Inside one of the guest rooms in Canterlot Castle a purple pony was sitting with her head lowered before a great window, that showed the sleeping city and the night sky with a full moon. Her dress discarded on the floor near the bed. It was an eventful day for her, but she could care less now that her brother's wedding party finally ended. With her eyes half closed and a heavy sigh, her misadventures of the day all played once again in her mind. What she found most disturbing for her was Princess Celestia's defeat at the hooves of the Changeling Queen. It was something she thought was impossible. Second most distressful thing she discovered was how unprepared she and her friends truly were, when it came to facing foes that were serious about their doings.
Yes, her and her friends defeated Discord but for him it was all a one big game. Even Nightmare Moon didn't take them seriously, allowing herself to be taken by surprise when they activated The Elements of Harmony. Chrysalis was different in that regard she didn't underestimate them, she just didn't take into account how powerful and deep love can truly be.
A quiet sigh escaped her lips.
“Some hero I am...” Twilight grumbled quietly and bitterly. For some time now she thought that they - the Elements, and if they failed the Princess - could handle whatever fate threw at them. The wedding was a wake up call.
But it was still a useless lesson, as Princess Celestia refused and will probably still refuse to teach her the more dangerous spells, being a firm believer of diplomatic solutions. She still remembered that one time she asked to attend the Day Court as a learning experience. It was startling for the then younger filly how some petitioners had the gall to straight out demand things from her teacher and Celestia just reasoned with them in her eternal patience, instead of using her political power as the Princess.
“When one has power beyond that of normal pony folk Twilight, it is better to believe in the strength of an argument than the argument of strength.” Was Princess Celestia's answer, told with a voice filled with sadness, that the filly received when she asked why the Princess haven’t just used her political power to outright deny such petitioners. But the belief in the 'Gentle approach' as Twilight dubbed it, failed spectacularly today.
If she just knew some battle spells things could have gone differently. Sometimes Twilight thought that Celestia wasn't putting enough faith in her subjects and after today... in her. The purple mare could understand it to some degree. Knowledge could sometimes be dangerous, she had to admit that. The accident with her Smarty Pants doll came to her mind as an example... but still.
Suddenly she sat upright as an idea struck her. Her eyes looking up at the moon. She did know a pony that could teach here the more dangerous spells. That pony had to know at least few spell of that kind... she did battle her own sister after all.
But how to approach Princess Luna about it? And should she let her teacher know? Twilight began to fear, that going behind the back of Princess Celestia with this could put some serious strain in their relations if she ever found out. However, would the Princess let her do something like that willingly if she told her? Yes, she should. Even being near pacifistic in nature she would understand, wouldn't she?
With things to ponder now, Twilight stood up and walked to her bed. It was late in the night and she would need at least some sleep if she wanted to get things done properly tomorrow.
When late morning sun rays hit her closed eyes, first thing she did was to roll over on her other side. After some time came the annoying sound of the doors opening and closing. And then the voice.
“Twilight time to wake up.” The voice was familiar as it belonged to a certain baby dragon.
She mumbled something incoherently and put a pillow over her head, she was so tired.
“If you don't get up, there will be nothing left to eat for a breakfast for you.” Spike said before she heard him leaving the room. After she heard the lock in the doors click, her stomach gave a loud grumbling noise of unhappiness. That traitor...
With a wide yawn she got up, looked around and still half asleep got out of her comfortable bed to make use of the in suite bathroom.
Half an hour later Twilight entered the smaller, unofficial dining room that the Castle had. At the table she saw only Rarity. From what she could see, others have already eaten and were now doing other things, probably. When she sat at the table she realized what she had planned for today and her mood changed, from just being unhappy from getting up to being uncertain.
Rarity saw the change in Twilight eyes.
“Something bothering you dear?” The fashionista asked looking the purple mare in the eyes. There was something there but the white unicorn couldn’t decipher what.
“A private matter, nothing too important though. I just need to talk to the Princesses.” Twilight replied between bites of her daisy sandwich.
“Well I heard they both will be here today, to say their goodbyes to your brother and Princess Cadence when they leave on their honeymoon.” Rarity said between her sips of her tea.
Twilight looked up from her sandwich. She knew that Princess Luna didn't normally show herself during the day. It was the best opportunity she will have, if a bit too fast for her. After that short conversation they both enjoyed their meal and tea.
It was almost an hour later when Twilight stood outside the castle with her friends and the Princesses. Before them the newly married couple stood near a golden chariot, it was the one that took Twilight to Ponyville the first time. Cadence was smiling and Shining Armor was looking like the cat that got the canary.
It was almost time for them to depart. One last thing still remained for him to do, besides all the goodbyes he had said till now. Shining Armor walked to his little sister and gave her a hug.
“We will write to you Twili. And behave.” He said with a wide grin.
“I will BBBFF. Have some fun, you really deserve it.”
With that short farewell he along with Cadence stepped into the chariot. And at his sign the two pegasi guards pulled the golden chariot up into the sky.
When they disappeared from view Twilight immediately went closer to the Princesses.
“Yes, my faithful student?” Celestia's motherly voice reached Twilight. When the smaller mare looked up she could still see some fatigue in the eyes of her teacher.
“I would like to talk with you Princess and Princess Luna. Alone.” That news brought curiosity to the Princesses' eyes.
“Then let us talk in my study Twilight, sister.” Celestia said and started to lead the way into the castle. The other two mares following right behind her.
The walk was all in all a short one. When the trio got comfortable on the pillows in the study the Princesses gave their undivided attention to Twilight.
“What is it that thou wants to speak about Twilight Sparkle?” Luna's voice was full of her curiosity.
Twilight started to have second thoughts about all this, when she became conscious of the watchful gaze of both royal alicorns. She took a deep breath and fidgeted with her hooves a bit.
“I want to ask you Princess Luna to tutor me in battle magic, if Princess Celestia is ok with that.” The purple unicorn was now nervously shifting her gaze from one Princess to another. To her Luna looked ecstatic, Celestia on the other hand looked disappointed.
The white alicorn sighed as she looked between her sister and her favourite student.
“Twilight. I didn't teach you it for a reason. Diplomacy and understanding are the way to build Harmony. Not battle.”
“But the battle does happen sometimes and if I had the knowledge the battle with the changelings would go much smoother.” Twilight's instant reply was filled with a bit of underlying anger.
“We... I have to agree sister. Twilight Sparkle is correct.” Princess Luna looked at the smaller pony. New possibilities whirled in her mind as a smile showed on her muzzle and she unconsciously ruffled her wings a bit.
Celestia looked at her sister. She had to admit, the last time she saw Luna so excited, was when she went to Ponyville for the Nightmare Night. Luna now wanted this too it seemed. Also she knew Twilight was right but it hurt her to admit that. Battle magic was dangerous and straining on a ponies psyche. And she knew that if Twilight should have one of her... episodes while training, she could potentially cause a lot of damage. Especially is she was to allow Luna to tutor her. Her sister prided herself on her knowledge of the darker and even forbidden arts, from obvious reasons they had kept it a secret among them.
The older alicorn closed her eyes for a moment, thinking about this matter.
“If I am to guess, you're adamant about it Twilight.” Celestia half-stated half-asked her student. Which was responded with a determined nod from the purple unicorn.
“Then I agree under one condition. You will become Luna's apprentice and officially case to be my student.” It was her last hope of keeping Twilight from pursuing that branch of magic as she knew how much being her protégée meant for the purple unicorn.
What she got from her statement was one incredulous look from Twilight, which reminded her of that time after her entrance exam when she proposed the filly to be her student. Luna on the other hand looked at her disapprovingly. Such underhanded plays were below her, she knew, but she just didn't want to lose Twilight. And she didn't see any other options beside pointing out how unstable and paranoid Twilight could become under the wrong circumstances, but that was out of question. She wouldn't hurt Twilight with that kind of words.
“I... I...” It was all that at the moment Twilight could say. Being the Princess student was almost her second life. And now she had to choose. Seek knowledge and abandon a position that she held for a very long time or keep the status quo. But the bookworm and researcher in her were winning the argument. Also the fact that her mentor gave her such a choice in the first place stirred some unpleasant thoughts.
Twilight took a deep breath and seeing her do that, the Princesses themselves stilled their breaths in anticipation for the answer.
“I choose Princess Luna then. Forgive me Princess Celestia.” Twilight said quietly looking pleadingly at Celestia in hopes she would understand.
Said alicorn just dropped her head a bit with a heavy sigh.
“It is your choice my little pony. I can't stop you.” It was another silent reply.
Meanwhile Luna looked happy. Twilight Sparkle had interested her since the Nightmare Night and now she will have her as an apprentice. She felt indebted to the purple mare and now she had a chance to take care of that... and more.
“I propose sister that we end this meeting. I will take my leave if there is nothing more to add. And Twilight Sparkle, We... I will see you tonight.” After those words Luna left the room.
Twilight in the meantime stood up, and bit her lower lip as she looked at Princess Celestia.
“It's just like another adventure and I can come back to you if I find it unsatisfactory. Princess Luna would not keep me by force if I changed my mind.” She tried to reassure herself as much as she tried to reassure her now former teacher.
“No, but even if you return, you will not be the same.” Celestia said in a low voice leaning forward a bit to nuzzle the top of her head with great care.
When that moment was over Twilight took her leave, thinking about what the future will bring. In her study Celestia watched her, now former, student close the doors. She suddenly found herself deep in one of her memories. Once in the past she saw a once great pony consumed by the forbidden arts when she was not ready to wield them, when dark emotions ran rampant in her. The same words she had spoken today echoed in another castle's room then, more than a thousand years ago.
A/N: If someone likes the story be warned though, I will write when I feel like it so there is no schedule for the updates, it can be days or weeks between them. And now to wait for the grammar nazi to strike again... EDIT: If you have any concerns about the grammar contact me, A Fox in Equestria, I am Vohiras proofreader and take pride in my work.
After the talk with the Princesses, Twilight went straight to the castle library to calm herself.
Of course, what was supposed to be only a short time of relaxing with a good book turned out to last until dinner. When she looked up from her book to see the time, the purple mare almost galloped out from the library. Castle occupants had to get out of her way as she expertly navigated the Castle halls and corridors or they risked being trampled.
She had to stop for a minute before entering the room to catch her breath. Twilight opened the doors to see her friends sitting on both sides of a long table, at the far end on a beautifully crafted chair sat Princess Celestia and on her right was someone she did not expect. Prince Blueblood. One seat was left empty for her and it was at the left side of the Princess, so she calmly walked to take it. As she passed her friends she looked at their happy faces, well most of them had happy faces, Rarity glared daggers at the Prince and it would seemed he was oblivious to it or he expertly ignored it. The purple mare smiled slightly at that, her unicorn friend still hadn't forgotten or forgiven the Prince for that one Gala.
“Twilight, just in time.” Celestia by the looks of it finally returned to her radiant demeanour from before the wedding incident. When the purple unicorn sat she exchanged a polite greeting with the Princess and the Prince, then looked down the table.
“So where were you all day?”
“Oh, Oh! We had the best time pranking the guards! You wouldn't believe how hard it's to get them to smile. Right, Dashie?” Pinkie Pie answered her smiling and almost bouncing in her place. When the pink mare ended, she enveloped Rainbow Dash with her right front leg in a hug, but it turned into a head lock somehow... By the look of how the cyan pegasus face was starting to darken, she would guess Pinkie used a bit to much strength.
“Pinkie... Air... Uncool...” Rainbow was struggling to get out of her position and finally managed after Pinkie began laughing.
“Ah was just being lazy, even Ah need it from time to time.” Applejack said in her southern drawl, her stetson hanging on the back of her chair.
“And I'm about ready to get back to Ponyville. I just finished my last purchases in Canterlot today.” When Twilight heard Rarity, she knew there would be a time when she would indulge them with all of the gossip she surely gathered along her shopping trip to the city.
“And you Fluttershy? Where did you go?” Twilight asked seeing as the shy pony was being rather quiet.
“Oh... ummm... The gardens are beautiful and the labyrinth wasn't that scary without Discord there...” the timid pegasus answered and maybe she would have said more if it wasn't for the bell sound that announced beginning of the dinner.
The castle's butler, a dark blue earthpony with a chalice for his cutie mark, kept watch over the table until everyone was full and didn't order anything else.
“Now, that that is over I have an announcement to make. Or maybe you would like to tell your friends Twilight?” Celestia's voice cut sharply into said unicorn's happy thoughts. Well she did plan on telling her friends if not today then tomorrow.
Twilight nodded and cleared her throat a bit dramatically.
“From today I am no longer Princess Celestia's student. Princess Luna will teach me from now on.” The reactions she got were rather comical. Most of her friends looked at her dumbfounded, but Pinkie being Pinkie...
“You know what that calls for?! A PARTY!” She shouted and out of nowhere confetti exploded around the pink mare.
“Maybe later Pinkie, at home?” Twilight tried to save the situation after seeing a bit of hurt in the eyes of the Sun Princess.
“Well if you want it that way...” Pinkie reluctantly said looking a bit disappointed.
“Why the change Twilight? I mean... Princess Celestia is well... Princess Celestia, no offence to your sister Princess.” Dash asked not quite sure how to politely word what was on her mind. She got a small nod from the white alicorn as a sign of understanding.
“And that's the point Rainbow, Princess Celestia can only teach me that much. I'm in need of a new... perspective.” Twilight wasn't quite yet ready to tell her friends what she will be learning from the Princess of the Night. The more she thought about it, it was easier to see that what today’s ponies knew in regards to magic were at most very advanced tricks and illusions. Nothing really harmful. Princess Celestia did a really good job at keeping that kind of knowledge locked in the Canterlot library and archives. So telling them that she will learn spells that are meant to hurt others may not leave a good impression.
“Ah understand sugarcube, nothin’ to worry about.” Applejack said looking pointedly at Rainbow Dash.
“Well, if you're happy dear, then we are happy. But it is rather surprising.” Alongside this answer from Rarity, Twilight saw how Fluttershy nodded her head at her with a smile on her muzzle.
For another good half hour the dining hall was filled with idle chatter and the only 'bigger' event was when Prince Blueblood decided to leave the dining room. He of course paid his respects to the Sun Princess, exchanged some polite goodbyes with Twilight and ignored the rest. Rarity glared at him all that time and when he ignored her as he passed by her she couldn't withhold a small, unladylike growl of annoyance.
When it was time for the six of them to leave the dining room one of the castles servants came and announced that their luggage was ready for their journey back to Ponyville. It was handy being officially invited by the Princess. Their luggage was taken care of by the castle servants.
“Have a good journey back to your homes my little ponies.” With that parting words Celestia left the room by a side entrance that the others just spotted, as the wood work of the doors was made especially to fit well to the design of the dinning room.
“Well then, lets go catch a train” Twilight's voice sounded a bit sad when she said that, her hope about Princess Celestia understanding her choice was lowered by the formal and a bit stiff way that the alicorn used to say her goodbyes.
Nonetheless the Six left the dinning room in high spirits, they were away for only three days but it was enough for them to miss their home, some more than others. On the way to the train station Spike joined them when he saw them passing by a window of Pony Joe's donut shop. And to Twilight he was definitely... rounder than normal. She laughed quietly at that thought. She would have to give him a lecture on why he shouldn’t eat so many sweets. But that could wait until they got home.
When they arrived at Ponyville station it was an hour before sunset and everyone went their separate ways. They had some caching up to do, be it with their pets or work.
As Twilight trotted through the town with Spike on her back and her luggage suspended with her magic behind her, she was just happy that her home was as peaceful as ever, like they even didn't know about the changeling attack on Canterlot. She liked it that way. Some things just shouldn't change.
When the duo reached her library she was glad she had set up a point before her home for those who wanted to return their books when she was absent. Rainbow Dash could say what she wanted about books and reading to tease her, but it didn't change the fact that Twilight daily had at least two ponies looking for something in her large collection of reading material. But first things first, she needed to unpack and lay Spike into his basket as he was now sleeping on her back. So wasting no time she went to do just that.
After about an hour all was done, including re-shelving of the returned books. And it was a good thing too because she could see through one of the windows that the moon was just rising on the horizon. When Twilight remembered that she was supposed to meet Princess Luna she went outside on her balcony. She took one of her blankets as she wanted to be more comfortable and just look at the night sky. Astronomy was one of the many subjects she had learned but it was one of her favourite, just after magical theory.
After what Twilight guessed could be forty minutes she saw a darker shape flying across the night sky in the silvery moonlight. It soon dawned on her that it wasn't the Princess of the Night. It was her chariot pulled by the two Night Guard pegasi. She followed it with her gaze and was surprised when it took course on her library. Twilight stood up, hurriedly went downstairs and went outside just in time to see the dark chariot land before her doors. One of the guards turned his cat like eyes on her.
“Yes.” Was the only thing she could say, because the purple mare now saw that the chariot was empty.
“Our Princess awaits you. We were ordered to take you to her.” He said and waited until Twilight would get onto the chariot. When she did, without any warning he and his partner in this mission took flight and headed to the Everfree Forest.
In the meantime Twilight was observing their path and she gulped with a bit of fright when she saw they were headed deep into the Everfree. And when they reached their destination her eyes were wide as plates. Princess Luna wanted to meet her here? And what was going on here?
True, the place wasn't new to her but now it felt more... wrong. The Ancient Castle of the Royal Pony Sisters had a peculiar chill about it tonight. Twilight saw that somepony had built scaffoldings around the castle. She could see piles of wooden beams and chiseled stones laying around. Night Guards stood here and there around the castle.
Her horn tingled with a new kind of magic that filled the air. It felt colder and wilder than her own magic. She felt it once, when Nightmare Moon tried to hide the Elements and she foalishly jumped in to the vortex of her magic only to get taken with the Elements, but not in such quantities...
Twilight took a a deep breath to calm herself. She was here to see Luna... not her. With that in mind she went inside the Castle. The first thing she noticed was the Night Guards and other ponies with dark coats moving around. Some were obviously construction ponies as they had protection helmets and saddlebags full of tools. Now and then she spotted normal castle servants, she even saw a few faces she remembered from Canterlot. But one thing that all these ponies had in common, made her almost trip on her own legs when she realised it. They all had those cat like eyes...
One thing she had to admit, moonlight created very intimidating shadows. The purple unicorn was deep in the castle now going up a long staircase, which some Night Guard pointed out to her when she told him what she was here for and asked where she could find the Princess. When she reached its end Twilight realized she was in the same hall she faced Nightmare Moon. But now the hall was mostly renewed as she saw that it had been cleaned in general, the missing stones and glass has been replaced and the floor was now paved with polished obsidian. She even saw wooden boxes filled with glimmering silver and diamond ornaments, ready to be placed on the walls and probably pillars to add splendor to the place, standing under the walls. What drew her attention however, was the dais at the end of the hall on which stood a throne from black marble with veins of white marble and even more diamonds as decorations. Moonlight, that flowed in through the high windows in the alcove behind the throne gave it an ethereal look, as the silver light danced in the jewels. There was no pony else in here so she didn’t know how long she stood like that, looking at it until...
“Twilight Sparkle! Welcome to my Castle!” hearing Luna's booming voice, Twilight jumped with a small, whiny scream of fear. The purple unicorn turned to her right to see the form of the Princess emerging from one of the shadows, she had a smirk on her muzzle.
“Apologies my apprentice, this was too good of a chance to miss.”
“Just please Princess, don't do that again.” Twilight's breath was still a bit uneven as she spoke.
“Come. Let us settle down in my chambers.” The dark alicorn said turning around and leaving the hall by a passage Twilight could barely make out in the shadows. She immediately followed her new teacher.
It turned out that the passage led to a corridor with series of doors on both sides. It was lightened up with deep blue crystals that emanated a soft, pale blue light. The purple unicorn spotted two sets of double doors, both from mahogany. The first on her left bore a carved ornament depicting vines and stars. Second set was at the end of the corridor also done in mahogany. They were adorned with two silver crescent moons, with their points pointing in opposite directions, above and beneath a full moon. Small stars from diamonds completed the image. The two Night Guards standing on their side was a dead give away to whose room it was behind the doors, if one ignored the ornament on the doors itself that is. With a salute the guards opened the doors for the two mares.
Inside was a bit less astonishing for Twilight. It had the same layout as Princess Celestia's study albeit larger and done in blues, black and silver. A fire crackled in the fireplace.
“This is where a larger part of our lesson shall take place for now. Make thine... yourself comfortable.” As she said that, the Princess sat on one of the larger midnight blue pillows near the fireplace. Twilight following her example sat on one of the smaller black ones.
“Princess... Why here? I mean, why this castle? If you don't mind me asking.” The purple mare asked looking directly at the Princess with curiosity plain in her eyes.
