Twilight had spent the better half of the early morning out on the bow of the ship. She had been gazing across the calm, West-Cervidae crossing, the warm summer wind blowing through her mane, which allowed her to spend some of her alone time relaxed, however little she had.
Despite spending the night with her two loves, she could barely sleep. Thoughts flowing through her head along with the slight fear of having another cult member turn up kept her anxiety at an all-time high. She wanted nothing more than to stay below deck with the others, but she couldn't let them know how much this entire nightmare of an adventure was actually getting to her.
Leaning against the side of the ship, she brushed her hoof against the wood and let out a soft hum as her thoughts turned back to her friends in Ponyville. She wondered what they had been up to before she had gone through that portal; she left that timezone fast enough to make someone looking in to think she didn't give them any thought.
She wondered if she had even been a good friend to them lately. Considering only a couple of them even came up to see her, despite having been given a chance. She’d go and visit them, wouldn’t she?
While it was true that the mare had been rather vacant, even before her training with Luna, she still made as much effort as she could to hang out with her friends. It had only been a few years since that fateful battle with Chrysalis, Tirek and Cozy, after all.
Giving up, Twilight shook her head and sat her rump down on the deck. She hated when her mood would fluctuate, leaving her depressed one moment, then ecstatic the next and this time hopping wasn’t doing her any favours. Was it too much to ask for a quiet life?
“You doing okay, Kingslayer?” the captain asked, walking over. “You’re not looking so happy to be out of the Kingdoms.”
Glancing behind her, Twilight raised a brow at the Gryphon for a moment, before turning her whole body. “It’s complicated,” she replied, only now noticing the several scars which criss-crossed across the Captain’s burnt ombre fur. The front of the captain held feathers which started off dark red then transitioned into a deep purple near their tips, along with her plumage containing highlights of a reddish-yellow.
“Complicated my rump,” the Captain spat, moving forward a step and holding a mottled claw out. “The name’s Grenda. It’s an honour to finally meet you,” she said, ruffling her wings excitedly.
Twilight nodded slowly and reached out to take her claw in a shake. “Same. Thank you for allowing us on your ship. Personally, I wouldn't have wanted to put you, nor your crew, in danger,” she added, pulling back and tapping her hoof on the floor.
“Oh pish posh,” Grenda quickly said, waving her claw back and forth. “Any other patriotic Gryphon would have done the same. We love our kingdom, not the tyrant in charge. It’s sad that anyone had to die, but it’s finally over. Our kingdom can finally heal and stop the senseless war.”
Twilight winced at the words, but nodded nonetheless. “I agree. He didn’t really leave me any choice.”
The relative silence of the ocean waves was allowed to settle for a few seconds as Twilight felt increasingly awkward, what with Grenda’s looking over her.
“So,” Grenda suddenly said, causing Twilight to tense up, “about your complicated problem?”
“I- I’m fine. I’ve been through a lot in the past few... well, for a long time now. I just need some time to process it all,” Twilight explained, closing her eyes and sighing. She paused for a second then opened them back up and asked, “Can I ask you something?”
Grenda blinked and nodded slowly. “Of course,” she said, a softness entering her words.
“Have, uh, you ever killed anyone?”
The Gryphon was taken aback by the question and found herself seeing the mare in a slightly different light.
“I-” Grenda said, carefully selecting her words. “Yes, I have.” The Gryphon tapped a claw on the deck. “Before I bought this ship, I was in the military. My platoon was out on patrol when we were attacked by ponies who had snuck through the badlands.”
“Does the feeling ever go away?”
Looking over and into Twilight’s eyes, she knew what the mare meant and shook her head. “No. It gets easier; Easier to cope with. But it’ll always hurt, even just a little.”
Turning and leaning on the railing, Twilight felt her eyes water. “I was just trying to do the right thing and everything I do makes it worse for someone else,” she muttered, her voice quivering.
Without a word, Grenda closed the gap and wrapped an arm around the mare, knowing that she didn’t need reassurances.
Celestia closed her eyes and enjoyed the warm breeze which fluttered through her primaries. Looking out across her Equestria, she watched as a new dawn arose and spread its warmth across the land. One by one, sparkling lights appeared throughout the various villages which dotted the landscape. To her, it was as if drops of her sister's night had splashed down to dot the landscape with stars.
The garden around her was far too peaceful for her tastes, finding herself almost losing the battle to stay awake. Unfortunately for her, she still had a whole day ahead of paperwork and ruling which she couldn't afford to delegate.
She knew that her sister would be there any moment and they would share the usual crossover period.
