• Published 23rd Nov 2013
  • 4,153 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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10. Princess Celestia

I hope our wisdom will grow with our power, and teach us, that the less we use our power the greater it will be.
Thomas Jefferson


“Guards!” Rarity shouted, galloping down the corridor, her hoofsteps echoing through the castle. “Twilight! Anypony!”

She could hardly believe in what had happened at night. Her breath was short, her heart was pounding against her ribs, as if it was trying to break free. Despite that, she was still running.

A black unicorn royal guard stood in her way, causing her to stop in her tracks to avoid bumping into him. He took a bow and, unfazed by neither an early hour, nor rollers in Rarity’s mane and her pink gown, said, “Good morning, ma’am.” His voice was deep and calm. “Is everything all right?”

“I… it’s Applejack… she…”

“What is going on in here?”

Rarity looked up and saw Princess Celestia walking down the stairs. She stopped in front of her and the guard, who took a bow again. Rarity followed him. She noticed that the Princess looked tired – her mane was still hanging limply and her eyes were half-closed. Her expression was indifferent at first, though a spark appeared in her eyes when she first heard shouts. Rarity levitated a letter from a pocket of her gown.

“It’s from Applejack,” she explained. Princess Celestia took the piece of parchment and read aloud:

My dear friends,

I’m really sorry to leave you, but I can’t stand it anymore. Apple Bloom is dead and I can’t do anything about this, but I can still save the rest of my family. I’m going back to the Sweet Apple Acres – I just can’t stand the thought about Granny, sitting there alone while Ponyville is under attack. Once again, I’m really sorry for leaving you like that, and I hope you’ll understand.

Forever yours,
Applejack

PS. Twilight, no matter what Big Mac and Braeburn say, keep them away from the frontline. I don’t want to lose the rest of my family too.

“She ran away through the window,” Rarity said when Celestia stopped reading. “Maybe we’ll be able to find her…”

Lightning struck somewhere near the palace, soon followed by thunder. It seemed that the storm created by the pegasi grew a bit out of control.

“As you can see, my little pony, Applejack did everything to hide her plans from you,” Celestia said. “Maybe we should just let her go…”

“What?” Rarity shouted, approaching the Princess. The guard tried to calm her down, but she sent him a cautionary look and continued. “Just like you let Luna go?”

Princess Celestia winced, but quickly returned to her usual expression. However, her voice was a bit shaky when she said, “I let Luna go, and I regret it, but it is a different situation. Ponies should not leave their families…”

“But they shouldn’t also leave their friends,” Rarity replied. “I’m going to look for her, Princess, no matter what you think about it.”

She went back to her room, slamming the door.

“Should I stop her?” asked the guard. He was shocked – for the first time in his life he heard somepony yelling at the Princess. It was also the first time he saw her so indifferent. He exactly remembered her from before the war – she’d never let it go, no matter what the weather would be. The reply to his question only added to his confusion.

“Just do whatever you want,” said Celestia flatly and teleported away.

***

For Twilight, the storm was a salvation.

Since the war started, a “permanent twilight”, as Pinkie had called it, was depriving her of her sleep; no blinds or curtains could help her fight the insomnia. Now, with the sky covered with a thick layer of clouds, she could finally use some rest. She had no dreams; her brain, too tired to produce any visions, just let her sleep calmly.

Somepony banged at her door. She woke up in complete darkness and tried to get her bearings, looking around.

“Come in,” she muttered, yawning. The door opened, and a wave of light from the corridor, although dim, caused her to close her eyes and turn her head away.

“Good morning, Twilight.”

“Princess?” Twilight awoke quickly, lighting her horn. Even the purple light was hurting her eyes. “What are you doing here?”

“Look at this,” Celestia levitated the Applejack’s letter to her. Twilight read it frantically, despite her brain protesting against acknowledging more bad news. She gasped in shock and threw her head backwards on the pillow.

“May I ask you a question?” Celestia asked when Twilight finished reading and was now pondering about the implications.

“Sure, Princess.” Twilight put the letter on the nightstand, trying to focus. She still wanted to sleep.

“Am I bad?”

“What?” Twilight looked at her, confused.

“I sent my own sister to the Moon, and despite my best intentions, she now rebels against me again. I forgot about all of my subjects, instead focusing on the small group of rich nobles. Hundreds of ponies die every day because of me. Now Applejack left me. She is the Element of Honesty and she can spot any trace of malice. Twilight Sparkle, I am asking you: am I a bad pony?”

“No, of course not!” Twilight replied, causing Spike to snore a little louder. “You didn’t start the war; it’s just defence against Luna…”

“But do I really need to defend myself?” Celestia asked. “Luna is younger and gets on with ponies much better than me. Maybe I should just give up and let her rule over Equestria?”

