• Published 7th Jul 2012
  • 6,105 Views, 377 Comments

An Early Reunion - RainbowDoubleDash



After twenty years of being trapped in the sun, Celestia is returning! Or is she?

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1. This Day

The moon set, and for the barest moment there was nothing but darkness across the land. Then on the distant, mountain-strewn horizon, the first glimmer of golden, warm light began to appear. Within moments, the source of the light climbed above the horizon, as the bright, burning orb of the sun began its ascent into the sky: night had given way to day as, upon the grassy hilltop she had alighted upon, the white-cloaked alicorn watched, violet eyes wide.

She ruffled her wings once, stretching them a few times, then set off at a gallop, down the hill, then up the next one. As she reached its top, she kicked off, leaping and wings beginning to beat in long, steady patterns as they caught the early morning air and lifted her higher and higher into the sky along with the sun, cloak billowing behind her in the wind caused by both her altitude and every beat of her wings.

And as she flew, towards the mountains, towards the city of Canterlot, towards her destiny, she could not help but sing.

“This day is going to be perfect,
“It’s the day of which I've dreamed since I was small…
“Whoever thought it could be me
“Who turned out to be royalty?
“Who could have thought that Canterlot would be my goal?

“This day is going to be perfect,
“It’s the day of which I've dreamed since I was small…
“I’ll see my sister once again
“I’ll make so many brand new friends
“I’ll restore my name and honor once and for all!”

Between rocky peaks, still covered in snow despite being late spring, the alicorn soared. Her journey had been a long one, and a lonely one. That could describe her whole life, her whole new life, in fact, but in particular it applied to the last week or so since she had set out from Cavallia, alone. Her caretakers hadn’t wished for her to journey alone – they had wanted a grand procession, a long line of servants and retainers to follow her, and indeed she had played along with their wishes until the very end, the very night before her departure, when she had snuck out of Roam, her city, and began her journey north and east.

No, this journey was one she had to make by herself. In her heart of hearts, she knew this to be true.

“I can’t wait to see that gate
“I’ll pass on through, make my debut!
“And – I’d be lying if I said
“That my heart isn't beating fast
“At the thought of ponies amassed
“To see their princess, returned to them at last!

“Oh I will be there so soon
“Standing there in that throne room
“Luna please forgive what I have done!”

Beneath the alicorn, the mountains gave way to a wide, deep valley, carved by the course of a winding river. The river was bordered on either side by a rustic town – in Cavallia, it would have been considered a large settlement, the largest for miles around, but in this land, in Equestria, it was just one of countless dozens of its size. Still, it was almost a familiar sight. The ground here, too rocky for proper farming, was instead used to grow vineyards. The alicorn wondered idly how Equestrian wine measured up to that of Cavallian origin. Cavallia was known throughout the continent for its grapes and the wines they produced, after all.

Within moments of seeing the village before her, though, the alicorn shot over it, then left it far behind. This was proof of her heritage: many pegasi could fly as fast as she was now, or even faster, but few could do so for so long a period, keeping the pace that the alicorn had for days on end. Even fewer could have done so on the diet she had persisted on. The magnitude of what was coming made the alicorn feel that she had to arrive in Canterlot pure in mind, in spirit, and in body, and so, for a week straight, she had eaten nothing but the grass of the earth, drank nothing but water from the clouds and the rivers of Equestria.

“Will she believe me when I say
“I don’t deceive, I am the Day?
“And – it is truth when I say
“Though the name feels wrong on me
“All my homeland knows it to be
“That I am the Sun reborn once again!

“For I am Celestia
“Returned to my Equestria
“It’s been twenty years but I’ve finally come home!”

The timing of that verse could not have been better. The alicorn soared over a final peak, and suddenly, set against the visage of the rising sun, there it was: Canterlot, the largest city in the known world, home to thousands and thousands of ponies of every tribe. Set upon a mountain plateau, built from marble and granite, Canterlot was a vertical city, with towers and spires stretching towards the sky.

The alicorn descended quickly, landing easily upon the well-maintained cobblestone road that led to the gates of Canterlot. Though she landed some distance away, so as to prepare herself for a more discrete entrance than her caretakers in Roam had desired, she could see even from here that the gates were open, and though guarded, they were ready to accept visitors to the city – including her, as she folded her travelling cloak carefully over her wings, and smiled brightly as she approached.

