Rites of Ascension

by CvBrony

Celebration in Ashes

“Oof,” Twilight groaned, leaning against the cave wall as her vision tilted and warped. The way up the cave was considerably harder than the way down. Not so much because of the terrain, but because she couldn’t seem to keep her balance at all. It was as if she had downed the entire town’s supply of ale in a single sitting, minus the alcohol poisoning.

Could that geas he attempted to put on me be causing this? The thaumic link should have severed with its controller in another dimension. Her legs wobbled and shook as she tried to push forward, and her efforts were rewarded with a heavy lean to the left and a quick trip to the opposing wall. There’s the shield. Still intact. Come on, Twilight. Just a little further.

Her hooves moved out of order, but tiny steps still managed to get her to the barrier. Okay, just bring this thing down. She lit her horn, thankful to whatever gracious force out there that she could still use it. Her counter-spell hit the shield, blowing it away like loose sand. No disruption to unicorn magic. Can’t be the geas. So what is it?

She stumbled over and over again, never quite falling to the ground but needing the cave wall for balance the entire way. The cold, damp stone was smooth against her armor, not providing much in the way of friction. The armor itself was taking it in stride, too, without so much as a scratch in its colors.

The worst part about all this is the fact that I’m going to have to justify what I just did to Celestia. Her eyes went wide. Crap! I am so dead! When she finds out what I did, she’s going to send me there! No! No, calm down, Twilight. It can’t be that bad. Remember what Luna said? She’s not going to do that. Just stay calm, and—

A voice hollered from the cave entrance. “Twilight! Is that you?”

Her forehoof slipped on the damp floor, and she fell forward. She grunted as her jaw took the impact. “Ow! Argh, and of course I fall ten steps from the exit!”

“Ouch! Here!” A pair of red hooves picked Twilight from the ground. “Just lean on me. Are you all right? One moment the ponies were all attacking me, and the next they all just started falling over like… you. What happened?”

“They’re like me?” Twilight blinked, putting most of her weight on her friend. She could feel the fresh outside air blowing in from the cave entrance. “Maybe that dragon did try using the geas on me. Maybe it was on me. Why didn’t it work, then?”

“Whoa, he tried it on you? What happened? Is he still alive?”

Twilight shook her head. “I’m not exactly sure what happened to me. And the dragon is still alive. Probably. I sort of… banished him with that spell of Starswirl’s. Ooooh, Celestia’s going to kill me!” She bonked her head with a hoof. “No, damnit, Twilight, stop thinking like that.”

Rainbow stopped moving forward. “Whoa, whoa, whoa.” She blocked one side of her mouth with a hoof and whispered, “Are you telling me you banished a dragon to another dimension for hurting your subjects?”

“Um, yes?” Twilight squeaked.

Rainbow’s grin grew exponentially, and her free wing flapped around. “That. Is. Awesome! I mean, holy crap, Twilight! Once word gets out about this, the ponies behind the coup are going to soil themselves!”

Twilight groaned again. “No! Dash, please don’t blab about this! I don’t want ponies fearing me!”

“Well, okay, but it’s going to be hard to stop the ‘Twilight is bad-flank’ news from spreading.” Rainbow chuckled.

“What? Why? Oh… Buck me…”

They had gotten near the exit, and there was enough light from the lanterns to see what must have been the entire town surrounding it in a semi-circle. Slowly, Twilight and her guard limped out. Most of the ponies around them looked every bit as out of it as she was. Two of the ponies she recognized from earlier were standing in front of the rest, and their heads were bent down low to the ground in a bow.

“Your Highness,” the medical pony from before said with his forelegs shaking. “Please, spare our town. This whole mess was my fault. I am prepared to accept whatever punishment you deem fit.”

“No!” The bartender stomped his hoof. “I am the one that brought the unicorn with the spell to the dragon! I should be the one to be punished!”

Twilight’s legs shook. In her final steps out of the cave her lost her will to stand and collapsed on to her side. The world around her had started to spin. “Dash,” she said, swallowing. “Dash, get me out of here…”

The world went black.

