65w, 11hCelestia & Luna
39w, 4dThe Writer's Group
43w, 6dDoubled Fun
64w, 4dTwilight Sparkle
55w, 3dDew's Favorite finished stories
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53w, 21hWatch Later
5w, 1dProtect Celestia
52w, 2dTwilight's Library
46w, 3dEngines Favorites
32w, 2dfimfiction's favorites
37w, 5dAlternate Perspectives
25w, 1dStories I've read
16w, 22hMy Little Over Analysis
17w, 3dCompleted Story Compendium
12w, 1dLoyal Subjects
12w, 16hChildren of Equestria
10w, 1dVallett's Private Library
4w, 2dFederal Daze
Luna’s nighttime court was already in full swing by the time the princess arrived, her coat still showing smudges from Celestia’s soup accident. The meeting chamber was more or less a converted banquet hall, same furnishings and all. Celestia had suggested using the throne room, but Luna was far too hesitant for that much pomp and circumstance. In any case, she didn’t want to hold her own court in the same place her sister held hers. All the ponies would ever do is compare the two princesses, and Luna knew in her heart of hearts who they would prefer.
The main members of her court, mostly representatives from the major cities and regions of Equestria, were seated at the table. Her attendants had already started going over last night’s business, most of it concerning the expansion of Hoofington and changes to the proposed highway system connecting Manehatten and Trottingham. All of it was very basic. It started with drafting a proposal and sending it to Celestia’s desk. There, it would be ignored for about two weeks, or until Luna reminded Celestia about its importance, and then it would either be approved or sent back for another debate. A few times, it was even brought up during Celestia’s time of the day, where, of course, the older sister always got her way.
That’s about to change.
Everypony immediately rose from their seats and bowed all the way to the floor at Luna’s approach. The moon princess couldn’t help but blush and hide her head at the sight. The constant bowing didn’t quite bother Luna quite as much as it did Celestia; then again, Celestia had an extra thousand years to get royally sick of being treated like royalty. After a millennium-long banishment, a little respect was a nice change of pace.
Luna took her seat at the head of the table, smoothing out her still-wet fur with one leg. “Good evening, fillies and gentlecolts. I apologize for my tardiness, but a…number of situations have occurred so far tonight, and I would like to get through tonight’s session with as little difficulty as possible. Is that all right?”
The others nodded in agreement. “Very well. So, what business do we have tonight?”
Twilight’s restful slumber was interrupted by a peculiar hopping sensation on the other side of the bed. The mare yawned and rustled about, but stubbornly kept her eyes closed. “Egh, Spike? Keep it down, will ya?”
“I’m not Spike,” chirped a very familiar voice.
Twilight’s eyes finally popped, still groggy from last night. The books she borrowed from Princess Celestia lay on top of a nearby nightstand, along with a barely-touched notebook. The windows showed a still pitch-black Equestria; it was obviously still late at night. And there, standing on the edge of the bed, was a perky, wide-awake Celestia. “Come on, sleepy head! We have a lot to do today!”
The unicorn flattened her ears in a vain attempt to block out the incessant cheeriness in the room. She glanced at a nearby clock, confirming her woes. “Princess? It’s 4:30 in the morning. Shouldn’t you still be asleep?”
Celestia spat her tongue at Twilight’s desperate plea for sleep. “Why should I be? We have a long day ahead of us. We are going to get up, have some breakfast, and remove this spell before things get any more complicated!”
“But…I was up all night reading,” groaned Twilight. Her head fell back on the pillow with a soft thump, while her eyes failed in their quest to stay open. “Please princess, just a few more hours?”
Celestia groaned as her student fell right back asleep. I didn’t want to have to do this, Twilight. But you leave me no choice… Walking on tip-hoof, she snuck up to Twilight’s left ear, took a deep breath, leaned right in…
Twilight screamed and jumped right out of the bed, landing face-first on the floor with a heavy thud. Celestia leered over the side, saw that her student was all right, and started giggling. This time, however, Twilight didn’t feel much like joining in. In fact, she was still so tired she didn’t really feel anything. “Now come on, Twilight Sparkle. We’re having waffles!”
By the time Luna stepped out of the meeting, she was already feeling the pressure.
Most nights followed the same formula: bring up a problem, discuss it, ask why Celestia hadn’t done anything yet, engage in playful banter about her sister’s work ethic, and go home. Tonight was a different story. A few of the representatives had already gleaned from the nervous staff that something had happened to Celestia. She could feel the very sense of dread emanating from her own council, and in all honesty she felt the same way.
In any case, this led to a discussion of Celestia’s massive backlog. Next year’s budget had yet to be approved. At least six trade agreements were in hot dispute. Manehatten’s citizens were complaining about higher food prices because of Fillydelphia’s Parasprite infestation. Economic growth was slow across the country. The Cloudsdale Weather Service’s attempt to fix the broken weather schedule had resulted in an overabundance of storm clouds, and the excess would be in Canterlot within twelve hours.
In short, she was already having a mess of a day. And she hadn’t even raised the sun yet…
After breakfast, Celestia and Twilight made their way back to Celestia’s room. The former’s coat was covered in butter and syrup from breakfast, while the latter still felt like a zombie pony. On Twilight’s back sat the books she had borrowed the night before, with not a single burned copy to be found.
The two walked to the nearby bookshelf, where Twilight telekinetically returned the books to their proper places on the shelf. She then pulled down a few others and set them on the floor for Celestia. The filly sat in front of the pile, pulled down a book with her teeth, and forced it open with her hooves. She didn’t even notice Twilight covertly pushing something out of her mane and onto one of the books. “Your Highness, I have a question.”
Celestia looked up from her book, a big grin still plastered beneath the syrup stains. “Of course, Twilight. What do you want to know?”
“Last night, when Princess Luna and I went out of the room, she kind of told me about your foalhood, and…”
The filly’s eyes narrowed to almost perfectly flat line. Twilight suddenly found herself very, very afraid for her future status as Celestia’s pupil. “I see. Twilight Sparkle, I do appreciate your attempts to…interject yourself into my sisterly relationship, but I would appreciate it more if you didn’t concern yourself with my past.”
“But…I was being so insensitive,” said Twilight. “I never even thought you were ever a filly before this, and given your age…I mean…I never thought about how hard it must have been back then. So scared, so lonely, so…”
Celestia raised a hoof, stopping Twilight yet again. “Once again, do not concern yourself with my personal history. Yes, things weren’t perfect, but I was trying to guide the evolution of an entire planet and manage its stagnant ecosystem, all while a reality warper kept making things a living nightmare. My sister and I effectively created the three races of ponies, managed to build an entire civilization on the basis of order and harmony, and invented half those spells you so eagerly study. So, while I enjoy the occasional chat about how terrible things were, can we please get on to the problem at hand?”
