Twilight Sparkle just sat there, stunned. Her head spun and swam until she was dizzy. This was decidedly not the princess she knew. This--faker had to be one of the princess' famed practical jokes. There was no other explanation for the princess acting so--cold. However, a small voice nagged the back of head, refusing to be silent until its point was accepted.
What if it isn't a joke? What if two ponies really were murdered right in front of you? What if, if you don't explain the situation well enough in the next 30 seconds, you're next?
Twilight started to hyperventilate. As the adrenaline once again coursed through her, a high-pitched ringing threatened to deafen her as it increased in volume. She clutched at her temples, trying to make it stop, only to be snapped back to reality by the Night Princess.
"Answer her, you bucking whorse, before I kill you myself!" Luna shouted, voice full of aggression. As Twilight looked at her to answer, though, she saw something very different in her eyes--fear.
Why would the Princesses be afraid of me? the purple unicorn thought quizzically, I'm no threat to them. Or am I? Just what the buck did I stumble upon?
Not wanting to waste any more time, Celestia decided to try to catch this fly with honey. She put on her largest smile in over a century. "Twilight, my most faithful student," she said, laying it on especially thick today, "you can tell us; there's no need to be afraid; we just over-reacted a little is all. Just tell us what you know, and I give you my word, you'll make it back to Ponyville safe and sound."
"Well, that does sound nice, Prin--" Twilight stopped as her brain caught the odd wording of the phrase. Cautiously, she took two steps back. When Celestia's smile immediately changed to a frown, she knew her intuition had been correct: had she acquiesced to those terms, an assassin would have visited her that night.
"Look, Celestia, Luna," Twilight firmly stated, consciously forcing herself to drop the titles in a façade of confidence and bravado, "I don't know what you thought I found, but I can almost guarantee it isn't what I actually found." She pulled the Star Swirl book from the chariot, looking up to face two alicorn horns pointed at her. Still putting on the brave face, she took the tome into her mouth and tossed it at their feet. "That's what I was reading. That's what has you two being scaredy-ponies. That's what caused you to kill two guards just now. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to pass out; this has been way too stressful for me."
She had been feeling light-headed since Luna's threat, and now, with all her cards out on the table, she couldn't take any more; already her limbs felt as though they were going to give out on her any moment. When they did, she felt a tear roll down her cheek as darkness filled her vision. Goodbye, everypony, she said internally to the citizens of Ponyville, I love you all, especially you,--
Her final thought was interrupted by the princesses' voices echoing through her skull, "Oh, Discord, we really bucked it up this time, didn't we, Sis?"
"We sure did, Moony. We sure did."
Twilight awoke with a start. Looking around her, she quickly gets her bearing. She's only seen this room three times before, but she burned it into her memory each time, noting each change--it was Celestia's personal bedchamber. Twilight saw from the window that it was dark outside, but the moon's position in the sky was wrong--it should have been gibbous, not in the last quarter. How long was she out, anyway?
A throbbing in her head reminded her that she really had gone through some traumatic things, as all the memories of that day threatened to rape her mind once again with their stress. She forced them down, resolving to go see a psychiatrist in Fillydelphia once this was over. Hay, at this point, she'd exile herself to the Gryphon Kingdom, if it could get her some help and meant that she wouldn't have to worry about assassin ponies.
A soft knock on the door announced Princess Celestia as Twilight knew her--pristine coat, unblemished, radiant. She magically carried with her a soup tray. Luna followed, carefully gripping the book in her teeth.
Celestia sat the tray down near Twilight and smiled a warm smile, one that almost made Twilight forget about the incident. Almost.
"Twilight, I'm so glad you're awake," the sun princess cooed softly, "you were out for nearly two weeks. I was beginning to lose hope. And. . .I want to apologize." She now had a sheepish expression on her face. "It's just that we haven't heard those names in a long, long time. The last time somepony used them--" Celestia magically closed the door while Luna erected a magic barrier, "--the last time somepony used them was referring to our fight with Discord. Even then, they used them in a way that was trying to spread dissent. After all, you and your friends carry the Royal Bloodlines--"
"Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa. Back the buck up. We're not royalty, you are."