“Her guards killed Fluttershy,” Twilight’s voice quivered. She sat on her bed. “They bomb innocent ponies, and you think about giving up?”

“Well, I feel I just cannot stand it anymore,” Celestia said. “When you live for thousands of years, there comes a moment when all you see are your failures.”

Twilight looked at her, her eyes wide. She didn’t know what to say. After she freed herself from the blankets she shivered. It wasn’t only a matter of draught.

“You’ve defeated Discord,” she stated eventually.

“Yes, but Luna was by my side back then. And after that, I kept ignoring her, more focused on establishing our rule over Equestria. Maybe if I talked to her more, we would be able to avoid my biggest failure – Nightmare Moon…”

“Don’t worry, Princess,” said Twilight. “I’m sure we’ll find some way to fix this.”

Spike grumbled something in his sleep and opened one eye.

“Good morning, Princess,” he muttered. “Hi Twilight. Did I miss something?”

“No, I was just leaving,” said Celestia and turned back to Twilight. “Your brother should arrive soon, and you should really catch some sleep. This war drains us all physically and emotionally, and I am certainly not helping you…”

“It doesn’t matter, Princess,” Twilight replied. “You taught me well, and I can handle this.”

“I never doubted in you, Twilight,” said Celestia, and teleported from the room with a golden flash of magic. Spike crawled out of his basket and stretched himself, yawning.

“Did I hear correctly?” he asked. “The Princess wants to abdicate?”

“Of course not!” Twilight exclaimed, covering herself back with the blanket. “It’s just a hard time for her, but she’ll surely get better once it’s over.”

“What if she won’t? Would Luna take her place?” Suddenly a smile appeared on his face. “Or maybe you’d become a new ruler of Equestria!”

“What?” Twilight chuckled. “No, Spike, this’ll never happen. Cadance is older than me, and if something hypothetically happened to the princesses, she’s not even the first in line…”

“Then who is?” Spike asked.

“Blueblood…” Twilight sighed. “Besides, I doubt Cadance would leave the Crystal Empire…”

“You’d be much better ruler than him, ” Spike said, lying back in his basket.

“Me? No, that’s not even–” she heard Spike’s snoring. “Well, nevermind…” she muttered, falling into a shallow slumber, with an image of Fluttershy before her eyes.

***

Celestia sat alone at the top of the tower, watching the moon, as it emerged from behind the veil of storm clouds. Her crown was resting on a nightstand, where she’d tossed it carelessly after she’d teleported to her chamber. It didn’t matter. Nothing really mattered now, except maybe one pony...

“Sister,” she whispered. Nopony replied. Far away from the castle, the clouds slowly started to dissipate, revealing the sun, still placed firmly on the western part of the sky.

“Please, sister,” she sobbed. “Luna… Just give me a sign… I can move the sun and we will be together again…”

For a moment she thought about giving the power to her sister. They’d be together again, healing the war wounds and making Equestria a better place… Celestia shuddered when she remembered what Luna had told her about the dream she had when she last was in the Crystal Empire. She thought how easy it was for her to shrug it off – a meeting with Fancy Pants was more important for her than what her own sister had to say about the suffering of the fillies in Detrot.

She remembered what Twilight had told her about the Griffons – if she moved the sun, they’d stop threatening to invade… Maybe she should really give up?

Then she thought about the thousands of Royal Guards, and what would happen if they were told that their sacrifice wasn’t worth anything. She thought about ambitious nobles like her nephew, Prince Blueblood. How far would he go to take her place? She then thought about Twilight Sparkle, her faithful student… Just how faithful was she really?

She shook her head, trying to get rid of that thought. Twilight would never do such a thing.

Still, there’s Blueblood, the pegasi from Cloudsdale and the overly ambitious officers… Some day one of them will betray me...

Somepony knocked at her door. She quickly put her crown on and opened them to see one of the guards.

“Prince Shining Armor has just arrived,” he said, bowing before her.

They are all the same. Affable and dutiful, but if I show only the smallest sign of weakness, they’ll all turn to vultures… She shuddered upon that thought and only after a moment she realised what the guard just said.

“Contact the commanders of the Sun Army; we are going to meet in the throne room,” she ordered, feeling a new energy filling her body. She rushed through the staircase, and flew to the hall of the castle to meet Shining Armor.

He stood there with some of his soldiers, crystal ponies wearing camouflage uniforms and equipped with assault rifles, instead of traditional armours and spears they were using during parades. Celestia looked at them, wondering how the proximity of the Griffon Empire influenced the development of military technique in the Crystal Empire – many of the Equestrian Army units, especially volunteer ones, were using only pistols, shotguns and submachine guns. Pegasi were the first to discover the advantages of the modern assault rifles. Tanks and heavy artillery were still a rarity, though it was changing quickly.

