• Published 3rd Apr 2012
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The Equestrian Spring - Chocolate Milk

Nine months was all it took for one earth pony to put Princess Celestia on the defensive.

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Civil Disobedience

The Equestrian Spring
by Chocolate Milk
Chapter II: Civil Disobedience

Knock, knock, knock.

Celestia shifted her gaze to the door. With her magic she folded the newspaper closed and placed it face down on her bed. “Who is it?” she called: a question to which she already knew the answer.

“It’s me.”

Her massive chamber door of dark mahogany gained a white glow and swung slowly inward on its hinges. The torches lining the wall outside her bedroom flickered wildly around Luna’s silhouette.

Princess Celestia glided across the room to the doorway. Like a mother examining her crying toddler’s face for cuts or scratches, she put a hoof up tenderly to her sister’s cheek. The dark mare was shivering and grimacing, and breathing through her tightly clenched teeth. Her eyes were puffy and reddened, but amazingly still dry.

As if some valve had become unstuck deep within her, the nighttime princess threw her hooves around her big sister, gasping for air as though she had been holding her breath. Squeezing her eyes tight, she buried her face in the great princess’s multicolored mane.

Celestia gently brought her head down to the back of her sister’s neck. “There there, Luna, don’t worry. Everything will be alright.” In some long-unknown chamber of her heart, a special fire raged for Just Cause. Yet her demeanor was the epitome of calm. Even for a mare with as many gifts as her, acting was among the most important of the day-bringer’s talents.

The midnight princess looked up at her big sister’s reassuring face, and Celestia could feel the shaken mare’s breathing grow slower and more relaxed. Luna sniffed, and smiled weakly. “Let’s lie down for a bit,” offered the elder. “You can tell me what happened when you’re ready.” Little Sis looked up at her and nodded.

The two princesses moved to the large floor cushion in the center of Celestia’s room. The curtains took on a dark purple sheen and slid apart, and as she looked out at the world Luna hung her head.

The daylight princess took note. "Hm? What's wrong?"

“You’re going to have to raise the sun any second now,” she murmured as the smile faded from her face.

Celestia lowered her head to Luna’s eye level and contemplated her sister in genuine wonder. So vulnerable. So dejected. So foreign to anything she had ever felt herself. “The sun can wait a few minutes, little sister.”

Luna sniffed again and nodded quickly. She folded her legs to lie down along the golden floor cushion before her, and Celestia followed suit. The two lay beside each other in parallel, facing the window, and turned their heads to watch as the tip of the crescent moon dipped below the horizon. Were it not for the circumstances, the princesses would both have been delighted to spend time together exactly like this, in hushed admiration of Luna’s fleeting opus in the sky.

On the outskirts of Canterlot, Tempered Steel sat on a stool at his dining room table next to the love of his life. The sun wasn't scheduled to be up for another 10 minutes, but he and his wife had been awake for nearly an hour. It didn’t happen very often that Steelie—as she called him—was able to secure a whole day away from the castle, and these two pegasi had no intention of wasting a minute of it.

The pink mare’s own back was flush against the back of the chair in which she sat. It was an odd way of sitting for a pony, she knew, and it would probably be uncomfortable for most. This particular pegasus didn’t feel a thing.

“Oh, stop it!” she exclaimed as he reached his hooves across the table to grab her bowl of oatmeal. She was trying to feign irritation, but nopony looking at her would have been able to tell. The mare was grinning from ear to ear. “Eat your own first, you dope!”

“Hrm,” he hummed aloud, tapping a hoof against his chin in an exaggerated display of deep thought. After a few seconds of mugging, he brought his hoof down against the table and shook his head, dishes clattering at the impact. “No, I’m sorry but that just won’t do,” he declared, scooping up his wife’s bowl and sliding it towards himself with his foreleg. “See, if I did that, then your oatmeal would get cold while I was eating my own. I’m afraid I just can’t stand for that, my love.”

