• Published 6th Aug 2012
  • 9,602 Views, 128 Comments

Part I: Precursors - Auryx Saturnius



A royal family secret and an alien stranger threaten the peace of Equestria.

  • ...
49
 128
 9,602

1:1- Envy of the Stars

"The truth is, everyone is going to hurt you. You just got to find the ones worth suffering for."
-Bob Marley

Act One

“I can’t believe Princess Celestia has already invited us back to Canterlot after such a short time.”

Rarity swiped her mane aside, “I know darling. It feels like only yesterday we were fighting changelings at the Royal Wedding a month ago... which reminds me, how’s our Equestrian royalty holding up over there.”

Twilight lifted her head up from the windowsill and frowned, “I already told you Rarity. I’m not proper royalty. I’m only the sister-in-law of the niece of the princesses. I’m only titled a Lady, nothing like Duchess and certainly not Princess myself...”

Rarity rolled her eyes playfully, “Whatever you say darling...”

Applejack turned her head towards the group. “Why did the princess ‘nvite us back so soon?”

Pinkie Pie jumped out from nowhere. “Maybe it’s because she wants us to throw a party! Oooo... I bet it’s supposed to be a ‘Thanks for saving the wedding/Thanks for defeating the Changeling Invasion Party’!!!”

Twilight stared at her, “No... she wants us to help her prepare for the Summer Sun Celebration she is holding in Canterlot this year... it’s funny, she just said to get here as soon as possible and that is was important...”

The daylight surrounding the train suddenly inked out as it passed through the mountain that protected the Equestrian capital, leaving the car in total darkness.

Pinkie Pie’s voice erupted with excitement. “OOOH, I bet it is to throw a party!!!”

Twilight rolled her eyes in a surprising disgust, almost shocking herself at the sudden impulse from a younger era. Thankful that no one could see her; she silently cleared her throat and lightened her tone slightly. “Anyways, we should be finding out soon enough. The train station is past this mountain.”

Even with the bubbliness of her pink friend and the presence of her other friends, Twilight still couldn’t shake the preoccupation on her thoughts. Ever since she woke up this morning, her head seemed to remain in the cloudy haze of sleep. It felt as if the world around her had a layer covering her eyes, leaving only a slightly hazed gloom towards a forgotten dream or thought she once had. As the light suddenly and ferociously filled the cabin once again, Twilight looked out at the rising spires of Canterlot, found her gaze shifting to the prestigious School of Magic, and realized what it was…

…Today was the day…

Now her heart really began to feel weighted. It was as if the back of her mind knew what the matter was before she did. As thoughts and memories began to flood back, the violet unicorn silently walked out of the cabin towards the end of the train, Applejack deciding to follow her, unbeknown to the unicorn.

As she slipped through the back door, she let the gentle breeze of motion run through her mane and fur. It felt pleasing to be outside for a little bit: to feel the warmth of her mentor’s sunlight and the relaxing air of the sky. It startled her to hear the sudden voice behind her. “Alright... what’s wrong sugar cube?”

Twilight turned her head back. “What gives you the impression something is wrong?” she found herself snapping. Looking at the surprised face of her friend, she covered her mouth. Applejack only stared at her patiently, so Twilight flipped her head back and sighed. “I’m sorry AJ; I didn’t mean to snap at you like that... I’m just a little sad right now...”

“Ya know, talkin’ ‘bout it would make ya feel better...”

Twilight gazed out at the growing skyline of Canterlot, the prestigious Canterlot University gleaming off her eyes. “Today is the anniversary...”

Applejack quietly nodded. “A year ago, ya came to Ponyville to stop Nightmare Moon, an’ doin’ so, became our best friend ‘n discovered the Elements of Harmony… so why so glum?”

“AJ, don’t get the wrong idea... please... but I wasn’t saying the anniversary for our founding of friendship. It’s just... that same day... that very same day... I lost a friend without even knowing it...”

Applejack nudged her shoulder, “Alright, talk. Who was it?”

“His name was Crescent Star.”

