• Published 22nd Jul 2012
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Rites of Ascension - CvBrony



Twilight makes a new spell and starts the gears of fate with her ascension to alicornhood. (Writing started before Season 3.)

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Broken

“Sever.”

The gem in the sword began to glow blue and purple. Runes and enchantments in the crystal directed the energy through the working of its preset spell in the blink of an eye. The energy rushed forward, arcing through and down the runes on the flat of the blade as the cored weapon itself slashed through the air.

At the apex of the slash, a burst of energy in the shape of an ultra-thin barrier launched forth, flying through the air and striking the golem with the projectiles edge, cutting into the stone and detonating. Ash, pebbles, and dust rained down on Twilight, plinking off of her helmet as she shielded her eyes from hard rain.

Twilight Sparkle twirled the sword in her magical grasp, gazing at her reflection on the polished gemstone set in the hilt. I think I’ve finally figured you out now.

“Twilight!”

Her head snapped upward, and she locked her gaze at the source of the outcry. Spike was tangling with no fewer than three golems on the ridge above her. She pulled her sword back again, focusing her glare at the pegasus golem in the air, and swung. As the blade arced around, her horn shot a spark of power directly into the gem.

Another bolt of magic slammed into the new target, crumbling it. A unicorn golem joined it a second later, crushed under the weight of Spike’s halberd. Twilight ran up the slope, hooves pounding on the loose volcanic soil. Her coat was full of dust and dirt, and her tongue tasted salt from sweat and tropical sea air that filled her lungs.

Behind you!”

The earth pony golem turned in reaction Twilight's facsimile of the Royal Canterlot Voice, jumping out of the way of her sword swing, leaving her open. This was okay. After all, the golem was open, too.

Spike’s halberd came down once again, its gleaming edge slicing clean through the golem’s neck. Both pieces were sent down the side of the volcano, tumbling and falling apart.

The dragon lifted his blade back up and rested it on his shoulder. “Glad to see you’ve finally figured out that sword. Took you long enough.”

Twilight pushed him to the side and sent another wave of energy down behind him, smashing another golem. “This one is a bit trickier than the others. I shouldn’t need the voice commands anymore, though. The top should be just over the next ridge. You ready to do this?”

“Hey, dragon, remember?” As he spun his polearm a little in his fingers, the weapon began to glow. He slapped the bottom of the pole, and the lower half of it disappeared, collapsing down into more of a small, fancy war axe than a halberd. When it finished, he put it on his back, and it stuck there with a magnetic ‘clang.’ “Not like the lava can hurt me anyway.”

“Yeah, but if this thing blows, the shockwave might. Just, be careful.”

“You bet. Watch my back.” Spike dashed up the side of the volcano, digging his claws into the side and going straight up the edge instead of around the long way on the spiral path.

Twilight, meanwhile, pulled at her horn and refocused her eyes, calling upon and activating her magic sight. One more swing of her sword sent a bolt up the mountain, past Spike, and into a buried golem hiding in the rocks.

“Ha!” Twilight reared up on her hind legs. Spike’s going to make it! She quickly checked around her and did a short pair of teleports up to the ridge to be at his side.

“Really, Twilight?” Spike asked, panting a bit. “Remember what Luna did the last time you tried to teleport?”

She waved a hoof around to fan away the brimstone fumes and smoke from the caldera while her vision returned to normal. “I checked for traps this time, and I’m here, right? Just hurry up and toss that thing in already!”

He pulled out the artifact from his pocket; a gold disk with an extremely large blue gem in the center. The whole thing was roughly the size and shape of a frisbee. His claws danced on the gem, poking it in a few key areas, lighting them up.

“It’s ready. Here goes!” With a great heave, he threw it into the smoldering volcano, where it promptly sank like a rock in the ocean. “Man that thing was heavy!”

Twilight turned away from the caldera. “Well, objective complete. Let’s get going!” She jumped just a bit, landing on the side and sliding down on her hind hooves. Spike followed right after her, and they stopped at the first ledge of the spiral path they came to.

“Say, Twi, anything about that feel too easy to you?”

She scoffed. “Easy? We just took out about twenty of those golems.”

Spike rubbed his upper arms like he was cold. “Yeah, I know. But last time, it was forty. I counted.”

She blinked. “Then, what, she’s going easy on us?”

“You know we’re talking about Princess Luna, right?”

Twilight was about to argue the point, hoof already raised, but lowered it. “You’re right. We need to get the hay out of here.”

Luna’s voice rang in their ears as if there were a million Lunas all around them, speaking at the exact same time. “An excellent idea, novice.”

The ground under their feet rumbled and started to frost over. The sky above them began to boil with dark, lightning-filled clouds, blocking out the sun and casting the entire island in an unnaturally dim light. The birds in the trees in the far distance all took off into the air at once, vacating for someplace unknown.

Twilight’s ears went flat. “We’re bucked, aren’t we?”

