Chapter 29: The Loyalty of Dragons
Spike walked down another flight of stairs, then turned to his right, proceeding down the long tapestry lined corridor to the throne room. Finally, he arrived outside the tall gold and silver inlaid doors bearing the royal cutie marks of the two princesses. The two guards standing at the doors recognized him and paid him no mind. He nodded slightly to them, although they gave no response, then raised his clawed hand to knock. He paused. If I go through with this, Twilight will never trust me again, he thought to himself, lowering his hand. But then he shook his head. No … I'm doing it because I care about her. I have to go through with it. He raised his hand once more to knock, but again paused. All his life, since Twilight hatched him from an egg, he had trusted her. He trusted her with his well-being—even with his very life. Should he really stop trusting her now? She had trusted him enough to let him know what she was working on—trusted that he would keep her secret. Could he really betray her trust? He glanced at the two Unicorn Guards standing on either side of the door. By now, they were giving him strange looks. But still, neither of them said anything.
He made up his mind, lowering his hand from the door and sighing. He turned away, his shoulders lowered slightly and looking at the floor. Then he started on his way back toward the guest room. You better know what you're doing, Twilight Sparkle, he thought to himself. He was already second-guessing his decision. But deep down inside himself, he knew he had made the right one. Mutual trust. That was the most important cement that bonded his relationship with Twilight. If he cracked that cement by telling Celestia what was going on, the bond would be weakened. And if they didn't have trust, what did they have?
Arriving back at their room, he raised his hand and knocked.
"I'm here, Princess," the dejected voice of his unicorn friend called back. He cringed at the sound of her voice: Sadness, and fear. He could hear both in the sound. No doubt, she was afraid Princess Celestia would punish her.
"It's me, Twilight," he answered. "Just me."
The door glowed with a lavender aura as Twilight magically opened it. He stepped inside, stopping as he saw her.
She sat on the bed on her haunches, her tail curled around her. The end of it was frayed and wet—wet with tears, he thought. She'd been crying with her face buried in her tail. Her eyes were reddened from the salty tears that had been flowing from them. The fur on her muzzle was still wet, and her ears lay flat on her head in defeat. He felt terrible now. Terrible that he had put her through this—that he had ever said he was going to tell The Princess.
She looked at the floor, sniffing. He could see more tears trying to come. Then, she spoke in a quiet, timid voice.
"So how bad is it … Am I going back to magic kindergarten?"
"I didn't tell her, Twilight … I couldn't go through with it."
She looked up at him, sniffing again a couple of times. "You didn't?" Her voice was slightly perkier now.
He only shook his head back and forth once in response.
Her ears perked back up, a small smile returning to her muzzle. She wiped her eyes once with a forehoof. Her horn glowed, and Spike felt himself being lifted off the ground, surrounded by a lavender bubble.
"Whoa!" he exclaimed as he rapidly floated through the air over to her. She spread her forelegs and wrapped them around him, squeezing him tightly to her once he got there.
"Oh, thank you Spike! Thank you so much!" she exclaimed, all of the sadness and fear in her voice gone.
He grunted slightly from the tight embrace. "… You're welcome Twilight. But you have to promise me you'll be careful. And that you won't try to open any more portals without telling me first. So I can be there to help you if something goes wrong again."
"I promise, Spike. I promise," she said, still holding him tightly to her.
He wrapped his arms around her neck, hugging her back gently, smiling at seeing her happy again. But inside, his heart was still in turmoil. He was her faithful assistant. And his place was to be loyal to her. Loyalty no matter what. But if anything happened to her … With Celestia as my witness, I'm going to ask AJ to teach me how to use a rope to tie you up so you can't get in trouble, he thought to himself …
Ambassador Firewing nervously paced back and forth through the large clearing in the forest. At the sound of wind above him, he turned his great head skyward to see another crimson dragon coming in for a landing. The other dragon touched down in front of him, folded his wings, then gave a stiff bow. Firewing was sure the bow was intended more to be mocking than respectful. He narrowed his eyes, not even waiting for the other dragon to rise from his bow.
