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Week 32, Friday-Saturday
Jared yawned, enjoying the comforting warmth of the sheets, but wishing that he’d gotten more sleep. What little he had ended up being a disturbing mix of soaring among peaceful clouds and suffocating darkness filled with pain and cruel eyes. His eyes still closed, he started to stretch, but stopped as he felt his wings stretch along with his legs. Opening his eyes, he again felt a little weird trying to move his arms and seeing fur-covered legs instead.
“Alright, let’s do this,” he said as he awkwardly rolled over. “Not going to fall flat on my face this time.” A loud thump and some grumbles later, Jared managed to get his hooves under him and slowly made his way to the door. He stared hard at the nemesis that the doorknob had become, and after another round of muffled grumbling he’d managed to grip it in his teeth and rotate it enough to open the door. “Ok, definitely need to switch for a handle,” he muttered as he carefully made his way down the hallway toward the cafeteria.
As he entered the room, he involuntarily looked toward the side of the room where Autumn Frost had been... He forced his gaze and mind away from that, and spotted Pinkie Pie and Spike busily working at the counter. “Hey guys.”
“Hi Jared! It’s good to see you up on your hooves!” Pinkie called out with a faint smile, though even her normally cheerful expression seemed somewhat forced, and Spike kept his eyes focused on his cooking. “Oh, that reminds me, Twilight said she needed to talk to you when you were up. I think that she said she would be in the lab.”
“Oh... alright then.” Jared looked longingly at the food, but turned and walked down the hallways toward the lab. As he drew near, he could hear someone speaking that resolved itself once he reached the door. Dr. Ross and Twilight were apparently discussing something, and he waited uncomfortably while Twilight continued speaking.
“Don’t worry Elizabeth, the girls and I will be coming back after the... the funeral,” Twilight’s voice was still a little somber after the stress of the day before, “It’s just Spellweaver that was thinking about staying in Canterlot. We’re going to take some of the serum with us, see if we can have any success with mass-replicating it...” she noticed Jared standing in the doorway. “Oh, good morning Jared, how are you feeling?” Her eyes were shadowed, evidence that she hadn’t slept very well either.
“Well, I’m glad my head’s as hard as it is, I’ve certainly whacked it on the floor enough times already,” he said trying to sound funny, but Twilight didn’t seem to find it amusing.
“Probably just need more time to adjust to your new legs; what do you think Elizabeth?”
“More than likely. Have you tried using your wings yet?” Dr. Ross asked as she walked over and knelt to get a better look at his wings.
With a snort Jared shied away. “Look, I’ll give ‘em a try soon, alright? Still trying to come to terms with not having thumbs anymore and all. Now what did you want to talk to me about Twilight?”
The unicorn looked at him for a moment before looking up at Dr. Ross. “Well, after talking to Princess Celestia last night, we decided that given what happened, we should take some time off, try to relax a little after Autumn Frost’s funeral. So we’ll be flying out to Hawaii, trading from an airplane to chariots on the John F. Kennedy. Once we arrive in Hawaii, we’ll be traveling via the Beacon Stones to Canterlot for the funeral. Then, most of us will be returning to Hawaii for a few days, and then we come back here. What I wanted to ask you was if you would want to come or not? You would be the first human to see some of what Equestria has to offer, after all.”
Jared was speechless for a few seconds. Sure, he was the first person to undergo the ponification process, but he was just a regular pers... pony, he reminded himself. “Are you sure? I mean, I barely knew Autumn Frost, and I’m still getting the hang of these,” he waved a hoof to demonstrate, but stared at it curiously as he kept his balance without even a hint of a stagger, “or I suppose I am getting better.”
“Well, there’d be more to your visit than attending the funeral. The unicorns who are working at the School on the spells behind the serum would want to see how they actually turned out; and even then, Canterlot is a wonderful city to just walk around.” Twilight’s expression seemed torn between really wanting Jared to come and not wanting to pressure him.
Weighing his options, Jared reached a decision and looked up at Twilight. “Alright, I’ll go. Not like I’d have much to do here besides answer reporter questions nonstop.”
“Excellent! I’ll compose a letter to Celestia letting her know you’ll be coming.” Twilight said as she trotted out of the room.
