestia into tirelessly working towards that end. Still, she could tell from the way Meadow Wheat so wistfully spoke of his past that things were no longer as they had been. The longing in his voice was well-hidden but Celestia was plenty experienced in the art of hearing the unspoken half of a pony’s words.
“What happened?” she finally asked, some part of her not wanting to hear the sad end to the happy beginning.
Meadow frowned somewhat before letting out a sigh and glancing up at Celestia. Her eyes were forward but he could tell that she was staring at nothing; focusing her attention entirely on him and his story.
“My father passed away and my mother sold the farm back to the Oranges. They were truly reluctant and practically begged her to stay and simply hire some help but she said there simply wasn’t enough money for that,” he answered, his words taking on an edge of sad exasperation, “But that wasn’t true. Even without selling the farm we had more than enough bits to live comfortably. I just… I don’t think she wanted to ever look at a wheat field that didn’t have my father flying above it.”
Celestia felt herself deflate a bit, cynically scolding herself for having believed in the possibility of a life without tragedy. “I’m sorry to hear that.”
“Don’t be,” he shook his head before looking up at her, “My father got to realize his dream long before he left us. What about you, Your Highness?”
Celestia did not outwardly reflect how much the question startled her but she did blink a few times before looking down at the guard. She paused midstride; forward progress halted as the distant echo of thunder ominously broke the silence they shared in.
“What about me?” she asked, her tone entirely without inflection.
Meadow Wheat could feel the anxiety seeping into his body again. He quickly remembered to keep his hoof from twisting about but was unable to keep his gaze locked on Celestia. Stunning beauty and radiance aside, Meadow Wheat could not begin to match the Sun Princess’ strength of will. Luna may have been the more powerful, more aggressive of the two princesses, but no pony ever disputed that Celestia was in command of Equestria. A fact made ever clearer through the bloodless defeats of both Discord and Nightmare Moon.
“Is there, perhaps… something on your mind?” Meadow Wheat boldly asked, though his tone was somewhat shaken and his gaze was entirely averted.
“Perhaps there is,” she answered as she kept the nervous Pegasus locked beneath her gaze. “But as you said already: What can a guard such as yourself do?”
Meadow Wheat’s wings slumped a bit as he digested his princess’ words. Too stubborn to give up but too nervous to push back, he gave an honest, if somewhat simple reply.
“I suppose I can… listen to you some?” he replied. “It would… only seem fair, I suppose.”
He felt entirely ignorant; knowing that the princess already had many ponies she could talk to about personal matters. His frustration with both himself and Celestia was beginning to boil.
“What would you…”
Meadow Wheat could tell by her tone alone that she had no interest in opening up to him. He was absolutely certain she had her perfectly sensible reasons for that but her roundabout method of leading him into feeling incredibly stupid had finally begun to get under his feathers. On impulse alone, he dared to voice his frustrations.
“Your Highness, if you don’t want to talk about it, that is fine with me,” he boldly interjected, cutting her off for once. “With all due respect, I am just trying to help, but if, for any reason, you would rather not have it then I beseech you not to mock me.”
Celestia blinked, taken aback by the brave Pegasus’ rebuke. The regret that immediately came over him turned out to be rather contagious and Celestia soon felt equally remorseful for her actions and attitude.
“Forg-…” he started to stammer, his front left hoof grinding against the floor as it pivoted back and forth.
“No, it’s… You’re right, Meadow Wheat, I was being callous and patronizing.” Her eyes closed as she let out a long sigh. “I apologize sincerely.”
“No, you… You’re just upset and I’m sure you didn’t mean it,” he defended her actions, staring up at her as his words cut into her in ways he could not possibly know.
Celestia said nothing, her mind and body already numb from a shroud of guilt that befell her. Not guilt born of her ill-treatment of the kind Honor Wing before her, but rather of a bitter memory where painful words were exchanged between family.
“… then I don’t see what separates you from Nightmare Moon!”
Luna snarled at her sister, glaring defiantly as she shoved a hoof in the direction of the door leading into Cadence’s bedroom at the Southern tower’s pinnacle. It started out quiet enough but bitter wounds and recent horrors had worn their patient tendency towards polite debate into metaphorical nothingness. The storm helped to drown out the worst of their heated fight, but they were standing by Cadence’s door nonetheless. Neither of them could deny that if the Princess of Love were awake, she would have no trouble hearing them by now.
“Tia, look at what she did to Cadence! You can’t tell me that she had not earned it! She was a monster!” she cried, staring unyieldingly into her sister’s eyes, shouting her case with a steely resolve, “She wasn’t going to be sorry! She wasn’t going to take it back! She would have tortured you, me, Cadence, Twilight… All of us for the rest of eternity! I was not going to allow that to happen! She had to be stopped forever and the only way I knew for certain was to put her down.”
Celestia shook her head as she shut her eyes. She eventually turned away, her teeth set on edge as she recalled Luna’s ‘solution’ to the Changeling invasion.
