• 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?

  • ...
18
 377
 6,105

2. In Wrath

Maestà, mi dispiace per –

“Equestrian, Cartasole,” Celestia requested, as the two walked through the mostly-empty streets of Canterlot, towards the Royal Palace. “I must practice the language as much as possible.”

Cartasole bowed his head. “Mi dis – I am sorry, Majesty,” he said.

Celestia stopped, looking down at her retainer. “Further, what did the proprietor of that inn mean when he referred to thee as an inebriate? I have never known thee to drink more than thy share.”

“I apologize, Majesty…I have had a…difficult time since arriving.”

Celestia frowned. “Tell me,” she asked, voice consoling. Cartasole had been her loyal retainer ever since she had first been brought to Roam, gifted to her by the ruling Exarch of her homeland; by this point, she thought of him as no mere indentured servant, but as a trusted confidant and friend, almost a family member.

The brown pegasus looked to his Majesty, then let out a long sigh. “I arrived a week ago, Majesty,” he explained. This made sense, despite his setting out just under a month ago: he was, unlike Celestia, just a normal pegasus, and so could not power-fly through Equestria as Celestia had. “Spending lires had been growing more and more difficult the closer I came to Canterlot, but I had foreseen the problem and so had, in a small town called Manehattan, traded as many of my lires as they would take for material goods that I might barter – spices, mostly, since they would be easiest to carry.”

Celestia inclined her head at that. “I see…so what, then, is the problem? If thou were so insightful, how couldst thou have run up a debt?”

Cartasole stared intently at his hooves, wings twitching a little in agitation. “I fear I am not much of a trader,” he admitted. “What the merchants and vendors of Canterlot demand for their services is…substantial, and they could not be negotiated with, on account of the city being so empty. They are desperate for business, Majesty.”

Celestia pursed her lips as she considered. “I can scarcely believe the impact I had upon the ponies of Canterlot,” she remarked in a low voice, closing her eyes.

“That is not thy fault, Majesty!” Cartasole tried to console, stepping closer to Celestia as he did so. “That is, I suspect it has as much to do with Princess Luna’s abandoning the throne for as long as she did. With the Princess wandering Equestria, the noble Houses had little reason to reside in Canterlot – and without the nobility, the merchants have been leaving.”

Celestia looked up, to the sun that was nearing the zenith of its ascent into the sky. Unlike mortal ponies, she could look upon its majesty without injuring her eyes. “But ‘twas due to my own actions that Luna abandoned Equestria for twelve years,” she noted. “My previous life was, in its end, fraught with madness and cruelty…and so my sister had to cast me into the sun! Is it any wonder that she disappeared for so long?”

Cartasole coughed slightly, putting a hoof to his mouth as he did. “I…I am told that she did not disappear, Majesty…”

Celestia tore her eyes from the burning orb in the sky and looked to her retainer. “No,” she stated firmly, “‘tis likely, and fitting, that she secluded herself in some secret, hidden place that I cannot recall and grieved and mourned her actions.” Celestia’s eyes were somewhat misty, but also wide, as she regarded Cartasole, pressing her front hooves together. “Canst thou even begin to imagine the grief? Her own older sister – wiser, stronger – whom she had known for millennia and more, fallen into fire and hate! Forced to do battle with her – with me – to save the land from the madness that gripped my previous incarnation! And after she wept for a year and a day, no doubt…”

Celestia wasn’t certain, but she thought she saw Cartasole roll his eyes. She harrumphed. “’Tis certainly more likely than the rumor that she wandered Equestria perpetually drunk,” Celestia declared.

“Of course, Majesty,” Cartasole said, as the two began walking towards Canterlot Castle again. Cartasole grimaced. “On that note, Majesty…I believe that thou shalt encounter a…problem…at the Castle.”

Celestia regarded Cartasole. “Impersonators?” she asked. Cartasole nodded. “Tell me of them.”

Cartasole pressed his lips tightly together. “Word of thy return hath spread into Equestria…and I fear that there are ponies who wish to take advantage of Princess Luna.” He looked to his Majesty. “They are ponies claiming to be thee. Trying to claim to Princess Luna that they are Celestia returned…they have come from all over Equestria. Parasites, the lot of them.”