“Ah... You see Twilight, Celestia had a thousand years to imprint her tastes and 'presence' unto Canterlot Castle. Canterlot has become her seat of power. The Solar Throne stands alone in the castle halls and there was no place for mine, not only literally. So I argued with my sister about it until she finally agreed to let me settle on my own terms. Given time this will become my seat of power in Equestria.” The Night Princess paused after her little monologue and looked at the fire with a frown on her muzzle. After few heartbeats she looked again at Twilight looking almost expectantly. The Princess was not disappointed.
“Princess I felt some strange magic around and inside the castle, what is it?”
“Oh? Didn’t you notice Twilight Sparkle?” Luna smiled mischievously at the smaller mare. Her horn ignited with her magic and she levitated a small, hand held mirror in front of Twilight.
It took her few seconds to see what the Princess wanted to show her and when she did, she gasped loudly. She had slitted pupils! But now, something more intrigued here about her eyes.
“Princess, how come my eyes are still the same colour and not amber like the rest of ponies here have?”
“Tis... It is a statement of your power. My Night Vision spell can override the natural colour of ones eyes, if they posses magical power below a certain level. Do not worry thought, it is not permanent. When you leave the castle grounds your eyes shall return to their normal state. I had to cast it so that part-time workers in my service would not be hindered while they work.” Twilight’s answer to this was a nod of understanding.
Princess Luna's horn ignited again for seemingly no reason as she looked slightly behind Twilight.
“Now then my apprentice, tell me what magics do you know. And how you used your magic in your adventures so far.” The Princess said as she took up a cup of tea from a silver platter with her magic, that an unicorn servant brought silently. That startled Twilight a bit as she just noticed the servant mare. Maybe it was because she had a dark coat... She now noticed a pattern in how Luna picked up ponies under her service.
“Then I will start from the beginning. As you probably know I performed teleportation spell when...”
And so it went for the reminder of the night. Twilight telling her stories and the dark alicorn would ask questions now and then.
A/N: There we go another chapter done. I'll probably stick to chapters being a comfortable 2500 to around 3000 words. Also a big thank you for A Fox in Equestria.
What do you fear?
“Tw...ht get...p” somepony was calling to her, but she was too tiered to answer and mumbled something incoherent instead. She had such a good dream about night sky...
“Twilight, get up! It's past 1 p.m. already!” Spike's voice finally made it through her sleep addled mind with a bit of help from poking her back with his baby dragon claw.
Twilight rose from her bed with a wide yawn, her mane was a mess as it always was in the mornings. She was still a bit sleepy when she made her way to the bathroom and ignored the worriedly looking baby dragon. A quick bath later she went downstairs and into the kitchen.
As he made the dandelion sandwiches, Spike looked at Twilight and waited for the inevitable explosion, when his adopted sister will finally look at the clock herself.
In the meantime Twilight looked at him with an inquisitive look, he was nervous about something. She just couldn't tell what. Was it about all the sweets he ate at Pony's Joes donut shop? That could be it. She then looked at the clock.
The explosion that the baby dragon expected never came only a quiet, resigned sigh escaped Twilight's mouth. That totally confused the little dragon to the point where he almost dropped the plate with the two sandwiches he made.
“Was anyone trying to see me when I was asleep Spike?” the purple mare asked before she started eating.
“Well Pinkie Pie was here. She told me to remind you of the party for becoming Princess Luna's apprentice. Rarity wanted to invite you to spa, because she told me that Fluttershy had an emergency with her animals and couldn’t come with her. And there was that one stallion that looked for a book, but I managed” Spike counted on his claws as he gave her the small list.
Twilight munched on her second sandwich as she thought about it. She could probably go to spa with Rarity. But the party... Pinkie's party's could last long and their were well, draining. And she didn't want to fall asleep in her lesson with Luna. The last night was challenging enough. It was some time now from the last time when she had stayed up for the whole night. On the other hoof, not going to the party would dampen the mood of her pink friend...
“Twilight, doesn’t it bother you that you slept for almost half a day? Your schedule...” whatever Spike wanted to say was silenced by a hoof on his mouth. And an annoyed look from the unicorn.
“I know, I know all right? But I also knew that Princess Luna's lesson would most likely be at night. It will take some time, but I will just have to make up a new schedule. And everypony else will just have to... get used to it I suppose. This is too important Spike!” and so it was now the baby's dragon turn to sigh, he took the empty plate from the table to clean it.
“I'm going to see Rarity” Twilight said as she left the kitchen and went outside.
The day was warm. There was not a single cloud in the sky over the town and the purple unicorn could see a rainbow streak flying in the sky and doing loops and sharp turns. On the ground ponies talked, shopped and worked. One time a small filly chased by her friends, from what Twilight could tell, ran past her laughing. All in all, a normal day in Ponyville.
On her way to the Carousel Boutique, Twilight began to think about last night. It had taken her amazingly long to tell about her adventures and answer the Princess’s questions. She left just before the Princess had to lower the moon. In the end, the Night Princess didn't say to her anything else other than she will be expecting her again tonight and that they will be staring her normal lessons now. And that alone made her uneasy, she knew that Luna's lessons probably will not be the same as lessons with Celestia. But the question was, how different will the lessons be? Princess Celestia liked to give her challenging tasks and questions and pointing her in the right direction, if she had troubles solving them on her own. She doubted Luna will do the same.
The Boutique came in her sight faster than she thought. Twilight opened the doors and the bell that hung above the doors rang.
“Just a moment! Welcome to Carousel... Twilight dear! I'm happy to see you. Did Spike tell you about my proposition?” at the beginning Rarity’s voice came from behind the curtain which usually concealed the dresses which the fashionista deemed as her masterpieces. When the white unicorn walked from under the curtain she began her normal welcoming speech, but stopped instantly when she saw her guest.
“Yes, about that. Is it still on?” Twilight asked looking around a bit, spotting a few new dresses.
“Why off course. Just give me a moment and we will be off.”
True to her word she just picked some kind of cosmetic, and flipped the sign in the window to 'Closed' and they were on their way to the spa. On the way there Rarity went on about the cosmetic and how she wanted to give it to Lotus Blossom and Aloe for testing. When they got there Rarity explained to the two earthponies about her find and then ordered her 'usual' and Twilight just went on with it ordering the same. The white unicorn immediately began to share with her all the gossip she heard in Canterlot.
Next half an hour was spent first in sauna, then in mud bath and when they were cleaned of the mud the earthponies started their hoofacure. And now they were being massaged.
“Say Twilight, what kept you in bed for so long today?” Rarity's voice broke the silence that had developed since the spa ponies began to massage them.
“The lesson with Princess Luna. It lasted almost... well, all night to be truthful. I was just tired” Twilight answered. She was felling far more relaxed now than before, she probably should try to find time for more frequent visits. Well, not that she didn't promise it to herself few times already...
“I heard that Pinkie Pie's making a party for you today. The one you didn't want to have at Canterlot?” Rarity turned her head slightly to look at Twilight.
“Ah, that. Well... I don't think I will be able to come” the purple mare answered with uncertainty in her voice. She knew, her friends knew, the whole town knew that one just didn't simply say 'no' to Pinkie Pie's invitation to a party. And definitely one didn't say 'no' to a party that was meant for them. So it was justified that Rarity watched Twilight with worry evident on her muzzle.
“You do realize... Never mind that, you know. Twilight, surely there is something you can do to be at that party?”
“I would love to Rarity, but it's just too important. Not only for me. But for the whole Equestria!” Twilight's statement was meet with a look of disbelief from Rarity.
“What is so important Twilight?” this short question made Twilight gulp loudly. The purple unicorn knew she didn't have much of a choice but to answer or lie. She didn't want to do the later.
“I'm learning battle magic from Princess Luna” that answer brought concern to Rarity's eyes.
“But what for? It's dangerous and it's only purpose is to harm others” the white unicorn knew what the term 'battle magic' stood for. But like most unicorns of the last few centuries she didn't know any. It was thought as uncivilised and unnecessary.
“The changeling attack at the wedding. We... in the end I was so useless Rarity. And I plan on changing that.” was Twilight's quiet response.
“Darling, you're too hard on yourself. We did fight the changelings quite well if I say so” Rarity's answer brought a small, sad smile on Twilight's muzzle. They had fought quite well... But she was Princess Celestia's protege for Celestia's sake! She had some standards to uphold!
For the rest of their time in spa the mares picked up lighter subjects to discuss. And after about half an hour after their argument, they left fully relaxed once more.
This time around Twilight waited before her home for the chariot and as soon as it arrived she jumped on it. And so without a word exchanged between her and the Night Guards she was on her way to her second lesson with the Princess of the Night.
On the way there Twilight had time to reconsider if dodging Pinkie's party the way she did it was a good idea after all. She did it by closing herself in her room in the library and telling Spike to say she was out of town on Princess’s orders. The baby dragon was reluctant to do so, the most she had ever seen him. But in the end he listened to her. That off course didn't stop him from telling her how saddened Pinkie Pie was when she came to the library to find her for the party. He even told her that Pinkie's mane had straightened a bit when she left the library. Twilight knew she would have to make up for that one to Pinkie in the coming days.
The landing was a bit rough and it brought her out of her thoughts. But Twilight supposed it was because of the limited space the pegasi had for landing. There was even more chiseled stone lying around than the last night. This wasn't what drew her attention however, it was the fact that this time Princess Luna was waiting for her.
“Twilight Sparkle. Tonight we shall have the lesson outside as I do not wish to have my chambers destroyed. Come along now” the dark alicorn said and headed down a path Twilight now could see and she instantly followed. It should occur to Twilight that this was a warning about what was to come but she was to busy looking around the Everfree to think about it.
After a few minutes of a steady trot, Twilight and the Princess reached a small, oval clearing. The smaller unicorn stayed close to the Princess at all times, that is until the Princess teleported away from her. Twilight began to frantically look around the clearing, and she saw a blue coloured ball of magic headed her way just in time to perform her teleportation spell. When the ball hit, it scorched the earth where the purple unicorn just stood.
“Defend thyself!” was all the warning from the Princess she got, when she saw another two of those balls heading her way.
Thinking quickly she levitated some loose branches and small stones in the spell’s paths, hoping it would work. It did. But she did not have time to celebrate, as the Princess teleported right in front of her rearing on her hind legs and ready to smash her forelegs down on her. Twilight had lost sight of her, when her impromptu shield exploded into dust near her and she closed her eyes on instinct, that created an opening that Luna used. Twilight jumped to her right and a second later she heard a and felt as ground and rocks cracked beneath Luna's hooves.
“Always mind your surroundings!” the dark alicorn shouted at her scornfully.
Igniting her horn, Twilight conjured ropes in an attempt to restrain the Princess.
“Conjuration... and it’s very good, but pointless” was Lunas commentary as Twilight's magical ropes snaked their way around the alicorn's form but to Twilight shock Luna changed into a bluish mist filled with stars. Almost faster than she could follow, the Princess flew behind her and reformed, her horn already ignited and casting a beam of pure, blue magic. Twilight had no other option, she had to create a domed shield of her own magic. Magic shields could become almost impossible to penetrate, if one knew how to shape them properly but they were draining. And now being under assault from alicorn magic, her energy was draining too fast.
“Your shield is almost flawless. If you can build them, then you should also know their limitations.”
After another one of the Princess's comments, Twilight took the risk and teleported to Luna's left side and with a small cry of determination charged her horn and rained small bolts of magic on the Princess, the same she used against the changelings. They were created to stun and were weak, but they should do. She did not take into account, when performing her move, the crackling with black lightning wave of blue magic spreading from the Princess, that erased her own Stun Bolts and was quickly approaching her. She had to teleport again. Twilight was becoming slightly dizzy with all the teleporting but she could do it a few more times. This short lapse in observing her surrounding to asses her power levels almost cost her dearly. With a yelp she dropped to the ground to not get bucked in her flank by the Princess. Twilight saw her chance and send the alicorn flying backwards by using her telekinesis to push her. What she had forgotten was that Luna had wings.
The Night Princess spread her wings and took flight raining the blue balls of magic on the smaller mare. Twilight dodged and blocked but she finally made a mistake and took one of the balls to her backside. It burnt, it was unpleasant and all in all hurt badly, but she could feel that there was no major wound.
But her body and magic reacted and she could see that her body was becoming obscured by white flashes of her raw magic. Not now, not now... was all she could think in this situation. She concentrated on controlling her magic. She succeeded, and when she opened her eyes she could see Luna's rapidly approaching rear hooves.
Next thing she knew, she was lying under one of the surrounding trees dazed, with a hurting backside and a few new scratches. She was breathing heavily. Her mane and tail in total disarray. The Princess of the Night stood above her with one of her front hooves now caressing her right cheek and turning the smaller mare's head so she could look her in the eyes.
“You're quick, intelligent and powerful. But you fear your own power. Tell me, Twilight Sparkle, what do you fear?” Luna's voice was now soothing, but still full of authority of a teacher somehow.
When Twilight stood before her library later that night with the moon still in the night sky, there was hardly any evidence on her of what transpired in the forest, only the bandages on her backside remained. She quietly opened the doors and went to her bed.
But she couldn't fall asleep. She kept thinking of the things she confessed to the Princess. Her obsession with being highly organized and tied to it the fear of failure, her fear of loneliness and her fear of her own power. When they were talking about it, by the small camp fire that the Princess had set up in the same clearing, she felt defenceless but at the same time strangely compelled to tell it all. Twilight remembered the first few words of the Princess when she was bandaging her back.
“Night has always bore the stigma of fear to some degree. I have learned how to master it and I shall show you how to control your fears and even how to use fear as your own strength.”
After that the two mares started some ‘lighter’ talk. Mainly, magical theory. This was mostly why she couldn't sleep now. The Princess told her that if she overloaded her Stun Bolts, they would become lethal by just stopping the heart of her target, if said target was weaker magically than her. And after that she started to think and discuss with the Princess the other spells that unicorns knew today that could be... misused. The possibilities even now sent a shudder down her spine.
But after a while of staring at the ceiling and counting Spikes snores, she finally closed her eyes and fell asleep.
A/N: A tiny bit shorter than the last one, but I hope you were not disappointed.
Into the darkness
Twilight jerked awake with a scream and landed on the wooden floor of her room. She was panting heavily and could feel the sweat that coated her body. After a moment she realized one thing.
“It was just a nightmare...” she whispered with a bit shaky voice, and what a nightmare it was. She couldn’t remember the details but it somehow involved Trixie and Nightmare Moon, taking their sweet time humiliating her and then assaulting her with the spells. The spells... even now fully awake she could almost feel the conjured rope, choking her. Twilight shuddered and instinctively reached her left forehoof to rub her neck. She couldn’t and didn’t want to remember the other spells her mind came up with and used against her.
At the moment the doors to her room swung open and a concerned and a bit sleepy Spike entered the room.
“You’re all right Twilight? I heard your shout...” when he reached the other side of the bed Spike saw how miserably Twilight looked. Entangled in her bed sheets, sweaty and shuddering now and then.
“Twilight, what happened?” the baby dragon asked with much more concern in his voice, as he made the last few steps to be near her and help her get out of the constricting material.
“It was just a nightmare Spike. Nothing to worry about, give me a few minutes and a cup of coffee and I’ll be all right” Twilight said when, with Spike’s help, she got out of the trap her bed sheets have become.
“Then one coffee it is. But you’re sure you don’t want to talk about it? You haven’t had a nightmare in... I don’t how long” at the end, Spike’s face became thoughtful.
“Just the coffee please.” Twilight said as they left the room and the baby dragon went downstairs. She on the other hoof, needed a bath right now.
When she looked in the mirror she was quite happy to note, that there was only a few traces of the scratches she got in her training battle with Princess Luna. Twilight looked at her backside to see that it too was almost healed. The bandages must have loosened when she was sleeping and had to fall off when she woke up. Her coat was a bit darker in the spot where the Princess’s spell hit her, but it looked good all in all. Princess Luna told Twilight that she had chosen that spell for their practice exactly for that reason, it healed easily. But she could still feel some pain in her ribs after the Princess bucked her. Not wasting any more time before the mirror she prepared a hot bath for herself.
Today she took her time and went down stairs after almost an hour. When she sat at the table her breakfast and coffee were waiting for her.
“Did anypony want to see me while I was asleep?”
“Well... It’s only quarter to seven. We still have more than an hour before we have to open the library. So... no” at hearing that Twilight had to look at the clock, Spike was right. Now she knew why she felt tired, she slept less than six hours. And even then, it was filled with nightmares. But now at least she had time to do something she should have done yesterday.
“Spike I think we should talk about how much sweets you ate at Canterlot...” Twilight started after taking a sip of her coffee and now was fully in her lecture mod. The baby dragon just barely withheld a groan.
Twilight was reading one of the many books on magical theory that were in her library, when she heard the doors opening.
“Howdy Twilight” when the purple mare heard Applejack she immediately looked up from her book.
“Hi Applejack. What brings you here this early?” it was now 9 a.m., and normally Twilight didn’t see her friends before the noon.
“Well, nothin’ much. Ah just wanted to know where were you yesterday. We all want to know that in fact” the blonde mare stated while looking at Twilight with a bit of hurt in her eyes.
“I was on an assignment from Princess Celestia” was Twilight’s quick response... maybe a bit too quick if the suspicious look in her friends stare was any indication.
“Sugarcube, you don’t want to tell me, that’s fine. But don’t lie to me, Ah’m the Element of Honesty.”
Twilight sighed heavily. She was doing that quite often lately. Applejack was right.
“I kind of dodged Pinkie’s party. I don’t want to be exhausted and fall asleep in the middle of Princess’s Luna’s lesson” after saying that she dropped her head in shame.
Twilight heard how her earthpony friend came closer to her and saw her hoofs eventually. She didn’t know what to expect and was a bit surprised when Applejack hugged her.
“Ah told you in Canterlot, you have nothin’ to worry about. Just be honest with us... and come to today’s party later this afternoon” when Applejack let her go, Twilight had a small, nervous smile on her muzzle. Things were going too fast for her...
“This afternoon... As in this afternoon, afternoon?” the unicorn mare tried to joke, to lighten the mood.
“Eeyup, and you have to Pinkie Promise to be there this time” Applejack told her with a wide smile on her muzzle.
Twilight almost groaned. Only once did she make it and hurt her eye in the process, and Pinkie’s stalking abilities still made her wonder how she did follow her then. Also she once saw what happened when the orange farm pony that stood before her, broke that particular promise. She didn’t want to have a raging Pinkie on her tail...
“All right, I’ll be there. Cross my heart, hope to fly, stick a cupcake in my... eye” at least now Twilight closed her eye first before poking it with her hoof.
“Now then, Ah’m goin back to my orchard. Got some pesky bugs to deal with, seeya later Twilight” the orange mare left the library in higher spirits, her mission complete.
When Twilight saw the doors close she had to sit. There was just too much things happening around here in the last few days. It would seem that the change of her teacher was affecting her to a much greater degree than she imagined... Wait, how did she imagine it would be like? She almost facehoofed when she realized she hadn't thought this as thoroughly as she thought she had.
But now it was too late to change anything, now she could only move forward... Or maybe not? Her gaze shifted to her assistant dusting off some bookshelves. She could write to Princess Celestia. One letter was what it would take to return everything to normality. However there was the small, little problem of Princess Luna...
Twilight saw how the Princess of the Night looked at her sometimes throughout the two night they had spent together, like she was the only pony in Equestria that mattered to her... In fact, Twilight was certain that she was the only pony Luna considered as a friend, not including Princess Celestia.
So it seemed that there would be no letter to the Princess of the Sun about returning to being her protege... Damn it! What was she thinking! She wanted this in the first place, it was her choice and there was no place for second thoughts. She wanted to be prepared for any new threats to better protect her friends and Equestria.
From his spot on the ladder Spike saw and heard the whole conversation. He saw how Twilight went from being ashamed, to almost normal, then she became conflicted as he could tell from her muzzle expressions and back to being the confident mare that loved books.
Twilight stood before Sugarcube Corner and could hear her friends talking inside. It was around 4 p.m., so she had around three hours to enjoy the party. Hopefully tonight's lesson with the Princess will involve less fighting, as Twilight was sure she will be tiered a bit after this party.
Even before she had the chance to knock or enter, the doors swung open. In the doors now stood Pinkie.
“Hi, Pinkie... Hey, sorry about yesterday...” Twilight slightly fidgeted with her hoofs as she said that.
In the meantime Pinkie Pie looked at Twilight with a seriousness that didn’t quite fit with the pink mare. The purple unicorn was beginning to sweat a little now, she hadn’t seen her pink friend like that often... but in an instant the pink mare just smiled and was her normal, bouncy self.
