• Published 5th Sep 2018
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The Golden Age of Apocalypse - Book I - BlueBastard

A Berylverse Story - The ponies investigate an ancient prophecy tied to Sombra's plan to destroy Equestria, all the while Sunset prepares for her coronation. But not all is as it seems when the mystery begins to imply a far darker truth of the past.

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Chapter 30: “Sunset Shimmer has Two Mommies”

Golden Age of Apocalypse

Chapter 30—“Sunset Shimmer has Two Mommies”

In the royal kitchens, utter panic ruled, and the only thing more plentiful than chaos were the secret herbs and spices that the chefs used.

“What the hell?” demanded Sugar Cookie, head chef. “These humans don’t seem anything like griffins—we can’t make the usual itinerary for griffins for them since I’m guessing they don’t eat raw meat!”

“Well, it’s on a situational basis,” nickered Sunset, deciding that now was not the best time to try to explain dishes like sushi and steak tartare to the already-frazzled pony. At the moment, she was in her alicorn form and had wisely decided to swing by the kitchens and check in on the dinner preparations. What she found was that the kitchen staff were preparing things that no human would be able to safely eat—she wasn’t even sure that it would be safe for any creature to eat. “Look, do you have a list of things that you all know how to make? I could just point stuff out.”

“It would be easier to tell you what we can’t make.”

“Oh, uh…” Sunset racked her brain trying to come up with a solution. What she came up with was highly unusual but she hoped it would work. “Give me a minute.”

A minute later, Sunset returned with the SIRENs in tow.

“Okay, ladies, here’s your latest assignment—plan a dinner for our human delegation in a few hours.”

The triplets blinked in unison. “Er, your highness? We’re military professionals, not party planners,” Adagio pointed out.

“Yeah, that’s your girlfriend’s job,” Aria cracked, only to see her cousin’s hard glare. “Kidding!” she amended.

“Dagi, you work at a pizza parlor that hosts children’s birthday parties all the time,” reminded Sunset. “Soni, you work with me at the cafe, and Aria, while your day job isn’t either, you do as much cooking around the house as the rest of us do.”

“Yes, but we don’t usually do that at Pinkie’s scale,” Sonata reminded her. “Seriously, shouldn’t you ask her?”

In response, Sunset nodded behind her, where Pinkie Pie and of course Pinkie Pie were already hard at work trying to teach the royal chefs how to make upside down cake—and both Pinkies were having unusual difficulty getting the “upside down” part understood.

“Oh,” the three sisters said in unison, getting it instantly.

“Well, to add to that,” Aria pointed out, “from when we were here two weeks ago, we figured out that cows, pigs, and the like are sapient, and they won’t take kindly to being slaughtered as foodstuffs.” Aria reached over and grabbed a plate that looked like an obscene cross between a chicken drumstick and a tentacle, stating, “I don’t even know what this is, and I’m not inclined to use everyone as test subjects.”

Sunset sighed. “Good point.” She then turned to Sugar Cookie. “Do you have any duplication mages available?”

The chef thought about it for a second, stroking his wiry mustache. “Like a porter?” he asked.

Sonata caught the reference immediately. “Exactly like that,” she said.

“We do, but they usually work the after hours shift, your grace.”

“Tell them that they’re going to be on-call for the duration, and that they’ll be well compensated,” Sunset told him. Turning back to her cousins, she brought out her cellphone and started tapping away. “Dagi, I just sent some money to your bank account. The three of you go back through the mirror to make a grocery run—full on, as if you’re restocking the entire house. That should give them enough non-sapient meats to be able to duplicate, not to mention some other things that ponies might find interesting.”

“How interesting?”

Sunset smiled. “Well, I know for a fact we don’t have Oreos here in Equestria, for one.”

Adagio, despite herself, grinned. “That’s thinking like a ruler, your highness,” she said with a smile.

Suddenly, Sunset’s phone sang out with a digital chime. “Fantastic—that was Princess Twilight, informing me I need to go get ready to go over my schedule for the week.”

“Schedule?” Aria inquired

Sunset rolled her eyes as she desummoned her phone. “Look, as much as my biological mother means well when she wanted to have humans experience ‘Equestrian hospitality’, the other side of the proverbial coin is that there’s more to becoming a princess than just having wings or a horn tacked on and subsequently getting rushed through a coronation in all of five minutes. There is a long series of meetings, events and other traditions that need to be observed by a princess and usually takes about a week, concluding with the actual crowning of the new princess. And thanks to modernization, half of that also involves a ton of legal documents needing to be reviewed, signed, rejected, revised, signed again, countersigned, and then approved as well.”

“Seems kind of unnecessary—the paperwork, I mean, not the observing of tradition thing. That I get.”

Sunset chuckled. “Normally it isn’t this bad—I would say because it isn’t every day there’s a new princess of Equestria, except within the last five years there’s been just as many princesses named, including myself. There were two—Celestia and Cadence—when I made a break for the dimensional border, but now there are six.”

“Uh, wait a sec…” interjected Aria, doing some quick math in her head. “There’s only five princesses: Celestia, Luna, Cadence, and Twilight. But isn’t Razz in pretense?”

“Yes, but now I’m back on the scene and an alicorn in full. Furthermore, Cadance and Shining are married and when a man and woman—or stallion and mare in this case—really really love each other….” Sunset grinned at her own joke, then continued. “If you think they’re in panic mode because alicorns are back in style, what’s going to happen when they start being born? Like I said, we have one alicorn married and if the rumors I heard last time we were here about Div and Twi are true….” The chirping rung again, followed by a small explosion from within the kitchens, prompting another groan from Sunset.

“Don’t worry, Sunny,” said Sonata with a grin, breaking protocol to hug her cousin. “We can handle things here.”

As Sunset walked into the dining hall hours later, wearing one of the dresses that pony Rarity had insisted that she wear, the alicorn noticed several identifiable dishes on the table, including stuff that was common around their household. Guessing the triplets shared some of the family recipes, she said, eyeing what was clearly enchiladas suisas.

Hopefully dinner will go off well enough, Sunset said as she noted the other humans wandering in.

