• 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 31: Overnight Musings

Golden Age of Apocalypse—Chapter 31

Overnight Musings

In his bedroom in his townhouse in Canterlot, Divine Right did not sleep very soundly. He’d bought the place after moving out of the ancestral home well after his sister had turned it from their foalhood residence into her base of power. It no longer seemed like home for him, and though he tried to convince their loyal butler to move in with him, Saddleworth proved to be as loyal as ever and stayed there to try to convince Princess—or rather, Duchess (since it gave her more power)—Highfalutin’ to change her ways.

But right now, those thoughts weren’t the cause of his restless sleep. No, his dreams were not nightmarish ones at all, but instead piques of fitful delight with a certain young alicorn.

“I see I came at the wrong time.”

Divine’s eyes opened up to find the silhouette of a deep blue alicorn looking at him.

He sat up in bed, somewhat mortified. “I...um...hello, Auntie.”

Luna smiled. “She must be something special to you, I take it?”

Divine blushed. “Is there something I can assist you with?” he asked her in military formality.

She shook her head merrily. “There is no need to be embarrassed of your feelings, nephew. She is quite the special mare.”

Despite himself, he smiled. “I know. I wouldn’t have agreed to the position of Captain of the Friendship Guard if I didn’t think so.”

“And so will you act on it?”

“Only if she is interested. I will not act as my cousin Blueblood does and force myself on Twi as Blueblood does on that mare of his.”

Luna shook her head. “I fear you may be more incorrect about that, nephew, than you know. But for now, sleep. You will be needed on the morrow, and you will need to sort out where your feelings lie for your intended.”

The book was nearly complete. To Razz, that was a partial success. She’d survived the literary onslaught of what Sombra had done to her indirectly and to others directly—by his own words.

And yet there was still some of the book left to read, she knew. She really didn’t want to, but she owed it to herself, her history and even the memory of the poor, tortured Rose—the human they now all knew had been brought to Equestria against her will to serve as nothing but a conduit of pain and misery for Sombra’s glee.

And so she opened the book, determined to finish it once and for all, even as she knew it would cost her sleep this final evening.

DAY 313:

Those damnable Sisters are close. My private laboratories, the place where my friend Mangle plied her trade…all now under the control of the troops of Everfree. They are at my door, and my forces are nearly broken. Col. Scratched Ruby and her Home Guard fought valiantly, but she was killed when her forces were routed at Beryl Pass. The few spies I have left stated that though the Equestrians begged my troops to lay down their weapons, my forces continued to the very literal last.

I look at Sharpspar and ask him what he has done with his family. He has been a loyal and steadfast soldier and should any ponies survive this, it should be his progeny. He tells me that he has sent his wife and daughter into asylum in Yakyakistani lands. He then confides that he wished that his daughter, Shimmering Sparkle, was of age, because he would have ensured she would have defended me to the death. I assure him that if his daughter is as honest and true a soldier as he is, then she and those that come from her line will be righteous and true ponies, willing to uphold honor wherever it may be.

Finally, I send the Rose into battle with one simple command: destroy. Soon, I will join the battle myself, but not before I prepare my backup plans. After all, my mirror has been captured by the forces of Everfree; I dare not lose my armor and amulet to them as well.

But I fear a bigger loss: the Rose herself. I am running low on Compulsion. At most, I have enough to last three more months, but once that runs out I know I will have a larger problem than the Sisters on my hooves. After all, I have caught fleeting moments, little hints that somewhere within her mind, past the Compulsion and its effects on her, that she knows what is happening. The day she slips her leash is the day we are all done for.

The Voices tell me otherwise; that I have yet to reach the apex of my power and that when I do, I will be as untouchable as the morning fog.

But as I look to see the battle raging within the capital itself, less than a stone’s throw from my palace, for the first time I truly wonder.



DAY 313, CONTINUED:

I have lost everything.

Mangle-leg is gone, and we never recovered a body.

Sharpspar was captured by Equestrian forces while defending the palace gates. If I know my loyal soldier, he will take his life as soon as he can.

I will miss them—my friends—both.



But I can feel that magic burning in the sky, and with that, I know the Sun and the Moon are inbound and when they find me, their intent is to have me join my friends in the forever.

Or so they think.

The Voices were right: this new alchemical formula will make me far more than they, and even if they capture my lands they will not hold it, not with the spell I have spent years creating, the boobytrap of all traps should the enemy set hoof on my throne.

In mere minutes I will no longer exist.

In mere minutes, the Empire itself will no longer exist. These lands will be lost for all time, and if I am lucky, I will take my enemies with me. I will destroy all, my final hoof crushing the Sisters as they deserve.



In the last few moments, my remaining forces give me their final reports: my northern escape route has been cut off, with descriptions once again fitting a human woman, resplendent in armor, bearing a sword and a giant heart made of crystal. I hear news of my troops surrendering en masse before the enemy and even slaughtering their own commanders when they demand otherwise.

I even hear that the Sisters have brought out Devotion once more to rebuild the House of Amore and to take the throne of the Empire.

My Empire.

That will not happen.



DAY 313, FINAL ENTRY:

I haven’t much time. I will leave this tome in my private, hidden study here in the palace. Only those who have the true worth to find it—my progeny, my Scions—will do so and will know it all.

The Sisters are destroying the last of my defenses and soon they will be within the palace itself. They think to claim the Empire.

That will not happen. Ever. I will be an eternal figure in my realm, a land cut off forever from reality. There will be nothing to take and the snows will claim all. Already winter is setting in and with the magic I use to keep the frozen winds at bay gone? This place will be a frozen hell even Everfree would have no interest in.

