• Published 23rd Nov 2013
  • 4,148 Views, 190 Comments

A Kingdom Divided - Samey90



For many years, Elements of Harmony were responsible for keeping peace in Equestria. But sometimes, magic of friendship is not enough...

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1. Intro - Twilight Sparkle

Any kingdom divided against itself is laid waste; and any city or house divided against itself will not stand.
Matthew 12:25


Twilight gulped. Ever since she’d moved to Ponyville, she had been starting to feel more comfortable around large crowds of ponies; this time though, it wasn’t a friendly bunch of the small town inhabitants, but an angry mob, mostly consisting of muscular earth ponies, along with some donkeys and a few mules.

Behind them, several Royal Guards were visible, guarding a gate to an old brick building with a large chimney. A similar squad was surrounding the podium she was standing on.

She inhaled deeply. The air smelled of red hot iron and smoke, drying her throat immediately and leaving a bitter aftertaste.

"Listen, everypony!" she tried to shout over the murmuring of the crowd but with hardly any effect. "Prince Blueblood decided to reconsider the group layoffs…"

Suddenly, the crowd was silent, except for one pony, who climbed on his companion’s back, and shouted, "Why did he send you here, instead of talking with us himself?"

"He doesn’t want to talk to filthy mud ponies!" another pony answered him, and the crowd started to laugh.

"He said that he’s going to make redundant only twenty percent of the workers…" Twilight said, hoping that it’d be enough to appease them; however all she heard were angry mumblings.

"Listen! If he doesn’t reduce the amount of workers, the factory will have to be closed!" she shouted, but it only made matters worse.

"The Princesses are with Blueblood!" somepony shouted.

"Royalty always sticks together!"

"He lives in a fucking palace while we break our balls just to earn a few bits!"

Several eggs and rotten tomatoes flew in Twilight’s direction, splashing against the transparent magic shield she had conjured. Some of the ponies rushed towards the Royal Guards.
Somewhere in the back of the crowd, several ponies set an effigy of Prince Blueblood on fire, while a group of mules started to chant Princess Luna’s name.

The unicorn guards started to conjure their own shields, as more eggs flung in their direction. Bricks and cobblestones were bouncing off, often hitting the ponies standing in the front rows, but it only angered them more; they rushed to the guards, trying to break through the shields. Twilight saw in horror that one of them panicked and fired a magic beam at one of the protesters, rendering him unconscious.

Seeing their companion fall down, the workers gave out a collective outcry, a large mass of their bodies ramming into the guards. Some of the magical shields failed, popping like bubbles, as the guards inside immediately overwhelmed by the ponies.

Twilight felt the blood freezing in her veins and staggered, hyperventilating. She lowered her horn, aiming at the mob, but then remembered what happened just a minute ago.

The crowd was like a wild beast. The most she could do with her magic would barely scratch it. Incapacitating one pony was only maddening the others, wounding the beast, provoking it to attack.

She took a quick glance at the situation before her. Guards, many of them bloodied, were tightening the circle around her, shielding her from the angry workers. A rain of bricks and stones were ricocheting off her shield.

“Permission to fire a warning shot?” the captain of the Royal Guard asked, hiding behind the field of her magic. His own reservoir was almost completely depleted.

She almost nodded her head, but stopped abruptly. It just didn’t feel right. As a princess, she should protect her subjects, not shoot at them. Even if they were just warning shots.

“No!” she shouted. “There must be other way!”

“There’s too many of them!”

“Wait!” She looked around, trying to focus. “Think, Twilight… When you fight a beast, you need a…”

"What are you doing, Princess!?" a captain of the Royal Guard shouted, watching as she spread her wings.

“Distraction!” Twilight took off, flying above the protesters. They noticed that, throwing everything they could find at her. Her shield faltered slightly – she wasn’t used to keeping it up for so long, and was now at the verge of exhaustion. Flapping her wings as hard as she could, she was dragging the crowd away from the guards, who started retreating to the factory.

