Twilight was scared.
There were a number of things that she found creepy and/or scary; from the massive monsters of the Everfree Forest to zombies, a fear she secretly shared with Spike. But she could understand, rationalize, categorize and respond to such stimuli. She could react appropriately to them. If she didn't understand something, if she couldn't determine an appropriate reaction to it, she responded badly.
The news about Celestia left her near catatonic even as her friends tried valiantly to get a response out of her.
Well, it did until she felt something wet and slimy enter her ear and wriggle around.
"Ugh!" she whinnied, yanking her head away from the offending object before digging her hoof into her ear to try and wipe away the slimy residue within it.
"Blaugh! Pitooe!" spat Rainbow Dash, regretting sticking the wet willie. Apparently, auditory hygiene wasn't high on Twilight's list of priorities; or at least that was what the awful taste that had been left on the impetuous pegasus' tongue had implied. "Told you it would work!" the blue Pegasus spat at Rarity, who cringed at the most uncouth method of rousing their catatonic friend.
"That doesn't make it any less disgusting, Rainbow." she scolded, trotting over to Twilight. "Twilight? Are you alright, darling?"
Having finally wiped the saliva out of her ear, Twilight heard Rarity's inquiry. Within seconds she had an answer;
"Okay? OKAY?!" Twilight shouted, flailing about in exasperation. "How can I be okay when the Princess is hurt?! How?!" She began to pace frantically. "Do you know how bad this is?! Princess Celestia moves the sun. Without her, the sun will stay where it is, and then it'll be eternal day becauseIdon'tknowifPrincessLunacanmovethesuncauseit's-"
Before Twilight's panic-stricken diatribe could become any louder or faster, Pinkie Pie grabbed her by the shoulders. With a loud, ludicrous slurp, she licked the lavender Unicorn's entire face, eliciting a disgusted exclamation from both Celestia's personal protege and Rarity. Pinkie only smacked her lips repeatedly.
"Huh, I guess she doesn't taste like Sparkle Juice." the pink party pony observed. Save for Twilight, who was too busy wiping the second splash of spit off herself, everypony (and dragon) else in the room could only tilt their heads in confused silence.
Rarity broke the stunned silence. "Pinkie, what in Equestria was that for?!" She still rather disgusted that two of her friends had resorted to licking Twilight like dogs in order to rouse her.
"Well, I heard a rumor that Twilight actually tasted like Sparkle Juice. You know, those funny juice boxes they sell at the market? Since Rainbow Dash sticking her tongue in Twilight's ear got a response out of her, I'd thought I'd eat two cakes with one fork!"
"Uhhh, Pinkie? Howsabout y' say that so us normal ponies kin understand?" Applejack spoke up, just as befuddled as everypony else. Pinkie let out an exaggeratedly annoyed sigh, facehoofing.
"I wanted to stop Twilight from panicking like she had ants in her pants (not that she's wearing pants, but don't even get me started on that,) and test that rumor about her tasting like Sparkle Juice at the same time. Sheesh, Applejack, this isn't fancy mathematics."
Applejack would have made a comment about how everypony really doesn't wear clothes, but between feeling mildly insulted by Pinkie's statement (even if she didn't mean it) and Twilight's beginning to mutter worriedly again she realized there were more important things to deal with. She marched on over to the lavender Unicorn and placed a hoof over her mouth, silencing her.
"Look here sugarcube, if you keep on making more racket than Granny Smith at the start of Zap Apple season, the whole town'll know and then we'll have everypony scared and running around like a bunch of scared mice. Now Ah'm gonna remove mah hoof from your mouth and then Ah want you to calm down. Clear?"
"Mppfhl." was Twilight's response. The orange Earth Pony lifted her hoof from Twilight's mouth, bracing herself in the event of the bookish Unicorn not heeding her advice. Thankfully, this was not the case.
"But... aren't you all worried too?" Twilight asked. "I mean, Celestia is just as important to the rest of Equestria as she is to me."
"Oh believe me, Ah'm shaking in mah hooves right now. Ah'm very scared."
"Of course we are Twilight," continued Rarity, "but stress and panic are far from productive actions, and it even ruins one's complexion."
"All I wanna do is find the bozo who hurt the Princess and show him a thing or two about hurting someone!" Dash dropped to the floor on her rear hooves before punching at an invisible opponent.
"Do I need to break out into song about how you need to face your fears?" The response to Pinkie's reply was a resounding "No!"
"Uh... I... but-" Fluttershy let out a scared squeak. The timid Pegasus was certainly scared, but at least she hadn't been flailing about like Twilight had.
"Besides, you didn't finish reading the letter!" Spike said, trying to reach the paper on the floor where Pinkie had dropped it. Of course, due to his growth spurt, he misjudged the length of his arm and bumped it into the floor. "Ow! Stupid potion!" he snarled, sticking one of his sore fingers into his mouth and sucking on it. "The news about Celestia's only halfway through the message: there's still more." After another moment of Spike stubbing his fingers on the floor, he finally managed to seize the letter and cleared his throat before reading.
"Dear Twilight Sparkle,
It is with great pain and sorrow that we deliver to you this message: disaster has befallen your mentor, Princess Celestia. Several hours ago, she was suddenly attacked by an unknown assailant, who inflicted upon her wounds most terrible and grievous. While she still lives at this time, she is unresponsive and has been confined to the Royal Hospital until such time as she wakes. You and the other Bearers of Harmony are hereby summoned to Canterlot Palace posthaste.
