• Published 12th Nov 2013
  • 34,477 Views, 435 Comments

The Princess of Books - anowack



Luna didn't like a novel somepony wrote about Nightmare Moon. Somehow, this is Twilight Sparkle's problem.

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Part One

Twilight Sparkle paced nervously across her bedroom, her still-unfamiliar wings fluttering wildly in distress. “Deep breaths,” she told herself, but her lungs refused to take her advice. “You can do this,” she lied to herself, hoping that repeating it would make it truth.

“Of course you can, Twilight!” Spike said. “You've done it before!” One of his claws impatiently tapped an entry on the open pages of the book the dragon held out for her inspection.

Grateful for the distraction, Twilight turned her attention back to Hirsute Lip's Omnibus Catalog Of The Mustache. “That's the one you want, Spike?” she asked.

“Definitely!” he replied. “I need a regal mustache like this one for tonight.”

Twilight Sparkle – for once in her knowledge-hungry life – had no desire to find out what made a dragon think a particular mustache was regal. Fortunately, she didn't need to know that. A half-second's purple glow and one sadly familiar spell later, the deed was done.

Spike dashed to the mirror over Twilight's dresser, twirled one curly edge, then gave a thumbs up. “See, Twilight? No problem!”

Twilight chuckled despite herself. “I wasn't worried about that, and you know that,” she said

Spike grinned unrepentantly at her, then opened her bottom dresser drawer. “I'll go get things started. You need to hurry and get dressed!” He pulled out a small brass horn, then kicked the drawer shut. When had he gotten a horn, and who was to blame, Twilight wondered, but that question was drowned out by dawning panic as the dragon raced for the door.

“Spike!” Twilight almost yelled. “Wai-” She cut off after the door shut behind her assistant.

Deafening silence filled the air as the crowd gathered in the library below that Twilight had been making herself ignore hushed itself. A few inexpert, jarringly off-tune notes played on a horn broke the sudden quiet. (A few ponies were excited enough to stamp their hooves in applause anyway.)

“Oh no,” Twilight breathed. This was actually happening. She galloped the short distance to her unmade bed, her magic snatching up her crown and depositing it on her head before she forced herself to lift the next item. The golden necklace hung before her, similar in design to Celestia's, though the gem's color was lighter to match her crown. A half-dozen enchantments woven into necklace gently pushed back against her magic's grasp.

It was a gift, of course; Twilight would never have imagined commissioning a piece like this. Rarity had presented it to her only a few hours ago, neatly ruining her half-formed plans to partially defuse this horribly embarrassing night by not dressing in formal regalia. Twilight wouldn't have bet against her timing the gift for precisely that reason. Twilight loved the white unicorn like a sister, but sometimes...

“Hear ye; hear ye!” Spike called, and Twilight jumped, reflexively lowering the necklace onto her shoulders. She was running out of time. “It is my honor to announce the opening of the inaugural Golden Oaks Court.” Twilight had resisted the suggestions of... well, everypony, to use her own name or a close substitute like Dusk in favor of using the name of her library home. “Presenting Her Royal Highness, the Princess Twilight Sparkle!”

Twilight teleported the golden shoes onto her hooves and took a deep breath. Slowly, deliberately she approached her bedroom door, opened it, and stepped outside. It took her only a few seconds to travel the familiar path to the top of the stairs, and there she stared down in dull shock at what the library's main room had transformed into.

Somepony – Rarity again, no doubt – had hung lavender curtains over all the bookshelves. A similarly colored rug covered the floor, and Twilight thought she spied her own cutie mark in its center, but she couldn't tell for certain because of all the ponies standing on top of it.

They stared back at her. So did the dozen or two pegasi hovering above them.

It wasn't everypony in Ponyville, Twilight reminded herself. They wouldn't all fit, which was why Twilight had insisted on holding this ridiculous thing here instead of at the town hall like Mayor Mare had suggested.

Besides – theoretically – anypony who had a petition for the Princess of... whatever Twilight was the Princess of, it was just Twilight's friends, and any of their friends they had chosen to invite.

The front door of the library and all the windows were open, and Twilight realized she heard the murmuring of a herd trying to be quiet through them. Twilight remembered that one of the friends she had given permission to extend invitations was Pinkie Pie.

...it probably was everypony in Ponyville out there, wasn't it? Ponyfeathers.

Standing halfway down the stairs, Spike gave another few awkward blasts of his horn, then looked expectantly back up at Twilight.