Twilight awoke to the sound of rushing air, but there was no wind blasting her from any direction. In fact, she was very warm, and there was fabric wrapped around her. Her head ached, like somepony was using it as a drum. The floor underneath her vibrated and jostled, and it took her a while to realize that the movement wasn’t just in her mind.

“Ah, good, you are awake. Rainbow told me a little about what happened.”

Twilight jolted upright, knocking the blanket off of her. Beside her was Princess Luna with her horn alight. They were inside Shadow Hawk, the Princess’s sleek, intimidating chariot. Two Night Guard pegasi were hitched to it, pulling them forward at a breakneck pace. Magical energy swirled in front of them, shielding them from the wind.

Luna put the blanket back on Twilight’s shoulders. “Easy, Twilight. The symptoms should wear off soon. Please, tell me what occurred in your own words. What exactly, happened?”

Twilight opened her mouth to say something but was interrupted by snoring and a rather hot sensation on her fetlock. In front of them were two lumps covered in blankets. One was Rainbow Dash. Another was an equally unconscious Spike, whose hot breath was making her leg uncomfortably warm. Her ears flattened as she flopped down, shifting herself away from her number one assistant.

“Where do I even begin?” Twilight muttered, leaning back on the chariot’s wall. She recounted the details of the mission, from the strange clouds to the final steps leaving the cave. Each new turn of events left Luna expressionless and still as a statue, which pushing Twilight’s heart rate even higher.

“So you faced him head on hoping I would arrive in time. That was reckless, Twilight.”

“I know that!” Twilight pounded on the chariot floor with a hoof. “But it’s not like I could just let him go! What if he—?”

“Twilight Sparkle. I understand the impulse. Believe me, I understand it very well. For an alicorn ascendant new to her instincts, your choice was a foregone conclusion. Such a dire situation was exactly what we wanted to avoid by giving you missions rather than allow things to happen haphazardly,” Luna stated in a commanding tone.

“As ever, ascension is... eventful,” The Princess said, sighing.

Twilight groaned, shaking as she curled up in the blanket.

Luna lay down next to her. “Be at ease, Twilight. I am not angry with you. I just—I just want you to be more careful.”

“What would you have done?”

“Killed him,” Luna replied nonchalantly. “Also, had I known it was a dragon, I would have gone myself. Celly, had she known, likely would have browbeat me into attempting to arrest him so she could haul his tail in front of the other dragon clans and demand an explanation. He was a dead drake already. He simply did not know it yet.”

Twilight exhaled in relief, deflating almost entirely. “I thought you’d think my actions… abominable. I mean, what Starswirl wrote about that place… I never thought I’d ever actually use that spell.”

Luna shrugged. “’Tis true. It is a harsh punishment. Worse than death, some might say. But then, his actions were grotesque as well, so I have no sympathy for him. I am thinking that is not the only thing bothering you, though. If I had to hazard a guess, I would say that you do not really regret it.”

Twilight was still for a moment, looking off to the side. “No. No I don’t. He said he ate ponies. He said he’d eat you.”

Luna tossed her head back in a fit of laughter. “Oh, did he? He must have been young. Any of the dragons alive before my banishment would have left then and there.”

“He was five hundred, tops. And I don’t think he should have been able to cast magic like that. He said that a unicorn gave him that geas.”

The Princess’s eyes flew open. “Are… Twilight, are you sure of that? It was a unicorn that gave him the knowledge?”

“I can’t say for certain he was telling the truth. The geas didn’t have any unicorn signatures, but he did state that it was a deal with a unicorn.”

Luna blinked, once, and furrowed her brow while slapping her head. “How? How in…? Argh. No, I shan’t dwell on it. Yet. Tia will be able to think this through better. Then I can dwell on it.”

One of Twilight’s ears lifted up. “What’s wrong? I mean, they’re banned, and not many ponies know about them, but the existence of geas spells isn’t top-secret.”

