• Published 26th Nov 2017
  • 1,335 Views, 45 Comments

Break of Day - Eroraf86

Celestia realizes just how hard Luna's job is ... and how important it is to NOT mess up.

  • ...

Mares and Nightmares




She stares down the invader, her eyes narrowed with barely-suppressed rage. This queen, this creature, dares to threaten her subjects in so brazen a manner? The bride, what horrors had she endured to reduce her to this disheveled wreck? Her own student, she had seen, she had known. If only I had listened to her, this might not have happened. My subjects might still be safe, were it not for my own blindness.

Regardless, hope is not yet lost. Defeat the queen, and her subjects would soon follow. So long as her Captain's shield holds, there is still time. This invader — this insect — must not be allowed to harm her beloved ponies. She must be stopped.

She must DIE.

Flying now, a beam of golden magic lancing down from her horn. The invader counters with her own beam, its color a sickly green. A futile effort, for the Sun cannot be overcome, certainly not by such vermin. She puts forth her power, striving to overcome the queen's magic.

Her beam stalls.

The queen's magic advances.

It shouldn't be possible. How can this creature's power surpass her own? She, who guides the Sun across the sky and draws strength from its immeasurable power, overcome by this thing? The queen's magic draws ever nearer, and her own magic begins to waver. I've failed. My power just isn't strong enough. But my student ... surely, with her friends and the Elements, surely they can —


Rage. Her power swells. The queen's advance is halted. She feels the warmth of magic at her core, the warmth of the Sun. She remembers. All the times when her magic wasn't enough, the times she held back. The times I was WEAK. But there was another time. The war against Discord, before the Elements were found. Strife with the griffons and dragons after the banishment of Nightmare Moon. When she wasn't afraid. The Sun was not weak then — the Sun burned. Back then, her enemies feared her. Because they saw, and they knew.

The wrath of the Unconquered Sun.

Enough holding back. Fire erupts from her form, shimmering dawn colors shifting to raging flames. Her magic triples, quadruples, presses down upon her foe and overwhelms her.

The queen scarcely has time to scream as her insectoid body boils from the inside.

Gliding back down, the Sun incarnate lands to inspect the remains. Nothing but an empty husk — a fitting end for a piece of trash. A crackling sound reaches her ears, and she looks up to see the shield cracking, fractures spreading across its width as the invading horde strikes against it. Let them come. They will soon learn the depth of their folly, and PAIN will be their mentor.

As the fragments of the shield rain down upon the city, the fiery alicorn takes flight. Sun and ash follow in her wake.

Celestia sat bolt upright in her bed, the dying shrieks of Changeling drones still echoing in her head. Her hooves clutched the sheets tight against her chest, her barrel heaving as though she had just run a marathon. She could still feel the fire that had consumed her in the dream, the rage that had fueled her magic and transformed her into that ... monster. That monster, whom she herself had destroyed the previous night. 'You are NOT real, and you will NEVER exist again!' That should have been the end of it, the end of her... Right?

Yet she had little time to contemplate her dream, or her dark self that had returned in it, for several of her now-awakened senses were clamoring urgently for her attention.

The first thing she noticed was the heat. That wasn't right, she knew — she always kept her balcony door open at night. The cool night breeze of Canterlot Mountain had always helped to soothe her body and ease her slumbers, a fact she had been doubly grateful for during the long, lonely centuries of Luna's banishment. Even in winter, she rarely closed the balcony door unless a snowstorm was imminent. Other ponies might have shivered and frozen in such a chill wind, but to the mare for whom sunfire was as her very lifeblood, the coldest of Arctic blasts was as the gentle zephyrs of spring.

On the other end of the scale, even the extreme heat of the southern deserts never bothered her. Ordinary fire wouldn't even singe her immaculate coat. Lava, of course, felt hot to the touch and could injure her, especially if she was submerged in it for an extended period — she was no dragon, after all, and despite the beliefs of many of her subjects, even the alicorn who raises the Sun has her physical limits. But the sunfire within her, so far beyond the heat of any common fire, normally kept her safe from anything the wildest of weather could inflict.

The fact that the heat she felt right now even registered as uncomfortable was more than a little alarming.

