A note from the author: I just want to inform you before reading this that in the flashback story, the dialogue is done in a modern style. I did not use the traditional Canterlot speaking style, mainly because I felt a modern style would be easier to relate to. Thank you and enjoy!
“The Princess Marks, Part 1”
Sweetie Belle, Scootaloo, and Apple Bloom were standing on the arch bridge just outside Ponyville. The three had their eyes cast upon the clear water of the gentle creek. The three Cutie Mark Crusaders had arrived at an impasse. They were no closer to earning their cutie marks and worst of all they had no new ideas on what they could even try.
Scootaloo let out a long exasperated sigh. “Huuuuuuuh! Well anyone have an idea?” She asked her fellow crusaders.
Apple Bloom perked up for a minute and raised her right hoof in the air. A hopeful and excited look flared up on her face. Opening her mouth she promptly replied, “I got nothing…” She dropped back to lean on the bridge.
“This stinks!” Sweetie Belle groused. “At this rate we’ll be old gray mares till we find out what our special talents are.”
“I reckon you’re right Sweetie Belle. But what in tarnation can we do?” The young Apple Bloom wondered. “Our last plan didn’t turn out so well.”
Scootaloo sighed again. “Don’t remind me. Cutie Mark Crusader “Pet Detectives” was a nightmare.”
“Tell me about it. What pony in their right mind keeps a skunk as a pet and then loses it?” Sweetie Belle inquired rhetorically.
“Guess we’d just better keep brainstormin’,” Apple Bloom announced.
“Yeah,” Scootaloo mumbled back. “I wonder if it was this hard for Princess Luna and Celestia to get their cutie marks.”
Just then Twilight Sparkle trotted along humming a happy tune. As she approached the lovely arched bridge, she noticed the three little ponies. Her hooves clacked as she started up the bridge. “Hi girls! Did I hear somepony talking about the princesses and their cutie marks?” The lavender unicorn inquired cheerfully.
“Yeah, so?” Remarked Scootaloo.
Twilight trotted up and joined them. “Well judging from your hangdog looks I’m thinking you three could use some fresh inspiration.”
“At this rate Twilight we’ll try anything,” Sweetie Belle said a strong frustration in her voice.
“The story of how Princess Celestia and Princess Luna got their cuties marks is just as exiting as how my friends and I got our cutie marks!” Twilight asserted confidently.
Apple Bloom perked up, “It is?”
“You better believe it!” Twilight declared with a playful giggle.
“Could you tell us the story Twilight?” Sweetie Belle asked batting her eyelashes.
“Yeah could you?” Scootaloo asked finally perking up.
“I could, but…if you really want to hear the tale properly…we should go to Canterlot and have the princesses tell us themselves!” Twilight suggested boldly.
The three Cutie Mark Crusaders all lit up in unison. “Canterlot!” They shouted.
“Yep. Come on let’s go take the train,” Twilight said as the three followed her to the train station.
Twilight Sparkle and the three Cutie Mark Crusaders had arrived in Canterlot castle. The small group had been escorted to the throne room by palace guards. There, Princess Celestia greeted them. “Welcome to Canterlot my little ponies!” The princess declared regally. The guests bowed politely to her Royal Highness. She smiled thoughtfully at them. “Now tell me, what brings you to Canterlot?”
The three stood silently before the princess. This was the first time the three of them had ever been to Canterlot castle. Naturally they were feeling a little nervous. Twilight gave them each a gentle nudge and said softly, “Go on girls it’s okay.”
“Um, we wanted to hear how you and Princess Luna earned your cutie marks,” Scootaloo replied in a hopeful voice.
“Uh yeah, so would you tell us?” Apple Bloom asked.
“Please!” Sweetie Belle chimed in smiling.
“Why I’d be delighted to tell you,” Celestia replied joyfully. It was then that the sound of hooves lightly clacking on the marble floor filled the room. They belonged to the lovely Princess Luna. The regal alicorn walked up to the group curious as to why they were all there. “Oh, Luna! Your timing is perfect dear sister!”
