• Published 1st Jan 2014
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Stormsinger - Airstream

After four hundred and fifty years of uneasy peace, the balance of power in Equestria has shifted.

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Before the Evening, there were the Sun and the Other, and they existed as equals.

The Sun was of Order, and she desired to see all things grow and thrive, in their rightful place and time, and was as a mother watching her foals, a shepardess watching her flock. And she did set the firmament below, and demanded that the Aether from which she was born cease her spinning, and began to make the very first parts of Creation, and laid the foundations of the worlds.

The Other was of Chaos, and he was capricious and cruel and joyous in all things, and desired only the pleasure of change, and ruled as a king and beggar alike, taking his amusement from the confounding and comforting of those he encountered. And he did set the blackness of the night and the blueness of the day, and the spaces between all things were his domain, and each space was filled with the potential for change.

And they fought as brother and sister, and built and destroyed without ceasing, and there was born between them hatred and enmity. And the Aether saw this and knew it could continue no longer, and so from the formless mass came the Moon.

The Moon was of Balance, and she was desirous of the progression of Creation, and so she did set herself against her brother and sister, and in time, the foundations of the worlds and the spaces between were bounded by her will, and so began the first of the worlds.

And so it was that the worlds were created, and each was full of the firmament and the spaces between, and the Moon looked upon it and found it good, and called to her brother and sister, and in their own time, they too found it good.

And so it was that the Moon gathered to herself earth from her sister’s firmament, and called forth the mists of her brother’s realm, and set herself to creating forms with which to populate the worlds, and so she sculpted until she found the forms pleasing.

And so she took the forms to herself, and breathed upon them, and lo, such was her skill and power that they trembled and shook, and so life was brought to the worlds…

Taken from the Book of the Evening Star, Chapter One, Verses One through Eight.

The autumn air was crisp and chill as the three goddesses trotted up the steps of a castle both ancient and new. The Regia towered overhead, the four towers stretching toward the sky like grasping fingers, each of them reflecting shimmering light in the dying glow of the sun. Banners in white, purple, and red hung from each window, trailing in a slight breeze and lending an almost ragged air to the massive palace. The time was drawing closer to dusk, and it was then that the banners would be switched over to black until the sun rose once more, over a new and glorious dawn. There was a reason for the banners, a reason for the visitation of the Three. Today was a very special day. Today, for the sixth time in her life, Twilight Sparkle was going to die.

“Are you sure it’s six?” Cadance asked as they proceeded up the steps to the Great Hall, pointedly ignoring the guards standing at attention, rifles slung and bayonets gleaming. “I could have sworn it was seven.”

“It’s actually seven.” Celestia replied after a moment of thought. “Technically, this is the sixth time in her reign that she’s died, but the seventh overall.” The fact that she had been largely responsible for her once-student’s death remained politely unspoken.

Luna frowned in thought. “I do believe this is the only time we have all been asked to attend her wake.”

“Was there a wake? I thought we were the only ones arriving. No nobles, no Guild representatives, the palace is dark tonight.” Cadance noted.

“No guards, no entourages, no servants either. I admit feeling somewhat vulnerable knowing the Moonguard are waiting at the gate instead of by my side.” Luna admitted.

Celestia nodded in agreement. “It is highly unusual. Perhaps she has something up her sleeve?”

Cadance snorted. “How could she do anything to hurt us? She’s pushing one hundred, and we’re hardly going to let her gum us to death. Powerful as she is, she won’t risk using her magic here.”

“If anypony could come up with a way to trap us, it would be Twilight.” Celestia said. “For one as young as she is, she has proven to be a remarkably canny ruler.”

Her sister snorted as they began the long walk through the antechamber to the hall. She nodded kindly to a passing maid, who curtsied before the three rulers. “I think she means well. Relations between the Evening Court and Celestial Court have been cordial as of late, and I can think of no reason for her to attempt something now.”

“Well, whatever it is, it’s important enough for all three of us to be summoned here to watch her die.” Cadance surmised.