"Actually," Luna piped in, the barrier triple-checked for accuracy, "that's our line. You six are, in fact, the current ruling generation, descended from the Mane Six that founded Equestria. All those advisors were given noble house titles over thirteen hundred years ago, with all six houses merging over a course of seven generations after that.
"About a thousand years ago, however, the one house diverged again, probably due to my antics," Luna admitted. "You see, there was a provision to us ruling: we were wartime leaders. Platinum House gave us control over the entire land because we could outlive anypony else--as we had done for the entirety of the hundred-fifty-year Discordant War, where we proved ourselves as worthy generals, being able to formulate and carry out plans for decades at a time.
"However, there were some among ponykind that thought Discord should be allowed to rule, figuring he'd eventually get bored and move on. Killing Discord's aberrations is one thing; having to mercilessly slaughter your own kind--well, let's just say that Discord was extremely successful in spreading his namesake. To see the children of the ponies you fought beside proudly--to see them have that much hate in their eyes for you, to want to kill you--I still have nightmares of when we were ordered to kill them without discretion."
At this, Luna broke down into tears, so Celestia, placing a wing on her little sister comfortingly, continued. "That night, we were told the rebel factions were coming for a truce talk, as the rebellion had been going on for some 20 years after Discord's sealing. Everypony was raggedly tired. Everypony, that is, except for King Oberon Platinum, who was profiteering from the rebellion, never letting any one side get the upper hand. What he called everypony to the castle for, in hindsight, was obviously not talks for peace, but inciting a full out slaughter with him as the victor--and a wartime hero. After all, he calls them for peace talks, they murder his four sons, implicating us in the process--who would be angry at him for seeking vengeance? Plus, he wouldn't have to worry about our followers, as we'd be dead!"
Twilight was floored at this statement. The princess, however, trudged on with her story.
"The only thing he hadn't counted on, of course, was us getting wind of his plan the day it was to go into action. Luna went immediately and confronted him about it, disrupting court. He attacked first. He didn't get a second chance," Celestia said somberly.
"Sister immediately flew over to the barracks and announced what happened," Luna picked up, calm enough to tell the story. "The ones that knew attacked her; she held off from attacking them as long as she could, but they really were no match for her," Luna gazed far off into the distance. "After all, Dad saw that we had more raw talent than anypony else and trained us appropriately. Since Discord's defeat, we'd been guiding the sun and the moon, for Discord's sake.
"Um, sorry," Luna stated to Twilight, "old habit. Never felt right referring to my own sister like a goddess." She proceeded, "Anyway, I suggested that we should just kill all four colts ourselves, save us some headaches when they grew up. Two unicorns, a pegasus, and an earth pony, barely two months old at the oldest. Celestia and I had our 52nd official fight. This time, however, was serious; it was for the fate of all Equestria. After about a week, Celestia wrested my Elements of Harmony from me. Did you know that all the Elements of Harmony do is grant wishes? Celestia wished for me to have a place to cool my head for as long as I needed." Luna chuckled. "I'd suppose there was some irony in the way it was worded, however."
Celestia nuzzled her little sister. "How many times must I apologize?" she asked, a hint of laughter in her voice. "I didn't know the Elements would be so literal.
"Anyway, with Luna gone, just disappeared in a daze of rainbow, I took the opportunity to declare myself regent; everypony was too stunned to consider otherwise. I declared that the king's children were not to be harmed, but three of them taken away to their respective areas, and raised in good homes. The fourth, Blue Platinum VII, was to be renamed Blueblood I, and to take over ruling when I deemed fit."
"Only he never did," Twilight said, finally finding her voice after the better part of a half-hour. "He grew up to be a snobby, selfish little stallion, whose promiscuity was only belittled by his vanity."
"That's correct, Twilight; I've been trying to work that out of the Bluebloods since. The current Blueblood is almost there, possibly in one more gener--"
"What do you mean, 'almost there?' That bastard was a bucking disgrace at the Gala! He was rude as buck to my friend, Rarity!"
