• Published 6th Feb 2014
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An Old-Fashioned Notion - Thereisnospoon303

The battle between Loki and the Avengers is altered by a twist of fate. Now stranded in the idyllic world of Equestria, "Earth's Mightiest Heroes" must find a way to unite alongside six colorful ponies to stop Loki's schemes.

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An Urgent Matter

Chapter 2
An Urgent Matter

At this time of night, just before the moon gave way to the sun, few ponies typically occupied the royal throne room. Princess Luna herself rarely held court inside its majestic halls, even though she was well within her authority to do so. She quickly came to realize many ponies preferred to meet with Celestia. Though initially bothered by the lack of visitors or activity in the castle during the predawn hours, Luna learned to busy herself with observing dreams and mending nightmares so that her subjects would know the night was nothing to fear.

In sum, Princess Luna’s watch often proved uneventful.

Tonight, however, Luna found herself overseeing a flurry of action. The halls echoed with the galloping of the royal guard; for every guard that exited, another entered shortly thereafter. Luna might have found the scene amusing if she were not struggling to protect her country in the midst of calamity. There would be no room for humor so long as Equestria stood threatened.

Princess Luna sat upon the throne as she scoured over several pieces of parchment she held floating before her. With a quill she hurriedly scratched out a note. After a final cursory check, she floated the papers over to three guards waiting at attention at the foot of the majestic golden dais.

“Please begin distributing this message throughout the whole of Canterlot.” Luna’s horn ceased glowing once the papers were in the guards’ possession. “I am ordering that all citizens remain indoors for their own safety until either my sister or I declare otherwise. Nopony should leave for work or school. If somepony requires assistance in an emergency, it shall be rendered to them. Is that clear?”

The three royal guards saluted and replied in unison, “Yes, Your Majesty!”

“Your Highness!” another royal guard bellowed from across the hall. He was a brown unicorn, in gold armor, levitating a small scroll above his head. Passing by the trio of guards already dispatched, he stopped in front of the throne and bowed. “I bear news regarding the current… erm, events.”

Luna nodded, leaning back in her seat. “Please proceed.”

The unicorn cleared his throat and unfurled the scroll, presenting it to Luna for inspection. “Cloudsdale’s weather teams are currently being assembled for emergency weather duty, but their captains are keeping them grounded until they receive word from you, Your Highness.”

“Has anypony been reported hurt?”

“No, Your Highness.” The guard shifted uncomfortably, careful when making eye contact with the princess. “How should I—”

The all too familiar sound of heavy doors slamming open interrupted the unicorn guard, who jolted upright in surprise. As it had been throughout the twilight hours, more royal guards—a gray unicorn and a white pegasus—galloped across the red carpeting to the seat of their princess. Both offered a hasty bow.

The gray unicorn carried a scroll with his magic, but the pegasus was the one who addressed Luna: “Your Majesty, we have new reports from Manehattan and Baltimare.” While the pegasus guard spoke, the unicorn levitated the parchment up to Luna. “Manehattan has closed all bridges until further notice. In Baltimare, several unidentified objects have landed in Horseshoe Bay. Only a few small vessels were damaged.”

Luna had already accepted the scroll before unrolling it to scrutinize every word and detail contained. “I assume that if harm had come to anypony, it would be included in this report.” Looking up from the scroll, Luna glared down upon the guards. “Am I correct?”

“Of course, Your Majesty!” the gray unicorn hurriedly stated. “It is our good fortune to inform you that nopony is hurt. If there were, you would be the first to know.”

Luna’s eyebrow twitched before her expression snapped airtight. “I see. I’m relieved to hear such is the case. I am nevertheless concerned about such drastic measures are being taken without informing us first. Ponies should not be given undue reason to panic.”

All three guards nodded once. The pegasus then asked, “Your Highness, should we inform the mayor of Manehattan that he should not act without official royal approval?”

Luna let out a brief snort before she shook her head. “No, no. Please tell the mayor I appreciate his foresight and desire to keep the denizens of Manehattan safe.” She lowered the scroll away from her face. “I approve of his decision—but let it be known that any further decisions should be done with a mind toward Equestria acting as one.”

“Of course, Your Highness!” said the pegasus guard. He and the unicorn who had accompanied him saluted Luna in tandem.

Luna shifted her attention back to the guard whose report had been interrupted. “Inform Cloudsdale and its weather teams that I personally extend my gratitude for offering their assistance. I am certain we will need it. For the time being, they should remain grounded until either my sister or I send for them.”

