Rites of Ascension

by CvBrony

Proper Places

“‘Cause tomorrow spring is here!”

A large collection of mares plus one dragon all started giggling and hollering, from Fluttershy’s polite chuckle to Pinkie’s belly laugh while rolling on the ground.

“Why are we singing that again?” Rarity asked as Twilight watched her finish her fifth gin and tonic.

“Because that’s what we always sing when Pinkie gets completely sloshed!” Rainbow downed the rest of her cider in a single go.

“Oh. Right.” There was a moment of total silence after Rarity’s realization followed by another burst of random laughter.

Twilight took a sip from her own wine and set it down, the warmth from the alcohol growing in the back of her head. I’m starting to feel it. No more wine for me. “Thanks girls. Thank you so much. These last couple months have been hell.”

The girls nodded and expressed their reassurances, save for Pinkie, who was now passed out, wearing a lampshade, and sleeping on an overturned table.

“Can one of y’all explain ta me how come Pinkie never gets hangovers?”

Twilight set her glass down. “AJ, if I could explain Pinkie, I think the universe might just poof out of existence and recreate itself with an even weirder Pinkie. It has to be some kind of fundamental law. ‘Pinkie shall never be understood.’”

Rainbow cringed. “… How many times do you think that’s happened?”

“I don’t even wanna think about it.” Applejack adjusted her hat. “Princess, didn’t y’all say there were more surprises and such planned fer tonight?”

“Indeed I did, Applejack.” Celestia spread one wing over her sister. “If everything is ready, that is.”

Luna raised an eyebrow. “Dost thou doubt me, Sister? Our talents are vast, and we finished with plenty of time.”

Celestia shrugged. “I thought you said you were worried about it.”

“Only because it is more impressive if I look pressed for time. In fact, I believe I have outdone myself. Shall we?”

Twilight shook her head. “I take it that you’re talking about another ‘surprise.’ No time to let my heart rest?”

“Oh, I think you will enjoy this one, my student. Your—” a very small smile touched her lips “—conscious friends are welcome to join us, of course. Come, follow us.” Celestia lit her horn and opened the doors of the banquet hall, leading the group through the castle.

They passed through various corridors and up a number of stairwells before arriving at one area very familiar to Twilight. “Um, Princess? These are the stairs to your private chambers…”

“Your private chambers?” Rarity burst forward and put her forelegs on Twilight’s back. “As in the place nopony has supposedly ever seen?”

Twilight rolled her eyes and leaned over, sending Rarity off her back and onto the floor with a thud. “Ponies have seen it, Rarity. The maids are in there all the time, cleaning. Since my tower was destroyed in the Siege, I’ve been sleeping there for the past few months. Well, there or in Luna’s chambers, whichever they weren’t using.”

“Twilight, there are no words for how very jealous I am of you right now.” Rarity said, pointing at the ceiling. “Also, no words for how very upside down I am. I am upside down, right? It isn’t just the gin?”

“Not just the gin, Rarity.” Spike sighed and went to help her up.

“Thank you, dear.”

If Twilight concentrated, she could’ve sworn Rarity sounded like her mother, Pearl, when she said that, but it was too slurred for her to be certain. There were more important things to consider as they walked up the steps. 

Just what is Celestia planning? It’d be kinda off to lead several drunk mares into her bedroom… An extraordinarily naughty, evil, and downright inappropriate thought crossed her mind, and she crushed it with all the might she could muster in her overactive imagination.

They continued up the steps, each second seeing a dozen new possibilities running through Twilight’s mind, only to be dismissed as less and less likely. Even when they reached the top, she couldn’t find the answer no matter how much she twisted her face in frustration.

Celestia stretched out her wings and turned around, facing down from the entrance of her chambers. “Do not look so worried, Twilight. All will be revealed shortly.”

Twilight slammed her eyes shut to stomp out the resurging inappropriate thoughts like a mental gestapo.

Celestia continued, “First, everypony, look at the doors behind me.”

Twilight and her friends did so, the entranceway dwarfing them all. The double-doors were ornate, gilded, and emblazoned with a giant version of the Princess’s cutie mark. The sun in the center was made of a giant topaz, while the flames on the outside were solid gold.

“These have served as my chambers for over one thousand years.” Celestia’s voice no longer sounded like the sociable, at-ease mare at the party. It was back to all its regal, controlled splendor. “Now, if you would please, look to your left.”

Everyone turned their heads, peering down the short hallway.The white marble and bronze trimming which made the bulk of canterlot castle faded into rich mahogany and cold, black steel, gently lit in azure hues from the surrounding torches. At the end of the hallway, a huge crescent-shaped pearl was set in the doors to represent Luna’s moon cutie mark.