“Indeed it is.” A new voice confirmed, ringing throughout the hall.

The voice belonged to an old mare, dressed in a simple shift of black fabric and wearing a circlet of tarnished bronze. Her face was deeply lined, expressing good cheer and vast knowledge both, and her tricolored mane had mostly gone grey. Beneath the fabric of her clothing, a light flickered and guttered like a candle in the wind. Her violet eyes, still sharp and clear as a hawk, peered at them through a pair of spectacles perched precariously on her nose.

The three goddesses bowed their heads respectfully, the mare before them returning the gesture.

“Celestia, Luna, Cadance, I’m glad you came.” She said. “Forgive me for not rushing to meet you, these bones are getting old.”

“Lady Everstar.” Cadance replied, using the name the unicorn had taken for public use. “An honor, as always.”

The unicorn chuckled at that. “Come, let us proceed to my quarters. It is much more private there, and we will not be bothered.”

As the four walked, headed for one of the towers, Celestia attempted to strike up a conversation. “A marvelous night for a death, if you were to choose it. The banners looked particularly lovely.”

Everstar regarded her coolly. “I thought you might like them. I wanted to keep the tradition of one banner from each tower, but my advisors decided to surprise me this time around. And I agree, the weather is particularly good for fall. I’ll need to send my regards to Discord.”

“You know, if you employed a weather squad to keep the city clear, you’d have less trouble with the weather.” Cadance remarked, glancing out of a window over the dusty spires of the city below.

“That doesn’t work here, as you well know.” Everstar replied gently. “The clouds go where they will, and the weather rarely responds well to prodding. Honestly, I’m amazed you and Celestia are able to keep things as clear as you do.”

“All it takes is a bit of cooperation and concerted effort.” Celestia said. “With ponies working in harmony, things move rather swiftly.”

“I’m sure.” The unicorn said dryly. “Well, I’m sure you’re all wondering why I called you here today.”

The three Alicorns nodded in concert. The question had been bandied about excessively since they had met at the entrance to the inner city an hour ago.

The mage’s eyes sparkled and gleamed with ill-contained excitement. In that moment, she was not Everstar, she was Twilight Sparkle once more, and the look she wore would have been familiar to those who knew her fondness for experimentation.

“I’ve been working on something in secret for the better part of a year. Nopony knows about it, nopony has a clue that I’ve been focusing my energies on this, all for a reason.”

Luna nodded thoughtfully. “I did notice a lack of sleep on your part. You’ve been using magic to keep yourself awake?”

“Abusing it. Maliciously.” Twilight corrected her as they stopped before a nondescript patch of wall. She tapped several stones in quick succession and pressed on the hard stone, causing a section of wall to swing open on silent hinges. “Quickly, come in.”

The three Alicorns filed in nervously as the door swung shut behind them. Their horns lit up as Twilight took the lead. “I’ve ordered this tower cleared for safety reasons, which is perfectly true. However, it’s also a great way to ensure privacy.”

“The whole tower?” Celestia asked.

Twilight nodded. “The whole tower. You’ve seen what it looks like when my Flame finally goes out. Things get a bit dicey.” She halted for a moment, her hoof hovering over the flickering light in her chest as she bent slightly.

“Are you alright?” Cadance asked, concerned for her. She bent down to examine the elderly unicorn. “Here, let me see.”

Twilight waved her away “It’s nothing. An old heart, old lungs, rheumatism, arthritis, it all adds up. Working down here has been murder. Besides, I’m dying tonight. Any magic used to relieve my symptoms would be a waste.” She straightened, her bones crackling and popping. “Come. We’ll need to go down below the castle for this, so it’s a bit of a walk.”

The passage angled downward steeply, roughly hewn stone lining the walls and floor and ceiling. There were no branching passages, no sconces for torches or magelights, just a straight corridor that went below the towers of the Regia, down and down and down again until the foundations of the palace were left far behind. The walk was made in silence save for the echo of shod hooves and the rasping breaths of Twilight Sparkle. More than once she stopped, clutching at her chest. No help was given or requested.