Princess Celestia, already present, looked at her daughter with concern. “Sweetheart, it’s only dinner. Furthermore, this is an icebreaker, and you’re amongst family—both sides, in fact. You should relax and enjoy this.”

Not taking her eyes off the door as some of the ponies started to filter in, she said, “Mother, believe me when I say that when it comes to me, it’s when things are going right that I start to get worried.”

As they sat, the servers pointed out that the white plates contained pony-friendly dishes, while the dark blue plates contained human-edible ones. As everyone sat, Celestia stood and spoke. “All, please keep in mind that we are a gathering of friends and family, and that this is not diplomacy. This is merely getting to know one another.” With that, the alicorn sat, and that gave a silent cue for both sides to begin.

Dinner had started off well enough, Sunset noticed, as everyone began to talk amongst themselves. Even the semi-obligatory “fashionably late” arrival of both Rainbow Dashes seemed to be a portent of good fortune.

Sunset had found herself holding her breath when her mother Twilight Velvet locked eyes with Princess Celestia as the regal white alicorn sat at the head of the table. The woman and the mare had each been instrumental in shaping who Sunset Shimmer was now, and she wanted so desperately for them to get along.

“So… you’re Sunset’s mother,” Velvet said, eyeing Celestia with apprehension.

Celestia smiled. “In a sense, yes. You must be the Twilight Velvet I’ve heard so much about.”

Despite the princess’ friendly demeanor, Sunset had to wonder how the two would fare. When she had come to Equestria to save Twily, Celestia had quite openly stated her desire for Sunset to return as her daughter, and it had broken Sunset’s heart to tell the solar alicorn that she was returning to the human world. Though she had later declared herself to be Celestia’s daughter as well, the fact remained that both of her mothers had equal claim on her, and it could turn out to be a very bad situation.

“Well, you’ll have to tell me all about what it was like raising her,” Velvet said, giving her fellow matron a knowing smile. “Who knows? Maybe you can give me a few pointers?”

When Celestia’s smile grew warmer, Sunset had a feeling everything would work out fine between the two. “Oh, I wouldn’t be opposed to sharing a few tales from Sunset’s youth. I love her dearly, but she could be a hoofful at times.”

With those words said, Sunset began to realize the full consequences of having the two mothers in her life sharing stories about her, and began to sink a little deeper into her chair. To get her mind off that little slice of horror, she took a bite of her eggplant primavera and looked to see what other situations were ongoing. While not everyone was paired with their counterpart, conversations went on nonetheless, from Twily talking to pony Applejack, and the AJ she knew talking to Fluttershy’s counterpart. Everyone and everypony seemed to be doing swimmingly, and it wasn’t until Sunset noted one of the chairs was empty that she realized one of her contingent was missing.

Sure enough, she wasn’t the only one who noticed. “Hey, has anyone seen Tavi?” her brother Shining asked, looking at his parents, then to Twily and finally herself.

Princess Twilight noticed some absences as well. “Has anypony seen Lyra and Sandalwood, for that matter? They haven’t been around all day and that’s not like them.”

“Yes, darling, I’d have to agree,” unicorn Rarity said, her violet mane bobbing slightly with her nod. “They were looking forward to this posting, and it’s quite unlike them to shirk their duties.”

Pony Applejack nodded. “Shirk, nuthin’—they ain’t the types to miss somethin’ like this, and unless they were distracted or somethin’, they’d be here.”

It was Princess Cadance that stated the obvious: “You mean if they were distracted by someone.”

Celestia turned to look at one of the guards posted in the room. As the guard approached, the ruler said in a discreet tone, “Find Miss Heartstrings and Miss Sandalwood and let them know they are late. Additionally, if there is a human with them, she needs to come as well.”

The guard had just about saluted to acknowledge the order when the doors to the dining hall burst open, silencing the room as all eyes were drawn to the people entering. Octavia Melody strode in led by Lyra and Sandalwood, both with clearly guilty looks on their faces. Sunset immediately noticed the uneven sway in Octavia’s step and her bright red face as she looked at the gathered ponies and humans with a wobbly grin.

“Oy… ‘ellooo there, me lovin’ fam…” Octavia said, slurring. Strangely enough, she spoke with an accent. Her lidded eyes then drifted over to Sunset. “An’ you, b-urrp… bacon-hair….”

“Bacon-hair?” Sunset muttered in disbelieving stupor as her cousin drunkenly giggled.

Twilight Velvet and Night Light stared at their niece with mortified expressions. “Octavia Melody, are you… drunk?!” Velvet exclaimed. Upon hearing that, Lyra and Sandalwood mirrored Night and Velvet’s looks of horror.

“Oh wow!” human Rainbow Dash exclaimed, taking out her phone to record a Vine before her hand was slapped down by human Rarity.

“We kinda goofed up,” Lyra said with a smile, hoping to defuse the situation. When Sunset’s parents only glared at her harder, her ears wilted and she added, “She got lost, and we invited her for a drink and chat in my room. I may have accidentally given her something other than non-alcoholic cider.”

“She’s only seventeen!” Velvet shrieked.

“We didn’t know!” Sandalwood began, wondering if she’d be tossed into the dungeon, exiled, or tossed into a dungeon in the place she would be exiled to. “And in any case, legal drinking age in Equestria is twenty. But to tell the truth, we made an honest mistake.”

“YOU BET YER BOLLOCKS YA DID!” Octavia shouted in that accent again, pointing an accusatory finger at Lyra. “You gonna g-uurp-et in trouble…. ‘S what you get fo’ bein’ an annoyin’... wankah!

“Tavi…” Twilight ventured, looking at her unsteady cousin and trying to comprehend just what was going on. “Why in the hell do you sound British?!”

“It’s the seiyuu,” Sandalwood groaned. At the confused looks from the humans and most of the ponies, she explained, “It’s an Inari alcohol with magical properties that can change the drinker’s voice temporarily.”

Lyra added, “Yeah, Bon-Bon drinks it all the time!” With the withering glare she received from the pony versions of Applejack, Rarity and Twilight, she suddenly remembered the value of silence.

Rarity nodded. “Well that explains...a few things,” The ivory unicorn replied.

ああ、ファックのため...the human Fluttershy muttered, not wanting—or probably needing—a translation.

