• Published 10th Dec 2015
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Anything But The Gala - Ponibius

Celestia has hosted the Gala for hundreds of years—and has hated every year of it. Now that her sister has returned to her, she hopes to share this painful royal duty. Shame for her that Luna wants nothing to do with the Gala.

  • ...

Most Terrible Indeed

Anything But The Gala

Chapter 3: Most Terrible Indeed

"Thanks for helping me with this problem, Princess Luna." Twilight Sparkle gestured as the mob of ponies slowly closed with us. A few of Ponyville’s residents even had torches and pitchforks. And here I had thought such things had gone out of fashion. "You could say this got a little out of hoof." She smiled sheepishly. "I did kind of cause this ... situation to start with."

"But of course, Twilight Sparkle. It is only proper to aid another princess." I looked back and forth over the mob that had filled the street. Studying the mob carefully, my careful eye noted that it was made up of ponies of all types, from the very young to the very old, and contained each different breed of pony, with no division of class or profession I could see. Finally, but definitely not the least important detail, all of the gathered ponies had a hint of a blue glow in their irises. It did not take me long to feel the power that controlled their minds. I held up my hoof to tell my gathered guards to remain on the defensive. "Though I have been meaning to ask what happened here. Your letter was lacking in details while pleading for assistance."

The mob came closer than I felt comfortable with, and so gathering my magic, I cast my spell and a blue mist spread forth among the mob. As my sleep spell fell upon them, one by one, and then a few at a time as I continued to pour on my power, each pony lost the battle to remain conscious and fell to the ground in a slumber.

Twilight Sparkle growled with annoyance. "I did have to rush my letter out when all these mind-controlled ponies started breaking down my bedroom door." Seeing that the mob was now subdued, she went about zapping each pony with a spell she had invented to counter the mind control effect. I had to admit, she was quite the prodigy where magic was concerned. Not just anypony could have developed such a counter in such a limited period of time. She was even able to teach me the spell before we returned to the town proper.

"You see, I was experimenting with my portal to see if it was possible to reach even more dimensions than the one it was already connected to.” She finished up removing the spell that had enthralled her fellow Ponyville residents before turning back to me, a bright smile on her face. “I mean, could you imagine the possibilities if we could make successful first contact with another civilization? We could learn so much!"

Indeed, there were innumerable advantages if it could be done, but considering I was now standing over scores of ponies that had been brainwashed due to that first contact, I could not help but think that perhaps this was one of those ideas best shelved for safety reasons.

"And let me guess: something went wrong?" Seeing that Twilight Sparkle was done, I motioned for my guards to see to the sleeping ponies and started down the street.

"Kinda-sorta," Twilight Sparkle admitted reluctantly, following after me. "I was successful in making first contact with another dimension. When I opened the portal during one of my tests, a being from another dimension hopped through. It was sooo exciting. A visitor from another dimension, and I was the first one to talk to him! He even said he wanted to be my friend when I asked him, and then—IncomingRainbowDash!”

Twilight Sparkle fell to the ground just in time for a rainbow colored blur to shoot over her head. It seemed that even the Elements of Harmony were not immune to the monster’s mind control. I fired off a series of blasts of the anti-mind control spell, but Rainbow Dash dodged each blast easily with her speed and wickedly quick turns.

“And then what?” I asked, trying, and failing to hit the damnably fast pegasus.

More blasts of magic shot from Twilight Sparkle’s horn as she added her own efforts to stop her friend. “And—and then he betrayed me! After he said he wanted to be my friend! He was going about mind controlling everypony behind my back. He even had me take him on a tour of the town to make it easier for him to meet everypony! I didn't realize what was happening until he showed up with half the town to try and capture me!”

“What perfidy.” I let out several curses my mother would not have approved of if she had heard them.

Rainbow Dash laughed as she ducked and weaved through our fire. “Ha! You ponies couldn’t hit the broadside of a barn!” She shook her rump mockingly at us. “What’s the matter, do I need to slow down for you? Because that isn’t happening!”

“This is futile!” I stomped a hoof in frustration. I was not used to being openly mocked as I was now, and I found I had no taste of it. “We have to control the battlefield or she will dodge until we exhaust ourselves.”

“She's too fast for us to hit.” Twilight Sparkle rubbed her chin, humming contemplatively to herself. “Hey Rainbow!” She took off from the ground. “I bet you can't beat me in a race!”

Rainbow Dash scowled at the challenge. It seemed that even as a thrall, her competitive streak won out. “What? I could beat you with four hooves tied behind my back!”