With a sound resembling a popping balloon, her shield gave up. An egg splashed on her wing, and a large chunk of cobblestone missed her head only by few feet. Focusing every bit of the magical energy still present in her body she quickly teleported away.
She could still feel the bitter taste in her mouth when she appeared in the Royal Guard station and collapsed on the floor in a rather ungraceful way, panting heavily. She felt that it wasn’t only the air’s fault.

***

"So, how was Detrot?" Rainbow Dash asked. They were sitting in a library, drinking tea with Applejack.

"Bad. They heard about Princess Luna, and didn’t want to listen to me," Twilight replied.

“Well, Ah think she's right,” Applejack said. “Ah can hardly find clients for apples this year, and taxes can’t pay themselves. Y’all like it or not, sugarcube, there’s a problem with Equestria magic just can’t solve.”

"Yes, but Luna didn’t have to publicly announce that her sister doesn’t know how to deal with the crisis!"

"She didn’t say that," Rainbow Dash interjected.

"But that’s how they heard it! Since Luna returned, ponies have been considering them as royal sisters, the unity, almost goddesses. Now they see them arguing, and they're starting to think–"

"That they’re just normal ponies? Ah can’t see why it’s a bad thing," said Applejack.

Twilight opened her mouth to say something, but Spike, who had just entered the room, interrupted her.

"Speaking of being blunt…” he lifted a newspaper. The headline on the first page stated: “Princess Twilight Sparkle: ‘If you don’t stop your protest, we’ll close the factory’."

"Hey, I didn’t say that!"

"But that’s how they heard it," Rainbow Dash deadpanned. “You're lucky they weren’t pegasi: it’s not safe to be in Cloudsdale these days, some of them have started carrying guns around…"

"Can anypony explain to me why most of the protests happen in towns such as Detrot, Fillydelphia, Manehattan, and Cloudsdale while ponies in Ponyville are still calm as usual?" Spike asked.

"It’s simple: they’re industrial towns,” Twilight replied. “Due to the latest developments in new technology less ponies are needed to work in the factories; and factory owners, like Prince Blueblood, want to cut costs. Cloudsdale is a bit different, as it’s not focused solely on industry, so the group of dissatisfied ponies is smaller than in other towns. Still, the scale of those protests is surprisingly big – especially for such a peaceful nation as Equestria."

"Yeah, but when I was in Cloudsdale recently, there was also a crowd of ponies that were angry at the disgruntled factory workers. Another group of ponies afraid of those two groups just want to protect their families from them," Rainbow Dash added. "Pegasi are always a bit short-fused."

"Exactly. This is like a barrel of gunpowder, and Princess Luna saying 'Celestia spends too much time with ponies from Canterlot,' set it off," said Twilight.

"Yeah, right." Spike nodded. “But I don’t get why some of them say that the current diarchy is bad, while others want Princess Luna to be their leader?"

"You see, the protesting ponies aren’t a single group: some of them are anarchists, some of them didn’t learn their lesson from the fall of the Hooviet Union, and some of them don’t mind the diarchy, they just want the jobs," Twilight explained.

“Well, some of them aren’t even ponies.” Applejack said. “There are more mules and donkeys in Equestria than ever, but Ah have a feeling that ponies in Canterlot prefer not to see them. Ah meet ‘em all the time when Ah’m checking on competitions. They’re good farmers, but the way they’re sometimes treated...”

“Same with the bat ponies,” Rainbow Dash nodded. “A year ago there wasn’t a single bat pony in Cloudsdale, now there’s about a hundred, and new ones are coming every day. Some pegasi are afraid that they’ll take their jobs...” She shook her head.

“Yeah, what’s up with the bat ponies?” Spike asked. “Why have so many of them moved to Equestria recently?”

“Well, at first it was just Luna’s Guard members and their families,” Twilight explained, sipping her tea. “Their ranks expanded since they were tasked with fighting changelings on the south… You know, they see in the darkness better and are more agile than the regular pegasi, so it’s easier for them to fight in caves. But there are also former mercenaries who used to fight for griffons and later decided to settle in Equestria, mostly around Manehattan and Fillydelphia.”