Eventually the Empire will become an empire of snow and ice, a desolate Tartarus that will belong to none but snowponies and icicles. Certainly not the prize of would-be conquerors.

After all, this is not my end.



However, I must take one final precaution. I order the Rose to meet me in the palace smithy. It’s a place where the magically-powered forges still burn and the molten metal still flows and where the sorcery of the armorers still runs. As we stand there, I look at her and I wonder how different things would have been if I had not been thwarted by Celestia and Luna. Perhaps in time, if I had used the Rose more ruthlessly, I could have ruled all the sooner—it could have been me on the Throne of Everfree.

I tell her to present herself, and she does. And the moment she does, I run her through with my sword. I’ve had it enchanted for this one moment, designed to punch through all her magics and powers: what she had in birth, what she has gained here and what her grafting has given her. I have no idea if I have hit her heart, but it won’t matter at this point.

She looks at me and for the first time in a long time, the Compulsion fades away and her eyes become clear. She spits her blood at me and tells me this is not her end, and that one day she will destroy me and everything that is mine.

Well, that may be difficult as I kick her into the molten steel of the forges. As she screams, her body burns and disappears into the slag, destroyed by the liquid metal, burning magics and blistering heat. Nothing—nothing, save for perhaps the alicorns—could survive that.

And for a strange moment? I actually miss her. In the end, she was a fine foil and an even better thrall. And I wonder, Baldassare, if you ever realized that the mare I gave you, Bruyere, was a mere fraction of a fraction compared to the Rose. You have gained much, but for a moment, I gained far more.

Now, I must place this book in my study and the traps must be sprung against Celestia and Luna. My grand designs must truly commence and the final act in the play must begin.

I am Sombra.

I am Eternal.

Tears streamed down Razz’s muzzle. How could Sombra be that monstrous? Every time she’d found something out about her ancestor, it had become worse and worse, and now that the end of the ghastly book had been reached, she felt her skin itch at the very concept that she was related to such a cruel beast.

But far worse was the Rose. She’d been taken from her own world, tortured, raped, turned into a brainwashed abomination and forced to commit crimes that would horrify anypony who had been witness to it—even reading the centuries-old stories of it, Razz was nauseated. And in the end, she was thrown away, like some thing that was to be disposed of with the trash.

Razz wasn’t like Sunset. She didn’t want to be human and even though she could easily be one now, she’d always preferred being a mare over being a girl.

But after what she read just now...for the first time, she wondered if she would ever side with humanity after finding out what a monster her pony nth-great-grandfather was like.

It made her sick to her stomach.

He really hated working long nights, and this time was no exception. He looked out the window, seeing his aunt’s moon in full blossom, shining a beautiful light around the world. Somewhere out there, she’d be granting dreams and vanquishing nightmares, or perhaps holding court for those who wished to petition the Mistress of the Night.

Unfortunately, that didn’t stop the governance of the city or the realm. The EUP continued to act as patrolponies and military guards. The Army searched the lands for dangers high and low. The Navy covered the skies and the seas, the sailors guarding the byways of Equestria. The Guild stood ready to fight the worst and blackest magics and curses out there that would threaten all of Harmony. And of course, unknown to all, the Princess’ Hooves stood a silent vigil, protecting all without the world knowing of it.

And then there was the Agency. Some ponies thought it was called SMILE. Some thought it was called FROWN. Others still thought it was the Monster Hunting Agency, while some even thought it was some other silly name, like CODE, or Quality, or some such. The truth was that the Agency needed no such name, because to name something gave a measure of power over it.

And when the Agency got involved, it was never a good sign.

Going over the last of the reports he would be sending to his aunts, Blueblood wiped a tired hoof over his muzzle. He hated this. He begged to be free of this, either via the political route that his father had taken, or the paramilitary one that had cost his sister her life.

But that wasn’t what he was suited for. No, his duties had always been the clandestine. Let the world think that Blueblood was a useless, pointless fop that slept around with various mares, ignored his rumored-fiancée-or-girlfriend and was a burden to Princess Celestia. The truth was known to few, and that’s the way it had to be.

He hated it, though.


“I know you hate this life.”

Without even looking up from his desk, he held out the report in his magic. “Would you care to read? The final version was just compiled an hour ago and I was going to have a courier walk copies over to your and Auntie Celly’s offices in the morning.”

Luna appeared from the shadows. “I would rather know how you are doing, nephew.” The look on her face was one of concern at his long muzzle, and the weariness in his eyes.

He slumped back in his chair. “My sister is dead. My parents are grieving and my younger sister now wants to take Pavanne’s place. My parents are begging that Auntie Celly reconsider; that shouldn’t mine and Pav’s service be enough?”

“I know that. Celly knows that.”

He looked out the window. “And yet you know the rest. You know what I want.”

“I wish I could give it to you, Blueblood,” she told him. “I wish I could turn back time to before I…’went on sabbatical’, so to speak. Perhaps the world would have been easier. Perhaps Celly wouldn’t have had to fight alone for a thousand years and build up the apparatus that caused what we have now.” She sighed. “But that world doesn’t exist, at least not here, and as much as I would give you that peace...I can’t.”

“I know. I’m trapped in this role. Trapped without love, trapped without a life, and worse, somepony else is shackled to me as I drown in the depths.”

That made Luna look at him. “Who?”

“Octy. She plays a role nopony asked her to. She was my sister’s best friend and she watches me and does all of this, unwilling to let go.” He reached into his desk and pulled out a bottle of expensive cider. “She knows what they call her, what they think of her. And yet she protects me, because that’s what family does.