Spike nodded. “E-yeah.”

They both leapt off the side, sliding down the mountain, running where the land was stable enough. On one relatively flat point, Twilight grabbed onto Spike and charged for a teleport, sending them down to the next level of the path in a series of three short flashes before stopping. Her legs started to wobble, and the world in her vision flickered in and out of her sight while spinning around. “Ugh, my head! I don’t think we’re going to make it!”

Spike hopped on her back, his weight bringing her butt down to the ground. “Less talky, more sparky!”

Twilight gritted her teeth, pushing another charge into her horn. Two hops this time brought them down to the next level, but Twilight’s legs were giving out under her strained center of balance. “No good! If I teleport again that fast I’ll vomit!”

“Look!” The dragon grabbed her head and turned it back towards the mountain.

The black smoke from the caldera had stopped, but it was replaced by an even greater volume of white smoke. It looked as through a cumulonimbus cloud was being pushed through the volcano with tremendous force. Moreover, the very top of the volcano was covered with ice.

“How in the world…”

Before she could move, the volcano rumbled and finally blew its top. Slush, water, snow, frost, ice, and all manner of things cold started to blast both up into the sky and down the mountain, right at them.

“Ice!? That thing made it spew ice!? That disk barely had any magic in it! There’s no way that could happen!”

“Twilight!” Spike grabbed her shoulders. “Twilight we need to get going!”

She stomped her hooves. “But that shouldn’t be physically possible! There’s just no way! Dammit Luna, stop breaking the laws of magic and physics!”

“Twilight!”

“I know, I know.” The Grand Mage grabbed onto Spike and did another two hops, but the rumble of the approaching liquified glacier just kept getting louder, and Twilight’s head was in no shape to absorb another teleportation shock.

“Come on, we need to keep going!”

“No.” Twilight stomped her hoof, pushing it into the sand and turning to face the onslaught.

Spike leapt in front of her. “Are you crazy!? You can’t stop that!”

She pushed him to the side. “I can. It just requires a sacrifice.” Twilight took the sword in her magic, tossed it into the air a couple times, caught it, then slammed it into the ground, driving it into the soil all the way up to the hilt.

Spike slapped his forehead. “What!? Here!? We’ll never survive that blast! And even if you do, Luna’s going to kill you if you keep blowing up her swords!”

Twilight’s horn flared to life, sending magenta sparks all over and around her, putting up a thin shield around them, leaving the sword just outside. “Oh ye of little faith, number one assistant. Give me a count.”

Spike groaned, but it was almost entirely drowned out by the roar of the coming ice. “Another explosion isn’t what’s needed here!”

The dragon exhaled and began counting while Twilight continued to push magic into her horn, kicking up wind and dust from the sheer pressure of the magic. “Count, Spike! I’m not used to using this much magic yet!”

“One, two, three…”

The Grand Mage watched the oncoming wall of water until count three, then shifted her gaze to the sword.

“Four, five, six…”

Technically she was well beyond six. With Spike’s help counting, she could reasonably figure out how much magic she had summoned into her horn without wasting time thinking about it. It left her free to concentrate.

“Seven… eight… hurry-up-nine!”

Her eyes fixated right on the gem in the sword. The fire blade she blew up earlier shot lava, sulphur, and other flammables over an area the size of half a hoofball field in its detonation. The lightning blade caused a small, short-lived lightning storm.

“Ten! Eleve—”

Twilight cut him off and let loose all the magic she had pulled into her horn. The shield didn’t so much as shimmer as the beam phased right through it and into the center of the gem which blazed with light, crackling and hissing under the strain. Horn empty, she dove on top of Spike, pushing him down to the ground and covering him with her body.

Raging purple and blue light blasted right through her eyelids as the blade detonated just before the ice hit, and Twilight knew what was coming. She didn’t let up for a second, and in fact hunkered down even harder from the sheer sound of the cored weapon exploding.

It was one thing when a cored weapon was rendered inert by cutting its leylines or warping the gem as to be unusable. This, however, was overpowering it and then letting loose all of its magic in one single destructive instant, generating a sound blast akin to a huge bomb. Wind, heat, and a thunderous, near-deafening BOOM roared into and past them, covering them in ambient magic and kicked-up dirt and dust.

Then, just like that, it was all over.

When Twilight finally let herself look up, there was a cracking mass of barriers all around her, redirecting the cryoclastic flow around them. The multi-colored barriers towered into the sky in a titanic cylinder. There was no rhyme or reason as to how they were laid out. Rather, the hundreds of shields intersected each other all over the place, like a honeycomb warped by chaos magic. Instead of blasting the pair apart or cutting them to pieces, the barriers that struck Twilight’s shield merged into it, never penetrating.

Shortly after the ice passed, the shields crumbled and shattered into pieces, splintering and dissolving as they fell to the earth.

