“ ‘Remember, Remember, the Fifth of November...
Gunpowder, treason and plot.
I know of no reason, why Gunpowder Treason,
Should ever be forgot.’ ”
Twilight Sparkle looked up from her books, confused.
“... Pardon, Princess?” she asked, with concern, as her teacher and mentor continued to stare blankly out of the window at Canterlot below. She seemed to snap out of whatever memory she was reminiscing, and turned back to Twilight, smiling kindly.
“... My apologies, Twilight, my mind was wandering. Where were we?”
“You asked me what the date was, Princess. It’s the fifth. Then you... Recited a rhyme?”
Princess Celestia fell silent again, and looked out of the window once more, towards the horizon.
“Tell me, Twilight...” she began, still staring at the horizon, “... do you know of a tradition in Trottingham called ‘Fireworks Night’?”
The lavender unicorn thought for a moment. “I’ve heard of it... One night a year, they all hold a big celebration with bonfires, fireworks... It’s like Ponyville’s ‘Founding Day’, or Canterlot’s ‘Harmony Day’. I don’t know of anywhere else in Equestria that does it.”
Celestia didn’t reply, at first, leading Twilight to become even more concerned. She briefly pondered if she’d said something to offend the Princess, but she couldn’t think what.
“... But you don’t know why they do it?” she said, at last.
“Well... It’s a celebration of their town, isn’t it? I thought it was just something they did. … I know it’s usually on the fifth of November...”
Twilight frowned, closing her book and getting up, moving alongside the Princess.
“... Is there something bothering you, Princess? You seem preoccupied.”
Celestia blinked, and smiled at Twilight once again.
“No, no, it’s just... Well. … I suppose they can’t teach you everything in the history books. ‘Remember, remember, the fifth of November’... And yet, it seems that nopony does, anymore, except Trottingham.”
“I... Don’t understand, Princess. What is there to remember?”
“A great deal, Twilight. Come, sit down. This will probably be a long story...”
“It was well over a millenia ago, now... Canterlot was only just becoming the seat of the monarchy, most of the court still resided at Everfree. In those days it was still a lush, beautiful forest, of course, not as it is today.
“I was on a royal visit to Trottingham...”
“Your majesty! ‘Tis an honour, ma’am, that you would grace our humble township with your most regal presence!” gushed the Mayor of Trottingham, a portly old stallion in an elaborate, floppy, wide-brimmed hat adorned with a feather that could have only come from a pegasus. Around his neck was the chain of office, a little buffed from many years wear, but still a sign of respect and fealty to the Princess.
He bowed low with a sweeping gesture, his hat and stomach touching the ground. Princess Celestia smiled and gave him her hoof to kiss.
“Good Sir White Hall, always a pleasure. We very much enjoy our visits to your most beautiful shire.”
“I trust your majesty had a pleasant journey, without interruption?”
“Most enjoyable, Sir White Hall. One could barely feel the potholes.”
The Mayor looked stricken, his face falling.
“Oh, but your majesty! This cannot do! I shall send repair crews to the roads at once in preparation for your journey back to Everfree!”
“Ah, Sir White Hall, we do but jest! Your roads are as impeccable as your charm and as strong as your zeal in service.” Celestia smiled again, calming the old stallion. “We trust that arrangements have been made for our royal entourage?”
“Oh, but of course, ma’am! Your royal personage shall be staying in the finest inn of the shire, the Red Manticore! I have made arrangements also for your entourage, and my own servants shall be at your disposal if you should have any request or whim. If your majesty would give me permission to lead the way...?”
Celestia nodded, waving a hoof. Her caravan trailed through the cobbled streets of Trottingham behind her, past cheering crowds of ponies, leaning from their windows and doors to catch a glimpse of the Princess as she passed by.
The city of Trottingham, although more traditionally called a town, was a large and bustling centre of civilization in Equestria. Situated in mineral rich hills, the town made the bulk of its money on mining, as well as lumber from the many forests that surrounded it.
