• Published 2nd Sep 2011
  • 3,509 Views, 6 Comments

Vengeance - Shader



He stood by Luna's side for millenia, until that fateful night. Now, he desires revenge.

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Part II - Days Turn into Years, and into Centuries

“Nimbus? Would you come here please?”

The pegasus jumped slightly, the sudden break in the silence startling him. He glanced over to where she stood, staring out into her night sky from her bedchamber balcony. Free from her normal attire of ceremonial breastplate and slippers, Luna's ethereal mane and tail swirled, filled with an endless expanse of stars. She watched as Everfree City slept, thousands of her subjects resting from work and play.

Next to the fireplace, and relaxed in it's warm glow, Nimbus lay reading. It had been a passion of his, one of many that he'd been forced to push to the side. The Royal Court swallowed much of his time, more so than usual, leaving little for relaxation.

Gently closing the pages, Nimbus stood, stretching out a few cramps. “Sure. What’s up?”

She turned to him as he stepped alongside her, letting out a long sigh “Have I done something wrong?”

Nimbus froze, blinking, gazing up towards the regal pony, briefly awed again how tall she'd grown. Luna’s face held a worried expression, looking to him almost expectantly.

Catching his confused look, she arched a hoof out into the night, towards the city surrounding the castle, far below the tower. “To my subjects. Have I slighted them in some manner?”

Now he really was confused. “Not that I know of. What makes you think you did?”

Looking back out into the night, she watched the last few flickering lights contained in Everfree City. Giving a quick shake of her head, Luna turned, moving back into the warmth. “Just a passing thought. Pay it no mind.”

---

Consciousness returned slowly to Nimbus, the dream fading. With its passing came the pain. Every twitch brought agonizing jolts, harsh reminders of the previous night. Memories of the smoky limbs grasping, tearing at him. Not at his flesh, but inside. In his mind. And the laughter. At times it would be calm, collected. Others it would be maniacal, insane, twisted. Whatever it did to him, it enjoyed.

Forcing back these less than pleasant thoughts, he slowly opened his eyes, squinting against the glare of the morning sun. The black pegasus quickly found himself lying just outside the forest, by a small dirt path that lead back into the treeline, towards the ruins of Everfree Castle. He had faint recollections of this once being a mighty highway connecting Everfree City to the rest of Equestria, years of neglect reducing it to its current state.

Slowly stumbling to his hooves, he stared wide eyed at the lands before him. It had been so long since he’d seen the world like this. Fresh green grass covered rolling hills, nothing like the sickly brown covering the forest’s floor. Animals ran around with little care for predators. Everything so bright and sunny, vibrant colours as far as the eye could see. It was wondrous.

Off in the distance, building up around the ruined highway, sat a fair sized town, one that hadn’t existed when he last traveled the road. He could make out shapes moving though the buildings. Ponies. Dozens of them. Walking to work, to school.

The pegasus's heart sank. An entire town has been built. It really has been that long. He paused, his mind still sluggish from the unexpected sleep. Slowly putting the pieces together. But... If I can see ponies, then somepony could see... Oh Goddess!

Turning, Nimbus flared his wings, ready to propel himself back into the comforts of the shadows. Instead a searing heat ran up his back, and his wings fell limp, useless against his sides. Giving up on flight, he broke into a panicked gallop, only to find himself muzzle first in the dirt.

They’ll see me they’ll tell Celestia then she’ll find me and kill me gotta hide!

It took several more attempts, but he managed to painfully drag himself under the canopy, back into the shadows. Collapsed against the base of a tree, he whimpered pathetically, scared and alone. Breathing hurt. Everything hurt.

It had brought him here. Other than some vague notion of revenge, he had no idea why. It said it needed him, but he was just a pegasus. He huffed as frustration overrode his fear "It's the same reason I never tried myself. It said it would help me, but I -"

“That I did, my little pony, and unlike some I could mention, I keep to my word.”

It was that mares voice again, still as cold and cruel as the first time. That invisible presence that had attacked him. No longer a disembodied voice, it echoed within his mind, bringing painful chills to his aching muscles. Whatever calm he'd recovered was shattered, the screaming agony of earlier flashing though his head. That laughter...

Dark limbs erupted from the forest floor, encircling him, tearing though wood and bush. Each bore a razor edge, cleaving the area around the terrified stallion. Stretching out to their full length, towering over a dozen feet, they doubled back on themselves, holding their blades inches from carving the panicked pony. Eyes wide, he stared at the two tips hovering before his eyes. He couldn’t speak or move, fear holding him, trapped.