The next thing to catch her attention was the noise. Not the sound of an intruder or an assassin — that, she could deal with, or at least hope that her guards or the Elements would come to her aid. Nor was it the sound of thunder — Celestia was far too old and experienced to be frightened by a mere storm, even startled fresh out of a nightmare. No, the sound that now assaulted her hearing was one that she had loathed for centuries: the roaring and crackling of a raging inferno.

Not that she had any fear of fire in general; indeed, her chambers hosted a large hearth, and on her rare evenings to herself, she would often have a cozy fire burning merrily while she read Twilight's latest friendship report or the newest Daring Do novel. Often, she would warm herself by the fire before bed, just so that the cool night breeze would feel that much more soothing. A warm fire in one's hearth was a sign of home, of comfort.

But larger fires, bonfires, brought back terrible memories. Memories of long ago, of the wars with the Griffons and Dragons following the banishment of Nightmare Moon. Seeing Equestria bereft of one of its rulers, and thinking the land more vulnerable for it, the two races began a bloody war of conquest. Unwilling to send her beloved ponies to die in her defense while she remained safe behind, she had fought on the front lines. She saw many fall, on all sides — and most of them were burned. So many loyal and beloved friends, sent to their final rest as ash on the wind. Standing and watching silently as her subjects, her friends, went up in roaring flames... It was one of the hardest things she ever did as Princess.

Already shaken by her nightmare, still groggy and not thinking clearly, the sound of the blaze and the memories it dredged up did no favors for her composure.

Finally, as her eyes opened, she saw the source of the other sensations. A bright amber glow assaulted her vision; the entire room was lit up like daylight. Orange and yellow flames filled her vision on every side. Over, under, and around her, the sheets were already beginning to disintegrate into ash, and the plush mattress beneath her was blazing fiercely. Brighter yellow, almost white, flames flickered intermittently at the corners of her vision, though she could not identify their source. But solving these mysteries was the last thing on her mind.

Rattled by an intense nightmare, suffering traumatic flashbacks, finding herself suddenly in the midst of consuming flames, Celestia froze. She panicked. And she screamed.

Whatever else might be said about the royal guards, their response time at least was irreproachable, especially when their princess was in danger. Scarcely had the scream left Celestia's mouth when the door to her chamber flew open. Two guards, a Pegasus and a unicorn, stood in the aperture, wings spread and horn alight, prepared to face any threat from Changelings to Discord. This was not an exaggeration — these two guards in particular would have willingly faced the Lord of Chaos himself to keep their princess from harm. But even their intense training had not prepared them for the sight that now laid in front of them — a sight that would return to haunt their dreams for many moons to come.

Fierce orange and yellow flames filled the room, spreading rapidly across the lush carpet. And at the center of the blaze, frozen in panic, lay Princess Celestia, her bed blazing beneath her. Her gold eyes were wide and staring, the pupils contracted to mere slits; her fiery mane twitched and flickered erratically. These features were not lost on the astonished guards — after that day's incident during court, the whole story had spread in whispers throughout the palace, and even the guards who had not been present had been informed of Celestia's alleged darker self. The two of them had initially dismissed the rumors of her momentary transformation in court as mere gossip, but now, seeing it for themselves, they knew the rumors had been true. Both guards were momentarily transfixed in shock and fear, struggling to comprehend the change that had taken place in their princess.

Seconds later, their years of training kicked in. No words were needed — the course of action was obvious: put out the fire, and wake the Princess from her stupor. The first would require water, which would also serve for the second — clouds, then; by silent agreement, the Pegasus took the initiative. Concentrating on the fire first, the unicorn lit his horn as his comrade shot out the balcony door. Focusing his magic, he began drawing the oxygen away from the central part of the blaze — a rather basic fire suppression spell, but one that had served him well on more than one occasion. He only hoped that his comrade would return quickly with the much-needed water — he was unable to maintain the spell on this scale for more than a few minutes, and anyways, he did not much wish to test how long his princess could survive without oxygen before passing out.

