• Published 9th Sep 2012
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Twilight's Odyssey - DemPonies

In an Equestria without Princess Celestia, Twilight Sparkle gets lost in a crowd during the Summer Sun Celebration. Unbeknownst to her, she will set a series of events into motion that will change the fates of both the nation and her life, forever.

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Chapter 1: Summer Sun

✶✶✶ Odyssey

An MLP:FiM Fanfic by DemPonies

Chapter One:

Summer Sun.

"Hey, BB! BB!" Twilight Sparkle shouted in her brother's ears. She stood on his shoulders, one forehoof wrapped in his blue mane, the other pointing forward. "Look." It was early morning. Lantern and torch light reflected in her eyes.

"Ouch, Twily, not so loud," said Shining Armor. "Look at what?"

Twilight leaned closer to his left ear and dropped her voice to an excited whisper. "They're drinking!"

"So who's still with me?" called a cyan-coated stallion only a few years older than Shining. His friends—or perhaps rivals—all cheered and raised mugs of cider, crashing them together and hooting with laughter as suds spilled down the sides.

"That they are," said Shining. He shook his head and kept walking. Twilight dropped her free hoof back to his neck and held on tight so she wouldn't fall.

"Well, I am certainly glad you haven't taken up that sort of behaviour," their mother said, her muzzle crunched. She slightly raised her sight. "And you better not absorb any of this, Twilight!"

"Try not to be so preachy, honey," Twilight's father added. "It's a celebration, after all. Besides, we two wouldn't have met if it hadn't been for—"

"Not in front of the children," their mother hissed.

His wife's reaction only served to widen his sidelong grin, but he obliged her nonetheless.

Twilight's family continued its walk through the crowded streets of Canterlot. Strings of colored pennants criss-crossed the night sky and every shop and building flew the white and purple flag of Unicornia, for that dawn would mark the fifteen-hundredth Summer Sun Celebration since the founding of Equestria.

"Look over there, Twily," Shining said, his gaze set on a giant citadel in the distance, resting beneath the shadow of Canterlot Mountain.

"That's the Royal Castle, I know," Twilight replied in a deadpan manner. "I see it pretty much all the time."

Though it does look kinda different today, she thought to herself. The flags flew higher than usual, and a giant banner depicting the royal family's coat-of-arms—the profile view of a unicorn's head of the nation's colour scheme against an indigo background adorned with yellow diamonds—decorated the front of the stone castle.

"There's where the Princess will begin the ceremony to raise the sun later," her brother continued. "Are you excited?"


"I'm glad you are," her father said. "It'd be a shame if you missed such a historic event." The ceremony was a matter of pride for Twilight's parents. They were both moon-movers—ponies who helped to move the moon across the sky every night—and they were adamant to help their sun-mover colleagues. "Besides, it's about time you took part. Raising the celestial bodies is a big part of unicorn culture, and it brings appreciation to those who do it every dusk and dawn!"

"And you accuse me of pulling lectures," her mother quietly retorted.

Twilight managed a forced smile in return. On her part, she wasn't sure if she was ready yet. She sometimes used her magic to get a hold of a good book her parents had purposely put on the higher shelves, or to sneak a cookie from out of the jar. The difference between lifting a sweet and a celestial body, however, was quite profound.

What if I mess it up somehow!?

She sternly pushed the thought of the ceremony away from her mind. Instead, Twilight tried to enjoy the many wondrous things she spied from her brother's back, her head swaying frantically to and fro so as to not miss any of them.

Other than the Princess's castle, she saw the tops of big amusement rides sticking up from above the rooftops. Fillies and colts screamed from the top of their lungs as they rode the fast-paced carousels, and young mares and stallion rode the Ferris wheel against the star-filled night sky.

A mishmash of different groups of ponies walked beside Twilight and her family. Among them, she spotted nobles in fancy clothes, walking with their muzzles high up in the air, a safe distance away from anypony else, and the group of drinking stallions, who had begun to walk unsteadily since last time.

The street teemed with tourists, some of them from the other tribes. They flocked either around the groups of performers—mares who could bend their bodies in incredible manners, stallions who spat fire from their mouths, and ponies who otherwise displayed mastery over the equine body—or the stands. They stood everywhere around them, most selling trinkets and novelties like small figurines of cheap metal or home-made cloths with various sun-motifs, whose proprietors shouted loudly at them as they passed by.

"Come and buy!"