Twilight Sparkle gave me a conspiratorial wink. “Then try it.” She raced down the street and Rainbow Dash was not slow in following. It did not take long for Rainbow Dash to close the gap between them. She was nearly upon mine fellow princess when Twilight Sparkle snapped off a spell. A web that blocked the street suddenly appeared between her and Rainbow Dash. For once, her speed worked against her and she sped right into the web.

“Gyah!” Rainbow Dash struggled to untangle herself from the web, but only served to get more of herself trapped within it. “Hey, that's cheating!”

“I'm really sorry!” Twilight was quick to say. “I can let you beat me in a race when it isn't an emergency! Promise!”

Rather than debate the merits or demerits of the ethics of what had transpired, I immediately blasted Rainbow Dash with the counterspell. “Well played, Twilight Sparkle!” I called out to her.

She smiled sheepishly while hovering above me. “You really think so?”

“It accomplished our goals, did it not?” As a leader, it was wise to praise those around you that did well. Especially those that could use a bit of a confidence boost like seemed to be the case with my junior princess.

“That is true,” she said.

“Hey!” Rainbow Dash’s struggles against the web had now managed to get her upside down. “Can somepony cut me down?! I don’t even know how I got here!”

“Sorry, Rainbow.” Twilight Sparkle’s horn glew. “Just give me a second to cast the counter sp—aaah!” A length of cloth shot out from a nearby alley and wrapped itself around her rear legs. Before she could react, she was jerked off her hooves and pulled into the air. The other end of the cloth tied itself off on a second story flagpole, leaving Twilight Sparkle hanging.

I moved to assist her but I was tripped up by something snagging my rear legs as well. Looking back, I saw the rope constraining me being held by Applejack. Not wishing to see where she intended on going with this, I shot into the sky. The rope went taut and I pulled her into the air.

Applejack hung from the rope, lost on what to do now that I had taken the initiative from her.

I did not give her the chance to recover when I shot a beam of magic down on her. It struck her and canceled out the mind controlling magic. The farmer blinked in confusion and shifted her grip on the rope to her legs so that she could speak. “What the hay am Ah doin’?! Princess Luna? Did Ah drink somethin' Ah shouldn't have?”

“Mind control,” I said simply.

“Oh. Again?”

I nodded. “Indeed so.”

More cloth shot towards Twilight Sparkle from the alleyway. Her eyes widened and she teleported out of the grasp the cloth that held her. Now freed, she flew into the alley. Several flashes of magenta magic came out of the alley before silence descended.

“I got her!” Twilight Sparkle flew out of alley with her friend Rarity being carried in her telekinetic field. For her part, Rarity was holding her head and groaning miserably. At least she seemed unharmed, so it seemed that our attempts to find the monster responsible for this mess was going along smoothly without any casualties.

“Very good.” I slowly descended so that Applejack could get back to the ground safely. “Now would you kindly untie my legs?”

“Of course, Princess!” Applejack removed the rope with all haste before giving me an apologetic smile. “Mighty sorry, didn't mean to.”

“Your will was not your own,” I assured her. I was not about to punish somepony who did something they had no say in. No, my judgement was to be saved for the monster responsible for the harm caused to my subjects. “Let us think nothing of it from this point forward and get you to safety.”

Rarity blinked a couple more times. “Would somepony mind explaining what’s happening? The last thing I really remember is Twilight visiting me at the Boutique with some—thing, and...” She shook her head to clear it. “My apologies, I seem to be out of sorts at the moment.”

Rainbow Dash continued her vain struggles against the web. Sadly, she seemed completely incapable of understanding that she was only making things worse for herself as she got herself completely covered in webbing. “Hey, you’re lucky. At least you’re not stuck in some big, dumb web!”

“Sorry about that,” Twilight Sparkle apologized again. “I swear, I’ll make it up to you later.” She waved to some of my guards, instructing them to come over to assist us. “Girls, if you could go with the nice Royal Guards here, I would really appreciate it. They will explain everything that's happening.”

What she did not say was that she was unsure if her spell would continue to counter the effects of our interdimensional invader. While I always welcomed allies in my battles against evil, that seemed less than wise when your enemy could turn your friends into enemies with their mere presence. Perhaps it was because of her alicorn nature, but Twilight Sparkle did not seem to be affected by the monster’s power, and I was assured by her that Spike had not been dominated either. We both guessed that was due to the natural magical resistance inherent to dragons. Still, it seemed best to send everypony else away who could potentially be turned against us. It was far from a perfect plan, but the fight against evil was rarely a safe venture.

After the guardponies had escorted the Element Bearers away, I returned to the task at hoof. “That just leaves Pinkie Pie and Fluttershy among your fellow Element Bearers.” Nopony else had approached us since this latest attack, but we had hardly combed the whole town for its mind controlled residents.