A great river, running from Equestria’s eastern borders, towards the sea, snaked through the centre of the area, and it was on this river that the city was straddled. Trottingham was quickly becoming one of Equestria’s largest ports, as well, even considering it was well inland. The wealth and prosperity of the city afforded it a singular place in the nation’s economy and culture, and Princess Celestia’s visit, on this day, was to help formulate a new assembly, a body of ponies who would govern Trottingham and the surrounding area and act independently of the Everfree Court, while still overseen by the monarchy.
Newly finished, and towering over the city from its prestigious position on the riverbank, were the Stables of Parliament. It was in this building, tomorrow evening, that Princess Celestia would formally ‘open’ parliament, with great pomp and ceremony.
“But while the city celebrated my arrival, some were celebrating for entirely... different reasons...”
Celestia paused, wondering how much she should really tell her student. It wasn’t that she didn’t trust Twilight, or thought that she wouldn’t understand, she was just worried that there were some things it was, perhaps, best left forgotten.
“... Have you covered ancient Equestrian history in your classes yet, Twilight?” the Princess asked, taking the unicorn off guard.
“Oh, uh, we touched on early use of magic and the development of the Eight Schools in Professor Rune’s lectures...”
“I was thinking rather more ancient. Does the school no longer teach ancient history?”
Twilight squirmed, feeling like she was being tested.
“Well... I am a magic major, princess... I don’t really do much history...”
“Oh, of course, that’s perfectly understandable, Twilight, my apologies. I didn’t mean to put you on the spot like that.” Celestia smiled at her student, before continuing. “Long, long ago, there was a time when Equestria, as we know it today, didn’t exist. Chaos reigned free, and it was a dark time for us all. In the end, I sealed it away, bringing order and harmony.”
“Oh, yes, one of your styles is ‘bringer of Harmony to Equestria’, isn’t it, Princess?” Twilight interjected, mentally scoring off points in her head. Celestia nodded.
“That’s right. Well, despite it all, there were some ponies who wanted to go back to those days, even hundreds of years later. They called themselves...” Celestia took a deep breath, “Discordiantiestablishmentarianists.”
“Yes, I know, quite the mouthful, isn’t it? It’s a wonder they managed to fit it on their leaflets.” the Princess smirked, but it took Twilight a couple of seconds before she realised it was a joke. She chuckled, nervously, not wanting to seem out of place.
“But they were a force to be dealt with, at one time. You know me, Twilight, I don’t tell ponies what to believe or how they should live their lives, but the Discordiantiestablis- … Discordians, all they wanted was chaos, anarchy. Maybe they thought it would make them free, they never understood that all it would bring them is misery.”
“That night, while Trottingham slept, there was a meeting...”
The banks of the river had been inhabited by ponies for generation after generation, and little was left of the natural riverside, swallowed up by stone, wood and brick. One tavern, the Duck and Dragon, was perched facing the river, and hemmed in on every side by dark and narrow alleys. It was still open, well into the night. Torches and lanterns burned low, soot and smoke swirled in the air above the ponies’ heads as they drank.
Alcohol wasn’t common in Equestria, and by and large, never had been. While a table wine was not uncommon, the fact of the matter was that ponies just didn’t have a taste for it. In the dockside taverns and in the backstreets, they drank juices and salt. A pony with a lot weighing on his soul might go ‘dry his tears’ in a packet of salt.
As the bartender dispensed watered-down apple juice and a pinch of salt to a forlorn-looking worker, a conversation was taking place in the cellar beneath his feet. If he had known the nature of it, he would have thrown the speakers out without a moment’s hesitation.
Gathered around a table were an unusual group. A total of thirteen, twelve ponies and, oddly, a griffon. Whilst not as rare a sight as might be supposed, it was still unusual to see a griffon in a pony city, let alone in such company, for the group consisted of ponies ranging from the lowly servant to titled and wealthy nobles.
The leader of the group, a stallion by the name of Red Gates, called them all to attention with a raised hoof.
