The abandoned wing of Canterlot Castle greets me like an old friend. The grim-faced courtiers seem to straighten in their paintings as I pass. The brass furnishings strike me as less tarnished than they were previously, though I’m not sure if they seem newer or I feel older. Even the air smells less stuffy; it caresses me gently as I mount the stairs.
Fresh air aside, the wing is still heavy with untold stories. I can feel the secrets in the air, ripe for the picking. My mouth stretches into a grin, and a surge of magic rushes, unbidden, to the fluting of my horn. At the top of the stairs, a similar nexus of arcane energy sings back, drawing me up the remaining steps like a sailor being serenaded to sea.
I feel no trepidation, no worry. The concerns of the last hour are trivial—trivial!—here in this time-forgotten shrine. For a moment, I wonder why (why is the tapestry here, why hasn’t anypony been allowed to study it, who put it here, does Princess Celestia know, what am I doing, why didn’t I go to lunch with Professor Sharp Wit, what am I doing, what am I doing), but the thought is easily dismissed.
It isn’t important, I reaffirm as I step out of the stairwell. It doesn’t matter. I’m not important.
Meadowbrook’s tapestry is waiting for me.
The urgent muttering of dull panic buzzes through the densely-packed length of the Throne Room. Worries and speculations are traded by fearful-eyed refugees, the only currency in a verbal economy yearning for news. Foals huddle against the sides of their parents; an occasional wail rings through the air and is clumsily shushed by a mother half-mad with anxiety.
Some of the townsponies attempt to make light of their plight. Others ignore their shrill laughter, instead staring dully at a threadbare tapestry, a chipped section of moulding, a stranger's disheveled mane—anything but the pair of empty thrones at the head of the room.
With a resounding crack, the double doors to the hall burst open. Ponies scramble out of the way as a small, thoroughly battered regiment of soldiers marches in. They part the crowd with ease; the civilians willingly press up against each other to make room for the Honor Guard—as the insignias engraved upon their scorched breastplates mark them. Every eye is upon the entrance as the elder Champion of Harmony blazes into the room.
She is frowning. Any sign of displeasure, however, is immediately cast aside in favor of a reassuring, confident, triumphant grin. Righteous sunfire burns within her eyes, backing her declaration of victory with royal fury.
"REJOICE IN THIS DAY," she bellows. "FOR IT WAS THE LAST YE SHALT SEE OF THE PRINCE OF CHAOS!"
For the span of a single heartbeat, her words echo through the weary minds of the refugees.
Only for a second, and then the room erupts into rampant celebration. Haggard faces shed the dismay etched into their features; fillies and colts giggle and squeal as their parents whoop and holler and dance around in a manner most unfitting of grown adults. Strangers share kisses and tears, and not a single townspony takes notice of the Moon-Rouser as she skids to a halt a few paces behind her sister.
Nopony observes the speed with which the Dawnbringer's smile slips away, leaving her with the only somber face in a sea of joy. The confrontational tone in the Night Princess' voice falls upon deafened ears; there are no witnesses to the impromptu procession led by the elder Champion of Harmony as she turns her back on her sister and marches to the dais.
"Celestia, thou wilt not deny my—"
The Dawnangel does not climb the steps; she flares her mighty wingspan and clears the stairs with a single flap. Holding her wings aloft, she turns to the dusk-kissed alicorn standing before her.
Anticipating an inspirational address, or perhaps a battle-tale, the ponies nearest the thrones begin to shush each other.
"Princess Luna," the Dawnbringer thunders with the full force of the Royal Canterlot Voice. "You have insisted upon formality after formality, so let it be formality you receive. State your business."
The Moon-Rouser recoils from the Dawnangel's use of the more formal "you" as though slapped. Recovering quickly, she hisses, "Sister, thou knowest what I ask."
The hall has grown very quiet.
"Aye, but Our subjects have yet to hear your request. Speak it, and should it be within Our power to grant, it shall be yours."