Luna looked at Celestia, then at Twilight and the three little ponies. “What’s going on sis?” The younger princess inquired.
Celestia smiled politely before saying, “Twilight has brought these three young ones to Canterlot to hear the tale of how we got our cutie marks. For you see these three have been trying so very hard to earn theirs.”
Princess Luna’s face lit up as she recollected. “Oh right! You mentioned them to me after reading some of Twilight’s letters.”
“That’s right. Now dear sister…would you join me in telling them our story?” Celestia asked earnestly.
Luna looked at her sister then at the three little ones. “Please Princess Luna!” Pleaded Apple Bloom giving her puppy dog eyes.
“It’ll be great to hear it from both of you!” Sweetie Belle added with a cute little smile.
“Not to mention cooler!” Remarked Scootaloo with due enthusiasm.
Luna lowered her head slightly and smiled. “Well then how can I refuse. I’d be happy to share our story with you three. Oh and Twilight it’s good to see you,” the princess spoke happily.
“You too Princess Luna,” Twilight responded respectfully smiling jubilantly.
Celestia fluffed her long white elegant wings. “Now then Luna, would you start the story for us, please?” She asked her sibling.
“Of course,” Luna answered still smiling. The princess gathered her thoughts recalling the grand tale of her past. “It truly is a remarkable story. It happened about twenty-one hundred years ago. Celestia and I were still such little fillies. Much like yourselves. Though Celestia was indeed a bit bigger than me…”
It was a turbulent time for Equestria. The King and Queen of Canterlot had vanquished the sinister villain Ghastaloom. However, many of his followers still roamed about the land. One of which took refuge in the Everfree Forest. There he plotted and planned to get revenge on the rulers that defeated his master.
The grand armies of Equestria were busy keeping the peace. Many skirmishes were still being fought as the waning cells of hostile resistance slowly came to an end. This made it a difficult time to be a young filly or colt. This was especially true if one was a crown princess of Canterlot.
Princess Luna was leaning against the edge of the banister of the throne room balcony. She stared out into the vastness of Equestria. The land, form a distance looked so calm and peaceful. It was hard to believe there was any danger at all. She let out a frustrated sigh and said out loud, “I’m so bored!”
That was when Luna heard a voice shout, “Hey Luna!”
Luna jumped in surprise. “Huh?” She gasped. Looking around and finally up she saw her sister Celestia flapping her wings hovering above the balcony. “Oh sis, you startled me.”
Celestia landed with a bit of a thud. Her tiara had shifted and was dangling from her horn. “Whoops!” She said fixing her tiara.
“Still getting used to landing?” Luna asked.
Grinning Celestia replied, “Yeah. But don’t worry. Before long I’ll be a master flier just like mom and dad. Oh and sorry for starling you sister.”
“That’s okay. So what’s up?”
“The usual. Every pony keeps telling me. Behave Celestia. Don’t go leaving the castle without an adult. Blah, blah, blah!” Celestia joined Luna in looking over the balcony. “It’s so boring always being told what to do Luna.”
“Yeah…tell me about,” she said letting out another sigh. “I wish I could think of something fun to do. But there just isn’t much to do in this castle…well that I haven’t done a zillion times.”
“I know what you mean,” the young pearl white alicorn replied. Then her face lit up as she gasped, “Uh, Luna I just had a great idea!”
Sadly Luna’s face did not display enthusiasm. “Oh boy here we go. So what fun idea to get us both in trouble did you come up with this time?” Luna asked.
“Oh come on. Why do you always assume my ideas are going to get us in trouble,” Celestia whined.
“Because they usually always do,” Luna replied snidely.
“Yes well this one shouldn’t!”
“Let’s hear it.”
Celestia opened her wings and walked back toward the castle. “Right now our parents and the guards are all busy. This is the perfect time to sneak out of the castle and go exploring!”
“And this won’t get us in trouble…how?” Luna asked sternly.
Celestia looked around shifting her eyes cautiously. Then moving close to her sister she said quietly, “Because we’ll use our secret passage. If they don’t see us leave and return…then how can we get in trouble?”