“It’s ok Twilight, we all know how you are when it comes to the Princesses. Now come on in, it’s your party after all” as she was saying that Pinkie bounced behind Twilight and almost pushed her into the Sugarcube Corner.
Inside Twilight found all her friends waiting for her. Balloons and confetti were everywhere on the ceiling and the floor.
“Hi girls” those two word that left Twilight’s mouth were some kind of signal to start the party it would seem. One second all her friends just stared at here, and in the next she was almost hugged to death by all of them. After that the party was in full swing, with Pinkie providing the music.
The mares chatted happily about small things at the beginning and Twilight started to hope no one will ask about anything concerning her and the Princess. But seeing as this was ‘Twilight becoming Princess Luna’s apprentice party’ such hopes were rather short lived. She had discussed it with Rarity and the fashionista wasn’t bothered by it so Twilight shouldn't have to fear the others reaction, but she had to take it into account.
“So Twi, Learning anything cool now?” Rainbow Dash asked as she sat down near Twilight with pink punch in her hooves. Of course even with the music playing everypony heard the question and now Twilight was under the gaze of four curious mares, Rarity just smiled at her reassuringly.
“Well, actually yes. Princess Luna will be teaching me battle magic” when she said that, Twilight had to force herself not to cringe when the music stopped abruptly.
“Umm... That doesn't sound... too nice” Fluttershy’s worried voice was drowned by their cyan pegasus friend.
“That’s soooooo cool! Any chances she would teach me any awesome moves?” Rainbow in an instant was by her side, her right front leg was hanging over Twilight’s shoulders.
“Well, it’s sounds like a thing that could have helped in a few of our adventures...” Applejack said what the purple unicorn knew to be the truth.
In some silent understanding the five ponies looked at Pinkie Pie that for now was just looking at Twilight. They didn’t have to wait long for their pink friend’s opinion on the matter.
“You know, I had a new twitcha-twitch the last few days. At least now I know about who it was, can’t say what it means, but it didn’t feel like nothing good.” that was all it took to dampen their moods significantly, even Twilight’s as she had learned to just accept the Pinkie Sense.
“So I will be extra careful then” Twilight reassured all her friends looking at them.
“You better be sugarcube” other five mares just nodded after Applejack words.
“Aaaaanyway... The cider will not drink itself” Rainbow said trying to salvage the party from becoming too moody and everypony got the not that subtle hint. Twilight had to excuse herself from drinking, but the others didn’t have to. The party started to become the cheery get together it was before Rainbow's question.
After almost an hour Twilight had to finally say her goodbyes. All in all, when she leaved Sugarcube Corner to meet the Night Guards she was one happy mare, with Pinkie’s warning shoved deep into her memory.
This time around Twilight had no problems navigating the corridors of the castle. She didn’t see Princess Luna waiting for her when the chariot landed, so she assumed that tonight's lesson will take place in the Princess’s study.
When she arrived before the double doors, she stopped. Was she supposed to knock? Maybe... Twilight took a step forward, but when she saw that the guards were looking at her as subtly as they could she hesitated. After some quick thinking, Twilight took another step forward and knocked.
“Enter” when that one word sounded from within the room, the guards opened the doors for her.
The Princess of the Night was sitting behind a mahogany desk in the far left corner, which was decorated with silver vines. She was apparently writing something, as she held a beautiful swan feather with her magic. She didn't even raise her head when Twilight entered.
“Make thy... make yourself comfortable my apprentice” Luna said still engrossed with whatever she was writing. So without anything other to do for now, Twilight sat down near the fireplace on the same black pillow she sat on the first time she was here.
After a few minutes the sound of a quill scribbling on parchment stopped and the purple unicorn looked to her left, away from the fire she stared at until now, and saw that the Princess was now sitting near here with said parchment rolled up and sealed with a black ribbon and a blue seal, held before here.
“This is for you Twilight Sparkle, but do not open it for now. This is the diagram for the Searing Sphere spell I used yesternight” after hearing that Twilight eagerly took the scroll with her own magic and laid it on the floor behind her, close to the pillow. When she looked at the Princess again she saw that she looked slightly concerned.
“What’s the matter Princess?”
“You seem tired Twilight, it is I who should be asking, what happened?” the dark alicorn said with care in her voice, and Twilight just couldn't bring herself to just tell that it was nothing.
“I had a nightmare so I got very little sleep, and in the afternoon Pinkie Pie made a party I had to go to” Twilight said with a sigh. Now that she was here, in this dark and rather cozy room she was really starting to feel tired.
“Then I shall try to make this as short lesson as it could be. Or do you prefer maybe some of this... coffee I heard about?”
“Coffee will be fine” usually Twilight tried not to drink more than one a day if she could help it, but when it came to learning nothing was more important.
The Princess reached with hers magic and grabbed a small silver bell, that Twilight now noticed stood on a small table near the door. The bell chimed with a delicate, but loud sound. The mares waited only few minutes before a servant arrived and went to the kitchens to get Twilight’s coffee. To the purple mare’s surprise it took no longer than five minutes, and now she could enjoy her hot drink.
“Now then... Tonight I wanted to discuss with you the proper way of forming the spells you will be learning...”
“Is it that different from what I and other unicorns normally do?” Twilight instantly asked when she saw how Princess Luna made a pause to breathe.
“Yes, because it uses emotions. For example, when you use your telekinesis you make the object float, you think nothing of it, feel nothing for it. You only command it. With battle magic... You need to mean it Twilight Sparkle. You need to want to hurt your foes. Are you capable of this my apprentice?” at the beginning of the little speech the Princess gave, she stood up and started to circle the purple mare. That alone made Twilight uncomfortable but when at the end, the Princess stood behind her and leaned forward to whisper her in the ear, her eyes went wide as plates when she comprehended what the Princess was asking.
Twilight stood up, made a few steps forward to distance herself from the Princess and turned around to stare at her with incredulous look. Twilight took another step back when she saw the calculating gaze. She once saw that look... Nightmare Moon stared at her like that as well.
“Answer the question, Twilight Sparkle and be honest” Luna asked calmly, not moving from hers place.
“I... I don’t... No” Twilight answered quietly, looking everywhere but not on the Princess.
“Good. I would send you to the dungeons if you have said yes”
“But then how can I learn battle magic?” Twilight asked sharply, it made no sense to her.
“It is just a matter of practice, and your conscience and sharp mind will allow you to do what is necessary without turning into the very thing you want to fight ” Luna’s voice took on the standard ‘teacher’ qualities.
Twilight was now speechless and even closed her eyes. She did not expect that. Now she understood why Princess Celestia deemed battle magic to dangerous and banned it. She took a deep breath. She did promise herself today that there will be no second thoughts. The purple unicorn opened her eyes and looked directly into the Princess’s own eyes.
“How can I do it? How can somepony learn to... want to hurt others?” Twilight’s voice carried none of her resolve and even sounded week, she saw that the dark alicorn noticed it.
“Righteous anger. If your foe intends to hurt your friends, family or any other pony you want to protect... Wouldn’t you feel anger? If they did, would you want revenge? You my apprentice will have to learn to use those feelings and not hide them as everypony else does. This is the truth Twilight Sparkle, everypony has their inner darkness, but most are ignorant or hide it. You must at least acknowledge your own darkness, and the sooner the better for our lessons” Luna said, as she stood up and move closer to Twilight.
“Now lets start with that Searing Ball spell. Open the scroll... also make sure that Spike burns the seal with his flames. It will allow you to send me letters, the same way you can send them to my sister” the Princess said as she sat down beside the smaller mare.
Twilight did as she was told and looked at one of the most complicated diagram she has ever seen... It was going to be a long night, at least she had her coffee even if it was now cold. But it was a good distraction from the dark thoughts that plagued her mind. Would she truly be able to... want to hurt others? She didn’t know, but she was sure she would find it out sooner or later.
A/N: To be honest I don't know what to think about this chapter... I kind of fought for every word in it. Anyway, I hope that at least you enjoyed it more than I did. Also a thank you for A Fox in Equestria for proofreading.
When the bell at the doors to the Carousel Boutique rang Rarity expected to see another wealthy customer from Canterlot. But the pony she saw also was a pleasant surprise. The white unicorn had to admit, in almost two months of barely seeing Twilight, the purple mare had changed.
The most astounding thing was how Twilight had grown a bit, not by much mind you, but she was taller than her by half of a hoof at most. She had lost some of her ‘rounder’ shapes and her coat had gained a healthy and even luxurious shine. Her purple friend was not Fleur de Lis, but Rarity suspected she was as close as any mare could get without excessive use of cosmetics. One thing however almost made the white unicorn faint. Her friend had slitted pupils! She had to blink a few times to be sure she was not imagining it.
“Hi Rarity.” Twilight said with a small smile on her muzzle, she hadn’t seen hers fashionista friend for more than three weeks, and even back then it was brief.
The last two months had been hectic to say the least. After the party Pinkie organized for her, hers lessons started in full swing. Each and every one lasted to very late hours, sometimes lasting until the Princess had to lower the moon. They were tiring physically and mentally. The consequence of this was her becoming almost as nocturnal as the Princess herself... which more often than not clashed horribly with almost everypony’s else schedules.
And even when she was awake and not in the castle with Luna, said Princess gave her strict orders to train her body, as the few more training spars that had been arranged had shown, that Twilight couldn’t handle a prolonged battle. So at the beginning she had to ask Rainbow Dash and Applejack for some pointers, and after about two weeks she had a solid training regime that fitted her demands.
All of that had caused her free time to become rather non existent and it put a strain in her relations with her five friends. But in the end all of her friends accepted it and Twilight was glad for it, and because she could spend less time with her friends, those moments became even more precious for her.
“T-t-twilight, darling! How good to see you. My, you have changed... your eyes...” Rarity couldn’t stop herself from stuttering at the beginning.
“Oh, those? A gift from Princess Luna, hers special version of the Night Vision spell. But I have to admit... I wasn’t too thrilled about this either.” Twilight said with a small sigh. The works in the castle were nearing their end and the spell field would be removed soon. Also the Princess got stubborn on the matter of that... gift. So Twilight accepted.
“Well, a Princess is a Princess. But... I’m curious Twilight. Excuse me for saying this, but you have never looked so good! How have you gained such good looks? Now only my mane is more pristine than yours...” Rarity said with a small pout at the end as she came closer to Twilight to look closer at hers friend.
“Lots of physical and magical exercises Rarity. As Princess Luna put it, unicorn’s body is as important as its horn. And even more so, as we unicorns don’t have that natural fitness earthponies and pegasi have.” Twilight said as she followed her white friend with her eyes as she circled her and murmured softly, probably about her new look.
“I will have to keep that in mind then. Now Twilight, why are you here? Do you need a dress? I have a few that would look astonishing on you now...”
“No, Rarity. It’s not quite what I need. I have a request though. Would you go with me tonight to Princess Luna’s castle? I want you to look at something there.” After hearing that, the white unicorn looked flabbergasted.
“Well... Yes of course. I will just have to organize a sleepover for Sweetie Bell.”
“Then when you’re done, come to the library.” Twilight’s voice had a commanding tone that startled Rarity. Yes, her purple friend organized and overlooked the Winter Wrap Up so she heard that kind of tone before, but she had never heard her use it when it came to such trivial things. Something was going on and Rarity wanted to know what. She was opening her mouth to ask her... but Twilight was already closing the doors behind her.
It was now late afternoon and Twilight was sitting outside her home, waiting for Rarity and the Night Guards. She wondered if she wasn’t too rough earlier in the Boutique. A small scowl showed on her muzzle. It really wasn’t her fault... well, maybe it was a bit.
A month ago Princess Luna gave her a special offer. Luna almost begged her to accept, saying that she wanted to repay the smaller mare for cleansing her from dark magic that turned her into Nightmare Moon. Twilight was faced with a very hard choice then, and really... what else could she do when a royalty was begging her to accept? She said yes.
Now a month from that night she was readying herself for the official promotion to the rank of a Commander of the Night Guard, that would take place in less than two weeks. At that time the castle will be ready, and a ball will be hosted in it. First in over a thousand years. Every major noble family will be invited, along with her friends, Princess Celestia, Princess Cadance and her BBBFF. Of course, in those invitations there was no mentioning of Twilight's promotion. It was going to be a surprise. Twilight shuddered a bit at that thought... She was not sure she wanted to see Celestia’s rection.
This was another issue that bothered her. In the last two months Princess Celestia have sent her five letters. In all the white alicorn asked about her lessons and how Princess Luna treated her... And she was hiding the truth from her second mother and former teacher. It didn’t sit well with her, but it was easier to lie when she didn’t have to look at Celestia.
The truth was that when Twilight had a decent grasp at four different battle spells, Luna had decided that Twilight was not going to be using the chariot anymore. She had to go on hoof to the castle.
At first it was a terrifying experience, and the Night Guards had to save her from at least three probably deadly situations. But with time, she managed better and better. To the point where only the largest creatures of the night dared to attack her nowadays. She didn’t even realize when she became as dangerous as those creatures until she ran into a pack of Timberwolfs and they retreated growling at her threateningly. Princess Luna was right in one thing... Learnin the right mind set for battle magic only required practice and right circumstances. And Twilight’s knowledge of battle magic was still expanding...
Also Princess Luna became less forgiving in their lessons after Twilight’s first night in the Everfree. But Twilight could understand that, now almost every night her life was at stake and Princess Luna wanted to be sure she was capable of protecting herself.
Those experiences also brought answers to Twilight’s questions why there was never an attack at the castle and the workers in it and around it. Reluctantly Luna told her that one of her royal titles was ‘Mother of the Night’, as every creature of the night instinctually respected her for bringing forth the time when they could prowl around. It was also a major reason why she was feared a thousand years ago. After that one informative night, Luna asked her to never bring up that subject in their talks again.
Now when Twilight looked into the mirror, she wasn’t sure she recognized herself anymore. The promotion especially forced a change, not in looks but in something more important. She was not officially a Commander yet, but even now she was expected to be giving orders. And she was scaringly good at it. Her need to organize everything perfectly was becoming something that the Night Guards feared. Not to mention her small obsession with being punctual, it wasn’t that bad as it was in the past, but the Guards didn't know that. And when one night two Guards were very late for their shift... Well, it wasn’t pretty.
When that memory came to her, she smiled broadly. Screaming scornfully at the two ponies was a great way of relieving stress. Maybe not the best way of doing it, but definitely effective.
“Twilight!” When said mare looked to her right she saw Rarity coming her way.
“Hello Rarity, you’re earlier than I expected.” Twilight said slightly surprised.
“Sweetie Bell was excited about that sleepover with Apple Bloom I arranged for her. You should have seen how fast she packed... Now then, for what are we waiting?” Rarity asked as she now stood by Twilight’s side.
“You will see.” The purple mare’s voice carried a bit of a mysterious tone. Rarity looked slightly irritated but she didn’t say anything.
After about fifteen minutes of waiting the dark blue chariot landed before Twilight and Rarity and pegasi Guards bowed to Twilight, this surprised the white unicorn. The purple mare just hopped onto the chariot and waved at Rarity to join her. Rarity hesitated but she finally hopped on as well. The Night Guards wasted no time and they were off, flying to the castle.
“Oh my... We really are going to that castle...” Rarity said with a bit of disbelief in her voice. She didn’t quite believe that Twilight trained in the Everfree Forest until now.
“Don’t worry Rarity, you will be surprised when you see it.”
After Twilight’s little comment Rarity felt a tingle of magic in her eyes and when she looked at her purple friend, she caught Twilight’s horn glowing with hers magic. The white unicorn didn’t know what happened but she quickly realized she was able to see much better in the dusk.
When she decided to look down, Rarity saw many ponies cutting down trees and building what looked like a... road?
“Twilight dear, are they building a road to Ponyville?” Rarity’s voice was filled with curiosity.
Twilight turned her head to look down and then at her white friend.
“Yes they are. Not much of a castle for a Princess it would be, if it didn’t have a way for ponies other than pegasi to safely travel to it. They started constructing it about a week ago.” Twilight explained in her ‘lecture’ voice.
Rest of their journey was spent in silence, with Rarity barely withholding the many question she wanted to ask. But when she saw the renewed castle, her eyes widened and her mouth hung open in utter astonishment.
It was nothing like the ruin it was when they battled Nightmare Moon. The forest around it had been cut down to create place for new buildings, she suspected that these buildings were barracks and training gyms for Night Guards. The old rope bridge also was gone, in its place now was wide, sturdy and elegantly curved stone bridge.
The castle itself looked like how it probably had in the past... With a bit of more accent at who now lived here. It’s many slim turrets shooting high into the sky were made from a darker, almost black stone which caused the windows in which light was seen to look like stars. Rarity could spot that at roof edges many spikes like the ones on the chariot were added. A wide rectangular courtyard was added before the castle, its edges accented by small fountains and elegantly trimmed small trees.
“Take us around the castle first, and fly lower.” Twilight’s voice rang with authority and the pegasi pulling the chariot obeyed.
Behind the castle, Rarity could see the beginnings of a beautiful garden. Rows of neatly trimmed trees and paths between them. Eight fountains in a large circle. Some bushes creating private niches. At the centre of the garden, which now Rarity could tell was planned like an eight pointed star, was a statue that shocked the white mare when she saw it. It was a statue of Nightmare Moon and if she was seeing right, it was the same statute before which she as a filly dropped some of her candies from Nightmare Nights. A reminder of a time when she still believed in that old pony story where she would be gobbled by the Nightmare if she didn’t offer her candy...
“Twilight, why is this statue here?” Rarity asked as she looked at her friend.
“Princess Luna is fond of the memories from last Nightmare Night. She wanted the original here and there will be a replacement made for that clearing in the forest.” Twilight answered with a small smile.
When they finally landed Twilight almost dragged Rarity behind her into the castle. The insides also made Rarity look around all the time. Paintings and statues that connected somehow to the night time in general or night sky were present in every corridor and hall they moved through. Lush carpets in shades of blue were lying on the obsidian paved floors. Black candles that burnt with bright blue flame held by silver chandeliers provided the necessary light. Taking in all the new sights Rarity didn’t even realise when they reached a room in one of the towers.
When she looked around she had a feeling whose room it was. It was circular, done in blues, purples and blacks. Rarity spotted stairs leading to a higher floor but they weren’t that interesting. There was a rather large mahogany desk on which the white unicorn could spot at least half a dozen books and scrolls. Five large, ceiling high bookcases dominated the far wall. There was a fireplace with pillows laying in front of it with some books stacked near it. The same candles that were lightning up the castle were also present in this room.
And there was one thing that got Rarity’s full attention. It was a mannequin with a Night Guard armor on it, but it was incomplete, some plates were missing and it didn’t have the ‘cat eye’ in its centre like the rest of the armors she had seen had.
“Yes, that's the thing I want you to look at, your the fashionista here after all.” Twilight said with a smile, when she saw that her white friend spotted the armor.
“Who is it for?” Rarity asked a she went closer to the mannequin to examine with what she will be working.
“That’s rather obvious. For me.” Was Twilight’s answer as she walked behind Rarity... and almost hit her when the white mare turned around to look at Twilight with a rather intense gaze.
“And why do I, your close friend hear about it just now? You know how hard it was for us to adjust to seeing you less often... But if you join the Guard we will see each other even less.”
Twilight sighed and looked at her hooves, before looking up at Rarity with her cat like eyes.
“So you will get used to it again. Now do you want to help me customize this armor or not?”
Whatever Rarity expected was not this. For a moment she stood gaping at Twilight in a very unladylike manner. Then she cleared her throat.
“I will see what I can do, stay still.”
It took Rarity a good portion of the next two hours to customize the armor. The simplest thing to do was placing in a blue sapphire in the socket the armor had for the ‘cat eye’. She added some dark blue material to the armor that covered Twilight’s back legs, flank and a very small portion of her sides. From the helmet she removed the dragon fin, making it possible for Twilight’s mane to stick out of it.
All in all the modifications were very simple, but working with metal was much harder than working with regular fabrics.
“Thank you.” Twilight said when she got a good look at what her fashionista friend have done.
“You’re welcome darling.” Rarity’s stiff answer made Twilight sigh. This meeting was not going too well.
“Listen Rarity, whatever it’s worth, I’m sorry. I was placed between a rock and a hard place... and I have chosen to do this for Luna.” Twilight’s voice was soft when she spoke.
“The others will not like this news Twilight.”
“I know and I understand. But I’m willing to take the risk, besides what kind of friends would the rest turn out to be if they didn’t accept my decision?.” As she was saying this, Twilight put on the armored shoes.
“I need to go, if you want you can take the chariot back to Ponyville or you can sleep in my bed upstairs. I will probably be out all night.” Twilight said opening the doors and going out with the sound of her steel shoes hitting the stone.