However, Lyra caught that. “Oh, you speak Inarigo? Cool!” she chirped, only to wilt a second later when she realized now was not the time to comment about that.

Princess Twilight interrupted the conversation: “Uh, girls? We have bigger things to talk about than what Bon-Bon drinks.” Unfortunately, the voice of reason is often ignored in some situations, and this time was no different.

“Yeah, I always thought Bon-Bon was possessed!” sang pony Pinkie Pie, unable to discern the gravity of the situation.

“And I guess that explains the time you broke into our house, tied Bonnie to the bed and started chanting weird incantations…” Lyra mused.

“Shunset…” Octavia slurred, leaning over the table to try and grab the bemused alicorn, but falling short by several meters. “Yer a right mug! Imma knock yer head ‘in such!” She burped. “Onna second thought, let’s go hit the tiles!”

“What are you saying?” Sunset asked.

Octavia grinned through drooping eyelids. “Y’know wot I’m sayin’....”

“No really, I don’t know! I literally can’t understand a single word you’re saying!”

“Okay, but like… y’know wot I’m sayin’!

“This does not look good,” Twilight said, facepalming. Sitting next to her, Fluttershy reached a wing around the human in a sign of sympathy.

It was then that Octavia turned about three shades of green. “Ooh, I think I’ve got the lurgy, I do.” With that announcement, she turned and vomited right onto Sunset, who despite her best efforts wasn’t able to put up a shield in time.

Human Cadance rose from her seat. “I think someone needs to get to bed,” she said in a tone that brooked no argument. The woman got up, helped Tavi to her feet, and announced, “I’ll be right back.”

Sunset, looking at everyone staring at her with varying looks of sympathy and shock, teleported directly to her bedchambers.

Princess Luna waved over a waiter. “Please have another meal prepared for us and our guests, and have it moved to the Moonlit Banquet Room. Looking at all present, she said, “Due to the, ahem, situation, we’re moving dinner to another location.”

“Assuming anypony still has an appetite,” Prince Shining Armor mused.

As for the night alicorn’s counterpart, who had already poured some wine, Luna took a drink and said to no one in particular, “And here I thought it was going to be a boring night.”

“Moon chavs, chavs on the Moon,” Octavia drunkenly muttered as Cadance pushed her into the bedroom, “In a Burberry spacecraft, chavs on the Moon!”

“Tavi, I know you’re probably not to blame for this, but I hope when you sober up you’ve got a good explanation,” Cadance said as she got the teen into the room, a full glass of water in hand. “For now, just drink this water, get some sleep and I’ll come by to see you in the morning.”

Octavia mumbled something completely incomprehensive involving Monty Python’s Flying Circus and running around Piccadilly Square.

Cadance waved away the stench on Octavia’s body and got her bed ready. “You get undressed—”

“Only if yer buyin’ me a drink, lovey,” the teen giggled.

Cadance rolled her eyes and said, “Do it. Now is not the time for this, and while I’m sure this is all some horrible misunderstanding, it’s going to impact relations—there’s no way it can’t.”

Finally, after some wrangling, she got the drunken girl into bed. The drinks seemed to have an effect, as Octavia fell asleep practically the moment she put her head on the pillow. Cadance looked at her sadly and said softly, “I know it was a mistake, Tavi, but this is the kind of error that nobody can fix. I just hope it doesn’t cost us anything.”

As she left the bedroom, she heard the clopping of hooves. She looked up to see her counterpart, Princess Cadance, approaching. “I thought you could use an escort to the new banquet hall. How’s...Octavia...doing?” The alicorn asked, hesitating on the name.

The look on Cadance’s face was one of myriad emotions in conflict. “Tavi and Twily were practically raised together and I’ve always been in their lives, so I love her as if she was my own kid sister. So you can imagine how I feel right now.”

“I do. I’ve had to watch over my own Twilight, as well as a few other cousins now and then, including Div, who I understand there was a mixup with earlier. So I sympathize with your feelings.”

Cadance brushed a lock of hair behind an ear. “I suppose you would,” she said with a smile.

Princess Cadance laughed. “You might just know me better than you think,” she said with a wink. “Now, let’s get going. I’ll ask one of the overnight maids to check on her and see if she’ll want something later.”

“You summoned me, Neon Lux?” asked Corner Shot, stepping into the room the Covenant messenger had dropped her off at. Somehow, she wasn’t surprised that despite being a carved out hole like her own quarters, the head honcho of the Covenant had made his private chambers both larger and more like an actual hotel room—to accommodate his massive ego more comfortably.

“Ah, Corner Shot, I hope this wasn’t a bad time to call upon you?” he asked, feigning concern for her well being.

“No, not at all, sir,” she replied with equal amounts of faux feeling. Granted, there really wasn’t much to do inside the hideout—for the past hour she’d been doing nothing but lying on her bed idly wondering why the planet she lived on was named Equus when the total sum of all sentient life on the planet were not ponies. Best answer she could come up with was because even before Celestia and Luna came around, ponies were in charge of much of the planet’s natural order. Which given what she was trying to accelerate merely annoyed her more.

“Glad to hear it,” lied Lux, who very clearly secretly had been hoping it had been a bad time just to annoy Corner Shot. It was an open secret he utterly despised her because of how her behavior normally was not just blind obedience like every other member of the Covenant, the fact she was revealed to be one of the four Scions—currently the only Scion of the four actually working with the Covenant to their true purpose—and that he had to respect that truth only aggravated him more so. She did have her usefulness, he would admit, not the least of which was her experience with the so-called “humans”.

“Well, let’s make it quick,” said Shot, cutting to the chase. “What do you need from me?”

“The three who you beat into bloody pulp, do you recall what they looked like? Before you nearly killed them, I mean.”

“Why, have our sources seen them again?”

Getting up from his chair, Lux levitated a set of photos out of an envelope and walked over to Shot. “Our moles inside the castle have indicated that Sunset Shimmer has returned with a considerable accompaniment of humans—her “adoptive” family and friends, most of them young and harmless so they should be of no concern. However…” He spread the photos freely on a table for Corner to see them better. “There are some concerning details I feel obligated to share with you, given your key role in the upcoming assault.”

