• Published 25th Apr 2012
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Aurora - PonyholicsAnonymous



Celestia leaves on a trip, putting Luna and Twilight in charge. What could possibly go wrong?

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Chapter 1

THOU ART GOING WHERE!?

Celestia gave her sister a chiding look, and Luna hastily cleared her throat and said, “I mean, you're going where?”

“I must travel to the gryphon kingdoms for a time,” repeated Celestia. “The dragon migration is passing close to their territory, and there have been several skirmishes. I've arranged for a summit between the two, where I shall serve as an impartial mediator. With luck, I'll be able to stop things from escalating further.”

Luna was silent for a moment. “And thou expectest- I mean, and you expect me to sit on the throne while you're gone, I suppose?” She flushed slightly; apparently she still had a tendency to slip into the traditional way of speaking, despite her recent improvement.

“There are two princesses in Canterlot now, after all,” replied Celestia.

“I must protest, sister. You know I have not truly ruled in well over a thousand years, and these modern customs do not help matters,” said Luna

“I'll only be gone for a month or two. I'm sure you'll be able to handle the royal duties for that long,” said Celestia. “Besides, you've gotten so much better at dealing with the modern world since your trip to Ponyville.”

“A- a month?” repeated Luna with rising alarm.

“Don't worry,” said Celestia with a light laugh. “You'll do just fine. Your night court sessions have improved greatly, haven't they?”

“Only because nopony came after the first one,” muttered Luna sourly.

“That's not true, and you know it,” said Celestia. “Didn't you have several petitioners just last night?” she asked.

“Two,” corrected Luna, but Celestia rolled right over her.

“The advisors will be here to help you. Besides, a lot of ponies with more trivial concerns will probably be discouraged just by the hour, so you'll likely have less to deal with than usual.”

“They're your advisors,” objected Luna. “I have barely even spoken to them!”

Celestia laughed quietly. “I'm sure they'll be more helpful than you believe. It is their job, after all. But I did take the liberty of bringing in a special advisor for my absence. I think you'll find her to be quite satisfactory...”

* * *

“Twilight, don't you think you should go to bed? You've been reading for almost six hours now.”

The lavender pony continued to feverishly scan her book, giving no sign that she had heard her assistant. “Twilight?” Spike repeated. “Twilight! TWILIGHT!”

“Huh? What?” said Twilight, jumping a little. “Oh. What is it, Spike? I'm extremely busy right now.”

“Twilight, you need to take a break!” said Spike. “Can't that book wait until tomorrow?”

“No! Absolutely not! The princess has asked me to advise Luna – Princess Luna, that is – I mean, Princess Celestia asked me, not Princess Luna, because Princess Luna is the one I'm advising, because the princess is leaving – I mean, Princess Celestia –” Twilight blinked and actually looked around the library for the first time. “Why is it so dark in here?” she asked.

“The sun went down nearly three hours ago, Twilight,” said Spike.

“Three hours?! That means I only have... eleven hours left until I have to leave for Canterlot! And I still have twelve more books on law, five on court customs, and eight on history that I have to read! Oh, why did I go to that silly goodbye party when I have so much work to do? No more interruptions, Spike!” she said, diving back into her book.

“TWILIGHT!” shouted Spike again. “You need to sleep. You won't be any good to either princess if you fall asleep during the middle of the day.”

“Actually, Luna is the princess of the night, so I'll probably be sleeping mostly during the day,” replied Twilight distractedly.

Spike faceclawed. “Well, falling asleep during the middle of the night, then. The point is, Princess Celestia said in her letter that she wanted you to advise Luna for your common sense and experience with ponies, not just for your knowledge. You don't need to read the entire library before you leave!”

Twilight didn't respond. After a moment, Spike gave a disgusted sigh and said, “Fine, stay up all night if you want. But I'm going to bed.”

* * *

The first thing Twilight noticed when she woke was that her pillow felt unusually hard and book-like. She picked her head up and discovered the reason: she had, in fact, been sleeping on a book. Must have drifted off studying again, she thought. I wonder what I was reading? She closed the book she had fallen asleep on and read An In-Depth Study of Dinner Table Settings from the Lunar Era emblazoned on the cover. Of course. I have to make sure I'm ready to leave for Canterlot in the-

Twilight jumped nearly a foot into the air, sending her chair flying. “I'M LATE! What time is it?! Spike! Spike, where are you? I haven't even packed my things! I have so many books left to read! Oh, how could I have fallen asleep? SPIKE!”

Her assistant stumbled down the stairs, rubbing his eyes. “Hey, Twi. Time to get up already?”

