• Published 22nd Sep 2016
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Princess Celestia: A Brief History - Amber Spark

Despite some serious misgivings, Sunset makes good on her promise to introduce the terrified Twilight Sparkle to Princess Celestia. Twilight probably could have handled it better.

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Stories in the Study

If it were possible, Twilight Sparkle looked even more excited than she had in the Hall of History. She was practically vibrating with what Sunset suspected was the effort to stop from darting over to the stuffed bookshelves of ancient tomes, scrolls and compendiums that lined the Princess’s study.

Celestia smiled. “Please, Twilight, be my guest. Take a look around.”

Twilight burst into motion and zipped to the closest bookshelf.

The Princess’s study was large and circular. It had the same sort of architecture Sunset had seen within her own private apartment, complete with a much smaller version of the hourglass that dominated the main floor of her own home. She wondered if it had been designed by the same pony. It wouldn’t surprise her. There was something about the architecture of much of Canterlot that seemed timeless.

I wonder if that has to do with the crafters or the fact the living embodiment of the sun makes her home here.

Most of the chamber was an expansive series of bookshelves Sunset had spent hours upon hours perusing. There were primeval mystical artifacts from forgotten civilizations, books of ancient spellwork written in Clover the Clever’s time after the founding of Equestria and even a small collection of Princess Celestia’s favorite fiction, which—as far as Sunset could see—consisted mostly of mysteries and a genre she didn’t normally read known as ‘magic fiction.’

The sun was halfway through its descent to the horizon as Celestia pulled open the doors to the balcony. The cool autumn air washed through the somewhat stuffy room. Sunset smiled and settled into her usual spot for her lessons. It just seemed natural. Besides, it gave her a good vantage point to see Twilight visibly geeking out over the compact, but potent, library Princess Celestia had sequestered away from the rest of the world.

“A first edition of Principles of Magic,” Twilight whispered as she gently brushed the book’s spine.

“Signed by the author as well,” Celestia commented as she stepped over to the tea cabinet.

“Really?” Twilight’s magic flared, and the book leaped off of the shelf. Somehow, the books around the suddenly vacant spot didn’t move an inch. The book opened, and Twilight carefully brushed through the pages.

From where she sat, Sunset saw Twilight stop at the title page to find the author’s signature. “Wow…

With the deft touch of a librarian, Twilight slid the book back. For the moment, she seemed far too lost in book heaven to be concerned about propriety or to remember that she was actually terrified of the Princess. Sunset let out a long sigh of relief. It was nice to see the borderline neurotic unicorn relax, finally in her element.

We should have met here in the first place. She would have been far more comfortable.

Philomena leaped from her perch, circled around the room, and landed beside Sunset. Sunset stroked the majestic bird, who hooted happily in response. While Celestia had many creatures under her care, Sunset had eventually taken a special liking to the phoenix, and she was happy to say the reverse was true. Maybe it was because they were both a bit snarky in their own way. Maybe it was Sunset’s special talent. Maybe it was just her coat and mane. Either way, she didn’t really care. She adored Philomena.

Even after that time Philomena had lit her tail on fire.

Come to think of it, I didn’t really think of her as a friend until after that.

Twilight was gabbling away to herself as she flitted from shelf to shelf, every few seconds gasping in wonder at some new discovery. She could have been a hummingbird using a temporal shift spell, for all the speed she showed.

A whistle announced Celestia had finished boiling a new pot of hot water for the tea, but Twilight was too lost in the books to notice. A teacup filled with her traditional Earl Grey floated over to Sunset, and she took the cup with a grateful smile. After the chill of the wind outside, the tea was simply perfect. In fact, as the wind began to pick up, Celestia apparently thought better of having the balcony door open. She closed it with a gentle nudge of her magic.

“Twilight, what kind of tea would you like?” the Princess asked.

Sunset turned to find Twilight standing stock still in front of a bookcase near the entrance of the room. Her eyes seemed to be locked onto a familiar-looking slim tome.

“Twilight?” Celestia called again.

Sunset rose to her hooves and Philomena fluttered onto her back. She came up behind the other unicorn and quickly found what had captured Twilight’s attention. She couldn’t help but laugh.