Celestia continued while Luna moved to stand next to her. “Canterlot was a hostile capital city for Luna during the Rebellions, and when she returned I wanted her to feel as welcome as possible. I wanted it to be home for her once again. Thus, I personally designed these just for her. Now, if you would please, look to the right of my chambers.”

The rest of the group did just that, but Twilight turned her gaze to her mentor instead. “Um, Celestia, that’s a blank wall.”

“Twilight, look.” Luna smirked.

Twilight shrugged and gave it a second look, finding exactly what she expected. “It’s a wall.”

“Wait just a minute!” an excited voice exclaimed.

Twilight’s head whipped around. “Pinkie!? Where did you come from? I thought you were passed out!”

Pinkie grabbed Twilight’s head and forcefully turned it back to the wall. “Never mind that. Look!”

The Grand Mage blinked then squinted. “What is…?” Her jaw dropped to the ground.

The wall in front of her was slowly fading away, seemingly vanishing from existence like it had never been there. More astonishing, however, was what was behind it.

The new hall was one step lower than the hall to Luna’s chambers. The white marble faded to a deep purple hue as it lead to another set of double doors. The wood was carved and lacquered to a dark color while five large, white diamonds shimmered and glowed around the central feature: a giant, six-pointed starburst made of solid amethyst. It was the same symbol that was on her flank, her brother’s, her grandfather’s, and countless others of her ancestors. The Luminar Nova.

Rainbow stumbled forward. “No. Freaking. Way.”

Celestia and Luna stepped beside Twilight.

“Being Grand Mage means being one step below being a Princess, as well as being on the path to becoming one.” Celestia started.

“Thus, you are to be given chambers representative of your prestigious status.” Luna tapped Twilight shoulder and pointed down at the ground. “One step down.”

Twilight stood as if she’d been turned to stone, her jaw still agape.

“Okay. I’m officially jealous.” Rarity cleared her throat. “Princess, is there some kind of… of... form I have to fill out so I can be jealous?”

“Rarity, hush.” Celestia winked.

Luna put a hoof on Twilight’s shoulder. “I can never fully repay you for all you’ve done for me, Twilight Sparkle. This, however—I hope—will in some small way put me on that eternal path to repaying that impossible debt.

“I personally designed every aspect of these chambers and poured all my artistic and magical talent into making them. I hope you will feel forever more at home in them.”

Twilight sniffled, wiping some tears away. “L-Luna. I don’t deserve all thi—”

“Twilight Sparkle!” Rarity burst forward, tripping over Pinkie and landing on her back. “You do deserve this! Absolutely!”


“You will accept this and stop saying you don’t deserve it! Right! Now! … Also, Spike dear, could you help me up again?”

Spike sighed, bending over to pick her up. “You really need to lay off the gin, Rarity. Stuff tastes like a Hearth’s Warming Tree anyway.”

Rainbow jumped into a hover. “Um, what are we doing just standing here? I can’t be the only pony that has to see this!”

“Quite right, Rainbow.” Rarity leaned over on Spike. “May we, Princess?”

“Twilight goes first, girls.” Celestia walked to the entrance with her sister, each of them taking a door in their magic.

Twilight gulped and sheepishly moved towards the entrance. The doors loomed over her like a dense stormcloud. It wasn’t that she was expecting anything bad on the inside. It was their size, their immense, towering size.

She couldn’t remember the last time she felt so… small.

“Twilight, welcome home.”

The doors opened, and a powerful magenta light blazed forth, forcing Twilight to shield her eyes with a hoof. As her eyes adjusted, she stepped through.

The light dimmed almost instantly. Ahead of her was a sun, the same pinkish-purple color as the one Luna had put in the dream realm for her, shining behind what appeared to be a pair of glass balcony doors.

She gazed downward to avoid the light, only to jump back in shock. Underneath her, behind a barely visible marble floor, were a million stars and dozens of nebulae. When she squinted, she could even see galaxies far off in the “distance.” It was the night sky itself.

The ceiling looked much the same, only without any visible barrier at all, just the endless void. Twilight held up her hoof over her head. If she could only fly, she’d be able to pluck Vega out of its celestial seat and hold it in her hoof. Every constellation, star, and planet was right where it should be; even ones she could normally only see with a telescope were bright and clear despite the sun in the balcony.

“My stars! Did I drink myself stupid and wander outside?”

Twilight’s dry throat swallowed her words. The walls weren’t wood, marble, or even anything solid. They were the shimmering blue clouds from the dream realm forming a circular ring around the room with openings for the doors at either end. Mist from them spilled onto the floor, making it visible.

“Oh my! Is this an illusion? Or… The clouds feel real!” Fluttershy ducked down as the Princesses walked into the room and around the group.

“There are illusions at work here, naturally, but the clouds are quite real. This room contains magic that Equestria has not seen in seven thousand years.” Luna spread her wings and stood tall in the room. “But the most important thing, Twilight, is that this is your new home for however often you’d like to stay.”

