• Published 4th Mar 2015
  • 14,280 Views, 1,755 Comments

The Mare Who Once Lived on the Moon - MrNumbers


In a steampunk reimagining of the universe, Twilight Sparkle finds perhaps the one pony as lonely as she is. It's rather unfortunate that they're on the moon.

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The Stars Will Aid in her Escape

The Sol Invictus descended from on high, the dust clouds of her shattered palace catching the light of the setting sun.

Rays of dusky sun caught behind her wings and cast her shadow against the crater far below.

She was wrath and anger and judgement and law and cleansing fire.

She was white and light and purity and wisdom and eternity.

She was the unconquered sun.

Below her was heresy. Below her was a challenge to her rule. Below her was the original treason.

Her sister, the Nightmare Moon. Her student, the False Prophet. And an accomplice, a loyalist to their evil cause.

She would smite them for she was good and she was just.

The False Prophet had garbed herself in gemstones and gold, in a necklace that entwined her, in a tiara that wound around her horn. A mockery of the Sun’s regalia.

Her sister, her beloved sister who had betrayed her out of petty jealousy, stood beside her, naked and proud. She stood straight, determined.

The accomplice stood resolute. She had denied her own chance at mercy.

Sister!” Luna the Betrayer cried, “you must listen!


“We know the truth about the Nightmare,” Twilight Sparkle, her beloved student the False Prophet who scorned us stated calmly.

“Luna is cured,” she said lied.

The Nightmare is insidious. It was not sealed within me, as we thought,her Sister declaredthe Nightmare lied. “It remained behind.

“There was a good pony in you once!” Twilight pleaded, desperate, her loyal student, who had tried to show her so much kindness once, whom she had loved as a daughter once.the Traitor mocked, as if she were unaware that she was the great evil here.


Twilight’s regalia weapon glowed, charged with potent magic, magic that could cleanse herkill her.

Like the magic of the Elements that had been used to banish her sister.

defeat the great evil

What then?

What will this magic do?

Destroy us!

But we are innocent

They are Evil.

“We destroyed the Elements!” Celestia roared spoke calmly. “What magic do you have that would match it?”

“That’s the thing I never understood about magical artefacts. Someone had to make them the first time. It’s not like we have fewer tools now than we did then.” Twilight tapped her golden tiara and smiled sneered. “Besides, I think mine’s probably going to work better anyway.”

I’m so sorry sister,” said Luna, wrong this is wrongfor not realizing sooner. We were waiting for you to forgive us. We should not have...

“We could never forgive you for what you did. What you became!”

Luna nodded sadly, tears in her eyes. agreeing.

Celestia gathered her strength in the waning glow of the sunset. She had to finish this now, before night fell. The sun fed her power, and what she had stored over the day would fade quickly with the light.

She fired a bright and righteous beam at the greatest threat; Twilight, her loyal student. She’d been so very proud of underestimated her time and time again. Now would be the last.

Luna dove in front of her, horn glowing with its own charge, and a wall of liquid night slashed through the air, smeared from the tip of an invisible brush. Celestia fired again and twice her sister defied her, again the brush smeared on dusky canvas and swallowed the beam of light.

“If this doesn’t do it,” Twilight cried, purple lightning snapping and crackling from her shoulders and horn, grounding itself in the devastated field around them, “Dash, I’ll need you to zap me, hard as you can.”

“Sounds dangerous. Gotcha!”

The accomplice was terrified, beneath the bravado. Rightly so. So she was a source of power for them?

Celestia took to the skies and fired down at the rainbow-maned insurrectionist, firing directly at her with a crackling bolt of plasma, like boiled the surface of the sun from which she drew her power.

Luna threw another shield up, ragged and exhausted, but only around herself and Twilight. The wrong target.

Celestia had the menace dead to rights.

It was unjust, then, that Rainbow dodged and took to the skies herself.

Celestia hesitated a moment charged after the pegasus. She fired again, weaker beams this time, conserving her strength.

They were no less deadly, and a task she would have left to the guard if they had followed her quickly enough. This was a job for a rifle, not for the Unconquered Sun, but if she needed to get her hooves bloody, so be it. Anything to stop Twilight.

She screamed in pain surprise as a bolt ripped across the back of her neck, and the wound felt cold.

Know that I am not fighting you, Sister,” Luna spoke coldly, the whites of her eyes turned black and rimmed with misting shadow. “I am fighting the Nightmare within.

Is the Nightmare within us?

Of course she was fighting the Nightmare. She was losing, as she had lost before. That was why she had shot at her own sister. The Nightmare was still within her.

Again Celestia’s horn charged a beam of rippling plasma, but a sharp crack hit her ribs from beneath. Rainbow had flown beneath her sightline, thinking herself clever. The wound would bother her some, but really—

She caught Dash effortlessly with her telekinesis now that she was within range, and tossed her towards the hills like a ragdoll.

—it was a mistake on the pegasus’ part.

“Stand down, Nightmare Moon! I will not let you harm my ponies any longer.”

Then everything was purple and white, white and purple. The coldness warmth she had felt down to her bones tore, clawing and screaming and rending its way towards her mouth, seeming to crawl out of it.

Celestia screamed.

Celestia screamed, with her own voice.

Light burned through cracks in her mind, rending from it some great parasite that... There was no beat in her thoughts, no feeling of the eraser catching as the pen passes back, no skip in the record. It was a parasite. The great parasite was ripped from her mind, excruciatingly, blessedly.

With it, her strength.

Her wings stopped supporting her weight.

She fell.


The great chunk of the gold-and-crystal arcane engine wrapped around Twilight’s neck, her back, her horn. Once Luna had told her what the Elements were, what they did, she’d been able to recreate them from found parts. It was fortunate that the found parts were originally the most sophisticated magical device yet built by ponykind, or else this whole plan might not have worked.

Quartz batteries originally meant to hold charge while she was absent or sleeping, to keep a rocket propelled for hours at a time, were burnt out in seconds, and she’d still worried it wouldn’t be enough. The excess heat still lit small fires in her hair, charred her horn, and left a great throbbing welt under her right ear where it had brushed against copper wire.

There was no heroic-looking way to stop, drop and roll. Standing dramatically in a field, slightly smouldering, might have been the more adventurer-looking thing to do, but it absolutely wasn’t the smart thing to do.

She lay sprawled in the dirt as the last of the fire went out.

Even if the plan hadn’t worked, Celestia was certainly unconscious, and she’d fallen from a great height before Luna caught her. Twilight felt safe turning her back to her.

Unless she was still alive.

She’d still be a threat.

The Princess had tried to kill her and Luna. Committed great atrocities. If she still had any magic left at all, it would be her moral imperative to finish the job.

To not miss.

But she’s unconscious. That would be murder in cold blood. She can’t defend herself right now.

She’d have to think do something about it.

A few things stopped her at once.

Twilight lived a lot of her life inside her own head. She was very familiar with intrusive thoughts she didn’t particularly want to think about, but now there as an unusual feeling to them. It couldn’t have just been from firing so much magic at Celestia.

She’d have to think about that more.

What also stopped her was Luna, the one who may have been the most affected by Celestia’s actions for a thousand years now, was cradling the suddenly-much-smaller Princess to her chest, crying.

The sight filled her with sadness anger.

Twilight tried to think.

Something was wrong

Everything fine.

And that was the third realization that stopped her.

