• Published 30th Apr 2013
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Book of Days - Warren Hutch

Excerpts from the diary of Clover the Clever, regarding the birth and early days of Celestia and Luna. As translated by Twilight Sparkle

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Part 2 - Summer Solstice, 10 AE

Chapter 2 - Summer Solstice. Year 10 AE.

Scarce had the mysterious filly and I shared a moment's embrace, before she nuzzled my cheek and then pushed away, knocking me flat on my back with her preternatural strength. In but a moment my eyes uncrossed and I looked over to see her stumbling like a drunkard well into her cups toward my lady Queen Platinum.

I fear that her majesty is of a delicate temperament and quite unused to unbidden physical contact since she ascended to the high throne, and thus seeing the newcomer bearing down upon her, she let out a shriek rather unbecoming a monarch and tripped over the trailing hem of her gown in her haste to back away. I watched aghast as my lady toppled rump over horn and wound up as I did with her hooves in the air. The filly laughed with glee and leapt atop her, causing her majesty to wail quite indecorously and thrash as she nuzzled her face and giggled.

At this point some clot headed, half-wit mooncalf in the guards cried out that my lady the Queen was being attacked, and the greensward shook with the thunder of iron shod hooves as a gaggle of her majesty's knight destriers forced through the gathered herd of onlookers, horns ablaze and shields aloft, ready to rescue their lady liege from her distress. (As well as court her royal favor, in hopes of romancing their way onto the throne[1]. Would that they knew that my lady is well aware of the ulterior motive for their gallantry and makes more use of them for her advantage than they might use her for theirs. At the least she and I would not have to listen to so much boasting and bad poetry that way.)

With nary a thought save that which makes us pick up our hooves at a full gallop in times of desperation, I leapt forth to place myself between this new arrived innocent atop my lady the Queen and her majesty's o'er eager defenders, calling out frantically for them to stay back, and to not do the child any harm.

As I now sit in my study in quiet contemplation, I can scarce believe what I then proceeded to do when they showed no sign of listening to my entreaties. First, with a surge of primal force that rose from my very hooves and set my own horn alight, I wrested one of the warrior's shields from his magical grasp.[2]

Then, did I somehow manage to bat aside their thoughtlessly loosed spell bolts, although I am not one to talk of thoughtlessness, as the errant blasts did much damage to the garlands and banners that adorned the courtyard, and smote the weathervane off of the roof of the lord treasurer's counting house. With a cry of panic the servants and courtiers took to their hooves and fled in all directions, bearing away some of the laggards among the guards who converged upon the scene.

Their magical missiles loosed, several of the destriers gave pause at my strident entreaties to stand down, whilst others of a more single minded nature required more direct persuasion, having drawn swords and continued to advance. This reasoning I delivered by means of my borrowed shield, which rang like a tower bell as I applied it forcefully to their addled noggins. I fear at this time I'd fallen into an inexplicable state of fury that had put reason to flight, and somehow transformed me from a mild natured scholar into a raging amazon, and so I fetched them a bludgeoning they would not soon forget, all the while cursing like an earth pony draft team.

Why, I ask myself yet again, did I become as the berserks of the wild Mustangian herds, or the whirlwinders of the pegasi, in defense of this filly that I had only just met? Not one of my lady's knights could stand against my onslaught, nor could they wrest the shield from my magical grasp, and soon even the most eager among them quit the green lest they have their horns bent and their backsides paddled like wayward yearling colts.

A trembling presence at my side just as suddenly banished my wrath, as I looked down to see the filly pressed against me and looking up with her eyes wide and frightened, pleading wordlessly as she seemed to look right into my very heart and soul and beg me to do no more harm to my fellow ponies. At once the uncanny fierceness drained from me and I dropped to my knees. The shield I had been wielding fell to the sward with a clatter as I stilled my horn. She let out another cooing exclamation, at once frightened and consoling, and gently embraced me as tears started in my eyes.