“Yeah, they’re weird,” Rainbow Dash said. “I saw those guys once. Scars, tribal tattoos... Most of them speak only Pferdisch… And some ponies think that all of them are like that.”

Twilight sighed, remembering what she’d witnessed in Detrot. At first, the protesters had been clearly separated, ponies forming one group, donkeys and mules forming another one. Yet, as soon as they attacked her, they stopped caring about the differences between them, turning to their new target – her.

Apparently, she thought bitterly, the royalty really helps to maintain unity in Equestria...

***

A bolt of lightning tore through the sky, and a distant roar of thunder caused the ponies gathered inside the pub to frown and take another sip of their beverages. It was a week since Twilight Sparkle was attacked by the protesters in Detrot, but it was still a topic heavily discussed among the patrons.

The door opened, and Rainbow Dash entered the wooden building, shaking the water off her. The patrons looked at her and began exchanging nasty whispers, staring at her from time to time, as she was walking to the bar.

"Double whisky for me," she said dejectedly.

"Hard times, huh?" Berry Punch asked. "For you it’s on the house, but you’d better leave quickly. Other ponies might get stupid ideas…" she added, whispering.

"What kind of stupid ideas?" Rainbow Dash asked.

"The kind they usually get when it’s a storm when there was a sunny day scheduled, and a pegasus from the weather team shows up in a pub. It’s not a problem for me, I have more clients, but they’re not really happy about that…"

"Hey, that’s not my fault!" Rainbow Dash snapped. The patrons lifted their heads, and listened quietly. “There’s a fucking riot in Cloudsdale! Fuck, it’s a regular war! When I came to work today, everypony were either trying to contact their relatives, or were in Cloudsdale themselves!" She downed her glass of whisky, and sat on a bar stool. “Another one, please," she said.

***

It was unusual for Twilight Sparkle to throw the newspapers away without reading them, but recently she had been only skimming through the headlines before tossing the papers on a large pile next to her front door. "Riots in Cloudsdale claim at least ten lives," she read, “Angry mob occupies Prince Blueblood’s mansion – Royal Guard protecting the site."

"Yeah, and the icing on a cake," Spike said, entering the library with a copy of Canterlot Times in his hand, “Princess Luna moved out of the palace in Canterlot, saying that she can no longer live with somepony who exploits other ponies…"

"What?" Twilight flapped her wings. “She really said that?"

"Yes. She moved to their old castle in the Everfree."

“That’s strange…” Twilight muttered to herself. Her mind started to work faster.

"Castle in the Everfree… disagreeing with Celestia… all those bat ponies suddenly moving to Equestria...” Twilight looked at Spike nervously. "I’m afraid that it might be like what happened a thousand years ago…”

“Impossible!” Spike exclaimed. “She’s no longer Nightmare Moon, right? You purged the nightmare from her with the Elements…”

“That’s why I’m not sure about this theory…” Twilight began pacing around the library. “Can the nightmare come back?”

“Well, I have no idea…” Spike shrugged.

“Let’s think for a moment…” Twilight muttered, mostly to herself. “If it was hypothetically true… What would be the cause?”

“Well, first it was Luna’s ambition…” Spike said slowly, not sure where it was going. “But I guess now it’s not the case. The cause lies here.” He poked a stack of unread newspapers in front of Twilight. “No magic. No Nightmare Moon. Just a group of ponies who hope that Princess Luna is able to help them.”

“Ambition…” Twilight muttered. A picture of the angry mob appeared in her memory again, making her shudder. “She could feel the desire to overthrow Princess Celestia, knowing that there are ponies who’d follow her…”

“Chill out, Twilight,” Spike replied, “You definitely think too much. Remember Smarty Pants? Overthinking again. There could be many reasons, not just ancient magic. I bet the Princesses will manage to resolve that in a week or two.”