She turned to her, hoping it would be enough, but Applejack gave her the look to keep going. With a gentle sigh, she turned back to the railing of the caboose, leaning against it as Applejack slowly came to her side. “We both were raised by relatively poorer Canterlot families. My parents were immersed in literature and books, eventually spreading to myself... but Star his family specialized in jewelry and fashion. We both were accepted into the same class at the Canterlot School of Magic, both of us showing a strong magic streak. Unfortunately, his parents only wanted him to learn the magic necessary to run a jewelry shop: something he wasn’t keenly fond of doing. So, as a mutual agreement, we would help each other learn magic and spells while keeping his secret studies from his parents.

“Very quickly, we learned that where I excelled in raw ability and sheer determination, he did so in pure creativity and resolve.” Twilight smiled as the memories continued to come to her. “We would always get into fierce competitions on who was better at what during school.”

“I bet you’d win most of those...”

Twilight scoffed, “Believe it or not, I lost... often. Crescent Star was crazy smart: able to deduce and learn anything he put his mind to. Anything he wanted to learn or that he questioned would become simple tools for his study of the magical arts. He would constantly figure out and even improve upon whatever the teacher taught us with relative ease. It was, for lack of a better term, downright impressive.”

“Sounds like y’all gotta run fer your money Twi.”

“At first, it made me furious, constantly being outshined by somepony else who would be called my peer. But, as we grew up and eventually continued into the Magical Adept level of studies, it proved... most beneficial for the both of us.

“We would generally decide to be together with any project or situation: always staying with the other until the job was done. Many ponies called us the best of friends…”

“You said, ‘ponies called y’all the best of friends’,” Applejack casually looked over at her friend, “Were y’all friends?”

Twilight frowned, not returning Applejack’s glance. She only stared out at the expanse in front of her. “That’s what disappoints me... we weren’t. We both just decided to keep the relationship between us at a simple mutuality. Having both given up so much, including our personal lives, to reach where we are now, we didn’t waste time with ‘hanging-out’ or ‘relaxing’. We would continue our studies as Adepts: myself as Celestia’s Faithful Student, and him as the Social Science Teacher’s protégé, but Star decided to take an opportunity to go out into the world and see first-hoof the world of anthropology and archaeology… now, I feel like I went I one, huge, bucking circle of circumstance...”

Applejack patted her back, “I’m sorry ‘Twi... I hope you feel better, honestly... Maybe this surprise the princess has fer us will take your mind off’a it...”

Twilight sighed, “I hope it doesn’t AJ... I hope I never forget...”

With nothing further to say between them, Applejack left Twilight to her thoughts and entered quietly into the next car. The unicorn simply stared out at the tracks running behind. The conversation with her friend only seemed to amplify the effect of the memories on her. Silently and most assuredly, she reflected on everything that had happened in the past year. As her thoughts continued, a tear slowly began to run down her cheek.

***************

Princess Celestia, Matriarch of Equestria and Maiden of Canterlot, frantically trot back and forth within the confines her throne room, her thoughts on the situation of recent events running rampant within her head. Whatever happened to her during the Canterlot Invasion only a month ago, whatever consequence arose from the cocoon and the changelings, seemed to be permanently scarred onto her being, and so far made no hint of ever being fixed. For over a millennia, she had been priding herself with the ability to control her emotions, but now that ability has been slowly slipping away from her like water through a rag cloth. She had found out the hard way how easily she was angered. Her sister, Luna, had finished the last strawberry crepe that she saved for herself only two weeks ago, remaining in a fit of fury that lasted several hours... Luna wouldn’t talk to her for a week afterwards...

To top it off, she quickly realized how much her mind wandered these past few days. Whenever she had to finish administrative work or had to attend the regular Cabinet meeting, she would have to steel herself and force herself to buckle down and focus, or risk actually falling asleep! Every once in awhile, she found herself aimlessly wandering the grounds of her palace, no destination or purpose, and would slip into a gentle nostalgia with a statue or a certain part of the castle. Once, the guards had found her during one of these moments and had to be brushed off with idle comments and chatter as she would walk back to her chambers, embarrassed, and hid away for the rest of the day.

