Everypony knew that something was up. Everypony guessed that it had something to do with Twilight, and a few of the really smart ones had even managed to put two and two together and come up with the right answer. Most of the gossip columns and magazines managed to get it right. Three weeks, so far, of stunning sunsets and sunrises were pretty much giving the game away. The meteorological wonders were far, far more spectacular, in fact, than anything any living pony could remember, and the announcement just confirmed what everypony had been hoping.
Every Royal Subject
within the bounds of
The Land of Equestria
Shall take place on
Tuesday September 19th
at 10:00 A.M.
Royal Ponytopia Memorial Garden
It was only two months away, and the wedding organisers were going slightly mental. There were about six thousand invitations to send and check. Nopony even knew that Starburst was a Lord, but his Royal sponsorship while he was a colt made him and his immediate family nobleponies in their own rights.
His parents, of course, were slightly overwhelmed. Years ago, they’d quietly refused Twilight’s offer to move into the Palace - as was, in fact, their right as new Lords of Equestria - and had unobtrusively carried on with their respective lives and careers, quietly proud of their famous son. They were only now discovering how maddening fame could be as constant requests for interviews from a hundred gossip magazines had driven them a little bit mad. Furthermore, as the bride’s parents had passed away nearly two thousand years ago, Evening Star found herself in charge of most of the arrangements. She’d almost forgotten what a good night’s sleep was.
And the happy couple hadn’t been apart for weeks. It was, in fact, almost completely impossible to separate them. Twilight’s duties and Starburst’s responsibilities were now shared duties and responsibilities. They went everywhere together, they did everything together. And Twilight hadn't stopped smiling since that weird morning when the guards had found them curled up together behind that parapet... Thank goodness that the guards knew all about keeping secrets. The gossip rags would have exploded at that one.
The overall mood of the populace, the reports said, was of excitement and anticipation. But with the big day rapidly approaching, Celestia and Luna decided to take a hooves-on approach. They regularly walked throughout their cities, partly to relax, partly just for the delight of talking to ponies that they'd never seen before and would never see again, ponies that had no idea they were talking to Royalty. It was good to have a conversation where the other participants didn't keep bowing. They hadn't had the chance to get out and about since the wedding announcement, but they were going to do so today.
“I’ll go to Trottingham and Phillydelphia. You want to try here and Manehattan?” Celestia nodded at the suggestion. “Alright then,” Luna said. “Let’s go and see the mood on the streets. This is happening very fast but Twilight’s needed this for so long, Big Sister.”
Celestia nodded again. “See you back here shortly.”
Luna vanished with a pop of moonlight as Celestia stuck her head through her chamber doors. “Guards,” she said to the pair flanking her door. The two pegasi straightened and saluted. “Please ensure that I’m not disturbed for the next hour. No disturbances at all. No exceptions, please. Official Royal Wedding business.” They both saluted again, and she closed her doors and magically locked them.
Walking to the middle of her study floor, she looked out one of her tower windows. Far, far away against the horizon, she could just see the faint outline of the tall skyscrapers of Manehattan, a city famous for the dour moods of its residents. Her horn flashed and a young white unicorn mare with a sunflower Cutie Mark stood in her place. She trotted over to her closet and slipped a slim pair of saddlebags on. Glancing quickly at her mirror to make sure her disguise was perfect, she nodded at her reflection, closed her closet door, and vanished in a burst of golden sunshine.
She took note of the looks on her subjects’ faces as she trotted lightly up a bustling sidewalk of the large and impressive city. They all seemed to be smiling, and those that were walking together in pairs or in groups were all talking excitedly amongst themselves. The words and phrases she heard most often through the hubbub were “can’t wait,” “amazing”, “wedding” and “Princess”. After seeing nothing but happy ponies for several blocks, she moved aside through the crowd and entered what seemed to be a juice bar.
Approaching the counter, she joined the short line waiting to be served. Even here, there was a buzz of anticipation underlying the conversations. Most of the booths and tables were full, everypony was talking in excited tones, and even the servers looked cheerful as they mixed and made fruit punch.
“‘Morning, ma’am,” the young unicorn colt behind the counter said pleasantly as her turn came. “What can I get ya?”