Twilight smiled the fakest smile in the history of fake smiles and started sliding towards the door. “So, why do you want me to meet with The Abomi- I mean, Professor Gaze again?”
“Several years ago, long before you were a student, Frosty Gaze wrote a thesis on ancient pony magic. He came to me petitioning to read a few of the banned spellbooks we held in the library’s forbidden section. That included works by the same mad pony that created this spell in the first place.”
“You mean, he’s seen the Arcanus E Dragonus?” asked Twilight.
Celestia scoffed. “No, of course not! That book wasn’t the only one in the collection. The others were far less dangerous, but still had more than a few spells that would be best left forgotten.” The grim determination on Celestia’s face, the same Twilight had seen during Discord’s resurrection, was enough to prove the weight of her words. “It would be easier if we had the originals, but there was a fire in that wing of the library a few months after Gaze had finished his thesis.”
Celestia paused. She could already see the gears whirring in Twilight’s head. “And no, he had nothing to do with it. At the time the fire started, he was a week into a two-week vacation, visiting some friends just outside of Ponyville. In any case, only…that book survived.”
“I see,” muttered Twilight. “Well, I guess I’ll be going then! Just gonna visit the alma mater, catch up on the good old days, visit the cruelest teacher ever so I can find out about some evil pony’s dark magic and bring the most wonderful pony in the history of Equestria back to normal…Hee hee hee, this is going to be a very long day.” With that, Twilight slid out of the room, closing the door behind her.
Celestia stared at the door, unblinking, for several seconds. I swear, that pony can make mountains out of molehills. She then turned back to the open book in front of her. “Well, back to work. I have a lot of ground to cover today, so let’s get cracking.”
The sun rose over the horizon, bathing Ponyville in a blanket of warm, life-giving light. It struggled in place for a while, almost seeming like it was going to just fall right back out of sight, but after about ten minutes it finally rose and locked itself into place. One after another, ponies began to wander out of their homes, simultaneously ready to start a new day and curious about why Celestia was having so much trouble.
One pony in town did know, however. Or rather, one purple-and-green baby dragon.
Spike and Applejack walked out of Sweet Apple Acres’ apple cellar. Spike was still clutching Twilight’s letter against himself like a security blanket. The workhorse, meanwhile, was still regarding him with more of a sense of skepticism than anything else. “Are ya sure that was what Twi’s letter said?”
“Of course!” said Spike. “Princess Celestia never takes vacations, Twilight wouldn’t leave me here if something big was going on, and there’s no way anyone would let Princess Luna rule both day and night. I’m telling you, she’s evil!”
Applejack furrowed her brow at the dragon’s insistence of Luna’s wickedness. “Listen sugahcube, ah don’t know much about Celestia’s sister, but ah’m pretty sure she isn’t the monster ya make her out to be.”
The two walked through the apple orchards, their branches still budding with fresh fruit. By this time, Applejack would normally be halfway through the south side of the farm, a few dozen bushels already ready for the afternoon market. Not this time, however. Big Macintosh was already out there, giving the two a quick nod as they passed, and Apple Bloom was still finishing her morning chores before heading to school. AJ’s job today was far different.
As the two exited the farm and entered Ponyville proper, Spike finally spoke. “So, if you don’t believe this brilliantly-coded letter, why are you going to Canterlot?”
Applejack turned back to the farm. “Cause a certain filly flooded Ponyville with molasses last week!” she shouted.
“Ah said ah was sorry!” answered a filly’s voice.
“Ya’ll still grounded for a week, ya hear! Come right home after school!” She turned back to Spike, quickly reassuming her indoor voice. “Scootaloo’s folks were flat broke, so Rarity and I had to cover the rest of the damages ourselves. But this means we won’t have enough bits to cover our taxes, so ah need to ask Princess Celestia for a - what’s the word Big Macintosh used - extension.”
Spike looked slightly confused at Applejack’s logic. “Then…why are you asking the princess? Can’t you just talk to the ERS?”
“And get trapped in paperwork for a thousand years? No thanks.”
“And what about Twilight?!” said Spike. “Aren’t you forgetting how important she is? Without her, we can’t use the elements to zap Nightmare Moon-”
“…Princess Luna back to the moon!”
AJ stopped and sighed. She could see the fear for Twilight’s well-being all over Spike’s face. She flashed a quick smile and prepared her trademark honesty. “Ah’m sure Twi’s all right. Ya’ll can’t keep rushing to conclusions like that. If ya want, ah’m sure we can take ya with us. I’m sure she’d be burstin’ to see ya by now!” Spike couldn’t help but give a childish grin at the words. “Now, we don’t wanna dilly-dally. That’s Rainbow Dash’s department.”
A quick breakfast and six cups of tea was enough to calm Luna down. As she started making her way to the throne room, however, those blasted nerves started acting up. Last night’s meeting was already a drain, and the sheer volume of work her loving sister had left behind was enough to stress anypony.
Walking alongside the princess was Ruby Dream, a crimson-coated pegasus and one of Celestia’s attendants. On her back sat a pair of saddle bags, bulging with various papers and bills Luna would have to review. She occasionally gave the moon princess nervous glances from the corner of her eye, something Luna hadn’t failed to notice. It was the same fearful gaze she had experienced so many times before. “Is there something wrong, Miss Dream?”
The pegasus gasped and turned her attention towards the floor. “N-No, your Highness. I-I was just…surprised when you requested that I be your assistant. I mean, I just started, and I’m sure…”
Luna flashed as comforting a smile as she could. “I’ve read your file. Trust me, I know you’re qualified for this position. I wouldn’t have asked you to do this otherwise.” And of course, you’re a new hire AND not from around Canterlot. Which means you don’t have a personal connection with Celestia. That way you won’t go running to her if something goes wrong. “So, what’s on the agenda today?”
“Ah…well, you have a morning meeting with a representative from the Equestrian Revenue Service to discuss the upcoming tax season.”
“The early afternoon will consist of open court, as usual. I have a prepared list of all appointments, but you should expect a few unannounced petitions as well.”
“And this evening, we will be setting up for tomorrow night’s dinner party. It’s nothing too important; mostly, you just have to say hello to some of the aristocrats and nobles from around Equestria. The menu is already prepared, the necessary furniture has been ordered, and I have already started preparing an excuse for your absence.”
A blue leg shot up in front of Ruby. Both ponies turned on their hooves, the larger one staring at the smaller with enough force to burn the bark off a tree. “What’s this about an excuse?”
“W-W-Well, that’s what the other attendants told me to do,” Ruby croaked. “It’s what Princess Celestia always ordered!”
Luna’s face morphed into a low growl. “Princess Celestia, unfortunately, is still in no shape to rule. Until she is, I am in charge, and I will not insult our guests or our subjects by not making a personal appearance. Is that understood?”