"The best wares in all of Canterlot!"

"You there! You look like a mare with a refined taste!"

Their calls muddled with the much more pleasant sounds of exotic instruments, everything from the lyre to the harmonica, played by various street musicians and accompanied by the beautiful singing voices of a unicorn choir.

Twilight admired all the sights around her for a good while before Shining suddenly stopped. "Hey, Twily," he said, panting. "Would you mind walking for a while? You're getting rather heavy."

"Aww," she complained, but she clambered down anyway, sliding down to the dusty road with a small grunt.

"That's it, Shining?" their father asked, chuckling. "If you can't even carry your own sister, how well will you fare in—"

Shining shot him a glance that promptly made him squelch. Her brother, his eyes firmly set at their father's, made a subtle nod in her direction.

What was that about?

Before Twilight had a chance to ponder it further, her stomach loudly rumbled as an enticing smell reached her nostrils. It smelt of newly baked pastries, sugary treats, and other goodies. Her legs moved by themselves as Twilight sniffed her way past several groups of ponies to the source of the mouth-watering aroma. While Twilight stopped a few times to pick up the scent, she took the opportunity to look back at her family. They were in the middle of a discussion, all three of them speaking in hushed voices.

She eventually reached her destination, a stand filled to the brim with freshly made apple pies, roasted almonds, cotton candy, and more sorts of sweets than Twilight could possibly name. As she leaned over to inhale some of its fragrance, her stomach growled louder than ever before.

Twilight turned around and trotted to the place where she had left her family to ask her parents for some bits to spend. She was confused to find it devoid of any of her family members.

Strange. I could swear this is where I left them...

She looked around, trying to catch a glimpse of her family. When she found none, her heart started to pound. Twilight ran to every place nearby she thought they might be: the street they'd walked up from, the performers, and the stands.

"Mom? Dad? Shining!"

No response. Twilight felt a lump in her throat, and she soon began to sob.

She then determinedly shook her head. No, Twilight! she told herself. This is not how you solve a problem. You just... have to stay calm and rational. You've been out alone before; just last week you went out and bought groceries by yourself. Finding Mom and Dad can't be too hard if you just take it one step at a time, right? You—I can do this! Yeah!

Slowly, Twilight regained control of both her posture and breathing, and before long her eyes started to dry again.

With newfound confidence, she set out to find some other way to get a hold of her family. Systematically scanning for some source of help, she found a pile of abandoned shipping crates standing a short distance from one of the stands.

Perfect, she thought.

Twilight climbed up all the way unto the topmost crate. Her zeal faltered somewhat when, even with her raised view, she still couldn't find any trace of her missing family.

Okay, that's slightly disconcerting—but no matter! I'll just have to shift priorities a bit.

Instead of looking for her family directly, she began to search for other places that stood out. Places her parents might have gone to, or where she could get some help finding them.

A way down the road from which she had come, Twilight spied a small crimson tent standing on the side of the street. What interested her wasn't the tent so much as the sign next to it. It had a picture of an almost perfectly round eye with an unusually large iris in the middle, as if it were spying for something, or somepony.

Maybe there’s some sort of look-out service inside? Twilight mused. Well, it's a long shot, but I've got to try.

She jumped down from the shipping crate and walked towards the tent, pushing through waves of adult unicorns passing in the opposite direction.

The tent was made out of a thick fabric. Twilight tried to peek inside, but a curtain hanging at the entrance prevented her from doing so inconspicuously. However, she noticed golden letters sewn into the fabric above the entrance, which read, "The Magnificent Seer Madame Mirage".

Strange, this doesn't seem like a look-out at all...

At that moment, a unicorn filly about Twilight's age with an azure coat and a light blue mane stepped out through the curtain, gave Twilight a salesmare-like smile and asked, "Can Trixie help you?"

"Um, maybe. I was actually looking for somepony—"

Twilight began to get quick nods from Trixie. "Yes, yes, you have come to the right place. Let the Magnificent Madame Mirage help you find the answers you're looking for!" she cried out while striking a pose, standing on her hind legs with her front hooves high up in the air. Trixie then shoved Twilight into the tent before she had a chance to protest.

It was completely dark inside, and Twilight's eyes took a moment to adjust as she stumbled around blindly inside the—in stark contrast to all the commotion outside—eerily silent tent.

Wow, the fabric must have been much thicker than I thought... or there's some sort of nifty magic going on in here.