“Now that I’m so near to Canterlot,
“I see all I’ve dreamed of and sought…

“Equestria, I have come home
“To sit again upon the throne
“Celestia has returned
“At last!”

---

It…was mostly empty.

Celestia blinked a few times as she looked around. Canterlot was at least twice the size of Roam, the capital of Cavallia, where she had been reborn, yet on the streets she saw no more ponies than she might of in that far away city – in fact, she was fairly certain that there were less, even taking the early hour into account. As she trotted, she noticed entire buildings that sat empty, many of which had fallen into disrepair, disgracing this noble capital by blighting its grand appearance with squalor and decay.

Che cosa è successo qui?” she asked, forgetting herself and falling back into Cavallian, the language of her youth. Given that the battle between Luna and Celestia – that was, Celestia in her previous incarnation – had begun here, in Canterlot, she supposed the lack of ponies was sort of understandable, but surely after more than twenty years, ponies would have begun to return to Canterlot, yes?

They couldn’t fear Celestia – Celestia as she once was – that much, could they?

Celestia shook those thoughts from her mind, and put on her best smile as she walked up to a fruit vendor, horn glowing a light blue as she removed some golden coins from her travelling cloak’s pocket. Her journey complete, she no longer felt a need to subsist only on grass and water. “Hail and well met, good sir!” she proclaimed to the yellow earth pony as she approached. “Might I trouble thee for some of thy oranges? They remind me so of – ”

“Darlin’, is that gold?” the pony interrupted, eyeing Celestia’s coins warily, as though they might spring at him and…well, Celestia wasn’t certain at all what it was that two coins less than an inch in diameter might do to him, but whatever it was, he seemed worried.

Celestia smiled. “Indeed it is, good sir! For you see, though I do wish for thy oranges, I also would inquire as to the location of the Drunk Duck Inn. Surely two golden lires shall – ”

Lires?” the pony interrupted, again, taking the bits in his hooves and inspecting them closely. “Hey…these ain’t even Equestrian!”

Celestia blinked. “Ain’t?” she asked, confused as she mentally rifled through her Equestrian vocabulary.

“Yeah! They ain’t! What’re you tryin’ ta pull?”

Celestia looked to either side of her, wondering if the pony she wished to meet at the Drunk Duck Inn had arrived without her noticing. But no, she was standing alone. “‘Voi?’ ‘Tirare?’” she asked herself in a low voice, confused at his usage of the plural, and asking why she was dragging something when she was clearly unburdened but for her cloak. “I…er…I apologize, good sir, but I have learned Equestrian in a…formal setting. I am…unfamiliar…with the common, vulgar forms and terminology…”

The earth pony eyed Celestia. “Who ya callin’ bad-mouthed?”

“Nopony! I apologize. Equestrian is not my native language. I do not mean to cause thee offense…”

The pony’s gaze, against all expectations, softened. “Oh…y’all ain’t from ‘round here? S’pose I shoulda’ known what with yer thy’s n’ accent n’ such.”

Celestia blinked. She had understood about half of that. His grammar was positively atrocious – but then, she supposed that it was the same in Cavallia amongst the peasantry. Thinking back, her own tongue had been quite vulgar before she had begun to manifest her true form and had been taken to Roam for training.

“Ya don’t see no gold coins these days,” the earth pony continued. “Nopony wants ‘em. She used ta put it on everythin’. Why – ” he pointed a hoof behind Celestia, to a tall, largely empty building. “Whole thin used ta’ be covered in th’ stuff. But no one wants it no more. We jes’ barter n' haggle. Hear they're gonna start makin’ silver coins, though.”

Celestia blinked at that, taking several moments to parse through the vulgar form of Equestrian. “Er…” she said, looking into her cape’s pocket. “I…I am afraid I do not have any silver coins, nor anything to barter with…thou must understand, gold is still quite common in Cavallia…”

“That’s ‘cause y’all didn’t have her go mad on yet front door,” the earth pony explained. His eyes glazed over slightly as he spoke. He was old enough, Celestia realized, to have witnessed events himself. “Y’all didn’t see her in the end…mane and tail all aflame. Eyes as empty and as cruel as her sun…y’all weren’t there at the coronation…laughin’ an’ threatenin’ at the same time…”

Celestia blinked. That…was not entirely true. In a way, she had been there, but she didn’t remember any of it. Her rebirth was merciful in that it had not given her the memories of her past life, had even changed her appearance – but none of that excused her from her crimes. “I prithee, accept my apology,” Celestia begged, bowing. “I shall endeavor to repair all that I have done. I swear it.”