"What in the name of all the ancestors were you thinking, Cinderfang?" he yelled in a booming voice, the other dragon crouching backwards at the sudden verbal assault.
"It will blow over, Firewing. It will be forgotten about soon enough," the other dragon said, coming up from his bow. There were damaged scales on his neck and head, a few dried streaks of blood—areas where the Pegasus Guard had made some good strikes, Firewing assumed.
"No, Cinderfang! It won't blow over! It's not like you stole one of their milk cows. You attacked two squadrons of Royal Guards!"
"The Elder Council will protect me, Firewing," he waved a wing dismissively.
"No, Cinderfang. Not this time they won't." He picked up a scroll, unrolled it, and thrust it in front of the other dragon's muzzle. "Written by Celestia herself. Asking … No, demanding that the Elder Council turn you over to her for punishment."
The other dragon glared at the letter, but now there was a glint of fear in his eyes. He seemed to shrink slightly upon staring at the writing on the paper. "I will not go to Canterlot. I will not be judged by some … pony." He spat the word pony as if he had just bitten into a piece of stink weed. "Not even if it is Celestia herself. I will not spend the rest of my life rotting away in her dungeon."
"If it were up to me, you would Cinderfang! You should thank the ancestors the rest of the Elder Council is not so willing as I to turn you over to her."
"Why should you care, Firewing?" the other dragon spat venomously. "Was it not Celestia herself who scarred you for life? Who left your wings and chest disfigured? When she used the solar flame to burn you? Why should you have any love for her at all!"
"She was not herself when that happened! And I will not get into this with you."
"Of course you won't," Cinderfang sneered. "Or perhaps you have no love for her at all. Perhaps, you are simply too afraid she will strip you of the power she has granted you—granted the rest of the Council of Nine. We wouldn't want that, now would we. The Elder Council losing their power over the rest of us."
Firewing was silent for several long seconds before speaking again. He looked the other dragon straight in the eye, his golden irises glaring with anger. "You, Cinderfang, are hereby banished from the Kingdom of Equestria. If I ever see you within the boundaries of Equestria again, I will march you into Canterlot and turn you over to Celestia myself. Now get out of my sight. You have one day to get your affairs in order and be gone."
For a moment, the other dragon's eyes were wide with surprise. But only for a moment. They quickly narrowed. His chest expanded rapidly as he took in a deep breath of air, preparing to unleash a torrent of flame.
"You dare threaten an elder?" Firewing boomed out. "Do not even try it, Cinderfang! You may have youth on your side, but I have experience. And have you forgotten that in addition to scarring me, Celestia also gifted me with resistance to flame attacks when she realized what she had done to me? The most intense flame you can produce will not leave a mark on me."
Cinderfang snarled deeply, but released the breath of air he had taken, now simply glaring daggers at him, but saying nothing.
"Get out of my sight," Firewing snarled at the other dragon. "Get out of my sight before I kill you myself. I'm sure Celestia will understand if I tell her I had no choice but to kill you because you became combative when I tried to capture you."
Cinderfang glared back at him and snarled. Firewing braced himself for any attack that might come. But it never did. Instead, Cinderfang spread his wings and took to the sky, turning to the west and disappearing over the treeline.
Firewing frowned, lowering his eyes, looking down at his scarred chest now. It was true, what Cinderfang had said. It was Celestia who had disfigured him. But she had not been herself when it happened, and he had remained loyal to her, maintaining a good relationship with her.
He shifted his eyes from his chest to the large amulet hanging around his neck. With one claw, he lifted it, looking at it. It was a solid gold casting of Celestia's cutie mark. At the center of the solar disk, was Luna's crescent moon cutie mark. At the bottom of the two royal symbols, the image of the dragon fang. Around the edges of the amulet, words written in the ancient dragon script translated to Elder Ambassador to the Royal Pony Sisters—the amulet of the Elder Dragon Council Ambassador to Canterlot.
