Rites of Ascension

by CvBrony

Shattered Doorway, Opened Mirror

Twilight Sparkle's vision was excellent, despite what most ponies would believe of a mare who spends whole nights reading in the dark. She had no need for corrective glasses, even though Rarity insisted she should start wearing them as a fashion accessory. When she last had her eyes tested, the nurse had to ask if she had pegasus in her lineage, to which she insisted she was a pure unicorn.

She truly hated the term "pure unicorn", though. Many of the Canterlot elites put a lot of stock in being purebred unicorn, as if having earth pony or pegasus blood would make them somehow inferior. It was the same kind of isolationist attitude that the Hearth's Warming Tale warned against. Regardless, the fact remained that as far back as her family could trace, she was indeed a pure unicorn, with no hint of the other races. At least, until now.

Moreover, alicorns had all the best attributes of all the races, so it stood to reason that her eyes were not failing her, and that the extreme darkness she was currently seeing was, in fact, an accurate representation of the world around her. Even lighting her horn produced no illumination, as if the very air existed to extinguish all light.

Even more curious was the voice in the darkness. This voice wasn't arriving in her mind through her ears. She could hear it just like her own internal monologue, but she had no control over it. It was talking of a dead pony and blood on bricks, along with a solemn monologue on the futility of life. The prose was alarmingly horrific, but well written. Yet, despite the disturbing imagery now dancing in her head, her ears themselves said there was as little to hear as there was to see.

Two of her other senses were reporting completely contradictory things to what her hearing and sight were sensing. Her nose was actively calling her ears and eyes crazy, because it was able to detect nothing but the smell of old books, which was quite plainly the most comforting and awesome smell in all of existence. Therefore, her sense of sight and hearing were plainly just not doing their jobs. In addition, touch was going on and on about the smooth cloth on her body, mainly how it was restricting her movements to subtle turns. So logically, there had to be something there, her eyes were damn liars, and her ears were no better.

Adding all of this up to explain her current circumstance was a challenge, but remembering the last thing she saw before her sleep let her put all the pieces of the puzzle together. Insulting the princess, the loud voice she used at her, the utter darkness, the maddening words in her mind, the constricted movements and smell of old books. Yes, there was an obvious solution here.

Clearly, Princess Celestia had been so angry at her for her outburst that she took away her eyesight, bound her up, and banished her to a dimension of lost, unholy books and ancient demons where she would be feasted upon every night as a sacrifice to an entity of such horror that it was beyond her feeble comprehension. If there was ever a justified time to have a screaming freakout, this was it. Ready, voice? Ready, limbs? OK!

Twilight Sparkle jolted awake and gave a scream that seemed far beyond the capabilities of such a small mare. Lungs depleted, she filled them again and resumed screaming while her limbs did their thing trying to free her from whatever ingenious torture trap Celestia must have ensnared her in, giving no thought to the process because obviously she was doomed and would never escape. The odd voice talking ominously in her head must have known her, because it was now calling her name over and over, probably to boast of her eternal damnation.

After what seemed like an eternity wrapped into a mere moment, her eyes started reporting back in as a blue light lit up her senses, revealing an unfamiliar room and a very familiar face telling her something also familiar instead of a thousand mind-destroying blasphemies in a daemonic tongue. It was Princess Luna, illogically trying to calm her down. Couldn't she see she was busy being banished in a realm of pure evil? Now wasn't the time to calm down! It was perfectly appropriate to panic when in an alternate dimension of purest, unknowable terror.

Oh, now she was shaking her with magic. That's just rude to do to somepony freaking out for a legitimate reason! The best thing to do for this is to scream louder! Wait, now her mouth was closed with magic. Wonderful. Well, maybe she should at least give Luna a moment of quiet to explain why she was trying to put the brakes on her carefully thought out and totally reasonable plan of action.

"Twilight Sparkle, thou art hale! We- I'm doing it again- I took you to my room. You are in my room! Safe!"

Now that definitely didn't make any sense. How could Princess Luna's room be another dimen—Oh, well, now she just felt silly. Fortunately Luna was loosening the grip on her mouth so she could explain this in a calm and logical manner.


Whoops, muzzle again. Now she was really going to get it.

"Twilight Sparkle, it's okay! We're not mad at you. Relax. I brought you here because Tia was worried your tower might not be secure enough. You're safe. Now, have you calmed down?"