The voice sighed, frustration evident in its tone. “Seems I failed in fully controlling those hallucinations. No matter..."

A second chill flowed though his body, stronger this time, breaking him from his stupor. The smoke filled tendrils around him became formless, floating without shape towards the sky, eventually dissolving into thin air. The forest around him returned to it’s unaltered state, as though undisturbed by the chaos.

“Perfect. This should serve me well. Now, have you quite finished?”

Nimbus curled up tighter against the trunk. He didn't want to be there. "I'm finished." He whispered.

"Wonderful. You have seen your destination. You are to enter the nearby town, Ponyville, and -"

"WHAT?! I... I can't go THERE! There.... There's ponies there and they'll see me and -"

The voice's presence, once cold, flared up. Scorching heat streaked through his veins, washing his body with fresh pain. His body unfurled, limbs contorting violently. It took everything he had not to scream, still fearing being overheard. "I do not appreciate being interrupted, little pony. It is either this, or become my entertainment. And I do not think you wish for the later!"

As suddenly as it began, the heat vanished. His legs and wings collapsed to the ground, the faintest of twitches the only sign of life. This couldn't be happening. This had to just be a nightmare. It had claimed to be Luna's ally, but she wouldn't have associated herself with this thing. She couldn't have.

Taking his silence as consent, it continued. "As much fun as this is, I have other matters to attend to. Enter Ponyville's Town Hall. Hide backstage. Do so before the break of tomorrows dawn. As suddenly as it had appeared, the voice vanished, bringing a blunt end to the conversation. Leaving a broken, sniffling pony behind.

---

"I need to see the Princess!"

"But the Princess does not need to see YOU!"

"This is a dire situation, and a matter of urgency!"

"And I beg to differ!"

The volatile argument echoed down the hallway, both stallions standing outside the doors to Luna's bedchambers, the posted guards looking on in amusement. Just another blasted petty noble, demanding time from Luna. Too many of them for his liking, each thinking their own personal brand of petty whims important. Usually turned away by Celestia, they naturally try to latch onto the next best thing. Wait for the Night Court and try again. This one was particularly determined, having hounded Nimbus from the Throne room. Hadn't even bothered to wait until court opened.

The purple unicorn continued, trying to push his case. The same one he tried from the very beginning. "I don't think you understand. My sister is currently -"

"In debt to the tune of fifteen hundred bits because she decided she needed that necklace, I am aware. You've told me as such five times." And in increasingly irritating tones, at that. "What do you wish the Princess to do? Magic up the bits? A hand out from the treasury? Order the debt voided?"

The noble just grinned, sarcasm lost on the dolt. "The later sounds rather good, we will ta -"

"Get out of my sight before I have the guards arrest you! I am sure they will be most interested in why you are near the Royal chambers without permission!"

The nearby door creaked open, a half asleep face poking out from the crack. "Nimbus? What is going on?" Luna asked with a noticeable slur. Her head swung around, just catching sight of the fleeing end of a tail. "And who was that?"

Nimbus took deep breaths, calming himself. He was glad to be rid of both the noble and that absurd accent he was expected to put on. How the sisters kept it up, he didn't know. "Just an idiot trying to get money from you. He already got told to 'go away' by Celestia, and it took the threat of being arrested to get rid of him."

Luna sighed, giving a small shake of her head. She almost looked depressed, even the glow from her mane seemed dimmed. "And of my schedule for tonight?"

Whipping out a small clipboard from under one wing, the pegasus balanced the board on one hoof, quickly flipping through it. "Alright, well... We have a diplomatic request from the Griffin Kingdom, and a petition. The griffins want you to convince Celestia to side with them in a land dispute with a pony settlement... and the petitioners are a pony settlement... requesting you to convince Celestia to side with them against the griffins in a land dispute." A situation that was surprisingly common.

What little light remained in Luna's expression faded "Always Celestia." She muttered, half to herself. A strained smile forced its way across her face "Very well. I will take the first in one hour."

---

The black pegasus had been sitting there for hours, at the very edge of the forest, watching the town. Ponyville apparently. The closest he'd been to civilization for so long. A thousand years if the voice was correct. He'd made trips to the area often enough, 'this plan' or 'that plan' swirling through his head, preparing leave and enact revenge. But whenever he caught sight of sunlight, he'd turned and fled before he managed to even glimpsed the outside world. Could Celestia see everything caught within the daylight? Would ponies recognise him? Nimbus sighed, fear rolling his stomach. But this was what he wanted. Revenge. And the first step towards that goal would be to leave the Everfree.