The hair on the back of her neck stood on end as a stroke of goose bumps slithered down her spine.

"Hello... Anypony there?" she whispered.

Twilight stood still for a minute, waiting for something to happen. She thought nothing would, but as soon as she lifted a hoof to turn around and leave, a pair of candles suddenly lit up on a table in front of her. Two chairs were set on either side of it. The far chair was occupied by a grown mare, who looked very much like the filly outside but clad in a purple, star-ornamented robe and a long, pointy hat of the same color.

"How may the Magnificent Madame Mirage assist you, dear?" she asked. Her voice was smooth and hypnotic, her tone affable but with a hint of underlying roguery. She smirked as the light from the candles danced across her face.

Twilight gulped. She tentatively approached the table, one step at a time. Once there, Twilight took the liberty of seating herself on the vacant chair and said, as politely as she knew how: "Actually, um, Miss Mirage, I'm looking for my parents..."

"An orphan, hmm? Most unusual, but the Magnificent Madame Mirage gets all sorts of customers. Now look into the crystal ball, and we shall see what it tells us." She levitated a crystal ball, which she had apparently kept behind her back the entire time, over to Twilight. Almost instinctively, she looked into the transparent sphere.

It slowly began to radiate with a bright light that grew stronger the longer she looked into it, until it started to hurt her eyes. She tried to look away, but despite her efforts, Twilight's gaze was inexplicably drawn to the source of the light. It engulfed her vision, and soon the entire tent and its contents had disappeared into the white, including Madame Mirage and her crystal ball.

In their place, images of ponies and other creatures Twilight didn't know flashed rapidly before her eyes.

...Twilight stood in a spacious chamber of stone before a dauntingly tall wooden platform. Situated on top were four important-looking unicorns, two mares and two stallions about her parents' age, all clad in very formal attire. They each looked at her with expressions ranging from disinterest to impatience. "Well, Miss Sparkle?” one of the mares asked...

...Inside the protective lee of a cave, Twilight stood face to face with a pair of young mares, barely old enough to be called such. One was a rainbow-maned pegasus with a deep blue coat, wearing phalanx armor in typical fashion of the pegasi military. The other was an earth pony with an orange coat and, of all things, a Stetson hat on her head. Both smiled warmly at her...

...In the dark of night, in a clearing in the woods, Twilight sat by a crackling campfire, warming herself. On the other side of the fire lay a male creature with the body of a lion and the talons, wings, and head of an eagle. With cold, squinted eyes, he scrutinized her from bottom to top. When their eyes met, he let out a horrified gasp...

...Twilight lay down on her back, strapped to some contraption, as an elderly stallion with a coat with black and white stripes, a ring of iron hanging from his left ear, and the skull of a dead animal as a mask, loomed menacingly over her. He smiled widely at her with a bone saw clenched between his teeth...

...Below a clear blue sky, Twilight stood in a field of smokeless fire—

"There you are, Twily!" a familiar voice shouted, interrupting her trance. The white blur that previously filled Twilight's vision dissipated, and the tent's ordinary features suddenly returned before her eyes. The swift transition left Twilight disoriented, and she immediately started to rub her now-aching head.

What just happened?

She turned towards the voice, only to see Shining Armor standing behind her with a disapproving frown on his face.

"Where have you been!? You know better than to run off like that!" he berated her. "Don't you realize we were worried about you?"

"I'm sorry," Twilight hurriedly responded. "I lost you, and then I went to find help!"

"In a fortune-teller's tent?" Shining asked, with narrowed eyes, before he turned to Madame Mirage. "I'm sorry for any inconvenience my sister has caused. Please tell us what we owe you."

"It was no problem, young colt, and you owe us nothing," Mirage said in return.

"What do you mean we owe you nothing; surely we must compensate you for your time?" Shining asked again.

"Yeah, Mom, what do you mean they owe us nothing?" repeated Trixie, who had left her post outside and now stood next to Twilight's brother inside the tent.

"Hush, Trixie!" the seer told her daughter before she again turned to Shining. "Like I said, it was no problem. And don't be too harsh on her; she did tell me she was looking for her parents when she came in. All I ask," she said, as she fixed her eyes upon Twilight, "is that you remember us, Twilight Sparkle."

That's funny, Twilight thought, I don't remember telling her my name.