Twilight genuinely reflected on the question. Limbs? Not flailing. Horn? Not glowing with uncontrolled magic. Breathing? Heart rate? Steadily decreasing. Could she answer yes? What if she was wrong, and she wasn't calm, and that would only make it worse and she'd be banished for Oh stop doing that to me brain! she screamed in what she hoped was her head.

Taking two more deep breaths, she finally nodded, and Luna released her magic hold on her.

Luna exhaled deeply, too. "I'm glad. Please, stay here a moment. I need to make sure the guards aren't telling Celestia that Nightmare Moon is back or some such nonsense. I'll just be a minute, okay?"

Twilight nodded, not trusting her mouth to not scream again. If she had any other mouths to use it might be given a stern talking to. For now, she was content to breathe a little and look around the room while Luna ran out the door after the guards. She had never seen the inside of Luna's room. It was even more private for Luna than Celestia's room was for her. She felt honored just to be here, but at the same time felt some unease at what her eyes were reporting.

The interior design of the room was completely different from the rest of the palace. There was no gold or silver or bright colors. All the furniture was jet black, but far more ornate than she would have first guessed. The black color hid the sharp corners, spikes, and intricate designs carved into the wood. While not exactly homey, the artistic talent behind it was indisputable, especially highlighted in the moonlight. There was even a drape-covered archway to what she guessed was the closet, with a surrounding façade that made it seem more like the entrance to some underground cult meeting place.

The bed was strange, too. It was higher, firmer, and larger than Celestia's overglorified (but extremely comfortable) cushion, and the sheets underneath the dark purple blanket were the only white things in the entire room. Well, that wasn't quite true. There were eerie blue-white candles in the room that made it hard to tell for certain, but what little she could see of the walls was white, as was the ceiling. The walls, though, were almost entirely covered in bookshelves and other furniture, and each shelf was filled to overflowing with books. OK, maybe she could like this room after all. Luna was obviously as much a fan of books as she was.

Even the balcony and floor were different, with a dark gray stone making up their entirety. There was no paint or intricacy there, just flat gray stone. She could almost feel its chill without touching it. Near the balcony was a large black desk she wouldn't dare touch, though it was overflowing with papers that just cried out to be organized. It had an artistic design it shared with the rest of the furniture, but didn't look especially comfortable. Other items crowded the desk too. Ancient inkwells, a drawing compass, balls of string and rubber bands, even an abacus sat on the desk in a manner looking as if it had all been deliberately placed there to look as haphazard as possible. Her eye twitched a bit as she battled a nearly overwhelming need to organize.

The last piece of furniture was a pair of nightstands by the circular bed. The one on her right had a blown-out candle and an open book. Wait, not a candle… She sniffed at it to test its scent and confirm her suspicion. It was indeed an anti-candle! It would figure that the Princess of the Night would use something meant to siphon the light and sound from a room. How she could read with it was another matter, but at least it explained why she wasn't able to see or hear. Luna must've been using a projection spell to read to her, hence the "voices" in her head.

Speaking of, just what unholy thing was the princess reading? She turned her attention to the book laid open next to her, lifting it in a telekinetic grasp and turning it over to peek at the cover. Was Luna harboring some dark secret of favors owed to unspeakable deities for—oh, it was a noir crime novel. She chastised herself aloud for even thinking of such absurdities.

"Dear Princess Celestia,

Today I learned that I cannot stop imagining sinister motives. Clearly, I need to be institutionalized. Please have the nice ponies in white coats waiting for me at the door.

Your crazed student,
Twilight Sparkle"

"You're not crazed, Twilight Sparkle. Just overtired."

Twilight's head snapped to the left in the panic. Either Luna had managed to enter the room completely silently, even when closing the door behind her, or her ears were indeed damn liars. "Sorry, Princess. This whole thing is just… sorry."

Luna moved to the side of her bed to stand over her guest. "Its fine, Twilight. Tia and I can both understand what you're going through. We ascended too, after all.”

“Thanks, Princess.”

“Please, call me ‘Luna’. We aren’t so different anymore, are we?”

The mare twitched a bit under the covers. Luna had insisted on this before, but it was still hard to drop the honorific. What was even more uncomfortable, though, was not lowering Luna’s status, but dropping the honorific to elevate her own.

“Okay… Luna. That’s going to take getting used to. And I really can’t believe I slept an entire day…”

Luna smiled, showing a hint of the same kind of pride Celestia expressed. "Ah, that. My balcony always looks thus. It's really only eleven in the morning, which is after my normal bedtime, but it matters not. Alicorns have no need for sleep."