In the end Rarity decided to stay in the tower, she was too tired and had too many thoughts on her mind. The most important was that this new Twilight was not their old Twilight. And she still remembered how being ‘new’ worked out for Fluttershy... Her pegasus friend had returned to being her ‘old’ self. But she didn’t have that monster Iron Will watching her day after day. Princess Luna on the other hoof would never leave Twilight’s life so easily...
Rarity shook her head, that was a stupid thought! How could she compare the two! But still... If Twilight was going to be this way all time... It would be... The. Worst. Thing. Ever!
After that thought the white unicorn fell on the comfortable bed she found upstairs and tried to fall asleep.
A/N: If anybody has problems with imagining Twilight’s armor here, look at this (it’s not Twilight, but the armor is the thing that matters here): Click me!
R&R ponies! And truly I didn’t count on so many likes and all the other good, motivating stuff, yeah not that many compared to other stories but it’s a lot from my point of view. Also, in the next chapter I’m going to finally tackle the ‘Adventure’ part of this story.
When Twilight walked through the castle in her new armor everypony turned their heads to look at her. The purple mare was pleased with how ponies she passed by bowed to her. At the beginning of the month it embarrassed her how the castle staff behaved around her, but now she really did enjoy the attention and bowing.
In no time Twilight made her way to the throne room. After the workers have completed the renovation it looked quite stunning. The mirror like surface of polished obsidian that was the floor, reflected the black ceiling on which many gems were placed and filled with magic to shine with their natural colour. It created an illusion of walking among the stars, only disturbed by the dark grey stone pillars decorated with thin, silver vines. Delicate silver chandeliers were lighting up the side alcoves. On the path leading from the doors to the throne lay a black carpet trimmed with silver.
Two steps from the dais on which was the black marble throne Twilight stopped and bowed slightly to the Princess that sat on it, looking over some documents held with hers magic. They were not alone, as there were three other ponies Twilight didn't know that stood close to the dais. Petitioners by the look of it.
“Your request will be granted. In a weeks time the donation from the treasury will arrive to you.” Luna answered and then she looked up from the document to see Twilight slightly bowing to her all the time and the three astronomers bowing deeply to her, almost touching their foreheads to the floor. The Princess smirked as she observed the grateful ponies retreating from her throne room.
“We are alone Twilight, drop the act,” the dark alicorn said smiling with a more friendly smile. When she gave the mare before her the proposition to became Commander of her Night Guards, she insisted on dropping the formalities when they were alone. “This armor looks good on you.”
“Thank you. What we will be doing tonight Luna? More magical theory or do you want me to oversee the works again?” Twilight didn’t truly want to do the latter as she did it almost all the time for the past week. It was a waste of time, as whenever the workers and Guards saw her watching, they would be on their best behaviour and that meant there was almost no need for her to give orders. She could have spent those nights doing something more productive, like in depth researching of battle magic... but it was an order and as a future Commander she wanted to be an example for the other Guards. So disobeying an order was out of the question.
“Neither. A day ago, a farm pony from Appleoosa came to Canterlot seeking help,” Luna looked at Twilight seeing her frown. “He reported that in the last two weeks, four earthponies have gone missing. All of them didn't return from their trading trips into the buffaloes territory. An investigation party had been sent and they confirmed that it wasn’t the buffalo behind the disappearances, as at least two young buffalo also have gone missing. Their chieftain was rather unwilling to talk about it in more detail.” Luna ended her little monologue with an annoyed snort. They were trying to help, but it would seem that the buffalo still had little trust in ponies.
“So what is Princess Celestia going to do about it?” Twilight asked, deeply in thought.
“Nothing,” the Princess of the Night saw the incredulous look Twilight gave her and raised her hoof to silence any protests. “Celestia gave the task of solving this case to me. And I gave it to you Twilight. It is a perfect opportunity for you to test your skills outside of this forest.”
Twilight was a bit shocked. She didn’t expect something like this mission. Not that soon anyway. To make it worse she had a deadline on this one, the ball was only eleven nights away from now.
“I will do my best Princess,” Twilight finally found her voice after a minute of silence. “But is there anything else that the pony reported. And can I take some of my friends with me on this mission?”
“I think you will find it interesting, that some precious gems were found on the far eastern border of buffaloes territory. From what the ponies from Appleoosa learned, the buffaloes knew about the gems but they had no interest in them, until the trading begun that is.” Now Princess Luna only waited for what Twilight will come up with, she had a suspicion and she knew her apprentice will also make that connection.
“You’re suspecting diamond dogs, aren’t you Luna?” Twilight asked with a scowl on her muzzle. She had some experience with that race, and it wasn’t exactly pleasant.
“Indeed...” The Princess abruptly stopped and she scowled as her ears twitched a bit. “Come out now pony, or you will end in the dungeons.”
When she heard that Twilight abruptly turned around and looked around the empty hall. Her horn ignited with her magic, she wanted to be prepared for anything. But when the eavesdropper walked out from behind one of the pillars the purple mare’s jaw almost landed on the floor.
She tried to fall asleep, she really did. But her curiosity was getting the better of her. Rarity knew she shouldn’t be snooping around... but it always was so much fun! So without further thinking, she got up and went downstair to see what she could find in the castle.
While on her little tour Rarity was happy to note that no one paid to her that much attention. Some Night Guards looked at her suspiciously but other than that, they didn't bother her. And she was glad for it.
The white unicorn didn’t quite count on finding the throne room, but when she did, Rarity saw backs of some three unknown ponies and a slightly bowing Twilight. Deciding to get a better look she sneaked inside when the Princess spoke to the trio and hid herself behind on of the pillars.
She had to admit, Princess Luna looked intimidating on her black throne. Rarity realized that while Princess Celestia’s throne room always gave of the feeling of gentle warmth and comfort, this dark hall had a feeling of coldness and power. She also imagined, that while nopony thought twice before coming with their cause to Princess Celestia... She was sure, that everypony would think more than twice before coming before Princess Luna.
Her thoughts came to a halt when she heard Twilight talking with the Princess. Rarity listened carefully and when she heard the news about those disappearances, she was shocked that something like this could be happening. And when she heard who was suspected, she couldn’t withhold a gasp... And the next thing she knew, Princess Luna was demanding that she came out of her hiding. She bit her lower lip and slightly trembling came out... she really didn’t want to end up in the dungeons. Among other unpleasant things that could happen... her mane and tail would be ruined by that!
“Rarity! What are you doing here?” Twilight’s voice caused the white mare to look at her rather than at her own hooves. She shuddered more strongly when she found herself pinned under her friends annoyed glare... those cat like eyes didn’t help either.
“Oh, y-y-you know. W-walking around...” Rarity’s nerves caused her to stutter. “Just please don’t send me into the dungeons!” She wailed in her high voice throwing herself on the carpet, and what a nice, luxurious carpet it was...
Both the Princess and Twilight winced a bit at the volume her drama queen friend just used.
“Do not fear. I will not send one of Twilight’s friends to the dungeons... this time, although eavesdropping is not something I tolerate. Are we clear on that matter?” Luna’s voice and expression was serious, she would not tolerate another attempt at eavesdropping.
“Crystal clear Princess.” In an instant Rarity stood up as if nothing had happened.
“Now then, with that settled. Princess my other question?” Twilight asked turning around to face her teacher again.
“Of course you can bring your friends with you Twilight, also take Spike. I will be expecting news when you make any major breakthrough in this case.” The dark alicorn fall silent for a few seconds as if pondering something. “Go get some sleep Twilight, prepare yourself but don’t take the armor... It is not yet time.”
“Then I... we, will be on our way to Ponyville.” Twilight said looking at Rarity and gesturing at her friend to follow her. With a quick bow Rarity followed the purple mare.
In the following morning, both mares agreed to meet at the train station around eleven, when the train to Appleoosa would be arriving. They had came to a conclusion that Rarity would have to be on the ‘team’ and Twilight decided that also Applejack would be needed.
And right now Twilight was entering the Sweet Apple Acres. It was around eight in the morning but she could hear the sound of somepony bucking the apple trees. She decided to follow the sound and trotted in that direction.
After about five minutes she saw her orange friend readying herself to carry a basket full of apples.
When Applejack heard somepony coming closer she looked to her right and almost dropped the basket she was lifting onto her back.
“Well I’ll be... That’s really you Twilight?” Applejack smiled broadly when she saw her purple friend. Form their group only she hadn’t seen Twilight for almost whole two month, that time six weeks ago when she came to ask for advice about physical training didn’t really count.
“Yep, thanks again for your advice.” Twilight answered with an equal smile. She couldn’t help herself and decided to buck the tree next to her, to show off her new strength. What followed was a small rain of apples, she didn't clear the whole tree like Applejack could do, but she got at least half of the fruits.
“Nicely done Twilight! Ah’m impressed.”
“Thank you,” Twilight said cheerfully. “Uh... Listen Applejack I have a favor to ask. Could you come with me and Rarity to Appleoosa? They got some troubles and you could help greatly.” She wasn’t sure how to propose it so she just got straight to the point.
Applejack looked surprised for a bit, then she got a determined look on her muzzle.
“Can do sugarcube,” the orange mare said with confidence in her voice and after that she smiled. “Ah was curious how my little Bloomberg was doin’ anyway. So when do we leave?”
Twilight told her the plan and after some small talk left the orchard. Next stop, Fluttershy’s cottage. The purple unicorn wanted to ask the timid pegasus to look after the library while she and Spike were gone, after that visit she would finally go home and pack her own bags.
The train ride was surprisingly short for the three mares, but it could have been that way because of their animated talking. They did have quite a bit of catching up to do, Twilight especially. However Spike chose to just sleep through the train ride.
But the good things must always end at some point and when they arrived at Appleoosa train station their good mood vanished. At a first glance they could see that the town got bigger, Twilight could count five new houses built and two more being build. When they looked closer however they saw that about half of the houses got planks nailed to their windows, and the two build sites were abandoned. With only seven ponies including them wandering about, it looked almost like a ghost town.
“Lets go ask sheriff Silverstar what’s goin’ on here.” Applejack took the lead. Twilight, Rarity and Spike just nodded their heads.
After a quick trot, or a ride on Twilight’s back in case of the baby dragon, the small group barged into sheriff’s office without a warning. Silverstar heard the hooves steps outside so he wasn’t surprised when somepony walked into his office. What he didn’t expect was who exactly barged in. To say that he was happy was an understatement. Sure he counted on Royal Guards, but the three mares now standing before him were a good sign too. They even got a dragon, well baby dragon...
“You have no idea how happy I’m to see you three.” He went to shake his hoof with them, of course Rarity did that rather reluctantly.
“What happened to the town?” Twilight asked, and the other two mares also voiced their interest.
Silverstar instantly lost his happy attitude and became somber.
“Ponies left Miss Sparkle. They were scared because there were three new disappearances, closer to town...” the sheriff looked at Applejack. “I’m sorry to say this Miss, but your cousin went missing four days ago.”
“WHAT?! Ah’m goin’ to the orchard!” Before anypony could stop her Applejack galloped away almost smashing the doors to the office into pieces.
“Applejack! Ugh, that mare! I will follow her Twilight.” Rarity said before she cantered after their blonde friend. Spike also jumped down from Twilight’s back and made a few quick steps outside.
“Are they going to be ok?” Spike voiced his thoughts from just outside the doors as he watched the two running mares.
“They will be fine,” Twilight said with a sigh and turned her cat like eyes again on the sheriff. ”Tell me everything you know...” She was hoping that Silverstar found out something new that would help them.
The orchard was quiet. The air was still and blistering, there wasn’t even the smallest trace of wind. Some bird of prey screeched in the distance. And a panting Applejack stood still between the trees, looking at the ground on which she found traces of a struggle. Hoof prints and some traces she couldn’t discern were all over the place. Following the most prominent trails she saw that somepony was dragged by something away from the town.
She was lucky that it didn’t rain in Appleoosa for at least two weeks, if the colour of the grass was anything to go by. And living near the Everfree taught her how to read the tracks. Her and Big Mac had to know if something prowled near their farm and sometimes even among their apple trees in the night, in case it was something dangerous.
But there was something wrong here, she frowned...
“Applejack!” Said pony turned her head around to see an out of breath Rarity running to her.
“What are you doin’ here?” The orange mare asked turning again to study the traces.
“Keeping you safe of course!” Rarity huffed. “The sheriff did say that ponynapings were getting closer to town... What are you looking at?”
“Braeburn was here.” Applejack pointed her hoof at the disturbed dirt and grass.
Suddenly the mares heard a quiet rustle of the leafs. The blond mare’s eyes widened when she understood what was wrong with the tracks. Some of them were fresh.
“Rarity, get ready.” The farm pony whispered with the corner of her mouth and saw how her friends eyes also widened, and she took a step back.
Apparently that was the sign for their hiding stalkers to come out. Or rather drop out of the trees.
“Smart ponies, but stupid ponies.” One of the three diamond dogs that surrounded the mares said.
Rarity was scared. She had personal experience with diamond dogs, but the ones she saw now were different from the previous ones. Their fur was lighter, probably to hide them in the plain grass and shrubs. They wore brown jackets and pants, but those were taken care of and not unkempt like the ones that the other dogs had. The two before her and one behind her were lankier than the ones she knew, and looked more athletic. All in all those three looked somehow more dangerous, more sophisticated.
“Run!” Applejack’s voice woke the white unicorn from hers daze. She turned and igniting her horn with magic, grabbed anything that was laying nearby, which mostly were some pebbles and dried leafs, and tossed it at the her opponent.
“That one has... ugh” Whatever the shouting diamond dog wanted to say was silenced by a powerful buck from angered Applejack, as she sent that one flying into a tree behind him. But she had forgotten that this was an uneven fight, and was easily knocked out by the second diamond dog, that jumped at her the moment he saw the orange pony moving to kick his pack mate. Her stetson hat drifted to the ground as Applejack’s unconscious body hit the dirt.
Seeing that, with a very unladylike scream Rarity charged the diamond dog that knocked out her friend. She never made it as she felt something hit the back of her head, probably a rock, and she herself lost consciousness, her white coated body sliding into the dried ground.
“Take... the orange one... leave... white one.” Whimpered out the diamond dog that was thrown into the tree, he was holding his torso and had a painful expression on his muzzle. As he looked at the orange pony, he smiled dangerously showing of his sharp teeth. He will make her pay for the broken ribs.
Twilight impatiently tapped her hoof on the floor of sheriff’s office. What was taking her friends so long? To add to her irritation, Silverstar had nothing new to say. Everything he said she knew already or she suspected it. She had lost almost two hours already, and some bits. Surprisingly Spike won quite a bit of bits.
When the door opened all present in the office turned their heads from the playing cards in their hoofs or claws. Yes, Twilight was playing with the sheriff and her number one assistant to kill some time as she waited for her friends.
Twilight and Spike dropped their cards and stared wide eyed at a sobbing Rarity, covered in dirt, with her mane and tail disheveled, and on hers neck Twilight spotted what looked like a dried streak of blood. The white unicorn was clutching a familiar stetson hat. The moment she drooped to the floor, Twilight run to her. Spike was too stunned to move or say anything.
“What happened Rarity?” Twilight asked in a panicked voice.
“D-d-diamond do-o-o-gs. T-t-hey were... were wait-t-ting. The-y-y-y too-ok her! They took her Twilight!” The sobbing mare was shaking, but at the end some strength returned to her voice, along with anger.
“Shh.. Shh... We’re going to get her back. I promise... I promise.” Twilight whispered to Rarity and tried to comfort her friend. She saw in the corner of her eye how Silverstar left them alone and closed the door.
While she comforted Rarity, Twilight’s expression darkened. No one hurt her friends, no one.
A/N: Dun, dun, duuuuun! Probably a bit to fast paced but I hope you still liked it... Also before the next chapter is posted I will be going over previous ones, trying to spot errors and correct them.
By any means
Hours after Rarity delivered the news of Applejack’s ponynaping, Twilight stood by a small window in the local saloon. They were given two rooms on the upper floor, one for her and Rarity and one for Spike. Having a room all for himself somewhat helped with the gloomy attitude of the baby dragon. The purple mare looked to her right. Rarity was sleeping surprisingly peacefully, only now and then twitching slightly. The white unicorn had some bandages wrapped around her head, Twilight was surprised that her friend didn’t comment on it ruining her mane, when they were taking care of the wound.
Rarity needed the rest. They would go to the buffaloes in the morning and then from there they will hunt down those diamond dogs.
She sighed and returned to watching the planes that stretched beyond the window. Earlier she sent a letter to Princess Luna, she wrote to her about Applejack and the situation in general. The reply letter... she was still holding it in front of her. Contemplating it.
To Twilight Sparkle,
Resolve this situation by any means necessary. This message has been recorded in the archives as a Royal Order.
After reading the short letter once more she crumbled it into a paper ball with her magic. Her cat like eyes narrowed dangerously as she looked at the moon rising above the planes. She turned around and headed to her bed.
Sun was barely up and already Twilight and Rarity stood at the outskirts of the small town, with them was the sheriff and Spike.
“But I want to come with you!” Spike voiced his wish for at least tenth time in this morning.
“And I said no! You are staying!” Twilight’s front hoof smashed into the dry ground as she replied with her voice full of irritation, but this time she finally mixed in the commanding tone she used in the castle.
Spike just blinked for a few moments unsure what he had just seen. Sure Twilight usually was ordering him around, but not in such way. Draconic eyes meet, and Spike had to quickly turn away his head. Twilight’s gaze was cold and unrelenting. He hadn’t seen her in such state before, it was unnerving for him. In that instant he knew that this Appleloosa business wouldn't end well. The baby dragon sighed.
“Fine, fine. I will stay with the sheriff then, I guess.”
“Good,” Twilight looked to her side, only to see Rarity looking at her uncertainly. “Rarity we’re going.”
“Remember what I told you. The buffaloes could have moved their camp so it can take awhile for you to find them.” Sheriff Silverstar have told them that one time already, when he showed them on a map the last position of said camp. He suspected that they could have moved to get away from now identified diamond dogs, and he warned the mares of that possibility.
Twilight and Rarity nodded in understanding and after that, the two mares started their journey into the plains. They walked for about twenty minutes in silence, until Rarity decided to ask something that was nagging her.
“Twilight, I was thinking... Why didn’t they take me?” The white mare saw how Twilight’s muzzle got that sort of ‘I’m thinking hard’ look.
“Probably... Because earthponies have no way of causing them serious trouble. With ponies that have magic or wings they would have harder time controlling them.” While saying this Twilight never slowed down or turned to look at Rarity.
“One more thing, dear. Did you really had to be so... pushy with Spike?”
“You know that I was right back there.” Twilight simply answered.
“Yes, but you could have been more cordial about it.” Rarity answered and moved a forward a bit to look her friend in the eyes as she said that.
“I tried from the moment he first asked, it didn’t work. Spike is my assistant, so he should listen to me, I merely enforced that belief.” Hearing that Rarity stopped for a moment, but had to quickly start walking again.
“So what are you saying darling? That Spike shouldn’t question your actions and be obedient?” Rarity asked with slight worry in her voice.
“Yes. Besides, he didn’t mind me ordering him around until now. Do you have a problem with that?” Twilight asked with slightly annoyed voice and finally looked at her white friend. She had more important things to do right now, or rather things to think about, than her relations with Spike.
Rarity didn’t quite know what to say. This topic demanded more time in her opinion, but she knew they should have other things on their minds now. Like rescuing Applejack and other ponies from diamond dogs. She sighed.
“We will discuss this later.” The white unicorn said quietly, she didn't want to argue with her friend right now. After that both mares didn’t talk, both focused on the road and on their thoughts.
As they traveled, the sun also climbed higher and was now nearing noon. The heat forced them to stop a couple of times already to rest and drink. It was one thing to be in this region in the spring, and another being here in the summer.
Finally when the sun was well past noon, Twilight saw some smoke on the horizon. She smiled and when she looked to her side, she saw that Rarity was relieved as well. Twilight knew she could be wrong, but she was rather certain that the smoke pointed them the way to the buffaloes camp. So not wasting any more time on pointless wandering, both mares galloped in the direction of the smoke.
In no time, at least for them, they saw the camp with almost a dozen tepees and a bonfire in the centre. Both mares slowed down when they saw two buffaloes heading their way, one was light brown and second was dark brown with some feathers tied to his horn.
“What are you doing here ponies?” Asked the darker buffalo with a gruff voice when both parties meet.
“We want to talk with your chief about diamond dogs.” Twilight’s statement caused the two buffaloes to look at her with grim expressions, but they both nodded and silently gestured for the mares to follow.
Of course when they entered the camp, Rarity and Twilight became the center of attention. Twilight more so, because of her eyes. The purple mare heard some mutterings about herself and could discern some fearful comments.