This was definitely not the typical mood of a Manehattanite. “A tall mango and watermelon crush please, extra ice, and can you stick an umbrella in it?” Celestia asked.
“Sure thing ma’am,” he said, turning around and yanking a couple of levers on the juice dispenser. “Free shot of cherry syrup?” he asked over his shoulder. Celestia nodded. “That’s six bits please, ma’am,” he said as he put the tall foam cup down on the counter in front of her. “What the hay, make it five.”
“Really? Thanks. So,” she asked, levitating a few coins out of her saddlebags and onto the counter. “What do you think about this wedding business? I’m just visiting,” she explained, laying on a thick Baltimare accent to mark her as an obvious foreigner, “and I’m surprised by the mood on the streets here.”
“Ah come on, ma’am. They gotta be just as excited up there as we are down here. A royal wedding! A real one, not just a Prince or a Princess, it’s Princess Twilight! One of the Princesses, one of the real Princesses getting married! I don’t think I’ve ever been happier in my life, ma’am!”
They were holding up the line now. Celestia glanced apologetically to her left at the ponies who’d come into the juice bar behind her, but they were all cheerfully smiling and didn’t look to be the least bit worried about somepony holding up the service.
Definitely not the typical mood of Manehattan.
Returning the server's cheery wave, she sat down at the last unoccupied table and began to sip her juice thoughtfully. It was a pretty good fruit crush, she realised. She’d have to come back here again, although she could probably write the pleasant service off after the wedding was over. Equestria was a great place for ponies to live, and almost everypony here was content, but life was life and nopony could be happy all the time...
Maybe Twilight could be, though. Maybe. For a little while.
And then what? What would happen to her Littlest Sister after Starburst passed away? She thought she knew what might happen, and she’d never hoped that she was more mistaken about anything. Twilight had so much life to live. The Eternal Sisters might still be needed for another ten or twenty thousand years yet.
Normal unicorns couldn't move the sky, never had been able to. The old folk tales were nonsense. The sky used to move just fine on its own, but then Discord had come, and she and Luna had been needed. Discord's curse was still there, and the whole world would die without at least one alicorn. Her Little Sister and herself could handle things just fine, and she’d even managed relatively well on her own once. But it would be a lot more fun with her Littlest Sister along for the ride as well. She hoped Twilight could stand the loss.
Her attention was pulled away from the possible future and back into the present. “Is this seat taken?” a young stallion asked, a stack of books balanced on his back and a harried look on his face. He’d been walking on three hooves as he held his cup of juice.
“Not at all, please, sit down,” Celestia said. He plopped his books and juice on the table and sat down with a sigh. Celestia was just starting to think that she might have just met the only pony in Equestria in a bad mood when he grinned widely at her.
“Thanks! Thanks heaps. Been on my hooves all morning. Name’s Spec. Spec Sheet.”
“Sunny Daze,” Celestia said, shaking hooves with the stallion. “I’m visiting from Baltimare. Manehattan sure is busy.”
“You think this place is busy? You should try Ponytopia,” he chuckled, then slugged down half his cup of juice in one swallow. “Eighty million ponies in that place! ‘Course, it’s about a hundred times bigger than ol’ Manehattan. It's peaceful there, no real bustle to speak of. Went once with my folks. I should visit again, maybe for the wedding. I’ll probably get a couple weeks off work then anyway.”
“What do you do?” Celestia asked. This young pony, probably only in his early twenties, looked like he worked all day and half the night. There were bags under his eyes and he looked exhausted, despite his massively happy expression.
“City survey. For new buildings, like, and old ones that need fixing up. I got the job of checking the shops and stores along the wedding route. Well, proposed wedding route. There’s supposed to be an official Royal Tour of Equestria after the wedding and we’re making sure that everything on the proposed routes is fit for a Princess.” He grinned, slurping his drink. “Everything checks out so far. Oooh, I really can’t wait, this wedding is gonna be something else!”
“I didn’t know there was going to be a tour,” Celestia admitted, quite truthfully.
“Oh, it’s not announced yet, heck, it’s not even official yet, we’re just doing the advance work. The Manehattan celebration organisers are still running through the checklists and proposals before they send their official request to Princess Celestia.”