“Celestia told me. That’s honestly something about this I’m not going to mind. She also said you would be training me?”

“Indeed! I’m betting that my sister is also rather jealous about me getting to teach you your first alicorn spells, which only makes me happier to oblige.”

Twilight managed to choke and cough despite not having anything in her throat. “Alicorn magic!?”

Luna laughed. “Of course! Were this unicorn magic, you could probably figure it out with a book. But I’m going to teach you spells only we alicorns can do, and that includes battle magic. The spells at my command have sent Celestia's armies stampeding over themselves in retreat! When we're done, we— I promise, you will not fear the assailants Celestia showed you any longer. They will fear you."

"But... I don't want anypony to fear me... I'm not..."

"A monster?"

Twilight hadn't said it, and somehow she still wished she hadn't, but somehow Luna knew what she was going to say and it was a mistake all the same.

"Twilight, look," Luna said, dejected. "If my sister and I were to fight, really fight, without holding anything back... Tia would win. She always would have. Nightmare Moon wasn't even a match for her. Yet the ponies adore her, and fear Nightmare Moon. Luna is winning them over, slowly, but it should be plain to see that having power and being feared need not go hand in hand, as long as you use your power responsibly. Do you understand?"

Twilight nodded, not wanting to interrupt again as another hoof might occupy her mouth, and it was already crowded in there.

"Now, to your next inevitable question. 'If she's stronger, why doesn't she train me?'"

"Actually," Twilight interrupted, and then again yelled at herself in her head to stop doing that. "I was wondering how you were able to read while using an anti-candle."

"…Oh. As the alicorn of the night, I can see perfectly even in pure darkness. I also find darkness comforting. You weren't thinking I wasn't good enough to teach you because my sister is stronger?"

"No, of course not! I'd be honored to be your student!"

"Hmm… Well, that ruins the conversation plan I had. Could you… ask it anyway?"

If Twilight's head tilted anymore she'd be sideways, it would also be an accurate representation of what her nerves were doing to her stomach. "You want me to insult you with that question?"

The grin on Luna's face was almost surreal. "Please!"

She really didn't want to, but it was still a request from a Princess. "OK. Luna, wouldn't it be better for Princess Celestia to teach me if she's stronger than you?" Her voice had just a hint of her signature squeak at the end.

Luna clapped her hooves a little and answered with volume just short of the Royal Canterlot Voice. "AHA! But you see, Twilight Sparkle! It is I who have the skills you need! Power is not everything! … Too loud?"

"A little." She was definitely squeaking there.

"Ah, sorry. You see, Twilight, my sister is a bit of a one-trick pony when it comes to fighting. She only knows one move, and that's overwhelming force. I have nothing that can match her Sol Invictus spell in power, but that spell tends to vaporize everything in an extremely wide radius, even our beloved ponies.

"My spells, however, can wound or disable without killing, or can render armies asunder, or anything in between. I'm more flexible, you could say. It's something you'll need as Grand Mage. Which leads us to the other part of our plan. You recall how we said you need more experience to be able to take on the crown if need be, correct?"

Twilight nodded. No interrupting this time, mouth! I mean it!

"Well, that's what being Grand Mage is for. To give you experience, but in a more controlled manner than just waiting for something to happen. And trust me, if we just wait, something will happen. It’s the nature of ascendancy. Rather, we'll be picking specific missions for you. Ones that we feel will push your limits, but not be beyond you either. At the same time, this will also get ponies used to you having the authority of the throne. And, I know this must be disturbing for you, but this includes the use of lethal force. If you really feel it's needed, we permit you to use it. Sadly, there will be times where you may need it."

Twilight couldn’t quite comprehend that. She had a means of attack with her magic, sure, but lethal force? “Is that really necessary? I really don’t want to do that, Princess. It goes against everything Celestia taught me. There ought to be a way to—”

This time Luna interrupted. “I understand your concern, Twilight. Believe me. But, we trust you. We know you’d never do it unless you had absolutely no other choice. If we didn’t feel this way, we wouldn’t be giving you this responsibility.”