Celestia had suspected as much, given what they had been called – what she had been accused of being. Nevertheless, the confirmation of such made her wings flutter in in agitation beneath her travelling cloak. “Well,” she stated. “I doubt there are very many, at least.”

---

“We are most pleased that you have at last come to your senses!”

Starlight Shine blinked several times, eyes wide at having just been shouted at for the…thirteenth? Forteenth? He hadn’t wanted to keep track – time today. The lavender-coated, black-maned unicorn rubbed one ear. “Thou hast, thy” he corrected absentmindedly as he did.

“Pardon?” Asked the unicorn mare. He hadn’t been very quiet, so apparently her shouting, trying to imitate the Royal Canterlot Voice, had begun to affect her hearing.

“Nothing, nevermind.”

Her white coat was genuine enough, but a strong scent in the air all but confirmed that she had died her mane the cacophony of colors that it currently was, and she hadn’t even bothered with trying to fake wings, nor hide that she didn’t have any, though she was wearing a garish dress to hide what was no doubt emphatically not a sun-themed cutie mark. She seemed fairly well-fed, so Starlight mentally added her to his list of ‘schemers.’

Would-be schemers, in any event – a real schemer wouldn’t have been so stupid as to make this attempt in the first place. In any event, with her, he now had a total of eight schemers, twelve desperate ponies who were probably only doing this on the off chance of getting sympathy from the Princess, four deranged ponies who actually believed what they were saying, and three ponies who Starlight couldn’t place easily.

Princess Luna’s majordomo looked to a scroll he held in his telekinetic grasp. “Please proceed into the courtyard. Princess Luna will be along presently.”

“Thank you!”

“Thee,” Starlight corrected in a low voice as he hid his grimace, though only until the unicorn mare had strutted past him. He was standing outside the walls of Canterlot Castle, flanked by a pair of royal guards in silver armor who looked stoically straight ahead and, to anypony not familiar with them, betrayed no emotion.

After having lived in Canterlot Castle the past eight years, however, Starlight had learned how to pick out little details – twitches to the eye, slight downcurve to the mouth – that showed that the guards were anything but emotionless right now. Seething would probably have been a better word.

“Right,” he said, closing his eyes and letting his horn glow, casting a basic time-telling spell. “Half an hour, sirs. I think we have enough inside that the Princess can…make her point.”

“Yes, sir,” the two pegasi said at once.

“We will accept no further – ”

“I beg thy pardon?”

Starlight sighed, rolling his eyes. “Yes? What?” he demanded as he turned around, looking at the ponies that had seemed to materialize from nothingness. Not that he was surprised – that description could apply to the entire impersonator plague that was running rampant through Canterlot. There had been several ponies claiming to be lost Celestia ever since she had been banished, of course, but in the past six months the number had increased tenfold, ever since the Cavallian rumor had made its way north.

He composed himself slightly when he saw the ponies that were accosting him. One was a fairly nondescript pegasus stallion, with a brown coat, slightly darker brown mane, and a cutie mark of pair of crossed, unfurling scrolls. The second was more interesting by far: a pink unicorn mare with a mane that was white, purple, and pink, thick and luxurious. Her body was covered by a long, elegantly sewn, white travelling cloak, currently with its hood down, which obscured her cutie mark.

Her bearing, the cut of her mane, and quality of her cloak all said one thing: nobility. Starlight let out a second sigh, this one of relief. “Hail and well met, m’lady,” he said, bowing slightly to her. “Forgive my abruptness, I have been engaged in a trying task all morning.”

The unicorn pony offered a slight smile, and inclined her head. “Yes, I saw…and heard…thy troubles,” she said. Her voice had a strange lilt to it, suggesting her hailing from the southern reaches of Equestria, or perhaps even Cavallia or Zaldia. “But I come to tell thee that thy troubles are at an end! The true reincarnation of Celestia hath arrived!”

Starlight’s smile faltered for just a moment, before he lost the will to keep it up even for a pretty mare and let it drop entirely. “Oh,” he stated. “Great. Brilliant, actually. I am so pleased.”