“Brethren, we sit here united this eve, both noble and servant, griffon and equine, under a single purpose. On the morrow, at the opening of parliament, we shall undertake to slay the false Princess Celestia, and restore our Lord Discord’s rightful rule to this, our Equestria.”
A murmur of agreement rippled around the table.
“Each of you have duly aided this cause after your own manner. Sir Ravenwood, thou hast provided this, our company, with the details of the Princess’ movements and plans.” Gates nodded at a white pegasus pony seated across the table, still wearing his golden guard’s uniform. He nodded, curtly, back at him.
“Cross Keys, thou and thine associates...” here, Gates waved at a group of ponies near the stallion he was addressing, “have provided us with the means whereby we might execute this plan.”
Red Gates drew back from the table and walked to the corner of the room, where sat a large object covered with a cloth. Biting one end, Gates pulled off the cover to reveal a large and surprisingly complex looking device. At the heart of it sat a wooden barrel, with tubes leading away from it and connecting to various smaller containers that formed a rough ring around the exterior. They pulsed with barely contained enchantment, almost glowing in the low light of the room.
“This...” Gates said, looking at the device with pride, “... is the instrument of our retribution.”
One of the gathering, a younger pony, barely older than a colt, looked at it dumbfounded.
“... What’s it, uh... do, sir?” he managed to say. Gates shot a glare at him, but seeing the slightly confused looks on the others’ faces, he sighed.
“This device, Bale,” he said, glowering at his servant once more. “will be implemented at the moment of the explosion through the enchantments placed upon it. At the moment of Princess Celestia’s death, it shall release its magics into the heavens, where it will disrupt and confound the spells of the pegasi, causing such a storm the likes of which Equestria has never seen.”
“... It will make it rain?” came the voice of another pony.
Gates grit his teeth.
“Not a rain of water, Thresher, but of chocolate.”
The ponies who had had no part in the creation of the device looked at each other with confusion.
“Chocolate?” they said, simultaneously. Gates stamped a hoof in frustration.
“Yes! Chocolate! Did you not read the notes I provided before our meeting?”
Various murmured excuses followed, doing nothing to douse Gates’ temper.
“A rain of chocolate that will at first seem entirely harmless, but will grow until it has choked every river, withered every crop and made barren every field in Equestria! Pegasi cannot control it, unicorns cannot dispell it, and without the power of Princess Celestia to aid them, they will surely be helpless as the grip of chaos o’erwhelms them!” he reared triumphantly, indulging in a lengthy and distinctly villainous laugh.
“... What of her sister, Princess Luna?”
“Inconsequential. She is never seen outside of the palace at Everfree. By the time word reaches her of her sister’s demise and her ascension to the throne, the storm will already be too powerful for her meagre skill in magic to contain. She is but the shadow of her sister, basking in reflected glory. No more than a foal.”
This explanation seemed to satisfy them, and they talked amongst themselves eagerly, imagining the oncoming event. Some of the more lucratively-minded of the group were discussing how they expected Discord to reward them when he returned.
Throughout it all, the griffon remained silent, not betraying any emotion as he calmly sipped at his drink. Eventually, one of the conspirators drew attention to him.
“Sir Gates, thou hast well explained the contributions of our fellows, but what, pray, is the purpose behind the presence of this griffon?”
Red Gates smirked. “Ah. Well. Imagine, if thou wouldst, what would befall us should one of Princess Celestia’s guard happen upon our ‘installment’ beneath the Stables of Parliament, before its due time? We would be finished, and we need not contemplate what fate would then befall us all, here.”
They gulped, feeling their necks with their forehooves.
“This griffon has sworn fealty to our cause, brethren. He has served his country and his people for long as a hunter, and a soldier, and like us, bears a searing hatred for the Sun Princess, for indeed, she does oppress his people.”
“Oppress? But Princess-”
“Twilight, it’s rude to interrupt.”
“... Sorry, Princess.”
“It’s alright, my faithful student. But yes, oppress... It’s perhaps more complicated than it first seems. You see, although I certainly didn’t do anything of the sort to the griffons beyond the borders of Equestria, some among them, their Lords especially, saw me as... A threat.”