Ruby let out an affirmative whinny, her eyes already welling up in fear. Luna’s expressions immediately softened as she realized what she just did. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to yell at you. It’s just…I’m sick of everypony comparing me to my sister, acting like she’s the most perfect thing in existence and can do absolutely no wrong. I would just appreciate it if you would not simply do what Celestia would request, and instead bring any such information to me. Understood?”
Ruby quickly nodded. “Yes, your Majesty. I-In any case, the ERS agents will be arriving in about thirty minutes.” A small bit of courage surfaced, enough to crack a small joke. “You know how picky those ERS guys are. Everything has to be right on the dot.”
Luna smiled. “Indeed. You slip up just a little, and somepony can get hurt…” She suddenly didn’t feel like laughing anymore.
Thankfully for both parties, their little downer session was interrupted by a loud clash from the other end of the hall. Both ponies galloped towards the palace doors just in time to see half a squadron of guards restrain a certain, familiar member of the aristocracy: Prince Blueblood. “Unhand me at once, you fools! I have urgent business with the princess!”
“The princess is not receiving unannounced visits at this time, sire!” shouted one of the guards. “Make an appointment, or leave the premises!”
“I will not! The princess must hear my…” The stallion finally noticed the stunned, slack-jawed moon princess staring at him. His courtly manners finally returned to the forefront; he immediately kneeled and cooled his temper. “Princess Luna. I’m surprised to see you at this hour.”
“As am I, nephew,” said Luna. She motioned to the guards, who quickly bowed and stepped aside. “Now, you said you had some urgent business?”
Blueblood pulled himself off the floor and shook his head. “I do, your Highness, but I must speak with Princess Celestia. It concerns a matter of our nation’s very honor.”
“I’m sorry, but my…big sister has decided to take an impromptu vacation,” Luna lied. “For the time being, I am fulfilling her royal functions as well as my own.” The shock on Blueblood’s face was palpable. He obviously hadn’t planned on this. “In any case, we can speak over this matter in private. Please, follow me.”
Princess Celestia’s School for Gifted Unicorns was just as Twilight remembered. An architectural marvel in the middle of Canterlot, the school was always well-maintained by the small army of ponies it employed. The morning light reflected off the freshly-moped floors, creating a marvelous cascade of colors as Twilight walked past. The lockers that lined the walls were all in remarkable shape for such an old object. Even the walls were completely bare, save for the occasional announcement or motivational poster.
As she made her way to Frosty Gaze’s classroom, she occasionally stopped to peek into the classrooms. Each was filled with unicorn fillies and colts, all of them eagerly jotting down notes on every aspect of magic, from the abstract theories to the practical implementations. The whole thing was enough to almost floor Twilight with such carefree nostalgia.
That all came to a screeching halt the minute she reached Frosty Gaze’s classroom. Her heart stopped dead as she looked through the door window. Inside the auditorium-style classroom sat about twenty of the most terrified fillies and colts in Equestria, facing one of the most fearsome beings this side of the Everfree Forest. Frosty Gaze was a mountain of a pony, a unicorn that stood just seven or so inches short of Celestia, with a muscled body that would make even Big Macintosh envious. His cobalt coat and ice-blue mane certainly lived up to his name, and the way his nostrils flared as he spoke only added to his menace.
Twilight’s growing sense of dread was only stopped by a screeching, agony-inducing bell, followed by a herd of students racing out of one classroom and into another. By the time the bell echoed a second time, Twilight wasn’t so much standing by the door as she was spinning on her back. She flipped back onto four hooves, shook her head until her eyes stopped derping, and started her way into the classroom.
Frosty Gaze was standing behind his desk, levitating his teaching materials into a black saddle bag. His eyes were facing away from the door, too busy cataloging all his findings to pay attention to the mortally-afraid mare. The rest of the room was empty; thankfully, this was an empty class period. Twilight took a few more steps down into the room, swallowing a lump in her throat. “Um…Professor Gaze?”
“Office hours are three to five. If you can’t read a syllabus, I don’t know how you managed to…” When he finally bothered to look at the speaker, his eyes narrowed even further. “Ah, Twilight Sparkle. It’s been a long time. What brings Celestia’s golden filly back to my classroom?”
Twilight’s anxiety was rapidly rising to Fluttershy levels. “Uh, you see, Princess Celestia said you, er, studied some ancient magic for a thesis, and I was…”
Gaze wasn’t just looking at Twilight now; he was making his best “melt your face off” expression. The unicorn felt those last few bits of inner strength start slipping away. “If it’s any business to you, then yes, I did write a thesis on illegal spells. And why is it so important for you? Does it have something to do with Princess Celestia’s disappearance?”
There was an almost audible silence before Twilight spoke. “What do you…?”
“Do you really think the princesses are the only ones up at that hour? A few ponies saw Princess Luna raise the sun this morning; after failing a few dozen times, I might add. The Equestria Daily printed an emergency edition just for the news. Nearly all of Canterlot knows by now, and soon so will the rest of Equestria. I had to spend half of class telling everypony Equestria wasn’t going to suddenly explode!”
Twilight’s eyes shifted about in their sockets. “Er…Princess Celestia has...decided to takeavacation! She hasn’t had one in a thousand years, so she asked Princess Luna to take on her responsibilities for a few days!”
“…Have I ever told you you’re a terrible liar?” Frosty Gaze levitated the bag’s zipper shut and floated it onto his back. He started his way towards the door, oblivious to his former pupil’s shaking. “In any case, I have a very busy day, so if you will excuse me, Miss Sparkle…”
Gaze was halfway up the steps when Twilight finally found her last remaining nerve. “Sir…have you ever heard of the Arcanus E Draconus?”
The entire room went silent, so much so the two ponies could hear the clock ticking away. The stallion turned to the mare, his cold glare replaced with one of pure horror. “Wh…Why do you ask?”
Twilight now had the advantage, and she was ready to use it. She propped herself out of her almost complete melding with the wood floor and walked right up to Frosty’s muzzle. “Before Princess Celestia left for her vacation, she told me the book was stolen. She also said you read other pieces of the collection as a part of your thesis. I need to know as much about the magic this pony used as I can.”
Gaze snorted. “And I assume this has the Princess’ approval?”
The stallion sighed. “…Whatever Celestia wants, she can have. Wait here, I will be right back.”
This morning, Celestia was sure of only one thing: she was bored out of her skull.
Not that work like this was ever the most exciting thing in Equestria. About ninety percent of her working day was spent reading the latest paperwork from Luna’s own cabinet, as well as any other piece of royal business that worked its way into Canterlot. After some deliberations, a few counter-proposals, and a lot of hoofwork uncovering every last shred of information related to the problem, she would make some decisions, her loyal subjects would enact them, and all would be well.
