Rites of Ascension

by CvBrony

Good for the Goose

“And then I ran straight here.” Twilight drank the last of her after-dinner tea at Celestia’s dining table, sitting next to both the Princess and a small bundle of tissues. “At this point, I kind of wish I had stayed. If I run from that, how can I face—?”

“No, I believe you did the right thing.” Celestia took another bite of her alicorn-sized portion of cake. “It’s important to have a clear head in tense situations, and family can bring about intense emotions, alicorn or not. Retreating to cool off was a wise course of action.”

Twilight stretched out and sighed, letting her longer than normal mane flow out onto the carpet. “I suppose. I just wish this was… unique. I mean, yes, this was exceptionally bad, but it’s not the first time I’ve slammed that door and ran out. Still, she’s my mother. I can’t avoid her forever.”

“Hmmm…” Celestia lifted a cup to her lips, pausing before drinking. “Well, the ball is in her court now. Give her some time before trying to talk to her again. Let things calm down before you try to make amends.”

“I’ve been trying to ‘make amends’ for my entire adult life… I don’t know what it’s going to take to get through to her. But, I suppose you’re right. I’ll wait, and try again. I’m still ticked at her for now.”

“Hmm…” Celestia put another piece of cake in her mouth, swallowing delicately with the grace demanded of a princess. “Perhaps we should—” She paused as she glanced over to the grandfather clock in the corner of the room. “Oh my. We appear to be late.”

“Late?” Twilight tilted her head. “For what?” A little grin surfaced on her lips from remembering a foalhood lesson. “And didn’t you once tell me that a Princess can’t be late?”

“I did say that. But we are not where others anticipated us to be at this time.” Celestia said, quickly looking around her room, even checking under stacks of books.

“What are you looking for?” Twilight got up and stretched. “If we’re late, shouldn’t we get going?”

“Yes, yes we should.” She ducked her head under the table. “And I’m looking for Luna. You never, ever know where she could be hiding.”

“Why Luna?”

Celestia’s horn lit up and lifted the dinner fork from the table, stabbed the piece of cake, lifted it up to her head, and then stuck the entire thing in her mouth in one giant bite.

Twilight’s mouth hung open, eye twitching, and her pupils were the size of pinpricks.

“What?” Celestia said, with her mouth full. “I’m not going to waste good cake.” After a few massive chews, she swallowed it down and daintily wiped her lips with an embroidered napkin afterward. “Now come. I have a surprise for you. Well, the first of several, actually.”

Twilight shook her head hard enough to rattle her brain inside her skull. “I don’t think you’re going to be able to top that one, Tia. Then again, each time I think that…”

Celestia giggled. “Never underestimate the abilities of a ten-thousand-year-old alicorn when it comes to messing with her subjects. Now, to the banquet hall.”

“Let me guess. It’s a party.”

“Why, Twilight, however did you know?” Celestia asked with a grin.

“Well, let’s see. You’re leading me to the banquet hall for something, and there’s very little light coming from under the door. All I’m seeing is what’s from the sunset. I’m guessing you have the other Elements in there and had Pinkie arrange a surprise party.”

“Observant as always, my student. Inviting Pinkie to a party to celebrate your new title and role was, as they say, a no-brainer.”

“True, but you know it’s hardly a surprise party if I know what’s coming, right?”

“You misunderstand, Twilight!” a new voice shouted from next to her ear.

Twilight spun around so hard she slipped on the tile, nearly bringing her chin to an unfortunate rendezvous with the floor. “Gah! Don’t do that, Luna!”

Luna stepped out of the shadows with a laugh. “Oh, but ‘tis such fun! Now hush, it’s time for the surprise.”

“Surprise? But I know it’s—”

Luna put a hoof to her lips. “This surprise is not for you. It is for them.”

The Princess of the Night lifted head up high, her mane growing dark. Wind rushed through the antechamber and pushed open the doors to the hall, bringing the dark cloud of her ethereal mane with it. The chandeliers and windows in the next room dimmed to nothing, their light extinguished entirely. All was darkness, save for one special, exceptionally bright spotlight pointed at in the very center of the room.

A hoof gave Twilight a gentle shove, telling her exactly what she needed to do. With her ears flat against her head, Twilight strode into the room, her hoofsteps barely making a sound.

Whispers chattered in the darkness as she approached, and for a brief moment her magic sight flickered to life. In front of her, beyond the spotlight, were six wellsprings lined up in a row. No, Twilight thought. Not six wellsprings. Seven. Fluttershy has an extra. That must be how Celestia knew… 

She took in a little breath and let it out, pausing for a small moment in front of the light. She lifted her head high and put a single hoof into the light. The moment in time froze as small specks of dust danced in the air, and the hairs on her back stood up on end.