“What if they don’t?” Twilight sat on her haunches. “We can just go there, try to talk… Take the Elements, just in case…”

"Twilight, wait,” Spike sighed, "I don’t think this will help... Besides, Rarity is still in Canterlot."

"What’s she doing there?" Twilight scratched her head.

"Geez, Twi, you really need to go out more. She’s now in charge of designing new uniforms for the Equestrian Army so she spends lots of time there, with Fancy Pants." He gritted his teeth as he said the noble’s name. "Oh, and I almost forgot, Rainbow Dash isn’t going to help you either – she’s sleeping on a cloud near Sweet Apple Acres. When I said 'hi' to her, she told me to stop shouting and fu– I mean, go away. I guess she visited Berry Punch yesterday…"

"Who did?" They heard a familiar, melodic voice.

"Rarity!" Twilight exclaimed, running to the white unicorn who had just entered the library. "Good to see you! Now, we have to get Rainbow Dash, Pinkie, Applejack, and Fluttershy, and go to the Everfree…"

"Twilight, darling, not so fast!" Rarity shouted. "Can anypony explain to me what’s going on? I came back from Canterlot when I heard that atrocious news about…"

"We know, we read the newspapers here too…" Twilight sighed.

"No, not the news those despicable tabloids write about." Rarity leaned towards her. “Fancy Pants told me that they were trying to send the soldiers from a local garrison to stop the protests in Manehattan from escalating, but the officers refused to fulfill those orders."

"They didn’t want a second Cloudsdale, that’s understandable."

"Yes, but that’s not even the worst part! The mayor also supports the protesters and said that the town is not going to obey orders from Canterlot anymore! And similar things are happening in Detrot and Fillydelphia!"

Twilight sat on her haunches, feeling dizzy.

“So, can you explain me what’s going on?” Rarity broke the uncomfortable silence.

“Twilight thinks that Luna transformed into Nightmare Moon again,” Spike explained.

“No, I don’t!” Twilight replied, glaring at him angrily. “I just… I just can’t rule this possibility out. I wanted to go to Luna, try to mediate…”

Rarity stared at her blankly.

“Please Rarity, help me. If the towns rebel, we’ll need both Princesses to resolve that situation…”

Rarity thought for a moment.

“Okay, darling,” she said, “let’s go and gather the girls.”

***

The sun was high above the horizon. The six ponies walked through the forest, barely talking to each other, intimidated by the Everfree’s grim atmosphere. Only Pinkie Pie didn’t seem to care, jumping up and down as usual. Fluttershy was keeping close to Rarity, looking nervously around. Applejack was frowning – it took Twilight long to convince her to go with them.

“Ah don’t think we should go there with the Elements,” she said. “It’s like going to negotiate a peace treaty with a loaded gun, sugarcube.”

“Luna doesn’t need to know that we have them,” Twilight replied. “If everything turns out good, we won’t even take them out of my saddlebags.”

Applejack grunted. They stopped on some small clearing, waiting for Rainbow Dash who had to excuse herself for a moment. For a second time since they entered the forst.

"Geez, my head," moaned the pegasus, emerging from the bushes. She spat on the ground and wiped her mouth. Instead of flying, she was trotting through the Everfree along with her friends.

"Poor Dashie," Pinkie cooed. "Do you want a cupcake?"

"No, thanks, I’d rather not give my stomach any more ammo…" she groaned. Twilight looked at them and sighed.

"Can you two focus? We’re walking through the Everfree, who knows what awaits us on the way…"

"I’ll focus... when you find a spell to cure my hangover."

"There's one potion." Twilight saw Rainbow Dash's eyes open wide, reflecting a hopeful expression akin to a puppy's eyes. "It’s called ‘water’, and you should drink it instead of alcohol."

Rainbow Dash’s ears drooped. Fluttershy patted her head with her wing, causing her to hiss.