Near the fire they saw chief Thunderhooves, and by the time they got there, Twilight suspected that the whole camp was present. She and Rarity saw how the darker buffalo that escorted them walked to the chief and whispered to him something.
Thunderhooves looked at the ponies.
“I know now why you are here, but we can’t help you, only point you to the area where we know the gems are.” His answer wasn’t that shocking to Twilight.
“We weren't counting on anything more. Although, could we stay at yours camp for the night?” Twilight saw that Rarity wanted to add something but she shushed her.
“Hmm... Yes you can,” the chief said and then turned to the rest of buffaloes. “Let’s welcome our guests.”
What followed was a short party, a quieter one and not as cheerful as the ones Pinkie could do, but she had to admit, the situation wasn’t perfect for such things. However, the one thing that made Twilight laugh was when some buffalo females rounded on Rarity. They tried to clothe her accordingly to their fashion sense. The purple mare knew she would remember for a long time the look of Rarity’s muzzle expression, when the white mare silently begged her to rescue her.
When the next day Twilight and Rarity were leaving the camp, almost half of the buffaloes came to see them off.
“I wish you luck in your journey.” Thunderhooves said with as they exchanged their goodbyes.
When some buffaloe brought their saddlebags that had been refilled with supplies, both mares expressed their gratitude and were off. According to the chief it would take them almost a full day to reach the eastern border of their territory where the gems were.
In an underground cave or rather a prison cell, Applejack was lying on the hard, cool rock trying not to move to much. Almost all of her muscles felt as if they were on fire, on her flank and back she could feel the small, stinging wounds left by a whip... and a few larger bruises also adorned her body. And all of this in mere two days, if she guessed correctly. Maybe she wouldn't be in such a bad shape, if she wasn’t as stubborn as she was, but the blond mare promised herself not to give the dogs an easy time with herself.
When she looked around she could spot seven more ponies, all of them were earthponies, probably from Appleloosa. But the only other pony that looked even worse than here, was her cousin. It would seem being stubborn ran in the family.
And that worried her. Other ponies whispered that he would not make it past another couple of days, if he didn’t stop fighting.
Her musing was stopped when a nasty looking, older and scarred diamond dog brought them their meal. If it could be called that. Sure the rest got somewhat decent food, but she and her cousin got half of the portion, and the hay wasn’t that fresh.
“You pony should wise up and work, not fight.” Said the diamond dog with a nasty smirk.
“As if...” Applejack muttered and watched as he left the dungeon. Only then did she crawl to the bowls of hay and water.
After an hour or so, Applejack woke up when she heard the doors to her cell open. In the dim light provided by the torches in the dungeon corridor she saw a familiar diamond dog. He had bandages around his torso, but what drew her attention was the whip in his hand.
“Pony broke Raf’s ribs, pony will pay now.” He said with a bloodthirsty grin.
When Twilight and Rarity reached their destination, it was an hour before dawn, if the position of the moon was anything to go by. They both agreed that they would not stop for sleep. They managed that when Twilight cast a Rejuvenation spell at them.
It was a spell well known to her but she didn't cast it if it wasn't truly needed, as it easily addicted. Every year there was at least one case of an addicted unicorn, and in most cases it ended with a fatal magical and physical exhaustion. But those thoughts aside...
“Rarity, start searching for the gems.” Without further waiting the white unicorn started her search.
The terrain here was uneven and in some places bare rock was visible instead of grass and dirt. But Rarity quickly succeeded and found the first cluster of gems. With years of practice she went from one cluster to another, until the clusters became more common. And then, when the sky was starting to turn pink she found what she was looking for. Deep underground her magic found a massive concentration of gems.
“Now only to find an entrance...” Rarity said looking around, last time it wasn’t that easy when she heard the story from her friends' side.
“I think I found it.” Twilight shouted from her spot, about three hundred hooves to Rarity’s right. She was standing on a small cliff and she could see a cave entrance beneath her, if she leant forward, over the edge.
“So what’s the plan?” Rarity asked quietly.
“I’m going in, you stay here and help anypony who comes out.”
“Are you certain Twilight?” The white mare asked looking at Twilight and not seeing her muzzle, her mane obscured it when she looked down.
“Oh... I will be all right. Don’t worry about me...” Twilight answered quietly as she jumped down the cliff. It wasn’t that high and she cushioned her landing with a bit of magic.
Rarity saw how Twilight went inside the cave.
The purple unicorn didn’t need extra light, her new eyes were working wonderfully. As silently as she could Twilight moved forward, walking as close to the walls as was possible. It was obvious that the cave was used, any sharp edges or random rocks have been removed, she could make out the traces of tools on the walls and ground. When she went deeper she found herself at a crossroad, two tunnels went to her left, one to her right and down. The choice was simple.
After some time of walking lower and lower, she finally saw some light. It was a simple torch. At least Twilight was certain she was at the right place. The walls also started to get more smooth and straight.
She heard some pawsteps, and quickly found a shadowy place to hide herself under a Chameleon spell, it was not a perfect disguise... far from it actually, but with enough shadow it made her invisible to anypony who wasn’t looking.
Two guards walked by her hiding spot with clubs in their hands. One, older by the looks of it, looked around when he was five steps past her hiding place.
“You smell anything?” He rasped, sniffing the air.
“Pony. But that smell is all over the place.” The younger then grumbled something about stupid, stubborn ponies that tried to escape.
The older shrugged and they went... wherever they were going.
Sighing in relief Twilight moved forward, she didn't want to attract attention as long as she could. Further down the tunnel, that by now was lit quite well by torches, she found what she suspected to be sleeping rooms, the snoring coming from behind the different curtains in small passages was enough confirmation.
Even deeper she finally found the mines. Ans she was astonished by the sheer size of the first chamber, this diamond dog pack had to dig here for decades if not centuries.
Her ear twitched. Somepony shouted? She heard something, from the bottom. Again the same sound, bottom, right tunnel. Twilight decided to investigate. When she got to the bottom of the mining chamber she heard a distinct, sharp, cracking noise... and some voices.
“Stop it!” Somepony shouted, a stallion.
“You can’t do this to her!” Another shout and another sharp crack. Followed by a pain filled groan. For a moment Twilight stood rooted in place, she knew that voice, the one that groaned.
Then she stepped into the tunnel. Everypony turned their heads in her direction, but the diamond dog she saw in the third cell on her left didn’t saw her yet. She galloped to that cell and when she looked inside it...
Applejack was many things... The most honest, the strongest, the most helpful, even the most stubborn. But this was just too much. She lost count of how many times the diamond dog had hit her with that whip after thirty second, or was it thirty fifth time? Tears freely streamed down her muzzle as she groaned when another hit connected with her body.
She waited for another time, but then she heard a strange gurgling sound and something warm and sticky splattered across her muzzle. She opened her left eye only to see the diamond dog fall to the ground, a pool of crimson was growing around him.
And in the entrance to her cell stood Twilight Sparkle. Her draconic eyes were cold, her muzzle showed anger, even hatred that boiled inside her.
Twilight looked at her friend, she looked far worse than Cadance in the crystal caves. And she thought that she would never see a pony in a worse state. Her orange friend’s body was marked by too many long, thin and deep cuts from the whip to count, she saw some larger bruises... It was all that she needed to know. She made the few steps to her friend and saw her tears. Twilight quickly cast some healing magic on her friend, just to alleviate the pain.
“I’m going to get you out of here. Wait for me, just a bit longer.” Twilight said quietly, with her magic she moved her friend from the cell to the corridor, away from the dead diamond dog. With a wave of her head and horn, she opened the rest of the cells.
Not looking back she went back to the upper levels. When she reached the ‘dorm level’, she saw that some diamond dogs were up now, probably awoken by the noises from the holding cells. They sneered at her when they saw her. And Twilight sneered back, as she ignited her horn.
The dogs made the first move and two of them jumped at her. With calm not fitting the situation Twilight formed the same spell she used on the torturer of her friend, a Cutting spell. In mid air the purplish arc of magic connected and two heads rolled to the floor, the sneer turned and frozen into a look of fear.
For a moment there was silence, and then it was like Tartarus had broken loose. Diamond dogs howled and barked, attacking her. Only to meet their end in the barrage of battle spells Twilight unleashed, some powerful enough to carve deeply into surrounding solid rock. Most of the dogs ended beheaded, some impaled by conjured rock spikes, some were electrocuted... In her frenzy Twilight even went as far as to use an Implosion spell on one of them. It was the most powerful spell in her arsenal so far, designed for destroying fortifications, not living beings. What was left of the diamond dog sprayed everywhere. The following pressure wave shook the whole cavern system, and smashed Twilight and anyone still standing in the corridor into a wall, dazing them.
But for her it was not the end, blind rage fuelled her for the next hour or so. When she saw no more living targets, she finally remembered why she was here in the first place.
When she reached the dungeons, she saw the ponies huddled into a group, shivering, covering their ears. Seeing her they went rigid, and their eyes widened in fear.
“There... There is no one left. I will lead you to the surface.” She went to her friend and saw that she was unconscious, Twilight grabbed Applejack with her magic... and then noticed another stallion in state similar to hers friend. She grabbed him too and started to walk towards exit, the group fearfully following her.
On the surface Rarity waited, she heard the howls. She was worried. When she was close to panicking she heard hoofsteps coming from the entrance to the cave. In the sunlight of the late morning, she saw Twilight. She was coated in a thick layer of crimson, and had a look of pure hate plastered on her face.
Rarity’s eyes widened, when she came closer... the stench hit her, and she saw who Twilight was levitating behind her and their state... The white mare turned, galloped to the nearest shrub and vomited what little she had in her stomach. Breathing deeply she returned to Twilight and hers small group.
“All the howls and barks... Did you?” The white mare had to sit down.
“All of them, no one spared... no one.” It started to slowly dawn on Twilight what she had done. She gently laid the two farm ponies on the ground and just stared at the sun. All of the blood on her was starting to dry in the sun’s rays. She watched the sun, and could not help but wonder, if Princess Celestia was seeing her now. She shuddered, her left ear twitched.
“I need a bath...” Twilight said quietly, now starring in something akin to astonishment on her crimson painted front hoof.
“T-t-there is a river... Not that far from... here.” One of the mares in the freed group said, not looking at Twilight.
“Lets go there, then.” Twilight said stood up and started walking, not truly registering she didn't know where to go. After making few steps, she fainted.
A/N: It was truly tempting to raise the rating to write something really gory, but I resisted it, for the better or worse...
When Twilight awoke, first thing she noticed was the gentle sound of a flowing river. Opening her eyes she saw that she was laying close to a river bank. Lifting her head up, she looked around. To her left she saw Applejack and her cousin, Braeburn. They were both asleep. On her right the seven saved ponies sat huddled together, whispering among themselves.
“You’re finally awake Twilight, thats good.” Rarity's voice had a relieved tone in it. Twilight sat up and looked behind her where she finally saw her white friend.
“How long was I out?” The purple mare furrowed her brows in thought. Why did she... Even before she finished that thought, it all came back to her in a rush of crimson stained memories. Twilight closed her eyes and she slumped to the ground, she shuddered as more of the memories came back.
“Twilight, are you alright?” Rarity knew that this wasn't the best question to ask right now, but what else could she ask?
“No,” Twilight whispered as she felt moisture gathering in her eyes. “What... what have I done?” Her voice sounded weak and she was on the verge of a nervous breakdown.
Rarity bit her lower lip in worry. There really was no easy way around that question... well, she would try anyway.
“You... saved... Applejack and other ponies.” The white mare tried to sound confident when she said that, but even she had a difficult time believing it fully. Rarity watched as a single tear trailed
down her friends muzzle.
“How is she anyway? And her cousin?” Twilight asked weakly while looking at her orange friend.
“The wounds are nasty, it will take time before she will recover... there is just so many of them...” Rarity said worrying her lower lip.
Twilight was fighting the overwhelming urge to just lie there and cry. She knew what she had done could not be changed, but it didn’t mean that the guilt she felt would lessen because of that. And then... Twilight began to think about how the diamond dogs treated the ponies, in what condition was Applejack when she found her... As she focused more and more on these kind of thoughts the less guilty she felt. So in a desperate attempt to rid herself of the oppressing guilt, she feed the smoldering ember of anger and hate for the diamond dogs.
In the outside world, Rarity was starting to get really worried when she saw how Twilight muzzle expression turned from sad and regretful to cold and indifferent.
“We should be on our way.” Twilight said coldly as she slowly stood up, she saw how her white friend made a step back from her but for now, she didn’t care. At that moment she noticed something. She wasn’t covered with blood anymore, somepony had washed her, and she had an idea who did it.
“Thank you for cleaning the blood off of me Rarity. Now, get them up.” As she said that Twilight grabbed Applejack and Braeburn in her magic, and gestured with her hoof for the seven other ponies.
Rarity just sighed heavily and did as Twilight told her.
After some discussion, one of the rescued ponies began to lead them towards Appleloosa. Or in the general direction of it, as even he as he put it... ‘an experienced traveler’ that now mainly traded with the buffaloes, never went that far from the town willingly. But his cutie mark was the old fashioned marking for a rout on the ‘treasure maps’, a twisted line of dots with an ‘X’ at its end. So everypony hopped he had a good terrain orientation...
Sheriff Silverstar was getting worried, after four days the two mares still didn’t return. That baby dragon also was agitated by that. But what could they do, beside waiting? Well, something has been done, but it didn’t quite help the two mares.
A day after the departure of Twilight and Rarity, Silverstar was shocked when he discovered that the baby dragon could send letters directly to the Princesses. Wasting no time after the discovery, he managed to convince the small guy to send letters to the Princesses asking for help, and as he wanted to get better result he begged the baby dragon to sign them as Twilight Sparkle. In the following day ten Royal Guards arrived, and in the night ten more Night Guards showed up.
What he didn't know was that there were three reply letters sent to Spike. Said dragon was now sitting in his room staring at both letters.
If I had known that Luna would send you on this mission, I would have never handed it over to her, I’m sorry for that, you deserve some rest from that kind of ‘adventures’. I’m sending my Royal Guards, they will take this case over. You can return to Ponyville, my guards will help you pack.
Spike glared at this letter, if he only had thought about writing to the Princess earlier... The reply from Princess Luna was just an information about ten Night Guards coming into Appleloosa, it was short and formal.
But about two hours after the Night Guards arrived, came THE letter.
My Guards sent me a note about Royal Guards stationed in Appleloosa, then I’m guessing my sister has written to you something. Ignore whatever Celestia has written. I shall take care of this misunderstanding at an appropriate time.
Spike didn’t know what to think about that particular letter.
Also when it became obvious that the three mares were out of town, both groups of Guards became frustrated. One because they were too late to take over the case, second because they were too late to be of any major help. Surprisingly, no pony in both groups was in any hurry to send a note about their respective failures, if the lack of any other letters from the Princesses was any sign about it.
Now it was the sixth day after Twilight and Rarity left, and the only thing to do for Spike was watching the never ending, somewhat friendly rivalry between the two groups of guards. The baby dragon was amazed at how many challenges, even insignificant, the guards could came up with...
The sun was low on the sky when one of the pegasi Royal Guards spotted a group of travelers heading for the small town. Immediately he turned around and flew to one of the abandoned buildings, now serving as a barrack.
In the traveling group, all nine ponies were walking by themselves, well almost. Applejack and Braeburn finally woken up. The orange farm pony was leaning heavily on Twilights left side, and her cousin was leaning on their guides right side.
As they walked Twilight couldn’t help but remember the words Applejack had said to her, when the orange farm pony stood up on shaky legs. Of course Rarity scoffed at her for being stubborn but she knew it was useless in the end, Applejack would do as she pleased.
“Thanks, sugarcube for saving me... Ah’m grateful... But what you did... was wrong, Twilight.” Her voice was so much weaker than it normally was.
Those words and the disappointed look that Applejack gave her almost broke the emotional dam, that Twilight build around the feeling of guilt. She had hidden it behind anger and hate, but as the days passed it was harder to hold to these dark emotions. Twilight said nothing then in reply in fear that she would break down then and there.
So in silence they walked towards the small town ever since. Because of that the tension in the group was high.
When the traveling ponies reached the town they were welcomed by the sight of twenty guards. The twenty ponies immediately rushed to them to help them. Twilight and Applejack got help from the Night Guards, the rest was taken care of by the Royal Guards that seemed adamant on helping them all. The white pegasi in golden armour tried to secretly scowl at the Night Guards for getting to Twilight and Applejack before them, and they failed as Twilight saw the looks. But she didn't say anything as she was surprised that any guards were here in the first place. Thinking furiously, while she was lead to one of the buildings, she came to one conclusion that could explain the presence of the guards, Spike.
“Commander Twi-” One of the darker pegasi tried to get her attention. And he succeeded, but not in the way he wanted.
“Not here, not now.” Twilight gave him a cold glare, that promised nothing good. Her promotion was still a secret after all, and saying it out loud on the main street of Appleloosa was not something she appreciated.
The purple mare saw how Applejack was taken to the local doctor by her guards. And she was lead to one of the abandoned building that was turned into temporary barrack. Inside she turned to face the dark ponies.
“What are you doing here? On whose order?” Twilight needed to know. Also this situation was a good distraction from thoughts about that... incident.
“Yours, Commander. Princess Luna received a letter signed by you, with a request for backup.” Said an older pegasus. Twilight scowled.
“I did not request backup. But do not worry, I will take care of this misunderstanding myself.” As she said that, Twilight saw how some of the gathered guards shuddered at her words. “Pack your things, you’re leaving this night. If the Princess asks, I will explain everything when I return.”
After she said that the Night Guards saluted and began to pack. She on the other hand needed to talk to a certain baby dragon.
Said baby dragon was disgruntled as he couldn’t get close to Twilight and his friends with all the guards around them. Spike just saw them too late, when the guards gathered he thought it was for another stupid competition, he was wrong. But just knowing that Twilight and the rest finally returned was good enough for him. So he went to his room and waited. He knew Twilight would come to him. And not even fifteen minutes passed he heard footsteps on the stairs.
“Hello Spike.” Twilight said as she opened the doors to his room.
“Twilight! Finally, I was getting worried...” He stopped talking when he saw her cold look. He gulped loudly, when she walked inside the room and closed the door behind her.
“Before you ask I’m fine. Now, would you like to explain to me why there are both Royal and Night Guards in this town?” The purple unicorn narrowed her eyes as she looked at Spike.
“Well... It kind of wasn't my idea...” So spike explained about the sheriff and the letters, he then showed them to her.
When Twilight saw the letters she was displeased, with both Spike and Celestia. Well maybe less with Princess Celestia, she was just worried about her, and she still was a royalty so she had the power to order her around... at least until the official promotion.
After a while Twilight looked at Spike. The baby dragon recoiled when he saw the irritation and disdain in Twilight’s eyes. He had the sudden urge to curl into a tight ball, but he didn’t do it.
“I am disappointed with you Spike. You will explain what you did to Princess Luna and Princess Celestia. We will see what they will say about this.” She said, crumbled the letters and left his room, not seeing the mortified expression on Spike’s face.
Spike wasn’t sure he wanted to know what happened in those six days to make Twilight act as she did. For a good hour he sat in his room looking at the crumpled letters trying to understand this new Twilight, and failing.
When Twilight made it to her room, she magically locked the doors and made the room sound proof with a Privacy Bubble spell. Then she went to her bed... and started to cry, all of the guilt and sadness she had suppressed for days hit her with full force.
A day later Twilight was sitting on the balcony of her room in the Everfree Castle, looking at the clear night sky. She was in a hurry to get here, give the report to Princess... and just be left alone with her thoughts. She didn't want anypony to see her while she broke down.
She knew that Rarity, Applejack and Spike were probably still in Appleloosa. Twilight left a note with Spike for the girls and just left. It was rude, extremely so, but she wanted to get away from that town. She would apologize later.
Twilight looked at the barely raised crescent moon in the sky. She was sure that Luna was worried about her. She saw it in the Princess's eyes when she gave the report. The purple mare knew that the dark alicorn saw what she tried to hide.
She couldn’t sleep as nightmares plagued her dreams. It started at the plains, but she hid it with simple illusions, so that no pony would see the dark circles under her eyes. Tonight would be the third night she will be not sleeping, she knew it. And as it was, she could probably fall asleep on the stone floor of the balcony and it would still be the best sleep she had in days.
And the ball and her promotion were only three nights away...
Twilight turned around as she heard hoofsteps inside her bedroom. Princess Luna was calmly walking towards her.
Luna was worried about Twilight, but she didn't show it openly earlier. When the purple mare gave her the report of what went on during the mission, she knew that things would never be the same. She wasn’t horrified by the genocide of the diamond dogs pack. Far from it, as she didn't have any love for those creatures... But Twilight - a pony that never killed before - had suddenly wiped out an entire pack of those things.
