• Published 26th May 2020
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Tales from Everfree City - LoyalLiar

Princess Platinum and Celestia's first student face changelings, a magical curse, the specter of war with the griffons, and the threat of arranged marriage in early Equestria.

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Interlude II - Concerning Tempest Shadow

Interlude II

Concerning Tempest Shadow

As you may have gathered from my own story, I had virtually unlimited sympathy for ponies with unfortunate names. And never was there a pony with crueler parents—at least when it came to naming—than one Fizzlepop Berrytwist.

Seriously… that’s four words. Deleting the spaces doesn’t make one a genius of coinage.

The poor unicorn filly later renamed herself Tempest Shadow, and as a fellow unicorn largely raised by the forces of evil, I will refrain from any mockery about the sophomoric ‘edge’ in that choice of name. Nevertheless, because Commander Typhoon chose to name her eldest son Tempest (in keeping with the family theme of inclement weather), I’m forced to remind you, dear reader: Tempest, grandson of Hurricane, was long dead by the time of these events. I didn’t prolong his life in any unusual way, he didn’t somehow ascend to godhood under his own power or some similar nonsense; in short, he was dead.

Tempest Shadow, meanwhile, was very much alive that day in Canterlot, a fact she seemed determined to demonstrate by hopping in place as she inspected the hull of the sleek airship hanging in dock off the cliff-side of the mountain capital. Her custom made cuirass of banded plates, polished almost to a black mirror sheen, reflected the object of her affections as Sunset Shimmer and Celestia approached; both slipping between the movements of a huge crowd of porters and dockworkers readying the vessel for departure.

“I take it the vessel is suitable?” Celestia asked with a chuckle at the military mare’s enthusiasm.

Immediately, Tempest’s hopping ceased, and with a bit of a red glow to her already rose face, she nodded. “It’s a beautiful airship. More than beautiful; uh, gorgeous? I’m not the best with words... I’m guessing it's your personal one?”

At that, Celestia laughed fully. “I’ve never been much of a sailor, no. If I’m being completely honest, when I get the chance to fly, I prefer to do it on my own wings. Can I ask what you made you guess that, though? I am curious what a mare with your experiences thinks, looking at an airship like this.”

“I’ve never met a soldier-type who’d bother with all the luxury of a ship like this; the galley’s huge, the quarters are massive; it’s even got a little hot tub. But I’m guessing rich ponies don’t usually opt to enchant their hulls or install the kind of rudders that let you take the eyewall of a tornado across the wind. This is...” Tempest turned her head back to it and grinned like a schoolfilly. “I’ve burnt down cities that would be cheaper than this beauty.”

“Uh…” Sunset swallowed nervously at that particular metaphor, and a visible chill ran down Tempest’s spine as she realized what she had just said aloud, and who she had said it in front of.

“I’ll have to take your word for it,” Celestia noted. When Tempest raised worried brow, the alicorn explained “My Honor Guard confiscated the ship when Prince Blueblood violated the Palace’s airspace limits one time too many, and over the years they’ve made the occasional upgrade.”

Sunset Shimmer had to hide her schadenfreude behind a hoof. “Is he still as bad as he was when we were foals?”

“So much worse,” Celestia replied not with good humor, but rather a look of mild horror, before returning her attention to the vessel. “Since I assume you’ve had time to look it over, perhaps you could help a sailing novice understand what makes it such a fine airship.”

“Where do I even begin?” Tempest gestured grandly to the vessel’s stained dark wooden hull, natural tones evading the constant temptation of most Canterlot vessels to be painted in the city’s favorite white and purple. “I don’t know this ‘Blueblood’ pony, but it was obviously some kind of a rich kid’s pleasure yacht. Maybe he used to race it, if the hull treatment is original, though I’ve never seen a clipper or an interceptor in a catamaran shape—at least, not one that isn’t meant to land in the water. I’m guessing nobles don’t usually go diving?”

Sunset quirked a brow at that. “Not that I’ve been before, but why would you say that? It sounds like a ton of fun; Twilight said it was amazing to visit the seaponies—”

Tempest scoffed. “Yeah, it’s all fun and games until a sea serpent or a shark takes a bite out of the side of your boat, or pirates decide your fat pony pockets need to be lighter.” Then she shook her head. “The only place in the world shadier than Klugetown is the Reef, and that’s saying something.”

“The Reef?”