The next sound I heard was my lady the Queen's shaken voice, commanding her guards to take the filly and myself to the dungeons. As I met her majesty's gaze, I could see she was fighting as hard as I had just fought her defenders to regain her composure. As they closed around us, my lady bid them do us no harm, and to bear us gently to our confinement, and to make sure we were treated kindly. A look of understanding passed between us. This was the best my lady liege could do to settle things down, and so I nodded my assent and prepared to go quietly. My raging had caused her majesty's knights destrier no small measure of dishonor, and only accepting punishment would assuage them.

A grunt of surprise and the thud of a halberd hitting the turf sounded beside me, and I wheeled to see the filly had reared up and was hugging one of the guards, causing the old stallion to go quite red in the face as he clearly had no idea how to respond.

Thinking quickly I stretched forth my neck and gripped her nearest wing in my teeth, gently pulling her away from him, much to his relief as he sheepishly sparked his horn to retrieve his polearm. I twined my tail with the filly's and beckoned for her to follow me, stomping a hoof in hopes of making her understand I would brook no argument.

I was much relieved when she fell into step beside me, or more like tumbled into half steps as her gait was still quite wobbly indeed. She laid her wing at my side to steady herself, as she haltingly placed one dainty hoof before another, and I took advantage of this to lead her where the guards would have us go.

I took one last look back at my lady Queen Platinum, who'd fallen into a swoon among a passel of courtiers that gathered about her as quickly and as thickly as ants around dropped slice of pie, plying her with soothing words and restorative food and drink. My stomach rumbled at the thought of the coarse bread and water I would be having to break my solstice fast. A far less festive repast than anticipated, o diary.

I looked away and hung my head with a sigh as they escorted the filly and myself away. I could not keep a smile from my lips as I heard the dear girl child let out a sigh of her own in imitation of mine. I bent my head to nuzzle her cheek, as we were marched off of the greensward by her majesty's stallions-at-arms.

As we were led into the lower precincts of the castle, we passed into shade, and then into shadow as we went down those rough carved steps into the dungeon. The filly shrank in to my side with a low moan of fear and uncertainty, her faltering steps ceasing as the darkness closed around us.

As I think on it now, I imagine this was her first encounter with darkness, if she was truly born within the bright flames of the Warming Heart. It strikes me as surpassing odd, those of us who are born the normal way, emerging from darkness into light, and this creature emerging from light and now being led down into darkness. What a world to enter as an innocent.

As we stopped on the stairs, the senior of our guard escort entreated us to continue. The filly was not budging, staring uncomprehendingly into the gloom, and uncomprehending of all entreaties as well. I was quickly coming to understand that this mysterious newcomer knew no language. After a moments thought, I lit my horn with a golden light, which brought forth another sweet smile upon her face and she kept close to me as we continued our descent.

Mercifully (be it my lady the Queen's mercy or mere provenance), the cell we were led to had a small window, a mere three hooves diameter and warded by bars of iron and thirty hooves depth of stone from the thick wall it was set in. Sunlight streamed in, illuminating the rough hewn chamber, casting stripes of light on the floor from the iron bars separating it from the narrow corridor.

The floor had fairly fresh straw strewn upon it, which made the space fragrant enough to be tolerable. Two rough pallets lay on the floor on thicker heaps of straw, along with a privy pot and a chipped basin and bowl near to a drain in the corner. There was also such graffiti on the wall as I was glad the innocent creature abiding with me in this place was unlettered as well as without knowledge of speech.

They slammed the door behind us and marched away, leaving the old stallion whom the newcomer had hugged upon the green to stand guard with his helm and halberd. His name, as I came to find out, was Turnstaff, and he was most kind to us from the start, assuring us as soon as his fellows had left that he was positive our lady the Queen wouldn't keep us there for long, and if she did he would do his best to see us as comfortable as he could manage. I thanked him most kindly in return.