Three months of training… Luna never said how to handle this. No, I can’t think like that. These are my friends. That’s all that matters now. 

Ducking her head slightly, she stepped into the light.

“Hello, girls…”

Twilight closed her eyes and puffed out her chest a little, letting her torc shine in the light.

“Twilight… You’re…”

Through brightening light and tears, she could see her friends standing in front of her. Rarity’s mouth hung open mid-sentence, Fluttershy looked awed, and Pinkie’s face was completely unreadable.

“It is pretty crazy.” Twilight wiped her eyes. “I’m—”


Pinkie’s outburst forced all the ambiance out the window, along with the remaining darkness and maybe a few of the curtains as a chorus of snickers erupted from some of the others.

“What?” Twilight raised an eyebrow.

“Darling, have you looked at yourself?” Rarity trotted up to her. “I mean, my word, dear! Rainbow said you’ve been training, but I thought she just meant magic! Clearly, I was mistaken. You do not have a librarian’s figure anymore!”

Rainbow flexed her foreleg. “Hay, yeah! We’ve been putting her through the wringer. You don’t do what we’ve been doing for three months and not build some muscle!”

“Rainbow!” Twilight rolled her eyes and chuckled a bit before lifting her head in shock at how similar the muscle tone of their bodies’ were. Rainbow was in even better shape than she was, but Twilight hadn’t quite realized how much the gap had closed.

Pinkie clapped her hooves and bounced a little. “Yay! This means I can add ‘and got totally buff’ to the ‘Hey wow you’re Grand Mage now’ party banner I hid under the table!”

Applejack rubbed her head. “Pinkie, how in blazes did ya manage to sneak that in?”

Twilight giggled and smirked. “Don’t ask, Applejack. She’s Manehatten’s premier party planner pony for a reason. Hard to believe it’s been, what, eleven years now?”

“Yup!” Pinkie pulled out a cupcake with an “11” on it and scarfed it down. “Eleven years of awesome parties in Manehatten! Oh, Twilight, you shoulda been there for this one I did last winter! There must’ve been three thousand ponies all partying like it was a new year!”

“Wait.” Rainbow held up her hooves. “You mean that party that spread into Times Square on New Year’s was you?”

“Oh yeah! It was New Year’s! I forgot. I guess even I can’t handle that much alcohol anymore!”

The chorus of laughter was like a dose of hydrocodone to Twilight’s muscles, melting the tension in seconds. Oh Celestia, thank you. You too, Pinkie.

The conversation drifted from topic to topic, the group’s memories churning to the surface. Sixteen years of laughter and antics played back like a photo reel. From Rarity starting her Canterlot studio, to Rainbow’s first days in Basic Training, all the way to a relatively recent incident involving Twilight, a leyline, and an experiment that flooded a not-insignificant portion of the Ponyville.

Twilight let them talk, soaking in the joy in front of her. Rarity had grown into quite the successful businessmare and was wearing something that Twilight assumed must be from her fall line. Fluttershy was as quiet as ever, though her hair was shorter now. She was also showing a bit in her belly.

Pinkie had arguably changed the most. Her mane was just a bit less poofy, and she was wearing a business suit, something that could easily have been found on any executive in Canterlot. Even her voice was about an octave lower than before, though it still carried every last bit of cheerfulness it always had.

Twilight smiled, thinking, I guess we’ve all grown up, in a way.

Pinkie waves her forelegs about. “Oh! Oh! Hey, Dashie! Remember that time we followed Mayor Mare around while belching the Equestrian National Anthem?”

Well, sort of…

Rainbow laughed. “Yeah, and then we spent the afternoon trying to get Twilight here to help us fill her office with kumquats. We need to do that again, but with kiwis this time!”

“Oooh, oh! Great idea! But how are we going to catch that many kiwis?”

Twilight chuckled. “And yet, some things stay the same.”

“What stays the same?” Pinkie scratched her head.

“Er, things, but that’s not important right now.” Twilight said, standing and moving towards the center of the group. “As fun as this is, Celestia didn’t invite you all here just for a chat—though I definitely needed it.”

“I imagine this has something to do with the aforementioned training, n’est-ce pas?” Rarity took a sip of her gin and tonic. “Although, word is abuzz that you’ve been named the next Grand Mage of Equestria. I suppose there must be some truth to the rumor, then.”

Twilight nodded. “Yeah, it’s true, but… it’s also not the whole truth.”

Rarity jerked her head back and blinked. “Well, now, things are getting interesting.”

“You could say that.” Twilight shrugged. “Applejack, Spike, and Rainbow already know everything I’m about to say since they’ve been here for it all. But, the thing is, being a Grand Mage isn’t just about being an extremely learned or skilled unicorn. It’s not even about being the most powerful unicorn.”

