• Published 4th May 2013
  • 5,199 Views, 203 Comments

Secret Histories - McPoodle

Twilight and her friends discover that the link between them extends back in time, not just to Rainbow Dash's first Sonic Rainboom, but hundreds of years earlier.

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Part One

Secret Histories
Translation Assisted by McPoodle

Part One

It was another wonderful Hearth’s Warming Eve in Canterlot. Chestnuts were roasting over open fires, traditional carols were being sung at every corner, and there was a two-for-one sale at Baaarney’s Scarf Emporium.

Which meant of course that Twilight Sparkle, Pinkie Pie, Rainbow Dash, Rarity, Applejack and Fluttershy were all inside picking out accessories.

As an inevitable corollary, Spike was at Donut Joe’s. Twilight Sparkle secretly wished she could join him.

~ ~ ~

“I certainly wouldn’t want to be considered mean-spirited on this of all days,” said Rarity as she held up scarf after scarf against an unwilling Applejack’s coat with her magic, “but I think that there is a certain price that one must be willing to pay for security. This is a time for family, and I for one would like to be sure that the family that is visiting is my family, and not some wretched changelings come to feast on my emotions! Is that so much to ask?”

“Well,” drawled Applejack, “since you are askin’ me, maybe I oughta turn around and ask you why you’re painting those changelings all with the same brush? Queen Chrysalis’ approach was all wrong, but in the end she was just lookin’ out for her family. It seems ta me that if a changeling was willing to drop her disguise, I might be willing to give her the benefit of the doubt.”

“But they feed on love!” Rarity protested.

“So? We ponies kinda do the same thing, just not so literal-like. I honestly don’t know sometimes how I would have made it through half of the hard stuff I’ve been through in this short life of mine without the love of my family. If a changeling can live off the love we ponies can freely give, and no more, then sure, why not trust ‘em?”

“Wow,” commented Rainbow Dash. “I don’t know if I could ever do that.”

Applejack shrugged. “Well like I said, it’s part and parcel of being in a family: you got your ups, and you got your downs. We Apples have our share of bad seeds, and the best way ta make them grow up into good Apples is to give them love.”

“Even if they never get any better?” Dash asked darkly.

“Well, that’s what I believe,” countered the farm pony. “I’m certainly not trying to tell any of you what to do. What do you think, Twi?”

“Hmm?” asked the purple unicorn, her attention focused out the shop’s window and across the street to a neighboring bookstore.

Applejack sighed. “Never mind.”

Just then, Twilight Sparkle’s view of glorious unread books was blocked by a tall thin form. Twilight’s eyes wandered up, and up, and up, to terminate in a round pink face surrounded by the hood of a parka. It was a human, an increasingly common sight in Equestria following the opening of the Cross-Worlds Portal a year ago. The human’s eyes got wider, and wider, and wider, as he stared fiercely at the shrinking purple unicorn. Then he pointed, and yelled something, and a dozen humans started to congregate around him.

“Um...girls...” Twilight said nervously. “I think it’s time we might want to think about—”

The door of the shop burst open with a bang. “It’s them!” an excited human woman exclaimed. “Twilight Sparkle and the Elements of Harmony! I need all your signatures! And fur samples! And bite marks on my naked body! And—”

“RUN!” screamed Twilight, turning tail and dashing for the rear exit of the store.

A seemingly endless stream of human Twilight Sparkle fans followed close behind.

The humans tried to keep up with the fleeing ponies, but Twilight was a past master of fleeing insane crowds, and by keeping close behind her, the six were soon a full block ahead of their pursuers. Unfortunately, the intensely cold weather was quickly sapping their strength.

“In here!” Twilight exclaimed, turning sharply and barging through the elaborately carved door of a private residence.

The others stopped for a moment to see a sign set up outside the door printed in a curlicue font. Most of it was hard to make out, but the presence of opening and closing hours made it clear that this place was in fact open to the public, so they quickly followed Twilight past a pair of scowling earth pony guards into the house. The oblivious crowd raced past a few seconds later.