Luna just rolled her eyes and then shook her head. “Where do I begin…but anyway it does at least give us something exciting to do.”
“Exactly. I mean haven’t you ever wanted to go exploring in the Everfree Forest? I know I have,” Celestia remarked feeling adventurous.
Luna’s eyes widened. “Wait…you want to go there?! That place is a deathtrap. I may be bored…but I sure like living. And if mom and dad find out we went there…ooohhh,” Luna said shuttering. “I don’t even want to think about the punishment they’d give us.”
“Oh come on sis. Where’s your sense of adventure. Besides we’re princesses, one day we will rule Equestria. We owe it to our subjects to check out the forest. So what’d you say sister?”
Luna face-hoofed as she said, “I must be crazy. That’s what. Because I’m actually going to go with you.”
“That’s the spirit. Come on let’s go to the secret passage!” Though part of her was still reluctant, Luna followed her sister as they departed the balcony. Cautiously the two princesses made their way to the large castle courtyard. It had an elegant stone walkway, well-maintained green grass, bushes, and a wide array of lovely flowers. Luna followed her sister still feeling quite anxious. Finally the sisters arrived at the far end. Celestia looked around and saw no pony nearby. She grinned as she led Luna to a solitary statue of Apollo Might one of the great knights of Equestria. The elder alicorn slide his wing back till it clicked. A hidden door in the adjacent castle wall slid open making a soft scrapping noise. “Come on Luna inside,” whispered Celestia still keeping a diligent vigil for anyone that might see them.
“Okay,” Luna gulped darting into the door.
Celestia smiled as she repositioned Apollo’s wing. She too entered the passage and the door immediately slid shut behind her. “Phew! We did it little sister!” Celestia remarked wiping some sweat from her brow. “Now let’s go!”
“Right behind you sis,” Luna called following close behind. The purple alicorn looked around the passage. It was comprised of white stone brick much like the rest of the castle. It was devout of any windows and was illuminated by a series of torches. “Wow I can hardly believe the torches are still burning. Isn’t this a secret passage?”
“Uh yeah. But you know these are magic torches right?” Celestia asked hoping Luna didn’t mistake the obvious.
“Right but we didn’t light them. Somepony else did. Which means we aren’t the only ones to know about this passage,” Luna noted uneasily.
“Please Luna, try to stay focused. Haven’t you noticed all the cobwebs in here? This passage hasn’t seen many visitors in quite some time. Not since I found it a while back. Gah,” Celestia winced walking into a cobweb. She shook her head and brushed her face and pink mane trying to get it out. “See what I mean.”
“Yeah, you’re right,” Luna said trying to help her sister with the webbing. “Say if we go back right now I could wash your mane and style it for you.”
“Oh come on Luna, if you wash my mane and tail one more time the pink is gonna come right out of it. Besides I want to explore the forest together!” Celestia whined.
Luna smiled at her sister. Despite all the trouble her big sister had gotten her into in the past, she just could never say no to her. “You got me Tia. I just can’t say no to you big sis,” Luna replied shaking her head.
Celestia hugged Luna. “Thank you dear sister. Now come on let’s go!”
“Right behind you.” Luna trotted along side her sister. The path went straight for a few hundred yards then led to a long stairway going down. As they descended they could tell they were no longer inside the castle. The walls had become carved earth and the damp smell or wet dirt and rock filled their nostrils. The stairs however were made of stone and were in very good shape considering how derelict the passage appeared. Upon reaching the bottom some fifty feet later the princess ponies arrived at a large wooden door with metal hinges and handles.
Celestia examined the door and her face lit up with excitement. “This is it Luna. This door will take us to the land below Canterlot! We made it little sister!” She exclaimed delightedly.
Luna examined the door carefully. It didn’t appear to have any obvious locks on it. Though it did appear to look solidly crafted, which would almost certainly mean it was a heavy door. She walked up and popped the latch. Then she began to push…but nothing happened. The door creaked slightly but would not budge. “Celestia…the door won’t open,” cried Luna.