"That’s strange," Rarity said, after they had walked few more miles, "I don’t remember the Everfree being so calm. No manticores, no fabulous sea serpents…"

"Let sleeping diamond dogs lie, sugarcube," Applejack said. "We’re almost there."

"Good morning," said a bat pony, who suddenly appeared in front of them, hanging upside-down from the branch. Rarity jumped away, charging her horn to attack.

"I told ya not to scare dem," said another bat pony, who was sitting on a tree.

"Who are you?" Twilight asked.

"We are Princess Luna’s Royal Guards," said the first one with a melodic accent. "My name is Gwyfyn, and this is Tyluan. We’re sorry to inform ya that ya cannot pass. Have a nice day."

"Why can’t we pass?" Twilight asked.

"Restricted military area, filly," said Tyluan. “Princess Luna’s orders were clear: nopony can enter the area within a one-mile radius from her old castle.”

"How about–"

"Especially alicorns."

"Umm… maybe we should go, Twilight?" Fluttershy asked.

"No way!" Rainbow Dash exclaimed, wincing and gritting her teeth when her head started to ache again. "How about kicking–"

"No, Dash." Rarity approached the bat ponies. "We were officially sent by Princess Celestia to negotiate with her sister. We are unarmed, and we won’t try any tricks during our stay here. Lead us to the Princess please."

"I don’t know…” Gwyfyn rubbed his chin. "What do you think?"

"They’re unarmed mares. One of them looks as if she wants to run away from here, and one of them is clearly sick. You know what they taught me back in Cymru?" Tyluan asked his companion.

“What, mate?”

“Treat everypony, especially the injured, sick, unarmed and cowardly like they had a cannon on some spring-loaded contraption that shoots out of their flanks.”

“Wise rule.” Gwyfyn nodded. “So, we’ll have to take a look?”

Tyluan shook his head and turned to Twilight.

“Your saddlebags please.”

Twilight obeyed, levitating her saddlebags to him. Meanwhile, Gwyfyn moved to Pinkie, looking conspicuously at her mane.

“Are you jewellery vendors?” Tyluan asked, fishing the Element of Magic out of the saddlebags.

“No, we want to talk to Princess Luna. She’ll know what this is.” Twilight sighed.

“What the–” they heard Gwyfyn’s surprised gasp.

“Did ya find something?” Tyluan asked.

“A toothless alligator, five balloons, and, surprisingly, a cannon. But it only shoots confetti.”

Tyluan facehoofed.

Further search revealed only Applejack’s lasso and a couple of gems Rarity kept in her purse, along with a spare needle.

“We’ll take care of that,” Tyluan said, “and we’ll show this trumpery to the Princess.”

When the two bat ponies took off to escort them to the castle, Pinkie leaned closer to Rarity and whispered, "Do you have any plan or are we just going to go fully Rainbow Dash on this?"

"We’ll see," Rarity replied, ignoring Rainbow Dash’s weak protests.

"Ah don’t like it," Applejack said quietly. "They seem… normal. Don’t y’all think that if Princess Luna was Nightmare Moon, they’d attack us?"

"Definitely," Twilight muttered. “But it only makes everything easier. It’ll be diplomatic mission.”

They reached the large clearing, filled with numerous bat ponies who were cutting the trees down. Some of them were smaller, appearing similar to Gwyffyn and Tyluan. Others were much bulkier and often covered in scars. They wore navy blue flying suits and goggles.

"What are they doing?" Fluttershy asked.

"Well, there goes diplomacy. An airport in the middle of the Everfree," Rainbow Dash replied, pointing to a black, cigar-shaped balloon standing in the middle of the clearing. "It’s a blimp. They produce them in Manehattan, along with bigger airships."

"A blimp?" Pinkie asked.

"Non-rigid airship," Twilight explained.

"Yeah, what she said," Rainbow Dash nodded.

Pinkie was still eyeing the airship curiously. "It’s like a party balloon," she said, "For a really big party…"

***

"Twilight Sparkle!" Princess Luna trotted towards them from across the hallway of the old castle. "What are you doing here?"