As they descended, each of the goddesses became aware of a slight pulse to the air, which resolved itself into a steady beat that was both familiar and maddeningly mysterious. A glimmer of light was seen at the end of this tunnel.

The chill and damp in the air increased suddenly, and Twilight’s hooves picked up a bit as they neared their destination. With little warning, the corridor opened up into what could only be described as a vault. The top was lined with the same rough stone, a massive dome that stretched up almost above the light of their horns. A walkway several feet in diameter stretched around the walls, evenly made save for a platform which connected it to the passage they had just emerged from. Below that walkway lay a pit, from which the smell of wet earth and clay rose to meet them. Something in the mud below threw ribbons of light and shadow across the walls in sinuous patterns.

In the center of this platform stood a table, on which stood a loaf of bread and wheel of cheese, a bottle of wine, and a clock, from which the steady ticking noise spilled forth, filling the cavernous space with the steady beat of time. Twilight limped towards the table, producing cups from thin air as she did so.

“Please, come and join me. I’m sure you wouldn’t mind taking a drink with an old nag?” she asked, eyeing the three Alicorns in turn.

Luna was the first to stride forward, accepting a glass of wine graciously. “What is this place? The atmosphere here seems…familiar.” she queried, her voice hushed.

“The foundations of the castle, unless I miss my guess.” Celestia said, walking forward with Cadance by her side and joining them all at the table. “And unless I am very wrong, this is the area in which the ley lines beneath the castle converge.”

Twilight said nothing, choosing to sip at her wine.

Cadance asked the next question. “So why are you choosing to die here?”

Twilight snickered. “Refreshingly open way to ask that. It’s because of what’s in that pit. This project is what I’m choosing to die for. Or rather, the end result.”

“I don’t follow, I’m afraid.” Celestia said.

Twilight nodded. “Over the years, I’ve had lovers and mages alike grow very close to me, and as a result, there have been some…incidents.”

Luna, who had been sipping at her glass, choked. Cadance’s eyes grew wide, and Celestia froze, her body extremely still. If what Twilight was insinuating was true, then the object she had in that pit was rare and powerful, worth its weight in gold a hundred times over and filled with enough potential energy to perform some amazing magic.

“I had some issues with using crystal to contain the energies, but with enough time and effort, the Jeweler’s Guild was able to supply me with a useable sample of metastable carbon allotrope.” Twilight said, glancing over to the pit where her prize was kept.

Luna blinked. “Metastable…?”

“Diamonds, Aunt Luna.” Cadance said. “She used a diamond to hold the energy.”

“Something similar to that, yes.” Twilight said brightly, blinking dimly and pausing to cough. “Apologies. My time is swiftly drawing to a close, so I must be brief. In fact, I believe the sun is set to go down in a little less than ten minutes.”

Celestia waved a hoof. “It will set when I tell it to set, not before. If you want more time, I can certainly afford it to you.”

The elderly mare chuckled. “I think I’ve had quite enough of being old for now. But I suppose you’re wondering why I have a gem containing a fragment of my soul in that pit, and what I intend to do with it. Unfortunately, I have no way of knowing whether my efforts will be rewarded or not. This is why I asked all of you here. It was not to trap you or launch some scheme against you. It’s quite the opposite, actually.” She paused to rasp out another cough.

“I need you three here to contain the energy from my death. I believe that taking the energy into myself will increase my power by some margin, but I cannot be sure. I don’t know what will happen, but I know that my demise will be…spectacular.”

The clock chimed softly, and Twilight’s ears perked up. “That’s my cue. Please, tell me you will assist me in this.”

There was silence from the table. What Twilight was asking was no small feat. Each of them had seen the kind of magical power she could produce, and the thought of being trapped in a room with it did not appeal to the goddesses. And yet, there was an element of curiosity to the entire scenario, one that was extremely appealing. The many deaths of Twilight were constant, but they were definitely never boring.

“I will stay.” Luna said. “I would counsel caution, but I feel we are past this point.”