Smiling confidently, Celestia walked over to it. Like her sister, she gave it a good push. Still it didn’t budge. “Luna come here.” The younger sister returned to the door. “Help me push it.” Together the sisters pushed and the door slowly creaked open. Daylight poured into the passage as the door gave way revealing the land outside. “There. Thank you Luna.”
“No problem Tia,” Luna replied momentarily forgetting where they were heading.
The two ponies stepped outside the passage. The vast plains of Equestria sprawled out before them. There were fields of green grass, streams, small waterfalls, and grove after grove of trees. In the distance stood a proud mountain range. Craning her head upward Celestia saw the warm golden sun basking the land in its life-giving rays. Luna joined her sister in gazing across the vastness of the land. “Wow, it’s so beautiful.”
“See, aren’t you glad you came along. Had you not little sister, you would have missed this wondrous visage,” Celestia remarked.
“Yeah. Oh where were we heading again?” Luna asked momentarily sidetracked by the beauty of the land.
“To the Everfree Forest,” Celestia replied blatantly.
Luna’s eyes widened. “Oh,” she muttered drooping her head.
“Come on,” Celestia said pushing Luna from behind. “It’s gonna be great!”
“Alright, alright I can walk,” Luna cried. Her big sister stopped pushing her. The younger princess got her footing and flipped her soft blue tail.
Celestia giggled and said, “Hope I didn’t ruffle your feathers.”
“Tia!” Shouted Luna.
“Come on I’m just teasing you. Now let’s go!” The sisters trudged onward following the grassy fields. It wasn’t hard to find the Everfree Forest. It had a distinctive presence about it. Even from afar it stood out. Closer and closer they came to the entrance. “Here we go!” Celestia announced as they slowly entered the foreboding forest. Luna entered the forest but each step was more daunting than the last. She was hardly a coward but anypony with a shred of commonsense knew you steer clear of this vile place.
Celestia marched on proudly and fearless. She looked around with glee. The young alicorn could scarcely recall when she was this excited. “Isn’t this great Luna? Luna?” Celestia called out. Looking around she saw Luna trailing a good twenty paces behind her. Her little sister was taking baby steps and had her eyes shut tightly. “Oh Luna, come on now!” Celestia spoke spreading her wings and flying over to her sister. “It’s not that bad.”
Celestia placed a hoof on Luna’s shoulder. “Yikes!” Luna shouted as she took to the air. Opening her eyes she looked down and saw that it was only Celestia. “Oh Tia, it was only you.”
“Naturally. You should keep your eyes open. Now come on there’s a lot more of this place I wanna check out!”
Luna landed gracefully and followed her sister. As they walked the purple pony looked around feeling more and more anxious. The trees seemed to be moving. Other forms of life made harrowing noises that filled her with unrest. “Celestia I want to go back. You know even Starswirl the Bearded doesn’t come here unless he needs a rare herb or ingredient!” She whimpered.
“Oh all right your big fraidypony. We’ll go,” replied Celestia. A sudden rustle in the bushes caused the elder sister to grow silent.
“Huh, what was that?” Whispered Luna fearfully.
“Don’t know,” Celestia whispered back. For the first time since entering, Celestia felt uneasy. Anxiety quickly gripped her as the rustling in the bushes continued. “Get behind me Luna.” Luna did so and looked on filling with a sense of dread.
An earth pony emerged from the bushes. It was a blood red stallion. He had a short black mane and tail, dark purple eyes, and his cutie mark was a black skull. The stallion looked at the two ponies and smiled. “Oh thank heavens! Can you two fillies help me? I wandered into this forest and have been lost in here for days now,” he replied in a non-threatening voice.
Celestia looked at him curiously. She turned to glance at her sister. Luna was just blinking her eyes in confusion. “Hmmmm,” uttered Celestia.
“Come on Celestia, let’s go. Besides mother and father always told us to never talk to strangers,” Luna whimpered still feeling uneasy.
“That’s true Luna, but they also told us to be kind to those in need,” She said reminding her sister. Celestia walked cautiously over to the stallion. “Now sir how can we help you?”
“Do you know the way out of here?” He asked.
