by PaulAsaran


There was a knock on the throne room doors. Twilight turned from the her vigil at the window.


The doors opened just enough to permit a lone unicorn guard. His face was covered in blood and he favored one of his hind legs. He carried something in a lone hoof.

“I… I was told to deliver this, your majesty.”

Twilight’s chest constricted, for she knew that this could only mean one thing. She stepped forward with a heavy heart and, using her magic, lifted the object from the guard’s hoof.

It was an orange feather.

She fell to her haunches, a small cry escaping her throat. Tears swelled in her eyes as she took the feather and held it close to her chest.

“That foal… I told him not to go out there…”

The guard removed his helmet and bowed his head. “I am sorry, princess. We tried to protect him…”

Twilight made no attempt to wipe the tears from her cheeks. She looked up at the guard and recognized his terrible condition. “You should go. All the Guard should go. I don’t want anypony else to die for me.”

He looked up at her, lips set in a grim frown. “We cannot do that. We must protect the princess.”

Her broken heart pounding, Twilight raised the feather with her magic and stood tall over the guard. “This is an order from your princess: withdraw.”

The guard stared up at her for some time, his expression unreadable. At last he stood and replaced his helmet. “Forgive me your majesty, but I must refuse. We will remain outside. Please, reconsider your position.”

They really weren’t going to budge, were they? Twilight turned away and held a leg over her eyes, struggling to hold back a sob. “N-no. I will not run from this, nor will I fight my own citizens.”

A deep silence filled the air, punctuated by the distant sounds of clashing weapons and magic. Twilight devoted the time fighting to control herself… but she wasn’t doing a very good job of it.

After ten years, it was getting hard to hold in the pain.

“Princess.” The guard’s hoofsteps resounded in the quiet. “We will guard over the throne room. I apologize that we won’t be able to hold them back… but we will hold out as long as we can.”

The doors closed. Twilight was alone, alone in that massive throne room that she never liked to be in. She never wanted to sit in that seat. As far as she was concerned, only one pony was supposed to sit there…

…but that pony was gone, probably forever.

Twilight let the feather hover between her eyes, her heart bleeding as she recalled so many happy memories. When all hell broke loose, he was the one who kept her on her hooves. Now he too was gone. So many friends, so many loved ones, and now even her dear husband.

With a shaky sigh, Twilight turned and approached one of the massive stained glass windows. Before it stood five short plinths, each with a bright red pillow on top. Each pillow held a key, keys that never got to see their proper use. She eyed each one, hovering the feather over their respective pillows as she considered them.

It was so difficult. Every time she examined those keys she found herself on the verge of tears, and her face was already moist…

Her legs shook, her vision blurred. At last Twilight set the feather down upon the key shaped like a lightning bolt. Loyalty… that suited him well, didn’t it?

She gazed up at the window, choking down a sob and rubbing the moisture from her eyes. They decorated the stained glass in a beautiful display, set in the angelic poses of what she hoped was eternal peace.

“I’m... I’m sorry.” She struggled to get the words out, words she’d repeated every day since that terrible battle, but which today felt so terribly true. “I c-couldn’t do it. I couldn’t maintain harmony without you. I wish I could take it b-back…”

Twilight didn’t want to watch the smoke rising over the city, to witnesses the last of her loyalists being cut down by the overwhelming numbers. There was no point. So she walked between the pillars to the single large pillow set in the center of the semi-circle and curled up on top. She rested her head sideways so she could keep her eyes on the window – on her friends – and tried to drown herself in precious memories.

She wanted the warmth of a helping claw.

The energy of an unpredictable spell.

To smell an apple pie.

To hear sweet laughter.

To see the glimmer of rare gems.

To taste the driving wind.

To feel a kind hoof.

Yet she would never get any of those things. Never again.

She closed her eyes and sobbed. There was nothing else to do.

Twilight was roused from her guilt and loss by the sound of fighting. She made no attempt to cover her ears against the noise.

This was something Twilight needed to hear.

She turned about on her pillow, away from the great window, and lay in wait. Her eyes locked on the doors and her ears perked as she cast the hearing spell. Every shout, each metallic clash, the crackle of magic, she wanted to be aware of it all. Twilight’s heart throbbed with each pained cry.

She heard the Captain of the Guard attempt to rally his men, and Twilight’s breath cut off at the same time as his shocked gasp.

Why didn’t they leave?

Why did they have to be so loyal?

There was only one left. She could hear him standing his ground just outside, shouting his patriotic fervor.