“It’s a city made of coral,” Celestia explained. “Ruled over by the octopus magnates who control most underwater trade.”

Rule is a strong word, Princess,” Tempest noted. “It’s more like you have to look over your shoulder to make sure one of the bosses isn’t literally right there before you do whatever you damn well please.” When Sunset winced, Tempest realized who she was talking to and flinched a bit herself. “Uh, sorry Princess.”

Celestia, for her part, seemed utterly unperturbed. “Perhaps the Reef has changed since I last visited. It has been nearly three hundred years. But while I’m sure Morty can arrange to breathe water if the need strikes him, I have no reason to expect you’ll need to make such a journey.” Celestia nodded back to the vessel. “You were saying?”

Immediately, Tempest’s glee returned. “Well, I’ve heard of glass-bottom boats, but I’ve never seen the entire trough between the two catamaran pontoons made of glass like that—much less up through two floors in that sort of… common room space, I guess? I hope nopony’s afraid of heights, ‘cause you’ll be able to see straight through the floor to the ground.” Then she shot a side-eyed glance to Sunset. “I guess you’d be the only one, since the old mare and Stalliongrad are both pegasi.”

“The ‘old mare' and ‘Stalliongrad’?” Sunset asked.

“The other two,” Tempest clarified. “Somba-whatever and the guardspony.”

“Somnambula,” Sunset corrected. “It actually means ‘sleep-walking’.”

“And your other companion is Lieutenant Commander Red Ink,” Celestia provided.

“Look, I’ll get them down eventually,” Tempest told the other two ponies. “My last job had kind of a high turnover, so I’m not the best with names. Anyway, are you afraid of heights, Sunset? Or do you get skysick?”

“I ride BMX back home; I can handle a lot of motion.”

“BMX?” Tempest asked.

Sunset sighed. “Right… um… Imagine if you had a chariot that didn’t need to be pulled, and went as fast as a pegasus flies—”

“Nevermind,” Tempest interrupted. “Wizard crap, I don’t care. Come on, I’ll show you around inside. You can have second pick of bunk.”

“Is the glass actually safe to walk on?” Sunset asked as Tempest led the trio toward the gangplank up onto the ship. “I mean, like you said, I’ve heard of glass bottom boats—but there’s no water underneath this to support it. What if it cracks?”

Tempest cracked a grin, and then glanced around the porters and dockworkers, until at last she set her eyes on a small ballista—the sort one might mount as a turret just behind the prow of a ship for launching harpoons or boarding tethers. It was an utterly modern model, and like most of the goods being loaded on the airship, of the highest quality, with a ‘clip’ of harpoons that would automatically slot into place as their predecessors were fired, like the chu-ko-nu repeating crossbows of the ancient feline empires. The guardspony who was carrying it gasped as Tempest yanked the thing out of his grip, and then in a considerable display of upper body strength, rose up on her hind legs so she could balance the weapon like it were a standard hoof crossbow across both her forelegs. Sunset was still mid-gasp when, with a decisive twang, the string was yanked back and snapped violently forward.

Quite a few more screams echoed around the docks when the bolt bounced off the glass with nary a scratch. Unfortunately, the bolt seemed not to have lost much momentum from its deflection; it pinged back off the stone of the docks beside the ship, and then up against a steel keg full of the magically charged sludge which fuels an airship of the era. The bolt was about half a stride from the eye of an unfortunate dockworker when, abruptly, it was caught in an aura of powerful golden magic.

With a rather deliberate motion and a completely even expression, Celestia reloaded the bolt into the bottom of the ballista’s ‘clip’, and then telekinetically relieved Tempest of the weapon, passing it back to the same dockhoof whose life she had saved.

“I think a verbal description will suffice, Tempest,” Celestia noted.

Tempest swallowed hard. “Right… Well, I guess it’s pretty obvious now but the glass is magically hardened. The wood too, actually, and I’m guessing the balloon canvas as well, though I haven’t climbed up the rigging to dig around in there yet. I guess the point is, I could probably fly her through a dragon’s breath and the only thing she’d need on the other side is a new coat of paint. I don’t know if she’d hold up to a dragon’s claws, but since we aren’t covered in metal plating, good luck catching us.”

The three ponies made their way from the docks up onto the deck of the airship, though the moment she set hoof on the wooden planks, Sunset leaned her head over.

“What happened to not getting airsick?” Tempest teased.

