• Published 1st Sep 2016
  • 1,577 Views, 74 Comments

Temor - Askre

Twilight and friends must prevent Sombra's heir from resurrecting his father.

  • ...

Chapter 17. Meanwhile in Canterlot.

Chapter 17

Celestia and Luna were not looking very happy when they finally returned to Canterlot. The Celestials sisters entered the throne room of the castle sporting grave expressions. Things had not gone well in the Crystal Empire, things had in fact turned rather alarming.

All suspected collaborators of King Sombra had by now vanished without a trace. The most baffling of all though, all the soldiers identified to have been working willingly with Sombra had also vanished, right out of their cells in the dungeons. One cell had a haunting message scrawled on the wall in blood.

“Our king summons us.”

There were also reports of a few things missing - things that the royal couple had suspected belonging to the Dark King, including a damaged silver tiara that had been found in the room he had used as a bedroom.

“We must get to the bottom of this Order of Umbrum business as soon as possible, sister,” Luna remarked as they stepped up to their thrones. The princess scowled when recalling her own meeting with the order’s leader. “That High Shadow...she sounded familiar. I’ve heard that voice before.”

“Please try and recall from where you heard it, it might just help us towards a solution,” her sister said, sitting down on her throne. She had already sent a message to summon for her secretary and was awaiting her arrival.

“I will. I shall be in my study,” Luna said with a sharp nod and walked past the thrones and left through a side door.

Celestia sighed, then glanced over when seeing that Raven Inkwell was arriving, on the run as usual. The princess raised her brow. Her secretary looked rather frantic. She waited patiently while the unicorn bowed before looking up at her sovereign.

“Your Highness, thank goodness you’re back,” Raven said and summoned a high stack of papers and immediately levitated them over to the Sun Princess.

“What is the matter?” Celestia asked. She accepted them hesitantly, thinking perhaps these were matters she would be forced to put on hold for now.

“These reports have been coming in from all over Equestria. Vanhoover, Manehatten, Ponyville, Baltimare, Appleloosa, even here in Canterlot - you name it,” Raven continued. “Ponies have been vanishing from all over!”

What? Celestia started to immediately go over the papers. There were missing pony reports of family members, co-workers, friends...all were being reported missing to the local authorities.

“I don’t understand...these are ponies from all walks of life - teachers, artists, construction ponies, police officers…royal guards?” the princess couldn’t believe her eyes. She pushed the papers to the side and looked at her secretary. “How many are there?”

“The reports are still coming in, but we are talking hundreds,” Raven explained and dropped to her haunches. “My assistants who handle incoming messages are overrun.”

The papers dropped from Celestia’s magic grip and scattered to the floor around her throne. The princess continued to stare in disbelief at her secretary. If this had happened a few days ago, before the Crystal Empire had returned, the princess might have immediately risen and ordered search parties to be dispatched. However recent events made her suspect she knew exactly who those ponies disappearing were.

Who can I trust? She thought, realizing now more than ever that anyone could be a member of this order. Wait a minute, this is a national emergency. Why wasn’t I notified earlier? Raven knows how to contact me, even if I was in the Crystal Empire. Why wait until I had returned…

“Raven.” Celestia looked closely at her secretary. “Do they know what is causing it?”

“No, your highness,” the unicorn shook her head.

“Why wasn’t I notified of this sooner?” the princess then asked with a frown.

Raven blinked and quickly rose back up to her hooves. She opened her mouth to say something but then closed it again. Celestia felt an empty pit in her stomach when seeing her secretary smile and her previous frantic body language vanish. The unicorn chuckled softly.

“I guess I was bound to slip up eventually,” Raven claimed, glancing down for a moment before looking up again. There was contempt now in her eyes.

“Hail King Sombra!” she cried and almost instantly her own shadow enlarged and swallowed the mare and she vanished from the throne room.

Princess Celestia choked. Her own beloved secretary had been a member? Resisting the tears and rising anger towards the High Shadow, the alicorn rose from her throne and almost tore the side door off its hinges as she walked through.

Not Raven too. What lies did the High Shadow tell you to win you over to her side? she thought, still fighting back the bitter tears as she made her way to Luna’s study.

Luna was going through an old diary when her sister burst in. The Lunar Princess looked up and was startled to see Celestia on verge of tears. She rushed over and was immediately grabbed in a hug by the older alicorn.

“They have ensnared Raven Inkwell,” Celestia cried and now that she was in privacy with her sister, finally let the damn bust. “Ponies are disappearing all over, all members of that horrid cult dedicated to King Sombra!”

Luna wasn’t sure what to say and do. She had never seen her sister break down at all like this, even when facing the horrific chaos of Discord. For now Luna concentrated on calming Celestia down, taking her over to a couch and sat down alongside her.