Fortunately, luck was with them both. While the skies above Canterlot were mostly clear that night, there had been a few lingering clouds near the waterfalls, and several of them were laden with moisture — nature's own fire extinguisher. Returning with three large, heavy clouds, the Pegasus positioned one of them directly over Celestia's bed, muttered a quick prayer for forgiveness — old habits die hard, especially where the princesses are concerned — and stomped on the cloud with all his might.

A veritable waterfall cascaded over Celestia's head, both breaking her panic-induced stupor and extinguishing the flames around her. Spluttering and gasping for breath, her mind now as clear as the water drenching her fur, she lit her horn and vanished in a flash of sunlight, reappearing next to her unicorn guard with all four hooves firmly planted on the ground. Giving a grateful nod to her Pegasus guard, she watched as he emptied the next two clouds, smoke and steam filling the room and pouring out the balcony as the flames vanished.

The flames extinguished, the Pegasus bucked the clouds into oblivion, then landed next to his comrade, both guards saluting their princess. She returned their salute wearily, then spoke softly. "Thank you, gentlecolts. My apologies for worrying you like that. Are you both unharmed?" The guards both nodded smartly, though the unicorn pawed gently at the ground with his hoof, a question on his lips that he dared not speak aloud. The princess noticed and nodded to him encouragingly. "You wish to speak?"

The unicorn paused, then nodded slowly. "Begging your pardon, Your Highness, but I've been trying to figure out how the fire started in the first place. There was no trace of magic, unicorn or otherwise, that might indicate an intruder. As near as I can tell, you were the only pony in this room all night. I'm not sure how to say this, but I think... The pony who started the fire..." He cringed slightly as he finished. "It might have been you."

Celestia sighed and nodded. "You may be correct. As you are no doubt aware, the last few days have been rather ... stressful, to say the least. Last night was quite the shock to my system, seeing firsthoof the dangers of my sister's job, facing an evil version of myself in a dream... Yesterday's court session didn't do much to help in that regard. Before you came in a moment ago, I had just woken up from a rather unpleasant dream, one that I believe was caused by my experiences of the past 24 hours. Perhaps it was the emotions of that dream that caused the fire to start — I know from past experience that my more intense emotions can cause a local temperature increase."

The unicorn shook his head slowly. "Forgive me, Princess, but I think there's more to it than that. You see..." He paused, biting his lip uncertainly, but the gentle warmth in his princess's magenta eyes urged him onward. "When we got here, we saw the fire and you in the middle of it — but it wasn't you, exactly, not as you are now." Celestia cocked her head quizzically as he continued. "Your eyes were yellow, with slitted pupils, and your mane was like a river of fire." Nearly an exact solar counterpart to Nightmare Moon, he thought to himself, though he valued his life too highly to say such a thing out loud. "Based on the appearance and behavior of your mane and your proximity to the worst of the blaze, I believe it's likely that that was the initial cause of the fire. Whether that was caused by your dream or by something else, you would know better than me."

As Celestia began to process this information, the unicorn stroked his chin in thought. "Actually, that reminds me: one of the guards who was at court yesterday described something similar. From what he told me, one of the nobles said something that angered you, and for a moment, you took on the exact likeness of the creature you described from your dream last night." He cringed slightly and added hastily, "I wasn't there myself, but I overheard more than a few of the guards and servants saying almost the same thing." His gaze was almost beseeching now, begging for answers. "I don't know that I've seen you like that before, or if you've just kept something like this hidden all this time, but as your guards, I think we need to know what's going on if we're to continue serving you." Not that he or his comrade would ever resign, but not all the guards were as seasoned as the two of them. "Some of the colts are really scared right now, even if they don't want to admit it, and the Captain's nearly at his wit's end. I need to know what we should tell them. Please, Princess. We want to help you."

Celestia was silent for several moments. What did I ever do in my life to deserve such honest, loyal guards? She sighed softly, then gave them a motherly smile. "Thank you for bringing these facts to my attention, sir. If I'm to be honest, I myself am rather puzzled; then again, dreams and transformations were never my forte. However, I can assure you that neither you nor anypony else has anything to fear from me. The nobles may try my patience on occasion, but it is simply in a pony's nature to react aversely to any perceived threat, even one from my sister. I can't tell you what to say to your fellow stallions in light of all this, but I trust your judgement on the matter." She gave a rather un-princess-like yawn and glanced out her balcony door. The sky was still dark, Luna's moon not yet at its zenith. "Forgive me, gentlecolts, but I believe I must retire once more; the night is still young, and even we alicorns need our sleep." With a wave of her horn, her plush bed was dried and restored to its former plumpness; the sheets would have to be replaced entirely. "Thank you again, both of you."