Of course the filly did not understand his words, but she cooed to him and nuzzled him through the bars when she heard his tone of voice. The old guardspony was clearly quite taken with her, confiding to me that he had granddaughters, and she reminded him of them. (I smile as I write this, as I think on a grandsire's affection and how brightly indeed those dear fillies must shine in his eyes. It makes me recall yet again how my own grandsire used to dote upon me and call me his clever little candle. But I digress yet again, o diary.)

When he gave me their names, Tansy and Teasel, it occurred to me that this newcomer (newborn?) should have a name as well. It was Turnstaff's suggestion to call her Dawn Heart, which seemed fitting considering when and how she emerged among us.

Having decided a name, I endeavored to teach it to her, tapping her gently upon her breast and speaking it. At first she was puzzled, and then she began to imitate me, poking my chest with equal gentleness (thankfully, it now strikes me in retrospect) and repeating the word as I said it.[3] I then decided to introduce my own name to the process, as well as Turnstaff's, and was rewarded with her understanding.

From there, we fell into a game of pointing and naming, which I must confess, o diary, somehow turned our dreary surroundings into a place of wonder and discovery as Dawn explored every nook and cranny of our cell and took in the names of things with an astounding facility, and bless her if she didn't remember each one as I took my turn pointing at things and letting her name them back to me. Straw, bed, blanket, bowl, pitcher, pot, cockroach, helmet, halberd, window, bars, door, lock, all in turn were found, named, and learned.

Poetically, o diary, upon learning the word lock as part of the door, she came to understand that things were composed of other things that could be named, and we had soon moved on to pointing at different body parts and naming them. (I again smile to myself as I think back to this strange dungeon idyll in the middle of such a day as this, and recall her giggling and prancing with hilarity at each saying of the word "elbow".)

We had gotten to "wings", which puzzled the dear filly anew as she found she could only point to her own set and find none on myself or old Turnstaff, when we heard the sound of hooves clattering from down the corridor in something of a hurry. A delegation of stallions at arms hove into view with Lord Cleristory, her majesty's right honorable chamberlain, at their lead bearing the Grand Key of Castle Canter in his magic rather than letting it hang upon its chain about his neck. By the looks on their faces, something urgent had arisen, and I gently pushed Dawn's hoof down as she pointed at them for names and bade them speak.

My lord Cleristory hastily unlocked the cell as he hastily explained. A force of pegasi, girded for battle, had landed with Commander Hurricane at their vanguard, demanding (which, in truth, is as close as her excellency gets to what we would term "asking") to know why we had lowered the Warming Heart. I let out a sigh of exasperation and brought my hoof to my brow, but was relieved to hear that Pansy was among them. My lady the Queen had ordered my release and desired me to join her at the utmost haste.

When I asked him what of the filly who shared my confinement, my lord chamberlain shook his head and said it would be best if she stayed here for now. Reluctantly I agreed, and Turnstaff begged our pardons and said he'd see she was kept comfortable and occupied. I gave Dawn a hug and smoothed back a lock of her silken mane, bidding her be a good girl and stay here with the dear old guard stallion. I then picked myself up and followed Lord Cleristory and the guards down the corridor as the poor dear filly called plaintively after me, my very heart wilting in my breast to hear her charming mispronunciation of my name[4] echoing off of the dungeon's cold walls.

We froze in our tracks at the sound of a great wrenching and tearing of metal, and spun to see the fading of a golden glow of magic about the filly's pearlescent horn, as she trotted up the hall after us with a pout on her little face and a ruffling of her wings. The bars of the cell had been bent awry and broken, curling like the petals of a great rusted iron flower around a gaping, circular opening. Poor old Turnstaff sat with his jaw agape and his eyes as wide as saucers, his halberd toppled to the floor beside him.