Jared looked up at Dr. Ross. “I wanted to thank you too Elizabeth, for what you did yesterday. I know it wasn’t easy for you, but I owe you one.”
She smiled back down at him, “Well, I admit I was confident in it converting you, what worried me was whether it would heal your bullet wounds or not. I’m glad it worked out for the better. However, I do want a blood sample from you before you leave.” She reached into her coat pocket and withdrew a syringe.
Jared winced. “What is it with you and needles?”
The two shared a brief laugh while Dr. Ross went about collecting the sample.
In a dimly lit conference room, the atmosphere was decidedly less jovial. Several individuals sat around a large table, each holding a folder full of papers and photographs
“Well, that was a waste. Why did we even bother sending those five?” one of the figures asked irritably. “Forgive me for not being a tactically astute as some of the others here, but sacrificing resources for no gain seems counter-intuitive. I was hoping that after Brazil, this operation could have been more successful.”
“Not to mention they took two of them alive. Will they talk?” one man asked another, idly rolling a cigar between his fingers.
“They will resist, but even if they talk, there’s no risk of what little information they knew leading back to us,” the figure at the head of the table said calmly as he rose to his feet. “Furthermore, despite the public failure of the attack, we did in fact learn many things. For one, the unicorn guard shown in picture twenty-two, I believe his name is Flare, proved himself an imaginative individual. In addition, the abilities of Twilight Sparkle are apparently far more developed than prior intelligence indicated - The file on her has been updated to account for it. Finally, I personally learned one final, critical piece of information from observing Princess Celestia in the Situation Room.”
The others all leaned forward slightly in their interest as the figure took a deep breath.
“Princess Celestia can be pushed. After the execution of the unicorn guard Autumn Frost, it was obvious that she allowed her emotions to get the better of her, even briefly. This we can exploit in the future to destroy their public image, and sway the masses back from believing the drivel that ‘Conversion’,” he spat the word angrily, “is anything than a sugar-coated lie.”
“So, what will we do now?” A woman’s voice spoke up from the opposite end of the table.
“For now? Nothing. This will soon fade from the public’s mind, and once it does, we can strike again. With a little work from you,” he indicated the woman who had spoken, “the media can spin any future operations as copycat incidents.” He looked around at the others as they murmured agreement. He opened his mouth to continue when a small speaker on the table chimed.
“Sir? The individual you wanted to speak to is on hold,” a quiet female voice said, “should I tell him to call back later?”
“No, I’ll take it in a moment.” The man looked to the others, “If you’ll please see yourselves out. I’ll notify you through the usual channels when another meeting is warranted.” The others all nodded before getting to their feet and exiting the room. Once the door was securely closed, the man reached into his pocket and pulled out his cell phone. Pressing a button on it, he lifted it to his ear with a small smile. “A pleasure to finally speak with you. I trust that we have your support after this demonstration?” He waited for a few minutes before nodding, “Excellent, we will contact you once our next operation begins.” He closed the cell phone and put it back in his pocket, his smile widening.
Jared yawned as the plane descended towards the waiting deck of the aircraft carrier, spotting a quartet of golden chariots sitting off to the side next to the tower, despite the distance. “Man, guess there’s more benefits to being a pegasus than just the wings,” he muttered to himself.
“Heck yeah there is, just wait until you get the chance to really fly though. These ‘airplanes’ are pretty cool, but nothing beats flying under your own wingpower,” a voice chimed in from the seat behind him as Rainbow Dash peered out her window. “I just wish that they’d let me fly from here to Hawaii, instead of making me ride along.”
“Rainbow, we’ve talked about this; we’re going to be leaving for Canterlot in the morning, so you’ll need to get some sleep tonight,” Twilight said from her place a few seats up.
“Ugh, fine.” Rainbow sighed irritably as the plane shook with the impact of the wheels hitting the deck. Once it had rolled to a stop, the ponies fumbled at their seatbelts and made their way off the plane. Jared stood for a second at the top of the stairs, taking a few deep breaths as the salt air filled his nose.
“C’mon Jared! We’re gonna be late!” Pinkie shouted, as she somehow managed to squeeze past him and cartwheel down the stairs.