The refugees can't help but notice that several of the Dawnbringer's primary feathers are missing. Smudges of ash sully her otherwise-pristine coat, and her violently-rippling mane doesn't quite conceal a jagged scratch running down the side of her neck.
"Fly away with me," the younger sister says.
The Night-Princess' coat glistens in more places than one. Her mane is unnaturally still, frozen in the depths of space, but her eyes are completely and utterly wild. A storm of nightmares thrashes unchecked behind the sapphire-blue of her irises, dreamscapes building themselves up and tearing themselves apart in the span of seconds. It is a feral gaze—mad, and carrying more than a hint of danger.
"Fly away? We have just returned from a lengthy journey," the elder Champion of Harmony says, feigning confusion. "Why would We depart when the feast celebrating Our return has yet to reach the table?"
"Because I ask it of thee." The Moon-Rouser's voice wobbles as it fills the silent spaces of the throne room, but the set of her shoulders speaks of confrontation rather than desperation. "I am thy sister, Celestia, and I would have thee—"
"You would have Us leave Our subjects, aye?" There is no fire in the elder’s words, only icy accusation. "You would have Us desert Equestria when it needs Us most? Abandon the throne, and vanish into the annals of history?"
The Night-Princess is resolute. "Aye."
The Dawn-Angel shakes her glorious head. "We cannot grant you this request," she says.
"Be it not within thy power?" the Moon-Rouser demands hotly. "Thou gavest thy word."
The Golden Princess stamps a hoof upon her throne, sending a concussive bang reverberating through the hall. "Nay," she thunders. "It is not within the power of Our mind to even consider betraying Our subjects thusly. We have been entrusted with the sacred privilege of guarding this land; We shall not forsake it."
"We are sisters, Celly! I ask this as a sister!" The younger Champion of Harmony is losing the remnants of her already-cracked composure; her breath comes irregularly, and her eyes dart to either side of the dais, where silent faces stare back at her with undisguised contempt.
"We are Princesses, Luna," is the simple reply.
"I was thy sister before I wore this crown," the mare snaps, spreading her shadow-dipped wings. "Thou didst play at my side beneath crystal shade-trees for centuries before Equestria claimed thee. And now thou wouldst deny me in mine own hall?"
"Do not ask this of me," the Morning Star warns.
"I already have, Celestia. Takest thy pick: the gold upon thy brow, or the blood in thy veins?"
Duty or family? her eyes demand.
Equestria or me?
Celestia of the Rising Sun does not speak. Seconds become minutes, but she does not move, she does not speak, and she does not look away from her sister's challenging gaze.
The minutes accumulate.
"Answer!" the younger snarls. "Answer, curse thee!"
For a moment, the Morning Star gives no acknowledgment of her sister's demand, but then—slowly, so slowly—she closes her eyes.
"Celly?" Uncertainty lingers in the plea, followed quickly by desperation as the Dreamwalker grasps at straws, sputtering, "Celly, I cannot hold back the—please—we… We can begin anew, the two of us—we shan't need to concern ourselves with, with nightmares, nor subjects, nor—nor—"
"'Tis my destiny, Luna," the Dawnbringer whispers.
Though the delivery be gentle, the sentence falls upon the Dreamwalker's head with the full force of a condemnation. Sensing the moment of judgment has passed, mutters spark and spread like wildfire through the hall as the refugees turn to each other.
The Dreamwalker has tried to steal their Princess. She never did like them, but now she is trying to take away the crown jewel of their country, the light of their lives.
Disbelief, confusion, anger—a myriad of emotion swirls through the room, lacing the townsponies' insults with venom.
"Dawn-thief," they hiss.
Their target spins about, eyes darting across the crowd in an attempt to pinpoint the accusers, but the effort is futile—they are all hostile. "No," she breathes.
The mare upon the golden throne is silent.
The crowd has abandoned any pretense of restraint.