Easier said than done... Rising to his hooves, Nimbus took the first step. One single hoof out of the forest. Waves of nausea slapped him as the noon sun touched his coat, little voices dancing through his head.

Run. Get safe. Celestia is coming. She knows. She's here.

"I can see you, little pony!"

He recoiled, jerking his hoof back into the cool shadows of the canopy. The voices quieted, dimming to a murmuring buzz at the back of his mind. Every single attempt, the same result. He knew he had to keep trying though. Possible death being preferable to assured torture. The pain from his previous encounters with the voice had dulled, down from a raging inferno to a light ache, but they still acted as a solid reminder.

Closing his eyes, he slowly let out another stuttered whimper, backing up slightly. He bent low, readying himself. I have to do this. I have to do this! Do it! DO IT! The black pegasus sprang forward, launching himself into a run.

Blind and without direction, he galloped into the light, screaming as if struck. Adrenaline pumped through his veins, barely feeling the soil beneath him. It lasted but a scant few seconds, uneven ground catching his hoof, sending him rolling heavily to the ground.

Nimbus lay there, his back resting on hard packed earth. Heart straining against his ribs, breath coming in laboured pants. The heat on his coat unpleasantly warm after years of the forest's chill. Did I do it? Opening his eyes, blinking rapidly against the glare, he found himself outside. Out of the forest and into the light, in the ditch running alongside the road. Again.

Once more the voices spoke. Whispering about Celestia, how she'd find him, catch him, kill him. How her guards were patrolling around the edge of the forest, waiting for a glimpse of him, to grab and bring him to his knees before the Princess.

But they weren't there. Nopony was. The field was empty. Not a soul in sight. She wasn't sitting outside, ready to strike. Those guards weren't prowling, ready to capture him. So many centuries hiding, fearful to so much as step beyond the coiled, knotted branches. All for naught.

He couldn't help it.

He laughed.

---

Nimbus sighed, boredom having long set in. Staring at a closed double door had, once again, failed to prove interesting. And the young female unicorn standing with him was too busy fumbling around with a dozen levitating documents, seemingly attempting, and failing, to get some semblance of order out of them. He was rather surprised at her presence, Celestia normally accompanied by a much older mare. And of course the guards, being guards, where their usual boring, un-chatty selves. And his clipboard had been checked and re-checked and double re-checked.

Luna had insisted this private meeting wouldn't be long, but after the half hour mark, he was beginning to worry. They only had 10 minutes to get ready for a Zebra diplomat, and the current one did not like being kept waiting. Rather surly .The previous had been a happy, almost motherly mare. Easy to get along with, and flowing with advice, but quick to scold if you took her ire.

"Whadaya think they're talking about?" The unicorn finally spoke, having apparently given up on her paperwork. She was quite easy on the eyes, light orange mane and tail with a rust coloured coat, a scroll and quill adorning her flank. A very common themed cutie mark amongst the higher ranked politicians. Surprisingly young for the position however, as well as lacking the formal speech that demanded respect.

"Probably something rather personal, and not for our ears. I take it you are Ruby Star's replacement?" He replied, grateful for something other to do than sit and worry.

She grinned, beaming with pride. That's something that will eventually be driven out when the monotony gets her. "Yep! Got sworn in today. Oh, I'm so excited! I can't believe I'm the Princesses Personal Adviser now! My names Unity! What's yours?"

Bowing, he introduced himself. "I am Nimbus, Princess Luna's Second-in-Command, and Personal Adviser. I beg your pardon for asking, but you seem quite young for such a position?"

Somehow, her grin just stretched further. "I know! I barely believe it myself, but -"

The massive doors exploded open, causing both ponies to jump, scattering his clipboard and her papers. From within, a very irate Luna emerged, heavy hoof falls containing none of her usual grace. Pausing at the entrance, she whipped her head around, glaring over her shoulder. "This is not over Celestia. We WILL be discussing this later." With that, she swept down the hall, leaving two ponies behind to gather their shattered wits.

Nimbus knew something was bothering her, something big. But all attempts to get her to open up over the last week had thus far failed. This time though, if her wrath was anything to go by, he'd be hearing about it in the morning before bed. Probably in amongst various curses and expletives.