Shaking his head at her antics, Jared made his way down the steps, grinning as he reached the bottom without falling down and carefully trotted across the deck to the waiting chariots. As he did, he noticed the three unicorn guards solemnly marching out from the rear of the plane, four soldiers walking behind them carrying a wooden coffin. They marched toward the largest of the four chariots, gently securing it, saluting the three unicorns, and walking back to the aircraft. Once they were sure the coffin was secured, the unicorns climbed into the chariot next to it. Realising he was staring, Jared climbed into the chariot with Twilight, Spellweaver, Fluttershy, and Pinkie. Once he settled in, all the guards spread their wings and took off, the sudden lurch nearly knocking him flat on his back. Twilight and Spellweaver helped hold him up as the four chariots leveled out and soared over the water.
After what felt like hours, Jared spotted the coastline and visibly brightened up. He normally enjoyed flying in airplanes, but he just couldn’t get comfortable in the chariot. Maybe Rainbow Dash was right about needing to get into the air on his own. His wings fluttered at the thought, but after glancing at the water far below he thought better of it and folded them back against his sides. He turned to Twilight, who appeared to be lost in thought. “So, why exactly did Princess Celestia ask for me to come? I mean, I know I’m the first person to be converted, but it still feels weird to me.”
“Well, she didn’t tell me either; but I think that having somepony along who can see our land from a human’s, or former human’s, perspective could help counter some of the rumors apparently circulating on your Internet that we caused the Barrier to begin forming. Besides, putting yourself in harm’s way to save Pinkie like that more than earns you the right to come to Equestria,” she said, wiping at her eye with a hoof. “I know I said it yesterday, but thank you. Pinkie may get a little over the top at times, but I don’t want to think about what could have happened if you hadn’t done what you did.”
Jared rubbed the back of his head with a hoof, at a loss for words as the chariots spiraled down toward one of the main streets of Honolulu, empty of the expected traffic He could see one of the larger hotels had what appeared to be lights on, and he could see a pony standing at the entrance. Peering at the shape closely, he could tell that it was an earth pony, but had something on it’s back, like a saddle or backpack. As the chariots bumped to a stop, he could see a pair of glowing orbs at the pony’s shoulders. Getting to his hooves, he climbed out and followed Twilight as she trotted up to the strange pony with a smile on her face.
“Sky Limit! It’s good to see you again. Did the Princesses invite you back too?” The two ponies hugged each other briefly, then separated.
“Not exactly, I was on a little vacation here, but I heard about what happened to you all. I’m sorry.”
Twilight folded her ears back. “Yea, it was scary, and what they did to Second Lieutenant Frost...” she trailed off, shooting a glance toward the chariots, where the Guards were levitating the coffin with them toward the service entrance. Shaking her head, she looked back, “Although, a small amount of good came of it. We know that the serum works.”
“Ah, so then this is the famous Jared?” Sky said with a smile as he trotted up to Jared, “Glad to meet you, my name’s Sky Limit, I was working at the London facility on the serum. Sorry that you had to put up with those lunatic humans; no offense intended,” he added hurriedly, before extending a hoof.
“Well, I think they were just a little bit insane too, so no worries,” Jared said, eyeing the extended hoof before reaching out with his own. As they touched a strange feeling tingled along the end of his hoof. It was almost like having fingers again, the bottom of the hoof gripping the other to allow them to shake. “Now that is weird.”
“What, you’ve never shaken hooves with somepony before?” Sky asked, before realising who he was talking to. “Well, I guess you really haven’t, you’ll get used to it in time. Anyway, let’s get you all settled in. Princess Luna said she’ll be coming in the morning after she’s gotten some rest; just between you and me, I don’t think she’s used to not having to raise and lower the moon yet.” He turned around and started to trot inside, Jared and the others following.
“So, what is that thing on your back?” Jared asked curiously as they trotted through the lobby, an earth mare pony sitting behind the reception desk waving at them cheerfully. Jared awkwardly returned the wave, and the mare’s face blushed a little.
“Well, they’re artificial wings, I designed them myself. You see I was born to two pegasus parents and always wanted to be able to fly. So long story short I finally developed the MkIII and could fly under my own power. This here is the MkIV, once we learned that magic was harmful to humans, I overhauled the engines so they wouldn’t give anypony a dose of thaumatic radiation poisoning. And her name’s Rose Trails.” He added, grinning as Jared’s partially vacant stare broke and his ears folded back.