The unicorn smiled brightly at that, apparently not catching his sarcasm. “So am I!” she declared eagerly.

Starlight observed her declaration with half-lidded eyes. This mare was dressed and cared for too well to be desperate, but seemed too eager to be a schemer. That meant she was his fifth deranged pony. Very deranged. Starlight didn’t know why, but he felt he had to stop her. “M’lady,” he said. “I have twenty-seven ponies all claiming to be Celestia gathered in the castle’s courtyard right now. If I am lucky, they’ve killed each other by now, but that’s neither here nor there. Most of them at least had the good sense to dye their manes or coats so that they were the proper color, or like the proper color.”

The Celestia impersonator blinked, looking to her pegasus companion for a moment before turning back to Starlight. “B-but – ” she began.

“And I suppose that thou art attempting a Cavallian accent to go along with the rumors? Thou couldst be trying harder.”

The unicorn seemed shocked. “But I am Cavallian!” she declared.

“No, non lo siente,” Starlight stated.

“Sì, lo sono!” the unicorn countered with a stamp of her hoof.

“Non è possibile.”

“Il cavalliano è la mia lingua madre. Io sono cresciuta là. E la mia pronuncia è molto migliore della tua.” She raised a brow in challenge.

Starlight raised one brow in return, accepting defeat in this matter. “Alright,” he said, “thou may be from Cavallia after all. But I must ask wherefore thou thinkest thou art Celestia’s ‘reincarnation.’” He paused a moment. “She is not dead, thou realize?”

The Celestia impersonator considered. From beneath her cloak, there was a ruffling, and a pair of long, swan-like wings extended and stretched out, covered in pink feathers that matched her coat. As she spread her wings, a triumphant smile filled her face.

Starlight was nonplussed. “It is a difficult spell,” he said, “but hardly an unknown one. How to create wings, that is.” He looked to the pegasus guards on either side of him. “No offense intended, good sirs, a unicorn with wings is still a little more than a flying brick next to a true pegasus.”

The guards reacted just slightly, a slight tugging at their mouths that suggested that they were repressing knowing smirks. The pegasus that had accompanied this latest impersonator looked incensed. The Celestia impersonator, meanwhile, flapped her wings several times in annoyance. “These are not the results of a mere spell!” She insisted. “Cast any detection magic thou likest upon me! Thou shalt find nothing!”

Starlight indulged her delusion, horn glowing lavender – and was surprised to find that she was, once again, entirely truthful. The wings she even now stretched and unstretched were not magical constructs, but instead were quite real. Pegasus-unicorns, with functioning horns and working, full-sized wings, were extremely rare, universally sterile hybrids between the tribes – rare, but not unheard of. In fact, one was in the courtyard right now, also claiming to be Celestia. He, at least, had the right coat color – although not the right gender, but then Starlight supposed that there were some lines even the most dedicated charlatan would not be willing to cross.

Starlight sighed. “Very well,” he said. “Thou may enter. Princess Luna shall be…” he trailed off as he thought. “Shall be determining her true sister from amongst all those who make the claim half an hour hence. Thy companion must also accompany thee.”

The impersonator stood tall. “Of course. Wherever I go, Cartasole follows.”

“How very loyal,” the majordomo of Luna drolled. He watched as the two passed on through the gates – the pegasus-unicorn looking up at them in wonder – before turning to the guards once again. “No more,” he declared firmly. “Do not acknowledge any further impersonators, ever again. Luna herself commands this.”

The two guards nodded in understanding. Starlight let out another sigh as he trotted into Canterlot Castle himself, heading not to the courtyard, but instead to the castle itself, looking for his Princess.

---

Logic dictated that an immortal being, so ancient that even she did not know precisely how old she was, should not have been a being of great emotion. As an immortal, Luna should have known that all things pass in time, and that time was the thing that she had in great abundance; in a sense, every day she woke up with her whole life still ahead of her. It was not worth getting emotional over the transitory, the temporary, the mortal, logic informed her.

These past few decades, however, had not been a time where logic reigned particularly strongly.