Her thoughts were not her own, pushing her realization through the new colander-like entity that filled her mind. Luna had told her the Nightmare was subtle, it changed your thoughts so slowly you didn’t realize where your own ended and its suggestions began. But it was being reckless bold. There was no subtlety, no slow build.

She knew the Nightmare was scared completely in control..

It no longer tried to hide itself from her thoughts, but was now showing itself in her mind as this overwhelming shadow thing.

Hungry

Powerful

Dominant

Victorious

She could feel its pain. It was weak from the blast.

She could feel its pain. It was weak from the blast.

She could feel its pain. It was weak from the blast.

That wasn’t quite right, but she was starting to come to a conclusion. If she thought about something hard enough, long enough—Luna was saying something to the Princess, the Princess was saying something back, she couldn’t hear, guards were approaching—she could feel the outlines of its tendrils, the shape of the magic moving through her thoughts.

Now it was trying to rip the conclusions from her mind. She’d had something, felt it slip. And yet it let her keep that thought. Why?

To demonstrate its power. To show that it was in complete control.

Playing on her fears, but not her actual conclusion.

She was still wearing the magical engine. She smiled.

If she focused it inward she could destroy the Nightmare Herself the Nightmare for good.

She was winning, or at least learning, but it was becoming harder and harder every time. Because the Nightmare was feeding on her strength, was growing from her. And if she resisted it, the more willpower it would gain for itself, the easier it would win each time.

Not her own thought, but based on contextual evidence, one she didn’t doubt the truth of.

“There’s a whole wing of pegasus guards approaching. Dragoons, I think. And I think Celestia’s out cold. It’s going to be hard to explain this one.”

And she’d been concentrating so hard she hadn’t noticed Rainbow limp up behind her.

“Dash,” Twilight said calmly, “I need you to—” her mouth clamped shut.

“To?”

Twilight’s mouth stayed shut. She desperately thought, zap me! She could focus the magic of the engine-device inside her, hold it steady on the Nightmare, or she could fight it, but not both. She was already losing that battle, had already lost, needed to give in.

“If you want me to be quiet, you need to actually say it,” Rainbow grimaced, wearily watching the approaching guards. They would definitely be within rifle range, but not close enough for carbines yet. Not with Celestia still on the field so close.

“So Celestia didn’t recognize me, right? Because I wasn’t one of the ponies that stayed behind. I got a plan...” Rainbow went on. “You gotta trust me though. Remember that time we ‘fixed’ your plumbing?”

Was Twilight allowed to nod? She was.

“I reckon if we fake a fight—”

And Twilight’s head filled with blood and tearing and anger at this mare that had stopped her before, who she had tossed like a broken ragdoll already and just came back, and Twilight didn’t fight it.

The Nightmare was curious why Twilight so readily kicked Dash in the shin, hard, but was delighted all the same.

When Twilight ducked and weaved all of Rainbow’s clumsy, feigned blows, it cackled in delight. When another punch connected with Dash’s gut, it roared in her head with triumph.

So when Twilight had the idea to taunt the scared and surprised little pegasus, she let the notion pass unhindered.

“You aren’t powerful enough to beat me, Dash.”

And immediately the cowardly pegasus fled, turning towards the sky. The Nightmare tried to grab at its magic to rip her back down, but found itself blocked. Twilight was still holding onto it fiercely, to the exclusion of everything else.

No matter. It was a simple matter to—

A bolt of lightning crackled from Rainbow’s wings and grounded in the magical artifact twisted around the Nightmare’s head like a crown of thorns.

The searing light burned at it again, but as it tried to flee one last time, to dominate that insufferable, indomitable pegasus' mind... It was pinned in place, held down.

No, I think that’s enough of that, Twilight agreed as tendrils seared the Nightmare away from her thoughts.

The last of the Nightmare howled, then whined, then hissed and fizzled like a drop of oil on a cast iron skillet, and then it was no more. Twilight opened her winced-shut eyes and smiled at Dash, even as the dragoons swarmed overhead.

She’d still been struck by lightning, unfortunately. Rather took the legs out from under her.

Fainting seemed the right way to go.

The last thing she caught before passing out? Dash shouting the words “Citizen’s arrest!”

And then—




Twilight stood by the open bar in the old palace gardens, watching the crowd. Letting the crowd watch her. The music was nice enough, played by a very talented quartet, but it did little to settle her nerves.

The unfinished palace had been destroyed. That was fine. The new palace would be smaller, less ambitious. Dedicated to its new function of bettering the empire.

Shining and Cadance stood on a balcony above—one of the few rooms that had undergone its new construction—guarding Twilight, as was the duty of the Captain of the Royal Guard. He’d had a lot of experience with it the last year or so. Twilight kept glancing up at the pair of them, and Shining would always wave back and smile. It helped.

Enough of feeling awkward at the bar, then. Twilight downed the last of her non-alcoholic cider—even though she craved the fizz of the hard stuff more than anything right now—and squared her shoulders.

Once more unto the breach.

Groups of ponies parted for her as she moved through them, others trailing in her wake. She nodded at them, shook hooves when appropriate, gave a few genuine smiles where she could, and a practiced one when she couldn’t, until she found the one true socialite amongst them. All she had to do was look for the shape of the crowds; rings formed around Rarity like ripples in a pond from a dropped stone.

As Twilight skimmed towards her, she noticed that she was forming little rings of her own wherever she had paused. That was... new.

“It’s such a shame the Marquis wasn’t so inclined, or else I’d never have gotten the stains out of his—oh, forgive me a moment.” Rarity stopped as soon as she saw Twilight, smiling just as genuinely. All the tension dropped from her shoulders. Shining could guard her at the party, but it was Rarity who protected her from the party. “Twilight Sparkle, in the flesh, as I live and breathe. Finally decided to rub shoulders with us again?”

“I think I’ll stick to shaking hooves, if you don’t mind.” Twilight smiled, and got a few chuckles from the ponies close enough to hear them clearly. “Thank you again for doing this.”

And again Rarity smiled, but this was the smile Rarity wore with teeth and a dangerous glint in her eyes, that flash when there didn’t seem like any light should have caused it. “Oh, darling, it was the least I could do. Truly, the very least. Thank you for coming out, tonight, as well, my dear! I know this is a far cry from a night in with a good book.”

“You’ve saved me from a mountain of paperwork, at least.” That was a half truth. True that she had a mountain of paperwork she’d otherwise be doing, but if she were being more honest, that was where she’d rather be right now. “Still, it’s a skill I’m happy to practice.“ That was a more honest truth.

Rarity nodded, and seemed to think hard on something, thoughtfully swirling the glass of red wine she had. It matched her lipstick. Twilight wondered if that was intentional...

Then Rarity seemed decided on something and nodded, and spoke quietly enough that only Twilight heard her, even surrounded as they were. Another skill she’d have to learn. “Don’t worry about anyone thinking you’re doing something wrong. None of this has ever happened before, to any of us. They don’t know what the right way to go about this whole mess is, and it is up to you and you alone to decide it. So no matter if you think what you are doing is right, or what you are doing is wrong, you will always be correct.”

Then, more loudly, ringing her glass with some careful taps of her magic. “A toast, I say! To the new Princess! Long may she reign!”

“Long may she reign!” the crowd agreed. Some out of fear, some simply because it was Rarity leaving the toast, and some again because they genuinely believed in it. But all of them agreed for their own reasons, and that was important.