Pinkie Pie sneezed suddenly on passing though. “What was that anyway?” she asked, pointing behind her.

The others turned around. Faintly visible between the two guards was a pale pink force field.

“See those?” Twilight said as she pointed out the strange hats on both guards’ heads. Atop each hat was a large six-sided crystal. “Those crystals emit a modified version of the shield spell created by my brother,” she explained. “It breaks the illusions of anypony who walks through it.”

“Oh, I think I read about that in the latest issue of Modern Millinery magazine,” commented Rarity. “The crystals necessary are too rare on Equestria, so the humans mass-produce them, and then unicorns imbue them with their magic.”

“Yes,” said Twilight, “with the recent security failures at the Portal, the humans now need those hats just as much as we do.”

“And I do believe Twilight counts as one on my side of the changeling argument,” the white unicorn said smugly.

“What?” asked Twilight.

“Where are we?” asked Fluttershy, changing the subject.

Twilight looked around her and then sighed. “Ugh, not this place,” she said.

“Twilight, I am surprised at you!” Rarity exclaimed. “Is this not Sparkle Hall, ancestral home of your family for more than a thousand years?”

“It’s not ours anymore,” Twilight answered. Her tone lacked any of the disappointment Rarity expected. “We lost it centuries ago, so now it’s just a tourist attraction.”

“Well,” said Fluttershy quietly, “since we might be stuck here for a while waiting out the humans, why don’t we take the tour?”

Twilight opened her mouth to say something, then stopped and sighed. “Sure, why not?” she asked in a defeated tone. “But let me make one thing clear while it’s still fresh on my mind: I do not think of us as ‘Twilight Sparkle and the Elements of Harmony’. The humans seem to have this thing for taking the most-visible talent in any team and inflating their head with undeserved praise until they delude themselves into thinking that they would be better off solo, but I don’t think that at all! We’re a team of equals! I’ve never given you the impression that I thought I was better than you, right?”

“No, you’ve never pulled the ‘Great and Powerful’ act on us, Twi,” Applejack assured her.

“Well, there was that one time—” began Pinkie Pie, causing Twilight to wince.

Never, Pinkie,” interrupted Applejack. “Now let’s see about this tour business.”

~ ~ ~

The earth pony led her friends to the end of a fairly long line of tourists (none of them humans, thankfully), all of them waiting for the next tour.

This also made them a captive audience for the pony who was addressing the crowd in tones of arrogant majesty—none other than Prince Blueblood.

“—And when we opened the door, we encountered a frightful sight,” the prince was saying. “Ponies trapped in cages, ponies locked in closets, two ponies fighting each other to a standstill. ‘Which of you is the changeling?’ I asked. ‘He is!’ ‘No, she is!’ they cried, each of them accusing the other. ‘I am the changeling,’ one of them insisted, ‘but something’s gone wrong with my magic, and I can’t turn back into my hideous bug-like form!’ So I cast the Dispel Illusion spell, and what did I find? Why that none of those ponies were changelings! They had all nearly killed each other in their suspicion and fear. We set up a detection field in the front doorway, and they lived in peace and security for as long as that house stood!”

“Which was how long?” prompted a little white unicorn with a smirk.

“Quiet, Nephew,” said the prince.

“I think you should answer the colt’s question,” said a stern Appleloosan mare.

“Ah, well...it burned down a week later,” Blueblood said reluctantly.

“What?!” the crowd exclaimed as one.

“Yes, well the detector went on the fritz, and falsely labeled the beloved daughter of the family as a changeling, the same one who had earlier insisted that she was a changeling to end the family’s strife. As a result, pony attacked pony once again, a lamp was accidentally knocked over, and soon the entire house was aflame. Spot, the family dog, bravely ran into the house again and again to save each member of the family. Sadly, he died of smoke inhalation, but I am happy to tell you that all of the ponies survived, and used this experience to bury their distrust for each other forever more!

