60w, 1dCadance: Devoted and Loving
Her Royal Highness Princess Celestia requests your presence at Canterlot Castle with all due haste...
When I woke up, Twilight was already hard at work, holding up photographs to the sunrise and furiously scribbling notes. I sat up, stretched my crumpled wings, and mumbled a sleepy “good morning” to Twilight. She only nodded, not breaking her concentration. Still comfortable in the warm daze of sleep, I looked in the mirror across the room.
My hair was a mess, of course, but what caught my eye was that there were three fillies reflected in the mirror. My ever present shadow had returned, flying just behind Twilight to read over her shoulder. I looked to the real Twilight, and I could almost make out the faintest outline of a filly right where the reflection showed she should be. But then I blinked, and she was gone.
Twilight tore herself away from her work just long enough to wolf down her breakfast. She headed right back upstairs, leaving me to finish my pancakes alone. I ate mine slowly, taking time get the perfect amount of syrup in every bite. I wasn’t even halfway through with my first pancake when I heard a knock on the front door.
Expecting to see the ditzy mailmare, I trotted to the door to offer her a muffin. But the muffin hit the floor when I saw that it was not Derpy at the door, but two of Celestia’s royal guards at the door, holding an official looking scroll.
“Urgent message for a Miss Cadance.” The older of the two guards handed me the scroll with a deft flick of his wing. I took took the letter silently, intimidated by his cold blue stare. I went to close the door, but he forcefully held a hoof out to stop me. “We were told to wait for a reply.” With both of them staring at me, I felt cornered.
“Papi?!” I cried out, half in fear and half in confusion. I heard a faint scuffle upstairs, and then a thundering series of hoofsteps as my father galloped down the stairs, hair slicked back and bowtie half tied. “Cadance, what is is... gentlemen, what are you doing in my house?”
The smaller of the two spoke this time. “Urgent message from Celestia, sir!” he said, while saluting my father. The larger one glared at him, and then my father. “Step aside sir, you are interfering with official royal business.”
“Royal business? With my daughter?” My father wasn’t intimidated, and strode forward towards them. “As long as my daughter is a minor, I will dutifully act as her legal guardian.” He glared right back at the larger pony, until the guard broke away.
“Go on Cadance, open the letter.” My father kept his eyes on the guards, still wary.
I opened it, full of foalish fear of being banished to the Everfree forest or something equally dreadful. But what the letter actually said was much more shocking.
“Princess Celestia wants me to come to Canterlot Castle?” I looked up, not quite sure if I should believe it. “But why?”
The younger guard suddenly became very interested in his hooves, and even the older one looked uncomfortable. My father gave both of them his most intense stare. The younger one finally admitted “we don’t know miss, we’re just the messengers. But she insisted that you come straight away.”
Father started to pace the room. I fell back on my flanks, overwhelmed. Finally, the senior guard broke the silence. “Look, Celestia asked for you to come as soon as possible. It’s possible right now, so lets go. The meter’s running on the chariot.”
I looked to my father, and he nodded his approval. “Go on Cadence, I’ll see Twilight safely home.” The senior guard promptly marched out the door, eager to be gone. The younger one held the door open for me as I passed, then gave me a helping hoof into the chariot. They saddled up, and with a running start we were airborn.
I was terrified at first, but being so high up, with the wind rushing through my mane, was oddly soothing. My own wings were too weak to fly on their own, but it felt natural to have wind rustling my feathers. But just as I worked up the courage to spread my wings and feel the jetstream, I felt the chariot begin to drop.
Seconds later, the chariot slid to a smooth stop in the middle of Canterlot Castle courtyard. To me, the walls seemed impossibly high, and the guards all looked so much bigger than me. The guard ponies handed me off to a strict looking butler, who escorted me through a winding maze of carpeted corridors and hallways lined with elegant stained glass windows.
I was lead around one last corner and, unexpectedly, I found myself in the middle of a garden. Celestia was under a gazebo, regal, radiant, and drinking out of a humorously undersized teacup. She glanced up, saw me, and smiled. Overwhelmed, I gave an awkward bow, and tripped over my own tail.
“My dear little pony, don’t be so shy!” Celestia smiled again, instantly putting me at ease. “I called you here so that I could have tea with you, Cadence, and tell you some wonderful news!” Graciously, she offered me a dainty teacup full of a fragrant tea that smelled like sunshine on a winter’s morning. I took it nervously, scared to drop something so fragile.
If Celestia noticed how hard the tea cup was shaking in my grasp, she didn’t mention it. But she kept her voice soft and cheerful as she asked me how I had spent my summer. I answered as best as I could, growing more comfortable as I realized that Celestia wanted to know everything. But I stopped when I reached the end of the summer.
“So then... well, they left.” I said quietly, staring into my cup of tea. Celestia drooped a comforting wing around me and drew me closer. I sniffled into her mane. It smelled like sunshine and rainbows, and I felt better immediately.
“My dear little pony, I am so sorry that you have been so lonely these past few weeks. But I called you here because I think I have an answer for you! You see, I was hoping you would be so kind as to come live at the palace for the next few months.”