Okay. She could do this. She'd seen Celestia open her daily court hundreds of times. All she had to do was welcome everypony and thank them for coming. That wasn't hard.

“Um.... hi?” was what came – squeakily – out of her mouth. Something captured and amplified her voice, making the word echo off the wooden library walls. Twilight glanced down at the unfamiliar necklace and resisted the urge to swear. She looked back up and gave a wave of her hoof that couldn't possibly have looked as awkward as it felt. Her cheeks heated.

“Hi, Twilight!” Pinkie Pie hollered back up at her, jumping out of the crowd. She landed on a large white stallion's back.

He was the first to stamp his hoof, and shortly the sound of polite applause filled the air. Spike beckoned at Twilight, and that shook her out of her embarrassed stupor. Twilight gingerly made her way down the stairs, resisting the unthinking urge to bolt back to her room and lock the door. Spike gave her another thumbs up as she passed him, then started blowing his instrument again and following her the rest of the way down.

As she reached the bottom, the crowd shifted, clearing a path to the wall opposite the stairs. One of Twilight's kitchen chairs stood there, covered in cushions in a futile attempt to look grand. Rarity had probably run out of time and one of the others had provided the “throne” instead.

Well, she wouldn't need that anyway. Twilight made her way toward the center of the room, the other ponies quickly making way for her. She stopped there, glanced out the open door at the crowd outside, then sighed and started heading for the exit.

A surprisingly few minutes later, they were all outside, and Twilight was standing on a convenient discarded soapbox. It was a cloudy evening, but her namesake was still bright enough that it was easy to see her. “Hello, everypony,” she said the words coming more easily this time. This time, she knew to expect the boost from her necklace and spoke in a normal tone of voice, letting the words easily carry to the edges of the crowd. “Thank you all for coming.”

Standing beside Twilight, Spike raised his horn again. Twilight quickly shook her head. These ponies had already endured enough of that. The young dragon pouted, but he put the instrument away.

Twilight took another deep breath, and asked, “Does anypony have a petition to be heard at this court?” When her mentor asked the question at her Day Court, it was formality; thousands of petitioners approached her every year, and it was a rare day that somepony wasn't asked to return tomorrow for lack of time. When Twilight asked the question tonight, it was equally a formality, because who could possibly have a petition for her? Princess or not, she was still just Twilight Sparkle.

...Right?

Twilight caught movement out of the corner of her eye, and turned her head to see a grinning Applejack gently pushing another mare into the empty space that had naturally been cleared before Twilight's impromptu dais. The orange-maned mare stumbled slightly, then caught herself and – after only a brief hesitation – walked forward to stand before Twilight. Two more ponies followed her.

“Golden Harvest, you have a petition?” Twilight, surprised, asked the mare. While Twilight waited for an answer, she gave the carrot farmer's husband a polite nod and spared a smile for the unicorn filly who – after nearly bouncing across the short distance – now was hiding behind her parents' legs.

“Ah... yes, Your Highness,” Golden Harvest said, and it was actually somewhat a relief that she seemed about as nervous as Twilight was feeling. The watching crowd was quiet, but Twilight could feel every eye.

She could also feel her cheeks redden. “Please... just call me Twilight,” she said.

“Yes, Y... Twilight,” the other mare said.

There was a long silence, and Twilight finally had to ask. “Your petition?”

Golden Harvest shifted, and Twilight finally noticed the bundle secured on her back. Golden's husband moved, his horn alight, untying and lifting it, prompting a sudden wail from the contents: the final member of their family, a newborn filly. “I... we...” Golden Harvest stammered. Twilight could guess what she wanted, but it seemed best to wait for the yellow mare to collect herself and voice her request. “Could you please give her your blessing, You- Twilight?”

It wasn't an uncommon request for Princess Celestia, and Twilight had seen it made to Cadance more than once growing up. No doubt Princess Luna got her fair share again now as well. Nothing Twilight had read or heard from any of the Princesses suggested there was any real mystical effect, but the idea that an alicorn's blessing could provide some protection to a newborn foal was one that had been old before Nightmare Moon.

Twilight started to shake her head to clear it of the barely relevant digression, but thankfully stopped herself before the waiting mother could see and misinterpret the motion. She took a deep breath, and said the only thing she could. “Of course I will.”

Heart pounding in her chest, Twilight stepped down off the soapbox, her wings starting to open in nervousness before she forced them to stay still. The father floated his younger daughter closer, and after a moment to steel herself, Twilight cradled the filly in her own magic, gently taking over without a bump what the stallion released his grasp.

