• Published 9th Feb 2012
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Upheaval: Breaking Point - Visiden Visidane

A desperate war, old enemies returning and past mistakes come together to alter Equestria forever.

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Necessary Crimes

Upheaval: Breaking Point

Chapter 7: Necessary Crimes

"Twilight, I think we should give up."

For his entire life, that was the first time Spike ever said those words to Twilight. He had never asked her to give up on anything she wanted to learn about, not even during those times when she locked herself away from the world for books. Whenever Twilight studied, she was serious, focused, even relentless at times. Her dedication to magical knowledge was the best proof of her cutie mark and why the ruler of all Equestria wanted to be her teacher.

But this was too much. They had been in the Great Library all afternoon with nothing to show for it. She hadn't even taken the time to talk with their friends. All of them had been extremely worried when they heard that Twilight was missing. More and more, he feared that she was reverting to that time before she went to Ponyville, when all she could think about was magical study.

"Spike, I need to find out about this," Twilight answered. Minutes had actually passed between his remark and her answer. She was still going through books at a frenetic pace.

"We haven't found anything since we got here," Spike said. "Not even a clue. Some pony must have just engraved a random picture on a coin, which randomly ended up inside your bag."

Twilight looked back at him. "You know I don't accept 'random' as a reason for anything," she said.

"There's no other explanation for something that has absolutely no information about it anywhere! We've tried, Twilight. We've got nothing to go on after all this time."

Twilight put down a book and sighed. "You're right, Spike," she said. "Perhaps it's time to admit defeat on this."

Spike fought down a grin. He should not have looked happy over Twilight's researching ability "losing" to a mystery, but it was a relief to see her move on.

"Let's go home," Twilight said with a smile.

Spike had known Twilight long enough to recognize a forced smile when he saw one. "Sure," he said. “Hey, how about I make you some hayburgers when we get back?”

The sun was already starting to set when they walked out of the library. Despite the day's approaching end, there were still a lot of ponies out, including royal guards. Twilight walked over to one of them. "What's going on now?" she asked.

"Haven't you heard?" the guard replied. "They've found Princess Luna! Good timing too, it's almost night. I heard that she just walked over to her panicking escorts like nothing was wrong."

"Well, that's good news," Spike said.

"That’s great!," Twilight said. "Is everypony here to see her?"

The guard nodded.

True enough, a crowd began to gather around the street. They joined in to get a closer look. They hadn't seen Princess Luna since Shining Armor's wedding, and they were a little curious as to how the younger princess was doing. Spike climbed on Twilight's back while she slipped towards the front of the crowd. She managed to get there in time to see the princess show up.

Princess Luna's appearance was strangely simple. She had walked up to the street quietly with a pair of royal guards at either side. The crowd murmured as she passed by. The atmosphere was a mixture of relief and curiosity, with traces of suspicion. Not every pony was willing to forget Nightmare Moon and the threat of eternal night. Luna bore it all with quiet dignity.

"That's weird," Spike whispered to Twilight. "I thought she'd be the sort to ride around in a carriage. Why is she even walking?"

"She's spent the last thousand years in isolation," Twilight replied. "She may prefer to take in as much of Equestria as possible. Maybe she's just taking her time."

Before Spike could say anything, a pony jostled against Twilight. He grabbed hold of her mane to keep from falling off. She recovered without falling down, but her bag had been knocked about by the bump. He heard the distinct sound of something metallic hitting the pavement and feared the worst. As he thought, the coin that had brought them all the way to Canterlot on a wild goose chase had fallen out of her bag and rolled its way to the princess.

Though she was already walking the streets of Canterlot, Luna's thoughts were still about the Barrier Lands. Her meeting with her brother had gone better than expected, but still badly. Despite a thousand years of confinement outside the realm he was defending, Terrato was still fiercely dedicated to Celestia. 'Blindly so,' she thought. What he was doing only seemed loyal. Her travels across the Heartland gave her a different and unexpected view point. Terrato had to act on it or the damage would be too much.

Just as Terrato had said, Celestia discovered Luna's departure the moment the barrier was broken through. Though Luna wanted to resume her travels as if the Barrier Lands were just a quick, unscheduled detour, it wasn't long until she received a message that her sister wanted to see her. She had to admit that she was scared, even though Terrato had provided an excuse for her to use.

Despite the constant murmurs of the watching crowd, a light metallic ping caught Luna's attention. A small silver coin rolled across the pavement and bumped lightly against her shoe. She picked it up with her magic, and examined one of its faces.

The Equestrian Legion's emblem glinted slightly, catching the dimming rays of the setting sun.