“It’s… it’s beautiful…” Twilight bowed down to the ground. “I don’t know what to say…”

“Oh, but you haven’t seen anything yet, Twilight!” Celestia chuckled. “I must admit, I didn’t think Luna would be able to do this in such a short amount of time, but…”

“Oh ye of little faith, Sister.” Luna blew a raspberry at her sibling. “Twilight, reach out with your magic, and grab hold of the sun.”

“You can’t possibly mean…” Luna’s look told her that yes, she most certainly did. Twilight expanded a telekinetic field over to the ‘sun’ and yanked it.

The sun responded by arcing across the sky of the room, turning night into bright, warm day with a blue sky. She kept going, and it progressed to night, bathing the room in darkness only cut by the stars. She kept going still, and when the ‘sun’ came back up, it was the moon, giving everything in the room a gentle glow. One more time around, and it was the sun again, settling into its original place between day and night.

“That. Was. Awesome!” Rainbow zoomed up and did some loop-de-loops in midair, stretching out in the “space” that was her ceiling. “Was that the actual sun?”

Luna laughed. “No, of course not. If it was, I imagine some ponies would be very concerned right about now.”

“Yeah, but holy smokes!” Pinkie clapped. “That has to be world’s most super-duper-riffic light switch!”

Luna pouted. “It is not a light switch! It is a complex set of illusion spells and… And… Okay, it’s a light switch.”

Laughter broke out into the room, including from Celestia, who put a wing over her sister. “Cheer up, Luna. It’s still quite the accomplishment. You should be proud.”

“Heck yeah! Most epic light switch ever!” Rainbow’s voice echoed around the room. “Gotta say, Twi, I’m getting more jealous by the minute.”

“Me too! I mean, goodness!” Rarity leaned over on Spike. “I think some of the ponies I serve would spend millions to have a room like this! And that is most certainly not the gin talking.”

Celestia nudged Luna forward. “Go on, don’t be shy now! You’re with friends! And I know you had more to show!”

Luna’s ears went flat against her head and whispered just barely loud enough for Twilight to overhear. “It’s hard because they’re friends.”

“Um, Princess?” Twilight stepped forward. “I mean, Luna, I’d really like to see the rest of the room. Please?”

Luna’s visage softened into a small smile, and she walked to one of the walls. Taking a deep breath, she pushed out to her side with her forelegs and a burst of pegasus magic. The wind all but shredded the clouds on that side of the room into a mere trickle of mist. Inside was a huge, lavish closet filled with drawers, clothes-hanging spaces, cabinets, and bookshelves, each made of a rich, dark wood. The very center also had a large mirror that would be considered full-length even by Celestia.

Also inside were two mannequins, one in the shape of a dragon and the other in the shape of a pony. Each of them was holding a brand new set of dark purple armor with bronze-colored filigree.

“Heh. Doing this takes me back.” Luna blushed a little. “Each side has additional storage. The clouds regenerate in a few minutes. And over here…” Luna flapped her wings, flying over a large cloud in the center of the floor, and landed on the other side. “We have this.”

Another blast of wind ripped through the room, revealing another closet, this one filled with bookshelves utterly packed with hardbacks, along with a large in-wall safe.

Twilight’s mouth hung open again. Some of those books looked amazingly old and thick—exactly her type.

“I thought you’d like that touch, Twilight. Those are from our personal library.” Luna stepped back towards the center of the room. “That’s not what I think is the best part, though. Twilight, hop on your new bed.”

“Bed?” Twilight tilted her head. “Where?”

Luna pointed with a wing. “The big cloud in the center! Trust me, you are going to love being able to walk on clouds without a spell. There is no better bed than a nice, thick, warm cloud.”

“Oh! I get it!” She ran up, jumped, and landed upside-down on what was easily the fluffiest cloud in existence. It felt more substantial than the other clouds she’d been on and much warmer too; most clouds were normally cold mist. Twisting her back left and right, she found herself moving deeper and deeper into it, but the cloud changed shape to support her perfectly no matter what position she took. “Oh yeah, I could see myself sleeping here.”

“Yeah, when she doesn’t fall asleep reading all those books!” Rainbow was flying little laps around the room.

“Rainbow, be nice.” Fluttershy shot a brief glare over to Rainbow, who ducked down in a blush. “Oh, Twilight, I’m so happy for you! Even I have to admit, sometimes I pull clouds down into the farmhouse to sleep on. They’re especially nice when you’re… um, well…”

“Ah, but we are not done yet!” Luna giggled. “Twilight, use your pegasus magic to force an air current downwards on the cloud.”