Luna ground her teeth then sighed. “No, there is no way to completely censor their existence. They have too many useful and benign offshoot spells. But neither Tia nor I are especially talented with them. I have a few wards to prevent them, and Tia knows a bit on how to detect and break them, but neither of us know how to cast them. At least not a full, true geas. The other alicorns took that knowledge to their fiery graves. If there is a complete geas spell out there, then we’re in deep trouble.”

“Oh.” A tinge of fear pulled at her heart. “What about draconic versions?”

“Dragons have unbound lifespans, just like us, but they are few in number compared to our ponies, and no geas I’ve yet seen can affect an alicorn mind. Thus, the solution was simple. If a dragon used one on a pony, we killed them, breaking the geas. It has been a good method of dissuasion thus far.

“No matter, this is nothing more than idle speculation until Tia is informed. She is the master planner. I will leave it in her capable hooves to figure this out.”

“Isn’t that a little imbalanced?” Twilight said and immediately regretted it, shrinking back into the fetal position. “I mean, you’re supposed to be equals, and—”

Luna held up a hoof, and Twilight instantly shut herself up.

“Yes, we are equals in law. Well, mostly. Actually, not at all, but that is beside the point. After our… disagreement regarding your brother, we had a talk. She agreed to include me more in her plans and even give me more things to do, but in turn, I must trust her judgement on military and geopolitical strategy. This is something that I feel must be finessed by Celestia. I’d likely believe such even if we had not had come to that agreement.”

“Sovereign,” one of the pegasi chimed in, “we are nearing the destination.”

“Understood.” Luna’s horn shut off, and the swirling magic ahead of them vanished in a flash. The chariot rocked for a moment and slowed down dramatically. “Get up, Twilight, and compose yourself. I am not angry with you. Moreover, it does little good to greet our subjects while cowering in fear or hung low in sorrow.”

Twilight stretched out and stood up straight, albeit reluctantly. “Where are we?”

Luna looked over the edge of her chariot, pointing. “Back in Wintervale so I can see this cave for myself. I need to make absolutely certain that you performed Starswirl’s spell properly.”

“Oh.” Twilight swallowed. “I did the best I could.”

“I am sure you did, but even if you followed his notes flawlessly, there could still be unforeseen consequences. The symptoms you were experiencing are a side-effect of the dimensional membrane thinning.”

Luna squinted her eyes. “Acolyte Derecho, look for a cave on the mountainside near the base.’

“As you wish, Sovereign.”

“There should be lanterns,” Twilight added.

“I see it, Sovereign. Adjusting vector.”

The chariot swung around to the side, pitching downward, keeping its occupants on the seat through clever angling and inertia before coming to a stop in a hover over the entrance.

“Follow me,” Luna commanded, hopping off the edge of the chariot.

Twilight followed suit, using her pegasus magic to create an air current to soften her landing. “What about Rainbow and Spike?”

“Leave them. They have earned a rest, and my guards shall protect them. Now—” she pointed down the cave “—show me the place where you confronted this dragon.”

“It’s just around here, through that entryway.” Twilight pointed. Her sudden shift in weight nearly causing her to topple over.

Luna sniffed the air. “I can already sense the dimensional imbalance and smell the ozone. I would imagine that you are experiencing some significant nausea.”

She held her head. “Yeah. It’s… nauseating.”

“’Tis due to your proximity to the spell when it was cast. Rainbow mentioned that the other townsponies also experienced it , though I would surmise that theirs is from the shock of being forcefully freed of the geas. Fortunately, their magic should return in time. A geas such as you described suppresses, rather than removes, a pony’s magic. Their own wellspring pressure will purge their leylines of the miasma.”

Twilight followed Luna as best she could, but it was difficult going. She didn’t have the long legs the Princess had, and the dizziness was worsening. She did, at least, manage to make it to the rubble that had protected her from the dragon’s attacks.