The beaming pony threw her head back and laughed the hardest she had in months. “Is there anypony sillier than you? You know I couldn’t care less about how hot my oatmeal is!” She craned her neck and playfully nipped the stallion’s muzzle, and he nipped her right back.

“You know what, Steelie?" she whispered. "I think I might be the happiest mare in Equestria."

But that wasn't quite correct. In truth, she knew she was.

“I put a lot of work into the night sky this evening."

“Yes, Luna. It’s beautiful.”

"I really tried to bring out Gemini tonight against Monoceros and Cancer. Can you see it?"

Celestia did not respond. They weren't here to talk about stars.

For a while, the two sisters sat in silence. Then, eyes down, Luna was ready to speak.

“Night Court Open Hour has never been as well-attended as it was tonight. The most petitioners I’d ever had in a single night was 40, and that was a millennia ago, during the draconic war. Usually it’s more like 10. But tonight, the line in the Grand Hall went all the way out through the archway.” She looked up at her sister, and added half under her breath, “sort of the way I’ve always imagined your Open Hours to be.”

“I could count about 50 ponies inside the castle, but I had no idea how far the line went on outside.” She kicked a velvet throw-pillow near her front hoof. "That Just Cause pony was the very first one in line. Of course.”

Celestia thought about what would have happened if she had decided against warning her sister. "All these ponies, here at midnight to ask for my help?" she'd have asked herself. She’d be so happy. She’d probably even shrug off Just Cause. Then she’d have to stand there, listening to these protest ponies one-by-one tell her she’s not their princess.

Who knows what she would have done. The white mare’s uneasiness dialed up, just by a notch. Whatever happened tonight, it could’ve been a lot worse.

“Clamor and Choler were on duty. I called them over and warned them like you suggested: ‘Whatever the petitioners do,’ I told them, ‘as long they stay nonviolent, be as respectful as you can.’”

“It was so quiet in there,” she said, turning to her sister. “They were all staring at me with such serious faces. Just Cause started by giving a little speech about how she’d organized this demonstration for me, to ‘show me how Equestria really feels about my rule,’ in her words.”

Since Luna’s return to the throne, Celestia had noticed that her little sister had yet to speak ill of another pony in front of her. Why do I get the feeling that streak’s about to be broken?

“Clamor called the next pony up, this big gray earth pony stallion. He stood there and stared up at me for a few seconds, and then he started repeating that same exact vitriolic tripe Just Cause has been saying for months, word-for-word. But he wasn’t just speaking it. He was sort of whispering it. And while he was speaking,” she said, “they were whispering along with him.”

Celestia cocked her head slightly. “Who was whispering, Luna?”

“The other ponies in line. They were all staring and scowling at me, and whispering along with him to accentuate some of the words.”

“I’m sorry Luna, I don’t quite understand. Would you mind demonstrating?”

As with her booming Royal Canterlot voice, Luna’s magic allowed her remarkable control over her vocal folds. With the same attention to detail involved in crafting the night sky, she was able to replicate any sound she could replay in her mind. Luna took a breath and closed her eyes. “I am here to voice my opposition to Equestria’s totalitarian form of government. The tyranny of your nighttime is an affront to the individual rights to liberty and self-determination possessed by all ponies, and your rule is devoid of legitimacy. Many of my fellow countryponies may bow to you and honor you as their princess. But know this, Luna: you are not my princess.” Her recitation was swift and exact, punctuated with the unnatural swish of a whispering crowd. After tonight, she would not soon forget the sound of these words.

“Thank you, Luna. That must have been quite disorienting,” Celestia said. Her face showed nothing but love and concern for her sister.

But behind it, the wheels of thought were spinning furiously. “The tyranny of your nighttime?” I’m sure I’ve never heard Just Cause talk about the tyranny of my daytime. It took her a mere second to recall the variant she knew. When she’s in day court, she says, “the tyrannical diarchy you share with your sister....”

