• Published 14th Feb 2019
  • 830 Views, 49 Comments

Cadence of the Crystal Empire - Coyote de La Mancha



Two ancient evils from the Age of Chaos. The lost princess they desire. And between them, stands Celestia. Alone.

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7: Welcome Home.

Celestia had spent hours in the village, helping the ponies there try to cope with what they had gone through. Well, trying to. They had just endured four loveless years. Abusing and being abused by the ponies closest to them, often while losing foal after foal through sheer neglect. Wishing for the thousandth time for Luna’s wisdom, in the end all she’d been able to do was make it clear that it wasn’t their fault, explain why, and hope they believed her.

She’d teleported home with her young charge then, and immediately awoken Abacus. There was a quick exchange of signs and countersigns, and then he was in action, bless him, seeking out the best counselors he could find – and that they could find in turn – gathering them all together. Then, Celestia had addressed them all, and transported them at once to Voe Valley.

She, however, did not stay. The villagers were not the Crimson Queen’s only victims, after all. Fortunately, the young princess woke with a clarity that Celestia had not expected, and met her on the royal balcony.

Princess Mi Amore Anastasia Cadenza – or Cadence, as she preferred to be called – had many questions, and Celestia had no intention of putting them off. So they conversed for a while, still standing on the terrace. About themselves, about their kingdoms, about the last thousand years. And, of course, about Mira. On that last, Cadence mostly talked, and Celestia mostly listened.

When Celestia broached the subject of Cadence finding a new home in the palace, with her, to her surprise and delight the young mare said yes. Each of them, it seemed, had seen somewhat into the other’s heart during Cadence’s Becoming, joined as they had been by the foal’s magic. The decision of adoption was a mutually easy one, therefore, with Cadence suggesting that she become Celestia’s niece.

Yet, not all their words were comfortable ones. In addition to discussing Mira, the subject of Princess Luna inevitably arose. Cadence couldn’t wait to see her crystaller again.

Reluctantly, Celestia looked out into the night sky as she told the tale of her failure, of her sister’s defeat and ultimate exile.

“I’m… I’m sorry,” Cadence said at last. “Please, forgive me.”

Still looking out into the night, Celestia only shook her head.

“Princess?” Cadence stepped closer. “Please. Are you alright?”

“I am, as much as I can be.” Then, Celestia turned her head to Cadence with a sad smile, adding, “Though it seems to me we both carry that title.”

Cadence nodded. “We do. It’s strange, though. I have all my own memories. I remember my life in the Crystal Empire, my family, and my friends. I remember Sombra. And… what happened after.”

She shuddered, and Celestia put a wing around her.

“But I also have my memories as Bluebottle,” Cadence went on. “And they stretch back just as far. They seem just as real.”

“They’re false memories. Implanted by the Knight of Mirrors.”

A sigh. “I know. I’d only just gotten my cutie mark when Sombra attacked. Then Mother cast her spell, and suddenly I was in the ruins of an old castle. A little while later, they found me. So, my first day as their captive was Bluebottle’s first day with a mark.” She shrugged. “I suppose that made it easier for them, somehow.”

Celestia glanced at her. “Is there… something else that’s bothering you?”

Cadence fidgeted. Then, “Do you think he was real?”

“Bluebottle?”

Cadence nodded.

Celestia looked very tired. “I…” She sighed. “I don’t know. I hope not.” At Cadence’s quizzical look, she explained, “If Bluebottle was a real pony somewhere, before you were given his identity… then, somewhere out there, in some far-flung world, there could be a Cindy List. And a Lucy List.”

Cadence moved closer, put her head on her new aunt’s shoulder.

“If there is a world where Cindy List is real, then she met the real Janus Knight,” Cadence told her. “And then, remembering, she woke up at last, becoming again who she truly was. Just as you remembered, and remained who you truly are.” She paused, then looked up at her elder, adding, “And if the one sister can wake, then perhaps the other can, as well.”

“That’s… a rather optimistic view,” said Celestia. But the young alicorn could hear the hope in her voice.

Cadence smiled as Celestia gently held her a little closer, leaning her head on her adopted aunt’s shoulder again. “I read some of Star Swirl’s theories, back home,” Cadence said. “If there are infinite worlds, and his experiments seem to indicate there are, then we have the possibilities to match. Which means there is always life, and therefore always love. And where there is life and love, there is always hope.”

“And yet, there will always be darkness, always despair,” Celestia pointed out. “Sometimes without limit.”