“You felt obligated?” replied Corner with a sly grin. “Gee, Lux, are you starting to tolerate me now?”

“As a Scion, the Covenant needs you alive,” snorted Neon in annoyance. “That, along with this being potentially vital to the success of your mission, which itself is the lynchpin of the whole operation.”

“Aww, thanks, it almost sounds like you give a shit about me as a living thing.” She moved over to look at the photos, examining them intently.

“Oh yeah, these are those three alright—but there’s two of each of them, now?” Corner was concerned—she made sure that the Covenant had not learned she actually would have gotten her plot handed to her by these three had it not been for some unknown dark magic boost triggered within her. On their own, those three were extremely capable soldiers despite not being in their native bodies. Now they were in their normal forms, yet doubled with their pony versions at the same time. “What do we know about the pony ones? Because the human three are easily the same ones—the blue one still has a little scar where I cut her.”

“All we know about those three is they’re part of Princess Celestia’s personal maid staff—literally, any more information our moles tried to find was met with heavy security, some of the toughest encountered and posed a risk to blowing their cover. But that’s not all.” Selecting three pictures in particular, Lux brought them to the front to let Corner get a better view. “These two, reportedly the human versions of Princess Cadance and Shining Armor, have these strange bent black boxes hidden—these were the only shots that show them under their clothes in any way—so we have to assume they’re dangerous weapons of some sort.”

“Only those two, though? Like, between them and these big sticks that look like oversized crossbows...without bows...held by these three, doesn’t look too much like a problem. Wait, who’s this one?” Extending a wing, Corner tapped the sixth picture, a human with two tone green hair that looked extremely strong.

Lux notably took his time in replying, his smug-ass ego gone for the first time Corner could recall—which really was foreboding if it got Lux of all ponies to act normal. “From the report of our moles, that human...is Sable Loam.”

“You can not be serious.” Corner couldn’t come up with any other words. The Covenant knew who Sable Loam was—the original werewolf himself had found allies among their order in the past more than once as they hailed him as some relic of the king. And from those times they knew what a literal beast he was. That the human one was now here, and presumably in the castle?

A whole army of those three humans cloned a zillion times over was preferable to one Sable Loam, werewolf or human states being irrelevant.

A few minutes later, the group was reseated in the Moonlit Banquet Room. One of Princess Luna’s creations, it was seated under the glorious starscape of her night, and with the cozy candlelight, made for a much more intimate and relaxed setting.

Now in her human form, Sunset took a bite of her lobster thermidor. “I don’t think I’m going to live the humiliation down anytime soon,” she sighed. Hearing her sad tone, Night, Velvet and Princess Celestia looked at their daughter sadly, then at each other in understanding.

“Look, I’m really sorry, Princess,” Lyra said, a very apologetic look on her face. “If I’d only known....”

“Isn’t that why we’re all here? So we can learn about one another?” human Twilight interjected, reaching over to give her sister’s hand a comforting squeeze.

“Yeah, now if we could all learn something besides what the technicolor yawn is,” Rainbow grunted. Wordlessly, the pegasus Rainbow also agreed with that assessment.

“That’s not fair, Rainbow,” Fluttershy told her friend. “With the exception of Mr. Loam, our pony escorts and Sunny herself, Tavi has no counterpart here. She probably feels a little sad about that.”

“Actually,” Lyra said, “I know who her counterpart is. She’s an old friend of mine and she’s currently working on the music for the coronation event. I could see if she’s available. However, I should warn you she’s a bit...brusque.”

“That won’t be necessary, Ms. Heartstrings,” Velvet said, taking a drink from her glass of wine. “Once she recovers from this, between the embarrassment and her medication, I’m not sure she’ll want to come out of her room until the whole week’s over.”

“Medication, Mrs. Velvet?” Princess Celestia began. She had wondered why Sunset had met with several medical professionals during the few times she’d come to Canterlot the last time she was here, and now the pieces of the puzzle had slid into place.

“‘Vel’ is fine, your highness. I suspect you’ll need a way to tell me apart from my lovely counterpart here,” she said, giving her unicorn doppelganger a smile.

“Noted. But I’m curious as to what you mean.”

“My niece is ill,” Night spoke up. “She was born with a genetic defect, and while she’s managed to get over that, we’ve recently found that it did more to her than we thought. She’s on medication for it, and while doctors on our end have not been able to help her with it, Sunset suggested that medical professionals on this end might be able to do so.”

“That’s why I was talking to medical professionals last time I was here,” Sunset told Princess Celestia. “I also asked the Agency, via your office, to vet several of them in town for discretion’s sake.”

“That would explain the curious note I received from the Agency director two days ago,” the solar alicorn mused. Turning back to the human Night and Velvet, she said, “We’ll do what we can for her. Family is one of the greatest things in life, and when one hurts, we all do.”

The human Luna looked at the alicorn, then to her own sister, then back to the alicorn. “Wow, I think that would’ve come out of your mouth, sis,” she said to Tia while grinning.

“Well, if we’ve reached a lull, I think we can take this time to discuss the week’s trips,” Princess Twilight commented. “As per Sunset’s suggestions, I’ve made arrangements for the human counterparts to come with us to Ponyville.”

“I hope you covered everyone,” Sunset said as she looked at her friend. “Doesn’t Rainbow live in a cloud home?”

The human Rainbow caught that. “Huh? A cloud home? That some sort of trailer park thing that’s a tornado magnet or something?”

The pegasus looked at her counterpart from across the table. “Look, I dunno know what kind of park a trainer park is––”

“Trailer park.”

“Whatever. Anyways, my house is totally awesome and you’ll love flying up there!”

“Rainbow,” the lavender alicorn reminded her, “she’s human. She can’t fly. But I do have enough room for her at the castle.”

“What? I have to stay in the gaudy crys––” Twilight glared at Rainbow, and she blushed. “Fine, I guess I can stay there for a week,” the pegasus grunted.

Princess Cadance giggled. “Meanwhile, we’ll be in the Crystal Empire for the week.” She turned to her counterpart and said, “My husband and I love the place and you might just fall in love with it yourself.”

“Well, we’ll be here for your moral support,” Velvet reminded Sunset, “and I think our counterparts live in town as well.” She then looked at Princess Celestia and added, “Plus, I think we parental types need to have a heart-to-heart.”