"Your sister sent us to talk with you," said Twilight, deciding to go on with Rarity’s excuse, despite Applejack’s cautionary hissing. She noticed that the Princess looked fairly normal: she had no armour, and her coat was its usual dark blue colour. Another good sign.

"Why didn’t she come to us herself?" Luna asked. "There are a lot of things we would want to discuss with her…"

"Like all those bat ponies behind the window?" Rainbow Dash snapped, taking off and flying to Luna, “What are they doing here? Preparing for an invasion?"

"They’re here to protect the ponies. It’s just a precaution."

"Protect them from what?"

"Thou might be loyal to our sister, my little pony,” Luna said, “But you let the loyalty blind you – in Cloudsdale, a group of aggressive pegasi claiming to be Celestia’s faithful subjects massacred the innocent ponies fighting for their jobs.”

“Strange,” Rainbow Dash muttered, “I heard something different…”

“And in Fillydelphia Royal Guards are attacking unarmed ponies… We had to do something! Either my sister can’t control her guards anymore or she really ordered them to do that."

“Princess, your ‘innocent ponies’ wanted to kill me last week!” Twilight exclaimed, at the verge of bursting into tears. “You two should support each other instead of gathering armies…”

"We only do that to protect our subjects from my sister, who, apparently became a tool in the hooves of the nobles who’d still reach for bits even after Equestria becomes a lifeless wasteland in the process! We’ll protect them even if it means war!"

"War isn’t the solution! It will only bring more suffering!" To everypony’s shock, the outburst came from Fluttershy. She blushed, drooping her head.

"Thou are actually right," Luna calmly admitted, “but we have been informed that my sister has just sent another thousand of Royal Guards to Fillydelphia. ‘Tis not I who wants war here."

"Princess Celestia doesn’t want it either,” said Twilight. “That’s why she sent us here."

“With the Elements of Harmony?” Luna asked, staring at her coldly. “As you expected, we recognized them immediately. Really, my sister thinks we’re Nightmare Moon again?”

“Told ya,” Applejack whispered to Twilight, who gulped, stepping forward.

“Actually, it was my theory…” she said quietly.

"TREASON!" Luna shouted. Twilight lifted her head to see that they were now surrounded by at least a hundred gun-wielding bat ponies, all separating them from Princess Luna. Applejack was trying to cover Fluttershy, who was cowering on the ground and hiding her face in her hooves.

Rainbow Dash and Pinkie were standing close to the bat ponies, ready to fight. Rarity, paler than usual, was also looking at the enemies with an expression of pure contempt.

"Thou…" Luna’s voice was shaking with rage, "Thou really thought we were Nightmare Moon again? Twilight Sparkle, thou truly are my sister’s most faithful student… Her obedient, lacking-in-will pet!" she spat the words with disdain.

“I didn’t… I was only trying to help…”

“We’ve never expected thee to think so low of me,” Luna said, a bit calmer. “We are also trying to help.” She turned to her guards. “Escort them to the edge of the Everfree forest. Then you can give them the Elements back.”

Her eyes again met Twilight’s. "We are sorry Twilight, but we can’t just sit back and idly watch our sister lead Equestria to annihilation."

***

The group of friends barely spoke on the way back to Ponyville. As soon as the guards departed, Fluttershy had rushed to her cottage. Rainbow Dash muttered something about the hair of the dog, but eventually decided to go to Sugarcube Corner with Pinkie.

"I think I’ll write a letter to Princess Celestia,” Twilight said to Applejack and Rarity.

The fashionista nodded, while Applejack said, "Ah’ve been trying to tell ya this wouldn’t end well."

She shook her head and headed back to Sweet Apple Acres.

***

When she came back to the library she collapsed on her bed. Twilight suddenly understood Rainbow Dash’s tendency to drown her sorrows. After the last attempt at diplomacy and the ultimate failure, she could only look at her reflection in the mirror and admit her defeat. Her gazed drifted to the drawer where she kept a bottle of wine. A tipple was tempting her, but she decided to call Spike instead, and began dictating to him a letter.