While she tried to think of a time she might have introduced herself, Shining replied, "Well, we will certainly recommend you to our friends here at the celebration. Thank you for keeping an eye on Twilight." He promptly took his sister under his shoulder and led her out of Madame Mirage's tent.

Once outside, Shining, still holding her by her shoulders, asked, "You alright, Twily?" His eyes glistened with brotherly concern.

"I'm fine," she responded dismissively. "I'm just sorry I lost track of you..."

Reassured, Shining released his hold of her and said, "Well, you had me—and Mom and Dad—worried there for a while. But you're okay, and that's all that matters."

Twilight's face broke out in a smile and she felt infinitely grateful for her brother's protection.

"How did you find me anyway?" she asked, following Shining away from the tent.

"A simple localization spell. Still, it took some time to pinpoint your exact location."

"Oh, I see." Twilight looked around. "Where's Mom and Dad, by the way?"

"They told me to pick you up and meet them by the castle. The Princess will begin the ceremony soon. We might make it in time, if we hurry." He picked up the pace.

Twilight struggled to keep up with Shining's march. With effort, she ran up next to him. "I'm sorry," she said again.

"Don't beat yourself up, Twily," he consoled her. "We should have kept a better eye on you, but we were... preoccupied."

As he slowed down a bit, Twilight saw her brother smile warmly at her and she felt herself suddenly perk up a bit. "Yeah, what were you three talking about anyway? You acted really weird."

The smile on Shining Armor's face suddenly disappeared. "About that... there's something I've been meaning to tell you, Twilight," he said, looking down at his hooves as he kept walking.

Uh oh, she thought. I don't like the sound of this. The last time he called me Twilight was when my goldfish died. Besides, has the phrase 'there's something I've been meaning to tell you' ever been a part of a fun conversation?

"I have some good and some bad news," he went on.

"Okay... what's the good news?"

"The good news is that I was accepted into Saddle Point! The letter came a few days ago. You're now looking at an official recruit of the Unicornian army and, hopefully, a future Royal Guard," he said, holding his head up high and sticking his chest out.

Twilight already had an idea of what the bad news would be. Saddle Point was the top military academy in Unicornia and, barring a few pegasi training grounds, probably the best in Equestria. Shining Armor had trained hard and waited a long time to get accepted. Twilight knew she should be happy for her brother, and she was, but she also felt sad, and a little bit hurt, that her brother would be leaving them—would be leaving her—to begin a full-time military life, his lifelong dream.

That doesn't make me a bad pony, does it?

"C-congratulations!" she ultimately stuttered.

"Thanks, Twily!" Shining said with a big, proud smile, something immediately exchanged for a much more serious look. "The bad news is that, once I'm there, I won't have any extensive leave for two years—"

"Two years!" Twilight blurted out.

"It's standard procedure!" her brother hastily said. "I don't make the rules!"

"B-but... that's such a long time!"

"Two years isn't that much time! It'll pass quickly, and I'll write to you all the time!" he assured her.

Twilight, still walking, hung her head low. If not for her previous tantrum when she lost hold of her family, Twilight would have broken down right there. Instead, she just whispered, "It won't be the same."

That instant, Shining Armor ran past his sister and blocked her path, forcing Twilight to look up at him. "Listen to me, Twily! You're my little sister, and you always will be! That fact will never change! It doesn't matter how much distance stands between us, or how much time passes. Yes, it might be years, but the bond we share won't be tarnished by something as trivial as time." He spoke with such determination that Twilight had to believe it. She steeled herself, tensing her body to refute his words.

"Okay?" he asked in both an insistent and pleading tone, something Twilight had previously thought impossible.

A deadlock ensued; the two siblings’ eyes staring straight at each other in a battle of wills, neither of them willing to yield. Eventually though, Twilight’s look softened under the gaze of her beloved big brother.

"Okay," she finally assented, with a meekly heartened smile on her face.

"Good.” Shining returned her smile. “I won't be going for a while yet, so there's no need to think about that now. Besides"—he ruffled her mane—"I promise you lots of presents when I get back."

Twilight couldn't help but giggle. "Books?"

He nodded, an expression of relief on his face. "Whatever you want, Twily." With the heavy tension defused, her brother moved aside. "Now, let's keep on going. We have to make haste if we want to catch up with Mom and Dad.”

Twilight wordlessly agreed and followed Shining as he took the lead in their resumed walk to the castle, the structure slowly growing in size as they approached.