A connection clicked in Twilight’s mind. “No choice. One hundred thousand…”


“Princess Celestia told me she had to kill a hundred thousand in her battles with Discord. She said her own ponies sacrificed themselves. If we have that instinct—”

“It’s very hard, Twilight. And the overall death toll was far, far greater. But these are the decisions that fate thrusts upon us. Kill some so that others may live, or hold back and watch more die later. I wish you would never have to make this choice, but I know you will. When you do, go to your friends, or to us. Trust me.”

“That’s rather foreboding.”

“As it should be, but I’ll do my best to give you all the tools I can to avoid it as much as possible. So will Tia. Oh! That reminds me.” Twilight’s neck practically got sore from the mood whiplash thanks to Luna’s reappearing smile. “The next time it’s just we alicorns, call Celestia ‘Tia’ or ‘Celly’. I really want to see her reaction!”

Twilight’s brain was screaming at all the world-bending ideas being thrown at her. “I can’t do that! She’s the princess! I’d get banish—”

“She’s not going to banish you, Twilight. She loves you like a daughter. So no more of this talk.”

It was comforting to hear that, even if she’d always sort of known it. “I understand, Pri— Luna.”

“Good!” The pri— Luna took a few steps towards her with another huge grin, until she was right in her face.

“I’m going to get hugged again, aren’t I?”

She was.

Just being clean from a shower was a remarkably refreshing experience after all the emotion of the previous night. With any luck, food will prove equally restoring. She accompanied Luna into the mess hall, where lunch was already beginning by the smell of things.

The sight of the mess hall was always a bit jarring, since it was much more spartan than the dining room or even the rest of the castle. It was meant to serve everypony working in the castle rather than the princesses, but Twilight usually found it a better option to get food. When one ordered food with the princess, it took forever while the chefs made sure everything was “just right”. When she went to the mess hall, she could get what everypony else was eating in less than three minutes. Since she hadn’t eaten in well over a day, food in three minutes was definitely preferable.

“Howdy Twilight! Howdy Princess!” a familiar voice rang out.

“Applejack! There you are! I was worried about you!” Twilight lied. She’d never, ever admit it, but with all that had happened she hadn’t been thinking much about Applejack.

“Aww, shoot Twi. No need ta worry ‘bout little ol’ me! I got a nice little gig here in the kitchens ta keep me busy. What’cha need?”

“How about another food fight?” Luna interjected with a smile.

“Another food fight? Applejack, what did you do?” Twilight glared at her.

“Nothin’!” Applejack was still the worst liar ever.

“Ugh! Fine! I don’t want to know, just—” she levitated a tray over to her. “—put edibles on this. lots of them.”

“… Okay.” Applejack began loading the tray, weighing it down in steps with additional foodstuffs. A pair of apple fritters. A daffodil sandwich. An orange. When Applejack looked at her in a pause, her stomach did the talking for her in a loud growl.

Three donuts. An alicorn-sized glass of iced tea. A walnut salad. Four carrots.

She raised her right eyebrow. Not cutting it, AJ.

Applejack looked around nervously before diving under the counter and pulling out a veggie pot pie, complete with hay bacon strips. Twilight hit the whole assortment of foodstuffs with a telekinetic field and levitated it all around. “Now we’re talkin’!”

“Uh, Twi, are you okay?”

“No, I’m hungry. I’m going to go ‘borrow’ the Princess’s dining room; she doesn’t usually eat there anyway. Have the guards get Spike, then I want the three of you to meet me in there. We need to talk. After I ingest at least seventy percent of this.”

Applejack looked over to Luna, who simply nodded with her trademark playful smile. “Okay then. You sure yer okay, other than the hungry?”

Twilight was already walking right out of the mess hall while eating an apple fritter noisily. “Mm okey! Dn-ng rmm!”

For the first time in a good long while, Applejack’s face showed a hint of real fear. “Is she gonna eat me if I go in there?”

Luna winked at her. “Bring a dessert offering, just in case.”

Prince Shining Armor, Captain of the Royal Guard, stared at the giant map on the back wall of the War Room, eyes going over the troop movements again for the fiftieth time. The gryphons to the North seemed to be getting antsy, moving their soldiers around faster than the scout pegasi could keep pace. Worse, one division of troops seemed to be getting lost lately and deploying in the wrong areas. Some drift was always expected, but this was too much to be coincidence.

Shining sighed, looking down at the ground. “General Towers, what are your soldiers doing? Such a lack of discipline in your ranks isn’t like you.”

“Interesting times, Your Majesty.” Shining turned to see Intelligentsia with a bundle of papers in telekinetic tow.