But at least he might know what was going on.

---

Nimbus violently shook his head, trying to clear the haze these strange impromptu flashbacks brought. He didn't know exactly what was causing them, but he could hazard a guess his vocal 'friend' was involved.

Luna never actually did tell him what was wrong. For the remainder of the night she'd been a bit curt with those around her, but nothing too out of the ordinary. And other than a quick dismissal when they'd arrived to their respective bedchambers, his door across the hall from hers, nothing was said between them.

Redirecting his mind to the more current situation, he peered back out from his hiding place. A bush next to a shop provided a nice shadow for his black coat to meld into, and gave a good view over the town square. And the Town Hall. Or at least that's what he surmised the massive circular building in the middle of town to be, constantly bustling with activity. Ponies bringing swaths of cloth and silk, then leaving empty hoofed.

Ponies. So many ponies. It seemed the entire population was out and about. What could have been a 10 minute walk from the forest to the center of town, had taken upwards of two hours. Constantly darting behind bushes, edging around building corners. While he'd dispelled his, admittedly foalish, fear of guards ready to behead him, he still couldn't let himself be seen. His rather unique colouring and lack of cutie mark would garner too much attention. Then there could be problems.

And now, so close to his goal, he found himself stuck against a wall. A wall consisting of dozens of ponies as they milled about in the square. Each one working at various tasks.

Sighing, Nimbus rested his chin on his forehooves. 'So far, yet so close', I think the saying went? Guess I'm going to have to wait until nightfall. He had wanted to get in before then, and out of the open. Dawn had been the cutoff, and he knew he was well hidden, but a chance encounter with a pony poking their head in could easily ruin everything. 'Beggars can't be choosy' though.

Just as he began settling himself in for a long wait, a high pitched mares voice rung through the air. "Come'on everypony! BIIIIIG party in the library! And EVERYPONY'S invited!" The resulting cheer and clopping of hooves vibrated the ground beneath his stomach, chattering his teeth together painfully. Over the din, Nimbus could barely make out the word 'pinky' and 'party'. Whatever that meant.

Before the noise had time to dull, the ponies before him whipped themselves up into a flurry of activity, each attempting to finish their respective job in record time. Already a few had left, breaking into a full gallop off towards a massive tree, apparently eager to get to the announced party. Soon, in under ten minutes, the pegasus was left looking at a completely empty yard as the last pony ran off. After the hustle and bustle present not long ago, the deathly silence felt rather unnerving.

He didn't waste any time contemplating his sudden lucky break. Flaring his wings, and giving a few final glances around for witnesses, Nimbus flung himself across the square. A quick pause at the open double doors to glance in, checking for any ponies still inside, and he slipped inside the empty structure.

Before him, the hall interior looked as impressive as any royal ball he'd attended. Massive banners and tapestries hung from the ceiling and balconies high above his head, red carpet cutting a straight line from the entrance to the far side. Gems as tall as a pony were embedded into large patterned disks holding elegant ribbon aloft as it streaked across the walls. Each of the massive jewels catching the rays of the sun coming from the huge arched windows under the roof, reflecting the light around the area. It had all the appearance of a talented, professional touch.

What took his eye though, was the largest balcony, directly across from the doors, a red curtain with a pull rope draped across it. Strong wing beats carried him up over it's railing, and through the heavy fabric. It parted easily, showing a small room with few furnishings, a table with cushions and some potted plants. The sun shining in through a large window gave the area a warm glow. A small indoor garden set into a flat, raised stone slab at the back of the room could provide some cover. Or at least the best he could hope for in this place.

Squeezing in between the cold stone and the wooden back wall, he settled down for a long rest, the emotional toll of the day catching up to him all at once. Nothing more to do but wait til dawn. Maybe then he would find out what that voice had in store.

---

She was smiling.

And as she smiled, so did he. Never leaving her side through-out the Summer Sun Ball, he'd been keeping a close eye on Luna. After all the loud arguments between her and her sister in the weeks past, he had been worried about her. So far though, clean sailing. An easy smile planted itself on her face, and had remained there since her waking. Seeing Luna finally beginning to relax improved his own mood immensely. Talking to the pompous fools that usually attended events such as these didn't leave him with murderous thoughts for once.

Still, some ponies went out of their way to bring them back.

"I say, are you even listening to me?"