“Now,” Rarity continued, “how are you finding your dress tonight?”

“It’s beautiful, it’s the most precious thing I’ve ever worn.” It was true. The dress was the perfect pink to complement her coat with a subtle corset around the waist, to make her figure ‘pop’—according to Rarity—with a modest white train and soft yellow accents.

“Good. I still have all the measurements. So you have no objections to me designing your wedding dress?”

Twilight blushed furiously. “Rarity! That was supposed to be a secret!”

“Twilight, half of Canterlot heard Luna scream ‘yes’. If you wished for it to remain a secret, you had two options; either don’t propose from a balloon, or propose to a quieter fiance.”

“Rarity!”

“Besides, I already said this was an engagement party on all the invitations. So it’s rather too late to be coy about it now.”

“You did what?!”

“Oh, don’t be so dramatic. We really must work on your poker face, Twilight, one of these days it’s going to get you into dreadful trouble. Just screams ‘diplomatic incident’ waiting to happen, dreadful. Now, let’s try this again; I put ‘engagement party’ on all the invitations, so it’s rather too late to be coy about it.”

Twilight stared blankly. Rarity beamed in response.

“Much better! We’ll make an ambassador of you, yet.”

“Rarity...” Twilight spoke in a low, warning tone that Rarity cheerfully ignored.

“Oh! And I spoke to the architect about the new palace. Since, you see, these little garden parties and soirees I’ve been throwing have largely been paying for it, I thought it seemed only fair I get a voice in it.”

“If you’d just asked—”

“Not nearly half as fun, Twilight dear, do keep up. So I saw what you were trying to do. Something very boring and functional. Unbearable. If I’m going to keep spending so much time in such an insufferable place—though I’m sure I’ll see the atmosphere improve under the new administration!—it needs to be gorgeous. So we tweaked it a little.”

“How much is a little?”

“I had a sketch commissioned. Here, I’ll show you.” Rarity unfurled a roll of paper she’d been keeping... somewhere in her dress.

Both mares were now so focused on their conversation, they were completely ignoring the gathered herd of nobles and socialites who were hooked on their every word. Well, at least Rarity looked like she didn’t particularly notice them.

Twilight considered the plan reasonably, and opined in a casual tone; “I could order you executed, now, you know?”

“But then you’d have to find somepony else to make your wedding dress, now, wouldn’t you? And I don’t think either of us sees that happening.”

“It looks like you bolted a wedding cake through the middle of it.”

“Well, without it, it just looked like a big capital E. Dreary.”

“I like letters.”

“And I like wedding cake. Yours will be vanilla, by the way. Fruit cake is traditional but nobody likes it, so I’m hoping we can start a better tradition.”

“Mmm. Agreed. Well, what is all... this.”

“Oh, that means this is all going to be covered in colonnade, with a big beautiful portico at the main entrance!”

Twilight massaged her temples with her magic. Her shiny gold shoes were beautiful, but horribly unsuited for the job.

“What’s a portico?”

“Like a colonnade patio.”

“What’s colonnade?”

“A beautiful long line of columns joined by their entablature. Oh! The portico is going to have the most beautiful triangular marble pediment placed above its entablature.”

For the first time in her life, Twilight decided it was better to stop asking questions. And there again was the smile with teeth.

“But now aren’t we being rude? This is a party, and what a party it is. Don’t worry, don’t worry,” and again Rarity’s voice lowered to a whisper. Another mare who tried to lean in to hear them wasn’t subtle enough, and Rarity’s glass of red wine accidentally spilled all down the back of her lovely white dress. “We’ll throw something much more... intimate for your real engagement party. Though it’ll have to be soon, or we’ll miss Pinkie and Rainbow.”

Twilight smiled knowingly. “And we’re going to miss them anyway, right?”

A playful punch on the shoulder, though Twilight swore she heard a choked gasp from a stallion. She was starting to notice the ponies around them again, nerves were rising again. “Of course. They’re hardly refined, but they’re both brilliant in their own ways. Now! I have some business to attend to. Some ponies to cheerfully extort!” Rarity said that loudly and proudly, and got some delighted laughs from the crowd, because only Twilight could see the teeth. “Why don’t you go rescue Fluttershy from this? I’m sure she’s around here somewhere.”

“She came?”

“Of course she did, of course she did. Who else do you think I’ve been throwing all these charity events for? Myself? Heavens, no, far too much work, and they all get—present company excluded—” she said as if to the ponies around them, but only making eye contact with Twilight “—rather dreary after a while. But it’s all for a good cause, isn’t it?”

“I’ll leave you to your blackmail, extortion, and fashion sniping, then.” Twilight nodded, making to split the crowd again. Rarity tittered.

“And I’ll look fabulous doing it, I assure you. Go, go, you have your fun and leave me to mine, then? Meet up again when all’s said and done?”

Twilight nodded, and began moving through the crowd. She’d found her rhythm, now, watching Rarity had reminded her of how Celestia used to do it. Eyes ahead, acknowledge everyone but nod in such a way as to lead their movements away from yours. Look like you have an objective, and you’re busy with something.

It’d take a lot of practice. Especially since she didn’t know where Fluttershy was. She’d be hiding from the crowd, so...

Ah. Ah ha.

To find Fluttershy in a crowd, look where the crowd is not.

She gave one last wave to Shining and gestured inside the palace. This time Cadance was watching her too, and she practically bounced on her hooves waving back and blowing kisses until her doting husband pointed out she was making a scene.

Then Cadance started blowing even more kisses and giggling louder, because Cadance didn’t give a damn.

Twilight laughed the whole way back inside.

The palace was still under construction—in earnest, this time!—but there were still grand archways and columns providing plenty of corners and alcoves to hide in and around.

The other ponies were mostly out in the gardens. The free drinks were out in the gardens. It was still nice and quiet in here.

Twilight stood in the center of the quiet space, away from the mingling couples that were looking for privacy of their own, and waited. If Fluttershy didn’t want to be noticed, she wasn’t going to be noticed.

“Hi.”

She jumped halfway out of her skin, and nearly the whole way out of her shoes. Even expecting it...

“Oh. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to scare you. I just thought it’d be rude to...”

“No, it’s fine, Fluttershy. I was actually looking for you, so, thank you for helping me with that.”

Fluttershy smiled too, and like only a very select few of her smiles, this one reached her eyes. “This isn’t your sort of party either, is it?”

“But I’m going to have to get used to them. Actually, did Rarity show you the invitations she sent out...?”

“Oh, yes. Congratulations, by the way. I was on Flinders street when I heard the news.”

“Who told you?”

“Well, your balloon was over Somersby...” Fluttershy trailed off, smiling even wider.

Right.”

“Princess Luna’s very lovely. I can see why you fell for her.”

“Far too much of that, actually.”

“Pardon?”

“Just a... private joke,” Twilight coughed. She looked over her shoulder, half expecting some of the courtiers that had been quietly following in her wake to have followed her here as well, but two guards had materialized at the archway. She’d have to remember to thank her brother at the end of the night, he really was very good at his job when he wanted to be. “I just thought I’d keep you company, see how you were doing.”

And now Fluttershy looked brim to burst with good cheer. It was a strange look... not bad. Very good actually, just one Twilight was not used to seeing on her. “Oh, it’s wonderful. Rarity’s helped us raise so much money for the orphanage. And... Twilight, did you know how dangerous those books were when you gave them to the children?”