Luna’s eyes seemed to focus on a particular point. With a few great flaps of her wings, she was over the rocks and facing the spot Twilight had banished the dragon. Twilight, however, found herself having to climb over the debris to return to the Princess’s side.

“This is most certainly the spot.”

Twilight nodded, the hairs on her neck starting to stand up on end again. She’s definitely using her sight. I can feel it even though she isn’t even looking at me. “He said his name was Bloodtide of the Abyssal Current. He was pretty cocky.”

“Tia will have a field day with that information if he really is from that clan. It looks like you also dropped a piece of the mountain on him. What color were his scales?”

“Blue,” she replied without hesitation. “Though his flames were red.”

Luna sat down, taking in a deep breath. “Ah. No wonder the stalactites didn’t kill him. Dragons with blue scales regenerate nearly as fast as alicorns. Nothing short of collapsing the entire cave would have phased him for long. I am sorry you had to face him alone, Twilight. I consider it a personal failing to have let you wander into this unprepared.”

Twilight laid down, finding it easier to fight the nausea this way. “It’s okay, Princess.”

“It is not okay if you are calling me that again.” Luna sighed. “Still, there is something to do here. Can you hear it?”

She twitched her ears around, looking for what the Princess was talking about. “Hear what?”

Luna leaned her head down near Twilight’s. “The banging. The rift. If you cannot hear it, nor see it, then it would appear that your sight has not yet fully developed. Put your ear next to mine, close your eyes, and listen. I will show you what I sense.”

Twilight’s left ear twitched and swiveled as it lined up with Luna’s, then she closed her eyes.

She heard a very faint metal clanging sound, like two slabs of steel crashing into one another, or a sledgehammer beating against a metal door, but muffled substantially. It could easily be missed, if one weren’t paying attention.

As Twilight listened, the sound seemed to grow in intensity. It was definitely coming from inside the cavern. There was a hurried pace to it, like a note of desperation.

Twilight opened her eyes and saw exactly what was making that noise. In front of her was a giant gash in reality or a portal that was mostly closed. Blood-red and orange light poured through it, bleeding through into the surrounding environment. The area around the gash was red like inflamed skin.

Luna’s horn swirled with energy and shot out a beam of energy at one end of the gash. “This is the damage Starswirl’s spells do to the fabric of reality—a consequence Starswirl neglected to mention in his journal. They tear open holes to other dimensions, realms which must not be allowed to come into contact with our own.” The blue light forcing its way into the gash started to move along the opening, sealing it as it went, and returning the cavern to its natural blue state.

“Tia and I spent a good deal of time learning how to seal Starswirl’s ‘accidents,’ especially after the Everfree incident. We were ultimately unable to seal that one completely, but the other smaller ones, such as this, are far simpler.”

The clanging began to fall in intensity, sounding more distant with every passing second, and within moments, Twilight could no longer hear it.

“What was that sound?” Twilight asked in a whisper.

Luna huffed. “If I had to guess, it was that dragon trying to pound and claw his way back. Tough. I have no sympathy for such a monster, nor can I allow a full portal to be opened. His fate is sealed. However, do not use this spell or any other of Starswirl’s dimensional spells again unless the fate of the world hangs in the balance. Nor should you risk your life so carelessly as you did here.”

“But he—”

“Control the instinct, or you will not live to complete your ascension. Your worries are natural, but while it would have been a tragedy to let this dragon escape, Sister and I are convinced that you are the key to saving Equestria. More lives hang in the balance than this one little town or even dozens of them.”

Twilight swallowed and ducked her head into a silent bow as the last of the gash was healed away, banishing it, along with the dragon, forever. “But… I couldn’t…”

Luna turned around and signaled for them to leave. “We are finished here. Though I must point out these truths, do not let it weigh down your heart. You survived and saved Wintervale. Ultimately, this was a success. I am certain Tia will agree. That being said, we should return to the town. I have some questions for its mayor, and I imagine you do as well.”

Twilight took in a deep breath and followed, head held low. “Okay…”

“Feeling better?”