With a scream that could be either anguish or fury, the Princess of the Night tosses her head and takes off down the hall. Her horn glows as white as the barren craters of the moon, the air around her shimmering. As her hoof strikes the ground, every scrap of shadow in the room rushes to meet her silver shoe, blacking out the hall for the span of a blink.
Merely a blink, and then the Darkangel is gone.
I heard there was a mournful tune
The sun would whisper to the moon
But you don't really care for legends, do you?
Lend me your ear, I'll sing it here
A lowered head, a sparkling tear
The sorrowed sister searching
for her Luna
For her Luna
For her Luna
The sun’s harmony, encased in stone
A duet can’t be—
1) I am in a tower
2) It is not the tower
3) Twilight Sparkle is staring at me groggily from her bed
4) I am in her tower?
5) It’s dark outside
6) She’s waiting for me to respond
“Hi,” I squeak.
Twilight rubs her eyes. “What are you doing here? Is everything okay?”
“It’s fine, we’re just—I…” I take a deep breath and try to piece my memories together. They’re nothing but a jumbled mess of princesses and page numbers—I have no recollection whatsoever of making my way from the castle to Twilight’s tower.
I can’t keep this to myself any longer. I think, looking down at my hooves. Even in the near-darkness, I can tell they’re covered in dust and grime. “I guess I’m here to tell you something.”
She frowns, glancing at the baby dragon slumbering peacefully in his bassinet. “It’s kind of late, are you sure it can’t wait until—”
“It’s about Meadowbrook,” I say, and that’s all it takes to get her rolling out of bed. She touches down on the floor with a light tap, then leads me over to her study area.
After alighting her lamps and filling the room with a soft golden glow, she turns to me. “Did you find something in Historian?”
I open my mouth to tell her about the spell, then falter. You can still solve it yourself, something inside me whispers. You just need her help sorting out the pieces.
Instead, I begin, “I… I found a hidden story… About the Royal Pony Sisters, a really long time ago…”
“Really?” Twilight whispers eagerly, Meadowbrook completely forgotten. “About how they came to Equestria? How they took control of the sun and the moon? Or maybe where they disappeared to? That part’s always been pretty vague,” she mutters, half to herself.
“Not exactly,” I reply, fidgeting. “Look, the sisters are there, and the older one—the one that controlled the sun—”
“Her Highness, the Sol Aeterna,” Twilight supplies primly.
I try to keep from screaming. Instead, I take the deepest breath of my entire life and let it out slowly.
“I think something terrible happened to the younger sister. No—I think she did something terrible,” I clarify. “She kept coming to her sister’s court and asking for all these things and her sister kept giving them to her but she kept acting weirder and weirder and eventually all of their subjects turned on her and I just—” I pause to take a gasp of air. “I just think she wound up doing something terrible. And I can’t find anything in any of the archives about when the Sisters left the thrones, or why we only have one Princess now, or anything.”
Silence falls between us as Twilight mulls over the information. Her horn briefly lights up, to no visible effect, so I presume it’s a time charm.
At last, she speaks, “Well, I haven’t really read much about the Royal Pony Sisters—except for our nursery tales in magic kindergarten, of course—but I can try to find the storybook.”
She pauses to eye the bookshelves around us—each of them overflowing with tomes of all sorts. “Er, I should probably take a look at Historian, too, but it might take a while to find that collection of nursery tales, and it’s pretty late…”
She looks over her shoulder, likely back at her bed. I take the hint and nod vigorously.
“Okay, well, we can meet first thing in the morning. I need to go get my notes in order anyway.” After I find them, that is. “So, how about we meet in the morning in the gardens? You can bring the nursery book and I’ll bring Historian and I can show you the… The story. Thing.”
She yawns as she nods, and in no time at all I am staring at the outside of her closed tower door.
I wander around aimlessly for a bit, cross-crossing through empty moonlit courtyards and abandoned hedges. My thoughts weave in and out of lucidity, blurring and fading into the landscapes I drift through.