Twilight bowed her head at the sound of the bang, the doors shaking from the impact. She could hear his body sliding to the floor, his whispered apology.

“I’m sorry too.” Her shoulders shook. “I’m so sorry…”

She let the magic fade and closed her eyes. No attempt was made to create a barrier against the attackers, no spell of invisibility or prepared blast of righteous fury.

She would face this obscenity.

Seconds lingered. Were they preparing themselves? Did they think that now, after ten years of pacifism, she would at last try to defend herself?

Was there no logic at all in their actions?

At last the doors opened. The attackers entered the room in silence, their hoofsteps slow and cautious. She kept her eye closed and waited.


“We finally got to you, you witch.”

The hoofsteps stopped. No attack came.

“Open your eyes! I want you to see the face of the ponies that finally beat you.”

Twilight remained silent and calm.

“Good Goddess, look at her.”

“I know! Basking in the ‘glory’ of her twisted deeds…”

A fire burned in her mind for the first time in months. Twilight sucked down a slow, shuddering breath and opened her eyes. There were six of them, and her eyes roamed their hardened and battle-ready forms. Twilight’s anger boiled, but there was also pity for these poor foals.

Her words came out as a harsh whisper:

“You have no idea how much it pains me to lie here every night.”

The tall, orange pegasus stepped forward, her eyes fierce as she aimed her spear. “Don’t give us that crap! Everypony knows you’re proud of what you did.”

The white unicorn shared a similar menace. “Ten years of fighting. If you really cared you’d have never taken the throne!”

Twilight raised her head with a haughty frown. “I took nothing.”

The pale brown pegasus flapped her wings in agitation. “Why are we talking to her?”

“I agree.” The silver Earth pony let out a low snarl. “Kill her, before she turns us into a crater!”

“Go at her head-on?” The tall, pink unicorn shook her head. “That’s probably what she wants.”

Twilight bared her teeth. “I will not fight Equestrians!”

The only one that had not spoken, a massive red stallion, stepped forward. The scar running along his throat clarified his silence, but the ferocity in his eyes spoke volumes.

That was when Twilight noticed. She eyed all of them, her heart growing heavy.

There was six of them.

“…where is Apple Bloom?”

The six rebels shared angry frowns… save the stallion, whose glare only intensified.

It was the orange pegasus who finally answered:

“She took your bastard husband with her.”

It was like a knife twisting in her heart. Twilight let out a small cry and covered her face with a leg. “Oh Goddess… Big McIntosh… I’m sorry…”

The silver pony let out a vicious snarl. “Don’t you dare speak to him! Don’t pretend like you actually care!”

Big Mac moved in, baring his teeth and growling.

But that fire had returned, this time in full force.

“Be silent!”

A beam struck the ground, creating an eruption of violet light. The six ponies stumbled back and a pale circle surrounded their hooves. They all began shouting and cursing as they tried to fight their way out of the six matching prisons. Twilight watched them claw at the walls, seeing their fury and frustration, and that fire within only grew stronger.

“I said be silent!”

“Buck you!” The others cheered the line.

Twilight stood, her horn sparking with all the god-like power that had been instilled within her a decade ago. “You foals. Whatever happened to Harmony in Equestria?”

You did!” The pink unicorn tried to fire a beam against her prison; it fizzled pointlessly. “You refused Tirek’s deal! You let your friends die! You became the monster!” The others cried their agreement.

Twilight’s blood boiled, but she remained calm. She leveled the unicorn with a firm frown.

“And what else would you have had me do? Surrender the only thing that gave Equestria a chance? Submit myself and everypony in the land to his tyranny?”

“You should have thought of an alternative!” The orange pegasus’ spear shattered as she smashed it against her prison. “My sister is dead, you sacrificed her just so you could be a god! We traded one tyrant for another!”

The words came out as a scream: “I am not a tyrant!”

They all went silent, watching as Twilight seethed. Her shoulders shook, her heart hammered in her chest. She glared at each of them in turn, teeth bared and sparks flying from her horn.

The light brown pegasus sneered. “You’re sure acting like one.”

Twilight let out a frustrated shout. “Where did you get these insane ideas? Who put them into your heads? I have not once harmed a single pony with my powers, I have raised the sun and the moon for a decade!”

“And where are the other princesses?” The white unicorn pressed against her prison wall. “Why didn’t you give them back their powers after killing Tirek? What did you do to them?”

Twilight threw up her hooves. “I don’t know where they are!”