“Gladly,” the solar alicorn agreed. “Plus, I’ll make sure that your time here is well-spent. Being the ruler of the nation has its privileges, after all,” she said with a wink.

Sable nodded. “Meanwhile, it’ll be a working week for me and the triplets.” He turned to his girlfriend and said, “But I won’t forget about you, hon.” She gave him a kiss, and out of the corner of his eye he noticed the great white alicorn shudder.

Meanwhile, pony Velvet spoke up. “Spike, I would like you to stay in town and keep your counterpart company. Your sister can do without you for a time, I think.”

“Yeah, that should be okay, Mom,” Princess Twilight agreed.

“Awesome, I can show him my comic collection!” Spike exclaimed.

The conversation from there devolved into smaller questions and answers, and while nothing was too bad, Sunset had the feeling that the next week was going to be one of utter chaos. Sure enough, a second later, Kibbitz, Celestia’s seneschal, arrived to inform her of some item of import that required her attention. Apologizing and excusing herself, she departed. A second later, Raven, Luna’s seneschal, did much the same thing, reminding the night alicorn that she was due in court. Excusing herself as well, she departed shortly thereafter.

“Well, it’s a good thing that I don’t have to deal much with statecraft,” Sunset said to no one in particular. “My life’s a mess as is.”

The Princess of Friendship giggled. “Oh, don’t worry, Sunny. It’ll catch up with you soon enough.”

The maize alicorn tried hard not to bury her face in the remains of her plate. “That’s what I’m afraid of.”

In the southern residential section of Canterlot, nopony paid much attention to the light azure gray pegasus making her way down the alleyways. Beyond a yellow-and-orange coloration of mane and tail hairs fluffed up to look like miniature clouds almost, the only notable aspect of the mare was the fact she was wearing a Wonderbolts training jacket and a common gray duffle pack, and what interest that could generate in observers was little, given official Wonderbolts apparel was especially popular garments among the more athletic minded pegasi, and for all that a glance suggested was this mare was merely returning from a workout at the gym.

She kept up her appearance to that effect as she then slipped inside a low-rent hotel, paying no mind to the equally disinterested teenager at the reception desk too wrapped up in what looked like university homework. Finally, she reached one of the hotel rooms on the first floor and knocked once, entering the moment the door was opened.

“I trust you weren’t followed?” the room’s occupant asked after closing, then locking the door. The other pony wore a simple cloak that covered most of her features. But in the privacy of the cheap, low-grade room, she had her hood down, revealing an elegantly styled magenta mane that was clearly more at home in a much more upper-class establishment.

Skystreak rolled her eyes despite having her back to the other pony. “No, of course I was followed—it’s not like committing high treason against Equestria is something I want to be caught doing.”

“And yet you’re the one who approached us, did you not?” Skystreak’s contact said, and although she was technically correct, Skystreak got the feeling the other mare hadn’t been attending all of her Wonderbolts shows because she enjoyed the sport.

“Look, Chrys—”

Don’t say my name,” Chrysoberyl hissed. “Even if you weren’t followed, you never know who might be listening, and we both have our reputations to consider.”

“Fine, but let’s get this straight so I don’t have to go over it for the umpteenth time, alright?” Skystreak finally turned to face Chrysoberyl, wings flared in annoyance. “I’m well aware of what you and your cult are trying to do, something something dark magic something cause national upheaval, etcetera you get the point. Just because I’m helping you Covenant freaks doesn’t mean I actually subscribe to any of what you all stand for. Our goals just happen to be aligned at the moment in terms of what will go down, but don’t think for a second I’m going to sign some religious blood pact or some bullshit like that—I’m in this for vengeance for what that bitch did, nothing more.”

Chrysoberyl did not react as if she fully expected it, then oddly smiled when the pegasus was done. “Oh, I understand those motivations quite well—the cause to bring back the true ruler of our world burns in my soul passionately, but unlike the others of the Covenant, I too want revenge against a pony in that castle—and no, it’s not one of this country’s “beloved” alicorns, they wouldn’t be worth the effort I’ve put into getting this far.”

Skystreak shrugged. “We at least can agree on something. Sorta. Whatever.” She then took off her pack and began to remove some contents from within. “My XO’s been stricter about controlling who has access to classified information regarding the “guests” currently in the castle—shoulda known that paranoid idiot would think something’s up if he found so much as a file slightly out of place—so instead I got you all the notes I could find about how the castle is defended. You wanted that too, right?”

Chrysoberyl inspected the various documents. “Hmmm, excellent work, Wonderbolt, if these are accurate then our preparations will need adjustment.”

“Try not to sound too surprised,” retorted the Wonderbolt. “And whatever you dark crystal-worshiping airheads plan on doing, you got about a week before the coronation. Oh, and before I forget.” Skystreak then took out another item from her bag—this time what looked like a tourist’s map. “If any part of your plans involve those, uh, ‘hyu-mahns’ or whatever, most of them are going to visit the little slice of nowhere called Ponyville for some reason.”

“Ponyville?” Chrysoberyl repeated, confused, as she took the map, finding it to be a visitor’s guide pamphlet for said town. “I’m not sure what I should be more confused about here—that the humans are going to probably the most dangerous place in the country ever since Twilight Sparkle moved in, or that their tourism budget has little attraction style maps of the town.”

“Have you seen that eyesore of a castle Twilight lives in?” asked Skystreak incredulously. “Ever since Tirek leveled the library they replaced it with something you’d expect in the middle of some major theme park—that whole town is one giant tourist trap these days.” Her tone grew more foreboding suddenly as she added “but it would be the perfect time to attack those non-ponies when they’re away from all but one of the princesses. The only reason they’re even here is for the coronation, so hurting them would indirectly hurt Sunset Shimmer. And I want that bitch to hurt just as badly as she hurt me.”

After the second round of dinner having made up for her earlier issues, Sunset Shimmer entered the large, yet cozy study with both Princess Twilight and Razz. Still, if what had happened during the first course was any indicator, it was going to be a bumpy ride for the next week or so.

“Well, at least that dinner wasn’t totally terrible,” Princess Twilight said, cringing somewhat as she shut the door behind them.