At last, I realize that I haven’t moved in some time—the shadows around me remain oddly stationary. With a shake of my head, the blurry shapes solidify into a familiar wall hanging. A shaft of moonlight illuminates the younger sister’s head like a halo.
I sink back into the carpet, and for the remainder of the night, I am unable to tear my gaze from the Darkangel’s solemn head.
The sun’s harmony, encased in stone
A duet can’t be sung alone
The morning has left me here, without you
And as the stars pull you away,
The melody in your shadow stays
I’ll serenade the silence
Left by Luna
Left by Luna
Left by Luna
I come to awareness quite easily: one moment I am drifting along in the currents of some indiscernible dreamscape, and the next I am sitting upright, calmly writing in my notebook.
no decisive text identifying Princess Celestia as being one of the famed Royal Pony Sisters, there exists no evidence to the contrary. Indeed, when one begins to attempt to pinpoint the moment Her Highness’ reign began, the documents invariably begin clouding the idea that she ever took the throne at all—there are no records of a coronation in the past eight hundred years, perhaps longer. Though skepticism abounds as to the actual existence of the Royal Pony Sisters themselves (Sharp Quill, 945), new information gleaned from a copy of the journal of Mage Meadowbrook points to the contrary: the Royal Pony Sisters lived as surely as you or I..
Locked away in a third-order memory holding spell (the likes of which will be further analyzed and discussed at a later date), a dream-like vision holds the key to finally understanding one of the most enigmatic periods of Equestrian history: the elder Royal Pony Sister is none other than Princess Celestia herself.
I blink, then shuffle back through the pages of my notebook. Page after page of perfect penmanship meets my gaze, the tightly-packed words cramped but still evenly spaced and completely legible. I can feel the rest of the essay hanging in my mind, the next word patiently waiting to be scribed into being, but the sky outside is clearly bright now, the last of the night swept back at last. I’m due to meet Twilight within the hour.
Pulling my thoroughly-soiled saddlebag over, I slide in my notes and Historian. I glance at the tapestry before I leave, even brush a hoof over it tentatively, but it remains deceptively mundane—a mere wall decoration, at last.
Shrugging, I trot back down the spiral staircase, and then freeze. At the end of the corridor, just beyond the door leading back outside, a mare in a cloth apron stands with a feather duster in her mouth. Back and forth she moves, dusting the neglect from the pictures and shelves without a second glance for the antiquities she reveals.
The hall almost seems to breathe in her wake. History comes alive behind her—no longer are the paintings and candelabras mere artifacts of some distant, untouchable past. They are real, as real as they were the day they came into the Princess’ possession.
I shrink back reflexively as the mare works her way closer to the stairwell. My eyes dart between her and the door leading outside, but there are no hiding spots to break up the hurried dash to escape, and there’s no way she wouldn’t spot me if I tried to make a break for it.
And then there would be guards and questions and they might… they might steal my research.
Suppressing a hiss, I carefully creep back up the stairs. The embroidered Royal Pony Sisters watch, uninterested, as I whirl about, searching for any possible exit. At the far end of the corridor, an ajar window catches my eye—likely one of the reasons the air isn’t quite so stuffy anymore. I trot over to it quickly.
Luckily, the window is just large enough for me to squeeze through, and the ledge below it is wide enough that a smallish mare could tiphoof along, provided she was desperate enough.
I am desperate enough.
1) Escape via window
The window’s hinges creak softly as I push the pane all the way open. After a tug on my saddlebag to ensure it’s snug against my barrel, I heft myself up and carefully reach a hoof down to graze against the ledge.
One hoof, then another, then another, and soon enough all four are resting (somewhat) securely upon the narrow stone lip.
2) Get down before being spotted
I warily glance around, checking for any suspicious eyes, but the window seems to be overlooking some sort of garden, because all I can see is a forest of greenery stretching out before me. To either side, the walls stretch out—presumably circling around the garden—but the space before me possesses a serene sort of quiet beauty.