Twilight brought in the bundle, pushing aside the blankets to get a good look at the baby earth pony. “What is her name?” she asked quietly.

“Ah... Carrot Top,” Golden Harvest said.

Twilight wasn't able to stop herself from laughing, and the other mare looked away, embarrassed. “I'm sorry,” Twilight apologized, turning back to the newborn – who looked so much like a baby version of her mother that it wasn't hard to imagine why she'd been named after the farmer's nickname.

Twilight brought the baby even closer, and carefully extended one wing, hiding her from view. Twilight lowered her head, and the filly's wide green eyes locked onto her glowing horn. Twilight froze for a moment. For all that she'd seen Celestia give her blessing dozens of times, she'd never thought to ask what the Princess actually did.

Without any other option, Twilight just did what came naturally. She bent in, lightly kissed the baby on her forehead, and whispered, “Welcome to Equestria, Carrot Top.” The filly giggled, and Twilight couldn't help smiling as she raised her wing and floated the baby back to her father.

Golden Harvest bowed deeply. “Thank you, Your Highness.”

Twilight started to protest the title, then thought better of it, and just said, “You're welcome.” Golden Harvest bowed again, and she and her family backed away into the crowd. Twilight waited a moment, but nopony else came forward. “I guess that's it, then,” Twilight said. Everypony else kept watching her. “Um... have a good night?”

That drew laughter, and Twilight smiled despite herself. Somehow, it wasn't a surprise when Pinkie Pie jumped up out of the crowd again, landing on the same white stallion she'd stood on back in the library. “That it means it's party time!” the pink earth pony declared, punctuated by a pair of confetti explosions.

Her surprisingly undisturbed steed reared up, tiny wings flapping. “YEAH!”

A few hours after that, Twilight Sparkle was feeling much better. Things had dissolved into a more typical Pinkie party, which she'd become shockingly comfortable with in the years since her first one had sent her fleeing to her new bedroom. Most of the ponies who had come to see her embarrass herself were gone now, and Twilight and her friends were gathered near her front door as the last stragglers left. Spike, exhausted from partying, rested on Twilight's back, idly toying with his brass horn.

“Best party this week!” Pinkie declared happily. “We should do this again sometime!”

“Well, Princess Celestia and Princess Luna hold court every day,” Rarity mused.

No,” Twilight Sparkle said firmly. (Thankfully, once she'd had a moment to examine the necklace, figuring out how to turn off the voice amplification spell was easy enough.) “Once a week is more than enough.” If it hadn't been for Rarity bringing out the puppy dog eyes, she wouldn't have agreed to even that much. Well, if she was being honest, she still would have agreed to hold a court, since Princess Celestia had said it was a good idea, but she would have at least fought a little more.

Pinkie rubbed her forehooves together. “A week, huh?” she asked dangerously.

Twilight didn't want to know what her pink friend was planning. “Please don't invite the entire town again, Pinkie,” she pleaded. “That's not what I meant when I said you could invite your friends.”

“Aw,” Pinkie whined, but she was drowned out by snickering from above.

They all looked up at Rainbow Dash, perched on one of the library tree's overhanging branches. “I thought you were supposed to be the smart one, Twilight,” she said.

“That's not very nice, Rainbow Dash,” Fluttershy chided.

“But it's true,” the blue pegasus protested. “What did she think Pinkie was going to do?”

“Well... yes,” Fluttershy admitted, “but it still isn't nice to say it.”

Twilight sighed, but then she laughed a little. “Thanks, girls,” she said. “I know you all put in a lot of work for tonight, and I wasn't very... helpful.”

Spike stirred on her back. “It was almost half a tardy incident this morning,” he announced, drawing shudders from the other girls. “She was looking up the griffons' political asylum laws.”

“Go back to sleep, traitor,” Twilight muttered – not quietly enough, because her friends chuckled. Twilight gave a rueful smile. “Seriously, though. Thank you all.”

“It wasn't hardly anything,” Applejack drawled. “I am sorry for springin' Carrot To – I guess I hafta say Golden Harvest now – on you like that. I didn't even know she was thinkin' about it until she asked me if it was okay at the market this afternoon.”

Twilight shook her head. “Don't apologize. It was clearly important to her, so it's fine.” She smiled. “And it probably was good that I did at least one thing in my first court, such as it was.”