With what relative silence there still was this early in the morning, Celestia could hear the changing of the guards which took place just down the hall. She had warded Twilight's room with several layers and made sure it was guarded in case there was any activity.
Celestia's ear flicked upon hearing the tapping of hooves and glanced back at her sister. "Good morning, Lulu," she said, her lips curling into a smile. "I thought you had forgotten?"
"I wouldn't dare, sister," Luna replied, sliding up beside the mare with a smirk. "There were a few recruits which had been wondering what was in Twilight's room. I had to reprimand them for being nosy."
Celestia raised a brow at the wording, then asked, "I hope you weren't too hard on them?"
"Neigh. I was... lenient," Luna said, shaking her head and sticking her tongue out at the sour taste. "I had them run laps around the training field and gave them tomorrow off."
Sighing, Celestia shook her head. "I assume there's been no word from the portal?"
Luna copied the action with a shake of her head. "Sadly nothing. We did recharge the wards last night, so they will hold for now."
Celestia nodded and turned to her sister, smiling. "Thank you. Now, would you like to join me, dear sister?" she asked, unfurling a wing in invitation.
"I would very much like that," Luna replied, her own smile widening while she moved closer and made herself comfortable under that warmth. "How was your sleep? Pleasant, I hope?"
Celestia leaned her head on Luna's shoulder. "Oh, very much so. You do a lovely jo-"
Her words were interrupted by the fizz-crackling of magic coalescing into a pony sized, silver orb behind them. The grass slowly began to brown and die around the orb, leaving a pentagonal burn mark, along with various runic symbols around the edges.
The sisters turned and jumped up, their magic erecting a translucent shield around the orb, blocking it in.
"Sister?" Luna asked, glancing at her. As her magic kept pumping energy into the shield which she could feel was quickly failing against the onslaught of mana induced discharges.
Each discharge whipped from the orb and against the shield, cracking it with each hit and leaving it vulnerable, even with the amount of mana used to repair it.
"Steady, Luna," Celestia said, feeling the air charge with mana and suddenly discharge the entire spell, blowing the shield out and sending a sensory overload down their horns. The discharge fried the dead grass under the orb, throwing dust and dirt up to obscure the scene.
The pair let out a cry of pain and held their heads with a hoof as a blinding stab burnt through them.
"What the buck was that?!" Luna coughed, leaning against Celestia for support. "Guards!" she called, quickly finding several Pegasi and Thestrals in front of them. "Where were you before?" she asked, slightly annoyed.
"Apologies, your highness," Night Sentry replied, standing on guard directly in front of her. "We assumed you would have it under control."
As the dust and smoke settled, everyone could see a bubblegum-pink mare laying on her side in the blackened dirt, her deep blue mane curled and slightly fried.
The two sisters moved past their guards and gazed down at the unconscious mare with shock and disbelief. Neither could understand how this mare could be here, then it slowly dawned on them.
"Our Moon," Luna muttered, pulling her eyes away from the mare to glance over at her sister with tears welling up. "She saved her."
With a sniffle, she turned and nuzzled herself against Celestia, who wrapped a wing around her once again, a warm smile on her face.
"Guards," Celestia spoke. "Get our private doctors and a room ready, we have a dear guest staying with us."
Twilight's eyes scanned the port town in the distance and found her ear flicking at the sound of someone walking up behind her.
She turned her head slightly and looked back to find Celestia wandering up to her right side. "Good morning," she greeted, feeling ever so slightly warmer.
"And to you, Moon. I was worried when I woke up and you were gone," Celestia said while leaning in to nuzzle her. "I must admit, standing here and feeling the wind is rather peaceful. It's a shame we cannot stay like this for longer."
"All good things," Twilight said, shrugging.
"All good things what?" Celestia asked, turning to Twilight.
"Oh, darn. You don't have that saying yet, uh," Twilight muttered, wincing. "All good things must come to an end."
Celestia turned back to the port which was coming into view and frowned. "I can't say I like that saying very much," she said, shaking her head. "As my first royal decree, that saying will not be used!" she joked, grinning over at Twilight who rolled her eyes and nudged her.
"Honestly-" Twilight said, tapping her hoof on the railing, "I like it. If things didn't fade and stayed good forever, things would lose their meaning. It forces us to make new things."
"And what of us?" Celestia asked, her grin morphing into a more neutral look. "Are we to become stale after enough time?"
Twilight opened her mouth and froze upon finding herself wondering the same. "I- I don't know. I was kind of hoping that I could just ignore it for the most part but I doubt I'd ever be that lucky," she replied, sighing. "But enough about sad stuff. I was thinking about what Luna said the other day and I wanted to ask you something which I don't think I've ever asked you two before."