The Princess paused, and this time Twilight seized the opportunity.
“A threat? But, Princess, how could they view you as a threat? You wouldn’t harm anypon- anyone, whatever they are, unless they threatened us ponies first!”
Princess Celestia smiled and nodded at her student.
“You’re right, Twilight, of course. I don’t wish harm upon anyone, or anything, in Equestria. Sometimes... They may need to be shown the error of their ways, but thankfully those times are few and far between. The thing you must understand, Twilight, is that not everyone views me, views Equestria, the same way, and perhaps, over my long reign, there have been some things I’ve done that are... Open to interpretation.”
Twilight nodded, listening eagerly.
“I can move the sun, control the weather, and that doesn’t just affect Equestria. That sort of power, it threatens people, no matter who wields it. The griffons believed that, if I so willed it, I could incinerate their eyries and mountains with a flick of my hoof.”
She looked down at her hooves, eyeing her own reflection in the shining, golden hoof-guards.
“They don’t understand that I would never... Could never do that. Even I have my limits, Twilight, self-imposed or otherwise.”
“But still, they saw me as a threat, and they wanted to make the pre-emptive strike. Perhaps they thought they would save themselves.”
The eyes of the ponies gathered around the table all turned to the griffon, who remained expressionless, his face hidden in the shadows cast from a wide-brimmed hat perched on his head. Two feathers, obviously from other griffons, stuck out from the brim.
“He will stand guard over the powder and device, protecting it from all who would see us destroyed. If worst come to worst, and we are discovered, he will light the powder early. He is willing to lay down his life for our cause.”
The griffon nodded. The other ponies looked at him in awe, almost reverence.
“Guido the Hawk, at your most humble service, gentlemen.”
Elsewhere in the city, a cloaked figure was talking, in hurried and frightened tones, to White Hall’s chief of police, a unicorn stallion by the name of Lock Fast.
“An’ I swears it thee, sir, ‘ee said nowt but gave me this letter an’ commanded me righ’ proper; ‘make all haste fer t’Manticore, lad, an’ give thee this t’Lock Fast or may Her blood be upon thy hooves as mine’. Galloped ‘ere straightways, did I, sir.”
Lock Fast raised an eyebrow at the young servant, taking and reading the slightly sodden letter. Holding them in your mouth while you run tends to do that. As he read, he became increasingly more and more alarmed.
“Who sent you, knave? What madness is writ ‘pon this parchment that thou felt fit to vex me with it?” he said, rounding on the servant, glaring.
“‘Pon mine honour, sir, I swears it thee I read it not! Neither saw I ‘is face, ‘twas dark when he took hold of me!”
Lock Fast looked the servant squarely in the eyes, searching for any traces of a lie. He sighed in frustration.
“Go then, and make thyself scarce this night, lest the tidings you bear come to pass.”
The servant needed no extra incentive, and galloped as fast as his hooves could bear him. Lock Fast, however, ran indoors, letter trailing behind him.
Meanwhile, a tired Princess Celestia hauled herself up the narrow flight of stairs towards her room. She had been given the most sumptuous room in the inn, and indeed, perhaps the whole city, but it still paled in comparison to the lavish furniture and decor of the palace at Canterlot.
She appreciated it all the same, of course. The ponies of Trottingham wanted only the best for their Princess, and the Red Manticore was indeed the best. A banquet had been waiting for the Princess and her royal caravan when they arrived, consisting of no less than seven different courses of fruits, salads and vegetables. They had spared no expense for dessert, in particular. Centre-table had sat a model of Canterlot Mountain, made of sponge cake, with icing forests and frosted turrets of the palace. The creativity of her subjects, especially given their natural disadvantages when it came to detail work, never ceased to amaze her.
Now, full, and weary of conversation, Celestia swung back the door to her room and collapsed onto the bed, barely registering the presence of two servants, trying their best to stay out of sight as they hastily swept the corners.
