• Published 12th Mar 2014
  • 346 Views, 28 Comments

The Tainted Renaissance - Red B



For centuries Equestria has existed as a beacon of order and harmony. However, not all things are meant to last. A storm of change is rising on the horizon. One that will shake the very foundations of Equestria.

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The Scars Within

Luna slowly made her way across the room, her eyes moving from detail to detail while a deep frown threatened to settle on her forehead. She managed to retain her composed expression, even when her eyes noticed a particularly large stain of dried blood. She carefully stepped over it, and continued her examination of the room that had been a battlefield several hours ago.

When her eyes fell upon a row of bodies, covered by whatever blankets the guardsponies could spare, the frown managed a brief appearance before being replaced by an angry scowl. Luna moved across the room, her hoofsteps echoing throughout the town hall, and lifted the nearest cover. Underneath it was the motionless body of one of the attackers. Killed by what seemed to be a well-placed shot to the forehead, the corpse was not a pleasant sight. Especially with the needle-like teeth filling the grotesque grin, regardless of the fact that the back of its head was missing.

However, Luna was not easy to unnerve by gruesome sights. She had not only lived through a time when life was violent and short, but had also caused the most terrible civil war in the history of Equestria. The real reason why the look on her face spoke of growing anger was that something like this had happened so close to Canterlot, right under her muzzle. It was a taunt, a message that whoever was behind this could do whatever they wanted and nopony could do anything about that.

Luna dismissed the idea and put the corpse back on the floor. She was overthinking it. The attack, while bold and unexpected was not meant as a challenge to hers and Celestia’s rule. At least that hadn’t been the main objective. Luna was fairly certain that the real reason had something to do with the strange occurrences surrounding Ponyville. Not only that, but she was willing to bet all the stars in her nightly skies that the attack was somehow tied with the disappearances in South Equestria. Her heart rate quickened at that thought. Celestia had yet to find anything of importance, despite her efforts. Could it be that this was the turning point when they finally obtained knowledge that would shed some light on the matter? She quickly calmed herself. Best not to get ahead of things, lest I set myself up for disappointment.

Luna’s ears perked up when she heard the sound of doors opening behind her, followed by heavy hoofsteps as somepony made their way towards her. She covered the corpse and turned around. Her eyes fell upon an earth pony stallion. Though his thin, sinewy form was clad in armor, she could still see the off-white coat underneath, which allowed her to instantly recognize him. “Captain Frost Wyrm.” She acknowledged, watching the stallion give a slight bow before he removed his helmet and dropped the chain coif, revealing a short, regulation length salt and pepper colored mane.

“Your Majesty. I am here to report that Ponyville and the surrounding area has been secured. As per your request, we fully control everything in a five kilometer radius, with the exclusion of Everfree Forest. Nopony gets in or out without our knowledge.” The Captain of the Royal Guard reported his pale, ice blue eyes fixed on Luna’s own. “Medical personnel and supplies have been dispatched to the clinic and relief workers are assisting civilian volunteers in clearing rubble and providing any aid as necessary.”

Luna acknowledged his report with a brief nod and started walking towards the exit, with the old stallion trotting alongside her. “Did you send for Princess Twilight Sparkle and the rest of the Element Bearers?”

“Yes ma’am. I sent for them five minutes ago, so they should be here any moment.” Luna gave another nod to his report and used her magic to open the front doors. They both left the building and walked out onto the town square. The scene had changed dramatically since she had entered the town hall several minutes ago. Instead of a single canopy, the town square was full of large tents, with stacks of crates near most of them. Between them, several guardsponies, all clad in the nondescript combat armor, moved in a flow of organized chaos. Above them, the skies above Ponyville were frequently crossed by pegasi patrols, either arriving to report on their patrols or heading out to conduct new ones.

Once again, Luna thought that perhaps she was overreacting by bringing along an entire Royal Guards company. After all, the attack was over and she doubted there would be a second one. Nopony was that stupid. Then again, she realized that the sight of the soldiers would provide some small comfort to those who lived in Ponyville. A small reassurance, so that life would return to normal as quickly as possible, though she doubted that life in Ponyville would ever be the same. “Captain, I want you to assign a garrison to Ponyville on a more permanent basis. Though I doubt it will do any good for those who have suffered already, perhaps presence of the Royal Guard will grant them a small comfort. We have to show them that we won’t let something like this happen again.”

The Captain nodded in agreement and gestured to a nearby adjutant. “Find Lieutenant Cold Iron, tell him that I request his presence at the town hall.” The guardspony saluted and took off, the pegasus stallion quickly disappearing from view. Frost Wyrm tracked him as far as he could before turning his attention back to Luna. “Consider it done. Anything else, ma’am?”

“No, that will be enough for now, Captain, see to your tasks. I will meet Princess Twilight and her friends at the command tent. See that we are not disturbed.” Luna replied and made her way towards her destination. Guardsponies parted to clear the way and saluted as she walked past them, but Luna paid them little attention. She had bigger things on mind. Things like possible reactions to this attack and measures she could take in order to ensure it wouldn’t happen again. However, she was drawing a blank on that one. She had no information on the ones responsible. Not even a rumor. All she could do was to react, which put her on a severe disadvantage. Her mood worsened when her thoughts shifted towards her sister who, despite personally leading the investigation on the disappearing settlements, had failed to uncover anything.

Without fully acknowledging them, Luna gave a curt nod of reply to the two ponies guarding the entrance to the tent and went inside. Her eyes immediately fell on the large table with numerous reports scattered all over it. However, despite the amount, the table might as well be empty. They merely repeated what she already knew. Her only hope was that perhaps Twilight had learned something that would shed some light on things. She had survived the attack and had been in the middle of investigating a potential lead on the matter when Luna had arrived, so it made sense that the young princess was her only chance to learn something.

A wave of bitter amusement nearly cracked the reserved mask Luna always wore. Once again she, and by extension – Celestia, were relying on Twilight to solve a problem. Some things never change. Luna thought tiredly while clearing the table from the reports and haphazardly piling them in the furthest corner.

It was about time already. The moment Luna let go of the last report, she heard several familiar voices just outside the tent. A few seconds later, Twilight, Applejack and Rainbow Dash entered the tent. “Greetings.” Luna said with a small nod. She looked over the three mares and arched an eyebrow. “Where are the rest of your friends, Twilight Sparkle?”

Twilight glanced back at the exit and swallowed nervously. “I am sorry, Princess Luna, but Rarity, Fluttershy and Pinkie couldn’t come. Pinkie is … the last night hit her hard. More than anypony else. Fluttershy and Rarity remained with her in order to help.”

“After what happened … I can’t blame her.” Applejack added silently with a shake of her head.

“That is most unfortunate. Though it also shows just how serious the situation is.” Luna motioned them to sit down in front of the table. She mirrored them across the table and waited until they were settled before continuing. “Therefore we must do our best to resolve it as quickly as possible. Now, please, tell me what happened last night. A new perspective on the matter could reveal crucial details.”