Please do not tarry, as the fate of Equestria hangs in the Balance. All will be made clear upon your arrival, down to the most minute detail.
Princess Luna, Mistress of the Moon
This news did little to soothe Twilight's nerves; in fact it only served to further fray them. She let out an audible gulp upon hearing that, once again, the fate of Equestria rested in their hooves. Her lips quivered and her eyes twitched, ready to let out another bout of...
"No." she stomped her hoof on the ground. Both times that Equestria had been in peril, she and her friends succeeded. Both times they had done it without help from Celestia. She wasn't going to let her Mentor down. "No more panicking!" She spun to face her friends, a determined look shining in her eyes. "Spike, prepare the balloon. We leave for Canterlot!"
By all rights, it should had been a quiet evening in Canterlot. The Pegasus weather teams had scheduled a cloudless evening with a slight breeze, and everypony had been minding their own business. By all rights, there should have been little to no unrest in the city (save the usual pish-poshiness of the nobles), and no reason for it. Any chance of a peaceful night, however, had been dashed by the sun's unmoving zenith and the sudden lockdown at the city's gates. High above the streets, Odahviing and Hrothgar sped towards their next destination: the western gate.
Exhaustion threatened to slow Hrothgar down; he and Odahviing had been flying about Canterlot without a moments rest for the past eight hours and showed no signs of slowing down. The younger stallion kept pace with his Captain despite this. The old coot didn't seem tired despite pushing himself as hard as Hrothgar, and he was in peak physical condition.
"Captain, we've covered the whole bucking city!" he shouted, putting on another burst of speed despite the ache in his wings. "We've gotta take a rest or we're gonna be too tired to-"
"Sleep when thou art dead, Brother Hrothgar!" Odahviing interjected, keeping his eyes forward."Stow thy complaints until we hath completed Her Majesty's orders."
Hrothgar grit his teeth in anger. He wanted to smack the Captain upside the head so bad right now. "Celestia-damned hardass..." he muttered under his breath, too tired to act upon that idea. The next few minutes were wreathed in silence as (finally) the western gate entered their field of view.
As they approached, it became apparent that a situation was starting to brew. A small gang of ponies were heckling the guard stationed at the gate. A trio of Unicorns stood ahead of the rest, obscenities spewing forth from the lead one's mouth. They kept their distance from the lone guard who stood between them and the western gate. That's what bothered Hrothgar the most; there was only one guard. "Where're the rest of the Guards that were stationed here?" he pondered aloud.
"They may hath been called to assist in other parts of the city, Brother. We art lucky that we managed to hear of this uprising so early." Odahviing flapped his wings harder, spurring himself towards the ground. The pair of Guardsponies noiselessly landed a short distance behind the small gang of instigators, now able to clearly hear what was going on.
"Do you know who I am, you brain-addled charlatan?!" the foremost pony, a bright pink, black maned unicorn stallion with a goblet for a cutie mark, stomped his hooves on the ground in a show of intimidation. The lone Earth Pony guard seemed amused by this, if the almost imperceptible rumbling of his barreled chest was anything to go by.
"Sir, I'm sorry. The city of Canterlot has gone into lockdown by order of the Princess Luna." the pristine white stallion recited the same sentence he'd been saying for the past twenty minutes. "You will be allowed to leave as soon as the lockdown is lifted."
The bright pink stallion let out a strangled cry of frustration as he stomped his hooves in a hissy-fit. "I'll have your badge for this! I have important business in Trottingham and you're getting in my way!" The high-pitched, incessant whining of the stallion earned a muffled snicker from Hrothgar as he covered his muzzle with a hoof. Odahviing sighed, before signaling his Apprentice. With a downward snap of their wings, the pair leapt over the gang of ponies and landed in front of them, blocking their view of the lone guardspony.
Upon seeing that he was currently blocked from view, the stallion let out a long sigh; obviously relived at the sudden arrival of backup. "Thank the Princesses..." he muttered.
Odahviing nodded to him. "Brother Guardspony: status report." The dragon-winged pegasus's reverberating voice silenced the onlookers in a mix of awe and fear. Hrothgar faced the crowd, ready to react should the crowd rise into riot.
"We'd been standing at our post as ordered, Sir." the Earth Pony reported. "However we had gotten a sudden report of small riots breaking out in the Merchant District. The sergeant and the other three guards with me left to assist. I stayed behind." He let out another drawn out sigh. "I've been dealing with the crowd for the past hour. Your arrival was much needed."
"Well done, stallion. You've done your Princesses proud." Odahviing turned around to face the small gang of nobles with Hrothgar. They'd not said a word, but if looks could kill, he and Hrothgar would have been corpses the moment they'd landed. He cleared his throat. "Citizens, return to thine homes. The Princess will have a statement for thee within the hour." Unfortunately, that seemed to have the opposite effect of what the stallion intended, as the Unicorn who'd been raising a ruckus earlier rose his voice once more with a vengeance.
"I don't want to wait a bucking hour!" he bellowed, causing the residents of the nearby buildings to poke their heads out their doors and windows. "My associates and I need to leave immediately!" he gestured to the pair of ponies who flanked him, a very bulky Earth Pony with a brown coat and a white mane, and a shorter, teal coated Unicorn who looked very shifty, carrying two large saddle bags on his back. Both of them looked a bit anxious, be it from the fact that their leader was drawing attention... or something else.