“It was disorienting, and I tried to do something about it, too. Before the next pony could speak, I put my hoof up to stop her and requested that everypony remain silent while a petitioner is speaking. But they completely disregarded what I’d said. As soon as the next pony spoke, they all started right up again.”

Suddenly, it clicked. Those ponies at Night Court Open Hour—they weren’t even democracy activists! They were just there to protest Luna! Celestia shook her head. I wonder if they even know that Just Cause wants me gone, too?

She remembered the Equestria Daily. “120 Anti-Luna Protesters Detained at Night Court.” Of course. I’d thought that the newspaper had just jumped to conclusions and rushed out a story to hit deadline. But those really were anti-Luna protesters: nothing more, nothing less. Her thoughts returned to yesterday’s Day Court Open Hour, and she felt herself draw back: well, at least 15 of them really are trying to get rid of me. But this is going to be a lot more manageable than I thought.

Celestia wished she could be relieved. But something was wrong.

“The guards gave me a look, but I waved them down. I just wanted to get through the hour.” Luna put her head down. “I don’t know. Maybe that was weak of me.”

There’s no way she could’ve planned this far in advance, is there? The princess’s mind churned, and after a while so too did her stomach. ...Is there? Celestia’s assessment of the situation had been seriously flawed until just this moment. She may have overestimated the problem for a few minutes this morning, sure. But she’d been underestimating its orchestrator every day for the past six months.

Spinning this sticky nine-month web, day in and day out. Getting me comfortable with her screed about our “tyrannical diarchy”. All for today, so that I’d assume that 120 ponies were here at midnight demanding my head. The princess glowered at the floor. Just Cause... this mare just brought out more than 100 ponies to work towards a goal they probably don't even want. Celestia had a hard time remembering the last pony she’d underestimated this badly. It was killing her.

“What do you think, sis? Would you have let them whisper like that?”

“Luna, ignoring your direct request within the castle walls is as illegal as it is completely immature and utterly unacceptable.” A touch of something different resonated in her voice, and she noticed her little sister’s ears prick up. Easy, Celestia, she thought to herself. Don’t let your anger at Just Cause bleed into conversation with Luna. Internally, she began to compose herself.

“I’m sorry. I hate to hear of anypony treating you so rudely.”

A moment of silence passed between the mares. “My opinion isn’t important, Luna. What is right for me is bound to be different in your case. You are sovereign in your court and you alone lead the Night Guard.”

Luna smiled. “I know, Celestia. Thank you.”

The structure of Equestria’s armed forces was not a consideration in the mind of the typical pony. Most were able to recognize Royal Guards when they saw them, but a good number of Equestrians were entirely unaware that the Night Guards even existed. And almost none had any comprehension of what those ponies did. There existed a nearly universal misconception that the task of these guards—specifically, the two guardsponies with which each sister was usually seen in public—was to protect their respective princesses, as though the most powerful beings known to ponykind were at risk of becoming damsels in distress. The fact that either alicorn could, if she were so inclined, end the lives of the two ponies thought to be guarding her with a degree of effort roughly akin to plopping down on a fluffy floor cushion, or sinking one's teeth into a particularly soft slice of apple pie, had apparently not been reasoned through by the majority of the populace.

Celestia propped herself up onto her forelegs, resting on her haunches. “How did your guards handle the situation?”

"They were livid, sis. They tried hard not to show it, but a Night Guardspony’s patience can only be stretched so far.” Luna looked up. “They aren’t quite as... tame as the Royal Guard,” she added with mock derision.

The two ponies who traveled with each sister were not bodyguards. They were adjutants. The Royal Guards and Night Guards were protectors of all Equestria: they represented the last vestiges of war in a land that had known peace with all foreign nations for centuries. In times of strife long past, the armies of Equestria were legendary, and it was Luna's inception of the Night Guard, Royal Guardsponies voluntarily reformed by her magic into masters of nighttime warfare, that made them so. The result of her military inventiveness was an unparalleled deterrent to all invaders. Nocturnal opponents faced elongated days and the relentless Royal Guards, while diurnal enemies suffered prolonged nights against the devious effectiveness of the Night Guards. But most importantly, all attackers were locked into a never-ending battle with a constantly changing, perpetually well-rested force that was at all times in its preferred element. Together, they could lay waste to whole brigades in a single 24-hour cycle if necessary.

