The Equestrian Saga

by Smash Fortune

Chapter Two: The Audience

The Equestrian Saga
Chapter Three: The Audience
By: Old Toby

Clover made her way to the Canterlot Palace as fast as her hooves would take her and Lily kept pace at her flank. Scaffolding and construction equipment was everywhere as they approached the white marble steps and dozens of ponies had tools in their teeth that they were putting to good use. The palace was to be a symbol of the unity between all breeds of pony across Equestria, but completion was years away for such a symbol of idealism. Even in this early stage of construction, it was still a sight to behold.

The sisters didn't have time to admire the beauty of it all. Instead quickly flashed the letter that Clover had received to the guards standing duty and made their way into the palace. It too was a thing of half-crafted beauty and within a few minutes the two of them had navigated their way to the royal audience chamber.

Coming to a halt, Clover took a deep breath to dispel her nervousness and gave a weak smile to her sister. Lily put her hoof on Clover's shoulder and gave her a reassuring wink. “There's nothing to worry about, Clover! You've been nothing but a voice of reason and compassion since Equestria was founded. What's the worst that could happen?”

The unicorn's smile weakened a bit. “I hope you're right, Lily.”

“I know I am!” Lily piped. Ignoring her sister's hesitation, she threw the door open.

Swallowing the lump in her throat, Clover let out a deep breath and stepped into the chamber. The wide red carpet seemed to run on for eternity and at its end was a double-tier golden dais. Atop the dais was a great throne of crimson velvet trimmed with sparkling metal. Before it stood Lord Palladium, the Unicorn King. His radiant silver coat and flowing white mane made him look every inch of royalty in the morning sun that poured into the room through the vaulted windows that flanks the throne room on each side. A simple golden crown rested on his brow, set with a single stone that matched his amethyst eyes.

He had been elected ruler of Equestria soon after its founding and proved to be a wise and fair ruler with the aid of several councils. Two of these councils stood on each side of his throne. Smart Cookie was an orange pony who shifted uncomfortably and tugged at her blonde mane. Clearly the formal attire of the Canterlot Royal Court did not suit her. Princess Platinum, on the other hand, seemed the picture of nobility at her father's flank.

None of Equestria's elite made Clover nervous, though. Standing before the throne watching her with unblinking golden eyes was the legendary wizard himself: Star Swirl the Bearded. The dull grey fur of his face was framed by falling ringlets of ivory that met a beard that fell almost to his hooves. He wore a long cloak the color of sapphires and a matching broad brimmed hat that came to a point at its peak. Both his cloak and his had were ringed with tiny golden bells that matched his eyes.

Expressionless, he watched the sisters approach and bow before Lord Palladium. Formalities were exchanged before the ruler of Equestria stepped down to the level of his two subjects and smiled. “Rise, my friends,” the king said, “No need to stand on ceremony here. I see you received my letter and I appreciate you coming so quickly.”

Clover let her eyes drift to the aged unicorn of legend before returning her attention to the king. She was unable to hold his gaze for more than a moment and turned her attention back to Lord Palladium. “Of course, your majesty.”

“Good!” He clapped his hooves together and smiled. Turning he nodded to Star Swirl, who stepped down and paced back and forth before Clover and Lily. He eyed the sisters, sizing them up with a contemplative hum.

“So this is Clover the Clever.” His words were clear and confident, carrying easily through the hall. The deep sound of his voice drew attention, but did not demand it. He spoke as a unicorn of easy calm and simple certainty.

After a moment his gaze turned to the small dusky pegasus at her side. “Oh, and who do we have here?”

Lily stepped forward and looked up at Star Swirl, daring to stare into his golden eyes. Her eyes flickered with a spark and an impish grin crept onto her muzzle. “Lily,” she dared, the single syllable sounding almost defiant.

Clover's eyes widened at her sister's brazen nature and looked quickly to Lord Palladium and his advisers. The king was simply staring in horror, unable to comprehend how the impetuous young pony could be so brazen. An eternity of silence passed in a single moment.

Star Swirl held Lily's gaze for a moment before turning away casually, as one might dismiss at foal. “Clover,” he said as he turned his attention back to the unicorn. “Do you know why I'm here?”

She shook her head, “N... no, sir.”

“You lead the raising of the sun each morning, do you not?” She nodded slowly, forgetting how to speak as Star Swirl looked her in the eye and continued with his questioning. “And how long have you lead this ritual?”

Her voice found its place once more, but only briefly. “Three, sir.”

“But she-” Lily attempted to interject, but her voice was cut short by the wizard's raise hoof.

He never turned his eyes from Clover, “And was it always so? Were you not previously part of a team of seven and even at one time twenty-four such unicorns?”

She panicked. Was he chastising her leadership? Was she about to be dismissed from her position? The lump in her throat became so intrusive that she couldn't even speak. Again, she was reduced to a simple nod.

“I see.” He said cryptically. Turning with the jingle of bells and the whirl of his cloak, Star Swirl looked across the hall to Lord Palladium. “Yes, your majesty. This one will do quite well.”

The king's face brightened and he clapped his hooves together. “Excellent!”

“But,” Star Swirl interrupted, “that is only if she accepts.”

Lord Palladium looked to Clover expectantly. “Well, Clover?”

Her face turned to sheepish embarrassment, “Forgive me your majesty, but what am I being offered?”