Cadance shrugged. “I honestly have no idea what could possibly come from this, but I admit a certain interest. I’ll assist you.”

Celestia was silent for a brief while, until the clock on the table chimed once more.

“Please, Celestia.” Twilight asked, her aged voice quavering. “As a favor? To me?”

Celestia sighed. “To protect those who would otherwise be hurt by your foolishness. And yourself. But I am owed an explanation when all is said and done.”

Twilight said nothing, instead choosing to give a quick, jerky nod before her horn lit up and she vanished into the darkness of the pit.

The interior of the hole in the ground, for that is what it was, was damp with groundwater and slick with clay, causing the old mare to stumble briefly before catching herself. The clock chimed for a third and final time, the sound barely reaching into the pit, as Twilight reached her goal, a small wooden box inside of which a tiny stone lay.

It shimmered and sparked with power, as if it contained a small thunderstorm or bonfire, casting light in warm gold and breathtaking silver across the earthen walls of its resting place and causing shadows to veer wildly across the ground, writhing like serpents up the sloped sides of the pit and coiling up into the black of the ceiling.

Twilight fumbled for her shift, casting it to the side and baring her chest as she labored for breath. The crystal embedded there, gleaming in the shape of a six pointed star and flickering with a scarlet and violet flame all its own, guttered and went out for the briefest of moments. The strength went out of her knees, and the mare pitched forward, barely managing to drape herself over the box. Her chest heaved, and her eyes rolled back in her head. Though she wasn’t aware of it, Twilight Sparkle was suffering a minor stroke.

The crystal in her chest flared again, mauve light throwing her prone form into sharp relief before it went out for a second time. The mud around her steamed and spat with a sudden outpouring of heat, and she groaned in pain, clutching at her chest. Again it flared, flickering once before going out. The light returned, beating with the failing heart of its host in short, staccato patterns, faster and faster flaring in and out the light growing dimmer even as the beats became near-constant. Tendrils of flame began to eat through her coat, little violet and crimson candle flames erupting over her body as Twilight Sparkle lay heaving in the mud, dying her seventh death.

And just as suddenly as it had begun, the light stopped. The pit lay dark save for the light of the gem in its depths, obscured by the mare cradling it to her chest in her last moments. Dusk had fallen.

With a roar of power that echoed with the fire of a dragon and the rush of tides, light filled the pit, rising from the limp form of Twilight Sparkle as the silhouette of her broken shell rose into the air, sparks dripping from her hide as the magic of Creation, of life itself filled the pit below. The gem, made of the hardest substance known, was obliterated in an instant, the power it contained remaining strangely separate from the magic inhabiting the soul of Twilight Sparkle.

Cadance, Celestia, and Luna acted in concert, their horns lighting up in order to contain the massive amount of energy being released, funneling it back into the depths from whence it came. But it was not only this that they watched warily, checking for signs of weakness in their protective enchantments. Each of them felt it, the ley lines beneath them heaving and churning like they too were alive, pulsing with magic far greater than even they could hope to contain.

The scarlet fire and purple sparks of Twilight’s transformation met and clashed with the gold and silver mist that seemed to comprise the gem, and for a moment, each power looked like they would fly apart, too different to ever reconcile. But whether it was the fragment of Twilight’s soul trapped within it, or the ley exerting itself in some strange way, or sheer chance, there was a meeting of the magic, an acceptance between the two. Bits of clay rose into the air, blasted from the walls by the force of what had been unleashed, and it was around these that the light coalesced, gold and silver driving deep into the loam.

The outline of Twilight Sparkle’s body, miraculously preserved by magic, blurred and shifted, strange energies digging into it, stripping away old muscle and scars, clawing out the ravages of age and replacing what had once been old with the vigor and life of youth. Though she was not conscious, the shrinking mare’s eyes were wide and staring, and her limbs jerked and twitched with increasing strength.