The three mares exchanged a quick glance between themselves and then, after clearing her throat, Twilight began to speak. She told her everything she could recall, which, considering her impressive memory was quite a lot. Only a few times did she pause when Applejack or Rainbow chimed in to provide their own impressions as well as fill in any gaps Twilight’s story might have left. She didn’t get to tell the entire story as she couldn’t recall anything after the Elements had wiped out the attackers, however, Rainbow and Applejack quickly picked up the story and continued on, explaining how they had helped the town in the aftermath.

There was a moment of silence when Applejack finished explaining the most recent events as Luna and everypony else quietly contemplated the story. “And what of this Stardust? I understand you were interrogating him when I arrived. Did you learn anything about those who attacked us?”

“Well, yes and no. He did identify the pony responsible for the attack, but Stardust was unable to provide any details, other than this is part of some plan.” Twilight replied. She told Luna everything. From Stardust’s ancestry to the fight underneath the school, to the confrontation between Stardust and Argent some time later.

When she was done, Twilight waited for a moment before voicing the thought that kept surfacing in her mind. “I wanted to ask you something, Princess Luna. Stardust mentioned that Argent was obsessed with a book known as the Grimoire of the Evening War. Now, I’ve studied history and I think I have seen both the war and the book mentioned once or twice in my books, but it was never anything specific. Only vague indications or unclear mentions, making it more of a myth than anything else. Perhaps you know something about this matter?”

“Yes, Twilight Sparkle, I have heard of it.” Luna replied, glad about the change of topic. She gathered her thoughts, reaching for memories that were centuries old. “Though I am afraid I will have to disappoint you, since the war and the book were already myths even before Celestia and I came into existence. It is so old I doubt anypony knows the truth.” She paused for a moment. “The Grimoire comes from an ancient conflict, when an alicorn race, known as Arions, fought the dragons.” Luna had to stop when Rainbow, much to Twilight’s frustration, raised a hoof.

“Arions?”

Luna nodded. “Yes. They were a race of immensely powerful alicorns, created by Epona herself. Unfortunately, myths and legends are all that remains. They vanished a long time ago. Either they were wiped out by dragons or some other calamity befell them. The Grimoire is said to be their legacy. However, nopony knows what it means, since the book was only a myth as well … Though it sounds like it was not just a myth.” Luna said after a brief pause, her face void of any emotion.

That is not nearly enough information. I was hoping for more. Twilight felt the gears in her head moving. She looked at the table in front of her, not really seeing her as she added the new information to what she already knew. The results were not good. “Okay, so the Grimoire is an ancient book, containing knowledge we don’t know anything about. Judging from Stardust’s story, Argent Blaze had it in his possession and it was very important to whatever he is planning, until Stardust destroyed it.” She took a deep breath through clenched teeth. “However, even though he lost the Grimoire, Argent still seems to be able to carry out his plan, which means…” Twilight brought up her hooves in front of her and stared at them before letting out an exasperated moan and rubbing her eyes. “I’m sorry, but it doesn’t give us anything. Book or no book, we still have no idea what he is planning and why.”

Luna studied her, carefully considering Twilight’s words. “At least we now have a name. Argent Blaze. If we know the identity of the pony behind all this, we have a lead. A trail we can follow. Celestia will be happy to hear the news. Her investigation in this matter has brought little fruit.”

“Pardon me, Princess, but what did you mean by that? Celestia is doin’ her own investigation? Did she know about this?” Applejack frowned deeply. Twilight and Rainbow Dash looked at their friend and then back at Luna, a pair of frowns also settling on their foreheads as they also realized the hint behind Luna’s words.

Luna turned her head around and searched for a nearby map. When she spotted it, Luna used her magic to bring it to the table and spread it out. The three remaining mares leaned closer in order to get a better look at what was the map of Equestria. The first thing they noticed was the large, red circles around several locations in the South. Luna let them examine the map for a moment before she cleared her throat and started talking. “I am afraid, this attack is not the only incident Equestria has experienced in these recent weeks. Other settlements have been attacked.” She tapped the marked locations with her hoof. “However, unlike the attack on Ponyville, these incidents have been of different nature. Instead of slaughtering the population, the ones responsible have chosen to abduct them. Every stallion, mare and foal has disappeared without a trace. There have been no traces of struggle, no clues, nothing. Celestia has been investigating these attacks, doing her best to find out who is responsible, but unfortunately, she hasn’t been able to find anything.”

“Whoa! Ponies are disappearing and you didn’t tell us about it?” Rainbow couldn’t believe her ears as she counted the number of circles. Next to her Applejack drew a sharp breath, while Twilight was studying the map, muttering something to herself. “Four towns have disappeared and you don’t tell us a single word? We could have helped. In fact, we should be out there right now, making sure other towns don’t get attacked.” Her voice was growing more forceful with every word until she realized that she was talking to Princess Luna.

The glare Luna gave Rainbow instantly silenced the mare. “And what would you do? The reason you weren't told anything is because we have no idea what is going on. All we know is that somepony is abducting entire towns. That is it. There aren’t even any rumors that could provide some clues about the situation. All this time we have been chasing ghosts. Getting you involved would not have changed anything. Celestia herself told me that none of you should be involved in this matter.” All this time Luna’s eyes were focused on Rainbow, but then they suddenly shifted towards Twilight for a very brief moment.

“Why would Princess Celestia not ask us to help her? We’ve done plenty of things in the past. I’m pretty sure we could have helped her nip this one in the bud.” Applejack noticed the look Luna gave Twilight and couldn’t help feel suspicious. Especially when Twilight met Luna’s eyes and drew in her breath just a tiny, little bit sharper than before.

“How do you know these attacks are related?” Twilight suddenly said, her eyes shifting to the map. Applejack arched her eyebrows, when a slight poke made itself known in her gut. Something was off. She couldn’t place a hoof on it, but something was going on here. “Considering how different they are, this could be the work of two unrelated parties.” Twilight slowly traced her hoof from one circle to another, as if trying to connect them to each other. For a moment she raised her head and looked at Luna with what Applejack thought was a pleading look in her eyes.

Luna shook her head. “Though your argument does sound reasonable, I doubt it. And even if there truly are two threats Equestria is facing, it matters not. We still have to find out who is behind this and put an end to it.”

“How do you suggest we do that, Princess? All we have is a name, stories of an ancient book and strange disappearances.” Twilight could feel the gears inside her head turning as she considered the possible actions. As it turned out, Luna’s reply was exactly the one she had been expecting.

“We will pursue the few leads we have. I will return to Canterlot and find out more about the unicorn Argent Blaze and his comrades. You, I believe, will most likely prefer to research the Grimoire. If we can find out what it contains, then there is a chance we will be able to figure out what Argent is planning.”

Rainbow’s eyes traveled from one princess to another. She scratched her head in confusion. “But wasn’t that book destroyed? Stardust said he burned the thing. How can we learn about something that was destroyed?”

