• Published 13th Oct 2011
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The Quiet Place - Aynine

Twilight fights against sinister manipulations, struggling to overcome a deep-seated darkness within. As she battles to preserve everything she cares about, she will sacrifice anything necessary to succeed. But the price of victory may be herself.

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Chapter 22: The Biting Black

The Quiet Place

By: Aynine

[Disclaimer: I own nothing of the MLP franchise and all rights are reserved by Hasbro and the respective parties involved.]

Chapter 22: The Biting Black

Celestia's eyes darted around the memory's space, eventually settling on the sky as it manifested. The waxing moon was nearly full, and it shone brightly, bathing the forest in such a powerful glow that it distorted the color of the greenery. No doubt a marvel of Astra's creation. The flawless illusion built by Telos was fascinating, but she had had enough of studying it and eyed the younger Telos thoughtfully. The only substantial differences were has lack of a robe and darker disposition.

"It's never as beautiful as you," he said, stopping only a few meters from the princess.

Astra looked up and smiled. "Life. The glory in all that live deserve nothing less." She rested her gaze back on Telos, adding, "Do you agree?"

Telos nodded quickly. "Of course, Your Majesty."

Celestia gave a start when Astra groaned loudly and placed a hoof to her head. "We are alone, my dear. I do not wish to steal ourselves for the sakes of the small minded. You and I," she said, moving closer, "are alive. That is the mark of absolute liberty, and it should not be treated as anything less."

"Is it... is it truly alright, Astra?" he replied in a hush.

"I shall decree it so, my love," whispered the queen as she lowered her head to his. "And it shall be." Telos blushed as she closed her eyes. Their lips touched, and they moaned softly as she attempted to pull him closer with a foreleg.

"Tear yourself away from my sister at once, Telos!" The sage-to-be flinched and took a bounding step backward. Aurelius skidded to halt beside him and glared. "Your blood—your kind has no business with ours."

"I-it's not what you think, Aurelius!" protested Telos, holding his hooves up innocently. His demeanor betrayed his words as he fidgeted nervously.

Astra placed a hoof on her brother's shoulder and beamed once more. "Calm yourself, dear brother. There is no place beneath our heavens for your childish ignorance. I knew you would find out of our love eventually, but we do not rule nature's hand."

The prince's crimson cheeks managed to redden further with his indignity. "Sister, how can you say such a thing? We are royal blooded alicorns, the lords of our kingdom. How can you allow yourself the idea of a union with an earth pony?"

Astra's smile faded and she stared at her brother with a placid look for a long while. Somehow, it seemed to pacify him, his anger subsiding and his breathing diminishing to normal. "Telos and I are in love with one another, Aurelius. This will not change because you disagree with my wish. This is what fate has chosen for us."

Aurelius snorted. "Surely you jest, sister."

Astra shook her head, her smile reappearing. "Nay, little brother. We have been together for many moons now and I no longer wish to hide our love, fearing what others may think of it. Let them think, I say, for they do not know. Now, rejoice for your sister."

"Why an earth pony?" he asked shakily.

"Why not an earth pony?" Astra countered, her voice still gentle.

"A non-magical pony should not marry to the crown. Think of the implications! The future!"

Astra stared at him with bewilderment, but it shifted into amused regard a moment later. "My love," she said as she turned to Telos, "do you wish to rule over all that is our kingdom?"

The younger Telos nervously shook his head. "I-I don't know."

Chuckling, Astra returned her gaze to her brother. "Dear brother, the kingdom belongs to us for now, and I will outlive my lover, as you are fully aware of." Astra moved to stand beside Telos, draping a wing over him and earning a sheepish blush as he met her eyes. "Our bloodline is not eternally pure, and some day it will be diluted by the very races that you deem to be beneath us. Whether it is I who muddles it or a descendent matters not. Life exists within cycles, and so to shall the power that runs through those that succeed us. There are reasons beyond our grasp as to why our immortality is ultimately finite concept in itself. You are still young and naive, but I know that you shall one day understand that even we are not all."

The prince's eyes were wide as they stared at each other, his elder sister maintaining her reserved disposition. After a few moments he lowered his head in a solemn manner. "Forgive me, dear sister," he said in a growl, raising his head suddenly, "but your decision is an outrage to our kind!"

Astra moved to her brother, towering over him and casting a shadow upon him. She cast a dark gaze to him, and he let a shudder rattle his form. "Who are you to dictate the wishes of our ancestors and our unborn children?" She stomped her hoof. "Who are you to carry judgments to your elder!" She stomped her hoof again, the earth trembling. "You are no more than a child flaunting a crown wrought of selfishness. It is your insolence and ignorance of the world that leaves me to be the final judge of all that we preside over. Perhaps I was too hasty in granting you your birthright, but I yearned to have you stand by me as we guided all that we can towards prosperity."