Twilight Sparkle shivered. “I really hope we don’t have to get into a fight with Pinkie Pie. That’s something I don’t even want to think about how it will go. And fighting Fluttershy ... that would be heartbreaking.” She pointed to her palace. “Now if I had to guess where a would-be evil overlord would set himself up to rule the world with his evil mind control powers...”

I nodded in agreement. “Ah yes, of course he would try to steal your palace.” It helped that her palace looked like a place where a villain would take up residence. Considering its cool colors, numerous jagged points, and intimidating appearance, somepony could have told me it was King Sombra’s summer residence and I would have believed them.

“I'm starting to develop a really bad record with my homes and monsters,” Twilight Sparkle grumbled.

“Fear not, together we shall dispatch the fiend and reclaim your home.” Having some monster take over the home and palace of one of Equestria’s princesses was hardly something that could be tolerated. There were images to maintain, afterall.

“Thanks.” She took the air. “Nothing to do but get to it. Come on.”

The two of us flew to the palace. Thankfully, we were not accosted again during the journey. At least that cut down on the number of incidents where somepony might be harmed in battle. Always a risk, no matter how careful Twilight Sparkle and I were. Of course, that left the matter of where all the other Ponyville residents were.

We reached the front door to the palace. Twilight Sparkle placed her hoof on the door, stopping before pushing it open. "Ready?" she asked.

Once we entered the palace itself, it would not be so easy to turn back. Who could say what sort of fiendish traps our nemesis had set for us within? The monster could have half the town as guards inside. Whatever the case might be, the battle was not going to become easier if we delayed due to indecision.

I nodded to her. "Go ahead. Let us see what surprises our enemy has in wait for us."

What greeted us when Twilight Sparkle threw open the door was not what I had expected. Brightly colored balloons and streamers were scattered about the entrance hall. The walls were lined with tables covered with all manner of cakes, drinks, cupcakes, sliced fruits, and other party food. There was a chocolate fountain on one table. But the thing that was perhaps the most catching of one's eye was the large ‘Welcome Our New Overlord!’ banner hanging from the ceiling. A dozen ponies were working about, preparing what could only be called a grand feast.

Twilight Sparkle's mouth hanged agape as she stared at the scene before her. "This ... was not what I expected."

"I believe this would be the work of Pinkie Pie, yes?" I asked, keeping a careful eye out in case this was merely an attempt to get us to lower our guard. I had seen more elaborate attempts to do so in the past of course. That did not even get into my experience with weddings.

As though summoned by her name, Pinkie Pie came bouncing over to us. "Hiya, Twilight, Princess Luna!" She said with her usual cheer and wide smile on her face. At least she was not wearing a chicken suit with which to harass me with this time. "You here to welcome our new overlord too? He was a bit saddy-waddy when you left all of a sudden, Twilight."

Twilight Sparkle gave me an unsure look, having been put off guard by the course of events. "Errr, something like that?"

I nodded, knowing when to seize a potential opportunity. "In a manner of speaking. Do you know where he is?"

"He's in the big chair, Harmony table room thingy." Pinkie Pie pointed the way to the room. "You know the one. I'm sure he'll want to see you right away! He likes seeing everypony so that they can bow to him, and everypony seems real happy to. And now we're going to get to have a huge party to welcome him!"

"Thanks, Pinkie." Twilight Sparkle quirked a confused eyebrow at me and then shrugged. No doubt accepting the reality of the situation as I had. "We'll go see him right now. How about you and everypony else stay here while we talk with him?"

"Okie dokie lokie!" Pinkie Pie said. "Just be sure not to run off again before the party."

Twilight Sparkle returned with a strained smile. "Um, sure thing."

"Let us go speak with him." I headed towards the room with my fellow princess in tow.

We entered into what amounted to Twilight Sparkle's throne room, though I would think it more adept to call it a conference room. Instead of there being a throne sitting at the end of room to best allow ponies to come before their sovereign to supplicate themselves and declare what problems plagued the realm, as was proper, there were several chairs sitting around a queer crystalline map of Equestria. I was sure the Elements of Harmony had their reasons for arranging things as such, but there was no reason they could not have given Twilight Sparkle a throne room sufficient for her majesty.

Upon the throne sat the fiend responsible for the madness that had gripped Ponyville. The monster looked like a hybrid between a cat and a bunny, and even standing at his full height would not have reached my knees. His coat was as white as snow. He had a pair of big, floppy ears, oversized fluffy paws, whiskers, and a pink nose. It stared at us with big blue eyes and was giving us a smug grin that only a feline-like face could achieve. Fluttershy was standing at his side, finishing brushing out his coat as we approached.