“Yes. But a single spark of light, even surrounded by an eternity of darkness, is still light.”

Celestia considered her. “Is that why you reached out to the Queen as you did?”

But Cadence shook her head. “No. What we had, it was strange, and certainly even unhealthy. But even after the point where my ‘Bluebottle’ memories were implanted and my countenance was changed, there were still Heart’s Warming presents, still birthday gifts, still smiles and lullabies late at night.

“Then, there were the times when she would tuck me in her web a little more snugly. Or the times she comforted me when I’d had a bad dream.”

“She was feeding on you, dear one.”

“I know that. But my point is that she played her part too well, for too long, for it to have been just an act.”

Cadence pulled back, looked into Celestia’s tired eyes with her own earnest ones. “She could have been distant, and kept me dependent on her, and there would still have been a child’s love for her to harvest. And, sometimes, she was distant. Her affection was like everything else about her. Twisted up, malformed. Even painful.

“But, other times… you didn’t know her. You didn’t hear her, as she died. She enjoyed being Mira, mother to Bluebottle. She wanted a child other than the Knight of Mirrors. Someone to nurture, instead of raise to be a predator like her. It was as if the role she played was an excuse to be who she wanted to be, instead of who she was.”

Cadence sighed. “I know it’s strange. But it was enough that at the end I could love her, and know that she, in her own distorted way, loved me. She wasn’t purely evil.”

Celestia sighed, as well. “No. No, she wasn’t.” She looked again out to the night sky, at the silhouette visible in the moon’s silver face.

“There is no pure evil, or pure good,” Celestia said. “Life would be so much simpler if there were.”

“It would,” Cadence agreed. “The Crimson Queen ultimately died, not because of some spell you cast, or some overload of magical power, but because she thought she couldn’t change. And because of that, she couldn’t change, couldn’t grow.” She sighed again. “So, for all her crimes, I do mourn her, even as I mourn her victims.”

Then, Cadence shook her head. “And now, somehow, I’m an alicorn. Because my life wasn’t surreal enough, I guess.”

She looked out, into the night. “And you’re still here after all this time, too, despite everything that’s happened. So in the end, I guess we’ll both have to be stronger than she was.”

There were a few moments of silence between them.

“It’s chilly,” Cadence observed.

“You know, we could go inside,” Celestia said at last.

“We could,” Cadence agreed. “We can keep talking, though, right?”

Celestia smiled. “Of course.”

Suddenly, there was a crash from within the palace, the sound of many objects shattering in quick succession.

Palace guards fell into step around the princesses as they ran down the hallway, bursting through the door from whence the sounds had come.

There, in the candle-lit kitchen, was a young violet unicorn dangling by her forehooves by a high shelf, her rear legs kicking. Dishes had been knocked from the shelf directly below her, cascading onto the floor. Suspended in the lavender aura of her magic halfway between shelf and floor was a large earthenware jar clearly marked, COOKIES.

The filly stared over her shoulder at the open door and the ponies there with wide eyes, half of a large chocolate chip cookie protruding from her mouth.

“Um, fi,” she managed around the confection. “Yer fome earfy.”

Celestia cocked an eyebrow, even as the palace guards struggled to maintain decorum. “Twilight Sparkle,” she said. “It is well past your bedtime, young lady, and you know very well the kitchens are off-limits. I trust you have an explanation for this?”

“Fpike meeded cookief.”

Celestia tilted her head in suspicion. “I see. And where is Spike, if he needs cookies so badly?”

The filly looked from Celestia’s narrowed eyes, to the broken plates below her, then back to her mentor.

“Waifing fer cookief?”

Celestia closed her eyes and took a long, deep breath. It was impossible to tell whether the monarch was trying to keep from yelling or laughing. Perhaps both. Meanwhile, the obviously amused palace guards who had gathered behind her quickly bowed and left.

Just then, Twilight’s grip on the shelf slipped, her rear legs instinctively kicking in renewed desperation.

Immediately, the foal was enveloped in a light blue glow, lifting her gently off the shelf, rear hooves up and tail down. While another, golden glow took the cookie jar from her control and replaced it near where she had been hanging so precariously, Twilight drifted gently (if unevenly) towards the princesses. The little filly quickly jammed the rest of the contraband into her mouth, chewing rapidly as she settled on the floor in front of them both.

Cadence crouched down and smiled at the filly. “Hi, there,” she said. “What’s your name?”