“S’alright.” she mumbled, face down on the pillow. “S’clean. Th’rt dism’ss’d.” They bowed, curtsied, and bowed again for good measure, then made a dash for the door.
It had barely closed behind them when it burst open again.
“Your highness!” yelled Lock Fast, striking a heroic pose, framed in the doorway.
“Fzthwha-...?” the Princess replied, in a most unregal manner.
“Your highness, it is of the utmost urgency that we discuss the matter of your royal personage’s safety and security in the forthcoming event.” he announced, brandishing the letter.
Celestia mumbled something in reply. The unicorn thought he could make out ‘Can’t it wait until morning’.
“Your highness, I beg of you, we care only for your continued well-being and safety.”
“But-” he paused, and decided to try a different tactic. “I thought it might be prudent to perform a thorough search of the Stables of Parliament, both above and below, before the ceremony tomorrow morning?” he ventured.
Celestia grunted in reply.
“I shall organize a search to be performed at first light, your highness.”
The door slammed behind him, dropping the latch into place. Celestia was fast asleep mere moments later.
It seemed like only a few minutes to her when she was awoken by her internal clock, just in time to raise the sun. Glancing out of the window to check the angle and direction (and cursing herself for having eaten far too much cress and lettuce quiche), she made sure that the sun did as it was supposed to do.
Almost as if on cue, servants bustled in and began tidying, arranging and generally making a fuss. Of course, after a manner of speaking, it was on cue. When you worked for the pony who made the sun rise in the morning and set in the evening, you could time, nearly to the exact moment, when she had woken up.
Celestia was brushed and pampered, before being helped into the royal regalia (a task she dreaded every morning, seeing as it was so much easier to just do it herself), and led, reverently, down for breakfast. Compared to the previous night it was a simple affair, just four courses of fresh fruit, cereals, yoghurts, jams, honey, salads, and all the other trappings of a Princess’ meal. Celestia managed to force enough down that she felt she was being polite.
“Your highness, the hostage has arrived.”
Celestia smirked at her pupil, who blushed in embarrassment at her outburst.
“Yes, hostage. Don’t you know that tradition?” the Princess asked, smiling. Twilight shook her head vigorously.
“Well... I suppose it’s not something we do very often anymore. You see, the idea was that to make sure everypony behaved, whenever I had to hold court or attend an opening of parliament, like the one at Trottingham, my advisors took a ‘hostage’, either from the ponies addressing court that day, or from the members of the assembly.”
“... You didn’t throw them in prison, did you, Princess?”
“Oh, no, far from it! It was a much sought-after honour, in those days. They were treated like nobles for the entire day, and their every whim was catered to. I have to admit, I quite enjoyed it. It was always interesting meeting new ponies, and some were... Particularly handsome.” she mused, smiling to herself in memory of some particularly willing ‘hostages’.
Twilight blinked, waiting for Celestia to continue. When nearly half a minute had gone past and the alicorn still seemed lost in her thoughts, Twilight cleared her throat.
“... Uh, pardon me, Princess, but you seem to be wandering off, there.”
Celestia blushed a little, and coughed.
“Yes. Well. Where was I?”
Once the ‘hostage’ (a positively exuberant young mare by the name of Willow Bark who owned an apothecary’s store a few streets away from the inn) had been introduced to Princess Celestia and taken to help finish the third course of breakfast, the Princess stepped out into the streets and took her place in her chariot. The royal procession then set off over the river to the Stables of Parliament, passing cheering crowds of ponies wherever they went.
Following yet another slightly inane tradition, the Princess’ State Crown, (a grand affair worn only on special occasions, to replace her usual diadem) was being transported separately across the river in its own carriage, accompanied by its own guards. With this group travelled the safety-conscious unicorn stallion Lock Fast, and the conspirator Sir Ravenwood.
Lock Fast’s thoughts were still fully taken up by the contents of the letter he’d received the previous night. He turned to the guard captain.
“Sir Ravenwood, when we reach the Stables of Parliament, I propose to undertake a thorough search of the premises, both above and below.”