“Of course it's time to get up!” said Twilight with more than a touch of hysteria. “The carriage to Canterlot is coming at noon! Do you have any idea what would happen if I were late?”

“Do you?” asked Spike, but Twilight ignored him as she dashed past to look at the clock.

“ELEVEN-THIRTY? How can it be eleven-thirty already? I haven't even started packing yet! Where's my checklist?” A look of absolute horror came over Twilight's face. “I haven't even made a checklist yet!”

“You're staying at the castle, Twilight,” interjected Spike. “What do you need to bring?”

“I don't know! What if I need something and I forget it because I didn't have a checklist? What if I forget a book I needed?”

“You could always find it in the royal library,” pointed out Spike.

“But what if the royal library doesn't have it?” shrieked Twilight.

“Twilight! The royal library has at least three copies of every book here. You need to relax a little bit! Even if you forget something, I'm sure you'll be able to find a replacement for it at the castle. There's nothing to worry about.”

“Right. Relax. Right,” said Twilight, hyperventilating.

Half an hour later, Twilight and Spike were waiting outside in the crisp autumn noon as a carriage drawn by two pegasi wearing the uniforms of the royal guard landed. Twilight's saddle bags were stuffed with the bare essentials: three books on the history of Canterlot, another on court customs and politics, several rolls of paper and quills for making checklists, and a spare pair of socks. Still, she was sure she'd forgotten something absolutely critical, no matter what Spike said.

The guards nodded respectfully as Twilight and Spike stepped up into the carriage, then leaped into the air. As the carriage flew towards Canterlot, Twilight pranced anxiously. “What are you so nervous about, anyway?” asked Spike after a few minutes. “You lived in the castle for years. You're Princess Celestia's protege! It's not like this will be anything new for you.”

“This is different,” said Twilight. “Princess Celestia never wanted my advice on anything. And I never really went to court. Too many ponies. Now she expects me to help Luna rule? What do I know about ruling?”

“Probably quite a bit, considering how many books you were just reading on the subject,” replied Spike.

“I just don't know,” sighed Twilight. “What if I disappoint her? What if she has to come back in the middle of negotiations because of me?”

“Stop worrying so much. She wouldn't have given you the job if she didn't think you could handle it. You're not doubting the Princess's judgment, are you?”

“No! No, of course not,” said Twilight hastily.

“See? I'm sure you'll do just fine, then,” said Spike smugly.

Twilight sighed again, but didn't press the point any further, and the rest of the trip passed in silence.

Celestia was waiting for the chariot in the Canterlot castle courtyard. “Welcome back to Canterlot, Twilight Sparkle. You too, Spike,” she said as they approached. Twilight and Spike gave her a brief bow.

“Hello, Princess,” said Spike. “I thought that trip would last forever. Would it be all right with you if I went down to the kitchens? We missed breakfast this morning because Twilight was running late.”

Twilight gave Spike a horrified look, but Celestia laughed and said, “Of course, Spike. A growing dragon needs plenty of food. Thank you for coming, my faithful student,” she said, turning to Twilight. “Your old rooms have been prepared for you. Please, let me accompany you to them.”

“Oh, you don't need to do that, Princess. I'm sure you're busy preparing for your trip,” said Twilight.

“It's quite alright. I'd like to speak with you for a moment before my sister wakes,” replied Celestia, gesturing for Twilight to follow her. “Luna is somewhat nervous about taking the throne without me, although I doubt you'll hear her admit it.”

“Nervous?” said Twilight with a shaky laugh. “I wonder what that's like?”

“Even since her banishment ended, Luna has been very withdrawn,” said Celestia. “She's taken to sleeping in her old palace on the moon, instead of here in Canterlot. It's not good for her, and it's caused... certain other problems, as well,” she said, absentmindedly rubbing her horn. “This mission I'm leaving on is important, but I believe giving my sister a chance to rule on her own for a time is equally important. You must help her do that.”

“Why me, though? Aren't there a lot of ponies better qualified than me to help rule all of Equestria?” asked Twilight, her voice rising to a squeak.

“I have complete trust in you, Twilight,” said Celestia. “You're a natural organizer, and that's all the larger half of ruling is. Besides, I don't believe there's a task in Equestria that you couldn't master if you put your mind to it. Another important factor is that Luna already knows and trusts you. I'm sure that trust will grow in your time together.”

“I suppose so,” said Twilight, although she was hardly convinced.

“Don't worry so much,” chided Celestia. “I'll only be gone for a month.”

Twilight sighed as they came to the staircase up to her old tower. “Everypony keeps saying that, but I don't see how I'm supposed to keep from worrying. You're practically putting the fate of Equestria in my hooves! Well, and Princess Luna's, of course,” she hastily amended.