The guard offered a crisp salute. “Yes, Princess!”

Luna refrained from watching the three guards take their leave. Fleeting relief lightened the pressure on her head once she heard the doors close shut behind them. Still clasping both reports with her magic, Luna’s eyes wandered over their combined contents: strange lights in the sky; falling objects across Equestria; ponies fearing for their lives. She recalled her own confusion upon witnessing the brewing storm congest her night sky. The watchtower had offered a front row seat to a fearsome display of magic that threatened to blanket the land. Luna had wasted little time in alerting the royal guard and situating herself at the center of royal authority.

Hastily rolling up the pieces of parchment and placing them aside, Luna shut her eyes. She did not like sitting on a throne while her subjects cowered. Yet in lieu of lacking answers, the princess saw no ready alternatives. Inaction furthered her frustration and dismay. What could be said of a princess who could not offer adequate protection for the ponies of her land?

Exhausted though she was, Luna’s senses were not dull. One ear twitched forward at the sound of the double doors creaking open yet again. She flinched inwardly, dreading the report that would at last reveal harm coming to innocent ponies. The process had the sick air of a twisted game of chance over which she exerted little influence.

“I see that you are having a long night, Luna.”

Luna’s eyes sprung open before the sentence had a chance to finish. Her chest instantly filled with rare elation as she beheld the welcome sight of her sister, Princess Celestia, walking gracefully down the corridor. Four royal guards flanked her, two on either side. Their gaits were locked in unison.

“Sister!” Unfurling her wings with a rustle, Luna leapt from the dais and glided across the hall to meet Celestia. Upon landing in front of the older alicorn, Luna flapped her wings shut and frowned. “I’m sorry to have disturbed your rest, but this is an urgent matter.”

“I hardly needed more sleep,” Celestia said softly. Bearing a warm smile, she appeared alert and radiant, unperturbed by the early hour. “And any crisis, day or night, demands my immediate attention.”

Luna’s frown had since given way to small, subdued smile. “I am glad to hear, sister. Much has happened over the past few hours.”

“So I’ve been told—though I would like to hear your thoughts on the matter.” Celestia turned and eyed her bodyguards. “Would you please excuse us while my sister and I talk?”

Wordlessly the guards executed a seamless about-face and exited the throne room. When Luna saw and heard the door close, she allowed her shoulders to droop. A deep, long-awaited sigh finally escaped her throat.

Saying nothing though they were only in each other’s company, Celestia paced up to Luna. She gently nuzzled her younger sister, allowing their horns to brush together with a light tap. “You look weary, Luna.”

“I admit to having better nights,” Luna murmured. Following another moment of quiet, she withdrew from the impromptu embrace. Life trickled back into her posture as she regained a nobler and upright form. Luna’s voice likewise recaptured authority when she said, “I wish I could tell you the cause of these unexpected events, dear sister, but I’m afraid that I can offer no explanation. I trust you have observed the manifestation yourself.”

“I have. In fact, it was the first thing to greet me when I heard the guards knocking on my door.” Celestia turned to face one of the stained glass windows. It depicted the lights of the sun and stars shining down upon the planet. The blue palette of the window offered a reminiscent visage of Equestria’s skies at present. “It would have been a magnificent display, if not for the terrifying implications.”

Luna moved quietly to stand side by side with Celestia. She too glanced over the window. “I sought out the caster to no avail. The range and scope of this event defies comprehension.”

“That’s what worries me, little sister.” Celestia’s serene expression and cool tone both took on an edge of ever heightening concern. “I don’t wish to engage in idle speculation, but I fear that this magic may not be known to Equestria.”

“What exactly are you suggesting?” Luna asked, directing a careful eye toward Celestia.

“You’ve seen the magic for yourself, Luna. It is a vortex, a portal of some kind. We both know that portals are like doors. Bearing that fact in mind, we must ask ourselves a very basic question...”

“What is on the other side?” Luna finished. She then turned away, blinking in bewilderment. “I still do not understand how anypony would be capable of producing that level of magic apart from an enchanted device. I doubt even Discord himself could conjure such incredible power.”

“Perhaps not,” said Celestia as she gently craned her head back, still focused on the window. “Whatever the case may be, our first priority is to ensure the safety of our subjects. In order to do so, we must learn more about what is happening.”