Twilight blinked. “Huh. Okay. Haven’t tried to summon a current in that direction before. Normally that should lead to, well…”

Rainbow landed next to her. “Downwards currents can be a little weird, too. If you think about air rushing against your back, you’re thinking of going up, so you tend to get upwards currents. If you think about air going up, you’re thinking the air is pushing you up, so you still get an upwards current. Either way, same thing. You have to take it to another level.”

Luna snickered.

Rainbow paused at that but kept going when the Princess managed to stop. “Anyway, think of not just diving down towards the ground, but the wind helping you take that dive. It’s a little counter-intuitive, but if you get it right, it’ll work.”

Twilight nodded. “Okay, worth a shot.” She closed her eyes and pictured herself with wings on that cloud over the glass desert. Then, she leaped off the cloud. Wind rushed past her face and ears, forcing tears out and sending the ground at her. She visualized flapping her allegorical wings as hard as she could, forcing herself faster towards the rough glass below.

“Let the wind help you!” a voice cried out.

Rainbow? Twilight shook it off and imagined a monstrous wind current looping back around behind her and plunging down in a snake-like strike against her backside, launching her forward.

“That’s it! You got it!”

Twilight broke the daydream and looked around. She was in a new room!

“Hey, Twi! Up here!”

Twilight looked above her and saw Rainbow and Spike waving from inside a circle in the ceiling. It was at the very top of the room where her ‘bed’ used to be.

Wait, if that’s there, then… Her head snapped down to look around her, revealing an entire other floor underneath her bedroom.

“It’s… It’s a bathroom! Er, at least, I think it is…” She hopped off the cloud and trotted over to one of the walls. Unlike her bedroom, here there were no cloud walls. The starfield simply seemed to go off into infinity.  Gentle lighting from nebulae in the starry ceiling lit the room around her.

To her left was a stone pillar made of the same stuff as the floor but without the embedded stars. Next to it was a toilet sized for a pony the height of Celestia instead of Twilight. Guess they’re planning ahead… She kept moving around it, finding a sink with a spigot that functioned more like a small waterfall than a faucet, along with a large marble basin with faucet handles on either side. It, too, was alicorn-sized, but even more impressive was the stream of water itself. It was wide and perfectly smooth. So much so that she could clearly see her reflection in the water as if it were a mirror.

I really need to trim my mane. At least the bangs. Hmm, what’s that? She turned around, following a glow in the corner of her eye, and walked over to a large gem protruding from the ground on the opposite side of the room. It had a slightly eerie pink aura as magic flowed around it.

That’s weird, she thought, examining it from all sides. Wonder what it—Hey! She lifted her hind hoof up and shook the water off of it. What is…?

Twilight’s attention pulled away from the gem as her hoof continued to splash on some water on the floor. A few steps closer to the horizon gave her the answer she needed, as the stars in the floor began to dance. “Oh, you’ve got to be kidding…”

She leapt forward, splashing into deeper water. Moving a foreleg through it felt like swimming in the stars themselves. “Hey, girls!… And Spike!” She grinned, getting ready to say something patently absurd. “My bathtub is the night sky!”

A moment passed before she ready Rainbow’s voice. “Okay, that sounds ridiculous enough that I have to check this out.”

Two pegasi fluttered down from the ‘hole’ in the sky, one wearing a brand new set of armor.

“Oh, oh my!” Fluttershy raised her hooves over her mouth. “Is that dangerous?”

“Nah. Luna wouldn’t put something in here that’d hurt her.” Rainbow dipped a hoof in the water.

“Unless the training was still going on.” Twilight chuckled, now in water up to her chest. “But can you believe this? It’s the size of a swimming pool! At least, I think it is. I have no idea how far out this goes. It could actually be bigger.”

“Let’s find out!” Rainbow launched into the air, did a loop, and then rocketed over Twilight’s head and towards what she could only assume was a wall.

“Rainbow, watch—” A spectral blaze of light launched into the far distance, covering more space than anypony should be capable of. The speed of sound had absolutely nothing on what Twilight just witnessed. “—out?”


A crack of thunder and sound blew Fluttershy into the pool with Twilight and launched a wave of water over Twilight’s head, knocking her over and into deeper water. There, she opened her eyes. There were no clouds. No sun. No sink or toilet, nor any other pony. Just the stars, and her body suspended weightless in them, her body and mind tingling in delight.

Despite the nirvana around her, she pulled herself up and out of the water, coughing some of it up. Looks like I still need oxygen. “Are you alright Fluttershy?”

A nervous, coughing pegasus pulled herself out of the water. “Um, I think so. Was that Rainbow?”

“Wooooooooooooo!” The blaze of spectral light reappeared from the other side of the room, signaling what was coming.

Twilight lowered and charged her horn with as much power as she could bring to bear and poured it into a barrier spell. A shimmering purple wall came into being just in time to stop another blast of compressed air from Rainbow’s powerful wake.