“You didn’t put her down,” she uttered through a cold and hushed voice, “You didn’t just kill her, Luna, butchered her… For three minutes I watched you torment that Changeling to death.”
Celestia opened her eyes and forced them to fixate on Luna, her piercing gaze causing the younger Alicorn to frightfully wither beneath it.
After a pause, Celestia continued, her glare somehow worsening as she leaned over Luna in anger. “I watched in horror from above as my baby sister noosed another creature with magic and throttled it upon a dais to which she set fire for the sole purpose of vengeance and sadism! I saw you take relief in her pain and death! I watched as you took solace at the sound of her death rattle. Three minutes, Luna… And every second was twice as horrendous… twice as terrible as watching Chrysalis break my darling Cadence. All I could think about was the morning I went to see my sister and what I found was a Nightmare. I could see it… Nightmare Moon in your eyes. I thought I’d… I thought I’d lost you. Again.”
Celestia felt a cold wet line race down her cheek as the quivering need to let go nearly took her. Before she could, though, she turned away and forced herself to steadily walk down the tower stairs. For a moment she thought that was the end of it but was proven otherwise when she heard Luna chasing after her.
“Celestia, wait! Just let me explain!”
Celestia set her jaw to prevent an outburst of how there was nothing to explain. She said nothing and did not stop her steady descent down the white marble steps. Just as Luna did not stop pleading her case to her older sister.
“I… I was so angry. I was so… I could only see red,” she pleaded with regret and urgency, walking beside Celestia as she spoke, “I saw Cadence and I couldn’t… And when I saw what… what I thought was your body, it was just… It was just too much, Tia. I thought I would never see you again. I was so angry, Celestia! I was so scared and all I knew was that she took you. Stop walking and listen!”
The storm’s ever present song of howling vales grew louder as Luna stepped in front of her sister, forcing them to both to a halt. Celestia forced herself to look out the open window that blew rain at their hooves, not caring enough to stop it.
“She took you from me,” Luna echoed, lifting a wing to gently wipe the tear away from her sister’s cheek.
Feeling the touch of Luna’s wing, Celestia found herself instinctively pressing her face against the comforting feathers. When the tears came soon after, she couldn’t stop them and finally hissed in her next breath as more finally broke free.
“I would have never turned my back on your memory by doing what you did, Luna,” she whispered as she trembled, forcing back her urge to fall down weeping. “Especially not on yours. Not like that.”
“Well, that’s not how I see it!” Luna yelled in a voice flawed by both frustration and sadness, her own eyes starting to mist.
She moved forward, aiming to embrace her sister and beg that they drop it, but Celestia suddenly pulled away and stepped around her.
“Vengeance does the dead no honor and you know it! You KNOW what you did was… It… Luna, not even during the days of Nightmare Moon were you so... h-horrible!” Celestia shouted, now descending the spiral case of stairs as rapidly as she could without running down them.
Luna kept pace but Celestia refused to let herself be cut off again. Luna could no longer hold the hurt and frustration in, finally letting it escape as she cast a spell to teleport in front of her sister. With grace befitting a princess, Celestia skidded to a halt just before she could send them both down the stairs in a tumbling mess. She tried to move past her, but Luna threw out her wings, blocking Celestia.
“Stop running from me!” she cried angrily, “What is wrong!? What has happened that you can’t even face me?!”
“I shouldn’t have to explain it, Luna!” Celestia yelled back with equal vigor, “Because I saw something that night that I had not seen in a thousand years! I watched you become a monster! And now… I… I can’t even sleep at night without seeing you and Cadence twist into the very monsters we seek to protect Equestria from!”
Luna’s eyes widened with shock before narrowing in righteous indignation.
“’Monster?!’ I saved you, Celestia! How dare you call me a monster!” she cried as the storm roared alongside her, “If fighting to save Equestria makes me a monster, then I am a monster! If destroying the very monster that nearly ruined Cadence and all of Equestria makes me a monster, then I am a monster! In fact, if that’s what it takes, then I’ll gladly be a monster! Better than… than a useless politician!”
Celestia’s fell back a step in fearful surprise as Luna glared at her with pain and anger burning behind her eyes. She could not be certain as to what would happen, but a small part of her felt threatened by Luna’s increasingly furious outburst.
Rather than attack her sister, though, Luna continued to yell at Celestia as her own tears finally slipped down her face. Her voice could barely be heard over the now screaming winds that beset their Canterlot but they carried their full force nonetheless.
“A politician that can’t protect her own illegitimate descendant when reality strikes in the form of an invasion, even! Without THIS monster before you, you would still be hanging from the ballroom, unwillingly witnessing the destruction of Equestria for years to come,” Luna shouted furiously, watching as her older sister’s expression shifted from frightful to a stone-cold, passive visage. “Deep down, Celestia, I know that you were relieved to watch her die. I know you were relieved that the ‘dreadful monster’ came out of me! Because I know that no matter how horrific and monstrous I was, I just destroyed the demon that nearly ruined everything we’ve worked so hard for over the past age of life! And if you tell me otherwise, then you’re lying to me! You are lying to me! You have to be!”