Rather unconsciously, Luna’s wings had spread open as Celestia spoke. Despite Luna’s awareness of this reaction, she did not correct herself. It nonetheless brought to mind the poise her sister retained in spite of the tension. Celestia’s troubled tone belied a princess who cared not for the ponies over which she ruled. Luna knew better than anypony else how much Celestia loved each of her subjects like a mother. But Celestia always appeared careful not to give the wrong impression, even if it meant masking her true disposition with an otherwise inscrutable and distant calm.

Luna turned to stare at her older sister. “Celestia, is this the prelude to an attack?”

Whether or not by intent, Celestia’s ears flicked. The subtle gesture—perhaps one nopony else would have noticed—prompted anxiety to pop up in Luna’s throat. Whenever Celestia had reason to break her own composure, however minor, there was reason to be concerned.

Celestia tilted her head in Luna’s direction, but did not share eye contact. “We cannot assume the worst in order to indulge speculation. It will do us no good. Perhaps this magic is malicious, but until I’m certain that such is the case, I won’t act in a way that will needlessly frighten our little ponies.

“Because we can’t speak with any authority, I suggest we begin seeking answers with what we do know. We should contact Twilight Sparkle and her friends in Ponyville to make sure they are safe and aware of what is happening; then they should take the first train here to Canterlot. If the portal cannot be closed by other means, the Elements may need to be wielded in order to ensure the safety of Equestria.”

“A prudent plan, sister,” Luna said. Her shoulders then slouched. “However, I must admit I’m not sure whether this plan shall work. Twilight Sparkle barely managed to save the Crystal Empire. Who is to say she wBill succeed if put to yet another test?”

“But she did succeed.” No longer inspecting the stained glass window, Celestia turned her whole body and moved closer to Luna. “And Twilight succeeded because she trusted her instincts and her friends. She understood she could not save an entire empire without those around her to help.” When Luna glanced upward at Celestia, who now stood over her, the eldest princess gave a comforting smile. “Trust me, little sister: should she be tested, Twilight will not fail.”

The throne room doors swung open with a crash as two gray unicorn guards bolted through the doorway. Celestia merely glanced toward the parted doors, but Luna’s head and shoulders instantly shot up erect. She then quickly narrowed her widened eyes, dispensing with the alarmed posture in the presence of the guards.

When the guards came before the princesses, they briskly kowtowed. “Your Majesties! Many apologies for the intrusion!”

Rotating to face the guards, Celestia said, “No apologies are needed. What is the matter?”

“We have come to tell you that there has been an incident on castle grounds.”

“An ‘incident’?” Luna raised an eyebrow and frowned. “You will need to be more elaborate in your explanation.”

The guards shared a long, awkward stare between one another. In the face of Princess Luna’s agitation, neither appeared confident enough to follow through with a more detailed account. Ultimately one gathered the courage to speak. “Well, Your Highness, we aren’t entirely certain what happened. We only know that there was a crash reported in the sculpture gardens. Thankfully castle staff was ordered to remain indoors, so nopony was outside.”

Celestia and Luna locked eyes on each other briefly. Then Celestia, whose eyebrows had knitted in concern, looked to her guards. “Thank you for informing us of what has happened. We will personally see to it. Continue to make sure that everypony else stays indoors.”

“Yes, Your Highness!”

Before the guards could register all of what had happened, both princesses were gone. Rarely did either Celestia or Luna gallop—but when they did, it had the effect of a gust of wind sweeping through a room. The princesses remained matched in seamless strides by the time they entered the adjoining hallway. With the marked absence of guards and service ponies, Canterlot Castle already gave the impression of being abandoned.

A flash from Celestia’s horn parted an ornate set of double doors reaching from floor to ceiling. The princesses passed into the main hallway, where the pivotal events in Equestria’s history were etched in vibrant stained glass windows. From the founding of Equestria, to the defeats of Discord, all the way to the restoration of the Crystal Empire, each illustration told a unique story. Through the windows glowed the uncanny blue hue of the portal swirling outside of the castle and high above Equestria.

Celestia and Luna stopped once they found an unmarked window with a view over the sculpture garden. Upon looking through the window, the two princesses were immediately confronted by the the sight of one of the stone statues smashed into pieces. The residual debris that caked the area obscured the full breadth and cause of the destruction.

Luna’s eyes went wide. “My goodness!”

“This is worse than I thought,” said Celestia with a tenor of graveness. “We’ve been fortunate so far, but if the portal remains open, disaster will strike.”