The guards both saluted and smiled. "Our pleasure, Your Highness," replied the Pegasus. "I hope your dreams will be more peaceful from now on. But just in case they aren't," he grinned cheekily, "perhaps you might consider a fireproofing spell?"

The guards saluted once more and marched out of the room, the unicorn's aura closing the door behind them. Celestia chuckled at her guard's cheek, but doubts clutched at her mind. That bed was fireproofed. I renewed the spell just last week. And what he said about my appearance... She shook her head. NO, I can't let myself think like that. The resemblance may just be a coincidence. I mustn't jump to conclusions without more evidence. She nodded to herself, her mind made up. That settles it. Tomorrow I'll talk to Luna and see what she knows. She's the real expert on dreams; maybe she can explain this whole mess away, and things can finally go back to normal. She re-fluffed her pillows, summoned a new blanket and sheets, and curled up, closing her eyes and allowing the cool night breeze to lull her to sleep.

As he pulled the door closed behind him, the unicorn sighed in relief. "Well, that just happened." His companion was silent, wings twitching slightly, waiting for him to continue. The unicorn glanced back at the door. "I don't like this. I know the Princess said there's nothing to fear, but I have my doubts. If something like this had happened before, we would have known about it."

"Would we?" The Pegasus turned to face him. "You've been in the guard nearly as long as I have — you should know our princess better. She's an expert in hiding things that she doesn't want her subjects knowing — she kept Nightmare Moon's identity a secret for a thousand years, after all. Even if something like this did happen in the past, what makes you think we would know about it?" He snorted softly. "I know she only keeps her secrets to protect her subjects and keep the peace, but the guard at least should have known about Princess Luna before her return."

The unicorn shook his head. "Well, like it or not, there's not much we can do about that. She's the Princess for a reason; we'll just have to trust her wisdom like we always have." He paused, shuffling his hooves anxiously. "So what are we going to tell the colts in the morning? You saw the shape they're in. No guard should be that afraid of the princess he protects."

The Pegasus began to pace slowly, a hoof to his muzzle as he thought. "We can't say anything with certainty. The Princess herself seems unsure of what's going on with her changes. She could be feigning ignorance to keep us from panicking, but I doubt that; if she was hiding something like that, I would have noticed." It was true: he was one of the best card players in the guard, and even Celestia herself couldn't conceal much from him. In another life, he might have made quite the successful defense attorney. "While the idea of a powerful alicorn transforming into something from her own nightmares sounds disturbing at best, she hasn't hurt anypony so far, and we have no reason to believe that she will in the near future. If I had to guess, she's probably going to consult Princess Luna in the morning — if anypony knows about nightmares, it's her. Let's wait until tomorrow and see what comes of that; if the colts ask, we can tell them what the Princess told us."

The unicorn nodded. "I can live with that. Here's hoping for a swift and boring end to this mess."

"Agreed. Boring is good. I'm okay with boring." The two guards laughed quietly and resumed their silent vigil, one thought echoing in both their minds.

Thank Faust, the worst is over.

Author's Note:

I know, I said I would try to have this done by the end of January. I blame two things: one, ADHD; two, good beginnings and endings are hard. Hoping to get the first one under control before long. The second one, I guess just comes with practice.

Anyways, here at long last is chapter 2! :yay: It would have been longer, but I think I've kept you guys waiting long enough. I'm really happy with how the first part turned out -- it might be one of my favorite things I've written thus far.

How about you? Do you like it so far? Hate it? Was it worth the wait? Anything you would change? Let me know in the comments below. Your feedback sustains me.

Next time, the confrontation begins! Hopefully, this one won't take two whole months to write. No promises, but I hope to have it done by mid-March, if not sooner.

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