Celestia returned Luna’s fiery gaze with a blank one, marred only by the almost identical streaks that trailed under her eyes. Only when her sister finally fell to her knees, her fury waning under the tide of suffering, did Celestia finally allow her porcelain mask to crack.
“Y-You have to be~!” Luna cried one last time before submitting to howling in grief on the reflective floor.
Luna now lowered to the cold marble steps, Celestia watched as the hurricane-like weather slung rain through the small window onto her sister. The air that she breathed in was cold and wet but every time she let it out, it felt twice as hot as its predecessor.
“No. I don’t. Because I’m not, Luna,” Celestia answered truthfully as she leaned down and hooked a wing beneath her sister to help her up. “And if you cannot bring yourself to understand why… Luna… If you can’t bring yourself to understand why, then the next monster to threaten Equestria will be you.”
The younger of the sisters looked away, gritting her teeth as she was lifted back to her hooves.
“N-Never again,” she growled quietly.
Celestia’s voice, while soft, was still firm, “You will if you don’t change.”
She swept the same wing underneath Luna’s chin, trying to pull her face about so that she might look her in the eyes.
“No, I won’t.” Luna snapped, yanking her head away from Celestia’s feathers.
Celestia could hear a terse edge in her words that she did not intentionally take on. “You’re quite bold to call me a deceiver when you’re just as quick to lie to yourself.”
Luna yanked herself away from the older Alicorn, the accusation driving her outrage to its boiling point and beyond. Something akin to a growl rose up from her throat and she slammed her hoof against the smooth marble steps before her. The squall’s lightning crashed in response to the furious motion and the marble steps cracked like smoked glass under the power of the Night’s Princess.
“Luna, you know it to be true!” Celestia implored as softly as she could while still being heard over the clamorous weather. “Look at yourself! You walked this path before, yet here you are again! How can you not see that? Does the thought of making the same mistakes not frighten you as it does me? Is that what you want to tell me, Luna!? That history is just going to repeat itself and we are doomed to forever live in this cyclical tragedy!?”
Luna said nothing as she obstinately kept her back towards Celestia. Her breath came in short, infuriated gasps as she bore her eyes into the shattered white marble floor beneath her hoof. Her wings and body heaved with every breath as fresh tears dripped onto the already rain-spackled floor. To her horror, Celestia watched as Luna’s coat began to darken as though her beautiful indigo were a cheap paint washing away. She wanted it to be a figment of her imagination or a trick of the light caused by the night’s flashing storm. It was when Luna finally looked back at Celestia over her own shoulder that her sister froze up in response.
The older Alicorn could feel her blood freeze like a cold knife of terror plunging into her heart. She felt the horror choking her as she watched Luna’s only visible eye take on a sinister glow. She shook her head in denial as she watched it happen; the soft-natured blue-green eye elongating and sharpening until it was draconic in shape and electric teal in color.
“Luna, stop!” she cried.
She leapt at Luna, unsure of whether to embrace her and beg or strike her down. The decision was taken away from her, though, as Luna’s horn suddenly flared a violet-blue magic.
“LIAR!” roared the Alicorn that looked less like Luna and instead resembled an Alicorn that had twice tried to cover Equestria in an eternal blanket of darkness. Her voice was loud, strong, and far deeper than it had ever been in the past, thunderously resonating off the walls of the tower.
Before Celestia could even register what was happening, a bolt of lightning dashed through the open window and found its target in her. For many months to come Celestia would only remember flying back and striking against the tower’s slanted wall. In and out of consciousness she fell as her body rolled down what seemed like an eternity of stairs. Some indeterminable amount of time later, she opened her eyes at the base of Cadence’s tower. The agonizing haze that blurred her vision was slowly dissipating but the pain was crippling nonetheless. The seconds ticked away like hours however every moment was far less agonizing than the one before. After what felt like days of nauseating pain but was likely less than a minute, Celestia’s vision cleared enough for her to see.
“T-Tia, I’m s… I’m so sorry,” Luna whispered in remorse as the healing spell continued to shower ember-like flecks of soothing magic onto her sister, “P-P-Please wake up, Tia.”
Celestia finally found the strength to lift her head as she weakly coughed in response. She had nearly forgotten the strength of lightning and how quickly it could evaporate the moisture inside one’s body. Even her tongue and throat felt as though they had been parched for days.
“J-Just go away, Luna,” Celestia said with a painful whimper.
“Celestia,” Luna’s relief was apparent in her voice. “No, just… just let me finish first.”
Celestia couldn’t bring herself to wait that long and reached out a wing to push her sister away, albeit weakly. Her dried eyes burned as she shut them. What little water she had left immediately attempted to rehydrate them, but the process was slow and inflamed. Her initial instinct was to lash back out at her sister but she knew, even after what had just occurred, there was no way she could hurt her baby sister. Not after she already hurt her once. Even if Luna’s attack on her was proof enough that her sister was just a catastrophe waiting to happen again.