“Relax, nopony’s going to make fun of you for checking out another pony,” Sky said, only to be cut off as Jared’s stomach chose that moment to loudly protest its emptiness. “Let me guess, you haven’t had anything to eat since you left San Francisco?”
“We’ve not really had a decent meal since yesterday evening,“ Twilight admitted, the other girls muttering agreement as they all realized how hungry they were.
“Well, come on then, I think the kitchen’s still open.” Sky led the group through the hallways to a large set of double doors which he nudged open. “Hey! You still in here Strawberry?”
A green-coated head with a shock of red mane raised itself from behind a counter. “What is it now Sky? I was just cleaning up. Who are all these ponies?” the unicorn asked irritably, a scowl forming on his muzzle.
“They’re the group from San Francisco, you remember they were coming today, right?”
Strawberry’s expression immediately did an about face, and he started bustling about. “Oh, I’m sorry; I guess you want something to eat then? I’ve still got some leftovers around here somewhere, just give me a few minutes. There’s a table over there that you can use, take some weight off your hooves.”
The group sat down on the cushions that had obviously been borrowed from various chairs around the hotel and relaxed for a few minutes while Strawberry hummed to himself. Finally, he pushed a cart loaded down with bowls of salad and what looked suspiciously like...
“Is that hay?” Jared asked nervously.
“Of course; we just got a shipment in from outside of Trottingham a couple days ago, you’ll love it,” Strawberry said proudly, only to narrow his eyes at Jared continued to eye it nervously, “What’s the matter, not used to down home cooking?”
“No Straw, this is Jared, I know I told you about him this morning... or did I forget?” Sky wondered out loud. “Well, he’s the human that got hurt in that mess and had the serum used on him.”
“Huh, well that might explain it. Come on then, give it a try, you’ll like it!” Strawberry said with a smile, lingering next to the table.
Jared looked at the others, who were heartily digging into their own food, then back to his bowl. He lowered his head and took a hesitant sniff, twitching back a little as the earthy smell of the hay flooded his nostrils. His mouth started watering and overrode the concerns his brain was trying to voice, his muzzle grabbing a tentative mouthful. His pupils widened as the taste crawled across his tongue, the flavor almost reminiscent of potato chips, but without the salt and almost something sweet. Chewing contentedly, he swallowed the mouthful and dove in for more, murmuring his happiness as he did so.
“Well, I think he likes it,” Sky said, laughing as Jared finished devouring the hay and moved on to the mixed salad.
Twilight and the others joined in, though the unicorn levitated a scroll and quill from her bag, taking a few notes. “You know, once we begin full-scale ponification, maybe we could make a tradition of this, you know?”
Applejack nodded, “Ah’m sure that the farms in Equestria would be happy to help, though we’d need to make it a limited thing; there’s an awful lot of humans that’ll be comin’ though the doors, so to speak.”
“I know the Cakes would love the extra business, maybe Bon-Bon could lend a hoof too!” Pinkie chimed in.
Jared was oblivious to all of the conversation, occupying himself with finishing his salad and grabbing another bowl off the cart.
“Alright then, let me just get a bite to eat myself, then we should go to bed, Princess Luna said she’d be here at dawn... Wait, where’d my bowl go?” Sky looked over in time to see Jared freeze mid-bite. “Oh, I see how it is. Yo Strawberry, we need another salad over here, the new colt pinched mine.”
Everypony started laughing, while Jared simply grumbled something about being hungry and kept eating.
The next morning dawned bright and clear, a few wispy clouds visible overhead as the tired ponies gathered in the lobby of the hotel. Flare and the other guards sat on one side with the coffin, while the others sat across from them quietly.
Twilight busied herself perfecting the spell she’d come up with to allow Jared to understand Equestrian. “I’m still trying to work out something that would translate your language to ours as you speak, but your language has so many different slogans and terms trying to come up with an analogue in Equestrian is proving difficult. But, at least you can understand what’s being said.” Her horn shone a vibrant lavender and enveloped Jared’s head with the same glow. He could feel a strange ringing in his ears that soon faded along with the light.
Shaking his head, he looked back up at Twilight, “Did it work?”