She immediately consulted her physician, but the aging unicorn had assured her that nothing was wrong with her physically. He told her that the recent psychology was nothing more than as mild sense of trauma towards the event, and that it should past sooner or later, so worrying about it wouldn’t do anything. With that, he politely lead her back to her chambers and told her to get some sleep, closing the door before she could reply.

So now Princess Celestia, Matriarch of Equestria and Maiden of Canterlot, was left to handle mild trauma on top of the Summer Sun Celebration being held within her city. Under normal circumstances, this wouldn’t be much of a hassle, leaving the preparations to a trusted subordinate or subordinates, but things were different with this year…

…This year… he was coming…

The sound of hoofsteps and chattering voices broker her train of thought and her attention was reaffixed towards the coming of her Faithful Student and friends. Each one of them seemed to have mixed opinions on their sudden recall to Canterlot, and no doubt the continual red tape of Imperial Affairs did nothing to assist them with their confusion.

As the ponies came forward, Twilight came further and bowed respectfully. After a couple seconds and a smile from her mentor, she found herself embraced by the soft, white fur. “Princess Celestia… I’m happy to say we received your invitation, but how will we be able to help you with the preparation of the Summer Sun Celebration?”

“Twilight, my Faithful Student...” the princess smiled softly once more as she easily fixed her mask of subtly in front of her pupil. “I’m glad that you were able to make it.”

Normally, such a statement would have been enough, but Twilight was able to notice something different in the tone of her mentor. Whether it was from the recent experience of her own emotions or something else, Twilight noticed that Princess Celestia felt off today. “Is everything alright Princess?”

Celestia smiled calmly once more behind her false mask. “Everything is fine Twilight, whatever made you think otherwise?” was the calm and rehearsed response she had prepared for this occasion, but she could not bring herself to say it. Her mask crumbled and the trouble sigh escaped her lips as her demeanor lowered and dimmed, summing up into one single word: “...No...”

With familiar gusto and bravado, Rainbow Dash flapped her wings strongly and hovered above the heads of her friends, punching the air with her fore-hooves as if she was in a professional boxing match. “What's troubling you now princess? Let me at ‘em... I can take them...”

Twilight’s horn glowed with rolled eyes as she pulled Rainbow Dash down to the ground by her tail. With her friend clearly placed on the floor, she cleared her throat and perked her head forward. “What’s the matter princess?”

The princess smiled and regained some of her tranquil attitude, pleased with her student’s directness. She became confident that it was the right choice to bring them here for this, Twilight’s friends always showing their willingness to help. “This year’s Summer Sun Celebration is particularly important. Several ponies of high standard and class are deciding to come and watch my raising of the sun...”

“But how is that different from every other year?”

Celestia closed her eyes, thinking about whether or not telling them the truth. Slowly, and hesitantly, she opened them again, looking around the throne room to make sure they were alone. Her horn glowed with a brilliant yellow as her magic reached around behind her and lifted a piece of paper from a small table near the throne itself. Twilight glanced up at the floating paper and, with her magic, took hold of the parchment and leveled it with her face.

“Go ahead and read aloud...”

Twilight gently nudged her head forward as she read off the words scribbled neatly over the parchment.

For the personal correspondence of the royal alicorn sisters of the Kingdom of Equestria, Celestia K. & Luna S. Galaxia...” she paused and Rarity perked her head over, “Celestia K. & Luna S. Galaxia?”

Celestia nodded, “Yes, that is our family name: the Celestial Alicorn Family of Galaxia.”

“And the K. and S?”

She sighed, “The full name of my sister and me... Celestia Kyra and Luna Selene...”

Rainbow Dash tired to hold back her continuous laughter, loudly snickering into her hooves. An angry glance from both Twilight and the princess prompted her to stop and glance off at some, suddenly interesting, point on the wall.

“Somebody say our name?”