The Princess sat down beside the smaller mare and looked at her, at her state. She sighed.
“You must sleep Twilight. What you are doing will only harm you, besides you have a promotion ceremony in a few nights.” The Princess's voice was soft as she gently nuzzled the top of the smaller mare's head.
“I just can't... the memories. The things I have done...” Twilight shuddered involuntarily.
“The nightmares never truly go away... But you have to accept what you have done to those diamond dogs, Twilight. You can't run away from your deeds and their consequences.” The dark alicorn said silently.
And the consequences would not be pleasant for a pony like Twilight. If Luna had to guess, in the next few days all of Equestria will know about what she had done. Ponies would fear Twilight, at least those that didn’t know her before this mess.
The purple mare leaned in closer to the Princess as tears began to fall from her eyes with accompanying quiet sobs.
“Shh... Twilight. It will be all right, in the end.” The princess whispered.
“Celestia, my parents and my brother... my friends... they will think... that... I’m a monster.” Twilight said between her sobs.
“They will understand eventually, now... let me help you with your sleeping problem. Just this once.” Before Twilight had a chance to respond, Luna put one of her wings around the distressed mare and began to sing the only song she remembered from a time long past. Her voice was quiet and forlorn, and as she sang she laced her words with magic, to help the poor mare sleep peacefully tonight.
Why she shrouds her light away.
Or why she hides her glowing gaze,
When night turns crimson gold to grey.
For silent falls the guilty sun,
As day to dark does turn.
One simple truth she dare not speak:
Her light can only blind and burn.
No mercy for the guilty,
Bring down their lying sun.
Blood so silver black by night,
Upon their faces pale white.
Cruel moon, bring the end,
The dawn will never rise again.
Twilight even in her state tried to decipher the meanings. But the gentle and sad voice of Princess Luna enamoured her. Her sobs stopped and in the end she had finally fallen asleep.
After a moment she lifted Twilight with her magic and levitated her to hers bed. When Luna was sure that the purple mare was truly asleep, she quietly left the room.
She decided to go to the garden. Slowly she came to the centre and looked up, at the statue of Nightmare Moon. It brought more sad or painful memories than it brought good ones, but she wanted it here.
The Princess of the Night sighed heavily. Twilight’s life would become far more complicated from now on. Especially when Celestia would get the report on exactly what happened in Appleloosa. And what happened there was the worst massacre this land had seen in a millenia.
Her sister for many had only eternal patience and calm demeanour. But Celestia could become passionate and driven by emotions about certain things. She had to take it as an option, that her sister would blame her for Twilight's actions. Feelings after all could confuse even the brightest and sharpest minds. Luna only hoped that her sister wouldn't do something that they would both regret.
A/N: This chapter was surprisingly hard to write in some ways. That’s why it’s shorter, I didn't want to force something into it just for the sake of it’s length. As a peace offering for such a short chapter I offer you a glimpse into the future... My plans as of right now: Next comes The Ball, then probably some more mushy stuff, after that another small adventure arc, and after that... starts the juicy stuff that's directly connected to the cover art. At least that’s the plan for now, it could change.
Also the song is not mine, and a virtual cookie for those who instantly knew what it was. And now the link to the original: Click Me!
Twilight was nervous, she kept pacing around her room and from time to time she glanced at the mannequin on which rested her armor. Even in her room in the tower, she could hear the many voices of the guest that were still arriving at the ball. Luna didn’t give the ball any fancy name after all, although she thought about it.
She stopped her pacing near her desk. Her gaze traveled to a front page of ‘Manehattan Times’ that laid sprawled on top of other scrolls and books. What made it special was the large picture of sheriff Silverstar with the rescued ponies. And there also was the matter of a smaller column... one which Twilight dearly hoped would not be printed. But as it was, now all of Equestria knew about her and her... method, of saving the ponies in Appleloosa.
If Twilight was to be honest with herself, the only pony opinions that mattered, were that of her family's and her friends’. They all had sent her letters regarding the article of course, and still... she didn’t dare to open them. And then there was one letter she didn’t even dared to touch, a letter from Princess Celestia. When Twilight thought about the letters, all she could came up with were the negative reactions, and the scolding words she suspected she would find written in them.
But the worst thing in this mess was, that some of her friends will be attending. Applejack couldn’t be at the ball from obvious reasons, and surprisingly Pinkie Pie didn’t want to come... that alone unnerved Twilight more than anything.
The knocking on the door stopped her thoughts. By the sound of it, she assumed it was one of the castle servants.
“Yes?” Twilight asked not opening the door.
“Miss Sparkle, Princess Luna sent me to inform you that you should be ready in half an hour.”
“I’ll be there.” She answered shortly and turned around to once again look at the mannequin.
Over the past two nights Twilight had a major dilemma to deal with. Surprisingly, it had everything to do with the pieces of metal she was staring at. Tonight “Twilight the librarian” will become “Twilight the Commander” and all of Equestria will know it. Here was the problem, with the diamond dogs incident her image was tarnished in the eyes of many ponies, and with this promotion she would cast a shadow of suspicion on Luna’s motives and goals for sure.
Also, Luna hadn’t scolded her for deaths of the diamond dogs, she even hinted that it was a good thing. Being the former student of Princess Celestia she had trouble understanding that.
From the beginning for Twilight it was obvious that Luna was not Celestia, but when she saw how dismissively the Princess waved her hoof at hearing that she murdered a whole pack of diamond dogs... On one hoof it somewhat helped her get over what she had done, on the other it resulted in a whole new set of doubts.
The purple mare shook her head. It was too late for doubts anyway, after what she had done no pony else would offer her any kind of job.
With a heavy sigh Twilight began to put on the armor.
The throne room had been decorated with white roses for the ball, and everypony that entered was astounded at the simple beauty of the room.
At the front of the crowd, near the dais stood the three Element Bearers that arrived. To Rarity's annoyance, Prince Blueblood stood not even two hooves from her.
“Rarity do you think Twilight will be here?” Fluttershy’s gentle voice brought the white unicorn from her musings.
“Trust me, she will.”
Just as Rarity said that a short fanfare sounded through the room, Princess Luna and Celestia entered. Behind the two alicorns walked Princess Cadence and Shining Armor. Everypony in the room bowed until the group reached the dais. Princess Luna took her seat on the black thorne and Princess Celestia sat on a golden pillow on her right. On the left side of the Night Princess the married couple sat down on pink and white pillows.
“Greetings my ponies. It is my pleasure to have you all here, in the castle in which history was made.” Princess Luna didn't have to raise her voice to be heard in the silence that followed their entrance, everypony gathered was eager to hear what she had to say.
“Before we begin the ball which will last until midnight, I have an announcement to make. In the past months one mare showed me her devotion and skill that far is far beyond that of the average unicorn. It is my opinion that such an individual should be rewarded.” As Luna spoke, gathered ponies started to discreetly look around with curiosity. But only the first row was now concentrated on the royal ponies and in this row only the three Elements saw how Celestia's stoic facade cracked for a bit, worry and surprisingly anger showed on the white alicorn’s muzzle for no longer than two heart beats.
“It is with great honor that I present you the newly promoted Commander of the Night Guard, that now shall take her official vows. Twilight Sparkle.” When the Princess said the name, through the doors that they entered, Twilight Sparkle walked in, clad in her armor, her expression cold and indifferent. The carpet muffled the sound of the armored horseshoes hitting stone, and it was still heard all over the room. The silence was absolute.
Everypony had read the papers. They knew what she did, and so more than a half of them blanched slightly seeing the one pony that singlehoofedly erased a diamond dog pack.
As Twilight slowly made her way to the dais, she saw the frightened looks but she tried not to think about them. What concerned her was the shift in how Princess Celestia, Cadence and her brother sat. As she reached the dais she could see clearly their eyes. Celestia’s burned with hidden anger, but Twilight refused to be influenced by that. Cadence and her brother were mostly worried, her brother she could tell was also feeling a bit angry. And the look in Princess Luna’s eyes was... triumphant? Twilight dismissed that thought quickly, Luna was probably just happy.
“Twilight Sparkle, you stand here before us to take the vows necessary to become Commander of the Night Guard. Now I ask, do you wish to proceed?” When Luna spoke, she briefly glanced at her sister. What she saw matched with what she predicted.
“Yes.” The purple mare gave a short answer.
“Do you swear to protect those placed under your command?” As she said that, the Princess of the Night couldn’t stop herself from thinking how practically pointless that particular vow was.
“I swear.” That was an easy answer for Twilight, it was the major part of the job anyway, ensuring safety.
“Do you swear to work for the betterment of life of those that live in and serve the night?” From the corner of her eye Luna saw how Celestia scowled slightly. That was a very vague vow, and both of them knew that it could be bent significantly to suit ones needs.
“I do.” Twilight saw Celestia’s small scowl, but she couldn’t quite understand what made the alicorn react that way.
“Do you accept me as your sole ruler, and in doing so, swear to fulfill any of my orders?” This was the part Luna waited for the most, she saw how Celestia sat a bit straighter and almost dropped her royal act just to look at her with disbelief mixed with anger.
“I do... my Princess.” Twilight hesitated only for a second before she answered and bowed before the dark alicorn. One thing was certain, in that instant her eyes didn’t trick her, Princess Luna had a smug smile on her muzzle.
“Then from this night you are Twilight Sparkle, Commander of the Night Guard. Congratulations are in order, as is a celebration. My noble and patient guest, it is time for the ball to begin.” The Princess waved her hoof and the small band started to play some classical but joyful piece of music. Servants entered the room with silver platters filled with snacks and drinks. One of them approached Luna. With her blue magic Luna grabbed the single crystal chalice, decorated with silver that had a deep red liquid in it, it was the best wine from Baltimare region. She adjusted herself and sat more comfortably, as she slowly sipped her drink and observed the nobles.
When her sister had finished her little speech, Celestia leaned closer to her.
“You were to teach her, not make her one of yours!” The white alicorn whispered with a bit of anger flowing into her words.
“We shall talk later about it, don’t make a scene, my dearest sister.” Luna shoot her almost pleading look... and she smiled inside, as she saw Celestia nodding reluctantly.
In the meantime Rarity, Fluttershy and Rainbow Dash had walked up to Twilight.
“This is so awesome! Think you could get me some of that armor?” The cyan pegasus said while she looked at said armor.
“Rarity... uhh... I’m sorry for leaving you then.” Twilight decided to not answer the question from Rainbow, the mare was still checking out all the details of the armor, so that answer could wait a bit.
“You're forgiven darling. With those circumstances, we understood.” Rarity answered with a small smile on her muzzle. Back then, she too would have left Appleloosa as quickly as she could, but they had to wait one more day after Twilight left. The local doctor, Queen or something, only then allowed for Applejack to be transported to Ponyville hospital.
“Hello Fluttershy!” Twilight smiled broadly, when she the purple mare saw her timid pegasus friend emerge from the crowd to join them.
“Eeep!” Was the only answer she gave, with a slight jump Fluttershy hid behind her white unicorn friend. Rainbow Dash started to laugh.
“H-h-ello Twilight... My... Nice armor...” When the cyan pegasus stopped laughing, slightly blushing Fluttershy finally answered.
“Applejack I can understand, but where is Pinkie?” As she talked Twilight noted how Fluttershy couldn’t or wouldn’t look too long in her eyes.
“Well she said something about nobles not liking her partys...” It was Rainbow who answered “So any chances for me to get that armor?”
“If you join the guard, sure.” Twilight said with a bit of humor in her voice. She knew that Rainbow only truly wanted to join Wonderbolts.
“Aww... that sucks.”
“Now, now, don’t make a sad face Rainbow. We all know you lack the patience to be a guard dear.” Rarity said looking at her cyan friend with amusement in her eyes.
“Um, Twilight... What about Spike? Do you want me to look after him?” Fluttershy’s question derailed the thoughts of all three ponies. The yellow pegasus saw the small frown that formed on her purple friend's muzzle.
“For now, yes.” Twilight said with obvious hesitation. She still hadn’t forgiven him for forging her signature.
“Twili!” The voice of Shining Armor brought Twilight’s attention to him and Cadence as they were coming closer to their small group.
“BBBFF... How’s the ball so far?” The purple mare asked with a smile on her muzzle... which faltered a bit when she saw the stern look he was giving her. She glanced at Cadence and relaxed a bit, at least her old foal sitter had a sincere smile on her muzzle.
The small group now stood in a small circle, near one of the columns. Twilight spotted a servant nearby and took one of the silver chalices he carried on the tray. She looked inside. It was wine, she knew that Luna favored it over any other drinks. All this happened in the time it took her brother to reach their small group so when Twilight finished her question, she took a small sip.
“So now you’re the Commander and you drink?” Shining asked with a bit of his protectiveness evident in his voice.
“A lot changed Shining.” Twilight answered quietly.
“So it seems... You realize that you both have an equal rank?” Cadence tried to steer the conversation on safer subjects in her opinion.
“Come on girls, lets give them some space.” Rarity whispered to both her pegasi friends and almost dragged them to the snack table.
“Twilight, how could you do it?” Shining asked the one question that he wanted answered. Now that her three friends left them alone it was time for some serious talk.
Cadence hearing the question bit her lower lip in worry. Both she and Shining had discussed this topic many times now. She had a very uneasy feeling about all of this.
“It was a simple choice, I protected the innocent, with any means necessary.” Twilight frowned at her own words, she took another sip from the chalice.
“You realize that more than half of the ponies in this room are afraid of you?” Shining’s voice cut through Twilight’s thoughts.
“I don’t care.” The purple mare locked her gaze with her brother’s. She knew him very well and only because of that she saw something in his eyes. “Get to the point brother, what do really want to ask?”
Princess Cadence stood quietly, observing. She knew what her husband was about to say, and she dearly hoped that no one was paying attention to their talk.
“What did Princess Luna do to you? In less than three months you became a different pony.” His voice was accusing, but he only voiced his Princess concerns.
Twilight narrowed her eyes. She didn’t see that one coming. Out of all the thing he could say...
“She only trained me, anything else was my doing. Now, I believe that this conversation is over Captain Shining Armor.” Twilight stated a bit coldly and turned around. She went looking for her friends.
“I did warn you Shining.” Cadence sighed heavily and leaned into her husband that was now making a very good imitation of a fish.
In the next hours of the ball, the siblings tried their best to avoid each other. Princess Cadence engaged in small talk with Twilight several more times, which she noted eased some of the tension in the smaller mare. The Princess also took note of how both her aunts didn’t move too much from their seats on the dais. The tension between her husband and Twilight was nothing in comparison to the situation between the two older alicorns.
When it was close to midnight the Princess of the Night announced that she will be retiring, but encouraged her subjects to stay and enjoy the ball to its last minutes.
Luna did this for one reason only. She promised her sister a talk, and a talk she would get, away from prying eyes and ears.
When Luna reached the corridor which lead to her private chambers, she heard hoofsteps behind her. They were quick, and decisive. She had an idea who was coming her way.
“Luna, we need to talk.” Celestia’s voice had a kind of scolding tone in it.
“About?” The dark alicorn stopped and turned around to face her sister.
“Twilight.” Was the short answer that Celestia gave as she stopped within hoofs reach from her younger sister.
“I am afraid, that I do not kno-”
“Don’t play with me Lulu.” Celestia stomped her left front leg on the obsidian floor, cracking it.
“She was given an offer, and she accepted it, as you saw. There is nothing more to it.” Luna said while looking right into her sister’s eyes.
“Oh but there is. Appleloosa. My student would never ha-”
“Former student,” the smaller alicorn cut in before her sister could really start her rant. “And she did what she thought was appropriate at that time.”
Celestia looked shocked and took a step back. But a moment later she hardened her glare and stood straighter.
“Appropriate? You call killing that diamond dog’s pack... appropriate?!” Celestia narrowed her eyes in anger.
“They practice slavery my dearest sister. They do not value ponies life’s. Their fate was well deserved.” Saying this Luna herself stood straighter, giving off a commanding, even arrogant aura. “I have nothing more to say to you on that matter, goodbye sister.” She started to walk away into her chambers.
Celestia could only stare at her smaller sister. In the time from her ‘awakening’ by the Elements, she had changed. Not only in appearance but also in behaviour... Her eyes widened, her heart stopped for an instant. Why she didn’t see this earlier? Was she really that blinded or misguided by emotions?
“What are you playing at... Nightmare Moon?” Celestia’s voice was cold, and she wasn’t that surprised when her sister stopped and slowly turned around to face her again.
“What did you call me?” Luna asked slowly, with barely withheld anger in her voice.
“I see it now sister. You dabbled in the same magics that caused your fall a thousand years ago, didn’t you?” Celestia said with an expressionless look on her muzzle.
“You know nothing, you understand nothing.” Luna answered with bitterness evident in her voice.
“So what are you saying? That you’re not taking Twilight away from me and her life in Ponyville for some twisted revenge? Am I not right, Nightmare Moon?” The white alicorn almost shuddered when her sister, her own little sister shot her a glare full of hatred.
“I have forgiven you Celestia, because you had no other choice a thousand years ago. But do not be mistaken... I have not forgotten. Do not give me reason to despise you more than I already do.” With that Luna abruptly turned around and resumed her walk to her room.
“Lulu...” Celestia whispered in a weak voice, as she realized how deeply she must have hurt her younger sister to make her say such things, and could now only watch as her sister disappeared inside hers chambers.
Princess Celestia stood there for what felt like eternity, until she felt tears falling down her muzzle. She worked so hard for a thousand years to bring her little Lulu back. The school was founded to search for the one unicorn that could wield the Elements. She even searched for the most honest, most loyal, most generous, most cheerful and kind ponies within every generation and watched them from afar. Gently guiding them through centuries to establish families in one town or as close to each other as it was possible... so a bit of coincidence also was at play in the end.
The many mortal ponies that became her personal students and which she loved like daughters or sons... it broke her heart when they died but she stayed strong. For her little sister.
Finally she found Twilight at the right time... now she and Twilight, her little pride and joy, were quickly drifting apart... something she didn’t have experience with. And now she may have just lost her little sister, again.
Looking miserable and defeated, with tears still falling, she went through the castle not noticing the many worried and scared stares she received. She hadn't even heard Twilight’s voice calling her name and asking what was wrong. She needed to be alone, to think... When she was outside she teleported away.
A/N: Sorry for the long delay, but real life hit hard. Also don’t expect another update to be fast, it is quite possible that it will take as long or even longer than this one.
The Dark Mirror
When Luna entered her chamber, she stopped by the doors. She felt immediately that there was somepony else in the room. Slowly and cautiously the Princess of the Night approached the fireplace and the small fire burning in it.
“I know you are in here stranger show yourself! I am not in the mood for such games!” Luna said with irritation evident in her voice. A quiet chuckle answered her.
From the shadows, near the doors to her bedroom a young noble pony, by the look of her, stepped into quivering light of the fire. Her green eyes gazed at the Princess with slight amusement in them.
“How did you enter my rooms?” The dark alicorn frowned. Now that she thought about it, there were no guards in the corridor. She concentrated all of her senses and her magic harder on the noble mare, and to her surprise felt something familiar about her, but she couldn’t grasp what it was.
For a few more minutes the two mares stared at each other in silence until finally, a realization struck the Princess. No wonder she didn’t instantly remember the familiar feeling, it was such a long time since the two meet. Luna’s frown deepened.
“You should not be here.” The Princess of the Night now regarded her guest with annoyance. The smaller mare just smirked slightly.
“I see you remembered... Then you should know I just couldn't pass such a feast.”
“No. You would not.” The Princess of the Night answered with a sigh. But not a moment later, she scowled. She shouldn't be able to be this calm with the emotions that her talk with Celestia awoke. “Stop it this instant!”
And when the last word left her mouth, Luna’s anger and irritation rose once more.
“I just thought you would like to calm down... Princess.” The smaller pony said without real care in her voice and with a fake smile.
“I am calm, you didn't see me angry yet. And pray that you will never have to.” Luna said and turned her back to the pony, her gaze now focused on the small flames in the fireplace.
Quietly, the other pony moved to the side of the Princess.
“I wanted to ask, if our old... agreement is still valid.” The noble mare wanted to say ‘friendship’, but she was not that naive now to believe it had ever truly been friendship between them in the first place.
“Yes it is. It should be obvious by now. I stayed out of your way... and you will stay out of mine.” The dark alicorn looked at her guest, and then returned to gazing at the fire. It was soothing in the way it moved. “And you still owe me that one favor.”
“I had hoped you have forgotten that little detail... Nevermind. We will see each other again, probably.” With those words, the noble looking mare left the room, opening and closing the doors with a touch of brilliant green magic.