Twilight tapped her own barrier, shattering it, too. “A shield made solely with magic meant to link with other barriers. Shiny taught me that trick. Guess we’re lucky it worked on such a huge scale.”

Spike groaned again and slowly got to his feet. “Okay, so, I guess another explosion was what was called for here. Ugh.”


“My, my, my. Another sword, Twilight? What am I going to do with you?” Luna rested her chin on the edge of the cloud, looking down at the scene unfolding.

“Hey, she stopped it, didn’t she?”

Luna turned and looked at the bound pegasus beside her on the cloud. Rainbow Dash was still struggling against the magical restraints, if fruitlessly. The barrier shards wrapped around her glittered and shone with each new twitch. “True, she did. But I don’t think I’ll give her a replacement this time. She needs to learn more strategies outside of huge explosions, despite that fact that I’m quite the fan of them myself.”

Rainbow struggled a bit more. “You know, you didn’t need to trap me.”

Luna ruffled her wings a bit. “Of course I did! I ordered my soldiers to stay back on the island and let those two deal with things on their own. I trust in their loyalty to me. But, such orders to you would have been irrelevant. By personality and oath, you are loyal to Twilight, even over me. Hence, I restrained you. Although if you were to stop struggling, it wouldn’t be quite so uncomfortable.”

“I can’t help it!” She thrashed a bit more. “I hate being trapped! I’m a pegasus! We aren’t supposed to be tied down like this!”

“True,” Luna conceded, sitting up and turning back to watch the scene below. “But I am afraid you shall have to deal with it a little while longer. There are more lessons I must teach her without your aid.”

“Hmph.”

Luna stifled a laugh at the pegasus’ pouting. Oh, this all takes me back to those coliseum days. What was it that my master always said? Other than ‘Give me stronger wine or I’ll toss your head to the crowd as a party favor.’ Heh. Then there was that ti—”

Luna’s mind went to another place for just an instant, her vision getting darker, but lurched back when her left leg gave out completely, dropping her to the cloud. No, heavens above, not now! Please!

“Luna?”

The Princess could only barely tell who was speaking. The cyan pegasus sounded, as if she were being smothered, or was underwater. Her left eyelid started to close of its own accord, and her vision got even darker, like it was turning to night already. No, no, no! I thought I was done with this!

“Luna! Hey! What’s wrong!?”

The alicorn’s other left leg gave out, forcing her to list to her side. Grunting and fighting what was coming with her good legs, she twisted her body for a clear look at Rainbow, then charged her horn as much she could in her state. She fired a beam at the shards holding the pegasus down, shattering them. With her last breath, she tried to speak and give her a command.

Yet she heard nothing, and the pegasus vanished into the distance while the world bled away to black.


Rainbow Dash dove, desperate to catch up. The wind wasn’t what was fighting her. Wind was something she was used to. Something she was a part of. This was something altogether different. Luna’s limp body had fallen right off the cloud after destroying her restraints, yet she couldn’t catch the Princess no matter how hard she tried.

But it wasn’t from the wind.

Luna’s body wasn’t just falling. It was enveloped in crackling lightning, raging magic streams, and white and black bursts of light. Each one lashed out like it was looking for her. If even one of them hit, she was toast.

“Twilight! Twilight!” Rainbow yelled as loud as she could, but it was no use. Her friend was much, much too far away to hear her. She could only hope she noticed in time.


“Well, I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop, how about you?” Spike cracked his knuckles.

“Yeah,” Twilight agreed. “It’s not like Luna to keep us waiting this long. Ow!” Twilight held up her hooves, recoiling as something seared her skin like a hot frying pan. When it didn’t last more than a second, she froze in place and cracked open an eye, finding no burns on her at all. “What in the world…”

“Twilight! Look!”

She turned her gaze upwards towards where Spike was pointing, and gasped.

A hot, blazing ball of magic with crackling lightning was falling right towards the side of the volcano, with a rainbow-streaked pegasus chasing after it but backing up each time she got close.

“Luna… Spike, stay back!”

“But—”

Twilight took off like a cheetah, letting her legs do the talking and rushing into the ice, mush, and snow the “volcano” left behind. Her hooves slipped and slid, twisting her barrel around, but onward she pressed towards the falling comet.

She was too late.

The Princess of the Night plowed into the ground like a meteorite, sending smoke, dust, ice, and snow flying with a thunderous *CRASH* and knocking Twilight back on her rear.

“Luna!? Luna!” Frigid, choking smoke and ice filled her lungs as she yelled, forcing her to cough and hack while the sound and light died down. Slipping on the snow, she brought herself back to her hooves and pushed forward. Though she couldn’t see anything yet, she could feel the upwards slope of a recently formed crater. “Luna, are you okay!?”

“Twilight!” A strong wind came from above, clearing out a lot of the particulate matter in the air near them. In its place, a rainbow-maned pegasus flew around in circles, searching. “Twilight! There you are! Where’s Luna!? What in the hay happened!?”