Unsurprisingly, Twilight and her brother weren't the only ones about to see the Princess. The entire city seemed to be gravitating towards the castle, the giant unicorn banner specifically, and they followed the flow of the crowds all the way to the castle courtyard beneath.

In the courtyard, their parents caught sight of them as they drew near. Twilight's mother hugged her tightly and then, still holding her in a firm grip, rocked her back and forth.

"Thank goodness you're all right," she said. "Please don't worry your father and me like that again!"

"I'm sorry," Twilight said, still locked in her mother's grasp. "I just sort of lost track of you, and then I couldn't find you again."

"Well, in that case, it's a good thing your brother found you. Good job, son," her father said, as he gave an appreciative nod in Shining's direction. "Where did you find Twily, anyway?"

"In a fortune-teller's tent, of all things," he responded.

"A fortune teller's tent, eh?" He chuckled merrily and shot Twilight, who was now free from her mother's embrace, a humored smile. "I didn't take you for the sort to enjoy that kind of coarse entertainment," he said with feigned accusation.

Twilight never got a chance to respond, for at that moment, a trumpet fanfare announced the arrival of the Princess. Everypony in the courtyard fell silent and turned their gazes towards the source of the sound, a highly situated balcony protruding out from above the massive unicorn banner.

At a dignified pace, out walked a tall unicorn mare with delicate features, a perfectly-kept, snow white coat, and a curled purple mane. She wore the royal mantle across her back and the Platinum Crown on her head, resting behind her horn.

Despite never having seen her before, Twilight instantly recognized her as Princess Guinemare Platinum.

The Princess, accompanied by a pair of Royal Guards, walked out to the ridge of the balcony overlooking her subjects. With a graceful voice befitting royalty, she addressed the crowd. "My dear subjects and fellow unicorns, it is my great honor to officially open the fifteen-hundredth Summer Sun Celebration, a tradition dating back to the founding of not just Unicornia, but of all of Equestria. This day, the longest day of the year, we unicorns come together under our sacred duty to bring forth the sun every morning.

"The celebration is an occasion of remembrance and pride, now more than ever before. I am proud to be your monarch and must say that in the past fifteen centuries, not once has our tribe failed to uphold its promise. Not once have we faltered in our responsibilities. Nopony can say that unicorns lack diligence!"

Loud cheers, applause, and whistles broke out across the castle grounds. Everypony, including Twilight Sparkle and her family, broke into jubilance.

The Princess did her best to finish her speech over the roaring masses. "We gathered here in the castle courtyards will be the first to raise the sun this morning. Know that as you do so, others across Equestria will help you. Now, I won't keep you from the festivities for more than necessary, so arise sun! Grace us with your light!" she exclaimed as her horn started to glow. All the other unicorns present quickly followed the Princess's example, and soon the entire courtyard lit up with a rainbow-colored light.

Blinded by the flash, Twilight almost forgot to fire up her own magic. After a short moment of hesitation, she gathered her magical energies and, with some effort, lit her own horn up, trying to keep up with the adult unicorns.

Well, here goes nothing, she thought as she prepared to combine her magic with that of the rest.

The instant she did so, the collective flow of the magic radiating from all the unicorns in Equestria gripped her, and she lost herself in the stream. It was like the current of a river. She became one with the whole, an indistinguishable part to an infinite mass, all working together for a single purpose. She felt giant and small, strong and weak at the same time.

The maelstrom she had become part of suddenly compressed, as it began to concentrate and reach for the sun. From a flow the size of an ocean, the magic thinned and stretched until it was a single beam the breadth of a needle, finally catching the sun, and slowly causing it to rise.

It felt impossibly heavy yet, with the added support of everypony around her, it almost seemed to move on its own.

As the sun gradually made its way over the horizon, Twilight found that the magic colored her vision. The sun glowed with the same spectral light that had blinded her before, and for the longest time, Twilight stood dumbstruck staring at the sheer beauty of it.

The deafening sound of applause snapped Twilight back to reality. The crowd had begun to recover from the ordeal and now cheered, stomping their hooves against the ground. Meanwhile, Twilight tried to shake off the confusing thoughts and emotions that still stormed within her. She couldn't fathom how her magic, the same thing that allowed her to lift her doll, Smarty Pants, to her bedside, could be used in the same way she had just experienced.

Nevertheless, she felt that something had awakened inside of her, a drive Twilight didn't know she had.

I have to find out more about this, she thought. This has to be investigated!