The filly swallowed and stole a glance at Princess Celestia. The mare had her serious face on, which was worrisome. The foal swallowed again. Trouble. Definitely in trouble. But, the princess gave no sign that she shouldn’t answer. So…

“Twilight Sparkle,” the filly said softly. “I’m, um, Princess Celestia’s apprentice.” Again, an uncertain glance at the white mare.

Cadence smiled. “Well, my name’s Cadence.”

Twilight looked at her horn and wings, curiosity instantly overcoming her apprehension. “Are you Princess Celestia’s sister?”

Celestia winced and looked away.

No,” Cadence said, struggling to keep Twilight’s attention focused, “No, I’m the new palace foalsitter.”

“Foalsitter?”

“Uh-huh.”

“How come?”

Cadence leaned forward and whispered, “Because I know all the best stories!”

Twilight considered this. “I do too. I mean,” she amended, “Well, I’ve read them all. So, yeah, I pretty much know them all.”

“Well, I know stories that aren’t in any books.”

The filly’s eyes grew wide. “Is that… possible?”

“Uh-huh,” Cadence winked. “Let’s get you back to bed, and I’ll show you.”

With a speed Cadence hadn’t thought her capable of, the filly had zipped out another door and was galloping down an adjacent hall.

Cadence turned to Celestia. “Sorry, I should have asked first. I know that ideally she’d be cleaning up the mess she’d made. It’s just that it’s already so late…”

Celestia shook her head. “No, you’re probably right. I’ll talk to her about the matter tomorrow.” She rolled her eyes. “Although, if the story covered something about not lying, or not stealing cookies, it might be nice.”

Cadence frowned. “Why? Does she do this often?”

“No, no, it’s always something different. Never anything with malice or ill intent – and not terribly often, really – but, ancestors before us, her curiosity is insatiable, and her energy is almost limitless. And she does have a talent for finding trouble.”

Looking sideways at Cadence, she added, “Then again, one might say you do as well, oh new Palace Foalsitter.”

Cadence blinked. “Why? How many foals are there?”

“Just Twilight. Her brother is several years older, and is studying elsewhere.”

“But then, who’s Spike?”

“Oh, you’ll find out.”

“But—”

“Their room is straight down the hall she ran down, third-to-last door on the left,” Celestia went on contentedly. “Mine is the last on the left. We might put your room across from theirs, if you don’t mind.”

Cadence opened her mouth as if to ask something more, then changed her mind. “Very well,” she nodded, her curiosity raised. “I don’t mind at all, so long as you and I can continue to talk once I’m done?”

Celestia smiled one of her slight smiles. “I look forward to it. Besides, you’ll need lessons on your new magic as well, for all that you’ve taken to telekinesis amazingly quickly.”

Cadence blinked. “Um, well, I… couldn’t let her fall…”

Celestia smiled again, then glanced back towards the side door, looking for a moment as if she were studying something far away. “Of course you couldn’t,” she said at last. “In fact, once we start your magic lessons, you might see if Twilight would be willing to tutor you.”

“Twilight? But she can’t be more than nine—”

“Trust me,” Celestia assured her. “You’ll be surprised.”

Just then, the door burst open again.

“Boom-shanka!” Twilight shouted.

“Cornflakes!” Celestia shouted back.

Twilight leaped forward and hugged Celestia fiercely, with Celestia hugging her back. Then Twilight was through the door again, galloping away back to her room.

Cadence looked from Celestia to the door, and then back again, completely at a loss. Finally she addressed Celestia.

“I’m sorry… what?”

“Palace security,” Celestia answered with a serene nod. “Hyper-critical.”

Cadence cocked an amused eyebrow. “I see.”


Making the arrangements had been relatively simple. Fortunately, Abacus had still been awake, and had young Raven to assist him. He had taken notes while she’d brought him coffee and fresh ink, and would begin filing the proper paperwork later in the day, after he had gotten some more rest.

Granted, young Shining was still in school, and wouldn’t enlist until after graduation. But Celestia was certain he would. And once he did, she wanted to be certain he would be assigned to Canterlot.

Not to the palace guard, however. Celestia had been very specific; she had no intention of doing anything that might impinge upon Twilight’s natural exuberance. But close enough for regular visits, certainly. Both fillies’ patterns were still a challenge to read, but if understood what little she saw correctly…

Celestia smiled. Sometimes the little, trivial things mattered most. And if those little moments made the foals she loved happy, so much the better.

Still. Between one thing and another, it had been over an hour. Celestia hated to disturb them, but if she and Cadence were going to discuss anything further before retiring, they would have to do it now.