Luna realized she was sneering, and stopped herself with a deliberate act of will as she gazed down at the courtyard from one of the shorter towers of Canterlot, which housed the royal library. Beneath her, more than two dozen ponies had gathered with the impression that she was a fool and with the intention of deceiving her.

Where did they even get the idea that they could? Luna had known Celestia her whole life. Her older sister had been the one constant throughout the countless millennia. Nations rose and fell, monsters came and went, but Celestia was as dependable as…

…had been as dependable as…

Luna’s wings twitched. In her mind, she saw Celestia: tall, regal, mane and tail an animate, pastel rainbow that flowed like water, kind, whole eyes…and as was inevitable, she watched as her memory of Celestia was transformed, mane and tail alighting in flame, eyes glowing pure white with power, face twisting into a look of hate and rage.

“I am Celestia!” proclaimed the vision in Luna’s mind. “I am the Sun!”

Luna closed her eyes tightly. She had not seen how protecting Equestria had begun to wear upon her sister. The constant – to an immortal, in any event – battles against the forces that would destroy the land and corrupt their pony subjects had eroded Celestia’s sanity as surely as water eroded a seaside cliff. And Luna had not seen it. If even Luna had not been able to notice what was happening to Celestia, before it was too late – could the ponies in the courtyard below really be blamed for thinking they could fool her?

As if to answer, a shouting match began between two of the impersonators, each trying to prove that they were the true Celestia due to having louder voices. In a moment, Luna decided two things – one, having been more-or-less on the receiving end of too many ponies trying to duplicate the Royal Canterlot Voice, she was no longer as enamored of it as she once was; and two, yes, they could still be blamed.

And, therefore, punished.

Luna heard the door to the library open behind her, and a familiar quartet of hoof-steps approach her. “Majesty,” Starlight said as a greeting as he approached, and bowed. She nodded immediately, giving him leave to stand. “We have twenty-eight impersonators below, Majesty."

Luna turned to face Starlight Shine, appraising him. He looked – concerned. “Thank thee, Starlight,” she said, beginning to trot away.

Starlight Shine followed his princess, hoof-steps betraying worry. “If I might be so bold, Majesty,” he began, “thou hast not explained what thou intendest to do with the rabble.”

“I am still deciding,” Luna stated as they walked through the halls of Canterlot. Once, the palace walls had been adorned in gold. That gold, however, was even still being stripped away. Celestia had, in the end, begun covering everything she claimed as her own in gold, even going so far as to demand her courtiers and her staff at the castle wear golden paint. It had been her symbol – and the events of twenty years ago had been enough to drive all of Canterlot, and gradually all of Equestria, to shun the metal, causing its value to drop catastrophically.

That had done wonders for the Equestrian economy. Had Luna been in Canterlot, she might have taken steps to prevent it, but as it stood she had been elsewhere for twelve years following her battle with her sister for the soul of Equestria. Elsewhere…actually, for that matter, probably everywhere in Equestria. And occasionally even beyond. Two trips outside of Equestria stood out in particular…

Luna shook her head, shoving both recollections from her mind – she did not need to recall either journey, not now. She realized that Starlight had said something, and looked to him. “I beg thy pardon?”

“I said that I hope thou dost not do anything permanent,” her majordomo repeated.

Luna grimaced. “Now that what I hope to be the majority are gathered in one place, a permanent solution is precisely what I aim for,” she stated.

“Majesty, thou cannot – ”

Starlight stopped when Luna did, as she put a hoof to his mouth. He stared in surprise at the hoof, eyes travelling its length to look Luna in the eye. “Very poor choice of words,” she pointed out.

---

“I am Celestia! I am the Sun!”

“Nay! ‘Tis I who art Celestia! Thou are nothing more than an imposter!”