“Tame?” The elder sister chuckled. Whitestone’s not exactly Matrotma Gandhi, Celestia thought. But if she’s picking this little fight again, then she must be feeling better. "I wasn't aware that military discipline was a weakness," she said sarcastically. The two grinned at each other, savoring a brief moment of normalcy, before the very abnormal circumstances they faced reasserted themselves.

Luna thought of the Night Guard as her crowning contribution to Equestria. In times of war, she would don their armor and fly with the pegasi infantry into battle, and though the ponies who had themselves fought alongside her all eventually passed on, the institution was forever imprinted with the memory of her devotion. In times of peace, her pride and love were expressed primarily through sibling arguments about which branch of the military would win in a fight.

“Sis, those ponies kept going for the whole hour. First it was a whisper, then a murmur, and then a regular speaking voice. Then they started getting loud. By the end of the hour, Choler was so angry that she had her bat-wings open and bared her fangs at anypony brave enough to look at her.” The dark mare sighed. “I would have cooled her down, but by then they were chanting at full volume. I couldn't really blame her for being upset."

But Luna had left something out. Halfway through the hour, Clamor had turned to his midnight princess to ask a simple question: “Your Majesty, would you like us to wake up Princess Celestia?” The dark mare had fallen silent at this for a few seconds, before her head snapped over to her guard and spat, “Call up the next petitioner, Clamor.” Not two minutes later, Choler bared her fangs at a protester for the first time that night.

“We got through the hour without incident. But when I called Night Court Open Hour to a close, all the ponies from outside ran into the Grand Hall. They must have been waiting outside until the hour was up, because Just Cause was right there with them. They got into a line across the hall standing side-to-side, refusing to leave and yelling about how they were there to take back their castle.”

Luna shook her head. “I gave them plenty of time and warning, sis. I told them they would be removed by force if they did not leave of their own volition. I told them the method of their removal would not be pleasant. But I knew from the moment they’d formed this barrier that they weren’t going to leave. We tried a peaceful, single-file arrest procedure first, but they linked legs and resisted, yelling and screaming the whole time. So I gave the order.” Big Sister inched closer to bring her front leg over the smaller alicorn’s back in a half-embrace. She looked down at her sister, and was struck by how resolved she appeared to be. Celestia brought her foreleg back against her own body. This is not a mare in need of comforting.

“Choler rounded up the other 28 guards in the castle tonight, and they got the job done.”

30 Night Guards were able to arrest 120 uncooperative protesters? Of the many questions Celestia had for her sister, one took on newfound importance.

“Forgive me for asking a mechanical question at a time like this, but how did—”

“We used the sheet-freeze system.”

Princess Celestia gasped.

The sheet-freeze system was developed by Luna shortly after the Night Guard’s formation. It solved the unique problems faced by a force that was at once both quite small, and bound to the Equestrian principle of minimizing the casualties of war. The operation was composed of three main phases: isolation, incapacitation, and transport. Like all of Luna’s military innovations, the sheet-freeze system was impossibly efficient: a fresh Night Guard platoon of 50 once captured an exhausted Griffon battalion of 400 with nothing more than four crates of thick sheets, 100 yards of rope, and the element of surprise. But achieving this degree of efficiency was not without its cost. The power of the technique came from its combination of psychological and physical debilitation. Many targets of the sheet-freeze system would experience irrational and crippling fears of nighttime and the dark, iceboxes, and heavy bedspreads later in life.

