• Published 17th Mar 2017
  • 7,014 Views, 114 Comments

A Canterlot 'Mending - River Road



Stripped of her place as best mare at her brother's wedding, Twilight comes across her old friends from Canterlot.

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Bargain

‘Who are you and how did you get my journal?’

I yelp and almost drop the book. Finding the journal of somepony else with apparently close connections to Princess Celestia was a surprise. Suddenly finding that pony addressing me would’ve been a shock. Seeing their words just appear on the blank page of the journal I’d been making notes in quite frankly scared the manure out of me.

‘I… I’m sorry? I didn’t know that this journal was enchanted.’ I look my own writing over and blush. Something about the change in situation makes me instinctively write the way I would talk, instead of the calm and somewhat analytical writing I normally employ in my own notes.

‘Well, now you know.’

I wait for a bit, but apparently that’s all she has to say. Still, the last day has shown me to reach out to ponies, not just the few friends I somehow managed to make already.

‘My name is Twilight Sparkle. What’s yours?’ Stars, did I just sound like an annoying little filly on the playground? The lack of inflection in this strange type of conversation really makes it hard to sound cool.

‘I’m Sunset Shimmer’

That’s it. She doesn’t even bother with punctuation anymore. Still, I want to at least make one more attempt to reach out to her.

‘Uhm… that’s a nice name?’ One desperate attempt, it seems. What’s next Twilight, ‘I really like your mane’?

The pony on the other end is quiet for long enough that I just give up and close the book. Which makes me yelp and actually drop the book as it starts to flash, buzz and vibrate like a giant drunk firefly. It hits the table and opens to just the right page, because of course it does.

‘You’ve really never heard of me?’

‘I’m afraid this is the first time I hear your name. I’m sorry?’ That actually makes me wonder. If this Sunset Shimmer is important enough to have her journal placed in the Starswirl Wing and is still alive, even, why has Celestia never mentioned her before?

Two hours and several pages later I know all about how Celestia is a complacent, egocentric know-it-all who railroads and stifles her students and denies them what they deserve. I can’t say that I agree with her but after my recent experiences I can’t completely disagree with her either. 'Stop believing in those old stories, Twilight. It’s not like I have a maddened sister bent on world domination, and if I did I’m sure these ancient artifacts will accept the deep bonds you’ve made with some ponies you met less than 24 hours ago.' It sounds incredibly petty thinking about it like that, yet if anything had gone just a little differently I might be dead now.

One way or another, I make friends with Sunset Shimmer rather easily. We’re both prodigious magic students on a mission and technically my mission is also driven by revenge. And as much as she tries to act like a cold arrogant jerk, I can tell that she desperately craves this voice from home. I can’t even imagine living in a world without magic, much less for over two years.

I keep her updated as we find out more about changelings, including her in the brainstorming sessions, though I do my best to keep her more abrasive nature from my friends. And it’s good that I did include her.

‘Do you trust me?’

‘As much as I have ever trusted a book.’ To my friends from Ponyville it would probably sound like a joke, but I think that Sunset is similar enough to myself to see what level of trust is really implied here.

‘This idea if yours is not going to work. Even if you manage to get to the changeling queen, how do you expect to have any chance of fighting her?’

‘...I'm sure I'll figure something out. She has to have some weakness.’ I grimace at seeing my complete lack of a plan on paper.

‘She's going to kill you, Twilight. It's a fight to the death, for heaven's sake! You're not going to survive this fight and then what are you going to do?’

I wilt and look away, ears drooping. It's really not fun to have the flaws in your plan spelled out like that. Literally spelled out. You can try to ignore somepony telling you about them, but these messages don't just magically disappear if you read them.

‘...I might have a way you could stand a chance against her, maybe.’ Sunset is quiet for a moment then continues. ‘You can't tell any of the others about this. And I can't believe I'm saying this, but that's for their sake, not mine.’

I frown slightly. I do trust her, but I also trust my other friends… ‘It'll depend on what you're going to tell me.’

