• Published 27th Feb 2015
  • 490 Views, 39 Comments

Dark Sun - ScreamingDoom



Twilight must delve into Celestia's past to save the future of Equestria.

  • ...
3
 39
 490

2 Signs and Portents

Tia's eyes flickered up over the roofs of the adjourning buildings, watching as a blue alicorn she could never remember the name of drew out a red and gold banner between two rods in either side of the street. Her eyes quickly moved away, shifting to regard her red-maned mother beside her and her sister who trotted along excitedly behind the pair.

"I don't see what all the fuss is about," the pink haired alicorn filly said to her mother, "I mean, Stardancer's birthday was last month and the whole town didn't decorate for her. Why are me and Luna any different?"

"Because we're twins," Luna stated as she came up beside her sister, a weary sigh punctuating the sentence, "Twins are very ousp... asp... oop--"

"'Auspicious' is the word you're looking for," Tia completed with a note of annoyance.

"Yeah, that!" Luna exclaimed, grinning broadly.

"But auspicious of what exactly?" Tia asked frustration evident in her voice, "We haven't even done anything yet. And it's not like we got this treatment last year."

"Well, I think it's awesome," Luna stated with a bright smile, holding up her head imperiously, "Besides, it's not like we can't do anything. I can already do this!" The dark maned filly closed her eyes tightly in concentration as her horn began to glow with the customary glittery blue of her magic. The wobbling band of magic slowly grew as the trio walked along the narrow thoroughfare of the main street towards the shopping district before suddenly expanding to encompass her body. In a flash of light, the filly disappeared and then instantly reappeared a few steps ahead of the other two, Tia rolling her eyes at the display.

"Luna!" their mother scolded, frowning at the small alicorn, "What have I told you about teleporting in public? It's rude."

Luna's ears flattened against her head as she looked down before falling into step beside her mother, "Sorry, mom."

"I still wanna know what we're supposed to be auspicious of," Tia prodded her mother, nudging the older alicorn with her side as the three continued their journey.

The matronly alicorn sighed, shaking her head before replying, "We don't know yet, Tia. Even the most powerful divining magics can't say precisely. But it is the case that children are rare for us and twins almost vanishingly so. There has never been a case where twins born didn't go on to do something amazing."

Tia frowned and flattened her ears, staring at the ground again. "I just... don't feel that special, that's all. It makes me kinda... y'know... feel weird."

"That's because you're not special," Luna replied with a smug smile, "All you ever do is sit in your room and read and ask questions. You never go out and do anything yourself!"

"Luna!" their mother snapped, furrowing her brows at the filly in question, "That was uncalled for. Apologize to your sister right now."

"But--"

"Now, young filly."

Luna huffed and dropped behind the pair only to trot back up beside her sister, and spoke in a slightly begrudging tone, "I'm sorry."

Their mother was about to snap at Luna again when Tia spoke up, "It's fine, mom. She's right, anyway."

An expression of concern passed over Luna's features that was echoed in the larger alicorn. Luna bumped herself up against her sister and offered a wide smile, "Hey, c'mon. I was just kidding. You don't need to worry about some dumb oss... auspliciousiness. I'll be amazing enough for the both of us." The filly stopped to wrap her hooves around Tia in a hug, which the pink haired filly returned after a moment.

"Come along, you two," their mother said gently as she looked down at them and smiled, "We still have to meet your father. He's getting your presents for tonight."

"Yaay, presents!" Luna cheered, releasing her sister from the hug and waving her hooves in the hair before galloping on ahead with their mother in hot pursuit. Tia watched as the two trotted on ahead and smiled faintly, turning her eyes up towards the cloudless blue sky and the bright orb of the sun as it shined down on them before hurrying to catch up with her sister and mother.

***

The sky was already turning golden with the approaching dusk as the trio found themselves in front of one of the many storefronts in the town. Luna and Tia had barely stepped up to the doorway before it opened and out stepped the tall, lean figure of their father, a pair of carefully wrapped gifts floating behind him. One was thin and long and encased in dark blue wrapping paper peppered with starry patterns that glittered in the light, while the other was much more short and squat and covered with deep rich red wrapping paper speckled with gold.

"There's my two little princesses!" their father exclaimed heartily as he bespied his two children, "All ready for your birthday, girls?"

"Yup!" chirped Luna excitedly as she bounded around her father, "Ooh, are those our presents?"

The patriarch alicorn laughed and reached over to tussle the filly's mane with a hoof, "Indeed they are, Lulu! Very special gifts!"

