• Published 25th Apr 2016
  • 3,347 Views, 77 Comments

For the Good of Equestria - brokenimage321

In the wake of a great tragedy, Celestia tells, for the first time, just how much she's had to sacrifice for the good of Equestria.

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Chapter 2: The Curtain Rises

Posie straightened her uniform nervously, then turned and looked over her shoulder. “Come on, you guys,” she hissed. “You promised.” She swallowed, then started walking down the hall. Behind her came Silver Lining, still in his uniform, with his cap under his wing, and, behind him, Corkscrew, his tie missing and his collar undone. Outside, the crickets sang as the stars began to appear.

Corky glanced out the windows, then back to the others. “What are we doing, again?” he whispered.

“...Why are you whispering?” Sill whispered back.

Pause. “Seemed appropriate,” Corky responded.

“You guys,” Posie groaned. “We’re going to go check on the Princess.”

Corky swallowed, suddenly uneasy. “Isn’t that, like… the stewards’ job, or something?” He asked nervously.

Posie sighed. “Maybe,” she admitted. “But she’s hurting. And we can help.” She swallowed. “I think,” she added, unconvincingly.

“What’s going on, anyways?” Corky asked. “I mean, I know she’s upset, but…”

Posie stopped dead in her tracks, so suddenly that Sill almost ran into her. She turned around and stared at Corky. “Corky,” she said slowly, “you were there.”

Corky sighed. “Posie,” he said wearily, “I’ve said it a hundred times—I’m down in the kitchens. I’m so far out of the loop that it’s not even funny.”

Posie’s mouth dropped open. “Sweet Celestia,” she muttered to herself, “Are you really this dumb, or are you trying to be stupid?”

Corky looked back and forth between Posie and Sill. “Are you understanding this?” he asked Sill. “I’m not the one going crazy here, am I?”

Corky,” Posie hissed, “You’re a good friend, but sometimes I just want to—” she snarled and made a violent gesture.

“Kids,” Sill interjected warningly. “Don’t make me sit between you two. Posie,” he said, looking at her, “Chill out, please.” He looked over at Corky. “And you,” he added,“Please try not to act stupid.”

Corky huffed, but nodded. Sill stepped back, and looked over to Posie again. “Now,” he said, “let’s try again, shall we?”

Posie took a few deep breaths, then sighed. “Let’s start at the beginning,” she said, testily. “There was a funeral today, right?”

“Right,” Corky answered.

“And you were there,” she continued.

“I was at the luncheon,” he corrected imperiously. “I was the acting sous-sommelier.”

“There was a funeral,” Posie growled through gritted teeth, “after which there was a reception, at which you were the bartender.”

Hey,” Corky pouted.

“Posie,” Sill said warningly.

Posie took another deep breath, then let it out slowly. “Corky,” she said carefully, “Who, do you think, the funeral was for?”

He shrugged. “I dunno. Some unicorn?”

Some unic—?” Posie groaned, then took another deep breath. “Corky,” she said, “That... unicorn… was none other than the famous Twilight Sparkle.”

“Twilight—” he repeated. Suddenly, his eyes went wide. “That was her?” he gasped. “I thought she was, like a diplomat or something, for all the fuss they were making!”

“Might as well have been,” Sill added, “for all the times she was here, at least.” He chuckled. “I should know—I had to pick her up from the train station just about every time. I mean, her husband would fly ahead every so often, usually with one or two of their little ones, but she always took the train with the luggage.” He smiled. “Not having wings limits your options a little.”

“But no,” Posie butted in. “Not a diplomat. Never held a political office in her life. She was a librarian for a while, got married, taught school for, like, forever.” She hesitated. “And…” she swallowed. “And she was Princess Celestia’s best friend.”

Both Sill and Corky turned to stare at her.

”Didn’t know that,” Sill muttered.

Posie looked down. “Yeah,” she said. “We… we pick up a few things. The cleaning staff, I mean.”

