Twilight’s hooves echoed through the Headquarters. She was galloping at a speed that would rival Rainbow’s, she did her best on the various corners she had to take to get to Celestia’s room.
Most ponies were a bit startled by the sudden gush of wind that blew past them, apart from a few curious glances, nobody intervened. Not like they could, they new better than to try and stop a galloping alicorn, even if they did, they weren’t certain that she wouldn’t beam them to ash.
Twilight finally arrived to Celestia’s room, a little farther to the right of her own room. She took a deep breath trying to calm herself before braking the news.
Knock, Knock, Knock
Twilight knocked ever so impatiently, she was practically hopping up and down. Finally for what seemed like ages to her, in reality only a few seconds, Celestia opened the door. The white alicorn was tackled into a hug by the younger alicorn.
"Tia, Tia! Auntie Tia! Have a look at this!"
Twilight lit up her horn and a scroll with light blue paper appeared next to her, levitated by her magical grasp.
"Our cousin, Cadenza, has found it in her chambers!" Twilight levitated the scroll to Celestia who was still recovering from the shock.
Celestia opened the scroll and started scanning through the page. Celestia lowered the scroll and looked at Twilight with a blank stare.
"There is nothing written my little star." She said calmly, not wanting to jump to conclusions but she was really considering if madness ran in the family.
"Pardon? But...We are sure that...B-but the letter-"
Her attempts at explaining herself stopped as she suddenly realized what was going on. She lit her horn and casted a spell to detect any spells placed upon the scroll. She facehooved, she sometimes hated how smart her friends were, it all made sense, the way that her 'new self-proclaimed' friends looked at her, her aunt’s confusion...
"Auntie, it is enchanted so only we can read it. It was left in Cadenza’s room by-"
Twilight was cut short by the sounds of multiple sets of hooves hammering the ground but also by a very familiar scream.
"Cadence!" The pink alicorn corrected as she made her way inside.
"Right, my apologies...Cadence, found this letter. Orion apparently wrote it 67 years after our... unanticipated departure. It contains information of where he is located!" Twilight did not let her excitement drop out of her voice.
Celestia hummed, she brought a hoof to her chin as if remembering what kind-of stallion he was. "Yes, if I recall correctly, he is the type I would assume would wait for his friend in the same place."
"Auntie, we have told thee that we are not lovers, nor have we ever been, we are just friends." Twilight rolled her eyes but couldn’t help her cheeks from darkening a bit.
'Although... We must admit, he looks like he could hold his own in a snowball figh-'
Twilight shook her head violently, trying to clear her head of such thoughts. Meanwhile, unbeknownst to her, a few stars turned a fiery pink as to further tease her, before remembering their mistress was underground and couldn’t see them.
Clearing her throat, Twilight spoke again. "A-Anyways, we learnt that our trusty right-hoof stallion is currently in a small village called...'Appoolesa'?, 'Aploosa'?, 'Applelosa?"
Cadence and Celestia giggled at Twilight’s attempts to remember and pronounce the city’s name.
"Appleloosa" Cadence corrected. "Although I would hardly call it small, it has grown to be a pretty big town, even if it retains some old country-like customs."
"Yes, what cousin has said." Twilight looked at Celestia with pleading eyes. "Auntie, does thou happens to know the fastest route to Aple..Apploo...UGH! The Town?"
"Yes, but you are not going anywhere." Celestia took a sip from her tea that she had on the table. "I’m not allowing a filly to go in the Everfree."
"A Filly?!" The door suddenly opened, revealing six mares eavesdropping. They all fell down with a loud thump.
"Auntie, technically we are now a thousand years older-" Twilight tried to explain but was interrupted by Applejack.
"With all due respect Princess, ah don’t think Twalight here is a filly. She looks even older than us!"
"Art thou calling me old?! We art not a a Filly but we aren’t as old as thou!"
All the mares ignored Twilight’s comment, specially Celestia who needed some sort of sibling rivalry. It wasn’t SIBLING rivalry but close enough.
"My little star was only twenty two when she disappeared-" Celestia tried to explain but was cut off by Twilight with an accusatory tone.
"Tis High Treason! Thou cannot simply tell everypony our age! Tis High Treason we tell thee!”
"Wait...You’re twenty two?!" Sunset Shimmer asked, she was the first one to snap out of her confused state. "With all due respect Princess, I doubt 22 is still a filly."
"Actually we art a thousand and twenty-"
Celestia sighed, interrupting her niece. "Yes, she might not technically be a filly but compared to Luna and I, she is." Celestia untied her bun, took an old brush and started brushing Twilight’s mane.
"She looks like an older mare because she is very tall for her age due to her magical abilities, and because of her... Guard Training."
"That is what thou calls it now a days?" Twilight asked a bit confused.
"Why would a Princess need Guard Training?" Asked Cadence which caused Twilight to glance at her with an annoyed look.