An embarrassed blush flushed on Luna's face before she spoke out in a faint whine, "Daaaaad. Don't call me that any more. I'm not a little foal."

"Aww, c'mon," her father childed her gently, again ruffling Luna's mane, "At least give an old stallion this much."

Luna let out an exaggerated sigh, rolling her eyes, "Oh, fine. Just please don't do it at the party in front of all our friends, okay?"

Rumbling laughter burst out from the tall, lanky alicorn and a wide grin split his features, "I make no promises!" Luna scrunched her muzzle in consternation but her father winked, "But I'll try, okay?" That seemed to satisfy the filly who smiled brightly up at the other alicorn.

He turned his attention to Tia and his demeanor suddenly became much more reserved, "And what about you, young lady? Looking forward to the festivities?"

"I guess," Tia replied noncommittally, causing both parents to exchange looks of concern. Luna rolled her eyes again, "She's been like this all day. You'd think she wasn't happy about it at all!"

"Is that true, Tia?" her father asked gently, "Is something wrong with the party?"

"There's nothing wrong with the party!" Tia replied with a note of exasperation in her voice, "I just... I just don't see what all the big deal is, that's all. I know we're twins and supposed to do great things and all, but I just... just don't feel all that great and powerful."

Again, both parents exchanged looks.

"Tia," her mother spoke suddenly, though with gentle, patient tones, "Sometimes events -- even birthday parties -- can be more for others than yourself. You might not understand it or even be comfortable with it, but it's still important to others."

"Yes, mother," Tia replied, looking down.

"Cheer up, dear heart," the patriarch of the family stated with a grin to the pink maned alicorn, "At least try to enjoy yourself a little? For this old stallion?"

Tia looked up into the grinning features of her father and offered a tentative smile, "All right. I'll try."

His grin widened and he clopped his hooves against the ground happily. "Great! Now, we should head to the town square. They've probably set up the whole thing by now. We wouldn't want to be late!"

"Let's go! Let's go!" Luna said excitedly, hopping in place for a moment before galloping down the street ahead of the pack.

"Luna! Don't run off ahead!" her mother scolded as she, in turn, headed off to catch up to the errant filly.

***

Alternating patterns of blue and black banners criss-crossed with red and gold lined the parameter of the square. The centerpiece of the town, a large ornate golden gazebo with a flowing fountain inside, was stuffed full of various dignitaries of the town while benches and tables had been strewn throughout the area, all with various sundry treats of both the sweet and savory variety. Near the gazebo was an exceptionally long table, filled with gifts and two cushioned seats at the head, one red velvet, the other a dark blue. Between the seats and benches various amusements and games had been set up and the scant few alicorn fillies of the town frolicked and cavorted between them as the adults mostly hovered around the tables.

Luna's eyes grew wide and she let out a small squeal of delight as she spied the various wonders in the square and immediately trotted off to inspect them. Tia stayed by her parents who began to chat with one of the other adults. After a few minutes, a young powder blue filly with a bright white mane trotted up to Tia.

"Hello, Stardancer," Tia greeted the other filly.

"Tia! I can't wait to show you what I learned!"

Tia blinked questioningly at Stardancer, canting her head to one side.

"It's for the celebration!" Stardancer continued proudly, drawing herself up, "A true display of magic!"

Tia found herself smiling in spite of herself at the other filly's enthusiasm, "I'm sure it will be great. You're always really good with magic."

Stardancer grinned broadly then reached a hoof over to tug on Tia's shoulder lightly, "C'mon, you should join the rest of us! There'll be time enough apart when you're sitting at the big table."

"I... I don't know," Tia replied uneasily, glancing over at where Luna was engaged in a game involving magically guiding small dull pins along a precise shape of thin cracker, "I think I should stay by my parents."

"Oh, don't worry about us!" Tia's father suddenly cut in, bowing his head to the pair of fillies, "We'll be fine. Remember what I asked you to do, Tia? This may be a great time to do it!"

Tia hesitated again before offering up a smile to Stardancer and following her over towards where the other fillies played.

"Still having those bad dreams?" Stardancer asked rather bluntly while they were only partway to their destination.

Tia winced, but reluctantly replied, "Yes. They've been worse recently."

"You really should tell your folks, Tia," Stardancer stated with a frown and worried brow, "I mean, I'm only just beginning with magic. You might need some real help."