“We don’t really need the book itself, Rainbow. There’s bound to be references in other books. Perhaps copies or fragments taken from the book. Things like that.” Twilight explained while her mind considered potential sources of information. “Besides, I am not sure if that book was really destroyed. There is no way a simple book could have survived this long. It could be enchanted with a layer of protection. A spell that protects it from damage. Things like that. Which increases the chance of finding any sort of reference.”

Rainbow considered Twilight’s reply and had to agree. If that Grim-something book was anything like her Daring Do novels, then it would not take very long for the wear and tear to cause serious damage. “Hmm… I guess, that makes sense.”

Meanwhile Applejack stopped sneaking suspicious glances at Twilight and joined the conversation. She cleared her throat, forcing everypony to look at her. “Okay. We clearly have a plan of action and we’re one step closer to solvin’ this mystery. However, there is still one thing I want to ask. What are … were those things from last night? The ones that attacked us? I’ve seen plenty of critters in my life, hard not to when livin’ near the Everfree and hangin’ out with Twilight here. But nothin’ comes close to those things. I thought Timberwolves were nasty, but this is on a completely new level.”

“Applejack’s right. Those ponies, if you could still call them that, were insane. All that howling and screaming was bad enough, but the way they threw themselves me…” Rainbow actually shuddered at the memory. “Not to mention those teeth…” Twilight’s arm gave a sudden pang when Rainbow mentioned that particular topic.

Luna took a moment to collect her thoughts. When she did start to talk, her words were slow, as if she was trying to put together an answer at the same time as saying it. “Truth be told, I cannot answer that question, because I am also at a loss. Those markings on their bodies… Sigils or Brands I believe they are called, makes me think those were familiars. Demons, summoned from the depths of Tartarus, to do a master’s bidding.” There was another pause as Luna searched her memory for additional information. Even though her knowledge of the darkest aspects of magic was much deeper than her sister’s, there were still some bits that escaped her. “However, what makes this situation strange is that the bodies are still whole. Demons can’t remain outside Tartarus for long. It takes a lot of power for them to manifest a physical form in this world. Therefore, whenever they are slain, the body disintegrates. Disappears.”

“Does that mean they are not demons?”

“I cannot say for sure, lady Rainbow Dash. Most clues indicate that they are. But the differences I have seen, makes me doubt that assumption. I will have to look into it. It has been quite some time since I last dealt with magic of this nature.” Luna replied and pulled one of the reports towards her. “It is most frustrating.”

Applejack chewed her lip nervously. “Do you think they will attack again, Princess?”

“Doubtful. There are plenty of soldiers in Ponyville and we can always use the Elements again. They have to understand that, for now, Ponyville is untouchable.” Twilight spoke up in a determined voice. “But I think we are getting sidetracked. Considering how little we know, I think it would be best if we tried to learn as much as possible, without wasting any time. The sooner we find out what Argent is planning, the sooner all the missing bits will fall into place and we’ll be able to stop whatever he is planning.”

“You speak the truth, Twilight Sparkle. Time is of the essence. Please understand, however, that my help will be limited. With Celestia searching for any clues on the disappearing towns, I have been tasked with ruling Equestria all by myself.” At some time, Luna would have been overjoyed with the prospect of being completely in charge. However, now that she had experienced the full weight of the task, Luna was starting to have regrets. Suddenly being in charge of Equestria was much more problematic than she had imagined. Everything needed her attention, didn’t matter if it was a trivial argument between two ponies or the most recent border incident with the griffins.

Twilight jumped to her hooves. “Don’t worry, Princess. I will take care of it immediately. I’m sure I’ll discover something by tonight.” As soon as she had finished the sentence, Twilight turned around and headed towards the exit.

“Twilight Sparkle, before you go, may I talk to you? In private?” She looked at Applejack and Rainbow Dash and gave them a small nod and a smile. It was a clear sign that for them, the conversation was over.

Twilight looked back at Luna and immediately realized what the dark blue alicorn wanted to talk about. Thoughts of any other possibility were banished by the request for privacy. It was a conversation Twilight wanted to avoid, but at the same time couldn’t ignore as well. After all, Luna was Celestia’s sister and she had plenty of reasons to be worried about how things were between Twilight and Celestia. Some small part of her tried to come up with some sort of an excuse and, considering the situation, Twilight was almost certain that Luna wouldn’t mind. However, at the same time, she couldn’t ignore the problem as well. Something had to be done. Letting it just sit at the back of her mind and fester, would only make things worse. As a result, Twilight found herself turning around and slowly walking back to the table, pausing only to say goodbye to Rainbow and Applejack as they exited the tent.

Once they were alone, Luna met Twilight’s eyes and dropped her guard a little, letting the sadness inside her find its way to her face. “Have you forgiven her, Twilight?”

xxxxx

“I wonder if everythin’s alright. Maybe we should ask her what’s wrong with her?” Applejack stared back at the tent and muttered quietly. She turned her head back just in time to avoid running into a guardspony. She managed to avoid the collision, but almost knocked down Rainbow.

The cyan pegasus jumped to the side with a surprised gasp. She glared at Applejack and rose up in the air where it would be easier to avoid clumsy earth ponies. “Hey, careful, Applejack! You nearly knocked me down!” She paused to make sure her friend was okay. “What’s wrong with you? Usually you’re not this clumsy.”

“Sorry sugarcube, my mind was wonderin’ all over the place back there. Couldn’t see what was in front of me until the last moment.” She adjusted her hat and smiled apologetically.

Whatever snarky comment Rainbow had in mind, was banished by her friend’s words. She glanced back at the tent and nodded in agreement. “Yeah, you’re right. Can’t believe this is happening. Ponies are disappearing and nopony has any idea on what’s going on. Not only that, but we’re supposed to just sit here and do nothing. It’s crazy!”

“I don’t like sitting on my hooves either. Doing nothin’ while others are suffering, it just ain’t right. However, you have to admit, Princess Luna was right. There is nothin’ we can do if we don’t know who’s responsible. Blindly running off will get us nowhere. I think it’s best if we let them figure out what’s going on, before we go and give a solid buck to the teeth to whoever is doing this.”

“You got that one right.” Rainbow agreed with a grim look in her eyes and cracked her neck. “Somepony’s in for a world of hurt.” As soon as they got clear of the tents, they started moving at a faster pace.

Applejack smiled briefly, before her previous concerns resurfaced, causing her to lose the smile. “I just hope Twilight’s okay.”

“What did you say? Something about Twilight?”

Applejack couldn’t find the right way to voice her thoughts and eventually decided to just go with it. “Nothin’ much, I just … It could be that my mind’s playin’ tricks on me, but I think there is somethin’ wrong with Twilight. She seemed a bit nervous when talking to Princess Luna.”

“I think you’re worrying too much.” Rainbow waved her hoof dismissively. “It’s Twilight we’re talking about, she’s always nervous about all sorts of things.” Applejack considered that.

“Hmm… perhaps you’re right. Maybe I am worryin’ too much.” She shook her head to clear the thoughts and broke into a gallop. ”C’mon, let’s go and check up on Pinkie. Hopefully Rarity and Flutterhy have calmed her down.”