Needless to say, the practice had worn itself out about seven hundred years ago. Making things worse was Luna; Celestia loved her sister dearly (even if she did just knock off a few feet from her height), but the moon princess was always trying to rush things through without as much as a second thought. Celestia knew it was just youthful impatience, coupled with Luna’s own guilt over her past, and that she would eventually grow out of it. Still, it could be more than a little irritating.
Even then, however, she could usually just soldier through using her love for Equestria and concern for all her subjects. Now, she was so full of youthful energy and spirit it was a miracle she wasn’t bouncing off the walls.
Celestia had to stifle another yawn as she clumsily turned a page with her hooves. Her lack of magic was already troubling, and was only made worse by having an entire palace full of things meant to be operated by magic. Just cleaning her breakfast mess was a challenge-and-a-half. Her hair and tooth brushes were inoperable with bare hooves, the handles on the tub and sink were almost impossible to turn, and her first time trying to apply shampoo just about blinded her. If a cure wasn’t found soon, she might have no choice but to actually ask her servants for help, something she really didn’t want to do for such small things.
The book, Principle Theories on the Nature of Curses and Their Effects, was just as long-winded and dull as the title. “Every page is the same thing over and over again,” Celestia murmured. “Who knew you could stretch ‘curses are bad’ over eight hundred pages. And nothing about removing them? Whatever I paid this pony to write this, it’s too much!”
She slammed the book closed as dramatically as she could (which amounted to a very soft thud) and walked back to the bookshelf. She climbed up the stepstool, stopping on all fours at each step until she reached the top. Jutting out slightly was a faded brown-covered book simply titled How to Break Curses in Your Everyday Life. A self-help book. Well, it can’t be a worse place to look than anything else I’ve tried.
Celestia clasped the book between her teeth and started pulling. Almost immediately, a small object rattled off the book’s top and smacked the princess on the forehead. The shock startled her enough to release the book and topple backwards. She landed on the floor just as another, similarly-sized object landed next to her.
It was a pair of cheap, plastic toys. One was a barely-articulated pink pony, with a strawberry mane and tail made of coarse fiber. The other was some sort of soldier pony, with what looked like an automated crossbow strapped onto his back. Celestia stared at the two in dumbfounded confusion. “How did these get here? I never…”
It struck her like a bolt of lightning. When Twilight put the books back…she must have snuck these on top of that book! Clever girl…
“I-In any case,” Celestia said to nopony in particular, “I’m much too old to play with dolls. Besides, I have a lot of work to do.”
Her eyes naturally wandered back to her books, scanning the hundreds of tomes for anything that could possibly help her. Not a single title stood out. Celestia realized there was nothing she could really accomplish without Frosty Gaze’s thesis as a starting point. In her utter defeat, her mind kept wandering back to those two two-bit toys Twilight had brought her. “I guess I could use a break,” she said. “Five minutes, and then these are going right back on the bookshelf.”
A pair of dark-coated guards threw open the throne room doors, allowing Luna, Blueblood and Ruby to wander through and into the throne room proper. Besides the three and the usual guards, the room was completely empty. The cleaning staff had finished polishing the stained glass windows only an hour prior, adding a rainbow of colors to the room’s already substantial majesty.
Once the two were about halfway to the throne, the guards slammed the doors shut. A loud bang rattled through the hall, causing all three to shake in surprise. Neither Blueblood nor Ruby had ever been in the room with the doors closed, and Luna was so nervous a crawling caterpillar fifty yards away would send her running. Fortunately for her, royal duty quickly outweighed her gnawing fear. “So…Prince Blueblood, what is this dire situation?”
Blueblood raised a hoof to his mouth and cleared his throat. “Your Majesty, are you familiar with a town called Ponyville?”
Luna couldn’t help but smile. She could still remember her first day as a free pony after a thousand years. Just being so welcomed after a millennium of imprisonment was a wonderful joy for the princess. She had been meaning to make another visit, but her assimilation back into Equestrian society had proven a difficult process. “I am aware of it, yes.”
“And you know of the disaster at the Grand Galloping Gala?”
“Of course I do,” said Luna. “It was the talk of Canterlot for weeks. But…that was months ago.”
Blueblood huffed. “And that is the problem! The ruffians that destroyed the Gala were all from Ponyville, and Princess Celestia allowed them to go free. They are responsible for destroying the entire ballroom, releasing all the animals in the garden, and insulting the honor of every pony in attendance, including my own! And Ponyville’s citizens still harbor these fugitives! We must show these ponies that any disgrace to the crown will not be tolerated!”
As she listened to Blueblood’s spiel, Luna could feel the nerves in her forehead throb. She knew her nephew was vain and petty, the very kind of noblepony that made the Royal Pony Sisters regret ever making a ruling class. But this was a new low. “Are you telling me…you want me to destroy an entire town, simply because a few ponies crashed the Grand Galloping Gala?”
Blueblood and Ruby could almost taste the sheer anger Luna was emitting. The latter merely shrank back a few steps; while the former used his most prized asset (an ego that could swallow half a star system) to quickly regain his footing. “Your Highness, please be reasonable. Princess Celestia, as wise and gentle a ruler as she may be, is far too lenient on troublemakers in Equestria. If we do not take immediate action, there is no telling how far this chaos will spread.”
Luna couldn’t tell if it was the sleep deprivation, the insane amount of work that faced her, or her nephew’s sheer audacity that got on her last nerve, but it was more than enough. “And you think this going to make things smoother?! Prince Blueblood, I will not turn Equestria’s military against my subjects just because a party went badly.”
Blueblood’s mood immediately shifted, his mind formulating another plan. “Then arrest the ones directly responsible!”
Luna’s anger cooled from “volcanic” to “significantly above room temperature.” “Perhaps that would be a more…measured response. Do we know who these ‘vile criminals’ are?”
“The so-called ‘Bearers of the Elements of Harmony.’”
And Luna’s rage jumped right back up to “supernova.” “The Bearers of the Elements of Harmony. The same six ponies that freed me from Nightmare Moon.”
Blueblood snorted; either he didn’t mind Luna’s growing inferno, or was just too clueless to notice. “Yes, those same ponies. If we can have them arrested, tried and sentenced before Celestia returns, I am sure we can prevent what could be a major disaster.”
“And what disaster would that be?!”
“Everypony’s reaction to you as a ruler, of course!”
Luna could feel the synapses in her brain snapping. She raised and slammed her front hooves so hard the room itself shuddered. “How dare you! I am your princess and your aunt! You will not- I repeat, NOT- speak to me in such a way!”
The prince briefly trembled from his sovereign’s fury, but his wounded pride quickly overcame both his sense of growing horror and any feeling of civility towards Luna. “What do you plan to tell them? Everypony in Canterlot can already see something is going on! And when they learn Celestia, the most beloved pony in all of existence, has completely disappeared, they will ask questions. They will think Princess Luna, the former Nightmare Moon that tried to destroy Equestria only a year prior, is behind all this! What do you think they will do then?”