Celestia and Cartasole watched the two impersonators go at each other. Most of the other impersonators had backed off to observe as well. It was like watching a battle for dominance between two primitive beings: they made loud noises (technically words, Celestia supposed, but their attempts at proper Equestrian were all over the place), circled around each other, stomped and scuffed their hooves, charged each other only to pull back at the last moment…

“How undignified,” another impersonator, relatively near to Celestia, said. The courtyard was more than large enough that most of the Celestia impersonators – and Celestia, herself – could keep to themselves, standing in the shadow of the tall spires of Canterlot Castle itself. Some stood alone; others had companions, much as Celestia did with Cartasole. At least one, in fact, looked like she had brought an entire staff with her, of unicorns, pegasi, and earth ponies, who waited on her wing and horn and hoof. That "Celestia" was also easily the most accurate in appearance: white coat, rainbow, animate mane, golden eyes, wings and horn. Of course, the wings were magical creations, a basic cantrip revealed, and the wrong shape; the mane and tail, too, were relatively easy to duplicate if one knew the spell. She was also only about two-thirds as tall as a normal adult mare, never mind Celestia herself, and certainly forgetting Celestia’s previous incarnation, who had been nearly twice as tall as many stallions, if the stories were true.

Cartasole was scowling. “Thou should get involved, Majesty,” he said to her. “Break up this fight and send these imposters galloping!”

Celestia shook her head. “I would gain little,” she reasoned. “Most are too trapped in their own delusions. When Luna sees me, she shall know the truth.”

Cartasole shifted in place, his scowl shifting to a grimace. “I hope so, Majesty.”

Celestia looked to Cartasole. “Thou doubtest me?” she asked.

The brown pegasus looked to his Majesty. “I do not doubt that thy horn and wings are genuine. That thou art an alicorn. But…as that unicorn pointed out, Majesty…Celestia is not dead. So how couldst thou be her reincarnation?”

Celestia offered a gentle smile. “There are two possibilities,” she said simply. “The first is that I am the incarnation of all that was good in Celestia. All that she was before she fell to fire and hate. This is what the doci who examined me after my wings and horn manifested believes, what the cardinal he took me to believes, and what the Exarch himself believes. It is what I believe.”

She looked back to the fighting impersonators. “The other possibility is that I am not. I do not believe that – but it is a possibility. Faith must never be blind.” Her ear twitched as she heard a noise, and she looked to the massive doorway that lead into the castle itself. It had opened, and coming from it were four ponies. Two were Night Guards, unicorns both, and they were the first to exit; one was the lavender unicorn from the gate, likely, Celestia reasoned, the majordomo of Canterlot Castle…

And Celestia’s breath caught in her throat at the sight of the final pony.

She was tall, taller than anypony Celestia had ever seen – taller than Celestia, herself, and she was already about the equal of most stallions. Her coat was a deep, midnight blue, her mane and tail both animate magic rather than hair, sparkling and flowing like a running river that had caught the image of the night sky. She was adorned in pale blue regalia, shoes and a chest-plate, as well as a black crown set atop her regal head. Her horn was longer than any normal unicorn’s, while her wings were shaped differently from those of any pegasus – but they were, emphatically, real.

And if any doubt could have possibly lingered as to who she was, on her flanks was a cutie mark of a black, nebulous sky, but imposed over that sky was a brilliant white, crescent moon.

“Luna,” Celestia breathed, beginning to trot forward to her sister – but she had not advanced a single pace before every impersonator in the crowd charged the princess.

“Luna!”

“Sister!”

“Take these vile impersonators away from us! I am Celestia!”

“No, I am!”

“I am Celestia! I am – ”

“I am Celestia!”

“You’re a stallion!”

“Silence! Reincarnation may have changed my – ”

“Impersonators – ”

“Fakes – ”

“Luna – ”

“Princess – ”

The impersonators had managed to close within a scant few yards of Luna before the horns of the Night Guard glowed, as did the majordomo’s, erecting shields to protect their charge, then shoving those shields forward, knocking the impersonators away. Celestia grimaced at the sight as the wall of impersonators became a tangled mess of legs and false wings – some of which were destroyed or partially destroyed by the rebuke.

About half of the impersonators had the good sense to quiet themselves. The remaining half only redoubled their efforts. As Celestia watched, Luna regarded them all with what was, for a moment, a lack of emotion – but her expression swiftly began to turn into contempt. The Princess of the Night glanced upwards, and saw that the sun was directly overhead. It was midday.