Spotting a hoofhold that looks like it could reliably bear my weight, I begin shuffling over to the connecting wall. I don’t make it very far.
My tail snags against the window—whether on the hinge, the latch, or some errant crevice in the sill, I don’t know. What I do know is that the sudden jerk backwards catches me completely off guard, and instead of compensating I wind up recoiling violently, accidentally throwing myself off the ledge and into the empty space beside me.
3) Get up
Groaning, I pull myself out of the bush that saved my life, brushing a stray caterpillar out of my mane. Some gardener is going to have a fit when he sees the crushed remains of his prized hydrangeas, but I tell myself that the sacrifice will be worth it. I just have to put the pieces of the puzzle together.
4) What happened to the younger Pony Sister
4) Get out of the garden
It only takes a few minutes of tromping about aimlessly before I find a flagstone path. I follow it, winding through the shadowed, perfectly-manicured space with increasing urgency. Despite being in a hurry, though, (and despite the fact that I am undoubtedly trespassing) I can’t help but gape in awe at the landscaping around me.
This garden doesn’t feel like the Royal Gardens. The greens are too deep, the wildlife too subdued, the path too erratic and winding. The few flowers I manage to spot are pale and ghostly, peeking out from the shadows with glowing faces. The entire place is odd, almost otherworldly. Something inside of me is repulsed.
But something else is utterly at peace here. Perhaps it has something to do with being haunted by the enchanted song. The eerie silence is a balm to my frayed nerves, and I almost don’t notice when my steps falter, slowing my escape and allowing me to linger in this dreamlike place.
And then I see it.
Rounding yet another twisted corner, I stumble upon a life-sized statue so exquisitely carved that I initially mistake it to be a real pony.
A real princess.
She stands taller than me—maybe even as tall as Princess Celestia, with a mane that seems to flow even when stone-still. Her eyes are closed—carved lashes resting against stone cheeks—but her delicate face is upturned, as though she were bathing her face in the moonlight.
A trickle of sunshine slips in through the trees, but something in me instinctively knows that this isn’t a mare of the day. Could it be the younger Pony Sister? The tiara upon her brow is certainly angular enough; its jagged asymmetrical peaks are somewhat sinister. It could be the Diadem of Shadows that Princess Celestia made for her sister.
Suddenly, I feel like an intruder. The sorrow etched into the statue’s face is real, too real, and the entire garden is a scene I have no right to witness. There’s no reasonable explanation for why I suddenly know Princess Celestia made this garden for her sister, but I do, and I also know I shouldn’t be here.
I turn on my hooves then and there and flee, leaving the sanctuary of dreams behind me.
I walk a bit faster. I’m supposed to be meeting Twilight in the public gardens any minute now.
I grit my teeth. What do they want?
Minuette appears in front of me without warning and I charge into her, bowling the both of us over.
“Gosh, girl,” she says with half a giggle. “Somepony’s got blinders on. Where’re you headed?”
I brush myself off, but don’t bother with trying to dust the saddlebag clean. It’s a lost cause at this point.
“I’m heading to see Twilight,” I mutter, peeking inside to make sure my notes and Historian are safe and sound.
“Ooh, no need!” Minuette chirps. “We’re planning on picking her up next. We just needed to get you first, since you still have a lot to do.”
I stare at her. “What are you talking about?”
She grabs the strap of my bag and begins tugging me away from the public gardens, back towards the School.
“Where are we going?” I demand, frowning.
Minuette laughs. “You’re going to get a bath, silly. You can’t show up smelling like— like—” She wrinkles her nose. “Like a dead potato.”
Nothing she’s saying makes any sense. “A what?”
“Like, you stink, but in an earthy, old kind of way. Is that a twig in your hair?”
I pull it out angrily and throw it to the side. “Look, Minuette, I don’t want to be rude but I’m in the middle of something extremely important—”
“Like getting ready for your birthday party?” she asks, grinning. “Come on, research can wait until tomorrow. You don’t want to let all that hard planning we did go to waste, do you?” She bats her eyelashes at me, wagging her brows playfully.