Spec had no idea, of course, that Princess Celestia herself had just given her wholehearted blessing to the entire proposal. She beamed at the young earth pony. “Good luck. I hope your proposal gets accepted.” Not for the first time she found herself wondering if it would be embarrassing or hilarious to just drop her disguise.
“Thanks. Hey, nice meeting ya.” He squashed his cup and flipped it into the trash bin by the counter. “Gotta get back to it!” He hopped up, balanced his books on his back, and trotted merrily out the juice bar’s front door.
She sat watching the other customers for a few minutes, listening to the buzz of their conversation. Yes, it sure seemed that this city, at least, was on top of the world right now. She finished her fruit crush and was giving serious thought to ordering another one to go when another pony sat down opposite her. The place really was packed, and the only remaining seat had been at her table. She smiled at the newcomer.
“Nice day we’re having,” she said at the same time as her tableguest. Celestia paused for a moment. “My name’s Sunny -” she began, and the pink unicorn spoke again in perfect unison, even adding the little surprised gasp at the end.
She knew this unicorn from somewhere, she was sure of it. She never forgot faces, but she couldn’t place the newcomer at all. She looked at the stranger’s Cutie Mark. It was familiar too, but she just could not place it. In fact... A little frown creased her brow. She knew that this unicorn was familiar to her, but she was also completely sure that she’d never known any unicorns with that particular Mark. She knew an earth pony once with -
The unicorn spoke. She looked sad, probably the only sad pony in the city, maybe in Equestria. “This is really weird. I feel like there’s something missing from my life, I don’t know what but it’s like there’s this big hole. I see things in my dreams and I don’t know why. I saw this. I saw myself sitting down at this table and saying ‘Nice day we’re having’ at the same time as you, I don’t know why, I don’t know a lot of things. But I found you and I have to say the rest.”
Celestia raised her eyebrows.
“Anyway, you have to beware the dragons, because if she goes to them, their indirect actions will steal the little one from Equestria and drive her mad with grief. I don’t know what that means,” the unicorn said sadly. “I saw myself saying that. And then saying this too. And then getting up to leave “ - she did - “and then saying ‘Nice to see you again after so long, say hi to Luna and Twilight for me. Bye, Celestia’, even though I don’t think I’ve ever met you, and your name’s Sunny, not Celestia.” The pony turned and trotted over to the door.
Celestia was completely gobsmacked. What had just happened? That pony had just called her by her name. How had she been recognised? But no, no, she hadn’t been recognised, that’s not what that pony had said. She very specifically had not recognised her. Where did she know that unicorn from -
Her eyes flicked wide as she recalled who that pony was. Impossible. She did know that pony. She’d once known her very well indeed. But to have just run into her today, that was completely impossible. Impossible. She’d been an earth pony, not a unicorn. And she’d also been dead for nearly nineteen centuries. But that face, that voice. That utterly-unique Cutie Mark. Three balloons. Two were sky-blue and one was sun-yellow, and only one pink pony in history had had such a Mark.
Ignoring the surprised looks she received, Celestia bolted off her seat, upturning the table in her haste as she galloped to the door. Wrenching it open in mid-stride with a flash of magic, she came to a clattering halt out on the busy sidewalk. The left. She’d seen the ages-dead pony move off to the left. She started heading that way, looking all around for a bobbing pink horn. There, down the street, about thirty feet away... Why hadn’t she disguised herself as a pegasus, she briefly wondered. She could have just flown over the crowd to catch her. Pushing through the dense hoof-traffic, she caught up to the owner of the pink horn -
It wasn’t her. This unicorn was pink, but she wasn’t the same one who’d just walked out of the distant past and into that juice bar. Cursing under her breath in ten different dead languages, she raised her head and scanned her eyes all over the crowds. She kept moving.
There could be no doubt now. The hair had been different, it was long and straight and that wasn’t how she remembered it, and there was the small matter of that horn. But everything else, no, there could be no doubt. There could be absolutely no doubt. It wasn’t some distant descendant of hers, it had been her. That pony was Pinkie Pie, the one and only Pinkie Pie. In the flesh.