‘What do you know about alicorn ascension?’

I blink and involuntarily tilt my head in confusion. ‘Alicorn ascension? That's the first time I ever hear about something like that.’

There's a pause, long enough to make it feel awkward. Welcome back to the Twilight Zone, in today's episode we'll say something stupid to an interdimensional alien in a magic book, apparently.

‘What did you think where Princess Cadence came from?’

I lift my quill. I drop my quill. I feel stupid for a bit, then write. ‘Princess Cadence was turned into an alicorn?!?’

‘Well, she's certainly not Celestia's secret love child.’

I feel like I'll need stronger tea if I want to make it through the rest of this conversation. Particularly since the last of my current cup went flying across the table in a rather impressive spit-take. Only my magic and well-honed librarian reflexes save Moondancer and her own stack of books and notes.

I thank Lemon Hearts for the refilling my cup, then take the teapot from her and down the entire contents, soggy tea leaves and all. Then I ask if she can make a stronger batch, please.

I look back down to see that Sunset has taken the time to write down some more of what she knows, like how Cadence used to be a pegasus from a small village by the coast. Things her former foalsittee and future sister-in-law didn't know. Things her prospective husband probably didn't know, though whether that's because she didn't tell him or he just forgot is equally possible. He tends to forget small details like that, or like letting his close family know he is getting married.

Focus, Twilight. Conversation now, kicking your stupid brother later. ‘How do you know all that?’

‘Because I don't just take no for an answer, and if I do I want to know all the facts. Celestia is acting all nice and sunny, but she's really just holding everypony back to keep them in their shadow. Bet you that even Cadence wouldn't be an alicorn if not for the fact that she was completely under the old mare's radar until it was too late.’

I frown slightly, but hearing things like that about my mentor really doesn’t faze me as much as it should, anymore. Partially because I’d been hearing stuff like that from Sunset for over two days now, partially because after the week I had I’ve pretty much run out of panic attacks to have.

But still, it’s not like Celestia is trying to keep everypony down and in her shadow like Sunset says. Sunset, the Princess’ personal student who I’d never even heard about until a few days ago. Or Cadence, who is an alicorn Princess but spends her time as a foalsitter and occasional ambassador to countries that are either small and inconsequential or already on good terms with Equestria. Oh yeah, and then there’s Princess Luna who literally went insane from having her spotlight constantly stolen by her sister.

I really hope Sunset or Cadence won’t turn into a she-demon corrupted by dark magic trying to kill me.

No, Sunset wouldn’t do something like that.

‘Anyway, I’m basically gonna need you to die.’

My eye twitches. I may get rid of my panic attacks someday, but this eye tic will stay with me until the day I die. Possibly some time beyond that. Hopefully some time beyond that, should I actually consider Sunset’s plan.

‘Please…’ I take a deep breath. ‘elaborate.’

‘Okay, so you know about Starswirl the Bearded, yes?’

I give a calm and collected answer that’s totally not three pages of fanfilly gushing over the greatest unicorn wizard of all times.

‘…I’ll take that as a yes. What you probably don’t know is that he was actually studying alicorn ascension at one point in his life, along with the Elements of Harmony. I found one of his old journals hidden in the forbidden wing of the library. Apparently he figured that if anything can make ponies ascend, it would be those powerful magical artifacts tied to Harmony itself.’

My eyes widen slightly and I lean closer to the book, not wanting to miss a single word of this lesson, even though the words wouldn’t be going anywhere. You never know. It’s a magical history lesson about Starswirl!

‘It’s not just a spell he never managed to complete. It’s the one spell he never managed to complete, or at least as far as I know.’ She pauses a moment and I can practically hear the smugness through the pages. ‘Now guess who got two thumbs and figured it out?’

‘You got thumbs? No, wait, priorities. You figured out a spell even Starswirl didn’t?!’ I don’t want to sound as incredulous as I probably do, but… just… that!