Ravenwood stiffened, but hid his surprise well enough for the preoccupied unicorn to not notice.
“Why is that, pray?”
“I have received most alarming news that seems to indicate that a plot to assassinate her royal highness is already underway.”
The pegasus captain stopped still on the cobbles. “Then we must make all haste to the Stables of Parliament! Her highness’ safety must be secured! Men, accompany the crown. Lock Fast, you and I shall gallop ahead!”
A little surprised by the Ravenwood’s sudden enthusiasm, Lock Fast took a few seconds to catch up to the him as he flew low over the city streets. Ponies jumped out of the way as they saw the pair approaching, allowing them to make it to the Stables of Parliament ahead of the royal procession.
Already, the Trottingham Constabulary had formed a perimeter around the building to ensure there were no interruptions to the ceremony. Lock Fast waved a hoof at a pair of police ponies, who parted to let him and Ravenwood pass.
“Let us start with below, Sir Ravenwood. If ever there were a place to conceal some mischief, it would be best hidden under the ground than in the rafters.” the unicorn said, heading towards the unassuming staircases that lead down into the foundations and cellars of the structure. They were designed to hold food and drink, as well as firewood and miscellaneous supplies for the ponies in session above, but since the building was still new, only a few crates were present, scattered here and there.
The two stalked through the pillared hallways, Lock Fast lighting the way with his horn, searching everywhere. Ravenwood remained slightly behind, growing ever more nervous. He hoped that Hawkes had the good sense to remain out of sight, as overpowering the unicorn, while theoretically an easy task between the Captain of the Guard and a griffon mercenary, may draw unwanted attention.
He cursed under his breath when he spotted the flickering light of a lantern in a distant room. There was no time to distract Lock Fast before he, too, spotted it.
“Look there!” he hissed. “Somepony is skulking around by lamplight!”
Ravenwood nodded, and indicated they should approach.
The flame flickered. Lock Fast felt something fly over his head, and heard a soft thud behind him. He whirled around to see, lit by the light of his horn, the features of a grinning griffon.
Meanwhile, Celestia had arrived at the Stables of Parliament, and was being led to the Robing Room. There, she was adorned in the Robe of State, a red velvet cape with fur trim (donated, years before, by a bear after being given a chiropractic massage and relieved from chronic back pain), and the State Crown was placed upon her brow.
Celestia couldn’t help but smirk as she remembered that this tradition dated from many years before, when she had once worn a red cloak to keep warm during a particularly cold winter in Canterlot, and her courtiers had, somehow, interpreted this as a statement of authority and insisted that it be made part of the regalia.
Once suitably dressed, she was lead away through the elaborately decorated galleries to the Stable of Lords, the half of the Stables of Parliament that consisted of the noble ponies of Trottingham and its surrounding districts, who were there to oversee the assembly of politicians and ensure that the Princess’ will was enacted and observed.
She took her place at the throne at the head of the room, and waited for the many pony aristocrats to shuffle into place. One elderly lord had to be helped along by a gentle nudge from his young squire when he fell asleep half way to his chair.
When everypony was present, Celestia smiled, and said:
“My Lords, pray be seated.”
A shuffling of chairs and ponies followed, and the occasional grunt or muffled cry of pain when a hoof was trodden on.
The Princess waited for them all to get themselves comfortable, then waved a hoof at a nearby, stern-looking stallion, named Black Rod. Black Rod’s job in the ceremony was to knock on the doors of the Stable of Commons, the adjoining hall that housed the politicians and elected officials of parliament.
One young squire, realising that the doors needed to be closed before they could be knocked on, panicked and slammed them shut in Black Rod’s face. The lords snickered as Black Rod fumed in anger.
He hammered on the door rather more strongly than he was supposed to, and the sheepish young colt dragged them open again, shrinking under Black Rod’s glare as he swept through into the Stable of Commons.
He rose to the speaker’s box at the front of the hall, and announced, clearly;
“Mister Speaker, the Princess commands this honourable Stable to attend her Highness immediately in the Stable of Peers.”