He let the amulet slide off his claw to dangle down his neck again. For over a thousand years, he had served as the Ambassador to Canterlot, having been appointed to the position at the young age of only four hundred years—young by dragon standards at least. In actual years, he was older than even Celestia herself, although he was not immortal like she was. He figured he probably had another four hundred good years left in him to serve.
He thought about this most recent turn of events, sighing to himself. He had a good relationship with Princess Celestia. He had been Ambassador to Canterlot since even before the original Nightmare Moon conflict. And he had been there to comfort her after Luna's banishment. He could still remember it like it was yesterday. After the Elements of Harmony had done their terrible work … after Luna was gone … it was said that Celestia's cries of anguish could be heard throughout the entire world. That day, she swore she would never touch the Elements of Harmony again—those cursed objects she had called them—cursed by everything that was evil. It was he who had to stop her from outright destroying them in her anguish. And when he had stopped her, she had turned her anguish against him, nearly destroying him instead. The scars, where she had used the solar flame to burn him, were still visible on his chest, wings, and neck.
But he had remained loyal to her, and he had comforted her. Many times throughout those thousand years he had done so. As the first decades passed, all of the ponies alive during the time of Luna's banishing grew old and died, and the time came where he was the only being other than Celestia who even remembered Luna at all. He was the only one she could talk to about her sister who would truly understand. And their relationship had grown even closer. There were many nights, where she had slept in his cave, curled up next to him, not wanting to be alone. For every night, she had to endure the torment of raising the moon and seeing the image of the dark alicorn that used to be her sister emblazoned on it. And then, she dreaded going back to Canterlot. For she knew that come morning, she would have to endure the torture all over again when she lowered the moon. It had never gotten any easier for her, he remembered. For a thousand years, every morning, and every night, Celestia had endured the torture. And every morning and every evening he had been there for her. Countless nights, he had been there for her. He was not immortal like she was. But dragons were very long lived—longer lived than any other mortal species in Equestria. And he was the only one who could even begin to understand things from her viewpoint.
He looked up at the sky again. The sun had set, and twilight was descending on the forest, the very first stars becoming visible in the darkening sky … ever darkening. "I fear we will soon face dark times indeed, my Princess. Darker than the darkest of nights," he said quietly to himself. "Cinderfang will be the least of our worries …"
James left the faculty dorm and started towards the physics building early the next morning. The construction ponies were out in force again, taking down all of the Summer Sun decorations they had put up the week before. Trash littered the ground, as if a carnival had just left, or there had been a large concert the night before. Custodial ponies walked down the streets and sidewalks with their carts, cleaning it all up. The massive crowds which had flooded the city just twenty four hours earlier were gone now, the campus seeming eerily quiet without the crowd noise and constant rush of Pegasus Guard patrols overhead. The only sound now was the occasional breeze, perhaps accompanied by the sound of a piece of trash it had caught up and was blowing across the street. The only place in the city now that would be truly crowded was the train station, with ponies who had stayed until the end of the last day rushing to get back to their home towns. Even though the Summer Sun Celebration was over, for some of those ponies, the work it generated was just beginning. Applejack and Pinkie Pie had hundreds of orders to fill for new customers. Rarity had clothing to design and make.
In most ways, it was a relief that the city of Canterlot was back to normal and the large crowds were gone. But there was also certain sadness to it. Like the sadness that comes after the last day of a large fair, when all of the rides are shut down, all of the venues closed. The spark of excitement in the city over the last few days was gone. And now the routine of it all would start again.
He sighed as he kept walking. He wished he would have been able to go to the train station and see Twilight Sparkle and the others off. But he knew they had left last night. After the dragon attack, and the long flight home, he was in no condition to go see them off. That, and he knew Twilight would have asked him questions he was not prepared to answer. He was, at least sure they had probably made it back to Ponyville safely. If they hadn't, he thought he would probably know by now … at least he hoped they made it back safely.