“Yes. Absolutely.” Twilight nodded. “Why?”

“Well... We had enough bits to pay for labour, and we made sure to treat the children who came well, and pay them fairly. And Brass got really angry hearing all their stories about their old jobs, because children are disposable, right?”

“Well, no, but yes, I know what you mean.”

Fluttershy nodded so hard her head just about snapped off her neck. “Yes, well... uh... do you know what a union is?”

“You’re joking.”

“So Mirth had been reading these books on collective bargaining and some economics, and Brass was mostly just really good at explaining to everypony why it was in their best interest to pay attention so now... well, now it’s suddenly become a lot harder to let foals work in dangerous conditions anymore.”

Twilight laughed, and laughed and laughed, and Fluttershy kept smiling politely, giggling quietly to herself.

“So long as I can keep paying them a stipend, of course, or letting the worse-off have a place to sleep... But it’s much more above-board than it used to be! But so far I’ve managed to keep a lot of them busy with the new building...”

“Well, if you ever need help—”

“We’re very proudly independent, thank you.” Fluttershy’s smile became a little less genuine, a little more insistent. “Thank you so much for... for everything. But I’d like to keep at least that much.”

“I just meant we’re going to need a lot of apprentices working on the new palace.”

“Oh! Well... that might be just perfect...”

A tray of hors d'oeuvres appeared just at the edge of Twilight’s periphery. The waiter had just snuck up behind her, she hadn’t heard his hoofsteps at all, not even on the stone floor.

“No, thank you, Mirth, I’m rather full.” Fluttershy nodded.

Well, would you look at that.

He was taller than she remembered, and older looking. He was managing to grow a fair few whiskers now, which she was sure he was stupidly proud of. She’d have to get him a shaving kit for Hearthswarming... The eyepatch was gone, and the long scar now passed over a white glass eye, like a billiard ball. The cheap wooden prosthetic that looked like it had been part of a barstool at one point had been replaced by... would you look at that as well, a scroll case, just like the one Applejack and Pinkie had talked about when she broke her leg.

He was dressed up in a waistcoat, a white button-up blousey shirt, and a tight red bowtie someone must have helped him with. He carried the tray with his good hoof.

“Well aren’t you looking dapper.”

“Thank’n you muchly, Y’r Highness.” Mirth nodded. “I told Ms Rarity that I wanted to see how she got to be so good at... I don’t know what to call it. Politicking? And she told me you need to not be noticed. Well, I was good at that already, but she said I need to be good at not being noticed even when a pony looks directly at you. Sees you without seeing you.”

He offered her the tray. She took some stuffed vine leaves and a maid-of-honour tart, giving a brief curtsy as a thank you. Mirth matched her with an even deeper bow, and a wicked smile.

“Well, she said, there are two kinds of ponies that are real good for that. Servants and seamstresses. And I didn’t much care for sewing. So here we are. You wouldn’t believe what ponies will say around you while you offer them a plate of nibbles. And just take special care of the ones that have been around the bar...”

“Let me guess. Rarity’s also put you in charge of topping up her glass tonight?”

“Rightly so. Don’t know why she’s so insistent on it. Never seen the miniscus drop below the half.”

“Thought so. Where’d you learn a word like miniscus?”

“Flatcap’s been reading some science books, too. Shared that one with us. Great word, innit?”

“Reckon so,” Twilight said before catching herself. Their vocabulary appeared to be colliding. Oh, dear. Fluttershy giggled, herself. Mirth raised his eyebrow and apparently Rarity had been giving someone whispering lessons or, maybe far more dangerous, he just had a natural talent for it.

“Matron’s on her third flute of the bubbly, if you catch my meaning.”

“Ah.”

“How many you reckon it’d take before she tried to snog ya?”

“Mirth!” Twilight hissed, holding back the giggles.

“Because I reckon five’s the lucky number.”

Mirth!

“Only take four before she tries to snog Ms Rarity again, just you watch. Or Applejack’s brother if he were around, way Applebloom tells it.”

“Little one,” Fluttershy said calmly, all hint of the smile gone unless you watched her eyes, still, very carefully. “Maybe you should take Ms Sparkle’s drinks order and go practice your listening somewhere else?”

“Oh, I reckon so.” He unfurled some blank parchment from his wooden leg, and flicked a quill from the case after it. He cleared his throat, and suddenly his voice was... well, like a posh toff’s. “Just juice for you, yes, Your Highness?”

Twilight was immediately jealous again.

“I’ll be fine, for now, thank you. I think I’ll be heading towards the dungeons again, for the night. I’ll see you both later, yes?”

They both nodded in understanding. Fluttershy receded behind a column and suddenly she was gone, and Mirth silently drifted back into the crowd, a perfectly expressionless look about him.

That left her to take a guard escort. She borrowed the pair from the entranceway and asked them to take her down to the last part of the palace left untouched.

The dungeons were a cool reprieve from the humidity of the night above, and so many ponies making so much heat in so small a space. It was calming.

She didn’t have the fondest memories of her time in the dungeon, admittedly, but it hadn’t been exactly bad either. Productive! Productive was good. The great thing about books is they read the same no matter where you are, as long as you have good light.

Celestia had been kind enough to house her comfortably down here. It was the least Twilight could do to return the favour.

She saw Luna sitting outside Twilight’s former cell. She turned to dismiss her guards, but they’d already gone. Shining really had trained them well.

“Hello, again. Come to keep us company?” Luna smiled softly. All the time spent in the narrow stone corridors talking to Celestia had made for an effective crash course on “indoor voice”.

“How’s she doing?”

“Sleeping,” Luna sighed softly. “She’s doing better. Worse than I did, but...”

“It wasn’t with you for as long,” Twilight finished. They’d talked about this a lot since they’d been back.

“Do you think she knew, at the end? That she was still fighting it?”

She hadn’t asked that before. That was a question Twilight hadn’t thought about before either.

The easy answer was that she didn’t know, didn’t have a frame of reference for what Celestia was like before. The hard answer was that she didn’t think so. But the hard answer wasn’t necessarily the correct answer, either; She thought that, but only because she hadn’t thought about why she thought that.

Time slowed as Twilight’s mind pored through the evidence, her entire filing cabinet on Celestia spilled upon mental carpeting and scattered, new connections being drawn. There were times when she was cruel, and kind. When she looked on Twilight favourably. The sick pleasure she took in Twilight chastising her on how wrong she was.

Something she had always resented now took on a strange new context. She knew how the Nightmare worked now. Or at least, she knew how it acted when it was desperate. It changed your thoughts, censored others, shaped them. Pushed and nudged.

What if she valued Twilight so much because she was the moral core the Nightmare didn’t allow Celestia to have for herself?

What if Twilight was Celestia’s way of fighting back.

She breathed in, sharp and through her teeth as the idea hit her. “The stars will aid in her escape... “

That wasn’t the answer her fiance expected, but she’d learned enough to be patient. She waited for the rest of Twilight’s thoughts to connect. Twilight at least did the favour of collecting them out loud.

“I still don’t know how much was her, and how much was the Nightmare. And I thought after a thousand years, there couldn’t possibly still be much of a difference. Which is why these trips have been so difficult for me,” she explained, factually. It always hurt Luna to hear, but Celestia had hurt Twilight as much as anyone. In some ways, more. “But I think she was fighting it. And I think she was fighting it in ways the Nightmare didn’t understand it could be fought. I might even have been a weapon she was using against it...”