“Wait wait wait.” Rarity held up a hoof in protest. “Are you saying that you are the most powerful unicorn?”

Twilight cringed. “Kind of, but…”

“Pfft. Like any of us doubted it!”

“Rainbow!” Twilight glowered.

“Right, sorry, your thing.” She sat back down, scratching the back of her head with an uneasy grin.

Twilight squeezed her foreleg. “Anyway, Rarity, that’s partially true. I am the most powerful unicorn in Equestria. Or, at least, I was.”

“Um, somepony beat you?” Fluttershy ducked her head, her soft voice barely audible.

“No, not that either.” Twilight stood back up, straightening her back and lifting her head. “Unicorns whose wellsprings get to a certain depth start to undergo a change. Over the course of time, we begin to grow taller, our horns get longer, our manes become an expression of our power, and… we get wings.”

An uneasy calm washed over them as the three friends receiving the news for the first time all dropped their jaws. It was only finally broken from the slightest of astonished squeaks from Rarity.

“Twilight,” she whispered, her voice as soft as Fluttershy’s. “Are you saying that…?”

“Yes.” Twilight nodded. “Celestia and Luna project that within a decade’s time, give or take a year or so, I will become a full alicorn. I already have some pegasus magic. I can walk freely on clouds without the aid of enchantments or a cloud-walking spell. I have some earth pony magic, too, and, Applejack, I finally, truly understand what you mean when you say you can feel the ground help you run.”

The room stood in silence while Rarity’s grin grew wider and wider. Her eyes were lit up like a chandelier at night. The only sound was the rubbing of her fore hooves together.

“Um, Rares?” Applejack poked her with a hoof.

Rarity bolted forward and grabbed Twilight by her shoulders. “I’m friends with the next alicorn!?”

“Um… yes?” Twilight forced a smile. To her great relief, she had managed to avoid squeaking.

Rarity cleared her throat and resumed her poise, pulling out a brush from her purse and stroking her curls. “You know, Twilight, darling…”

Twilight raised an eyebrow. This was not an expected tone of voice. “Yes, Rarity?”

The fashionista fluttered her eyelashes. “I would be willing to, shall we say, switch teams, if the right princess swept me off my—”

A pair of orange hooves pulled Rarity back to the rest of her friends.

“Hold on there, Rares. Twilight’s our friend, not one of your storybook weddin’ prospects. Go on, Twi. You were sayin’?”

Twilight breathed a sigh of relief and gave Applejack a look of thanks. “Yes. Sorry, Rarity, but honestly, romance is the thing farthest from my mind right now.”

“As normal, then, hmm? Oh well, I suppose I’ll have to make do with my new boyfriend.”

“Rarity, let Twilight talk.” Spike shot her a glare.

“Okay, okay, I’ll stop. Please, continue.” Rarity put away her brush and sat down next to Applejack.

“Anyway.” Twilight sighed. “Three months ago, I completed a new type of spell, one that I didn’t realize could only be cast by alicorns. When I sent Celestia the notes, she pulled me, Spike and—since I had told her about it—Applejack away from Ponyville and kept us in the castle to keep word from getting out… well, prematurely.”

“Change means somepony loses something.” Spike folded his arms. “Big changes means some ponies are going to lose a lot. There’s no way a new alicorn is going to go over smoothly.”

“Exactly, Spike.” Twilight took a few steps towards her friends. “To help protect me, Luna gave Spike and me combat training in her unique styles, but we’re still trying to keep this as quiet as possible, so you can’t tell anypony. And I mean anypony. It’s not for forever, as I’m not going to be able to hide it indefinitely, but if we can keep it under wraps long enough for me to get the Princess's magical durability, it’ll hopefully be too late for any of these organizations to hurt me. 

“I’m telling you all this because you’re my friends, and I’m going to need your support and friendship now more than ever. Most of all, though, I need your absolute promise that you will not tell a single soul about any of this.”

Applejack and Fluttershy both nodded, doing the motions of a Pinkie Promise. Pinkie herself was strangely quiet and wide-eyed, and Rarity was… staring at Twilight’s hooves.

“Um… Rarity?”


Twilight glanced over to Applejack, who was busy scratching her head, and Spike, who shrugged. Twilight straightened her foreleg and slowly lifted it up to her face, her friend’s lost gaze following until they made eye contact.

“Oh! Twilight! I am sorry, dear! I was just thinking, since they gave you that lovely torc that compliments your colors, why not get some matching shoes! I don’t think something as grandiose as what the princesses have would suit you, truly, but that doesn’t mean we can’t have something that—”


“Yes, Twilight?”