She beat her wings – once – and was instantly lifted into the air, spreading her forehooves wide. Celestia’s horn tingled as she felt magic like she had never felt before begin to work. Above Canterlot, the skies began to darken, as thick, black clouds made their way across the sky and Luna’s eyes began to glow white with power. That was enough to shut up the remaining impersonators, who watched in terrified silence as Luna bent the forces of nature to her whim.

The clouds, by now, had completely obscured the sun, and yet continued to gather. Lightning and thunder crackled amongst them as they swirled overhead.

“Miserable worms,” Luna spat. Her voice was loud, loud enough that everypony in the courtyard, Celestia included, put their hooves to their ears in shock at its volume. They felt the voice – or, it sounded more like, voices, a chorus of them, one for every star in the sky and all speaking in unison – more than heard it as Luna pressed on. “Upstart foals! I am ancient beyond your ken! Before your eldest ancestors were, I AM. And my sister was older still!”

The alicorn in wrath was standing on thin air as though it were solid ground as she regarded the ponies beneath her. “I knew Celestia from before the wheel and the flame! Do you really believe, could you possibly be so stupid as to think, that I would not see through your lies and your deceptions?”

“B-but – ” one of the impersonators tried, “but I – ”

“Silence!” Luna commanded, as lightning arched behind her. By now, the constant lightning and the terrible glow of Luna’s eyes were the only illumination over Canterlot. “Our patience has run its course. This Cavallian rumor shall be heeded no more. Celestia is gone! She fell into fire and hate and so I had no choice but to banish her, forever, into the heart of the sun! There is no possibility of escape – and no possibility that any of you are her reincarnation! You insult Equestria, you insult the Crown, and you insult me, by pretending otherwise!”

Celestia stood tall and firm as she gazed at her sister. Cartasole was at her side, leaning against the terrible wind that Luna’s voice created; he would have likely been bowled over if not for Celestia’s presence, one of her own wings wrapped tightly around him that he might continue standing. It was yet more proof of her true heritage that she could withstand the power of an alicorn in wrath.

That was, until Luna brought her two front hooves together. There was a deafening crack that forced even Celestia to the ground – she could only imagine the effect it had on the impersonators – and quite suddenly, the clouds came apart, bursting into rain water in an instant that fell at once onto Canterlot below. Luna fell with it, landing easily on all four hooves without even bending her knees or hocks more than an inch.

Now thoroughly soaked, the impersonators, and Celestia, herself, stood. Luna regarded them as a single group, eyes still glowing white. “My majordomo,” she said, her voice loud, but no longer bringing with it quite as strong a gust with every word spoken, “hath stated that I cannot enact a permanent solution to end your insult. I have informed him that his choice of words was very, very poor. I have battled demons. I have slain dragons. I have stood tall against Tirek, against Grogar, against the Smooze – against Corona, the mare that my sister became. I am more than capable of ending your insults!”

Luna’s wings were spread wide, and her horn was glowing. The impersonators were, by now, finally realizing the terror that they had unleashed, and were backing away. Celestia soon found herself surrounded by them, while she planted herself firmly between Luna and Cartasole. “Remain behind me,” she instructed her retainer.

“Majesty – ” Cartasole began.

“Do not move,” she insisted, wings spread wide as she prepared to try and stop her sister, who apparently intended to annihilate them all –

The flash and effervescent wave from Luna’s horn came almost faster than Celestia could react. Her own horn glowed reflexively as she put up a shield in front of her, as strong as she could manage – but found it unnecessary, as the midnight-hued burst of magic passed harmlessly over all the impersonators, and over her shield. Whatever Luna had done, it was not intended for them…

…it was intended for the Night Guards that had surrounded them, invisible before Luna's spell revealed them to the gathered impersonators.

Celestia’s eyes widened. The wall surrounded the courtyard bristled with earth ponies and unicorns, all clad in the silvery armor of the Night Guard, their eyes yellow and slitted like those of a dragon, and their coats darkened to gray, thanks to enchantments woven over them by the Princess of the Night. The earth ponies were taller and stronger thanks to those same enchantments, whilst the horns of the unicorns seemed to be almost edged as well as pointed. The air over their heads, meanwhile, swarmed with pegasi, who in addition to the darkened coats and slitted eyes, sported wings that had been transformed to appear bat-like rather than bird-like. The goal was to make them as intimidating-looking as possible, and the enchantments easily succeeded in that regard. There were also more than a hundred Night Guard in total.