The three goddesses were tiring quickly, their shields barely holding any of this in check, though they knew they must keep their stances steady in order to prevent destruction of an even greater scope and magnitude from occurring. The heat and light were unbearable even to their immortal eyes, and the winds of time and space themselves threatened to knock them down, and all would be lost. Valiantly, they struggled to keep this force contained, teeth gritted, shoulders hunched, wings spread in defiance of the spectacle before them.

Finally, when it seemed as though no more could be endured, the light began to fade to darkness, the gale dwindling to a wind and then a breeze, the heat replaced once more by the cold of the underground.

“Twilight?” Celestia called. “Twilight, are you alright?”

A high pitched voice answered her dazedly from the bottom of the pit. “Celestia, Luna, Cadance. Come down here…I need you.”

Without a thought, they hurled themselves into the pit, plummeting perhaps a hundred feet down before spreading their wings and catching their falls. The light of three horns filled the dark, revealing a huddled form resting in the mud, breathing heavily from her exertions. Three forms stepped forward, ready to render aid if necessary. And all three forms stopped short upon hearing the quiet cry of an infant.

Twilight Sparkle, once more young, looked up at them all, her eyes filled with wonder and joy. “Come and see. She’s beautiful.” And with that, she turned to her three peers, cradling a newborn filly to her chest.

Her coat was grey, a silvery grey so pale as to be almost white, gleaming pearlescent in the dim light of the pit, and her warm purple eyes were open and inquisitive, taking in the world. These were framed by a shock of short golden hair, down-soft and promising curls later in life. But it was her horn that gave them all pause. It should have matched her coat, or failing that her mane, but it matched neither of those things. Instead, her horn was clear, the clear of glass. Or a diamond.

“She looks like…” Cadance began.

Twilight nodded. “Yes. Tarantella. My first wife.”

Luna was stock still, realizing what had occurred. “Twilight…you made her. Out of clay and magic came a child.”

Twilight looked at them all. “I suppose I did, at that.” She smiled, exhausted. “Certainly unexpected. But not entirely unwelcome.”

“Are you going to keep her?” Celestia asked gently. “Do you want to?”

Twilight drew the child closer to her chest without realizing it, hunching over as if to protect her. Celestia backed away. “Alright, then. I was only asking.”

The unicorn sighed. “I have lived for four hundred and fifty years after I should have died, Celestia. I’ve been reborn six times, had wives and husbands both, and friends beyond counting. But I’ve never…I never thought I could…”

“Have a child of your own?” Celestia inquired.

Twilight nodded. “I’m going to keep her.”

“Have you thought of a name?” Cadance asked. “I know it’s sudden, but she should have one.”

Twilight was silent for a moment, lost in thought and the trusting eyes of her child. “She reminds me so much of Tara…I’ll use her mother’s language for her. What about…Serale?”

“Serale?” Luna asked.

Twilight nodded, slowly at first, but more emphatically the longer she thought on it. “Serale. It means evening. What do you think?”

Cadance smiled. “Serale is a lovely name.”

Celestia concurred. “As lovely as she is.”

Tilting her head, Luna studied the child. “A good fit, I think.”

Celestia’s horn lit up. “Might I give her a blessing? I know it’s tradition to wait until she is a year old, but it feels…right.”

Twilight studied her closely, looking at Celestia for any hint of deception before nodding once, presenting her foal to her.

Celestia touched her horn to that of the foal. “I bless you with beauty and grace. May the sun shine brightly for you always.”

Luna stepped forward as well, lighting her horn and repeating the gesture. “And I bless you with intelligence and curiosity. May you always find wonder in the space between the stars.”

Not to be outdone, Cadance also gave a blessing. “May your heart be as warm and loving as the dawn, and your affections always returned.”

Twilight bowed her head gratefully, and the godmothers of the foal did likewise. They stood there in respectful silence for a long while, and it was only at the chime of the clock did they turn and make their weary ascent to the world above. Four had gone down, but five returned. For better or worse, what they had all witnessed down in the shadows changed things. It would be a longer while still until they knew just how mighty and profound that change would be.

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