“Princess,” Sunset said. “Why do you have a copy of Princess Celestia: A Brief History?

Those words seemed to snap Twilight out of her daze and she turned to look sheepishly at the Princess.

“Oh, that book?” the Princess laughed and took a sip of her own tea. “Every decade or so, there tends to be a craze to uncover everything I’ve ever done in my time as Equestria’s monarch. Either that or my love life. Far too many ponies are obsessed with my love life.”

Twilight turned scarlet while Sunset just chuckled.

“The curse of being an immortal alicorn,” Sunset commented.

“Indeed.” Celestia smiled. “That is simply one of the latest ones. I do like to keep apprised of them.”

“Um… why, Princess?” Twilight asked.

The twinkle returned. Twilight hadn’t learned to interpret it, but Sunset had. This was the Trollestia twinkle.

“I like to know what they believe they’ve discovered, of course. All major historical events are well-documented. Indeed, the one thing that author did do correctly was to focus on those events instead of all the little rumors and speculations. Many biographers treat those as gospel.”

Celestia’s smile shifted into a smirk as she turned her attention to Sunset. “One that seems to pop up every single time is about my students actually. And every single one of them is… oh, what is the term that’s used these days? That phrase that was ever so entertaining…”

Celestia clopped her hooves together and smiled.

“Ah yes! ‘Hot for teacher!’”

Sunset should have seen it coming. She should have seen it coming a hundred miles away. But she’d been too amused by Twilight’s obsession with the study’s collection. So, of course, the reason Celestia hadn’t been able to remember the phrase off the top of her head was quite simple: she needed to wait until Sunset was drinking from her teacup.

The spray of near-scalding water stopped an inch away from Twilight as Celestia’s shield spell saved the other unicorn from yet another soaking. The golden magic condensed the water into a small ball and floated it over to an unobtrusive sink beside the tea cabinet.

All the while, Sunset was sputtering and glaring daggers at the Princess, who didn’t seem to notice. Twilight just stood stock still. Philomena let out a musical cry that sounded far too close to a giggle.

It took at least a minute for the sputtering nonsense to stop trickling from Sunset’s muzzle. Thankfully, it did stop and Sunset was left with a furious blush and an annoyed scowl. She took another gulp, quickly this time.

“I’m sorry,” Twilight asked, looking utterly befuddled. “I’m not familiar with that phrase. What does it mean?”

Not quickly enough.

This time, Sunset managed to simply half-drown herself in Earl Grey as the gulp went down the wrong pipe. Celestia’s eyes went from twinkling to positively glittering. Tartarus, they were almost glowing with suppressed mirth. Sunset was sure it was taking every ounce of the Princess’s not-inconsiderable willpower not to fall over laughing on the spot. In fact, she was proven right when it took a few moments for the Princess to get her smile under control enough to answer Twilight, since the sputtering Sunset obviously was in no state to explain.

“It’s a colloquialism,” the Princess informed Twilight in her best scholarly tone. “It refers to when a student is attracted to her teacher.”

I give her a Hearts and Hooves Day card one time when I was thirteen. Thirteen! But ever since the girls started trying to set me up, Celestia does so love bringing it up every chance she gets. Now the real question is who’s behind this: Celestia or Moon Dancer? It’s even bits on either.

“Oh!” Twilight murmured, not meeting anypony’s eyes. “Oh. I see. That’s… interesting.”

“That’s one word for it,” Sunset muttered.

“Anyway, to get back to the topic at hoof,” Celestia said, apparently deciding her torment of Sunset was over for the time being. “What kind of tea would you like?”

“Oh! Any type of decaffeinated green tea would be wonderful, Princess.”

“Decaf?” Sunset blinked. “I didn’t expect you to be a decaf green tea pony.”

“I didn’t used to be,” Twilight admitted. “But after an… incident… involving coffee and another incident involving a very large cup of Earl Grey…” Twilight cringed at the mention of each beverage. “Several individuals thought it best if I stick to the decaffeinated varieties of drinks.”

“There’s no shame in it,” Celestia said, floating over a fresh teacup. “All ponies have their vices, Twilight.”