Hrothgar raised an eyebrow at their anxiety. Maybe these were accomplices of the creature that had caused this whole fiasco and wanted to get away from it. He glanced sideways to his Captain, who nodded. Hrothgar stepped forward. "You'll need to wait, sir. But in the meantime, we would like to ask you and your associates some questions." It was only when Hrothgar uttered the word 'questions' did the anxious looks the trio turn into faces of ponies who had something to hide. The smaller Unicorn began to take a step back, "And where do you think you're going?!" Hrothgar shouted at him, causing the teal stallion to squeak and freeze where he stood.
"N-n-nowhere! I was just... stretching my legs!" the stallion said with a nervous laugh, pulling at his collar as he did so.
Hrothgar squinted his eyes and pouted, his gaze now drawn to the bags on the teal Unicorn. "Why are you gentlestallions in such a hurry to leave?" He asked, deciding to save questions about the bag for last, "And on that note, why are you three so nervous?"
"None of your business, you whelp!" the lead stallion said, stomping a hoof in aggravation again. "Now step aside!" The Unicorn trotted forward, his nose held up high in the air. Hrothgar stepped in front of him, stopping the stallion's advance and receiving a strained whine for his troubles. "I said step aside!"
The noble was really beginning to get on Hrothgar's nerves; in fact, he could practically feel the snootiness coming off of the buck-head. Never the less, the Guardpony remained silent as he stood his position. 'Just like Odah taught me: don't react. Ignore them and they get mad and make mistakes.' Hrothgar thought to himself, before he turned his attention back to the noble. The bright pink unicorn, whom Hrothgar had decided to call Hissy Fit for the time being, tried to step around him. The Guardspony flared his wings with a metallic snap, blocking the Unicorn's path and earning yet another ear-searing whine.
"Are you dumb, you foal!?" The aptly nicknamed Hissy Fit spat, rearing on his hind legs and splaying his forelimbs skyward exasperatedly. Hrothgar suppressed a chuckle at the sight, but was unable to suppress a reply.
"No, but I see a pony who sounds like somepony pissed in his tea..." he muttered under his breath. Hissy Fit's eye twitched and he ground his teeth. Apparently Hrothgar's utterance wasn't as quiet as he wanted it to be.
"You... petulant, uncultured ruffian! You're a foal and an idiot!" the Unicorn shouted loudly. A few steps away, Odahviing watched the situation, keeping his eyes on the two accomplices of the noble and the small crowd that was starting to gather. They didn't look like an angry mob, but more along the lines of a group of curious ponies. Still, he had to applaud his apprentice's skills, save maybe the comment; a bit loud, that. He'd have to talk with Hrothgar about that. Hissy Fit's wave of insults grew ever loud, growing ever more vulgar, but Hrothgar just kept his mouth shut. Odahviing let a small, almost imperceptible smile cross his face...
"... and your mother was a whore!" Hissy Fit shouted, and the crowd erupted in a gasp. Odahviing's small smirk faded almost instantly upon hearing that, replaced with a sharp inhale. He knew what was coming next. He knew, but hoped that it wouldn't come to pass. Unfortunately, that was not the case. Nary a moment later there was the sound of a Unicorn being struck, and sent sprawling to the ground. Hrothgar had kicked him right in the face and he was fuming with anger. The Pegasus tore off his helmet, throwing it on the ground and giving everypony a look at his eyes: they were alight with fury.
"TAKE THAT BACK YOU BUCKING HORSEAPPLE! TAKE! IT! BACK!" Hrothgar roared, stomping over to the prone Unicorn, looking ready to knock all of Hissy Fit's teeth out. The Pegasus raised a hoof to stomp down on the Unicorn's face.
"BROTHER HROTHGAR!" Odahviing shouted, the Royal Guardspony Canterlot Voice smacking the younger Pegasus off balance and sending him stumbling off to the side. The Night Guard Captain strode over to his apprentice, disappointment etched upon his face. "What in Tartarus wert thou thinking?!"
Hrothgar ignored his mentor's words, trying to push past him to get at Hissy Fit. The Captain grabbed ahold of the younger Pegasus's blond mane with his mouth, restraining him. Hrothgar whinnied in fury as he flailed his front legs, trying to tear away from his Captain's restraining grip. "Let me at him! I'll break his teeth!" the blond Pegasus snarled, causing the now recovered Hissy Fit to scrambled backwards, wanting to get away from the angry guard.
Odahviing yanked hard on Hrothgar's mane once more, before looking to the other Guardpony. "Bruffer garfpony, affiftance peafe!" he ordered as best a pony with a mouthful of mane could. The Earth Pony Guard from earlier hurried to help, grabbing a hold of Hrothgar and easily halting his movement.
Satisfied that his apprentice was held back, Odahviing walked over to the crowd, particularly the Unicorn that Hrothgar had kicked. Hissy Fit was scrabbling to his feet, clutching his jaw and ranting angrily. "That's assault! I'll charge you for that you—"
The pink Unicorn's threat died off as he found the face of the Night Guard Captain less than an inch from his own face. As much as Hissy Fit wanted to get as far away from the huge and intimidating Pegasus, he found himself transfixed by the Guardpony's gaze. His limbs became concrete as a the dark chill of fear shuddered down his spine. It was a gaze of somepony much greater, a gaze that made Hissy Fit feel so tiny, so insignificant. The larger Pegasus's lip pulled back into a snarl, before he finally spoke:
"Go home. Now."