He arrived at the physics building, went inside, and climbed the stairs to his office. Unexpectedly, the gray mane and tailed colonel was waiting for him down the hallway, outside his office.
"Doctor Peterson," he acknowledged. "Her Majesty, Princess Celestia, requires your presence in the throne room at the castle." There was a definite hint of disappointment in the Colonel's voice.
"Right now, sir? This early in the morning?"
"Yes," he responded simply.
"… Did she say what it was about, sir?"
"… May I ask what it was about sir?"
"No, you may not. She will tell you when you get there," he said, a tone of annoyance joining the disappointment now, although James got the impression the annoyance was not with him. "Do not keep her waiting," the Colonel stated a bit sharply.
"Yes, sir. Thank you for coming here to tell me, sir," James responded, then turned around, and proceeded back down the hallway. Colonel Stardust only grunted in response as he started to descend the stairs.
Back outside, and on his way to the castle, his mind raced. Had he done something wrong? Colonel Stardust had seemed disappointed. But again, the annoyance and disappointment didn't seem to be with him. Was it with Celestia herself? That seemed doubtful. Even if the Colonel Stardust was annoyed with Celestia, it was highly unlikely he would have let it show. Yet it seemed odd that Colonel Stardust wouldn't tell him what Celestia wanted, even though he apparently knew.
The closer he got to the castle, the more nervous he became. Please don't let it be bad news about Twilight and the others, he thought frantically to himself. That was his biggest concern right now. What if they hadn't made it back safely? And the fact that Colonel Stardust refused to tell him the news himself …
He arrived at the castle, went inside, and made his way along the now familiar route to the throne room.
"Doctor Peterson," the Unicorn Guard on the right of the door acknowledged. "Her Majesty is expecting you." The two guards turned and knocked on the door. The guards on the inside unlocked it and it swung open slowly. Celestia was already seated on the throne at the other end of the room.
He entered, walked down the carpet, stopping to kneel and bow at the required distance.
"James, please stand," the alicorn said quickly. There was no hint of sadness or anger in her voice at all, which helped get rid of the remaining nervousness he was feeling.
He rose to his feet at the same time Celestia rose to her hooves. She stepped down the stairs leading up to the throne and he bowed his head respectfully as she approached him.
"First, to put your mind at ease, I want to let you know that I've received confirmation from Spike that they all arrived safely back in Ponyville."
"Thank you, Your Majesty," he breathed a sigh of relief at hearing that.
"But that is not why I called you here this morning." She paused for several long moments before continuing. "What I am about to offer you, James, is considered by most, to be the highest honor it is possible to achieve in Equestria. But it is not a life of glory or fame. Rather, it is a life of service to Equestria. A life of servitude to me and my sister. It is not a commitment to be entered into lightly. For if you accept what I am about to offer, you will be bound to me and my sister, both by oath, and by magic. This bond will last for the rest of your life, and can never be broken.
"There is no shame in declining what I am about to offer, and you will not be thought any less of if you do choose to decline. Most who are offered, do decline, being unwilling to make the commitment required. Of those who initially accept, most change their minds before taking the final oath. For once the final oath has been taken, you can never return to the life you had before taking the oath."
He listened closely, and she stopped speaking. He waited for several moments for her to continue. When she didn't, he thought she must be waiting for a response from him. "I'm listening, Your Majesty," he answered. After all, there was no harm in at least listening.
"My sister and I would like to offer you the chance to become a member of the Royal Council. If you accept, you must leave the Academy, although you will still work on projects there with Theory Point. You must move into the castle with the rest of the Council. You will be at the beck and call of me and my sister at all times. Always, we must know where you are. You will not be able to leave the castle courtyard without permission from one of us.
"As I said, what I offer is not a life that most ponies are willing to accept. And most who are asked, decline. If you wish, you may decline right now and be thought no less of. But it is an offer that can only be made once. If it is declined, it can never be offered again according to Council law. You cannot however, accept right now. You must wait three days before doing that. Council law requires the waiting period because of the permanent life changing nature of the decision. Those three days, must be spent solely on making this decision."