“You were wise to move Discord to the secure wing of the castle, sister. It seems as though he would have been the victim of this destruction had you returned him to the gardens.” Luna’s flowing tail stiffened. “I shudder to think what might have happened if he were still there.”

Several flashes of light blinked in the predawn sky. Both Luna and Celestia diverted their attention from the gardens and to the portal. Neither hid their confusion as the plumes of magical energies started folding in on one another, collapsing like a piece of paper crumpled. The barrage of streaking bolts coming from the vortex’s mouth abruptly ceased. In the manner of a storm whose energy declined, the once potent portal lost its form, dissipating untraceably across the darkened sky.

Then there was another flash, one far more vibrant than any before it. The light shone with such intensity that Celestia and Luna were forced to avert their stares. The two were barely able to spot a darting light striking the above countryside well beyond Canterlot. The display bore great resemblance to a bolt of lightning.

As the sisters’ vision came back into full focus, they heard the muffled yet distinct rumbling of a faraway thunderclap. Akin to genuine thunder, the sound passed after several seconds. When that time elapsed, Celestia and Luna discovered the skies of their country were clear. The moon and stars were poised to accede to the sun. After everything that had come to pass, Equestria appeared ready to usher in another beautiful morning.

“Is that it?” Luna asked.

“Not yet,” Celestia said. She returned her attention to the patch of ruined ground in the gardens. “There are still many questions left unanswered. Our work has only begun.”

Shutting her eyes, Princess Celestia ignited her horn. In a flash both she and Luna disappeared with short but audible fizzled pop. Outside the window, the two alicorns reappeared in the wake of another flash. With both presently in midair, their wings unfolded to keep them aloft. Effortlessly Celestia and Luna rode the smooth winds to the gardens below. Before either touched the ground, Luna flapped her wings, steadying herself for a cushioned landing on the grass.

For the first time the entire night, Luna allowed herself to smirk. “It has been a while seen I’ve seen you teleport, sister. I was afraid you might be a bit rusty and send us straight into the window.”

Celestia’s swanlike wings rustled and folded against her body. She started toward the crash zone, arching a humored brow as she did. “I believe that was your first experience of teleportation, not mine.”

Luna scowled as she followed Celestia. “I thought we agreed never to bring that up.”

All traces of levity dissipated the closer the princesses came to the crash site. The gardens were far from ruined, but the destruction was ever more evident in the otherwise immaculate environment. Several delicate trees and shrubbery were uprooted by the blow of the impact; a nearby stone statue of a pony bearing a large scroll stood covered in dirt and soot. Fragments of another statue were scattered around the epicenter of the devastation.

Celestia and Luna squinted through the heavier dirt cloud that refused to leave the air. Celestia’s eyes narrowed in determination and the slightest hint of annoyance. Her horn glowed once more, and a small magical wave scattered the particulate grime. With the air clearer, the sisters stepped to the edge of the crater. Contrary to their initial impressions, the hole was much smaller than the proximate damage suggested.

Its content was an entirely different story altogether.

Celestia’s head bucked back in surprise, her wings flaring and pupils constricting. Luna’s mouth went partly agape. Sticking halfway out of the ground was a curved staff with a long golden handle and bearing two curved silver blades at the tip. A glowing blue gem sat between the blades.

“A weapon? Celestia asked aloud.

“So it seems.” Luna’s horn began to glow. “But I shall have a closer look.”

“Are you certain you want to do this, Luna?”

Luna drew in an unsteady breath. “As you said, sister, many questions are still left unanswered. It is better for us to begin our work sooner rather than later.”

Following a moment’s hesitation, Celestia nodded. “Very well—but please be careful.”

With yet another small breath, Luna pushed aside her own uneasiness and closed her eyes. She focused her mind on the bladed scepter, allowing her magic to tentatively brush across it. She knew already the scepter contained significant power; the trick was gauging how far she could go in seeking its source. Each push was akin to peeling back a silk curtain: a caster had to exercise caution in unraveling the tapestry without unwittingly inflicting damage on oneself or the artifact under study.

Luna’s eyelids squeezed tighter. The amount of effort exerted over such a short time proved unusually taxing. Beads of sweat began trickling down the princess’ forehead as she carefully adjusted the strength and scope of her magic.

Suddenly Luna felt weightlessness; the sculpture garden dissolved around her in a howl, leaving a dark void only she and the scepter shared. Most chilling was the profound absence of Celestia’s warm presence beside her. Although Luna’s intuition begged her to quit, she pressed forward into this strange void.