“Rainbow, stop trying to destroy my bathroom!” Twilight tried to stomped a hoof, but the sluggish action in the water muffled it entirely.

She rolled her eyes. “Oh, come on, Twi. Nothing got broken. Besides, you should have seen it! I was going like a million miles an hour, and then bam, I was back here!”

Twilight stomped out of the water and shook herself off. “‘Bam’ is certainly the word for it. You nearly hurt Fluttershy!”

Rainbow gasped and ran over to a sneezing Fluttershy. “Oh my gosh, I am so sorry, Fluttershy! I totally forgot! I’ll go find a towel or something!”

“Allow me to help with that!” Princess Luna called out through the ceiling. “There is a ring of bright stars in the ground just outside the bath area. Place a hoof onto it and press down.”

Twilight looked around on the floor and found it. After pressing her hoof in the middle of the meter-wide circle, the stars embedded in it began to glow and spin. What in the…?

A hum overtook the room as a dim magic field enveloped her in a subtle blue glow. The sparks suspended in it didn’t stay put like normal, but instead zipped along towards the circle, along with all the excess water on Twilight’s body and coat. In just a few seconds, it had all pooled into a small puddle and flowed down a drain in the floor as the field and hum faded.

Fluttershy and Rainbow stepped forward to the same ring of stars, looked at each other, and pressed their hooves into it. The field reappeared, and did the same for them.

Rainbow raised an eyebrow and sat down. “Welp, I can safely say I’ve never seen anything like that before.”

Pieces of the ceiling turned opaque and dropped slightly, one after another, forming a set of stairs leading down from the bedroom and into the bathroom. Princess Luna lead the descent of the rest of the group down the newly formed path.

Applejack whistled as she got to the bottom of the stairs. “Whoa! Well, lookie here. This has got ta be the biggest bathroom I’ve ever laid eyes on!”

“Wheee!” Pinkie jumped down from the hole where Twilight’s bed had been and landed on the tile below, lightly bouncing over to help Rainbow dry off Fluttershy.

“Okay, I take it back.” Rarity was still leaning on Spike as he helped her down. “I think there are a few barons I know that would trade most of their fortunes just to have this suite.”

Twilight swallowed. “I know of Duchy castles that aren’t this nice… Gah, I’m going to be as spoiled as Blueblood at this rate! No, wait, not even the minor royalty get rooms this nice…”

“Well, none of them are alicorns.” Luna smirked, waving her foreleg around the room. “This room is meant only for one pony: you. Although I see Rainbow found the little surprise I put into the walls. If you go through one side, you emerge on the other, at an angle where there aren’t any obstructions. It’s an effect I put in on the first two floors even if you run through the clouds.”

Rainbow stared straight ahead. “Coolest. Wall. Ever!”

Moments later, Twilight was still a bit of a mess—but at least she was a dry mess. “Luna, you said first two floors.”

The Princess’s grin widened. “Indeed I did! But, you haven’t tried the shower yet.”

Applejack rubbed her head. “There’s a shower here too?”

“Of course! You didn’t think I’d leave our Grand Mage without a shower, did you?” Luna lifted a hoof up, feigning being insulted. “Twilight, turn the gem over there with your magic.”

Twilight swallowed as she did so, and the gem began to pulse blue then red. “I’m almost afraid of what’s going to happen.”

Thunder and lightning arced overhead as clouds formed above the miniature sea, bringing a torrential downpour with them. For all it’s fury, however, not a single drop fell outside of the area that already had water on the ground.

“Twilight.” Rarity turned Twilight’s head toward her with a hoof. “Don’t show this to the Duchess of Cloudsdale. She’ll do anything to have that. Anything.

“Huh.” Applejack scratched her chin. “Fluttershy, is it possible to make a tiny version of this in that outdoor shower by the barn?”

Fluttershy peeked out from behind the towel. “Um, maybe? I’m not very good at weather control. I’d think the lightning would hit us for sure…”

“Talk to Thunderlane about that,” Rainbow said, drying Fluttershy’s feathers. “He should be able to find a way to make it safe.”

Luna switched off the rain with the gem. “Okay, I’m betting you want to see the next floor now. Twilight, go back to your bed, and push down with an air current once more. The cloud will always stop at each level for you. If you want to use the stairs, look for smaller clusters of bright stars on the ground. Those are the switches.”

Twilight nodded and hopped on her bed then closed her eyes. “Okay, second time should be easier.” She played through the mental scene in fast forward, bringing her to the current in just a second or two, and sure enough, she felt herself move downwards again.

Slowly, the cloud descended into another room, this one markedly different from the last two and also much larger than should be possible. The floor was a smooth grey granite and had many engraved leylines in it, forming a sort of permanent magic circle in the shape of a hemisphere. The center had a large, bright gem core in it. The “walls,” if she could call them that, were included in the tangled web of glowing leylines, behind which were more cloud walls.