“Yeah,” Twilight said, her throat still sore as they walked through town. “Unnerved, but… still processing everything. It’ll be a while before it all hits.”

“Then stand up straight. You are the Grand Mage, and though I am not an especially good politician, I still understand that image is everything.”

They stopped at a familiar building, the only one making noise in the entire silent town.

“This is the town inn?” Luna asked, eyeing the building. “Why is the sign blank? What kind of establishment does not have even a name?”

Twilight shook her head and shrugged. “I have no clue. Maybe it was the dragon’s idea?”

“Now I almost feel bad for him. I do not like the idea of executing the mentally ill. Come, let us see if these ponies know anything helpful. If not, maybe I can help them name this place.”

“Heh.” Twilight let out a small laugh, feeling the tension loosen. If Luna was in a good mood, it bode well for Celestia’s evaluation of her mission.

The door opened up, blasting them with a few notes from the piano before the room fell into a dead silence. Ponies were crammed into the inn. Some sat on the ground where no cushions or seats were left. Some were on top of the tables, frozen in mid-dance. Each and every soul had their eyes fully transfixed on Twilight and Luna, but unlike before, when their stares were of suspicion and rejection, these were of abject fear.

“We are looking for the operator of this establishment,” Luna declared, unfazed.

I guess she’s used to looks like this.

The soft sound of hooves on the wooden floor broke the silence, moving around the bar until a lone pony came out from behind it with his head held low. Gingerly, Dirty Glass walked around the mass of ponies until he was in front of the two mares and bowed. “I am the owner, Your Majesty. I tried to surrender before, but—”

Luna held out a hoof, silencing him. “We are aware. However, there are many things here left unanswered, things we believe you can shed light upon.”

He swallowed. “Yes, Your Majesty.”

Luna cleared her throat. “For starters, why is there no name for this establishment?”

The bartender stared at her. “… What?”

“Luna!” Twilight jumped in between them. “This is serious!”

“I know! How does he expect any word-of-mouth business? ‘Oh, I stopped at this place in Wintervale, and it was nice! I hath no idea what it was called, though!’ It’s unfathomable! I—”

“Luna!” Twilight yelled again, stomping her hoof. “I mean there are more importa—” Twilight groaned, “Nevermind. Dirty Glass? Please step outside with us.”

Dirty Glass started shaking and whispered, “Okay.”

Luna stepped around Twilight, wrapping him in a foreleg. “Be at ease. She is angry with that dragon and myself. Not you.”

Twilight’s eye twitched. “When did I become the scary one?”

Shuffling echoed through the bar, and Twilight’s head turned just in time to see every occupant dive behind whatever cover they could find—save a few who used whatever object they happened to be carrying. Her eyebrow raised as she noted a stallion “hiding” behind a plate.

“Come along, Grand Mage, barkeep.” Luna giggled. “There are more important matters at hoof. Lead the way, Twilight.”

Twilight sighed. “Fine. Let’s get going.”

The three walked out of the silent room, and even after the doors closed, not a sound emanated from the building while they were in earshot. Twilight led them to the fountain where her shield still stood.

“I believe I saw this from the air.” The Princess ran a hoof along the barrier, watching it shimmer in reaction to her touch.

“I preserved a crime scene here.” Twilight lit her horn and shut down a few of the shields to reveal the body with the drying pool of blood. “This was one of the ponies attacking the town. I hurt him, but after I did so, somepony else came up and slit his throat. This was cold-blooded murder. I don’t suppose you know anything about this, Dirty?”

His legs shook, knocking together. “Oh Celestia… No, I don’t. That’s… that’s disgusting! Please, hide it again!”

Twilight didn’t get a chance to do so. Luna threw up some kind of field of her own, this one looking like a shroud made up entirely of the night sky, complete with stars.

“Who… who was he?” Dirty asked.

“That’s what I was hoping you could tell me,” Twilight said. “Do you know who he is? Who he was working for?”

