• Published 22nd Jul 2012
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A Dream of Dawn - Starsong



What if Luna won against Twilight? What happens when Discord comes back?

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Family Lines

Rarity

On many occasion, Discord's absence could be felt in the palace like the hush after a wave had broken. Even so, Rarity could hardly keep her decorum as she strolled to the dining hall. What is that Blueblood thinking? The more of us there are, the more likely we are to get caught.

Yet it would do her no good to protest, at least in her chambers. She went through the twisted halls as she had through Celestia's, and Luna's, and now Discord's. Though alone, she was not without allies. Ember and Shadowgloam served as her silent sentinels, and occasional muscle. Her newest companion, the pegasus Snowflake, was already keeping her eyes on the prince.

No less than a hundred ponies met in the golden halls of Canterlot, standing amidst transformed tables and upended chairs. Vandalized statues stood in ruin, princesses with garish faces and extra appendages, paintings of the garden twisted to surreal landscapes that leaked from the canvas and melted across tile and stone. More remnants of Discord's wanton affection for design. But there was still room for all who came, and many answered the call. Rarity worried her way to the front, through guard and serving pony alike, until she had a clear view of the prince upon the dais.

Prince Blueblood stepped to the height of the platform and a hush came over the throng. “It is with great pleasure that I welcome you to our halls. As free ponies of Equestria.” His words evoked a rumble of stomping hooves on the ground. He lifted his own and bade them quiet again. “Ponies loyal to the crown that has protected them for generations.”

Rarity sucked in a breath. He was making his move for the throne, and what better time? He would have difficulty prying rule from another pony, but there were those who would choose him before the chaotic beast that controlled Equestria now.

“And now a stranger claims to usurp that crown from the royal family. This, we cannot abide!” He brought his hoof down upon the dais with force. “Discord has no right to rule us. I join you in lamenting the loss of our princesses, but we must press on for the sake of the kingdom.”

A great wave of whispers answered, and Blueblood did not hear it. Rarity was not alone in feeling the prince's intent, and he could not see what she could. The royal courtiers and soldiers had spent years wearing a straight face and obeying the crown. But she could catch it in glances, conspiratorial whispers between friends. What's more, she knew the ponies better. Many considered Discord's loose dominion over the sun and moon to be proof enough for his rule, and his arrival a saving grace. More still would settle for only the return of Celestia, and some simply could not bear the thought of returning to the old ways. But Blueblood did not see this.

“My line to the royal family is direct. As the sole inheritor of the crown, I intend to guide this kingdom on a path to glory and fruition, as it was beneath the unicorns of old.”

Amidst another round of applause and salutes, Rarity broke the line and climbed the dais with grace and purpose. “Your grace, I must protest,” she declared. “It is no mere pony you seek rebellion against, but a spirit whose power is on a level matched only by our true princesses. Would you endanger your kingdom just for a seat of power?”

Half a dozen of the royal guard turned their attention to Rarity, held back only by the stray hoof of Prince Blueblood. If he set them upon her without rebuttal, her silence would only bolster her objection. “I understand your fear, my lady,” he said, the conversation loud enough for the hall to hear. “But if we are to bend to the will of every beast who claims divine right, we will have no hope at all. The unicorns once raised the sun and the moon of their own volition, and I believe we have power enough to return Discord from whence he came. We must believe in our own strength.”

Rarity smiled, a cordial invitation to discourse, when in her heart all she could envision was Blueblood stepping aside to let the country fall into darkness. “The kingdom is in disrepair and our ruler missing. We must retain the throne until her return, not sunder it for the sake of pride.”

A hint of wrinkle formed over Blueblood's brow and his hoof lifted. “The last time Canterlot lost a princess, it was a thousand years until her return. Your loyalty is admirable, but we cannot sacrifice even one generation in hesitance.”

