39w, 5dCelestia & Luna
15w, 6dThe Mighty Lunar Republic
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Celestia had a Headache. She closed her eyes for a moment and threw all of her will behind not rubbing her temples with her hooves. She assessed the grinding, pulsing, ice-cold pain running from the tip of her damaged horn to the base of her skull as warranting capitalization, perhaps even a “The” to precede it. Normal headaches came and went as the stresses of ruling a tribally diverse kingdom in a world full of competing sentient species waxed and waned. The Headache appeared to be here to stay.
She had winced when Luna forgot herself and used the Royal Canterlot Voice over breakfast. The antics of the children were not much better for her state of mind, if the truth were to be told. She had accepted the news that she had to hold court within her sister’s throne room with relative grace, despite the fact that the dark walls made her feel claustrophobic and look like the pale horse of death. She endured stoically the worsening reports about the damage and casualties from the changing attack. She even grimly endured the subtle glances to the charred spot on her horn. What set her off was her sister.
Her head was throbbing so badly that she was losing track of whatever banal request the unicorn in front of her was demanding when her sister arrived. She sang out a melodic and cheerful “Greetings!” that nearly caused Celestia to vomit from the pain. It was then that she noticed that her sister, a princess of the realm and divine queen of the night sky was smudged with dust and dirt, had her hair pulled back in a kerchief, and was carrying a pair of serving trays that likely contained lunch. Celestia glanced at the gentry in all their finery still gathered for the morning court, their eyes bulged and jaws were hanging at the sight of her sister comporting herself like a scullery maid.
She cut the unicorn off mid-sentence with the power of her Voice, “Morning court is adjourned.”
“But, your Highness...” the unicorn courtier questioned.
“Your matter will be heard first in the Night's Court. Now go.”
The nobles, shuffling and whispering, took less than a minute to clear the chamber. During this time Celestia sat silently upon the too small throne while her sister bubbled about something or another. “Blazing Tartarus, my head hurts,” she thought to herself while totally ignoring what her sister was saying.
“...and so we brought with us the daisy sandwiches for our shared luncheon,” the dark alicorn finished cheerfully..
“That’s why you barged in here while I was working, looking like some sort of street urchin? To bring me lunch?” Celestia snapped in frustration.
“Well, no. Not really, as I had just said-”
“No.” She said with a tone like distant thunder. “No, I cannot deal with you now. I’m stuck in here being read the lists of the slain, injured, and homeless while you are doing what?!? Playing...house? Dress-up? Having fun with the janitors?!
“No. I don’t have time for this, I don’t have time for you.”
Luna stared at her sister gobsmacked. “How...what...what is wrong with you?”
“What’s ‘wrong’ with me, little sister, is that I’m trapped carrying the entire burden of the realm while you are off playing!"
Luna shook her head while backing away. “You are not right sister. There is something wrong with you and you need to do something about it. I don't care what it is you need to do, but please just do it soon."
“You know sister, I wouldst not sit in mine throne if I twas thou.” Luna nervously quipped as she was driven from her own chambers.
“The contrast in size makes thine flank appear quite copious," Luna finished with a hard little smile. She turned and ran.
“Out!” She screamed throwing the sandwiches and trays after her retreating sister.
When she was alone, Celestia cried. It was from The Headache, that’s what she told herself.
Twilight was content. She had arrived home a few hours ago and Spike had helped her with unpacking and getting dinner prepared. They ate in companionable quiet, having thoroughly rehashed the weekend’s adventures with the girls while riding the train. She was now sprawled out on her couch in front of her fireplace reading a book while Spike was curled up on the fireplace’s flagstones soaking up warmth.
Twilight’s attention drifted from her book to Spike. She remembered with a gentle smile the last time Spike moved to his basket after falling asleep in the fireplace. She’ll have to remind him to take a few minutes to cool down before entering his cloth and wicker nest. That time they were lucky, she was able to summon a bucket-full of water to douse the smoldering blankets before any wider damage was done. She chuckled once and softly. “He was so mad,” she reminisced. He thought it was a prank until she showed him the blackened blankets. “Love you, Spike.” She said, prompted by the memory. The dragon’s only response was a totally incoherent mumble.