Sunset really wanted to mention cake at that moment. However, doing so would simply encourage the Princess to open up on her once more.

Not worth it.

Finally, the Princess settled down on a large cushion across from Sunset. With her magic, she lifted another one and set it down so Twilight could join them.

“Take a cushion, Twilight.” The Princess nodded. “I’d very much like to hear that story of yours.”

Sunset was curious herself, but the Princess seemed oddly focused on this.

Twilight slowly lowered herself to the cushion and took a large gulp of tea. Her eyes were still darting around, as if she was trying to memorize every detail of Celestia’s study.

“Your Ma—Princess.” Twilight’s eyes landed on Celestia’s hooves. “If I may ask… why?”

Sunset watched the Princess carefully. Though just yesterday Celestia had praised Sunset’s ability to get a read on what was going on in the Princess’s head, Sunset knew her too well. In the maelstrom of her mind when she tried to sleep last night, she realized that Celestia had wanted her to know something was wrong when the Princess gave her Legends of Equestria. Celestia had too much experience to let her emotions slip like that.

It didn’t stop Sunset from trying anyway. And for a moment, she saw something. It was the same something she’d seen back in the garden. Again, it flashed by too quickly for her to put a hoof on.

“A cutie mark is a symbol of one’s special talent. I enjoy knowing as much as I can about all my little ponies. And anypony who’s made such an impact on my faithful student must be a very special pony indeed.”

That was a dodge. A great dodge. A brilliant dodge, but still a dodge. I don’t have a shot in Tartarus at getting the truth out of her.

You never will, the angry little voice from the depths of her mind shouted.

Seriously! Shut. The. Buck. Up.

The truth hurts, doesn’t it?

Sunset managed to not pound her own head in a desperate attempt to get at that stupid, horrible, insufferable angry little pony inside of her.

“Well, I still don’t think it’s that special,” Twilight admitted. Another gulp of tea. Before she could ask, the Princess levitated the teapot over and refilled Twilight’s cup with a small smile. “But if you’re really that interested, Princess…”

“I am. I’m quite sure Sunset here would like to know as well.”

Sunset blinked as both Twilight and Celestia looked to her.

“Uh… sorry, my mind wandered for a bit.” Sunset quickly replayed the last few words in her head. “Of course I would.”

“Well, okay.” Twilight took a deep breath and adjusted her glasses. “Well, remember how I mentioned at the end of my first year, Professor Inkwell decided to pull me aside at the end of the term?”

Sunset nodded.

“Apparently, Professor Inkwell had seen me spending most of my time in the library after…” Twilight rubbed the back of her mane and fiddled with her bangs. “After… uh… after I ended up losing…”

Sunset nodded again, but winced this time. Celestia nodded as well, sparing Twilight the discomfort of having to retell that particular part of the story.

“Professor Inkwell had an old friend who needed some help, a pony by the name of Summer Mane.”

“Summer Mane, you say?” Princess Celestia perked up at the name. Sunset thought she recognized it too, but couldn’t quite place it. “Please, do go on.”

“Well, apparently, she fell and broke one of her legs. The Professor had said that Summer Mane was a bit of a klutz.” Twilight giggled.

“Gee, anypony else we know who might get called something like that?” Sunset smirked at Twilight, who turned red and quickly continued her tale.

“She couldn’t get around like she normally did, and she had been placed in charge of the South Archives. She needed somepony to help her out for a few days. Because of what she’d seen in the library, Professor Inkwell thought I’d be a good candidate to help her.”

Twilight winced and sighed.

“I gather she did not take the offer of assistance very well?” Celestia inquired.

“Um…” Twilight’s smile was awkward beyond measure. “Not really. Slammed the door in my face. Twice. Wouldn’t even let me through.”

“So how’d you get inside?”

Twilight rubbed the back of her mane so vigorously, her bun came out. She took a few seconds to fix it with her magic.

“I told her the Head Archivist said that if she didn’t let me in, the next pony he sent would be her replacement.”

Sunset grinned. “You blackmailed her! Wow, Twilight, I didn’t know you had that level of sneakiness in you! That’s almost devious.”

