In late autumn, the dawn comes up slowly, stretchingly, a cat curling awake before rising to its paws in search of milk.
Celestia beside me on her balcony wears that same feline smile; her horn shimmers and glows, and at exactly the time we've agreed upon, the graying blackness above us begins deepening to blue. The first bright curve of the sun's crown inches over the lovely and familiar hills to the east of Canterlot—
And that, judging by the flicker of her ears, is when she notices the two spots also rising, but these from within the walls of the city that's stirring to life around our castle. One of the spots seems to glow with all the light of the oncoming day while the other holds the last bit of darkness from the withdrawing night. They don't distract her from her duty, of course—the sun continues steadily upward—but I imagine that they attract a sliver of her attention the way any new occurrence would during this, her age-old ritual.
That they're balloons should be obvious from the strings trailing after them and the drifting dance they perform among the thermals swirling from the awakening chimneys below. A white balloon and a black one, she must surely see by now, they have freed themselves or have been freed from their earthly restraints to wander in leisurely flight through the early morning sky.
The mystery of the spots solved, she no doubt prepares to focus the fullness of her attention back to the job at hoof. But that is the very instant when the balloons shift in directions contradictory to the prevailing breeze. They swoop toward one another, in fact, meet just at the top of the sun's disk relative to our position upon Celestia's balcony, and twirl about in most unballoonlike fashion. Their strings clasp and intertwine, tying themselves into a dainty knot, and the two balloons, now embracing as it were, proceed onward in natural progression, their pace ever so slightly faster than that of the dawn burgeoning into glorious radiance behind them.
Sunny's tiny gasp is very music to my ears, and it takes all my strength not to burst into my own twirling dance there at her side. Her gaze doesn't stray from the morning's vista, but she leans, touching her shoulder to mine. Together we stand, the transfer of universal power briefly connecting our inner selves as night gives way to day. "Thank you, Starry," she mutters.
We share our usual morning meal, and I sleep untroubled till the afternoon begins its precipitous tumble toward evening. Alas, the sudden rush of the Day Staff to wrap things up at this time of the year always seems a bit harried to me. My countenance, however, is serenity itself, and I rather think I have a calming effect as I glide from station to station. At least my smiles and nods engender smiles and nods in return from both my Night Staff and their daytime counterparts as salutations, briefings, and farewells are exchanged.
Our ponies are so wonderfully adaptable! A mere five years since my return, and the palace in Canterlot runs with a light-hearted smoothness I find entirely captivating. Egalitarianism Sunny calls it, a word both chewy and crunchy, and while I may miss some of the things about our old castle, this modern age has much to recommend it.
Taking flight from the forecourt where tourists snap photos of both me and the changing of the mortal guard, I make my way airborne to my balcony, there to await Celestia's arrival. It's become our custom that the currently ruling diarch brings the mantle of command to the diarch-in-waiting as a symbol of power freely surrendered. Sunny arrives exactly on time, of course, and she updates me on the state of Equestria since last we met. I make note of what events concern her and share my thoughts on a few matters, and then the sun is descending into the hills west of Canterlot.
For all my love of words, I know of none to describe this moment. Assuming the weight of the world is my go-to phrase, but it has an ominous quality to it that the experience almost entirely lacks. I slide into our shared power as into a comfortable garment and embrace both the puzzles it brings me to solve and the joys it brings me to spread. Eyes on the east, I touch the moon with a loving caress that causes its sideways grin to peak into the darkening sky—
And flex my nostrils at a sudden scent. Sweet but not perfumey, light but not ephemeral, it makes me think of breakfast and dinner both, of long, lazy days and warm, brilliant nights. It draws a sliver of my attention downward to the gardens spread below my balcony and to a plant I've not seen there before, a shrub tucked into a space between two jacaranda trees.
Its leaves show a green edging toward black as evening's shadows gather around it. Half its flowers, golden-yellow, are drawing their petals closed, tucking themselves away for the night. The shrub's other flowers, however, silver-gray, are concurrently stirring themselves to life, petals opening to greet the rising moon. And the exquisite, mingled aroma of the blossoms both awakening and retiring makes me gasp in wonder and delight.
Pulling the night entirely into place and setting the stars to shine, I turn to my sister, see the love of the moment reflected on her face—
And realize that this means war.