The monster’s smile became all the wider when we stopped before him, and he spoke in a voice much too high and sweet for such a malicious being. “So, have you finally come to supplicate yourself before Fluffums the Terrible?”

I fixed the would-be tyrant with a sour look. “No. I have come to stop your evil rule once and for all.”

Fluttershy gave us a sweet smile. “Could you please submit to Fluffums? He isn't that bad once you get to know him. I mean look at him, we couldn’t ask for a more adorable overlord.” She nuzzled Fluffums lovingly.

Unsurprisingly, it seemed that Fluttershy was firmly under the monster’s control. I had to wonder if Fluffums’ relative cuteness was merely a facet of how he came to enthrall ponies.

“He's something alright,” Twilight Sparkle growled. “I can’t believe you betrayed me! I thought we were friends.”

“Oh, we can still be friends,” Fluffums said with false pleasantry. “Just submit to my awesome power, and all your worries will just melt away.”

Rather than do that, or giving him the opportunity to use his mind control abilities, I turned my back to him and bucked out. My hoof struck his chest and sent him flying from the throne. Fluffums hit the wall and let out a squeak similar to that of a dog’s chewtoy at the impact. He fell to the floor in a clump with another squeak.

I smirked. “Awesome powers indeed.”

Fluttershy’s face became one of wide-eyed horror. “Oh no! Fluffums!” She ran over to him and examined him for injuries. “Are you okay?” Fluffums let out a groan of pain, and Fluttershy turned a furious glare my way, tears welling up in her eyes. “Why are you such a big meanie?! He hasn't hurt anypony! All he wanted to do was rule absolutely over all of ponykind with a fluffy paw. Is that so wrong?”

“Uh, yeah, it kind of is.” The only conflict Twilight Sparkle had in her eyes was over what type of spell with which to destroy the monster with. Before Fluttershy could cause us any more trouble, Twilight Sparkle hit her with the spell to cancel out the mind control effect.

Fluttershy blinked after being hit by the spell and looked around in confusion. “Why am I at the palace?” Eventually her eyes settled on Fluffums and she let out a gasp of surprise. “Aw, aren't you adorable! But what happened to you?”

Before Fluttershy could treat Fluffums’ injuries, Twilight Sparkle pulled her away with her telekinesis. “Step away from the mind-controlling monster, Fluttershy.”

“But he looks hurt!” Fluttershy objected, tears forming in her eyes once again.

I, for one, held no sympathy for the monster. Cute exterior or no, it still had a heart as black as obsidian. “Not hurt enough. And did you miss the 'evil mind-controlling monster' part of Twilight Sparkle's description?”

Fluttershy puckered out her bottom lip in a pout. “I'm sure we could talk this out over tea if we just gave each other a chance.”

Twilight Sparkle let out a patient sigh. “Ever the optimist. Look, trust me, Fluffums is nothing but bad news. He turned the entire town into puppets.” After a moment, she added. "Figurative puppets, just to be clear."

"Maybe he had good reasons for doing that?" Fluttershy sounded like she was not even convincing herself that was true, much less the two of us.

Fluffums groggily stood up. Once he got his paws under him, he shot me a baleful glare. “How dare you hit me! You will pay for that!”

Not appreciating his lip, I smacked him to send him hitting the wall with another squeak.

“Can we please stop using violence?” Fluttershy tried to move to assist Fluffums, but Twilight blocked her passage with an outstretched wing. “Violence doesn't solve anything!”

“It seems to be solving this.” Feeling an evil grin creasing my lips, I sent Fluffums bouncing off the wall repeatedly, reproducing the beat of a song I particularly liked. Within the last year I had been introduced to a new genre of music called metal that I found I enjoyed immensely. So the notes of one of the songs I particularly liked played in my head as I tested exactly how bouncy Fluffums was.

“Twilight, please, make her stop,” Fluttershy begged her friend. "This isn't very nice."

Twilight Sparkle let out a reluctant sigh. “Okay, I think Fluffums has probably had enough, Princess Luna.”

“Oh very well.” I ceased striking Fluffums. I admit, I had thought that the monster would have transformed into some giant horrific beast by this point, unleashed some new and terrible power, or something to reverse the tide against it. Experience had taught me to be wary when facing foes who seemed so easily defeated. But in this case it simply seemed that Fluffums was simply too small and cute for melee combat. That being the case, I lifted the monster up in my telekinetic field. He groaned in pain as he listlessly floated within my grasp. “So what shall we do with this would-be tyrant? He has done the most harm within your home, Twilight Sparkle, so what is your judgment?”

“Mercy?” Fluttershy was quick to suggest. Leave it to the holder of the Element of Kindness to suggest we be merciful to a monster responsible for turning the ponies of her home town into thralls.