“I have no idea!” Twilight jumped up, climbing up and over into the crater’s depression. “We’ve got to make sure she’s alright! We’re Celestia-only-knows how far away from civilization. Without her to teleport us, we’ll never get home!”

“Wait up, guys!” Spike called out.

Twilight could hear his footsteps march up behind her, but she pressed forward, sliding down towards the center of the mess while Rainbow overhead kept clearing out the sky with her magic. It didn’t take her long to find what she was looking for.

“Whoa, what the hell is that!?”

“Rainbow!” Twilight snapped despite herself. The outburst was justified. There, in front of them, was an unsealed Princess Luna, unconscious on the ground. Covering her was some kind of black mesh netting. It glistened a little, but still looked burned and twisted.

“Is she alright?” Spike asked.

Rainbow flew down and put her ear on the Princess’s chest. “Well, she’s breathing, so there’s that. Doesn’t even look like she was hurt. Except, she kind of looks like—”

“Don’t say it, Rainbow.” Twilight cut her off while examining the substance on the night alicorn. I don’t know if Luna would want me sharing this secret, but at this point, it’s already out. “She’s not the Nightmare. This is Luna. The real Luna. She seals away her power so she can look smaller and more approachable. The seal must’ve broke when, well, all this happened. Whatever ‘this’ is.”

Rainbow landed and sat down next to them, and just stared. “Whoa.”

Spike leaned over and pulled off a piece of whatever was on her coat. “I suppose that makes sense. I can see how looking like this could make ponies nervous.” His voice cracked a little. “I mean, I’m fine, but who knows what others would think.” His voice cracked even more before picking up a piece of the black substance. “Anypony know what this stuff is?”

Twilight shook her head, picking up a piece of it in her magic. “No clue, honestly. I wish I could get it back to my lab and… Hey!”

The ‘stuff,’ whatever it was, defied Twilight’s need for knowledge by spontaneously dissolving into the air.

“Oh, that’s just not fair!” She stomped a hoof. “That was our only clue, and now it’s just up and dissolving away like magic!”

Spike started to try to lift the Princess up. “I’m guessing that’s ‘cause it’s magic.”

Twilight raised an eyebrow.

“What? It’s the truth!” Spike was still trying to push the unconscious alicorn into a standing position. “Give me a hoof, will ya?”

Twilight didn’t even have time to try it before the comatose body flopped to the ground with a ‘flomp,’ limp wings sprawled out to the sides.

“Crap,” Spike shrugged, giving up.

Rainbow took to the air again, hovering over them. “Okay, let me get this straight. We’ve got a princess who has spontaneously knocked herself out, crashed into a mountain, is our only way home, we have no idea when or if she’ll wake up, and the only clue Twilight had to solving this just disappeared into the ether like Pinkie Pie when… well, like Pinkie Pie.”

Twilight sighed and sat down. “That about covers it.”

“So what do we do?” Spike asked.

She opened her mouth and stalled. “I… I don’t know.” The sounds of two more ponies galloping came from behind them, and Twilight continued. “But they might!”

“Sovereign!”

Twilight wasn’t quite sure which one that was, but regardless both of them soon leapt over the crater’s edge and slid right down to their Princess’s side.

Rainbow zoomed in near them. “We didn’t do anything, I swear!”

The two stallions ignored her, going to examine the Princess. After just a couple of seconds, Starward spoke. “What are you three doing just sitting here? Help us get our Sovereign out of this hole! We need to get her someplace comfortable!”

Twilight narrowed her focus on the stallion. “So you do know what’s going on. Care to share?”

He charged right up at her. “Later. Right now we need to take care of her!”

Twilight thought for a moment, not letting her face so much as flinch in front of him, but could find no alternative. “Very well.”


Several hours later, Luna had long since been laid on a makeshift bed of sand and leaves while she slept off the mysterious affliction, watched over at each side by her Night Guards. The sun was starting to get low in the sky, and the warm tropical air was replaced with a cold chill thanks to the eruption of ice. The ponies all sat near the fire, with the dragon even closer, warming his hands.

“Any messages, Spike?” Twilight asked.

“Nothin’,” he said, poking the fire with a stick.

“Doesn’t Princess Celestia normally respond to your letters a lot faster?” Rainbow scratched her head.

Twilight nodded. “Yeah, she does. Usually. Sometimes she can’t, though, and we know she’s been very busy lately. It’s not time to panic just yet. Although I’d be a lot more comfortable if Starward here would tell us what’s going on.”

The stallion sighed, half growling. “I told you. My oath prevents me from sharing details. All I can tell you is that the Sovereign is healthy and will wake soon.”

“You said ‘soon’ hours ago.” Rainbow groaned, rolling over. “You mind telling us what ‘soon’ means?”

The entire group froze in shock as the Princess finally began to stir, groaning a little.

“When she is ready. Arcane, aid me.” Starward got up and put his hoof under the Princess, while Arcane Edge did the same, both of them helping her up and supporting her with their shoulders.