It was evening before she finally gave up. She’d been chasing pink unicorns all over the damn city, and not one of them was the one she sought after. She sat down on a bench in a small and welcoming park, surrounded on three sides by skyscrapers and a busy street on the fourth. She wondered if she was going crazy. For the hundredth time since she’d left the juice bar, she told herself that what had happened today was impossible.
She’d seen that pony grow old. Grow old and die, centuries ago. She’d been at her funeral. How in all Equestria could that particular pony have just waltzed back into the world? And looking no older than she had on the day they’d first met as well. And with a unicorn horn, no less. And then that cryptic message. Beware the dragons? What little one? More importantly, what was she going to tell her Sisters? How could she possibly tell Twilight that she’d just run into Pinkie Pie?
She kept thinking about that message. Its tone and meter made it sound a lot like one of her mother’s prophecies. Twilight, Luna and herself had changed so many things now that the ancient book didn’t really apply to the world anymore. Most of the prophecies would never happen, and tragedies and disasters had befallen Equestria over the centuries that weren’t mentioned at all. No, too much future history had been changed.
But what had happened to Pinkie Pie? How was she still alive? She didn’t doubt that it really had been her, perfectly alive and well despite her honoured grave back in Ponytopia. Celestia had seen a lot of very strange things through the course of her long, long life, and this was the strangest.
That prediction. Pinkie had said that she saw things in her dreams, things that were real, things that would actually happen later in real life. Celestia had once known another pony who had had such prophetic dreams. She’d just been thinking about her, in fact. Her mother had seen the future... A memory came to her, a memory from so long ago, a memory of a letter that Twilight had written to her that concerned a bizarre escape from an angry hydra and some thoroughly unexplainable magic seemingly exhibited by an earth pony. That earth pony had been Pinkie Pie.
Her mouth dropped open as she remembered that Pinkie Pie had been able to see the future as well.
Celestia vanished in a burst of orange evening sunlight that startled the few cityponies strolling through the park. She appeared in her private chambers to find a guard captain speaking to Luna. She managed to drop her disguise spell before the guard turned at the flash of her arrival.
“Your Highness!” he called in surprise. “We’ve been looking everywhere for you, are you alright? Oh, of course you are,” he said, shaking his head. “Your Highnesses, please excuse me, I’ve got a search to call off.” He trotted out the doors and started barking orders at his subordinates.
Luna looked a little stern as she closed the doors. “I thought We were only going to be an hour or so -”
“I missed a lot of meetings this afternoon, I know,” Celestia said as she started pacing. “Sorry, I’ve been chasing a ghost.”
Puzzlement replaced Luna’s slightly disapproving expression. “Beg your pard-”
“What do you remember of Aunt and Uncle?”
“I, uh.” Luna was surprised. “Mother’s sister? And her husband? Not a lot. What’s -”
“I can’t remember. They had foals, right?” Luna nodded. “I can’t remember how many. And I also can’t remember if they were unicorns or not. Mother and Father were unicorns.”
“Hmm,” Luna said thoughtfully. “We never saw them much, they... I have this old idea that they didn’t want to have much to do with Mother and Father after we were born, I remember Mother saying that -” She frowned. “These memories are very old. Mother said, I was very young, I can’t really remember properly, but... She said something like Aunt Starbeam being scared of her after...” Luna gasped as she remembered. “After she grew her horn! After Mother grew her horn! She was an earth pony who grew a unicorn horn!”
“I thought so, I thought so,” Celestia said, looking more and more agitated as she kept pacing. “I wasn’t sure, I couldn’t remember, I needed you to help jog my memory. I think our cousins were earth ponies. I can’t remember them very well, but I can’t remember any of them having horns. It never seemed important until now.”
“Aunt and Uncle and our cousins were earth ponies. Mother and Father were earth ponies. They grew unicorn horns and began to -”
“- see the future,” Celestia finished. “I ran into Pinkie Pie today. She was a unicorn.”
“Pinkie Pie? As in, Pinkie Pie? But she’s dead,” Luna said as Celestia nodded. The midnight-blue alicorn was thoroughly confused now. “Hey, and she was an earth pony, not a unicorn. Big Sister, are you okay? You’re starting to creep me out -”
“Pinkie Pie could sense the future. She could sense things that were going to happen to her or to her friends in the immediate future.” Celestia stared straight at Luna, and Luna stared back. “So could Mother. And she was an earth pony. An earth pony with a unicorn horn.”