Dirty shook his head. “There’ve been a lot of companies coming around wanting rights to the mine. Stalliongrad Armory, Westfalen, Crystal Phasic, some Cloudsdale Armories subsidiary, and even Core Mining in San Palomino sent a representative. Mayor Prospects told them all to pound sand.”

Luna chuckled, but Twilight kept going. “Mayor Prospects? Is that the other pony who was with you?”

“Indeed it is.” A new stallion’s voice emerged from the shadow of the night. It was the yellow earth pony from before. “I am Mayor Prospects. Please, Your Majesties. If there will be punishment for anypony’s crimes here, it should all fall on my shoulders.”

“And why is that?” Luna stepped away from her shroud. “From the timeline supplied, I do not believe you are the pony who killed this stallion.”

He shook his head. “No, but I am the one who originally made the deal with Bloodtide for protection. The mind control… He said he had a spell would keep us safe. Said it would give us magic to fight back against the raids. So, we made a deal to share the mine’s profits. And he betrayed us. Took control. I was a damn fool. He made us… Made us...” The stallion choked on his words.

“It’s okay. Right now, what I want to know is: who cut this pony’s throat?” Twilight asked.

“I do not know,” he said, bowing deeply. “But we could not disobey. All I know is that the order was given through the spell.”

“In that instance, Twilight, I do not believe we will be able to prosecute anypony here for wrongdoing. ‘I was just following orders’ only fails as a defense when there is a presumption of free will. With a spell like this, the holder of the geas is the guilty party, and he has already been sentenced.”

“I’m aware of that, but that still doesn’t answer who these ponies were working for. Or who gave that dragon the geas.”

“Somepony calling himself Ionos,” the bartender answered. “I met him when he came to the Bar. I took him into the mines. He… I went into the cave and talked with the dragon, convinced him to meet with Ionos.”

Twilight and Luna looked at each other.

“Now we’re getting somewhere!” The Grand Mage rubbed her hooves together. “In fact, I think the dragon mentioned that name! What did this pony look like?”

“I… can’t say,” Dirty admitting, collapsing to the ground. “He was wearing this hood and looked like nothing more than a shadow. Black. Completely black. His voice echoed everywhere, and he demanded to meet with the dragon immediately. I don’t know how he knew there was a dragon. We didn’t even know! I also don’t know why I took him in the mines. I’d only ever been there once before! I just… did! And then I brought the Mayor, and he made the deal. I’m sorry.”

“Tis not your fault, subject. One moment.” Luna pressed a hoof against her forehead then leaned in to whisper to Twilight. “Power words. A temporary form of geas. This gets worse by the moment. Somehow, there’s a pony out there with knowledge that should have been dead and buried long ago.”

“We aren’t totally lost yet,” Twilight added, motioning towards the river. “There’s a wrecked wagon down by the smaller river. We can check for physical evidence.”

“There’s nothing in there but lanterns, oil, and matches. Common brands, too,” Prospects said, pointing over to it. “There’s never anything but that in there. We’ve captured a few of the wagons before. Nothing traces to any company.”

“Figures.” Twilight huffed. “What about that pony I captured? I found him working in the mines after he escaped the Diamond Light.”

Prospects shook his head. “Took off running into the forest the second the geas broke. None of us were in any shape to stop him, even though he wasn’t moving that fast. We… we all felt it. There was this darkness… When you were fighting him, the spell weakened, and we lost focus on what was happening. We could feel pain, at first. Something heavy. Then, something burned like acid for a second, and after that… I’m not sure how to describe it. It was like millipedes with impossibly cold, razor-sharp legs crawling all over me. And they were, choking us? I felt some kind of blade slash across my stomach and my neck, and then poof, it all went away. We staggered to the cave while the world tossed about.

“Highnesses, there was a mention of a banishing spell? Is that how you won?”

“We cannot speak of it. The details are classified, I’m afraid.” Luna shook her head, then stared down at him, emphasizing the legal and magical distance between their statuses. “I would avoid talking about it.”


Luna’s stare didn’t intensify, but it appeared it didn’t need to.