“Very interesting,” he replied. “None of this seems right. We’re missing something huge here, I just know it.”

“I’ve been trying to figure it out, too. Can I show you something on the table?” She waggled the bundle of parchment behind her in her magic.

“Of course.”

The two moved over to a large, long, backlit table in the center of the corridor, and Intelligentsia unfurled the documents all over it. Included in the bundle was a single, large map.

“I’ve been going over the troop movement reports and other sets of data. There are some definite irregularities I need to point out.” She put her forehooves on the map and traced out a path from troop cluster to troop cluster. “What do you find odd about these groups?”

Shining eyed the map carefully, looking for any irregularity without success. Intelligentsia was an expert here, so if she saw something, he must be missing it. “Well, they aren’t quite where they’re supposed to be, but I knew that already. Towers is losing his touch.”

“I’m not so sure the rich old coot is senile just yet.”

A nervous new voice joined the conversation. “Excuse me, Prince Armor?”

The two turned to see a young-looking pegasus stallion in private’s armor.

“This had better be important, Private.” Intelligentsia’s curt manner was justified. Privates didn’t just barge into a conversation between a prince and a lieutenant without a very good reason.

“It is, ma’am. At least I think it is, I mean—”


“Yes ma’am! The Bellerophon is requesting permission to dock at Canterlot’s civilian airship pier!”

The Prince and Lieutenant turned to each other quickly before turning back.

“Care to repeat that, private?” Shining asked.

“Er, yes sir! The Bellerophon is requesting—”

“Permission to dock at Canterlot’s civilian airship pier. That’s what I thought.” Shining said, finishing the sentence for the private. “What in the name of Celestia is it doing out? It’s top secret and not even scheduled for completion for another four months! I know I didn’t sign an order for an engine shakedown; did the princesses?”

“Not that I know of, Your Majesty. That why the dockmaster sent me to get you,” the private replied.

“How far out is it?” Shining asked, his voice starting to show real worry despite his royal training to keep it steady for his subjects.

“Er, about fifteen minutes by now. Maybe less.”

“Sir!” Intelligentsia interjected. “We should have them keep their distance for now. Something really isn’t right here.”

“Agreed.” Shining’s voice grew deeper as his worries escalated. “Relay that order on the double, private. Don’t let it close yet. Make up something if they ask why. I’ll be there in a bit. That’s a Royal Order, understood?”

“Yes sir!” The pegasus saluted and sped off with his wings spread.

“There’s more, sir,” Intelligentsia continued. “The troop stations, look at this.” She picked up a pen with her magic and drew lines in between them. “Take a closer look at the distances between Towers’ troops.”

Shining examined the map for a moment to be sure of his conclusion. “They’re the same. Perfectly evenly spread out.”

“Now in what universe should troop movements in regions with inaccurate maps causing natural drift would you expect sixteen different troop stations to be flawlessly evenly spread? There should be some variation here.”

“You’re right, this is strange.”

“It gets worse.” She levitated additional papers over and in front of him, hanging in the air. “I catalogued the variances for all our troops in the field. For every report for the last six weeks I wrote down the distance between their intended destination and where they reported ending up. Notice anything?”

Shining pored over the numbers, but no pattern in the huge dataset was revealed to his eyes. “Sorry, Gen, nothing that I can see.”

“Oh?” Another paper levitated over. “Take a look at the numbers with only Towers’ soldiers reporting.”

The difference was immediately obvious. “They’re all even numbers! Every single one!”

“I asked one of our math whiz guys downstairs what the odds of this were. He said it’d be more likely for Celestia to sprout tentacles and ban all sweets from Equestria. It’s utterly impossible.”

“Towers fed us bad information? I’d like to think this is just rounding, but… wait a moment.” Shining put his front hooves up on the edge of the map table and used his magic to clear all the marks of Towers’ troops off the map. “Gen, do you have the data on the gryphons’ movements over the last six weeks?”

“Right here,” she said, lifting a new paper over.

Shining’s head moved back and forth between the paper and the map. He couldn’t read as fast as his sister, but he wasn’t a slouch either. Dots appeared on the map in different colors representing gryphon movements, but he didn’t even need to finish plotting the data before he realized what was going on and collapsed down to his haunches.

“The gryphons weren’t responding oddly to our deployments. They were moving around and in because our troops weren’t there at all!” He shot to his hooves like a stallion possessed and ran down the corridor to get a bit closer to the other ponies. He’d only practiced the Royal Canterlot Voice a few times before; he never thought he’d truly need it.