“This is serious! I need you to promise me—”

Rarity waves her hoof. “Yes, yes, no gossip about the whole ‘becoming a goddess’ thing. I’m in business, darling, and my business skills aren’t as narrow as they used to be. Certain secrets have to be kept to stay competitive. At least until you’re ready to use it to crush your rivals underhoof.”

A cold silence fell over the room while Rarity shifted her examination to various parts of Twilight, no doubt thinking up any number of possible creations.

I’m not sure what’s worse: Rarity dressing me with her eyes or the way she worded that…

Twilight swallowed. “Anyway, that’s another thing I’ve learned. Alicorns are not gods. They’re…” She stopped herself. “We’re ponies. More powerful, sure, but still ponies. We aren’t omniscient, we do make mistakes, we learn, laugh, cry, and… we still need friends…” She played a bit with her mane.

Applejack approached her slowly. “And we’re going to be there fer ya, sugarcube! Ain’t that right, girls?”

Nods followed from all the girls, even a slight one from Rarity while in the midst of her mental designing spree, with two exceptions. Pinkie Pie had been entirely still the whole time, but it was Fluttershy’s response that got Twilight’s attention.

She was bowing.

Twilight leaned forward and gently tapped her shoulder, shaking her head, and Fluttershy looked up. “Please, don’t.”

Fluttershy ducked down further, backing away before standing.

“Girls, listen to me. I know it’s ‘normal’ to bow to an alicorn, but not you. Not any of you.” She flopped over on Fluttershy, being extra careful to be gentle. “I don’t want any of you to. You’re my friends. Not my subjects.”

“Um, Twi?” Spike poked her in the back with a claw. “You do realize me and Rainbow are your guard, right? We’re going to have to sometimes.”

Twilight nodded. “If it’s a formal thing where you have to, fine. Anytime else, I don’t want you to. Okay?”

Fluttershy squeaked and nodded. “Um, okay. If that’s alright. I mean, you’re…”

Twilight looked Fluttershy in the eyes. “It’s more than alright. It’s what I need. Please…”

“Then it’s what we shall provide, dear.” Rarity assured with a wave of a hoof. “No bowing, I promise. Even if you are wearing a royal torc. You know, you really should accessorize a little more. Maybe a saddlebag, but what kind of strap…?”

“Rarity…” At least four of them deadpanned, possibly including Spike.

“Oh, hush. It’s not like I… Iiiiiideeeeeaaaa!!”

Four different groans rumbled through the room.

The fashionista pulled out a notebook. “I’ll have advance knowledge of when the next princess is going to be crowned! I can design and make an entire line of themed dresses and outfits and keep them hidden then, when the time comes, have them out the door before any other designer even has a chance to get to a drawing board!”

“Right, well, anyway, that about sums things up I suppose. I just—” Twilight stopped for a moment. Four of them groaning meant there were three that weren’t. One was obviously Rarity, and Fluttershy wouldn’t make that much noise, which left the other…

“Pinkie? Are you with us?” Twilight approached her, but her friend didn’t move. She was as still as the statues in the gardens. “Pinkie?” Twilight waved a hoof in front of her face.

“Twilight…” Pinkie spoke softer than any of them had ever heard before.

“Yes, Pinkie?”

“Alicorn… Twilight…”

A nervous look passed between the rest of the girls before Twilight spoke again. “Right. That’s what I’m becoming. Is something the matter?”

“Can’t… tell anyone…”

Twilight blinked a few times and looked closely at Pinkie. She was shaking. It was hard to see and very subtle, but the conclusion was unmistakable, seeing as she was blurry.

“Um, yeah. That’s the gist. This knowledge is kind of dangerous right now. That’s not a problem, right?”

“Not… a problem…”

Twilight backed away as the Pinkie got more blurry. “Good?”

“Not… a problem… a huge problem!” Although she was moving again, it was the “flailing forelegs” type of movement. “This is the most… The biggest, hugest news of all time! It. Needs. A. Party!”

A few more seconds passed with Pinkie hyperventilating before Applejack spoke up.

“Uh, isn’t that what we’re doin’ now?”

Pinkie was all over her in a split second, her voice rising to its old higher pitch. “No! We’re having a ‘Congrats on becoming Grand Mage’ party! That’s not what we should be doing! We need a ‘Holy Smokes Twilight Is Becoming An Alicorn’ Jubilee Celebration Extrrrrrravaganza. It. Should. Be. Huge!”

Somehow, “hyperventilating” ceased to be a sufficient description for what Pinkie was doing. Each breath seemed to double in volume. 

Spike scratched his head. “Um, a ‘Holy Smokes Twilight Is Becoming An Alicorn’ Jubilee Celebration Extravaganza?”