Silence once again encompassed the room as she fell to her knees, her anger traded for a sudden and overwhelming sorrow. “I don’t know where they are. I want them back. I want them back so much. I never wanted to rule Equestria…”

The silver pony sat, her words bitter. “Enough of this charade. You have us where you want us. Just kill us.”

“Is that what you think I’m going to do?” Twilight looked at each of them in turn. She saw their confidence and felt her anger come boiling back, but this time it was subdued.

“You’re a disgrace.” She stood tall and glared. “All of you, one big disgrace.”

She turned to the orange pegasus. “Scootaloo. I remember when you were so small, and Rainbow decided to take you under her wing.”

The young pegasus opened her mouth to speak, but it closed with a click of teeth at a wave of Twilight’s wing. Scootaloo glared daggers as she struggled against the spell.

“You will listen.” She cast a glance at the others, ceasing their attempts to interrupt with the same spell. “You will all listen. You haven’t deposed me yet, and while I am still Princess of Equestria I will have my say.”

She turned back to Scootaloo, who peered at her with lips curled up in a sneer. “You claim to represent loyalty. Is this your definition of loyalty? You betrayed Equestria just to seek your petty revenge. If Rainbow Dash were here she would be disappointed, not because you couldn’t kill me, but because you tried to. Rainbow was my friend, and she above all others would be willing to accept the sacrifice I made.”

Scootaloo stared at her, a spark of uncertainty in her eyes. She looked away with a huff and glared at the floor.

Twilight turned to the white unicorn.

“And you, Sweetie. Generosity? What have you done in the past ten years that qualifies for such a distinction? What have you given your fellow ponies, other than fury and bitterness and blood? Your sister was a pony of beauty and elegance, who loved to bring out the best in others. You shame her with your actions. Rarity was my friend, and she gave her life so that you might live yours.”

Anger filled Sweetie Belle's eyes, but there were also tears. She turned her back on Twilight, but there was a noticeable sag in her shoulders.

Twilight locked eyes with the brown pegasus.

“Zipporwhill. Where is the kindness you claim to represent? You think you qualify to take Fluttershy’s place just because of your affinity for animals? When she sang at your cute-ceañera, she did it despite her fears because that was the kind of pony she was. Where in your actions is the lifetime of devotion she so happily displayed? If she saw you now she would fear you. Fluttershy was my friend, and she would sob if she saw what you’ve done to the lands she loved.”

Zipporwhill took a tentative step back, her lips parted in a startled and hurt expression.

Twilight’s anger was turned upon the silver pony.

“And you, Silver Spoon. Laughter. Seriously, you’re supposed to be laughter? Why, because all the other Elements had been picked? At least Cheese Sandwich understood the concept; when they told me he died laughing and protecting foals at the Battle of Trottingham, I believed it. You presume to just step in and blaspheme their names? Your job should be to spread joy, not death. Pinkie Pie was my friend, and out of all my friends I think she would be the most insulted by your foalish behavior.

“And Pinkie defined foalish behavior.”

Silver Spoon’s eyes were locked with Twilight’s, her teeth bared in a menacing display.

Twilight, filled with disgust, moved away from the pony. She brought her attention to the pale-pink unicorn.

“Fleur de Lis. You took on my mantle, didn’t you? Magic. You sought to be the leader, to guide your ponies against me in a righteous crusade. You insult me. I never condoned war, I only sought peace and harmony, yet here you are destroying everything your claimed Element stands for. The Element of Magic is centered about friendship. Does that concept stir any emotion in that hate-filled mind of yours?

I bore the Element of Magic, and I hold the life, health and prosperity of every pony in this kingdom as precious. Yes, even yours.”

Fleur leaned back, her eyes shifting in contemplation.

At last, Twilight turned to Big McIntosh. She’d skipped him.

For a reason.

“No pony is more disappointing, more blasphemous, than you. Big Mac, Applejack was the proudest, most strong-willed and most dependable pony in all of Equestria. She bore the Element of Honesty with integrity and confidence. You watched her grow from a foal to a mare. You should know better than I do that if she saw you now she would be disgusted. You not only betrayed the good ways of the Apple Family, but you dragged your kid sister into it.”

Twilight bowed her head and sat, staring at her trembling hooves. “Apple Bloom is dead now. She’s dead. She looked up to her sister, and now she’s probably getting the lecture of a lifetime. She could have done so much! She was such a good kid…”

She wiped her eyes free of tears. When she looked up she saw the pain and loss in Big Mac’s eyes, a pain that warmed her heart.