Twilight gave Fluffums a contemplative frown. "Well, first I'll need him to free everypony from his mind control. That's simple enough. All I need to do is use his magical frequency to counteract the effects of his spell. I should be able to do that in a few minutes. But after that, we can't just let him run around loose where he could hurt somepony."

"I suppose we could always send him to Tartarus," I said. While my first instinct was to destroy the monster outright, my sister would no doubt chastise me over using such a brutal method with a defeated foe. Then Twilight Sparkle seemed like the type to seek other means with which to deal with Fluffums. Sometimes one must pick their fights and bend to the will of the majority.

Twilight Sparkle frowned. "I'm a little sketchy about sending him to Tartarus. Not after the last breakout resulted in Tirek blowing up my home and taking all my friends hostage. Also, it strikes me as a bad idea to put a mind controller around a bunch of other dangerous monsters that he might be able to take control of if something were to go wrong in Tartarus."

I rubbed my chin. "That is an issue, yes." Sadly, Tartarus was not quite as reliable as we might have wished.

Fluttershy made her own suggestion with what was only barely above a whisper. "I could take care of him."

"Fluttershy, no," Twilight Sparkle protested. "He already turned you into his thrall once."

A potential compromise struck me. "Perhaps if we sealed away his powers and evil personality. Such a feat might be within the powers of the Elements, and if not, there is the reform spell."

Twilight Sparkle considered the suggestion. “It could be done. Though that is a bit questionable morally. But I'm not inclined to throw him back to his own dimension either. That just makes him someone else's problem."

That I agreed with. That was one of Starswirl the Bearded's favored solutions for dealing with particularly difficult monsters, and more than once that had just created trouble for others down the road. Starswirl had always been something of an ass.

"And Fluttershy could watch over him for any signs of his old self emerging," I said. It was not a perfect plan, but it did have its virtues. Fluttershy had managed to partially rehabilitate Discord—even if I would not trust the Spirit of Chaos to water my plants, much less with anything of actual importance. Certainly my sister's decision to leave Tirek's recapture to the traitorous fiend had been a grave mistake. Still, the fact that Discord was no longer rampaging across Equestria in a quest to spread chaos was a marked improvement. And at the end of the day, Fluffums seemed the far smaller threat in comparison to Discord after today's pitiful performance.

Twilight looked to her friend. "What do you think?"

She nodded, the strain in her face decreasing now that a solution that satisfied her was on the table. "I think that would work. I'm sure if Fluffums stopped being mean to ponies he would make for a nice house guest."

"Then we'll go with that plan." Twilight Sparkle took the miserable looking Fluffums from me. With the casting of another spell, a shield formed around Fluffums to keep him safely contained. "And thanks again, Princess Luna. You made this a lot easier than it otherwise would have been. I owe you big."

"You are most welcome." Another idea stuck me as I processed what my fellow princess said. "Though if I might ask a favor for a favor..."

"Of course." She smiles brightly. "It's only right that I help somepony that helped me."

"My sister has been asking me to host this year's Gala, so..." I left the question unfinished.

Twilight Sparkle's smile slowly turned into a look of horror. "Please don't tell me you're asking me what I think you are."

After a moment, I hazarded a, "Yes."

To my surprise, Twilight Sparkle fell to her belly and clung to my forelegs. "Pleasepleaseplease, not that! Anything but that! The Gala's sooo boring, and nothing goes right! All Princess Celestia does is just stand there and shake hooves. All. Night. Long. When I stood with her it felt like I was in some sort of time vortex where each minute felt like an eternity. I swear, I saw the clock actually go backwards a few times. It was the worst."

I blinked in shock at her sudden reversal behavior. She had been so brave at the prospect of battling Fluffums and potentially fighting through the entire town to get to him, but now she had been reduced to begging to give her relief. "Is it truly so horrible?"

“Yes!” Twilight Sparkle took a long breath to calm herself. “It's tolerable when I get to spend time with my friends. Barely. When I went to my first Gala we were all so excited, but then it was just awful. I’d hoped that I would get some time to spend with Princess Celestia, but she kept having to brush me off to greet more and more ponies. She barely got to say a word to me. I've never been so bored and disappointed my whole life.” She ran her hoof down her face. “Then every Gala always suffers a disaster! Though thinking back to it, it was a relief when the swarm of animals attacked and ended it.”

“Um, that was kinda my fault.” Fluttershy scrapped her hoof on the floor. “I've already apologized a lot for that, but I didn’t mean to cause the royal garden’s animals to stampede into the Gala.”

“I am sure it is quite fine, Fluttershy,” I said. “In all likelihood the Gala being crashed was my sister’s plan all along based on what I had heard about all the other Galas.”