The sudden change in the previously droning voice of the lime unicorn before him jolted Nimbus from his thoughts. "I... I beg your pardon, my mind must have slipped. What was it you were saying?"

"Well I guess I'll forgive you. Not everypony can have as sharp a mind as I. And I'm sure your age must be catching up with you." An crack about age to an immortal. Classy. "As I was saying, my family controls the thirty largest farms in northern Equestria, and holds substantial sway with the councils and ..."

He stopped listening as the unicorn resumed his monotone listing of his families 'virtues'. Ponies like this were dime a dozen. Never interested in an actual conversation, any reply from them carefully crafted to have something to do with their holdings, number of employees, or political power.

Giving a quick glance back at Luna, whom he stood next to as she chatted to a gathering of overdressed mares, he happily noted the smile was still there. A little strained, but who's wouldn't be while talking to these idiots.

"... and of course I declined. I'm a stallion of high status, and anything of the sort is far beneath my station."

He had to get Luna away from these ponies before they managed to break her good mood. Or his. "I'm sure you are. However, I do believe I require some refreshments. If you would be so kind as to excuse me." Before any objections could be voiced, Nimbus quickly turned to Luna, clearing his throat to catch her attention. "Your Majesty, do you require anything? A drink, or bite to eat?"

The relief on Luna's face held an amusing contrast to the equal amounts of anger from the group surrounding her. "Oh, yes. I do believe I just might come with you, though. Stretch my legs a bit." Turning back to her admirers she briefly nodded her head. "Please, excuse us."

Finally free from being bombarded with ponies stating how superior they regarded themselves, Nimbus took a moment to look around the Grand Hall of Everfree Castle. Massive cloth banners hung from the roofs and walls, depicting crests from the various minor royal families, mixed in the the usual sun and moon motif. Hundreds of ponies milled around, usually in pairs or threes, quietly chatting. Waiters and servants weaving through as they tended to their duties, holding platters of nibbles. Vast tables filled with food and drink. Even the night outside was particularly bright, Luna going beyond even her norm for her sisters celebration.

Majestic as always, and boring as ever.

As the black pegasus guided Luna over to one of the refreshment tables, he spoke, dropping the haughty accent. "So what was that group after?"

She sighed, her gaze fixated firmly on the floor tiles, the already strained smile flagging further. "Oh, they were just inquiring about Celestia's schedule tonight. And... if I could obtain them an audience."

And there goes the rest of her smile. Alright, enough is enough. I've danced around this long enough. Reaching up to her chin with a hoof, Nimbus angled her head to look her in the eyes. Taking a deep breath, steadying his nerves. "Luna. What's going on?"

"Wh... What do you mean?" She replied, a sudden forced grin forming quickly.

He shook his head. "Nope. Not happening. Not this time. I'm your friend, and I've tried to respect your privacy about this. But it's gone on for too long." Holding her head still, he glared at her, emphasizing each word. "What's. Going. On."

As he looked her in the eyes, a sudden change came over her. Any of the normal warmth she held for him vanished, an almost sneering glare planting itself firmly on her features. "You over step your bounds, Nimbus. This is not for you."

He had to be strong. "Now hold on here -"

Jerking her head from his grip, she turned, throwing her words over her shoulder as she purposefully walked back towards the crowded floor. "I believe you still have some duties to be taken care of tonight. Something concerning the Night Guard at the City Gates. See to it."

"But Luna, this is important -"

A quick flick of her head brought a single eye to bare down on Nimbus, cold as ice, interrupting him. "This is not an option, I've given you an order, and you will obey." Luna paused, a hardness flashing behind her steely gaze. "Besides. The issue will, soon, no longer be a problem. This WILL be resolved tonight."

---

The pegasus jerked awake, driving his head painfully into the stone slab. A groan and muttered curses passed his lips before his mind caught up. Freezing in place, he weathered the painful throbbing in his forehead, listening for movement. Nothing. Nopony around to hear him.

Rubbing his eyes, Nimbus barely registered the damp streaks down his cheeks. He'd only seen Luna glare like that a few times, a visage of hatred. Once had been to a murderer, somepony who'd broken into an inn and killed four guests as they slept. The worst of the worst. And yet she had used it on him.

Then the last words Luna had spoken to him. Laced with scorn, like he was an insect, worthless. And his chance to apologise stolen from him. To simply say he was sorry for prying. All because of that monster. A hoof quickly knocked freshly forming tears from his eyelids, clearing his wavering eyesight. He'd cried too much over it already. Besides which, it wouldn't help the current situation.