“I accept her death as my responsibility,” Twilight whispered. “Just as I accepted those of my dear friends, for whom I still weep every night, just as I accept responsibility for the death of every pony who defended or fought against my rule.”

Twilight stood and walked to Big Mac. She pressed her hoof against the prison wall. With her magic, she brushed his tears away.

“I am sorry. You can’t comprehend how sorry I am. I wasn’t willing to use my powers to hurt Equestrian citizens, nor would I let my husband enact the brutal methods he thought would be necessary to put down the rebellion. I would not raise my hoof against my own subjects, and as a result you lost both your sisters. I couldn’t fight you, Big McIntosh, because that would mean turning my back on Applejack’s sacrifice.

“Applejack was my friend, and I will not disgrace her memory.”

Big Mac stared at her for several long seconds, stared as if he’d never seen her before. At last, he choked down a sob and turned away.

Twilight walked back to the great stained-glass window, gazing up at the images of her dearly departed friends. Their pristine faces brought tears to her eyes and sorrow to her heart.

Yet there was also pride.

“I am not a tyrant. I refuse to defend myself against your anger, righteous or not. Hurting a single pony with the vast powers I have been given would dishonor the sacrifice my friends made. They died so that Equestria could be free, could live in a state of harmony.”

She rubbed her cheeks. Her breath came in weak shudders. “I will not harm or wish harm upon a single pony. If you want to blaspheme their names and turn your backs on everything they stood for, that is your prerogative.”

Twilight turned back to her accusers, her gaze falling upon each one. They all watched and listened, their faces filled with so many contradicting emotions: anger, uncertainty, loss, determination, pain and pride.

“I don’t know where you got this idea that I was glad to sacrifice the ponies who made me what I am. There is no logical explanation for how you all came to the conclusion that I am evil, dictatorial or corrupt. I am sorry about what happened ten years ago. Maybe if I’d used the powers Celestia, Luna and Cadance gave me to put down the rebellion then we’d all be a lot happier.”

She stepped back to stand atop her pillow. “But I am not a tyrant. I have remained honest to myself, have been loyal to the cause my friends stood for, generous to those who would let me, kind to those who would oppose me, have worked hard to spread joy in an increasingly despondent world.”

She turned away and lay down, her eyes once more turned upon the images of her friends.

“I am Princess Twilight Sparkle, and I have lived every day since their deaths devoted to spreading the magic of friendship. In this I have failed. So if you really want to punish me—” she released the magic and freed her captives “—punish me for my failure as the Princess of Friendship.”

A long silence filled the throne room. Twilight could hear them shuffling, recognized their newfound uncertainty. She kept her gaze set upon her friends, a distinct calm coming over her. No more anguish, no more anger. There were only two ways this morning would end: she would at last be with her friends or she would continue her tiresome work.

Oh… it was morning.

“I’m sorry, I almost forgot.”

Twilight closed her eyes and focused, performing the spell she’d grown accustomed to from ten years of daily practice.

The room shined bright as the first light of morning passed through the stained-glass window. The brightness rose among the colors gradually, lighting up the serene faces of the martyrs in a brilliant aural procession:

Discord and Spike.

Rainbow Dash and Fluttershy.

Rarity and Pinkie Pie.


They gazed in sightless peace upon their friend, their folded hooves almost beckoning. Twilight felt moisture on her cheeks, the same moisture that came to her with every morning and every evening. With pride in her heart, she opened her mouth to speak the line that had become a daily ritual:

“Good morning, my friends. Please continue to shine down on Equestria every day. Grant us your blessing and praise, and forgive those too hurt to see the hope you offer. Help them heal, so that they may all know your love.”

She bowed her head and closed her eyes.

There was nothing left to be said.

The quiet lingered.

Silver Spoon’s voice echoed through the air. “So what are we waiting for?”

“I…” Zipporwhill’s words came slowly. “I dunno about this, guys…”

“It’s a trick,” Fleur hissed. “It… it must be.”

Sweetie Belle’s voice was but a whisper. “She won’t defend herself. I… This isn’t how I thought it would go.”

“She could kill us in an instant,” Scootaloo reminded them. “We need to do it now.”

“Big McIntosh.” Fleur’s voice was firm. “You lost two sisters to this abomination. You deserve to do the deed.”

“Agreed.” Silver Spoon’s voice was encouraging. “Do it. End her reign!”

His heavy hoofsteps approached, slow and unsteady. Twilight made no motion, spoke no words.

“Guys…” Sweetie’s voice was almost pleading. “What if… what if we were wrong?”

Big McIntosh stopped right behind Twilight.

She merely waited.