Luna froze, Blueblood’s words working their way through her mind. Her voice became tinged with fear. “…And how will destroying Ponyville help me?”
Blueblood’s overconfident smirk returned. “As your nephew, I have considerable influence amongst the rest of Celestia’s court. Give me a chance to avenge my honor, and I will make sure they stay on your side. Refuse, and you will find your job far more difficult than you imagined.”
For the first time this entire meeting, Ruby finally managed to squeak out something. “You…You’re trying to threaten the princess!”
The stallion sneered at the pegasus; she responded by unfolding her wings and covering her face. “In any case, your Majesty, this is for the good of Equestria. Surely even you can see that.”
Luna was silent for several seconds, almost sweating from the sheer weight of Blueblood’s threat. He’s right about my subjects. Everypony still hates me after what happened. I knew this was going to happen. Why did I agree to this? Even as a foal, Celestia would have more…
Her view gradually shifted away from Blueblood, going back and forth between the still-cowering Ruby Dream and the throne itself. She could feel her muscles tighten as she did so, a new vigor rushing through her veins. No. It’s my fault Celestia is the way she is, and I will be responsible for Equestria. No matter how many stand against you, a princess never betrays her subjects to anyone.
She turned back to her spoiled brat of a nephew. “Prince Blueblood, I have reconsidered your ‘offer.’” Blueblood could sense his imminent victory. “And it is my opinion that this matter…is to be dropped.”
Blueblood’s jaw dropped. “What? But…have you…”
“We will no longer discuss anything related to Ponyville’s destruction, or the arrests of those responsible. I am certain Princess Celestia already saw to those matters.”
The prince’s reaction was swift and, in a word, stupid. “And you think the other ponies will just go along with you taking over? Are you so certain everypony will accept a known traitor? A pony that was willing to sentence everything in Equestria to certain death because nopony liked her nights?”
“Furthermore…” Luna leaned right into Blueblood’s face. “Attempting to threaten a government official is a very serious charge. Trying to threaten me? That’s not just criminal, that’s plain idiocy. I don’t know what happened to your ancestors to produce someone as stupid as you, but I can assure you, none of them would be dumb enough to even think about something like this.”
All light in the room instantly vanished. In its place was an unrelenting darkness, chilling every bone in Blueblood’s body. Ruby was nowhere to be seen, simply vanishing into the darkening ether. The prince hunched as low to the ground as possible, his eyes locked onto Luna’s as if in a hypnotic trance.
Luna’s voice boomed through the hall, betraying something fierce and terrible inside her. “You have insulted my sister and I, threatened the security of our nation, and dared to try and give me orders. You are a petty, foolish creature, and I will not allow something like you to endanger my land and ponies. Mere banishment is not enough. I should have you destroyed for this!”
The prince’s entire body was drenched in terror sweat. “P-Please, Aunt Luna! I…I’m sorry! Just let me go! I’ll never do it again!”
Luna let out a dark, bitter laugh. “Let you go? What about Equestria’s honor? Wouldn’t that just spread more chaos across the land?” Blueblood could only whimper in reply. The princess’ mocking sneer slid into a deep, disappointed frown. “My duties include the execution of all of Equestria’s laws, and by right I shouldn’t let you walk out of this room alive. Still, you are family, as distant as it may be. That’s the only reason I haven’t winked you into a griffon banquet hall yet.” Blueblood’s whimpers and moans only intensified.
“However, you cannot go unpunished. I am placing you under house arrest. You are to remain in your home until I am satisfied you have learned how to properly treat your superiors. Until that time, I do not want to see you on the streets, or near the palace, or even speaking to a member of this court. If you do, I will make sure you suffer every indignity imaginable, plus a few ponykind has long since forgotten. Have I made myself clear?”
Blueblood quickly nodded. “Yes, yes! Just don’t kill me!”
The darkness melted away, revealing a completely untouched throne room. Blueblood was still drowning in his own perspiration, while Luna went from “horrific monster” to “cute blue yearling.” She whistled, and a pair of guards immediately rushed into the throne room. “Please take Prince Blueblood back to his estate. As of this moment, he is to be considered under house arrest, on my orders. I want a full squadron of guards placed around his residence at all times, and I want daily reports of his actions.” The guards nodded, lifted Blueblood to his hooves with their wings, and escorted him out of the room. The once-proud stallion made no attempt to resist, calmly accepting his punishment for the time being.
Once the doors were closed, and she had a few seconds to cool off, the moon princess couldn’t help but smile. She never planned to kill Blueblood, of course. All she had to do was show him a taste of her power and make him fall in line. No wonder Celestia has so much trouble with him. ‘A princess may be stern, but can never show anger,’ my hoof. That was so satisfying, I…
It was right then that Luna noticed something was missing; Ruby was nowhere to be seen. The sound of shivering and clicking from behind the throne quickly revealed her location. Only Ruby’s face could be seen from behind the chair; she was even more terrified than Blueblood. Luna started to say something, but at the first sound from the princess’ mouth the pegasus immediately pulled her face out of view.
Luna’s eyes drifted to the floor. “I’m sorry. I…Sometimes, when my sister and I get angry, we…I mean…”
Very cautiously, Ruby took a few steps from behind the throne and into normal view. “Princess…I apologize, but…what was that?”
“Something I never wanted to use,” said Luna. “I was…just like her again.”
“It was so dark…and so cold…and you seemed so angry.”
Luna turned her back to the still-terrified mare. In her rage, she had forgotten what that spell did to anypony caught in it, as well as its effects on the entire room. It was no small wonder a normal pony would be terrified of such a power. It was the same kind magic she had used as Nightmare Moon. “If you are uncomfortable working with me, you are free to go. I won’t blame you.”
The attendant eyed the door nervously. Her brain and gut both told her to get out of there, before the possibly-not-former Nightmare Moon turned on her, too. When she glanced back at Luna, however, something made her stop. She had never seen anypony quite as miserable as her right now. A few clopping steps at a time, Ruby approached the softly weeping princess. “I…I…I’ll stay, if you still need me. But…can we never do that again?”
Luna looked up at the pegasus in disbelief, before a small smile spread across her face. “I promise.” The two finally let out a small laugh, the tension washing away. That incident behind her, Luna finished her walk to the throne, plopping her rear end on its lush cushion. “So, the ERS will be here in a few minutes. Once that’s over with, I’ll start knocking Celestia’s backlog. I’m sure this won’t be so…”
She sniffed at the air. “Why does this room smell like bananas?”
It was about ten minutes before Frosty Gaze returned, a rather large tome on his back. He levitated the book over to Twilight, dropping it in front of her. On the front, written in gold ink, was the title A Study of Dark Magic and its Effects on Equestrian Law. “There it is. All that remains of the mad pony Kuchen.”
Twilight batted an eyebrow. “Kuchen?”