When Twilight saw Princess Celestia, with tears running down her muzzle, she instantly knew that something went wrong between the royal sisters. It wasn’t hard to see earlier how both alicorns went to the corridor that led to Luna’s chambers. And the next thing everypony sees is a miserable looking Celestia almost running out of the castle.
The purple mare tried to call the Princess, maybe even ask what was wrong. But it looked like Celestia was in her own small world, she didn’t notice anypony and guest had to move out of her way.
In the wake of Princess Celestia’s dramatic exit, the nobles started to panic. Twilight decided to act before it went too far.
“SILENCE!” She laced her voice with magic to make it as loud as she could. It was nowhere near Luna’s Traditional Royal Canterlot Voice, but it was enough. Hearing her, everypony in the room froze and stared at her with a hint of fear in their eyes.
“Now that I have your attention... Please leave the Castle in an organized manner.” The guards stationed around the room hearing the request moved to guide the nobles out of the room and castle.
In the meantime Twilight decided to get to the bottom of this mess. All she needed to do was just talk to Luna and ask some questions.
On her way down to the Princess’s chambers she spotted a young noble pony lingering behind one of the columns.
“Miss, please join the rest of the guests.” Twilight said stopping and looking intently at the other mare.
“Yes... Yes of course.”
When Twilight watched the pony’s back, she couldn't shake of the feeling that she missed something, some kind of inside joke, if the slight smirk on the young noble’s muzzle and the amusement in her green eyes was anything to go by.
She debated with herself if she should have detained that pony, but she was sure that ‘smirking in suspicious manner’, wasn’t a very good reason for taking such action. With a sight the purple unicorn moved, she did have questions that need answers.
When reached the doors, Twilight knocked gently.
Twilight entered, looked around and found Luna deep in thoughts, sitting on her favorite pillow by the fireplace. The dim light of the fire casted moving shadows around the room. Twilight wasn’t sure, if without her cat like eyes she could spot the dark alicorn so easily. Luna’s coat blended in with the shadows quite well and even sitting near the only light source, she would be hard to spot for normal eyes. With few steps she herself sat on another pillow, she gladly noted that the armor she was wearing didn't cause her any discomfort.
“Luna, everypony saw a crying Celestia leaving the Castle. Can you tell me what happened?” Twilight spoke slowly, carefully. She didn’t want to pry if it was too personal, but not knowing anything irritated her slightly.
For a while after that question, the only sound on the room was the fire crackling.
“Celestia accused me of being Nightmare Moon again.” Luna’s voice was full of contempt.
When Twilight heard the answer she gasped. That was not something she expected... But some part of her could see it happening. Beside Luna and Cadence, she was the closest pony to Celestia, she liked to think that she knew how her former teacher thought.
To be perfectly honest Twilight also had the same thought twice now... The purple mare took a deep breath. She had the perfect opportunity now that the subject was mentioned, but the timing was more than bad. However... she wanted to know.
“Are you?” The unicorn’s voice was quiet.
Luna turned her head and looked for few long minutes, for Twilight they stretched out mercilessly. It would seem that the Princess of the Night made some sort of decision, as she narrowed her eyes. She stood up and walked to the doors.
The smaller mare almost jumped from the pillow she was sitting on, and immediately went after the Princess. The walk was a short one as it turned out. They stopped by the other double doors in the corridor.
Twilight watched as Luna lowered her head and inserted her horn in the same type of lock that guarded the Elements of Harmony. The silver vines pulsed with Princess’s blue magic and several clicks were heard. Then with a heavy groan, slowly the doors opened.
Inside was the most amazing chamber Twilight had seen in her life. In the mostly circular chamber, the stone pillars were stylized to look like trees, on their branches delicate silver leaves hang. The floor was covered in green moss. There were no windows but they were unnecessary as the light was provided by a silvery water that glowed with soft silver light and run around the room like small rivers, pooling in some of the deeper hollows. And the ceiling... Twilight couldn't tear her gaze away from it. It was enchanted to look like the night sky, it was an almost perfect illusion as she could barely see the rock that really made the ceiling, and even that only when she was looking for it.
“Stand beside me Twilight.” Luna’s voice snapped Twilight’s attention back to the present.
The dark alicorn now stood on a small dais made from ancient looking stone. It was cracked, covered with moss, and some bits in the stone steps were missing. But the most curious thing was what was on the dais. There was something large and rectangular covered by silver silk.
“Princess... Why have you brought me here?” Twilight asked with uncertainty in her voice.
“You asked me a question. And I am answering it. You are my second in command and my friend Twilight. If anyone, you deserve to know.”
Luna grasped the obscuring silver silk in her magic and removed it.
What was under it made Twilight eyes to go wide with wonder. It was as beautiful as it was terrifying. The mirror was made from the purest obsidian she had ever seen. It was twice as tall as Celestia and its width was barely larger than her small body’s length. Its highly polished surface made it look like it was a portal to a black void. Its edges were trimmed with delicate silver vines in which she could spot countless diamonds, some as big as her hooves. Now and then she could see a flicker of pale blue light inside the jewels.
“What is this?” she asked quietly, awe evident in her voice.
“I call it simply The Dark Mirror. It is my greatest creation to this day.” The Princess of the Night answered with a bit of sadness in her voice.
“So what is its power? If it does have any...” Twilight asked not even looking at the dark alicorn, she was too busy studying the mirror.
“You must understand Twilight that when I created it over a thousand years ago I was feeling jealous and bitter. I wanted attention and the love of our subjects... And I wanted the power to be equal of my sister. When I gazed into this mirror I saw myself, more powerful and terrible than Celestia. What I saw was my own darkness... But I was not ready then, I did not want to believe that I harbored something like that in my heart, and so the dark and forbidden magic I used to create this mirror twisted my desires. My mind was still my own, don't misunderstand me. But my desire to obtain love and attention grew into a desire to be a solitary ruler, to bring forth eternal night... as Queen Nightmare Moon. Oh, how wonderfully it sounded to my ears back then...” Luna's face had become wistful at the end and when Twilight turned to look at the Princess, the purple mare was becoming more uncomfortable with each passing word.
“So... what does it actually do?” Twilight’s voice was quiet. She was starting to regret asking that two word question in Luna’s room.
“Twilight, everyone has their inner darkness, as you now know. But more often than not it's hidden deep in ones heart. My mirror forces it out no matter how deep it is buried in the heart and forces the pony gazing into it to confront it. Those who are ready, may find some peace in this as they become one with... their dark half. For the lack of a better description they become... full. And with such unity comes power.”
After hearing all this Twilight was astounded. And more than a little bit unnerved. She was making conclusions she didn't want to make.
“Princess... Then, is Nightmare Moon nothing more but a costume?” Twilight's voice trembled a bit when she voiced her thoughts. If that was the truth... than she and her friends have in reality defeated Luna with the Help of the Elements. And now the very same alicorn stood before here sharing with her hers secrets.
“If you recall, I didn't look exactly the way I am now, when you and your friends used The Elements of Harmony on me. Take a guess why.” Luna answered with a sly smile on her muzzle. And Twilight took a step back.
“You used the Mirror again! But Princess, it could have all gone wrong again and...” Whatever Twilight wanted to say was cut off by a harsh glare from the Princess.
“Do not take me for some idiotic foal! I had a thousand years to learn my lesson well enough. This time I was prepared. I finally accepted what I now knew was hidden in my heart, as a part of myself, no matter how selfish, angry or bitter that part was and still is.” In that instant the Princesses eyes shone with inner power and her pupils thinned into slits for a few heart beats. Then the dark alicorn took some deep breaths and closed her eyes for a while.
Twilight found herself on the ground. Her first reaction to the Princess’s uncharacteristic outburst was to hide, but then she realized she really had nowhere to hide in here. She couldn’t even teleport away as she felt a magical barrier on this place when she crossed the doors. So she closed her eyes.
“Look at me Twilight.” Luna’s voice was soft and yet... at the same time commanding and cold.
Twilight slowly opened her eyes and went rigid with fear. She could feel it, this was no mere disguise like the one Luna used on Nightmare Night. The magic was too intense, and this time there was no need for fake fangs... Before her now stood Nightmare Moon in her full glory. She could feel her heart hammering in her chest. In front of her stood an alicorn black as night, the royal regalia morphed into bits of armor. The familiar blue, not teal, draconic eyes were the only difference from the evil mare that threatened Equestria with eternal night.
“Why do you fear this form so much Twilight, when you singlehoofed killed a whole diamond dog pack?” Even Luna’s voice changed to the one that haunted Twilight in her nightmares. With an exasperated sigh Princess Luna slowly dropped the metamorphic spell and returned to her normal form.
“So... so Princess Celestia wasn't entirely wrong...” Twilight risked just being honest and simultaneously dodging Princess’s question.
“No, she wasn’t wrong, mostly. But I have no desire to correct her minor mistakes. You may call it revenge... But I like to think about it in terms of justice.” Luna mused aloud.
“So it angered you that Celestia hit too close to the truth?” Twilight found her courage returning and stood up. “And what’s that about revenge?”
“No. It is most inconvenient that Celestia made her little discovery now. That is why it angered me, all of my plans are mostly useless now. And revenge? Condemning me to a thousand years of banishment, no matter how deserved it was... And she thought I will return and all would be as if it never happened? Be realistic Twilight.”
And Twilight tried. Keeping in mind just what she was doing in the past months, who was teaching her, and what she did not a few days ago. With that in mind she went over what she had learned tonight. Mostly, she could understand everything to some extent.
“Did you even plan on telling me this?” Twilight couldn’t help herself but to ask this question with a bit of disappointment in her voice.
“But of course. Maybe not so soon... But after a year or two, when you would have settled in your new position.”
After that, silence reigned for a few minutes as the two mares looked at each other, one calculating, the other reevaluating the other. Finally it was Luna who broke the silence.
“Nopony can know what you now know Twilight. Especially my sister, if she knew about the Mirror and my motives, certainly we would be facing war. But it is in Celestia's nature to forgive and so, for now she will be only a bit more distrustful and distant so we will need to tread carefully around here Twilight. We will need to prove that we don’t harbor any ill will towards her. Which is mostly true.” As Luna spoke she started to pace back and forth on the dais before the Mirror.
Twilight was somehow perplexed. She had a feeling that the ‘we’ in the Princess’s little speech was ‘her and Luna’... Killing diamond dogs to save her friend and scheming behind Celestia's back and... fighting with her in the worst case scenario, were very different things for her. True she was now Luna’s second in command, but... truly betraying Celestia if need be...
“Luna... I’m not sure...” Twilight stopped as she saw Luna look at her, the cold look in her eyes had returned. The dark alicorn made few steps towards her, and the gently touched her cheek with one of her hooves caressing it.
“You will Twilight. You swore your loyalty to me in front of a crowd of nobles, your friends and family. You are mine and you made the choice of your own free will I might add.” While saying this Luna’s coat again turned to black, familiar armor was forming. Her hoof never casing to caress the smaller mares cheek. “Celestia will never take you again under her wing, most of Equestria fears you, even your family have doubts, I have seen.”
Twilight began to feel tears forming in her eyes.
“Maybe one day I will allow you to gaze into my Mirror, when you are ready. When you finally accept who you became, my little dark star.” After those words Luna still in her Nightmare form took a step back. “Now I believe you have duties to attend to Commander Twilight.”
With all of her willpower Twilight withheld a sob and dried her eyes with her hoof, after taking one of her armored shoes off.
“Yes... yes I do.” Twilight said quietly, with resignation clear in her voice. She didn’t avert her eyes anymore from the black coated alicorn. The truth as frightening as it was, that she became second in command of Nightmare Moon or rather Luna as she should be, was something she will have to get used to... Although she still had one question that she wanted to ask. “Just one more thing Luna... Why did you choose such form?”
The Princess of the Night smirked showing of her fangs.
“Fear is a powerful weapon Twilight, as I taught you. And also... I was smart enough to pick another name and form so that my real name would not be tarnished, maybe forgotten but it would not bore any stigma if I lost. It worked.”
“Yes it did...” Twilight said, with a sigh. She looked at the Princess expecting her to say something more, but she only got one raised eyebrow from the Princes. ”I will be on my way, then.”
Luna watched Twilight in her custom armor until she left... So many of her plans were ruined. At least she still had Twilight by her side. She believed that the mare will come to terms with the truth sooner or later. There was a slim chance that Twilight will crack under the pressure and run back to her sister... It was a shame that in such case action would have to be taken. It would be truly hard or rather impossible to replace the purple unicorn. After all, she did held a special spot in Luna’s heart as her first friend in over a thousand years...
A/N: And it’s done! Hope you liked it. Alose a word of caution, as with this one, the next chapter will be uploaded... when it will be uploaded. I can’t promise you any date sadly. But rest assured, even when I’m not writing this story I’m thinking about it so... I advise patience.
Also great thanks to The Archimedes for proofreading my story.
As she walked through the castle, Twilight barely noticed the activity around her. She was still thinking about the talk with Luna, that they had no longer then an hour ago just after the ball ended. Now that she had some time to properly think about what she learned tonight, Twilight was beginning to think that sometimes, ignorance was bliss.
But still, she heard only one side of the story. Normally she would be content with Luna’s answers. However a small problem by the name of Nightmare Moon arose. The revelation that the Princess of the Night and the nightmarish alicorn were one and the same, shredded a good portion of Twilight’s trust in Luna.
The purple unicorn scowled deeply, any unlucky servant or guard that saw that, jumped aside as she walked by.
Realization struck her, when she connected all the proverbial dots she had at her disposal. It all went downhill when she let her anger control here and kill that diamond dog pack. She handed herself on a silver platter to the Dark Princess. Now she would have to endure or become a traitor in the eyes of the law.
Twilight blinked several times rapidly. As she thought about it, becoming a ‘traitor’ wasn’t that much of a fall from her current standing anyway, at least in the opinion of ponies in general.
She looked up at the stars and the moon through one of the widows in the corridor she was now in. Making that particular choice would depend on what the Princess ordered her to do. As long as she didn't have to fight Princess Celestia or any other pony she considered her friend or family, she would stand by Luna and carry out her orders...
The moon was slowly descending below the horizon. Twilight was in her room. The purple unicorn have spent in it the last few hours, figuring that the castle staff and guards were behaving themselves.
She sat behind her rosewood desk, gentle glow of the black candles illuminated a few pieces of parchment at which Twilight stared blankly, deep in thoughts.
Our dear Twilight,
Please tell us that what they write in the paper are lies, that you didn’t kill those diamond dogs. We would hate to see out little filly lose her innocence in such a way, and your hard worked for reputation.
Our neighbours started looking at us with suspicion. And your father... He’s getting frustrated already, he barely had to raise his voice today on the late as usual poststalion, and the poor fellow almost run away.
But back to you... whether what they write is true or not, we will give you our support, you are our daughter after all, we couldn’t abandon you.
We love you and always will, mother & father.
P.S. You could write to us more frequently, you know? (father)
Every time she re-read the letter from her parents, Twilight got mixed feelings. On one hoof she was happy that they will support her, on the other she was sad that consequences of her actions also reached them... and a small part of her was angry, angry at ponies who were so easy to be sway by a paper.
By Celestia, how could you do it? I know that mom and dad will support you no matter what you did... But I feel different. I was there when Celestia got the exact report on what happened... there. I hadn’t seen her so upset in all my years of service.
I know that they took your friend, but why did you decide to take matters in your own hooves when you could easily call for reinforcements? And in such a way... I don’t really know if I should be more sad, angry or relieved that you even made it out of it in one piece.
We will see each other soon enough, at the ball hosted by Princess Luna, by that time I will probably make up my mind on the matter and we will talk about it more.
Twilight wondered if reading this letter earlier could changed the outcome of the short... talk she had with her brother at the ball. Maybe she would be more prepared for the ‘worst case scenario’, but she figured that it really wouldn't changed that much. Her brother could sometimes become as stubborn as she could, probably nothing she said would change his mind.
She sighed heavily. She feared that a rift was forming between her and her brother, something she didn't expect to happen... ever. It would be easy to blame Luna for it, but she couldn’t follow that train of thoughts, it was the ‘easy way’.
At last her eyes, again, landed on the letter from Princess Celestia.
I can’t express how disappointed I am with Luna. She shouldn’t have handed that mission to you. But what happened... From the beginning I was afraid of you losing your innocence one way or the other. My mind came up with more scenarios that you can imagine...
Naturally, reality bet everything I had feared.
I can see when emotions cloud ponies judgement, and I know that it happened to you. And yet... I can't say “don’t blame yourself”, as any life is precious and I can’t just ignore what you did.
However I will hold back the worst of the political backlash that is sure to come. Luna can give you protection, with you being her personal student now, but she had not integrated herself in modern politics enough to do it without doing you a disservice in the long run.
I just hope you will become a stronger and better mare after this. Learn from it and never let such thing happen again Twilight.
Your friend, Princess Celestia
That one letter was what truly gave her strength. Despite what Luna had said in the Mirror chamber, Celestia still thought about her and cared for her. Twilight only wondered if her promotion changed anything further?
She raised her gaze and studied the flickering, blue flame of one of the black candles. That was a possibility. But she would have to find it out, and there was only one way to do it. She would have to schedule a visit to Canterlot... After all, she did have a good reason to go there, she still needed Spike to apologize for the forging of her signature.
The purple mare groaned and almost smashed her head on the desk.
“Look at me, already plotting how to possibly not inform Luna that I’m going to talk with Celestia...” She said quietly, thinking aloud.
Well, she still had to decide if she will tell Luna about the true purpose of the trip to Canterlot. But even the thought, that such idea formed in her mind, was slightly disturbing to the purple unicorn.
A thought occurred to her, she could use this as a test of sorts. With a new purpose in her mind Twilight stood up, and left her room at a brisk trot heading to the throne room.
Not ten minutes later Twilight slowed down as she entered the throne room, that was surprisingly devoid of the ball decorations. The castle staff really did work well. On her black marble throne sat Princess Luna, a thoughtful and distant look on her muzzle. Her mane flowed gently behind her, and the moonlight danced in many gems encrusted in the throne.
The dark alicron focused her gaze on the smaller mare, as she approached and made a small bow before her.
“Twilight, what is it?” Luna’s voice had a bit of apprehension in it.
“I thought I will inform you that I wanted to leave for Canterlot for tomorrow's night.” Twilight said with an unintentional, challenging gaze.
“Twilight, you’re my second in command... you are free to do mostly as you please. You’re not a small child to report to me every little thing you want to do. But nonetheless, I appreciate that you told me.” Luna bit her lower lip, and Twilight’s gaze became intrigued. The dark alicorn sighed and massaged her temple with her left hoof. “This night has gone worse than I anticipated.”
“Huh, I wonder why?” Twilight blurted out sarcastically, before she could stop herself. She blushed and turned her gaze to the floor. “Sorry.”
Luna looked at her second in command sharply, and was about to say something before she closed her mouth, sighing again.
“We were all agitated tonight, and we all made mistakes. Still, you should watch your tongue Commander.” Luna said and at the end smiled slyly as her pupils thinned into slits for a few heart beats.
For a second Twilight didn’t know how to react. Only hours ago Luna openly threatened her. But her earlier words rang true, everypony made mistakes tonight. Some bigger than others, for sure...
Maybe this was her chance to give the Princess some kind of a second chance at explaining herself? Twilight couldn't deny that she seemed far more relaxed than before. Maybe she could coax the Princess to tell her more than before.
“Luna... What do really plan for the future?” The purple mare thought it all really boiled down to this question.
Luna looked at Twilight with a calculating gaze, it was a quick shift form the sly look she displayed moments ago.
“I’m just going to fight for the love and admiration that I and my night deserve. I will of course use different means than a thousand years ago... Let’s face it, war with my sister isn’t the answer.”
Twilight became intrigued and a bit apprehensive. She was getting more answers already, but...
“How? And more importantly, is it truly necessary? Ponies do admire your nights nowadays.”
“Let’s say I found an inspiration in history. Also, astronomers be it amateur or professionals and some writers or artists who are inspired by my nights are still a rather small group Twilight...” Luna said with a smirk.
“Yes, well... However I’m your second in command, right? I need to know those things?” Twilight tapped her chest with her hoof.
“That you are... Very well. When you return from Canterlot I will have prepared scrolls with outlines of the plan, as well as other official statements and decrees needed to lay foundations for it. But it will probably have to wait a bit more before we began to set things in motion for real.” Luna answered with thoughtful look.
The smaller mare was a bit irritated by that. But she will be patient, at least this time around she made some progress with getting her answers.
“That will be fine Luna. I should probably rest a bit before I head out to Ponyville at dawn.” Twilight mused aloud, she did have to pick up Spike. Also, checking up on Applejack seems like a good idea... She should also visit Pinkie Pie.