For the first time, Star Swirl smiled. “Clover the Clever, High Sunriser of Cantelot. I humbly ask that you would become my apprentice.”

Clover and Lily cried out in stereo, “Apprentice?!”

Star Swirl merely nodded. “It will not be easy. Your tasks will be many and difficult, but age is catching up with me and I would see to it that the magicial knowledge I have accumulated over the years is passed on so that it might help bring light and love to Equestria after I am gone.”

Clover stammered, shuffling her forelegs nervously. “But me, sir? Why me? Why now?”

A surprising gentleness crept into his voice, “My reasons are my own, dear. But you shall understand them in time.”

Turning to her sister, Clover saw the young pegasus was smiling and nodding. A brief hiss escaped Lily. “Go on, go on!”

Releasing a deep breath, Clover slowly bowed her head as a thousand thoughts raced through her head. She tried to imagine the daunting tasks that Star Swirl would put before her. She saw her own failures and weaknesses. She saw herself being turned away halfway through her training. She saw herself alone and ashamed. But somewhere beyond that she saw Canterlot and all of Equestria in its full glory. She saw a kingdom in its full glory with peace and love reigning. If she could offer some small service to that end, she knew there was only once choice.

“I accept.”

“Excellent,” the bearded pony cried. He offered a single nod to Lord Palladium and turned away. Within a few steps it was clear he was departing from the audience chamber. He paused, looking back to Clover. “Well my apprentice, are you coming?”

“Now?” she yelped.


She moved to fall in behind Star Swirl, but her eyes lingered on the pony she was leaving behind. Lily was smiling, but there was sadness hiding in her young eyes. Clover didn't expect that her tutelage would take her away from Canterlot, away from her sister. When the thin film of tears appeared in Lily's eyes, she stopped.

“I've changed my mind, Master Star Swirl.”

The wizard stopped mid-stride and looked hard at her. “I'll warn you, Clover. If I leave this hall alone you will not be given a second chance.”

“I can't leave, sir. I can't let my sister stay in Canterlot alone.” She felt tears welling in her own eyes and felt the first drop wet her muzzle. “Not even for this.”

Star Swirl looked to Lily. The young pegasus was shaking her head, her lips whispering 'no' to Clover. But he saw the shared love in the eyes of the two sisters and nodded. “That is noble, Clover. I understand.”

He nodded in thanks to Lord Platinum and stepped across the threshold of the still-open doors to the audience hall.

Suddenly, Lily cried out. “Clover, no! Wait!” She ran towards Star Swirl, blocking his exit. “You can't go! You can't! There's got to be something, anything, you can do!”

Star Swirl looked down at the young pony, his face softening. “Your sister has made her choice, young one. You should be proud to have one willing to make such a choice.”

Lily stamped her hoof, “I am, but this is wrong! I'll do anything, Star Swirl! Anything!”

He raised an eyebrow, “Anything, you say?” Raising a hoof to stroke his beard, he contemplated the situation at hand. “Tell me, young Lily, is it true you're part of the Canterlot Dawn Guard?”

Lily raised an eyebrow, “Yes sir?” Her voice anger was suddenly washed over with confusion.

“I see,” the wizard continued. “The youngest member of the Dawn Patrol, if I am correct. Tell me, Lily, have you been formally trained in weather manipulation?”

Glaring at him she gave an indignant reply. “No.”

“I see. Yet, your exploits are not lost to my ears. Lord Palladium tells me that you recently conjured a rather powerful storm for spring rains. An unsanctioned torrent that lead to some flooding in the northern fields. Is this true?”

“Wait,” Lily cried. “It wasn't like that! I-”

Star Swirl cut her off. “You lack discipline, young philly. You may be talented, but you are reckless, brash, and immature.”

Lily lowered her head and stepped aside. The tears in her eyes finally spilled over and she moved to allow the wizard to pass. She wept in silent defeat.

The silence was shattered by Clover's voice ringing through the audience chamber. “How dare you? Who do you think you are?” She stormed over to Star Swirl and stared into his eyes, her own face blazing with passion. “She is a my sister and she is still a citizen of Equestria! What makes you think you can just trot into this castle and pass judgment on everyone you meet! Go on then, Star Swirl the Bearded, find your apprentice somewhere else!” She waved a hoof at the door, her nostrils flaring.

Star Swirl held her gaze for a moment of long, heavy quiet. Then, the audience chamber erupted with his deep, hearty laugh. He put a hoof on Clover's shoulder and smiled down at Lily, who looked up at him slowly.

“Lord Palladium,” he called out. “I came to Canterlot to seek your blessing in my selection of a new apprentice. You graciously allowed me to do this and I would ask again for your royal generosity. Instead of one apprentice, I would ask that you allow me to select two.”

Bowing before the sisters, he offered them the gentle visage of a fatherly old colt. “Clover the Clever and her sister whom I named Lily the Lovely, would you honor me by allowing a foolish old man to learn a few new lessons from his own students?”

Clover and Lily looked to one another, their eyes still moist. Then they turned back to Star Swirl the Bearded and bowed before him in acceptance. Lord Palladium called from his dias, “Let it be known now that Clover the Clever and Lily the Lovely shall depart from Canterlot as students of Star Swirl the Bearded so that they might hone their gifts for the future of all of Equestria!”

Taking his hat in his teeth, Star Swirl returned the sisters' bow. The three of them marched out of the royal audience chamber of Canterlot and towards the vast world that lay before them.