"He didn't even apologize."
"Why I have a right mind to go kick him right in his little blue--"
"Twilight Firefly Sparkle! I'll have you know Blueblood LII is the most well-behaved, down-to-earth pony in Canterlot and has been smitten with your friend Rarity since three months before the Gala. I'm the one that told him to act that way."
The sun alicorn sighed deeply. "I--got scared. Scared that I'd have to step down from rule. Scared--that if Blueblood found out the history I just related to you, he'd have me and Luna executed. Or at least try. Scared that if you sided with the rightful rulers of Equestria--well, there'd be no way to know what would happen next."
"That still doesn't explain why you two wanted to kill me," Twilight was finally able to choke out. Her mouth was extremely dry from trying to muster up the courage to make that simple yet important statement. She looked at her now-cold soup with disdain, not entirely sure if she should try to heat it up and eat it or not.
"About that. . ." Celestia trailed off. Eagerly looking for an opportunity to cover her embarrassment, she turned to laughter. "Hey, let me get that for you; it's not gonna kill you, after all." She wore a nervous grin and internally brought her hoof to her face. Oh, why did I say that? Now she's gonna think it's poisoned or something.
Luna, sensing her sister's mental flailing about, decided to step in and save the day. "What my sister meant, dearest Twilight, is that that book showed us that, while you were certainly no threat, you deserved the truth.
"It is often said that history is written by the victors. Truer words were never spoken. Tell me, Twilight, what else do you know about King Oberon?"
"That he was a tyrant, an evil ruler, a--"
"--A ruler that improved the living conditions of many slums and orphanages? A ruler that raised the minimum wage for ponies for the first time in seventy-five years? A ruler whose approval rating is only beaten out by our Celestia here?"
"Well, no, but--"
"Then you do not know the total history. After my sister imprisoned me, I've been told, all books that spoke of him favorably were burned. Over a course of about a hundred years, of course; you have to wait for everypony that was under his direct rule to die off, of course.
"And, of course, you still have the ponies that have been tracing your lineages, as well as writing anti-Celestia propaganda to go along with it. Apparently, we get a crop of 'em every generation; Celestia has a task force designed specifically for removal of such literature--as well as the 'undesirables' that produce it.
"Last I heard, your friend wanted to join them," Luna said with a smirk. "Now it's our turn to ask some questions. First off, how did you know it was us?"
Twilight snapped out of listening mode. "Well, to be honest, I didn't, but I had a hunch, Lulu."
The night princess turned a deeper shade of indigo. "Wait, that's in there?" She quickly turned the pages, thankful she left all of Twilight's bookmarks intact. When she found it, she wanted to rip the offending page out and disintegrate it. Only the love for her father stopped her from doing so. "So, er, what did you want to know?"
"Ahem, Lulu, I think my student needs some more rest. We can pick this up again tomorrow, Lulu."
"Buck. You're going to wear that nickname out again, aren't you?" Luna asked flatly.
You're darn right I will, Lulu," the sun goddess teased her sister. Now that she knew it bothered her again, the nickname had new life breathed into it. I think, Celestia thought with a big cheesy grin, that I'll start up the Lunar Underside/Life Undersea project. Space and sea exploration. I can fund it if I cut out my pink spray-on tan.
As the elder plotted mischief, the younger rolled her eyes and shuttled her big sister out the door. She knew that look all too well. It would not be pleasant for her. "Take some time to get some rest, Twilight Sparkle, and reflect on these things. You are not a prisoner here, but should you wish to ask us more questions on our past selves, mention the sun and moon in the conversation. We'll deliver to you an appropriate time to meet us here, where the barrier is already set up."
"Doesn't that drain you of magic, though?"
"Not when it's self-sustaining." Luna closed the door behind her, having locked it from the inside on her way out.
Twilight grabbed a quill and pad, and was about to write down some questions when her stomach finally got its turn to raise a complaint. She turned to the bowl. A tentative sip.
Cream of broccoli, my second favorite. Now I know Celestia's not trying to poison me.