“It is not! I was just trying to do what Professor Inkwell had ordered me to do! She told me I would be interning there. Though, I’ve always thought it odd that she would send a first-year student to do it.”

“Professor Inkwell’s methodologies are often seen as somewhat eccentric by much of the faculty,” Princess Celestia said. “However, long ago I learned to trust her judgement. She’s earned it.”

Celestia sounded so fervent, Sunset couldn’t help but ask. “Princess? What is the story behind Professor Inkwell?”

“That is a story for another time,” Celestia said with a smile. “Right now, we’re listening to Twilight’s story.”

“Oh!” Twilight murmured. “Right. Well, she gave me a quick tour, complete with a particular mention not to ever, ever, ever enter her private office. Ever.”

“I assume she was rather emphatic,” Celestia commented dryly.

“Yes, Princess.” Twilight’s awkward grin got a bit more awkward. “Very.”

Sunset suspected Twilight wasn’t telling the half of it.

“She wasn’t really happy about having some little filly helping her. Refused to get my name right. She seemed to take everything I did as something wrong, especially after I told her about my favorite author, Jade Singer. Most of my responsibilities were sorting the massive collection. It was a big job, but… I loved it. There was a guest room there I got to stay in, so I got to actually live in a library! It was like my own little heaven!”

Sunset giggled at Twilight’s starry-eyed expression.

Odd about Jade Singer though. Everypony I’ve ever met loved her books.

“Eventually, she started to warm up. We started talking authors, writing techniques, library methodologies. She caught me lost in a few books more times than I could count. I thought maybe I had found a new friend. Maybe even a mentor! After… what happened earlier that year, it was something I really wanted to happen. Even if I had to suffer through that horrible, horrible swing music. And then…”

Twilight suddenly stopped talking and stared at her cup of tea. Sunset didn’t push and Celestia didn’t seem inclined to do so either.

“She went out one day to get groceries.” Twilight took a gulp of tea, finishing it off, only to have Celestia refill it a few moments later. “Left the door to her office open. I decided there was no harm in taking a peek. The office was… gorgeous. An old Lipponzoner typewriter. Beautiful dark wood writing desk. Awards all over the walls.”

“You sound like a love-struck filly.” Sunset giggled at Twilight’s happy sigh and dreamy expression.

“It was wonderful!” Twilight protested. “It’s the perfect little writer’s haven!”

“Sunset, please let Twilight continue.”

Sunset’s smirk didn’t go away, despite Twilight’s glare.

“Well… she… um…” Twilight’s happiness vanished in a flash. “She’d forgotten her grocery list. Caught me peeking in the office. She was… peeved, to say the least.”

Celestia smiled wryly, but Twilight didn’t seem to notice.

“Summer Mane refused to talk to me for the rest of the evening. At the end of dinner, she told me I was leaving the next day.”

“That seems harsh. All you did was look!” Sunset protested, but Celestia raised a hoof.

Twilight hadn’t even noticed the interruption.

“That night, I couldn’t sleep. I was so upset I headed into the library and started sorting. Before I knew it, books were flying by me. I didn’t even need to think to know where a book went. It was like my magic was working on its own. I remember thinking I was in a tornado of books, but I knew what every single one was. It was… amazing.”

Sunset didn’t dare speak. Twilight was staring at something beyond either Sunset or Celestia at this point, back to her memories and that whirlwind of books. Lost in the moment, she plowed onward.

“Summer Mane found me in the middle of the library the next morning, passed out. Every book in the entire South Archive had been shelved, sorted and even catalogued properly. She was shocked to say the least. But she was even more shocked to find that the blank-flanked filly she’d given the silent treatment to last night now had her cutie mark.”

Twilight turned and looked at the floating book emblazoned on her flank. Taking a closer look, Sunset recognized it. It looks a great deal like Legends of Equestria with a brown background and a stylized unicorn bust on the cover.

“Something changed in Summer Mane’s expression. I… I still don’t know why, but she sat down next to me—well, as best as she could with her leg brace—and smiled. She told me what I’d already known the moment I saw the typewriter. I had suspected it with her glasses and that awful swing music. She told me she was actually Jade Singer.”