Were you fit to rule, you may have a point, thought Rarity. But it cannot be you. You would take your glory on the blood of every pony. Still, she tossed her mane and smiled. She did not have to win the entire crowd—only make them question the legitimacy of Blueblood's claims. The division alone would suffice. “Princess Celestia has never faltered. But if you wish to press the matter, I suggest we take it to council for a formal decision.”

“I think you'll find that the council will only affirm my divine right. An authority neither they, or you, can supercede."

The prince's words became short and laced with vitriol. Keeping up appearances would do Rarity good, but she could not resist her anger towards him. "And I think the council, and everypony, would be ill thought to give sovereignty to the prince who bends at the first sight of Nightmare Moon."

The prince's face turned red. For a moment he seemed to forget that he stood before an audience and stamped. His raised hoof slammed down. Two armored pegasi braced Rarity's shoulders with their wings and prepared to usher her away as Blueblood spoke. "You forget yourself. Only those of noble blood can undertake the burden of caring for the lesser ponies, let alone speak for them. Do well to remember that when Equestria is once again safe under my command. You are excused.”

The guards pushed her down off of the stage and walked her towards the back of the hall. It set the crowd murmuring again and this time even the voice of the prince did not soothe them entirely. He continued to speak and Rarity paid him little mind. Though he'd gotten the upper hoof, she knew that he would lack the support he needed to throw himself against Discord—and amusing as that would have been, she dreaded to ponder what would become of the ponies that followed him.

“Our time has grown short, but rest assured, we will be making preparations to deal with the usurper,” said Blueblood. “Continue your lives as you will and I will call for you when the time is ripe. For now, know in your hearts that the true and rightful ruler of Equestria is with you and will protect you from harm.”

For duty or true inspiration, everypony stomped. Blueblood was right about one thing: Discord would probably be back at any minute, and it would be too suspicious to meet in such a number. As ponies scattered this way or that, Ember, Shadowgloam, and Snowflake all joined Rarity as she walked into the garden.

“Does he really think he can just take the throne?” sighed Ember. “It was bad enough when the old guard fractured. Even a fully united force would probably be no match for Discord, but this will just tear the castle apart.”

Rarity pat him on the shoulder and smiled. “Of course he thinks so, and we aren't going to let that happen. I'm more concerned for your fellow guardsmen. I want you and your brother to speak to as many as you can in private. If you cannot sway them from Blueblood, at least try to remind them of their sworn duty to the princess and her kingdom. If they know we do not want to fight, then they will not answer Blueblood should he call for them.”

“Good in theory.” Shadowgloam scuffed the grass. “But anypony could be listening.”

“Then just be subtle about it,” she laughed. “I cannot take care of the entire castle myself.”

Snowflake twitched a wing. “Aren't we trotting on thin ice? Most of our commissions came from Nightmare Moon. There are some who consider that reason enough for our exile.”

"We all faced extenuating circumstances during her rule," said Rarity. "Most shared our fate. We will have their sympathy."

"At least until they forget." Snowflake sighed.

They circled the hedges to the quiet part of the garden. Conspiracies used to be born there, Rarity imagined, amidst the shadows of sculpted ponies and flowers. Now the courtyard was so pocketed with holes and peaks that it was more of a chore to travel than anything. While once it boasted exotic flowers of color and grace, now plants of every type and shade--including ones that had no business growing anywhere near equestria--sprung at random intervals from the ground. Thistle, dandelion, poison joke. She could probably find every specimen in that garden if she looked long enough, and by the time she had, the rest would have changed or vanished.

A patch of silver leafed clover caught her eye and she drew her company over to graze. As they lowered their heads, she used her magic to produce a parchment and began to script out a list of names. “Snowflake. I want you to find these ponies. Bring them safely to Canterlot and put them up in one of the eastern towers. Use the treasury for expenses.”

Snowflake frowned. “That's a tall order. What authority do you have to act for Canterlot?”