“Easy for you to say, Twi,” Sunset retorted. “At least you weren’t playing ‘porcelain alicorn’.”

“And yet, pony-human relations haven’t completely collapsed,” Raspberry pointed out as she noted Heliodor sleeping on a low-hanging lamp in the study; apparently after dinner, he’d went off to sleep off the food coma and coincidentally had been here. “In that light, I’d call the dinner a success.”

“If that’s what you’d call a success, I’d hate to see what you’d call ‘totally terrible’.”

Twilight looked at her friend. “Sunny, I know this is important to you, but you can relax, okay? We made it through dinner and we’ll make it through this week.”

Sunset sighed. “Yeah, sorry. Just nerves talking.”

Raspberry nodded. “Hey, for what it’s worth, I spent three weeks with your family and friends, okay? They’re taking this pretty well, all things considered.”

“All things considered, half of them didn’t know several weeks ago that magic existed, much less that I’m an alien who died and then became an alien goddess,” Sunset pointed out.

“Yeah, okay, you have a point. But seriously, I would say the worst is over, okay? What more could happen?”

“My parents talking to my mother, for one,” Sunset said. “And then there’s Pinkie….”

“Oh, yeah, your girlfriend, right.” When Sunset narrowed her eyes, the mulberry unicorn gave a wan smile. “Hey, you have no one to blame but yourself for that one.”

Twilight looked at them both. “Uh, did I miss something?”

“We’ll tell you later,” both Razz and Sunset said at the same time in response and Twilight simply decided to leave it be.

“Anyway, setting aside this discussion before it gets too maudlin, I did want to discuss something with you both, given that you two were my predecessors as Archmagus and so you might be able to assist me with something.”

“Really?” Twilight asked, looking away from the collection of books on Raspberry’s shelf and raising a curious eyebrow. “What’s up, Razz?”

Raspberry looked at Sunset when she answered, “Have you had a chance yet to read the letter I sent you?”

Sunset looked at her with confusion. “Letter?”

“I guess that’s a ‘no’,” Raspberry said, giving the alicorn a calm, but clearly irritated look. “If you’re going to be a princess, Sunset, you can’t just let things slip your mind like that.”

Sunset returned Raspberry’s expression. “Oh, between being the only alicorn in another reality and having to juggle that, a normal life and a billion other things, I guess I should learn to prioritize better. Which one is more important: a letter, or saving teenage prostitutes from sex slavery?”

“Did Pea get in trouble again?”

Entirely different one—and this one involved Shimmy.”

Now it was Razz’s turn to look embarrassed. “Did not know about that. Okay, point made.”

Sunset opened a small rift between worlds and reached into it to grab the small box with her cutie mark on it and placed it on the open desk. “I guess it involves this?”

“Showoff,” Razz mock-grumbled.

“I’ve gotta admit, you two have piqued my curiosity,” Twilight said, stepping closer to the other two mares. “This is the first time I’m hearing about this letter.”

“Well, lemme get you up to speed,” Raspberry said. “Remember Sunset’s theory about the ancient legendary musician Musica Allegra?”

Twilight nodded. “That she was the last pony to go through Sombra’s mirror before modern times?”

“Exactly. I found an old letter written by her. Apparently it was written very close to the time she disappeared from history.”

Immediately, Twilight’s ears were pointed straight up, and her eyes were just a little bit bigger. “Well, what are we waiting for?!”

With a nod, Sunset lit up her horn and undid the special locking spell upon her box. Then, taking her hoof, she opened the lid. Inside was an ancient slip of parchment, which lit up with a cyan aura as it lifted out of the box. Sunset’s eager grin slowly turned into a frown as she read the words on the parchment:

Hello, my dearest Father,
How is Mother? Every day that I am here in the Empire, I think of you and am glad you allowed me to come here. I completely enjoy my time here with the good King Sombra. Sombra’s patronage is a blessing and a boon and I surely would not be the mare I am without his favor. A lesser mare would have wondered why I came here, but the truth is that it was good for my calling as a musician. Many times I have played for his court and they have loved it. Ovations and adulation have been constantly forthcoming and I daresay that I would not have succeeded as well in the Court of Everfree than I do here. Needless to say, I have made myself home here. Such as it is, perhaps you could have my brother visit sometime, as I do so miss Sharp Blade and our times playing chess together, since, sadly, none of the ponies here are as talented as he is with the game and so I fear my skills are failing in that regard. Thankfully, my time as a musician has not been a waste, and when I visit again, I would love you to hear my increased skill at playing. Everything that has been my benefit here has been thanks to you and mother. Really, I cannot thank you enough.

So, how is Glorious Violet? Each day that passes I hear more about how she is faring at the Court of Everfree, and I miss my dear friend. Needless to say, I would hope that she finally caught the attention of that gallant captain she’d hoped would woo her. Dare I say, her wedding may be sooner than mine, given I have not found anypony worthy yet. However, his majesty states that a treasure should be valued and that I will likely find myself somepony, someday. Even though, he admits, that would mean that I might leave his service. Lo, that would be quite some time away, I would presume. Perhaps it would be years away, I would think.

Your loving daughter,
– Musica Allegra

Twilight looked at Razz. “Seriously? You asked us about this?” the alicorn stated, confused. “All it sounds like is a mare that’s completely satisfied with her work for Sombra...which, admittedly, doesn’t make sense at all.”

“Twi, it seems off,” Raspberry defended. “We know what happened to her – so why would she write a letter like this?”

But Sunset caught it immediately. “Paladin Oran,” she said suddenly.


“This is a Paladin Oran!” Sunset stated to Razz.

“Okay, now you’ve got me completely confused,” Raspberry replied back to the maize alicorn. “I have no idea what you’re talking ab––”

“You know that shooter that me and my friends play often?”

Destiny? Yeah, I couldn’t get the hang of it, honestly. I have no idea how the hell you guys understand those controller things.”

“Not the point. Anyway, a Paladin Oran is a type of coded message that’s commonly found in the game. In the game itself, secret codes are passed by mentioning ‘Paladin Oran’ in some of the game’s lore.” Sunset turned to Twilight. “Hey, Twi, rack your brains for a second: who was Sharp Blade?”