“I’m not; I’m looking for the ship’s name.”

“It’s not there,” Celestia observed. “Are you superstitious about names, Tempest?”

Tempest rolled her eyes. “Anypony who tells you that luck has anything to do with running a ship doesn’t deserve the helm.”

“Good.” Celestia glanced across the numerous crates and barrels being loaded down into the ship’s hull. “Prince Blueblood called the ship The Monarch Butterfly. Under the Honor Guard, it was The Stormrider.

“Well, your guard are good for something,” Tempest muttered. “But we’re going with The Constellation.”

“Ooh, that’s a good name!” Sunset pulled herself back from the railing and strode over to the doors in the face of the sterncastle. “So the quarters are down here?”

“Everything’s down there,” Tempest answered. “It’s like a normal ship; just upside down because the primary helm is on the lowest deck. Keeps cargo close to the top deck though.” Then the mare with the broken horn turned to Celestia with a hesitant expression. “On that note: Princess, I saw you loaded us up with quite a few bits, but if we want to keep a low profile south of the Equestrian border, we’re going to need some more local money. Can we get some saddles? Or some tusks, if you have them?”

“I don’t think the treasury keeps much Suidan money on hand,” Celestia answered. “Relations with the boars have been thin for a very long time. But our trade with Saddle Arabia should make saddles more than attainable. I’ll arrange a supply for you. Sunset, if you’d like to figure out your place on the ship, I’m sure you and Tempest can keep each other company for a few minutes?” When Sunset nodded, Celestia’s horn burst into golden energy and she vanished entirely.

Well…” Sunset muttered. “She must really be in a hurry to talk to Morty.”

“What makes you say that?” Tempest led the way into the belly of what she had named The Constellation. Though the stairs behind the sterncastle led down a floor, Sunset quickly realized that the uppermost floor was dedicated not to quarters or common space, but storage. It took a turn and the revelation of a second flight of stairs for her to realize just how big The Constellation’s bowels really were.

“The Princess never teleports anywhere unless she’s in a huge rush,” Sunset explained. “When I was her student, and she first taught me how to teleport, I always asked her why we had to take the long way to get everywhere.”

“What’d she say?” Tempest asked.

“Well, she told me it was to teach me patience. Which… may have been true, but even when she’s not taking somepony else, she almost never teleports.” Sunset shrugged as both ponies rounded on a hallway flanked by six doors , but most notable for its completely transparent floor.

“Well, here we are; quarters. Mine’s the one all the way at the fore on the port side—uh, far end on the left, sorry. You’ve got your pick of the rest, but between you and me, you want starboard fore, across from me.”


Tempest answered by pushing open each door on the right side of the hall she passed, before finally revealing the room she’d suggested for Sunset; while it nearly looked identical to the others in most aspects, the fact that it was adjacent to the righthoof ‘pontoon’ of the catamaran shaped ship meant that there was considerably more room on its sloped fore-facing wall. “More space,” Tempest clarified. “Next floor down is the common spaces: two heads—that’s uh, bathrooms. The hot tub I mentioned. A couple couches, the galley and mess, and the main helm. Though if I’m honest, I’ll probably steer from topside.” Tempest shrugged. “What do you think?”

“It sounds more like a vacation than a secret mission,” Sunset answered with a shrug, wandering into her quarters and flopping down on the bed. “Ooh, this is comfy. No pegasus down beds on the other side of the mirror.” Tempest was frowning when Sunset met the other unicorn’s gaze. “Something bothering you?”

“I’m just having a hard time with… all this.”

“You still think it’s a suicide mission?” Sunset pressed.

“No. It’s one thing to get a bunch of specialists for something like that, but it’s another thing to throw so much money at making it comfortable…” Tempest waved her hoof. “Look, I know Celestia’s ‘the best pony in the world’ or whatever.” The phrase was accompanied by some of the heaviest hoof-quotes I have ever seen wielded. “But the last time somepony offered to heal my horn, I got stabbed in the back. And all this talk about some two thousand year old dead guy… it just makes my coat stand up, I guess.”

Sunset nodded. “That’s probably fair. If you’re looking for advice, though, I’d talk to Celestia about it honestly before we leave. Just ask her what’s on your mind; better than worrying the whole way. And honest is one of the Elements.”

“Yeah…” Tempest glanced back down the hallway. “Well, the dock ponies are good at their jobs, but I still ought to be keeping an eye on them.”