"Y-y-yes s-s-sir." Hissy Fit stammered, gulping loudly. The Unicorn turned tail and fled into the crowd, shoving aside ponies who got in his way. The rest of the crowd watched him go, before a clearing of the throat drew their attention back to Odahviing.
"Citizens of Canterlot, thy princess Luna requests thy presence at Castle Canterlot within the hour," he announced, his amplified voice reaching the ears of everypony there. "Please, for the time being, return to thy homes."
It didn't take long for the crowd to respond and quickly disperse. Within the span of several minutes, the only ponies remaining on the street were Odahviin, Hrothgar, and the Guardpony who was restraining him.
"Let me go... Let me at him." the younger Pegasus's demands had quieted to a angered whisper, and his thrashing had degraded into weak kicks.
Odahviing let out a heavy sigh, turning back to face his apprentice. He removed his helmet, holding it in his hooves as he shook his head. "Hrothgar... I know your mother is a sensitive topic for you." The older Pegasus said, all amplification and formality gone from his voice as he placed a hoof on Hrothgar's shoulder. "But I've told you, you can't explode into rage every time somepony says something about her."
The younger pony averted his gaze from the Night Guard Captain, muttering something that Odahviing nearly missed. "...Bastard got what he deserved." Hrothgar muttered, before looking back towards the Guardpony restraining him. "Could you let me go now?" The Earth Pony looked towards Odahviing, who nodded in affirmation, and then released Hrothgar. The younger Pegasus stretched his bat wings, before trotting over to his helmet and picking it up. Despite being thrown to the ground in a fit of rage, the armored head piece was unsullied save for a small scuff where it had struck the ground.
"Hrothgar, you can't just brush off that you nearly broke the jaw of a civilian." Odahviing paused, before adding "I won't claim that he didn't deserve it, but I've told you time and again—"
"Control my anger or it will control me," Hrothgar recited flippantly. "Yeah, I get it. I can't help it! I try to keep my temper down, but the moment someone even mentions her name in the wrong tone... " The younger pegasus growled angrily, stamping his hoof on the ground repeatedly. He slumped to the ground with a sigh, exhaustion from flying non-stop all day finally taking its toll on him.. "...I miss her, Captain." Hrothgar felt a heavy hoof rest on his shoulder.
"There's a time and a place for mourning, my apprentice." Odhaviing placed his helmet back upon his head, unfurling his wings . "Come now, we've only a short way to go. Art thou able to fly?"
Hrothgar pushed himself to his feet, fighting the urge to yawn. He might have been tired, upset and stressed, but when did that stop the Captain? "I've been worse..." he paused, before grinning and adding "... like when I had to carry your sorry flank out of that cockatrice nest."
There was a beat, then a rumbling chuckle that evolved into a boisterous laugh from the Night Guard Captain. Hrothgar joined in a moment later. Soon, the air was filled with mirthful laughter.
"Well consider my talking thy sorry arse out of that situation repayment for that."
"Oh come on, I had to drag your stoned body out of there, then beat the son of a toad who statued you to a pulp so you'd get free! Why should scaring a noble be repayment when you scare them on a nightly basis?"
"Because I am the Captain." Odahviing said with finality, before turning back to the lone Guardpony. "Stay Viligant, Brother." The Guardpony saluted, before returning to his post at the gate.
"To the skies, Brother Hrothgar!" the Captain bellowed, and with twin downward snaps of their wings, the two Pegasi rocketed upward into the air once more and began their flight to their next objective. For the next several minutes, Hrothgar and Odahviing flew in silence once again as they adjusted their flight path back to Castle Canterlot. Down below, they could see several ponies already making their way to the castle...
"...Captain, Look!" Hrothgar suddenly shouted, pointing a hoof upward. The stallion's gaze followed Hrothgar's hoof, and gazed upon the sun... and let his jaw drop ever so slightly. Once again, the star was moving along it's celestial path. Visibly so. As though making up for lost time, it drifted towards the western horizon...
'Celly made this look so easy...' Luna mused to herself as she focused on her task. Remembering what Celestia had told her of the devastation an Eternal Night had caused, Luna had quickly surmised that a time of Eternal Day would be just as terrible for the populace of Equestria, if not more so. So, just like her elder sister before her, the Princess of the Night had taken the duty of moving both the Sun and Moon. At the very least until her sister was well again.
"It shouldn't be that hard," she had said to Silver Strings a short while ago, "How hard could it possibly be?"
Significantly harder, as Luna soon found out. Moving the moon was no easy task, by any standards, but moving the sun? She could only wonder how Celestia didn't burn herself out every day when she made the sun rise!
Luna screwed up her face in concentration as her horn glowed with her signature midnight blue magic in her attempt to set the sun. Silver Strings sat a short distance away, apprehensively watching his Princess do the very job her elder sister had done. The elderly stallion shifted uneasily and opened his mouth to speak, but closed it when he realized that a slip in Luna's concentration could have more disastrous consequences than overexertion. That didn't stop him from getting up from his seat and trotting back inside the castle to find a medical kit in the event something unpleasant did happen.
Luna allowed herself a small sigh of relief as she heard her butler's hoofsteps fade. Now that she didn't have someone watching her work, she found it much easier to concentrate. Not that she didn't enjoy his company, but such a delicate job as moving the sun required that she devote every ounce of her focus to it. Knowing that somepony was watching her work was not only distracting, but it made Luna anxious. And anxiety led to mistakes.
"Move... move... AH! TOO MUCH TOO MUCH!"