“Mother... Mother saw things far into the future. Not in the immediate future. She never told anypony, but she gave you that book in secret. On her deathbed. And you know what Father gave to me.”
Celestia nodded. Moonglow’s Weapon of Harmony had been wielded by Luna during the Windigo Wars to defeat the final part of The Lunacy’s millennia-spanning plan. Luna had cracked the curse that first began when Discord conquered Equestria in the days after its founding. That curse was damaged but not broken yet, and it still prevented the world’s natural physical laws from working correctly, prevented the changing of the seasons, held the sun and the moon stationary in the sky unless the Sisters moved them with magic, but one day it would break and nature would return to the world and then their tasks would be finished. But that day might not come for ten thousand years or longer.
The Element of Harmony wouldn’t have worked in the final battle of the Windigo Wars, and Twilight had refused to try it anyway. Harmony couldn’t be imposed on the entire population of Equestria. Their father’s Weapon, however, had been purpose-made for the task, though Moonglow himself had never even understood what he was making or why.
“He gave me something else,” Luna said. “He gave me a book too.”
Luna went to Celestia’s balcony doors and stepped out into the dying sunlight. “Night will have to begin a bit early today, Big Sister. I’ve got some digging to do.” Her horn glowed brilliant blue momentarily, then flashed as bright as the full moon as a billion stars popped into being in the orange-pink evening sky. “I hope I can find it. I buried it in the woods under that mountain to the south of our old village just after Father died. The last words he spoke to me were ‘ceyeg teo bowat aromohi Joretil fodoru’,” she finished, rumbling the final words in the language they’d both spoken as foals.
Luna took to the sky as Celestia thought about those words, spoken in the tongue that now only three ponies in the world could speak or read or understand. It predated even the founding of Equestria by millennia.
Read this when you find the third Oracle.
She thought that she might just have done so - or rather, the third Oracle might have just found her. But while Luna did her task, she had one of her own to perform. She had to look up a spell, so she left her rooms and trotted briskly through the castle, down to the large ground-floor library. Twilight would almost certainly know how to perform the spell Celestia needed, but she was not about to ask her Sister for assistance. The thought of what she was going to do almost made Celestia want to vomit, but it had to be done.
The library was closed, but not to her of course. She stepped up to the first librarian that she could see. The musty-grey unicorn looked up from her paperwork and shot to her hooves. “Good evening, Your Highness. How may I be of assistance to you?”
“Good evening, Octavo. Sorry if I’m a little short right now but I need to locate a particular spell. Urgently.”
“Certainly, Princess. The index cards are this way.” They walked past empty reading desks and packed bookshelves and up to a tall stack of card files. “Section three is completely dedicated to spellbooks, as you know,” the librarian said as she pointed down the long hall to an arched set of doors with ‘Princess Twilight Section - Practical Magic’ emblazoned above them. “Let’s see, these drawers here, yes, these three are all spells. All the references are here and they’ll lead us to a book or books describing the exact type of spell you’re looking for, Your Highness. What kind of spell were you after?”
“Thank you, Octavo” Celestia said graciously as she opened the third index drawer and started to psychokinetically flick through the cards to ‘T’. “I’m afraid it’s a private matter. I believe I should be fine from this point. Sorry for disturbing you,” she finished distractedly as she read a reference number, closed the drawer, and started down the reading hall.
“Oh, not at all, Your... Highness?” The librarian trailed off as she found herself talking to Celestia’s rapidly departing tail. “Wedding business, I'll bet,” she muttered, shaking her head and smiling as she trotted back to her desk.
Half an hour later, Celestia stood in the darkening Memorial Garden before the elevated row of special graves. The entire patch of ground they stood on had been transported reverently and completely from Canterlot to right here, the very centre of the old town of Ponyville, more than a century before. The whole huge chunk of earth had been magically dug up and gently supported all the way to the final home of the Bearers, so these graves had never really been disturbed. She thought she’d start with the one that would have the least chance of making her sick.