"You are going mad, Astra! It is you who has lost sight of what we are, and what we must continue to be!" countered Aurelius.

Astra snarled and raised her hoof and unfurled her wings partway, but her hoof never fell back to the ground. She glowered at her younger brother. "You are unfit for your crown, Aurelius. I am hereby revoking your status as prince until a time in the future where I deem you prepared and capable of ruling in a more appropriate manner." In an instant, she was calm and composed, standing with her wings at her sides once more.

"I am unfit for the crown? You cannot take away my status. You are not a queen, Princess Astra, and you have no power or right to act as such! My word is equal to yours in power."

The princess tilted her head back and laughed. "Our subjects have titled me as queen. Do you know why? It is because I have ruled without fail while you were but a foal who wanted little more than a bed time story every night."

"Do not pretend that you can rule alone now with the uprising of—"

Astra turned and walked back to stand beside a shuddering Telos. "Then perhaps I need only pretend that I can rule alone, where you need only pretend not to at all," she said. "Control of the sun shall be mine once more. I implore you to take this time away from your duties to expand your views and gain empathy with the world. For now, the scope of both are sorely lacking. If you cannot understand every piece to our world, then how can you lay judgement fairly? Worry not, for I am not abandoning you, little brother. When I believe that you have gained the wisdom you need I shall return to you your heiracy. For that, you have my word."

"You have no—"

"This conversation has ended, Aurelius," Astra finished in a stern voice.

The former prince seethed before turning and storming away, shouting over his shoulder as he slipped into the shadows of the forest. "This is not over, Astra!"

She turned to the young Telos still shuddering by her side, and smiled. She nibbled on one of his ears and he gave a start, causing her to chuckle. "Oh, my love. Do not worry yourself with my brother's tantrum. He is no more dangerous than a mouse."

"A-are you sure? He seemed very upset."

She draped a wing over him once more and peered into the forest where Aurelius had gone. "I cannot give him the wisdom he needs. All I can do is set him on the path to find it himself. There will come a day when he will think me for what I have done here tonight." She took a deep breath and glanced up to the sky. "The evening is still young. Come, walk with me, my love."


The memory distorted briefly before vanishing, and the real Telos sat down, coughing furiously into a hoof. Taking in gasping breaths, he looked up and said, "Forgive me, Lady Celestia... but that is all that I can do... for now." The princess stared where Astra stood, lost in a daze. "Princess?"

Snapping back to reality, Celestia shook her head. "Huh, what?" she blurted. "Ah, I'm sorry. Thank you for sharing your memory, Telos. Princess Astra, your world... it was beautiful. I would have loved to see it," she finished, smiling.

"Oracle is a strange title," interjected Luna. "It would not have been long before a ceremony would have united you and Princess Astra." Luna stepped closer to the others, having been standing where the shadows of the trees in the memory would hide her. "And I see that Twilight Sparkle has returned, but what of... Nightmare Moon?" Her mouth twisted with distaste at speaking the Id's name.

"She is safe. As for my title... Astra wandered often despite her status. She felt that she should not be confined to one place and wished to be a part of her kingdom as much as possible. She felt it brought her closer to her subjects. I was very young when she passed through my home town, and I found myself... enamored with her. From then on, I chose to follow her and help spread her wisdom." Telos tugged his hood down, but not before his blush had appeared.

"So that was Soothsayer Astra, a former ruler and older sister of Aurelius." The three other ponies gasped in surprise at the voice. "And you were her lover." Twilight opened her eyes to Telos and raised herself on her forehooves, squinting to see. She scanned the room groggily, taking in the surprise of the others, but her eyes connected with Celestia's a moment longer than the rest.

Telos reset his hood and stared at her. "I see that you have already awakened, Twilight Sparkle. How are you feeling?"

"Unngh," she moaned. "Where's Trixie?" Twilight took a moment before she could raise herself to standing, and her legs threatened to buckle as she did so. She watched her wings slowly furl up before giving an answer. "I feel—" Her eyes widened suddenly, and she became fully alert, frantically throwing her head in every direction. "I-I... I can't sense Nightmare Moon!" Nightmare? Nightmare! "What happened? Where is she!?" Answer me! She froze while staring at the floor, her panic evolving into pure fear.

"Calm down, Twilight," said Celestia soothingly. "She is safe." Twilight whirled around and glared at her.

"She is perfectly fine, Archmage Sparkle, I assure you," chimed Telos.

She turned and faced him, narrowing her eyes as she recognized the sage. "I can't talk to her anymore. Where is she?" she said in a calmer voice.