‘Well, not the spell exactly. I’m not sure there even is one. I figured out where he went off on wrong assumptions though.’ Another pause. ‘Or at least that’s my own assumptions. It’s not like I had the time or the means to test it before I jumped universes.’

I narrow my eyes and smirk. ‘So that’s your evil plan. You’re just looking for some innocent, naïve and incredibly powerful filly to use as a guinea pig.’

‘Pretty much, yeah. So… yay for science?’

I roll my eyes and smile. ‘Yay for science. Now what’s this about me dying? That was a joke, right?’

‘Uhm, yes… kind of… not really. You really do have to die, but I hope that you, y’know… get better? A short death. Practically a nap.’

I let the awkward silence linger for a bit, partially because I really don’t know what to say about that. Especially since we both already established the day before that we are both crazy.

‘So, you know, I think Starswirl’s (and Celestia’s) big mistake in the theory was trying to find a way to transform a ‘common’ pony into an alicorn. Which I’m pretty sure doesn’t work. At all. Even if you managed it, a regular unicorn’s body and possibly even their mind just isn’t able to hold all that magic and everything else that comes with it. They’d deteriorate and die within weeks, if they didn’t go mad first.’

I follow that train of thought. ‘So when you talk about dying in this context, you actually mean… getting rid of the old body? Reincarnation?’ I frown. ‘But then we’d have more than just three alicorns in all of Equestria, especially over so many centuries.’

‘True, it’s not quite that easy. Starswirl talks about something he calls Alicorn Potential. He couldn’t really measure or quantify it, but he could at least more or less prove its existence. The more Alicorn Potential a pony has, the less magic do they need to jumpstart the ascension… going from impossible amounts of magic to simply ridiculous amounts of magic. So he was right in trying to use the Elements of Harmony, he just went the wrong way… completely the wrong way, actually. I think he wrote the only spell for them that’s guaranteed to be non-lethal.’

‘So I have to get myself killed, and do it with enough magic that it could power at least one ancient artifact.’ I groan. ‘And the Elements are in a secure location that only two people can reach. So unless we want to free Discord (again) and ask him nicely to bring us the artifacts that imprisoned him (again), we’ll have to find another way. Do you have any good news?’

Sunset draws one of those things she calls a ‘smiley face.’

‘Well, you were planning to go up against a monarch with probably enough magic to level Canterlot and challenge her to a battle to the death.’

‘Gee, don’t you just love silver linings.’ I grumble and turn to a new page, then start making plans and calculations on how to steal as much magic as I can from the queen of deception without her noticing.

~~~~~

I’m floating through the void into the regular plane of existence, the continent of Equestria stretching out below me. Some instinctual part of me knows that I am going to gently float down as an ethereal image of my cutie mark before reforming as an alicorn right in front of the palace, in the middle of the street and in front of surprised guards and stunned citizens. I will look regal and majestic and will be entirely too late to help my friends that are probably at a mad queen’s mercy right now.

I strain my mind to angle myself downwards straight at the palace, increasing the pressure and intensity until the metaphorical bubble I’m in pops and my essence is shot straight down towards the Canterhorn.

It’s amazing what you find when you go looking for things that ponies have forgotten about. Like the fact that ponies used to mine crystals from the cave systems inside Mount Canterhorn. That was long enough ago that the crystals have already regrown for the most parts. Magically conductive crystals, building a system of leylines the size of the mountain, more or less.

Chrysalis’s villainous monologue in front of my captured and bound friends is interrupted as crystals all over the cavern start to glow with… well, me. Beams of magic shoot out towards a point halfway between them, growing into the pulsing shape of my cutie mark which flashes and disperses to reveal my new body, complete with an imposing set of lavender wings I immediately spread for effect before the ethereal glow around me fully fades out.

I open my eyes, looking straight at Chrysalis. “I know it is rather unorthodox, but… Queen Chrysalis, I challenge you to a Duel Of Queens, again.”