“I think you'll find it to be much less strenuous than you've expected,” said Celestia. “You might even, dare I say, find yourself getting bored. Besides, I think we've met our disaster quota for the year. I don't expect any trouble while I'm gone.”

Celestia nodded to Twilight as they approached her room. “Everypony here believes in you, Twilight. You and Luna will have all the support you need. In fact, I think you've got a visitor already,” she said with a smile.

Twilight turned and looked behind her just in time to be half tackled by a bright pink alicorn. “Twilight! I didn't expect you to arrive so soon. Oh, hello Princess,” said Cadence, untangling herself from her friend.

“Hi, Cadence,” said Twilight as Celestia chuckled softly.

“I'll leave you two to catch up,” she said, taking wing.

“How have you been?” asked Cadence as Twilight opened the door to her room.

“Good. Sorry I never responded to your last letter. I meant to, but then Celestia asked me to help advise Luna, and I kind of forgot everything else. Where's Shining Armor, by the way?”

“He's still on duty. He should be here before too long. I think he still feels like he needs to work extra to make up for letting the changelings in, especially since we left on our honeymoon right afterwards. He knows better than to miss seeing you on your first day here, though.”

“Has there been any sign of them since then?” asked Twilight.

“None,” said Cadence with a shiver. “I think they learned their lesson. I don't want to talk about them, though. So, are you excited?”

“More like terrified, actually,” said Twilight with a weak laugh. “I'm not sure I'm ready for this.”

“Oh, don't talk like that,” said Cadence. “You're the perfect pony for this job. I think Luna will be glad to see you, too. She's seemed a bit out of sorts, lately.”

“How come?” asked Twilight.

“Well, I heard her and Celestia had a bit of a spat after the wedding,” replied Cadence, lowering her voice. “Celestia was more than a little irked that Luna wasn't here when the changelings attacked.” She sighed. “I can't seem to help but talk about them, can I? Anyway, she asked Luna to stay here in Canterlot instead of going back to the moon every morning, but Luna refused. She said she just couldn't sleep down here. She's been a bit distant towards everypony since then, but I hope you'll be able to cheer her up.”

“Ooh, do you think she'd take me to the moon with her?” asked Twilight, anxiety briefly forgotten. “It would be amazing to see it first hand. And I bet there would be an incredible view of the stars from there. But I suppose there's no air, is there? But there's probably a spell for that, or Luna wouldn't be able to live there. Unless she doesn't need to breathe. Do alicorns need to breathe?”

Cadence laughed. “Slow down there, Twilight. I sure need to breath, but if you can talk at that rate, you might not need to. Anyway, Luna doesn't take anyone up there, as far as I know. I think Celestia goes up occasionally, but she likes to give Luna her space.”

“How come?” asked Twilight, her face falling.

“I never asked. Like I said, she can be a bit distant, even if she's always polite,” said Cadence.

“Luna always seemed friendly to me, once you got her to open up a bit,” said Twilight. “I haven't talked to her since the wedding, though.”

“Well, maybe that's why Celestia thinks you'll be able to cheer her up, then,” pointed out Cadence.

Shining Armor chose that moment to burst through Twilight's door, shouting “Twily! How you doing?” as he ran up to give his sister a hug.

“Hi, big bro!” said Twilight, returning his hug. “How have you been?”

“Oh, I've been great. Working hard, but Cadence makes coming home even better,” he said, giving his wife a kiss. “Say, did I tell you about...”

* * *

The princess of the night sat on her throne, gazing down on Equestria. The irony of her position did not escape her; she had spent uncountable days sitting on this very spot during her exile, plotting her revenge. Now, her exile was entirely self-imposed. The throne was plain, hewed out of gray stone with little attention to detail. Once, it had been a marvel to behold, or perhaps a terror. Her palace, too, was a shell of its former dark magnificence, the product of a thousand years of solitary labor. Turrets, carvings, and outcroppings had been melted down to slag, or blasted out, leaving rough craters. Intricate carvings had been burned out of existence. Statues had been shattered into dust.

Luna did not regret their loss in the slightest. They were the product of a twisted mind, and a reminder of a time she had all too much trouble forgetting as it was. The first time she had returned to the moon after being cleansed, she had obliterated much of her accumulated works in a fit of revulsion. She had kept the structure of her palace, telling herself she would rebuild, so that anypony who saw would marvel in wonder rather than recoiling in horror. At first she had thrown herself into the work, but as the weeks had passed, her progress had slowed, and then stopped entirely. Why bother spending so much effort on something nopony would ever see?