“Welcome, Princess,” said Shining Armor bowing before her. “My soldiers are ready to fight at any moment.”

“They will not have to wait long, I’m afraid,” Celestia replied. They both went to the throne room, where the Element Bearers were awaiting them.

Twilight looked much better after catching a few hours of sleep, and when she flew to give her brother a welcoming hug, Celestia again saw her as a happy, innocent filly she was not so long time ago. Rarity, as always, looked perfect. She’d gotten rid of her gown and rollers, but she was still shooting nervous glances around, as if she was looking for Applejack. Rainbow Dash, who just arrived to the palace with Spitfire, Soarin, and a violet pony with a white and blue mane, whom Celestia didn’t know, was staring blankly into the wall. Only Pinkie Pie looked truly happy, wearing a tankpony’s helmet and watching the Shining Armor’s guards in awe.

When they sit at the table to discuss the strategy, the door to the throne room opened, and they saw Prince Blueblood, accompanied by a younger stallion, also a white unicorn. His dark orange mane was cropped short. He was wearing a vest with a camouflage pattern, an assault rifle placed on his back. It wasn’t one of the Sun Army’s standard rifles, but a griffonian weapon – built in a bullpup configuration, with a small trigger that could be pulled only by a unicorn or a griffon.

“Good morning, auntie,” he said. He and his companion sat on Celestia’s right side. “I think you know my nephew, Hot Blood.”

“Yes… how could I forget him…” she deadpanned. She remembered Hot Blood – son of Equestria’s ambassador in Neighway. He had to come back to Equestria after some minor scandal he’d caused there, and which was quickly hushed up. Celestia had some spies among the nobles’ servants – she’d never rule for so long if she hadn’t – but even they were only able to inform her that Hot Blood had an affair with some mare in Neighway, with no other details. Later, he became a soldier and, not without his uncle’s help, became a Major – probably the youngest one in the Equestrian Army. He spent some time in Changelings’ Territory but his unit was soon moved back to Canterlot.

When Hot Blood sat next to his uncle, Celestia turned to Rainbow Dash and her pegasi companions, who were sneezing constantly – a side effect of creating a storm large enough to cause local floods in only a few hours.

“This is my second-in-command, Cloudchaser,” she introduced the violet pegasus, who, as Celestia noticed, was limping slightly.

“A battle wound?” she asked, pointing at her bandaged hind leg.

“Yes, Princess,” Cloudchaser replied nervously. “But it heals quickly thanks to–”

Celestia sighed. While she agreed with Fancypants that some propaganda is needed, she didn’t like the influence it had on her subjects.

“Stop talking like one of those ponies in motivational movies,” she whispered. “That’s an order.”

“Y-yes, Princess,” Cloudchaser looked shocked, but after she sat next to Rainbow Dash, she smiled faintly.

“We gathered here to welcome Prince Shining Armor and present our current situation to him,” Celestia announced. Shining, sitting between the two colonels from his army, Tungsten Heart and Lanthanum, stood up.

“Welcome, Princess,” he said. “As we speak, my soldiers are attacking Detrot. It’s being captured as we speak. However, recapturing Ponyville will be important – it’ll allow us to besiege Luna’s old castle in the Everfree. How does the situation look now?”

“We just came back from the patrol,” said Spitfire. “Their artillery is stuck in swamp and the road to Canterlot is largely flooded, so they instead focused on building field fortifications in Ponyville.”

“We’ll have to attack them soon then, before they’ll make it a fortress…” said Shining Armor.

“But how?” Twilight asked. “We flooded the roads, but it means that we also can’t get through…”

Cloudchaser whispered something to Rainbow Dash’s ear. Dash replied quickly, and, aware that everypony at the table were staring at them, said loudly, “Cloudchaser has an idea. C’mon, ‘Chaser, tell them…”

Cloudchaser cleared her throat and said, “I think we should develop Applejack’s idea further – it’s November, and there are already many snow clouds in the mountains. We can bring them here and make Canterlot a second Stalliongrad. With their featherless wings, bat ponies would be unable to fly in such harsh conditions…”

“Yeah, most of the bat ponies are from Pferdreich, they should remember Stalliongrad…” Soarin agreed.

“It’s Germaney now, and it was over sixty years ago…” Spitfire hissed, rolling her eyes. Soarin looked at her and rose his eyebrows. She sighed and shook her head.

“Never mind,” said Shining Armor. “It’s a good idea; but while my soldiers are used to the low temperatures, we’d still have problem with transporting the equipment to Ponyville.”