"Mistress Luna, is everything alright?!" Silver Strings called from within Luna's room, having returned from his errand. He poked his head out onto the balcony, watching Luna's fight for control.
"Yes! No need to worry!" Luna answered rather haphazardly as she redoubled her efforts to correct herself. Wild fluctuations of magic pulsed from her horn as she sought to reassert control over the spell. To her trained eye, the alicorn could see the various strands of magic weaving around her horn and the sun as she tried to move it back into alignment with its celestial path. To the untrained eye, it looked like the sun had developed a mind of its own, thrashing about in the sky for a few moments. "Come on Luna... if you can suplex an Ursa Major... you can do... THIS!" the Princess of the Night growled, letting out a roar of effort as she finally reasserted control over her magics and pushing the sun smoothly down the rest of its path. The sky changed from a baby blue to a bright, vibrant orange, before the deep violet abyss of the night sky came into view, no longer hidden by the bright rays of day. Luna's legs wobbled, all strength gone from them, before she collapsed onto her belly, her chest heaving as she caught her breath.
"Princess Luna!" Silver Strings galloped over to the prone Alicorn, his faced etched with worry.
"I'm fine, Silver Strings." Luna huffed, pushing herself to her feet. Sure, the claws of fatigue gripped at her, her emotional state was beginning to decay, and worry wracked her very soul, but she was not hurt in the slightest! If her body was still whole, she would continue.
"Mistress Luna, you're stressed out of your mind and you've been working nonstop. As your butler, your friend, I implore you to rest!"
"IF WE REST NOW THEN WE ARE NOT FIT TO BE PRINCESS!" Luna rounded upon her butler, letting out a Traditional Royal Canterlot Voice amplified shout.
Silver Strings clenched his eyes shut from the force of the roar, his monocle blown clean off his face. "P-Princess... " he sputtered, tying his mane back into the ponytail that it had been blown out of.
"Silence, Silver Strings." Luna's voice had a hard, angry edge to it. "I am the acting ruler of Equestria for now. It is my duty to care for its citizens. I cannot disappoint the ponies I protect!"
"I never said you'd—" The loud, leathery flap of wings interrupted the butler pony, announcing the arrival of both Hrothgar and Odahviing. The pair of Guardponies touched down, bowing before their princess.
"Captain Odahviing, Hrothgar." Luna addressed the pair of guards.
"Milady." They replied in unison, before rising from their bow. Luna took notice of the discolored scrape on Hrothgar's helmet.
"Didst thou come into conflict?"
"A minor altercation, Milady. I assure thee, nopony was hurt," Odahviing spoke, looking back to the sky; stars now dotted the black void. "Thou hast moved the sun..." The Captain seemed... awed by the feat. Luna could see it in his eyes...
"Yes. Our Sister has not yet awakened, and We had to take up Her Sacred Duty." She let out a tired sigh. "It has taken much of Our power to do so... but we endure."
"You should rest!" Silver Strings interjected, his voice laden with frustration. "Even Princess Celestia had her limits; even she needed rest!"
"SILENCE!" Luna barked angrily. Silver Strings was taken at the unexpected fierceness of the order, shocked into silence. Without another word, the Alicorn stormed back inside, slamming the door behind her. Once the Princess was out of earshot, the butler turned to the Guardponies, flabbergasted.
"I... I don't know what to do!" he exclaimed, pacing as he spoke. "At this rate, Luna will work herself to death!"
"Yeah, we kinda got that." Hrothgar muttered with a roll of his eyes, only to receive a bash on the back of the head from his Captain. "Ow! What was that for?"
"Your flippant attitude, Brother." Odahviing turned towards the butler pony. "Sir Strings, Princess Luna is a stubborn mare. It will take more than the word of a simple coltservant to change her mind."
"Oh, I knew that. It just makes it all the more frustrating! Why won't she listen to reason?!"
"Desperate ponies are rarely sensible, Sir Strings. She shall continue to do as she pleases until she comes across something she'll be unable to handle. Once that time comes, then she will look to you for help."
Silver Strings sighed, looking up at the stars that dotted the sky. They seemed haphazardly thrown about, nothing like the beautiful works of art that Luna usually produced. "I can only hope that you're wrong, Master Odahviing..."
Manehatten, The City that Never Rests, The City Of Second Chances, and the city of many other titles. Ponies would go about their own business on a day to day basis, carriage taxies would continue ferrying ponies to points all over the city, and barring a giant squid attack (what a time the Royal Guard had with that on,) not much happened that would break ponies out of their routines. A pony could walk around all day and not realize how late it was until he looked at a clock. In fact, that was most likely the reason why nopony noticed that the sun was still at noontime some eight hours later. Even then, it was only regarded as a mild curiosity.
Ignorance is bliss. A bliss that all of the Chaos Gods enjoyed as they walked through the crowd of ponies milling about. Strangely, nopony reacted to the appearance of four odd looking ponies, but then again, no one could easily look upon the actual Ruinous Powers.
No, seriously. The quartet of were invisible to all but each other.
"Tzeentch... you have five seconds to tell me why I am a fucking pony before I rip your head off." Khorne snarled, most certainly not pleased with his current form. The Blood God was now a massive, blood red, black maned Pegasus garbed in armor. "And why the FUCK DO I HAVE A GODDAMN TATTOO ON MY ASS!?" Khorne looked to his flank, adorned with his own sigil.