Pinkie was in his face without having the common decency to actually traverse the distance in between them. “No! A ‘Holy Smokes Twilight Is Becoming An Alicorn’ Jubilee Celebration Extrrrrrravaganza’! There has to be a roll in the ‘r’! Has! To! That’s what makes it work!”

“Let me handle this, sugarcube.” Applejack sauntered up to the panicking party pony and put a foreleg across her back. “Pinkie, I think yer goin’ ‘bout this all wrong.”

“I am?”

“Ya are.”

“I don’t think so!” Pinkie rushed out of the room and rushed right back in with a chalkboard on wheels and started writing on it. “I mean, big events need big parties, and it doesn’t really get bigger than ‘Twilight becoming an alicorn.’ Therefore, this needs the biggest party ever!” She double-underlined the solution to her equation of drawings, which was Canterlot buried in confetti, then nodded like a professor.

“Yer right, Pinkie, but you’re missin’ somethin’ too. Somethin’ real important. What’s the only thing better than a big party?”

“Uuuhhh… Two big parties?”

Applejack shook her head. “A big surprise party!”

“That’s right!” Pinkie clapped her hooves together. “We need a big surprise party!”

“Now hold on, sugarcube, yer still missin’ the important part! If this is a secret, Twilight becoming an alicorn is gonna be one big surprise, right?”

Twilight’s eyes lit up as she realized where Applejack was going. “You know, Pinkie, Grand Mages get authority on par with the princesses. I could order up one heck of a party. I mean, I’d be the first new alicorn in ten thousand years. I think I’d be able to justify it. Of course, to give a surprise party to all of Equestria, this needs to stay a secret.”

Pinkie froze up and got quiet again. “All… of Equestria…”

Giving Pinkie the closest thing to a seductive leer she’d ever have, Twilight whispered in her ear. “All of Equestria… simultaneously…” Pinkie’s smile grew so wide she looked like she would’ve been able to swallow a small manticore. “You have less than ten years to plan it. Think you can pull it off, Pinkie?”

Pinkie grew a diabolical grin and cackled under her breath. “Abso-poso-tivo-luet-ly!”

Yet another moment of silence passed, broken this time by Rainbow Dash. “Okay, am I the only pony more scared of Pinkie Pie than I am of some conspiracy with enough political pull to build a war zeppelin?”

“Would our foes only know what they would bring upon themselves for trying to halt the Grand Mage’s ascension and, by extension, the world’s largest Pinkie Pie party, they would run and flee in despair.”

The group all turned and looked up at the two alicorns finally making their entrance.

Celestia gave her sister a smirk. “Luna, you’ve been getting into General Nocturne’s poetry again, haven’t you?”

Luna flapped her wings. “What can I say? It sings to me, Sister!”

“Are you going to join us?” Twilight motioned to her friends.

Celestia smiled at her. “We’d be delighted to, Twilight!”

Luna trotted toward the group, bouncing in her step with a little wing flap. “An understatement, Sister! You couldn’t keep me away!”

“Oh, Your Highness!” Rarity called out. “There was something I had to ask you. Could I—?”

“No, Rarity, I still won’t allow it.”  Celestia cut her off.

Twilight raised an eyebrow. “Won’t allow what?”

Rarity sighed and put away her notebook. “A little business proposal, is all. A bit too much to ask, I guess. Not to worry, business is still booming.”

Twilight raised her eyebrow even more. “Riiiiiight. Well, while we’re here, it’d be a shame to let a good party go to waste!”

“And then I said, ‘Wait, you don’t have a license for that!’”

The room burst with laughter at the joke from the seriously tipsy Pinkie while Luna started drinking or, rather, chugging an entire bottle of Chateau Blueblood 947.

“Ah! While I may not approve of my nephew’s antics, I must admit his family does make decent wine.” She tossed the bottle over her head and let it crash on the ground, shattering into shards. “Decent. But not great.”

Twilight sighed and leaned back a bit. “I still can’t believe he’s the only one in the Council that voted in favor of my brother.”

Celestia waved a hoof. “Oh, he did that because I told him to.”

Twilight and Rarity both blinked. “What?”

Luna smiled. “In the Council, Sister has that stallion wrapped around her hoof. His mouth, but her words.”

“Well, I certainly didn’t tell him to add the part about the ‘corrupt sacks of horn-rot—’”

Luna chuckled and pulled out another bottle of wine. “Okay then, credit where due, that was funny!”

“But yes, I did tell him to make a vigorous statement in Shining’s defense. I couldn’t let the vote be unanimous.”

Twilight exhaled. “Okay, mystery solved. Still, thank you. It helped to have somepony on my side in there.”