Twilight Sparkle shivered. “Yes, I'm starting to suspect that. Especially when she invited Discord to the last one.”

I frowned, contemplating the implications of that bit of information. “Yes. There could be no purpose to that but pure chaos.”

“Don't see how it could have turned out any other way,” Twilight Sparkle grumbled. “Especially when the Smooze was Discord's plus one. You can probably guess how that went.”

Indeed I could. The Smooze’s tendency to consume everything around it was well known. “Ah, the Smooze. That brings back memories. I am just glad that there was, in fact, something that could stop it.”

Fluttershy raised a hoof halfheartedly to catch our attention. “To be fair, Discord did fix everything when he realized he wasn’t being very nice.”

If it were up to me, Discord would be serving as a lawn ornament for the palace gardens. Either that or buried very deep where nopony was likely to find him. Especially after how he had betrayed all of Equestria. Discord said he was sorry for what he did, but I held my doubts that he wouldn’t do exactly the same thing if offered another opportunity.

Twilight Sparkle rolled her eyes at her friend’s defense of Discord. “But anyways, hosting the Gala is just about the last thing I want to do.” She stood up from her begging position, having long made her point. “So if I could please do anything else for you, I’d be more than willing to do it. I’ll go out and deal with some monster, do a bunch of paperwork, clean your room, anything.”

I sighed, not feeling like pushing Twilight Sparkle into something she would despise doing. “Oh very well then. I think I know of something less burdensome you could help me with.” I gestured at the now very pitiful looking Fluffums. "But first let us deal with this one."

Fluffums gulped.

I led Twilight Sparkle into the depths of the palace. Thankfully, the stairs and rooms of the palace’s basement levels were well lit by enchanted gems. Finding the door I desired, I opened it and headed inside.

“My thanks for your assistance with organizing the palace storage,” I said. “It seems the servants have been understating the state of disorder down here.”

I turned on the gems within to light the room. All about us were crates, clothes racks filled with all manner of garments, and various other items my sister and I did not wish to display in the palace but did not have the heart to throw away at the time. As I had found out while searching for things with which to decorate my room, the servants, rather than using any sort of organizational system, had taken to shoving the things into the first spot they would fit. Though I could not help but feel some embarrassment after seeing all the items we had collected over the centuries. Seeing the basement storage certainly made my sister and I look like hoarders.

Twilight Sparkle walked about the crates in wide-eyed wonder. “Don't worry, I'll take care of it!”

“Yes, my sister has every confidence that you will bring order to this mess.” I examined the contents of one of the crates to find a number of carefully packaged vases. “Really, you would be surprised how much stuff you can gather over a couple of centuries.”

“Oh, I can only ima...” Twilight Sparkle trailed off when one of the dresses sitting on a rack caught her eye. “I've seen this one somewhere.”

I pulled the dress off the rack and snickered. The dress was a large, and very pink thing, and seemed to have consumed several other dresses in its quest to add their frills to its own. “Ponies thought this was the height of fashion once?”

“Fashion trends are prone to incredible amounts of change over time.” Twilight Sparkle closely examined the dress. “It is! Do you know what this is, Luna?” She spoke as though she had discovered some great artifact in some godsforsaken tomb.

I snickered all the harder. “Something I very much wish I could see my sister in.”

“No no no, you're missing the historical context!” She said with an adorable level of enthusiasm. My sister was right, she was at her most precious when excited about something that had caught her fancy. “This is the gown she wore when she announced the Grand Reforms of CR 112! This dress has incredible historical significance!” Her ears perked. “Oh! We could try to recreate the event with everypony in period outfits!”

“You mean a play?” I asked.

Twilight Sparkle shook her head. “No no no, a historical recreation! It’s where you reenact past historical events. And then we could take pictures of it for the history books! It would be like we were really there!”

“I think this might be one of those things that I do not have much experience with yet.” In truth, that sounded exactly like a play to me, despite my fellow princess’ insistence. Granted, most of the ‘historical’ plays I had seen had been only tangentially accurate to actual events. I might have to see one of these historical recreations to see what exactly they were about. Certainly seeing what Equestria had become in my absence had been to my benefit thus far.

“Maybe not, but just imagine how incredible it would be!” A glimmer lit up in her eyes. “Setting the scene exactly the way it was nearly nine centuries ago!”

I chuckled, finding her enthusiasm quite amusing. “It seems that I am going to be leaving this project in eager hooves.”

“Oh yes.” Twilight Sparkle eagerly rubbed her hooves together and all but dived into one of the crates. “Now what do we have here?” There was the sound of paper being unwrapped, and she let out a gasp. “It's here!”