Dear Princess Celestia,

We just came back from Luna’s castle. We were trying to talk to her, but unfortunately only made matters worse in doing so.

There is a large group of armed bat ponies in the Everfree, and your sister will probably send them to Detrot, Manehattan and Fillydelphia to, as she said, “protect her subjects from you.”
She also has access to at least one airship, and I’m afraid that she’s determined to fight with you, no matter what the consequences of her actions may be.

I'm sorry Princess, it looks like I have failed you yet again.

Your Faithful Student,
Twilight Sparkle

She finished the letter and watched her assistant sending it. The reply was almost immediate.

Dear Twilight Sparkle,

I want you and your friends to come to Canterlot as soon as possible. If what you’re saying is true, we have to prepare for the worst.

~Princess Celestia

Twilight sighed, and rushed from the library to find the rest of the Elements. It wasn’t a long trip; all of them, except for Applejack, were sitting in the Sugarcube Corner, looking almost as defeated as Twilight felt. The other patrons were also grim. Ponyville was close to Luna’s headquarters, and the Mayor considered evacuating the whole town.

"I’ve received a letter from the Princess," said Twilight. Several ponies turned their heads to her. She spotted Lyra Heartstrings, trembling visibly, ready to burst into tears at any moment.

"We have to find Applejack and get to Canterlot."

"Great!" Rainbow Dash exclaimed. “I guess we’ll have to kick some flanks, instead of all that magic and diplomacy–"

"Rainbow Dash!" Twilight scolded. "Remember that they’re ponies too, and, even if Luna’s means are wrong, she is at least partially right."

"What? She called you ‘Celestia’s pet’, and you think she’s right?"

"Partially right," Twilight clarified. "Now go and find Applejack."

"Yes, ma’am." Rainbow Dash mockingly saluted and flew out of the window.

"I don’t want to go," Fluttershy said silently. "What will happen to my animals? And I don’t want to hurt any other ponies."

"Don’t worry, none of us want it to end that way," said Twilight. "I still hope that we’ll be able to solve it quickly."

"What if we won’t?" asked Rarity. "We already tried. She’s not Nightmare Moon, magic won’t help here…"

"We’ll see," said Twilight, gritting her teeth. After Rarity’s fateful lie about a diplomatic mission, and considering the fact that she was indirectly working for the Equestrian Army, she had a hard time believing in her peaceful intentions.

Pinkie trotted to them, bringing a tray of cupcakes.

"Let’s not go to Canterlot, ‘tis a silly place," she said. "We are needed here, to help the ponies in Ponyville. And what can we do about Nightmare Moon when she’s not Nightmare Moon, but good old Princess Luna, who went cuckoo and now wants to drop some bombs on her sister’s head?"

Twilight decided not to think about that too hard.

***

“So, you’re trying to say that bringing the Elements was wrong, but gathering a fucking army is okay?” Rainbow Dash waved her hoof at Applejack.

“No, Ah think it’s all wrong. We should try to talk with her one more time, this time without the Elements, without Twi trying to help, just the Princesses…” Applejack rolled her eyes.

“It’s too late!” Rainbow Dash snapped, “Detrot, Manehattan, and Fillydelphia are against us! Cloudsdale… I have friends there, some of them might be dead… Somepony has to pay for that!”

"Dash! Applejack!" Twilight hissed. They were standing in front of the large carved door leading to the throne hall. The argument between the pegasus and farm pony was getting a bit too loud, and was attracting the Royal Guards.

The door finally opened.

"Welcome, Twilight," Princess Celestia greeted her when they met in the throne hall. She stood on a balcony, staring up at the sky with a melancholy look on her face.