Luna’s head snapped up. She took a good long look at him. Immediately she noticed that his story didn’t seem to jive. He looked amazingly healthy and well groomed for somepony who’d been lost in such a dreadful place. Also his voice shouldn’t have sounded so calm. She knew the forest had her quivering with nearly every word she spoke. “Celestia!” Luna asserted.
“Not now Luna. I’m trying to help this stallion,” she replied abruptly. “Yes sir, I do know the way out of here.”
“Good, may I ask the names of two such helpful ponies?” He inquired.
“Why certainly,” she began.
“Celestia!” Yelled Luna.
“What is it Luna!” Shouted her big sister feeling quite annoyed.
“It’s him sis. His story doesn’t make sense. If he’s been here for days how come he looks so clean and healthy!” She whimpered.
Celestia looked at him and her eyes widened. “You’re right Luna. Who are you?” She inquired to the stallion.
He grinned at her and replied, “The young one is quite wise. Heh heh. Celestia and Luna huh. So you must be the crown princesses of Canterlot!”
“Yeah, so what’s it to you?” Growled Celestia filling with distrust.
“Just that my master will be pleased when I bring him your lifeless hides! Mwa-ha-ha-ha-ha!!” Laughed the sinister stallion. His eyes began to glow as his pony façade melted away revealing his true body. Taking full form, the two princesses could he see that he was in fact a dark gray gargoyle! He had strong muscular legs and arms, proud leathery wings a pointed snout with a mouth full of sharp teeth, red eyes and a pair of nasty dark horns on his head.
Shaking her head Celestia stood her ground. She began to fill with aggression as she looked at her foe. “Who are you?” She called out demanding to know.
“Heh, heh! My name is Grelgin! I am the loyal servant of the mighty Ghastaloom. You’re meddling parents defeated my master. Now I shall exact my vengeance on you two!” Grelgin held his arms apart. Glowing spheres of energy appeared in them. He fired them at the two princesses.
“Run Luna!” Cried Celestia. The two alicorns scrambled narrowly evading the attack. The spheres slammed into the ground and exploded. Leaving small smoldering holes where they had landed.
“I knew we shouldn’t have come here!” Shouted Luna running and gasping for breath.
“Save it Luna!” Asserted Celestia and they both dodged another round of energy blasts. “Luna keep running. I’m going to try something.”
“Celestia!” Cried Luna still running.
The elder sister came to a halt and faced her attacker. She closed her eyes and focused. Her horn began to light up. Opening her eyes she leered her horn at Grelgin. “Take this she shouted!” Celestia was still only learning to use her magic, but she felt confident enough to try an offensive attack. She managed to unleash a bolt of energy from her horn. It struck the gargoyle. “Take that!”
The electrical energy zapped across Grelgin’s body. “Argh!” He growled in pain. However it was hardly enough to stop him. The fiend shook his head and glowered at Celestia. “That hurt you little pest! Now take this!” He yelled unleashing a blast of energy from his right hand.
Celestia froze in place unable to move. Her mouth dropped open as she saw the attack cruise right for her. Luna came back, galloping and tackled her full force knocking her out of the way. The beam flew into a tree reducing it to cinders. Luna gasped heavily for breath as both Celestia and she returned to their hooves. “You okay sis?”
“Yes…Luna, thank…y…you,” huffed Celestia still trying to regain her breath as well.
“We’ve gotta get out of here now!” Declared Luna.
Grelgin leapt from a tree and spread his mighty wings. He sailed over them and landed blocking them. “Just where do you think you’re going?” He snarled. The brute laughed at them and said, “Now to end this little farce! You two can never defeat me!” He charged energy spheres in his hands again and snickered at them. Grelgin slowly began walking toward them, chuckling with each step. Luna and Celestia continued to back away hoping to find an escape. Finally they had reversed as far as they could. One of Celestia’s back hooves discovered they were backed up to a steep cliff. The princesses looked back. There was no escape now. “Foolish little ponies! Now you have no where to run! Enjoy your trip to the afterlife! Mwa-ha-ha-ha-ha!” Grelgin laughed maniacally throwing the energy spheres at them.
To Be Continued…