"… Am I allowed to speak to others about this, Your Majesty? To ask them for advice?"
"You may speak to whomever you like. But the decision must be yours, and yours alone."
"I … am truly honored, Your Majesty … I will consider it very carefully," he answered, his mind really at a loss for words, reeling from the magnitude of the decision she had just placed before him.
"I know you will," she smiled. "Now go, and consider what has been offered. I will not see you again until the three days have passed and you are prepared to give me your answer."
"Yes, Your Majesty." He stepped backwards, knelt and bowed, before standing back up, turning, and leaving the throne room. He felt strangely uncomfortable inside the castle now, like a feeling of claustrophobia despite the large enormous open spaces inside the castle. No wonder I'm claustrophobic, he thought to himself. They're trying to trap me … the same way the aisling is. He felt like it was a game of tug of war, and he was the rope they were all pulling on—both sides in a race to bind him before the other could do so. The magnitude of the decision Celestia had just laid on him weighed down on him heavily. A million questions flew through is mind. Like a television displaying all channels at the same time, he found he couldn't stay focused on any of them.
The long, narrow corridors seemed to close in around him as he walked through the halls—they were narrow for defensive reasons, so that any invading force would only be able to proceed down them two abreast. But right now, they seemed even narrower than usual. Even once he reached the enormous grand foyer, the feeling of claustrophobia remained. He was relieved to finally step outside the doors. But even outside, he still found it difficult to focus on any one question.
At least she had said he could ask others for advice. He made his way back to the Academy campus. But instead of going back to the physics building, he went to the administration building. Colonel Stardust might as well be his first stop. After all, presumably he already knew what Celestia had wanted.
"Come," said the voice on the other side of the door when he knocked.
He opened the door, entering and then standing in front of the large cherry wood desk, the gray maned pony regarding him with an unreadable expression.
"Doctor Peterson … No doubt, you have spoken with Her Majesty."
"Yes, sir. I have."
"And what is it I can do for you?"
"I'd … like your advice, sir."
The unicorn hesitated for a moment. "It's your decision, Doctor Peterson. You alone must make it. But choose carefully, for the decision you make is one you will have to live with for the rest of your life."
James was silent for several seconds. Still, he could read nothing in the Colonel's face. Finally, he responded.
"Yes, sir … But what would you do, sir? If it were you?"
The pony looked at him for a few seconds, as if unsure he wanted to answer that question. Then he sighed slightly before answering. "You put me in a tough spot, Doctor Peterson … On the record, as your commanding officer, and commander of this Academy, I must tell you that you are an extremely valuable faculty member. Your teaching skills are impeccable, your research detailed and flawless, and I would hate to lose you … Off the record, as your friend … if it were me? And I were younger and did not have a family? I don't think I could pass up the opportunity to be on the Royal Council. Even with all the sacrifices it entails."
James nodded slightly. "Thank you for your compliments, sir … and for your honesty."
"You're a smart pon … human, James … you will make the right decision. Now go. You will want to take advantage of all the time you can to consider it."
"Thank you for your time, sir."
"You're welcome. And good luck, James," the unicorn responded as he left the office.
Once outside he made his way back to the dorm, going to Theory Point's room instead of his own. Please let her be home, he thought to himself as he knocked on her door.
She opened the door, looking like she had only recently gotten out of bed. Her mane was still unbrushed and she was not wearing any clothes. Of course, it wasn't unusual for ponies not to wear clothes, but this was the first time he'd seen Theory Point without any, given the Academy uniform requirements.
"James? What are you doing here so early in the morning? Come in." She took a few steps to the side, clearing the door so he could get in. "What's on your mind?"
"I didn't wake you, did I?"
"No. I was up already. Just starting to get ready."
He nodded. "Are you doing alright? After the dragon and all?"