“What?” My voice cracked as I gasped in shock. Me, live at the palace? “But why!”
Celestia tousled my hair. “We aren’t truly related my dear, but all of the Canterlot nobility are my relatives. And I wanted to spend some time teaching my favorite niece how to be a princess!”
My jaw hit the floor. “A, a, princess?”
“Of course! Equestria is a big place, and it takes more than one princess to run the show!” Was it my imagination, or did Celestia eyes grow a little sad? In a flash, it was gone, and she was smiling again. “You’d be free to go home whenever you wanted, of course, but I would appreciate it if you spent some time getting used to the palace. I suspect you’ll be spending a lot of time here in the future as a princess!”
Celestia laughed, and it was like the sun breaking through storm clouds. I nodded wholeheartedly, too excited to trust my voice. “No, you don’t have to tell me now. Go home, sleep on it, and when you make a decision, just send me a message on this scroll.” From seemingly nowhere, Celestia gave me a scroll identical to the one she had sent me earlier, but blank. “Just blow on the seal to send it to me dear. Now, I know this is a lot to think about, so Mercury and Jetstream will take you home right away.”
Like magic, the two guard ponies from before appeared at the door, already saddled to pull the chariot. I walked with them back through the twisting maze of the palace, and sat quietly in my thoughts as they flew me back home. The younger guard, Mercury, gave me a comforting pat on the back before they took off into the sky.
It was beginning to get dark outside. My father wasn’t home yet, but his illegible note on the ice chest seemed to say that he would be back soon. Twilight had cleaned my room before she left, leaving everything clean and color coded. A stray thought suddenly struck me, and I ran to my closet. The pictures weren’t there, they weren’t anywhere. Where had they gone?
I started to race around my room, searching frantically, when I hear the unmistakable sound of my my father’s laugh from downstairs. He was finally home! Forgetting about the pictures, I ran downstairs yelling “Papi, Papi, guess what happened to me today!” I half slid, half skidded into the kitchen smiling and laughing, and then grew deathly quiet.
My father had not come home alone.
Beside him was a yellow mare, with a soft brown mane and a violin for a cutie mark. She had stopped mid laugh when I had run into the kitchen, as had my father,and now they were both staring at me.
“Cadence...” he started nervously, glancing at the mare beside him for support. “I had hoped to give you more warning before...”
The mare giggled, a terribly high pitched giggle. “What a beautiful little filly! My name is...”
I couldn’t stand to hear her. “You brought a mare friend home? You, you...”
“Amore, don’t be angry! I wanted you to meet her, to...”
“No!” I couldn’t take this, not now. I stormed off upstairs, tears in my eyes. How could he? A mare friend? But he had loved my mother, unless all those pictures were lies. Unless everything was a lie. Did... did he not love me? I packed blindly, grabbing things at random and shoving them into my suitcase.
There was a quiet knock at on my door frame. I ignored it.
“Cadence?” My father’s voice was quiet, unsure. But I was too angry to think straight, to see the situation from his side. I turned to him, fire in my eyes, and practically spit out at him, “if you aren’t too busy with your mare friend, then maybe you’d like to hear what Princess Celestia had to say.”
“Well, yes, but...”
I slammed my suitcase shut and shoved past him into the hallway. “She invited me to the palace, for princess lessons.” I turned around, to glare at him straight in the eye. “So now I’m going, and I’m not coming back!”
“Cadence...” His voice trailed off as I stormed down the stairs. The mare friend was still downstairs, trying to look concerned when I knew she was thrilled to see me go.
“Cadence, come back here!” My father was pleading now, but I was too angry. I stormed past him and slammed the door behind me. I ran off into the night, until I finally collapsed by the edge of a pond.
Once I stopped running, I began to feel very foalish for walking out. I was alone, lost in a park, with no idea of how to return home or what to say to my father if I could. I was tired, and thirsty, and hungery, and cold, and all I had was the scroll Princess Celestia had given me... which I could send directly to her! I opened the blank and reached for a pen, but then realized I had none.
It was the straw that broke the pony’s back. I threw the scroll as far away as I could and started to cry. The weight of the world seemed to rest on my shoulders, and now I couldn’t even find a way home!
I finally calmed down, from a torrent of tears to a few choked sobs, and opened my eyes. Night had truly fallen now, and the Mare in the Moon glared down at me with a hateful eye. I turned away from the sky, and shuffled over to the pond to wipe my face.
In the dim reflection, my eyes were puffy and my face was streaked with dirt. The moon shone behind me like an unearthly crown. For an instant, the Mare in the Moon flashed into the purple filly, looking down at me with pity. I lashed out at the reflection, shattering the illusion. Shaken, I backed away from the pond, only to stumble over a rock and land smack dab onto my outstretched wing.
“Owww!” I reflexively drew my wings in closer to me, but it only aggravated my sprain. I wanted to cry, to scream, to let it all out, but I was too tired to do more than whimper. And so I lay there, in a fitful, restless sleep, until sometime in the night Celestia’s guards stumbled upon me.