Rarity chuckled. “I think it turned out rather well myself. The reporter from Canterlot got a good look at my decorations, and all those ruffians barely had a moment to dirty them with their filthy hooves.” She shuddered in exaggerated horror.

“I guess I don't need to apologize for not using them, then,” Twilight observed. Everypony, including Rarity, laughed.

“I don't even know where you found the time to do them,” Twilight continued, “if you were working on this.” She nodded her head down at the golden necklace. “I hope you didn't spend too much money on the enchantments.”

Rarity sniffed. “I could hardly aspire to make dresses for the gentlemares of Canterlot if I couldn't manage a little enchantment with my own horn.”

“It's not just a little enchantment,” Twilight said. “Six spells, right? And I'm pretty sure one of them is a copy of my brother's shield.”

Rarity shifted. “Princess Celestia helped, I think,” Spike interjected.

Twilight stared in horror at the necklace. “That's why you went to Canterlot last week?” she asked. “Rarity, you can't just ask the Princess to -”

“She volunteered,” Spike said.

“What?”

“I had Spikey send her a letter asking what kind of spells would be useful,” Rarity explained, “and she sent one back offering to help make it.” She shifted again, grinning sheepishly. “You weren't supposed to know about it, though.”

“Rarity,” Pinkie said dangerously.

“It wasn't a Pinkie Promise!” Rarity said quickly, and Twilight laughed despite herself.

“I guess I should get going,” Rainbow Dash said. “Weather team's got a thunderstorm planned for tonight that we had to put off for this. Are you going to be able to get home in time, Fluttershy?”

The yellow pegasus made a quiet noise.

“You can use my spare bed,” Twilight offered. “Make it a sleepover.”

Rarity and Applejack traded smiles. “Be careful not to knock any trees through Twilight's windows this time,” Applejack warned Rainbow.

That was when Spike started to cough, sparks of green flame swirling around his mouth. He quickly turned aside to avoid burning anypony, and let loose a brief fiery burst. The bright flames condensed into a scroll, which Twilight quickly caught.

Twilight unwrapped the scroll with her magic. “It's a letter from Princess Celestia,” she said unnecessarily. It took her but a moment to read it, and it made her frown.

“What's it say?” Fluttershy asked.

“I'm sorry,” Twilight said.

“For what?” Applejack said.

“No, that's what it says.” Twilight turned the letter around so her friends could see. The two words were clearly Celestia's writing, though hurried and sloppy. Twilight shivered, and not from the wind. “Spike, maybe you should go grab the Elements just in case.” Her hoof reached up to touch her crown, secure on her head.

Spike jumped off her back, saluted, and raced into the library. A burst of thunder covered the noise of the door slamming shut behind him.

Rainbow Dash launched off of her branch, wings beating wildly. “We're not supposed to start until everypony had a chance to get home!” she said, flying a little higher. “Thunderlane!” she roared. “If that's you I'm going to -”

There was another thunderous noise, and the bank of waiting stormclouds on the eastern horizon scattered, revealing the newly risen moon. The sudden bright light was blinding, and Twilight raised a leg to cover her eyes.

When she lowered it, Princess Luna stood before her. “Twilight Sparkle!” the larger alicorn proclaimed, loud enough that half of Ponyville probably heard. Fluttershy jumped up high enough that she was briefly eye to eye with Rainbow Dash.

“Hi, Princess Luna!” Pinkie Pie exclaimed. “I saved you some cake!”

Luna, perhaps wisely, ignored the earth pony. “I hope I am not too late to present my petition to your Dusk Court!

“Golden Oaks Court,” Twilight protested unthinkingly. Why did everypony think she'd name her court after herself? It wasn't like there was a “Celestia Court” or a “Luna Court.” And whatever she was Princess of, it wasn't going to be twilight. The Princess of Magic had a nice ring to it, she thought.

You have a petition, Princess?” Applejack asked. Behind her, Fluttershy slowly settled to ground. “Can't you just grant yourself whatever you want?”

“My sister decreed this a matter for the Princess of Books to decide.”

“The... the Princess of B... books?” Twilight sputtered. That was going to be her portfolio? Day, Night, Love, and Books?

The library door swung open, revealing Spike carrying five small necklaces. “I got them!” Luna glanced down at the dragon, then took a careful step back.

Rarity glanced between the two princesses. “Maybe we should take this inside?” she suggested.

“That... sounds like a good idea,” Twilight said weakly.