"Ah, I should have mentioned that... Equestria has a metamorphic metamagic field about it. It's a passive barrier that's so ingrained into the dimension that even I couldn't break it... if I wanted to that is." Unlike his far angrier companion, Tzeentch looked upon his current form with intrigue. He stood a head taller than the other Gods, his coat a regal blue. Rather than a mane of hair like everypony else, he had one of feathers similar to those of his wings. Ah yes, speaking of the wings: there was something the Changer of Ways was familiar with. "Hmmm, Wings... a full head taller than all of you... and— oh what is this?" Tzeentch reached a hoof up and tapped the horn upon his head. "Horn and wings? Huh, just like Celestia... interesting."
"Say it in something I can understand! Confusion makes me ANGRY!" Khorne bellowed, stamping upon the ground in anger. "ANGRY WITH ALL CAPS; ONLY CAPITAL LETTERS CAN DESCRIBE MY RAGE RIGHT NOW!"
"Whatever enters Equestria takes the form of its residents. Apparently that extends to us as well. To put it so simply that even you could understand, Khorne: Not-pony things go in, pony things come out."
"Grrrrr.... I HATE THIS PLACE SOOOOOOOOOOOO MUCH!" The Blood God looked upon the crowd that milled around them, murder on his mind. Tzeentch saw the coiling of a pounce being readied, and he sighed. His horn glowed a vile magenta color, before wrapping the ponfied Blood God in a wrap of magic. The effect was immediate: Khorne went to pounce upon the unsuspecting crowd, but found himself rooted to the ground. The God-Turned-Pegasus roared and thrashed about with anger, threats spewing forth from his mouth.
"Khorne, you know as well as I do that if we just go out into the open immediately, we'll be found out and routed. Unlike the Imperium, this world's Protector isn't rotting away on a giant golden seat." Tzeentch paused, before chuckling to himself once he realized the irony. "Well... one isn't, at least." The regal blue alicorn looked upon the crowd with feirce golden eyes. "Look around you: so many subjects to corrupt..."
"AND THEY ALL LOOK ADORABLE~!" came a piercing shriek from Slaanesh. The Prince of Pleasure's ponifed form was that of a bright pink, ambiguously gendered Unicorn with a garish white and black stripped mane. Its eyes were mismatched, one eye was a normal green pony eye, and the other was turqoise and siltted like a cat's. "Oh Us, I'm going to have so much FUN!" She Who Thirsts began to prance about, singing about the very horrible and very unsavory things it had planned.
"Look at them all, ignorant of what goes on around them. Just meandering and doing the same stagnating rituals every day." Nurgle murmured, looking upon the crowd. Not much had changed about him: he was still the big, bloated avatar of disease and decay that he had always been. The only major difference was that he was now a large, disgustingly bloated, sickly green Earth Pony.
"Excellent to see that at least some gods are enjoying themselves." Tzeentch sneered. "But I digress... let us stick with our usual modus operandi. Get a few souls corrupted into serving us, have them form cults, watch hell get raised, get a Warp Portal open, and kick back with a martini or two." he turned from the unknowing crowd and back to the other Runious powers. "So, gentlegods, I wish you luck.... oh and Slaanesh, don't cause spontaneous orgasms in the populace. It gets really messy and it is always a pain to clean it up."
"Awwww, but it's so fun watching them squir—" Slaanesh was suddenly interrupted by Khorne's massive frame casting a massive shadow over it. The Prince of Pleasure slowly turned about, and was staring down the business end of a giant Axe. It eeped, and then leapt back as Khorne tried to cleave him in two. Unfortunately, trying to cleave someone in two is much more difficult when the axe has to be wielded orally. Khorne's swing went wide, hitting the ground to the left of Slaanesh.
"GAAAAHGGH! I CAN'T EVEN FUCKING SWING MY US-DAMNED AXE CORRECTLY!" The Blood God howled in fury, his coherent words devolving into a mad gibbering not too dissimilar from the Berserker Marines that swore allegiance to him. He stomped his front hooves on the ground in a fit of rage. "THIS CURSED PLANET WILL RUN RED WITH THE BLOOD OF ITS INHABITANTS FOR THIS AFRONT!"
"Yeah... you do that, Khorne." Tzeentch snarked, before flaring his wingspan, "I'm going to go do... whatever it is that you aren't doing."
"Yeah... not that." and with a downward snap of his wings, the Changer of Ways took flight, leaving behind his fellow gods to their own devices. The sounds of bickering slowly faded from the ponified god's ears as the others fell out of earshot. Now that he was free to concentrate, Tzeentch began to look among the many, many ponies below him.
"So many ponies, so little time." he muttered, looking down upon the crowd for a perfect candidate. Somepony who was easily cowed. Somepony whom he could easily manipulate. Somepony who coul-
"Oh hello, what is this!" Tzeentch flapped his wings to still himself in midair. He'd felt something... interesting. It was a feeling of malice, mixed with hope, the hope to have the chance to humiliate someone so utterly. The swirling vortex of those emotions flared up in Tzeentch's sight like a flare, drawing him towards its source. Its thoughts, so rich with desperate plotting that they were already halfway to a prayer unto him, sounded in his ears.
"...those FOALS! How dare they call Trixie a two bit hack!" the voice screeched through Tzeentch's head, drawing him ever closer to its source. Tzeentch landed atop a building overlooking a small, dank alleyway. Down below, a bright blue Unicorn with an even lighter mane paced about angrily; Tzeentch could practically see her malice hang about her in a thick miasma. "They couldn't even see talent if it was shoved in their faces and then... WHATEVER ELSE WOULD BE SUITABLE!" The blue mare bucked the wall in anger.