But that did not mean she wanted to witness it happen a second time.
“No. Just get… Just get out of my sight!”
Luna stumbled away from the wing, speechless in light of Celestia’s demanding rejection. She couldn’t blame Celestia for it, but the act still tore her open. Inside, she tried to find the words to beg for forgiveness but her breath came short. Many times her mouth fruitlessly opened and closed as Celestia struggled to upright herself
“If you want nothing more than to be Nightmare Moon again, I can’t stop you, but neither do I want to see it happen!” Celestia coughed as she finally made it to a stand. She felt her closed eyes sting painfully as tears tried to manifest but she had no more to give.
Tears or not, she coughed and trembled as she continued to yell at the Alicorn that had dangerously lashed out at her, “Just go! Leave, Luna! I would rather you… J-Just leave and keep away from me for the rest of eternity! I c-cannot bear to… I just… Not another thousand years… I can’t do it again. I can’t.”
She finally opened her eyes to see her first, last, and only sister staring back her pleadingly.
“Please, Celestia,” she begged, shaking her head as though she could not comprehend what she was hearing. “Don’t do this. Y-You don’t mean it.”
“I DO MEAN IT! LEAVE ME!”
Of every nightmare that tormented Celestia at night, those exchanged words they shared not even a week after the invasion were undoubtedly the most debilitating. Over the months, Celestia lost count of the hours where all she could do was lay awake in her bed; a ghostly reenactment of them screaming words that they would never truly mean and could not ever fully take back. The last six months alone had stretched into a miserable eternity for Celestia, having long depleted any anger she once harbored against her sister and every moon that she saw only made her yearningly hope that Luna would feel the same.
Luna had never left Canterlot; she refused that much outright. Celestia had heard guards murmuring that she confessed her devotion to Equestria, stating that any divide between her and her sister would never be taken out on its citizens. That did not mean, however, that the two sisters did not taken every precaution possible to assure they would never cross paths. Much to their mutual pleasure and displeasure alike, their efforts had yielded the desired results.
“Princess Celestia?” Meadow Wheat’s voice shook her out of yet a second inward reflection, visibly startling the Alicorn.
“Oh,” she blinked before meeting his gaze with a sad smile, “I’m sorry, I seemed to…”
Meadow Wheat gazed up at his princess in uncertainty.
“It… Is it something you want to talk about?” he gently prodded.
The Sun Princess let a smirk cross her lips. His generous concern was truly a treat that she felt unworthy of. Nonetheless, she met his eyes with her own before gently reaching out with a bit of magic to pull away his helmet. With the armor no longer complete, the illusion broke and Celestia smiled at the tawny coated, blonde Honor Wing.
“I really wish Commander Song Sword would stop hiding you all behind these anonymous illusions,” she murmured before gently floating his helmet down before him.
Unsure what to say or do, Meadow Wheat simply blushed a tad as his princess brushed a lock of his mane out of his goldenrod eyes.
A wistful sigh escaped as Celestia turned back down towards the South hallway, “Maybe next time, Meadow Wheat. I enjoyed this conversation. It… was everything I hoped it would be.”
Without warning, a distant bolt of lightning lit the dim hallway in which they stood, silently illuminating the pair before steeping them back in the dimness of a torch-lit castle. Meadow Wheat wasn’t one to scare easily, especially to lightning. As a Pegasus, he had not only seen his fair share of the stuff, but had also spent more days than one arranging clouds for the very purpose of lightning. Tonight, however, he found it unusually eerie and yet, for whatever reason, quite appropriate. It made for a considerably mixed sensation within.
“Have a pleasant night, Your Highness,” he gave a quick bow before grabbing his helmet under his wing, turning about and trotting away with a formal and practiced gait.
“A little late for that, I’m afraid,” she murmured under her breath, watching her endearingly naïve Honor Wing trot down the hall.
Celestia knew there was no possible way for him to have heard her words from down the hall, yet for an unfathomable reason, Meadow Wheat stopped to look back at her. Confused but nonplussed, Celestia stared back unflinchingly until the earnest, young Honor Wing beamed a charming smile back at her. Just as quickly, though, he swung back about and continued on. Her slight confusion quickly dissipated and for the first time in over a century Celestia felt a slight blush find its way to her cheeks. Inside, she felt her heart tug after the gentlecolt but was quick to remind it that it was to be forever locked away inside an uncompromising prison.
A younger Celestia might have allowed herself to find more solace in the soft-hearted First Feather-Class Wheat. She would have found his desire to help in whatever way he could a much-needed reprieve from the norm; the norm being everypony coming to her for help. A younger Celestia would have let his sad tale steal her heart and she would, for a time, find herself in a place of happiness for the next several decades that dwarfed all other times like a star outshining a candle. And like all good things, she would see it come to an end that would shatter her for centuries to come as she would be forced to watch kind-hearted Meadow Wheat, their children, grandchildren, and their grandchildren’s children be torn away from her by the undistinguishing march of time.