Celestia was taken aback for a moment, then nodded as a smile appeared on her face. "Oh, sure. What did you want to know?" she asked, turning and lounging against the railing with a leg.
Twilight rubbed the back of her neck and looked down into the water as she grew awkward. "Well- I'd like to know when your birthday is," she asked, finding her cheeks warming slightly as she avoided the other's gaze.
"You never asked the future me that?"
"Not really. If I did, it was when I was younger and honestly I don't remember that much from then, it was kind of a blur, what with me moving into the castle and learning so much. We never celebrated any birthday for you, so I don't think anyone else really knew either," Twilight responded, frowning in thought as she tried to think back.
"Wait, I never celebrated a birthday?" Celestia asked, slightly shocked but mostly disappointed. "Did I at least take time off? I couldn't have been working all the time? You know I hate working unless I have to, right?"
Twilight grimaced and shrugged. "I mean, you do kinda run the country. There's officers and dignitaries who help, but you're basically half of the government alongside Luna."
Celestia let out a groan. "I thought being a Princess would be fun."
"It is, just not all the time. Most of your time is spent talking to various diplomats or trying to coordinate the running of the government in response to everything that happens each year," Twilight explained, sliding up against Celestia and cuddling up to her. "I had to almost force you to take some time off for our date."
"Now I find that hard to believe," Celestia said, then let out a soft giggle. "I guess I could have cooled off throughout the centuries, but being tied down to one place just seems... mundane."
Twilight shrugged and leaned in to nuzzle Celestia's neck while humming. "Well there's plenty of reasons, actually being a beacon of light for our ponies is a big one."
Celestia closed her eyes upon feeling the soft fur of her mare against herself. Her lips curled and she sighed happily. "How far in the future did you say you're from, my moon~" she asked, cracking open an eye. "Two thousand years, right?"
Twilight nodded. "Yeah. It's a surprise how much is the same and what has changed throughout the years. There's cities now which I've never heard of," she said, scanning across the horizon. "Stonewall isn't there in my time, which is a shame as it's a lovely place."
"Indeed it is. I wonder if I'll try to save any of it," Celestia asked, humming. "It's so weird talking about myself. Just knowing that there's a version of me that isn't me, but someone I'll turn into is strange," she closed her eyes as the ship slowed and turned towards the shore, the wind blowing through their manes. "It gives me a headache to even think that far ahead. I could barely look after Luna and myself."
Twilight kept quiet as she listened to the solar mare, her eyes unable to break away. Her attention was hanging on every syllable and her heart thumped within her breast harder with every word. Yet, once Celestia fluttered her eyes back open and turned to look at her with that smile which caused her knees to shake, Twilight found herself glancing back to the sea, her awkwardness manifesting.
"Are you okay, Moon?" Celestia asked, tilting her head and brushing some of her own mane back. "I sure hope I'm not acting too foolish?" she continued, finishing up with, "Our birthdays are on the twelth of canter. Not long to go," she sang.
Twilight shook her head, her cheeks warming. "No, of course not," she replied. "I'll remember that for when I go back next."
"You know, you'll have to show me the future at some point," Celestia stated, her smile turning into a grin. "You teased me hard with that magical dream."
"You know I ca-"
"Ah ah ah!" Celestia interrupted, taking her hoof with her own. "Just one little look? It's not as if I'll remember for two thousand years!"
Twilight rolled her eyes, but kept her hoof in Celestia's possession, for now. "Well... I guess I could show you a little bit... but you obviously can't see your future self, or Luna's, okay?"
She knew Celestia would probably have let it go if she sternly said no, but she kinda did want to let Celestia see what the future held, if only to give me some hope that everything would be alright.
Celestia nodded, now beaming. "Ah! Thank you, Moon!" she laughed, pouncing forward and wrapping her legs around the larger alicorn to hug her tight.
Twilight, for the most part, was just happy to have Celestia holding her and felt her own smile widen. "I'll think about where I'll take you and Luna."
"Luna can come as well?"
"Of course," Twilight replied, nodding. "I kinda, may have learned my lesson of not having Luna involved as much as she deserves. Now, she'll be given the choice when it comes to us three as a trio."
While she still felt there was a huge amount to make up for with the future version of Luna, Twilight could at least start out right with this younger version and despite it leaving a slightly sour taste in her mouth, she couldn't simply take one sister and not the other.