⚜ ⚜ ⚜

While she may have left in a grandiose show of magic, Celestia returned walking, and carrying a small safe under her wing the way a more… mortally challenged pony might heft a gym bag. “I assume The Constellation will work for you, Sunset?”

“Like I said to Tempest, it feels more like going on a vacation than a secret mission.” Sunset offered the comment with a joking smile, but when Celestia’s eyes fell on Tempest, the tension in the air was obvious.

“Something wrong, Tempest?”

Tempest grit her teeth and glanced to Sunset, who nodded supportively. “Can I be blunt, Princess?”


“Just… I don’t know what to make of all this, I guess. You’re giving us all this money and this fantastic airship, but we don’t even know where in Tartarus we’re going. All you gave us is something about a locket; do you have anything else to go on? If Morty really is still alive, why hasn’t he come back on his own?”

Celestia frowned at the question, and for just a moment Tempest feared she had pressed too hard questioning Equestria’s ruler. Or perhaps, just perhaps, Celestia sensed the deeper unvoiced concerns beneath the question. But then Celestia glanced over her shoulders at the dock workers, and her voice dropped to an almost conspiratorial whisper—and the airship captain realized that, just perhaps, she wished Celestia had been angry instead. “The last time we spoke, Morty and I had a disagreement about my sister.”

“If this book is anything to go by, that’s putting it mildly,” said Sunset. When Tempest raised an eyebrow, my successor continued “When Morty wrote this book, apparently Luna had ripped off like half of his head, and he was still… growing it in a jar, I guess?”

Nightmare Moon,” Celestia corrected. “But otherwise yes, what Sunset said is true. A thousand years ago, when I used the Elements of Harmony to banish Nightmare Moon, we knew the magic wouldn’t last forever. The Elements wouldn’t answer me until it was almost too late, and it was the last time they ever heeded my call. And, if we’re being honest, even if they hadn’t rejected me for what I had to do to Luna, I don’t know if I could have brought myself to renew the seals that bound her to the moon.”

“Morty fought Nightmare Moon?” Tempest asked. “How strong is this guy?”

Celestia chuckled, though it was a surprisingly sad noise. “Morty occasionally jokes that his special talent is dying. I needed time to try and ready the Elements, and he volunteered himself to stall her, knowing he didn’t stand any chance of actually beating her. It wasn’t the first time, nor the last, that he died to stall for somepony else’s plan.” With a shake of her head, even the sad smile fell from the alicorn’s face.

“We knew her imprisonment would fail, but we didn’t know how long it would take. Two hundred years ago when I last talked to him, we gathered together because some of the faculty at my school’s astronomy department accidentally worked out exactly when Nightmare Moon would break free. Since the Elements had rejected me, we knew we couldn’t repeat our strategy to deal with Nightmare Moon again. I proposed grooming one of my students to make the necessary friends to use the Elements in my stead.”

“Twilight and her friends?” Tempest asked.

Celestia glanced nervously to the orange mare at her side. “Well, to tell you the truth, Twilight was a… last minute replacement. At least, compared to the thousand year scale we had to plan.”

“Wait, me?” Sunset nervously placed a hoof on her chest. “You wanted me to fight Nightmare Moon?!”

Celestia nodded timidly. “I had been hopeful you might make the right friends. And judging by what I hear about the other side of the mirror, it seems I was right—you just needed more time than I had to wait. Regardless, things worked out.”

Barely, from the sound of it,” Tempest commented. “What would have happened if you were wrong?”

“Thanks to Starlight Glimmer and Twilight, I actually know.” Celestia swallowed nervously before elaborating. “Nightmare Moon would have defeated me and conquered the world, bringing about eternal night and tyranny over Equestria.”

I will note Celestia was misrepresenting how using time travel to create (or more accurately, travel to) ‘alternate timelines’ actually works. In her defense, it is almost without question the most complicated subject in the study of magic.

“You were betting that on Twilight Sparkle?” Tempest asked. “And she wasn’t even your first choice?!”

“I see you would have agreed with Morty, Tempest,” Celestia observed dryly. “In the Twilight War, Morty had suggested that we kill Nightmare Moon. He argued that even if Luna was innocent, it was wrong to ask thousands to lay down their lives trying to save her. And no doubt he was right... it would have saved many ponies' lives. But I couldn’t bring myself to try to kill Luna, and he was sympathetic to that.” Then Celestia closed her eyes. “When the threat of Nightmare Moon came around a second time, more recently, he was less understanding.”