“The lesson to be drawn from this is, of course, to always be sure who among you is a changeling, and to exile every single changeling you find! It’s the only way to be safe!

“Now, are there any more questions about the dreaded Changeling Menace?”

The white colt from before raised his hoof.

“Any questions from anypony else?” Blueblood desperately asked.

A Manehattanite stallion raised a hoof.

“Yes, what is your question?” Blueblood asked gratefully.

“You told us earlier that somepony in that house was definitely a changeling. So, who was it?”

“Uhh...” Blueblood stalled, sweat breaking out on his brow. “Anypony else have a question?”

He was answered by an angry glare from everypony.

“Well, um, you see...” the prince said, his voice getting smaller and smaller, “the fact of the matter is...that the changeling was...Spot the dog.”

“Spot!” exclaimed the Appleloosan. “The same dog that saved the family’s lives twice before?”

“...Yes,” Prince Blueblood answered reluctantly.

“The same dog that was starving to death the entire time the family was fighting? The same dog that mysteriously cured the daughter of her consumption?”

“Yeah, well we think that changelings might be able to transform love into some rather remarkable magic, but that’s only a theory and besides, Spot never revealed himself to the family as a changeling!”

“Well considering the abhorrent behavior of that family, I don’t think I would reveal myself under the circumstances either!” exclaimed Rarity, surprising herself.

Luckily for her, she was far enough away from the prince that they could not make eye contact. It helped that the self-absorbed jerk had utterly forgotten about her existence a mere ten minutes after she had so epically humiliated him at the Grand Galloping Gala.

“Look, let me boil it down for you peasants,” the prince said with a snarl. “Changelings are different, so they must be evil. They have secrets, which must be exposed. I mean, nopony really expects the right to keep their own privacy in this day and age, right? Right?” He looked around to see that all of the ponies had turned their backs and were now ignoring him. All except for his nephew. For reasons that no other pony understood, Blueblood nodded in satisfaction at this development.

“Uncle, why are you such an idiot?” the younger unicorn asked.

The prince smiled mysteriously. “I’ll tell you when you’re older.”

~ ~ ~

“Well, does that put you on my side of the ‘changeling question’ now, Sug?” Applejack asked Rarity smugly.

“I don’t know,” said Rarity vaguely. “I have to think about it.”

“If Opal is a changeling living off of love, she’s doing it all wrong,” joked Rainbow Dash.

“Well, that line looks reeeeaaallly long,” said Pinkie Pie. “How about if you give us a tour, Twilight?”

“Oh, that sounds like a splendid idea!” exclaimed Rarity, pulling herself out of her funk. “I’m sure you can tell us all kinds of things not on the standard tour!”

“Well, I don’t know...” Twilight answered. “My family is not exactly a favorite topic of conversation for me.”

“Really?” asked Rarity. “I’ve always wanted to know more about my family history, but I was never able to find anything. It seems that my forebears were stolid shopkeepers back to the Beginning of Time, none of them doing anything of dramatic interest. But you’re a Sparkle, Twilight! Your ancestors’ names are included in history books. They saved Equestria! Some of them, if the legends are to be believed, nearly doomed Equestria. It’s the kind of family history I could only dream of having myself. I would love to hear you tell us your favorite of your family’s stories, but of course it’s up to you. I would never dream of pressing you on something as personal as this.”

Twilight thought about this for a few seconds. “Alright,” she said with sudden determination. “I’ll tell you the secret history of the Sparkle family. You see, the Sparkles—”

She was interrupted by Rarity putting a hoof on her shoulder with a concerned look. “Twilight! Revealing the Sparkle Secret History was not what I had in mind! Those sort of things are not to be shared with just anypony!”

Twilight looked around her into the faces of the other ponies around her. “You five are not ‘just anypony’,” she said gravely, “you are the best friends I could ever have. You’re also closer to me than most of my extended family. Now of course I trust you to keep this stuff to yourselves, but you deserve to know more about me. Or do we want a repeat of that whole ‘what do you mean, you have a brother’ business?”