“You tell me,” Twilight replied in Equestrian. Jared’s ears tingled and he twitched them irritably, but then smiled as he realized that he’d understood her perfectly.
“Thanks, would have been a little annoying to not understand anyone there,” he said sheepishly.
Twilight smiled, but then her ears flicked back and forth as the air began to feel charged, almost like static electricity.
Jared folded his ears back as his coat began to stand on end. “What’s going on?”
Twilight tilted her head. “I think it’s Luna, she must be...” she was interrupted by a flat bang as a burst of dark blue light filled the center of the room, fading to reveal the Princess of the Moon and a tall stone carved with runes, “here.”
“Indeed Twilight Sparkle, sorry for the noise, teleporting with the Beacon Stone is tricky,” Luna admitted. “Is everypony ready to go?”
“Yes Princess,” Flare said as he and the other guards levitated the coffin to rest next to the stone.
“Very well, then if you could all please remain still, we’ll be going now.” Luna’s horn ignited with an azure glow as she closed her eyes, the runes on the stone beginning to pulse with a similar light as a circle formed around them all.
“Wait, what do you meeeeee...” Jared’s voice trailed off as everything seemed to twist and he found himself standing on a soft rug, his legs trembling as if he’d just run a marathon. He also felt violently nauseous and definitely regretted the second helping of breakfast. “Is there...” He had to shut his mouth as his gag reflex triggered.
Flare recognized the signs and chuckled. “Alright you big wuss, follow me. With your permission Princess?” Once Luna nodded he led Jared out the door and down the hallway to a door marked with a strange symbol. “There you go, I’ll be out here.” Taking a position next to the door as the pegasus rushed in, he instinctively tuned out the sounds of retching coming from within.
After a few minutes Jared trotted out, his color decidedly improved. “Thanks.”
“Don’t mention it, long range teleports are hard on everypony their first time. Now come on, the others are waiting, and we’ve got a lot to do.” Flare led Jared back toward the room they’d arrived in, only to stop as he heard Jared’s hoofsteps end. Turning, he saw Jared standing next to a window staring in awe at the city below. He sighed and trotted back to stand next to him. “It is quite a sight, isn’t it?”
Jared could only twitch his head in a small nod, the expanse of the city in front of him literally breathtaking. His eyes traced over the delicate spires, the carefully paved streets, and the ponies milling about on their daily lives. Looking beyond, he could see the vast fields and forests that covered the plains far below the mountains. “I’d heard them talk about it, but actually seeing it...”
“Yeah, it’s a great place, for sure,” Flare said, enjoying the view for a moment before nudging the pegasus. “Alright, let’s get going, there’s a lot of work to be done before the funeral.” They walked down the hallway toward the door, only for Flare to stop and salute as a white unicorn came trotting up, wearing purple armor with gold trim. “Captain.”
“Second Lieutenant.” The two stared at each other sternly for a few seconds before breaking down and smiling. The new unicorn relaxed the salute and nodded for Flare to do the same, “It’s good to see you back in Canterlot, Flare; did you just get in?”
“Yeah, had to show the new stallion to the bathroom. Jared, this is Captain Shining Armor. Shining, this is Jared.”
Shining stepped forward and extended a hoof. “Ah, so this is Jared. I’m surprised to see you up on your hooves so quickly.”
Jared scowled a little, but shook the hoof anyway. “Does everyone here already know my name?”
“You’d be surprised how fast rumors fly around the castle. So, shall we go in? Don’t want to keep the others waiting,” Shining said as he opened the door with a pulse of his magic. The three trotted in, only for Twilight to impede their progress.
“Hey there, Twili.” The two unicorns stood there staring at each other before they broke into smiles and hugged each other. Shining pulled away first and ruffled Twilight’s mane, “It’s good to see ya little sis.”
“Little sis?” cried five throats at once as the other girls crowded forward.
Twilight turned to the others with a sheepish smile on her face. “Well, yes. Girls, this is my older brother, Shining Armor. Shining, these are my friends from Ponyville, Rarity, Pinkie Pie, Applejack, Fluttershy, and Rainbow Dash.”
“It’s great to meet you gals; just wish it was under better circumstances...” Shining said with an awkward smile as the mares continued to glare at Twilight.