In short, this younger Celestia would have traded a century of happiness for an eternity of anguish. And she would find herself regretting the love she allowed herself to feel so long ago. And still yet, a younger Celestia would be forced to witness the horror of her many-times over granddaughter corrupted at the hooves of a demonic Changeling Queen. And lastly, that same younger Celestia would eventually become an older, wiser Celestia that would never make the mistake of love a second time.
Being that older and wiser Celestia, she forced the handsome stallion from her mind and instead continued down the hall to where the dimly-lit marble path turned into the southernmost tower. She paused just before entering, the continuous, fearsome storm catching her eyes with its lightning or rather, what its flickering light revealed in the distance. Through the threshold that led to the castle’s highest battlements, Celestia could see her much-loved Canterlot. What was left it, that is. The city was a flooded ruin of rainwater and buildings collapsed by winds so powerful that naught but the heaviest, squattest of structures were spared from utter ruination. The unfortunate citizenry, having long since been evacuated to other nearby towns and cities, did not have the luxury of an enchanted castle to live in and thus were forced to leave. This was not the first night Celestia found herself forlorn for the sake of her cherished city, nor was it the first time that a nostalgic need for things to return to normal would wash over her.
“Soon, maybe,” she sighed bitterly.
Tearing her eyes from the appalling vista, Celestia turned back for the Southernmost tower and swallowed as she prepared to ascend. After a moment of hesitation, she took the torch from the sconce by the entrance, knowing the upward path had little luminosity during the daytime and even less at night. She took care to trot softly as she ascended, all too aware that the open windows allowed the never-ending storm to blow in a generous share of rain. The unease that seeped into her chest began to shake her from within. Her steps gradually became slower and less confident as she felt her breath quake. By the time she reached the tower’s pinnacle door, she was somewhat lightheaded and her surroundings almost felt dreamlike. Placing the torch in its sconce beside the door, she moved her magical grasp to the portal’s clasp and swallowed as the ringing, sparkling virtue slowly pushed it aside.
The room was warm and dry, despite the path leading into it. The many everlasting candles set about the room burned away, giving the room a waxy, albeit sweet, scent. The marble walls were adorned with pictures pertaining to a past of happiness and love while the floor was covered in an earthy brown rug that stubbornly refused to stay dirty despite the traffic it was accustomed to seeing. On the opposite end of the large circular room was a large bed with a pink canopy drawn open, a stark stallion colt sitting at its side with his head resting upon the bed beside its occupant. His blue and teal mane’s bright, rich colors clashed against the subdued colors of Cadence’s red and black.
Celestia approached as quietly as possible, her heart aching at the sight. When she had heard of yet another Alicorn born into her world, Celestia could scarcely believe it. She had intentionally stopped silently watching her descendants from on high, too scared to see misfortune befall them and be utterly powerless to stop it. With the news of Cadence, though, Celestia had every political reason to bring the child in, even if the choice was far less about pragmatism and far more about personal desire. She had been overjoyed at the prospect. More Alicorns meant so many things. Distributing responsibility, more protectors of Equestria, somepony else to speak openly with when Luna was asleep, and perhaps even a day where she could just relax and let another carry the burden for once. A selfish desire to be certain, not to mention a fanciful one at that but Celestia still let herself dream a little. But no longer. Now the Princess’ hope was all reserved for Cadence’s swift recovery which was sadly anything but swift.
“Her coat is starting to regain color,” said a soft murmur from behind the princess, startling her into a gasp.
Celestia laid a hoof over her heart, patiently reminding it that skipping a beat or two was considered unhealthy and that it should reconsider any future endeavors in that regard. Any voice at that moment would have been enough to spook her. The words coming from Luna only made the bewilderment more acutely profound. After eventually calming herself, though, she turned her head to face her younger sister whom had only just arrived.
“I noticed,” Celestia replied almost inaudibly as she looked back to the bed, her eyes roaming over the two sleeping ponies.
Celestia had indeed noted the softest of pink seeping back into the Princess of Love’s otherwise dreary coat. She first noticed a few days ago and was relieved to see the grip of Chrysalis’ foul ministrations finally begin waning. It was quite literally the first night in recent past that she had managed to acquire more than two hours of rest, even if the terrible storm caused by their downcast nature had not subsided.
“I was so scared that… that she would never…” Luna started, her voice cracking slightly as emotion flooded into her words.
“You weren’t alone in that fear,” Celestia admitted softly.
They stood in silence, staring at their damaged, but still treasured family peacefully resting. They dared not make a scene here. Not in front of Cadence. Dragons would sooner bow to mice before they let any of their interpersonal issues disturb Shining Armor and Cadence. Here, there would be no cross words.
“I had nightmares… that she would be… like me,” Luna’s voice fell to a whisper as her throat tightened, “That she would… Become another N-…”
“It’s alright, Luna,” Celestia murmured gently, looking back at her sister once more, “You need not worry.”
“I know,” she answered, her voice steadying itself somewhat.