There was some confused murmuring at the back of the hall, before one politician piped up;
“... Where is the Stable of Peers?”
“Just get in there!” Black Rod bellowed, scowling. Quickly, the ponies clambered down from their rows and made their way into the Stable of Lords, bowing to the Princess as they approached.
Celestia smiled and nodded at them all, and then waited.
As did everypony else.
Slowly, all eyes turned to White Hall, standing at the right hand of the throne. He blushed, deeply, as he realised he’d misplaced the Princess’ speech.
Lock Fast had little time to react. Hawkes was upon him swiftly, and Ravenwood had vanished.
Dodging a swipe from the griffon’s talons, Lock Fast reared to strike, but brought his hooves down onto the cold stone as the griffon leapt out of the way. They circled each other, both looking for an opening to attack. In the gloomy darkness, the only light came from Lock Fast’s horn, and the dim and distant flicker of Hawkes’ lamp.
As Hawkes leapt again at the unicorn, Lock Fast took the opportunity and extinguished the light, casting a spell that sent Hawkes careening through the air and into one of the stone pillars. Lock Fast galloped in the direction of the crash, and, lighting his opponent, placed a hoof on the griffon’s neck.
“Ravenwood! Ravenwood, wherefore art thou? I have apprehended the miscreant!” he yelled into the dark.
He was surprised to feel the strength of a pegasus’ outstretched wing against his own neck.
“Let him go, Lock Fast.” the captain of the guard hissed.
In an instant, Hawkes was on his feet and struck Lock Fast across the jaw, flooring the unicorn and knocking him out cold, plunging them into darkness once more.
“We ought to silence him.” he spat, bringing a talon to the unicorn’s neck. Ravenwood shook his head, barely visible in the gloom.
“No need, my friend, the fire will take care of him soon enough. Quick, there is not much time to spare, let us light the fuse and begone, lest we squander this opportunity.”
The griffon nodded, heading back towards the casks of powder, piled high against the wall of the cellar, and the chocolate rainbomb, pulsing with its barely contained magic.
Celestia laid a calming hoof on White Hall’s shoulder, as the aging stallion flustered and panicked.
“It is quite alright, Sir White Hoof. I have given enough speeches in my long reign that I am fully equipped and well able to give one without it being written for me.” she said, smiling at him. He nodded, gratefully, wiping his brow.
Celestia stood, everypony else following suit.
“My Lords, and Members of the Stable of Commons...”
Hawkes struggled to light the match in the damp atmosphere of the cellars, situated, as they were, below the level of the river. He struck a third against the box, which sparked and burnt itself out, before Ravenwood suggested in frustration that they light the fuse from the lantern.
No sooner had it begun to burn than Ravenwood felt the cold drip of water on his back. A low rumble above his head announced the gathering of conjured storm clouds, which quickly drenched the powder barrels and put out the flame.
He wheeled around to see who had cast the spell, but felt himself picked up and thrown, hard, against the wall of the cellar by an unseen force. His head collided with the stone brick, and he was knocked out instantly.
“Traitor!” Lock Fast yelled, standing unsteadily on his hooves and spitting blood from the griffon’s blow. Hawkes spun, surprised to see the unicorn still conscious, and threw himself at him with a gutteral roar.
This time, Lock Fast was expecting him, and stopped him with a wall of magic, picking him up and throwing him far across the cellar. Hawkes struggled to guide himself, wings striking against the pillars, but avoided serious injury.
He wasn’t expecting a barrel of gunpowder to hit him clean in the face, thrown by Lock Fast’s formidable telekinesis. The griffon collapsed, unconscious.
The chocolate rainbomb pulsed ominously. Lock Fast could feel the magic pouring off it, slowly becoming more and more chaotic. Even through the traitors had been defeated, and the powder far too sodden to explode, the device still seemed set to blow. He wasn’t entirely sure what it was, but he knew that if the conspirators had been planning to use it, he needed to find a way to disarm it, and fast.