“The unicorn that wrote the Arcanus E Draconus, as well as everything else in that collection.” Frosty Gaze strode past the unicorn and took a seat at his desk. “He really was a lunatic, if that’s what you’re thinking. He theorized that, given enough magical power, anypony could actually ‘ascend’ and become an Alicorn, just like Princesses Celestia and Luna.”
Twilight started leafing through the book. Sure enough, it contained several excerpts from a number of other texts, all of them written in a similar manner to the Youth Restoration Spell Luna had used. Frosty Gaze may have been a mean instructor, but he was also very thorough in his research. “If…If you don’t mind me asking, what happened to him?”
Frosty Gaze sighed. He obviously wasn’t keen on talking about something like him. “As far as I know, he never grew wings or gained an earth pony’s strength and endurance. However, his research was so dangerous that Celestia had to take notice. You see, even the spells he pioneered that didn’t drain the souls from ponies or summon demons were designed as actual curses. They may be an old pony’s tale now, but back then they were very real.”
He paused, collecting his thoughts for the next strike against Twilight’s sanity. “The problem with curses is, they’re designed to cause harm to ponies against their will. At first, they were just a few pranks, but after a while they transformed into something far worse. Kuchen was cursing entire villages for not serving him. He sank coastal towns and turned their inhabitants into sea ponies. He stripped pegasi of their wings and fed them to dragons. And that was his good days. When Celestia learned about this, she came to stop him, and needless to say he didn’t survive the encounter. After that, she ordered that all his books and materials be locked away, lest some other pony find them and, say, turn their sibling into a foal or something.”
Twilight giggled very nervously at the story. It was already difficult to imagine a pony that overwhelmingly evil, but the same pony making a youth spell was…bizarre. “Yes, well…I really do need to get going. Thank you for your time, Professor Gaze.” She immediately turned about and started towards the door, ready to hurry back to the palace. Frosty Gaze made no move to stop her. He just opened a drawer and levitated out a bottle of liquor.
He was finally free of that burden. It was time to celebrate.
Luna couldn’t believe it. She was now sitting on Celestia’s throne, ruling over the day as well as the night. In front of her stood representatives from the Equestrian Revenue Service, the same agency she had helped found only a few years before her banishment. All of them still wore the same black jackets, dyed their coats a solid brown, and had only their cutie marks to tell each other apart; a simple scare tactic to make sure nopony tried to actually skip on their payments. In the past, it was one of her prouder creations, a way to keep Equestria well-financed over the millennia.
And right now, she wished she could invent time travel, go back a thousand years, and smack her younger self upside the head for creating these buffoons.
The leader of the group, a unicorn, had just spent the last two hours reading a hundred-page speech, pausing only to replace “Princess Celestia” with “Princess Luna.” Luna simply sat on the throne, barely holding back her fifteenth yawn in the last forty minutes while the agent simply reminded her of the intricacies of the very system she had created. Ruby was seated next to her, taking notes for the princess thanks to some very dexterous hooves and a quill in her mouth.
“…And so, the Income Tax Act of 938 can be clearly applied to those within the fifteen percent tax bracket, despite Princess Celestia’s claims to the contrary. It is the opinion of our fellow auditors that any requests for an extension or deferral using this act should therefore be denied in any such circumstance.” He levitated his speech into a nearby briefcase. “Do you have any comments, your Highness?”
Luna didn’t have anything to say. She didn’t know what to say. She had read and re-read said act dozens of times over the last year, and not a single thing that came out of the stallion’s mouth matched the law’s actual intention. “I…will take your legal appraisal into consideration. Is there any other business we need to attend to?”
“No, your Highness. We just wanted to inform you of some new changes to the tax codes,” the agent said. “We bid you a good day.” With that, the entire herd of ERS agents filed out of the throne room in a single file, the door closing behind them.
Luna stared at the door, waited about fifteen seconds for the group to be far, far away from the throne room, and finally turned to Ruby. “What was the point of all that?”
Ruby looked over her notes. “Well…it just looks like they wanted you to follow some specific acts more closely than your sister did last year.”
“Then why hold up two hours of my time?” said Luna. “We could have handled this over the mail. Do they really think so little of my sister and I that they have to set up this meeting months in advanced, just to tell us something we already know?” Ruby dared not answer. The princess roared from the frustration of it all. “Never mind. If you’ll excuse me, I need to speak with my sister for a few minutes.”
The great fortress stood in defiance of Princess Celestia’s wise and loving reign. An impenetrable wall of encyclopedias and reference books supported a roof made of atlases and thesauruses. Guarding it were two golden dragons, their fanged mouths perpetually opened to gobble up any ponies that dared to pass by.
On the other side of the room stood Princess Celestia and her two cohorts, Lady Pinkinstuff and General Smashemup. On Celestia’s head was a small pot she had snuck out of the kitchen, its handle facing her backside. “There it is gentleponies, the legendary fortress of Bookdor!”
She raised Lady Pinkinstuff with her right hoof. “Oh no,” said the lady, with about as much whimsy as Celestia could muster. “Whatever shall we do?”
She raised General Smashemup with her left hoof. “Grrr!” he said, sounding more like a troll than a pony. “I’m gonna crush those no-good bad guys!”
Celestia closed her eyes, trying to look as authoritative as possible. “A very good idea, General. And I’ll lead the charge myself.”
“Growl, no! It’s too dangerous! Such a perfect princess like yourself cannot possibly go into battle!” said Smashemup.
“Send your sister, Princess Luna. She can stop the evil of Bookdor!” said Pinkinstuff.
Celestia sighed. “Alas, my sister has been a very naughty pony and has to take a time out. We three are the only hope for Equestria. Are you ready?”
“Ready, my princess!” said the lady.
“Snarl!” snarled the General.
Celestia reared up onto her hind legs, both toys still resting on her front hooves. She twirled and spun around the room, making wooshing sounds and explosion noises as she passed. When she finally reached the fortress itself, she set herself back on her haunches, placing the toys in front of the two dragon-shaped bookends. “Gasp!” she said. “If we are to destroy Bookdor, we must get past the dragon twins!”
“Let me at them!” shouted General Smashemup. Celestia grabbed the toy in her mouth and started smacking it against the two dragons, the chunk of plastic making a dull click upon impact. The dragons tried to fight back, using Celestia’s front hooves to shake and lunge about, but the General’s speed was just too much, and soon one dragon toppled over, slamming into the other one and sending it falling three inches to its doom.
Celestia spat out the General, rose to all fours, and pointed a hoof at the waiting fortress. “The path is open, Lady Pinkinstuff! Now to destroy Bookdor!” She grabbed the pink figure between her teeth and leaped into the air, wings extended. With a resounding flop, she landed belly-first onto the structure, sending it toppling in a dozen directions. When the smoke cleared, Celestia dramatically pulled herself out of the rubble, Lady Pinkinstuff still firmly caught between her teeth. Her pan was gone, having slid off during the initial assault, but it had served its purpose.