"She is right,"—he procured the black Philosopher's Stone and held it in an outstretched hoof—"here. Within this gem."

Twilight stared at in awe at first, but soon her eyes widened again. "What happened?" she demanded.

"Nightmare Moon was left as the dominate soul in your body after the battle with Aurelius," explained Luna.

"Nightmare Moon was suffering from bouts of illness while you were incapacitated. I surmised that both of your souls within the same body was affecting one another. I gave her the choice of whose soul would be placed within the gem, and she chose herself."

Twilight gazed at the gem sadly. For a moment, she imagined Nightmare's face grinning back to her, and it made her grin back briefly. You did that for me...? "So... what happens now, now that we're separated? Are you going to give her back to me?"

"Twilight, that may be too dangerous," said Celestia. "We're not sure what exactly was causing Nightmare Moon's sickness."

"I'm surprised you even care, Princess," Twilight retorted as she turned around. "What, did you two become friends while I was resting?" Celestia shot her a hurt look and folded her ears back.

"Enough, Twilight," said Luna.

Telos shook his head and stood up. "I intend to have my staff rebuilt, and have Nightmare Moon's soul act as the new catalyst and spire. However, unlike my old staff you should be capable of freely communicating with her."

"Unlike?" Twilight turned once more to face the sage. "What do you mean by that? Nightmare heard it was something like a prison. I... don't really remember anything she did very good now that I can't sense her."

Telos snorted. "Forgive me, I had forgotten that much has occurred during your absence. My staff, as a whole, was mine and Aurelius's prison, with the spire being his and the shaft being mine as well as a seal. I had previously designed it so that you could not communicate with his soul, and only a part of mine could be accessible."

"And Aurelius's prison? If you're free, then..." she trailed off with worry.

Telos looked to the floor in a pause. "I am afraid that he roams free in your world as we speak."

Twilight stared at him, wide-eyed. "N-no... That's impossible! I killed him! I... killed him..." This can't be happening. "Nightmare and I, the princesses, I used Holy! How... how can he still be alive after that?" She held her hooves up in front of her, shaking as nausea flooded her stomach.

"You destroyed a piece of him, Archmage Sparkle. Alicorns are unique, and he has done terrible things to further his powers. You have no doubt diminished at least one of his facets."

Twilight shook her head and slouched. "Aurelius is free, and stronger than ever before. This is... this is my fault! If I hadn't used so much power... If I hadn't..." She buried her face in her hooves, continuing to shake her head.

"Twilight, this is no more your fault than it is mine," consoled Celestia.

"You should just speak for yourself, Princess." Twilight whirled around and shot her a heavy stare. "Can you at least do that without lying?" Celestia blinked and recoiled in herself, wincing. Her eyes watered as she gazed back apologetically. "Telos, I need Nightmare back. I need her strength." I just... need her.

"I am afraid that it must wait. I have exhausted myself enough for one day. While Aurelius's impending reinvasion looms over us he will be too weak to make an attempt for a while. His strength will return to full faster than my own, but there is time to spare. Nightmare shall be returned to you as soon as a new staff is constructed." He levitated the gem to Luna.

The moon princess nodded. "I will begin the preparations to have it reforged at once."

"There is something I wish to teach you after I have rested. I shall begin making arrangements tomorrow morning." With that, Telos and Luna left.

Twilight and Celestia watched them leave, then looked at each other. She wanted a reason to leave the princess alone besides simply hating her for the time being. Her prayers were answered when Trixie hobbled into the throne room, a large white bandage wrapping her abdomen. She winced with each step, but managed a smile when she saw Twilight.

"That bastard teleported me to the infirmary! I'm sorry I didn't get to be here when you woke up. I came as soon as they would let me go," she said.

Twilight beamed and trotted over to her, wrapping her forelegs around her. "Trixie! I was wondering where you were."

"Ye-ouch! Not so tight."

"S-sorry," Twilight said as she released her hug and giggled. "It's been... a stressful day. I'm hungry. Let's go get something to eat in the city. That is, if it's alright with you, Your Majesty." She turned to Celestia with a regarding expression.

"Yes, of course," she replied softly, maintaining her typical serene demeanor.

"Alright, then let's go," said Twilight. The magician turned and headed for the door, but Twilight stayed and threw one last glance at Celestia. She gazed back with a hurt look, and slowly reached out a hoof to her. Twilight looked to the floor before turning and leaving. You earned this.

Author's Note:

12/2/2013 - Originally one piece combined with the (new) 21, but it makes an appropriate standalone in spite of how short it is. I'm considering splitting more chapters because it's less daunting and demotivating to edit smaller increments.

I'll take a gander at my earlier chapters soon. Enjoy this (semi) double update!

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