"Because my dear cousin, we princesses used to get our hooves dirty INSTEAD of sending soldiers to die for us." She looked over to Celestia who had tied her mane into a bun...again. "We believe, dear auntie, that we art able to take care of ourselves perfectly inside the Everfree. Ponies may have forgotten us but we doubt that beast have forgotten who is in charge." She brought a hoof to her chest fur and polished it, then she pretended to admire it.
"No, I am NOT sending my niece to the Everfree ALONE... However, I will agree if you go with-" Celestia was cut off by a desperate Twilight.
"CADENZA! We shalt not take anypony else than our good cousin. She most likely has some fighting experience... Art we wrong?" She shot a menacing glance towards Cadence.
Cadence gulped and looked at Celestia with pleading eyes that clearly said 'No, please not THERE'. Celestia looked at Cadence and nodded.
"I’m afraid she doesn’t, you will be accompanied by my student and her friends. They will ensure you are safe."
Celestia shook her head in a 'nope’ motion. Twilight sighed in defeat.
"ALRIGHT!" Rainbow celebrated as she did a few flips. "I got my first royal mission!"
The rest were a little hesitant, especially Rarity and Fluttershy. Sunset was a little grumpy about it and Pinky didn’t really pay attention to what happened. Only Applejack was really taking it seriously.
"Thou must rest up and get prepared...We leave in an hour, if one of thee art not ready, we shalt depart without thee."
With that, Twilight left the room, plotting...
Captain Noctis Wing,
Canterlot Castle, Throne room,
Day and 12.5 hours into Eternal Night.
Noctis entered the Castle’s Throne room. It had really changed in only a few hours, the previously calm yet demanding aura it had, was turned into an imposing and terrifying one. The long walkway leading up to the dais was now dark and evil, only eliminated by green flames.
Noctis used his years of experience to prevent him from running away screaming. Approaching the dais, he could now see the hooves of his Empress, the rest of her body was hidden in the shadows.
He knelt down before her, his muzzle almost touching the ground, awaiting her command. Finally, her voice rang through the silent throne room.
"Captain, attend us."
Nightmare leapt from her throne, using her leathery wings to glide over Noctis and land behind him. Noctis quickly got to his hooves and hurried behind her alway keeping his stern face.
"As thou must have come to understand, our daughter seems to...have joined the party opposite to us. Tis of course, cannot be. We art aware of thy peculiar abilities to hunt down enemies."
Noctis stumbled for a moment, he didn’t like where the conversation was leading. He didn’t want to 'hunt down' their Crown Princess, nor hurt her in any manner. Stumbling back onto his feet he acted as if nothing had happened and waited for Nightmare Moon to continue.
"We require, that thou finds our daughter and bring her back unharmed in any way, ‘tis includes psychologically. We hope that thy personal team is enough for thy task?"
"Yes my Empress! We shalt do as thou commands." Noctis knelt again and grabbed the hoof Nightmare had extended out with his own, resting a feathery kiss upon it, signaling he had accepted his mission.
"Very well, gather thy men, our Captain, for thou shalt leave soon. We do not wish for her to escape, we last saw her in our old castle. We suggest searching around there."
Noctis bowed again and saluted before galloping out the room, preparing for his departure.
Twilight Capella Sparkle,
Star Council Head-Quarters, Entrance Room,
Day and 12.5 hours into Eternal Night,
Twilight was tip-toeing across most of the way to the Entrance, it was half an hour before they were to depart. She didn’t want to make their group too big and risk being seen by any Thestrals that were possibly looking for her.
She entered the room, it was filled with barrels and various supplies, there was also a doorway with a stairway behind it that led to the outside world.
She couldn’t help but smile, she had done it! No pony had seen her and she was free to go out. If it weren’t for one small detail...
"Where are you going without your ‘escorts'" Sunset Shimmer’s voice was clearly hinting at the fact that it was a rhetorical question.
"Sh!....Please Sunset" Twilight whispered loudly so only she could hear. "Do not inform anypony of our departure! We shalt reward thou afterwards we promise!"
Sunset hummed, she normally had the patience to play the game but after what had happened it very much lacked.
"Sorry princess, but as soon as you take the first step, I’ll run to get the girls and tell Princesses Celestia and Cadence." Sunset said with a stern voice. "Besides, friendship isn’t about rewards and material needs-"
"Good luck!" Twilight lit her horn before she could react and encased Sunset in a magic-suppressing crystal. She then did a small gesture, acting if she had taken off an invisible hat and tipped it towards Sunset. She then threw her hood on and galloped up the stairs.
It only took her about ten seconds with the help of her wings to get above ground. Her eyes took a moment to focus, she hadn’t been above ground in...a day...er night and a half and her eyes took their time to adjust from the orange light of the torches to the white light of her stars.
She took a moment to remember she had her stars back! She extended her spirit up towards the sky to check on them. Sure enough, like little children as soon as her spirit manifested in the heavens they all went running towards her.