Twilight thought about it for a second and then spilled out the answer. “He was one of the first captains of the guard…” A sudden realization then came over Twilight’s face as she added, “...who was known for using coded messages in bland letters to his troops in order to send information!”

“Exactly,” Sunset stated. “I used to read a lot about Sharp Blade. If I recall correctly, he lived around the time my grandmother was on the throne, so there’s no way he could have been Musica Allegra’s brother. Furthermore, Musica’s father was Codex Cipher, my mother’s spymaster and a pony well-versed in secret methodologies. This,” she said, holding up the letter, “is a coded message.” Sunset then looked at the letter once more, and then cast a spell on it. “Now read it.”

Both Twilight and Raspberry moved to look over Sunset’s withers, reading the letter, which had been blacked out with the exception of the first letter of each sentence. And what was left horrified both:


Needing to clear her head from the dinner, Twily followed the path she’d been instructed to take by Sunset to reach the royal library. While initially, the humans were not supposed to go about on their own due to the maze-like nature of the castle to those unfamiliar with its floor plan, thanks to the wireless network set up by the SIRENs it was easy to stay in touch with anybody else with a smartphone and call for assistance should somebody get lost. Nonetheless, Twily figured it would be a good idea to try and find a book that had something close to a map, which she could then copy into a PDF and freely distribute for everybody’s benefit.

Thankfully, navigating the castle proved little problem as the doorways, needing to be tall enough to accommodate Princess Celestia after all, amusingly made them about the same as average human doors.

But after Twilight opened the last door into where the library was, she had to stop herself from collapsing to her knees and crying. The scene before her was in a word: paradise. Shelves upon shelves upon shelves chock full of books—books that much to Twilight’s delight looked as if not a speck of dust were on them. Whether this meant they were well-used or well-dusted meant little—either way they were well maintained and ripe for reading.

“Now, where would I find a map of the castle?” she idly wondered aloud, proceeding into the halls of paper, clothboard and parchment knowing full well she was going to end up reading some other book that had nothing to do with the castle by the end of things.

“H-hello? Somepony there?” Cpl. Flash Sentry had just gotten off guard duty consisting mostly of standing around, which needless to say he’d been only too happy to do following his last two special assignments. Somehow, he’d caught the attention of Capt. Armor and Princess Cadance and that had earned him a quick trip to Icespire Garrison as acting sergeant—at least that had earned him a promotion to corporal. Afterwards, he was sent here to assist with the planning and had somehow managed to run afoul of Princess Twilight’s ire. Compared to those incidents, standing around above ground in Canterlot was a blessing! But having noticed the library door ajar this late at night, he had to investigate, as was his job.

Hearing no response, Flash sighed—he really didn’t want to have to fight off an intruder, but that too was part of his job. “Excuse me? Anypony i-in here?” No response again, he was forced to go deeper into the library. Soon he heard the noise of somebody diligently reading through novels, then over the top of a large stack of books a familiar plum-haired mane with two shocks of brighter purple streaking through them.

“Oh, I didn’t notice you earlier, Princess Twi-”

Unexpectedly, the figure’s head snapped around to look at him. After a moment, the human Twilight Sparkle realized with horror she recognized the voice, leaving only one option available to her.

In her haste, the irony that the book she threw straight at Flash Sentry’s face was titled Talking About Tossing: A History of Thrown Objects was lost on her.

“Ow!” Cried out the pegasus, taking cover behind a nearby shelf. “Your highness, have I done something to offend you?”

With another book—High Expectations: A Treatise on Basic Cloud Residential Standards—raised in the air, Twily paused as she recalled that just because an individual bore resemblance to a human she knew didn’t mean it was that individual. Especially not when she could go get Sunset’s help in an instant and she’d play chainsaw pinata with that bastard’s crotch if he somehow was here.

“Wh-whoever you are, show yourself!” she declared, keeping the book raised.

Obediently, the individual who she’d given a nice big bruise on his muzzle emerged in plain view and as if rote practice dictated his move, he immediately came to attention and saluted. “Cpl. Flash Sentry, your highness!” He stated, before adding “Wait...you’re not Princess Twilight.”

“And...you’re not, uh, him.” The human finally lowered the book, looking somewhat embarrassed. “Sorry, thought you were somebody else.”

“Somebody who would try to hurt you?” Immediately entering guard mode, Sentry quickly canvassed the area around them. “Who looks sorta like me? The other guards say I’m rather unique in looking different from the usual rank and file, but it isn’t out of the—”

“Wha? No, no, there’s nobody around to hurt me, just...just the other you is who I was afraid of.”

Turning back to face the not-Princess, Flash raised an eyebrow. “The...other me?”

Realizing what she had just said, along with not-Brad’s reaction to her words, made Twily pale somewhat. Did I just tell a pony about something that Sunny didn’t want any random pony to know?

Flash Sentry then put two and two together. “Oh, you’re saying that just as there’s you and the princess as some sort of alternate world clones thing, there’s a version of me from your world?” When Twily didn’t respond, Flash reached a hoof to scratch the back of his head in slight embarrassment. “Uh, sorry, that was silly to say—guess I still had the latest issue of Power Ponies on the brain or something.”

“Well, I suppose that isn’t entirely wrong—the clones bit is entirely inaccurate but, yeah, alternate counterparts probably is a proper term. Though how much similarity there is seems to be subjective, especially in your case as you’re a far nicer individual than...him.”

Flash would have tried to learn more about this evil, apparently Mane-iac tier supervillain version of himself, but he also could tell however evil Sentry had affected this Twilight, it had left her with some deep psychological scars. Getting her back to the others of her kind probably would be for the best, which fortunately he was sure meant getting her to the southern guest wing. “Hey, uh, do you know how to get back to your room?”

Twilight shook her head after trying to recall what Sunny had told her. “Oh, er, no, I forgot…”

“Then please allow me to escort you—southern guest wing, right?”

“Y-yeah, that’s right, thanks.”

“Just doing my duties as a guard, ma’am.”

The unread half of the book was getting so much thinner now—out of curiosity as well as some kind of need within Razz drove her to finish at a faster pace. She also noted that the entries were getting shorter—a sign of the eventual end of Sombra which was already a known factor? Only one way to find out, she thought.