"Still a little shook up I guess … but I'll be fine. That's not why you came over here, though. You could have asked me that when I got to the lab." She eyed him curiously now.
He nodded, hesitated for a moment. "Celestia asked me to join the Royal Council this morning."
Theory Point nodded slightly. If she were at all surprised, she didn't show it. "I knew she'd tap you for The Council. You're too smart for her not to. But I didn't think she'd do it so soon." He thought he could detect a hint of concern, and possibly even disappointment in her voice.
"… How come your not on The Council, Theory? You're at least as smart as I am."
She gave a brief chuckle. "Me? On The Council? Celestia asked me to join once. I declined. No, that's not the kind of life I want. To always be at the beck and call of the princesses. Like I told you before, I want to have a family some day."
He nodded slightly, but didn't say anything in response.
"What are you going to do?" she asked.
"I don't know yet. I have to think about it for three days before I give her an answer. Unless the answer is no. But I can't accept for three days."
"You should ask your friend Twilight for advice. Since she's so close to Princess Celestia."
"I probably will ask her."
Several long seconds of silence passed before Theory Point spoke again. "James … if you join The Council … your life won't belong to you anymore. It will belong to Princess Celestia and Princess Luna. All of the freedoms they have granted you since arriving in Equestria will be gone. You will have even fewer freedoms then when you first arrived here. You won't even be able to leave the castle courtyard without one of them knowing where you are going, why you are going, how long you will be gone, where you will be staying when you get there, who you will be meeting, and why. And then, only if they approve it."
He nodded slightly, contemplating what she had said for several long moments. "I'll take that all into consideration."
For nearly a minute, neither one of them said anything. Finally, he spoke up again.
"Well … I suppose I should probably go back to my own room and start thinking … Thank you for your time, Theory."
"You know you can always come to me, James. Good luck." She sounded concerned now.
"Thank you," he said as he left the room, pulling the door shut behind him.
Back in his own room, he sat down on his bed, taking a deep breath and letting it out slowly as he tried to organize his thoughts. "Well, that was helpful," he said to himself sarcastically. He had two opinions that were basically polar opposites of each other: One who said he wouldn't be able to pass up the chance to be on the Royal Council, even though the sacrifices were hard. Another who acted as if joining the Royal Council was like spending the rest of your life in the dungeon.
Surely, it couldn't be as bad as Theory Point had made it sound, could it? The Council members he had seen in the two meetings he had been at did not seem unhappy. Deadly serious about their business, yes. But not unhappy. And if it were truly that bad, surely they would revolt against the princesses, wouldn't they?
He had told Theory Point he was going to ask Twilight for her advice. But the truth is, he didn't think he would do so. Again, he was sure she would ask questions he was not prepared to answer, or couldn't answer. But there was an even bigger reason he didn't want to ask her: He didn't want her anywhere near this whole mess. He wanted to protect her from this whole thing—whatever this was … If he were on The Council, he might be in a better position to do that.
He laid down in his bed, staring up at the ceiling now, trying to focus his thoughts. Too much had happened over the last week. The Summer Sun Celebration. The nightmare. The object that had been launched and come down in the forest. The dragon attack. And now this …
The blue skies over Canterlot began to fade into darkness with reds and oranges dominating the Western horizon. On the balcony of one of the castle's tall towers, Princess Celestia stood, lowering the sun. Just as she had finished, she heard hoof steps behind her. Turning her head, she saw Luna approaching, joining her on the balcony to raise the moon. For several long moments, the two of them stood next to each other in silence, looking out into the distance as the last sliver of sunlight disappeared below the horizon.
"You asked him, sister?" Luna finally spoke, without turning her head to look at the Sun Princess, continuing to look out at the horizon instead.
Celestia nodded once. "I did. All we can do now is hope he accepts."
"And you were completely honest with him?"
"I was. Everypony who is invited to join the Council has always been aware of the extent of commitment required. It has been that way since the creation of the Council over a thousand years ago, sister. I told him everything all of the others were told."