The earth pony blinked a few times, shaking his head and looking to Celestia. “Shucks. ‘Twere an honest mistake.” Celestia got the distinct impression that the orange vendor thought she was apologizing for the coins, and not her actions in a previous life. She opened her mouth to explain herself, when he continued: “‘Least ya ain’t one a’ them impersonators.

Celestia blinked at that. “I…impersonators?” she asked.

The earth pony’s glare grew harsh again, though it was not directed at Celestia. “Y’all will know ‘em when ye see ‘em. There’s a bunch all at the castle right now.” He shook his head, then eyed the golden lires again. “I’ll tell ya what. I can’t take that gold, but I’ll let ya have at these,” he turned around, and put a trio of oranges into a thin, burlap sack. “Y’all are gonna have a hard enough time if’n alls ya gots ta spend is gold. Ain’t want to be the first ta’ ruin yer day.”

Celestia offered her best smile at that, horn glowing as she took the offered oranges. “I thank thee,” she said. “Might I beg a further boon from thee?”

The pony stared blankly at the inquiry.

“Er…” Celestia thought, trying to parse through her Equestrian vocabulary to express what she wanted in as simple a way as possible. “Might I ask for…indicazioni? directions?”

“Oh!” the pony said. “Sure. That’s always on the house.”

Celestia very nearly did her own blank stare at that, but pressed on at the pony’s congenial attitude and affirmation of her request. “I seek a pegasus pony who was to arrange for my lodgings. I was to meet him at the Drunk Duck Inn…but, I am afraid I do not know where that is. Prithee, canst thou enlighten me?”

“Ah don’ smoke,” the earth pony said, confusing Celestia. “Y’all shouldn’t either. Bad for ya. But if’n it’s the Drunk Duck yer lookin’ for, it’s thataway,” the pony pointed down the street, towards Canterlot Castle itself. “Jes’ keep canterin’ ‘till ya see it. Straight ahead.”

Molte grazie,” Celestia said, without thinking. She mentally kicked herself. “Er…I thank thee, good sir.”

“Not a problem, Miss…?”

Celestia paused a moment at that. Given the reputation that she had earned in her previous life – a reputation that was fully earned and deserved – she was less than eager, as of yet, to reveal her true name, despite her earlier singing across the mountain tops proclaiming her intent to do so. Clearly, she had an uphill struggle, one that she was not eager to undertake on her own – not before seeing her sister, Luna, first.

“Cadenza,” she answered instead, using the name of her youth, when she had thought herself a simple earth pony growing up on a vineyard, no different from any other pony. “Mi Amore Cadenza of Cavallia, good sir.”

“Bitter Orange,” the pony returned. “Welcome ta’ Canterlot, Miss Cadenza.”

---

When discussing her plan with Cartasole – well, telling him, more like, her intent to set out alone from Roam – Cartasole had wisely pointed out that Celestia would still need somepony in Canterlot to inform the reigning Princess Luna that she was coming and arrange all the details with Canterlot Castle itself. Cartasole had not, in all likelihood, realized that had just volunteered for the job, but through a combination of alicorn decree and more than a little wide-eyed begging, her loyal retainer had given in to her request and gone on ahead, stating that he would stay at the Drunk Duck Inn which, despite its name, was well known in Equestria as an inn and tavern of excellent reputation.

Naturally, just as Celestia was recalling this, a brown-coated pegasus was tossed, telekinetically, from the establishment, where he landed in a heap in front of the alicorn in disguise.

Celestia blinked a few times at the pony at her hooves. “Buongiorno, Signore Cartasole,” she remarked.

The pegasus looked up at her, sighed, and looked back down. Then, he realized who he was in front of. “Maestà!” he exclaimed, climbing onto his hooves and offering a deep bow. Celestia blushed at that – she would never get used to it – even as a green-coated unicorn, horn glowing the same yellow color as the aura that had thrown Cartastole from the Drunk Duck, approached, an incensed look on his face.

“An’ I’ll add that to yer tab as well, ya worthless inebriate!” The unicorn exclaimed. “She looks nothin’ like the Princess – ” at that he turned to Celestia, offering a slight bow of his own, as his tone and grammar shifted so fast Celestia was surprised he didn’t get whiplash, “begging thy pardon, m’lady, thou art as a flower in full bloom in thy beauty – ” he turned back to Cartasole, “but she looks nothin’ at all like Her Majesty, so I can only assume that you got into my mead. Again. Stars above, it isn’t even midday yet!”