Whispering voices from the darkness stung her ears. Luna tried to decipher the innumerable disjointed utterances flowing around her, but she felt herself unable to maintain focus. Luna’s gut twisted in a strange brew of fear and anger. Her horn glowed brighter as she tapped deeper into her magical reserves. Her mind and body settled as many of the voices faded, though several persisted in their maddening refrain.

Luna sought to keep the goal vivid in her mind. In terms of physical distance, only a few feet separated her from the scepter; in terms of magic, the two were divided by yawning barriers that defied Luna’s vast knowledge. When she pushed through one layer, many more sprung up in its place. Each barrier bypassed increased the sickening air of the world around her.

Drawn closer to one portion of the scepter, Luna strained herself. The gemstone, she realized, was the true source of the staff’s power. The breakthrough prompted her lips to curl into a small smile—but success was fleeting. Greater focus did not enhance her efforts. She grimaced as the whispers returned in force. As she sought to sweep through the gem’s magic, a tingling sensation percolated one side of her face. The mild tingling became searing hot once Luna forced her magic into direct contact with the glowing gemstone.

The touch was fleeting. All at once the vision of the scepter and its gem flashed out of sight in a burst of blue light. Luna gasped as heat scorched her cheek, and her head rocked back as if she had crashed into a tree. With her eyes wide open once again, she found herself kneeling in the familiar surroundings of the sculpture garden in Canterlot Castle. Promptly the alarmed face of Princess Celestia entered her view.

“Are you all right, Luna?”

Luna wobbled but rose to her hooves. The fur on her face was matted with sweat. She continued to silently nurse the lingering burn that briefly blazed her cheek. “I’m fine. I am merely drained.”

“You were in pain,” Celestia said firmly.

Luna’s head sagged, dark lines swelling beneath her eyelids. “I’m sorry, Celestia. Perhaps I pushed myself too hard. It was foolhardy of me to use such a complex spell without your help.”

“Luna, there’s no need to apologize,” said Celestia as she cast a long wing over Luna’s back, drawing her closer into a reassuring embrace. “I know you were only doing what you thought was best for Equestria. Maybe you were a bit overzealous, but I would hardly call your actions ‘foolhardy’.”

Luna smiled weakly. “I wish I could take comfort in your words, dear sister.” Her face then tightened, discarding the meekness it once showed. “However, my findings only make this night all the more disturbing.”

Stepping to one side, Celestia lifted her wing so that Luna could slip out from beneath it. Luna emerged with her own wings majestically spread. She strutted closer to the crater in which the scepter rested. “The magic of this object is quite powerful. Furthermore, when I peered deeper into the gemstone, I sensed the source of a dark and twisted magic.” Luna turned and faced Celestia. “It is certainly a most dangerous weapon—and one only a skilled mage could employ.”

“So the gemstone is the source of its power?”

“The scepter is the conduit, but the gem it possesses is indeed responsible for the magical energies.” Luna glanced over her shoulder, scowling at the scepter as though it were an abomination. “It is on par with—nay, surpasses the Alicorn Amulet that magician filly used to wreak havoc in Ponyville some time ago.”

“Somehow I’m not surprised,” Celestia remarked in an almost offhand fashion. The casualness and certitude of her tone drew a glare from Luna.

“Perhaps you do not understand, sister. The magic of the gem is designed to destroy.”

“I understand very clearly, I think.” Celestia looked to the tranquil early morning sky. “Please don’t mistake my response for dismissing your assessment, Luna. I have the utmost confidence in your skill and judgment.” Lowering her gaze again, she continued by saying, “I believe the key to answering our questions about this morning’s events rests right in front of us.”

“Then you are suggesting this device is responsible for the portal.”

“Exactly, little sister.”

“If such is the case, there is much work to be done. The device should be moved to the secure wing of the castle so that nopony may unwittingly unleash its terrible power.” Luna’s wings flapped once with a gust of air. “I shall ensure that it is safely delivered.”

“We’re of like minds, Luna. In the meantime, I will send a letter to Twilight requesting her assistance in deciphering this mystery.” The blue gemstone flared, reflecting off of Celestia’s eyes. All at once her placid disposition soured, becoming one of fervent seriousness. “And we must do everything we can to make sure this awful magic is never used against Equestria.”

Author's Note:

Revision made 9/4/2014