Even mere seconds after, she was imagining where she could take them. Of course, she'd have to get them disguises as they were the two most recognisable ponies in the world, at least in her time, and no one would believe they were simply lookalikes.
'I could take them to Ponyville? she quickly wondered, glancing out to sea. Take them to a nice restaurant and then a walk around the park?
"Equiis to Moon?" Celestia asked, gently knocking on her head and giggling. "You awake?"
"Huh? Oh, sorry. Was just thinking," Twilight replied, rubbing her cheek sheepishly. "It looks as if we should get ready to disembark," she said, gesturing to the shore. "I'll go and tell the captain. Can you wake Luna up?"
Celestia nodded. "Sure. I'm sure she'll be happy to get off this boat and into dry land, I know I am," she said, leaning in to kiss Twilight, lingering for a moment, then pulling away with a smile. Quickly, she brushed past the mare and made her way towards the wooden hatch which led down into the hold. "Lulu! Get up. We're getting ready to leave!"
Twilight watched the mare descend down and out of view, a happy smile on her face. "Definitely worth it."
It had only taken another hour or so for the ship to near the shore and set anchor a fair bit away, just in case. While the trio really only had the crown to carry, they had spent the time watching as everyone else rushed about like normal.
One they were ready to depart, the captain left her cabin to meet them, a pair of saddlebags on her back.
Smiling, she reached back and passed them over to the sisters. "It would be rather unfair of me to let you go without some supplies. There's food and water, as well as some clothing if things get extra cold," she explained, placing a claw on Twilight's shoulder and squeezing a little.
"Thank you, Captain," Twilight said, looking between the others then back to the captain. "We appreciate the help."
"Think nothing of it. We'll anchor here for a day or so if you get in trouble," Grenda laughed, "then head back to the kingdoms. Be careful in Cervidas. The deer keep to themselves, but they're not pacifists of any sort."
"I'm sure something will happen, but we'll be fine," Luna spoke up, her smile forming.
Celestia nodded. "My sister is right. There has been a growing occurrence of finding trouble in new places."
"Well, best watch yourselves. I've never been in Eternity Crossing myself, but there's rumors that circulate that it's not a good place to stay for too long," Grenada said, giving a worried look. "Make your plans and leave for Cervidas quickly. It should only take you a couple of days to reach the border by hoof. The ponies here have pushed the deer back quite a bit."
Celestia nodded. "Thank you, Captain. You have been more than kind."
"It's quite alright. I only apologise for having no rowboats." Grenada replied, shrugging. "We don't usually go this far and especially not across an ocean."
"Alright," Twilight said as she hummed. Turning to face the sisters, she tapped her chin for a second, thinking. "Oh, I know how we can get to the shore!" she gasped, then grinned.
Luna and Celestia turned to each other with a worried look, then back to Twilight.
"Do we want to know?" Luna asked, a grimace working its way onto her face.
The trio stumbled out of a rather prickly Mulberry Bush with spiky seeds sticking to their coats. The teleport, as Twilight had suspected, would be the quickest and relatively the most painless way to travel.
Even though her horn ached, Twilight's attention was elsewhere in her body. Dropping to her knees, she began to whimper as if what was left of her wing was burning.
"Gah!" she cried, looking her stump over. "M-My wing must be," she said, grunting and widening her eyes in disbelief. "Buck that hurts!"
"Moon!" Luna gasped, rushing over and kneeling next to her. "What's wrong?!"
"My wing must have reacted with the magic," Twilight replied, panting as her body became slick with sweat. "I just have been t-tainted..."
Celestia pulled Twilight closer and laid a magical aura over Twilight's wound, causing her to let out a cry of pain and squirm, her eyes watering.
"Sister?!" Luna asked, horrified she'd do that.
"We needed to know if it was just hers or all magic that hurt her, Lulu."
Luna averted her gaze and sighed while nodding. "Our Light. What do you need us to do?" she asked Twilight, worried, then placed a hoof on her chest.
Twilight gritted her teeth while the pain began to subside. First to a dull ache, then gone altogether. "I just need some quiet. I can't use, nor have any magic cast on me," she muttered, leaning against Celestia and rubbing her cheek against her. "This isn't good at all. One good hit and I'm out of a fight."
"We'll need to test what magic you can use," Celestia suggested, glancing between the two. "Maybe not all magic will react with it? It's not exactly a typical wound."
"While I agree, I would rather not subject myself to that pain again so soon," Twilight said, grunting as she pushed herself to her hooves. "Besides, I'm all sweaty now and I just want to lay down in bed."