“It’s your choice, Twi,” said Applejack.

“And I’m choosing to tell you. Come on!”

A few pony-lengths away, an off-duty tour guide saw a group of six ponies peeling off from the others to take a private tour. She was in her rights to stop them right there, but once she realized who they were, she decided to follow at a discrete distance up the stairs to the second floor.

“This is Star Swirl the Bearded vanquishing the Viscous Smooze,” said Twilight, pointing reluctantly at the first painting in what was a veritable Hall of Portraits. “It’s the one everypony uses in the textbooks.”

“Oh is that what he looks like?” Pinkie Pie asked, leaning in close. It was hard to tell if she was examining the pony, or the monster. “So what’s he doing in here?”

“Well the story we tell outsiders is that he was a teacher of our family’s forebear, Sterling the White,” said Twilight, nervously rubbing one hoof against another. “Only there’s no real proof that Sterling ever existed. No, the real reason the Sparkles started the hall with this painting was because they spread the lie that they were Star Swirl’s direct descendants and chosen inheritors of his legacy. Eventually they forgot that it was a lie, and came to believe in it.”

“I kinda thought you were Star Swirl’s descendant, given how much you talked about him last Nightmare Night,” noted Applejack.

“No,” replied Twilight, “I’m just fascinated in him because of all of his accomplishments, and because of the funny hoofnotes he liked to sneak into his spells.”

“Did Star Swirl have any descendants?” asked Rarity.

“Not directly,” said Twilight. “But he had a brother named Nebulosity, and he had descendants. Even as Sterling’s descendants proclaimed to all that they were Star Swirl’s heirs, Nebulosity’s descendants forgot their forebear, but in their quiet nobility and unselfish use of their magical ability, proved themselves by deed instead of name.” Twilight’s head was bowed, as she considered the relative worths of the two families. “Those descendants, known as the Nightingale Clan, were eventually forced by circumstances into becoming servants at the Royal Palace, the frequent victims of the Sparkle Family’s scorn.”

“Oh that sounds dreadfully unfair!” the fashion pony exclaimed.

“Twilight, why is this really nasty looking eternal flame thingee called ‘The Nightingale Clan’?” asked Pinkie Pie. She had wandered half-way across the large floor of the gallery to find it. The flame, magically spending eternity consuming the black sculpture of a bird in agony, was incredibly violent, but utterly devoid of heat.

Twilight sighed. “That flame represents the deep hatred the Sparkles felt towards the Nightingales once Equestria discovered the truth. In fact, that truth forever marked the Sparkles, and transformed them into the minor nobility that they are today.”

“And what about the Nightingales?” asked a timid Fluttershy. “Did the Sparkles...burn them in revenge for their humiliation?”

“The Nightingales disappeared from the face of Equestria less than a generation after their triumph,” Twilight said sadly. “It was said that they were even worse with their pride than the Sparkles once they knew the truth of their ancestry. Accordingly, when their awful secrets were exposed, the shame was so great that they all abandoned the name ‘Nightingale’, and became peasants as they had been before.

“It’s a shame, really,” she said, looking pensively at the flame. “If the line hadn’t died out, there would exist ponies in this world carrying the legacy of the greatest unicorn to have ever lived. What kind of magic might they command that is unavailable to any other pony? What secrets might they know of the great Star Swirl?”

With a shake of her head, Twilight Sparkle came back to her senses, and decided to resume the tour. “I appear to have gotten ahead of myself, with all of that talk of the ‘Fall of the House of Sparkle’. Let me get back to their rise.” She began to walk down the hall, past nearly a dozen portraits of near-identical doppelgangers of Star Swirl. “These are supposedly Sterling the White’s descendants in the generations before Discord. Since pretty much no...sane...artistic works survived His reign of terror, these were all painted in the first and second generations of the Classical Era.”