“You are under arrest,” Luna stated, “for insulting the Crown! You will spend the next six months in a dungeon outside of Canterlot, contemplating your actions! Further, you are banished from Canterlot! And if I ever lay eyes upon any of you again within the walls of this city, I shall show you why it is that ponies fear the Night!”

With that, Luna turned around, heading back to the castle along with her majordomo, as the Night Guard descended, while the impersonators panicked, all of them trying to run in every direction at once. The result was, once again, a tangled mess of legs and wings, none of them getting anywhere.

Celestia turned to Cartasole. “Do not resist arrest,” she instructed. “I must go to Luna! If I can convince her of the truth then I can have thee released without effort!”

Cartasole nodded once, and Celestia was off, hoping that the Night Guard would see that her retainer was giving in without a fight. She almost instantly had her own problems, however – several Night Guard pegasi descended upon her. With a cry and a shove of her wings, she threw them off, then launched herself forwards, towards Luna. An earth pony Night Guard got in her way; she grunted and ran into him, using her shoulder to shove him aside without slowing down much. Two unicorn Night Guards were next, their horns glowing as their telekinesis reached out to her, but she responded with her own magic, a quick telekinetic burst to their horns that disrupted their concentration.

“Luna!” she cried as she approached, with only Luna’s majordomo now standing between her and the alicorn. “Sister!”

Luna paused in her trot back to the castle. Her majordomo had been standing ready to defend her, but at her stopping, his horn lost its glow, as Luna’s took up one of its own, wings spread wide and quivering with barely contained anger.

“For the final time,” Luna spat, “Thou! ART!” Luna turned around. “NOOAAAaaaaaaaaa…”

Celestia had paused in her charge at the sight of such pure, unbridled rage on Luna’s face – but the expression dropped quite suddenly as the blue alicorn looked at the pink one, the final word of her proclamation being lost as Luna’s mouth hung open, eyes wide.

The sound – and sight – of the Princess frozen in shock was enough to make the Night Guard and impersonators both pause in their very one-sided battle. Silence, rather than Luna, reigned over Equestria as the Princess of the Night stared. Celestia shifted uncomfortably. “H…hail, and…and well met, sister!” she said, forcing a smile to her face. “It is I! Celestia!”

Luna’s majordomo took several steps forward, horn glowing. “Guards!” he called. “Seize the imposter – ”

Several Night Guards approached Celestia, the unicorns amongst with horns glowing, but Luna, at last, found the will to move her muscles and mouth. “N-no! Nay!” she exclaimed. “Nopony is to lay a hoof upon this one! I rescind my arrest order for her!”

Celestia’s smile became a little more genuine, before dropping as she remembered the purpose of her mad charge. “I have a retainer, Cartasole, a brown pegasus stallion with a cutie mark of two crossed scrolls.”

Luna looked at Celestia as though she had just told her the least interesting fact in the universe. Nevertheless, after a moment, she looked to her Night Guards. “Bring him forward, let him stay with his mistress.”

“And the rest, Majesty?” One of the Night Guards asked.

Luna scowled. “As before,” she stated, some of her previous anger creeping back into her voice. She looked to her majordomo. “I…set her up in guest quarters, the finest in the castle. See to whatever she desires.”

Luna’s majordomo frowned. “Majesty, I must – ”

See to it!” Luna interrupted, stomping her hoof. “I…I have matters that I must attend to.” Before Celestia’s eyes, Luna seemed to dissolve, coming apart into a nebulous, sparkling blue mist. The mist moved of its own accord, shooting into the castle in moments, passing beyond sight.

Luna’s majordomo regarded his mistresses’ retreat, before turning to look Celestia up and down. He was scowling deeply even as Cartasole was brought to Celestia’s side – looking, thankfully, no worse for wear – and the Night Guard resumed arresting the impersonators, a process that was going much more smoothly after the surreal interruption that had just occurred.

“Very well,” he said, doing absolutely nothing to hide his distaste for the situation. “if thou wouldst come with me…”