“She still doesn’t remember so much.” Luna sighed. “And I refuse to make her.”

It was part of the reason no formal charges had been laid against Celestia. Luna insisted that, devoid of the Nightmare’s influence, she would hold herself accountable for everything she had done, and it would be best to help her through that rather than reinforce it.

“I think... may I talk to her?”

Luna smiled, then frowned, then raised an eyebrow with a neutral expression. “She’s asked to see you many times before.”

“I know.”

“And you’ve always refused.”

“I know.”

“But now I ask you a question and you—” Understanding. “You’re curious, aren’t you?”

“Yes.”

“Be gentle with her. I don’t know how—Please, be gentle with her,” Luna reiterated, opening the door.

It was never locked. It never needed to be.

Celestia rose from the bed. The curtain rattled as she pulled it aside. It was almost perverse seeing the Princess so vulnerable. The rippling colours in her hair had faded to the pink of the late afternoon sky, and she was barely larger than Twilight herself now. She unfolded herself off the bed, stretching slightly, and made to step closer but stopped herself, hesitated. It would have been up to Twilight to close the distance between them, but she was too unsure right now herself.

“Good evening, Celestia,” Twilight said with a little bow, not entirely sure what else to do.

“And to you, Princess.” Celestia smiled shyly, nervously, her eyes going to the floor at Twilight’s feet, at the wall just above her head, but never quite at her. She was terrified.

“It’s nice to finally meet, for the first time,” Twilight said calmly. Celestia weighed the implications of that, let the layered significance of it unfurl, like reading a scroll as fast as it could be pulled, while being careful not to tear it. “Would you like me to get you anything?”

Celestia was silent, still processing, still reading Twilight. Shaking slightly. Twilight came to a decision.

“If we’re going to do this, we’re going to do this properly,” she declared, as much to herself as to Celestia. She was as unsure about this as ever before, but the pony she saw before her meant—She had to be the strong one, for the first time. She had to take the lead. “I’m going to go get us some cake. Red velvet, maybe, or black forest. Something with lots of chocolate and cream. Your favourite, yes?”

The other pony was speechless, could only bob her head in surprised agreement. Twilight forced a smile and took her leave.

She gave Luna a peck on the cheek as soon as the cell door closed behind her. “Have you told her about us, yet?”

“No.”

“So she’s the one pony in all of Canterlot that doesn’t know. I’ll keep that in mind, then.”

“Oh?” Luna’s inflection rose in surprise, “You read the paper this morning as well? I thought I had hidden it well...”

“Wait, it was—”

“You were going to ask us something, my betrothed?”

“Right. Yes. Is it still a drinking problem if it’s soaked through cake?”

“I—what?”

“How much alcohol can I have in the form of cake and it still not count as a relapse or remission?”

Luna eyed Twilight seriously, somewhere between maternal concern and exasperation and desperately concealed amusement. “That you have to be asking means you either want me to give you the okay, or to be talked out of it. Or for me to decide which for you.”

“Yes, please.”

“You may have one cake, and if you ruin it with too much sherry, then that is your punishment.”

“You are wise and fair above all else, my love,” Twilight intoned with utmost solemnity.

“Don’t think I haven’t been noticing your attempts to bury that delicious body you worked so hard for,” Luna accused sternly. “Though we appreciate a little bit of softness, one cake should be plenty regardless of its alcohol content.”

“Well, your sister has all my exercise equipment now, so—” Twilight stuck her tongue out and made raspberry noises over her shoulder as she left, because Luna had already said yes. She didn’t need to try to impress her anymore. Sucker.

Stars above, she loved her.


The kitchens had been refurbished rather quickly. With all the construction efforts underway, it had been the practical first step, just after the bathrooms. The new kitchen was a long strip of three islands, each dripping steel utensils from the roofs and hiding ovens where there weren’t drawers, drawers where there weren’t cabinets and cabinets where there weren’t ice boxes.

The floor was white tile, always gleaming, so that even a single speck of dropped anything would show like a signal flare. The floor was spotless.

And all throughout were a dozen chefs, bussers, washers and cooks turning produce into product.

They’d managed to find a local supplier on short notice, someone who’d managed to score a few military contracts recently and had been hoping to diversify. The huge influx of local produce had blessed the palace with the finest foods it had experienced in decades.

“Ah’ll have you know Princess Twilight asked for this on real short notice. You just sign off on this, and she’ll bite my head off for it later, not yours.”

Of course, because that supplier was Applejack, she was still haggling over the price of the garden party delivery when Twilight came to ask for cake.

The bean counter that Applejack was haggling with coughed into a hoof and gave Twilight a meaningful look, and Applejack spun around with the biggest, broadest smile that nearly fell off her face. “Well, speak of the devil, howdy there, pardner. Been too busy running a country for the likes of such a salt-of-the-soil farmgirl such as me, eh?”

“Salt of the—Way I’ve been hearing it, you’ve got Canterlot haute cuisine wrapped around your hoof, with all those officers coming home ranting about your juice,” Twilight accused. “And my palace, it seems.”

“Well, s’cuse me, Princess. Ain’t my fault hard work pays off.” Applejack’s hat swung off her head and clutched to her breast in the biggest ‘aw, shucks’ gesture Twilight had ever seen. “What are you doing down here, anyway? You’re interfering with a good bit of bartering.”

“I’m getting—hang on,” she turned to one of the chefs covered in flour, he seemed the sort to ask, “Cake? Just for myself and a guest. Anything with cream will do.”

The baker nodded, slammed the oven at his station shut, flicked a timer on, and scurried off into the maelstrom of activity beyond where Twilight could focus on him, like a shell game but with tall white hats.

Applejack snorted. “Hope that ain’t the wedding cake. You aren’t allowed to elope, sugarcube, and leave us all hanging.”

“I—how’d you find out?”

“Folks down the farm hire a fella to read the paper while we pick. Got a good chuckle, you betcha crown on it.”

Gah. Ack. Moving on, then.

“How much is she overcharging?” Twilight addressed to the victim of Applejack’s bartering. Even with her newfound authority, the kitchen didn’t miss a beat, didn’t pause. Ignoring the Princess might have been treason, but overcooking tourin d'ail doux was heresy.

“Overcharging? Ah’ll have you know it’s a perfectly reasonable 20% rush-rate surcharge. Had to hire on extra help and everything to meet such a large order.”

Twilight sighed, moving deeper into the kitchens as busboys spun around her. She could swear one of them had a peg leg, now that she was looking for him... Oh, what the heck, she already knew anyway. “Ten percent, and I’ll let you be a maid of honour.”

Applejack grinned and they shook on it. “Ha! I’d have gone down to five.” The beleaguered administrator rolled her eyes and went back to count inventory, probably, see that Applejack hadn’t under-delivered. She never did, but it didn’t hurt to check.

“Madame! Your gateau.”

Black forest. Perfect.

“You’ve been treating my pantry well, though? Nothing boiled, bottled, salted, sealed, canned, tinned or frozen?”

“Nope. Know just how you like it Princess Twilight. Wouldn’t dare poison ya with anything inferior.”

“Oh? But you’d poison my nobility, and the army?”

“You betcha.”