“Attention! Code black! The castle is under attack! All personnel, scramble! Defend the castle and the princesses at all costs! Code black! Scramble, scram—!”

A muffled rumble and momentary rocking motion interrupted him and had all the non-airborne ponies focusing on their balance for a moment before dutifully carrying out the scramble, rushing outside the war room to protect the castle.

Intelligentsia ran up behind Shining Armor, fear now in her eyes. “Was that…”

Prince Armor’s deep voice reverberated through the officer’s ears.

“It’s a coup.”

"Ugh.... So.... Full..."

"I was wondering whether a fast growing alicorn would need more calories. Looks like I was at least a little right."

Luna's scientific observations were not helping the groaning alicorn newbie. Twilight rolled over on the large cushion where Celestia usually sat and struggled to contain her stomach's contents. What she ate might've been hard even for Celestia to down, but by Heavens she had managed to pull it off. Whether it would stay there or whether she'd be able to look at food the same ever again was another matter entirely. She couldn't even open her eyes without her stomach complaining.

"Who's up fer dessert?!" a resounding country voice rang out.

Twilight answered in the only way her body would allow at the moment: a groaning wail.

"Wow Twilight! You managed to eat all this?! I'm impressed! Are you sure you're not part dragon?"

It appeared Spike was here to see her in this state too. Fan-freaking-tastic.

"Okay, that's enough, I think you've learned your lesson."

Twilight felt a wave of magic with Luna's voice, starting at her back hooves and washing over the rest of her in a tingly wave, wiping away the discomfort in a seamless spell. Slowly, she opened her eyes and looked upside down at three beings staring at her with grins. Her efforts to right herself went surprisingly smoothly and with nary a stomach comment from either her body or her friends.

"Sorry, everypony. I guess I overdid it. I was just really hungry."

"Tweren't nothin', Twi. Ya should see Big Macintosh after a harvest. It's like we need half the trees just to power that ol' lug. Now, ya did say we need to talk, and I'm guessin’ it's about why we're stuck here. But don't worry about it, y’can take yer time, we won't rush ya. I know I'd be out of it after eatin' all that."

Twilight carefully stood up, then thought better of it and sat back down. Her stomach might have been calmed, but she still felt heavy. "Thanks Applejack, but I think I'm ready. In fact think I feel better now than I have since I got here… Feels like ages ago at this point."

Applejack and Spike walked closer and sat down facing her. The positioning felt somewhat awkward, but Twilight couldn't identify why. She only knew it was alleviated when Luna sat next to her.

"Spike, Applejack... The spell I used yesterday was one I cast through my hooves. I thought it would be a breakthrough, but... I've found out that unicorns can't do this. The Princesses have told me that I’m not a unicorn anymore. Not strictly, anyway. I'm an alicorn. Or, I will be in time. So far all I can do is stand on clouds and cast a sloppy spell through my hooves."

Her sheepish grin deepened as the two gazed at her in silence, Applejack with wide eyes and Spike with an uncharacteristic tear or two. She was wondering if she could go deaf from the sheer lack of sound when Applejack mercifully broke the silence.

"So, uh, yer telling us that yer like Princess Celestia, Luna, and Cadence now?"

“Luna and Celestia, yes. Cadence is a winged unicorn, not the same.”

“It ain’t?”

“No, they have unicorn and pegasus abilities; they’re rare but not as rare or powerful as alicorns, and they age normally. Alicorns have earth pony abilities along with the other two.”

“So... yer an alicorn.”

“Becoming one, at least.”

“Like Princess Celestia.”

“And Luna.”


Twilight had anticipated any number of possible responses from her friends when given this news. This was not quite one of them, and it was all the more uncomfortable for it as she squirmed just a little on her oversized cushion while Applejack’s mind looked like it was trying to absorb all this.

“Whoa…” the orange farmer simply said.

“Yeah,” Twilight replied.

“Fluttershy was right…”

“It’s been a shock to me too, I-—Wait, Fluttershy knew?!”

Everyone in the room other than Applejack had wide eyes and open jaws.

“Well, not really, but she said that Princess Celestia was groomin’ ya ta be a princess too! She thought that ‘cause we were gallopin’ all over Equestria, dealing with dragons ‘n’ such, like you were bein’ prepared. She said that maybe Celestia would even give ya... wings...”