Rainbow flapped her wings a little faster in order to keep up. “Yeah, just don’t mention all this to her. She has had a hard enough day.”

xxxxx

“Would… would you like a glass of water, perhaps?” Rarity desperately tried to come up with a way to switch her friend’s thoughts in another direction, but her attempt proves fruitless. Pinkie didn’t respond. The pink mare was sitting on her bed back at Sugarcube Corner and stared at the ground in front of her.

Fluttershy gently sat down next to Pinkie and slowly pulled her into a comforting embrace. Much to Rarity’s relief, she saw Pinkie lean into the hug a bit. She and Fluttershy shared a small sigh. At the very least Pinkie was responding to them. From her place next to the door, Rarity watched Fluttershy comfort Pinkie. “Don’t worry, Pinkie. We’re here for you. There is nothing for you to worry about.” It was a lie and they all knew it. Rarity knew it, Flutershy knew it and even Pinkie knew it as well. Problem was, none of them really knew what to say.

Rarity walked over to the window and looked at the Ponyville outside. She was still trying to process the story she had heard. Sure, she had suspected that Stardust had a problematic past, but she had never imagined that it would be something like this. Rarity honestly didn’t know what to think about the situation. It was obvious that Stardust was a victim of his own crimes. Going so far as to try and kill a fellow pony for such petty reasons… Rarity shook her head at the sheer incredulity of it. However, while this realization made it easy to label him as a criminal who got what he deserved, Rarity couldn’t bring herself to decide so quickly.

The way he had helped her a few days ago, it was not something a pony like Stardust from five years ago would do. Those were the actions of a decent pony, who tried to do the right thing. Perhaps he was different now? Maybe he was a different pony, who had seen the error of his ways and tried to atone for his crimes? Of course, the very moment the thought formed in her mind, Rarity recalled the day Stardust was captured. She hadn’t seen the actual event, but from what Twilight and Rainbow had told her, Stardust had been about to mercilessly kill one of the attackers. While Rarity could understand if a pony went too far when it came to self-defense, there was the fact that at that moment Stardust had been the aggressor, going after his attacker when said attacker was fleeing and unable to resist.

Some small part of her wanted to use it as final proof to condemn Stardust as a violent pony, a criminal who occasionally showed a moment of kindness. However, her sense of honor didn’t allow that. Stardust had helped her and Rarity still felt she was in his debt. Rarity looked in the eyes of her own reflection and made a decision to give Stardust the benefit of doubt. That was the least she could do. Perhaps we shall meet again and I will be able to make a decision. Rarity said to herself with a sharp exhale. Decision made, peace of mind attained, Rarity turned around to face her friends.

Unfortunately, despite Rarity reaching some sort of closure and putting her thoughts temporarily at ease, the situation was still far from good. Pinkie was still unnaturally quiet and unresponsive, staring at a spot on the floor in a manner that was rather unsettling. Whenever Pinkie got that empty look in her eyes it was like she became a completely different pony. A pony that required a delicate approach.

“C’mon pinkie, please cheer up.” Fluttershy once again tried to get a response from her friend. In retrospect, perhaps it would have been best if she had stayed quiet.

Pinkie twitched, as if suddenly waking up from a trance, and pulled away from Fluttershy, while giving her a strange look that caused the pegasus to move away. “Cheer up? How? How can you say that? After all we heard. How can I cheer up?”

“”Pinkie, darling please…” Rarity began, but Pinkie didn’t hear her. She stared at the trembling Fluttershy, with a look that held no anger or sadness. Her eyes were void of all emotion.

“I just heard a pony openly say they refused to be friends with somepony else. While I could understand it, he also told us that he tried to hurt other ponies. Not just hurt, but seriously injure and maybe even kill them.” She took a shaky breath which sounded longer than was naturally possible. “He tried to kill another pony because he was different … How … How can anypony do such a thing? How could he do something like that? How can I cheer up after I hear something so terrible?” Pinkie fell silent for a while and turned her attention towards the floor again. “Ponies are supposed to be friends, not try to hurt each other.”

Rarity shot Fluttershy a concerned gaze, somehow fearing that her friend, who was often easily frightened by various things, would be already halfway out of the room. However, Fluttershy remained on the bed. She met Rarity’s gaze and shook her head in response. More than that, the pegasus slowly got back up, once again sat down next to Pinkie and started gently rubbing Pinkie’s back with a reassuring touch. “I don’t know, Pinkie. I’m sorry, but I really don’t know. ”

“It’s just that I saw so many terrible things last night.” Pinkie continued. “And just when I thought I managed to get over it, I had to listen to more.”

With a heavy sigh, Rarity walked over to the bed and sat down next to Pinkie. “I know, Pinkie. I know. Last night was horrible for everypony. I wish I knew what to say in order to make it easier, but I don’t. All I can say is that you just have to grit your teeth and move on.”

“But how?”

“Think about nice things. All those times when something good happened to you or anypony else. I am sure you have plenty of nice memories. Focus on them.” Now that Pinkie wasn’t looking at her with that empty gaze and it looked like there was a proper conversation going on, Fluttershy found the courage to speak up.

“Fluttershy is right. You can’t dwell on the bad things all the time. Think of something nice. Something that cheers you up. I know things look bad right now, but it won’t always be like that. It will get better. With time, everything gets better.” Rarity continued from where Fluttershy had left. She made an encouraging smile.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t that easy to break through the depressing mist. “I can’t. I really tried, but I can’t. How can I be happy if other ponies are not?”

“Look, Pinkie, we're not asking you to be happy while everypony else is miserable. You're not the kind of pony who would do that and that is why we love you so much. But please understand that there are times when it is impossible to make ponies laugh, no matter how much you want to.” Pinkie opened her mouth to protest, but Rarity cut her off before she misunderstood the meaning behind those words. “And it has nothing to do with your ability to cheer them up. Sometimes bad things happen in life. Sometimes you have to let them be sad. Give them time to grieve so they can later move on. You know that saying, time heals all wounds? Well, this is the case when it is true. Give ponies some time. It will get better. All you have to do is wait.”

“Just wait?”

On the other side Flutterhsy nodded several times. “Yes, Pinkie. Occasionally waiting for some time to pass, can be just as good as any other solution. For example, there have been cases when some of my animals have been injured and no matter how much I want to help them right away, I have to let them get a little rest before that.”

“Yes, there is time for everything. You just have to wait until the right moment. And you can’t do it alone, we will be right here to help you.” Rarity managed a smile. She was about to say more, but her voice was cut off when Pinkie slipped her arms around Rarity and Fluttershy and pulled them into a tight hug.

“Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.” Pinkie whispered as she pulled her friends closer. She kept her eyes shut, but that did not keep the tears from flowing down her cheeks and disappearing into Fluttershy’s or Rarity’s manes. “I will wait. I will wait until the time is right … you are the best friends a pony could ever wish for. I am so happy to have met you.” She opened her eyes just in time to see the doors open, revealing Applejack and Rainbow Dash. “All of you.”

xxxxx

“I… No… I can’t… I don’t know. I can’t answer that. Not yet.” Twilight couldn’t meet Luna’s gaze. Her voice caught up in her throat several times, preventing her from completing her sentence, forcing her to push them out with all her strength. “I am sorry, Luna. But… I can’t… I don’t know if I can forgive her.” She managed to raise her eyes and saw that Luna was staring at her. As usual it was impossible to read any emotions from the dark alicorn’s face.

“It has been more than a month.” Luna finally said.

“I know!” Twilight slammed her hoof against the ground in a sudden rush of emotions. “I know.” She added much more quietly and sat down with a heavy sigh. “But I can’t. Not now. Not so soon. Not when they are still suffering from it. Sure, they might be hiding it from others, but it is still there... The pain is still there, just under the surface. I can feel it.”

Luna didn’t say a word. She didn’t know what to say. Twilight was speaking the truth. Since Luna’s duties also included safeguarding ponies’ dreams, she often saw the nightmares plaguing them. Twilight’s friends were no exception. They often had nightmares about that time when Twilight had switched around their Cutie Marks, forcing them to live completely different lives. A deeply traumatic experience if there ever was one. Luna herself couldn’t hold back a shiver at the thought of having the very essence of herself being taken away from her. Celestia had done something terrible, in more ways than one. And it had cost her. “She is in pain, Twilight. What happened between you and her, it hurt her deeply.”

“I know that. And it pains me to hear that. She means a lot to me. But my friends, they mean everything to me. What we have been through…” Twilight took a sharp breath to focus her mind. It didn’t help much, but it did make her feel slightly more in control of herself. “I can’t forgive her. Not yet. I need more time. Please, tell her that I need to fix this. And… tell her that I don’t hate her.”

“I understand. I will tell her. Hopefully, it will grant her some peace.” Luna eventually admitted defeat. Her attempt to patch things up between Twilight and Celestia had failed. The only consolation was that Twilight didn’t have any anger towards Celestia, only indecision. Though it wasn’t the solution Luna had hoped for, it was better than nothing. “I thank you for not turning your back on her entirely. I know what she did was wrong, even though Celestia had her reasons, but it also pains me to see her like this.”

“Is that why she never told me about the disappearances? About ponies going missing without a single trace?” Twilight voiced the thought that had been inside her head for a while.

“Yes. She felt that asking you for help would violate your request, even though I told her that this is a very serious exception. One that you would understand. However, she didn’t listen to me. Her guilt was making her deaf to all of my objections and attempts to reason with her. Even when I offered to investigate this matter, she refused. Eventually, she took several guards with her and left Canterlot, leaving me in charge of Equestria as well as the sun.”

The last part hit Twilight like a sledgehammer. ”Princess Celestia left you to guide the sun?” She had no idea it was that bad. Yes, she had said some terrible things that night, but there was no way it could have affected Celestia so much.

“I hope you now understand how worried I am. The bond you had with my sister went very deep and it left a large wound when you severed it.” Luna correctly interpreted the unspoken question. Almost immediately, she saw the look on Twilight’s face change and, before Twilight could open her mouth, Luna already knew what to say. “I am not blaming you at all. What you did … it was bound to happen. Truth be told, I was surprised Celestia did not see it coming. Perhaps that is why it affected her so much. The unseen blade always cuts the deepest.”

“I know. It is painful to me as well. I never wanted to hurt her like this. But…” Twilight muttered as the events of her last meeting with Celestia flashed through her mind.

“But things rarely happen the way we want. All we can do is to deal with the consequences and hope that something can still be salvaged.” Luna finished the sentence with a heavy sigh and watched Twilight nod quietly. There was nothing else to say. At the very least she had a small ray of hope to hold onto. Hope that there was still a chance for Celestia and Twilight to recover at least a portion of the relationship they once had. Luna wasn’t a fool; she knew that things would never be exactly the same. The wounds were simply too deep for them to heal completely and too fresh for the healing to start. “Sadly, it looks like more time is needed.”

Luna slowly rose to her hooves, feeling the weight of the world on her back. The conversation on that particular topic was over. “I think it is time for us to start working on solving the more pressing issues. Let me know if you find anything. I will be in Ponyville for a few hours, I have matters to attend to. After that, I will head back to Canterlot.”

Twilight nodded in response, though the strained expression did not leave her face. She was clearly thinking very hard about something. “I will start working on it immediately. Hopefully, I’ll learn something useful by tonight. And one more thing…” She stood up and quickly moved around the table. Before Luna could realize what was going on, Twilight was in front of her. The younger princess reared up and threw her arms around Luna’s neck, pulling her into a warm hug. For a moment, Luna went completely stiff, but a friendly nuzzle from Twilight made her relax. “Thank you, Princess Luna. Thank you for everything. I don’t know what I would have done without you.” She felt Luna shift her stance and a moment later, Twilight felt an awkward hoof gently touch her back.

xxxxx

Later that night Twilight was sitting on the floor of the main room of her library, surrounded by books. A large blackboard was set up near the wall and was covered with small notes, connected with lines in a seemingly random pattern. On the floor, near the blackboard, several scrolls, also covered in notes, were lying around.

One of the pieces of paper rose up in the air and floated towards Twilight. She carefully read it, looked at the book, floating next to it and, with a frown, crumpled the note and tossed it into a pile of other discarded ones. Twilight stared at the blackboard for a while, taking in all the notes she had written down, and felt a strange feeling of partial success fill her mind. Much to her frustration, her search for the Grimoire had not been as successful as she had hoped. Still, it wasn’t like she hadn’t found anything. Her ability to gleam information from books had served her well. Though there were no specifics to be found, Twilight had spotted several clues and a few potential leads. Tales of an ancient artifact of immense power had surfaced several times during her research. Though the artifact could have been anything, Twilight had a hunch that the artifact in question was the Grimoire. The occasional line describing the artifact as the “legacy of the ancients”, or “tome of power”, was enough to make her take note. One passage including words like “tongue of gods” when referring to the book was another clue.

Unfortunately, vague clues were all she had been able to find. Even after Twilight had went over her findings for a second time, including leads she had discarded previously, she hadn’t been able to find anything else. Her library did not have the information she needed. It was simply too small. I need to expand my research if I am to learn more about that book. Twilight thought and started discarding the unnecessary scrolls. At the same time, she levitated a fresh scroll and quill in front of her, and began copying the notes from her blackboard. A precautionary measure, since notes on the blackboard could easily be wiped off.

She was halfway done with the writing when realization struck. “Canterlot Royal Archives. That’s it! I am sure I’ll be able to find something there.” Twilight nearly pushed the quill through the paper in her excitement. “That’s a brilliant idea. Most of my books are copies of the material I can find there, so it’s fair to assume that there would be even more material on these topics in the archives.” Her writing speed increased drastically, up to the point where the quill was nearly a blur. As soon as she was done, Twilight made sure that she hadn’t missed anything and rolled up the scroll.

