ERENEGIV SWOLLOF HSABTA
Canterlot, the capital city of the magical land of Equestria, held many locations of grand historical or cultural significance, which served as a beacon for grosses of folks from across Harmonia. Most apparent was Concordia Sorores, the palace of the Alicorn Queens, peaked by the twin towers Sol Invictus and Selûne Ferratus, the former as beautiful as the latter was terrible. Grand parks served as preservations for specimens of rare and endangered flora and fauna, each in an enchanted biosphere meant to more closely emulate the clime of their places of origin. The Colosseum of Steeplechase drew great crowds of all sorts to marvel at its ancient construction, its sturdy resistance to the decay of time, its history of competition and camaraderie between Equestria and her neighbors. Opulent theaters housed the olden manuscripts of bygone recitations and the preserved uniforms of long-deceased scops and scribes and playwrights, drawing the admiration of megagrosses around the world. And all across the stately mother-city could be found the glorious and intricate works of stained-glass craftsponies, detailing the craft of those who worked in the buildings those glasses were set in.
All told, Canterlot was colloquially referred to by many as the capital of Harmonia itself, for all of the beauty that it presented… if one could overlook the snobbish attitudes of the manticore’s share of its citizens.
Long having been held aloft above the Saddle Valley in the metropolis built upon the very mountainside of Alicorn’s Peak, a very many Ponies, Zebras, Centaurs, Minotaurs, and other such denizens came to see themselves as being different, blessed when set beside others of, in their eyes, less noble stock. In their eyes, their very presence was essential to keeping affairs orderly for Equestria, both within and without. If deprived of such nobility, chaos would surely fall upon the land of ponies.
But far from being a collection of cultural hot-spots spattered across a cesspool of arrogant white-collars, Canterlot had a golden heart, beating within the chest of the monarch who had led Equestria to a hitherto unseen era of peace: Celestia Apolinaria di Equestria.
The glowing Alicorn, embodiment of the harmony of the three Pony races − Earth Pony, Unicorn, and Pegasus − had reigned immortal for a meggrossium, alone and without her sister Selena. The two had formerly ruled as dual queens regnant, before Selena the younger Alicorn sister grew envious and attempted a coup, transforming into the miasmic NightMare Moon. Using the mysterious Elements of Harmony, Queen Celestia sealed NightMare Moon within the Moon itself for a dozen-gross years. Upon the possessed Queen of the Night’s return, she banished Queen Celestia in turn, but was cleansed of the Miasma by the Elements of Harmony, wielded this time by Celestia’s protegee Twilight Sparkle and her five friends forged in fire.
The return of Queen Selena Artemis di Equestria brought about turmoil and dissent amongst the bourgeoisie of Canterlot, so used to currying favor solely with Queen Celestia. What sort of operatic performances did Queen Selena favor? Which concert musician was she most apt to attending a recital of? These questions and many others came about at many dinners attended with Queen Celestia.
“You simply must know; you’re her sister, Your Majesty!”
Queen Celestia smiled, her tea-cup setting itself down upon its saucer with her sunny dwimmer shimmer, “Well, Upper Crust, let me ask you: Do you know everything about your husband?”
“With all due respect, Your Majesty, what does this have to do with Queen Selena’s favorite orchestral conductor?”
“Indulge me, my little pony. Do you, for instance, know the details of your husband’s childhood life?”
Upper Crust’s ears drooped slightly, her eyes casting about uncertainly.
“Well… it’s not exactly a subject of discussion between the two of us.”
Queen Celestia smiled, “And therein lies my point, dear Upper Crust. My sister and I seldom spoke to each other even before our falling out a meggrossium ago. With her maintaining Equestria’s night-time cycle, and myself holding the Sun’s reins, we would oft go months or even years without prolonged contact. So there are many secrets that she has kept from me and keeps from me, and secrets that I keep from her. As surely as even the most tightly-knit lovers do not tell each other every detail of themselves, Selena and I are not beholden to reveal every facet of ourselves to each other. Nor is anypony else. After all…” The serene Alicorn brought up her cup of tea to her lips once more. “What is life without a little surprise now and again?
“But, it is known to me who Selena’s favored orchestral composer is. His name was Archlute, and he was the premiere musician of Equestria a dozen-gross years ago.”
Upper Crust blanched, “So… you’re saying… that your sister’s favorite musician was from before her banishment? Are today’s musical performers so far below her tastes that she favors the past over the present?”