Again Rarity laughed and produced a small document, signed and sealed by Nightmare Moon. “Authority in the court and the treasury granted to me by royalty. True royalty. Whatever Nightmare Moon was, her authority was still legitimate. And I'd like to make use of that before Blueblood catches wind of what we're up to.”

The pegasus stretched her wings, and flitted them. The idea seemed to please her, and she was nowhere near as good at hiding it as Rarity. “Okay, boss, but how am I going to find all these ponies? I don't recognize any of these names. Heartstrings? Turner?”

Rarity rubbed her chin. The chaos of the last few months had sent many-a-pony scattered across the countryside, separated from friends and family and many sense of where they were.

There was, though, one pony who could untangle the whole mess of who's and where's and find anyone in a pinch.

“There is one pony who can. Start with her, and she will help you with the rest.” She delicately recovered the parchment and added one name to the list. “Admittedly she can be a bit strange, but she's a real gem. One of a kind. And she'll have everything you need. As a matter of fact, I'd be surprised if you didn't know her yourself.”

Snowflake looked at the document as it floated back in front of her and tilted her head. “You mean...”

“Yes,” said Rarity. “Pinkamina Dianne Pie.”

Pinkie Pie

The checkerboard-painted ground bent like rubber beneath Pinkie's hooves as she bounded towards Ponyville's market square with a yellow earth pony named Lemon Grass in tow.

“I think my favorite thing is the way the ground bounces when you walk,” said Pinkie, springing another step. “Or maybe it's the clouds that dispense lemonade. Oh! Sometimes the flowers sing. It's a little weird at first, but you get used to it.”

The yellow filly's ears laid back and she stumbled a step before catching her balance again. “Are you sure you know where my brother is?”

“Uh huh!” Pinkie Pie bobbed her head. “Mrs. Cake heard from Big Red that Cocoa Bean passed through Fillydelphia and ran into Clover, and since Clover runs with the sheep herders I knew that your brother wouldn't be too far. I sent a few letters and talked to a few ponies and bizzam!”

The two rounded a house that conspicuously resembled shortbread and Pinkie pointed out a larger brown colt standing next to the well. As soon as they came into sight, he bounded over and hugged the little filly tight.

“Lemon Grass!” he rubbed his snout on hers. “Thank goodness you're okay!”

“I missed you so much, brother,” sniffed the filly. “How are mom and dad? And the sheep? And everything must be so different...”

“We'll catch up on it later.” The colt nodded to Pinkie Pie. “Thank you so much for helping us. I can't pay you or anything. I mean, I would, but...”

“It's alright.” Pinkie wiped a tear from her eye. “Just seeing you two happy again... ahh...”

“I really can't.” The colt laughed and tossed a couple of bits on the ground. “Take a look.”

Pinkie squinted down at the bits which, upon closer inspection, were coins of chocolate wrapped in golden colored wrappers. She scooped them up and grinned. “Actually, that'll be just fine!”

“I can't make heads or tails of what's going on around here anymore,” said the colt, “but at least I've got Lemon back. I'll make sure she gets back to the fields alright. And if there's anything we can ever do for you...”

“Just keep me in the loop. I need to know where everypony is to straighten this whole mess out.” She unwrapped a chocolate and stuffed it into her mouth.

“Thank you again, miss Pie!” said the little filly.

Pinkie smiled and nodded, and bounded away. That's one more happy reunion down! Hundreds and hundreds of ponies to go... she sighed and made a mark on her mental checklist, which she would have to remember to actually mark once she got home. Nightmare Moon had seen so many families scattered across Equestria in her brief time in charge, and many still did not know where to find one another. Of course, then it occurred to her that she knew just about everypony there was to know, and that she had a solemn duty to bring them all back together!

If only I could throw a party and bring them all together at once, she thought, and sighed. It would take too long to get them all in one place, and then who knows what would happen? Still, maybe just for the Ponyville ponies...

Her world came spiraling back into place when she nearly bowled over Mrs. Cake in front of the store. The older mare raised a hoof and gently urged her to rest on the ground.