Luna greatly brightened at hearing this. “Ha! Well, it seems my dear sister wasn’t as subtle as she thought! Bravo, fair Fluttershy! She didn’t get it all right, since we can’t just give somepony wings, they’re a part of ascension. Still, she truly has hidden depths!”

“Luna! Are you serious? All this time Celestia knew I was an alicorn!?” Twilight’s mouth went dry. She felt like a horned equivalent to Ditzy Doo. “Did anypony else? Am I really the last to know about this?”

Luna shook her head. “No, Twilight. But we knew that you might someday become one. It was never a sure thing, so we didn’t want to get your hopes up. So she subtly tried to put you in situations to think on your hooves to make being a Grand Mage, and possibly, yes, a princess, easier.”

“Subtle like a brick! I can’t believe I didn’t see this sooner! What else has she been—”

“Twilight.” Spike finally said something. Said it while very close. She hadn’t seen him get right in front of her, but two desperate green eyes were now looking at her through what was a layer of either water or mild sulfuric acid.

“Y-yes Spike?” Her words shook from the unexpected shift in attitude in the room, his voice hitting her like an anvil despite being extra soft.

“Don’t lie to me.”


Don’t lie to me!” Unexpected dragon claws dug into her shoulder blades as Spike grabbed her near the neck and shook her. Spike’s eyes got even more flushed as a smell confirmed their acidic content. “Are you really an alicorn? An actual alicorn?”

The reasons for Spike behavior came into her mind with a sudden explosion, the topic they’d always danced around but never confronted now front and center for both to see and confront. Two hundred twenty years was the longest a female unicorn had ever lived, and stood as a record for non-alicorn ponydom. No one even knew if dragons died of old age, but they had gathered that a dragon wasn’t considered an adult until one thousand.

Now, she might outlive him. No small thing to ponder, and in truth she didn’t quite believe the situation completely herself. For now, it was true enough for a giant hug as she embraced him. “Yes, Spike. I don’t have the wings or the mane yet, but now you’ll always get to be my number one assistant.”

The hug was long, deep, and comforting even as Twilight’s lungs complained about the tears and her back complained about the burning from the sulfuric acid. None of it mattered. She couldn’t imagine a scenario where it mattered less.

So the world decided to show her one instead.

A powerful explosion from just outside the castle rocked the large glass windows to near their breaking point as screams poured in from the outside world. The atmosphere of panic solidified around them as they rushed to the window to see the fighting below.

“No, Heavens above, not now!” Luna’s normally calm, playful voice showing true alarm didn’t do anything to help matters.

“Not now? Princess, what’s gong on?” Applejack’s voiced echoed the panic down below.

“No time!” Luna turned to Twilight and used her magic to hold her in place. “Twilight, heed me well. Go back to my chambers. Check the ceiling, it’s an illusion. It’s actually a cloud, one meter thick. Teleport thyself and thy friends above the cloud. Thou shalt find a set of armor in the corner; it is thine. Don it and hide there. It’s the safest part of the castle with the strongest wards. If the attackers get in, escape. No matter what it takes, escape! There’s an entrance to the caves in the mountain behind one of the waterfalls. Use it if thou must. Dost thou understand?”

Much to Twilight’s frustration, Luna vanished the instant she began to nod. “Guess there’s no time to argue. Follow me, everypony!” With that, they dashed off at top speed towards Luna’s unique chambers.

“Land sakes… Why is it night in here?”

“Whoa, this place is kinda spooky. And I’m saying this as a dragon!”

“Luna does have unique tastes. Everypony gather around, this is going to be tricky since I can’t see where I’m going.” Twilight’s horn was already aglow with magic to probe the air above her. A tendril of magic moved through the ceiling, dispelling a piece of the illusion to see the cloud overhead, but repaired itself when the magic pulled back. “Wow, Luna knows her spells. It’s nearly flawless! OK everypony, I think I’ve got this. First, cloud walking spell.”

She hated casting this one; it always made her horn feel charged with static for a while. Still, it had to be done, so she charged the spell and casted it as her horn sent out a shower of sparks along with a moderately loud crack.

“Next, teleportation. This one might be rough, so watch it.”

The short range hops like this were much easier on the body and stomach than longer range attempts. Either way, however, moving without seeing where one was going could be dangerous. Worse, there were anti-teleportation wards throughout the castle. Anyone other than Celestia and Luna moving any farther than a meter or so could set them off and cause them to give a careless spellcaster an extremely bad day.