“It was shocking enough when Raven came with the reports that ponies were vanishing, but when I grew suspicious, because this should have been reported to us immediately while we were in the Crystal Empire, she said it to my face, ‘Hail King Sombra’ and then just vanished into her own shadow,” Celestia started to ramble. “Who can we trust?” she whispered.

“Twilight and her friends,” Luna reminded her. Celestia let go of her and for a moment stared at her sister, then she smiled.

“Of course, they are looking for the prince,” she said and sat up more properly. The Solar Princess took a moment to compose herself. “Please forgive me, I was just too shocked at what I saw.”

“No need to apologize to me, sister,” Luna said gently and draped her wing around her sister. “You know you don’t have to act all regal and formal with me.”

“Oh of course,” Celestia sighed and leaned down to place her head on Luna’s. “I’m so glad to have you back, to be able to talk with somepony so openly.”

“But it is still grave news that ponies are vanishing. Raven’s betrayal clearly indicates that these are members of the Order being called to serve this High Shadow, perhaps even witnessing this True Return.” Luna then frowned as she considered what her sister had told her.

For a brief moment Celestia was a little incensed hearing Raven’s actions being called betrayal, but she quickly calmed herself. Luna wasn’t wrong in that regard - deep down the Solar Princess just hadn’t fully accepted it yet.

“Then we must trust that Twilight will find Prince Temor and bring him to us. Perhaps then we can deal with this ‘High Shadow’,” Celestia said and raised her head, not liking to think that there was terribly little they could do. They didn’t know where the High Shadow was, where she had summoned her followers and so far their only key was Prince Temor.

“Speaking of the High Shadow.” Luna grabbed up the old diary from the table with her magic and floated it over. “I think I may have her identity, though I can scarcely believe it.”

“Well go on.” Her sister looked at the book. She recognized the diary she knew Luna had kept a long time ago, back before her exile to the moon.

“As you know, the High Shadow was a religious title, held by the queen of the Dark Ponies. Something the High Shadow said, that she was ‘regaining what she once lost’, stuck with me,” Luna went through the old worn pages. “Her voice was soft and a bit gentle. Remember when we visited the Empire?”

“Oh yes, that was quite a while ago, back when Queen Rabia still ruled.” Celestia frowned when she remembered the powerful Dark Pony Queen. Then she sighed deeply as she remembered the destruction of the empire. “It’s too bad we never got a chance to meet Queen Ira when she took over.”

“No, but we did meet Princess Ira. Remember how soft and gently she spoke?” Luna reminded her.

“I did, yet her eyes always shone excitement when seeing something new,” the Solar Princess chuckled. “She was so different from her mother, kind and caring. She seemed to know the entire palace staff by name, played with their children.”

Celestia stopped her reminiscing as it suddenly dawned on her what Luna was hinting at. Slowly her head turned towards Luna, once again utter disbelief and shock washed over her.

“You aren’t saying that… the High Shadow is... Ira?” the Solar Princess whispered, her eyes growing wider when Luna nodded. “But she was brutally slain when the empire was destroyed. Her body was paraded down the streets, then strung up on a spike. The Saddle Arabians bragged about it for weeks. We cut diplomatic ties with them over this. I might have mended our relationship with them after they destroyed the empire, but what they did to the population and Ira… I just could not forgive that. Not until their descendants began referring to it as their Greatest Shame. ”

“The High Shadow’s height matched Ira’s. Her voice sounded exactly the same, albeit there was a hint of bitterness now in it. Sister, I do not know how, but the Last Queen is back and she intends to resurrect her brother and regain what she lost,” Luna said firmly and showed her sister a page from her journal. It had an old rough sketch of Ira in a regal outfit. Luna had recently added to the drawing, an outline of a cloak covering her body. “She matched perfectly to the High Shadow I saw in Fillydelphia.”

“Regain what she lost…” Celestia repeated after Luna and now frowned. She rose from the couch and headed to the entrance. With a glance back she motioned for her sister to follow her.

Luna put the diary back on the table and stood up. The sisters departed the study and headed back to the throne room. The papers were still scattered around Celestia’s throne. The Sun Princess gathered them all in her magic.

“I think we will find a connection with the names on these reports,” Celestia said and showed them to the younger princess. Luna frowned and took one paper in her own magic and scanned in thoroughly.

Celestia in the meantime used her magic to summon a large book. Showing it as well to her sister, the title was, ‘The official count of the descendants of the refugees.’ Luna arched her brow, then looked at her sister quizzically.

“You remember shortly after the empire was destroyed, Dark Ponies that escaped the destruction began arriving in Equestria? They and those already here sought refuge with us. We took them in, gave them a new home. They blended in, eventually their children marrying Equestrians. Their descendants still hold the occasional gatherings, and keep accounts of their lineage, though in some cases the records are spotty,” Celestia explained and opened the book.

The Solar Princess began comparing names from the report to names in the book. Her face turned graver as she began finding them. Some names were not listed as descendants, but were married or otherwise connected to them.