“Fantastic.” Twilight didn’t smile, because there were ponies watching. She was very careful to make it sound like she was being sarcastic, and she had a reputation enough to make it believable. But when Applejack smiled back, she wondered if Rarity had given her permission to borrow it. And with that, Applejack went back to yell at another pony with a big wooden crate, farm-fresh.

Twilight carried the cake with her magic the whole way back down to the dungeons, but not before pilfering a drink from an icebox...


They lay on the bed, each with their own plate of cake and some of the chocolate milk she had nicked. Celestia was practically inhaling hers. Twilight stared openly, and got a few sheepish glances back for it.

“What? I’ve always liked cake.”

“Well. Yeah. That’s true,” Twilight admitted, rubbing the back of her neck super awkwardly, “It’s just weird. We haven’t done anything like this since I was way younger, and even then it was never like... this.”

Celestia nodded. “I haven’t always been myself.” There was the tone of amusement to it, like they were just talking about a particularly bad cold, and that could be all there was to it as long as neither of them looked too hard at it, thought about it too long.

Twilight’s spoon clattered against the plate and she sat up straighter. “And that’s weird! It’s weird, and it’s strange, and it’s taking me a while to process. Because you did terrible, awful things, but it wasn’t you, so it feels wrong to be mad at you, or angry, even though I am! But the thing I was angry at, that thing I killed. Obliterated honestly. So the part of you I am actually angry at, I fixed. So why can’t I just not be mad at you?”

“For the same reasons I can’t forgive myself, Twilight.” Celestia nodded, no sadness in her voice, just a matter of fact statement and another serene bite of cake. “That’s not how this works. So long as my actions still cause pain in this world, I cannot be absolved of my crimes. Which is why I’m so proud of for you for taking my place on the throne.”

Twilight gulped, mouth suddenly dry. Another mouthful of chocolate milk helped. “I was thinking about a change to a monarchistic democracy—”

Celestia shook her head, no. “Eventually. But you would be fighting against a thousand, a thousand-thousand measures I took to make sure such a system would fail. And the world needs a strong leader at the moment. Luna is new, and she still has so much to learn about the world. But you, my most trusted advisor, know so much. You know how things were run, and how things could be run. You know the ponies with power and they respect you, even the ones who don’t like you—you never made an effort to be liked, little one. You alone have the experience, the position, the talent and the aptitude to fix what...” Celestia choked on her own words a little, wouldn’t quite come out of her throat. Another spoonful of cake seemed to dislodge them. “What I did.”

Twilight watched Celestia cut herself another slice. The cake was blurry. Everything was blurry. Her cheek was wet. “It... it really sounds like you’ve put a lot of thought into this.”

“Of course I have!” Celestia exclaimed with a light chuckle, “Why else do you think the Nightmare was so terrified of you?”

That took a moment to sink in.

Then Celestia smiled again, outright giggled at her own joke, and went back to cake. Twilight raised an eyebrow.

Celestia remained silent, pursed lips.

Twilight raised her eyebrow higher still.

“Oh, fine.” Celestia wiped the mutlitude of crumbs off her lips, and rolled her eyes like a bratty teenager. “I was just going to tease you about Luna. Play the role of big sister. I just thought better of saying it.”

Twilight flushed and flinched. Spluttered. Choked on her own tongue. Stalled by thinking of synonymous phrases. “Luna said she didn’t tell you!”

“I suppose that’s true, yes. She didn’t. But I am neither blind nor stupid, that much is also true.” Celestia looked at Twilight seriously, head angled down, the effect only ruined a little bit by the fact that she never stopped taking spoonfuls of cake as she did. “Now, running my Empire? That I trust you with in the space of a breath, Princess. But my sister’s heart? I might need some more reassurances.”

There was a spray of chocolate milk from her nose as Twilight died that moment. Certainly her heart stopped in her chest, as did her breathing. There was a spike of neural activity, then that too was blank.

It was very unfortunate that it was temporary. Everything kicked back in.

“Gurk,” Twilight said. “Ack.”

More or less.

“Gracious me. And here we had discussed what a poet you had become.”

“Grargh?”

“Truly, a ballad for the ages,” Celestia said without a hint of sarcasm, which somehow made it more sarcastic. Not helping.

“How?”

“How did I know? She doesn’t stop singing your praises, it’s obvious she has feelings for you. Also, apparently you bite, and Luna hasn’t thought to cover her neck.”

Twilight had chosen the wrong moment to take a reassuring sip of milk. It, too, went up and down her nose. She spluttered on that again. Celestia eyed her sternly.

“Really, Twilight, that’s a very good way to get sick.”

“You’re not... mad?”

“Well, you look silly, and it might be considered impolite in most company, but no. Hopefully you have a kerchief on you, though?”

She did. She stood off the bed to wipe her face with a kerchief from a pocket in her dress, Rarity wouldn’t allow her to leave the house without certain practicalities. “I meant about seeing Luna.”

Celestia stood up as well, and though she didn’t loom like she previously had, it had been so easy to forget she was still taller than Twilight. She inclined her head and her eyes narrowed around the edges, her lips thinned slightly... She was terrified, and she was trying her best not to show it.

“Are you honestly asking, Twilight, if I feel I have even the right to be mad at you? No. I have nothing but gratitude. Now, it’s been lovely meeting you, but I suppose we should leave things off for another time, here? It’s getting quite late.”

Another time. She was terrified, at that. There was pleading behind the politeness.

“Another time. When I’m not saving the world,” Twilight agreed.

“Or marking your girlfriend,” Celestia added slyly, just the hint of a raised eyebrow Twilight recognized well on that face. Smugness! That’s what it was.

Well, it seemed this conversation had been a little one-sided in that regard. And she was leaving...

To hell with it.

“I’ll mark my fiance as much as I darn well want, thank you very much,” Twilight declared, spinning on a hoof to leave the room. A quick look back over her shoulder and Celestia had the most wonderfully blank expression, slack-jawed and drunken blinking.

As Twilight got through the door, two realizations hit her at once:

Celestia was going to be her sister-in-law, and she’d left the cake behind. Ah, drat. There was about a quarter left, and she’d only gotten two slices in...

Drat.

...

Wait, what was that first one again?


The platform was covered deep in ponies, burbling and crowding. Everybody loved a spectacle. The sun was sharp and clear, the sky cloudless—Rainbow had made sure of it for her special day—and the wooden deck of the royal airship yard creaked and bent under the weight of such a crowd.

Dash stood at the helm of the Spirit of Adventure, payment for services rendered to the new Princesses. Twilight was emphatic about paying back her debts. The oiled canvas caught the light around the curves of its big, rocket-shaped balloon, about the dimensions of three legless elephants standing head-to-tail. Particularly large elephants at that.

The hull that hung below the balloons was a sleek, teardrop shape with long rudders. Its sky-blue painted hull, invisible against the clear sky, had two giant electric-motor propellers at the front in steel cowling, humming and thrumming like a heavy stormcloud, and two more in the rear were much smaller and flatter, barely the size of big bass drums tipped on their sides, their energy more like a whine.

Neither could match the raw energy of the excited Pinkie Pie, who bounced from port to starboard, aft to bow, busying herself with every possible thing she could as a final check. When she finally gave Twilight a hoof’s up, static cut through the din of the audience for just a moment, and all was silent but for the engines.

Luna had offered to be by Twilight’s side for this, having no small fondness for Dash herself, but this was something Twilight wanted to do alone. Not least because it meant she could only use her fiance as an excuse to leave if she wasn’t already here. She’d need that escape when she got completely emotionally exhausted by all of this.