There was something wrong about it – when they were on the train to Canterlot, the sun had already been setting, and the moon was visible. It should have already been night when they arrived, but nothing had changed; the sky was still red, and the capital of Equestria was bathing in the rays of the sun, reflecting off of the shiny copper slates.

"It stopped," remarked Celestia casually, turning her gaze at Twilight and her friends.

Twilight cleared her throat, not sure what to say about that."What stopped, Princess?" she asked.

"The Moon. Just like a thousand years ago. I guess my sister is trying to tell me that she’s not joking. It’s partially boasting, partially saving her magical powers."

"Can you do something about that?”

"I have no power over the Moon," Celestia replied. "The only thing I could do was to also stop the Sun, leaving the world in state of…"

"…Permanent twilight!" Pinkie interrupted her. Twilight blushed furiously, hearing her friend’s laughter, soon followed by Rainbow Dash’s cackling. Celestia furrowed her brow, causing both ponies to stop abruptly.

"I gathered you here," said the Princess, her tone a bit higher, "because you’re the only ponies I can trust now, as my sister and many of my officers have betrayed me. Yes, even the army in Detrot, Manehattan, and Fillydelphia joined my sister. Twilight, when you said you had read every book in both Canterlot and Ponyville’s libraries, you weren’t exaggerating?"

"Of course not," said Twilight.

"Have you also read the books on strategy?"

"Yes, I’ve read The Art of War,” Twilight started to speak very quickly, “Unicorns In Modern Warfare, The Most Popular Battle Spells, The Pegasi Guide to Aerial Combat…"

"That’s enough,” Celestia interrupted her student, "I, therefore, declare you a Commander in Chief of the newly formed Army of the Sun.”

“M-me? But I have no experience and–”

“Fear not, my faithful student. My advisors will be there to help you. I also need to contact your brother – he’s an experienced warrior, and the Crystal Empire is close to the towns controlled by Luna."

Twilight stood there, her mouth agape. Meanwhile, Celestia turned to Applejack and Rarity.

"Congratulations on those projects of new uniforms, Rarity," she said. The unicorn stared at her, shocked, but then she remembered that, as a ruler of Equestria, Princess Celestia had to know about the contract. "Taking yours and Applejack’s skills in gathering resources into consideration, I’ll make you my quartermasters."

"Ah…" Applejack stammered. Rarity couldn’t waste that chance.

"It’ll be a honour for us," she said.

"Fluttershy…" Celestia began.

"I don’t want to fight," said the yellow pegasus. It was so quiet that only the hall’s good acoustics allowed Princess to hear that.

"Oh, I don’t want to make you fight," the alicorn replied, “I want you to organize–"

"I don’t want to organize anything either…" said Fluttershy a bit louder, though she still looked as if she wanted to hide in a gap between the tiles on the palace’s floor. "If… if there’s war and m-many p-ponies can be wounded or k-killed, I want to help them. If I have to take part in the war, I want to work in a field hospital."

"Oh… If that’s what you want..." said Celestia. She then turned to Rainbow Dash.

"I want to fight," said the cyan pegasus immediately.

"I hadn’t expected any other answer from you. The pegasi from Cloudsdale are still loyal to me. Some of them even requested for me to make you their leader," Celestia explained, to which Rainbow Dash smiled.

"And you, Pinkie Pie…" the Princess looked at the party pony, who was standing at attention. “Twilight told me about your… unusual skills in predicting the fate of other ponies. I think it might be useful for us."

"Oh yeah! The Pinkie Sense never goes wrong! I have different combos for something fast is coming, wounds, burns, being thrown into the meat grinder, mutilated and baked into cupcakes…"

"Enough!" Celestia exclaimed, definitely not wanting to know how Pinkie learned about those combinations in the first place.

"So, Princess,” said Twilight, when Pinkie had calmed down, "Does it have to end like this? There’s no other way?"

"I’m afraid so, my student," said Celestia, again staring up at the sky from the balcony. "I'm afraid so..."

Author's Note:

A new, 100% cooler version of this chapter proofread by Vrilix and Tired Old Man.