Celestia held out a hoof before either stallion could speak. “Good sir,” she said, “am I to understand that my retainer has run up a substantial debt in thy establishment?”

Cartasole shook his head fervently, while the unicorn nodded with just as much vigor. On seeing this, the brown pegasus dropped into a deep bow. “Mi dispiace, Maestà! Essi non avranno i miei soldi!” he exclaimed.

“And there he is, speaking gibberish again,” the unicorn observed dryly.

Celestia’s eyes narrowed slightly. “It is Cavallian, good sir. My native tongue as well. Although, Cartasole, as we are in Equestria now, mayhap thou shouldst, for politeness’ sake, speak the local language instead?”

Cartasole looked suitably mollified at that, as did the unicorn. “Begging thy pardon, m’lady,” he said again. “And I apologize as well, but as thou appears to know this pony, I must ask thee to settle his tab.”

Celestia blanched at that. “I…am afraid I cannot,” she admitted, bowing her head in shame. “I sent Cartasole, here, ahead of me with many lires, and I carry the same. I did not know that gold is now anathema within Canterlot.”

The unicorn let out a long sigh. “First foreign customer in years, and a noble too, and what happens?” he asked in a low voice, then looked to Celestia. “My lady, his tab is substantial.

Celestia could not help but laugh a little. “He has been here but a month! How large could it possibly be?”

The unicorn named a number.

Celestia’s eyes widened to the size of dinner plates. “Cosa?” she demanded, forgetting her own admonishment. “Come? How hast my retainer run up such a large debt to thee? Wherefore wouldst thou allow it at all?”

The unicorn proprietor’s eyes narrowed as he looked to Cartasole. “’Tis not merely his debt, m’lady. ‘Tis the lost business as well. Ever since thy retainer arrived, he hath been frightening away my customers, proclaiming that he heralds the return of…” he paused, looking around, and found the street they were on to be empty, then looked up, to where the sun was continuing its ascent into the sky. Nevertheless, he leaned in conspiratorially. “Of Corona,” he finished.

Celestia blinked a few times. “Corona?” she asked. “Who, prithee, is Corona?”

The unicorn looked surprised. “Ah,” he said after a moment, realizing. “Thou art foreign, of course…”

“It is a strange thing to explain…” Cartasole stated. The unicorn glared at him, but Cartasole pressed on. “The ponies of this land do not believe thee to be trapped in the sun at all! It is as though they knowest of thy return!”

“Thee?” The unicorn asked.

Ah-ha!” Celestia laughed nervously, sticking a hoof out and into Cartasole’s mouth. “His state of inebriation is apparent to me now, good sir!”

The unicorn looked between Cartasole and Celestia, and his eyes narrowed. “I knew it,” he said in a low voice, dropping the polite tone and regal speech patterns he had been maintaining. “I knew it! Yer manners are all well and good, but yer heart is black with greed!”

“What?” Celestia asked.

“Yer one of them impersonators!” the unicorn exclaimed, backing away several steps. “Hasn’t her majesty suffered enough?”

“I – ”

“No!” the unicorn said, turning around and using his hind hooves to kick dirt at Celestia and Cartasole. The alicorn managed to leap back and avoid it, but the pegasus was somewhat less nimble. The unicorn didn’t seem to care much, however. “I wash my hooves of ya. I do not want yer money! And if I ever see either of ya around my establishment again, I’ll call the guard!”

Celestia stared, eyes wide at the treatment she had just received. She was the princess Celestia! She should not have been treated in such a way by a commoner! She felt rage gripping her heart, the rage of an immortal alicorn, a Princess, reborn! “When I am Princess again,” she exclaimed, “thou shalt regret thy actions! I will visit ruination upon thy business! I shall…I shall give it a poor review and none shall wish to dine here!

The unicorn stumbled at that, turning around at the proclomation - but not in worry, as Celestia had first believed. “Seriously?” he asked. “Yer trying to convince me that yer Corona, and the worst ya can threaten’ is a bad review?”

Celestia blinked at that. “Wh…what could be worse from thy princess?” she asked.

“The last one I threw out threatened to burn the place down.”

“That’s horrible!” Celestia exclaimed.

The unicorn’s eyes had narrowed to slits. “Ya need practice,” he said, before heading back inside.