"And the other Council members are okay with it?"
"They want him on The Council, Luna. They are uncomfortable with the fact that he is so involved, and yet not on The Council. They fear the fact that he is not on The Council makes him a risk." She sighed and frowned, looking down at the ground slightly. "I fear that if he declines, it will be hard for The Council members to trust him at all, Luna."
Luna only nodded, but gave no response, her dark purple horn glowing with a silvery light as she began to raise the moon. Celestia remained silent for several moments, before turning her head slightly, looking at Luna now.
"And what about you, sister? I am surprised you even agreed to the idea of asking him to join The Council, given you still don't fully trust him."
"If he is on The Council, Tia, I will be able to keep him on a very short leash," the dark alicorn responded, her horn still glowing as the silver light of the moon began to sparkle off the ponds in the garden below.
Celestia frowned and spoke with a hint of sharpness in her voice. "He will be a full fledged Council member, Luna. Not a slave. I expect you to treat him with the same respect you do all of the other Council members."
"Oh … of course … Leash was merely an … unfortunate word choice on my part, sister," Luna responded flatly. The glow of her horn faded as she finished her task. Then she turned, and walked back inside the tower without saying another word.
Celestia turned her head to watch her go. "Have a good night, sister?" she said, sighing sadly when she didn't get any response. It seemed, lately, that Luna had become more and more distant, her behavior increasingly erratic. She turned back toward the balcony, looking out into the distance again. "Never have I seen such a strange pattern being woven," she said, seemingly to the sky. "There are threads that remain hidden to me. I fear I may not see them until it is too late."
She closed her magenta eyes, focusing her mind on the pattern, watching all of the intricate designs and threads woven into it. The Weaver had been weaving the pattern since the beginning of time—since the moment of creation when The Beyond had been pushed to the edge of the dimensional plain. Uncountable numbers of threads made up the pattern now, but she found the one she was looking for—a very bright blue thread. At several points in the pattern, it crossed paths with a very bright lavender thread. For a time, they ran parallel to each other, like two streams merging together to form an unstoppable river of rushing water. Then, they would split off into separate directions. From time to time, they would converge again only to go their separate ways once more. They were the threads of James and Twilight Sparkle. Right now, they were weaving towards each other again. Soon, they would become one once more, baring something sending one of them off in a different direction. Beyond that, she could not predict what pattern the two threads would weave.
She opened her eyes, took a deep breath, then sighed heavily. So many unknowns, she thought to herself. Other then the fact that she was having difficulty reading the pattern, the increasingly strained relationship with her sister weighed heavily on her heart. It had started several months ago … that day Luna had spent the entire night out, and she had had to lower the moon for her in the morning. Had she been too hard on Luna? Things had been strained ever since. The few times they talked, Luna often found some way to insult her. Such as the verbal barb she had thrown at her yesterday. And then there was her aloof attitude regarding James—at least it seemed aloof anytime she discussed the issue with her—and increasingly erratic behavior, such as what had happened a few minutes ago.
"Please Luna, I can't lose you again … I can't," she said to herself, emotion starting to overcome her. "Please don't be mixed up in this on the wrong side of things." She looked down at the floor now, turmoil tormenting her heart like waves jostling a small boat on the sea.
A small green flame, and a scroll appearing in the air, then falling to the floor of the balcony, interrupted her thoughts. She looked down at it for a moment, then magically picked it up, unrolling it and holding it in front of her:
I have not felt you in so much pain since the time of Luna's banishment, my Princess. My ear, and my cave, are always open to you. Please, tell me how I may help you.
She smiled slightly at the letter. Firewing, the Elder Dragon Ambassador. Ever since he'd met her, he had called her my Princess anytime formal titles were not required. Even though she had told him he could just call her Celestia, he always insisted on my Princess. He said he thought it was a cute name for her. It always made her giggle when he told her that. He would often contact her when he knew she was emotionally down. Ever since the incident where she had burned him with the solar flame, he had been able to feel when she was emotionally distraught, even when the two were separated by vast distances.