Celestia frowned. If one looked carefully, she might have even looked sullen. “This is why I didn’t want you to see it, even if I am sorry for not giving you the choice to be there or not. Being royalty often means being forced by duty to do things we do not enjoy.”

Twilight looked down at her hooves. “I know that, intellectually. It still hurts, but I chose to be there, and…”

“And you must live with that choice. As alicorns, such decisions are a burden we must endure.” Luna shook her head and put away the bottle in favor of another, pulling out it’s cork. “However, I must say, Sister, I am disappointed in you. Only two hundred thousand bits fined to that serpent in the Council? Hardly a weighty sum for one such as Bismare. Did you not update the tribalism law to account for the billionaire class?”

Celestia carefully lifted a glass of champagne to her lips. “In all honesty, though I do recognize that tribalism remains a serious issue, it’s been a long, long time since anypony has been foolish enough to openly speak such words within the castle walls. Changing the penalty scale just slipped my mind as I faced other challenges.”

“Perhaps an adjustment is due, then. Remind ponies of where we stand.”

“Agreed, but it can wait for the morning, I think.”

“Hey, Twilight!” Rainbow called out from the end of the room by the doors, hovering halfway between the ceiling and the floor. “There’s a guard out here asking for you!”

“Ummm… Okay… Send him over here, Rainbow!” Twilight waved her hoof over her head, and the Guard trotted over, his armor clanking on the tile.

“Your Highnesses,” he said, bowing.

“Ugh.” Twilight facehooved. “I really need to figure out how I want to be addressed.”

Luna laughed and danced in place a bit. “I think, perhaps, he was referring to us as well, Twilight.”

“I know, just getting reminded of it is all.” She turned to the guard. “What did you need?”

“My lady, your mother is here, and is insisting she speak with you and Princess Celestia.”

The hair on her neck stood up on end. “Both of us? Uh-oh.”

Celestia stood up and shook her wings. “I suppose we could oblige her.”

Twilight moved in between them. “I don’t think that’s a good idea, Princess. This soon? I don’t know if I’m ready. I doubt she’s really ready.”

Celestia began a walk towards the door. “This may be true, Twilight, but we must sometimes take on problems we are not ready for. In addition, if we wait and deny her an audience, it could get worse.”

Twilight took in a deep breath and let it out slowly. “You’re right. Let's go. It’s just… I have a bad feeling about this.”

Twilight’s hoofsteps sounded strange to her. It was as if they had been drained of the emotion they should otherwise have. The hall chandeliers were dimmed for the evening, leaving only a soft orange glow mixed with the cold moonlight. As she rounded a corner with the Princess close behind, her voice took on the same muffled, neutral tone. “Hello, mother.”

Velvet’s head spun around, mouth open and inhaling, readying to say something. Instead, she froze and looked up at the Princess towering over her, ears flat against her head.

Twilight raised an eyebrow. If she meant to rant to me, it was a mistake to bring Celestia here. Maybe she’ll behave herself, given that instinct. “It’s rude to keep the Princess waiting, Mother.”

Velvet blinked then shook her head. “Waiting? Oh, I’m sorry, I didn’t realize how rude I was being! Certainly, though, nowhere near as rude to play political games with somepony else’s daughter!”

Celestia sat down on the tile right in front of Velvet, lowering her head to bring it  her to eye level with the other mare. A sweet smile graced her lips, and Twilight could see the years of experience in her eyes. Velvet posed no threat, and Celestia knew it.

“My li—”

“Don’t you ‘my little pony’ me!” She thrust a hoof in the Princess’s face. “What have you done to my daughter? I want her back, right…” Her words sputtered and failed, her face carrying a multitude of expressions as she tried to stare defiantly into the diarch’s serene, unflinching visage. “Now,” she said, this time sounding far less confident.

“Mother! Listen to yourself! You do not interrupt the Princess! And what exactly do you mean you ‘want me back?’ I’m not anypony’s to trade around.”

“But she took you from me!” Velvet yelled, eyes bloodshot and watering. “Me! The one who gave birth to you! The one who raised you! She took you away from me, and— and— and forced you to go to that po-dunk, backwater mud pony town and—”

Celestia stomped a hoof on the tile, sending a crack through the air. Whatever light that came from the windows before was extinguished in favor of Celestia’s aura and utter silence. Seemingly in slow motion, the Princess inhaled, her lips ready to impart a judgement.

Twilight stepped in between them. “You damn fool.”

What? Me, the foo—”

Twilight cut her off. “Yes, you, the fool, Mother. Are you really that stupid?”

Velvet opened her mouth again, and Twilight lurched forward to keep her quiet. “You don’t even realize who you’re talking about. Think, Mom. What is Princess Celestia? What are alicorns? They’re the embodiment of the three pony tribes. Celestia considers herself to be all of them in a very real fashion. All alicorns do.”