“I want to protect her, too.” He pulled the cork out of the bottle and took a drink straight from it. “I want her to be free. But so long as I am ‘Prince Blueblood’ and ‘Director Blueblood’—so long as I live this duality—I can’t be. And neither can she.”

“Then resign. The Agency existed before you and it will continue on,” Luna told him. “Move to another land, another realm. Don’t you have a summer cottage in Inari that was a gift of the Inarijin emperor? And do you not know the kirin? They would let you live with them.”

“And in time, some emergency or other would call me back.” He held up the report. “Like this one. Or like the search for Tirek, or the misguided issue that dragged poor Archmagus Beryl into court, or any one of a dozen other things. Things only I can do.”

“Things that would be done by others if you weren’t here,” she reminded him. “There are others. That earth mare that lives in Ponyville, for example. She retired from the Agency, did she not?”

“She’s in a reserve status. And frankly, I dislike this job. I wouldn’t dare bring Agent Sweetie Drops back from the peaceful life she’s earned,” he told her. “Same goes for Agents Heart Throb, Lickety-Split or Backstroke.”

Luna went over and ran a comforting wing across her nephew’s back. “Blueblood, go home. Rest. You’ve done enough.”

“No. Just like my predecessor before me, so long as the Agency exists, enough is only when I take my last breath,” he told her. “And sadly, I’m young enough that I have plenty more breaths in me.”

South Canterlot, despite the princess’ best efforts, seemed to remain the run-down portion of the capital. Given that this was the capital, of course, the “run-down” district looked far better than some Equestrian cities such as Stalliongrad and Ironhorse. But any attempts to clean up the mess that had built up over the years had been done through the meddling of several nobleponies that had made efforts to build their power as needed.

One of them sat in a room now, meeting with an associate. The room was on the second floor of Back Cut’s Pool Hall. Run by Back Cut, a former pool shark who had unceremoniously been expelled from the professional circuit for using his magic during games, his clientele would never be the sort that was found at the tournament that had just concluded in Ponyville. But then again, prim and pampered “billiards masters” like Corner Shot or Nineball wouldn’t last five minutes against the rough and tumble players at Back Cut’s.

And right now, Back Cut was allowing his most private of conference rooms to be used by his benefactor. The mare who owned the building the pool hall was in, as well as several other buildings in the area. She could metaphorically crush him under her hoof if she wanted to, but she instead ran everything through shell companies and intermediaries. But in the end, it all served her purpose. Everything served her purpose.

As she took a drink from a cider flute, Princess Highfalutin’, more commonly known as Duchess Highfalutin’ to the rabble, looked at the night out of the window. Somewhere out there were the idiots and the sycophants that kept this land under the hoof of her so-called “aunts”, the alicorns. Well, they had their time and they should have vanished when their mother did. Her ancestors were idiots to give power back to the Sisters, and now all this shit was the end result.

She was a proud descendant of Queen Platinum, a unicorn who would likely have paled if she realized how much those that came after her would hand the keys of the realm to petulant god-princesses. How they didn’t give the unicorns their due and thought to make them the equals of the mudponies, the feather dusters and those Faust-forsaken bat-winged freaks. Canterlot was a unicorn land and so should be Equestria. And she would work to make it so. Even if her brother was an idiot who longed to plunge his “mighty sword” in that bookworm insta-alicorn’s sweet spot. Well, some ponies had no taste, she supposed.

After all, it was power that counted more than anything and that would ultimately get you what you wanted when you wanted it.

“So,” she said, looking at the other individual that was in the room. “I’ve done my part and squelched the approval for Princess Twilight’s seneschal,” she told the other. “How long will it take for you to get rid of that little troublemaker?”

Seated in the dark, a talon reached out and grabbed a mug of beer. She hated the stuff; it was a bitter, nasty griffin drink. Why they imbibed that swill was beyond her, but she had to be a decent host, after all. She was a princess and princesses had grace and poise.

An empty tankard was placed on the table a second later. “My team is ready to move as soon as we are given the signal,” a gruff voice told her. “Lord Geralt has been denied his bride for too long and desires a return to married bliss as soon as he can.”

“And in return?”

“And in return he will send you a flight of his finest-trained soldiers, trained with the newest of shootsticks,” the stranger told her. “He will also be ready to call on as we will need allies once we intend to take the griffin lands back under proper control.”

“Good. My lands will then be able to supply you with everything you need, and it will be all the richer for it.” Highfalutin’ took a drink again, and smiled. “And all it will cost is just ‘a piece of tail’, as I believe the griffins say?”

The shadows moved, revealing an inky black griffin, with scars on his gray leonine coat and a patch over what had once been his right eye. “I like the way you think, Duchess. Pity you weren’t born a griffoness. You would have been quite formidable.”

“I am formidable, and you would do well not to forget it.”

The griffin went to the window and opened it. “We will be in touch, your grace.” Nothing more to say, he launched himself out the window and departed.


“Savage.” Highfalutin’ turned to see Back Cut standing there. A deep blue unicorn with a short magenta mane and goatee that matched his orange eyes, he adjusted his tie. “Just as bad as some feather dusters I’ve met in my lifetime.”

“Oh, they’re manageable once you know their weak spots, Mr. Cut,” Highfalutin’ told him. “Everypony is at one point or another.”

“I suppose. So what now?”