Luna stifled a gasp and looked to the crowd. "Who dropped this?" she asked. The sudden urgency in her voice set everypony nearby aback. Even her escorts looked shocked. Silence swept the crowd as everypony searched for who dropped the coin that was bothering their princess.

"I did, your highness."

Luna recognized the unicorn walking towards her slowly, eyes apologetic and movements hesitant. Her two escorts stepped forward to intercept the pony, but she motioned them back. "Twilight Sparkle," she said. Here was a connection she hadn't expected to happen. One of the ponies who had saved her from Nightmare Moon now possessed an object that all but represented another growing crisis in Equestria.

"I'm so sorry, Princess Luna!" Twilight said. "I was jostled, and it just fell, and--"

"Don't worry," Luna said. She smiled a little to put the unicorn at ease. "I'm not mad, just a little surprised. Where did you get this?"

Twilight looked at the coin and winced, something that Luna took note of. "I-I'm not sure, princess. I've been trying to find out more about it but--"

Luna gave the coin back. When Twilight reached out to take it, she leaned closer and whispered, "meet me by the palace gardens after moonrise. Come alone, and don't tell anypony. Whatever you do, don't show that coin to anypony else."

Twilight was about to ask what was going on, but a look from Luna stopped her short. She nodded quietly and backed into the crowd. With that, Luna went on her way.

From the Royal Palace's gardens, Luna watched her hoof-work with a measure of both pride and gratitude. Moonlight filtered gently through the leaves of the garden's various trees, illuminating everything with a faint silver shimmer. That she could cause something so beautiful lifted her spirits, and that Celestia had returned this duty to her filled her with a sense of gratitude. A lifetime ago, she had been bitter over the seeming lack of appreciation for her task. She was only beginning to discover now that the night was beautiful because of the peace that it covered Equestria with, and the sight of ponies being able to rest at the end of the day was just as much tribute as the sight of them enjoying the sun.

Some of Luna's resolve faltered. Earlier, Celestia believed her when she followed through with her brother's story. It wasn't a complete lie anyway. She did want to show Terrato that she was free of Nightmare Moon, her efforts ended in her being called an abomination-infested rebel who smelled of cheap soy sauce. Celestia had much kinder words to say about the situation. Just as Terrato had predicted, all Luna received was a mild admonition about suddenly going off. That she was secretly trying to bring about something that would inevitably hurt Celestia weighed heavily on her shoulders..

'I'm not doing this because I believe that she's a tyrant who needs to be deposed,' Luna reminded herself. 'I'm doing this because I love her. This needs to be done to help her.' Despite her choice of words, Luna wasn't sure about the entire meeting. She had thought about telling Twilight Sparkle what the emblem on the coin meant, which would reveal the truth about the Legion's existence, but there were a few things that made her hesitate.

Doing this would surely bring a lot of trouble to Twilight. She was Celestia's favored student, and bore the Element of Magic, but even all of that may not save her from being exiled or worse if Celestia believed it was necessary to keep the Heartland "safe". Why was it even necessary for her to know about the Legion? Part of Luna wanted to avoid bringing others into this and just confront Celestia alone. That same part berated her for going through things in a roundabout manner. 'No,' she thought. 'If I speak out, it would just be seen as another rebellion from the envious little sister. If she hears this from one of her subjects, she may listen.'

"Princess Luna?"

The sound of Twilight's tentative call silenced the inner argument. "I'm here," Luna replied. The guards had altered their patrols slightly to keep this part of the garden private, as was her request. As she had also requested, Twilight Sparkle was alone. It was strange how Celestia's protégé had acquired a legionnaire emblem, yet seemed to have no idea of what she had. The faint aura of magic around Twilight's mind was all the answer necessary. She must have somehow come to the Barrier Lands and Terrato had cast a spell to cloud her memory. His use of enchantments had never been subtle. Luna wasn't sure how the legionnaire emblem fit in. Had Terrato planted it there to break his own spell? Was he moving before she even talked to him, or was it somepony else from the Legion?

Twilight bowed, a look of excitement and curiosity lurked just beneath that respectful appearance. "Twilight Sparkle," Luna said. "I haven't thanked you properly for saving me from Nightmare Moon."

"I didn't do it by myself, Princess Luna," Twilight replied. Despite her humble tone, her lips twitched slightly to keep a flattered smile from coming out. "All of my friends helped me in defeating Nightmare Moon."

"True," Luna said. The mention of Twilight's friends made the decision even harder. The truth would bring trouble to Twilight and her friends: ponies who would rush to her side without hesitation. This would be condemning the six ponies who had done so much for her to exile. "I should thank them all as well when we meet. Do you have that coin with you?"