A few moments later, they were all indoors. Princess Luna took in the decorations and nodded. “Very nice,” she proclaimed.

“Thank you,” Rarity said.

Twilight just sighed. “All right. What's this about, Princess?”

“Yes,” Luna said. Her dark-colored magic swirled, revealing a thin, blue book. “I demand that this trash be dealt with appropriately.”

Twilight Sparkle could feel a headache coming on. “Trash?”

“This so-called novel is treasonous sedition,” Luna explained.

Yes, that was definitely a headache. “And?” Twilight asked. Not that she really wanted to know the answer.

Luna stared at her blankly. “That is what Celestia said at first as well,” she said. “It is treason. All the copies should be burnt and the author put to death. What makes this complicated?”

Twilight desperately looked to her friends for help.

“Ah, Princess,” Applejack said after a moment. “I don't think you can just declare a book treason and execute the author.”

“Yes, yes,” Luna said. “My sister explained. As the matter falls under her domain, it is Twilight Sparkle's privilege to make the appropriate decree.”

Everypony looked at her and Twilight groaned. It was way too late to deal with this right now. “No, Princess.” Luna looked at her quizzically. What did she expect? Freedom of speech had been a bedrock principle of Equestrian law since at least the eighth century... after Nightmare Moon's banishment, Twilight realized with a sinking feeling.

“What is wrong, Twilight Sparkle?” Luna asked, and Twilight groaned again.

Right now, she just wanted this problem to go away. “Look, I'm not going to... to make any decrees about a book I haven't read, before I've heard the author's defense.” Not as though that defense would be very complicated in any modern court of law.

There is no defense for -

“Um... excuse me?” Fluttershy interrupted, hovering nervously a short distance above the furious princess.

What?”

“This... this is Twilight's court? So... I think maybe she gets to decide what the rules are... if that's not a problem?”

Princess Luna stared at her. “You are quite correct, Fluttershy,” she said after a moment. She turned to Twilight. “I apologize, Princess,” she said, bowing very slightly.

Twilight raised her hoof to her forehead. This headache just wasn't going away. “Look... just give me the book and come back next week, all right, Princess?”

Luna hesitated, then – her face grim – she sent the slim volume over to Twilight. She took it, and glanced at the cover briefly. The only writing was the title – Nightmare Moon – in cursive silver letters.

Twilight thought she had a guess at why Luna was so angry. She handed the book off to Spike. “Look, Princess. I understand that you're upset, but it's not fair to make any decision on one pony's word, even if that pony is a Princess. All right?”

Luna paused. “Very well. I understand. I shall return to see justice done next week.” The moon shone brightly through an open window, and when the silver light faded the Princess of the Night was gone.

Twilight let out a quiet moan. She staggered over to the cushioned “throne” and collapsed into it. “Oh, horseapples.”

“You okay, Twilight?” Applejack asked worriedly.

“What do you think?” She now had a week to figure out how she was going to explain to Luna that there was no way somepony could be executed for writing a book that said mean things about her. She groaned again. “Thank you for the save, Fluttershy.” The yellow pegasus just rubbed her hooves nervously.

“What is this book, anyway?” Rainbow Dash asked, flying over to Spike. The dragon held it up for her inspection. “Eh, looks boring,” she said. “Look, the rest of the weather team is waiting on me. Are we cool?”

Twilight sighed. “No,” she said, “but nothing's going to happen tonight.”

Rainbow nodded. “Okay; see ya tomorrow.” She was out the window.

“I should get going too,” Applejack said. “Applebuck Season is starting up, and we have to get ready.”

“You can all go,” Twilight said. “Thanks for all your help tonight, again.”

Thunder rolled in the distance. “Uh... can I still -” Fluttershy began.

“Of course,” Twilight said. “Spike, fetch the covers for the spare bed, please.”

“Okay,” the baby dragon agreed.

“Actually... wait just a moment,” Twilight said. He stopped dead. “Spike, take a letter for Princess Celestia.”

“You got it!” Spike said eagerly, racing off and returning in a moment with a scroll and quill. “Ready!”

“You'd better be,” Twilight dictated.

Spike waited expectantly.

“That's the message,” Twilight said. “Send it.”

Author's Note:

Here we go again! My thanks go to everyone at Space Battles who commented on the draft and to the gang at Rpg.Net for their encouragement on the idea.

There will be three parts to this story, unless I change my mind again about how to split it up. I'll be publishing the rest of the story over the next few days, so keep an eye out for them!