Trixie began to pace back and forth, a myriad of curses spewing forth from her lips as she cursed her luck. Ever since that... incident in Ponyville with the Ursa Minor, it had become almost impossible to find work. Without her wagon-stage, one that had cost her a good sum of bits, she had to do her acts without the assistance of her dazzling display of fireworks. To her, that had been no issue: she'd stuck with her basic act, knowing that it would be plenty to keep those petulant spectators in awe.
At least that's how she planned it in her head. What actually happened was that she had done her usual routine, flashes of light, a couple of illusion spells to simulate a light show, the works. Everything had been going as planned: the crowd had been in awe. But then she had declared her name, declared herself as THE GREAT AND POWERFUL TRIXIE! It was at that moment that a stallion in the crowd had called her out, calling her a two bit hack. Trixie had laughed at him, demanding any kind proof to his insults.
He mentioned Ponyville.
It seemed that cursed town was always there to remind her of that blasted night. Try as she might to put that entire event behind her, it somehow always reared it's ugly head. That town had cost her the place that she had called a home for several years, and all of her possessions within it, and now it was beginning to cost her the reputation that she had built up over the years she traveled. What had those two featherbrained, idiotic foals been thinking when they brought an ACTUAL Ursa Minor to town for her to fend off? Surely anyone with half a brain would have realized that Trixie had been stretching the truth a little.
And then there was that one mare who dared to come out of nowhere and show Trixie up. To simply tame that beast of the stars without any effort. The one major blow to any credibility her stories might have had. Just remembering her lavender coat, her mane of deep purple with a brighter stripe, that Cutie Mark of a six pointed star, drove her to fury.
Trixie ground her teeth and, self control be damned, screamed skyward.
"CURSE YOU TWILIGHT SPARKLE! CURSE YOOOOOOOOOOOOOU!" the Unicorn's horn flared with magic as she seized a small trash can, lifting it up and hurling it against the wall. Refuse and trash were sent flying as the metal bin hit the wall with a loud CLANG. "I swear... I swear that you'll rue the day you dare to stand up THE GREAT AND POWERFUL TRRRRRRRIIIIIIIIXIE!"
Tzeentch looked down from his perch, intrigued. This mare had a penchant for showmanship, that was always good. She also seemed to be looking for vengance, another driving point. But there was the issue of her magical abilities, or rather lack of them. The Changer of Ways could already tell that this Unicorn was a braggart: exaggerating her powers to compensate for her lack of them. Still, people, or ponies in this case, on a quest for vengeance were very easy to manipulate. Casting a casual glance into this universe's past, Tzeentch focused explicitly on her. A little information gathering never hurt; after all, to be omnipotent, you needed to know, or have the ability to know, everything about everyone.
"Well... you're certainly an interesting little pony..." Tzeentch muttered, a coy smile curving his lip as all of Trixie's life flashed before his eyes. "You're not exactly what I'm looking for, but you'll do." he cast his gaze back to the ranting Unicorn. Without effort, his form dissipated into a cloud of smoke and descended down towards the unsuspecting mare.
"...and after Trixie has crushed you so thoroughly, Trixie will make you apologize and BEG for forgiveness for that affront to her!" Trixie let out a vile laugh as she imagined the Unicorn bowing before her at her feet. "And when you beg for forgiveness, Trixie will look down upon you, you pathetic Unicorn, and ever so gently whisper her answer to you... No."
"Certainly one for humiliation, aren't we?"
"GAH!" The Unsuspecting and Shocked Trixie exclaimed, rearing onto her back legs in surprise. "Who's there?! Who dares disturb The Great and Powerful Trixie during her monologue?!"
"The Great and Powerful Trixie? Such an impressive name for a Pony who couldn't even get into Celestia's School for Gifted Unicorns."
Trixie froze. How did that voice... no, it was probably her imagination. The smell of the alleyway was getting to her. Yes, that had to be it.
"On the contrary, Miss Lulamoon, I'm far, far more real than whatever fantasies you could concoct." the voice spoke once more, letting out a snide laugh. "Always the one for showing off, even when you didn't get into the school you wanted to." It was now that Trixie noticed a thick blue cloud had descended upon her, flashes of light shining from within as the voice in her head spoke.
"H-h-how..." Trixie shook her head, this made no sense. Only several ponies knew that she had applied and was subsequently rejected from that prestigious school. And the ponies that she didn't know personally kept that rejection as private records. The unicorn stumbled back to where she had hung her cape and wizard hat, removing them from their resting spots and placing them atop her head and shoulders.
"I know all. I see all." Tzeentch's voice laughed.
"Well... if y-you know all then per-perhaps you know who you are dealing with!" Trixie stood on her hind legs, holding her front hooves outward in a feeble attempt to ward off the cloud. Her horn glared threateningly, for all the good it would do. "I am the GREAT AND POWERFUL TRIXIE! I can flay your flesh with a thought and pulp your bones with a blink!" Trixie's threat was met with another round of laughter.
"You could do no more to harm me than you could keep me entertained with the light show. I could turn you into a gibbering monster in the blink of an eye and you'd never even know." Trixie let out an audible gulp at the thought. This... cloud knew she was all hot air. Still, she stood tall, putting of her best impression of bravery as she stared down the cloud. The sourceless voice let out another laugh, almost admiring her bravery. Then came the clearing of a throat. "But...I am not here to harm you, no. I am here because you have caught my eye."