Corky leaned over to Sill. “Isn’t that the job description?” he whispered. Sill elbowed him sharply, and he winced. “So, what does that have to do with us?” he asked Posie, just a touch too loudly.

“We’re going to go see what we can do,” Posie said, looking up. “The Princess has just lost her best and oldest friend. And she’s… not taking it well.” She turned and began to walk down the hall. “She’s locked herself in her room, and hasn’t come out for hours. That’s not like her.”

Corky nodded. “Makes sense,” he said, drawing a look from Sill. “I mean, she didn’t give us an order for dinner tonight. Not even a note that she wasn’t hungry.” He shrugged. “First I’ve heard of that happening.”

They walked in silence for a few steps before Corky glanced nervously around. “But, uh…” he said, “I mean… she’ll be okay, right? I’m sure this isn’t the first time…”

Posie stopped cold, and, this time, Sill actually did run into her. She turned and stared at Corky. “Corkscrew,” she said, with the slightest tremble in her voice. “My folks started bringing me with them to the palace when I was six years old. I’ve been here, off and on, ever since. And let me tell you—” she swallowed. “—I have never seen her like this. She has been around for a long time, true…” she turned around and started walking again. “But she’s lost her best friend. And you don’t just... get over that. And even if you did…” she peered nervously around the corner. “She, apparently, isn’t.

Posie swallowed. Just ahead was the long hallway to Celestia’s bedchamber—and, at the head of the hallway, two royal guards. Posie took a deep breath, then walked quickly forward, Sill and Corky right behind her, and walked between the them. As they passed, Posie bowed her head, Sill put on his hat and pulled it low, and Corky nodded a greeting. The guards glanced the three of them, but said nothing.

Halfway down the hall, Posie hesitated, then turned back and looked at the guards. She let out the breath she’d been holding, then smiled nervously at the others. “I can’t believe they let us through,” she whispered.

“Well,” Corky whispered back with a smirk. “We do work here, after all.”

Posie rolled her eyes at him. “Come on,” she said.

Soon, they stopped in front of the ornate double-doors, decorated with intricate goldleaf and cut crystal. Behind those doors was Celestia’s room. Posie swallowed, hard, and realized she was trembling. She was glad she had brought the others with her—otherwise, she might have turned and fled.

“Ready?” she whispered.

Sill nodded. Corky just stared.

Posie turned, took a deep breath, and tapped on the door.

The door had not been closed properly; Posie only tapped twice before the latch clicked free. She jerked her hoof back, and, slowly, silently, the door swung halfway open, revealing nothing but darkness beyond. Posie stiffened, Sill shivered, and Corky ducked behind Sill. For a moment, all was still.

Posie glanced at the others, then back at the door. The darkness simply stared back at her. Posie swallowed, then glanced back at the other two. “S-shall we?” she whispered.

Sill nodded, the motion mechanical and jerky. “Sure,” he said, his voice hollow. “You first.”

Posie swallowed, then took a hesitant step forward, into the darkness.

* * *

Posie had been in the Princess’s chambers a thousand times—sweeping, dusting, making the bed—but, at night, the room was different. Things unseen cast long shadows that the half-light from the door only partially dispelled. Decorative patterns on the wall and carpet, bright and cheery during the day, turned black and menacing in the gloom. Posie felt a drop of sweat run down the back of her neck, closed her eyes, and tried to concentrate on her breathing. They’re just shadows, Posie, she told herself. They can’t hurt you.

But part of her wasn’t so sure.

After several heartbeats, Posie had managed to calm her breathing a little. She opened her eyes again and looked around. The room was silent. She gulped, then walked deeper inside.

Posie had been here a thousand times—she had to keep reminding herself that—but, she realized, she had never entered while the Princess was present. The darkness wasn’t helping her nerves, but it was more than that now; now that the Princess was in here, somewhere, this wasn’t just another chorePosie was intruding into her privacy. She was walking on sacred ground—ground on which she wasn’t necessarily wanted.