“We’ve become quite the odd little family, haven’t we,” she thought while noting Owlicious and Pee-Wee perched companionably alongside each other. Her number 2 assistant had been giving Spike a great deal of help raising his phoenix chick, much like her parents had helped her with raising her baby dragon. She thought, and not for the first time, that perhaps her choice to raise Spike herself (even with a lot of help) partially explained why she never learned to have friends.
Teenage mothers were one thing but she was still just a filly back then. Other girls spent time at the parks or markets having fun and making friends while she was home splitting her time between caring for an infant who could breathe fire and studying for the accelerated lessons at the school for the gifted. After she was old enough to be enrolled in the boarding school, her brother was already off serving in the guard and Princess Cadance was no longer needed to foal-sit. Her parents would visit but they too were no longer there everyday to help. That was when her world shrunk to just herself, Princess Celestia, and Spike.
She took a moment to silently thank Celestia for sending her here. This was better. She was happy. She was content.
Twilight did not believe in superstition. Deep down she even believed that Pinkie Pie was explicable as some rogue form of earth pony magic. But just then, as she was blissfully contemplating her life and family Spike began making the choked gurgling noise that presaged a letter from the Princess arriving while Spike was asleep. Green flame spilled from his nose and mouth, uncomfortably waking the young dragon, and coalesced into a paper scroll bearing Celestia’s solar seal.
“I’m sorry Spike. That can’t have been pleasant,” Twilight said as she rescued the scroll from any threats of orange, normal flame and brought it to herself.
“You’re telling me.” Spiked grumped with a retching noise.
It was late for a letter from Celestia. The princess of the sun was rarely active more than an hour after her divine charge set for the night. Also, she had just had breakfast with the princess herself just this morning. It had to be important and she said as much to Spike, hoping to mollify him a bit. Opening the letter she was immediately alarmed by the shaky and blotched horn-writing comprising the shockingly short note.
I need you here with me. I need your help.
Twilight’s eyes were wide in terror as a train ticket fluttered out of the scroll’s curled paper.
“What’s wrong,” Spike asked quietly while handing her the fallen ticket. His own fear was pricked by his caregiver’s expression and his discomfort from moments ago was forgotten.
She saw that the ticket was for the overnight train to Canterlot. As Ponyville was still a small town the overnight train only had a Flag Stop here. She would need to be standing on the platform or they wouldn't stop. She checked the time printed on the ticket and blanched. “Spike! TellRaritywhathappenedandwereIwent!BegoodIloveyoubye!” With that the lavender unicorn grabbed the ticket firmly between her teeth and sprinted through the door into the night. She made her train with a minute to spare.
There were about twice as many words in modern Equestrian than in the version Luna was most comfortable with. It was obvious to her that ponies traveled more than they used to in her day. Words from Prance were snuggled alongside cognates from Nipony. Even some derivations from Griffon and Dragon had snuck in via the back door. Despite a millennium's worth of additions to the language she still found no single word to describe what she was feeling and this bothered her to distraction.
“I’m sorry, what was that again?” She asked the tired-eyed and apparently very frustrated unicorn noble who was standing in front of the ebon throne and addressing a princess for the second time that day. He stared at her unblinking for a beat. “Now that they have a word for, incredulous,” she mused while the white unicorn appeared to gather himself for yet another go at his petition. “Back in my day they would have had to settle with wroth or vexed but neither would convey to sheer disbelief that colored his frustration. To accurately describe this unicorn’s mood it would have taken the efforts of a great skald and lines of florid prose. And a drum, definitely a drum,” she thought as she watched his lips without hearing a single word.
“Maybe I should hire a court poet?” She continued internally, “We could make a grand competition out of it.” She imagined dozens of bright eyed colts and mares reciting odes to the beauty of the night sky, each vying to be judged the finest wordsmith of their generation by the enigmatic and beautiful Goddess of the Moon. “Oh, there would be pennants. I do miss proper pennants.” The thought brought a small smile to her lips, at which point she noticed the droning of the noble’s voice cease. “Um, prithee continue good and noble sir.” After a moment's pause with a look of concern he continued on.