Velvet recoiled as if struck. “Twilight… No, I didn’t mean it like that. I just wanted my little filly back, that’s all.”

Twilight snorted. “‘Your little filly?’ Mom, let me tell you a little story.”

She began a lecture pace, walking back and forth. “Two years after I became Princess Celestia’s student, one of the other fillies at the school gave me a newspaper. It was a lousy gossip rag, but I was excited nonetheless. You know what it said? That I was secretly the daughter of Celestia, conceived in a forbidden tryst with a nameless stallion.”

Her mother’s mouth hung open, tears of her own starting to flow, but Twilight kept going. “I ran and ran until I could talk to her to ask her if it was true. She told me it wasn’t, and you know what I did, Mom?” She leaned in close. “I begged her to say it was true instead.”

“Twilight,” Celestia interrupted. “Do you think this wise?”

Twilight shook her head. “At this point, Tia, there’s no stopping it, and right now, I don’t really care.”

“‘Tia!?’” Her mother gasped.

Twilight rolled her eyes and kept going. “I remember Tia telling me ‘I could never take away the honor of being your mother from another pony.’ But all I could think of was how much I wanted it to be true. I wanted the mare raising me to tell me I was special to my face instead of just her friends. I wanted her to congratulate and celebrate with me when I did something good or right and only then challenge and encourage me with something new.”

Tears rolled down both of their cheeks, and Twilight’s breathing made speaking more laborious, but she continued. “I wanted that instead of a contemptuous ‘about time’ followed by being told to do something else now. When I was sad, I wanted somepony to hear my sadness and support me instead of a ‘You’re young; it’ll be alright’ followed by leaving for another ‘networking’ party! I wanted all that and so much more from the ponies that raised me! And you know what, Mother? I got it.”

She forced her eyes shut, squeezing another wave of tears down her cheek. “But I didn’t get it from you.”


“Let me finish!” she yelled, not letting her mother get a word in edgewise for perhaps the first time in her memory. “I didn’t get it from you, but I got it from her!” Twilight pointed a hoof at Celestia. “And you know what? I got it from Shining, from Dad, Cadence! Even Doughnut Joe was there for me more than you ever were! And don’t you give me that ‘Oh, I was trying to make connections to get you more opportunities’ garbage! I was Celestia’s student, Mom! Every single door I ever needed open was unlocked for me the instant I started learning from her, and you know it! It was never about me—it was about you!”

Velvet lowered her head so much she was supplicating herself before her daughter, and her ears were flat against her head. Twilight only had time to pant a little before she saw Velvet lift her head to say something, and potentially dig herself an even deeper hole.


“No, Mother.” Twilight’s breathing had calmed, and the tears were drying. “No. You don’t realize how bad this is, so I’m going to explain it to you. Just before Shining was stripped of his rank, Duchess Bismare made a similar comment about earth ponies. Celestia fined her two hundred thousand bits and two hundred hours of community service.”

The color all but drained from Velvet’s coat. “Two hundred thousand bits!? We can’t afford that! Twilight, we’d lose our home, everything!”

Celestia leaned forward and a scowl flashed briefly across her face. “And that is why, the vast majority of the time, nopony is stupid enough to use such horrific language in my home, my little pony. Tribalist slurs are strictly forbidden in my presence and in my castle without exception for anypony. The only reason I didn’t make it two hundred million bits was because there is a legal maximum I can demand."

She fixed Velvet with a hard stare for a long moment. "Your fine will not be quite so steep." She paused briefly, and a tight smile crossed her muzzle. "I am not a tyrant, after all.”

Twilight thrust out a hoof in between Celestia and her mother and turned her head to gaze at her mentor out of one tear-drenched eye. “No, Tia. Her words, her actions… they’re deplorable, but she’s my mother. Even if she was never there for me, I’ll be there for her.”

The Princess shook her head. “I’m sorry, Twilight, but I’m afraid I cannot allow this infraction to go unpunished. Even for you.”

Twilight fully turned to face her. “I’m not asking you to let it go, Princess. I’m asking you to allow me to determine the punishment.”

Celestia's expression was inscrutable as her eyes searched Twilight’s face. Twilight looked back levelly, but her heart pounded and her mind rampaged over alternate plans. The typical punishments for this were famously harsh.

“Very well.” Celestia motioned with a hoof. “Proceed, Grand Mage. Know, however, that I possess veto power over your decision.”