“You look like you're in a good mood,” she said.

“Of course!” Pinkie puffed up her chest like a balloon. “It's always good to see somepony smile. So... have you got the buns in the oven?”

Mrs. Cake blushed and looked about the storefront. “Excuse me?”

“The honey buns! For the sale today.” Pinkie puffed up a bit and giggled. “You told me to remind you that they got in this afternoon.”

“Ah,” the mare sighed in relief, brushing her hair back between her ears. “Of course, thank you dear. I'll get right on that...”

“Come to think of it, doesn't Mr. Cake keep calling you that? You're not a honey bun, or two, or even three! You're all sweet but you're not sticky, either...”

The blue mare cleared her throat. “Before I forget, somepony was looking for you inside. Maybe it's one of your friends? It sounded awful important, so you'd better not keep them waiting.” Mrs. Cake managed another laugh and pushed her way past the pink filly.

I wonder why she's seemed so nervous lately? Pinkie Pie wondered. Oh, maybe it's this strange pony...

Snowflake sat at one of the dining booths in the shop, hesitantly nursing a cup of hot cocoa. When she saw Pinkie, she dropped the straw from her mouth and waved a hoof.

“You're Pinkie Pie, right?” asked the pegasus, glancing down at her cutiemark and back up. “You must be. I'm--”

“Snowflake, right?” Pinkie laughed and bounded over. “We met at Rainbow Dash's party about... four years back. Remember? I remember it like it was yesterday! That's absurd because it was four years ago, but you were so hyper. And that thing you did with the punch bowl...”

The pegasus' wings began to creep slowly upward until she set her cup down with force. “Pinkie, yes. I'm sorry. A lot has happened since then...” she shook her head. “No, that's not important. I need you to find some ponies for me.”

“Oh, I would love to!” Pinkie nodded. “When I can, I mean. I have to find so many ponies that I barely have time to work the bakery anymore, and....” Pinkie stared in awe as the pegasus pushed a perfect parchment across the table. She recognized the writing immediately. “Rarity wrote this, didn't she?”

Snowflake nodded. “She said it was really important.”

The list contained a couple dozen ponies, well known to most, at least before the disaster. To the average eye it was just a scramble of Equestrian citizens. Performers, artists, magicians, the occasional pony of influence. But Pinkie had known most of them and they were nothing short of remarkable.

“Speed is of the essence,” Snowflake continued. “Speed and secrecy. I know that you probably aren't used to, erm, keeping quiet...”

Pinkie Pie shook her head. “I understand. This is an important secret between old, bestest friends! I swear I'll keep it.” She gestured across her chest and wiggled her hoof. “Cross my heart and hope to fly, stick a cupcake in my eye.”

The soft press of her pink hoof against her face made Snowfall smile a little. “Okay,” said the pegasus. “I believe in you. But we must find these ponies before anyone else does.”

“You can count on me.” Pinkie gave a little salute.

The pegasus nodded. Her business complete, she only stayed long enough to chug the rest of her cocoa. “Then I'll leave it to you. I have other responsibilities to attend to, Pinkie, but should you need anything at all, you can find us at Canterlot.”

Then the door chimed and before Pinkie knew it, she was gone into the blue of day. Pinkie scooped up the empty mug and studied the letter from Rarity. A few of the ponies she already knew, and could access easily. Rarity even included permission for her to bill the royal treasury. There was one name that stuck out to her, though.

Shining Armor. She'd chased the name after Nightmare Moon had taken over. It'd been her personal mission to make sure that her friends didn't lose their family. But this stallion proved especially difficult to keep track of. He moved frequently, further and further towards the frontier, and everypony around him seemed to be taking efforts to obscure his presence. Not him, but some secret so close she could taste it.

The taste was just the inside of the mug she licked clean of chocolate foam, but her curiosity remained insatiable. She would find the ponies of Ponyville first, and then she would discover what exactly Twilight's brother was hiding.