“Ugh. NNnnnnngggg… What…” Luna’s wings twitched but otherwise stayed limp. She was clearly trying to lift her head, but all of her standing force was being supplied by her two Night Guard soldiers lifting her with more care than Twilight thought they were capable of.

She inched closer to the Princess, followed shortly by her own guards. “Princess Luna? Are you okay?”

“Wha? Whossa…” Luna lifted her head with a flop, her ethereal mane in the way of one of her eyes. The other opened and its pupil flailed open and closed, until finally settling down. “Twilight?”

She bowed, and signaled her friends to do so, too, at the behest of her old habits. “Yes, Princess.”

Her leg lifted up again and again, each time falling back to Starward’s shoulder, and eventually slipped off and to the ground. “No, no bowing, no…” The rest of the alicorn followed the leg, causing the two Guardsponies to rush to try and pull her back up.

“Princess?” Twilight lifted a hoof.

“No!” Luna’s legs flailed upside-down, struggling to roll her over onto her belly. “No bowing! Don’t… Don’t help me up. I’ll—” Her own yawn interrupted her. “I’ll be okay. Just... Give me a few minutes.”

Twilight’s ears went flat against the back of her head. A glance over at Rainbow revealed she was doing her best to look at everything not Luna, and failing. “Um, okay. We’ll wait for you.”

The next several minutes Twilight and the others sat in silence as Luna twitched and borderline-convulsed, flexing limbs seemingly at random. Eventually, the Princess was finally in a tenable position, laying down but with her legs under her and her head held high. “I think… I think I’m okay now.”

Twilight could see the lump in Luna’s throat being swallowed down. “You don’t have to rush, Princess.”

The night alicorn deflated a bit. “Don’t call me that, Twilight. I much prefer ‘Luna,’ especially coming from you. I don’t like that distance between us.”

She lowered her head. “Sorry. Old Canterlot habits. When a superior noble is sick, you’re supposed to lower yourself to not look above them.”

“Then do not consider me superior!”

Twilight’s neck lurched back from the sheer force of Luna’s voice.

Luna was frozen in place for a second, jaw grinding her teeth, before she opened her eyes and stared at her nervously.

“Um,” Twilight began.

Luna collapsed to the ground and covered her ears with her hooves. “Ugh. Forgive me, Twilight. These episodes always leave me a bit… Well, I think my sister used the term ‘wonky.’”

“Uh, about that.” Rainbow held up a hoof. “What exactly happened back there? You kinda passed out.”

Luna drearily looked over at Rainbow, and then back at her own body, and then to Spike, then back to her own body, and finally back to Twilight. “Damn. I suppose you explained about my seal?”

Twilight nodded. “Yeah. I didn’t know if you would have wanted me to tell them, but since they saw…”

“Right. Well, at least I don’t have to explain that part.” She sighed and laid down, gazing into the fire. “Twilight, Rainbow, Spike, how much do you three really know about what the Elements did to me?”

Twilight looked over to Rainbow, who now looked every bit as nervous as Twilight felt. “Well, um, Celestia said they, erm, cleansed you?”

Luna snorted. “‘Cleansed’ is a far, far more gentle term than I would use. That makes it sound like a bath. The Elements are not so gentle. They all but destroyed me.”

Twilight looked over at Rainbow again, who was biting her hoof.

“This is not to say that I am not grateful for what you have done,” Luna continued as her two guards moved closer to lay at her sides, supporting her physically once again. “I am eternally indebted to you and your friends for your actions. But I didn’t emerge from that a whole mare. The Elements did more than just break my armor. They broke my mind, and nearly blew out my wellspring. A shattered mess, only barely able to remember who and what I was, I clung to my sister like a foal to a teat because the only memories I had were of her. She took care of me, helped put my mind back together, and forgave me.”

A lone tear fell to the sand under the diarch. “I owe her more than I can ever repay. She fought tooth and hoof to give me my small Night Guard because she knew my secret. I did not hide away in my chambers because I was shy before the Council and the nobles. I could not care less about what they think of me. I hid because I was weak, not in resolve, but in mind and body. Little things I would experience brought back so many memories. Thousands of years to relive and remember, all locked away and hidden in the back of my own mind. Sometimes, they come so fast, it overwhelms me. So I fall asleep, and dream. When I wake, I feel different. More whole, sometimes, but different, always. Like I’m a somewhat different mare, living many years in but a night.”

The Princess lifted her wings, placing them on her two stallions, and stretching them out. “Do you want to know why I wasn’t at your brother’s wedding, Twilight? The real reason I couldn’t be there to help? I was asleep. Not by choice, but all the same. Napping. Dreaming of things I once knew long ago, and physically locked away by my meager Night Guard to protect me at my most vulnerable hour.”

Twilight swallowed in her dry throat. “Celestia told me you were investigating a threat in Manehattan. She… She lied to me.”