Twilight smiled and extended her wings to catch as many foals as she could in a big group hug. The ones who didn’t make it into the bundle of stars went around and hugged her from behind. After a few seconds, they all let go. Well all except for Polaris who still hung onto her wing.
With a small giggle Twilight lifted her wings over her back and let Polaris jump onto it. Twilight smiled a her stars before walking with them, surveying the ground bellow.
"We art afraid we do not have much time, we must return very shortly to our physical form. But please do tell if thou have been having problems with the extended night."
The stars looked at each other and nodded 'no' pretty quickly. Twilight arched an eyebrow at them before, Capella, one of the oldest of the group spoke up.
"Remember, just Twilight" Twilight patiently corrected
"Of course. Twilight, we have been growing a bit tired without being able to sleep so our lights will begin dimming."
Twilight’s facial expression became worried, she looked over to Polaris who was still on her back.
"How much time does thou think thou has Polaris?" She asked, not bothering to keep the worry out her voice.
"Hmm..." Polaris brought a tiny foal hoof to her chin, thinking. "Perhaps, four days to a week at most."
Twilight became panicked. Orion’s letter said her friends split up around Equestria, she wouldn’t have time to travel looking for them. She took a deep breath and let it out.
"That means that we must part and begin the search at once. Do not worry, we will be back shortly."
With a final goodbye and hundreds of little hooves waving goodbye, Twilight’s spirit began it’s quick descent to the ground.
It collided with her body and with a small gasp Twilight was back on the ground in-time to witness a group of Thestrals searching near the old capital’s ruins. Twilight quickly bagan to gallop southeast, using Polaris as a guide.
The forest became more and more dense, but that didn’t stop her. With a determination of a mother trying to save her children (the stars). She ducked and weave through branches and roots.
She looked up to see Thestrals flying on top of the tree line, likely trailing her. Their bat-like wings giving them the ability to catch more air than normal pegasi, they were flying with little effort. The armor they wore was the old kind, very dragon like and intimidating, a contrast to the Day-Guard. Twilight figured they were her mother’s, Nightmare-Sentinels.
Twilight was a good flyer, but her earth-pony stamina allowed her to fly longer distances than most. She made her decision.
Twilight suddenly lit her horn and stopped, catching the sentinels off guard and causing them to fly ahead. She then used her magic to enhance her wings and shoot upwards from beneath the tree line.
She flapped her wings as hard as possible, rocking the trees around violently. She rushed between the sentinels causing them to go off balance and wait to regroup. She scanned the forest for any sign of where the tree lime became so dense it was like a dome.
The experienced sentinel re grouped quickly and were gaining distance on her. Twilight’s magic was faltering, since that particular spell was very costly.
She found what she was looking for and dove towards the ground, clipping her wings on a few branches along the way. She barely landed on her hooves and it hurt...a lot... She let out a small whimper of pain before doing her best to gallop/limp inside. She found a good sized bush and hid behind it.
Twilight gathered as much magic as she could and casted a sound spell that imitated her hooves in a direction completely different to where she was going.
Suddenly, the five Thestrals dove through the tree line, but they actually managed to expertly land.
"Over there! Our Princess’ hooves sound!" A raspy voice called out from just in front her little bush of safety.
"Quick men, the sooner we bring her back safe the better!" Another one, clearly the leader spoke from in front them.
The Thestrals broke into a fierce gallop chasing after her spell. Twilight sighed in relief, she awkwardly got on her hooves and limped towards her goal of Appleloosa.
With each step, her body’s magic reserves kicked into action healing her small cuts and bruises. The pain lessened but she grew more tired as she went on.
She had asked a few ponies how long it took to get there on foot and they had told her that around half a day. She did the count, she had started of by galloping at full speed to try and loose the sentinels, then she had magically enhanced her wings and flew as fast as she could. She must’ve at least managed to cut a couple of hours off.
With each step the ground moss became more and more welcoming and seemed to grow more and more comfortable and cozy to walk on. Twilight shook her head, she knew it wasn’t true, she had to stay awake.
She had sent those sentinels on the wrong track to give herself a self start, she wasn’t going to waste it. She flared up her wings and started flapping them, it was no use, she had clipped them multiple times diving down. She started to gain speed though, her wings served as support and made her body lighter, making it easier to walk.
Twilight trotted for a couple of hours although it now felt more like days. The trees around started getting less and less dense until she found a small clearing with a small pond.
What caught Twilight’s attention was a small cottage to the side, it had been made with scrap wooden boards and on closer look looked more like a tree house. Twilight limped closer to the cottage, her eyes half closed. She made her way to a place between the floor of the house and the grass and collapsed there.
Her last moments of consciousness were a pair of hooves approaching her. A pony looked down and found her, it quickly asked if she was okay but all she could mutter out was.
"Do not...tell anypony...er...creature...'bout me..."
Then all around her became dark as she drifted into unconsciousness, her head falling on some conveniently placed moss and her wings dropping to her sides.