Posie swallowed. She might not have been wanted—but, she reminded herself, she was needed.

At that moment, she stepped on something. She took a quick step backwards, barely stifling a yelp, and froze. A few panicked breaths, then, slowly, she bent down and peered carefully at it. Lying on the floor, with her hoofmark now in the middle of it, was the black hat that Princess Celestia had worn that morning. Posie sighed, then picked it up, dusted it off, and took the brim in her teeth. She glanced around, looking for a place to hang it.

By this time, her eyes were beginning to adjust to the darkness. As she glanced around the room, the bed swam into focus. As she stared at it, a dark form, lying on top of the sheets, slowly materialized. And, as she watched, the dark form became—

She dropped the hat, eyes wide.

Princess Celestia!” Posie shrieked into the silence.

Princess Celestia raised her head. She lay on top of the covers, still wearing her dress from the funeral. Her eyes were red and puffy, and dark streaks ran down her cheeks. As she saw Posie, her eyes widened.

Posie dashed forward and took her by the hoof. “Princess,” she repeated. “Are you okay?”

Celestia stared at her. She swallowed, then opened her mouth to speak.

I want to die,” Celestia rasped.

Posie jerked her hoof back and stared. Celestia’s lip trembled, then she collapsed on the bed, her sobs echoing loudly in the dark.

Posie watched her, eyes wide. Slowly, she raised her hoof, and, almost mechanically, began to rub Celestia’s back.

“There, there,” she murmured, her words sounding hollow, even to her, “It’ll all be okay…”

Okay?” Celestia snapped, whipping her head around. “What do you know about okay?

Posie shrank back as Celestia stood on the bed, towering over her.

“Were you there for Discord?” she snarled. “Were you there for the Crystal Empire? For Nightmare Moon? The Sunset Rebellion? The Siege of Canterlot?” She bent low, her eyes blazing. “Then don’t you dare tell me about okay.”

Posie whimpered in fear—and suddenly, the fire went out of Celestia’s eyes. She sagged, and seemed to shrink a little. Slowly, she laid herself back down on the bed. “I’m sorry,” she whispered into the sudden quiet. “I can’t get angry like that… I… I’m not a child anymore.”

Posie finally found her voice. “I understand,” she said. “You’ve been through a lot, and it can’t be easy…”

Celestia was quiet for a long moment. “No,” she replied. “No, you don’t understand.” She shifted on the bed. “No one does.” She swallowed. “Everyone thinks they know me. Who I am. What I’ve done. But no one knows. Not even Luna. Not even Cadance.” She chuckled darkly. “I’ve been on the front cover of every newspaper and every tabloid in the world, I’ve been in paintings and statues going back a thousand years—but no one knows a thing about me.”

For a while, neither of them spoke. Finally, Posie swallowed.

“Would it… help… if I... did?” she asked, timidly.

Celestia turned to look at her. “What are you saying?” she asked.

Posie swallowed again. “If you told me a little about those things—I-I mean, about your life, your story—would that make you feel better?”

Celestia stared at her in silence for a long while. Posie swallowed, then looked away—but still, she could feel Celestia’s gaze burning into her.

“...It... couldn’t hurt,” Celestia said, finally. “But… are you sure you want to know…?”

Posie looked up, hope and fear mingled in her expression. After a moment, she set her jaw and nodded. “If it will help,” she said, “then yes.”

Celestia turned away, and bit her lip, deep in thought. Finally, she sighed, and turned to face Posie. “Where you would like me to start?” she asked quietly.

Posie sat on the floor and swallowed. “...at the beginning, I suppose,” she said.

“The beginning,” Celestia repeated. “The beginning… Well, I suppose that the true beginning was…” For a moment, she stared into the distance.

“The beginning,” she said finally, her voice barely a whisper. “My beginning… was Discord.”