Looking at the ground before Spike’s tombstone, she concentrated very hard and cast the transparency spell. And there it was, seeming to float in a sudden deep hole beneath her hooves, encased in grime. The grime flashed and disappeared as well, and then she could see it clearly. A large square gemstone. She nodded and extinguished her horn, the grass covering Spike’s most treasured possession from sight once again.
She stepped to the left and steeled herself, feeling like some kind of terrible ghoul for this. The ground seemed to fade to nothing as it became completely transparent, revealing the petrified remains of a coffin. She closed her eyes for a moment, opened them again, and made the coffin invisible as well.
Ste took a step backwards, tripped, sat down awkwardly. The ground covering Rarity reappeared as she lost concentration from her shock. There should have been some remains, that was certain, but she wasn’t sure what would be there, not after so many centuries. Bones still, she’d guessed. She hadn’t expected this though. She forced herself back to shaking hooves and stepped forward again as she recast the spell.
Rarity looked exactly as she had done on the day she’d died. She was lying motionless and still, looking older than any other pony Celestia would ever meet, but essentially unchanged from the moment of her death. She looked peaceful, and the last thing that Celestia saw as she cancelled the spell again was a slight smile on her perfectly preserved face.
Applejack, too, looked as if she’d only just passed away. She was old but still seemed amazingly fit for a pony who’d died aged a hundred and two. There was a faint ring of whitish dust around her head. That must be where her famous hat had been. It had crumbled to nothing, but Applejack had not.
Celestia skipped the next grave for the moment and saw the same thing in Fluttershy’s ancient burial place. The small snow-white pony looked as if she’d just fallen asleep moments ago. Celestia suddenly jerked her head upright and whipped around, the ground reappearing and hiding the kind old pegasus from view. She looked up at the enormous oak that stood over the six graves. Its branches were full of birds, and they had all just burst into song, a beautiful haunting song of recognition and loss. She was almost moved to tears. Clearly, the birds still remembered Fluttershy.
As the brief song died away, she turned back and stared into the grave of the Bearer who had died the youngest. Rainbow Dash looked exactly as Celestia remembered her during her legendary tenure with the Wonderbolts. She’d been the greatest captain in the team’s vast history. She looked young, fit, perfectly whole and healthy, her hair still the trademark brilliant rainbow shock, and just like all the others was smiling in her eternal sleep. The dirt, rocks and grass reappeared again and hid her still form as Celestia moved over to Pinkie Pie’s happy-looking memorial. A bunch of marble balloons wrapped around a spiralling, tapering cylinder. What else could have suited the Element of Laughter better?
The coffin was there, six or seven feet down, fossilised into stone just like all the others. Doing this was making her sicker and sicker by the second but she had to know. A flash of reddish-purple light illuminated the gravestones as she cast the spell on the coffin -
“Hey, Biggest Sis,” Twilight said as she walked up to Celestia, having just teleported into the Garden. The eldest Princess whirled and gasped, her hornglow flickering out. “Woah. Sorry. You okay?” Twilight was looking with sudden shock and concern at the stricken expression on Celestia’s face.
“Oh, I’m... I’m fine,” Celestia said. She re-lit her horn and turned back to the graves. “Just... Just a little extra light to read by,” she fibbed. “I wasn’t expecting anypony else, I guess you just startled me. I haven’t come here for such a long time. Thought I would, uh, catch up with your old friends again. You know. What with the wedding coming up.”
Twilight stepped up to Spike’s gravestone and sat down, smiling sadly at the carved marble flame. “It’s nearly two thousand years too late for most of them, and a thousand for Spike. But they’ll be at my wedding. That’s why I’m getting married under the old tree, you know.”
“I, um, I’ll leave you alone, Littlest Sister. I have too many things to do at the moment, and you should have your privacy here -”
“Hey yeah, I guess they found you,” Twilight said as she gently nuzzled Applejack’s headstone. “Where’d you get to? The guards were going nuts looking for you, I told them that you were probably on Official Royal Business and not to worry. Big Sister probably told them the same thing.”
“Um...” Celestia mumbled.
Twilight looked around and cocked her head at the other alicorn. “Something wrong, Biggest Sister?” She narrowed her eyes. Celestia looked terrible. She looked like she was about to throw up. “Hey, you alright? You look like you’ve seen a ghost.”
