Princess Celestia paced slowly back and forth down the atrium that led to the storehouse of the Elements of Harmony. She paused, smiling at the stained glass depiction of herself and Luna defeating Discord.
‘Moondancer always made the best artwork.’ she thought to herself, turning away from the two thousand year old stained glass window. ‘I do miss her steady head and eye for detail.’
The slight clicking of hooves alerted the princess to the presence of another pony.
“What be thou doing down here, sister?” Luna asked.
Celestia smiled at her sister. The midnight blue alicorn was slowly returning to her cheerful self, following her millennia long banishment in the moon. “My dear sister,” she started, inclining her head slightly to remove her mane from her eyes. “I’m merely reliving old times. For old time’s sake.”
Luna followed her sister’s eyes to the Discord pane. “Thou thinks of times of yore indeed, sister,” she swished her translucent, blue sparkled tail. “Though, I would be in the wrong to not admit to some contriteness over thine and I’s relative powerlessness the more recent time the cur showed himself.”
Princess Celestia felt a pang of regret within her heart, but years of training in the court did not allow her to show it. “My student seems to be more than capable, it would appear.”
Luna nodded in agreement, switching her gaze over to the newest of the commissioned stained glass murals. “Aye, mine sister. The youthful Twilight Sparkle would seem to rival even Starswirl himself in magical abilities.” She glanced sadly back at her sister. “Yet, not even the combined powers could solve this. You know this, does thou not, mine sister?”
Celestia nodded her head yet again. “Yes, Luna. I know.”
Luna smiled grimly for a moment, then turned and faced the great door that sealed the vault of the Elements of Harmony. “Mayhap, then, mine sister, the time draws close that thou should speak of the present issue.”
In a rare moment of weakness, Celestia sighed. “Of course you are right, Luna. I plan to do so this afternoon. I’ve had Clockwork clear my appointments for the rest of the day.”
“This is most wise of you, sister,” Luna agreed, this time giving her elder sibling a smile of reassurance. “I feel thee will know best how to reply to the young Twilight Sparkle.” She shook her head, allowing her glimmering mane to shine in the light of the stained glass. “I for one, hold no envy toward the task ahead of thee.” She approached, and rested her head against Celestia’s. “Be strong, mine sister. For now, however, I must bid thee goodnight, as I must rest until the moon rises.”
Celestia closed her eyes at the touch of her sister’s head. “Rest will, Luna. And thank you.”
Luna merely nodded, before leaving. The soft clicking of her hooves, muffled by the carpet, slowly faded into nothing; leaving Celestia feeling more alone. Not that the feeling was all that uncommon. For a thousand years, Celestia alone had ruled over Equestria, protecting its borders, solving problems, and relegating duties to her loving subjects. But for all the love and affection her subjects could bring her, the reality of the situation was that sitting on her gilded throne had been a very lonely task. How many long nights had she spent sleepless, concerned over a crisis? How often had she longed for some sort of counsel, only to remember that her best counsellors were long gone?
At first, it had been easy. She and Luna defeated Discord, returning happiness throughout Equestria. The two young alicorns were shining beacons of hope for all the ponies of the land, and taking the shared throne of Canterlot had been a great honour. Ponies from the far reaches of Equestria came to swear their fealty to their new rulers.
But then Luna changed, and in a move that broke her heart more than she would ever admit, Celestia banished her one friend to the moon.
‘No, that’s not quite right.’ Celestia thought as she turned and walked down the soft, pink carpet that lined the hall of the Elements of Harmony’s wing of the castle. ‘Starswirl was there with me. He was a voice of reason in a time of trials.’
However, the reality was that, ultimately, Starswirl the Bearded, one of the greatest users of unicorn magic and most sage astrologer, was merely a unicorn. So after nearly 120 years of wise counsel, he passed on to join his ancestors. As had so many counsellors before him. Were she to admit it to herself, however, Celestia realised that his death was different from the others. After his death, she began to distance herself from those in her cabinet. Never again, did she form the closeness of the relationships, the friendships, that’d she’d possessed with that group of wise ponies.
Perhaps, in the end, that was what ultimately caused her to lose touch with the Elements of Harmony. The loss of Luna was a terrible burden to bear, but Celestia found herself relying on the friendships she forged with her advisors as a way to cope with the pain of losing Luna, and the guilt of being the one who ultimately banished her. But, after those ponies died, it became more and more apparent to the still young alicorn that she was different. Her friends would age and die much faster than she ever would. They would change and grow. She would remain the same. It was at this point, around 100 years into Luna’s time as the Mare in the Moon that Princess Celestia ceased to try to maintain friendships with anypony.
‘That,’ the princess thought as her hooves left the soft carpet and landed on the cool purple marble floor that lay out across her wing of the castle. ‘That is when I, too, lost touch with the Elements of Harmony.’
Looking down at the floor, Celestia thought of her student. Starswirl had prophecies about a group of young ponies would help free Luna from the darkness in her heart. On the day that Twilight Sparkle, a young unicorn from Canterlot, nearly destroyed the testing room of the Academy for Gifted Unicorns, Celestia knew that she’d found at least one of the chosen ones.
She smiled, shaking her head in thought. Sweet, neurotic Twilight Sparkle. Her student had faced more in her short life than most of Equestrian history. And yet... and yet Twilight was quite insecure in herself and her abilities.
‘Perhaps that is what makes her so special.’ Celestia thought, walking toward her chambers. ‘She and her friends don’t know how special they really are.’
She used her magic to open the door to her chambers, and summoned her quill and inkwell as she moved toward the ornate purple cashmere carpet. Sitting down, she allowed herself a brief moment to revel in the softness of the beautiful tapestry. The carpet itself had been a gift from the mayor of Yiliborough following a particularly good sheering season. The summer had been extremely warm in that mountainous town, so the sheep were all too willing to be sheered that season.
Settling down against a golden silk pillow, Celestia stretched her wings, then summoned a sheet of parchment.
“Best get this over with, old girl.” She said to herself, then began to write...
My most faithful student,
I hate to interrupt your studies on the magic of friendship, as I always enjoy the letters you send, and the letters of your friends. However, as I am wont to do, I have yet another mission for you and your friends. Something has come to my attention, and I feel your unique talents can help solve a bit of a mystery for me.
I need you and your friends to do some research on the history and legend of the alicorn. I’m sure your love for books can help you find the answers to this, but I would like to know what your friends know of it as well. Given the ancient nature of this subject, it interests me to know what the unicorns, the Earth Ponies, and the Pegasi all have to say on the topic.
I eagerly await your findings on the subject. If you have time, send me a letter on any lessons you and your friends learn about friendship during this quest. Then, once you feel you have an idea of the facts about the Alicorns, send me a letter, and you, your friends, and I will meet to discuss your findings.
Twilight Sparkle, you have always been my brightest star. I know how important my approval of you is to you, and I wanted you to know that you have my greatest confidence. Even if you find very little on the subject, know that it may be more knowledge than you realise. Best wishes on your search,
- Princess Celestia