Luna jumped down from above and circled to a landing. “This, Twilight, is your new laboratory!”

Twilight tilted her head sideways. “This is a lab?”

Luna nodded. “And a sparring center! I knew that you would want to practice your spells, so I set this room up to be extremely well-hardened and reinforced. There are also life-saving spells to prevent mortal wounds to anypony within the room. This way, you could practice whatever you wish without worrying about vaporizing, exploding, or otherwise harming anyone or anything near you. It’s not fool-proof, so check with me if you want to do something truly grandiose. But, for most things, it should suffice. I included some equipment within the closets behind the clouds around us, but naturally, should you wish anything more, just let a guard or servant know, and it shall be yours forthwith.”

Twilight jumped up and down, her hooves landing on the soft cloud over and over. “Yes! Yes yes! Yes yes yes yes yes yes yes! Oh, I can’t wait to try and—”

“Easy, easy, Twilight Sparkle!” Luna held up her hooves. “You still have much to do in the outside world, remember. We already have a mission in mind for you.”

Twilight stopped and sat down on her bed. “Oh, right. Heh. Sorry, guess I was a little excited.”

Luna smiled and stepped on the bed as well. “‘Tis alright. That you are so happy brings true joy to my heart. Shall we head up and meet the others?”


“Then I shall aid with the wind.” Luna flapped her wings once, and a powerful updraft pushed them upwards. As they passed the middle floor, she saw the others trotting up the stairs.

Luna hopped off as they reached the top, the cloud stopping seemingly on its own. “Well, what did you think, Twilight?”

Twilight bowed. “I think it’s amazing, Luna. You’ve outdone yourself. If it weren’t for Rarity’s threat I don’t think I…  Luna, thank you. I never once dreamed of anything like this!”

A small tear formed in Luna’s eye. “No, thank you. Truly. It means a lot to me.”

“Hey, Twi!” Spike called out. “Check out this armor the Princesses made for us!” He clanked his fist against the dark purple breastplate he was wearing. “Looks like it’s got some serious enchantments. Maybe not like yours, but still! And it’s themed!”

Rainbow flew over and picked up a piece from the mannequin in the closet. “Yeah, it’s gonna be weird wearing armor with something other than the ‘Bolts emblem, but it’ll still be nice to have.”

Celestia stepped into the room with a pair of packages in tow within her magic. “Sorry, I had to leave for a moment to get our next surprise.”

“More stuff?” Twilight yelled. “Tia, you’re going to embarrass me at this rate.”

Celestia chuckled. “Oh please, Twilight. I helped raise you. I don’t need to buy you things to embarrass you.”

Twilight’s cheeks burned like the sun behind her.

Following a few more giggles from everypony and Twilight scrunching down to make herself smaller, Celestia levitated the two objects and presented them to her student.

Twilight knew what they were the instant they nestled into her telekinetic field: books! Nothing felt like this in her magic except for books. They were wrapped in purple wrapping paper, but she knew that they had to be books. One was the size of a large tome, and the other was considerably smaller, like a large notebook.

She flipped the two around and around, undoing the paper with trademark precision. In just a few movements, both books were unwrapped, and the paper was folded and ready to be reused.

Spike sighed. “I’ve never gotten her to not do that. It just ruins all the fun of opening presents!”

“Unicorns, I tell ya.” Rainbow smirked as Rarity shot her an unamused look. “What? Come on, I’m kidding!”

Twilight wasn’t paying attention. She was far too focused on the books. Each matched the color of her coat, had her cutie mark emblazoned on the cover, and was completely blank inside.

Celestia sat in front of her. “It is customary for a Grand Mage to write about his or her discoveries and spells in a journal for future Grand Mages to read. While your predecessors primarily wrote about spells and philosophy, I would like you to look at it as more of a diary, Twilight. You are certainly free to write new spells in it, but it may prove valuable for you to record your thoughts in more detail. Should you fill them, I will be happy to provide more.

“In addition,” she continued, “I shall give you however many of these smaller books that you need. I request that you leave the larger one here, for safekeeping. That way you may write whatever you wish in it without worry about it being stolen or compromised. This smaller one you may take with you to record notes about what you are working on. It also has additional security spells on it for privacy, although I wouldn’t count on them entirely. Best not to lose it at all. I trust this is to your liking?”

Twilight’s eyes were watering up. This is really happening… “Yes!” She leapt forward and grabbed the larger book, pressing it tightly against her chest. “Thank you so much, Princess! I’ll write in it all the time! I promise I won’t disappoint you!”

Celestia leaned in close to her. “I already told you there’s no way you could ever disappoint me. You’ve already exceeded my expectations.”

“Thank you, thank you,” Twilight kept repeating, head bowing lower and lower to the ground.

“Twilight,” Celestia said, gentle as a morning breeze. “You will do just fine. I’m sure of it.”