Celestia very much wanted to stop lying to Twilight and say that, yes, she had seen a ghost. But she couldn’t, not until Luna and herself knew just what was happening. So she covered her nervousness with thousands of years’ practice at defusing diplomatic stoushes. “Wedding stuff, Twilight. Top secret.” She grinned, winked, and tapped the side of her muzzle conspiratorially with a forehoof, amazed at how well she was acting considering the emotional torment she was under right at this moment. And even better, that hadn’t actually been a total lie. She’d certainly started the day focused on top-secret wedding stuff.
Twilight blushed and looked back to the bas-relief apple on the headstone. “Ah, sorry, Biggest Sis. I’ll forget all about it, I promise.”
“Your sunsets are still incredible, by the way,” Celestia said in an effort to move the topic away from what had happened today. Both alicorns looked to the western horizon, where tall streamers of red and gold were still dancing bright against the deep-purple evening sky. “I bet you’re doing that unconsciously, aren’t you?”
“I guess I must be,” Twilight said. “I don’t know how, my special talent’s magic, not the day or night sky. And not dawn or dusk, despite my name. I could probably enhance a sunset, but I haven’t been doing the recent ones on purpose.”
“They look beautiful,” Celestia said. “You just keep doing whatever it is that you’re doing, and we’ll continue having beautiful sunsets and sunrises. Hey. Where’s Starburst?” Celestia hadn’t seen them apart ever since... Well, ever since they’d started spending a lot of time in each other’s private studies.
Twilight’s eyes closed briefly at the mention of his name. “He’s making me dinner. He wanted it to be a surprise, so I told him I’d come down here for a few minutes. I miss him already,” the youngest Eternal Sister said. “Love is wonderful, Biggest Sister.” She moved down along the line of her old friends.
As Twilight started telling Pinkie Pie’s headstone about her day, Celestia turned away and trotted through the archway and back up towards the castle. The sick feeling she’d gotten from doing this horrible task was starting to fade. She was beginning to get her heartrate back under control.
At least she knew now. There was nothing in that ancient petrified coffin. No bones, no dust, and certainly not a perfectly-preserved corpse. Pinkie Pie’s grave was empty. And the other Bearers looked like they’d just passed away moments ago. Not for the first time that day, and not for the last either, she wondered what the hell was going on.
She couldn’t really see very well. Oh, her vision was fine, but her mind found it a little difficult to keep track of the details. She vaguely remembered walking up the blossom-strewn aisle in this garden a few minutes ago. She couldn’t really remember why Celestia was speaking at the moment - at least, she thought that Celestia was speaking. She couldn’t be sure. She couldn’t even remember when this weird feeling had started to come over her. This morning when she’d got up? The other day? She had no idea.
The only thing she was sure of was his face as he stood next to her. Now that was perfectly clear. He was saying something back to Celestia but she had no idea what. As his lips moved, he nodded, and Twilight felt a weird twinge in her chest at the nod. It felt like the beginnings of a spell.
She thought she heard Celestia mumbling something. It sounded imperative. She had this little niggling feeling that she remembered it from the rehearsals, but she couldn’t be sure. She also had a vague idea that she was supposed to reply to it, somehow... Was she? Yeah, probably. What was she supposed to say? She really couldn’t remember. Something came floatily up through her consciousness and she voiced the words that sealed the union, the spell, and her fate.
And then it happened.
A spark in her heart so hot and powerful that she gasped. Everything came screaming into perfect focus and clarity. She was standing on the special temporary dais at the base of the ancient oak that, ages upon ages ago, she’d called home for three centuries. She was smiling at Starburst as he smiled back. And she could feel... She could feel what he could feel.
Love. She could almost see herself through his eyes. Her overwhelmed mind tried to make sense of it all, but Celestia spoke again, and this time, Twilight could hear her properly.
“By the power and authority of the Royal Pony Sisters, I take great pleasure in pronouncing you husband and wife,” Celestia said jubilantly. “You may now seal your magical union with a kiss.”
Their union was indeed magical, and it was already sealed far more strongly than they thought, though they didn’t know it yet. They each leaned forwards. Starburst lifted her veil up with his magic.