The slight smile turned to a frown as she remembered that day. That day Luna was banished to the moon. How she was so distraught, she tried to destroy the Elements of Harmony, blaming them for the fact that her sister was gone. How she had brutally attacked him when he stopped her. And how she had nearly killed him before she came out of her rage and stopped her attack. But despite what she had done to him, he had remained loyal to her. Never was another dragon born with a heart as loyal as his. And never, she was convinced, would there ever be another one.
She rolled the scroll back up, walked inside to her private quarters. Laying down on her bed, she magically retrieved a stack of paper and a quill from her desk and started to write:
Hello, Firewing. Sadly, it is Luna's behavior that troubles me. She's starting to act a little bit like she did before the Nightmare Moon incident.
She frowned again. She hated even thinking that. But she couldn't deny it. She hesitated for a few moments, then rolled up the scroll and magically sent it off with a small burst of golden flame. There were no formalities now as there had been at the Council meeting. No royal seals attached to it. Just communication with a loyal friend.
It wasn't long before another small green flame formed in the air, followed by another scroll falling to the floor in front of her:
Oh, my dear Princess. My heart aches for you. But I don't think she would do that again. I've seen dark times ahead in the pattern, as you have. But I haven't seen any indication in the pattern that Luna is the cause of them, or plays any role for evil in them.
That was reassuring to her at least. She had not seen any indication in the pattern that Luna would be involved with any evil either. But of course, she had not seen it coming before the Nightmare Moon incident either … maybe the signs were there, and she just didn't want to believe them?
There was something else she had to know though. She took another piece of paper and began to write again:
Firewing, please tell me you weren't involved in the attack on my Pegasus Guards and my scientists. Please tell me you didn't authorize it.
She hesitated for a few moments, almost afraid to send it. He couldn't have, could he? Not after everything they had been through together for more than a thousand years? Finally, she rolled it up, and sent it on its way. A response came shortly after:
You know I would never lie to you, my Princess. You also know I would never do anything to hurt you or any of your subjects. Sadly though, I was unable to convince the rest of the Council to turn the attacker over to you. We did find out who he is though. His name is Cinderfang. I banished him from Equestria forever. If he ever comes back to Equestria, I will bring him to you myself. I am sorry, my Princess, that I could not do as you asked.
She nodded slightly to herself. She had half expected that would happen. Firewing might be a good friend, willing to give his own life for her if he had to. But not all of the Elder Dragon Council shared his love for the Princess of Equestria. The fact that he openly told her he had not done as she asked, even knowing the severe consequences she could impose on him and the rest of the Dragon Council, only proved the unbreakable trust they had for each other. She began to compose her response:
That's not entirely unexpected. Thank you for your honesty, and thank you for trying. I won't take any action against the Elder Dragon Council at this time. I know you'll keep your word and bring him to me if he comes back.
Again, she sent the response, and another scroll appeared in the air shortly after:
Thank you for understanding, my Princess. How is your little human doing?
She chuckled and shook her head slightly before writing her response:
I wouldn't exactly call him my little human. But he is doing well. I asked him to join the Royal Council today. Let us hope he accepts.
She sent the scroll away in another small golden flame, noticing she was out of paper. She hadn't expected the conversation to be so long. She magically floated more paper over from her desk as another response came in a small green burst of flame. She unrolled it and began to read:
Everything seems little to a dragon, my Princess … There is another of his kind, my Princess. I saw the thread today, very faint and distant. He is not yet part of the pattern, but he is converging towards it and will soon merge with it. He will play an important role in this as well, although he does not know he is involved yet. But he has already been chosen.
"What!?" She hadn't even realized she said it out loud. So surprised was she by the words she had just read, that she lost the spell holding the scroll in front of her, it fluttered to the floor, like a leaf falling from a tree, landing between her outstretched forelegs. She stared down at the paper, reading the words again, her eyes wide with disbelief …