"...?" The glow faded from Trixie's horn, before she dropped to all fours. "I... I have?" Catching herself, Trixie cleared her own throat. "I mean, of course I have! Anyone would know that the Great and Powerful Trixie is an eye catcher! Trixie's power is unmatched!"
"Except for a certain purple unicorn who, and I quote 'dared to come out of nowhere and show Trixie up,' hmm?"
Trixie twitched in anger at the mention of that unicorn. "Trixie was simply... unprepared and restless! Yes, that! Those foals woke Trixie in the middle of the night and she had no time to prepare for the Ursa Minor!"
"You can lie to yourself all you want, my little pony. But you and I both know your stories are lies, stretches of the truth, and made up."
"Don't lie to yourself anymore. Your magic is as weak as your stories."
"Sh-shut up!" Trixie clamped her eyes shut, tears slowly beginning to form as she shook her head. "Shutupshutup!"
"Oh stop the water works. I said you were weak, not useless."
"Because you need to know your own lies before you know the truth." the voice said. The cloud in front of Trixie began to shrink a bit, taking on a more coherent form. "And I am here to show you the way to the true path."
"W-what do you mean?"
"The path to power. The path to finally get your vengeance upon those who have wronged you." The shape became more and more clear, now taking the shape of Tzeentch's alicorn form. "I can give you that power. No, I can promise you that power." The Changer of Ways extended a hoof, and a ball of magenta warpfire came into being and floated there.
Trixie looked upon the approaching Alicorn with awe. She thought that only Celestia and Luna were the only alicorns in existence, yet standing before her was one unlike any she had seen before. And he promised her power! Revenge! Trixie could only imagine what she could do with it. "This power... will it be able to help-"
"Take revenge on Twilight Sparkle? Utterly humiliate her? As she is now, yes." Tzeentch grinned once more, taking a few more steps forward. "You will have the power to raize buildings, dominate others, and split the sky asunder." Trixie's eyes lit up. She was already picturing herself lording over a defeated Twilight, and nothing stopping her.
"Trixie wants it! Give Trixie the power! GIVE IT!" she yelled, looking ready to pounce upon the Changer of Ways
"Then pledge yourself to me. Serve me loyally and you shall be rewarded."
"Trixie does! Anything for the chance to show those foals who dared wrong me!"
"Then come closer, say that you pledge yourself to Tzeentch, the Changer of Ways, the Architect of Fate, the Lord of Sorcery!" Tzeentch let out a low laugh as he saw the Unicorn scramble over to his hooves, a hungry look in her eyes. He smiled as he heard her pledge herself to him completely and utterly. Granted, he was being a little more upfront than he usually would, but not all steps in a plan had to be subtle and sneaky. Sometimes it took a little extravagance or offering power to temp mortals. He leaned his head down so that his own face was a short distance from Trixie's... "Utter the phrase, 'I serve the wind of change, it controls all! ' and the power is yours."
Trixie grinned happily, screaming. "I serve the wind of change, it controls all! I serve the wind of change, IT CONTROLS ALL! "
"Then it shall!" Tzeentch's horn glowed with magenta light, and he touch his horn to Trixie's. A flash of magic burst from the contact point, and Trixie screamed. The blue unicorn reared back, clutching her face as light erupted from her eyes as Warp Sorcery flooded her mind. And the pain, by Cel- no, by Tzeentch the pain. Trixie could feel her entire body, her mind, her very soul burned by the sheer power flowing for her. She could felt the desire to sever the connection to her body, to let the waves of power that crashed over her wash her away. Her thirst for revenge, however, rooted her firmly to her body. She wasn't going to loose herself in this power, not when she haven't had a chance to even use it. She endured the pain... pain that she'd never felt before. It was a pain that was a splash of ice water to the face: shocking, chilling, awakening. Yes, it stripped away the lies that she had known all her life, showing her spells that she'd never even DREAMED of.
She felt the Warp overtaking her... and it was a GOOD pain!
"YES! TRIXIE KNOWS EVERYTHING!!! TRIXIE! SEES! EVERYTHING!!!" Trixie cackled as she felt herself suspended in midair, the magic flowing about her. It was like waking up from a dream, she felt refreshed, reborn, remade. She cast her gaze towards the rubbish bin she had thrown earlier in her fit of rage, and her horn flashed once. The metal bin shuddered and shook, before exploding in a conflagration of magenta flame. The Great and Powerful Trixie cackled once again, her mirthful laughter reaching a crecendo.
Tzeentch chuckled at the Unicorn's display of her newfound power. She certainly was worth her title now... but he digressed. As impressive as the mare's showmanship was, she was nothing more than a pawn in his plans. She would be of use to him till she fufilled her purpose...
"Yes... for now." Tzeentch muttered as he saw the Cutie Mark upon Trixie's flank change. It was still a simple wand waving wound some magic, but now the magic had taken upon new shape.
The Mark of Tzeentch.
Just as Planned.
Thought for the Day: Better to be broken in body, than corrupt in mind.
Oh Geeze, this took a while, and it's not even as long as Chapter 2 was.
But yeah, Chaos Gods have moved on in, we get a little more insight into Luna's Guards, and Luna is stubborn as a mule. Also, a question for my readers:
Are you getting a bit bored with the focus on Hrothgar and Odahviing? Do you want me to cut back on their focus a bit?