“And it’s a pleasure to meet you as well. Twilight, dear - I simply cannot believe that you have neglected to tell us you had a brother in the Royal Guard, let alone a brother at all!” Rarity protested.
“Well I’m sorry; it never really came up, and I haven’t talked to my brother since I left to come to Ponyville, and with everything else that happened after that I guess it slipped my mind,” Twilight admitted, her ears folding back.
“Well shoot, it ain’t no problem Twi, we’re just surprised is all. From the first impressions, Ah’d always figured you to be an only foal,” Applejack said, giving the others a pointed look.
“Of course, and I apologize for my rude behavior; it shan’t happen again,” Rarity said apologetically.
“It’s fine, I could have said something about it sooner too.” Twilight said with a small smile.
Luna coughed gently, and everypony looked up. “I’m sorry to interrupt, but Captain, I need you to take the coffin to the pre-arranged place. Were you given the updated roster for the Honour Guard?”
“Yes ma’am,” Shining said, the smile gone from his face. “You three, follow me. Twilight, I wish I could stay and talk more, but I’ll be getting some leave after the funeral. I’m going to visit this Hawaii I’ve heard so much about, do you think we can try to get together then?”
“Of course Shining, I’ll talk to you later,” Twilight said as her brother levitated the casket and marched out of the room, followed by Flare and the other guards.
“If you’d all follow me, we’ll meet with Celestia and Cadance, and then proceed to the Throne Room for the funeral,” Luna said somberly, the mood rapidly darkening. Twilight nodded slowly, before brightening a little.
“Wait, did you say Cadance? Princess Cadance is here?”
“Yes, she came as soon as she heard about the funeral,” Luna said as she started to lead the group through the halls.
“Wait, Ah’m confused; who is this Princess Cadance, Twilight?” Applejack asked.
“She was my old foalsitter back when I had just gotten accepted to the School for Gifted Unicorns,” Twilight said, not seeing the others pause and look at each other.
“So you mean to tell me that you not only have a brother who’s a Captain in the Royal Guard, but you had a Princess as a foalsitter?” Rarity asked incredulously.
“Well... yes,” Twilight said, turning back to look at her friends with her ears folded back in embarassment.
“Cooooool,” Pinkie said quietly, and the others nodded agreements after a few seconds. Jared just followed along numbly, wondering if he’d really known what he was getting himself into.
The throne room had been completely emptied, the only object occupying the room the stage for the thrones. Several ranking ambassador present in Canterlot had been invited to attend, including a griffon, a zebra and a Canid, along with the Bearers of the Elements and Jared. On the far side of their row, Jared could see two teary-eyed ponies, presumably Autumn Frost’s parents. An alicorn that he assumed was Cadance sat next to Twilight, the two whispering to each other. The rest of the packed hall was a sea of gold armor, every guardpony not on critical duty present. Celestia and Luna sat on their respective thrones, and at the base sat Generals Cloudhammer and Amber Dusk, their armor polished to a high sheen
Jared looked around, marvelling at both how all the guards looked alike, and how much gold must have gone into forging their armor. He was about to ask Twilight about that when a single ringing note echoed through the hall, bringing everypony to silence. The massive doors to the throne room swung open to reveal the forms of Shining Armor, Second Lieutenants Flare and Ruby, Private Dawn Joy and two other unicorn guards chosen to be the honour guard, the casket floating serenely between them. In perfect lockstep the honour guard marched up the length of the aisle, laying the casket gently onto a stand that had been set out for it. Once it was settled, they took their seats in the front row opposite Jared and the Bearers.
Celestia rose, first looking at the casket, then the crowd before her. “I remember when Autumn Frost first joined the Royal Guard. She was one of the few mares who have been accepted into the Guard during its long history. The training our Guards undergo is physically, mentally, and emotionally demanding for even the toughest stallion, even more so for mares. Yet Autumn Frost never once relented, never once let anything hold her back. Her promotion to Second Lieutenant, for protecting the village of Summerhill from a timberwolf pack, was well deserved. Nopony who knew her could question her dedication to either the Royal Guard or Equestria. And though two days ago she was faced with the ultimate decision any pony can be asked to make, she did not hesitate for one second. She chose to sacrifice herself to protect those who could not protect themselves. So let us honor her for her sacrifice, and continue to strive toward the ideals that she believed in.” Celestia took a few steps back as Luna rose and walked forward.