The gang turned their heads back to the heavy iron doors to see Princess Luna flutter in and head towards them. The midnight alicorn walked with pride through the throne room, her mane perpetually flowing with an invisible wind.

“Princess Luna!”

“Please, Twilight Sparkle, we wish to solely called Luna, thou remember?”

“Of course Luna... sorry…”

Celestia turned to her sister, mildly disappointed. “Oh, yes, I forgot to tell you this... so you might want to listen to this too. Please continue Twilight.”

She turned back to the letter. “Dear Luna and Tia, I know it’s been awhile since my last visit to you two and I pray you are both staying out of trouble in my absence. I have kept myself surrounded with those who do happen to know about recent events within Equestria and I am proud to hear that you have ponies, your Elements of Harmony, that remain on top of danger and problems. Also, I am proud to hear about the recent wedding of Jovian’s daughter to that Captain of the Royal Guard... Shining Armor...

Rarity perked her head again. “Jovian?”

Celestia frowned at the interruption, “My younger brother, Luna’s elder... moving on...”

...This leads me to my correspondence to you two. I wish to express to you my confidence in you both. I am proud of both of you, as through the thin and thick you two have ultimately created the utopia that is the life work of our entire family. Thus, as token of appreciation, I thought it fit to tell you ahead of time that I, and your brothers, shall be coming to Canterlot and observe this year’s Summer Sun Celebration. Love...

The ponies behind Twilight read with her, “your father?!”

Everypony gasped with shock while Celestia nodded silently. Luna’s eyes widened as she jumped up and shook Celestia by the shoulders. “Papa’s coming here?”

“It appears so…”

Luna almost exploded with delight. “TIA! Papa is going to come visit us! It’s been twelve hundred years since papa visited us: this art the most joyous news ever!” The Lunar Princess let go of her sister and began to frantically pace around her. Her jargon straightened and modernized almost at the flip of a switch, becoming similar to any other normal teenage mare. “This is going to so exciting. We should be preparing! We should try and make him as comfortable as possible while he is here…”

“Luna…”

“…Maybe we should throw a banquet. Do you think we should? Should we try and be formal or casual around him when he comes…”

“LUNA!”

The princess snapped out of her rant. “Yes Celestia?”

Celestia didn’t glare at her, but her eyes didn’t share her sister’s joy. “Luna, what are we going to do? If father comes here then he’ll just start pestering us with a million little things. Everything we do wrong will just lead us to a lecture and would surely lead to us being treated as foals...”

Luna paused. “I guess you’re right sis… On top of which, he’s bringing our brothers... Jovian, that hawk... Sirius, that no good tormentor... and Vulcan... Vulcan of all ponies. He’s not even old enough to rule! Those three will no doubt try to make fools of ourselves all because we are mares and were mother’s favorites...”

Celestia nodded, “We’ll cross that bridge when we get there Luna, and we will get there.”

Twilight stepped forward, “Is this true princess? Is he really that exact with everything?”

“Yes, he is… one time he fired seven accountants within a single month because they each accidently messed up on large calculations. My father is the true King here... which is why, I suppose, I was always called Princess Celestia. He’s a good stallion, do not get me wrong, but having such a delicate eye watching over us constantly can become… unproductive… He mentioned here that he liked you six, and I’m hoping if you can help with the Summer Sun Celebration, then maybe he could stay a little on the lax side. In order for that to happen, however, everything has to be absolutely perfect... do you think you’re up to the challenge?”

Twilight turned to her friends, “What do you say guys? Do you want to help the princesses?”

“Yeah!” came the reply in unison.

Princess Celestia smiled, “I knew I could count on you. Let’s get things started, shall we?”

She turned to each and everypony. “Applejack?”

“Yes princess?”

“I would appreciate your supervision of the catering service. Your apple crepes were a particular favorite of mine...”

“You can count on me.” Applejack set her mind on everything she could do. “Hoo-doggie… this is gonna be a grand ol’ project…”

“Pinkie Pie?”