“I win, of course,” she told him, finishing off her drink. “Not only does Princess Twilight not get the seneschal she was going to get, but we make her even busier, to the point that not even that brain-damaged dragon whelp she calls a brother can keep up. And we get a potential issue out of the Crown’s spaces. We already have too much foreign influence there as is—no need for any more.”

“I presume you mean the dragon?”

“No, though you are right about that little brat. I’m talking about Celestia’s wayward daughter. Up until now, she was gone, and good riddance. Whether she was really in exile or the story about it all being a special mission is true matters not a whit to me. No, what is, is that she went to a world where our worst nightmares are real and now that little harridelle is about to bust open Pranceadora’s Box in the worst way possible.” The look in her eyes was bleak.

“How bad?” Back Cut asked. He’d grown up here in South Canterlot, and was used to the rough and tumble ways of the world. He wasn’t afraid of much...but the look in the mare’s eyes made him wonder for the first time if he should be.

“Tell me, Mr. Cut...how familiar are you with the legends regarding the worst monsters in our peoples’ history?” she asked him. “How much do you know about...humans?”

“I thought I might find you here,” Princess Cadance said to Twilight as she sat in the library, reading a book.

“Sorry,” the younger alicorn said. “Couldn’t sleep. Tomorrow is the first of a momentous day in two weeks of the most defining moment of Equestria, if not Equus. Tomorrow, the world learns that humans are real—and that we have nothing to fear from them. Tomorrow, they learn that their newest princess-to-be has lived amongst them, considers herself a part of them and acts as their protector, even as she is still an alicorn and the daughter of the ruling princess. Tomorrow is the first step in Sunny’s new life.”

“And that keeps you up why?” Cadance asked her. She’d known Twilight long enough to know when the younger mare was beating around the bush, even if unintentionally.

“Because Sunny’s life changes made me think about mine,” Twilight admitted. “We’re all getting older. I’m not a filly anymore, and I...had a guy I was attracted to once.” Cadance gave her an amused smirk and Twilight rolled her eyes. “No, I didn’t tell you about him, because he was human.”

“Human? Really?”

Twilight nodded. “He was Sunny’s ex-coltfriend...boyfriend, to use the human term. And don’t ask me about why I didn’t tell you. The truth was, I wasn’t sure how to sort it out, until she told me what he was really like.”

“That boy that looks like Flash Sentry? The one she was kissing in the mirror image we saw over a year ago?”

Twilight nodded. “Yes. He’s Flash’s counterpart though at the same time not his counterpart, if you understand what I mean.”

“You mean like Sable Loam and that human with the same name?”

“I guess.” Twilight groaned and put down the book. “I wish things were as easy as reading a book sometimes, Cady! I just...I know how I felt about him and now that I know the truth, it hurts. And I know Sunny didn’t mean to do it, but she’s made it so that I feel completely uncomfortable around Flash Sentry, even though he’s a nice enough stallion.”

“But you’re not interested in him,” Cadance said.

“But I’m not interested in him,” Twilight agreed. “But it makes me wonder what my future is going to be like.”

“You know, Ladybug,” Cadance said, stating her private nickname for Twilight, “there’s other stallions out there for you. Maybe even a mare or two. I mean, I’ve never had eyes for anypony other than your brother, but if he hadn’t been in my life, that might have been different. Now that this other Flash isn’t there, maybe you should consider that.”

“I’m not ready for that sort of thing,” Twilight told her. “I mean, sure, I could be, but I don’t know if I’d ever find somepony like you found Shiny.”

“You probably need somepony like Div,” Cadance suggested.

Twilight’s face contorted into a groan. “You’re going to tease me about that, too? He and I are just friends, you know. I’m sure there’s no way he even thinks of me like that.”

Cadance giggled. “You are just too cute when you’re clueless, you know that?”

“This was Luna’s idea,” Princess Celestia said as she drank from a cup of tea floating in her magical grasp. “She thought it would be a good idea to spend time together before it all starts in the morning.”

Seated next to her, covered under her white wing, was her daughter, Sunset. A large caramel pumpkin spice macchiato from Sugarcube Corner Cafe sat in her magical grasp, as the younger alicorn took occasional drinks from it. “Wouldn’t have missed this for the world, Mother,” Sunset said, her eyes closed and a smile on her face.

“I don’t...I never really got to spend enough time with you, my little sunshine,” Celestia said, guilt creeping into her voice. “I mean, I was always the teacher and the ruler, never the….” She turned away. “I don’t deserve you.”

Sunset looked up at her. “Mother, you once told me that sometimes it’s not about what ponies deserve, it’s about what they need. And that goes even for the ruler of a nation.” She grinned. “It sure as hell goes for the most popular girl at Canterlot High.”

“But I treated you like a project, Sunset! Never as I should have.”

“And you gave me love. You doubt it, and yes, maybe you made some serious boners. Have Flutters tell you all about how much her parents fucked up—there’s one for the record books. AJ’s parents aren’t saints, either. Pinkie’s? Well...let’s not go there. And my own parents screw up too. Hell, just look at my siblings and cousins.” She chuckled slightly, then took a drink from her cup. “And yet I’m somewhat adjusted. And I wouldn’t have been that way—even if it was a long detour—if it wasn’t for you.”

“But I never adopted you.”

“You didn’t have to. You’re my biological mother, you know.”

“Sunset….”

“No.” She finished her drink, crumpled it, made it vanish, then summoned another one. “I know I had a dam. And to use a human phrase because I like puns, ‘Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn.’ I don’t know who she is, and I don’t need to know. You and I share the same biology as ponies and alicorns. You have always been there for me, even when I didn’t know it or insisted I didn’t need you. You are my biological mother and there’s not a single being in this universe or the other that can convince me otherwise. 23 and me will just have to deal with it.”