"It's fine," Tia replied tersely, "Really. Besides..." Tia looked over her shoulder at where her parents still chatted away with other alicorn adults, "I think they may already know." The pink maned filly shook her head quickly, determination settling on her features, "They're just some bad dreams, Stardancer. I can handle that. I'm not a foal."

Stardancer looked doubtful, but said nothing more.

The party proceeded fairly uneventfully after that and Tia found herself actually enjoying the festivities in spite of herself. It was good, she had to admit, to forget the bad dreams and just be a filly enjoying herself for once. By the time it was to open the presents, the dark mood that had affected her ever since that morning had slowly abated.

Tia sat with her sister at the head of the long table as the pair systematically went through the various gifts given by the townsfolk. A pile of various toys, books, and other amusements had been set aside as the last two gifts were presented to the pair; the ones from their own parents.

Luna unwrapped hers first; the young filly tore at the paper with abandon by both hooves and magic, revealing a lacquered brown box with brass latches on the sides. Curiously, Luna unfastened the latches with her magic and opened up the box to reveal a long metallic tube. Luna just stared blankly at the object.

"It's a telescope," her father clarified as the tube was surrounded by the faint light blue glow of his magic and eased out of the case. The lenses on either end glittered in the fading twilight of approaching night as the telescope swung around then angled up to the stars and moon just beginning to come out in the sky. "Go ahead, look through it."

Luna seemed a bit skeptical but did as instructed, leaning forward and peering through the eyepiece up at the sky. The filly let out a gasp of surprise and her wings fluttered with excitement. "I can... I can see the surface of the moon!" A rumbling laugh tumbled out from her father who couldn't resist tussling Luna's mane as she continued to gaze through the eyepiece in wonder.

"You're named after that place," her mother intoned softly with a smile, "You and your sister's birth straddled the day and the night. She was born when the sun was setting, and you were born when the moon was rising."

"I'm going to go there someday," Luna stated with certainty as she continued to peer through the astronomical device, "I'll be the first pony to set hoof there. You'll see!" This statement resulted in good natured chuckling throughout the gathered crowd.

Tia had paused in her own unwrapping (a much more methodological enterprise compared to Luna's enthusiastic rending) to watch her sister engage with the telescope, but returned to the task soon enough. The paper was removed to reveal an ornate tome, the surface embossed with gold in a complicated, flowing geometrical design. There was a golden clasp on the side with a jagged keyhole. Tia opened the book, but found the pages curiously blank.

"It's a diary, dear," her mother explained, "And a very special one. No matter how much you write in it, there will always be blank pages to add more. And there's a translation spell on it that even works on vernacular, so no matter what you'll always be able to look back and see what you were thinking when you noted something down. And see that lock? Only you and anypony you allow access to will be able to open the book."

"You can put down all your private thoughts in it," her father broke in with a wide smile, "No one will be able to see it. Not even your mother or I!"

"Use it when... when you need to talk about something, but don't feel you can come to us or your friends," her mother finished, a worried but understanding smile gracing her features.

Tia looked from one parent to the other before turning her attention back to the book, closing it and hearing the latch snap shut on its own. "Thank you."

"And now!" a voice suddenly broke through the general babble of voices. The crowd parted slightly to reveal Stardancer, standing proudly a small ways away, "For the finale!" The filly closed her eyes and concentrated while the crowd of alicorns watched expectantly, her horn glowing brightly. For several moments nothing happened, but quite suddenly there was a loud whistle and a bang as the now night sky erupted in a shower of sparks and light rays that arced across the square in a dazzling, swirling arrangement of light. Even some of the adults seemed impressed by the display and the square erupted in hoof claps.

Tia had to admit, this had been a pretty good birthday.

***

Tia had finished writing the first entry in her diary when her mother came into the room. Luna, who was occupied with the telescope staring up at the stars through their window, didn't even look over at the older alicorn.

"All right you two. Time for bed."

"Aww," Luna said dejectedly as she turned away from window, "Can't we stay up a little longer? Please? It's our birthday!"

"It's already far too late as it is," their mother stated primly, "C'mon, off to bed the both of you."

Tia had already closed her diary and was trotting over to her bed when she heard her sister whine again, "But I'm not even tired! The night's better, anyway!" A stern glare from their mother caused Luna's ears to flatten and the filly to shrink from the gaze, "All right, mom." Dejectedly, Luna packed up her telescope and went to her bed on the other opposite side of the room from Tia's. For her own part, Tia was asleep before the light went out.