“Wait, what?” Sunset gaped. “You mean the author of the great Equestrian novel Canter in the Sky had been hiding in the South Archives ever since she vanished?”

Twilight nodded. “Yeah.”

Why?” Sunset demanded. “There has to be a reason! And why didn’t you call her out on it earlier?”

A little spark appeared in Twilight’s eyes. “Well, I’m getting to that!”

Sunset laughed. “Okay, okay, sorry!”

Anyway,” Twilight continued with a faint glower at Sunset. “I told her how I figured it out and she just gaped at me. She asked the same question you did and I answered her. She seemed like she wanted to be hidden for a reason. I wanted to respect that. She was my favorite author after all.”

“An honorable intention.” Princess Celestia nodded in approval. “Well done, Twilight.”

The other unicorn ducked her head and blushed furiously. “I… um… just did what I thought was right.”

Celestia just smiled like only she could smile and motioned for Twilight to continue once more.

“That’s when she told me the truth,” Twilight admitted. “When she had first published Canter in the Sky, it was a big hit, so big she couldn’t handle it. It terrified her. The idea of trying to live up to that a second time… well, like I said, she couldn’t handle it.”

Sunset swallowed.

If I had reacted like that instead of being so full of myself when Princess Celestia picked me… where would I be now?

“I told her that I understood.”

“How?” Sunset demanded. “How could you understand something like that?”

“Sunset...” Celestia admonished.

She realized how it had sounded and quickly backpedaled. “I didn’t mean it like that! I’m just… after what you told me last night, that was something I didn’t think you’d have much experience in. I… well, I sorta do.”

“You’re right. I didn’t have much experience with it.” Twilight nodded. “But Professor Inkwell had put me there for a reason. And it wasn’t just for Jade Singer. All throughout that year, I had been trying to push myself and prove myself as worthy of being in the school. When I failed the third exam—I didn’t know the egg was some crazy scheme hatched by the teachers—”

Sunset snorted and even Celestia smiled. It took Twilight a moment to catch what she had just said. She smiled sheepishly, but Sunset had a sneaking suspicion Twilight wanted to stick her tongue out at her.

“Pun not intended!” Twilight sighed. “Well, I’d been killing myself, despite the praise I was getting from my professors. It was never good enough. I never felt like I deserved it. I had to live up to somepony else’s reputation.”

“Somepony else… you mean me?” Sunset gaped.

Twilight nodded. “You were the gold standard.”

“She is more of a red and gold.” Celestia intoned.

Both unicorns stared at the Princess, who held their gaze for a moment or two before cracking a small smile.

Sunset rolled her eyes.

Twilight took the hint. “I knew what it was like to have an impossible standard to live up to. Even if it wasn’t my own.” She tapped her teacup for a moment before taking another drink. “I guess when I say it like that it doesn’t seem so similar. It seemed close at the time. But Jade Singer seemed to get it.”

“How’d she react?”

“She asked how I dealt with that kind of pressure.” Twilight continued her staring war with the teacup. “I told her I hadn’t figured that part out yet. I had thought… maybe it would have been friends. But I didn’t really have any anymore.”

Guilt: Four billion and six. Sunset: Zero.

Sunset ignored the comment.

“Then…” Twilight choked for a moment. “Then she moved a little closer to me and said, ‘Well, I’m not sure if you’d want a crotchety old mare as a friend, but you can have one if you want to, kid.’”

Twilight finally looked up and there were tears in her eyes. “It was the first time somepony actually reached out to me and offered. I may have jumped up and hugged her at that point… and immediately crashed against a bookshelf and dumped the entire self-help section down on our heads.”

“‘May have?’” Sunset inquired with a cocked eyebrow.

“Okay! Fine!” Twilight huffed. “And a few books from the dreams and mysteries section, too.”

Sunset burst out laughing while Celestia once again simply smiled. Sunset could never understand why a simple smile from Celestia could give the impression that the sun itself was laughing.

“We’ve been writing to one another ever since,” Twilight admitted. “I even got an early draft of Re-Cant.”