For a second time, a long silence passed before them before Celestia finally let herself say what she so badly wanted Luna to hear.
“It’s… It’s good to talk to you again. I… I wanted to apologize.”
Luna said nothing for almost a minute, letting a painful tension press on them both before finally letting out a soft cough to hide her oncoming outbreak. She quickly made for the door but Celestia followed her, opening it for her.
They both knew this was coming. There was no doubt that avoiding one another forever was simply a fantasy and that this day was inevitable. It was silently agreed, though, that this did not need to happen here of all places.
Luna almost didn’t make it out of Cadence’s quarters when the first sob broke free. Celestia expected her to stop after the door was closed and let it all out, but was proven wrong when Luna took off in a gallop down the stairs. After recovering from the initial surprise, the princess grabbed the torch she had left by the door and sprinted down after her sister. Though she couldn’t gain enough ground to catch sight of Luna, she could hear the harrowing cries echo up the long spiral hall. As they ran, Celestia could hear and even feel the storm outside surge to never before seen strength. The winds and thunder threatened to deafen her as she chased her sister down the stairs. The storm belied to Celestia just how badly Luna was hurting inside, though she hardly needed its help on that matter. It did, however, serve as a constant reminder it was not just her pain that contributed to its terrible and destructive outrage.
Above the lightning and thunder; above the hurricane winds that screamed as if they had life of their own, Celestia heard Luna’s cry of pain. She doubled her efforts and flung herself down the stairs as fast as she could, dangerously letting her hooves fly across the rain-slick stairs that ascended Cadence’s tower. As she rounded the final spiral, she saw Luna using her right wing and wall to steady herself. Her left wing was soaked and remaining oddly still as she tested her back left hoof, all the while crying.
“Oh, Luna,” she murmured, feeling tears come to her own eyes.
As she approached to help her sister better stand, Luna leaned away from her.
“No!” she cried out, shaking all over as her pain both inward and outward wracked her body, “Y… You said you… You said you didn’t…”
Celestia stepped back a bit and felt her guilt cut her wide open. The slow trickle of tears and emotion had suddenly become a tide of regret that was moments away from swallowing her up.
“I don’t… I didn’t mean it.”
Her words were almost automatic. She didn’t know what else to say, even though she knew that those were the last words that needed to pass her lips.
“YOU SAID YOU MEANT IT!” Luna screamed, shoving off the wall before limping out of the tower and into the hall.
“Luna, I… I promise I would take it all back. I would go back and grab my own throat… I would move mountains; do anything I could to stop those words from escaping if I could,” Celestia said with a whimper, cantering up to her sister and helping to brace her up despite Luna’s attempts at refusal.
“No… No, Tia… I don’t want to do this!” Luna sobbed, doing her best to pull away from her sister. “I c-can’t even look at you! Everything... Everything you said...”
The older princess shook her head, “Please, Luna, I…”
“’Please’?!” Luna scoffed with a wince as she stumbled away from Celestia at long last, “‘Please’ wasn’t good enough for you! Should it be for me?”
Turning to face her elder sister, Luna began to shout in her face as livid teardrops blemished her countenance, “‘Keep away from me for the rest of eternity’ was what you said! ‘Just leave!’; ‘Not another thousand years!’ you told me! As though you were the victim!”
Celestia coughed, the gesture an autonomous, if a slightly obvious, attempt to hide her grief. The regret and guilt began to swell within her but it quickly receded as she bore in mind that this had been a long overdue comeuppance.
“Did you think you suffered worse than I had?!” she screeched in between ragged breaths, “A thousand years of staring down at Equestria, wishing everything could go back to the way it was! Secretly wishing I could take it all back! You narcissistic harpy! How dare you! You should be kissing the ground in front of Twilight for helping me! Without her, I wouldn’t have had the strength to let go of the past! And without the slightest bit of mercy, you accuse me of evil after I fall before you in repentance! You just… You drag it out and throw it on me as though there can be no forgiveness!”
Celestia didn’t care what Luna said, she was far too determined to make things right. Without chagrin, she took Luna’s barbs and arrows. She listened to the screams and accusations of injustice. For while Celestia had earned Luna’s retribution, there had been no true cause for her to dredge up an old wound.
“What do I have to do, Celestia?!” Luna cried, flaring her wings out as if she were helpless to understand. “I would do anything to be your sister and equal again but I have nothing else left! There’s nothing more to give!”
The motion made Luna’s left wing spasm painfully and she gasped, pulling it close again. Celestia dropped her head in shame, but resolved herself to let her little sister have her say.
“What do you want from me?” Luna concluded, her labored breathing at long last abating to a steadier pace.
“Nothing,” Celestia answered immediately, taking even herself by surprise.
She did not have to think overmuch about what she could have meant by that and quickly elaborated.
“There is nothing I could rightfully ask of you on my behalf,” Celestia admitted.