Celestia looked confused at that last comment. “23 and me?”

“More human phrases. Long story. The point is, I am Sunset Shimmer. I got that name from the orphanage. But that didn’t make me Sunset Shimmer. You did. You made me who I am, both the bad and the good. And sure, I took the ball and ran with it, and my parents have helped me mold myself a bit more in the human ‘needs to grow the hell up’ way, but I wouldn’t have gotten to that point—or this one––” she said, moving her wings slightly, “––if it wasn’t for you.”

Celestia felt more than a bit misty-eyed. Emotions roiled in her at the moment, despite her daughter’s placations and comfort. “But I’m not as, well, motherly as I should have been.”

“As my sister says, ‘My mind’s made up, don’t confuse me with the facts.’” When Celestia looked at Sunset oddly again, the maize alicorn giggled. “Twily can have a warped sense of humor at times. Not sure whether that’s Tavi’s or the triplets’ fault.” Sunset crawled out from under her mother’s wing, then changed to her human form and hugged Celestia’s neck. “I have two mothers. Technically three, if you want to go with the legal aspect for Princess Solaire. Four if you want to count the actual dam who foaled me. But all I’ve ever needed was the two who love me as much as I love them.”

Celestia let the proverbial dam break and the tears flow free. She didn’t deserve to have a daughter. She had made such a mess of things and it all ended with Sunset’s death, even if things worked out in the end. And yet, she knew at that moment she was the luckiest mare that had ever lived.

“I love you, my little sunshine,” Celestia said in a choked voice.

“And I love you, Mother,” Sunset said, tears streaming from her own eyes as she embraced the alicorn that had meant so much to her.

“So,” Celestia said, deciding to change the subject, “anything I should be aware of as your mother? Any colts or fillies in your life?”

“Boys or girls,” Sunset corrected. “And I really don’t want to get into that right now.”

“Oh? I could have sworn that your Miss Pie was looking at you in that particular way––”

“Yes, both her and Compass Rose,” Sunset sighed.

“Compass Rose? There’s a name I hadn’t heard in quite some time,” Celestia said.

“Counterpart to the Rose I know, I presume.”

“I would imagine so. She was an earth mare with a mane in coloration similar to yours, but in a braid. Wore glasses, ecru-colored coat. She was responsible for leading exploration expeditions to the unknown corners of Equus.” Celestia’s face darkened as she said, “She vanished one day while on an expedition to the Badlands. We believe she might have fallen afoul of changelings. She left behind a husband and three foals. I take it not the same as your friend?”

“Not to my knowledge. Rose has an older brother, but her family is somewhat distant. And she wants to be a cartographer when she grows up, I think, but not an explorer. I don’t know. I try not to involve myself in my friends’ lives on that scale, because it’s not something I should do.” Sunset got up and stretched. “Well, I need to get some sleep if we’re going to do this thing in the morning. Besides, I’m on the rag right now and that’s never fun.” She kissed her mother on the cheek. “Night, Mother.” With that, Sunset teleported to her chambers.

Celestia sat there in the open night sky, drinking her tea and smiling contentedly to herself. For once—for just one moment—she felt as happy as the time Luna returned. For once, all the pieces of her life were going right.

Then she blinked.

“The rag? What’s ‘the rag’?” she wondered aloud.

The Dive Bar and Grill was a family restaurant in North Canterlot. Inspired by such tropical locales as the Hoofalulu Islands, Sirenia Islands and the Sirenian Coast, it was a fun-filled, enjoyable place where a Canterlot family could enjoy good food and entertainment after a long day.

The owner, Rainy Village, founded the place after she’d retired from years of work as one of Celestia’s maids, she often said, and even though she’d decided to stay in Canterlot, she wanted a place that reminded her of home. From the pool bar (an actual bar set up next to a swimming pool) to a tiki-style restaurant and even a small theater, the Dive B&G was set to showcase the best of Rainy’s home culture, from 10 in the morning to 10 at night.

Unless, of course, you were one of the Princess’ Hooves, and not just the regular clientele. If you were part of that select group, you went to the Buried Treasure, the round-the-clock bar upstairs that only and exclusively served the Hooves. The legion of maids/bodyguards almost never had time off (by their own choice), so when they came across their practically-mandated time off, many of them chose to spend time at the Buried Treasure.

As Sonata Dusk walked in, she looked around, seeing her fellow Hooves in both their pony or siren forms, whichever they felt more comfortable in at the moment. Some of them had been pony all their lives to the point that their birthright felt strange and alien to them, while many others felt the need to reclaim their heritage whenever they could, in order to keep touch with their roots.

It was a thought that had been on her mind after meeting her younger counterpart last month. The human girl had a touch of melancholia about her, being a child of multiple cultures and traditions and not sure, even to herself in many ways, of which way she could go. Sonata found that sad, but wasn’t sure what guidance she could give her younger counterpart.

Still, she walked through the bar, waving hi to old friends and signalling to the bartender, a particularly cute stallion of siren heritage, that she wanted her usual, before wandering over to her usual table.

“Nata! Glad you could make it!” Adagio Dazzle, her older sister and leader of their particular group, waved.

“Yeah, I wanted to make sure the silverware was polished, but the housekeeping staff insisted I needed to take time off for myself,” Sonata admitted. “What about you, Addy?”

“Been off the scrying for the past few days myself—on a mission to Ponyville, no less. Lady Twilight wanted an outsider’s view of whether or not the town would accommodate humans, especially after the town’s reputation and the hits it took from the war as well as the rebuilding.”