“But… she’s your sister,” Sunset whispered, more to herself than to Celestia.

“In his eyes, I was risking millions of lives and the freedom of Equestria selfishly. And perhaps he was right… but I still couldn’t bring myself to try and kill Luna, and as history taught him, he couldn’t best her alone. So he set off to… well, not to put too fine a point on it, but to find some way to kill Nightmare Moon.”

“Okay,” Tempest nodded. “Phew; I thought you were just sending us off after some locket, like you mentioned in the throne room.”

“How is this better?!” Sunset asked. “At least the locket is a physical object, not some… assassination scheme! Honestly, Princess, I’m a little uncomfortable that when you were looking for somepony who could think along those lines, you thought of me. I would never want to murder Princess—”

Sunset found herself cut off when a voice behind her and somewhat above head level interjected. “I apologize, young mare, but may I cut in? I need a moment of my sister’s time.”

Sunset and Tempest both went somewhat pale as they turned to see the only outright war criminal ever to be benevolently given co-rulership of Equestria approaching them. Giving the bitch more of the benefit of the doubt than she deserves, I will assume for future readers that Luna hasn’t fallen back into the magical corruption of being Nightmare Moon once more, and trust that you know what she looks like.

If I’m wrong, and you dug this out of the ruins of Canterlot instead of being given it by Celestia, there’s a rather foolproof strategy for assassinating your new tyrant and liberating the world later in this book.

“Luna, this is Sunset Shimmer, a former pupil of mine. And I believe you’ll remember Tempest Shadow.”

Luna nodded briefly to Sunset, and then refrained from even that show of acknowledgement to Tempest, only glancing her way for a moment. “Thou’re—”

You’re,” Celestia interrupted.

Looking back to this moment with my magic, I confess to no small joy at watching the twitching of a vein on Luna’s temple. “You are keeping interesting company today, dearest sister whom I hope I might someday again refer to with the casual thou instead of approaching you like you are my social superior.”

“...what?” Tempest asked.

Sunset dropped her voice to a low whisper, explaining without interrupting the sister’s conversation. “About a thousand years ago, during the ‘Linguistic Golden Age’ when all the branch languages of Equiish started spreading, plain Equiish developed ‘thou’ as a more informal version of ‘you’, when addressing somepony in the second pony. I guess Luna’s still used to that, since she’s only been back a few years.”

“But the pegasus mare from the past—Somnawhatever—she doesn’t talk funny.”

“She’s from before the linguistic shift,” Sunset explained.

As the two unicorns spoke in hushed whispers, Luna had pushed on to her point with her sister. “Can we speak privately, Celestia?”

“We can,” Celestia answered. “But I do trust Sunset and Tempest enough to discuss most matters in front of them. Is it something personal?”

“It concerns our respective personal guards,” Luna replied. “And I am afraid I do not trust your former student, to say nothing of that one, to discuss affairs concerning my Night Guard.”

Tempest Shadow fairly took being called ‘that one’ rather personally, and bless her heart, she responded with poetic beauty. “Why? Because you don’t want everypony to know you keep a bunch of dead ponies as guards?”

Luna’s eyes quite literally flashed white with the power of her magic, though her rage quickly turned not toward Tempest, but Celestia. “You told her?!”

Celestia, for her part, gently massaged her temple with her wing. “Luna… Let me start at the beginning. You remember the request you made of me regarding Rainbow Dash and the incident with Masquerade?”

Luna’s glowing eyes faded, and her sneer dropped to a mere frown. “A poisoning is not something one easily forgets,” she observed.

“Wait, this world’s Rainbow Dash was poisoned?”

Luna scoffed. “No, Miss Shimmer. I was. And I do not desire to discuss the matter further. Assuming my sister has not already spread that matter across every renegade and runaway in Equestria.”

Celestia hung her head, shaking it in mild disappointment. “Luna, these young ponies are going to help me fulfill your request. I haven’t discussed present matters, both to respect your privacy and Miss Dash’s—so Tempest, Sunset, when you stop in Ponyville I will request you to kindly not bring up this conversation with her.” When both young unicorns nodded, Celestia turned back to her sister. “The fact of the matter is that I spent very little of the thousand years of your absence actually studying magic myself. I can’t do what you’ve asked. And if neither of us can manage, that only leaves one option.”