The group continued, Pinkie Pie bouncing over to join the others, as the paintings of bearded stallions became a series of family portraits. The majority of them consisted of a wife, a husband, and a daughter or two, sometimes with an elder or younger generation added. Looking ahead, the other ponies could see a second transition coming up, from elaborate oil paintings to simple sketches, and from gold jewelry and fine brocade to the simplicity of wearing nothing at all. This was the period of dominance, but they were rapidly approaching the “Fall of the House of Sparkle”.

“You’ve got a small family,” Rainbow Dash noted of the paintings.

“Yes, we didn’t have much in the way of siblings in this period, as it always tended to lead to political ramifications,” Twilight said sadly. “During this time, my family were the first or second most-powerful in Equestria, with the Bluebloods as our eternal rivals. It was a pretty friendly rivalry, for the most part.”

“I heard of some pretty epic shouting matches between your two families, Twilight,” Rarity said carefully, hoping not to offend.

The group had stopped only two generations before the Fall, beside the rare case of a family portrait with more than one matriarch: two adult sisters with their cutie-age sons and the elder sister’s husband. The little gold nameplate at the bottom read “Morningstar, Fellstaff, and Cognizant Sparkle; Eveningstar and Zodiacal Light Sparkle. 6760.

Twilight smiled. “That was just for show. By around—” (her wandering eye caught on the gold plate) “—6760, they had divided control of Equestria between them. The Bluebloods held the political power, and the Sparkles held the magical power.”

“That’s it?” Dash asked incredulously. “Two unicorn families to control the whole of Equestria? What about the pegasi and earth ponies?”

“Well,” Twilight said delicately, “things were different then. Control was centralized in Canterlot, and Canterlot was—and still is—a largely unicorn city. I’m not saying it’s right, it’s just the way things were.”

“Did your family see Princess Celestia a lot?” Applejack asked quietly.

“Yes, they certainly did.”

“Well then perhaps you might know why the Princess allowed this sort of injustice to continue?” Applejack continued in a dangerous tone.

“Well, uh, I...she was rather preoccupied,” Twilight said, taken aback. “It took many long centuries to rebuild pony civilization after Discord. And then of course there was Nightmare Moon’s rebellion in 6014. You’ve all seen how much the Sisters care for each other. Princess Celestia was quite devastated by being forced to banish her own sister to the Moon. For a long time, she thought that the banishment was permanent, and that Princess Luna would never be freed of her curse.”

“Well even so,” Applejack insisted, pointing at the painting’s nameplate, “6760 is a long time after all of that. I remember my history teacher droning on and on about those years being a ‘Golden Age of Art and Magic’. With the only ponies making that art and magic history being unicorns.”

“Well,” countered Twilight, “there were also the foreign distractions: the Second and Third Triangular Crises, the dragon invasion of 6503, the Diamond Dog Revolution and especially the Griffish Revolution.” Somehow she managed to count all of those off on two hooves.

“And don’t forget Emperor [REDACTED]!” said Pinkie Pie in excitement. “He nearly conquered Equestria.”

“What?! Who’s Emperor [REDACTED]?” Twilight asked.

“The Griffon Emperor, silly!” replied Pinkie Pie. “He took over during the Revolution, and brought down his enemies with a never-ending rain of cupcakes!”

“Pinkie Pie, I’m sorry to correct you, but your history’s wrong,” insisted Twilight. “The Griffon Emperor you’re thinking of was Noffony I, and he was, wellll...a griffon!”

“No, he wasn’t! He was a pony!”

“He was a griffon!”


“He was a griffon,” warned a gruff voice at the other end of the room, “and I’ll deck any pony who dares to say otherwise.”

The ponies turned, to see a griffon with the blue vest of a tour guide, her back to them as she was apparently engrossed in warming her claws before the monument to Sparkle hatred for Nightingales.

Gilda?!” a shocked Rainbow Dash asked.

The griffon clicked her beak in irritation. “I suppose you call that name out to every she-griffon you run into. Turns out in this case, you’re right.” Gilda looked over her shoulder to fix them with her most surly gaze.