The small pink unicorn watched the kiss through one of the ancient gnarled knots in the huge old tree. As thunderous applause erupted from outside, her face screwed up and she started crying.
She had no idea why she was crying, and that made her cry even harder. She should be happy. Her oldest friend had just got married - though she couldn’t remember ever meeting either the bride or the groom in this ceremony, she felt certain that the beautiful purple winged unicorn was her oldest friend - and surely her friend’s wedding would make her happy. But she hadn’t been happy for... For so long, for as long as she could remember.
For hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of years.
She felt crushing sadness all the time but this was the worst it had ever been. She wished the Element would just let her die again, even though she had no idea what the Element was. She just knew that it wouldn’t let her die. Again. She was sure she’d already died once before, and it seemed that everything she had truly been had died at the same time. That horrible, horrible hole through her mind and heart, the certainty that something vitally important was missing and she’d never find it or get it back, because no matter where she looked, it wasn't here any more.
But that wasn’t what was making her especially sad right now. This wedding would somehow result in great sadness for everypony. For all Equestria. As a sob escaped her mouth, Pinkie Pie vanished in a puff of pinkish-silver light.
‘The Honeymoon Suite’ was a thoroughly inadequate title. It didn’t do the place justice. They had the top three floors of the largest hotel in Las Pegasus, and they were here incognito. Only Celestia, Luna, Starburst’s parents, and a few very high-ranking guardsponies knew where they were.
They'd earned some time alone. The last three weeks had been crazy, completely mental, and draining. They'd toured Equestria, and it seemed that every city they went to tried to outdo the celebrations of the last. Manehattan's street parade was particularly awesome. But that was behind them now, and the next month or so was private time.
The bedroom - one of nine in this place - was enormous and almost painfully lavish. The walls were covered with brocaded silk, and so was the ceiling. The carpets were so thick that they came up past their fetlocks. The bed itself was an almost criminally-opulent silk fortress that could have comfortably slept twenty.
Twilight barely registered any of this as she sat morosely, staring at the carpet.
“I don’t know,” she said. “I’m worried. I mean... This is a horrible thing to talk about, but -”
Starburst sat down right next to his wife and stroked her cheek with a hoof. “Whatever it is, you can tell me about it. You’ve been sad ever since the reception. You didn’t look sad until we got some privacy, but I could feel it. You were sad. Is that what this is about? Why in Equestria can we sometimes feel what each other is feeling?”
“That’s part of it, I guess. I don’t know what happened. I don’t know how we can feel each other’s, um, emotions? Feelings? It’s magic, but I don’t know what kind of magic. It’s not that though. That’s puzzling and a bit weird, but... I just can’t get it out of my head,” she admitted. “Now I have far too much to lose. I have you, and I feel like I’ve already loved you for thousands of years.” She couldn’t bring herself to look up at him, so instead she just kept her head down. As she felt the tears start, she closed her eyes, ashamed. She had always been able to contain her emotions so easily before. Apart from a few lapses, she’d kept all of her sorrow well under control for so long, but now she was in love for the first time in her life, and she knew it wouldn't last forever. “I’m going to lose you.”
She felt him gently nuzzle her. “Why would you lose me?” he asked in a whisper. “I know you’re gonna live forever, Sweetie, and I’m not. But why do you think I won’t be with you forever?” He placed a hoof on her chest, directly over her heart. “I’m gonna be in here forever. Right in here. I can feel it. Can’t you?”
She raised her watery eyes and met his gaze, and she felt it again, like an explosion in her heart that made her knees feel weak. She felt, again, what he was feeling. She experienced every emotion that was running through his own mind and heart.
Happiness, wonder, excitement, joy, but most of all, love. Pure love. He was smiling at her with pure love in his eyes and, she could feel, in his heart.
Her tears stopped as the same feelings of her own began to flow consciously back through this magical connection they now both seemed to share. She smiled back at him as he gently lifted her to her hooves.
And a little over a year later, on the day that had the most beautiful dawn in Equestrian history, the prophetic meaning of the very small star on Prince Starburst’s Cutie Mark became clear at to all.
Twilight, finally, would be happier than she ever thought she could be.
For a little while.