“Spike. I need you to take a letter. I want to tell Princess Luna about my findings and inform her that I’m going to Canterlot in order to investigate further.” Twilight put down the scroll and looked around. There was no reply. “Spike? Where are you?” Twilight repeated and looked around again, hoping to spot the baby dragon hiding between piles of books. Nothing. “Spike, I need you to…” She fell silent when she realized she hadn’t seen Spike all day.

“Spike?” Twilight trotted around the room, double checking all potential spots where he could be. Still noting. “That can’t be right. I am sure I saw him today.” She muttered and strained her memory. She remembered the conversation with Luna, the quick trot towards the library and the research. Not much more. However, as she focused on the details, Twilight did recall seeing Spike enter the library, greet her in a quiet voice and then quickly running up to the bedroom.

Twilight glanced up in the direction of said bedroom with an uneasy look. Without a single word or thought, she started climbing up the stairs. The closer she got, the more worried she became. How could I forget about him? When was the last time I saw him before? She asked herself and quickly covered the remaining steps when the answer came. She hadn’t paid any attention to him since the last night. The last thing she remembered was the shocked look on his face before she left him at Sugarcube Corner. Swallowing nervously, she cracked the door open and poked her muzzle inside. “Spike?”

The inside of her bedroom was completely dark and, apart from rough shapes, Twilight couldn’t make out any details. She could have cast an illumination spell or light a candle, but that would only disturb Spike. Therefore, she decided to rely on her memory to avoid tripping and slipped inside.

Once she was inside, Twilight’s ears picked up barely audible sobs coming from her bed. With a few flaps of her wings, Twilight landed on the edge of the alcove and saw a small shape, hiding under her blanket. Spike was shivering slightly, and his sobs sounded very dry as if coming from somepony who didn’t have the strength to cry anymore. A sharp pang of pain shot through her heart when Twilight realized that Spike had been spending all day up here, crying, without her even noticing it. Any thought of sending a letter to Princess Luna evaporated immediately.

Slowly, Twilight approached her bed and reached out. “Hey, Spike.” She said softly and placed her hoof on Spike’s back. The sobbing stopped almost immediately and soon after a pair of green eyes were staring at her expectantly. Twilight’s heart clenched when she saw the look in his eyes. How could I forget about him?! “Have… have you been up here all day?”

Spike didn’t say a word, he merely nodded in response. “How are you? Is everything okay?” Twilight forged ahead. She knew that she was asking the obvious, but she didn’t know what else to say and talking was a much better option than letting the silence drag on. There was another nod. An unconvincing one. Spike was trying to be brave, but he wasn’t fooling anypony. Fresh tears welled up in his eyes despite his best efforts to hold them back.

“Oh, Spike.” Twilight suddenly found herself struggling to keep her eyes dry. After all that horror they had witnessed last night, she hadn’t spared a single thought about how Spike was feeling about it. The promise she had made to herself, to talk to him, to comfort him after everything was over, had turned out to be nothing more than a lie. She had left him at Sugarcube Corner and hadn’t spared a single thought about him for the entire day. Just because she had learned so much about the situation, it didn’t make it okay to forget about Spike. Yet she had. She had forgotten about him until the moment she needed him to send a letter. She had left him to deal with the last night’s memories alone. I am a horrible pony. Twilight found it hard to breathe. I am such a horrible pony. How could I forget about Spike? She rubbed Spike’s back even as she was steadily losing her struggle against keeping her eyes dry.

Eventually, she stopped bothering with that. “I am sorry, Spike. I am sorry for leaving you alone.” She sobbed and pulled Spike closer. An invisible dam burst inside her and tears started to run free. Twilight was only partially aware of pulling Spike into a hug, which he returned by holding onto her as if his life depended on it. “I am so sorry.” Twilight said as everything came crashing down. Up until that moment, Twilight had been able to keep her emotions in check, operating on detached, scientific logic. Even the conversation with Luna hadn’t managed to crack the hard shell. But now, when she was sitting on the floor of her bedroom, holding her little brother in her arms, she couldn’t keep it away anymore. Every single memory of the last night, the realization, the horror, the fear, the anger, the sadness, the desperation, it all struck her at once. She wept as once again she realized just how quickly things could get very bad and how much worse with every new time they became.

xxxxx

No, please no! Not again! Please, not again! Celestia though when a sudden blink made her fully aware of her surroundings. She was standing in front of a room, in the middle of a long corridor at Canterlot Castle. Her sister’s moon was casting its pale light through the window at the far end of the corridor. There wasn’t a pony in sight and the entire castle felt eerily silent and empty. Not even the guards were present. Usually the lack of guards would be a cause for some concern, but this wasn’t a usual situation. In fact, over the past few weeks the situation had become distressingly common for her.

Celestia closed her eyes for a moment, hoping it would grant her the escape she wanted so much, but it didn’t work. There was no escaping from this dream. Not until she saw it all the way through. Not until she entered the room in front of her and watched this dream, this nightmare unfold. It had plagued her sleep for many nights and didn’t even fully leave her thoughts during daytime. The dream of that night, when everything had fallen apart.

She tried to leave, to run away as quickly as she could, hopefully avoiding what would soon follow. Unfortunately, it did not happen. The moment Celestia lifted her hoof off the ground, there was the sound of paper being torn and, just like that, the brief moment of lucidity was gone, and she once again became a prisoner in her own body. Unable to do anything else, but watch.

She continued to raise her hoof so that she could knock on the door. “Twilight. I have to talk to you. May I come in?” Usually she didn’t ask such things. She was the ruler of Equestria in her own castle. There was not a place she could not go. All the doors were open for her. All but two.

No response came from the room, though she was certain she heard another piece of paper being torn in half. The sound alone was disconcerting. That was not a sound she expected to hear anywhere near Twilight. Perhaps the guardspony had been right. Maybe there was a cause for concern. She used her magic to check the door and found if unlocked. That was a good sign. It meant that Twilight wouldn’t object if she entered the room.

“Twilight, I was told you did not come to the…” Celestia opened the door and walked inside. She quickly glanced all over the dark room, taking note of the lavish furniture as well as the room’s two occupants. Suddenly, her voice died in her throat when her eyes fell on Twilight and she fully comprehended the sight in front of her.

Twilight was sitting on the floor in front of the fireplace. She was staring at the crackling flames and seemed to be completely unaware of Celestia’s presence. Twilight was sitting completely still, her brand new wings hanging loosely from her sides, while her disheveled mane was obscuring her face. However, what made Celestia briefly lose the ability to speak was the sight of an open book, floating near Twilight. It looked like an ordinary book, except for the fact that most of its pages were missing, as in carelessly ripped out. Celestia immediately realized where the tearing sounds had been coming from and, judging from the fireplace and the lack of any pages on the floor, what Twilight had been up to. Twilight is burning a book!