Her sister was both angering and worrying her. Celestia’s behavior at court today was completely unreasonable. “Maybe I shouldn’t have teased her about her flank, that was rather petty and she is so sensitive about being twice the size of your average pony,” she admitted to herself. But in addition to being outside of acceptable standards, her sister’s behavior was also outside of her usual character as well. Celestia’s defeat by the Changeling Queen, her dismissal of Twilight's suspicions, the capture of the Elements, and the narrow victory only brought about at the hooves of the rescued Cadance all must be weighing heavily upon her. “Would that explain her behavior? Was it simply a matter of Celestia’s brittle mask of perfection being cracked?" Twilight knew her sister better than anyone these days, maybe she should ask her opinion.
How to ask Twilight about this without alarming the excitable unicorn was the rub. “Maybe I should summon her back to the palace to look in on Celestia. Was it too soon after the wedding, being only a day? Would I look too eager for her company?...What?” Luna’s eyes widened in alarm and private embarrassment at finding the errant thought like a pebble in her oats. “That is not acceptable,” she scolded herself silently while shoving the rogue thought back into the deepest recesses of her mind. “We are and shall only be friends, that is all that is proper.” It was then that she noticed the total silence that had fallen over her court.
The the white unicorn was looking up at her with despairing eyes. “Oops,” she thought. The wheels in her mind spun furiously trying to remember a single word this pony had said, and failed. “I’m going to refer this matter to the Court of the Day," she said trying for an imperious tone that would brook no dissent.
“I feel that this would be better handled by my sister.” As excuses go, she thought that one would at least hold water.
“But your majesty, I...I just came from there.”
“Oh good, so she is already familiar with your petition.”
“No...not really...Not really at all.”
“Even better, she should hear your well considered words.” Her lips made a wan approximation of a smile. From somewhere the sound of a squeeze toy was heard.
He blinked and then hung his head. “As you say, Your Majesty.” He then shuffled out of the door in defeat.
“Page?” Luna called. “I require implements for writing and The Candle.” Moments later her staff brought the requested items: a brush with a fine tip and silver chased handle, a scroll made from pressed and dried reeds, thin reddish-brown ink, black sealing wax, and a foul looking yellowish-green candle twisting up from a black tarnished silver holder. The implements were taken into Luna’s aura of control and began to orbit the diarch. The brush skillfully moved across the papyrus, the goddess’ horn writing was more a work of art than simple communication. While it was the truth when she told her staff that she preferred the archaic method and materials for writing it was equally true that she had not yet mastered the skill of writing with quills or nibs on rag paper. Her latest efforts with that medium evoked a vision of spiders with diarrhea staggering across the paper in their last delirious steps prior to death. Or, at least it did to Luna’s overactive and self-critical imagination.
I wax concerned regarding the Humors of mine Sissy, Regina Diei Invicta. Whilst I realize your convenience might be greatly impaired by the request I am making forthwith I do beg, prithee, that thine time is accessible for a second journey t’wards myself and Canterlot to look upon thine Dear Mentor. I hold within mine mind the conception that the hour is still very late or early for thine mortal coil so I will await the Dawn for thine reply.
Per ardua ad astra.
Regina Luna reddere et redempta
“There.” Luna said out loud. To herself she thought, “A light and casual note, nothing to alarm anyone within and expressing a friendly connection via the lack of cumbersome titles and formality.” Taking the dragon bile candle under firmer control she lit the foul thing and melted the end of her sealing wax so as to secure the letter. She regretted having to use such a noxious focus for sending mail via Spike’s flame but she had not yet mastered the spell Celestia and Twilight invented for this task. The dragon bile candle allowed her to overcome this by providing a connection to the draconic essence required for the sending. She did not like to think about how the materials for crafting this candle were procured but she personally saw to it that the down on his luck dragon who volunteered for this effort saw his horde drastically increased in size. Shuddering at the thoughts of dragonic emetics and their consequences she focused her energies through the candle and offered the letter to the green, guttering flame.