“By now at least three percent of Equestrian ponies can trace their lineage to the refugees - not a big number, but still enough to have ponies all over,” Celestia whispered and then saddened when seeing Raven Inkwell’s name, not as a descendant but married to a pony that was. The princess sighed. She had officiated that marriage, remembering how happy her secretary had been that day.

“So that is where Ira gathered her followers from - approaching the descendants.” Luna frowned and took a look at the book. She spotted Barricade’s name, listed as the son of Mirage Rock and Hard Shovel. His daughters were listed as well, along with his wife.

“So it seems.” Celestia closed the book and sat down in front of her throne. “Along with all those connected to them.”

“Such a task would have taken her a long time,” Luna frowned. Of course it all depended on how long it had been since she had returned.

Princess Celestia just nodded, starting to feel weary. This whole Order of Umbrum business had turned out to be far more complex than she had initially believed. All she could do now was hope there was a message coming soon from Twilight on her progress. By how quickly Raven had disappeared, it was clear they could not prevent more Order members from vanishing. All they needed to do was hail their king and they disappeared into their own shadows.

Her thoughts turned to Ira, remembering meeting the young Dark Pony princess, so long ago. A polar opposite of her stern mother.

The Dark Pony Empire, over thousand years ago.

Princess Celestia stepped out on the balcony, it gave her a view of the sprawling city in front of the palace. To the south beyond the city walls stretched a vast desert. The princess watched the distant populace going about their business. They seemed so separated from the walled off palace. Quite unlike how it was with the Castle of the Two Sisters, it was open and welcome to the Equestrian population.

The Sun Princess wasn’t alone for long. Beside her appeared Princess Ira. The young Dark Pony mare wore regal clothes; purple cape, hoof guards made from silver and a delegate tiara. Celestia looked at her and smiled.

“I was just stepping outside for a moment to admire your capital,” she addressed Ira.

“It is pretty.” Ira nodded and smiled herself, glancing over the city for a moment before looking at Celestia. “Why are you a princess if you rule such a large nation like Equestria?”

“I do not rule alone. My sister does as well. We rule together and it never felt right to call ourselves queens,” Celestia explained. Ira furrowed her brow in confusion.

“To be honest it wasn’t even us who granted ourselves these titles. The founders of Equestria did. When it turned out Luna and I could move the sun and the moon without draining our magic, it was agreed that we would lead the new nation formed by the three tribes. They did want to call us queens, but as I said, we didn’t really feel like queens. We reached a compromise with princess,” she continued. “We would have been just as satisfied with Leaders, but Commander Hurricane and Princess Platinum were rather insistent on a more regal title. Chancellor Puddinghead was neutral on the issue.”

“I do not fully understand, but Sombra said different nations have different cultures and it is not ours to question them.” Ira shrugged and seemed to accept this explanation. Celestia chuckled.

“Your brother is a good teacher,” she mentioned, thinking about the prince.

“I think so, too. I don’t know what I would do without him,” Ira put a hoof on the stone wall of the balcony. “All these things I must learn, they are so confusing. I would much rather just play with the children, talk with my friends in the palace. There are so many things I don’t understand.”

“I’m sure you will do fine,” Celestia said and placed a hoof on the young mare’s back. “Your brother will be there to help you when the time comes. You have a kind and loving heart. I think you will be a great ruler.”

“Unlike my mother?” Ira lowered her voice. Celestia’s smile faltered a bit, recalling the previous meeting she’d had with Queen Rabia.

“Your mother has her way to rule, but that doesn’t mean it has to be your way,” the princess said in a low tone of voice. “Just remember, if your subjects love you and not just respect you, things will be much easier.”

“I want them to love me,” Ira stared over the city and smiled. “Not force them to love me, I want to earn their love. I see it sometimes in their eyes when they bow to mother, there is fear… I don’t want that.”

Celestia smiled warmly at hearing that. She was a bit amazed that such a kind and loving mare was growing up under the iron hooves of the queen, who sternly and firmly ruled the empire and guarded it from their enemies in the south. Perhaps it was the influence from her brother.

“I shall look forward to visit your Empire when it is under your leadership,” Princess Celestia told her, not knowing at the time that she never would.

Modern Times.

“Celestia?” Luna gently touched her sister, who seemed lost in thought.

“Oh, I was just, considering our situation,” Celestia said and rose up. Perhaps what she needed was some sleep. It would be time soon to lower the sun. “Sometimes I hate being only able to wait.”

Luna nodded in agreement. Celestia departed the throne room with the word that she would lower the sun soon, so the Lunar Princess went to prepare herself for her nightly duties once she had raised the moon.

The thoughts of both princesses where though on Twilight Sparkle and her friends, who right now engaged their target, not knowing that soon all six of them would be captured by the High Shadow. They did not know how close the True Return was.

End Chapter 17