“I just…” She sniffled. “You don’t understand. This is a dream come true.”

“Well, I understand fully,” Rarity asserted, brushing her hair with a hoof. “Why, I had a similar reaction when I got my first Canterlot studio. But you can’t just let the tears flow forever, darling. There comes a point, and soon, where you have to really seize the dream. Make it all that you can, or it’ll slip through your magic.”

Twilight smiled, and stood up straight. “You’re right. I’m going to do this. Not just for Equestria, but for me.”

“Exactly.” The fashionista helped her up. “That’s the Twilight I know.”

“And we aren’t quite yet done today, either,” Celestia said, standing up with the others.

“We aren’t?” Twilight nearly fell over again. “What else do we have to do? I don’t know if I can take much more.”

“Just one more little thing,” Celestia smiled. “If you’ll all accompany us to the throne room for a few moments, we can get it taken care of.”

“The throne room?” Spike asked.

Luna giggled. “Yes. Why? Do you know of any other?”

The room fell to silence for about four seconds.

“That is a terrible joke, Sister.”

Pinkie blinked. “That was a joke?”

Luna just rolled her eyes and trotted behind Twilight. “Yes. Yes it was. Now come on, I want to see this!”

Twilight hopped up and started walking. “See what?”

Luna opened her mouth to say something but was interrupted by Celestia. “Don’t you dare ruin my surprise, Sister.”

“Then laugh at my clever jokes!” Luna stomped a hoof.

Celestia gave her a calm smile. “I always do, Lulu.”

Each step towards the throne room made Twilight’s heart pound that much harder. Although the Princesses having “something to do” with her would make that happen anyway, the throne room’s sheer presence always invoked a sense of awe in her. The stained glass telling great stories of Equestria past–which she appeared on more times than she’d like to admit–the tall ceilings, the throne itself… it was all designed to invoke the feeling that the one on the throne was the Sovereign of Equestria. It was one thing to say they were by law, but it was another to have ponies that approach the throne feel it, and that was exactly what was going on in Twilight’s mind right now.

When the group arrived at the golden, sun-emblazoned Solar Throne itself, her heartbeat spiked even more when the Princesses themselves looked confused.

“That's odd. He's usually quite punctual. He did say he’d do this, right, Sister?” Luna asked.

“Indeed, that’s what he told me.”

“Um, who are we waiting for, Princess?” Twilight was already trying to make herself smaller again.

A loud ca-chunk came from behind her as the throne room doors opened.

“Sorry! Sorry I’m late! Some attendants just don’t take kindly to breaks in schedule.”

The group turned to the doors, and Twilight recognized the pony rushing in— Charlemane, Chairpony of the Inner Council—and the unpleasant memories that came in with him.

“What is he doing here?” The words came out of Twilight’s mouth much louder than she had intended.

The smile that grew on the stallion’s face was both kind and somehow altogether intolerable. “I’m here as the Council witness to the ceremony, seeing as I’m your best friend in the Empyreal Hall who isn’t a member of the Royal Quarter.”

Friend?” Twilight was just about ready to hit him. She was reasonably sure she could get away with it, but Celestia's presence held her back. “You made Shiny look like a—”

“I hate to interrupt, but the real questions the Council wanted to ask him were far worse, I can assure you. I was as gentle as I could be without leaving an opening to allow another to take my place.”

Twilight’s mind skipped gears a bit, causing her mouth to hang open without a proper response.

Charlemane strode up to her and leaned down to meet her at eye level. “I cannot ask that you like me after that. Just give my words careful thought. Right now, you are a disruption in the status quo few on the Council care for. Your future actions will earn you no loyalty from those you benefit, only courtesy. Don’t mistake one for the other.” He kept walking past her and took a spot near the throne. “Oh, one more thing. Naponion might be the only pony in there whom you can take at face value, but I’m afraid he’s useless at and uninterested in anything that isn’t war planning or war history. Now, shall we get this thing on the road?”

Spike scratched his head. “Yeah, what exactly are we doing here?”

“An excellent question, Spike.” Celestia and Luna took a place in front of and to the left of the throne, mirroring Charlemane’s position. “Twilight, take a seat.”

Twilight blinked and tilted her head. “Take a seat? Where? You mean just here on the floor?”

Celestia simply shook her head and point at the throne. The gilded, giant throne emblazoned with the cutie mark of the Princess of the Sun, ruler of all of Equestria, and literally the oldest, most powerful pony in existence. That throne.

Twilight found out that very moment that the heart was indeed a muscle, and like any other, it could indeed be pulled as she grabbed at her chest with a hoof. Further consequences would have followed were it not for the interruption from a very pink pony leaping at the exceptionally exclusive seat.

“Oh, are we taking turns? I wanna go first!”