“Oh, how’s that going?”

“Remember when we were just fillies and our parents insisted on taking us because Dad was part of the Apple family and he wanted to see relatives he hadn’t seen in forever and how tiny the place was? Well, now it’s the size of Hoofsdale and getting bigger. Might even be one of the top ten cities of Equestria in the near future.” She sighed. “It’s just too bad that Lady Twilight’s castle looks like a coral formation that got attacked by a stained glass window.”

“Ugh, that cannot be a fun time.” The two mares turned to see their middle sister arrive.

“You okay, Ria?” Adagio asked.

“Not really. I had a date tonight with what I thought was a nice stallion. Lt. Dive Bomb, from the Guard. Turns out he’s a big jerk.”

“Really?”

“Yeah. You know, for somepony that’s a batpony, you’d think he’d be used to tribalism. But he was all ‘damn earth pony’ this, and ‘damn earth pony’ that. He didn’t use the M-word, but I suspect that’s because I was right there and he knows that I’m one of the Princess’ maids and it would haunt him if he did. So,” she sighed, “no second date for me.”

“Well, that’s a shame. I know you liked him.”

“Yeah, I kinda did.” Aria smiled. “Well, enough of that. We’ve got the week off, right? What are we going to do? Go to Hoofsdale and see our parents?”

Three ciders were brought to the table before them and the three took them willingly. “Actually,” Adagio said, “as much as I’d like to see them, I was thinking about staying to see what our counterparts have cooked up. They’re here in their normal forms this time and well, it’s kinda frightening to see what they look like.”

Sonata nodded. “Yeah! I mean, I know they’re good kids, but I ran into the other Aria briefly and she’s so hoofin’ tall! I actually backed off for a second before she said hi. I mean, wow, if humans have that psychological effect on us alone, I wonder what other stuff they have up their sleeves?”

“Well, I’m glad they’re on our side,” Aria said, lifting her cider mug to her lips and taking a quick drink. “But now that you mention it, given how eager Ari was on getting her hooves on my crossbow, I’d like to see what she’s capable of with her own equipment. Should be fun.”

“Sounds like a plan then, girls,” Adagio noted. “I’ll get word to Lady Sunset and see if we can arrange to be present at a weapons demonstration. I know they plan to do a formal one to show how they can be integrated into the Navy. So, why don’t we go to that?”

“Sounds like a great plan, Addy!”

A little ways down the street from the Dive was a more old-fashioned Trottingham styled pub called the Evening Nip. Although not the family friendly establishment that the Dive was, the Evening Nip was no hole in the wall, being one of the establishments selected to provide alcohol and bartending services for the big upcoming coronation. The pub itself offered a warm, cozy, and most importantly, quiet atmosphere for its patrons. It was exactly what Lt. Dive Bomb needed after the night he was having.

The off-duty officer passed by the tables and booths and went straight for the bar, seeing a familiar face exactly where he expected. The barkeep was a pony Dive didn’t recognize; worse, he was a filthy earth pony with five o’clock shadow, a grimy looking mustache, and more than a few scars on his face. Dive Bomb gave him the bare minimum acknowledgement as he ordered a drink before taking a seat beside his friend.

“Evening, Silver,” Dive Bomb greeted the short-haired unicorn mare.

Silver Pan ran a catering company that often did special events at the castle, usually hired when the castle’s own kitchen wouldn’t be enough. She was pretty enough for a night of fun, Dive Bomb supposed, but not interesting enough for anything beyond that. Besides, she’d made it clear early on she was only interested in mares. The two of them got along well enough, though. Especially upon learning they shared each other’s...political views.

“Hey Dive, thought you had a date with that mudpony maid,” Silver said blaisely.

“Stuck up nag decided ‘it wasn’t going to work out’,” Dive Bomb ‘psshed’ as the barkeep gave him his drink. “And after spending so many weeks making doe-eyes at me. Fuckin’ tease….”

“Eh, don’t let it get you down. You could do far better than the likes of her anyway.”

She was right, of course, but there was another reason Dive had been hoping this date would work out aside from the no doubt sweet bit of action he might have gotten.

“You know she was supposed to be my in with the Hooves, right?” he then said in a much lower voice, “The plan was going to go a lot smoother if we had somepony who could get their deployment information for the coronation before, you know….” Dive Bomb glanced around the Nip, but the only other customers hanging out there on a weeknight were at a booth on the other side of the establishment, and were clearly preoccupied with their own inebriated discussion. “Before the attack.”

On instinct, Silver glanced around the pub herself before replying, “The Covenant can make do without the details of the Hooves’ plans, so relax. If anything, I’m sure Father Lux will appreciate the initiative, regardless of whether it worked out.”

“Perhaps,” Dive Bomb said as he took another sip from his mug. “So, you’ve seemed rather distant of late. A new era for ponykind is right around the corner! I’d think you’d be in better spirits.”

Silver tried to smile. “Oh, don’t get me wrong, I’m looking forward to the day we get competent leadership for this country. There’s just… certain aspects of our plan that are troubling me.”

“Oh?”

“We know next to nothing about this ‘prophecy’ that’s supposed to herald the end of the age of alicorns, and that Oracle—whoever she is—has told us next to nothing.”

“Oh,” Dive Bomb said, nodding. In truth, he didn’t buy into any of the crazy zealotry surrounding the old King Sombra that the rest of the Covenant was all about. To him, the Covenant was just a convenient means of throwing out old and irrelevant dictators, but it would appear that Silver Pan had started to truly embrace their beliefs. A shame, really: she was always such a sensible mare.