With those words Twilight made a small bow, turned around and began a slow, relaxed trot towards her room.
“Just remember... Not a word to Celestia about the Dark Mirror.” Nightmare Moon’s voice sounded through the throne room. Involuntarily, Twilight shivered. The purple mare stopped to glance behind her, and saw a black silhouette sitting at the throne. But it was gone in a blink of an eye, as it melted again to the more recent, and familiar form of Luna.
“Of course, Princess.” And with that words Twilight left the throne room.
Twilight awoke from her nap when first sun rays hit her windows and assaulted her eyes. With a small groan she got out of her bed and stretched. Remembering what she had planned for today she quickly went through her morning routine.
After she walked out refreshed from her bathroom, she looked at her armor that now rest on a mannequin. The purple unicorn shrugged and started putting the armor on, she would be the center of attention that way, but the armor was showing a of her status, so there really was no choice in the matter of wearing it.
After a quick breakfast and a short trot to palace courtyard, Twilight found herself in the full light of Celestia’s sun. After a short time she found two pegasi to pull the chariot, and in less than an hour from when she woke up she was flying over Everfree Forest towards Fluttershy's cottage.
The day was beautiful with a clear blue sky. For the time of flight Twilight just closed her eyes and let the wind caress her. In moments as relaxing as those, she sometimes almost envied the pegasi, with their almost unlimited freedom. Sure she had a spell to create wings but they were not the real deal and quite dangerous, if a pony forgot they were just conjured magical creations.
“We will be landing soon, Commander.” One of the dark pegasi pulling the chariot announced, when he saw that his Commander was far away in her own little world...
Blinking rapidly to awake from her almost meditative state Twilight smiled slightly and nodded her thanks to the pegasus.
Five minutes and one rough landing later Twilight was standing before Fluttershy’s cottage and knocking for the fifth time. With a sigh she realised that the timid pegasus was probably in town or in the forest tending to animals.
After a quick decision she turned to the road and headed to the town. She will be checking the library first, and then Sugar Cube Corner.
When she was close enough see Ponyville fully, she was a bit shocked to see it bustling with activity. As she walked she saw two new inns she didn't remember, a few new houses, and there was one quite big construction site that she suspected was to be a hotel. It would seem that being close to Princess Luna’s palace was doing some good for the town.
That also had a little the side effect of a lot of ponies stopping what they were doing, staring at her before recognition showed on their muzzles, and then they would make a wide berth for her. Loud talking dropped to whispered conversations. And still, Twilight could sometimes discern frightful comments.
“Wonder who's she here for?”
“Can you believe it? In broad daylight...”
“No, now come here son, don’t get close to her...”
“She means trouble I tell you, we should leave.”
“You saw those eyes? Thats not normal!”
It hurt Twilight, hearing those not so discreet comments as the ponies would like to think. But she just squared her shoulders stood straighter, glared harsher and strode forward.
Surprisingly fast the purple unicorn reached the library and entered it without hesitation. Inside she saw Fluttershy hovering over bookshelves with one duster and Spike with another taking care of the lower sections. It was kind of a nostalgic sight.
Spike was the first to notice that he and the yellow pegasus were not alone anymore. He turned around and promptly dropped his duster in shock.
“Twilight!” With that he launched himself at the purple mare that he loved like a sister. Under normal circumstances Twilight would get knocked over from the impact of the small, scally missile that Spike had become. But today, in her armor and in better shape than ever, for him it was like hitting a brick wall, or steel wall to be more precise.
Twilight snickered at the walleyed baby dragon as he sat down holding his head with his claws.
The timid pegasus looked behind her in time to see Spike colliding with Twilight and sliding of her onto the floor in almost comical fashion.
“Oh Spike, shouldn’t have done that. Here let me help...” A quick flash of Twilight’s horn latter the baby dragon was up and excited again. But suddenly he quieted down, and started looking between Twilight and Fluttershy.
The timid pegasus just smiled gently and hovered closer to the door.
“Umm... Hi, Twilight. I will give you some time alone... Umm... bye Twilight.” And with that she flew out through the door.
After that, an awkward silence settled between Spike and Twilight, with Twilight looking at the baby dragon with a questioning look.
“So what was that all about?” Twilight finally asked, and she waved her hoof in the direction of the doors.
Spike moved fast and give her a fierce hug, or as fierce as he could manage. A tear slid down his face.
“I was afraid you would leave me... After Appaloosa. I’m sorry I forged your signatures!” His voice became desperate and fearful.
With a small sight Twilight wrapped her left hoof around Spike.
“Spike, I’m not going to leave you, you’re like my little brother! But I don’t want to take you to the castle... It’s not a good time, really. You wouldn't like it.” She said as she nuzzled the top his head. “Besides somepony, or rather somedragon needs to take care of the library.” She added with a small smile.
“Yeah... I know. But it’s not the same without you.”
After that was said Twilight unwrapped herself from the hug. She felt a bit bad about what she wa about to say, now that she was aware of the baby dragon fears. But it had to be done.
“Spike, we’re going to Canterlot to see Celestia. You know why.” She said with as gentle voice as she could muster. She saw the baby dragon give a small nod and a sigh.
“I know, I know...” He said dejectedly. Spike had to admit, his clawed feet looked very interesting right at this moment...
“Don’t worry too much. I’m sure Princess Celestia will just tell you not to do it again and that will be it.” Twilight’s voice had a reassuring tone to it. “Come on now, I wanted to visit Applejack in hospital and meet with Pinkie.”
“Umm... About Pinkie. There is something you should know...” Spike was now looking very uncomfortable as he looked up to look at her again. The purple mare picked on it quickly and frowned.
“Yes?” She asked after a moment of silence.
“She kind of...” Spike started to play with his claws. “Left the town.”
“What? When? For what?” Twilight’s mind searched for any plausible cause for her pink and a bit eccentric friend to leave the town.
“Well, when the news reached her what you did, she got sad. You know, straight hair and all... It took us a day to get her back her normal self. Well mostly. And then she said she will be going to visit family... She left yesterday.” The baby dragon finished and looked at Twilight again.
Twilight just sighed, heavily. The news had to hit Pinkie pretty hard.
“Well, let’s visit Applejack then.” Twilight said trying not to sound disappointed. Of all her friends, she had lately neglected Pinkie the most...
The purple mare lit her horn and levitate Spike to her back, on the post he liked the most. With him on hers back, Twilight left the library and went straight to the hospital. The travel was a quiet one, but the stares and whispers of other ponies continued to follow her.
Ponyville Hospital wasn’t located that far from the library. However, today Twilight and by extension Spike, who rode on her back, found the distance uncomfortably stretched. Whispered comments about Twilight were heard wherever they were. The baby dragon was getting restless by the time the both of them reached the hospital.
“I don’t know how you could take all of that so calmly Twilight.” Spike said with a bit of disbelief in his voice. All this time the baby dragon was afraid that Twilight will snap at the crowd of ponies. It was somewhat reliving that she didn't do it, however at the same time it was a bit surprising.
“A bit of practice Spike.” Confidence was clearly hard in Twilight's voice. What only she knew, hiding it deeply, was all the hurt that some comments have caused her. It was one thing to know that other ponies feared you, another to experience their fear and distrust so directly.
Before they entered the building, Spike slid down from her back. As the two entered they saw nurse Redheart leaning behind the reception desk. Twilight approached her and cleared her throat to get her attention.
The white earthpony looked up from her work and when she saw who was before her, her eyes widened. The nurse’s gaze darting from Twilight’s eyes to her armor and back to the unicorn’s eyes.
“Can I... help you Miss Sparkle?”
“Yes, I’m here to visit my friend Applejack.” Twilight had to give the nurse credit. The only outward reaction to seeing her, was the widening of her eyes and a miniscule stutter in her question.
“She’s in room 5.”
“Thank you, come on Spike.”
When Twilight and the baby dragon disappeared behind a corner in the corridor, the nurse slumped a bit. Maintaining a professional face in front of that mare was a challenge. She knew it was irrational to some degree... but she couldn't help but feel like prey in the presence of a predator.
Suddenly the door behind her, leading to staff room opened and she jumped up slightly.
“Who was that?” Nurse Redheart turned around to face a light cream colored unicorn stallion with a dark gray short mane and overall a bit grumpy appearance. She really didn’t know why he got transferred to their hospital. But she didn’t ask and he didn’t like to talk about it.
“Just Miss Sparkle wishing to visit a friend, Doctor Stable.”
“So... No new patients? I’ll be in my office then...” he answered with a slight drawl and almost painfully bored expression on his muzzle.
When the nurse finally returned to her work there was a quiet, regular, thumping noise. A sign of the doctor bouncing a rubber ball around his office...
In the meantime in room number 5 Twilight stood in silence looking at Applejack, or at least what she could see from under all those bandages.
“Um... Hello AJ.” Twilight finally decided that standing in one spot and being silent for few minutes was not the way to do this. As she said those two words, the unicorn mare approached her friend’s bed. She saw and heard the blond mare sigh.
“Howdy Twilight. Ah see you got some fancy new clothes... Oh, and hi Spike.” The farm pony gave them a weak smile.
“So how are you doing?” It was Spike who asked the question. And before Applejack could answer it was Twilight’s voice that answered him.
“Spike... She’s all covered in bandages. How do you think she can feel?” There was a hint of scolding in the unicorn’s mare voice. But it seemed like only AJ caught it as she looked at her disapprovingly. Twilight had the decency to look embarrassed.
“All right, all right. I get it...” Spike said it while waving his small hands in an exasperated fashion. However a second later he smiled gently. “I do suppose it was a stupid question. So... are you feeling any better Applejack?”
“Actually Ah do. Those salves the doc’s been applyin’ me do wonders.” The farm pony smiled brightly.
“That’s very good to hear. I was afraid... When I saw you Applejack...” Twilight’s muzzle expression became solemn, her voice almost became a whisper at the end, as she remembered the state her blond friend was when she had found her.
The mood in the room instantly became somber. Twilight looked AJ in the eyes and both mares were locked in a staring contest. That short and indirect mention of Diamond Dogs was enough to bring back the more violent memories. Tension was rising and Spike could feel it, for a while he fidgeted on his feet, thinking how to break the awkward silence.
“Hey, I will see if they have any snacks for guests. You want something Twi? AJ?” In the end the purple baby dragon decided that a retreat was in order, for now at least.
“Just water Spike.”
“Nothin’ for me.”
The answer came at the same time and without further hesitation Spike bolted through the doors.
The blond farm pony took in a deep breath and then slowly breathed out.
“You really accepted it... Dang it Twi! You barely had time for us when Princess Luna was teachin’ you. Now you will have even less of it.” Applejack pointed an accusatory hoof at her purple friend. “And Ah still don’t know, what made you think that killin’ those Dogs was the way to go...”
Twilight looked anywhere but at the blond mare. She was right in both cases, but Twilight didn’t want to say it out loud. She was barely over what she did in that cave, the guilt was still there but buried deep under other thoughts. The purple mare didn’t need a relapse right now.
“It was the only way then... Look, what matters is that I saved you from Celestia knows what fate.” At the beginning her voice was weak, but the last few words Twilight spoke almost aggressively. She narrowed her slitted eyes in annoyance, and her next words were filled with anger. “You could be a bit more grateful.”
Both mare’s eyes widened at Twilight last words. The purple mare didn't want to say them out loud, but it was as if she couldn’t hold them back. The unicorn’s breathing quickened a bit. That was wrong, she shouldn’t talk to her friend like that. She took a step back.
“Twilight... What in tarnation is going on with you girl?” Although Applejack’s voice was filled with concern, it also carried a command like quality in it.
“I... I must go...” Twilight couldn’t stand her blonde friend’s gaze. She turned around and all but run out of the room. She almost crashed into Spike but with a short teleportation jump she evaded him.
“Woah... Why the rush? Twilight?... Twilight?!”
Twilight heard him, but she didn’t stop. When she was outside of the hospital she stopped, concentrated, and teleported to the border of the Everfree Forest. Form there she gallop for a while and made another jump, reaching the newly paved road from Ponyville to Luna’s castle. She made one more jump and then galloped the remaining distance. Her armored hooves made a loud and sharp noise as she approached the dark castle. Guards and servants jumped out of her way as she dashed through the corridors. When she reached the throne room she saw the doors locked, and guarded, but without hesitation Twilight pushed them open with her magic, and slammed them shut before the two Night Guards could say anything.
As unusual as it was, Luna was sitting on her black throne. It was still a few hours before sunset. Twilight, still breathing deeply and quickly from her run, approached the throne.
“You returned faster than I thought Twilight.” Luna’s voice was friendly and concerned. She saw that something was not right, it was glaringly obvious... And it was not even a full day from her official promotion.
“What didn't you tell me Luna?” Twilight asked with some anger in her voice, as she stopped before the dais.
“Whatever do you mean?” The Lunar Princess asked as she stood up and closed the distance between them.
“I think you know what I mean. I changed... you changed me.” Twilight sent a challenging, cold gaze in Luna’s direction. Confronting the Princess in this way was the last thing she wanted to do. But she finally realized that she did in fact change for the worse. All it took was one forceful question form Applejack. Twilight now regretted not talking with her friends more openly about her training, or not spending more time with them.
“You changed yourself Twilight.” Luna answered, embracing Twilight with one of her wings. “Come.” She started to guide her toward one of the alcoves in the throne room.
Luna had to have them redecorated, or finished, as now in the alcove a mirror covered a part of the wall. It was by Twilight’s estimate Twice as tall as Celestia, and only slightly wider than her body length. It had a silver frame with fragments of highly polished obsidian set in it.
In the reflection she could see herself and Luna that morphed slowly into Nightmare Moon.
“What has this supposed to do with my question?” Twilight asked, more annoyed than scared.
“What do you see?”
Twilight snorted at that, but decided to humor the larger mare, if that was the only way to get her answers. As expected she saw herself standing side by side with the black alicorn, her left wing spread over her back. And then the surface of the mirror rippled like water.
“Us two... standing... here...” As she began to talk, Twilight saw something that made her thoughts grind to a halt. She was getting taller, more slender, her mane and tail becoming more ethereal. And she was growing wings... as incredulous as that was. Not a minute later, two alicorns stood side by side. To Twilight’s horror she looked like Nightmare Moon’s twin sister.
What made it worse was that she felt herself change. It was not only her reflection that changed.
“What have you done to me?” Twilight whispered with both awed and scared voice.
“You see, in the end we’re not so different... Besides... Don’t you like it? The feeling of power?” Nightmare Moon's voice took a seductive quality that Twilight had never heard before.
But the purple unicorn... or was it alicorn... couldn’t deny what the black one said. She felt power of the likes she never felt before. It was intoxicating, but it was also a shock.
“This is not me!” Twilight took a step back, or tried to. It was as if the mirror put a spell on her and the only thing she could do was looking into it.
“Think Twilight, how many ponies could you protect now. Everything that is a danger to our ponies... You could take care of those threats.” As Nightmare spoke, the mirror showed Twilight’s memories of Applejack, broken, in that dungeon cell. Suddenly, in the place of Applejack laid Rarity, and then another of her friends, and another...
“Stop this...” Twilight said with tears in her eyes, all the fresh memories resurfacing. She could swear, she almost felt blood covering her again.
“Only you have that power...” The voice of the black alicorn sounded through the throne room, and Twilight suddenly realized she was alone. But the images in the mirror didn't stop. Slowly they became more gruesome. And now it was not only Diamond Dogs that tortured her friends, but any known carnivore creature would appear.
With a scream of deep anger Twilight fired a bolt of magic at the mirror. When the bolt connected the purple mare was overtaken by a sense of vertigo. When it stopped the mirror showed her, stopping the numerous threats. In bloody ways. But the threats were stopped for good.
“By all means necessary...” Twilight whispered to herself, mesmerized by the visions in the mirror. Slowly a smirk formed on her muzzle. She had the power to protect everypony. It was a terrible power... but somepony had to do it. Right?
The mirror’s surface rippled for the last time and showed her something that surprised her yet again. Her, as a unicorn with Princess Luna in her normal form. Both standing in that beautiful chamber that looked like forest clearing with a night sky. She was staring in her reflections eyes.
A gut feeling told her to touch the reflective surface. Slowly she lifted a hoof, and with trepidation she touched the cool surface. There was a monstrous cracking sound, as if thousands glass panes shattered at the same time. Twilight blacked out.
When she woke up, she felt as if hit by a train. It was close to that anyway, she guessed. When she opened her eyes, her heart almost stopped. Twilight was lying on moss covered stone. Before her stood the Dark Mirror, a massive crack split it in two large parts. There was also a lot of obsidian debris lying around. Her body felt strange.
She felt a gentle touch on one of her... wings. Twilight’s eyes widened and she lifted her head slowly upwards to see who it was. It was Luna.
“That... Was unexpected.” Her voice sounded sincere and a bit frightened but for now, Twilight didn't know what to believe anymore. She saw Luna closing her eyes. “She was not supposed to be aware of your presence.”
“What?” Twilight croaked silently, her throat felt like she didn't drink for days.
“The Dark Mirror, I used it recently and won with my inner Darkness. I took it’s power, and in the process it’s will was imprisoned in the Mirror.” Luna glanced at the destroyed artifact. “I underestimated it.”
“What? Why then...” Twilight slowly sat up, and was surprised to find that she was now taller than Luna.
“I wanted to show you that I in fact, was not Nightmare Moon. That... thing was not supposed to know you were looking. It was for the lack of better words, my reflection. It should not have reacted to your presence.” The blue alicorn’s brows furrowed in frustration. “It pulled you in.”
“Four days. You were unconscious for four days.” Luna looked at the ground.
Twilight’s mind finally catched up to everything she was hearing, seeing and feeling. That didn't change the fact that it was still surreal and hard to believe. She looked down at her long legs, she turned her head to look at her wings... real wings, not something created with magic from dew, that disappeared after a time. Her tail looked ethereal, and moved gently swayed in a non existent breeze as did her mane.
“How is this possible?” Twilight whispered, looking Luna directly in the eyes.
“I put a lot of my power in the creation of that Mirror, and a bit of my essence as well... You yourself were powerful beyond any mortal unicorn in the last millenium, if I understood my sister correctly. Somehow our magics had to react. That is the best guess I can make right now.” Luna sighed deeply.
The purple alicorn just sat there, watching the Princess of the Night talking, thinking. She still had difficulties accepting what her body told her was real. She closed her eyes and tried to move her wings. With difficulties, she did. It was like learning to walk all over again. After a few minutes of that, she opened her eyes.
“What do we do now? What do I do now? I can’t show myself outside looking like this.” When Twilight said that, both mares understood the real issue. She looked like Nightmare Moon’s twin sister. That would create some serious problems... Especially with Princess Celestia. “Not after what I did to save Applejack...”
“For now you will have to stay in the castle. The Night Guard and servants are sworn to secrecy.” Luna slowly stood up and Twilight saw the she looked tired, when she looked close enough she saw darker patches under her eyes.
“You’re exhausted Luna. Did you sleep at all?” The purple alicorn asked with concern.
“It was my stupidity that caused this. I had to be sure your condition didn’t worsen.” Stubbornness was evident in Luna’s voice. It was Twilight’s turn to sigh.
“I’m fine now... Or at least as fine as I can be. You need your rest Luna.” Twilight had to act quickly after those words as Luna swayed dangerously on her hooves. She allowed the Princess to lean on her right side. It was strange, as now she saw how truly she had grown. She was sure that she was as tall as Princess Celestia.
“I may need to rest.... But, can you forgive me for this Twilight?” Luna asked as the two of them walked out of the chamber with the now utterly broken Dark Mirror.
“There are a lot of worse things that can happen to a pony Luna.” Twilight answered with a small smirk, the Princess of the Night smiled sadly.
When the two mares reached Luna’s private chambers doors, the two Guards on duty were too shocked to do anything but stare at Twilight’s new body. When Twilight leaft the room’s and told them to not let anypony in, they just nodded dumbly, wide eyed. When she left the corridor, she heard a distant thump and clanking of metal on stone. Signaling that one of the Guards passed out.
Almost all of the castle staff reacted the same way, some more fainted. But surprisingly nopony was too vocal about Twilight’s changes.
When she reached her room in the tower, first thing she did was go to a mirror and looked herself over. For laughs she decided to imitates Nightmare Moon’s glare, or scowl... That’s when she discovered she even had fangs. After a while of such behavior she became focused again and gazed deeply at her reflection.
“I can protect you all now...” Twilight whispered, and then a smirk appeared on her muzzle. “Griffons, Diamond Dogs, Changelings... Nothing will hide. You will all be safe.” She laughed silently, and it was a cold cruel sound, one Twilight knew very well. But this time she didn’t have to fear it, as it was her laughter, and not a certain black alicorn’s.