“Twilight. What is going on? What are you doing?” Celestia quickly closed the door behind her and moved closer to the younger alicorn. She briefly flicked her eyes towards the other side of the room, where Spike was lying on top of the bed, still as a statue, observing them. Their eyes met for the briefest moment and Celestia could have sworn there was a flash of anger in those green eyes. Before the realization could properly set in, Twilight spoke in a quiet voice.

“Why, Princess Celestia? Why did you do this to me and my friends?” Twilight was staring into the fire as she spoke. She turned the damaged book in her grasp, so that Celestia could see the cover. Celestia gasped when she saw the cover. It was Starswirl the Bearded’s journal. The one she had sent Twilight a month ago. She barely got a glimpse of the cover before Twilight tossed the book into the fire.

“Twilight!”

“DON’T YOU DARE TOUCH IT! LET IT BURN!” Twilight’s voice shattered the silence that had reigned in the room until then, stopping Celestia’s attempt to save the book. Shocked by the sudden outbreak, Celestia could only stare at her former student. Twilight had never yelled at her. Not like that. Not with such anger in her voice. And never had she seen such anger in Twilight’s eyes as the young princess turned to glare at her. The sheer novelty of the fact kept Celestia still as a statue. “Let it burn. Something so terrible should not exist.” Twilight added, her voice quiet once again.

“Why did you send me that book? Why did you ask me to work on that spell? Why, Celestia, why?” Twilight’s voice was almost pleading. A desperate attempt to make some sense of the questions plaguing her.

Celestia didn’t answer immediately. She didn’t know how. It was one of those few times where she, despite her immense experience, had no answer to a question. At least not a safe question. Eventually, she decided to tell the truth. “It was a test, Twilight. A test to see if you were ready to become a princess.”

As expected, the answer didn’t do much. Twilight closed her eyes and shook her head in denial. “I know it was a test. I knew it the moment I realized the spell doesn’t do anything. Even before you told me. A spell that changes everypony’s Cutie Marks and then changes them back? What is the purpose of such a spell? It doesn’t make sense. So, please tell me. Why did you do this? Why did you make me a princess?”

“I didn’t make you a princess. I can’t. You did it yourself. You were able to restore harmony through your deep understanding of friendship and it was this realization, this epiphany that made you ascend.” Celestia explained with a heavy heart. “As for why I did it. That is because it has always been your destiny to become a princess. It was fated to be from the day you were born.”

“A prophecy? About me becoming a princess?” Twilight frowned as the anger was replaced by confusion. “I thought the prophecy was only about me and my friends using the Elements of Harmony to defeat Nightmare Moon.”

Celestia shook her head. “Yes, but there was another one. “Spurred hardship and guided by selflessness, a pony would wield the six stars and join the guardians of Equestria.” This prophecy was made after the one that foretold about you and your friends using the Elements. Considering what you have done, the prophecy has come true. So, please understand when I say that I had to do this. I had to help you fulfill your destiny.”

Twilight was silent for a very long time. Celestia tried to get a read on her emotions, but was unable to. Whatever Twilight was thinking about, was not for her to find out ahead of time. However, Celestia had faith in her student. Twilight was a smart mare, she always tried to look at the big picture. She would understand. She had to.

Eventually, Twilight took a slightly deeper breath, which told Celestia that Twilight had an answer. “So, all this a lie then? All these years I spent as your personal student. Everything you taught me, everything you told me was a lie. All of it was just a series of tests, stepping stones of a grand plan to turn me into a princess.”

“No, Twilight. It is not like that. I haven’t lied to you!” Celestia took a step towards Twilight, but stopped when Twilight moved away from her. It was wrong. It was so very wrong. “You got it all wrong.” She could literary hear Twilight’s world breaking apart.

“THEN HOW COULD YOU DO THIS! HOW COULD YOU DO SUCH A THING?” Twilight accentuated her sudden roar by slamming her hoof against the ground. “You used me to destroy the lives of my friends. All because of some prophecy.” She took several breaths in order to focus her raging thoughts. “You weren’t there. You didn’t watch my friends suffer. For a month I had to watch their lives become worse and worse. Their entire world crumbling to pieces despite, or rather because of their attempts to do what they believed was their calling in life. For an entire month I tried everything I could to help them, to make them who they were, but nothing worked. Do you know how it feels to know that your failures do not end with a bad grade, but with a very close friend suffering?”

“Not only that, but nopony else noticed it. Nopony noticed that the ponies they had known for so long were suddenly doing the wrong thing. Instead, they blamed them for something that was not their fault. It was as if they were made to believe that my friends had the correct Cutie Marks.” Celestia winced at the unspoken accusation. “And you did this for what? To give me wings? A title? None of which I desired. ”

“Twilight, please. I just wanted to…” Celestia closed her eyes in a vain attempt to lessen the pain Twilight’s words were causing her. The look of utter betrayal in Twilight’s eyes cut deeper than any blade possibly could. She tried to reason with herself. She tried to convince her that her actions were justified, but just hearing Twilight’s voice derailed any such attempts.

Unfortunately, Twilight wasn’t done. She either couldn’t see or did not care about the effect her words were having on Celestia. The only mercy Twilight granted her was that Twilight wasn’t looking at her anymore. Twilight turned her head to look at the flames again. Celestia felt grateful for that. However, Twilight’s next words cut even deeper. “What you did was unforgivable… By all means I should hate you for what you did to my friends. However, I do not. I can’t … I love you … Ever since you took me as your personal student, you have been like a second mother to me. You have taught me so much. And you played a large part in making me the pony I am today. For that I can never be grateful enough.” A sudden chill crept up Celestia’s spine when she heard Twilight’s voice. There wasn’t any anger in it. Instead, it was filled with a cold acceptance.

“And it is because you made me who I am today, I cannot accept your actions. The pony you taught would never accept doing what you did, no matter the reason. You taught me to use magic responsibly, for the good of everypony, not for personal gain. You told me that there is more to life than just magic… and you were right. My friends mean much more to me than any magic in Equestria. Because of my friends I have achieved much more than I could ever achieve on my own. In fact, it’s thanks to them I am standing here tonight. Like you, they also have helped me become who I am today. I care about them and I will not use their friendship for selfish means. If it means ignoring my destiny, I am fine with that. I would rather live an unfulfilled life than build my success on the suffering of my friends.” Twilight hesitated for a moment before continuing. “I thought you knew that. I thought that Celestia I love, knew that … I was wrong.” There was a note of finality in her voice as she stood up and started walking towards the door. She moved past Celestia, but no matter how much she tried, Celestia could not bring herself to say anything, she couldn’t even move. In that moment, Celestia realized that the bond she had shared with Twilight was gone. Dead.

Before she reached the door, Twilight stopped. “I will go to my friends and tomorrow we will return to Ponyville. I hope I will be able to find some way to mitigate the damage I have cause when I cast that spell… I don’t know if it can be done, but the bond between friends has proved me wrong before … It is the very same bond that is crying out not to leave you, but I can’t. I am afraid that if I remain here, I will… You still mean so very much to me, but right now, I have to be with my friends. Please, Celestia, I beg you, do not approach me. I love you too much in order to risk making things even worse.” There was the sound of doors opening, followed by a set of hooves walking outside. On the bed, Spike quickly jumped to the floor and hurried after Twilight. On his way, he spared a moment to cast an apologetic look at Celestia.