“Maybe we won’t have to bother with this…” said Prince Blueblood, smiling maliciously. “If you can bring snow clouds over Ponyville, why can’t you produce some clouds that’d rain, for example, sulphuric acid?”

Everypony went silent. Rainbow Dash rose to say something nasty, but stopped in her tracks, when Cloudchaser put her hoof on her arm.

“It’s impossible,” she said. “We don’t have any acid in the Weather Factory, and even if we had…” she hesitated a bit, before finishing quietly, “The factory isn’t working… We…”

“Why is it not working?” Celestia asked.

She heard rumours before, and now she felt regret that she didn’t examine that case earlier. Cloudchaser looked like a good pony, but something about the official version of what happened in Cloudsdale didn’t feel right. The guards’ reports were often contradicting one another. The version prepared by Cloudchaser’s pegasi was messy and not very convincing. There were also confessions of the arrested Princess Luna’s followers, who were now staying in the dungeons of Celestia’s castle. A large binder of reports from their interrogations was still lying, unopened, on Celestia’s desk.

“Umm… Princess… that’s something I’d rather not discuss here,” said Cloudchaser, staring at the floor.

“What have you done?” Twilight Sparkle asked, leaving her seat and flying to Cloudchaser. “Dash, do you know something about that?”

“Twilight Sparkle!” Celestia decided that it’s time to remind the ponies who is their leader. She stood up, her mane flowing, and her eyes burning like the sun itself. Rarity made a move suggesting that she wanted to hide under the table, and even Shining Armor jumped back from her.

“I want to talk with Cloudchaser in private,” Celestia said, calming down.

“Umm… she flew away, Princess,” said Pinkie, pointing at the window. It was open, and when Celestia looked through it, she saw a silhouette of a pegasus, disappearing in the distance.

“Really, is that a new tradition? Everypony leaves this castle through the window?” Celestia muttered to herself.

“I’m sorry, Princess, she’s a bit weird recently,” Rainbow Dash said quickly. She rubbed her bandaged hoof.

“Should we chase after her, Your Highness?” Soarin asked.

“Later,” said Celestia, “Cloudsdale can wait – first we have to think about Ponyville. Rarity, as my quartermaster, do you have any idea how to transport Shining Armor’s army there quickly?”

“Well…” Rarity thought for a moment, “Applejack was mostly dealing with machines, while I was responsible for equipping the soldiers, so–”

“And what happened to her?” Blueblood asked. “If I recall correctly, Applejack is that earth pony with an incomprehensible accent? Where’s she?”

“She had to resolve a family matter,” said Celestia quickly. Twilight sighed with relief.

“Family matter…” Blueblood smiled. “Is her family more important than Equestria then? My own nephew, a common pony–” he pointed at Hot Blood, who snickered. “–decided to enlist, because he knows that a country is more important, while she, being the Element Bearer–”

“Enough, Blueblood,” Celestia hissed. “This is not the time and place to discuss patriotism. Do you have any ideas?”

“I have one!” Pinkie jumped out of her seat, waving her hoof. Seeing that everypony’s gaze was focused on her, she sat back again, and said, “When we were testing that super-duper tank with Applejack. She told me that they have some old tiny balloons pegasi use as targets while training, because they’re similar to airships, just smaller…”

“Assault blimps?” Rainbow Dash, who spent last few minutes staring at Cloudchaser’s empty seat, livened up. “Pinkie, you’re a genius!”

“What are those assault blimps?” Twilight asked.

“Small airships with a single gondola,” Rainbow Dash explained. “They have no engines, because they’re meant to be pulled by two pegasi on a low altitude. Shining, if your soldiers are used to hardships, we can fit about twenty of them on each, and drop them over Ponyville.”

“Yeah, but how many of them do we have?” Spitfire asked. “We’ve already torn some of them to shreds while training…”

“Exactly twenty five!” Pinkie answered, smiling.

“So, we can transport five hundred soldiers at once, then they’ll have to engage Luna’s forces till the reinforcements arrive,” Shining Armor concluded, “all while dealing with flak, snow, and at least two thousand bat ponies.”

“So, what do you think, brother?” Twilight asked.

“That’s crazy… But I’ve heard about crazier things that worked.”

“So, let’s prepare them for battle!” Rarity exclaimed, trying to cover her dismay because of the fact that Pinkie came up with a solution before her.

“Not so fast,” said Shining Armor. “My soldiers don’t know Ponyville, so we’ll need some locals to guide us.”

“My company will be glad to volunteer,” said Hot Blood, smiling proudly. “Some of them are even from Ponyville…”

Author's Note:

In the next chapter, the excrement will make a physical contact with a hydro-electric powered oscillating air current distribution device. Multiple times.