It didn't take long for the trio to push through the tree-line and come across the port town of Eternity. The town itself was built around the titanic ruins of the Eternity Bridge, a titanic construction of iron and stone which, at one time, spanned the entirety of Eternity's Crossing.
The town was surrounded by a thick wall of glistening, white granite, with one main gatehouse, as well as several towers keeping watch. Pegasi scouts could be seen swooping around between towers as the group neared the town and a contingent of guards appeared atop the gatehouse, staring down at the three.
The three slowed to a stop a few steps from the edge of the gatehouse bridge and waited for the guards to either talk, or open the portcullis. It didn't take long for them to see a Unicorn peer down at them after pushing through the soldiers.
The brown-coated stallion raised a brow at the group, then turned to talk to a soldier by his side. After a couple of seconds, he turned back to look down at Twilight and shout: "What are you? Pony or Deer?"
Twilight glanced back at Luna, then Celestia, to gauge their reactions, then turned her attention back to the pony. "We are pony!" she shouted back while tapping her hoof on the dirt as she grew impatient.
"Patience, Moon," Celestia said, despite her own wings ruffling. "Keep yourself calm and we shall be let in. Grenda said these ponies have driven the Deer back quite a ways, so they are no doubt skittish. We're not common, remember?"
"I- I know."
"Where did you come from? Our scouts report there are no other pony settlements on this continent!" The soldier asked as several soldiers cocked their bows towards the group.
Luna blinked at the display and turned to Celestia. "'Tia," she hissed. "Are you so sure they'll let us in?!"
"I, uh-" Celestia stammered, now looking a little bit more worried. "Moon, what should we do?"
"We are travelers!" Twilight replied, staring up at the soldier. "We traveled up from Camelu and through the Emberbrace Mountains!" she answered fully and hoped that those places were known in this timezone. "We're tired, hurt and wish for a warm bed!"
The stallion turned and talked to the pony by his side, then seemingly gave a look of shock and turned around. He was gone for a good minute before returning and leaning on the stone. "You may come inside. The Bridal and Horseshoe has good ale and warm beds if you have coin. Just follow the main road and you won't miss it!"
The sisters glanced at each other as the portcullis creaked and slowly rose, allowing the group inside. That sudden turnaround didn't inspire much confidence, but they didn't let it show, even while they could hear the troops move from one side of the gatehouse to the other as they passed through.
"Easy girls," Twilight said, looking around at the entrance to the town. "Like 'Tia said, they're just skittish."
Entering into the town proper, the group passed various ponies who gave them a wide berth, their eyes following them with a distinct untrustworthy glint. The main road led directly through the town and down to the docks, only branching off every so often with smaller, unpaved paths which led to homes and smaller districts.
Many of the buildings kept to the same general pony design of having a stone bottom half with a thatch roof. Those lucky enough to have a first floor generally built out a balcony which hung over the main road.
Every so often where balconies on both sides of the road lined up, banners and tarps were hung across to keep the sun from heating the cobble too much.
While the town wasn't as packed as Springwallow, there were a sizable amount of ponies milling about the stalls--at least until the group passed by.
"Over there!" Celestia said, gesturing to the tavern off of the main road.
"Finally," Twilight groaned while she practically dragged her hooves alone. "I just want to lay down."
"While that sounds delightful, I think all of us need a bath first," Luna pointed out, scrunching her muzzle up. "I'm so glad no one had brought it up before we bathed in that lake."
Twilight looked over at Luna and asked, "Check if that bag had money in it."
Nodding, Luna levitated the bag off of her back and rummaged through it, before shaking her head. "None in mine. 'Tia?"
Celestia levitated several coins out. "I'm not sure how much these will get here, but something tells me very little."
"Buck..." Twilight mumbled, showing her frustration.
"We should ask anyway. I'm sure we could haggle," Celestia suggested, then replaced the saddlebag onto her back. "It's not like we have anything to lose, right?"
Luna nodded, then turned back to Twilight. "I'm sure we'll be fine. It's not as if we haven't been in worse situations," she said, giggling. "While this isn't the best, at least we have each other."
Twilight tapped her hoof on the cobble and nodded quickly. "I guess so," she muttered, biting her lip. "I'm sorry, you two. Let's go in and see what we can do about this. If things get really bad, I can go back to the future and find something to help us out here."
"Indeed. I'm sure our future selves wouldn't mind sending you back here with a few jewels or," Luna gasped, grinning at Celestia in her excitement. "Even a necklace or two... I saw some in Stonewall which were to die for..."
Twilight chuckled and rolled her eyes. "I'll see what I can do," she replied, turning and entering the tavern. "For now, let's book that room."