With that said, she stepped to the opening leading to the battlements. Luna wordlessly backed away, still far too incensed to desire any proximity to her sister. Trotting past her, Celestia stopped just at the doorless threshold where she had taken the torch. Replacing the light source, Celestia moved closer to the opening and stared out upon the grave scene of an empty and broken Canterlot. Bereft of pride, she glanced back at Luna as the torrential weather slung a cold wet spray through the threshold and onto herself.
“I don’t deserve your forgiveness,” she explained.
Turning back to look back out at her once-great city again, Celestia knew that Canterlot deserved better of her. Knowledge that in turn gave her the strength she needed to stifle her arrogance.
“I cannot justly ask you to give it to me. All I want is to make things right. No matter what it takes.”
Celestia did not know how Luna would react to her willingness to make amends. She expected that perhaps she would be rejected, or that Luna would demand something in return for any mercy she was generous enough to give. Perhaps Luna would even show her the kindness that she refused to yield and might simply forgive her unconditionally. Staring out upon the ruins to Canterlot, though, she was entirely unprepared for Luna’s sudden assault.
The dark Alicorn threw herself at her sister, her body slamming into Celestia’s and driving her out onto the rain slick battlements.
“Make it right?!” she cried in a deep voice that echoed over the churning storm above them.
Before Celestia could even fully turn to face her attacker, a hoof struck her just above the eye and drove her further back. Disoriented and in pain, she soon felt a kick to her midsection shove her to the diminutive wall meant for a pony half her size. She collided with the squat barrier at an awkward angle and slumped back against it. Despite the aching report that throbbed in her head and flank, it was not until she looked up to behold Nightmare Moon that terror truly gripped her heart. And while her trepidation was not insignificant, it was fully surpassed by her dismay. She had lost Luna.
“You can’t change the past!” bellowed the enraged Moon Princess as she loomed ever closer, her seething rage more than enough to squelch the pain in her leg and wing.
Lightning began to tear into the stronghold in response to their mutual anguish, the magic protecting the palace failing against the uncompromising elements. Yet without fail, Nightmare Moon’s voice rose above the clamour as she drew nearer, hollering with every step, “And you cannot! Change! Me!”
Celestia started to rise but before she was able to bring herself fully upright, Nightmare Moon was upon her again. With her victim’s vision still hazy from the last blow, the vengeful Alicorn found the ruler of Equestria easy prey. With one front hoof she pressed Celestia’s wing against the battlement wall, easily crushing the delicate bones within. Celestia cried out as she tried to gather her magic, but Nightmare Moon was faster still. Using her other hoof, the black Alicorn jabbed the base of Celestia’s horn and scraped it up along the pearly surface. Celestia shut her eyes in pain as her horn was chipped by the effort. The throbbing pain saturated her entire body, disrupting all her focus with a blanket of blinding anguish as Nightmare Moon shoved her back by her horn. It wasn’t until Celestia was teetering on her back that the Sun Princess realized how she was dangerously close to tumbling to her death. Even so, precariously balanced as she was on the precipice of the castle wall, Celestia could feel only grief as she prepared herself for the end that she could only blame herself for. Pain and fear kept her from opening her eyes as she waited for the free fall that would end it.
And without any warning whatsoever, she could no longer hear the rain that continued to drench them both.
“Look at me, Celestia,” spoke a gentle voice that was both remarkably lucid and audible in an otherwise noiseless world.
Slowly, Celestia obeyed, squinting against the oddly soundless precipitation. Seeing Luna over her, the Sun Princess’ astonishment was immeasurable. Gone was the enraged Nightmare and in her place was a despondent sister.
“You are not the perfect pony that you believe you are,” Luna murmured gently, still holding her sister against the edge of the highest castle wall, “Not at all, Celestia. You never were.”
Celestia stared back in bewilderment, unsure of what would next transpire.
“But I learned long ago to accept you. And every flaw you have,” Luna continued, swallowing before speaking again, “I… I love you unconditionally, even when you… you are completely unendurable. Even when you send me away. Even when you banish me for a thousand years to a place that I can’t even beg your forgiveness from. Even when you call me a monster and tell me you never want to see me again. Even when you hurt me most. But sometimes I can’t… I just can’t control my temper and I want nothing more than to merely… hurt you right back. Like right now.”
Pulling her hoof away from Celestia’s horn, Luna’s voice began to quake. “But I still accept you the way you are. I wouldn’t change you for anything. All I want… is that you accept me, my sister. And all my imperfections.”
Luna stepped back, releasing her sister from the wall and helping her away from it. Celestia numbly fell away from the fortification and found her breath quickening as a lump in her throat formed. A mixture of relief, joy, pain, and despair streamed throughout her as she slipped into Luna’s unharmed wing. Her aching heart rendered her limp in her sister’s embrace and all she could do was press the side of her face into Luna’s neck and keen uncontrollably. The Night’s Princess said nothing, merely stroking her wing down her sister’s neck as she wept.
“Tia,” Luna whispered softly as Celestia cried herself into a deep, much needed slumber.