***

Grey fog curled around Tia's hooves as she stared into the empty blackness surrounding her. There was ground of some type under her feet, but no matter how much she tried to push away the fog, she could not see it. There was light, but it seemed to come from no where in particular and still did nothing to illuminate the yawning maw of darkness that stretched on and on in all directions. Yet still... there was the constant, gnawing sensation of being watched.

Though there wasn't any danger apparent, Tia was afraid.

"Hello? Is anyone there?" she called out into the black.

Only silence greeted her.

With nothing else to do, Tia decided to walk forward.

The young filly glanced around her from time to time, but there was nothing but that impenetrable blackness. Still, the sensation of being observed persisted.

She seemed to walk on and on for quite some time, but no landmarks or features or ponies or anything presented themselves. Suddenly Tia stopped as the crushing realization hit her all at once.

She was alone.

Utterly and completely. There was no one and nothing in the blackness. Just her, herself. Even the sensation of being watched was wrong.

Panic began to well up in the filly as she glanced wildly about her, searching for something or somepony to relieve the oppressive loneliness.

"I know you're there!" she cried out into the black, her voice cracking with the rising panic, "Come out! Please come out!"

Only silence greeted her again.

Her breathing hardened and her heart raced and she began to run off through the curling fog, blind panic fueling her featureless advance through the dark.

Wait, what was that...? A figure in the fog?

Tia skidded to a halt and rapidly changed her trajectory towards the figure, racing as fast as she could towards it. It was shadowy and indistinct, and the parts there didn't make any sense, like the silhouette of a bunch of different animals crudely collected and sewn together. But Tia didn't care... it was something in this endless black.

She heard a laugh -- no, more of a cackle -- tinged with sly cruelty and madness. It didn't matter, she was running to the figure, whatever it may be.

But just as she was nearing it and the features began to get more distinct, it disappeared, melting away into the fog like more mist.

Tia heard another laugh from another direction, this one different. It was a laugh of exultation, yet still colored with malice. Tia turned towards the laughter and saw another figure in the mist, this one clearly an alicorn. She again changed her course towards it.

Again, though, just as she approached, the figure dissolved into mist and floated down to mingle with the fog still coiling around her legs.

Yet another laugh from yet a different direction. This one was booming, filled with power. Tia again moved to intercept to be greeted with the silhouette of... something. The bottom was pony, surely, but the top was... something else. Minotaur, perhaps? Again, she didn't care. She ran as fast as she could towards the towering figure.

And once more, just as she approached, the figure melted into the mist.

Tia finally stopped her mad dash into the dark and sat down, tears streaming from her eyes. "Who are you? What do you want from me?"

As if to answer her query, another figure appeared in front of her in the dark. This time, she did not chase it, but it seemed as if that was unnecessary; the figure was approaching.

Clearly an alicorn this time, but larger than the other she saw. As the oppressive darkness cleared, Tia could see the white coat and rainbow mane on the alicorn that flowed behind her like water. A golden breastplate with an inset red jewel was worn on the front, and a rounded golden helm that compressed the bright flowing mane sat on the alicorn's brow. She stopped just before Tia and stared down with cold imperiousness at the filly, mouth a thin line. She stood there for a long while, just staring down at Tia and the filly could not find her own voice as she stared back. Finally, the figure spoke, the voice cold and hard and pitiless.

"You are alone," she said, "You will always be alone."

Then the alicorn's wings spread wide and a harsh light and withering heat poured forth from the alicorn, her eyes glowing brightly in the dark like each was the sun themselves. Tia screamed as the light and heat intensified, blinding her, searing her flesh--

Tia woke with a start, breathing heavily and looking wildly about the darkened bedroom. "Just a dream," she murmured to herself before letting out a squeak of surprise as a loud noise bombarded her ears and a flash of light from the window briefly illuminated the room. Lightening and thunder? No, this was different.

Another loud boom and flash awoke Luna nearby, the filly falling out of her bed and hitting the floor hard. "Ow," she said ruefully, "What was that?"

"I don't know," Tia replied, frowning as she got out of her own bed and moved to the window, "It woke me up, too." Tia unfastened the latch on the window and pushed it open, her eyes widening in shock at the scene that greeted her.

The entire town was in flames.

Author's Note:

Whew, that took longer than I expected!

Between Real Life stuff and rewriting this chapter about six times, this did take quite a bit more time than I expected. Sorry for the wait!

I still don't think I'm quite happy with the chapter, but I decided to release it rather than agonize about it. I hope it's a little bit entertaining at least.

Enjoy!