Luna shook her head. “Probably not, actually. Although she would not have have told you this full truth regardless, I did go to Manehattan to do that very thing, but something triggered a memory. This triggered another, and another, until I was overwhelmed by my own mind, entering REM sleep in mere seconds. As here.”

Twilight stood up, stretching her back. “That, honestly makes me feel a little better. At least in some ways. I think I understand why you don’t go to the 'front lines' much, though.”

Luna sneered a bit, but Twilight could tell it wasn’t at her. The Princess was more directing it to herself.

“Yes. Falling asleep in a battle is not how I plan to die. Of course, as an alicorn, that isn’t something I do much planning on, but if I must go, that would not be the way I desire.”

Spike sat up, rotating his shoulder. “Yeah, I can understand the feeling. Still doesn’t explain what that black stuff was, though.”

Luna blinked. “Black stuff?”

“Yeah, there was this weird, black, web-netting stuff on you after you landed in the crater. Sorry about not catching you, by the way.” Rainbow flapped her wings. “You were, like, going crazy with magic and I couldn’t get close.”

Luna blinked again. “‘Weird, black, web-netting stuff.’ I’m not sure what you mean.”

Twilight cleared her throat and started to explain. “It looked like black, burned plastic, but was more brittle, and the surface was smoother than I would have thought. Somewhat reflective, and it dissolved about a minute after impact.”

Luna clopped a hoof on the ground. “Oh! That must have been Lumina deploying a little to protect me.”

“Lumina?” Twilight and Spike asked at the same time.

The Princess tapped the blue gem in the center of her gray-white torc. “My torc. My bonded armor, Lumina.”

“That’s its name?” Rainbow flew up a little for a closer look at the torc.

Luna nodded. “Yes. Each bonded artifact has a name. Often they choose it themselves. Twilight, has your torc contacted you yet?”

Twilight shook her head. “Not yet. Should it have?”

Luna shrugged. “Probably, but there’s no helping it. For all we know it may just have a shy personality. Keep trying.” She looked up at the sky, and the sun setting through the frigid volcanic ‘smoke.’ “I believe it’s time I raised the moon.”

Rainbow flew back into a hover. “Whoa, um, is that a good idea? I mean, in your state—”

“I have been raising the moon for nearly nine thousand years, Rainbow.” Luna stood up and spread her wings, flaring out the smooth, nearly-black feathers.

“Yes, but I’ve raised the moon, too,” Twilight protested. “I know I would not be in any state to use that spell just yet given what I’ve seen.”

Luna smirked a little. “That is not my spell for raising the moon. That was a heavily-modified version of the original spell unicorns used to use, altered so that a single ascendant would be enough. Mine is more… instinctive, at this point. I will be fine. For afterwards, I suggest you all prepare yourselves. We are not yet done today.”

Rainbow, Spike, and Twilight all shared a shudder, but the dragon hunched over as well, gripping his stomach. With a loud burp, a scroll formed from the flames he belched.

“From the Princess?” Twilight asked. “It’s been a while since we sent the message. What’s it say?”

Spike unfurled the scroll and coughed a bit. “Ugh. That one kinda hurt. Ahem. Basically, it’s saying that Luna will be fine, just watch over her, and that not to worry about taking care of the moon. Princess Celestia says she’ll do it.”

The Lunar Princess sighed. “I hate it when I have to lean on her for this. I feel like some kind of coward, hiding behind my soldiers and letting others do the work I should be. Oh well, can’t be helped.”

Spike raised a hand. “Um, she also says that Trail Blazer didn’t check in when he was supposed to and wants to know if she should dispatch a... Wonderbolt SAR. What’s an SAR?”

“Search And Rescue,” Rainbow answered. “If she’s going right for that, they’re either in deep trouble or crazy far away.”

Luna tapped her silver-clad hoof on her lip. “Hmmm…”


“Alright, Pipsqueak! This is it!”

The earth pony bit his lip as they dangled high in the air on a rickety rope bridge. Rumbling Steel had him cornered. In the unicorn’s magic was the object of three months of searching: a lost artifact of gold and rubies made before Discord ravaged the world. A lost, magical, highly unstable and explosive artifact. Worse, Steel also had a cored cannon aimed right at him.

“Here’s what’s going to happen!” Rumbling Steel shouted in his native Trottingham accent, the same type he left behind so long ago. “You’re going to message the Princess—”

“I can’t do that! We’re out of range! It’s limited by—”

“Don’t lie to me, earth pony, I can see through your games!”

He rolled his eyes. This guy wasn’t going to listen. His flare was one-time-use only, and he was way too far away from a leyline for it to reach his mentor.

“You will message Princess Luna and tell her that if she doesn’t hand over her torc, I’m going to turn this into an unparalleled bomb and set it off in downtown Manehatten! If you don’t, I’ll start sending her pieces of you instead!”