Before she could take the toy out of her mouth, however, Bookdor’s final revenge scheme began. A hoof slipped on an open encyclopedia, sending the foal tumbling to the ground. The sudden impact forced her to cough up the toy, which landed on her open windowsill. Celestia jumped after the thing, but she was still not used to grabbing things while moving with her hooves, and ended up only pushing it out the window entirely. She could only stare as her comrade in arms tumbled down the side of the palace and shattered on the stone walkway below. The last she saw of it was a pair of ponies, one white and one orange, picking it up before heading towards the palace entrance.
Celestia continued to stare out the window, her mind replaying the events that had just transpired. Behind her was a room in disarray, a far cry from the almost OCD organization she normally advocated. About half of the books she had used for her little play exercise were ancient and irreplaceable, even if the information inside had been copied to thousands of other titles over the millennia. The one surviving figure sat forgotten underneath a copy of Ponyland Tales. And now that her mind was free from building Pinkinstuff’s elaborate backstory as the daughter of the pirate king Captain Coltt, she could finally glance at the grandfather clock in the corner.
She had been goofing off…for two hours.
The princess sighed and walked back to her bed, jumped on, and curled up on her stomach. What was I thinking? I’m a grown mare. I’m far too old to be playing with dolls. And Luna’s still out there, carrying out what should be my duties. It’s all her fault. Stupid Luna making me feel bad.
As she sat there, wallowing in her own self-pity, Celestia remembered Twilight’s little speech from yesterday. She thinks this might be fun? Well…I guess I did have a little bit. That book fort was pretty cool, and I never really got the chance to actually play as a foal.
Her head suddenly perked up. Come to think of it, I really did have a cruddy foalhood. Maybe this is a chance to make up for that. That must be why Twilight left those toys there today. I really need to thank her when she gets back.
The princess’ head sank back into her front hooves. Too bad she can’t fix the one big problem…
Rarity and Applejack brought the broken toy back to the others. Both hindlegs were completely shattered, the face was cracked in a rather unsettling pattern, and the whole thing screamed “fire sale” more than anything else. “Who do you suppose would dump their garbage right in front of the palace?” asked Rarity.
The other four party members looked at the thing with equal puzzlement. Spike gasped as he realized what it was. “That’s one of my old toys!” The ponies looked at him with a mixture of surprise and gentle glee. Spike nervously rubbed his upper arm and shied away. “I mean…one of Twilight’s old toys. That she showed me once, and I certainly never played with. Heh.”
“Nice save there, buddy,” said Rainbow Dash. “Now how about telling us HOW you plan to save Twilight and Princess Celestia?”
Spike cleared his throat, straightened his spines, and puffed out his chest. “Very easy. We know the last time Luna turned evil, Celestia banished her to the moon using the Elements of Harmony. Now, the first thing we do is find Twilight. Then, we grab the Elements and use them to seal Luna way for another thousand years!”
The silence was broken by none other than Pinkie Pie. “Um, Spike? Are we sure Luna is a bad pony? I mean, what if she’s really good and we banish her anyway, and then Celestia comes back and gets really angry with us and banishes us to the moon with her?” Her eyes suddenly lit up as sugarcoated fantasies pushed out the bad thoughts. “But I’ve never thrown a party on the moon before! That will be the greatest challenge yet! And we’ll all be there together! Oh, I’m liking this plan! How about you girls?”
“Um…excuse me, Spike, but, um, how are we supposed to get to the Elements?” asked Fluttershy. “ I mean, Princess Celestia keeps them under lock and key.”
“Which means Princess Luna can’t get to them,” said Spike. “After what happened with Discord, Celestia taught Twilight the spell to open the lock in case something happened to her. That’s why we have to find her first.”
“No, the first thing we’re gonna do is find Princess Luna and ask her what’s goin’ on,” said Applejack. “Pinkie’s right.”
“About parties on the moon?” asked Pinkie.
Applejack’s brain quickly flipped into safety mode, the only thing that allowed anypony to talk to Pinkie Pie when she was in one of her flights of fancy. “Um…no. Ah mean about findin’ out if Luna really is evil. So far, all we’ve got is Twilight’s story, and ah don’t really know if that’s a hundred percent accurate, if y’all catch my drift.”
Spike gave a resigned sigh. “Alright, if you really want us to get caught, then fine. We’ll first go talk to Queen Meanie…”
“Hey, I said that first!” said Pinkie.
“…And then we’ll go rescue Twilight. Happy, Applejack?”
The workhorse nodded in agreement, and all five ponies wandered into the palace. Spike waited until they were all inside before looking up at the sky. “Pink Pony Princess, I promise you, your death shall be avenged!”
There was a sudden knock on Celestia’s door, followed by Luna’s voice. “Sister? Can I speak with you for a minute.”
Celestia turned towards the door, but didn’t move from the bed. Before she could respond, the door swung open. Luna stood on the other side, quite upset about something. “Celestia, I need to talk to you about…” Her eyes widened at the disaster in the bedroom. “What happened in here?”
“Just a little redecorating,” said Celestia.
Luna telekinetically shut the door behind her and started slowly, carefully walking towards her sister. It was as she was sidestepping a pile of long outdated dictionaries that she noticed the little soldier figure. She willed the object into the air and floated it in front of Celestia. “What is this?”
Celestia looked back up at the toy, a small smile on her face. “That? It’s just something I found. There was another one, but…it fell out the window.”
“She…gave you toys.” Celestia could see the anger and disappointment seething underneath Luna’s blue coat. “You were supposed to be figuring out a cure, and instead you were playing with toys.” She released the figure, causing it to plop right onto the bed. Celestia immediately grabbed it with both hooves and clung it close to her body, just in case Luna decided to finish the job that gravity began.
“I…I was just having a little fun,” said Celestia.
Luna’s frown only deepened. “Well, while you were having fun, I was stuck listening to the ERS talk about how we’re a bunch of bleeding hearts for not twisting every line of the tax code against our subjects! They spent two hours lecturing me on the laws you passed!” Luna sat on the side of the bed, the impact shaking Celestia briefly. “And here you are, playing with toys.”
Celestia climbed onto her feet, spun around, and looked Luna just a few inches to the left of her eyes. “What? Did you really think my job was just about ‘tea parties and galas?’ Half my day is spent in meetings, and the other half is just reading all the paperwork that passes my way. Princesses don’t spend all their time at parties, you know.”
“Believe me, I know,” Luna growled. “I also know about you making up excuses to skip the monthly dinner parties.”
“Of course I do,” said Celestia. “Do you have any idea how boring those things are? There are a lot better things to do with your time than stand around and listen to a bunch of silver spooned ponies stab each other in the back for your favor. So, what excuse are you going to use?”