“What is?” I craned my head to see what she had pulled out of the crate.

“Look!” She held up an unadorned old circlet of plain iron before me. “I can't believe this survived! I was sure something would've happened to it...”

“You will have to excuse me if I do not see its inherent value.” I waved dismissively at it. “It seems only worth the iron it was made of.”

Twilight Sparkle’s ears wilted. “This ... this was one of Celestia's old crowns!”

“Ah.” I gave the crown another look. It was as plain as a crown could possibly be while still meeting the barest definition of such a thing. I would have been embarrassed to wear the thing in public. “It seems she fell upon hard times if that is what she wore.”

Twilight Sparkle spoke in the calm, academic tone one would expect from a college professor doing a lecture. "It had a pretty interesting history actually. Your sister started to wear it during the Miserable Depression. Considering the government was experiencing budget shortfalls and the troubles the common pony were going through, she changed out her regalia for something a lot simpler as a symbolic gesture."

As though summoned by the subject turning to her, Tia strode into the room. "It felt wrong to parade around in gold and jewels when the government was having trouble making enough money to provide essential services."

"Ah, sister, it is good to see you." I motioned towards our fellow princess. "I was just showing Princess Twilight the mess she intends to work with."

Twilight Sparkle's eyes lit up. "This place is amazing! There’s just so much history here! I barely know where to start. There is probably enough stuff down here to fill a whole museum."

Tia chuckled, as amused as I was with her former student’s enthusiasm. "I'm glad you like it, Twilight."

I grinned. "I dare say that she is more excited than a dragon that had just come upon a great treasure horde."

Realizing how she had been acting, she smiled sheepishly at us. "Oh. Sorry. I just ... got a little excited."

"We are hardly offended," I assured her. "Really, if anypony should organize this place, it should be somepony who enjoys it." Though now I had to worry if she would enjoy the task too much. I could see her burying herself in her work, studiously studying every item down here for its historical value. While it would be curious to see what she discovered down here, I did not wish for her to spend all her time on a relatively mundane task when she had other duties to attend to. Mayhaps we could hire some assistants for her, or possibly see if the museums of the city might be interested in what we possessed. It was worth talking about over dinner tonight, at any rate.

"Oh." She made an embarrassed laugh. "Er ... okay then!"

While teasing Twilight Sparkle over her enthusiasm would have offered some entertainment, what I had before me was a priceless opportunity to provoke embarrassment in my sister. "And look what we have here." I pulled out one of my sister's old dresses and gave her a wicked grin. "We found some of your old dresses. My my, what you used to wear..."

She could hardly claim it belonged to another considering all her outfits had to be customized just for her due to size. It had a shade of pink that made me wonder if it made ponies' eyes bleed. What made it particularly ridiculous was the fan-like collar large enough to make fitting through doorways difficult, and the elaborate wig that came with the dress. The wig had to be a third again her height and must have made my sister crouch to get under doors.

“Fashions were different in those days,” Tia murmured unhappily as I chuckled at her discomfort. She let out a long breath before a grin came to her lips. “Though I do recall quite a few of your own unique outfits, Luna. Do you happen to remember that one outfit you wore to your birthday party. The one will all the bells? I’m sure we could find it if we looked hard enough...”

Seeing that I was starting to get too deep with my teasings, I cleared my throat. “Yes, moving on...”

My sister smiled, no doubt content that she had managed to diffuse my teasings. “Oh, yes. Before I forget, about the Gala...”

“Yes, that.” I scrambled to think what to say now that my sister had brought up the topic once again. I had all but forgotten about the Gala since our last talk. Strange how time could fly when you wished to not think about something unpleasant. For Twilight Sparkle’s part, she seemed to have found several things within one of the crates to examine instead of paying attention to our conversation. Either that, or she was doing her level best not to get drawn into the conversation on who should host the Gala. Both were equally likely in my opinion.

“I forgot to bring it up with my advisors, my apologies,” I said, the excuse sounding lame even to mine own ears. “I will make sure to speak of it during my next meeting with them.” In truth, I had brought up the Gala with my advisors. Specifically, I instructed them to find something, anything that would give me an excuse not to host the event. I had even offered a bonus to the pony that found the solution I liked the most.

Tia frowned with disappointment. “Luna...”

I smiled sweetly, as though nothing were amiss, but I could feel the noose tightening around my neck. “Yes?”

“I would hope that you trust and respect me enough to be honest with me,” she chided.

The rebuke caused me to wince. “Very well then, dear sister, if you must insist, then I will have to tell you that I do not wish to host the Gala.”

Tia tilted her head. “Why not?”

“For one, it seems more your type of event,” I pointed out. “It has been affiliated with you for centuries now. For two, I do not think it is an event that I would enjoy.”