I could only boggle, o diary, as Dawn came up to my side and leaned against me, saying my name with an undertone of insistence that I gathered was a demand to not be left behind. I entwined my tail with hers and gave her a wary nod, shrugging helplessly to my lord chamberlain and his escort. Old Cleristory wisely agreed to suffer the filly joining us, with a clear implication that whatever happened it would be my responsibility. I rolled my eyes and assented, and thus did we hie ourselves to my lady's royal audience chamber with this strange creature, at once adorable and terrifying, in our company.

Translator's Hoofnotes:

[1] Histories of any analytical depth make it quite plain that after Princess Platinum ascended to the throne of the unicorns in 4 AE her unmarried status became a considerable political tool for the young Queen, as a plethora of stallions from the upper echelons of the nobility vied for her hoof (and the crown of her father King Aurum).

While it may seem rather cynical in this modern age, and a bit sad as well that she went for so long without a special somepony, Queen Platinum's sly maneuvering and playing of one suitor off of another was a considerable help in integrating the unicorns into the body politic of Equestria.

As anypony with a high school education knows, it wouldn't be until 14 AE that she finally married Prince Blue Steel, Captain of her knights destriers and a distant cousin of both her mother the Queen Dowager Argent and of Lady Clover's husband Crimson Rose.

[2] A note on the spellcraft behind Lady Clover's choice of defense here. Spherical force fields, much like the spell my brother Shining Armor is well known for, weren't to be invented for another seven hundred years. Hence encasing the newborn Princess Celestia and Queen Platinum in a bubble of magical force was not an option.

The only practical protective spells against physical threats in the Founders' era were a forceful burst of focused wind, which served for deflecting projectiles or dragon fire, and the deft manipulation of a wood or metal shield to block attacks.

This latter method was commonly what unicorns in the knights destrier were trained in, wielding a shield in combination with either a sword or mace with their telekinesis for hoof to hoof combat in those often violent olden times. (They also commonly armed themselves with a primitive version of the modern horn blast, which could only be used once as an opening volley before the destriers closed with their opponents, due to its slow and inefficient recharge rate.)

The most adept among the knights destrier could wield multiple shields and weapons, making them almost one stallion armies. The legendary Sir Liftsalot, for example, was said to be able to levitate ten items at once.

In a conversation with my big brother about this passage, he conjectured that the element of surprise probably played as large a part in Clover's defeating the guards, who found themselves suddenly and very vehemently facing the brunt of their own tactics from an otherwise notably calm and collected advisor to the crown.

I imagine Lady Clover received this sort of training from her mentor Starswirl the Bearded as an exercise in focusing one's concentration. (Although I wonder if he was also simply teaching her to take care of herself in a sometimes hostile world.) Certain fragmentary records of the great mage's early life imply that he himself served in his youth among the knights destrier in the court of King Plumbum the Unhurried.

[3] I, for one, find it uncannily appropriate that Princess Celestia's first word was probably "Dawn". It was often common in those olden times for a foal to be given a name at their birth that would be replaced by a new, "adult" name when they attained their cutie mark. This indeed is what happened in both princesses' case, as will be detailed in future chapters.

[4] My curiosity was piqued by this passage, and so during one of our frequent discussions over the course of this project I asked her highness if she remembered at all what this "charming mispronunciation" might have been. Well, while the original pronunciation of "Clover" in High Monoceric and its rendering by Princess Celestia's inexperienced tongue would be rather academic to you the reader (academically adorable to me the translator), the modern Equestrian equivalent would be our little alicorn pronouncing Lady Clover's name "Kwovuh".

As of this writing both princesses are still calling one another "Cewestia" and "Woona" in private as a result of that conversation, and I'm making good on my threat to put this fact in one of my hoofnotes if they didn't stop calling me "Twiwight".

Honestly, sometimes you'd think they both weren't over a thousand years old. [5]

[5] Translator's Mentor's Hoofnote.
Twiwight, my dawling student, you weally do need to wighten up. - P.C.