Celestia opened her eyes and winced at the searing light that was mercilessly bearing down on her through the transparent window by her bed. She had almost forgotten what sunlight looked and felt like. Especially when one’s eyes had not yet adjusted to such incredible brilliance.
“WHEAT?! Just what in Tartarus is going through that feather-thin brain of yours?!” roared a familiar voice that nearly shook the entire room.
It took her a moment to trace its origin back to High Commander Song Sword. There was only one other mare that could shout as loud as Luna after all. Celestia caught sight of the scarred Unicorn as her eyes finally began to adjust themselves against the blinding sun’s rays. The tall white mare stomped up to her bed before grabbing hold of Meadow Wheat’s mane with a bit of magic.
“I ought to break your wings and throw you off the battlements!” Song Sword bellowed as she began to drag the helpless Pegasus out the way she came. “The first full night of sleep that the princess has had in a year and you ruin it with your simpering! Didn’t get enough of that storm, foal!? I’ll have you mixing rain clouds until your feathers fall off!”
Fortunately for Meadow Wheat’s sake, Celestia recovered in time to save him from a terrible fate at the hooves of a cantankerous Unicorn.
“Commander,” she called out, her voice weaker than she expected.
Immediately, the vehement Unicorn paused in both stride and rant before looking back at her princess.
“It’s fine,” said Celestia with a gentle nod, “He can stay.”
Unhappy with the verdict, but not one to question her superior, Song Sword nodded in reply before releasing the unresisting Pegasus.
“I take it I’ll leave you alone then, your grace?” she reasoned with a quick bow.
“Yes,” Celestia answered with a soft smile, “Thank you for taking care of me.”
“Not at all,” said Song Sword with a humble smile followed by a terse glance at Meadow Wheat. “I am at your beckon.”
The Commander then quietly marched out of Celestia’s quarters, closing the door behind her as she left only the melodic ringing of magic in her wake. The Pegasus, now freed from the fearsome clutches of his commanding officer, approached Celestia at bedside with a shameful blush marking his face. With a bit of amusement, Celestia found herself smiling at the sound of his hoof, front left undoubtedly, scraping her marble floors as it twisted about.
“Your highness,” Meadow Wheat quickly blurted out, knowing Celestia to be extraordinarily assertive when it came to taking control of the conversation, “Please, forgive me for awakening you. It was... impulsive for me to barge in so inconsiderately.”
“Nothing to forgive, Meadow Wheat,” she breezily declared before attempting to turn herself about, wanting to face the brash Pegasus stallion.
When she found herself without the strength, she could not help but to simply relent and lay still. Staring at the ceiling, she let recent memories of Luna and Nightmare Moon gradually fill her attention. It was some time before she was finally able to line out the events in proper order and even longer still before she finally spoke.
“Meadow Wheat,” she gently called out to him, “How did I get here?”
“Oh, um... Princess Luna and I brought you in,” he remarked, blinking as he recalled the rather unusual event, “You were hurt and... asleep, oddly.”
“That can sometimes happen when you skip sleeping for many months,” Celestia pointed out with a cough.
“What happe-...Err... If I may ask, that is?” he gently pressed for details, now staring at his Princess in concern.
“Luna beat some sense into me,” she answered bluntly and quite truthfully.
For the first time in many months, Celestia found herself laughing in reaction to the awestruck stallion’s expression. His eyes were wide, matched only by his dropped jaw in terms of visual shock. It was clear that Meadow Wheat was having difficulty digesting such unanticipated news.
Laughing felt good, Celestia noted. Even if it did cause her head, wing, and ribs to ache all in completely different ways. When she eventually tapered off, she just slightly turned her head to face the Pegasus.
“Ahh~... And I would appreciate your confidence on the matter,” she made mention, still smiling softly.
“O-Of course,” he sputtered, still somewhat flabbergasted by his Princess’ words.
“Thank you,” she sighed before relaxing a bit more, wincing only the slightest as she adjusted herself for comfort. It wasn’t until she caught sight of the vanity mirror nearby that the Alicorn realized she probably appeared hideous, “I’m covered in scrapes, cuts, and bruises, aren’t I?”
The Pegasus stammered for only a second before finally vocalizing a sensible response, “Ah-yes... Yes, Princess. Not that you...”
“Look utterly terrible?” she offered with a snort.
His reply was without hesitation, “Never, your highness.”
Celestia’s smile grew as she let the kind words comfort her. After a moment of silence, she glanced back at the nervously fidgeting Meadow Wheat and released a forlorn sigh. A large part of her wished the anxious Pegasus wasn’t so unintentionally charming, but she took what comfort she could from his words and presence nonetheless.
“Are you and your sister... Is everything alright between you two?” Meadow Wheat pried, pulling Celestia out of her inward musings.
Celestia blinked as she deliberated on his question. It wasn’t hard for her to realize that if there were any friction between herself and Luna, it would be because of her and any anger she might harbor. Happily, though, she knew that there was none to be found within.
“Yes, Meadow Wheat,” she murmured at last, “We simply had A... Differing of Opinions.”