A moment later, the spell broke and Celestia found herself able to move again. “Twilight.” She whirled around, but was met with closed doors. “Twilight…”

xxxxx

“… forgive me.” Celestia opened her eyes as the last words crossed her lips. A dream. She thought and closed her eyes in order to clear her vision. When she opened them again, looked around the tent. Everything was just as it was when she had gone to sleep. Her royal attire was within easy reach, waiting for her. A small table, covered with numerous notes was the only piece of furniture she had apart from the light bed she was sleeping in.

With her thoughts still on the nightmare, Celestia rose up and glanced upwards. A brief touch on her bond with the sun, told her that it was the middle of the night and she had been sleeping for four hours. For her, that was enough. She stood up and walked over to the table, ignoring her attire for now. Celestia picked up one of the notes in order to get her thoughts in order, but the dream retained its hold. She could not stop thinking about it.

“Why did everything turn out like this?” She put the note down with a heavy sigh. “I was so sure about the prophecy. I was certain I did what was needed. Then why did it all go wrong?” It was not the first time she tried to understand the situation, to make sense of what had happened on that night. However, even a month later, she was no closer to the answer than before.

It had seen so simple before. Guide Twilight towards her destiny of becoming a princess, a shining beacon that would defend Equestria along side her, Luna and Cadence. All the signs had been there. Everything had gone according to plan. She had succeeded. Twilight was a princess. “Then why do I feel no joy? Why is there no satisfaction?” Celestia asked the question she had asked herself for so many times.

Usually, after a plan successfully carried out, Celestia felt the wonderful sensation of a job well done. The satisfaction all ponies got whenever they saw the end result. So why was it different this time? Why there was this gaping hole inside her? Why Twilight had turned her back on her? It wasn't supposed to be like that. Twilight was supposed to become a princess and help protect Equestria by her side. That was what the prophecy had told her. That was what Celestia had worked towards all these years. Everything had gone as it had supposed to, even though she had to make some ponies suffer. In the end, everything was supposed to work out just fine, like it always did .

Always.

Right?

Author's Note:

Now that this thing is ready, allow me to apologize for taking so long. Yes, I know I don't do fast updates in the first place, but this was a bit too long, even for someone like me.

The problem is that I seriously overestimated my writing abilities. Initially, I was expecting to spend little time on the three primary scenes (Twilight and Luna, Pinkie, Rarity and Fluttershy, and Twilight and Celestia), however, as I found out those scenes were extremely demanding. Whenever I came back to re-check a finished scene, I had to rewrite it, since it didn't feel right. In addition, writing such scenes is very demanding so I got tired easily. Eventually, after quite some time, I was able to get them to a level where I consider them good enough. Hopefully, you will find them good enough as well.

Oh, and one more thing. The name for the ancient alicorns - Arions, was suggested to me by Fervidor, so give him a big thanks.

Comments ( 3 )

Well, that was unexpected - I think I recall some hints pointing at the fact that things were strained between Twilight and Celestia (and somewhat with her friends), but I hadn't expected things to be this bad between them. And I very much look towards this angle being explored - having the events of Magical Mystery Cure last for a whole month before Twilight managed to fix the mess is a very interesting approach, as are the consequences that would have for everyone involved.

And would certainly account for Twilight being this pissed with Celestia - not only were her friends miserable (though this obviously struck home the most), but the whole town ended up suffering as a fallout. She would have spent a whole month living in pandemonium central, watching everyone's daily lives going off the rails and knowing she is in the center of it - because Celestia decided this was a good way to "test" her.

Indeed, the more I think about it, the more appropriate Twilight's harsh words seem for the occasion. One thing I'm wondering about though - we had Twilight saying she never wanted this position. If that's the case, why not simply renounce her title as a Princess? It's not like anyone can force her to be one (or any job she doesn't want to do), and if it's a position she neither wants nor approves of how it came about, then there seems to be no better way to send a "No, this is wrong and I won't stand for it and you have a lot to think about" message to Celestia than rejecting the ill-gotten fruits of Celestia's labors.

Either way, this is a pretty fascinating chain of events that promise all sorts of interesting character interactions and interpersonal drama in the future. Hell, personally I found this part of the chapter much more interesting than all the strategy musings and information about the book and its possible origins, though obviously these things are important in the overall scale of things.

And obviously Luna isn't right about the things being demons from Tartarus - that there is a link between the disappearing ponies and these darklings is a given, so I'm going to hazard a guess that these ponies had the runes/brands/sigils engraved on them in order to "bind" them the same way one would bind a demonic minion, resulting in an obedient nasty servant without having to consort with actual demons (which probably isn't good for anyone involved).

Going to be looking towards what Twilight's research digs up - and what Celestia makes of this attack and what actions she will take when the news of it reach her. I hardly imagine it to go well, because indeed - if such an attack can happen right under Canterlot's nose, nowhere is particularly safe.

The bit with Twilight and Spike was also nice - on one hand, with all that has happened and all she has had to do in the chaos, I can see why Twilight could forget about Spike. Hell, I did. On the other hand, ouch, I can see why she would hate herself afterwards for doing so - I guess she will be keeping extra attention on him for quite some time now.

5776892
Yeah, Twilight's reaction to the whole test thing was something I wanted to explore for quite some time. I was very surprised by how calm Twilight was, when she found out that it was all a test. Then again, it's not like it's the first time Celestia did something questionable. However, when Celestia decided to turn Twilight's friends into a test, she crossed the line. Twilight is a patient mare, especially when it comes to Celestia, but mess with her friends and there will be consequences.

As for the title, it's somewhat tricky. Yeah, refusing the title would be a nice "fuck you" to Princess Celestia. However, Twilight still loves Celestia. After all she has done for her, Twilight couldn't bring herself to hate her, even though pretty much everyone else would hate Celestia's guts. Therefore, no matter how angry Twilight was, she retained enough control over herself to avoid doing anything permanent.

There was so much she could have done, ranging from telling everything to others, to cutting off all contact forever, to rejecting absolutely everything. However, like she said, Twilight did not want to do anything irreversible in the heat of the moment. And none of those things are easy to fix once they are out in the open. Instead, Twilight merely said what was on her mind, and requested that she got some time alone. Thing is, in several ways that is even worse, because there is no closure from where the healing can begin. The issue is still hanging in the air.

As for Spike, I'll admit, it's frightening how easy it is to forget about him and leave him as a bench warmer.

Whilst I didn't feel this was a bad story by any stretch of the imagination, it lacked a sort of 'drive' I tried to explain in my review, which made it hard to properly get into until Nightmare In Ponyville, taking a lot of the enjoyment out of it. For this reason, I'm rejecting it from Submissions, although if you try adressing some of my concerns, I'd be happy to take a second look.

Details are here.

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