The pink pony leaned forward wide-eyed. “Yes?”

“I hope you can organize the reception and parade... it’s a big job that is specifically suited to your talents...”

“Of course!” she beamed, “It’s, going, to be, awesome!”

“Rainbow Dash?”

“At your service, princess!” she stood sharp and attentive.

“I want you to keep the skies completely clear during the celebration, as well as perform a Sonic Rainboom during the main event. However, I would appreciate a complete cloudy overcast from now until the celebration itself... a big hush-hush, top-secret surprise from my sister and I…”

“Yes, ma’am!” she crisply saluted.

“Fluttershy?”

“Um... yes princess?”

“I would love to hear your birds sing our national anthem, can you do that?”

“Y-Yes, princess... I won’t let you down.”

“You all might want to get started on your tasks, so I’ll let you get to it... there is only a week left until the celebration...”

They all nodded and slowly trotted out. Twilight and Rarity stepped forward. “What about the two of us princess? Shouldn’t we be trying to do something to help, too?”

“Yes. Twilight, Rarity... I have a special task for you two. Do you both know of the Canterlot Mines that run underneath the city?”

Twilight glanced over at Rarity, and then returned to Celestia. “Yes, we have.”

“Excellent. Buried deep in those mines is a specific gem I need you to find called a Celestial Firestone...”

Rarity’s eyes widened with delight. “The Celestial Firestone: as in one of the most sought after, most beautiful gemstones of all Equestria. What privilege do we have to look for such an object?”

“That gemstone is capable of holding vast amounts of energy and power within its crystalline structure. I require one to perform the necessary... ‘tricks’, for this very special Summer Sun Celebration. Think you can handle it?”

“You can count on us princess.”

She nodded and smiled, “I knew I could. You are dismissed to go spelunking...”

Twilight nodded and both she and Rarity trotted out, leaving the princesses alone in the throne room.

Luna frowned and closed her eyes as she shook her head. “Are you really that worried about papa?”

Celestia remained stoic, “Partly… but there’s more to it…”

***************

As everything progressed, Twilight couldn’t help but think back at her mood earlier today. Earlier she was melancholy: saddened by the realization of a lost friend. Applejack tried to help her but she only brushed it off, thinking only about the lost moments. Now she was with purpose. She felt satisfied that the princess trusted her with such an important task. She made quick note to herself that she wouldn’t let the princess down…

Twilight and Rarity briskly walked through the sprawling city on their way to the mountainside. They purposefully remained silent, knowing that any conversation they had would eventually lead to the topic of the royal family. The two figured that the princesses didn’t want such a fact to fill the ears of everypony around them... not yet...

However, once the town thinned out into the grassy patches and rocky outcroppings of the surrounding mountain, Rarity couldn’t hold it back anymore.

“Did you know Celestia and Luna had a father?”

Twilight calmly looked around and saw only a few ponies within earshot, all being distracted with other things. Satisfied, she turned back to Rarity. “Yes, yes I did.”

Rarity glanced over at her, “You did?”

“Yes... Rarity, I’ve been Celestia’s Faithful Student nearly all my life. I know of several members of her family... like the fact they have a mother, three brothers, an uncle and an aunt...”

Rarity quickly closed her gaping mouth and turned back to the road. “...So... have you actually met anypony else of their family?”

“Only Prince Jovian, Cadence’s father. He’s a big stallion, only a hair shorter than Celestia and is far more muscular than even Big Macintosh...”

“...Wow, impressive imagery...” Rarity mulled the picture in her head a bit before returning to the conversation. “So, this surprise visit from their father... would he really think Celestia and Luna shouldn’t rule?”

“I certainly hope not. Celestia and Luna are loved by the ponies here in Equestria. Imagine what ponies would do if they had to leave.”

“I know.” Rarity finally stopped at the entrance of the caverns. “It would be absolutely tragic to lose our princess friends...”

Twilight nodded and continued on into the dark entrance, letting her horn glow up to light the mines ahead. “Then we better do what we can...”