After that, she had tried to abandon her moon, spending more time in Canterlot. But Canterlot would always be her sister's place, and no matter how welcome Celestia tried to make Luna feel, she would always be an outsider. Eventually, she had felt compelled to return to her lunar palace, no matter how much the place reminded her of her many failures; at least it was hers. Her sister had never approved, but she hadn't pressed the issue until the changeling attack. Neither sister had ever encountered any entity except Discord who could come close to threatening them before, and Celestia had wanted them to stay closer to each other, in case a similar threat ever appeared. Luna had argued that from her perch on the moon, she could keep a better watch for any creature coming close to discovering the hidden mechanics of the world. It was a weak argument, and she knew it. If anyone or anything else were ever to uncover the secrets that Luna and Celestia had, it would be immediately obvious no matter where they were.

Luna sensed a ripple in the world as Celestia folded the sun away for the night, which meant she'd be expecting Luna in Canterlot soon. Sighing, Luna spread her wings and sprang into the air. It wasn't strictly necessary for her to be airborne, but she had always found it more comfortable. Peering beneath the surface of reality, Luna found one of the currents that flowed beneath the skin of the world and launched herself into it. A moment later, she was soaring high above Canterlot castle.

Luna was not looking forward to weathering Celestia's latest ploy to tie her more tightly to Canterlot. Celestia had always taken the more public role in ruling Equestria, even before Nightmare Moon. Luna had done her best to catch up on the how the laws and customs had changed from her time, but she was sure there were a hundred little details she had missed. She'd just have to do the best she could, and hope to not cause too many political incidents.

Despite herself, Luna did find herself feeling slightly better as she landed in the castle courtyard. That was how it always was. She knew from experience that by the end of the night, she'd be desperate for the solitude and familiarity of her own palace. She'd return, only to fall back into depression. Still, for the moment, she let herself enjoy the sound of the wind playing through the trees and the dancing shadows cast by her moon.

She was also looking forward to speaking with Twilight Sparkle again, although she wished it were under other circumstances. The little lavender unicorn was one of the few ponies in the modern era who could hold a real conversation with Luna. She had also been the first pony to inform Luna of the discontinued use of the Royal Canterlot Voice, rather than merely cowering; Luna was still annoyed at the hands-off approach Celestia had taken on that particular issue. Still, Luna hoped her sister had judged Twilight's abilities correctly. A princess who had never ruled before and an advisor who had never advised before seemed like a poor combination to her.

Leaving the courtyard where she had landed, Luna made her way down the hall towards her sister's quarters. She would see Celestia once more before she left, but they tended to have their conversations in the evenings rather than the mornings. Not that her sister would admit it to anypony, but she tended to be tired and grouchy when she first woke, and Luna was always irritable by the end of the night.

The royal guards at Celestia's door bowed and parted as Luna approached, and she knocked, waited a heartbeat, and entered. Celestia was sitting on her favorite cushion in front of the fireplace reading a report, as usual. “Hello, sister,” she said as her sister closed the door behind her.

“How are your preparations coming along?” asked Luna, settling herself on a cushion opposite Celestia.

“Quite well. I was just reading the most recent news from the gryphons. There haven't been any more incidents in the past week, thankfully. How are you?”

“Well enough, I suppose,” said Luna. “I still believe this is a mistake.”

Celestia sighed. “What do you think will happen? What disaster do you think will happen if you rule alone for a month?”

“There are any number of things that could go wrong! What if something happens, and I don't know the correct protocol for it?”

Celestia gave that soft laugh of hers which Luna found both comforting and irritating, and doubly irritating because she found it comforting. “You see? You're just nervous. You'll do just fine, and you know it. Twilight Sparkle arrived this afternoon. You should go talk to her. I think you'll find you have something in common at the moment.”

“Oh? And what would that be, dear sister?”

“You're both convinced Equestria will come tumbling down the moment you take it in your hooves, even though everypony else can see you'll do a splendid job.”

“Fine! Perhaps I shall go talk to her. I'm sure she will be a more reasonable conversation partner than yourself.” Luna rose and began an exaggerated stalk towards the door. After a furtive glance to make sure nopony else could see, she looked back and stuck her tongue out at her sister. Celestia promptly threw the cushion Luna had been sitting on at her, and both sisters broke down in a brief fit of giggles.

“Take care of yourself, 'Tia,” said Luna, hugging her sister.

“You too. I'll be back before you know it,” said Celestia, hugging her back.

After saying her goodbyes, Luna walked out to the balcony. With a final brief wave at her sister, she launched herself back into the air, heading for the tower Twilight was occupying. It was time to meet her new advisor.