“Yes, Your Highness.” Both of the ponies dropped into a bow.

Twilight breathed a sigh of relief. “Princess, any thoughts on how to proceed?”

“Hmm…” Luna draped a wing over Twilight and continued her whispers. “We still have the body of our murder victim, and it still has a visible cutie mark. We should be able to find out who he is and then track down known associates. I shall have my Night Guard pick up the body and deliver it to RGIS. They will be able to comb the Northland Duchies faster than we could. I will make sure they notify you when they find something, Twilight.”

“It’s something, at least.” Twilight leaned in, whispering as well. “Still, this isn’t the way I wanted my first investigation to end.”

“No battle plan ever survives first contact with an enemy, Twilight. I would have thought my training would have taught you that much.”

“True.” She sighed. “Do you think there’s any point in investigating these companies?” She looked over at the shields protecting the body.

“Not yet. At the very least, they will stonewall and cover up any information about it.” Luna curled her lip in disgust as she looked off to the horizon. “The cynic in me says that, since there have been multiple raids, they might even be colluding. With so many ‘offers,’ it’s impossible to point to one company easily. We will need more information before we make a move, or they will make an even bigger effort to cover things up.”

“So, in the meantime, we just wait?” Twilight stomped a hoof, breaking the whisper. “But this town has been through Hell!”

“And they shall receive help.” Luna retracted her wing and stepped towards the mayor. “I will send reconstruction teams to aid rebuilding and pressure Blueblood to send troops to protect you. With your permission, Mayor Prospects.”

“We’ll take any help we can get,” he said, bowing again. “Provided we don’t have to give up the rights to our mine.”

“Of course.” Luna waved away his worry with a hoof. “Incidentally, although you didn’t hear this from me, I would resist any effort by Stalliongrad or Germaney to annex your town. You are better off with Cadence as a representative. Get into contact with her office. She is very kind, Mayor, and will be delighted to help you however she can.”

He dropped down into a bow. “I will… consider your advice, Your Majesty.”

“Then you two are both dismissed. Come, Twilight.”

Luna and Twilight both turned and left, trotting back towards the cave entrance and the chariot before the Princess shouted behind her, “And think of a name for that saloon! Honestly, ponies these days.”


“Sorry, it just irks me. I happen to like taverns, especially warm, cosy ones like that. To see one unnamed stirs something in me.” The Princess paused looking up into the sky. “I wonder how long that dragon was in there…”

Twilight looked up into the inky canopy with her. “I don’t know. It’s been a while since we talked to that dragon near Ponyville, and he wasn’t there for long. I’ve never seen dragon smoke settle like that.”

“Dragon smoke tends to rise high in the atmosphere far higher than any pegasus is capable of flying.” She furrowed her brow and spread her wings. “My ponies deserve their night. Excuse me.”

The sound of wind filled Twilight’s ears in an instant, kicking dust and soot into her eyes and nose. By the time she wiped them clear, a shockwave of light and fury exploded into the sky, blazing through the heavens. A ring of the purest night expanded overhead, shimmering against the background of dark clouds.

“Rainboom… She did a rainboom… A vertical, climbing rainboom!” Twilight’s whispered words were lost in the boom that followed, yet the clouds remained. “She didn’t even break through the clouds! How high are they?”

A bright star erupted in the clouds, looking like a distant supernova. The clouds boiled and burned outward from the star, giving way to the brilliant night behind them.

A smile grew on the corner of Twilight’s mouth as she caught a faint blue glow from Luna teleporting back to her.

“There. That’s better.” Luna arced her gaze upwards, examining her work. “Now the town can grow food again. I am relieved that I remembered the spell. It’s been thousands of years since I’ve used it.”

“I have to admit, it was beautiful. What’s next?” Twilight asked, resuming their trot back to the chariot.

“Next, Twilight, we give things over to the RGIS. Once they find a thread we can grasp, we pull.” She narrowed her eyes. “And then we see what unravels.”