Queen Celestia shook her head, “Oh no, my dear Upper Crust, it is not as though today’s performers do not appeal to her. It is just that she has had barely two months now to acclimate to the culture shock of a dozen gross years lost. Our cousin Leo has taken strides towards aiding her in being reacquainted with international matters as well; the Cosmic Council was created after NightMare Moon’s banishment.”
“I see…” Upper Crust murmured with glance askew. “But perhaps Your Majesty’s sister would be eager to join us in a concert by the noted cellist Octavia Melody?”
Queen Celestia smiled, “I’m sure Selena would be delighted. In the meantime, would you care to partake of some cake, my little pony?”
Even amidst all of the social butterflies of Canterlot, all of those who sought to ride the coattails of other more powerful Ponies, Zebras, Centaurs, Minotaurs of the city, there was one site in the capital that Queen Celestia Apolinaria di Equestria sought to ensure remained a cultural nexus for all Equestrians to congregate around. All you had to do to access it was to take a right down the road leading to the Royal Canterlot Archives, then turn left to a path leading along the western face of Concordia Sorores, entering the Canterlot Sculpture Garden.
Statues, larger than pony-life, dotted the otherwise humbly arranged garden, flowers and shrubs of many sorts leading up to the fabled Canterlot Labyrinth. Each one of the statues represented a different virtue which Queen Celestia prized, which Equestria was meant to yearn for:
Friendship − a representation of three ponies, each of indeterminate gender, leaping about one another, smiling gleefully. For friendship brings joy to the heart and lightness to the mind.
Victory − a single pony with a flag held aloft from her saddle, prancing purposefully in her pose unstuck in time. For victory grants the feeling that one’s cause is true.
Knowledge − a pony with a scroll as long as her spine slung across her back, a contented look upon her stony features. For knowledge clears the mind and the heart.
Grace − a stately and beautiful pony wearing a sweeping cloak, a serene look upon her face. For grace grants one the fortitude to face whatever hardships may fall upon you.
Love − a buoyant Pegasus pony (for the present-day Alicorn Of Love, Princess Mi Amore Cadenza, was born a Pegasus) with a crossbow slung across its back, the arrow-head of the arrow loaded into it representing a heart. This statue was unique in that it was enchanted to change form based upon the birth-race of the ever-reincarnating Alicorn Of Love. For love is unique in every appearance, yet always recognizable and beautiful.
These and many more statues filled the Canterlot Sculpture Garden, crafted by ponies of time immemorial to commemorate the greatest facets of ponies and all of Harmonia. It was a place where one could find many a philosopher musing upon the origins of such virtues, whether they were a mutation in the most recent evolutions of Harmonia’s sapient races or something which had persisted for giggrossiads before the first pony crawled out of its cave; where good-deed-doers of all kinds could be found to remind themselves of the path they had chosen, of the goodness that could be found in even the smallest and meekest; where a great peaceful state of mind could always make its way to you.
But of all the statues in the Canterlot Sculpture Garden, of all the virtues espoused by the graven depictions of ponykind, there was a singular statue that not only failed to represent a pony, but also was not representative of a virtue:
The statue representing Discord.
Standing upright upon a narrow dais, its serpentine tail twirling down around to the base, was a statue of a tall reptilian creature, odd and mismatched. None of its limbs matched one another, as though the sculptors who crafted it could not agree as to what creature that they were depicting. Its right forelimb, a lion’s paw, was crossed across its belly in a deep and unheard laugh, its left forelimb outstretched as if to beckon one to join in its mirth. Its equine head was nearly split in two by its jaws spread wide in a silent cackle. On its back, spread wide, were a batlike right wing and a Pegasus’s left wing.
Nopony knew what creature the statue represented, so different it was from any pony who ever lived. When asked, Queen Celestia would only refer to it as a “Draconequus”. Uncanny was the level of detail applied to the statue; even individual strands of hair could be made out on its coat, creases of joy at the corners of its closed eyes. Even the individual scales in its right hindleg, that of a dragon’s, could be identified at a glance. You could even think that the statue breathed.
You could even put an ear to Discord’s chest and swear that you’d heard a heartbeat.
With each pulse, a hairline fracture spread out from the statue’s chest, propagating across the entire surface of the Draconequus statue. An invisible light beyond the comprehension of almost all who lived grew from within the statue, a low rumbling chuckle shaking Canterlot to its foundations.
For the state of Equestrian peace was not easily attained. Nor had the rise of the two Alicorn Queens two-and-a-half meggrossiums prior gone uncontested.
W ZOJUW VFNLF