To isolate, Night Guards surrounded the targets while under the influence of cloaking magic and conjured a domed negative firewall, deeply cold to the touch. Within the dome a grid of negative flame slowly formed, forcing the targets to separate. Upon separation the dome imploded, flash-freezing the targets to the point of severe hypothermia. Next, the Night Guards essentially mummified each target in a sheet, returning their body temperatures to safe conditions, but leaving them incapacitated: shivering and blindfolded and with their limbs wrapped tight against their body. Transport was a matter of tying the bone-chilled pupae together into clusters of 10. Because some creatures have mental links with others in their species, targets were given no information: the Night Guards worked in absolute silence. Some guardsponies would fly back and forth, delivering bundles to their destination; others would guard the remaining targets until all had been moved. Depending on the size of the operation, some targets spent over five hours mummified and bound to nine other mummified creatures. Tonight was the technique’s debut appearance against the citizenry of Equestria.

“We took precautions, Celestia. The negative firewall was less cold, we didn’t wrap up their eyes, and I teleported them to the Canterlot outpost instead of having them bundled and flown. The Night Guard took their names and photos and released them straight away.” Luna closed her eyes and twisted her neck to stretch it out. “The last time I’d seen ponies that scared, I was Nightmare Moon. This time, it was all me.”

Celestia fought against her instincts to keep her ears from pricking straight up. Is that pride that I’m hearing in her voice?

“You seem to be handling this much better now than only a few minutes ago, Luna.” Celestia watched her sister closely. “Considering how dedicated you are to protecting and defending our little ponies, it must have been very hard on you to use such force against them.”

Eyes facing straight ahead, the midnight princess considered her sister’s words. Then she turned to her and tilted her head. “You know, all night I had been so worried that I’d done the wrong thing. I was blinded by the scale of what happened today, and I assumed that it was all my fault.” She inhaled deeply, then allowed herself to exhale normally. She’s completely untroubled. Almost serene.

“But it’s like you said, Celestia: these ponies were breaking the law. Nopony today is used to laws being broken, which means nopony is used to them being enforced. Of course these protesters were shocked to see me enforce the law: it’s you and I alone who understand that law is nothing without enforcement.”

Luna stood up and walked to the bedroom window. “The truth is that I hated arresting those ponies. I gave them exactly what they wanted. I let them manipulate me into validating their fears.” The princess drew herself up to look down through the window and across the Equestrian landscape.

“But maybe that isn’t such a bad thing. Just Cause is a nuisance with no argument. She may think she’s right, but we know she isn’t. We’re the ones who have proven our ability to keep Equestria safe and happy. So maybe it is right for her to be afraid of at least one of us.”

Scanning the sky, her eyes settled on the twinkling stars of Gemini. “I think I’m starting to get why you’re such a good leader, Celestia. All of Equestria loves you, and rightly so. Ponies don’t break the law any more because they simply don’t want to. They don’t want to do what you don’t want them to. The rest of the world loves you too, I think. That’s why we’ve had peace for so long.”

The daylight princess watched in silence as Luna gazed at her own reflection in the full length mirror, half-illuminated by the waning moon’s peculiar light. “Sometimes I wish I could inspire like you do. Other times I wish I could just let you do it all. But we were meant to rule together, big sister, and I can’t rule with you if I don’t have my own authority. I cannot rule with you until I can command Equestria’s respect.”

Luna turned her head to face Celestia, and stared straight into her eyes. “I will never be as loved as you are, sis. If I once had that opportunity, then I squandered it more than 1,000 years ago. Today, my choices are limited. I can evoke only two emotions in the minds of our civilians: fear, and pity.” Luna’s pupils tightened in the approaching gloom.

“And nopony respects the pitiful.”

The peculiar light of the crescent moon faded and disappeared, and soon afterwards Luna did too.

We were meant to rule, together.

In the darkness of a moonless sky, Princess Celestia’s horn glowed a soft white to draw forth a quill and parchment, and by the luminescence of its magical aura, the princess began to write.