“Citizens of Equestria,” Twilight declared from her pulpit high above, her voice booming over the crowd through speakers strategically placed around the dock. “We are gathered here to celebrate the journey two very special ponies close to us are about to undertake. They carry with them the hopes of their new Empire, and the desire to spread its virtues. I can think of no two ponies better suited for the role. I know whatever difficulties these two face, they can overcome in their mission to spread love and kindness to where there has only been taken hate.”

“Laying it on a bit thick, aren’t we?” Dash shouted back, leaning lazily against the big wheel. She was loving the sap, though, Twilight could tell. Was just playing things up for the crowd.

Well, both could play that game.

“I trust you two both to spread the word of this new age of peace, and to bring back knowledge that could otherwise have been lost to us. May you find these new lands with understanding and compassion, and may they follow your example, too. And know that you will always be welcome home.”

“That’s all very sappy, Princess,” Rainbow called back again, hooves cupped around her mouth, wiggling her eyebrows, up-down-up-down, and putting on the most roguish look she could muster, “but we’ve already been to the moon. This is just a little holiday, this is.”

Laughter washed over everyone. They’d all heard the stories, but it was still a question of how many believed it. It still made for a good joke, either way.

“Well. You did,” Pinkie pointed out, as the laughter died back down.

“Oh, right...”

“Hey, wait!” A pony rushed up through the thick mass of the audience. “Hold up!”

“Mirth!” “Cap’n!” Rainbow and Pinkie exclaimed, and Pinkie kicked the plank back down. Mirth ran straight past her, affording her a wink—something he’d apparently been practicing for a while now—and up to the bow of the ship.

It was easy to see why he got through the crowd so easily, now that he was out of it. He’d been carrying a large, curved sword.

“Heard you can’t be a proper Captain without it, Miss,” he explained, kneeling down, presenting it above him. Dash took it graciously.

Rainbow started blubbing like a little baby, and swept him up in a big hug. Another roar rose up from the crowd, and Mirth got a hero’s welcome as he was sent back up, hoisted over a sea of shoulders towards the Princess’s pulpit in the center.

He stood quietly by Twilight’s side, who might also have been blubbing just a little now that someone was close enough to point it out to her, as the Spirit of Adventure launched, Pinkie blowing kisses over the back railings of the ship as it drifted lazily off Canterlot mountain, picking up speed towards destinations uncertain.

“That was great,” Mirth sighed happily. When Twilight looked, the young man seemed to be backing away slowly. “Nobody noticed Scootaloo stow away at all, then? Can’t believe that worked. If Matron asks, I had nothing to do with it. Speaking of—”

He disappeared in a blur, his peg leg punctuating his gallop every other step, and now that she was listening for it, Twilight could also hear Fluttershy’s panicked shouting...

The Princess of Equestria wondered if that was a problem that could at least wait until after her wedding.

Comments ( 222 )

And that was The Mare who Capitalized Inconsistently. Or something to that effect.

Thank you, and good night.

Special credit to River Road for this lovely little tribute.

Heeeee! That was glorious. Absolutely glorious! After how good the rest was, I was almost worried that somehow the ending wouldn't keep up, but it absolutely did. One of the best stories I've read in a long time!

No wait please, it can't be over! I demand a sequel! :raritydespair:

One of the few fanfictions I ever re-read just to experience the joys of binging it in one go.

What an amazing experience it was.

Long breath in. Long breath out.

That's the smell of glorious literature.

Thank you.

Great story.

What else can be said that they haven't already said? It's brilliant, it's wonderfully written, full of surprises, had a whole lot of cliff-hangers for those of us keeping up-to-date and is probably an utter joy to binge, it's got hardly a flaw on it.

But then, you've got your friends to tell you that.

Congratulations, sir. Have fun with the next one.

7900385 i.imgur.com/mucig0D.gif

That was an amazing story. Steam punk MLP at it's finest!
s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/564x/1c/60/fa/1c60faada855de3253ac95323fd0928b.jpg

Thank you for this ride threw your amazing world.

Thank you for writing this story. It has been really good to read. Though i do hope there is a sequel in your thoughts i wish to say thank you for the story you did write. I loved the steampunk estetic. Though i was confused of the different style for this chapter as i read i realised why you did it and i think that in the end it fits.

Definitely going to be at the top of my re-read list. There's so much built into this alternate universe and you did it in way that I found enjoyable and that's not too much exposition or wordy. I'd say more but I'm at the ungodly hours of morning/night.

Where to next, Cap'n?

Marvelously done. Thank you for you work, it was a great story.

This was.... i'm glad I was here for this. Not the ended I expected, but It... it feels right.

At the same time... it feels strange that it's over, even if I've only been following for a few days now.

you left the end rather open and I find myself wondering if it was intentional, There are so many little tales you could still tell in this universe. whether another Sprawling epic, or in a handful of shorter one-shots.

Tales about Dash, scoots and pinkie off on adventure.

Tales about Twilight Luna and Celestia, bonding and restoring a twisted, corrupt and broken empire.

Tales of Rarity and Mirth navigating the courts.

And yet you could also happily, truly, end it here. I'm probably just seeing it like that because I fell in love with the world you built so quickly I would love to see more of it.

Regardless it has been a brilliant ride, thank you for sharing your tale with us.

A fitting and awesome conclusion. Thank you for your time and effort in writing this, it has been both a wonder to read and enjoy.

Excellent work, glad to finally see its conclusion :pinkiehappy:

It's been a long journey... Thank you for this. :twilightsmile:

Entirely joyous, from start to finish, that's all I can say. Thank you for this story, MrNumbers, it was an absolute blast.

Am I the only one who feels like the end of the story was just rushed to all hell? I mean, come on, Twilight made new Elements of Harmony between chapters. We didn't even get to see it. No Tree of Harmony or even more than one Element with the rest of the Mane6 she just did it solo. The virtues that were supposed to make the Elements the ultimate weapon of good were pointless and not even needed in the end.
Also a shame this conversation never came into play:
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5699551
Where Number's claimed the romance wasn't going to be cut and paste, love at first sight and was actually going to have depth and drama later on, but instead was exactly what the naysayers were claiming it was going to be. Cut and paste, by the numbers without even an iota originality. Just, there it was, smacked down as the center of the story like the slab of SPAM at a poor family's Christmas dinner. It should have been a Love Turkey, dammit! Succulent and juicy! Not empty calories of woe!

Downvote me if you want, but I just can't help but feel that the amazing potential this story started out with got horribly squandered by the end like the author just didn't give shit anymore and wanted it to end as soon as possible. It kind of reminded me of the last book of Stephen Kings The Dark Tower in that regard.

Well, if anything, the first, like half-ish chapters in this story were some of my favorite bits of reading on this site, so thanks for those. And even though it was a bit of a let-down, also thanks for finishing. Something all authors should aspire to do more often.

TDR

This has been enjoyable from start to finish. Good job. Despite others pleading I'm not sure this needs a sequel. Its perfect as is...........though if you do one I will read it.

Welp, it's over.
Let that sink in...

I can't believe this updated and Fimfiction didn't tell me. Amazing ending by the way it leaves just enough unanswered questions while wrapping up the loose ends. Can't wait to see if you have anything else in store for us.