Wait, you’re going to try to hold hostages? Against Princess Luna?” He laughed deep from his belly. This guy is completely off his rocker! The earth pony lifted his sword with his mouth, and cut one of the ropes on the bridge.

“What are you doing?”

He spit the sword out. “Hey, if we’ve got to go, this way’s a lot more pleasant than what Luna would do to you! And by the way, the name’s Trail Blazer!” He picked up the sword again, and sliced through the remaining ropes.


“I’m sure he’s fine.” Luna reassured Spike with a pat on his head. “My little Pip is quite resourceful.”

Rainbow threw up her hooves. “Wait, time out! Pip!? As in, the little earth pony colt!?”

The Princess let out a belly laugh, her jovial voice rattling the heavens themselves. “Oh my, yes. ‘Little earth pony colt.’ He calls himself ‘Trail Blazer’ now. If only you could see him, Rainbow Dash. He has grown into a most impressive earth pony stallion.”

Twilight tilted her head. “Really? I haven’t seen him in ages.”

Luna peered right into Twilight’s eyes with a piercing, knowing glare. “I daresay he might even stir you a little, ascendant. He is, well, I believe the mare travelling with him described him as ‘a chiseled god.’”

“Heh. Sounds like quite the fan-filly,” Rainbow mused, stretching herself out.

Luna nodded. “Indeed, but she is good for him, I think. Her name is Scootaloo.”

An iceberg worth of silence dropped right on the heads of Twilight, Rainbow, and Spike. Mouths open, eyes wide, and Rainbow even fell over on her side.

Luna put her ears back. “Oh my. It seems I forgot something important.”

Silence still reigned over the trio as if a mad Celestia had stolen everypony’s voice, along with their ability to move.

“Huh.” Luna smirked a bit. “Starward, it appears our Grand Mage has stopped breathing. Please go give her mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.”

Twilight instantly snapped out of it. “Scootaloo said that!?”

“Wait, you said Scootaloo...” Spike held his hands out and then pointed off to his side like there was a past version of Ponyville there. “As in the same Scootaloo that tore through Ponyville on a scooter on a regular basis desperate to find her cutie mark and, more often than not, wound up covered in tree sap?”

Luna shrugged. “I have heard some tales of these exploits, yes. I am afraid I forgot that she had wanted me to not reveal her whereabouts to you all. A promise I have now broken. These memory dreams always mix me up a little. I shall have to make it up to her.”

“Scootaloo’s in trouble!?” Rainbow finally snapped out of it and flew right up to Luna. “Why didn’t you say so!? I need to go after her! She’s—”

“Rainbow!” Twilight yelled before running over and pulling her down. “Relax! She’s an adult by now. I doubt she’s in that much trouble.”

Tears started flowing down the pegasus’ face like someone turned on a faucet. “You don’t understand, Twi! I finally know where she is! Well, sort of. I need to talk to her! I—”

“Rainbow Dash.” Luna’s deeper voice cut through the conversation like death’s scythe, ending the former Wonderbolt’s words as the alicorn stood over them. “Give her time. Allow her to come to you. I know this mare, this filly, and she knows me. She knows she could see you anytime she’s ready. I am aware there is some level of heartache for her in regards to Ponyville, and she needs to heal from it before that will happen. In the meantime, as she is... infatuated with the pony who is, at this moment, my student, she is under my protection, and will be as long as she is so connected to my Pip. Understand?”

Rainbow was looking right into Luna’s eyes, and Twilight couldn’t help but look, too. The Princess’s eyes weren’t quite the vertical slits of the Nightmare, but there was a determination and cutting presence to them that sent chills up her spine all the same.

The pegasus wiped her eyes, leaned into Twilight, and nodded.

Twilight sighed, embracing her friend in a hug before pressing Luna on something she had said. “Princess, you said something about Pip being your student? I think Celestia told me something about you teaching him archeology.”

Luna looked off into the distance. “Mmm. Yes. I secretly took him on as a student long ago. Secret because I did not wish to deal with the Council and their blathering about him not being a noble. They eventually found out anyway, but it was still hushed. I decided to teach him history because he loved my stories so. He’s on an archaeological expedition for me. I managed to find evidence of some ruins that predate Discord’s reign.”

Pre-Discordian ruins!? Pre-Discordian ruins! Do they have intact magic samples? I bet I could learn a lot from the architecture of— Twilight shook her head quickly, shoving the thought off to the side, although a large part of her didn’t want to. After all, Pre-Discordian Ruins! No, bad Twilight. Something else is important here.

“Princess,” Twilight started, staring at her. “You said ‘at this moment.’ Does taking me as a student mean you have to drop him?”

Luna looked back at her, seemingly only half paying attention. “Drop? What, oh! No! No, Twilight. I’m not ‘dropping’ him, he’s graduating.”

Twilight jolted back a bit, dragging a stressed Rainbow Dash with her a little. “Graduating? I thought you two took students for their whole lives. Well, I suppose not if they turn into alicorns, but still. Has he really learned all he can from you?”