“Like, what of the Scions?” Silver continued, her impassioned whispers gaining volume with the momentum of her thoughts. “One of them is with us, as they should be, but two of the others are loyal to them! Can the prophecy be fulfilled if they are not all united in purpose? And what of the fourth? Nopony even knows who it is—except maybe the Oracle, but then why doesn’t she tell us?!”

“Easy, Silver. The Covenant leaders probably know what they’re doing,” Dive Bomb said. “Leave the crazy zealotry to the crazy zealots.”

Despite his words, Silver didn’t look convinced. “I’m going to see if I can talk to the Oracle. She’ll be arriving in town soon, before the coronation begins. I can find her and talk to her then!”

Before Dive Bomb could reply, a loud, exaggerated groan of exasperation cut him off. Both Dive and Silver looked across the bar, where the barkeep was leaning on one foreleg giving both of them a very impressive stinkeye.

“Why oh why weren’t you drowned as a foal?”

Dive and Silver exchanged a perplexed look. “Excuse me?”

The barkeep just groaned again and said to seemingly no one in particular. “Uuuugh, is this what passes for initiates these days? I suppose that’s what we get when their royal highnesses keep all the sensible ponies in check with false hopes of shiny new wings and horns.” He then turned his attention to Dive Bomb. “I’m gonna give ya a pass on the ‘zealots’ crack, because...let’s be fair, yer clearly not workin’ with a full deck. Only an idiot joins the Guard.”

“What?!” Dive Bomb exclaimed.

“See? Ya don’t even understand simple sentences!”

Dive stood up. “Am I gonna have to teach you a lesson, mudpony?”

“Ooooooh, tough guy!” Barkeep exclaimed, giggling as he studied Dive with mad eyes. “Ya look like a penis! However, despite all the shit you clearly have working against you, yer not the one I have issues with.”

Barkeep then skittered across the bar so he was standing across from Silver, studying the mare uncomfortably as he said. “So what makes you think our great Oracle is gonna want to answer your questions, huh missy?”

Silver and Dive were both speechless for a few moments. Clearly, this guy was with the Covenant, and what was more, he was one of the truly insane zealots that Dive Bomb had hoped to avoid any interaction with.

It belatedly occurred to Silver that the crazy-eyed pony was talking to her. “Oh, I uh…. I….”

“You uh… uh…. What?!” Barkeep mocked. “Is this what yer gonna say to the Oracle? Because if so I can tell ya right now, she has better things to do with her time than listen to some new recruit stammer through a question!”

“Alright, what the hell do you want?” Dive Bomb asked.

“I want you to sit down and shut up for a second so me and yer friend can have an important talk. Can you do that? Or is yer sense of self-importance too much of an obstacle? Because if so there’s therapy for that.” Barkeep returned his attention to Silver as if Dive was merely an afterthought. “And speakin’ of self importance, do you really think the Oracle would answer yer questions even if you did have the mental capacity to stammer it forth?”

Silver huffed and folded her forelegs. “I’m sure she would if she wanted to make sure the followers of her teachings understand—”

Barkeep interrupted her with a loud and obnoxious sound that appeared to be imitating a buzzer that momentarily drew the attention of the patrons at the other table. “WROOOOOONG. You clearly have a thing or two to learn about faith.”

“Alright, I’ve just about had enough,” Dive said, moving to leave but to his surprise, Silver stopped him.

“Wait,” she said. “I want to hear what he has to say.”

Barkeep nodded in approval and tapped the side of his own head. “Aaah, see? Knew there was some sense somewhere under that testament to the failure of Darwhinny’s theory.” Silver only had a moment to furrow her brow before Barkeep continued. “Now, I’m not gonna presume to know the Oracle’s true intent. Maybe she only knows as much as she’s given us. Or, maybe she has her reasons for not telling us every little juicy detail. But, lemme tell you what those reasons mean….”

Barkeep held up each of his forehooves in succession. “Jack, and shit. The only thing that matters is this: faith in the prophecy. Faith in Him. And as you well know, faith don’t mean all that much when you already have all the answers.”

Dive Bomb gave a single, quiet chuckle. It all sounded like a bunch of horseapples to him, but to his dismay, Silver seemed to be hanging on his every word.

“Surely, somepony like you must have your own ideas about what the Oracle’s prophecy means,” Silver said with a hint less of disdain than before.

At that, Barkeep smiled and leaned back. “I have my own theories, sure. But those’re helped along by some, uh… knowledge I have that you new initiates don’t.”

Barkeep ran a hoof along his mustache. “Fer instance, I know it doesn’t matter whether all of the Scions have their goals aligned. They only need to be together fer the ressurection ritual to work. As fer the ritual itself, I have no idea how it’s supposed to go down, but from what I know about these sort of things, it ain’t gonna be pretty for our poor Scions!”

Barkeep cackled madly and slowly ran a hoof across his own neck, imitating the sound of flesh tearing with his mouth. Dive Bomb could only sit there in silence, realizing for the first time the true scale of the utter madness of the Covenant he was now a part of.

Raspberry Beryl stood on the dais in her finest robes as the Archmagus of Equestria. Behind her, several of her esteemed mages stood, all of them present for this most “formal” of “informal” situations. It had been decided that the introduction of humanity to ponykind should not overshadow Sunset’s coronation, but that it was a big enough issue that it should be given attention the first full day of their arrival, before they went off to Ponyville for a week. That way, the ensuing chaos that naturally occured in the capital would be over at that point, replaced by anticipation for the investiture of their newest alicorn.