7900524
For the point regarding the virtues of the Elements, that was something I had thought about mentioning during the pre-reading stages, but I realized, that was never really the point in this. Sure each of Twilight's friends still embodies the element they are associated with, it's a major part of their characters, but it was never really a focus of them. I don't think there was a lack of payoff with the element bearers, because there was never any buildup on that front. Rather her friends each came to her, and through their support and hard work, succeeded in doing something amazing. Rather than simply being a collective power source for a Rainbow Friendship Cannon, they instead built a literal gun to shoot for the quite literal moon, and they did it.
The final fight may have been abbreviated, perhaps disappointingly so, but in a very real way, the hard part was over. And as a result of the efforts of both herself, and her friends, she rather incidentally had a VERY POWERFUL magical device, and had the kind of mind which could put it to use copying an artifact based on Luna's descriptions.

As for the romance, Luna and Twilight had already rather successfully woo'd each other. As far as the story itself goes, devoting more time to that might have been redundant. Thus, epilogue, instead of a longer wind down. I can grant that I understand why you would feel dissatisfied, but I think it is more just a dissatisfaction with a stylistic choice, rather than the author no longer caring enough.

7900524

You're not wrong. I planned on subverting it towards the end when I made those comments, but when I got to those scenes, my original plans for how I was going to do that no longer made sense, so I couldn't do it the way I intended. It just no longer made sense to me to subvert it given how much the two characters had managed to communicate over the story, and how much the characters put into that writing. The subversion was intended to be a deconstruction of how the letters didn't necessarily reflect an actual romance, but when it came down to it... That didn't seem to reflect the characters at all. Shit.

As to

The virtues that were supposed to make the Elements the ultimate weapon of good were pointless and not even needed in the end.

Yeah. They were needed to make the engine that got Twilight up there in the first place, that's when their virtues came into it. And then Twilight is the final spark that brings it all together at the end. That was obtuse as heck, but I'm still reasonably happy with it. It's more a thematic link to the original show rather than a literal one.

Also I might have panicked. I absolutely panicked. I'm going to be completely straight with you on that. It's not that I didn't give a shit, truly. It's just that I've never, uh, finished a story this long before. I haven't had much practice at it, you could say. This was very difficult for me to write in that regard, and the plans I'd made didn't synch up with the ending as it occurred. It turns out endings are hard.

EDIT: Also a lot of what Blue Paladin said. Seriously, like, all of that. That's actually what I originally typed up but then I deleted because it sounded lame to my own ears, but that was honestly my thoughts.

It was a wonderful read from the very beginning, everyone in this story just felt... alive. No wooden acting and a perfect mix of drama and comedic relief. Thank you. :heart:

So the question is... are we going to see the wedding night?

It's over! No!

7900616 Because the ending was a bit rushed, it took me a bit to realize you weren't going with the "Twilight is the Nightmare's new host and is therefore hallucinating a happy ending" trope.

Excellent. All of it. The technical term for Mirth is "A Lad", and for that matter everyone else is a honorary lad.

I enjoyed this very much. I am going to miss this story. I admit the ending feels a bit anticlimactic, it's hard to pinpoint why exactly. Maybe because of how little interaction there is at the end. We see very little of Luna and Twilight together, and the rest of the group is already split up. This is not necessarily bad, just not what I would have liked to see personally.

7900647

I mean, the Nightmare took at least decades incubating in Celestia's mind before it did anything, changed her thoughts over centuries... And that was after being blasted with the original elements of harmony...

Maybe they didn't kill it. Maybe it was wounded and overconfident, but this final 'death' was just a pratfall, it realized its mistake in underestimating Twilight Sparkle one last time. Now it's just hiding again, better this time.

That's a thought I didn't have, actually, but there is a very, very dark possibility for this ending hiding in that idea. I'll have to keep it in mind. Certainly Twilight is going to have long, sleepless nights over this for years to come, now that you've pointed it out.

Exquisitely done from start to finish. The Nightmare perspectives were fascinating, the denouement satisfying, and the conclusion leaving the doors wide open for further exploration of this universe.

My only concern is actually a scientific one, namely the magic-dampening field covering the planet. I'd thought Celestia had somehow put it in place, the better to assert her dominance... but I guess it's just a natural feature of this world? I realize I'm commenting on a corner of the frame rather than the masterpiece it contains, but it still bothers and intrigues me.

In any case, thank you immensely for one of the most incredible adventures I've read on the site. Here's to whatever else may take place in this world.

7900675
I feel like the magic dampening field is sort of like a magnetic field but for magic. The Aether is so incredibly, stupendously magical, that it might be harmful in the long run, and a field that reduces it before it hits the ground is necessary for the survival of creatures on the surface.

Perhaps a world so thoroughly saturated as it would be unprotected would be unable to reliably generate life. Magic without guidance might be too chaotic.

7900675

Well, traditionally, aether theory was that there was a magical medium through which light could travel in the vacuum of space.

The problem is largely that Equestria has an atmosphere.

7900498

You, sir or madam, took the words right out of my mouth. So I shall just add my own praise alongside.

Superb story, MrNumbers. A satisfying ending, even though seeing you explore this world further would be brilliant. It feels like there are lots of tales to tell :twilightsmile:

7900674 At this point i think this tangent is good enough to grant a sequel???? Please???? :fluttershysad: :pinkiesad2::fluttercry:

What a wonderful ending to an amazing piece of literature! This definitely was one of the best stories I've read in a while, and I can't wait for what you come up with after this.

*Clapping*

Thank you, Mr. Numbers. Thank you.

I'm always sad to see a long running and well-written story end, but at the same time I like the closure.

Well done Senor Numeros.

Whoo... What a ride. Top ten MLP fic all-time, I think, maybe even top-five.

It's over, and I am sad, but, man, that was a good ride while it lasted. Well done, good sir. This was an amazing read, very different and unique among what I have read.

You left out whether Twilight wings with her Princess title on purpose didn't you?

Well this turned out to be a very enjoyable story. Thank you.

Wow. Not often I get to read such an amazing fic from its initial posting and see it reach a conclusion. For me this was a story standing head and shoulders above so many others. The style, the dialogue, the setting, even the characters were both recognizable yet also distinct and compelling. Every character had both charming, brilliant personality coupled with the kinds of problems you could really feel, and each one developed so naturally that their conquering of their demons felt both effortless and a satisfying of their friendships making them better people; I can't think of any story that better retold the core lesson of Friendship is Magic, and this did it while pretending to be also being a steampunk love story to boot. I would reread this in anticipation or upon release of new chapters sometimes, and even knowing what came ahead it was a pleasure to read every step of the journey.

I'm a little bummed that the recreation of the Element of Magic, and Rainbow learning she could fly, were off screen, but it was undeniably an awesome fight, and the epilogue wrapped things up nicely.

This is not a story I'll forget.

Wonderful work, sir!



I did especially like how you managed to convey to us all not only why the Nightmare was dangerous, but exactly how as well. Top work, capital, wot wot and all.

Holy shit this was awesome.
fudge

lol... well then.. that promises to be an adventure for sure.

Great, I loved it from the start to finish. Especially loved the Nightmare influence.
I suppose for "criticism" I could say that maybe last chapter and the epilogue could have been separated and expanded since the conclusion does feel a bit rushed. But really it was, at least for me, satisfying end and each character got the last good bye.

Still I have a nagging feeling that someone is missing from epilogue. :moustache:

I loved this story.

That was an awesome story, Thanks for the ride!

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