“I did not know Autumn Frost as well as my sister did, but in the two years that have passed since I have returned, I was fortunate enough to meet this outstanding mare. It was about six months after my return from my banishment to the moon, and I admit that I was still having trouble adjusting to how customs had changed after one thousand years. Much of my time I spent sequestered in my chambers studying the past millenium of history. I had ordered a servant to bring me something to eat from the castle kitchen, and he had not returned. When somepony began to open the door, I snapped at who I thought was the servant, only to see it was Autum Frost. I began to apologize for my outburst when she yelled at me. Taken aback by this brash behavior, I ordered her to stand down and apologize, to which she refused. I will spare you all some of the things that were said, but in the end I finally asked her what prompted such disrespectful behavior to her Princess. What Autumn Frost said next will remain with me for the rest of my days; she said to me, ‘Then why are you not acting like one?’ At first, the meaning of her statement was lost on me, but after some thought it became clear. I had indeed not been acting like a princess at all, but merely a filly hiding in her room from the mistakes she’d made. I apologized for my words to her, and she for hers. From that day forward I tried to be more active in the running of the kingdom, though that in turn presented certain challenges of its own. I never was able to thank her for what she said to me, but I will endeavor to hold her words close to my heart.” Taking a step to the side, Luna inclined her head as Celestia moved to stand with her.
On some unknown signal, they spoke in unison. “As one final gesture, though it does not lessen the pain of losing a friend, a loved one, a child; for her heroism and dedication to the highest ideals of the Royal Guard, we posthumously award Second Lieutenant Autumn Frost the Equestrian Star of Harmony.”
Every Guard present lowered their heads in unison, the other ponies present following a second later. After a minute passed, the honour guard rose to their hooves and took up their formation around the casket.
Celestia looked across the room again. “I thank those ambassadors who were able to attend, and would now request that only the Bearers of the Elements of Harmony and Jared of Earth accompany us and Autumn Frost’s family to the burial.”
The guards rose to their hooves in a clatter of armor and marched out through the main doors. The ambassadors waited until the last guards had left before rising to their respective limbs, bowing deeply to Celestia and Luna, then to Autum Frost’s family before making their way out. Once the double doors had swung shut the honour guard lifted the casket into the air, everypony else rising to their hooves after it. Slowly, the group formed into a loose line consisting of the casket, then the family, then Celestia and Luna, then everypony else. They marched through the hallways to a side entrance that opened onto the Guard training grounds. Marching across the grounds they came to a narrow pathway that led up the mountain.
As they continued to climb, Jared felt his legs burning from the effort, still not as sure on his hooves as the others. Stumbling for the third time, he felt something catch him and turned to see Pinkie Pie keeping him upright, a small smile on her muzzle despite the occasion. Nodding his thanks they made their way up the rest of the path. It finally opened out into a expansive cemetery, filled with rows of small headstones. As they passed, Jared could see what had to be names carved into them, but couldn’t read any of them.
Finally, they came to the first unbroken plot of ground, a blank headstone sitting at the head. Pausing, the honour guard drew aside as Celestia trotted forward. Reaching out with her magic, she lifted a perfectly rectangular section of dirt up into the air, setting it to the side where it retained its shape. The honour guard moved to stand three on either side of the hole, gently lowering the casket into it. Once it was settled, Celestia lifted the rectangle of dirt into the air and with a slight pulse of magic, compressed the dirt to be able to rest atop the coffin and remain flush with the ground. She slowly settled it into place, while Luna’s horn burned with azure light, carving Autumn Frost’s name into the headstone, along with a five-pointed star and yet more symbols. Autumn’s mother wept silently during the proceedings, her husband holding her close and fighting back his own tears.
Once finished, Celestia turned to Autumn’s parents. “I truly am sorry for your loss. Should you desire anything, please - do not hesitate to ask.”
Autumn’s father nodded, and turned back to comfort his wife.
Celestia turned to everypony else and indicated that they should follow her. Together the mixed group made its way back down the mountain in silence, leaving the two grieving ponies alone among the quiet headstones.