“You didn’t.” Sunset grinned like a lunatic. “Okay, you need to show that to me. Before Moon Dancer. So I have something to hold over her head!”

“Um… okay?”

“Oooh…” Sunset’s smile only widened and she rubbed her hooves together. “This is going to be great.”

“So you were the filly Jade spoke of,” Celestia commented as she rose and headed back toward the tea cabinet.

“Princess?” Twilight asked. “What do you mean?”

“Years ago, Jade Singer was a mutual friend of Professor Inkwell and I,” Celestia admitted as she refilled the teapot with hot water. “But her own fear combined with her fame drove her away from the public… and from me. The last time we had spoken before your encounter with her, it had been for her to be placed in charge of the small South Archives so she could ‘hide.’”

Twilight was staring open-mouthed at the Princess of the Sun.

“Professor Inkwell had tried numerous times to get her to come out of her self-imposed exile. While I knew Professor Inkwell was responsible, and Jade Singer told me about the filly who helped her, I hadn’t realized it was you. I apologize I didn’t make that connection earlier.”

“That’s why you were staring at her when she first showed up!” Sunset said. “I kept thinking you had an odd expression on your face. It was recognition!”

Celestia stiffened and her magic faltered just enough for some tea to slosh out of the cup she was filling. It was gone in a moment, replaced with a small laugh.

“It seems I was right about you, Sunset,” Celestia said as she turned back to face the two unicorns. “You are getting better at reading me.”

Sunset beamed at her.

“It looks like I owe you my thanks, Twilight,” Celestia said as she sat down once more. “Not only did you bring her wonderful talent back to the world, but you also returned a friend to me.”

Twilight’s ears went back with the power of her blush. “I just… I um…”

Sunset leaned over and whispered in Twilight’s folded ear. “Just say thank you.”

“Thank you?” Twilight squeaked.

Celestia’s smile could have replaced the sun for a day.

“Wait a minute!” Sunset protested. “You lied to her! She had to find out she wasn’t being replaced. What happened when she found out?”

“Oh, she asked about that after reshelving all the books… again.” Twilight smiled. “Told her I’d made it up. I thought she was going to be so mad.”

“And…?” Sunset prompted.

“She burst out laughing. Told me that’s how she got her first job as an assistant editor.”

Sunset laughed right along with Twilight. Even Celestia joined in with a little chuckle.

“Well, Twilight,” Celestia said. “Thank you for sharing that with us. It looks like in earning your mark, you did Equestria a great service by returning the ‘prodigal author’ home.”

“I… ah…” Twilight apparently decided to fall back on Sunset’s advice. “Thank you?”

“Now, I believe there is one more matter to discuss, but it is later than I expected. It’s time for me to lower the sun and raise the moon. Why don’t the two of you join me in the Royal Observatory?”

Philomena’s head peeked up from behind her wing. She’d fallen asleep on Sunset’s back during Twilight’s story. Celestia smiled at the bird and stood.

“You can stay here, Philomena. You’re too distracting today anyway.”

The bird let out a hoot of amusement before leaping into the air and landing on her perch against the side of the room, right next to a bowl of water.

“Come, my little ponies. Twilight, I think you may enjoy seeing this.”

With that, she opened the door with her magic and stepped back out into the hallway. Twilight stared at her as Sunset rose and stretched her legs.

“So… you coming or what?” Sunset asked.

“Oh!” Twilight squeaked and stumbled to her feet. She made it three steps before she fell over.

“Um… I think my leg’s asleep.”

Sunset laughed and went to help her up.

Author's Note:

Ooh, been waiting for this. If you take a careful look at the cover design for the story, you'll see Twilight's mark opposite from Sunset's, flanking the title. Yes, indeed! She does have a different mark! Don't worry, I realize the implications of this.

Not only that, but there are others who do as well.

Secondly, yes, if Twilight's story with Jade Singer sounds familiar, it should! It's a re-telling of the MLP:FiM Micro Comic #1 with Twilight Sparkle! You'll hear more about it in the Retrospective at the end of the story.

Only one more chapter to go. I hope you're ready!

If you come across any errors, please let me know by PM!