A quick look to the window above him showed it to be well into the night, Luna's moon just beginning to dip itself below the horizon, getting ready for the sun. Nimbus's slumber had been long, but the dreams prevented it from being restful.

" - is for you to wait up here to be announced." A mare's voice? Nimbus checked his position, squirming further behind the garden. "The curtains will part and that will be your cue. If it pleases you of course, Your Highness."

'Your Highness'?

A second feminine voice spoke, and Nimbus could almost hearing the warm, motherly smile. "Thank you, that will be fine."

He knew that voice. It was her. Celestia. She was there. The real one, not just some trick of the mind. Just on the other side of the stone. Almost close enough to touch. After all this time, hiding, training his body and mind, she was finally close enough to enact revenge on.

Soft hoofsteps signaled the departure of the unknown pony. Nopony stood between him and his target.

And Nimbus couldn't move. His breath caught in his throat, terrified of causing the slightest peep. All of her power and magic far exceeded anything he could ever dream of achieving. And she wanted him dead. He had just walked himself into her grasp.

"Punctual as always, isn't she. As you can see, I have brought her to you. Now, strike her. I will do the rest." The now familiar voice spoke, sounding all too proud of itself. Nimbus would have jumped at the sudden appearance if his muscles hadn't already locked themselves in place. It paused, waiting. When nothing happened, it continued, agitation apparent in its tone. "What are you waiting for? I said I will assist you, but you have to move first!"

He couldn't respond. Not here, with Celestia so close. With each passing moment, he could sense a swelling anger. "You COWARD! How can you hide like this?! She killed Luna! And yet you still hesitate?! You swore on your LIFE!"

I did.

"She doesn't know you are here! Just one touch, and it will all be over."

Nimbus lifted his head, finally releasing his breath, slowly, to avoid disturbing the mare. Just touch her, just need one touch. Gathering what little wits remained, the black pegasus crept closer to the edge of the stone slab, ear twitching as it picked up the soft sound of a tapping hoof. Wings unfurled, muscles tensed.

* * *

Celestia rapped her hoof against the wooden floor, the nervousness returning now that she was alone.

This was it. Tonight was the night. After so long, her dear sister would return.

Glancing back to the window, she watched the dying light of the moon as it began to sink below the horizon. Every night, she'd watch it in its lazy voyage across the night's sky and ask, 'What if?'. What if she'd paid more attention. What if she'd listened. What if she'd not used the Elements.

She sighed. It was far too late to still be contemplating these questions, only what lay ahead mattered. And she was ready. With either words or spell if necessary. Hopefully she would not have to resort to violence, but that option had to remain open. Luna had already lashed out once, and who could know what a millenia of solitude would do to a pony.

Though should she fail, or fall, Celestia still had a contingency in motion. She had sent Twilight to Ponyville ahead of her own arrival, under the guise of 'checking on preparations'. In truth it had been to force her to meet with the other Bearers, ponies with the power to fully unlock the Elements. Something she herself had been unable to do on that fateful night. She detested the idea of tricking her student like that, but had little choice. An order to make friends would result in the bookish unicorn merely acting like a friend, treating it with a detached aloofness born from years of continuous study. The Elements required a ponies intent, and cared little for simple action.

Beyond the drapes covering the small backroom, the din of a hundred ponies softened, and the Mayor's voice spoke up. Practiced from years of public speeches, her voice carried impeccably even through the heavy cloth. "Fillies and gentlecolts. As Mayor of Ponyville, it is my great pleasure to announce the beginning of the Summer Sun Celebration!" The crowd erupted, loud whistling and stamping of hooves shaking the building.

Celestia smiled. The sound of cheering, happy ponies always raised her spirits from what ever melancholy might have taken her heart. Taking a deep breath, she brought herself up to full height, chuckling quietly to herself. "I need to stop worrying. Everything will go smoothly."

Without warning, something smashed into the back of Celestia's head, a lancing pain rocketing through her. A heavy weight collapsing against her back followed the stunning blow, knocking her from her hooves. As she slumped against the wooden floor, and slid to a painful stop, a telltale tingling washed over her body. Magic. Powerful magic.

"Smoothly for me, I can assure you, dear sister. Sweet dreams, both of you." A strange voice echoed through her mind, the world around her fading. "Have oh so very sweet dreams!"