Rainbow glared fiercely at her, and was tensing herself up—whether to scream or attack, not even she knew for certain. But she managed to stop herself with the thought of what her friends would think, and settled instead into a false pose of “being cool.” “So,” she said facetiously, “what are you doing as a guide? Isn’t this job—?”

“Lame?” guessed Gilda as she turned to face them. “Absolutely. Didn’t have a choice, though. I knocked some ceremonial cauldron over on a fly-over, and I was forced to get a job here to pay for it.”

“Wait, the southwest tower fire was your doing?” asked Rarity. “That was my suite!”

Gilda smirked. “Yeah. Those dresses burned real good!”

Why you...!

With a calm nonchalance, Applejack fulfilled her primary job duty to her fellow Bearers, by grabbing a fellow pony’s tail and keeping her from doing something she would later regret.

“It’s interesting that you would get a job here,” Twilight observed. “Usually they want their docents to come in with an interest in Sparkle Family history. I would have taken you as more of a delivery griffon.”

Gilda drew herself up to her full height. “Miss Sparkle, you will find that I am a little smarter than I look. Not all of us jock-types are brainless, you know. Sometimes that part’s all just an act.”

Twilight wondered why the griffon was staring at Rainbow Dash while she was saying that.

“And are you a budding historian under your ‘act’, Gilda?” Rarity asked doubtfully. “A real-life Daring Do?”

Gilda snorted in derision, which for a beaked creature was quite an accomplishment. “I don’t have to study history, ponies, because my family makes history. We’ve been politicians and diplomats since the days of Duke Thunderwing. Go ask Rainbow, if you don’t believe me.”

The pegasus in question started drawing circles on the floor with one hoof. “I wasn’t really paying attention, as a matter of fact.”

“How come I’m not surprised?” Gilda said dryly.

“That one griffon friend of yours who turned a forest fire into a fire cyclone before dumping it into Lake Constance was pretty cool, though.”

Gilda squeezed the top of her beak with one claw in frustration. “That wasn’t a friend, that was my father! And he’s the chief fireffony for all of Griffonica.”

“Wait, I thought it was ‘Griffonia’?” asked Pinkie Pie.

“‘Griffonia’ before the Revolution, ‘Griffonica’ afterwards,” answered Gilda automatically in her “tour guide” voice. “Strictly speaking, it’s the Griffish Republic, but I haven’t met a pony yet who really gets what a republic is.”

“So if your ancestors were so important, I bet one of them must have served under Noffony,” said Twilight. “In that case, why does he have that name? Doesn’t it mean the same as ‘nopony’?”

“He called himself ‘Noffony’ because he considered himself an ordinary servant of the republic, and therefore replaceable,” Gilda said proudly. “Of course, he was way off in thinking that. He thought that any griffon could be emperor—”

“Or any pony,” added Pinkie.

Gilda face-palmed. “How many times do I have to tell you, the second-greatest figure in griffon history was not a pony!”

“I can prove he was a pony!” exclaimed Pinkie Pie.

In Twilight Sparkle’s mind, Pinkie’s pronouncement launched a fierce battle between Curiosity and Dread, punctuated by a mental image of the two ponifications in a foreign cemetery beside an unearthed grave, involved in an occult ritual involving “essential saltes” and a particularly nasty spell.

As usual for Twilight, Curiosity won out. “How?” she asked.

“Like this!” Pinkie cried out, pulling a hoof out from behind her back to reveal...nothing. “Oh, that’s right, all the emergency crystal balls are stashed back in Ponyville!” She dug the hoof into her mane for a second to remove a notepad and pencil. “Note to self,” she muttered as she carried out her words, “ball-proof Canterlot. Pronto.” Putting the objects back where she got them, she looked back up at the others. “I can do it tonight. Or maybe tomorrow. Depends on which house the Moon is in.”

How?” Twilight insisted.

You’ll see!” Pinkie answered in a sing-song voice.

“I gotta go back to the House of Horrors?” Gilda asked in dread.

She was of course referring to Sugarcube Corner.