Fortunately, fate seemed to think there was enough bad luck going around for now and they teleported without much of an incident. Much more interesting, however, were the contents of the small upper room. Paintings of ponies Twilight had never seen nor known, weapons of times long past, and stacks of books and notes everywhere. This was Luna’s study, and as she had said there was a suit of armor in the corner. Well, not exactly a suit of armor. Rather, it was an mannequin with a deep purple torc, far darker than her own coat of hair.

“This is it?” she asked herself.

“Oof,” Spike replied, standing up. “That? Well, maybe it’s enchanted or something.”

“Hmm… could be. Well, I guess I’ll try putting—“


When she tried levitating it, a spark came from her horn that knocked her back a couple meters, the now obviously-enchanted torc rejecting the telekinesis harshly and landing her on her head.

Twilight!” the other two screamed out, the domed ceiling bouncing their voices around the room, which was the last thing Twilight’s brand-new headache needed.

“I’m okay, just, ow.” She righted herself again and walked back to the armor. “Looks like this has to go on manually. Lend me a hoof with this.”

The piece was a true masterwork of ornate details, with a gem in the center so dark she swore it was black unless the light hit it just right to reveal its purple luster. Twilight could even see little runes engraved in the strange metal if she looked close enough.

Her friends helped lift the heavy metal over her head, and then slowly lowered it on her. It fit perfectly, and looked quite regal on her. She questioned its protective properties, however.

“Well, it fits at least. Are you sure we’re not missing something?” Spike asked.

“It does seem ta leave ya a bit exposed there, Twi,” Applejack concurred.

“Yeah, somehow I feel more naked with this thing on than off. It feels… strange. Like it’s pulling on my horn somehow. I… ow ow ow ow OW!

Yelling was about the only thing she could do as she felt the armor start to pull an enormous amount of magic right out of her horn like a pump on a well. The burning heat on her horn was a painful counterpart to the incredible cold the rest of her body was feeling. A dip in a pool of liquid nitrogen might seem like a refreshingly warm sensation compared to the agony firing her nerves. It was several moments into the sensation before she even noticed that her vision had once again been overtaken by bright white light.

By the time it was over, it felt like she had just woken up from an unsatisfactory nap; drowsy and dizzy. Slowly she stood up on her hooves, slightly before her friends. They must have been knocked down too. A yawn certainly seemed appropriate now, and she indulged.

“Whoa… Twilight…”

Hearing Spike’s astonished tone, she forced her eyes open as the yawn retreated, and saw her heavily armored hoof. Quickly she glanced at herself, examining all over. A full suit of armor had grown on her with her magic, covering almost her entire body. The torc’s size had been reduced, but was still present. Almost every square centimeter of her body below it was covered in thick armor. Thinner, flexible pieces were present at strategic spots that put small gaps and joints in the armor, allowing full range of motion.

It was remarkably comfortable. For as heavy as it looked, it didn’t encumber her any as she did a few test motions.

“This has… by far the most advanced enchantments I’ve ever seen. I didn’t even know this kind of thing was possible! Must’ve been astronomically expensive.” Forgetting the dire circumstances outside, Twilight allowed herself a little smile. She might actually look the part of a Grand Mage in this.

“How expensive are we talkin’ ‘bout here, sugar cube?”

Twilight blinked as she ran some guesses in her head. “I think I could use this to buy Ponyville a few times.”


Spike was right, this definitely inspired awe. Even the gem was glowing now. Did Celestia’s torc do this? Did Luna’s? Either way, it was some heavy protection; they clearly expected Twilight to run into serious trouble in her new occupation.

A blast of light shone up from the clouds in every imaginable color, reminding her that trouble had already found her; it was waiting in the castle grounds. Shortly thereafter, a deafening boom rattled the walls. The three friends spoke in unison, as this could only mean one thing. “Rainbow!”

“What in tarnation is she doin’ here? Isn’t she supposed ta be off in Cloudsdale or something?”

Twilight shook her head, a single hoof raised slightly in anxiety. “I don’t know, but I’m going down there to help her and the Princesses.”

“But—” they both said, only to be cut off.

“I’m the most powerful unicorn in existence, an alicorn in the making, the Grand Mage of Equestria, and Canterlot is under attack from something. I can’t just sit idle. You two stay here if you want, I’ve got an attack to crush,” she said, vanishing in a burst of light.