Seven years ago, a pink filly named Temperance was visiting Canterlot to tour the colleges in the city, when her inn caught fire in the early hours of the morning. A Royal Guard cadet on his way to the academy saw smoke billowing from the building and ran in to help. The first pony he saw was Temperance, cowering in the corner of her bedroom. The colt charged towards her, but a large support beam fell from the ceiling and hit Temperance square in the back, pinning her against the floor as she screamed in unimaginable pain for two mercifully brief seconds before succumbing to shock and fainting.

The cadet wrested her free of the flaming debris before flying her out of the building and to the nearest hospital. He had undoubtedly saved her life, but from the neck down she was dead. The support beam had splintered four of the cervical vertebrae near the base of her skull, and her spinal cord had been severed in two places.

Every day for three weeks, Tempered Steel would bring flowers to the poor paralyzed filly in the hospital, spending as much free time with her as he could fit between cadet training. When she told him one day that she was being discharged and that her sister would be bringing her back to Cloudsdale, in a moment of panic and desperation he dropped onto two knees and proposed to her. They were married by a hospital chaplain 30 minutes later.

Tempered Steel was the model Royal Guard candidate. He was tall, a strong flier, and well-disciplined. But cadets live in small, castle-owned dormitories in Canterlot, and there was no way Steelie’s wife would be allowed to move into academy housing. It was true that Temperance could apply for Princess Celestia’s generous disabilities program and receive assistance at a live-in facility. But she was here in Canterlot to be with him. He felt a strong obligation to care for his wife himself. Much as it hurt him, there was only one option.

As Tempered Steel made his way through endless corridors to his CO’s office with a detailed resignation letter poking out of his cadet’s uniform, he nearly ran headfirst into an esteemed and highly unexpected guest. In the resulting state of confusion and abject fear at having just barely avoided bowling over the ruler of all Equestria, the trembling pony dropped his letter. The princess levitated it off the ground to return to him as she waved away his stammered apologies, but before handing it back, gave it a quick once-over. A month later, Tempered Steel was granted his own private induction ceremony to the Royal Guards officiated by Princess Celestia herself, who had fast-tracked him through his last year of cadet training. The only pony in the audience was his wide-eyed wife, never prouder than on that day.

The years slowly faded, and so too did Tempered and Temperance’s habit of spending each and every morning, night and weekend together. The guardspony was a natural in the organization and moved up the ranks with ease, to eventually be named Commander of the Pegasi Infantry, one of three positions in the Royal Guard answerable solely to the daylight princess. Accordingly, Temperance spent more and more time with visiting nurses, and less time with her dedicated husband. But his absence only made her heart grow fonder, and every moment they managed to spend together was worth waiting her whole life for. Even when he was away for days at a time, the memory of his parting kiss was enough to keep her warm.

“Oh-kay, Tepp-er-ache, viss is yor wast fpoon-ful,” Steelie struggled out, teeth clenched around the handle of a spoon.

Temperance opened her mouth with her face upturned like a happy baby bird, while her husband scraped up the last bit of oatmeal from her bowl and slowly guided it towards her. On the other side of the table, a bowl of room-temperature oatmeal sat untouched.

“Thank you, Steelie,” said the pink pony. “Now please, go reheat your own oatmeal and eat it before you do anything else for me!”

Tempered gave his wife a kiss on the cheek and a peck on the lips, and got up from the table to do as she’d told him.

Knock, knock, knock.

“Who is it?” the white pegasus bellowed from the kitchen.

“Lieutenant Whitestone, sir.”

Tempered Steel rolled his eyes, then trotted to the door and yanked it open with his teeth. “I swear, Whitestone, you better be here on orders from Celestia herself,” he breathed, exasperation heavy in his voice.

“Yes, sir.”

The commander grappled with Whitestone’s response. He gave his head a little shake and blinked fast.

At once he felt his stomach leap into his throat. “W- what was that, Lieutenant?”