Wrapping it in his telekinesis, he ran for the stairs, leaving Hawkes and Ravenwood behind. As soon as he’d made his way out of the cellars, he barked orders at the police ponies nearby to arrest the conspirators, and set down to dealing with the dangerously unstable magic holding the device together.
A simple scrying spell revealed its true nature. Whether by design or coincidence, the chocolate rainbomb was created unstable enough that it would soon erupt, releasing its chaotic spells, whether the powder had ignited or not.
Lock Fast ran through every spell he knew, trying to think of some way to break the spells on the device, but found none that worked. Desperate, he pulled out one last trick that he had learned while still a colt.
Celestia’s speech complete, parliament was officially established. The ponies assembled all stamped their hooves in applause as she descended the throne and made her way back through the hall and galleries to the front gates.
As they swung back, slowly, the sound of an almighty explosion ripped through the air.
Dropping all pretense of decorum, Celestia shed the robe and flung aside the crown, galloping outside to see a thousand brightly coloured strands of flame erupt into the sky, bursting in dazzling displays of colour, light and sound.
Everypony cheered for their Princess, assuming the display to be part of the celebrations. Celestia herself was quite taken aback.
A stunned, and equally taken aback Lock Fast, was propped up against the building’s wall, upside down and lightly singed, but otherwise unharmed.
“Fireworks. Always was good at fireworks.” he coughed.
“And what about the ponies behind it all, Princess?” Twilight asked.
“Well, Hawkes and Sir Ravenwood were taken from the cellar and brought before me immediately, while the others were quickly sought out and rounded up. Ravenwood was more than happy to supply the names of every one. He looked terrified as I approached, I don’t know what he thought I was going to do to him.”
“What did you do, Princess?”
“Sir Ravenwood. You, a trusted member of Our royal guard, worked alongside Our enemies in an effort to assassinate Us and many of Our subjects.”
The pegasus shrank before the Princess, terrified into silence. Hawkes looked at her defiantly.
“And you, Guido the Hawk, thought to aid these poor, deluded ponies in their plot, for what gain or purpose?” she said, looking back at him with every ounce of defiance that he gave her.
“To free my people from your tyranny.” he spat back.
“Tyranny? What tyranny? Equestria and the Griffon Lands have been at peace for many lifetimes! We have no quarrel with your people, O griffon.” she smiled, a sad smile such as one might give to a much beloved, but wayward child.
“And regardless of your deed, We are not without mercy. Guido the Hawk, you shall be sent back to your Lords, and are, from this day hence, banished from Our kingdom. Ravenwood, for your many years service, We show leniency to you, also. You will be stripped of rank, and sent to the far corners of this land to service there, defending those subjects you so thoughtlessly tried to kill, from the creatures that would do us harm. This is Our judgement.”
Celestia turned to the gathered crowds, their seething anger and hatred of the pair before the Princess held in check only by her presence, and addressed them, her booming voice carrying from street to street.
“And to you, Our beloved subjects, Our little ponies, We beseech you all! Remember this day, this day when you gained so much, and it was near taken away from you, again! Ever shall this day, this fifth of November, stand in Equestria’s memory as a symbol of Our solidarity, and of Our mercy in the face of Our enemies!”
“You just let them go?” Twilight asked, surprised and slightly baffled.
“What purpose would it have served to do anything else to them, Twilight? They were mistaken, and misguided. They deserved a second chance, as does anypony. I am proud to say that Trottingham remained faithful to my decree, and when the other Discordians were found, they were taken, unharmed, to Canterlot. I gave them all the same chance at a new life that I had given to Ravenwood and Hawkes.”
“What happened to them?”
“Oh, some saw the error of their ways, and went on to become better ponies than, perhaps, history remembers them for. Others didn’t change, and resented me all their days, but I gave them that chance, and that is the important lesson, Twilight Sparkle.” Celestia finished, nuzzling the head of her student and rising to her hooves.
“And now... I think the school board keeps their fireworks locked up in the basement of the castle. What say you and I liberate a few of them?” she grinned, winking.