Luna shook her head. “I could still teach him, true, but he’s going to learn more on his own. I will still guide him and give him ‘assignments’ of sorts, but they will instead be official commissions as an archeologist of the crown. Also, I am not like my sister, Twilight. You should not assume. Celestia takes students for their whole life. I do not. Besides, this move will change little for him. He is still my Pip, no matter what he calls himself, and he’s mostly been on his own lately anyway. Thus, this is necessary, as it is a recognition he deserves. Understand?”

Twilight nodded, smiling. “Yeah, that makes sense I suppose. Are you sure you don’t want to send a rescue party though? Maybe to make Rainbow feel better?”

She couldn’t help but notice her friend look up at the Princess with doe eyes. Heh. Maybe she actually did learn a few things from being friends with Rarity.

Luna sighed. “Very well, I shall send out a pair of my Night Guards. I do not wish to embarrass him with a full rescue. Honestly, you all should feel more worry for anything that’s trying to give him trouble.”


“Aaaaaaaaarrrrrrrrggggghhhhhh!”

Trail Blazer rolled his eyes. Always so dramatic. He chuckled and put his hooves up to his mouth, taking in a deep breath from the air rushing past them as they fell. “Hey, Steel!”

He watched him carefully as the old stallion turned and flopped around in the free-fall to look at him, and just as he made eye contact, Trail Blazer gave the curmudgeon a wave. A second later, a pair of orange hooves grabbed him, halting his descent almost entirely.

“Ooof! Celestia, you’re heavy!” His savior grunted, losing some of her breath. “And when are you going to learn that someday I might not be able to catch your sorry flank!”

He gave Scootaloo a smile. “Oh come on, you’ve never let anything stop you before. I don’t expect you ever will. Hey, you think that artifact will survive?”

Light, fire, and the thunder of a dozen storms ripped through the air, knocking over many of the tropical trees below them and nearly causing Scootaloo to lose her grip.

“Heh. Guess not.” He grabbed onto her back just below the shoulders. “Think you can set us down over that way?”

“Not on your life!” she grunted in reply. “I can barely keep us in the air. Stunted wings, remember? Fight gravity, or go forward. Not both.”

“Alright, alright. Just keep us out of the fire, and we’ll make a run for your scooter.”


Luna’s warm smile grew, though it looked somewhat odd on her unsealed self. “I’m honestly not worried about them. They’ll be fine.”

Rainbow wiped away another tear. “I just…”

Twilight held her friend close. “Princess, Scootaloo was... is... special to Rainbow. She ran away from Ponyville before she even got her cutie mark. We’d heard she was still alive. She sent letters from time to time, but they never said where she was. Could you give us, or at least Rainbow, some time here? It’s a bit much to absorb.”

Luna pointed at Twilight with a wing. “And yet, you seem to be handling it admirably. That is good. It speaks of your ascension. However, there will be times when you do not get such a reprieve. Hence, I shall give you ten minutes. After that, however…”

The Princess of the Night leaned in close. “You’re mine.”

Author's Note:

Hey all! Lots of stuff to say in this here box this time!

** First of all, I’m STILL not settled on Pip’s new name, so I’m going to let you guys sway me a little here. (Even the editing team is split.) Which would you prefer: “Trailblazer” or “El Dorado”? Or, if you have something even better, feel free to suggest that! Let me know in the comments! This has been driving me nuts for over a year! X)

Second, there are still technically a few outstanding comments from the editors in the original doc. Expect minor changes. (Nothing particularly huge story wise, of course, but wording improvements and specific detail changes are bound to happen.)

Third, I’m hoping I’ll be able to get another chapter out before the end of the year, but that may or may not happen. I’m not certain just yet.

Fourth, writing pace has slowed significantly, but this is expected after PonyWriMo, and the editing pace is proceeding decently. It’s not like I don’t have a huge backlog. ;) But, I will try to pick up with some more new words soon.

Fifth, a couple of heretofore completely unmentioned “side stories” are nearing postable status. (These aren’t the ones in the word count box.) These are nothing like Designing Intrigue and will technically be in the NON-CANON EU, but they should prove fun, so keep an eye out. :) Timeframe? Basically whenever Violet manages to get me some cover art. But, she’s rather busy, so it could potentially be a while. The good news is that since these are NON-canon EU, I don’t need as much planning or editing. Also… Well, you’ll see. ;)

Sixth, wow is it painful looking at the old chapters. But, I plan on doing so to refresh them editing wise and make them at least formatted as nice as the recent chapters have been. Once they’re all done I’ll post them all at once. With very few, specific exceptions, which I’ll point out in a story-wide blog post, expect no significant story changes. Just formatting and some wording. For any chapter with significant changes, I'll make a backup gDoc of the original and link it in the author's notes.

That’s about all I have for now. I hope you guys enjoyed the chapter! :)

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