"I do," Twilight said. She reached for her bag and pulled out the coin. The silver glinted in the moonlight. "If it pleases you, could you tell me more about it?" she asked. "I was going to ask Princess Celestia about it but--"

"If you show this to my sister, you will never see or hear about it ever again," Luna whispered sharply. At Twilight's surprised expression, Luna softened her tone. "I understand your curiosity, Twilight Sparkle, but let me warn you now that the knowledge behind this emblem will bring a lot of trouble to you. My sister has done much to keep the knowledge about this emblem hidden. Learning about it goes against her wishes."

"G-goes against her wishes?" Twilight asked. She nearly dropped the coin as if it had caught fire. "I didn't know this was evil! I should just get rid of it then!"

"I never said that," Luna said. Twilight's reaction was more proof of Celestia's influence. 'And I'm dealing with her student too,' she thought. This entire thing might backfire or amount to nothing given Twilight's loyalty. Even if she heard the truth, she could just ignore it or even agree with Celestia's decisions.

"Please listen to me carefully. It's true that my sister does not want anypony to know what this coin means, but that does not make it evil. Far from it; should the knowledge get out, it will be ultimately for her own good."

"How is that possible?" Twilight asked. Her eyes narrowed.

"I'll leave it for you to find out," Luna answered. "You can walk away now. You can get rid of that emblem and forget everything about it. You can go back to Ponyville to enjoy the rest of your life. Or you can let me tell you the truth of it. You'll carry a terrible burden. It won't be just you. Others will be dragged into this chaos. But, please, trust me when I say that it will be for my sister's sake in the end."

Twilight's face twisted in confusion and indecision. Luna kept her gaze intense, defying any accusation of lying. Twilight looked at the coin and winced for the second time. Despite the memory lock, it seemed that Twilight's mind still desperately tried to remember. Her curious nature and thirst for knowledge naturally fought back against a spell designed to obscure memory in an admirable display of mental strength. Even without outside help, Twilight was actually struggling against Terrato's magic. 'Just how much potential does your student have, big sister?' Luna thought.

"H-how do I know that what you're saying is true?" Twilight finally asked.

"I can't offer any proof," Luna said. "All I can promise is that you can hear what I have to say and walk away. Whatever you do with what you've learned is up to you."

The reassurance did little to quell Twilight's uneasiness. Agonizing minutes trudged on with Luna staring intently at Twilight while she struggled against wanting to know and fear of knowing. Eventually, Twilight shook her head and looked at Luna directly. "Please, tell me," she said.

The response was surprising. For a moment, Luna had been so sure that Twilight was going to give the coin back with a determined look. She had not expected Twilight willing to risk going against Celestia just to find out about something and for the possibility of ultimately helping her in the long run.

Still, here she was, about to go against Celestia again, despite being forgiven after her last one. This time, it was going to be different. A thousand years ago, she rebelled out of petty jealousy and selfishness. This time, her rebellion would actually be for Celestia.

"Thank you, Twilight Sparkle" she said. "This is an emblem of the Equestrian Legion. For you to have this-Twilight?" Twilight clutched her head with her front hooves. "Twilight, are you alright?"

The steady buzz inside Twilight's head exploded when she heard the words "Equestrian Legion". A flood of images and words came into her mind.

"Captain Vanguard Clash of the Northern Equestrian Legion."

Twilight focused on the image of a dark-barded pony standing on a vast plain, a plain that was both Equestria, and not.

"The Legion…does things that would only cause disruptions if they became common knowledge."

The image shifted to an angry white unicorn with a fierce glare which froze Twilight in place despite being only a memory.

"Your mighty and wonderful Princess Celestia likes to pretend that her realm of peace and rainbows doesn't need us!"

The image shifted again. Enormous, wolf-like monsters leapt from the darkness, red eyes glowing menacingly and fangs dripping saliva. Several ponies charged against these beasts, the dark-armored pony included. Blasts of fire erupted and blood sprayed everywhere. Somepony was laughing in the distance. Finally, the battle faded. There stood a gray pony, an alicorn even bigger than Princess Celestia, with a fiery mane and a broken horn.

"And here I am now, centuries later, and my duty continues."

Everything made sense now. Something within her mind resisted as she desperately tried to piece together what the images meant. She recognized the presence of magic, and fought back.

"I…I remember…" Twilight gasped. The block within her memories shattered, and everything came flooding back: the Legion, Prince Terrato, the war at Equestria's borders…

Luna looked at Twilight with a mixture of shock and admiration. Twilight couldn't match Princess Luna's gaze just yet. She was exhausted from the great mental exertion. She tried to take a few steps forward, and stumbled.

Luna reached out to steady her. "And what you do with that knowledge is up to you, Twilight Sparkle," she said softly.