Across from her, decked out in dress uniforms and standing at full attention, she looked as Divine Right and select members of the Friendship Guard stood there, representing Twi’s security group, as well as Ponyville in general. She’d had a couple of months now to adjust to the differences between the monster sitting in Tartarus and the honorable warrior prince that shared his name, but Sunset’s friends and family weren’t going to have that luxury. She only hoped that however that would be papered over would be done so quickly and efficiently...something that never seemed to ever actually happen, now that she thought of it.

Seated on their thrones, in an arranged order, with a privacy screen spell between them, the four alicorns were in their regal finery. Seated slightly away from them but not too far were the Bearers, Shining, and various other trusted dignitaries. Even though those seated on the rising knew the humans could be trusted, their public exposure would be limited this visit simply because of the sheer amount of things going on. There would be time to plan something the inevitable next time they visited.

And standing at the lectern, looking at all the ponies out there in the crowd, was Sunset Shimmer. She looked magnificent in her baronial attire, and from what she knew about Rarity—either of them—the clothing that would be planned for her appearances in the coming week would be nothing less than spectacular.

But she also knew Sunset well enough to know that inwardly, she was probably terrified of everything right now. Afraid that she wouldn’t measure up to her predecessor alicorns on stage. Fail to be the proper daughter of Princess Celestia. And that her second family would be considered monsters, even as Sunset herself considered herself just as human as she was pony.

Sometimes, Razz sighed, it wasn’t fun being able to figure out this stuff, sometimes. Mainly because she knew that if she’d done so, chances are, the ones smarter than her were already on that line of thinking.


“...and as much as it hurt to leave my mother and my home, I did what was necessary, for the sake of ponydom and Equestria,” Sunset said, continuing the speech that had been written for her. It had probably been massaged a billion different times, each word pored over for literal, metaphorical and potential meanings, just as each speech given by someone attached to the Crown would be.

She hated it. The lies, the fakery of it all. She knew why it had to be that way and she sympathized with pony Applejack, who bristled in her seat (Sunset had seen that out of the corner of her eye) and she suspected her Applejack was likely reacting in the same way.

It bothered her that she knew, as a human, that her birth species was as naive and trusting as other species often derided them for. She knew it could be a strength, and it often was, truth be told, but there were times like this…

“––and I met a family that took me in, showed me human ways and proved to me that humans were just as equinal a species as we are––”

...but she had faith. She had to. She was an alicorn. She was a human girl. She was a goddess, and she was a daughter. A sister. A friend. A love interest (even if reluctantly). She was that and more. Because she had to be.

Because she wanted to be.

“––and so, subjects of Equestria, please know, these may be humans, but they are not to be feared. They are not to be mistrusted. They are like you and I—people looking for the best in ourselves and in others.”

And with a flicker of her horn, Sunset cast away the privacy spell, exposing humanity to ponydom for the first time. And a second spell she cast made herself one as well.

“We are all in this together,” Sunset said in her human form, looking at the unsure and worried ponies. She didn’t cast a calming spell, nor plead for peace. She knew it had to come from them, just as her change had to come from herself.

It would be, as she and Razz and everyone she knew—everypony she knew—the first step in an unending journey.

Because sometimes the trip was more important than the destination.

Author's Note:

So, GAOA Book 1 ends, at long last. However, the story continues with the adventures of Equestria's first true human visitors in Equestria - as covered in GAOA Book II: Synchrocity, written by Shinzakura, coming next week!

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Comments ( 13 )

These cultists have a serious case of lead poisoning in their future.

So, GAOA is going on break for a while, but the story continues with the adventures of Equestria's first true human visitors in Equestria - as covered in Synchrocity, written by Shinzakura, coming next week!

Well that is interesting. I hope there is going to have some hope shots.


9545725

Hopefully they don't do any more severe damage to the country in their insane power grab. Also I thought Tirek was dead in this story but they act like he is still alive but in hiding.

9545909

Also I thought Tirek was dead in this story but they act like he is still alive but in hiding.

Maybe he's dead, maybe he's not. Remember that his forces are still out there fighting against Equestria and the other nations even though the war is mostly over. Recall also that even Discord noted he may have a way to come back from the dead....

I'm hoping Blue Blood sister actually works with the cult, that way most of the threats be all together and taken out. Even if it hurts Blue and his family, better to deal with most of the threats all together then apart.

Is there something i can assist you with

I.

So Shin’s taking over for the next leg. Looking forward to it.

9546100
Uhh, I think you got the relations mixed up: Highfalutin’ is Divine Right's sister; Blueblood's sister died in the war against Tirek, and Octavia is just considered to Blueblood as a sister.

9546743
Ooh sorry, yeah yeah got it wrong. Sorry gets confusing at times. But that Dutchess, yeah her.

I can see her working with the cult, can even see her try to become Sombra's bride as a bid for more power.

9546100
Um...

Blueblood has two sisters. One is dead, the other is a teenage pony who hasn't made an appearance (she's only been mentioned).

So which sister are you talking about?

9548727
, Princess Highfalutin’, more commonly known as Duchess Highfalutin’ "HER OK HER! The duchess or Princess Highfalutin! Ok."

9549014
They're the same character - shes a princess but uses the dutchess title as it affords her more power.

9549031
I know that! i was describing her by her two egotistical names or TITLES she calls herself by. I know she same pony the same character i know that.

I was using the two titles she goes by to point who I was talking about.

time to resume reading this after a break and it is good so far.

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