“Thank you,” Twilight whispered before turning back to her mother. “Mom… No, Twilight Velvet. What you’ve done to me is…”

She stopped and ground her teeth. It was right here: an opportunity she might never have again. A chance to unload every last injustice off her back and list them in grandiose fashion. But she’s still my pony… 

“Mother.” Her throat went dry. “That you have expressed such hatred of your fellow ponies in this place where all ponies are supposed to be represented is inexcusable.” She took a deep breath, her ears going flat against her head while she stopped herself from pawing at the ground. “Hence, I see no choice. I hereby banish you from Canterlot, effective tonight.”

Her mother recoiled as if struck, scrambling backwards. “B-b-banished?”

Twilight took in more air and nodded. “Correct. You will relocate to Ponyville. I have already moved out of the Golden Oaks Library in favor of the new fort being built there, so you will move in and take over for me as librarian. You will interact with the ponies there, who, do not forget, are mostly earth ponies. You will be kind to them. You will befriend them. And you will send me weekly updates on what you have learned. I expect each letter to be postmarked by the end of every Tuesday.”

“Twilight, please!” Her mother threw herself at Twilight’s small, purple hooves. “I’ll be the laughingstock of the nobility! I don’t even know anypony there!”

Twilight shot her head forward and met her gaze bare centimeters away. “That’s the point, Mother. If, and only if, you truly learn of the full nature of your misdeeds, will I allow you to return to Canterlot. This, I command.”

Velvet looked behind Twilight, presumably at Celestia.

“I approve of and uphold my Grand Mage’s decision and add an additional requirement that your stay not be any shorter than three years. Nor may you leave the town for vacations for more than three weeks during any given year. As you are serving a public post, you will be afforded the same salary and free board as my student once held, but you will be expected to fulfill the duties to which it is attached.”

Twilight watched her mother all but lose her lunch at Celestia’s words.

The Princess stood up. “Go to your condominium and gather your things, Mrs. Velvet. It is high time you learned the lessons your daughter did ages ago.”


The Grand Mage pointed at the door. “Go.”

Slowly, she walked out of the hallway and around the corner, her soft hoofsteps bleeding out into nothingness.

When Twilight was sure she was out of earshot, she finally allowed herself to collapse on the ground into soft sobs.

Celestia’s wing once again gripped Twilight, clutching her close. “I am proud of you, Twilight. But I am so, so sorry…”

“Same here.” The deep, male voice from behind startled her enough to try to jump, but she was held back by the strong primary feathers of Celestia’s wing as a figure stepped out from the shadows.

“I can’t say I am happy about this, but she brought this on herself. You did what you could, Twily. I’m proud of you too.”

She craned her head around, trying to see the source of the voice through her watery vision. “Shiny?”

The dark stallion smiled at her. “Yeah. Although come to think of it, you might need a new nickname for me, now.”

Twilight shook her head, sending drops of water flying. “No! I refuse! Luna can have you in her Guard, but to me, you’re always going to be Shiny! I need something normal in all of this…”

Celestia squeezed her a bit tighter. “I think this is understandable, Cardinal. I severely doubt Luna would have any objections.”

He shrugged. “I can’t argue with that. ‘Shiny’ it is.” With a gentle hoof, he wiped away some of his sister’s tears. “I knew a blow-up would be unavoidable, but a tribalist slur? Right in front of Princess Celestia?” He huffed. “She needs to thank her lucky stars you’re Grand Mage. Though, I have to admit,” a smirked started to pull at the corners of Obsidian’s mouth, “I never would have thought of sending her to Ponyville to learn the magic of friendship. I think it’ll be good for her.”

Twilight nodded. “It was for me. No, that’s too much of an understatement. It was a blessing greater than anything I can think of. As far as I was concerned, a season ago I was completely content to spend my days being a librarian there. I don’t know if she’ll like being a librarian, but I think the ponies there can help her.”

“It pains me to think of going there as a punishment,” Celestia said, letting go of Twilight. “I hope that’s not how you thought of it.”

Twilight chuckled. “I did. For about twenty hours. Then I spent sixteen years there, thinking it was the best, if weirdest, place in the world.”

“If you believe Ponyville to be ‘weird,’ my student, it merely means you haven’t traveled far enough yet. But don’t worry.” Celestia leaned close to Twilight and winked. “You will.”

Twilight gulped.

“Heh. Well, I’m going to go help Mom and Dad move, maybe get some of my new subordinates to help, get to know them.” Obsidian smiled at her. “If I were you, Twilight, I’d get back to your friends.”

Twilight stood up, using Celestia to help her balance. “Yeah. Yeah, I think you’re right. Thanks, Shiny.”

“Always, Twily.”

Celestia led Twilight back to the party, letting her lean against her as she needed through the empty hallways that now felt far too dour. They stood in deep contrast to the party she was walking back into, with streamers now everywhere and six good friends laughing it up. It didn’t seem to take them long to notice something was wrong.

“Girls,” she said, choking up. “I need a favor.”