DAY 286:

I will likely not write much today, for I am weary with battle and the only thing I have grand interest in at the moment is rest. Still, I must record my thoughts for posterity, so I will spend a few moments penning them down; I have had little time to do so in the past couple of months and so much that needed to be transcribed was not.

Today, in the Midlands, I slew a whole cohort of Equestrian soldiers that my troops captured. Those that did not meet my own blade met that of my own troops, and the screams were glorious. The victory was a boon to the flagging morale of my troops. This war has gone on too long and my battle-burdened troops fight on, but even they are only pony.

Still, the Voices tell me, today’s victory was worthwhile and the music of the enemies deathcries was a beautiful symphony to them. I hope this is an orchestral movement that I can continue.

But for now, a good rest is what I require.


I can hardly believe the news my chirurgeon, Willowheart, has brought me. She says that my newest dalliance, Scarlet Lace, is with foal, and that the foal is probably mine. Moreover, Whimsy and Sunrise Shimmer are with foal as well, and the signs point to me being the sire. In another time, I suppose I would have been interested to be proclaimed as a potential father, even if it meant that I would have to acknowledge those mares as something more than just bedwarming companions. But now? Now I must make plans for them to be moved. A lesser pony might question why I would do so even if I know that I will win this conflict against the Sisters, but it is only prudent.

After all, this war commenced because the Sisters planned to use my blood against me; at least this way if I have the choice of where they go, I maintain a modicum of control. Furthermore, it will be a way to reward some of my most loyal, if wounded soldiers. After all, the concubine of an Emperor as a wife for a lamed stallion would be a perfect gift. It would also give the foals a father figure in their life and would ensure that my lineage lived on in case the unthinkable happened.

Not that it will, but one can never be too careful.

A more concerning report is that after all this time, my efforts at trying to recover the remains of my dearest friend Mangle were for naught. It has been weeks since her disappearance and the supply of Compulsion she left behind will not last forever. And as fleeting as the Compulsion is, it is the only thing keeping the Rose on her leash, the lone tether keeping her fighting in my name during the day and leaving her to entertain myself and others at night. But her value may be coming to an end. I would hate to dispatch her, given her overall value to the war effort, but I cannot afford to end up with another Sable Loam within striking distance.

One way or another, this will end, and I will be on top. The only question is whether I will do it or not with certain pieces still on my chessboard.

Razz blinked. Then she blinked again. She read the short list one more time: Scarlet Lace, Whimsy, and Sunrise Shimmer- one of those three mares most likely was her own ancestor, though whom she probably wouldn’t ever know.

There wasn’t a question—was this what her own need to read this litany of hell had been driving her toward? The true point from whence her own damned power came from, being of shared blood with this megalomaniacal tyrant?

The chapter had been short enough that for some reason she felt compelled to read another.

DAY 298:

My majors, even as lamed and ruined as they were, were overly thrilled at my suggestion. Likewise, strangely enough, the mares were ecstatic as well, especially with the news that I would be sending them all to my embassy in Sirenia and then beyond. Queen Symphonica, the ruler of the sirens, is somewhat at odds with the throne of Everfree at the moment, and while she wouldn’t go to war with the Sisters, I have known her long enough to know she would happily do something to tweak their muzzles. And so, she has offered to take my honored vets and their blushing brides into asylum, to give them lands in the Sirenian Coast and let them live out their futures there.

However, I have not told her that I plan even more: once they reach the Sirenian Coast, they will blend into the woodwork and vanish, preparing for a long-term plan. Should the day come that this throne lies empty (unthinkable, admittedly, but even I must plan for all eventualities), I have prepared a spell to ensure that my blood will ring true. I shall leave the instructions carved in a place that only the righteous will know, the pathway etched into a fine potion. Once the brides ingest such tincture, it will blend with their unborn foals and ensure that one of my line—a true and faithful lord or lady of House Sombra—will always be ready for their birthright.

However, as the newlywed couples come before me to pledge their hooves in joyful matrimony, it makes me wonder about those that were before: Musica Allegra, Seaside Pearl, Vanilla Crème and the whole lot of them. How many of them had my seed take root within? Is Musica off somewhere with my foal? Did my own progeny die, either at my hooves or those of others? I consider the thought for a second, but then the Voices assure me that all a foal means while I am alive is a challenger for the throne. Should the day come and I am no more, let a future Sombraic worry about the throne then. Let it be puzzlement for future Scions, but until that day comes, I am ruler—none but me.

For now, I need to check on the Rose. Tonight she has won me a fine prize—the head of a griffin who served the Sisters loyally, even until death. For that, I will have her change into that griffin and I will have my sport.

It is good to be king, is it not?

Even though Sombra was long gone, Razz couldn’t help but scowl. “The only puzzle I’m worried about is why you weren’t killed sooner,” she replied to her non-present ancestor. “I’m fucking glad the only thing I share with you is your powers.” And she was also happy that of the other two known Scions, Lockbox was also on the side of good.

Corner Shot...that was a matter she’d have to deal with pretty soon, but she was probably lying in some dark cramped hole licking her wounds with the Covenant of Shadow and wouldn’t dare trying to get payback during the coronation of the next alicorn princess.

However, Sombra only named three mares as having been impregnated with his children...but the rhyming prophecy he’d created (most likely from those voices in his head, possibly the Nightmare Forces) specifically mentioned four.

At that exact moment, she could feel it in her cursed blood that something was wrong. It wasn’t the weird itch that happened when she’d “detected” the true natures of Lockbox and Corner Shot, but it felt dark in nature all the same.

Carefully, she slipped out of bed, in order to not disturb the sleeping phoenix, and made her way over to one of her bags. Opening it up, she pulled out a thickly wrapped bundle. A bundle that was pulsating in a blood red aura. Nervously, Razz unwrapped the bundle to confirm what she already feared.

It was the Alicorn Amulet, brought to the castle in secret as with the existence of the Covenant now known, Razz didn’t know anypony else she could truly trust with its safekeeping. But while she didn’t know what exactly the pulsating meant, it didn’t take a genius to figure it out.

The fourth Scion was nearby, and that meant that Sunset and her family might be in danger.

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