“I am here on orders directly from Princess Celestia to deliver this letter, and to request that you read it as soon as possible, sir.” At this, the young pegasus pulled a slim envelope from under his golden breastplate and handed it to the commander. Emblazoned on the back of the envelope was the Royal Seal pressed in wax. It was still warm.

Tempered Steel brought the interaction to a close with a curt nod, his mind racing. He had been so happily distracted that he'd completely failed to notice how late the princess was to raise the sun. Whitestone took a step back, gave his bewildered superior a crisp salute, and flew off at top speed in the direction of Canterlot Castle. The commander kicked the door shut, and ripped the letter open with his teeth. It was clearly written by the princess herself; he could recognize those large, immaculate loops underneath her cursive letters “g” and “y” from a mile away. Somehow, they reminded him of her weightless mane.

Steelie walked slowly into the dining room and to his wife. If she hadn’t heard Whitestone at the door or noticed the letter on Canterlot Castle parchment tucked under his wing, his face would still tell her the whole story. And so would hers: she was in awe of her Steelie, so much so that any disappointment was completely overshadowed by how blessed she felt to have him. Her husband and best friend had just gotten a special assignment from the most important pony in the world.

“It’s OK,” she reassured him. “Go right on ahead. I love you, Steelie.”

“I love you, Temperance,” he said, embracing her tightly as sunlight suddenly flooded through their dining room windows. Sometimes he’d swear he could feel his wife’s presence on a different plane, hugging him back.

Standing on the limestone Sun Platform under a pitch black sky and surrounded by ceremonial Royal Guards, Celestia thought about her sister.

She’s not there yet, she determined, but she’s getting awfully close. She’s figured out that she needs fear to rule. That’s good. The princess moved her eyes upwards along the Eastern Spire, atop which Luna slept. And she’s realized that if she has to wake me up to solve her problems, she’ll never learn how to lead. Celestia quietly sighed. But she has no concept of the way I lead. It’s not whether to use fear. It’s how.

The white mare’s gaze fell upon the land that she ruled. All leadership is fear, Luna. When ponies truly love you, there is nothing they fear more than your rejection. And all of Equestria loved their daylight princess.

Well. Almost all of them. She frowned.

Celestia raised her hooves one at a time, and brought each back down to the Sun Platform decisively. She closed her eyes in focus. The tip of Celestia’s spiraled horn began to glow: a faint yellow initially, but growing richer with the passing seconds. The spark reached a saturation so extreme as to become opaque, and then streamed through the princess’s whole body, veiling her in a brilliant, pulsating gold.

With her wings still folded tight against her back, Celestia drew herself up until she stood fully on her hind legs, at which point she began to levitate. As she ascended into the sky, so too did rays of light escape over the horizon, painting a hazy purple-pink dome that expanded behind the radiant mare. She slowed her ascent to a stop when she reached the height of the Sun Statue behind her, and hung there for one breathless second.

Celestia threw her front hooves above her head and snapped open her wings. The golden glow burst outward like a cocoon as the sun broke magnificently over all Equestria, bathing her subjects from Manehattan to Las Pegasus in the glorious light of day. Panting softly, the princess brought her front hooves down below her and descended towards the platform, as the titanic heavenly body moved upwards to replace her in the sky. She landed with four quick taps of gold against stone, and opened her eyes.

Just Cause. I have more unanswered questions than I am comfortable with, and they all begin with you. But I do know this: whether born from idealism or malevolence, your goals would undermine Equestria. For the sake of all my little ponies—even you—I will not let you succeed. The day-bringer exhaled in staccato through her nostrils. You have some neat tricks, Just Cause. But you do not understand who you are dealing with. Not yet.

“All done,” Celestia proclaimed amiably to the guards in phalanx around her. And with a flare of bright white magic, she was gone.

Special thanks: KitsuneRisu
Comments, art, and randomness always appreciated; please send to chocolatemilkmlp@gmail.com

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