My birthday party
I frantically try to tally up the days within my head, to piece together sunrises and sunsets into some sort of chronological account of how many days I’ve spent lost in the tapestry. I try, but to no avail. The consequence of my temporal unhinging stares me in the face, unforgiving and remorseless:
I have to attend my birthday party.
Twilight will be there, goes my recitation, as I begrudgingly prepare for what has the potential to be an outstanding waste of time—time that I could otherwise dedicate to researching the fate of the younger Royal Pony Sister.
1) Rites of Ascension: the story of how Princess Celestia took the throne should mention her sister, right?
2) Statuary: somepony had to have carved that statue in the secret garden
3) Sweet Treats Bakery on Azalea Street: I’m kind of hungry
4) Royal expense records: How many of those do we have? Maybe the Princess is keeping her sister in a distant land and occasionally sends bits to her?
The last idea captivates me almost immediately—I nearly jump out of the bathtub then and there to gallop down to the archives, but in my excitement I accidentally get some shampoo in my eyes. The resulting stinging sensation is enough to convince me that staying put is a better idea.
Besides, Twilight will be at the party. She’ll be sure to know something. She’ll have something figured out.
The stab of white-hot jealousy in my stomach confirms it. How could Twilight not figure it out?
She still won’t have cast Meadowbrook’s spell, my pride hisses enticingly.
Oh. That’s another thing to do. I let out a groan as I towel myself off. Meadowbrook. Meadowbrook and the story he left within a forgotten spell.
Stories upon legends upon histories.
Once upon a time, there were two sisters who ruled from thrones in a torchlit room.
I throw on the cleanest-smelling sweater I can find and begin to pull a wide-toothed comb through my mane.
One day, the younger sought proof that she was a princess. So at her request, the elder fashioned a tiara made of shadows and silence—the closest things to light and song that she could touch. And the younger was satisfied, and she went on her way.
I decide to brush my teeth. Don’t want to scare away historical progress with bad breath.
Once upon a time, there were two princesses who ruled from different seats in the same hall.
After scrutinizing myself in the mirror, I stuff my saddlebags beneath my mattress and head into the hallway. If I get to the party early, maybe Twilight and I can discuss what she found in the nursery book—we might even be able to squeeze in a quick trip to the library before the cake is cut!
One day, the night-princess sought proof that she was powerful. So at her request, the elder lowered her sun, so that the moon might outshine it for a few months out of the year. And the younger was satisfied, and she went on her way.
My hoofsteps ring in impatient harmony as I trot towards the gardens, where my party awaits. Where future academic glory awaits. Where the answers to this mystery are sure to be.
Where Twilight is.
Once upon a time, there were two ponies who risked peril and madness to preserve the sanity of their country.
The air in the garden is fresh and invigorating. It lends a spring to my step, a tilt to my chin, a hopefulness to my eyes as I follow the trail of balloons leading toward the party. My party.
Just ahead, Minuette and Lemon Hearts appear, with Twinkleshine and Lyra hot on their hooves. All of them wear smiles and party hats. I quickly scan the rest of the setup—there’s the cakes they were talking about, and a Pin-the-Tail-on-the-Princess poster, and loads of presents—but I don’t see Twilight anywhere.
“Is Twilight going to be a bit late or something?” I ask hopefully.
One day, the younger sister sought proof that she was loved. But no matter how she begged, the elder refused to run away with her to the land of dreams.
Twinkleshine fidgets, regret and discomfort written plain on her face. “She’s not coming. Says she’s too busy.”
A hundred questions leap to my mind. Thousands of interjections and expressions of disbelief fight for purchase upon my lips. There are a million things I want to say, need to say, but all I manage is a very soft, “Oh.”
And so the younger sister, rejected at last, gave in to despair and was lost forever.