Luna frowned, furrowed her brow in thought, opened her mouth to speak, hesitated, frowned again—deeper this time—and then finally her eyes widened in realization. Then her furrowed brow wrinkled yet further. “Coil? I thought Sombra killed him.”

“He did,” Celestia agreed. “So did Chrysalis, and the Queen of Silk, and Grogar—”

“And you,” Sunset added, apparently without thinking.

Tempest’s eyes widened in shock and Celestia winced, though Luna answered largely with a look of confusion. “I don’t… Ah, I see.”

Though the slip seemed to have taken Celestia by surprise, a thousand years of rule had taught her nothing if not how to recover from such a shock quickly. “In order to help my sister work through the memories that led up to… her absence…”

“To my becoming Nightmare Moon,” Luna cut in. “I am not made of porcelain, sister.” Then Luna turned to the other mares present. “When the Bearers of the Elements freed me, I inflicted nightmares on myself as punishment for my actions. But even those nightmares threatened the lives of our ponies. Now, Sister and I are trying to work through my memories in a healthier way to avoid any risk of those events causing Equestria further struggles. Unfortunately, that means many of my memories of those days are still sealed away by magic.”

Out of respect for Celestia, I will not comment here on my opinion of said choices.

Celestia nodded to both Sunset and Tempest. “I’m sending them to try and find Morty; he hasn’t been back to Equestria in a very long time. To help them, I provided a few copies of Morty’s autobiography.”

Luna’s brow fell. “Ah. Don’t take it too seriously; Coil is an incessant braggart, and his ego borders on psychosis.” Then she glared at Tempest. “And you will not discuss the nature of my Night Guard with anypony.”

“Sure,” Tempest agreed, rolling her eyes. “It’s not like anypony’d believe me, anyway.”

“Good.” Luna nodded and her expression loosened. “Lieutenant Ink of your Honor Guard was interrogating some of my servants about their lives prior to joining the Night Guard.”

“Doesn’t that just mean ‘their lives’ at all?” Tempest asked.

Luna shot her a harsh glare, before returning her attention to her sister. “I normally forbid such interactions, but I assume his curiosity is related to this mission to locate Coil?”

Celestia nodded. “At least, I assume so. I didn’t put him up to it, but if the Lieutenant Commander believes there is something to be gained from speaking to the Night Guard, I would ask you to let him carry on.”

“What in Tartarus is Stalliongrad going to find?” Tempest asked. “You didn’t save your guards from before being Nightmare Moon, did you?”

“No; such a thing would be impossible even for my powers.” Luna scoffed. “Coil had such a trick to achieve such a feat, but even before I became Nightmare Moon, he hated the Night Guard.”

Tempest grit her teeth. “So they all, what, died in the last five years? How could any of them possibly have met Morty? Unless your Night Guard is all super old earth ponies, it seems stupid to me.”

“I am inclined to agree,” Luna replied with a nod. “But I am also going to give Lieutenant Ink the benefit of the doubt in this case, given our past experience with him in Ponyville.”

Celestia cocked her head. “Was that ‘our’ as in you and me, Luna, or was that the royal plural sneaking in again?”

Luna answered by turning around fully and ignoring the question. “I shall inform the Night Guard that they have my blessing to answer his questions.”

Celestia shook her head, but she wore a smile as she did it. “Sunset, why don’t you go with Luna and get to know Lieutenant Ink a little bit better? I’ll help Tempest with the last few preparations for your trip here.” Then, igniting her horn, she added. “I can hold on to your copy of Beginner’s Guide so you don’t have to keep dragging it around the palace.” And saying that without the slightest hint of deception in her voice, she took this tome and tucked it under her wing.

“Come, Sunset Shimmer,” said Luna as she began to walk away. “I am curious, as a former student of my sister, if you are the more alike to Twilight Sparkle, or to the target of your search.”

⚜ ⚜ ⚜

I’ll note briefly before continuing for curious readers: everything you need to understand about the events surrounding the attempt on Luna’s life are included in this tome you’re reading. That being said, if you do find yourselves curious for more details, I have included a reference for the report Celestia’s Honor Guard compiled following those events. It doesn’t hold up to my talents of narrative, of course, but I do have the unfair advantage of far, far more experience.