Luna jumped off the bed and pointed an accusing hoof at Celestia. “I’m not going to excuse myself! As princess, it is my duty to attend to all formal functions, as boring as they may be.”
Celestia stared at Luna in utter bewilderment. “I’m actually kind of amazed you’d want to do this. I thought you hated parties.”
“I do. But I am still serving in your stead, and that means I have to go. And I want you to get back to studying. You’re a big pony, Celestia, and I don’t need you acting like how you look. I want a counterspell ready by tonight, understand?”
Celestia growled and trembled with pent-up frustration. That small mental switch that kept her real feelings in check snapped like a dried twig. She jumped from the bed, landing right in front of her big sister with a heavy thonk. “Let me get this straight. It’s a bad thing when I want to get some enjoyment out of this, but when you want to dress me up as a prank, it’s perfectly fine?”
“N-N-No, that’s not what I said,” said Luna. She was never expecting Celestia to react like quite this. “I just mean, you’ve been trying so hard to act like normal, and I just thought…”
“Yes, I tried to be my normal, adult self. But I’m not. I can’t stand my favorite foods, I can’t use anything in the palace, my horn and wings don’t work, and nopony takes me seriously!” She could feel another tantrum worming its way up, but Celestia didn’t care. “I tried to study, but it was pointless. If there was a way to reverse this in any of these books, I would know it already. So instead, I decided to relax a little. And you know what? I LIKED IT.”
The two stared at each other, both unsure of what to say next. Finally, Luna managed to intone something. “Are you saying…you want to stay like this?” she asked, more than a little afraid for her future.
Celestia shook her head. “No, of course I don’t. There are only two things that really matter to me: my sister, and Equestria. But right now, I just want to turn my brain off for a little bit, try to have some fun with this. I mean, this was supposed to be in good fun, riiiiiiiight?”
Luna winced from Celestia’s accusing glare. “Um…yes, of course.” Her courage gradually returned, allowing her to at least calm down and walk a bit closer towards her sister. “Listen, I…I’m sorry I got upset with you. I’m still getting used to your job, and it’s not quite what I was expecting. I even exploded at Blueblood, can you believe it?”
Celestia’s eyes grew so wide they threatened to swallow her entire forehead. “Blueblood was here? Was this about Ponyville?”
Luna sighed. “You mean, about burning it down and arresting the same ponies that saved me? Then yes. Fortunately, he won’t be a problem for a while.”
Celestia didn’t quite know how to take Luna’s statement, but in any case, her curse had served one useful purpose: no Blueblood. “Luna…can I please go to the garden? It’s just so dull in here.”
The gears clicked in Luna’s head. The garden…that’s in the back of the palace, away from the common areas. We have no tour groups today, and there shouldn’t be anypony else going back there. I guess it wouldn’t hurt anypony if she stayed out there for a little while. It’ll get her out of my mane, anyway. “Sure, why not? I have to go that way anyway. Is it all right if your big sister escorts you?”
Celestia snorted and snickered. “Sure, big sister.”
The two walked towards the door, sidestepping the mess Celestia had made. Luna’s mind was wracked with worry about what this entailed, whether or not her sister was getting too used to the change, but she didn’t care. At least something slightly positive was coming out of this mess. And once I work through the royal business Celestia left me, I’m sure it can only get better.
The two stepped out the door and into the hallway.
And ran right into Spike and five bearers of the Elements of Harmony.
From within his house/prison, Blueblood fumed. Guards wandered every inch of his private estate, keeping tabs on his every move. The servants joined in his plight, weeping openly about their master’s misfortune. For the prince, however, this was not nearly enough to soothe his damaged self-worth.
Within his study, Blueblood paced impatiently. “She’s a monster. If I leave her on the throne, she’ll drive Equestria into ruin! Any minute now, she could bring down the sun forever. This is about more than Ponyville now! I must save Equestria from Princess Luna!”
His eyes wandered down to a small sheet of paper, bearing the name of a few “private investigators” he had employed in the past. His lips formed a smile. “She said I can’t talk to the court. She never said anything about…the lower classes of ponies.”
The two groups stared at each other, their jaws hanging loose. It was Princess Luna who could finally say something. “My goodness, I…I wasn’t expecting any visitors at this time. And five of the most important ponies in Equestria, too? This is certainly an honor. But...how did you get back here? And what are you doing here?”
The Ponyvilleians were far more focused on the small, white, rainbow-haired filly than on the moon princess at the moment. “Is…Is that…” Applejack started to stammer.
“P-P-P-Princess Celestia?” finished Fluttershy.
Rainbow Dash darted over the others’ heads, landing next to the still-shocked mare and filly. Celestia tried to make herself as small as possible, her face blush with embarassment. Dash glanced the filly over, pausing when she saw her cutie mark. “Yep, it’s Princess Celestia all…right…” The information finally clicked in Rainbow Dash’s head, sending her screaming to the back row of the party. Right now, everypony else was feeling the same way, including Luna.
That is, save for Spike. The dragon was more dumbfounded than anything else. “Princess Celestia…who did this to you? What happened to Twilight? What’s going on here?!”
Before Celestia could say anything, Luna interjected. “If you’re worried about Celestia or Twilight, I can assure you they’re both all right. An evil unicorn managed to break into the palace and turned Celestia into the foal you see right now. That’s why I’ve had to assume her duties as well as my own. Twilight is researching a counterspell, and once that’s found, Celestia will be turned right back to normal.”
“Then…what about her supposed ‘vacation?’” asked Rarity.
Celestia managed to find enough nerve to talk. “We never said just what kind of vacation it was.”
“Well, it’s just great that you’re not in danger!” said Pinkie Pie. “You guys know what this calls for?”
“What’s going on here?”
“A PAR- huh?”
Everyone turned about to see Twilight, freshly returned from Celestia’s School for Gifted Unicorns. Her five friends and assistant all tackled her in a group hug, sending Frosty Gaze’s thesis flying into a wall. Celestia and Luna simply looked at each other, first in puzzlement, and then in joy at seeing Twilight with friends.
After about two minutes of this, the seven finally managed to stand. “So, what are you guys doing here?” asked Twilight.
“Well, when Spike her got yer letter, he was worried sick about ya,” said Applejack. “So we decided to come by and see how y’all were doin’ up here.”
“Princess Luna told us all about what happened to Princess Celestia,” said Rarity. “We are just so glad the two of you are all right.”
Twilight sighed in relief. “Good. If I had to hide the fact that she stole the most forbidden spell book in Equestria and turned Celestia into a filly as a practical joke, I’d probably go crazy!”
The six newcomers froze before slowly turned back to Luna. Gone were the warm, inviting looks of friendship; now, they only screamed betrayal and lies. Luna let out a mournful, defeated moaned. Why is this happening to me…?