To her surprise, a reply letter manifested out of a swirl of green mist within a few minutes. Most curious about this she opened the scroll made of modern paper and immediately saw that the note did not contain neither Twilight’s or Spike’s writing.
HRH Princess Luna,
While I am not entirely certain regarding my interpretation of your letter, it seems most relevant to inform you that Ms. Sparkle is already on her way to Canterlot. She received a letter from Princess Celestia requesting her presence and has taken the overnight train to the capitol. She is expected to arrive with the dawn.
Element of Harmony
Recipient of the Equestrian Medal of Honor
Proprietor of Carousel Boutique
Member of the Ponyville Chamber of Commerce
Luna simply said “Oh,” after she finished reading the letter.
Discord was still getting his bearings in his new location within the library. As he had no eyes of his own he was forced to look around by accessing the thoughts and memories of the ponies quietly working nearby. Sadly, since it was the middle of the night, all he had close access to was a monofocused study-holic who only thought about what they were reading (totally useless), a love struck colt who was ‘working’ at the circulation desk but was actually fantasizing about the variously appealing anatomical features that a certain mare possessed (yuck), and an earth pony janitor with a secret talent for higher mathematics (eh, you take what you can get).
The Janitor’s mind was a delicious mess of discordant thought; mixed together was boredom, abstract geometric musings, resentment of the class structure, and reviewing this list of chores for the night. This made him easier to read and were he in a better position Discord felt that he could have had a lot of fun with this one. As it was, he only used the frustrated stallion’s eyes to get a look around the place. “Books. Books. Yep, more books. Hey! Look at that, a stairway! More and more books all numbered and sorted. Sigh. Well, that was exciting. Maybe the garden wasn’t so bad after all.”
Sulking, although he would have used a more elegant word for it, he opened up his perceptions to encompass the souls of all Canterlot and the surrounding mountainside. The conflicts, disagreements, competition, and striving of all of the ponies washed over him like waves on the beach. Love, greed, pride, hunger and fear all drove them and he had no shortage of souls to drink knowledge from despite the witching hour having come and gone. It refreshed him to do this, it was like bathing in a deep pool of himself, and there was nothing he so loved as much as that. He was the very concept of “I” made flesh, or the flesh that gave birth to the concept of “I.” With gods, both are usually true.
As the hours passed he began to sense something familiar entering his range of perception. “Twilight Sparkle,” he named the brightly flaring soul as it approached the city at a mysteriously fast pace. He pulled his mind back into focus and aimed his perception towards her to see what new trick she had learned. He was impressed with the contraption he found that she was riding in. The ponies had harnessed fire and steam with tack of steel (they called it a train) and the device shot them along the ground as fast as most pegasi flew. His bored and wandering mind crafted an image of Twilight as a violet furred draconequus riding a massive steel pony that breathed fire. Adding in a few fleeing peasants and burning cottages was enough to give him a chortle. But then he recognizing the configuration of miss-matched limbs his imagination painted onto Twilight his laugh stopped cold.
“Oh Harmony, dear sister,” he reminisced. “Would you still think all that sturm and drang was worth it if you could see them now, your dear ponies? Here I still am, millennia after you and your grass munching girls tried to kill me; still in the hearts of every thinking being in the world." He paused in his internal monologue, as if giving someone else the chance to speak. "I can't imagine your daughters would be anything but a disappointment to you with the whole Nightmare moon kerfuffle. They literally chose discord over harmony and undid your grand gesture.”
"Maybe the young one would tip the scales of you, make it all worth it?" He gave a derisive snort. Running his mind over the memories from last year’s conflict with Twilight he admitted to himself, “She is an impressive little thing though, isn’t she? She even managed to surprise me once or twice.” He felt Twilight's aura shift in response to his close scrutiny: she was suddenly alert, seeking for something that was watching her. “Ohhh, clever girl. Your're even more fun than last time.” He pulled back his perceptions so that he could only see soul as one of the many lights filling the darkness. She wasn't even yet in Canterlot proper and she was the brightest mote in the sky. Twilight was still dwarfed by the diarchs auras, blazing sun and shining moon, but as she drew nearer to the castle she grew brighter and brighter in his sightless vision.