“How can you know?” Tia asked. “You've never even attended.”

I let out an annoyed huff, not liking where this conversation was going. “From everything I have heard, that would be my guess. I have rarely truly enjoyed similar events like the Gala in the past.”

“You know the Gala is important,” Tia said, switching attack angles in the argument.

“Why is it so important?” I decided to drop all pretenses. It seemed that my sister had already, so now seemed to be the time to discuss the matter of the Gala openly. “From all that I have heard, you torture yourself with this event every year, and to what end? Can you not merely skip the Gala and leave it to those that wish to actually go to the farce?”

“If only it were that easy.” Tia let out a long sigh and her eyes fell to the floor. “I tried not going to the Gala—once. I was so sick of it that I announced that I wouldn’t be going, that I had more important business to attend to for that night.” She met my eyes as she continued. “And you know what happened? Almost nopony came to the Gala.”

“Oh.” My mind raced to go over the potential complications of that. “That would be a problem, would it not?”

Tia nodded sadly. “All the proceeds from the Gala go to charities. We sell the tickets for a ludicrous sum. I raise the prices every year, but they keep selling out. At least as long as I attend the Gala too.” My sister got a far off look in her eyes as she withdrew into her memories. “I was so embarrassed that year. All those charities had come to depend on that money to fund themselves, and thanks to my own selfishness they were denied it. In the end, I had to pay most of what they normally would have earned out of my own coffers—even if it nearly left me bankrupt for a few years.”

“I see, so that is the truth of it.” I had of course heard that such was the case, but it had merely been rumor until I had heard it from my sister’s own mouth. “Royalty must attend the Gala in order to fool the wealthy out of their bits.”

My sister nodded. “I would have put it another way, but yes. So ever since then I’ve gone to the Gala, year after boring year. Because my little ponies depend on me to do so. All except for the year that I managed to get Cadance to do it for me, but she’s done everything she can to make sure that was her only appearance.”

“And thus you wished for me to give you relief from this duty?” I asked.

“Please just try it?” She looked me in the eyes with the most pitiful look she could manage, the one she saved for when she truly and deeply wished for me to do something. It filled me with guilt over the mere idea of rejecting my beloved sister. “For me?”

I grit my teeth as my resistance waved under her gaze. I desperately searched for any reason I could find to avoid what would be a dredge of an evening. My eyes fell upon a pony who seemed to be trying very hard not to be noticed as she hid among several crates. “Well... Have you asked Twilight Sparkle to do it yet?”

Our fellow princess eeped and nearly jumped out of her skin when her name was mention. “Oh! I ... er ... need to wash my mane that evening. My mane needs to have that done every evening. You know how it is.” She gave us a smile that would have fit on a child whom had been caught with their hoof in a cookie jar.

I gave her an unconvinced look. That caused her ears to flatten to her head and she crept her way to me. When she spoke, it was in a soft whisper for my ears only. “Please don't do this to me.”

My teeth ground as what remained of my resistance collapsed. I had always prided myself on being willing to risk whatever I might order others to do. It would not be fair to Twilight Sparkle if I were to try and push her into hosting the Gala if I were not willing to do the same myself. Especially when she had already faced most of the horrors of that night. No, I could not ask this of her.

When my gaze turned to Tia, I was hit with an equally pitiful look. “Luna...” she said, almost begging me to save her from a dreadful fate.

I drew myself up as I addressed my sister. “Sister, I am willing to face anything with you, be it monsters, demons, or eldritch horrors. I promised I would help you bear the duties of governance and ruling this realm for the benefit of our ponies in the face of all challenges. I would stand with you even at the end of the world before the gate of the yawning abyss as it grasped to destroy the world we love and protect.” I let out a resigned sigh. “So very well, I will host the Grand Galloping Gala for you. For you are my dear, beloved sister.”

I nearly let out a squawk of surprise when my sister drew me into a rib-crushing hug. My sister was normally accustomed to giving tender and loving hugs, so one so without restraint as the one she was giving me now was a surprise, and due to her great strength, made me worry that she was going to break me in half doing so. “Thank you. Thank you very much, sister. You have no idea how much this means to me.”

“You are ... welcome,” I wheezed. I would have made some sort of comment about me not regretting this decision, but my sister’s crushing hold made that action quite redundant.

At least somepony had been made happy today, and if that should be anypony, it should be my sister.

Author's Note:

I would like to thank of editors Chengar Qordath, Comma-Kazie, and JakeTheGinger for all their great help in putting this story together, and to my prereaders Trinary, 621Chopsuey, Incidental Pegasus No. 5, Web of Hope, Swiftest, and Infinion for all their work to edit this story.