Gently and quietly, she opened the door to the room that Twilight and Spike shared.

There was Spike, curled up on Twilight’s bed, chewing gently on his tail in his sleep. Spooned against him on the far side was Twilight, also asleep, one foreleg draped protectively over the hatchling.

Curled around Twilight, in turn, was Cadence. Sound asleep, holding hatchling and filly both, one wing covering the two of them like a pink-feathered blanket.

Celestia smiled. Gently and carefully, she extended her magic out. A golden glow lifted the bed covers over the three of them, and tucked them in. Then, Celestia silently closed the door.

Author's Note:

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From here, the Sister Timelines split, differentiated by (among other things) which mirror Sunset fled through, and the nature of Princess Luna’s child.

The Elsequestria continuity continues from here with Bridges and Guides. This timeline involves Luna having a son by way of mystical pact, and does not intersect with the human world of Equestria Girls (Sunset having entered a different realm entirely when she fled). Elsequestria is also slightly more inclined towards high fantasy, though it certainly has its shadows.

The Sunet Rising continuity continues from here with Moon Childe. This timeline does feature the Rainbooms of an alternate Equestria Girls world, and involves Luna having a son mystically created from her own essence. The Sunset Rising timeline is also slightly darker in overall tone, though its tales are still generally uplifting.

And, of course, the seminal story that starts it all begins here.

As always, comments are more than welcome below. :twilightsmile:

Comments ( 9 )

Magnificent stuff, from the duel to the mystic self-creation of Cadence's Becoming to the unexpected formation of her twisted sister to Twilight being adorability incarnate. Luna being Cadence's crystaller was a brilliant touch, and your efforts to reconcile the sisters' history and the Pillars looks brilliant even in what few details I can glean. A great read from start to finish. Thank you for it.

You seem to have hit the perfect amount of grimdark I can accept in pony fic with this one. Nicely done!

I love it that Twilight is both believable a foal and Celestia's ultimate fail-safe plan. Great comedy moment at the end there with the passwords!

9796325
And thank goodness for that! Or, more accurately, thank *you.*

I did like Celestia acknowledging the multiverse theory, though, and giving partial validation to Cindy's universe, because despite its bleakness(especially (or maybe even is a better word, given how things are) compared to Celestia's actual situation), it's an interesting idea to explore.

9797235

...it's an interesting idea to explore.

Oh, emphatically agreed.

And the idea of the List sisters being real people out there somewhere, and especially Bluebottle and his mom living their own lives out there somewhere... dude. There is so much potential there that I will probably never get to. I have so many timelines already... :moustache:

For my part, I confess one off my quiet hopes is that someday, someone feels inspired and writes stories about the “real” Bluebottle and Mira. I would read the living crap out of them. :trollestia:

9797937
You know, I might do that? However, I had a bit of a.... queerer reading of Bluebottle than I think was originally intended, given that Bluebottle was quite LITERALLY a fabrication of a colt wrapped around a filly. My thoughts were initially that Bluebottle was trans, and any adaptation or spiritual successors/companion fics to this one would likely include those thoughts.

My thoughts towards Mira aren't so kind, though, given that I have personal experience with people like her, so perhaps I would not be the best person to create such a companion piece.

9797972
Well, should you ever decide to write / post it, I ask only that you shoot me a PM so that I know to read it (and link to it if you decide that’s okay).

And yeah, Mira is hard to be empathetic towards. As I mentioned to someone else earlier, I think just about everyone has known someone like her, and bear the marks as their proof. Mira having her own scars (see the “it harvests you!” speech) doesn’t make that any easier.

My thought would be to not worry about making her empathetic, so much as human. But if you do write this - and no obligation either way - by all means please write the characters however you envision them.

Including a trans Bluebottle, which I think could work really well. :twilightsmile:

9798024
Oh, of course I would link and PM you! I would do no less for anyone whose works I am inspired by.

It just.... struck a chord in me when Bluebottle internally commented on how if being a colt was like this, being a stallion must be terrible(or something to that effect). There were other things, little things, that led me towards the same idea, but that moment really Got Me.

(As an aside, after an hour or so of reading various horror fics I stumbled upon, your reply made me very, very happy.)

PresentPerfect
Author Interviewer

The Crimson Queen ultimately died, not because of some spell you cast, or some overload of magical power, but because she thought she couldn’t change.

Oh shit, and in light of what succeeded her...

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