⚜ ⚜ ⚜

After Luna and Sunset were out of earshot, Tempest turned to Celestia with a raised brow. “Let me get this straight, Princess: last time you talked to Morty, he outright told you he was going to try and kill your sister?”

Celestia nodded.

“And, what, a couple years ago somepony managed to poison Luna? And almost kill her, I’m guessing?”

The pale alicorn drew in a very long breath. “That is also true.”

“But we’re going after Morty to do some kind of favor for Rainbow Dash? Not because you think he’s gonna try and kill Luna again?” When Celestia didn’t answer, Tempest pressed. “Because it doesn’t seem like that’s a really hard connection to make to me.”

“If you don’t know Morty personally,” Celestia answered after a pregnant pause. “At worst, I could believe this was some kind of mistake, but he would never try to hurt Luna after the Elements worked.”

“You’re sure about that?” Tempest asked. “Ponies change. Especially over, what, two hundred years?”

Celestia sighed. “What do you want me to tell you?”

“What do you actually want out of this mission? I’m obviously enough muscle, to say nothing of whatever magic Sunset can do, that you don’t need to send your secret special guardspony too. Is he there to kill Coil if things go wrong? How much do I need to worry about this whole thing blowing up—?”

“Tempest Shadow, please stop.” Celestia then sat down, and massaged the bridge of her muzzle, and spent a good few seconds breathing. “I understand given your history with the Storm King that these are probably reasonable concerns, but that isn’t how I do things. Yes, there is some danger in this mission, because Morty almost constantly puts himself into situations that would be dangerous to anypony else. Morty himself is not one of them. Even if your suspicions are right, and Morty really has given in to a desire to kill Luna, he won’t murder innocent ponies to get to her. Whatever else I may or may not know, I’m certain of that.”

Celestia then dared to extend a wing, resting it on Tempest’s shoulder as she looked the mortal mare in the eyes, taking a moment to flick her ethereal mane out of the way and grant herself a rare moment of depth perception. “I don’t know if you think that I’m deluding myself, or if you think I know something I’m not admitting, or something else. The truth is I really don’t know what part Morty had to play in the attempt on my sister’s life. I know what I want to believe. I know what I expect. But I’m not all-knowing; I’m just old enough that I’ve gotten very good at guessing. As for why I didn’t tell all four of you before more plainly, that was for Somnambula’s benefit. Morty may have changed a bit from when she knew him centuries ago, but I don’t want her falsely expecting him to be a completely different pony. And once such seeds of doubt are planted, they can be very hard to dig up again.

“And, since you brought it up: whatever Morty might believe about assassinations, that isn’t how Equestria works. Yes, we have spies and keep secrets, and yes at the end of the day the Royal Guard is an army. I fully admit I’m hardly the beacon of Harmony that Twilight and her friends are; sometimes I conceal things or manipulate the truth to try and teach a lesson or achieve an end. One doesn’t rule a nation for a thousand years and remain quite that naive. But murder, or assassination, or whatever form such an idea takes, is beyond an uncrossable line for me. If Morty really was behind this attempt on my sister’s life, she and I will be the ones to deal with him, not you four. Whatever else your journey may entail, on that you have my word.”

Tempest broke away from Celestia’s firm gaze to offer a nod. “I… thanks, Princess. I guess that does sorta help.”

“Good.” Celestia smiled. “I cannot promise to answer any question you might have, but I won’t be offended if you ask them. All I ask is that, until I have a chance to talk to Morty face to face, please don’t speak of your suspicion with Luna. As she mentioned, we’re working through her memories of the dark times of her life slowly, in a safe and controlled way. Her memories involving Morty will come from the darkest of times near the end of the Twilight War, and I am not certain she is ready to face them yet.”

“Alright. I won’t talk to her.”

“You’ll have to be mindful, even in your dreams,” Celestia noted.

“I’ll try. I… wait, if Princess Luna can talk to anypony in their dreams—he doesn’t sleep, does he?”

Celestia chuckled and shrugged. “Either that, or he has some trick to keep her away. I never bothered to ask.” Then, releasing her wing from Tempest’s shoulder, she stretched her forelegs. “I suppose I should actually get to those final preparations like I told Sunset I would. Honest is an Element, after all.”

Tempest rolled her eyes, but there was a hint of a smile on her muzzle when she did. “Sure, whatever you’ve got to do.”

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