A bright flash of light nearly blinded Twilight, but her vision recovered quickly to find a mint green aura levitating Pinkie back to her spot, and Charlemane’s horn glowed brightly with the same color. Whatever negative feelings she had for the council pony, she was impressed. Earth ponies were easily able to resist continued telekinetic fields, and Pinkie was a natural at it. Lifting her so easily spoke to his control and power.

“Apologies, Bearer,” he said. “But I’m glad I caught you in time. It’s considered treason for anypony other than the Princesses to sit on the throne.”

“Really? Just for sitting?” Pinkie asked.

Twilight strode in between them and began her lecture pace. “Yes, Pinkie! Only Princess Celestia and Princess Luna may sit on the Solar or Lunar Thrones themselves, as they are the sole rulers of Equestria. The members of the Royal Quarter have their own thrones to sit on, but may not sit here.” She walked up to the throne and sat in front of it.. “They, as well as any regents that take power temporarily, will sit in front of the throne.  This shows  that they act in proxy for the Princesses and are politically in between them and their subjects.”

She felt Celestia place her hoof on her shoulder. “Very good, Twilight. However, there is one additional pony allowed to place herself on the throne, and I think you can guess who that is.”

Her heart pulled itself again, and she weakly managed to point at herself and whisper “Me?”

Both of the Princesses nodded.

Twilight gulped and turned back to the throne, but looked at Celestia with her best pleading eyes. Luna spoke instead.

“As we said before, Grand Mages carry with them nearly all the authority we do in order to prepare them for ascendency. This means they are able to sit the throne when necessary.”

The words from Luna hung heavily in the air for two reasons. First, it was finally hitting home that at the end of this, her old life would be a distant memory and utterly unrepeatable. She’d really be an alicorn. Functionally immortal, impossibly powerful, and a figure in society that would, by its very nature, isolate her into a position of authority whether she wanted it or not. Worse, if ascension worked as the only available authorities on the subject said it did, her personality would likely have changed to the point where she’d want to be in that position.

The other reason was that there was a pony she did not trust still in the room.

“Yes, I know. The rest of the Council does not, but I had to.”

Twilight’s lip curled. “‘Had to?’ ‘Tia, what does he mean?”

Celestia sighed. “It was necessary to secure the political deals that ensured your place as Grand Mage. I needed a pony on my side, and my other arguments in your favor simply didn’t carry the same weight as alicorn ascension. Charlemane has, however, been discreet about the secret, and, by my compact, it was also necessary to have a Council representative present for this ceremony.

“That having all been said…” Celestia patted the throne a couple of times, and Twilight gulped again.

Luna chuckled. “Careful, I think you’ll find it to be harder than you expect. For some reason, my sister refuses to add padding or a cushion. I personally cannot understand how she can just sit on that for hours on end.”

“I don’t see the problem, honestly.” Celestia shrugged. “I find it to be comfortable enough.”

Luna grumbled. “Yeah, well, not all of us have a thick subcutaneous layer of—”

“What was that, Sister?”


“That’s what I thought. Twilight, the time has come.” Celestia walked up to the side of her throne and motioned towards it as Luna did the same. “Sit, assume the role of Grand Mage, and start your journey on the mountain path.”

She took one shaky step with her left forehoof, putting her one step closer to the throne.

No looking back now, filly. Alicornhood awaits.

Her right rear hoof slipped a bit but quickly found a place on the ground, again putting her closer.

Is this truly real?

Her right forehoof landed, and her muscles tensed to keep her standing upright.

You’ve dreamed of this for decades. Ever since you were old enough to understand what a Princess was, you’ve wanted it. You wanted to be her. It’s all in your grasp now. Seize it!

Her left rear hoof hit more solidly, sound echoing through the room.

But will it work? Is it what I really want?

Another step, another doubt.

Will I find happiness like Pinkie Pie?

Another heartbeat, one move closer.

Or regret it like Rainbow?

She put a hoof on the seat, and time stopped like a pegasus flying headfirst into one of Shining’s barriers. She turned back to look at all her friends cheering her on.

You’re being silly, foal. It’s not about what you want anymore. It’s about what they need.

She pushed herself up on the throne, catching her balance with her rear hooves.

What do they need though? Is it really me? What am I?

With her friends arrayed in front of her, she lightly touched the seat with her haunches. She recoiled a bit as if the seat was very hot or very cold, and then she slowly settled into the most powerful seat in all of Equestria as Luna spoke with her booming royal voice.

“All hail the Element of Magic!”

Charlemane matched the power of her voice in kind. “All hail the Grand Mage of  Equestria!”

Celestia outdid them both. “All hail Twilight Sparkle, Alicorn Ascendant!”

Twilight’s ears fell back down against her head as Celestia and Luna inclined their heads, and the rest followed their lead by going into a full bow.

I am in way over my head.